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Rick Steve's type guidebook for New Zealand?

Hi all,

Like you all, I am sure you love the RS guidebooks because they tell you the BEST places to go. Other guidebooks tell you ALL the places to go, and with limited time you're left to compare three different guidebooks to figure out what the top five things to do in a place actually are!

We're going to be in New Zealand, with two kids (11 and 14), for three weeks in December 2014.

Two questions:

1) Can anyone recommend a Rick Steve's type guidebook (as in, just tell me the awesome stuff) for New Zealand?

2) Absent a great answer to question 1, perhaps you could post your "must do" list here?

Many thanks!

Posted by
104 posts

Hello David,
There is a small guidebook put out by Rough Guide called 25 Ultimate experiences in New Zealand. It is just for sightseeing but these books are fun ways to pick through a place real quick and see what is most recommended to see/do. Another guidebook that I like to use when I am trying to plan my sightseeing is Eyewitness Travel. It is really a guidebook for sightseeing only, but it has wonderful pictures, history, overview of sights, etc. I will go through the book marking it up with color pencils, colored tabs in the margin and hand written notes. I will then make a list of my must see sights paying careful attention to the rough itinerary that I am working on. Once you know what sights you want to see, you can go to your main travel guide (I recommend Rough Guide or Lonely Planet) and mark the pages for the sights and read through the information about the area. This requires a little more work than a Rick Steves' Guidebook, but it will help you to know that you did not miss anything important. I hope this helps you plan a great trip among the Kiwis!

Posted by
108 posts


This is an awesome way to do things. I really appreciate it. There really needs to be a Rick Steve's guide to every country on the planet!

Posted by
16141 posts

Hi David--- we are going to New Zealand in January for three weeks. I found the people on the New Zealand board of the Tripadvisor forum to be incredibly helpful in planning a trip. Lots of people just say how much time they have, and their interests, and the forum members will suggest an itinerary to cover the best of the best.

Some things you need to consider at the outset: visit one island or both? (We are interested in active adventure so will focus on the South Island). Will you rent a car and self-drive? This is generally recommended. We are renting one for a week, but before that we will use the train to visit the northern part of the South Island. We have also booked a multi-day walk on the Milford Track.

An oft-recommended itinerary for both islands has you start in Auckland and work your way down the North island. Drop the car at Wellington and take the ferry to the South Island. At Picton you can access the Queen Charlotte Track if you are interested in walking. Or head to Nelson for access to Abel Tasman national park ( beaches, walking and kayaking). Then work your way south by car, with the west coast being the most-recommended route. We are including time in Otago on the east side to ride bikes on the Otago Central Rail Trail. Your family might a day or two of bike riding there too--Google it. We arranged this with Bike It Now but there are many other guides and bike shops to choose from.

Posted by
1 posts

Possibly a bit late - but there are some excellent websites packed with NZ travel information, itineraries, activities and accommodation.
Department of Conservation
NZ National Parks, hiking - both overnight and day hikes, wilderness areas etc...
New Zealand Tourism
NZs national tourism website - excellent, but a lot of information to get through.
Green Journeys
More about boutique travel, exceptional guided activities, sensible itineraries, luxury accommodation but you can mix and match with other choices.
Lonely Planet
Pretty good as an overview of the country.

My Must-Do (a mixture of family and non-family must-dos)

  1. Hiking of any kind. Family hikes - either Abel Tasman National Park or Queen Charlotte Track - both at the top of the South Island and with water taxis to assist with pack/luggage transfer etc The Great Walks - Routeburn Track, Hollyford Track, day walks such as Rob Roy Glacier hike or the Siberia Experience in Mt Aspiring National Park. The Tongariro Crossing in the North Island (quite a tough day walk, so good fitness required).
  2. Visit Fiordland and do an overnight cruise on Milford or Doubtful Sound - magic in all weathers. Queenstown, Wanaka and the Southern Lakes Region.
  3. Nelson and Abel Tasman. In the north island my favourite sunshine and sand spot would be The Coromandel.
  4. Te Papa museum in Wellington - quick but expertly curated glimpse into NZ history and culture.
  5. A wildlife experience, either Whale Watch in Kaikoura or penguins, albatross and sea lions on the Otago Peninsula.
  6. NZ wine and food - amazingly good - go to The Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago for syrah, chardonnay, merlot, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris and riesling.