Backpacking in New Zealand on a Gap Year

Countries  »  New Zealand

Okay, so you probably know New Zealand as Middle Earth. But the reality of its scenery is just as incredible, and the endless list of exhilarating activities you can enjoy all over it makes a backpacking on a gap year in New Zealand the ultimate travel experience.

Outside of the natural landscapes, cities like Wellington and Auckland offer plenty of hostels and bars for backpackers to meet up, drink a few beers, and drunkenly plan a New Zealand gap year.

Night time view over Wellington

The cities

Wellington has earned itself the title of 'the coolest little capital' and for good reason. Cuba Street has all the bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and vintage shops you could want, and you can relax afterwards on the beach at Scorching Bay or by heading into the simulated wilds of Zealandia, before hitting the town on a night out. 

Auckland has similarly vibrant nightlife, as well as offering beautiful waterfront and beaches, a park based around an extinct volcano, and amazing views from the top of Sky Tower. You can also visit the garden city of Christchurch, wild and pungent Rotorua, or picturesque Dunedin. 

Milford Sound, New Zealand

The scenery

It's impossible to summarise New Zealand's ridiculous scenery in a couple of lines. There's Tongariro National Park, home to three major volcanoes, the frozen landscapes of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, the wet and blustery Fiordland (i.e. Middle Earth) and its peaceful, postcard perfect Milford Sound, or Ninety Mile Beach on North Island.

There's so much to see, and so many ways to see it, that a gap year in New Zealand will offer something completely different each day. On Monday you can go black water rafting through the glowing tunnels of the Waitomo caves, Tuesday and Wednesday can be spent accomplishing a two day hike in Milford Sound National park, Thursday is time for some relaxation in the Ngawha hot springs, picking the pace up on Friday by going skydiving over Lake Taupo.

Franz Josef glacier, New Zealand

Adventurous backpackers should also challenge themselves to hike the snow capped Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, bungee jump from the AJ Hackett site - the world’s first bungee spot, go kayaking on the Nelson Lakes, Zorb down steep hills, surf on the waves at Wainui beach, or spend a day or two exploring the sets of Lord of the Rings in Wellington.  We weren’t kidding; the list really does goes on and on.