Climb glaciers and volcanoes, cruise through fjords, soak in natural hot pools and bungee 134m into a raging river – it’s time to plan a classic Kiwi adventure with this ultimate guide to solo travel in New Zealand!
Use my 2-4 week New Zealand solo travel itinerary if you want to hit all the best attractions and natural wonders (plus a few hidden gems).
Plus, I’ve provided a heap of extra information about travelling alone in New Zealand, including; the top 10 things to do and see, accommodation options, transport options, costs, a packing list, safety tips and much more!
- New Zealand Solo Travel Itinerary (2-4 Weeks)
- 10 Best Things to Do and See
- Best Time to Visit New Zealand
- Where to Start
- How Long to Spend Travelling New Zealand
- Cost and Budgeting
- Packing List
- Visas and Entry Requirements
- How to go from New Zealand to Australia
- More solo travel tips
Overview: Solo Travel in New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the best solo travel destinations for both first-timers and experienced travellers.
People love to travel alone in New Zealand because it is safe and easy to navigate.
Plus, it’s packed from top to bottom with natural wonders, including Milford Sound, Mt Cook, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Marlborough Sound, Tongariro National Park, Rotorua and much more.
The most popular solo travel route in New Zealand is from Auckland (North Island) to Christchurch (South Island)(or vice versa). This requires at least 3 weeks to complete.
Travelling alone in New Zealand is particularly popular amongst young people (18-30) (both male and female) thanks to its adventure sports and party-focused tours. However, it’s also popular amongst middle-aged and older solo travellers, who prefer self-driving holidays through the epic landscape.
New Zealand Solo Travel Itinerary
If you only have 2 weeks to solo travel New Zealand, I would suggest only doing the North Island or the South Island – not both.
But if you have 3 or more weeks to solo travel New Zealand, you will have enough time to do both the North and South Islands.
North Island (2 Weeks)
Auckland (2 Nights)
Fly into the international airport in Auckland – the country’s largest city and the perfect starting point for solo travelling New Zealand.
Known as the City of Sails due to its buzzing harbour, Auckland is a nature-lovers paradise. It’s surrounded by volcanic islands, black-sand beaches, lush rainforests and the shimmering waters of the Hauraki Gulf.
Want to dive straight into Kiwi culture? Visit some of New Zealand’s most iconic attractions, including the eye-catching Sky Tower. Afterwards, grab dinner from the food trucks at the Wynyard Quarter waterfront precinct.
Best things to do and see alone in Auckland:
- Visit Waiheke Island ($): Take a 40-minute ferry ride and spend a day visiting the vineyards and art galleries. If wine’s not your thing, explore the 100 km of walking trails and golden beaches like Oneroa and Onetangi.
- Auckland War Memorial and Museum ($$): One of the best museums in New Zealand, learn about the history of the Pacific Islands through their collection of Maori artefacts.
- Sky Tower ($$): Ascend 186m and enjoy 360-degree views over Auckland and the surrounding islands. Then ride the virtual Skyslide, freefall for 11 seconds off the SkyJump, or walk around the 1.2m wide Skywalk platform.
- Sunset Kayak Tour ($$$): Take a sunset kayak tour across the sea to Rangitoto Island (Auckland’s largest and highest volcano). Keep an eye out for Little Blue Penguins, devour a Kiwi-style BBQ and do some star gazing.
Bay of Islands (1 Night)
A few hours north of Auckland is the beautiful Bay of Islands, a subtropical haven that is host to 144 islands.
Base yourself in the relaxed town of Paihia and venture by boat to visit the famous Hole in the Rock. Alternatively, hire a kayak and paddle out to the golden sands of Urupukapuka Island.
Then back on land, visit some of New Zealand’s most famous historical sights, including the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and the township of Russell.
Best things to do and see alone in the Bay of Islands:
- Visit the town of Russell ($): New Zealand’s first European settlement, walk the historic streets and see Christ Church (the country’s oldest church) before eating at The Duke of Marlborough (the country’s first licensed hotel and bar).
- Waitangi Treaty Grounds ($$): Known as the birthplace of New Zealand, where the Maori People and European Settlers created the country’s founding document in 1840. See the modern museums, war canoes and more.
- Dolphin cruise to the Hole in the Rock ($$$): Take a half-day cruising tour around the Bay of Islands, searching for dolphins and whales, stopping over at an island and getting up close to the famous Hole in the Rock.
- Waipoua Forest ($): If you’ve hired a car or campervan, take a scenic detour via Waipoua Forest. See the Tane Mahuta, a 2,000-year-old tree with a 4.4m diameter (known as the Lord of the Forest).
Coromandel Peninsula (1 Night)
Pass back through Auckland (or stop over for a night) before continuing to the pristine Coromandel Peninsula – a tropical paradise with soft-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters.
Solo travellers who love the sun, sand and surf should spend a few days here.
Kick off your shoes and visit iconic coastal sights like Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.
Then wander the trails through the forest for panoramic views over the peninsula from the Eyefull Tower platform.
Best things to do and see alone in Coromandel:
- Cathedral Cove ($): Take your camera and grab some shots of the massive coastal cavern that has been naturally carved into the edge of the white rock.
- Hot Water Beach ($): This beach is famous because warm spring waters bubble up through the sand. Dig yourself a natural spa bath and soak away as the sun sets.
- Waiau Kauri Grove and Waterfall ($): Take a short walk through a majestic forest of ancient Kauri trees before continuing to a 6m waterfall, where you can take a swim in the rock pool.
- Driving Creek Railway ($$): Ride this historic railway through the forest and over a series of bridges and tunnels before arriving at the Eyefull Tower lookout.
Hamilton (1 Night)
Stop over for a night in one of New Zealand’s hidden gems – Hamilton.
Set on the banks of the Waikato River, this place has something for both thrill-seekers and chillers.
Get your heart pumping by descending into the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and riding a tube through underground rapids.
Alternatively, wander the rolling hills of the nearby Hobbiton Village or the five themed areas of the Hamilton Gardens.
Best things to do and see alone in Hamilton:
- Hobbiton Village Movie Set ($$): An hour from Hamilton is the Hobbiton Village, where you can take a 2-hour guided tour of the Hobbit Holes and the Shire Mill before downing some beverages at the Green Dragon Inn (book in advance).
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves and rafting ($$): Take a 1-hour walking and boat ride tour in New Zealand’s largest underground glowworm cave system. Alternatively, go black-water rafting 80m below the Earth’s surface.
- Hamilton Zoo ($): The largest zoo on New Zealand’s North Island is home to an array of exotic and native animals, including giraffes, tigers, rhinos, chimps and kea (the world’s only alpine parrot).
- Hamilton Gardens ($): A 58-hectare area with 5-themed gardens, including New Zealand’s first traditional Maori garden.
Rotorua and Lake Taupo (2 Nights)
You can’t solo travel New Zealand without spending some time at both Rotorua and Lake Taupo.
Rotorua is internationally renowned for its geological wonders, towering forests and adventure sports.
Just an hour down the road is Lake Taupo, which is almost the size of Singapore. Here, water-loving solo travellers can sail to see Maori carvings or jet boat to the thundering Huka Falls.
Best things to do and see alone in Rotorua and Lake Taupo:
- Te Pa Tu ($$$): A traditional Maori village, voted the #7 best attraction in the world (Trip Advisor). Witness the Haka, dine on seasonal cuisine, hear Maori legends, watch performances in the forest amphitheatre and more.
- Geothermal wonders ($$): Visit one of the geothermal parks around Rotorua, including Te Puia, Wai-O-Tapu or Kuirau Park (free). Watch the bubbling mud pools, whirling hot springs and shooting geysers.
- Zorb Rotorua ($$): Jump inside a giant ball and tumble your way down one of the world’s longest, fastest and steepest tracks. The only place in New Zealand where you can zorb.
- Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings ($$): Book a sailing cruise or take a kayak tour to the 14m tall Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, crafted over 10 years by one man.
- Huka Falls ($): One of New Zealand’s iconic natural sights, where 220,000 litres of lightning-blue water crash over the 11m drop every second. To get amongst the action, take a jet boat ride.
- Spa Thermal Park ($): Soak away in the Otumuheke Stream hot pools for free. Watch the Waikato River pass by whilst bathing in these natural spas.
Tongariro (1 Night)
In the heart of the North Island sits Tongariro National Park – the first National Park in New Zealand and a highlight for adventurous solo travellers.
First opened in 1887, this UNESCO World Heritage site sits between three volcanoes and is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty.
During the summer months, you can enjoy short walks or full-day hikes to volcanic wonders such as the Emerald Lakes, Taranaki Falls, active craters and lava flows.
In the winter months (June-October), solo travellers can shred two of New Zealand’s largest ski resorts – Whakapapa and Turoa.
Best things to do and see alone in Tongariro:
- Short Walks ($): There are 10 short walks in Tongariro National Park that you can complete in a few hours. The most popular tracks include the Whakapapa Nature Walk (15-minute loop), Tawhai Falls (0.5km return), Ridge Walk (1.2km return) and Taranaki Falls (6km loop).
- Longer Walks ($): The Tongariro Alpine Crossing (19.4km) is one of the best day treks in New Zealand and takes you past the famous Emerald Lakes. The Tama Lakes walk (17km) is slightly shorter and easier.
- Ski and snowboard ($$$): Whakapapa is a great ski resort for beginners thanks to its Happy Valley training area and a wide array of intermediate trails. Turoa is better for more advanced skiers, offering freeride terrain and New Zealand’s longest vertical.
- Cycle the Old Coach Road ($$): Hire a mountain bike in nearby Ohakune and ride the Old Coach Road (15km one-way), passing over viaducts, through tunnels and admiring the volcanic scenery.
Hawkes Bay (1 Night)
If you’re a food and wine lover, you must include Hawkes Bay on your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
The Hawkes Bay region is internationally renowned for producing some of the world’s best Red Blends and Chardonnay wines.
Base yourself in the trendy Art-Deco city of Napier. From here, you can explore the local vineyards by day and splurge on fine dining by night.
Best things to do and see alone in Hawkes Bay:
- Hawkes Bay Wineries Trail ($$): Hire a push bike and ride the wineries trail (30km), stopping at 9 cellar doors for tastings and a spot of lunch.
- Historic wineries ($$): Vist Te Mata Estate and Mission Estate, New Zealand’s oldest barrel hall and winery respectively.
- Cape Kidnappers ($): A half-hour drive from Napier is Cape Kidnappers, home to the world’s largest gannet colony. From the clifftops, watch as 25,000 of these giant birds dive for fish in the ocean below.
- Hike to Te Mata Peak ($): For the best views over the sea and countryside, take one of the seven hiking trails that lead to Te Mata Peak.
- National Aquarium of New Zealand ($$): Located along the Marine Parade, you can explore the underwater world and see Little Penguins, Tuatara, Kiwi and more.
- Dine locally ($$): You won’t find a fresher meal anywhere in the world. Eat at farm-to-fork restaurants such as Bistronomy and Deliciosa Restaurant.
Wellington (2 Nights)
Solo travellers can get a true taste of Kiwi creativity and culture in Wellington – voted the “coolest little capital in the world” by Lonely Planet.
Every visitor to New Zealand must visit the Te Papa National Museum and Art Gallery. And movie buffs can’t miss the famous WETA Workshop.
Nature lovers will want to ride the historic Wellington Cable Car to the Botanic Gardens. But foodies might prefer to hang out in the trendy eateries and dive bars around Hannah’s Laneway.
This is the last stop on the North Island during your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
Best things to do and see alone in Wellington:
- Te Papa National Museum and Art Gallery ($): It is free to visit New Zealand’s national museum. Considered one of the best attractions in the country, explore six floors of Maori treasures, artefacts of European settlement, a colossal squid, international artworks and much more.
- Wellington Cable Car ($): No solo trip to New Zealand is complete without riding the historic Wellington Cable Car, past the colourful houses and to the Botanic Gardens at the summit.
- Hannah’s Laneway ($): A trendy area filled with unique eateries and bars.
- Zealandia Sanctuary ($$): Take a day or night tour around this forested wildlife sanctuary, home to over 40 species including hihi, kākāriki, takahē, glowworms and over 150 kiwis.
- WETA Workshop ($$): Tour the workshop responsible for the post-production of films such as The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Avatar and District 9. Learn how the props and creatures were made before trying on some costumes and getting up close with the film antiques.
South Island (2 weeks)
Marlborough (2 Nights)
Take the ferry (3.5 hours) from Wellington to Picton – your base for exploring the Marlborough region.
Explore the stunning waterways of the Marlborough Sound by boat or by foot, watching as the sunset reflects shades of purple off of the surface.
Then enjoy a seafood dinner consisting of the world’s best Greenshell Mussels, washing it down with a glass of Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc from one of the renowned local wineries.
Best things to do and see alone in Marlborough:
- Cruise the Marlborough Sounds ($$$): Either book a sunset cruise or hire a kayak and explore the calm waters yourself. Alternatively, jump aboard the Pelorus Mail Boat and help deliver the post to remote residents.
- Walk the Queen Charlotte Track ($): Considered one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Queen Charlotte Track (70km) takes 3-5 days to complete. Only recommended for keen hikers, it provides epic coastal views.
- Ride the Marlborough Wine Trail ($$): Hire a bike and take a self-guided tour to more than 30 wineries responsible for making some of the world’s best Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.
- Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre ($$): The production team behind The Lord of the Rings has brought to life Peter Jackson’s private collection of WW1 and WW2 aircraft in two exhibitions: Knights of the Sky and Dangerous Skies.
- Kayak the Pelorus River ($$$): Take a guided tour down the rapids of the Pelorus River, recreating the Barrel Scene in the same location where The Hobbit was filmed.
Nelson and Tasman (2 Nights)
The next stop on your New Zealand solo travel itinerary is Nelson – the sunniest city in the country, art hub and cider capital.
Nelson is also a gateway to two of New Zealand’s most iconic National Parks – Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman National Park.
Solo travellers who love soaking up the sun on the sand should spend a few days here.
Best things to do and see alone in Nelson and Tasman:
- Nelson Lakes National Park ($): The start of the Southern Alps, this park is blessed with glaciers, forest and the Blue Lake (the world’s clearest lake). Take one of the Lake Rotoiti short walks to see the Rotoiti Jetty (an Instagram favourite) or Whisky Falls.
- Abel Tasman National Park ($): This tropical haven is host to famous sights like Split Apple Rock and the Tonga Arches. Swim on the golden beaches, kayak the calm waters and enjoy an easy hike to Wainui Falls.
- Skydive ($$$): Throw yourself out of a plane for a solo or tandem skydive over Abel Tasman National Park.
- Te Waikoropupū Springs ($): A short drive from Abel Tasman National Park, wander the boardwalk around the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere.
The West Coast (2 Nights)
Follow the edge of the Tasman Sea, tracing the wild West Coast of the South Island on your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
Considered one of the top ten coastal drives in the world, you’ll have the chance to see seal colonies, gorges, hot pools and historic mining towns.
Plus, you’ll even get your first look at New Zealand’s tallest mountain – Mount Cook Aoraki.
But the highlights have to be Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, two of the world’s most accessible glaciers.
Best things to do and see alone on the West Coast:
- Paparoa National Park ($): Drive through Paparoa National Park, stopping to do the loop walk around the unique Punakaiki Pancake Rocks (1.1km).
- Hokitika Gorge ($): Stretch your legs at Hokitika Gorge, where the loop walk (2km) passes through pristine forest before emerging above the bright blue waters of the Hokitika River.
- Franz Josef Glacier ($): If you want to save money, take the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk (1.7km return), which provides views of the glacier, waterfalls and Waiho River. Alternatively, take a guided hike or a heli-hike on the face of the glacier.
- Fox Glacier ($): Sitting amongst temperate rainforest, you can get great views along the Fox Glacier South Side Walkway (6.4km return). Alternatively, pay for a guided tour to the face of the glacier.
- Lake Matheson ($): Follow the walkway (4.4km) around the edge of Lake Matheson and enjoy the views of nearby Aoraki Mount Cook.
Wanaka (1 Night)
As you leave the West Coast, you will enter the UNESCO Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area – a land frozen in time for 80 million years.
Find some accommodation in beautiful Wanaka, a lakeside town set against the backdrop of The Remarkables snow-capped mountain range.
In summer, Wanaka is a gateway to the incredible Mount Aspiring National Park. And in winter, it is a convenient base for those wanting to ski or snowboard The Remarkables.
Best things to do and see alone in Wanaka:
- See the Wanaka Tree ($): Take an easy stroll around the Lake Wanaka walking track at sunrise or sunset. Grab some shots of the famous Wanaka Tree (a must-see on every New Zealand solo travel itinerary).
- Mount Aspiring National Park ($): Try some of the walking tracks around this remote slice of pristine wilderness. The most popular is the Blue Pools walking track (3km return), where you can swim amongst deep pools of glacial water.
- Eat at the Cardrona Hotel ($$): Take a short drive up into The Remarkables for lunch at the historic Cardrona Hotel (est. 1863). Devour a pub meal (try the lamb burger) whilst admiring the mountain views.
- Ski or snowboard ($$$): Wanaka offers some of the best skiing in the Southern Hemisphere between June and October. The best ski resorts near Wanaka are Cardrona and Treble Cone.
Queenstown (2 Nights)
Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world and a highlight on any New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
Adrenaline junkies can get their hearts pumping with adventure sports, including bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, mountain biking, snow sports and more!
But if you prefer to take things easy, Queenstown also offers quaint historic villages, cosy cafes and eateries, scenic walking trails and world-class spas.
Best things to do and see alone in Queenstown:
- Bungee jumping ($$$): Kawarau Bridge Bungee was the world’s first bungee jump and remains the most famous. Plunge 43m toward the river below and touch the surface.
- Skyline Gondola and Luge ($$): Ride the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere to Bob’s Peak, overlooking Queenstown from 480m above. Then speed back down the mountain on a luge, steering your way through 1600m of banked corners, tunnels and dippers.
- Onsen Hot Pools ($$$): Enjoy the ultimate Japanese spa experience, as you perch yourself in a cedar tub and soak in the hot water whilst overlooking the Shotover River and surrounding mountain ranges.
- Visit Arrowtown ($): This historic settlement was first pioneered in 1864 as a gold rush community. Today, it has been fully restored so that you can wander through the quaint streets, explore the cottages and shops and visit the Lake District Museum.
- Ski or snowboard ($$$): If you happen to be in Queenstown between June and October, you’re going to want to visit one of the best local ski resorts: The Remarkables or Coronet Peak.
Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park (1 Night)
Deep within Fjordland Nationals Park sits Milford Sound – consistently rated the #1 attraction in New Zealand.
At the gateway to the National Park is the township of Te Anau (Maori for “Place of Swirling Waters”). You can find comfortable accommodation here if Milford Sound is too busy or expensive during the peak seasons.
It’s only a 165km drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound, which can be done in as little as 2-3 hours. However, there are dozens of amazing sights, walking trails, lakes, swimming holes and lookouts along the way – so it’s worth taking a whole day.
You’ll be awestruck when you do arrive in Milford Sound – a place of towering fiords, mountainous peaks and 1000m waterfalls. It feels like you’ve stepped into a fantasy.
Best things to do and see alone in Fiordland National Park:
- Jet boat ($$$): Rocket your way around Fiordland National Park, gripping on as the jet boat weaves its way through the shimmering Waiau River.
- Te Anau Glowworm Caves ($$): Descend into the caverns that lie beneath the town of Te Anau, exploring the passages that are lit by thousands of gleaming glow worms.
- Short walks in Fiordland National Park ($): On the drive between Te Anau and Milford Sound, you will find dozens of short walking trails. Two popular tracks include Mirror Lakes (400m) and Lake Marian Track (6.2km).
- Hundred Falls Lookout ($): When exiting Homer Tunnel, you’ll see the Hundred Falls Lookout. Quite literally, hundreds of waterfalls pour down the surrounding rock faces (best seen after recent rain).
- Short walks at Milford Sound ($): There are also numerous walking trails around the edge of Milford Sound. The Foreshore Walk (400m) and the Lookout Track are both easy and offer awesome views.
- Cruise or kayak Milford Sound ($$$): Feel the spray of the waterfalls against your skin, as you get up close to the fjords on a daytime or overnight cruise. Alternatively, glide around in a kayak and keep an eye out for local wildlife like seals and dolphins.
The Catlins (1 Night)
Along the rugged fringes of New Zealand’s South Island lie The Catlins – a region of untouched beaches and forests that is less crowded with tourists.
Visit one of the country’s most photographed lighthouses, explore giant caverns along the coastline and take short strolls to spectacular waterfalls.
From the Catlins stems the Otago Peninsula – famous for the thousands of seals, sea lions and penguins that litter the beaches.
Best things to do and see alone in The Catlins:
- Cathedral Caves ($): Carved into the cliffs of Waipati Beach, you can explore these enormous caves that stand at 30m tall and extend 200m. Can only be visited at low tide.
- Go chasing waterfalls ($): There are three amazing sets of waterfalls that you can visit whilst solo travelling through The Catlins: McLean Falls, Purakaunui Falls Walk and Matai Falls.
- Nugget Point Lighthouse ($): One of the oldest and most photographed lighthouses in New Zealand. The location was named by Captain Cook due to the scattered boulders that stick out of the ocean below like nuggets of gold.
- See the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula ($): Victory Beach, Sandfly Bay and Allans Beach are three of the best beaches to stop and see the fur seals, sea lions and penguins that call the Otago home.
Dunedin (1 Night)
Dunedin is known as the Edinburgh of the South. The city’s Scottish heritage makes it unlike anywhere else on your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
The Edwardian architecture that lines the streets will have you feeling like you’ve stepped back in time. So do as the Edwardians did and enjoy a high tea at Larnach Castle.
The albatross and penguins that call Dunedin home also make this a great destination for solo travellers wanting to spot rare wildlife.
Best things to do and see alone in Dunedin:
- Larnach Castle ($$): Uncover scandalous family history and learn about Dunedin’s Scottish heritage. Afterwards, enjoy high tea before wandering the gardens.
- Otago Settlers Museum ($$): Discover the turbulent history of the Otago region, with exhibits displaying artefacts from Maori tribal culture, European explorers, settlers and sailors.
- Royal Albatross Centre ($$): Take a guided tour of the world’s only mainland Royal Albatross Breeding Centre. Despite their 3m wingspan, these enormous birds are amazingly graceful.
- Moeraki Boulders Beach ($): An hour north of Dunedin are the Moeraki Boulders, a set of giant stone marbles up to 3m wide and weighing several tonnes. Worth stopping for a photo when driving to your next destination.
- Watch a penguin march ($): Watch a colony of Little Penguins (the world’s smallest penguins) waddle from the water to their burrows. Located in Oamaru, north of Dunedin (worth a stop when driving to the next destination).
Aoraki Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo (1 Night)
If you’re in a rush, you could follow the East Coast directly back to Christchurch.
But I recommend taking the scenic route and adding Aoraki Mount Cook to your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
Aoraki Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in the country. Sir Edmund Hilary trained here before becoming the first man to climb Mount Everest.
Whilst the walking trails around Mount Cook are great, the best part is the drive itself. This is one of the most dramatic and scenic drives in the world.
As you work your way along the edge of sparkling Lake Pukaki, the great mountain looms overhead and grows larger and larger.
Not far away is the equally stunning Lake Tekapo – famous for its lakeside chapel, wildflowers and clear night skies.
Best things to do and see alone around Mount Cook:
- Short walks around Mount Cook ($): There are several short and scenic walks around the base of the mountain. Favourites include the Hooker Valley Track (10km) and Blue Lakes Hoop Track (2.2km), both fairly easy with views of lakes, glaciers and mountains.
- Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre ($$): Learn about the mountain through a 3D film, museum and gallery. At night, observe the universe through the digital dome observatory.
- New Zealand Alpine Lavender ($): One of the largest organic lavender farms in the Southern Hemisphere. Between December and March, you can walk amongst the lavender fields, try their special ice cream and enjoy the views over Lake Pukaki.
- Church of the Good Shepherd ($): Built by pioneers in 1935, this stunning stone church sits on the edge of Lake Tekapo and makes for one of the best photographs in New Zealand. Aim to arrive at sunrise or sunset.
- Stargazing ($): Lake Tekapo is one of the best places in the world to stargaze and observe the Southern Lights (best seen between April and September). For the best vantage point, make the ten-minute drive to Mount John Observatory.
Christchurch (2 Nights)
The international airport in Christchurch makes this a great place to end your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
But don’t fly home without visiting a few of the major attractions in New Zealand’s second-largest city.
Christchurch has an exciting history of exploration and earthquakes, which you can learn all about at the International Antarctic Centre and Quake City.
Then do some exploring of your own and venture up to Arthur’s Pass, a dramatic landscape of waterfalls and forests in the heights of the Southern Alps.
Finally, take a rest in the beautiful Christchurch Botanic Gardens or grab dinner at the Riverside Market to conclude your solo travel around New Zealand.
Best things to do and see alone in Christchurch:
- Quake City ($$): Experience what it was like to live through the earthquake that devastated much of Christchurch in 2011. World-class interactive displays help you to better understand this geological disaster.
- The International Antarctic Centre ($$): Experience an Antarctic storm in the Storm Dome, ride an all-terrain vehicle around the outdoor adventure course, view the Little Blue Penguins and pat a husky.
- Christchurch Gondola ($$): Ride the gondola 862m to the summit of Mt Cavendish. Enjoy the panoramic views over the city and sea before walking back down.
- Christchurch Botanic Gardens ($): Spend some time here and you’ll see why Christchurch is called the Garden City. Enjoy free entrance and witness how the local flora changes throughout the seasons.
- Arthur’s Pass National Park ($): Drive one of New Zealand’s highest roads (900m above sea level); passing over viaducts, crossing raging rivers and teetering on the edge of waterfalls. Stretch your legs with one of the short walking tracks (I recommend the Devil’s Punchbowl (2km return)).
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
10 Best Things to Do and See
Out of all the attractions and sights mentioned in the solo travel itinerary above, here is my final list of the top 10 best things to do and see in New Zealand.
You don’t want to miss these!
- Cruise the Sounds
The most popular sound in New Zealand is Milford Sound, famous for its inky black waters, sheer cliffs and thundering waterfalls.
But for something a little different, solo travellers may also want to visit Marlborough Sound. Here, you can spend the day delivering mail by boat to remote residents!
- Experience Maori culture
The Maori warmly welcome guests to experience their culture; including war dances (Haka), arts like carving and tattoo (Toi) and traditional food (Kai).
The best places to experience Maori culture include Te Pa Tu and Whakarewarewa (both in Rotorua) and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (in the Bay of Islands).
- Bungee jump
The 43m high Kawarau Bridge Bungee in Queenstown was the first bungee in the world – started by legendary Kiwi entrepreneur AJ Hackett.
But other popular bungee spots include the 134m tall Nevis Bungy in Queenstown (the tallest in NZ) and the Auckland Bridge Bungy.
- Jet boat ride
In my opinion, Huka Falls is the best jet boating experience in the country. You’ll be on edge as you carve through the lightning-blue waters towards the powerful rapids.
But Haast (West Coast South Island), Waikato River (Rotorua) and Wanaka also have awesome jet boat experiences when you solo travel New Zealand.
- Wine tasting
The Land of the Long White Cloud is home to more than 700 wineries that produce some of the world’s best wines.
If you love a Sauvignon Blanc, be sure to do the wine trail in Marlborough. But if you prefer a Merlot or a Malbec, spend some time in Hawkes Bay when you solo travel New Zealand.
Want somewhere a little quieter? Central Otago is quickly becoming renowned for its Pinot Noir and Rosé.
- See a kiwi and a kea
The kiwi bird is the national animal of New Zealand. It was once used to weave feather cloaks for their Maori chiefs but is today vulnerable to being endangered.
Visit a sanctuary like The National Kiwi Hatchery (Rotorua) to support conservation efforts. Alternatively, take a guided tour of Stewart Island to see a kiwi in the wild.
New Zealand is also home to the kea – the world’s only alpine parrot. If you’re lucky, you may see some in the Southern Alps (places like Arthur’s Pass, Mt Cook, Fiordland and the southern ski fields).
- Visit the Lord of the Rings sets
Hobbit-heads can recreate their own journey through Middle Earth by adding the various filming locations and workshops to your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
Some of the Lord of the Rings sites you can visit include: Mt Doom and Mordor (Tongariro National Park), the Hideaway (Mt Victoria in Wellington) and the Battle of Pelennor Fields (Twizel near Mt Cook).
You can also join guided LOTR tours in both Queenstown and nearby Glenorchy.
- Climb a glacier
Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glaciers are the most visited glaciers in New Zealand. That’s because they are easily accessible and unique (surrounded by rainforest).
But I also suggest taking a free hike to the quieter and equally spectacular Tasman and Hooker Glaciers (near Mt Cook) when you solo travel New Zealand.
- Soak in a natural spa
All over New Zealand, you’ll find spots where warm geothermal waters flow from the earth’s surface to create natural spas and rock pools.
Free spas include Hot Water Beach (Coromandel), Wai-O-Tapu (Rotorua), Spa Thermal Park (Taupo) and Welcome Flat (near Fox Glacier).
If you want to pay for a premium spa experience, add the Onsen Hot Pools (Queenstown) or The Lost Spring (Coromandel) to your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
- Get up close to geothermal wonders
New Zealand offers solo travellers the rare opportunity to get close to geothermal and volcanic spectacles.
The best geothermal wonders are found on the North Island around Rotorua, Taupo and Tongariro National Park.
Feel the heat under your feet and watch as pools of mud bubble and boil, steam rises through the cracks, geysers shoot sky-high and hot water tumbles over waterfalls.
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
Solo travellers have four main accommodation options in New Zealand: camping, hostels, motels/hotels and Airbnb.
Most people generally stay in hostels and motels or camp in campervans when they solo travel New Zealand.
New Zealand offers some of the most scenic camping in the world. Camping is a great option for solo travellers who want to save money whilst enjoying nature.
For more information about hiring a campervan, see the transport section below.
There are about 50 free campsites around New Zealand (known as “freedom camping”). These sites are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) or local council.
However, freedom campsites normally only offer basic facilities such as composting toilets and fresh water.
Further, you must abide by strict rules when freedom camping:
- Only camp in designated areas where camping is allowed;
- Only camp in a self-contained vehicle with a certification sticker (must be fitted with a toilet, freshwater storage, wastewater storage and bin);
- Leave the campsite in the same condition you found it.
Some of my favourite free campsites when travelling alone in New Zealand include:
- Twenty Five Mile Stream (Queenstown, South Island)
- Robin Hood Bay (Blenheim, South Island)
- Greyney’s Shelter (Arthur’s Pass, South Island)
- Whakaipo Bay Recreational Reserve (Lake Taupo, North Island)
- Hamilton’s Gap (Auckland, North Island)
There are also many paid campsites around New Zealand that are managed by the DOC. Plus, most holiday parks offer camping.
The cost of a paid campsite for a solo traveller in New Zealand ranges anywhere from NZ$6 per night to NZ$100 per night (for a premium site in peak season).
Paid campsites offer better facilities than free campsites, including power outlets, hot showers, flush toilets, barbecues, laundry and more.
Some of my favourite paid campsites and holiday parks when travelling alone in New Zealand include:
- Rainforest Campervan Park (Milford Sound, South Island)
- Rainforest Retreat (Franz Josef, South Island)
- White Horse Hill Campground (Mount Cook, South Island)
- Piha Domain Motor Camp (Auckland, North Island)
- Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park (Rotorua, North Island)
The majority of solo travellers and backpackers in New Zealand stay at hostels because they are affordable and social.
You can find hostels in almost every tourist destination around the country.
On average, it costs a solo traveller NZ$40 per night to stay in a hostel in New Zealand.
The cost of a single bed in a hostel dorm room ranges from about NZ$25–80 per night. The cost of a private single room in a hostel ranges from about NZ$70–250 per night.
Hostels are most expensive in popular destinations like Queenstown, Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.
Most hostels across New Zealand receive great reviews for cleanliness, security, facilities, staff and atmosphere.
Some of the most popular hostels for solo travel in New Zealand include:
- Waiheke Backpackers Hostel (Auckland)
- Adventure Queenstown Hostel (Queenstown)
- The Marion (Wellington)
- Jailhouse Accommodation (Christchurch)
- YHA Finlay Jacks Backpackers (Taupo)
Motels and hotels
Many solo travellers in New Zealand stay in motels or hotels because they want to enjoy privacy and comfort.
You can find motels and hotels in every tourist destination around the country.
On average, it costs a solo traveller NZ$225 per night to stay in a motel or hotel in New Zealand.
The cost of an average motel or hotel single room (3-4 stars) ranges from about NZ$100-350 per night. However, luxurious hotel rooms for singles can cost more than NZ$400+ per night.
Popular motel and hotel chains in New Zealand include:
Some solo travellers in New Zealand may choose to use Airbnb because they want the utmost in luxury, privacy and comfort.
The average cost of an apartment or home on Airbnb in New Zealand ranges from NZ$125 – $350 per night. However, some rentals can cost up to $500+ per night.
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
InterCity is the best (and only) nationwide bus service that you can use to solo travel New Zealand.
They have an extensive network across both the North and South Islands and stop at almost every tourist destination in the country.
Solo travellers have 2 options when buying an InterCity travel pass:
- FlexiPass (best option) – An hours-based bus pass (anywhere from 10 hours (NZ$139) to 80 hours (NZ$641)). Provides solo travellers with flexibility to travel wherever you want, when you want (includes Interislander Ferry). To solo travel both the North and South Island (i.e. the itinerary above), you will need between 60-70 hours (N$518-589).
- TravelPass – Six pre-planned routes to the most popular destinations in New Zealand. You only have flexibility over when you travel, not where. To solo travel both the North and South Island costs NZ$529 (but it misses 7 of the stops on the above itinerary).
Alternatively, you could simply join a guided coach tour such as KiwiExperience (aimed toward young solo travellers and backpackers who like to party) or Stray (aimed at more mature solo travellers and includes accommodation). However, guided coach tours offer less flexibility and control over your itinerary.
Trains are not really used for travel in New Zealand.
In fact, there are only three scenic rail journeys in the country:
- TranzAlpine (South Island): An internationally renowned journey that runs between Christchurch and Greymouth (crossing the Southern Alps). Tickets start from NZ$219.
- Coastal Pacific (South Island): Runs the coast between Picton (Marlborough) and Christchurch. Takes one day. Tickets start from NZ$159.
- Northern Explorer (North Island): Runs between Auckland and Wellington. Takes one day. Tickets start from NZ$219.
I recommend riding the TranzAlpine or Coastal Pacific if you have the time and budget to add a 2-day round trip to your New Zealand solo travel itinerary.
Domestic flights are available to all major cities and many regional cities in New Zealand.
The average cost of a domestic flight for a solo traveller in New Zealand depends on the destination, distance and season:
- Shorter flights (i.e. within the North or South Island) may only cost around NZ$70 – $200 per person one way (economy class).
- Longer flights (i.e. from the North Island to the South Island) may cost more, at around NZ$150-$300 per person one way (economy class).
You also have to consider the cost of luggage. Most domestic airlines in New Zealand do not include luggage in the ticket price and you will have to pay an extra fee of about NZ$50–$80 per flight.
The most popular domestic airlines in New Zealand include:
- Jetstar (most affordable)
- Air New Zealand (most comfortable)
Domestic flights are the fastest way to solo travel New Zealand. However, flying is more expensive than some other options and you won’t get to see as much of the countryside.
There are many ferry and water taxi services around New Zealand.
The most popular ferry service is between Wellington and Picton (The Cook Strait) – connecting the North and South Islands. Two companies (Bluebridge and Interislander) offer this service regularly throughout the day. The trip takes 3.5 hours and costs about NZ$75 for an adult or NZ$170 for a car (more for a campervan or motorhome).
There are also water ferries from Auckland to the surrounding islands (most trips take less than an hour and a return fare costs less than $50).
Plus, there is a daily passenger ferry to Stewart Island from the bottom of the South Island. This trip takes an hour and costs about $100 one-way.
Car and campervan rental
One of the best ways to solo travel New Zealand is in a rental car, campervan or motorhome.
The cost of hiring a car or campervan in New Zealand depends on the type of vehicle you hire, your age and any extras:
- Aged 18-21: Some rental agencies won’t let people younger than 21 hire a car or campervan. Others may restrict the type of vehicle you can hire or charge an additional fee (normally about NZ$5 per day).
- Aged 21-65:
- Small car: About NZ$100 per day to hire a small car such as a Suzuki Swift or a Toyota Corolla.
- Medium to large car: About NZ$150 per day to hire a medium or large car such as a Toyota Prius or Toyota Rav4.
- Small campervan: About NZ$45-450 per day for a 2-berth campervan with basic features like a gas stove, small fridge and small freshwater tank.
- Large campervan or motorhome: About NZ$300-$700 per day for a campervan with 3+ berths and additional features like a shower, toilet and kitchen.
Note that car and campervan hire costs more during the busy summer period (December – March). You will also pay more if you drop off the rental at a different location to where you picked it up.
The most popular car rental companies include Europcar, Avis, Sixt and Ezi. The most popular campervan rental companies include Jucy, Britz, Maui, Apollo and Travellers Autobahn.
Buses are the main form of public transport within New Zealand’s major cities (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) and some regional cities.
On average, a short-distance bus fare in New Zealand costs between NZ$2.50-5.
Whilst you can pay the bus driver in cash, it is usually cheaper to pay with a prepaid card. These cards can be bought at certain convenience stores.
However, note that each city in New Zealand uses a different card system, so it can become a hassle having to buy and top up a new card all the time.
Uber and Taxi
Ubers and taxis are available in all major cities and many regional cities around New Zealand; including Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, Queenstown, Rotorua, Taupo, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and more.
Ubers are more affordable than taxis in New Zealand and charge about NZ$1.40 per km. Taxis charge about NZ$2.60 per km.
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
Best Time to Visit New Zealand
The best time to travel alone in New Zealand is in Autumn or Spring because temperatures are reasonable, there are fewer tourists and prices are lower.
However, each season has its advantages and disadvantages.
Summer in New Zealand lasts from December to February.
During summer, daytime temperatures across New Zealand average around 20 – 25˚C (68 – 77˚F).
This is the most popular season for tourism – so you should expect large crowds and high prices.
Good solo travel destinations in summer include Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Islands, the Bay of Plenty, Nelson and Kaikoura.
Autumn in New Zealand lasts from March to May.
During autumn, daytime temperatures across New Zealand average around 17 – 21˚C (62 – 70˚F).
Autumn is a great season to solo travel because there are fewer crowds, lower prices, changing foliage and warm weather.
Good solo travel destinations in autumn include the Abel Tasman National Park, Marlborough, Tongariro National Park, Wellington and the Bay of Islands.
Winter in New Zealand lasts from June to August.
During winter, daytime temperatures across New Zealand average around 12 – 16˚C (53 – 61˚F).
If you enjoy snow sports (skiing and snowboarding), winter is a great time so solo travel New Zealand.
Good solo travel destinations in winter include Queenstown, Wanaka, Lindis Pass, Whakapapa and Hawkes Bay.
Spring in New Zealand lasts from September to November.
During spring, daytime temperatures across New Zealand average around 16 – 19˚C (61 – 66˚F).
Spring is another great season to solo travel because gardens are blooming and the leftover snow from winter is melting to form waterfalls.
Good solo travel destinations in spring include Fjordland, Hamilton, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, Mt Cook, Christchurch and Hawkes Bay.
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
Where to Start
Auckland is the best place to start your solo travel in New Zealand. Many major airlines around the world offer international flights to Auckland (either directly or via Australia).
From Auckland, you can take an overnight trip to the Bay of Islands (north) or start your journey southward, eventually finishing in Christchurch (where you can fly home from the international airport).
Alternatively, you could reverse the trip – starting in Christchurch and ending in Auckland. This will depend on whether it is more affordable to fly into Auckland or Christchurch.
If you wanted to solo travel Australia after New Zealand, you could even end your journey in Queenstown and take a flight to Melbourne or Sydney (see below).
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
How Long to Spend Travelling New Zealand
You need at least 3 weeks to solo travel around the whole of New Zealand (both the North and South Islands). However, this will be a rush and you may tire from travelling so quickly.
It would be much more comfortable to travel around New Zealand in 4-6 weeks. This will give you time to rest between travel days.
If you only have 2 weeks to solo travel New Zealand, it is best to only do the North Island or the South Island – not both.
New Zealand Solo Trip:
Cost and Budgeting
|$NZD||Accommodation||Food||Alcohol||Attractions||Transport||Average Daily Cost|
(plus $50 petrol)
|Standard Solo Traveller||$150||$50||$25||$50||$75||$350|
(add $50 petrol if hiring a car/campervan)
(plus $50 petrol)
|Luxury Solo Traveller||$300||$75||$25||$100||$200||$700|
(add $50 petrol if hiring a car/campervan)
How much does a New Zealand solo trip cost?
On a backpacker’s budget, solo travellers in New Zealand can expect to spend about NZ$125 per day. On this budget, you would mostly be staying in hostel dorm rooms, preparing most of your own meals, enjoying up to three alcoholic beverages per night, visiting mostly free or cheap attractions and travelling via coach.
If you want to go camping on a budget whilst solo travelling in New Zealand, you can expect to spend about NZ$150 per day. On this budget, you would be renting a small and basic campervan, fuelling up once every three days, camping mostly at free campsites, preparing all your own meals, enjoying one alcoholic beverage per night and mainly visiting free attractions (e.g. National Parks).
On a standard budget, solo travellers in New Zealand can expect to spend about NZ$350 per day. On this budget, you would be staying in private rooms in hostels or motels, eating out once or twice a day, enjoying up to three alcoholic beverages per night, visiting one paid attraction per day and travelling via coach or domestic flight (or renting a small car or campervan).
If you want to go camping in luxury whilst solo travelling in New Zealand, you can expect to pay about NZ$600 per day. On this budget, you would be renting a large and modern campervan or motorhome, fuelling up once every three days, camping mostly at holiday parks, preparing most of your own meals, enjoying up to three alcoholic beverages per night and visiting one paid attraction per day.
On a luxury budget, solo travellers in New Zealand can expect to spend about $800 per day. On this budget, you would mostly be staying in hotels or Airbnb rentals, eating all of your meals out, enjoying a nice bottle of wine each night, visiting two or more paid attractions per day and travelling via car rental, domestic flights or train.
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
There are ten essential items that everyone should pack when solo travelling New Zealand:
- Jandals: In summer, the staple footwear for most Kiwis is “jandals” (aka flip-flops). They’re easy to slip on and will protect your feet from scorching pavements and hot sands. Plus, they’re also handy when visiting spas and pools.
- Beach towel: You’ll be visiting a tonne of water-based attractions in New Zealand, including beaches, rivers, waterfalls, hot pools and more. But many hostels won’t provide you with a towel – so carry your own.
- Insect repellent: Mosquitos and sandflies are a nuisance in New Zealand all year around and their bites are nasty. Protect yourself with repellent.
- Hydrocortisone cream: You will inevitably be bitten by mosquitos and sandflies during your solo trip. Hydrocortisone helps to soothe itching and stings.
- New Zealand adapter: You have to use a plug-type I adaptor to power your appliances when you solo travel in New Zealand.
- Dry bag: Given that you’re going to spend time jet boating, swimming and chasing waterfalls, it’s best to protect your valuables in a dry bag. Afterwards, take your stuff out and throw your wet clothes in.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses: In New Zealand, you can suffer from sunburn in as little as fifteen minutes. Wear sunscreen every day and protect your eyes with sunglasses (even during winter).
- Waterproof jacket: You can experience four seasons in one day when travelling alone around New Zealand. Even during summer, it pays to bring a waterproof jacket to keep yourself dry and warm during outdoor activities.
- Thermal underlayers: If you want to solo travel New Zealand in winter, it’s worth packing thermal underlayers. Try to get breathable material for outdoor activities.
- Quick dry hiking shoes: Almost every day of your trip, you’ll be coming across one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Protect your feet and keep them dry with a decent pair of hiking shoes (and thick woollen socks).
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
Solo travel in New Zealand is very safe for both females and males. Scams, theft and assault are rare.
On average, New Zealand welcomes almost 4 million tourists a year. And 94% of tourists report that their visit to New Zealand either met or exceeded their expectations (including safety).
Further, New Zealand has received an extremely high score of 92/100 on the Global Safety Index.
However, solo travellers should remain cautious of the following dangers.
- Volcanic activity: There have been several incidents in recent years where tourists were killed or seriously injured due to volcanic eruptions (White Island 2019), earthquakes (Christchurch 2011) or other geothermal activity (e.g.sinkholes in Rotorua).
- Driving: One of the leading causes of accidental injury and death in New Zealand is road accidents. If you plan on driving, make sure you drive on the left, take it slow and understand the road rules.
- Adventure sports: Don’t overestimate your abilities. When hiking, stick to the trails, pack for the worst and tell someone your plans. When participating in water sports (swimming, scuba diving, rafting, etc.), check the conditions and consider wearing a life jacket.
- Hitchhiking: In the past, several solo travellers (mainly women) have been murdered whilst hitchhiking around New Zealand. Avoid hitchhiking and use reputable transport companies.
- Solo female travel: Whilst New Zealand is a very safe destination for women to travel alone, solo female tourists have been murdered in the past. Avoid walking alone at night, stay in well-lit areas and don’t accept drinks from strangers.
Call 111 if you ever need emergency assistance in New Zealand. Cities and towns are patrolled by police and ambulance services are fast to respond.
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
Visas and Entry Requirements
It is generally easy to gain entrance to New Zealand for solo travel.
Before you travel to New Zealand, you may need to apply for a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZETA) if you:
- Are a citizen of a country that has a visa waiver agreement with New Zealand; and
- Are visiting New Zealand for less than 3 months (or 6 months if you are a UK citizen).
Applying for the NZETA costs NZ$17 on the app or $23 online. At the same time, you must also pay an additional tourism levy of NZ$35.
Note that Australian citizens do not require a visa or NZeTA to travel to New Zealand.
If you do not fit the above criteria, you will need to apply for a visitor visa online. A visitor visa allows you to stay in New Zealand for up to 9 months.
All visitors to New Zealand must also ensure that their passport will be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date that they expect to depart New Zealand.
Solo Travelling New Zealand:
How to go from New Zealand to Australia
The quickest and most affordable way to go from New Zealand to Australia is to fly. On average, a flight costs between NZ$200-600 and takes about 4 hours.
The most popular flights between New Zealand and Australia are:
- Auckland to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – Flights are mostly direct, take about 4 hours and cost between NZ$200-500.
- Queenstown to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – Flights are mostly direct, take about 3.5 hours and cost between NZ$250-500.
- Christchurch to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – Flights normally involve a stopover, take between 4-8 hours and cost between NZ$350-600.
There is no ferry between New Zealand and Australia.
More Solo Travel Tips on Nomadic Yak
Nomadic Yak helps solo travellers to plan journeys that are adventurous and authentic.
Every article is written by me, Harry. I’ve travelled to 40+ countries over the last 5 years – alone.
For even more information about solo travel in Australia, see our solo travel tips.
We also have destination guides to help you plan solo travel in nearby countries such as New Zealand.