With a population of only 3.5 million and an area about the same size as Britain, New Zealand offers the travelling surfer something that’s becoming increasingly hard to find – uncrowded quality waves. Sure, there are a few spots which get packed whenever it’s good, but there are still hundreds of miles of empty coastline, loaded with potential. The lifestyle in New Zealand is laidback, and it’s a great place to explore in a camper van.
The waves: There’s tons of variety in New Zealand – everything from French-style beachbreaks, to shallow reefs and long wrapping points. Be prepared for anything, anywhere. The biggest waves are generated by low pressure systems in the Tasmanian Sea which pass under the South Island, although the best quality swells come from tropical cyclones in the Coral Sea, to the northeast.
Accommodation Youth hostels are abundant and cheap (around £15 per night), and camping is allowed in most places (with permission). Local surfers are super friendly and will often offer invite you to stay for a few days.
Food and drink Fruit and veggies are cheap and plentiful, with the honesty box system still operating on many roadsides. Lamb, not surprisingly, can also be found on most menus. If you get the chance, try some of the local Maori food – a hungi is a real feast with all sorts of food cooked in an earth oven; abalone burgers are another speciality.
Nightlife Nights out in New Zealand generally involve drinking a shed-load of beer down the pub with the boys, while the live band in the corner pumps out a bit of rock ‘n roll. Awwright! Be prepared to be called pakeha (white), and to witness a bit of biffo now and again.
Don’t miss Check out the hot springs at Rotorua, and Lake Taupo in the middle of the North Island.
Hazards New Zealand has no nasties on land, and only really urchins to worry about in the water. What a bloody marvellous place!
How to get there Flights to Auckland start from around £699 (Air Japan via Tokyo).
Additional info See The Surf report volume 4/1, or get the book Surf Riding in New Zealand