One of the many reason I and many other choose to visit New Zealand is due to the incredibly epic franchise “The Lord of the Rings” which was filmed there. Not that New Zealand doesn’t have a million other reasons to visit it (and if you look through many of my love note posts about NZ you’ll see I found many of them) that doesn’t diminish any of the insane filming locations they used around both islands to shoot the movies. By filming all 3 movies (and all the Hobbit movies) in New Zealand, the director Peter Jackson really put New Zealand on a lot of travelers’ maps.
These sites are MUST SEES if you’re a big fan and really amazing sites to visit for hiking/ views even if you aren’t. They are all easy to visit on your own (if you have a car) so no tour needed!
1. The forbidden Pools – Tawhai Falls, Tongariro National Park
Up first is a short easy hike to the pools Gollum is seen swimming/ fishing in in the “The Two Towers”- the forbidden pools.
TH adress: Manawatu-Wanganui 4691 in Tongariro National Park
The trail is located in Tongariro National Park however there are no fees for entering or hiking on this trail. The parking area will be on the left as you are heading down and can accomodate several cars. The trail starts opposite the driveway and is a flat leisurely trail until you get to the falls.
You can visit the top of the falls where there is an obvious right split off the trail to a viewing platform. This is also where you can jump from the falls into the pools below. (We saw some doing this but I’m not entirely clear on the logistics of rocks/ depth of water below)
The trail continues on to the bottom of the falls with great views of the pool used for filming. All in all the hike will take you less than an hour and is a fantastic foray into secret filming locations on the North Island. It also introduces you into our next major film star: Mount Doom.
2. Mount Doom – Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park
Our next stop is right down the road from Tawhai Falls however it’s best scene from one of the many hiking tracks in the area, including the world famous- Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Mount Ngauruhoe served as the main inspiration for Mount Doom and appears in many of the background Mordor shots that were filmed all over the area. You yourself can even CLIMB Mt. Doom by accessing it from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing but be warned- it is a tough slippery slope and you’ll want good shoes and gloves to help you with the climb. We chose to simply view it in all it’s glory from the TAC track which you can read more about in my detailed post here.
3. Hobbiton – Matamata New Zealand
This one goes without saying- it’s a MUST DO for any Lord of the Rings fan. Like pilgrims flocking to a MECCA, there’s really nothing that equates a visit to Hobbiton for a lifelong fan. Unfortunately to visit the Hobbit holes you’ll have to book a tour in Matamata, online, or at the site itself, but you don’t have to book one to get yourself there! (Save some money and book yourself!) Our tour lasted 3 hours and included a fantastic Hobbit themed lunch on the site! There are many options for booking and I highly recommend a visit to see the holes with their incredibly detailed doors and learn so much more about the filming of the Lord of the Rings in New Zealand. You can read more details about visiting and my experience here.
4. Edoras- Mount Sunday
Hands down the COOLEST place on this entire list to visit (apart from Hobbiton of course) is Mount Sunday (aka Edoras in the Kingdom of Rohan). Holy smokes guys, this place is as epic and insanely gorgeous as the film portrays. No CGI, no tricks here. The valley and hill that Edoras is built on is exactly like in the films and it will TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY. They even built the set on top of Mount Sunday so they could film everything exactly as it was in the area. At only 2.5 hours from Christchurch, it isn’t a bad drive. It’s even easier to hit if you’re already driving south to connect to Queenstown.
This spot was so majestic, and so familiar. It was probably my favorite spot in New Zealand and is absolutely worth the bumpy gravel road to get to it. Bonus: It’s FREE, another easy walk/ hike, and you don’t need anyone to tell you what part in the movies it played, you’ll know. For more information on hiking Mt. Sunday and the general area, visit my post here.
5. The River Anduin- The Kawaru River, Queenstown
The scene at the end of the Fellowship where everything is breaking apart but Sam insists on continuing on with Frodo is iconic- between the filming of the boats floating down the Anduin river between the giant Argonath statues to the semi-traumatic death of Sean Bean, the ending scene on the Anduin river is a memorable one. Which makes visiting the filming location for it that much more special.
While the best way to see this film spot is unarguably by boat, you can opt for the free version by doing a gentle walk along the river’s canyon rim. To see it by boat as the fellowship would’ve done, you’ll want to book a rafting trip on the Kawaru River- I recommend this company. Be warned however that it will have sections of white water so make sure you are comfortable with a little extreme sport thrown in there.
If you’re wanting to save money or not up to white rafting though, check out my detailed post here on walking the trail for some of the ultra-special views of the magical river Anduin.
6. Isengard- Paradise, Glenorchy
Like Mount Sunday, the surrounding valley of Isengard is incredible. Tall snowcapped peaks almost completely surround the area and braided turquoise rivers float right down the middle of it. The best way to experience this area is by horseback on a tour specifically designed to get you close to the movie film location give you the inside scoop of filming in that area. (Not to mention does anything feel more “Lord of the Rings” than riding horses?)
Unfortunately our tour was cancelled due to flooding of the riding tracks so instead we drove out to Glenorchy and Paradise to view from afar. The views are so beautiful along the drive that it’s a worthy half day adventure for sure. Just fill up with gas in Queenstown (it’s MUCH cheaper) and head down to Glenorchy.
Bonus: Weta Workshop- Wellington
While we didn’t have time on our trip to make it to Wellington, for the complete picture of filming of the trilogy in New Zealand, head to Wellington for a tour of the movie workshop where you’ll learn all about the special effects and see some of the crazy make up/ molds they made for the movies. See more details for visiting the Weta Worshop here.
If you’re looking for a leisurely afternoon walk, a middle earth fan whose not up to white water rafting, or simply rained out of a white water trip like we were, fear not as I have a solution for you. Enter the Kawaru River pathway (aka Gibbston River Trail) which starts with views of people jumping off a bridge, passes through more than a couple wineries, and stops along several scenic picnic spots on the river rim. It’s a great shorter walk/ hike to get outside and admire the Kawaru river… without partaking in the rough house activity of rafting it.
Where to park for the Kawaru River trail:
Google maps AJ Hackett Bungy Kawarau Bungy Centre and park in the same lot as the bungy bridge.
The parking lot is just 20 minutes outside of Queenstown along hwy 6 (toward Wanaka). The turn off for the parking lot will be on your left just after passing over the kawaru river bridge. (~23 km along hwy 6)
Distance: 2.25 miles/ 3.6 km 1 way. Go as long as you like though
Difficulty: Easy, little to no hills
Time: Allow at least 1.5 hours
Kawaru River Trail Directions:
Once you park, go ahead and wander down to check out any jumpers from the bridge as they leap from the historic suspension bridge, get caught up by their ankles on the bungy, and rafted back to the river side. Sign yourself up if you’re feeling daring and make use of the facilities around the bungy center.
The Gibbston River trail goes both ways along the Kawaru river actually crossing over the historic suspension bridge- and both directions make for a scenic walk. HOWEVER if you want the specific views in this post and/ or Lord of the Rings filming locations, you’ll want to skip crossing the bridge and actually walk up the parking lot from where you parked, to the East side where you’ll see a drive way for the Winehouse and then signs for the Gibbston River Trail.
At first the trail is pretty close to the road but after a few minutes, it will turn off and cut down to the river’s rim. There it will meander along occasionally cutting away from the river before returning back to it. There’s a couple wineries you can stop at if interested, or even better do the wine & bike tour to see more of the river trail and more of the wines. Otherwise you’ll come across the first awesome view point (probably the best one) about 1 mile/1.7km in. There’s even a bench to mark the spot of a great view.
It was standing here that we were definitely able to see the scene at the end of the Fellowship where the party is rowing down the river Anduin and passes between the giant Argonath statues. (We were still disappointed as to not be able to raft ourselves down through the narrow canyon)
You can continue on for more views of the narrow river canyon with the next best view point being about mile 1.93/3km. Make sure to take the left trail junction (the one that says for advanced bikers only) to get to this view point. This section of trail is definitely the most interesting with a few little bridges here and there, loads of bunnies hopping about, and being some of the closest to the cliffs down to the river.
You can follow this trail for as long as you like, although we turned around once the canyon opened up about 2.25 miles into the trail. Overall it’s a flat easy trail with nice river and canyon views. We didn’t get a change to check out any of the wineries, but if I went back to Queenstown I’d definitely consider a biking trip down this river trail to see more of it and almost certainly be re-booking myself for the Kawaru white water rafting tour.
Unless you have a ride sorted out for getting back, return on the trail from whence you came to the bungy bridge carpark.
Something most people cannot miss when visiting New Zealand is Hobbiton, the movie set. It’s known worldwide so no matter where you go- when you tell people you visited New Zealand, you will get asked “Did you visit those Hobbit Holes?” by both fans and not fans alike. That being said, you should plan on whether a stop at Hobbiton is right for you or not. You SHOULD visit it you are
A fan of the books or movies
Interested in set design and/or the making of movies
Interested in a good beer and some likely photo ops.
You should NOT plan a trip here unless you at least fit the bill with 1 of those options. People who DON’T like crowds or on a strict budget may find it busy, touristy, and an expensive expenditure. *
“In 1998, Sir Peter Jackson’s team of location scouts were searching for the iconic rolling hills and lush green pastures of Hobbiton™. An aerial search led them to the Alexander farm, a stunning 1,250 acre sheep farm in the heart of the Waikato. They noted the area’s striking similarity to The Shire™, and quickly realized that the Hobbits™ had found a home.
In one particular part of the farm, there is a magnificent pine tree towering over a nearby lake, adjacent to a rising hill. Bag End now sits atop that hill, overlooking the Party Tree, as that pine would later be known. The surrounding areas were untouched; no power lines, no buildings and no roads in sight. This meant that Sir Peter Jackson could leave the 20th century behind, and fully submerge himself in the fantasy world of Middle-earth™.
In March 1999 the crew began the nine month quest to bring the ideas for Hobbiton to fruition; help was provided by the New Zealand Army, and soon 39 temporary Hobbit Holes™ were scattered across the 12 acre plot used for the set. Secrecy was key, and strict security measures were put in place by the production company throughout construction and filming. Filming commenced in December 1999, and it took around three months to get a wrap on The Shire.
In 2009, Sir Peter Jackson returned to film The Hobbit trilogy, and he left behind the beautiful movie set you’ll see today; 44 permanently reconstructed Hobbit Holes, in the same fantastic detail seen in the movies. In 2012 The Green Dragon™ Inn was opened as the finale to the journey. Guests now finish their Hobbiton Movie Set experience with a refreshing beverage from the Hobbit™ Southfarthing™ Range. There’s an abundance of movie magic nestled inside the fully operational farm.”
Options for getting to Hobbiton:
Private car- Simplest option in my mind- the tour departures are cheapest if you can drive yourself to Hobbiton. It is just over a 2 hour drive from Auckland and very close to other popular destinations in Rotorua.
Take a bus from Auckland to Matamata where there are Hobbiton tour departures that can be booked as a combo with your Hobbiton entrance. (Bus fares are around $40- book in Intercity.com)
Book a tour within Auckalnd to transport you to your Hobbiton tour. (most expensive- least flexible option)
Since the absolute best way to get around New Zealand is driving yourself, this is the method I’d recommend. Once you get to Hobbiton you have still more options:
Hobbiton Set Tour booking options
A 2 hour movie set tour Adults (17years+) : $84/ Youth: $42 *
The 2 hour movie set tour+ lunch Adults: 120/ Youth: 78 *
The 2 hour movie set tour+ dinner+ lantern lit walk second tour (only offered select nights during the week) Adult: $192 Youth: 152.50 Child: $100
*All tours come with a complimentary drink and free time at the Green Dragon after your walk. There is also a café at Shire’s Rest where you park and where all the Hobbiton tours depart from.
*Children 8 and younger are free but must be accompanied by a paying adult and have a ticket
*You CANNOT see the Hobbit holes without booking a tour.
About our experience:
I did the simple 2 hour tour on my last visit 5 years ago so this time we spiced it up by booking the set tour+lunch combo. (I would’ve booked dinner but it was only available certain days of the week and didn’t align with our schedule)
We drove from Tongariro in the morning and got to the Shire’s Rest about 45 minutes before our departure. We checked in at one of the many kiosk desks to exchange our online vouchers for the physical tickets and then spent some time milling around the gift shop. About 10 minutes before our tour departure (1 PM) we lined up in our designated queue to be first on the bus and waited for our departure.
The lunch portion
Once you board the bus, it’s a quick 10 minute drive along a beautiful road to Hobbiton. For the lunch tour, they lead us down to their party tent (which is right near the Green Dragon Inn) and we were seated at our specific group tables. We had about 45 minutes to eat once seated and they designated an order to lining up to go down the buffet line which was all rather efficient. Once everyone was seated with their food, you were more than welcome to go back for seconds and there was plenty of food. The options were NUMEROUS but my favorite things were the roasted potatoes/ veggies with herbs, slow roasted beef, tomato and vegetable curry, and marinated chicken. They also had a selection of deserts, tea, and coffee available after the main courses. The only other beverage available during lunch is water.
All in all, I’m a slow eater and so only having 45 minutes to eat semi stressed me out and once we had food, both Braden and I were 100% business at consuming as much food as quickly as possible. I am happy to report that everything was absolutely delicious and we have no regrets about spending a little more on lunch that day.
The touring portion
After everyone was finished and we had all gathered outside, we began our walking tour! The tours seemed to be spaced about every 10-15 minutes and each tour group is easily around 30 people which makes for A LOT of people milling about. The guides are all very good at getting people to move along while still stopping at all the “must get the shot” spots. In general, we would stop and learn a few facts, take a few photos, and the guide would start slowly walking on. Then people would trickle after getting their own shots and we’d all be stopped where the guide stopped next.
It was actually quiet impressive how efficient the tours ran and all the guides seemed to be excellent at communicating and directing. There were 2 spots along the route that EVERYONE who wanted one got a photo (the guide offered to take the photos). These were at the red door (where you can actually open the door and peak inside) and Bag end. The rest of the walking tour the guides ask you to move along and not try to get a photo with every single Hobbit hole. (there are a LOT).
At each stop you learn about specific scenes filmed in that spot, some of the building process that went into the visible props, and some of the Hobbit characters that resided in each particular hole. You learned a little bit about the Hobbit’s lifestyle (as described in the books) which was great and I found everything to be on par (since I had just read the books again before leaving for our trip.)
The other notable stops are at the bottom of the hill (in the “community”) and by the party tree. From there we walked a short 5 minutes or so through some pretty gardens and woods to the mill and Green Dragon. You’re rewarded then for making it through all that walking with your choice of 4 beverages and anywhere from 20-40 minutes to hang out. We had the latter so plenty of time to drink and admire the details that went into the Green Dragon and mill.
Hobbiton beverage options are:
Nonalcoholic Ginger Beer- tried on my first visit to Hobbiton and remember it being delightful
A traditional English Ale- haven’t tried but sounds good. It’s a roasted chocolatey sort of brew.
A Fine Grain Amber Ale- tried this round and it was QUITE good. The taste is light, malty, and sweet. Very little bitterness or hops.
The Sackville Cider- Excellent- tried this and both Braden and I agreed it was great. It’s a more tart and refreshing cider as opposed to a lot of the overly sweet ones you get at the store.
Note: There are 2 restrooms around the Green Dragon (one of which is IN the Green Dragon) so apart from when you are wandering around the Hobbit Holes (approx. 1.5 hours) you have access to facilities.
At a specified time you meet back up with your same tour guide just outside the Green Dragon and walk back to board the bus for a 10 minute ride back to the car park.
So in review, I would recommend doing the lunch or evening tour as I thought the food was great and it was fun having a little extra time around the site. Just visit without the meals if you are on a budget though and you’ll still have a great experience. If you are a fan of the fantasy and not of the crowds- fear not. While it is busy, they have these tours down to an efficiency that really impressed me and I never had to stress that much about getting the photo I want or having to wait for people to move. All in all- awesome experience, and a must do if you enjoy LOTR, movie making, and cool photos 😀
Rated New Zealand’s top day hike (and among the top 10 day hikes in the world) the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered a “must do” for any outdoor enthusiasts visiting New Zealand. It’s yet another track I missed on my first trip out there and I was determined not to miss it this time. The track provides incredible views across different kinds of (primarily volcanic) landscapes. From the desolate Mars-like landscape of the western face of mount Tongariro, to the glistening emerald lakes and vast lake views over Lake Rotoaira and Lake Taupo as you descend, this hike is really unlike any other I’ve experienced.
Distance: 19.4 km/ 12 miles point to point Elevation change: 2600 feet gain, 3700 feet/1126m loss Rating: Moderate- Hard (depending on weather conditions) Time: 6-9 hours Cost: The trail is free. The shuttles are 40 NZD/ $26.30* When to hike: Unless you have mountaineering skills with crampons and ice ax, plan on hiking during the late Spring- early Fall (Oct- April) and avoid this hike if any storms are predicted in the area.
During the primary trekking months (mid Oct-April) parking at the main TH on Mangatepopo road is limited to 4 hours so you aren’t able to park your car there if you are doing the crossing. There are shuttle services from National Park village that cost 40 NZD pp or you can arrange your own pickup/ drop off. The shuttles pick up at multiple locations in town and at the Mangahuia Campground. There are a couple shuttle providers but all cost around the same, and TCS (Tongariro Crossing Shuttles) is the most frequent/ popular provider.
*YOU MUST BOOK AHEAD. You must book on their website or by calling their office BEFORE the day you plan to do the trek. Departures are scheduled on the hour from 7AM-10AM and the time slots DO sell out. The shuttle will then pick you up at the end of the trek starting at 1:30 and continuing every hour (2:30,3:30,etc) until 5:30. If you are late for the shuttle, they have a phone you can call that will send a van out to pick you up but you will incur additional charges at that point.
*The shuttle will also pick you up free of charge at the beginning of the hike any time during the day if you decide to turn around.
Tips for completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing:
Be Prepared. People have DIED doing this trail and hikers are rescued at least twice a month, don’t let that be you!
Wear good shoes with durable, thick soles. The volcanic terrain is VERY sharp and hard on shoes.
Bring SUNSCREEN. The track is 90% exposed with no cover until the last 10% of the track. (We failed in this respect and ended up with horrible sunburns on the 4th day of our 2 week trip)
Bring layers! The conditions can and DO change rapidly in the alpine environment. While it can be hot and sunny when you start, clouds and winds blow in quickly making for very extreme conditions. And again with no cover up there, you don’t want to be caught without layers.
Bring lots of snacks and water- at least 2.5-3 liters per person.
Watch the weather reports. The shuttle services will make sure you are aware and prepared for the weather conditions that day when they pick you up. It’s important to know if bad weather could be rolling in, whether you are prepared with layers or not, and how familiar you are with the route. The route is not always obvious, the rock is VERY loose and crumbly, and there are extreme drop offs, active steam vents, and high acidity pools. You don’t want to be caught up there with no idea which direction to go and no visibility due to weather.
Hike with a buddy/ group and do NOT wander off alone. EVER.
Pack Toilet paper! There are many toilets along the route but none of them provide TP. If you want it, make sure you pack it.
Schedule for either the first or second start times with the shuttle. In the summer (even early summer) It got HOT fast. We started at 7AM and wished we’d started at 6. Starting earlier also gives you the opportunity to share the trail with less people as it gets busy quickly.
Familiarize yourself with the route. We thought we were much closer to being done than we actually were. The more you know, the more you can plan and pace yourself.
Use trekking poles and/or do some prep hikes. I discounted this as a fairly easy day as I’ve done far worse hikes than 2600 feet of gain but that gain is RAPID and steep. The loss at times is even worse, with one section that had NO solid footing at all… It was like skiing down loose rock. The trekking poles will help you keep your balance when you slide.
History of the National Park
It was designated Tongariro National Park on the 23 September 1887, due to the importance of the area for its outstanding natural features and the cultural importance that the peaks and rivers represent to local Maori. In 1990 the park was recognized as a World Heritage Site for its nature and in 1993, the park became the first place in the world to be listed as a World Heritage Site for the spiritual and cultural values the landscape possesses for the indigenous people in the area.
Volcanic history of Tongariro
The Tongariro land mass was formed by a multitude of eruptions from at least six different cones which all share the same alignment with the oldest lava flow dated to about 275,000 years ago.
The eruptions continued for the next 200,000 years until the Ice Age. As the ice retreated, it carved out valleys from the mountains. Red Crater and Mt Ngauruhoe are the most recently formed features on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (which makes sense as they are also 2 of the active hazards zone… more on that later)
Red Crater was formed about 3000 years ago. It lies within a scoria cone which rests on top of the older Tongariro lava flows. The most recent confirmed volcanic activity from Red Crater was reported between 1855 and 1890. The dike on the Southern Wall has been exposed by erosion. Lava would have flowed through this dike and poured into the valley below. (pictures of this further down)
Mt Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) is the youngest volcano in the area having begun to form about 2,500 years ago. It is the most active vent in the Tongariro area with its last eruption recorded in 1975 and the flows from that eruption are easily visible at the beginning of your hike when you hike up to the south crater. (the first big uphill move)
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Tongariro Northern Circuit both pass through hazard zones. Tongariro Volcanic Hazard Zones include: Te Maari, Red Crater and Ngāuruhoe. All of these vents have been active within the last 100 years. The most recent eruptions occurred from Te Maari in 2012 and Ngāuruhoe in 1975. Flying rocks and burning ash clouds are the main volcanic phenomena that can affect the tracks on and around Tongariro.
Even when the tracks are open, volcanic risk is present as volcanic eruptions can occur with little or no warning. Volcanic monitoring systems in the Park monitor volcanic activity and mitigate volcanic risk, but won’t ensure your personal safety. Hike at your own risk. To check the alert level of the Tongariro area, visit GEONET the day before/ on the day or your trek.
About our experience:
*If you want an incredibly detailed write up of what this hike will entail along with a few more tips, read on.
Because our Airbnb was 20 minutes North of National Park village, we decided to book the 7AM departure to make it easier on ourselves in the morning. Probably best too since we barely made that time slot. We arranged for pick up at the station/ Park & Ride which as it turns out is the first on the route. (bad because we were a little late, great because the driver waited for us) The bus definitely filled up quickly with the major stops being the ski shop and YHA. It was about 30 minutes drive with additional pickups meaning we started our hike right around 7:40 AM.
The trailhead was BUSY- between our bus load of people, previous 6 AM drop offs, and other shuttle services- it was crowded. We headed out immediately instead of dilly dallying with all the people.
*TIP If you have to use the restroom, just WAIT as literally 20-30 minutes down the trail there are toilets at the Mangatepopo Hut that were empty. There’s toilets every 1-2 hours after that.
After 3 miles (around an hour) of flat easy hiking, a small track will veer off to the visible Soda Springs Waterfall. It’s maybe a 15 minute detour and a cool little waterfall to see up close.
The uphill through lava fields:
From the waterfall/ Soda Springs toilet area, the trail finally starts to really take off- gaining almost all the elevation over the next 3 miles. We had decided to just pack one bag between the 2 of us and trade off every 3 miles which meant I got to carry the pack up the hills. The track here is made up of more boardwalks and stairs (easier than lose rock) and you get some pretty cool views down the valley and on a clear day even out all the way to Taranaki. (we weren’t so lucky) The immediate slopes are all ancient lava flows which vary between flat to dotted with massive lava rocks. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you will definitely feel like you are trekking through Mordor here, which is great since this is where it was filmed! Mt. Ngauruhoe even provides a lot of the Mount Doom backdrops.
Climbing to the top of Red Crater
After 30-45 minutes of climbing you reach the top of one ridge and are now in what is called the South Crater. Walking through south crater gives you a respite from the climb since it is the flattest part of the whole trek, and it definitely feels a bit like walking on Mars.
Then you’re greeted with another uphill climb (30 minutes) to the rim of red crater. This was the steepest angle of the whole trek and after being pampered with stairs before, this uphill section definitely feels challenging. Luckily you are rewarded at the top of this rim with really cool views of red crater with Mt Ngauruhoe’s red rim directly behind it. You can also start to feel good about being *mostly done with uphill climbs. It’s just 5 minutes more uphill to where you will be able to see down to the emerald pools.
The downhill from Hell
Now begins the MOST CHALLENGING section of this entire hike. The slope down to the emerald pools is along a fairly narrow spine with your only footing- loose scoria. It is STEEP and it is SLIPPERY. We watched many people slip and fall- some multiple times! On this downhill section. The trick is to A. bring hiking poles to help maintain your balance and B. to go down side ways.
Turn to the side, step one foot down letting it slide (which it will) until it settles due to the rocks bunched up under it or a more solid rock underneath. Then move your uphill foot down to join it and continue switching leading sides as needed and moving slightly in a zigzag pattern as you search for better footing. The WORST footing is actually where it looks smoother but is covered in small pebble rocks. Aim for the bigger rocks and you will slide less. I promise.
The Emerald Lakes to Blue Lake
Once down at the emerald lakes breathe a huge sigh of relief at making it down the hill from hell and take in the expansive views. Not only are the lakes a beautiful sight with their varying 3 colors of green/blue, but along one side are multiple cool steam vents that release visible steam clouds. Make your way down along the right side of the lowest lake to get a good view of the vents, but you’ll want to continue to the left at the bottom to meet back up with the track. *The trail that descends down to the right is part of the longer 3-day Tongariro Northern Circuit.
After the emerald pools, it’s a 15 minute walk across central crater with one last uphill section (easy in comparison) to the massive blue lake. In contrast to the emerald lakes, blue lake is an acidic COLD lake and is considered sacred to Maori culture. Because of this it is considered disrespectful to touch the lake, or eat around its shores. Since we considered the emerald lakes so cool, we snacked there and only paused a moment to admire the views from blue lake.
Now this is the important part, at blue lake we thought we were over halfway done with our distance (because endomondo was wack) but in reality, this is the DISTANCE halfway point which ended up having a big impact on the rest of our hiking pace. There’s toilets just around the corner from blue lake, but otherwise- gear up for some serious descent.
The second half of this hike basically descends the same slope in dozens upon dozens of switchbacks so your view won’t change much. However, the view is REALLY something and when you see photos of the rest of the alpine crossing, nobody really mentions just how cool this part of the view is. On a clear day (or even not on a very clear day) you can see for miles. Those miles encompass Lake Rotoaira divided by a small ridge from what only looks like the ocean at first. But is in fact, the largest surface area lake in New Zealand. Extending in the other direction are rolling green hills dotted with stunning yellow flowers that even on a hazy day we could make out.
As you descend you’ll also pass more steam vents, many dotting the hillside bringing “fire on the mountain” to mind. Eventually you’ll get to the last toilet stop of the trek before the end- at Ketetahi Shelter. At this point it really seems like you are nearing the end but in reality, you still have 2 hours at a normal hiking pace to go. At this point we’d noticed just how sun burned we were getting and were ready to be DONE so our aim was to finish in time for the 2:30 shuttle. According to the distance I had on endomondo, it seemed very doable if we moved at a consistent pace.
Sometime after the Ketetahi Shelter, we came to another sign estimating still 45 minutes (we only had 20 minutes until the shuttle) and at this point if we missed the 2:30 shuttle, we’d have to wait until 3:30 to be picked up…. I’ve never been so tired and yet hiked so fast. We practically ran those last kms through the bush line literally bursting out of the trees into the carpark at 2:32 as the bus was closing its doors. Thankfully, they paused to let us get on a VERY packed bus taking the last available seats.
Luckily the guys around us were friendly and talkative making the 30 minute (HOT) bus ride back to our car a little less painless. Since our Airbnb was so far out of town, we decided on an early dinner so we wouldn’t have to drive back IN to town and we opted for the Station Café where we parked. Then following the a very satisfactory meat pie with chips, we drove back to the Airbnb to nurse my sunburn and get some R&R.
All in all, if you show up prepared and have nice weather, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an amazing and unique hike that you just won’t get anywhere else. It is a busy trail, and it is a long day, but if you’re an outdoor enthusiast visiting the North Island of New Zealand, I’m not sure how you’ll be able to resist it.
An activity that I’ve wanted to do for years but wanted to experience for the first time somewhere truly epic. When we booked our trip to New Zealand, I knew this would be the place. The unique lakes and incredible mountains would make the perfect backdrop for my first open air flight. Best of all Queenstown is a mecca of paragliding with multiple take off hills and competitive pricing. (It’s cheaper to paraglide in Queenstown than it is in Utah) We almost didn’t get to fly due to prolonged bad weather for all 3 days we were visiting, but luckily the morning of our departure, the clouds lifted and the wind died down making for perfect conditions for flying.
Which paragliding tour to choose?
There are two mountains for take off in Queenstown- Bob’s Hill and Coronet Peak. I knew I didn’t want to do Bob’s hill as it isn’t very high and we’d get a similar view just from taking the lift up and luging. So with Coronet Peak our take off of choice- we had 2 companies to choose between. Coronet Peak Tandems and Skytrek. They were pretty evenly priced and reviews were mainly positive for both. Ultimately we chose Coronet Peak Tandems since they were a hair cheaper and we knew the price of our photos and videos wouldn’t cost too much compared to an unknown price with Skytrek.
Coronet Peak Tandems was AWESOME. They communicated wonderfully in the few days before our flight- texting us about weather conditions and rescheduling to a time that worked best for us. The pick up and drop off in downtown Queenstown was seamless and the flight was exactly as expected.
About flying with Coronet Peak Paragliding
There are 2 take offs on Coronet Peak- the main takeoff and higher take off. Make sure to choose the higher take off for the longest flight possible as well as to experience some acrobatic flight tricks. The higher take off is the highest paragliding take off in Queenstown and sits at 5,400 feet. This company has the most tandem flight records from Coronet Peak (vs. Skytrek) and has an incredible team of pilots with year of flight experience. They offer tandem hanggliding and combo flight deals for both hang gliding and paragliding.
Higher take-off flight: $151 USD/ $236 NZD per person All videos/ photos taken during tour: $40USD/ $60 NZD per person-> Latte in the landing zone: $3 USD/ $4.70 NZD
From the take off you have AMAZING views of Queenstown city, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables mountain range- making this one of the big reasons for choosing Coronet Peak for take-off. The flights last around 20 minutes with the pilots doing their absolute best to keep you in the air as long as possible. All of the pilots we met on our tour (about 10 of them) were crazy passionate about flying and so excited to be in the air. You could tell they love flying- adding to the feeling that you will get the best absolute flight experience.
Tips for the best flight experience:
Even if it is a warm day, pack a warm jacket or coat. It gets cold up there. Dress warm in general with pants and definitely closed toed shoes.
Our pilots provided us with gloves and sunnies, but if you have a special preference for the look of your sunglasses in photos- pack a pair that fit well.
You can’t have any lose articles AT ALL so if you don’t have a gopro mount for your clothing then you will just have to rely on the footage they take. If you don’t have zipping pockets to secure your phone, wallet, etc.. then your pilot will store your things in their bag for the flight.
Morning is an excellent time to book for great lighting and to better weather.
Schedule your tour for the your first day in Queenstown. Then if the wind/ weather isn’t right and they have to reschedule you, you have plenty of options.
Our experience with Coronet Peak Paragliding
We signed up for the 2nd tour of the day at 9:30 AM so we could sleep in. We met them just outside the art museum by their van where they picked up the 8 of us that were going at that timeslot. We drove about 10 minutes in that van to another location where we picked up the pilots and climbed into a larger bus/ van. We were all paired with our pilots based on body weight and height and take off location. It was then another short drive of 10 minutes or so to the very top where the higher take off tour was dropped off first.
The view from up top was just honestly incredible, I’m not sure if you can drive up there on your own since it is part of a ski resort/ dirt roads, but if you can, I highly recommend it. We figured out our order for take off and got a quick debriefing of how the flight would go. My pilot, Jack, explained that you will set your sights straight ahead and try to run toward it as the pilot pulls up the glider and gets ready for take-off. There’s no running off a sudden edge, in fact the take- off hill was actually pretty mild of an angle.
I didn’t time it but I’m sure I was up there for 15- 20 minutes. Jack explained a few things about thermals and how the warm air coming off the mountain offers lift (which you can definitely feel). The more thermal activity, the better as it will continue pushing you higher. He let me steer a couple times and we did some photos/ videos before moving towards the landing zone. The last descent we did some “tricks” which pretty much involved going into a sort of tight spiral with a couple of swings that bordered on going upside down. Basically I had no way to keep track of which direction was which, but it was very fast and VERY fun.
Upon landing you get very close to the ground and then sort of hop (what feels like jumping down off a 1 foot curb). I’d say it was easy but since my legs were all jelly from the flight still I kind of collapsed in a heap. Definitely don’t do that! My poor pilot struggled to get me back on my feet as the seat is really awkward and we still had to unclip everything! Haha
*It was a little embarrassing
Braden had the BEST flight of everyone in our group. His pilot, Rene, caught some awesome thermal energy and ended up at the same height as the peak where they could see all the way to Wanaka! With all the lift they got, their flight probably lasted 5 more minutes than mine and looked like an absolute best.
If you want to go with a pilot with the absolute most thrill and stoke- definitely ask for Rene. That being said, Jack was also great but a bit more reserved.
On the ground
Back on the ground of the landing zone there’s a small coffee shop where you can look over the gopro footage from your flight. We had about 15 minutes on the ground before the lower take-off flights met back up with us. Then it was a short journey back into town, again transferring vans to go into the center.
All in all, this is a must do in Queenstown. (I guess you could go sky diving but that’s a lot shorter than paragliding) It’s just the right amount of thrill without being terrifying with a super easy take off and landing.
Let me know in the comments below if you’d be interested in paragliding in Queenstown or if you have any questions about our experience!
Most people think a trip to New Zealand is a costly affair- mostly due to impressions of how expensive it can be to fly there. However, New Zealand is actually one of cheaper places I’ve been with prices comparing to trips around the United States. There’s loads of ways you can economize and save money in New Zealand that are fairly unique to the country itself, so I’m writing down all the tips and tricks for you to budget your way to the dream trip you’ve been waiting for.
How to eat for cheap in New Zealand
Download the app first table or bookmark their website. This instrumental site allows you to make a reservation for a wide range of eateries for about $10. Then you get 50% (based on the deal) off your entire order when you eat there. If you like fine dining and great restaurants, this is a killer way to save 50% or more off your bill. *Note that you have to make the reservation 1-3 days in advance depending on the popularity of the restaurant.
Explore the grocery market options. We tried to minimize our eating out to only 1-2 meals a day and bought sandwich supplies, breakfast items, and other snacks at the markets. The grocery stores are easy to navigate and have lots of fun options. The 3 top markets for saving money on groceries are: Pac N Save (Costco-like), New World (our fave), and Count Down.
Fast food. Forget Mcdonald’s- that place let us down this trip as far as pricing. However Dominos really rallied for us and it’s got multiple locations across the nation. In under 10 minutes you get your order, plus one large pizza is only $6 NZD or $3.50 USD ! That’s even cheaper than in the US, really fast, and super satisfying after a long day when you’re just ready to curl up in your Airbnb.
Book airbnbs that include breakfast. 50% of our stays did and they were all amazing! I’ve never stayed in such generous places- they usually included toast with butter/ jam, breakfast cereals and milk, fruit, yogurt, and of course a selection of teas and coffee.
Buy your alcohol at the liquor stores or grocery stores instead of drinking at restaurants. It’s much cheaper- particularly if you like cider which goes for practically the price of water some places.
Note: For purchasing alcohol at stores OR at bars/ restaurants you’ll be asked to present identification proving your age. For international visitors, the only identification they will accept is your PASSPORT.
How to save money on activities in New Zealand
When shopping for adrenaline activities and tours check with multiple operators to see if they combo with other tours you want to do. Many do offer combos and discount the rate of the 2nd activity. For example rafting the Kawaru River we found operators that combo’d a cruise on Milford Sound, and another that combo’d jet boat tours and the Queenstown Luge. The latter ended up actually saving us more money so that’s the combo and operator we chose to go with.
Bookmark the site: Bookme for last minute tour discounts. If there’s any activities you’re interested in that you aren’t on a tight timeline for or worried about going with a specific operator (ie: biking tours, wine tours, film locations, or horse back riding tours) visit the site bookme to see what options are available. This site sells discounted tours to fill empty seats or drive business on slower days and usually offers 40-50% off and more in some cases. During our visit to Queenstown we booked a horseback riding tour at 40% off and admission to an Ice Bar for 50% off.
Do less costly activities and more FREE stuff! If you’re a LOTR fan, see my post here for a diy guide to filming locations across the country. Visit the National Park visitor centers to learn about the history and culture and find info about great hikes in the area. Road trip out to scenic spots and have a picnic! There’s lots of great ways to plan a do it yourself tour and save lots off the organized tour price.
How to save money on gas in New Zealand
If you saw my camper-van post than you know gas is a costly price for road tripping around New Zealand. The more you plan out where you will fill up, the more you will save on gas. Purchasing gas in larger areas is loads cheaper due to the demand. (for example, gas in Glenorchy was $1.50 NZD MORE than gas in Queenstown and it’s only a 46 km drive)
Pick up an EXON Mobile rewards card at the start of your road trip. Exon stations were generally the baseline for price in the cities and with a rewards card you save $0.03 off each liter and once you accumulate enough points, you can cash in for $5, $10, $15 off your gas bill.
And of course the easiest way to save money when travelling anywhere is to visit in the shoulder or off seasons. This will save you the most money on your lodging and car rental and usually impacts even the cost of activities.
If you’ve explored this website at all, you’ve probably seen that I love me some airbnbs. I spend hours pouring over lodging for each place I visit- reading reviews, looking through photos, and just visualizing how the location will affect my itinerary. I generally prioritze uniqueness and value so with that- here’s the top 3 amazing airbnbs in New Zealand that are all well under $100 US a night!
Best on the North Island
This may- in fact be the best airbnb experience we’ve ever had- anywhere in the world. The home is located about 15 minutes outside of National Park village on the north island of NZ in a prime spot for hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. National Park village itself is really quite small with only a handful of lodges, restaurants, and a train station- so there’s really no reason to stay in town.
Amenities: This airbnb is a standalone apartment that does share the property with the owner’s home. It has its own entrance and doesn’t share any walls with the home, so it still feels very private. It comes with:
a comfortable queen size bed
wood burning stove for heating in the winter
loft with an additional futon
good sized kitchen and eating area and included toast, jams and butter, yogurt, milk, great coffee and tea, and several small sweets
private outside deck
washer and dryer if needed
7 acres of beautiful farm land to explore including a hammock space, fruit trees, and several small creeks
Smart TV with netflix hookups
Best of all- it has its own private spa/ hot tub outside under the stars and they even have robes for you to use for going in and out
Honestly we spent 2 nights here and I could’ve stayed forever. The hosts were so friendly and accommodating. They even took us on a tour of the property and we got to meet their super friendly donkeys! You could see the tops of Tongariro National Park’s volcano peaks but the views of the surrounding ridge lines and fields were the amazing enough. For my drone footage of the property, click here.
To stay at this incredible airbnb, you can book here.
The best airbnb on the south island of NZ
This airbnb wins awards for having incredible architecture, wildlife, and views all wrapped up in one. It’s an easy 5-10 minute drive outside of Queenstown along the beautiful Glenorchy road and situated in some of the prettiest countryside in the area. The room itself has warm welcoming colors and is very comfortable. Amenities at this home include:
a VERY comfortable queen bed with luxurious bed linens
small breakfast necessities such as a mini fridge, coffees and teas, toaster, set of dishes
Massive bathtub and gold headed shower in a bathroom with a skylight
Did I mention how interesting the overall architecture of the place is?
a paddock full of Disney level friendly deer right outside your room.
While the host was a little more aloof at this property, she did go over maps of nearby trails we could walk and other points of interest nearby. The property actually has 2 airbnbs available to rent (this room being the cheaper of the 2) and a home attached. We spent a very rainy 3 days in Queenstown and we loved being able to retreat to this mountain lodge. Feeding the deer was also a highlight of our entire trip.
As far as amenities and convenient location go, this airbnb doesn’t quite stack up to the previous 2, but what it does win at is insane views and wonderful hosts. It’s located in the very small seaside village of Whangapoua near New Chums Beach on the Coromandel, NZ. It’s about an hour drive from Cathedral Cove and hot water beach which are 2 much more thriving beach side towns. Its views however are unmatched and if you’ve ever wondered what staying in a shipping container would be like- here’s your chance.
The airbnb includes:
a full size outdoor covered kitchen
private ensuite bathroom
killer views from every angle
an incredible beach less than 5 minutes drive away
If you’re planning a trip to NZ and plan on staying near a lot of the national parks and hiking, odds are you’ve considered renting a campervan. Camping in New Zealand is incredible and there are tons of brilliant campsites however while most people would think that it’s more flexible and cheaper to rent a camper van… but that’s actually NOT the case.
Renting a camper van could cost you hundreds more than staying in comfortable Airbnb’s and at least double staying in dorm hostels/ tent camping. What’s more, if you supplement some of your Airbnb costs with tent camping, not only do you get the best of both worlds with nature and luxury, but you save a lot of money on the cost of the rental and gas.
In NZ you aren’t allowed to just park your rig and camp anywhere- you either need to find specific free campsites or pay to stay in a campground- making it less of a flexible option than you may have been thinking.
Here’s the breakdown:
New Zealand Campground Costs:
All paid NZ campgrounds come with some sort of toilet and water. Most also come with a cooking facility/ kitchen area. Below are the general costs of NZ campgrounds:
DOC/ nonpowered and no shower sites run $8-$15 NZD per person
Holiday parks with power and showers run $25 NZD per person
There are some free campgrounds around the country with no services at all. These aren’t however as conveniently located to sites you might want to see and will require lots of additional planning.
*The below costs are based on a 10 night, 2100km/1300 mile road trip on the south island *The avg cost of gas on our was trip: $7 USD/ gallon or $2.80 NZD/ liter
Rental Cost of the Camper: $407/ $637 NZD for cheapest option of a camper-minivan or $617/ $966 NZD for next size up rig (sleeps only 3)
Gas costs: The minivan rig gets 21mpg or 11L/100km so gas will cost $433 or the larger rig gets 12mpg- 19.6L/100km which would cost $758
Cost range for camper-vans: $840 to $1375 not factoring in campground or rental gear costs
Our non- campervan budget
*We tent camped 2 nights at Mount Cook NP. Otherwise we stayed in very nice Airbnbs
Rental Cost of the economy car: $207 – we got a Toyota corolla
Gas Cost: $257 -we got about 35 mpg or 8L/100 km
Campground costs when tent camping: $60 for 2 nights
Airbnb costs: $608 for the other 8 nights around the south island
Our total cost: $1,132 including showers, toilets, and most of the time kitchens with breakfast
Note: We could’ve saved even more by staying in hostels (Avg cost $30/bed) or tent camping more nights (Avg cost $30/night)
So in the end you could rent a camper-van and pay at least $840 with no showers, toilets, or bedding- where you have to pay at least another $300 in campground fees OR find free campgrounds.
OR you could pay around $1100 for amazing airbnbs and a decent car with awesome gas usage. Plus tent camp when you want to be in nature, OR even better stay in one of New Zealand’s crazy beautiful mountain huts like the Pouakai hut!
Thanks for coming to my TED talk! For more articles related to saving money in NZ, see below:
Wanaka is like the little sister of nearby Queenstown- and I mean that in the best way. It offers a stunning lake that is in a parallel valley to Queenstown’s lake, tons of brilliant hiking, adventure sports, and great food- only it’s a quarter of the size. It’s easily walkable around the whole town and makes for a little more relaxing of a vacation compared to the larger city of Queenstown. We had originally only planned 1 day in Wanaka but got 3 due to extreme weather killing our plans in Mount Cook National Park. Needless to say, our 3 days there were a great blend of relaxing and adventuring and a nice way to take a break after 10 days on the move.
Top things to do in Wanaka:
Hike to Roys Peak
An iconic must-do hike for the adventure enthusiast visiting New Zealand’s South Island- Roys Peak is a fantastic but CHALLENGING hike. Wanaka is an excellent base as this trail is very popular in fine weather and you’ll want to hit the trail first thing to beat the crowds and the heat of the day. Read more about the hike here.
Hike to Rocky Mountain
The moderate version of Roys Peak with a quarter of the crowds- a hike to Rocky Mountain is a worthy hike for families or folks who don’t feel like climbing 4,000+ feet in under 5 miles. Instead this easier version still takes you too a great vista over Lake Wanaka and includes the bonus small Diamond Lakes as you meander along. It climbs a lot less elevation but it does still have a bit of a climb so hikers be prepared.
Check out a movie at Cinema Paradiso
While going to a movie is not usually at the top of my list when travelling internationally, I’m actually super stoked that we got to experience this theater. We visited on an incredibly rainy day when being outside was impossible and the warm cozy interior of Cinema Paradiso was the perfect escape. They have 2 main theater rooms and the seating is made up of couches and believe it or not- CARS. They’ve got a full service café, beers, and your standard movie fare to dine on during your visit. The best snack comes during the intermission (yes even only 90 minute films have one) when they have fresh baked cookies for purchase at around 3NZD. I also loved the intermission for my always necessary bathroom break.
*Tip: Call ahead to set aside tickets for your party and show up 20-30 minutes before your film to have the best chance of great seating.
Visit the Mount Aspiring Visitor Center
Yet another unexpected spot that we took refuge in from the never ending rain on our visit to Wanaka- the Visitor Center has a lot of fun information on the area. They have displays on the native wildlife and a cool exhibit of the discovery and exploration of climbing routes on Mount Aspiring. One of the most interesting exhibits to us was the walk that detailed how the New Zealand red deer were introduced, over populated, and then how they managed to get the population back under control. (They would literally capture deer from helicopters with specially designed net guns)
I’d also recommend a visit here to plan your hikes and learn about the various tracks. For example we’d thought about venturing out in the rain on some more shorter hikes but learned almost everything near Wanaka was closed due to mud and flooding conditions.
Take a Wine Tour
Wanaka sits in the Central Otago region which is best known for 2 things- cycling and wine. It’s rolling dry hills, sunny weather, and slight alpine fields make for an excellent wine growing envinornment. The most fickle of grapes- Pinot Noir even excels here. If you are a wine connousieur, a wine tour shouldn’t be missed if visiting this region and there’s plenty of fantastic tours to choose from. Pick a tour that takes you to only boutique wineries not open to the general public, or goes by a more try all approach. There’s also a fantastic tour that combines Maori culture and wine – we met the creator of that tour who was fantastic.
*We stayed here one night. This was a small comfortable space with a great king size bed. It’s a small space but all the features are upgraded and clean. The key note here is it is RIGHT downtown walk-able to the lake front and restaurants within 5 minutes.
*We stayed here 2 nights. This small cabin is SO cozy and comfortable and just 10 minutes outside Wanaka. It generally runs cheaper even in the high tourist season which also really puts it on the map. It has all the kitchen gadgets for making breakfast and sandwiches.
You don’t have to be planning an epic multi day walk into the backcountry of Fjordland National Park to plan some time in Te Anau! In fact, while it is the gateway to some amazing places, it’s a great little town to explore in its own right! Consider this: You can take cheap ferry cruises along Te Anau lake, see glow worm caves (great if you aren’t going to the North Island), check out amazing birds in a free sanctuary, learn about the geological and cultural history of Fjordland National Park, AND have great access to nearby Milford Sound without paying the premium of staying in Milford Sound Lodge.
Top things to do in Te Anau:
Te Anau Glow Worm Caves
Experience the twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall topped off with the incredible bio-luminescent world of glow worm lights. The experience lasts just over 2 hours beginning with a sight seeing cruise across Te Anau lake, a walk through underground tunnels, and ending with the capstone of floating in an underground grotto under a canopy of glow worm “stars” before heading back to the light of above ground. The tours are kept to small groups (with a max of 14 people) and cost around 103 NZD ($67) per person. I would consider this a MUST do tour unless you plan on visiting Waitomo on the North Island. *Make advanced reservations here to ensure availability on your date.
Te Anau Bird Sactuary
Rain or shine, this is a great little nature park to walk around hosting several exotic and even endangered species of birds. We saw owls, parrots, parakeets, and the most incredible of all: the almost extinct Takahē, a flightless bird native to only NZ. When we were there, they had a recently hatched Takahē chick as well. It’s an easy place to walk around in 15 minutes or so depending on how long you admire the birds and get to know their personalities. If possible, try to go close to feeding times at 9:30 AM or 4:30 PM. Guided tours are also possible to be arranged through the Fjordland NP Visitor Center.
Directions: It’s an easy 10 minute walk along Te Anau Lakeshore from the Fjordland NP Visitor Center, or an easy 3 minute drive.
Hours: Dawn- Dusk
Cost: Free, but a 1-2 gold coin donations are appreciated
Te Anau lakeside Walk
There’s a trail that extends all around lake Te Anau to the start of the great walks like the Kepler Track. Walk as little or as much as you want to and if you have a full day but couldn’t get reservations for any of the overnight huts- the Luxmore hut is an excellent full day hike beginning in Te Anau.
Fjordland National Park Visitor Center
A great stop that can be short or long depending on the weather. They had some great exhibits on the discovery and settling of Fjordland National park as well as exhibits on the wildlife that can be found throughout New Zealand.
Can’t afford a helicopter tour of Fjordland national park? Don’t sweat it! Playing every hour at Fjordland cinema is a documentary Birdseye view in IMAX of Fjordland National Park. Check with your hotel for a discounted ticket.
A Great Walk!
With 3 world famous multi-day treks in the area to choose from, the area is the perfect launch point. Make sure to check the reservation systems for these great walks as the huts book out very quickly when dates are released.
Read my post specifically for driving the Milford Sound road and taking a Milford Sound Cruise. If there’s anything you do on the South Island, make sure this place is top of the list. From Te Anau, it is a 1.5-2 hours drive to Milford Sound without additional stops for hikes and short walks. Plan your time accordingly.
We had a triple room with kitchenette and private bathroom. We loved staying here as the beds were comfortable and came with really soft blankets, the kitchenette in our room was helpful, and it was nice having a private bathroom. Everything was clean and comfortable and best of all- this hotel IS lakefront so walking around the lake, taking a boat tour, and checking out the visitor center are all an easy 5 minute walk away.
Budget: Te Anau lakefront backpackers/ YHA Te Anau $24 pp
The cheapest options are to book a dorm bed here for $24/bed in a 6 bed mixed room. Both hostels are well rated and in convenient locations.
Where to eat in Te Anau:
The Fat Duck- For fancier fare, we really enjoyed eating at the Fat Duck. They have a nice range of menus for both meals and drinks. Their grilled lamb salad was particularly good.
Redcliff Restaurant &Bar – if you’re in the mood for a good burger or great pasta- this place was also delicious.