Kiwi Experience – Where to Stay Longer

by tanlinesandtempeh

Do you plan on traveling New Zealand with Kiwi Experience? If you’re staying longer than the minimum time required for your route (30 days for the Whole Kit & Caboodle Tour), you might find yourself overwhelmed trying to figure out where to stay for how long. I certainly was! So, in this blog post, I am going to tell you where to stay longer on Kiwi Experience.

Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post solely because I wish I would have had something similar to help me plan my Kiwi Experience. However, after reading it, Kiwi Experience reached out to me and set me up a discount code to share with you. Use “kiwiexperience5” for 5% off all passes (even those on promo). I don’t make any money from it, so this is really just to save you some money!

To make things easier for you, I included three lists of destinations below; the ones where the minimum stay is more than enough, the ones where you could stay longer and the ones where you should stay longer.

You’ll find that some places are included in more than one of the lists. That’s because sometimes it depends on whether you want to do any of the activities offered by Kiwi Experience or not. Additionally, I included a PDF at the end of this blog post where I give you my exact itinerary as an example and talk about some stops where you can hop off that aren’t part of the normal Kiwi Experience itinerary.

Places You Don’t Need to Stay Longer at

Take these with consideration! New Zealand has some amazing hikes to offer, so if you wanted to do all of them, you could probably spend more time everywhere. But if you don’t have forever, there are places you could better spend your time at.

Auckland

If you don’t plan on doing any of the activities offered by Kiwi Experience, you don’t really need to stay longer. Auckland is a big city, so of course, there are a lot of things you could spend your time doing. However, every day you spend in Auckland is a day you can’t spend elsewhere and trust me, there are some places you’d rather spend your time at!

Hot Water Beach

Don‘t get me wrong, the accommodation you’ll be staying at in Hot Water Beach is probably one of the nicest of your journey with Kiwi Experience. So if you feel like it, you could for sure just enjoy yourself there for some time. But apart from the hot pools at the beach and Cathedral Cove, both of which you’ll be doing on your first day, there isn’t much around.

Waitomo

To be honest, the reason you stop in Waitomo is to do some kind of activity in the Glow Worm Caves. While the tours of the caves are a lot of fun, they are pretty much the only thing to do around. Correct me if I‘m wrong but I wouldn’t know how to spend an extra day in Waitomo.

Definitely go for one of the cave activities in Waitomo
Taupo

I could honestly put down Taupo on every single one of these lists. Since Kiwi Experience stays in Taupo for two nights anyway, you don’t necessarily need any more time there if you don’t desperately want to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. That being said, check out this blog post on things to do in Taupo that might change your mind to staying longer

River Valley

River Valley is a fun spot, you stay in a nice lodge with amazing food and you can go water rafting or horse trekking in the morning. But that’s all there is around, there’s also no cell service and no WiFi. Which, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind, it’s also nice that people are kinda forced to talk to each other. It results in everyone playing games in the communal area next to the fireplace (and have a drink or two). But that’s all you can do there.

Some of the views on our horse trek
Westport

I have to be honest, I am kind of biased when it comes to Westport, so take this suggestion with a grain of salt. My experience in Westport just wasn’t the best, a few things went wrong (I’m talking about one of them in my blog post about being vegan on Kiwi Experience), the weather wasn’t nice, and I didn’t like the hostel (others loved it though!). So, for me, one night was more than enough. However, if you like surfing and would like to do more than just one session (which you can do when you’re staying one night), consider staying longer.

Lake Mahinapua

This is a fun place to stay at since every bus, that gets to the Mahinapua Hotel, will do a theme party there that night. It was one of the best nights of my trip (and also where I met my friends who I ended up traveling with for the next 1 ½ – 2 weeks). That being said, apart from a lake and the beach, there is nothing around and the accommodation is quite expensive at 55$ a night since food is included and there are no cooking facilities. Therefore, nothing wrong with moving on the next day.

Franz Josef

You stay in Franz Josef for two nights anyway, which is plenty of time to explore the area if you are not keen on doing the Heli Hike there. I stayed an extra night without wanting to do the Heli Hike but that day was more for chilling and enjoying the nice hostel (that actually made the list of my favorite accommodations in New Zealand).

You can see the glacier in the background. Where I’m standing, used to be the middle of the glacier…
Invercargill

To be fair, I haven’t actually been to Invercargill because the accommodation is just outside of it. But from what I’ve seen, you don’t need to spend more time here.

Lake Tekapo

Here, I think it really comes down to who you’re with. The hostel is part of a Holiday Park and there is not much around, no cell service, and no free wifi. I liked Lake Tekapo, you have an amazing sky for stargazing at night. But I had just left my friends behind in Queenstown and while I met some nice people there as well, it wasn’t enough for me wanting to stay an extra day to do some of the hikes around (which you can still do if you’re only staying for one night).

This picture was taken by my friend William (find him on Instagram here) at Lake Tekapo.
Christchurch

Some people might disagree with me on this one. While Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s bigger cities (with lots of vegan places), there is not much going on. I was there on a Saturday night and the streets were pretty much empty. In my opinion, the afternoon is enough time to explore Christchurch, maybe take the tram through the city or go to the earthquake museum Quake City.

Places You Could Stay Longer at

Bay of Islands

This lovely town right next to the beach offers a variety of activities and is just very nice in general. Plus, the weather here is usually a bit warmer than the rest of New Zealand! Other option: do Bay of Islands in the end instead of beginning and make it a little holiday.

Rotorua

Especially if you’re doing the Tamaki Maori Village Overnight Stay, you aren’t going to see a lot of Rotorua. So it might be worth staying an extra night to visit the Polynesian Spa or go up the gondola to enjoy some life rides. That being said, I don’t think you’ll miss that much if you’re only staying one night. So this one is entirely up to your preferences!

Kaiteriteri

In my honest opinion, you should stay longer here and do the coastal walk in Abel Tasman Park, or at least parts of it. Since I know that’s not for everyone, I put Kaiteriteri on this list. You should seriously consider staying longer though. While there might not be a lot around, the nature is beautiful and thanks to the water taxis, doing little walks inside of the national park is easy as. However, I would recommend staying at another hostel, The Adventure Inn in Marahau was my favorite accommodation in New Zealand (check out the whole list here) and Greg, Meg (Dean) or someone else from the team will pick you up and drop you off at the Kiwi Experience bus.

This is just one of multiple beautiful views in Abel Tasman National Park.
Wanaka

This is probably the place I most regret not spending more time at. Multiple reasons led to me already leaving after one night even though I had previously planned on staying longer. You don’t necessarily need to stay longer, as Wanaka is just a small village without heaps of things to do, but the nature is beautiful. There are a lot of nice walks you can do in and around Wanaka, including Roys Peak.

Queenstown

When you’re traveling with Kiwi Experience, you spend three nights in Queenstown which is longer than in any other place. So, you don’t need to spend more time here. However, you might – like most people – discover that this is a great place to be at. Queenstown is the action capital of New Zealand in addition to being a party city. But there is much more to it; beautiful nature, amazing walks, lots of things to do, and just a special atmosphere (plus some nice vegan options you can check out here). So, if you have the time, consider staying here longer.

Views from Queenstown Hill.
Dunedin

From what I’ve seen, I think Dunedin is a beautiful city with some fun things to do. Apparently, you can also go surfing not too far away, so an extra day might be worth it. The only thing to consider is that even during peak season, Kiwi Experience only operates on the Deep South Route every other day. So it is either one or three nights in Dunedin – the decision is up to you.

Lake Tekapo

There is a shuttle from Tekapo to Mount Cook. So if you want to explore the beautiful area of Aoraki (and don’t want to hop off and get the shuttle from Twizel), you can stay an extra night at Lake Tekapo catch the shuttle.

Kaikoura

This one is definitely subject to weather conditions. But if the weather is nice, Kaikoura is an awesome place to be at. There isn’t a lot to do but you’ve got the beach, mountains in the background, nice hikes around, and the possibility to go swimming with dolphins or whale watching. If you stay around longer, you can also book your dolphin encounter for the best day possible. A lot of people from our group couldn’t really enjoy the whole experience because it was so windy that more than half of the people on our boat got seasick.

I loved Kaikoura!

Places You Should Stay Longer at

Auckland

DISCLAIMER – this applies only if you want to do any of the activities offered by Kiwi Experience. If you’re coming from Paihia and are heading towards Hot Water Beach, you’ll arrive in the early evening and leave again in the morning.

One of the more beautiful places in Auckland.
Taupo

Apart from the fact that Taupo is a really nice city with a few fun activities, this is also the place from which you’ll do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. If that’s high on your bucket list, I’ll seriously advise you to stay at least 4-5 nights. The Crossing is highly susceptible to weather conditions so it might be canceled a few times.

I actually arrived on a Saturday afternoon and the first time the Crossing was possible again was Wednesday. I am glad I stuck around, though, as doing the crossing ended up being one of my favorite activities with Kiwi Experience.

Wellington

There is no question about this one which is why it is only included in one of the lists. No matter if you come to Wellington north or southbound, you arrive in the evening and leave early in the next morning. This leaves you no time to explore Wellington which is a shame because there is so much to do. I’ll actually publish a blog post about free things to do in Wellington soon.

One of the things you can do in Wellington is a free tour of Parliament.
Franz Josef

If you want to do the Heli Hike (or the skydive, for that matter) in Franz Josef, you should definitely plan some more nights here. I met some people who were there for four to five nights and still, their activities got canceled every day. If you are lucky and your activity goes along on your first day, you can still decide to move on sooner. But I just wouldn’t take a chance, Franz Josef has more than 180 rain days a year so it is just natural that the activities get canceled a lot.

Conclusion

I hope this blog post helped you plan your trip with Kiwi Experience. If you’d like some more input, download this PDF where I give you my exact itinerary as an example and tell you what I think worked well and what I would change if I were to do the whole route again. I also talk about some stops where you can hop off that aren’t part of the Kiwi Experience itinerary.

Please feel free to contact me for further questions. I’m always happy to help out!

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