This is Part 2 of our 4 part series on planning the ultimate road trip in New Zealand. We will cover every aspect – itinerary, accommodation, packing, driving, budgeting – of planning an unforgettable road trip in New Zealand
Read Part 1 – The Ultimate New Zealand road trip itinerary (opens in a new tab)
Read Part 3 – Travel Fashion – What to pack for a Road Trip in New Zealand (opens in new tab)
Read Part 4- How much will that Road Trip in New Zealand cost (opens in new tab)
“I’ve longed for time – unscheduled time, dream time, quiet time. Time to go, Just go”
Francis Mayes could well be talking about New Zealand when she fawns at the seductiveness of quiet time. New Zealand sets the scene for a dreamy road trip, one like no other! As with our road trips in Iceland and Croatia, we knew we would spend most of our days in New Zealand outdoors. Most days we reached our accommodation at 8 pm only to leave early morning. So comfort, convenience, and location were key while choosing accommodation for our road trip in New Zealand.
We mostly chose mid-range hotels and quaint B&Bs as we went along. Most towns in New Zealand have only motels and B&Bs. They are usually furnished to a high standard with facilities befitting a 3* or 4* hotel.
However if you have the leisure of time and intend to spend time in and around your hotel, New Zealand has a few luxury lodges that offer superb scenic views. If you’re on budget, it has some great hostels too. It is also home to some of the prettiest camping spots in the whole world, so just rent a camper van or motorhome and explore the country at your pace.
Just keep the following things in mind before booking accommodation for your road trip in New Zealand:
- Make sure you enquire about parking before booking accommodation. Paid parking can get extortionate in New Zealand. A lot of lodges and hotels offer free parking, but it’s best to check ahead.
- Check whether accommodation in question offers wifi. Wifi is a tad patchy in New Zealand and a lot of places only offer paid wifi. This is essential if you like being connected to the world even while you’re on holiday.
- Try to opt for accommodation that includes breakfast. It fuels you for the day ahead. Besides breakfast in a café will set you back by at least NZD 15 (£7) per person, so B&Bs just give you extra bang for your buck 🙂
Without further ado, here’s a list of all the places we chose to stay in New Zealand, including a couple of amazing finds, loads of hits and a couple of misses:
Day 1: Sleep at an Auckland Airport Hotel
Our flight flew into Auckland Airport at an unearthly hour of 2.30 am. We had a few hours to kill before collecting our car next morning, so we booked a night at Ibis Hotel, situated next to the Auckland Airport itself. The building is conveniently located at a 20-minute walk (5 minute cab ride if you don’t wish to walk) from the International Arrivals Hall. Rooms are small yet comfortable – sparkling linen, fresh towels, and a great shower – everything you’d want from an airport hotel. We managed to sleep for almost 4 hours before collecting our car next morning.
FYI: Parking is free, wifi is paid
Top Tip: In New Zealand, supermarkets are considerably cheaper in larger cities such as Auckland and Christchurch as opposed to the countryside. They also offer a wider variety, so it’s best to stock up in Auckland. There is a huge Countdown supermarket right next to Ibis Hotel. It’s a good place to stock up on essentials – snacks, fruits and veggies, toiletries – for your road trip.
Day 2: Explore Auckland City
We wanted to spend a day exploring the city of Auckland, so we booked ourselves a night at Haka Lodge, Auckland. They offer both shared and private rooms. We opted for a private ensuite family room on the second floor, which was extremely spacious. Rooms here are clean and equipped with great showers. There is a common kitchen and cosy dining room as well in case you want to throw a meal together or just catch up with fellow traveller.
Wifi at Haka Lodge, Auckland was the best we had in New Zealand. Unfortunately wifi is paid and limited in most of New Zealand. However we got fast, unlimited wifi here, which is music to my ears (bet you know that well by now!). With my fondness for fast wifi, I’m considering putting together an encyclopedia on wifi speeds in different neighbourhoods around the world 😉
FYI: Parking is paid and hard to find but wifi is free
Top Tip: Auckland has some of the world’s best coffee. If you’re a connoisseur of good coffee or a purveyor of third wave coffee, make sure you try some independent cafes in the city. It’s hard to go wrong here.
Days 3- 5: Experience geothermal activity at Lake Rotorua
Drives get prettier by the second as you inch towards the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. Rotorua is at the heart of tourism in New Zealand’s North Island and there is definitely no shortage of things to do here – thermal pools, maori villages, dazzling lakes – you name it!
Lake Rotorua is the focal point of all activity, so a lake-side lodge is a bit of a no-brainer! We found Shula’s Lodge by complete accident but this cosy lodge, overlooking the shores of Lake Rotorua, might be one our favourite stops in New Zealand. The lake-side B&B has everything one could possibly need. You walk to the entrance via a garden laden with flowers and fruit trees. Inside, all 3 rooms have been furnished to a high standard. We opted for the Tui Room overlooking Lake Rotorua. The room had fast wifi, spotless linen, an electric kettle, plenty of tea & coffee, a work desk, and a well-equipped bathroom. It’s the hosts that make Shula’s Lake Lodge special. Ginie bakes her own cookies, makes her own preserves and trail mix, and puts a delightful spread on the table at breakfast each morning. Bob and Ginie are the nicest possible hosts and made sure we left the house with smiles on our faces each morning.
FYI: Free wifi and free parking
Top Tip: Opt for the Tui room for a stunning view from the room and easy access to a large patio overlooking the lake.
Days 6 & 7: Soak in hot springs at Lake Taupo
On these days, you can choose where to sleep depending on your preferences. If you want to explore volcanic and geothermal areas, Taupo is the place to be. If you enjoy nature, Napier is a great place for you. If you want to explore a winery or two, choose Wellington. We chose the newly made quarters of Haka Lodge, Taupo that offer private accommodation. Wifi is fast and there is a large shared kitchen. Private rooms are clean but they can get quite cramped. If you are not driving, you can check out some of the country wide tours offered by Haka tours.
FYI: Free wifi and free parking
Top Tip: Try the coffee at Ozone Coffee Roasters in Taupo City Centre – nom!
Day 8: Sleep overnight in Picton
On this particular day, we crossed over from North Island to South Island. We drove from Taupo to Wellington, took the Interislander Ferry, and reached the South Island. Our ferry reached the town of Picton (South Island) at 7 pm and we spent the night in a ‘luxury’ apartment in the town. Unfortunately it was cramped, rough around the edges, and had particularly bad wifi, so we can’t recommend a place for this part of the journey :-(. You can search for and compare some hotels here.
Day 9: Go whale watching in Kaikoura
The maritime town of Kaikoura, famous for its whales and seals, is a pleasant 2 hour drive away from Picton. The coastal drive to Kaikoura will leave you spell bound. We slept at Brook House B&B, a quaint little offering close to the centre, in Kaikoura. We left early next morning, so we spent less than 6 hours at Brook House B&B but it was a great pit-stop. The owner, Judy, has decorated the entire accommodation with flowers, plants, and vintage china. There’s plenty of tea and coffee available 24X7 along with a special little treat – Judy’s freshly-baked chocolate muffins.
FYI: Free wifi and free parking
Top Tip: Try the Kaikoura Peninsula Coastal Walk. It’s a long-winded hike that offers the perfect opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise those muscles. You’ll spot loads of sea lions along the way.
Days 10 & 11: Be spellbound at Arthur’s Pass National Park
The Bealey Hotel is situated in one of the most recognizable and gorgeous panoramas of New Zealand: The Bealey Valley. The hotel has rustic cabins, which offer complete privacy to guests. Each cabin has a kitchenette, spacious dining area, and bedroom. All cabins have balconies overlooking the river. The view from the cabins will leave you completely gobsmacked! We woke up to billowing flowers, misty clouds suspended over mountains, and the riverbed each morning. The Bealey Hotel was definitely the most scenic accommodation on our road trip of New Zealand. Just wish we could’ve stayed longer!
The Bealey Hotel also boasts of a bustling restaurant that is extremely popular with tourists and locals alike.
FYI: Free Parking. Wifi is free but limited because internet connectivity in the Arthur’s Pass National Park is via satellite.
Top Tip: The Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall, close to Arthur’s Pass village, is great for a morning hike.
Days 12 & 13: Take in the best New Zealand has to offer at Lake Wanaka
We struggled to find accommodation in Wanaka – everything was sold out during peak season! Finally we settled for a private ensuite room at Base Wanaka. Great decision because it is centrally located. Everything in town is just a short walk away and there is a huge supermarket right next door. The room and bathroom were small but well equipped. We didn’t spend much time indoors but if you do, there is a movie room and a huge share kitchen to rustle a meal or two.
FYI: Free public parking next door. Wifi is paid (NZD 8/day) but super fast.
Top Tip: Don’t forget to go stargazing at Lake Wanaka. The night skies are stunning anytime of the year.
Days 14-17: Go on unbelievable drives in Queenstown
Everything you’ve seen or read about Queenstown is true. It’s inimitable beauty leaves all tourists spellbound and we were no different. Of course you can stay in Queenstown itself – the centre has some gorgeous properties such as the Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa. However they tend to be expensive because of the premium location. For something more affordable, check out Haka Lodge, Queenstown.
However we wanted to stay away from the hustle bustle and the lights of Queenstown so we could witness (and photograph!) spectacular night skies everyday. If, like us, you choose to stay away from the centre, you will find plenty of B&Bs and cottages around Queenstown’s Lake Wakitapu.Expect homely B&Bs and lodges punctuated with quirky tidbits. My favourite feature in these countryside B&Bs is always the large glass windows with sunlight streaming in from the garden and beyond it, the lake. Look up Air B&B for a a rustic yet comfortable stay (You can use that link for $40 off your first booking).
FYI: Free wifi and free parking at most placces
Top Tip: Go stargazing on the outskirts of Queenstown. On a clear day, the night skies here are like nothing you’ve ever seen – thousands, nay millions, of twinkling stars everywhere you look.
Days 18 & 19: Wrap up things in Christchurch
It’s the end of your epic road trip. If you want to do your laundry and ready yourself for your next destination (like us!) or just want a spacious functional hotel, then All Stars Inn is perfect. There’s no doubt it’s a busy hotel – it boasts of a variety of accommodation and can accommodate 300 people. We opted for a extremely spacious double ensuite room equipped with a great shower, electric kettle, fridge, and toaster.
FYI: Free (super-fast) wifi and free parking
Top Tip: Hop over to Pure Cafe nearby for breakfast and a great cup of coffee.
Read all our New Zealand experiences here.