All of our vacations begin with a Rick Steve's travel book for the area where we are going. My son is considering a trip to New Zealand, so I thought a perfect gift would be the Rick Steve's book for New Zealand. Good grief. There doesn't seem to be one. Does anyone know of an acceptable alternative?
Lonely Planet guides
Rick does Europe...that is his forte.
Lonely Planet, Rough Guides or Moon support backpackers, or young(young at heart) travelers looking for no nonsense advise at practicle price points.
Fodors and Frommers are going to be higher price points, and less off the beaten track.
Rough Guide is the best of the bunch - and although they are great if you are traveling on a shoestring budget, they have recommendations that are not just strictly for the backpacking crowd so they give you multiple options. I referred to Rough Guide extensively when I traveled for several months through New Zealand. If he's backpacking on his own or with a friend and not wanting to rent a car, I'd recommend getting a hop-on/hop-off pass from Stray. They have passes that cover various routes and lengths of time and he can hop off the bus at any of their overnight stops to stay longer if he wants and catch the next scheduled bus coming through. Stray does tours now, too, but I highly recommend the hop-on/hop-off passes which give you a lot more flexibility. Stray will also be able to help coordinate accommodation with their partner hostels or hotels along the route. Depending what he wants to do and how long he has, I'd really recommend spending the majority of his time on the South Island. It's the most scenic and great if he's very active and likes to hike, kayak or wants to do things like bungee jumps, zorbing, etc.
We prefer the DK Eyewitness Guides, but suggest that you peruse all of the various publications previously suggested and select the format that would most appeal to your son and his specific interests.
And I agree that the South Island is the better option depending upon his available time. Would also highly recommend the freedom and flexibility of renting a car if his budget can manage it - makes getting around the very rural (and spread out) countryside a whole lot easier. Light traffic, gorgeous scenery around every turn, and friendly and considerate locals - there's a lot to like in NZ.
We've just returned from 6 weeks on the south island and were frankly surprised at how much more crowded the cities and towns seemed to be compared to our previous trips. One reason is that we were there during the Chinese New Year period and we encountered a lot of Asian tourists from Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan. The towns of Wanaka and Queenstown were pretty full, so if he's considering a visit during that time of year he'll need to book well ahead for accommodations. That said, once out of the towns and out into the countryside it really wasn't that bad. Even the most popular trails were easy to access, especially with an early start. Would guess that's the case with the popular ski areas too if he's considering a winter visit.
Public library to check out several guides, then buy the one that fits the traveler best.
<> This is usually my recommendation for people looking to a guide. My choices differ depending on the trip. Others have cited DK Eyewitness guides - which I love because I am a visual person, but they are heavy and I personally find they fall short of some information I would want. But I generally get them from the library and then buy what works for that location.
Maybe an Amazon or book store credit would allow him to buy what works for him.....