Solo Travel in New Zealand
Solo travel in New Zealand is easy. The country is a perfect solo travel destination and is great for the first-timer. That's why I've given it 5 out of 5 stars. It is smaller than Australia, cheaper and really safe to travel around (plus you won’t encounter those strange souls in the outback). If you love the outdoors and adventure sports then this country is for you.
The country is popular for those on a working visa and as part of a round the world ticket combining Asia or the Americas on the way. People are down to earth and it’s so easy to travel as a solo; you can even hitchhike if you get stuck (use your instinct if you do).
There’s a choice of lodges, hotels, hostels or campsites and adventure tours to hop on hop off, or it’s just as safe to rent a car or a motorhome and just drive around the two islands. Travelling solo in New Zealand is so easy.
Below is our guide to how to travel solo in New Zealand as well as lots of practical information such as where to stay, which tour company to use and how to get around. Find out how to get from the airports and what to do in each place. All companies included have been recommended by solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article.
- Solo Travel in New Zealand
- Places to Visit in New Zealand
- Accommodation In New Zealand
- New Zealand Tours
- Travelling Around New Zealand
- New Zealand Itinerary
- Best Time to Go To New Zealand
- New Zealand Airports
- Travelling Onwards
- Frequently Asked Questions About New Zealand
- Map of New Zealand
- Plan a Trip to New Zealand
Places To Visit in New Zealand
New Zealand is the perfect place for those who love the outdoors and is a model for eco tourism. With a North and South island to explore, this country has amazing landscapes, volcanic craters, hot springs, Scottish towns and wilderness islands, and plenty for adrenalin junkies.
Auckland otherwise known as the ‘City of the Sails’ is surrounded by volcanic craters and has a magnificent harbour where you can watch the world sail by. Grab a bite to eat at Auckland’s fish market in Jellicoe Avenue, a street with its own rain gardens. If you travel within New Zealand’s summertime, Auckland’s waterfront comes alive with live music and outdoor movies.
Visit the country’s first Marine Reserve at Goat Island for underwater life or climb Mount Eden for panoramic views of the city. Another place to see the city from above is the giant Sky Tower, the focal point of the city but if you prefer a view without the window, take the sky walk around the edge or even bungee down it.
Just north of the city is the Bay of Islands, a group of islands with turquoise coves and a tropical feel. This place is a little tropical paradise from the rest of the country and if you have the stamina, climb the top of Waewaetorea Island for a 360 degree view. Make sure you visit Kerikeri – a subtropical paradise that you won’t want to leave. You can also take dolphin cruises through the natural arc of the ‘Hole in the Rock.’
Wineries in New Zealand
New Zealanders seem more refined than their neighbour and enjoy urban living, arts and culinary tastes. They also know their wine and Waiheke Island or ‘wine island’ (known for its countless vineyards) produces some great flavours and is less than a two hour ferry ride away from the city.
For wine lovers, the South Island does not disappoint, there is a vineyard trail along the Farewell Spit and world class Sauvignon Blanc at Marlborough Sounds.
New Zealand North Island
South of Auckland are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves where you can try abseiling or black water rafting through the caves. Rotorua is a natural phenomenon but be prepared for the sulphur smell which is difficult to bear after a few hours. See spraying geysers and bubbling waters or just treat yourself to a mud-bath in the spa.
If you want to experience the hot waters for yourself, Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsular is the place to dig your own spa pool and enjoy the laid back pace that the Coromandel brings.
New Zealand is geared up for the adventure solo traveller and although the South Island is the place for adrenalin junkies, the North island also has its activities: skydive over Lake Taupo, mountain bike around Hastings or take a leisurely kayak ride along the peninsulas.
Wellington is the country’s capital and lies at the foot of the North Island. Here you will find Cuba Street, the coolest street in New Zealand with a chic bohemian feel and the finest bars around. The Te Papa Museum will teach you all need to know about Maori culture and New Zealand’s rich and fascinating history.
Wellington is the gateway to the South island which can be reached by a ferry across the Cook Strait but if you suffer from sea sickness beware, as the last part of the journey can be a bit rough.
The scenery in the South island will blow you away. It’s a contrast of fjords, glaciers and waterfalls and is ideal for trekking. Choose from Abel Tasman where the sea meets the countryside or Milford Sound, a magical area of looming cliffs and waterfalls where you can cruise through the Fjordland.
If you prefer to travel on land the Tranz Alpine rail journey runs from Greymouth to Christchurch, a quaint English-style city with green rolling hills and botanical gardens where you can punt along the river or sample fudge at the Fudge Cottage – you’ll feel just at home!
From one English style town to a Scottish one; Dunedin on the East coast is rich in Scottish heritage and has the world’s steepest street (Baldwin Street). This historic university town is the perfect destination to see penguins and albatross on a wildlife eco tour.
If you prefer the larger mammals, the seaside settlement of Kaikoura is the place to see giant sperm whales and swim with seals, (if you don't have good sea legs, spot them by helicopter instead).
Adventure in New Zealand
For some adventure solo travel in New Zealand, why not combine a helicopter ride with a climb on one of the South Island’s famous glaciers in a heli-hike? Franz Josef and Fox Glacier are amongst the best places to visit in New Zealand especially for ice climbing adventures. If you’re not a fan of the cold, try a half-day walk for a taster of the blue ice caves and breathtaking views.
If you prefer something to get your heart racing, head to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Every adventure sport you could possibly think of is here from high-speed jet boating to skiing and the original bungee but you don’t have to be an adrenalin junkie to spend time here. You can just sit back and take in the magnificent views of the Remarkables mountain range on a relaxing gondola ride.
Art lovers can lose themselves in craftsmen’s studios at Nelson, the artists hub of the country, where you can watch glassblowers creating beautiful pieces then purchase them to take home.
Invercargill is the southernmost point of the country and although there’s not really much here, you can visit Stewart Island for an ever slower pace of life amongst rainforest and sweeping sands.
New Zealand is practically made up of National Parks and everywhere you turn will offer something new. It’s no wonder that this country was chosen as the iconic setting for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. With a country as beautiful as this, it’s not called 100% pure for nothing.
Visit Kaikoura from October to August for the sperm whales December to March for Orca.
Be careful of farm animals on the road when driving at night.
Accommodation in New Zealand
The best way to see New Zealand is by renting a motorhome and driving around the country. Alongside its many campsites there is a variety of accommodation such as motor lodges and motels in Dunedin, or suites and apartments in Queenstown and Wellington. If you are backpacking around New Zealand there are plenty of hostels on both islands. But if you’re not on a budget, treat yourself to a 5 star hotel in Auckland.
If you prefer to stay with a local during your solo travel to New Zealand, Airbnb connects you to locals in New Zealand and isn’t just limited to staying in their spare room either. Get $20 off your first stay.
Homestay is an alternative to Airbnb. They connect you to hosts in over 160 countries and give a real homestay experience instead of just handing over keys. They offer a unique mix of stays in New Zealand such as staying at a country sheep station, at a home by the beach or even a city treehouse. You can even video call your host family before you go to find the perfect host. Check homestays and prices here
You can’t get a better location for exploring Auckland with this backpackers being only a short walk to the nightlife and the SKYCITY. The hostel is really clean with modern showers and there’s a kitchen if you choose to cook instead of eat out and a communal lounge to hang out in. The beds are really comfortable and there is a choice of a 4, 8 or 10 bed mixed dorm, or a private room for one.
- Prices start from £15 per night for a bed in a 10 bed dorm room
- To book, check prices or availability for Metro Adventurer Backpackers
With a funky interior to match its funky name. JUCY Snooze is perfect if you are flying in or out of Christchurch as it’s close to the airport. The beds are comfy and you can check in and out 24/7 at a self-service kiosk making it an ideal choice if you are arriving late.
There’s a kitchen, luggage storage and also a laundry so you can catch up on your washing before or after leaving. Staff are friendly and knowledgable, and there is a free shuttle to the airport. Choose from a pod in a 8 bed mixed room or a female only dorm (with 8 beds). There is also the choice of a queens or twin room with your own private bathroom.
- Prices start from £17 per night for a pod in a mixed or female-only dorm
- To book, check prices or availability for JUCY Snooze
This backpackers is just a quick walk from the bars and restaurants within this Scottish-sounding city. It is more of a big house than a hostel and feels like a home away from home especially with the welcoming staff. There’s a log fire for the cold nights and a BBQ area for the warm ones. You can book your tours with reception and they also offer an airport shuttle too.
Choose from a 4 or 6 mixed dorm or a bed in a 6 bed female-only dorm. There is also the option of a single or double room with a shared or private bathroom, or a deluxe studio if you’re feeling flush.
- Prices start from £15 per night for a 6 bed female only dorm.
- To book, check prices or availability for Kiwis Nest Backpackers and Budget Accommodation
This backpackers gets our thumbs up. There’s everything you need in walking distance such as bars, restaurants and the beach, and you get breakfast included. There are large communal areas to meet other travellers and even a garden where you can pick your own vegetables. The views are stunning too and the single room comes with a sea view.
Each bed has its own curtain, private light and charging point. Choose from a 6 bed mixed dormitory, a single room or a double room.
- Prices start from £16 per night for a 6 bed mixed dorm
- To book, check prices or availability for Oamaru Backpackers
If you are going to stay in Queenstown this hostel is just amazing. Close to downtown, this hostel has such a cool Mauri interior and a relaxed atmosphere, where everything is completely thought through. There’s an outdoors area and bbq where you can see over the city and sofas in each room. The pod beds have their own curtains so you can feel separate from everyone else. And as well as free breakfast you also get free soup for dinner too. Bonus!
Choose from a single pod in a 4, 6 or 12 bed mixed dorm. If you need more space you can opt for a double pod in each mixed dorm or a double room with a shared bathroom.
- Prices start from £22 per night for a single pod in a 12 bed mixed dorm
- To book, check prices or availability for Sir Cedrics Tahuna Pod Hostel
New Zealand Tours
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your trip or the whole duration, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there. Adventures range from a 4 day Bay of Islands trip to a 24 day trip encompassing most of New Zealand. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear a bit more costly than G Adventures. Join others on an 11 day tour exploring glaciers on the New Zealand South Island Explorer or take a 12 day Kiwi adventure with the New Zealand North Island Explorer. With two islands to choose from there are tours for any level of activity.
Adventure South – New Zealand cycling and walking specialists and perfect for the outdoors solo from 4 days to 27 days.
Kiwi Experience – If you’ve been to Australia you may be familiar with the Oz Experience. Geared more for the young, party traveller, you can travel around New Zealand on a group bus tour and have company as you go.
Stray Travel – More for the adventure traveller, Stray is a flexible bus tour. You decide which parts of NZ you want to travel to and buy a pass. I travelled with Stray for a month and met some great people. They take you to places off the beaten track and you can book activities through them too.
Both Kiwi Experience and Stray are hop-on-hop-off buses which take you around all the must-see places. If you visit during the peak season you may need to pre-book all sections of your trip before you go.
Viator – If you prefer day tours, Viator has a plethora to choose from. As a TripAdvisor company each tour is handpicked and pre-vetted to make such that you get the best experience. From a boat cruise on Milford Sound to spending a day in Hobbiton you'll find something for any kind of solo.
Travelling Around New Zealand
Hiring a car is the best way to get around. New Zealand is geared up for car hire and motorhome travel with a great road network, campgrounds and holiday parks so it's great for a road trip experience. To rent a small camper van with Jucy costs approx $30.
Transfercar offer free one-way rentals for relocations cars and camper vans so you can drive a car to another location for free. Inter city coaches run throughout the country as well as local shuttles and bus services between the towns but they don't operate everywhere. Naked Bus is a good alternative and offer multi-bus passes depending on the number of trips you want to take. You get all the freedom of independent travel with the benefits of meeting people en route.
Trains run through the central part of the North Island and also to the Southern Alps. The TransAlpine runs the route from Greymouth to Christchurch and is said to be New Zealand’s best train journey.
To fly, both Air New Zealand and Jetstar have New Zealand domestic flights and there are several domestic airports if you’re short on time.
Check New Zealand Tours section for group bus tour companies through the country.
Some rental companies won’t allow you to take your car between islands so make sure you pre-book your vehicle to pick up on the other side.
New Zealand Itinerary
Three weeks is enough time to explore the country but if you prefer travelling at a slower pace, look at staying for at least a month. The south island is the most scenic so spend one week exploring the north island then two weeks for the south.
One week itinerary:
North Island: Auckland – 2 nights, (optional – Bay of Islands – 1 night), Rotorua – 1 night. Lake Taupo – 1 night, Wellington – 2 nights.
South Island: (optional – Nelson 1 night), Abel Tasman – 1 night, Kaikoura – 1 night, Christchurch – 2 nights, Queenstown – 3 nights.
For a two week itinerary, combine both the north and south island. I spent a month travelling through the country and also saw Milford Sound, Fox Glacier, Dunedin, and Invercargill.
Best Time To Go To New Zealand
December to February are the best months to experience summer in New Zealand. If you visit from March to May you’ll be there for the autumn when the weather is still great and you can still wear summer clothes. It’s cheaper too.
Below is a chart of the weather in Wellington. The yearly chart is from January to December.
New Zealand Airports
Auckland – Airbus express departs the airport every 10/15 minutes until 7pm and take an hour into the city.
Wellington – The Airport Flyer Bus runs from the airport every 20 minutes and takes 15 minutes to the centre of Wellington.
Christchurch – Three bus routes connect the 7 mile route from the airport to the city centre and depart from the northern end of the International Arrivals Hall.
Check Rome2Rio for times and prices to and from each airport.
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travelling Onwards (check visas before you travel)
To Australia – fly from any of the domestic airports or take a cruise.
To Fiji – fly from Auckland.
To the Pacific Islands – fly from Auckland.
Where can I go from here?
Australia – 5.5 hours
Fiji – 3.5 hours
Tonga – 3.5 hours
Frequently Asked Questions about New Zealand
- Can I drink the water? Yes.
- Is tipping expected? No, it’s optional.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed Price.
- Any ATM’s? Yes, everywhere.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Left.
- Good for vegetarians? Yes.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No.
Map of New Zealand
Plan a Trip To New Zealand
If you are ready to plan a trip to New Zealand here are some useful links to help you plan your trip including airlines which fly there, where you can volunteer and eco accommodation.
Budget Rating – £40 a day
Capital – Wellington
Population – 4.3 million
Language spoken – English, Maori.
Did you know? Wellington has one of the world’s best quality of life.