Happy Autumn, Aotearoa! With the trees changing colour, cooler temperatures, and shorter sunny days, March, April and May are great months to travel around New Zealand. We’ve put together some must-sees and -dos so that you can make the most of the season!

It’s exciting for all Kiwis that travel is becoming possible again as restrictions start to lift, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to head overseas. There are still plenty of great and budget-friendly things to do in NZ. If you’re looking for some top tips on budgeting for your travels, check out our ultimate how-to guide on our blog.

Here are our top three budget-friendly things to do between March & May.

1. Capture the golden autumn hue

Autumn’s gold and red colours make New Zealand picture-perfect for landscape photographers and visitors! The days are still warm, the sky is clear, and you’ll find the best autumn scenery throughout Canterbury and Otago, where the trees start to change to autumnal colours.

You don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to capture the most dramatic scenery – your smartphone will do the job. Frame your shot with something to contrast with the autumn leaves, and you’re sure to grab some post-card worthy shots. Water reflections or surrounding lakes make gorgeous photos with the colours of Autumn trees!

Here are some of our favourite locations in New Zealand for autumn landscape photography. Pick one that’s a short drive from you and get exploring.

  • Hamilton Gardens, Waikato – Check out the classic photo of the maple trees’ reflection at the Japanese Garden of Contemplation. Admire the vibrant colours of the Swamp Cypress along the Waikato River Pathway.
  • Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Gisborne – Eastwoodhill is a hidden gem that many photographers want to keep a secret. It’s a national tree park, covering 135 hectares of native trees and shrubs. For the best portrait, wear colours like yellow, red, brown and burgundy, which go well with the autumn backdrop.
  • Arrowtown, Otago – There’s a reason this little historic town near Queenstown, host an annual autumn festival during the most colourful season of the year. You’ll find the best shots by the Arrow River with seasonal trees surrounding the turquoise river.
  • Lake Tekapo, Canterbury – Surrounded by the Southern Alps with beautiful trees on the shores, Lake Tekapo offers picture-perfect autumn scenery. The best view is in the morning on the western side of the lake, near Tekapo Springs. With clear blue skies, glaciers, mist, and reflections on the water; you’re guaranteed to get tonnes of likes and shares on your social post!
  • Lake Pukaki, Canterbury – The largest lake in Mackenzie, Lake Pukaki offers spectacular views with many stop-offs for photos on State Highway 80. Drive towards Aoraki/Mount Cook Village and get all the shots you could dream of between Twizel and Lake Tekapo Village. While you’re there, check out the secret spot only the professional photographers know - Hayman Road.

2. Stargazing

There’s no better time for stargazing than autumn! There are some areas in New Zealand that have the best night sky view with clear autumn skies and barely any light pollution. If you’re travelling to one of the locations below, make sure you go outside at night and look up to the starry Milky Way. It won’t disappoint!

  • Aoraki Mackenzie, International Dark Sky Reserve - Take the Big Sky Stargazing tour at the foot of Mount Cook and learn about the wonders of the planets, stars and cosmos through the high-powered telescopes. It’s truly an experience like no other!
  • Lake Tekapo, Mt John Observatory, Dark Sky Reserve – Whether you want to take a stargazing tour at Mt John Observatory or observe the night sky from the Church of the Good Shepherd, don’t pass up the chance to stay overnight at Lake Tekapo.
  • Stewart Island, International Dark Sky Sanctuary – With the right weather conditions and a bit of luck, you might even be able to see aurora australis (southern lights)!
  • Great Barrier Island, International Dark Sky Sanctuary – Far away from city lights, the sky here at Great Barrier Island is beyond magnificent.
  • If you can’t travel to the above destinations, why not head to your local observatory and check out the displays they have there? Check out the Auckland Stardome or the Wellington Carter Observatory for a stargazing experience like no other!

3. Go hiking & tramping

March, April, May – the best seasons for hiking. With stunning autumn colours, sunny days, cooler temperatures, and fewer people, what more can you ask for? Pack some food and a few layers, and you’re ready for a day-hike or if you’re feeling up for it, you could spend a couple of days in the mountains! Grab a couple of friends or book a guided tour to make the most of your autumn hike. Just don’t forget to be safe and let people know where you’re heading and when you’re due home. Check out these tips for safe hiking.

Our favourite hikes and trails in Autumn:

  • The Rangitoto Summit Track, Rangitoto Island The Rangitoto Summit Track is an easy climb through pōhutukawa forest and lava fields which gives way to panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf from the summit. This is one of Auckland’s best short walks.
  • Mercer Bay Loop Track, Piha - The Mercer Bay Loop Path starts high up above Piha and takes you to Te Ahua headland, the site of an important Māori pā (fortified village), with great views up and down the west coast.
  • The Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National ParkThe Tongariro Crossing, located in NZ’s oldest national park, is a day hike (194km) over a dramatic volcanic landscape.
  • The Routeburn Track, Fiordland National ParkThe Routeburn Track takes you across the ice-carved valleys, the stunning Bridal Veil Waterfall, and the jaw-dropping beauty of the Southern Alps in Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park. With a 32km length, it’s a moderate 3-day hike for most hikers.

Where is your budget-friendly autumn journey going to take you? If you find you’re a little short of money to cover the cost, we can help! Financing your holiday with a travel loan is a great way to make your holiday possible.

With the budget taken care of with a travel loan from Instant Finance and this holiday guide, all you’re left to do is book your autumn holiday!

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