I just finished a 3.5 week long road trip (24 days in total) around New Zealand. It was a great way to switch off from work and the scenery was epic. We focused on the south island and did a big loop of it. This post is a break down of the costs and experiences and thought this community would enjoy the story.
I’m Australian so all prices will be in AUD. I was travelling with my partner. This was my first proper international holiday since I moved to Sydney over 10 years ago. We like craft beer, board games, mini golf and hot tubs. Our holiday was geared around these types of activities. We are a pair of mid 30’s tech nerds.
Table of Contents
The reasoning behind this itinerary was to spend 3 nights in each major city so there was individual decompress time but otherwise 2 nights in each location because I don’t like packing and repacking each day. There was a focus on hotels in cities, and a mix of motels/Airbnb’s with hot tub options.
- 3 nights in Wellington
- 2 nights in Queenstown
- 2 nights in Haast
- 2 nights in Franz Josef Glacier
- 2 nights in Hanmer Springs
- 3 nights in Christchurch
- 2 nights in Timaru
- 2 nights near Balclutha
- 2 nights in Invercargill
- 3 nights in Queenstown
Total cost $14,273.57 AUD or $15,558.19 NZD (or 9,180 USD, 7,500 pounds or 8,630 euro’s).
Cost per day = $594.73
Average accommodation cost per night = $197.33
Eating out and booze cost per day = 202.41
We only spent $423 on flights and we used points to upgrade to business for the international legs.
Yes I had a spreadsheet to track expenses. Every few days I’d sit down with my partner and go through the last few days of transactions and categorise them. I swear I’m fun on holidays.
If I wanted to make this more budget friendly a basic campervan would have added $300 to the car rental costs and we could have slept in it between stays. Saving on accommodation costs too.
We started our trip in New Zealand’s craft beer capital. It was the only thing we wanted to do on the north island. On the first night we were there we were given a craft beer quest; collect enough stamps for some swag. We were sold. We picked the Movenpick as our base because it was close to our first stop; the garage project (I have their beer art book on my coffee table).
We also had a fine dining experience at Jano dining. It was GLORIOUS, however we did spend over 20% of our eating out category on this 1 meal (it was $560). However it was the one fine dining experience that I wanted to do on this trip.
The only things I would change for this leg would be 4 nights somewhere a bit more central. The movenpick was great for being close to our first brewery but was up a hill which I soon got sick of after 3 days. And one more day would have made the beer quest a little more enjoyable, however we didn’t know we would be getting this beer quest (but it was 10 bars in 3 days kinda thing). There was also a glorious meat board from bin44 which fed us for 3 meals.
This is where we picked up the rental car from. It was a shit box of a car. a 12 year old suzuki swift imported from Japan with sun damaged paint. I didn’t care. It only cost us $730 for 15 days. It was also a fun nippy little car for mountain driving. You bet I enjoyed driving that little shit box around. However the GPS unit was entirely in Japanese and thought we were in Japan. Good thing my partner and I have both studied some Japanese. We just need to connect the Bluetooth to my phone. I had picked up a New Zealand sim card while I was there because I would need access to mobile navigation and data. It was great for music while driving too.
A fat travel addition would have been something like renting out a ford mustang for 8k. Definitely doable from Queenstown but very expensive.
Queenstown is lovely but so touristy. Since the pandemic caused lots of the small businesses to close shop, it’s all big business’s and high end stores left. It’s weird to see a R M Williams next to a Rolex retailer in a town of 17,000 people. Also traffic was horrendous due to road works. It cost us $70 each time we wanted to get to/from the airport in taxi fee’s with the standard tip I add for taxi drivers. However the scenery is beautiful. I woke up one morning just to photograph the sunrise over the mountains.
It was the tail end of winter pride week when we turned up. I was tempted to go network/party but didn’t end up signing up for any events.
Noticed a fat travel option; Azure Luxury Lodge for nearly $1500 a night. I’m no where near spending that much a night yet but perusing r/FATTravel makes me think I can dream.
For the budget friendly peeps, YHA is a great hostel chain in Australia. I’d assume they are just as well regarded in New Zealand.
We had our original Airbnb cancel on us and we couldn’t book our backup option, so we stayed in a local motel. We only needed to be here for 1 night. There isn’t much to do here. However the beach is deserted and full of cool drift wood to explore. It was also nice to have a decompress day in Haast.
Franz Joseph Glacier
Was a highlight of the trip. We had an Airbnb with a private hot tub over looking the hills. We could have stayed here for 3 nights. We did some short walks out to the glacier and booked some hot tub time in the city.
If you wanted to fat travel on this trip, a hotel right next door to the helicopters looked pretty fancy, all inclusive dinner for $700 per night. Also adding any helicopters or flights on this trip would definitely make it more fat.
I gave myself travellers gastro by the time I got here. I think it was a fish pie from Hokitika and the iced coffee milkshake to help me with the 6 hours of driving. I was shitting liquid for 2 days. Not fun. Definitely a damper on things. Managed to spend a day in the pools and the scenery was magnificent.
I would stop in Hokitika next time for a night or two to break up this leg. It was a big day of driving.
Was amazing, we spent 2 solo travel days exploring the city to help us both recharge. We had spent a lot of time together and needed the alone time. I hired a bike and cycled to New Brighton. Cycled past a bunch of abandoned streets that had sunk from the earthquake and were re-bcoming wetlands. It was kinda creepy and cool.
We stayed in a castle/old estate and played board games (Brass Birmingham and My City). Was a highlight of the trip. I lost at Brass but won my fair share of My City.
Brass is rated one of the best games on board game arena, you are playing an industrialist during the british industrial revolution. The game is played over two era’s, canal era and rail era. You are trying to build networks, trade goods and supply coal and iron to the market.
My City is a tetris legacy game, each game a new rule is introuduced which tweaks game play. We are now half way through the campaign.
One the way down we stopped by a steam punk museum. The next time I make this trip I might stay in Dunedin instead. We stayed in a traditional bnb with a hot tub but it was uncomfortable for my partner to be so close to what felt like a families home. I really have spoiled them with private hot tub experiences.
The day we got here it stormed something fierce. We even lost power in our airbnb for 2 hours. So we couldn’t top up the bath with hot water. It was a glorious bath though just out of town. I checked out a motorbike museum it was pretty cool.
Our final stop was 3 days in a spa resort to relax and unwind. I got pretty good deals on hotel accommodation through my All Accor membership and had received a free room upgrade. We both got massages and went quad biking. It was a great to relax before coming home.
Our last day it rained pretty heavily and it caused a landslide and some of the roads were closed. We were still able to get to the airport but it made lounging around the hotel so much nicer. I got some Balders Gate 3 play through done in the hotel room while my partner enjoyed TikTok’s in the bath.
This trip was just a little too long for my partner. I think their preferred length of holiday is 2 to 3 weeks. By the time we got to Christchurch they were missing home. I quiet like the road trip holiday. I want to do a 3 month road trip on my motorbike around Australia. But I’ll be doing it mostly solo with the occasional fly in catch up with the partner.
It was a great holiday. I came back refreshed and ready to get back into work. I was concerned that I’d have post holiday blues. However getting into 10 baths/hot tubs over 3 weeks is a great way to recharge. I would tweak the itinerary a little next time maybe just focusing on the mountains on the west coast.
However I still recommend New Zealand. It was great fun. I’ve got plans for quiet a few more holidays in the area. I hope you enjoyed the read.
What would you do differently?