New Zealand Travel Guide

Hey guys, it's Jess here! For this week's blog post, we have a super exciting New Zealand travel guide from one of our super cool ambassadors, Rylee! She is brilliant, funny, and full of life. You can catch some of her second semester of New Zealand adventures at @ryleegladych on Instagram!

And now, here is a hilarious guide to traveling New Zealand from our Queen, Rylee, herself.


New Zealand: A guide that includes everything you might want to know, and most likely stuff you don’t...

Where should you even go? North or South Island?

If you are heading to New Zealand for just a week or two, chances are you are having to choose which of the islands you are going to visit. Speaking with absolutely no bias, I would choose the South Island every time. But that’s just my opinion, as someone who lived in and is obsessed with the South Island of New Zealand. But, you are not me, so for the sake of fairness I’ll tell you a bit about both.


The North Island is home to most of the major cities in New Zealand and thus most of the population. Auckland, the largest city in NZ, is worth seeing, but in my opinion not worth staying. Imagine a very generic city in the states and plop it down in New Zealand. It’s cool because it’s in NZ but there are so many other places worth more of your time. If you do find yourself spending time in Auckland though, the museums are awesome, make sure you see all the parks, and check out Ponsonby for some good food and even better drinks.

Alright, let’s talk Wellington. Wellington, my friends, is definitely a place you want to spend some time. If the fact that Wellington holds the title of windiest city in the world, sorry Chicago, doesn’t do it for you, the rest of the city will. Wellington is right on the water, which makes for a beautiful view. There are great trendy food spots, all of which are delicious. Might I suggest making Wellington the place you splurge on some good meals. In terms of nightlife, Wellington, in my opinion, is the place to be in New Zealand. There are great bars and clubs. My favorite was a LGBTQ+ club, called Ivy. They have drag shows that are apparently so fun. During the day time, there is the Te Papa museum, shopping, etc. Wellington has everything you would expect from a city. But if you hate food, partying, shopping, and harbors, then Wellington is probably not the city for you.

There are some smaller places that I think warrant a stop on the North Island. First, Napier, which has amazing art deco vibes, and you can rent old cars to drive around. It’s also a plus that the town center is literally right on the beach.

Second, The Thermal Wonderland near Rotorua. Rotorua itself smells bad and is really not that interesting, but the thermal areas are unlike anything I have seen in the states.

Third, Taupo. It is right on the water, and there are natural thermal springs you can sit in, which was soooooo relaxing.

Fourth, the Tongariro Alpine crossing, this is absolutely one of my favorite day hikes. As a Lord of the Rings fan, it also didn’t hurt that this mountain is Mt. Doom and a lot of the filming took place in this region.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, you NEED to go to Hobbiton in Matamata. Even if you aren’t a fan, the landscape of the set is gorgeous. If you are a LOTR fan, be prepared for your head to explode.


And lastly, if you are on the North Island, you must go black water rafting at the Waitomo glow worm caves. Trust me: It’s worth the money and the hour of being chilly.

Other places I heard are amazing but I didn’t get to:

  • The Coromandel

  • Te Whanganui-A-Hei

  • Tauranga

  • The Bay of Islands

  • Cape Reinga


So obviously the North Island is great, but man, the South Island absolutely blows it out of the water. The North Island is like winning Silver at the Olympics, still incredible and impressive, but there is better. If you haven’t guessed, the South Island takes the gold. The views, the nature, all of it is just unparalleled. If you like the outdoors, like I do, you will freak over the South Island. How I describe it to people is: Imagine you are walking through an art museum, and you see the most beautiful landscape painting you’ve ever seen. Then you accidentally sneeze, and that forces you to literally fall into the painting. Where you land, that’s the South Island of NZ. I don’t even know how to fully explain in words what you should do, so I’ll give you a list.

1. Dunedin (where I live(d))

  • Mount Cargill

  • Tunnel Beach

  • Parakaunui Beach

  • Long Beach (camp in a cave)