My Solo Travel Journey Through 5 New Zealand Cities

New Zealand, with its unbelievable scenery and unique cityscapes, is conducive to recreation, relaxation, and adventure for people of all ages and backgrounds.  From Auckland to Invercargill, the island nation holds plenty of activities for nature-lovers, urban dwellers, book lovers, coffee addicts, film buffs, and sports fans. 

With plenty to do and the relatively small size of the country, New Zealand may be one of the best places in the world to take a solo trip.  Solo travel’s been a growing trend around the world, due in no small part to the interconnectedness of technology that’s helped bring life from once exotic destinations into every home that has a computer screen.  This former solo backpacker says the process of choosing a destination is almost as important as making the decision to travel alone.

New Zealand’s small size means that it can be driven by car, from top to bottom, in about twenty-four hours, leaving travelers with abundant time to explore much of the country.  New Zealand was ranked the world’s second safest country in the 2018 Global Peace Index, behind only Iceland.  And New Zealand’s landscapes, the backdrop for the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings movies, are so pristine that they almost demand to be explored at one’s own pace. 

If the idea of exploring another country independently sounds engaging, New Zealand is ideal for this kind of travel. The following guide provides places to eat, shop, stay, and visit in 5 New Zealand Cities for the Solo Traveler. 

Auckland

Solo travelers will be pleased to find they can cover the majority of downtown Auckland by foot.  The Grand Millenium Auckland is located in the heart of the city, and is a six-minute walk from the iconic Sky Tower, a thousand-foot tall observation structure from which viewers can take the ideal selfie.  Also, visitors shouldn’t miss the sights of the Auckland waterfront, next to which the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour is conveniently located.  It’s less than a 15-minute walk to buzzy eatery Depot, known for its wine list and oyster bar.  Those who aren’t big on shellfish should head to Prego on Ponsonby Road, one of Auckland’s hippest thoroughfares, and do some shopping afterward.

Tauranga

The largest city in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is a popular tourist and holiday destination due to its temperate climates and pristine beaches. The Hotel on Davenport is right next to the harbor waterfront, and Oceanside Resort and Twin Towers is the perfect accommodation for those looking to explore Mount Maunganui, probably the city’s most famous attraction.  With the beach and walking tracks, including one that takes you directly to the summit, solo travelers will likely spend a good amount of time here.  You can also occupy your time with surfing, sailing, snorkeling, wildlife cruises, and helicopter flights, in addition to visiting McLaren Falls, where you can hike the waterfall track and see glowworms after sunset.  Stay fueled for outdoors excursions with trips to Latitude 37 and Mills Reef Winery, which provide sophisticated dining options for the refined solo traveler.

Wellington

Truly a cultural capital, Wellington has enough museums, shops, eateries, and nature sites to keep solo travelers busy.  Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, alone requires a few days for exploration, with dozens of comprehensive exhibits on the country’s history, landscapes, and heritage.  The Intercontinental Wellington, an upscale hotel right near the historic Old Bank Arcade, is only a few blocks away.  You can do some window shopping here, or head on over to Cuba Street, a bohemian district where you’ll find a host of galleries, shops, and restaurants, including Logan Brown, an award-winning restaurant that sources local and sustainable produce.  Ortega and Pizzeria Napoli are steps away from one another; both are delicious dining options for a solo traveler exploring the city.  Leave the city environment for a bit with visits to the Wellington Botanic Gardens and Mount Victoria.  The latter is a well-traversed photography spot that offers panoramic views of the Wellington.

Dunedin

Dunedin is a gateway to the beautiful Otago Penninsula, known for its stunning biodiversity.  Seals, penguins, and many seabirds populate the area, and whales and dolphins can be found offshore.  For nature views, take the Sandymount walking track for easy access to Lovers Leap and The Chasm, two of the most beautiful photography spots on the peninsula (this hike is a bit far from the city proper, but absolutely worth it).  The Distinction Dunedin hotel, built in the 1930s as a post office, now specializes in offering luxury accommodations to guests from around the world, and can advise solo travelers regarding activities and events taking place within the city and surrounding peninsula.  Ecotourism isn’t Dunedin’s only attraction – Larnarch Castle, with its unique Victorian heritage and lovely gardens, should appeal to even the most casual history buff.  After a day of sightseeing, head to places like Etrusco at the Savoy, one of Dunedin’s most popular Italian restaurants.  Additionally, the city has a lively café culture, which includes staples like Perc and Starfish.  And don’t leave the city without seeing the Dunedin Railway Station. Built in 1906 and grandly embellished, it’s unlike any other building in the city.

Queenstown

Queenstown is a resort town known for its variety of outdoor activities.  As it’s built on the shores of Lake Wakatipu with views of the nearby mountains, solo travelers can participate in water sports in the summer and skiing and snowboarding in the winter.  These are only a handful of the hundreds of adventure tourism activities Queenstown offers.  If you’re interested in trying an outdoor sport like bungy jumping, paragliding, or jet boating, there’s probably no better place to do it than the town that bills itself as “the adventure capital of the world”.  Recharge your batteries at the Hotel St. Moritz, only an eleven-minute walk from the Skyline Gondola, a premier scenic activity that offers views of the surrounding mountain ranges.  The Queenstown Park boutique hotel prides itself on being away from the crowds but near the heart of the city – and it’s also located a few minutes away from Fergburger, a New Zealand burger institution with its only location in Queenstown.  Eichart’s Bar is also a popular spot, serving breakfast, lunch, and tapas made with locally sourced produce inside a 17th-century hotel.  It’s important to note that Queenstown is one of the best places for day trips to Milford Sound, a world-renown nature site with views of rainforests, waterfalls, and several species of wildlife.

These 5 New Zealand Cities for the solo traveler contain interesting landmarks and plenty of activities and are located near gorgeous natural views.  With a camera, walking shoes, and a willingness to embrace the outdoors, the independent traveler should find no lack of enjoyment visiting them. Have a great time!

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