Te Araroa (TA) means “the long pathway” in Maori. It is a 3050km thru hike that spans the length of New Zealand.
We hiked the TA southbound, starting in Cape Reinga on October 9, 2017, and finishing in Bluff on January 24, 2018. We spent 4 days prepping in Auckland and getting to the trail, then it took us 107 days, of which 8 were zero days, to complete the trail. In total it cost us $6243.38 NZD. This does not include flights to/from NZ or gear that we purchased prior to starting the TA, but does include all money we spent in NZ during our 4 days prepping in Auckland, and our 107 days on the trail.
Here is the breakdown of our costs. Note that all costs are listed in NZD and are for both of us, they are NOT per person.
Money spent on the TA
We spent 3 nights at an AirBnB in Auckland to give ourselves time to buy some last minute things and get ourselves organized (we had been traveling around the world for 9 months before arriving in NZ). We then spent 1 day getting up to Cape Reinga and camped there before starting the hike. In total, accomodation for these four days cost $142.52.
It took us 107 days to complete the TA. Here is the breakdown of where we stayed each night and what the cost was:
|Category||Number of nights||Cost (CAD)|
We stayed at an AirBnB for 1 night in Taumarunui and 2 nights in Wellington. AirBnB is often cheaper than hostels in NZ, but because it was hard to know where we would be on what date it was often difficult to book AirBnB in advance and was usually easier to just find a hostel or campsite upon arriving in town.
Freedom camping is a big problem in NZ. There is a lot of private land and a lot of areas where camping is restricted. We did, however, manage to find free spots to camp for almost half of our nights on the trail. Camping is free in all DOC parks, and a few times when we weren’t on DOC land we knocked on people’s doors and they let us camp on their lawn for free. We met some hikers who rarely, if ever, paid for camping. It depends how willing you are to knock on people’s doors and how willing you are to stealth camp.
There were a handful of times when we did pay for camping. Sometimes when we got into town we camped instead of going to a hostel either because that was all that was available or because it was much cheaper. In Ahipara and in Waitomo we camped at the YHA, in Tekapo we camped at the holiday park, and in Invercargill we camped at a campground in the city. Along any of the great walks in NZ you must reserve and pay for campsites, so during our 5 day canoe trip on the Whanganui river we paid for 2 nights of camping. Finally, there were a few campsites, mostly on the North Island, that have been created for TA hikers, so we stayed at a few of these as well.
We have friends who live in Auckland and they were generous enough to let us stay in their apartment for 3 nights because we ended up taking 2 zero days in Auckland. We also stayed with our friend’s parents who live in Albert Town, just outside of Wanaka. We stayed with them for 2 nights and also took a zero day there.
The 4 nights we spent at holiday parks include nights when we had a bed. When we camped at a holiday park, these nights were counted in the camping category. We spent 1 night at Stillwater holiday park (they let TA hikers stay for free), 2 nights at the holiday park in Whakapapa (we took an extra night because we crossed Tongariro in terrible weather, then woke up the next morning to beautiful weather so we took an extra day to do it again and see it in nice weather), and 1 night at the holiday park in Frankton (much better than trying to find somewhere to stay in Queenstown).
We had 3 homestays, which is when trail angels took us in and gave us somewhere to sleep for the night. Our first was in Palmerston North where a lovely couple, Paula and Brian, gave us a room for the night. Our second was at the Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre, just before entering the Tararuas. Sally and John are some of the friendliest, most generous people you will ever meet, and they take in all TA hikers passing by and look after them. Our third was just before getting to Wellington when we met a man on the beach, Jack, who offered us a place to stay for the night. Kiwis are known for their wonderful hospitality. We met other hikers who would regularly go and knock on people’s doors, looking for a place to sleep, but we did not feel comfortable doing this so we only stayed with people when it was offered to us.
Hostels are quite expensive in NZ, and are typically about $30/person per night. We bought a YHA membership (this costs $25 and is included in our hostels costs) because it gave us discount at all of the YHA hostels. Buying a YHA membership was also required to apply for the low carbon discount. The discount does not apply at all YHA locations, but when it does, you end up getting about 25% off, so it is definitely worth it. We stayed at hostels in Paihia, Whanganui, St. Arnaud, Hanmer Springs, Methven, Te Anau (2 nights), Riverton, and Bluff.
NZ has an amazing network of over 900 backcountry huts. For $92 you can buy a hut pass that allows you to stay at as many huts as you want (excluding the huts that have to be booked) for a 6 month period. This is a bargain and anyone hiking the TA should get one! There are only a few huts on the north island, but on the south island they are everywhere.
We also stayed at one private hut that has been set up for TA hikers at Birchwood station. Towards the end of the south island there was a large section of private land where camping was not allowed, so awesome locals have set up huts for TA hikers. We only stayed at one, but there are at least 2 others that we passed.
In general, we tried to stay at huts and campsites that were free to keep costs down. However, we did spend money on hostels and campsites with amenities when we were in town and wanted some “luxury”. Accomodation costs can vary greatly depending on how much comfort you want on the trail. We met some people who never spent a penny on accommodation, and others who spent full weeks in hostels because they needed a rest. When planning your budget take the time to consider the type of person that you are and what type of accommodation you will be using.
Our electronics costs are probably higher than most because we had to replace a few things along the way. Our phone got water damage and died, and our camera bag ripped and the zipper broke, so we had to replace both of those things. We also bought two new memory cards because our others were full after travelling for the past 9 months, and we bought a new power bank because our original one was old and couldn’t even store enough power to charge a phone.
Most people we met spent more than we did on their phone plans. We just went with ‘pay as you go’. We bought $30 worth of credit and probably only used about half of that. We were okay with not having data on our phone, we just connected to wifi whenever we could. Our phone was more for emergencies than for using regularly to make calls and send messages.
The other expense we had was internet. Many hostels give you very limited internet for free, so there were a few times when we had to pay extra for more internet.
Lastly, many people will carry an emergency beacon such as a SPOT, which also costs money. We were sponsored by Esri Canada (David's company) with an inReach Sat Phone and did not have to pay for the subscription. NZ is a beautiful country with very remote areas, the weather can be very unpredictable and the rivers hard to cross, so having a way to contact search and rescue is always a good idea.
All parks in NZ are free. The only fee we had to pay was to hike the Queen Charlotte track because it crosses private land. It costs $18 per person.
We were warned that food is quite expensive in NZ, however, we found it to be similar to Canadian prices. We bought most of our food at the grocery store, even when we were in town. There are 4 main grocery stores in New Zealand. Countdown was by far our favourite - it was cheap and had the best bakery section! Pak N Save is also very cheap and was our second favourite. New World tends to be slightly more expensive. Four Square varies a lot - in some places it’s a tiny, very expensive corner store, and in other places (mostly on the South Island) it is a full grocery store with reasonable prices. You will also run into Fresh Choice which is very similar to Countdown.
We only went out once for a meal at a restaurant. We did, however, get takeaway many times. We were surprised by the abundance of takeaway shops and by how cheap it was, so we often treated ourselves to a burger or fish and chips when passing through towns. Our alcohol costs were quite low because Lauren doesn’t drink, and David just had a beer every now and then.
Similar to accomodation, food is one of those expenses that is going to vary a lot from person to person. When planning your budget, consider how much you are going to go out, how often you will buy alcohol, etc.
This does NOT include gear we purchased prior to the TA, it only includes gear we had to buy or replace along the way. When we arrived in NZ there were a few small things we needed to purchase, including a small lock, gas for cooking, and biodegradable soap. We also purchased the Guthook TA app. We met many people who just used the maps and trail notes from the TA website, but we were happy to have the app to use as a GPS and to find good places to camp.
Some of the more expensive items we bought were a new merino wool sweater for Lauren to replace the bulky sweater she was originally using, two new knives (we lost ours twice), and a new platypus bag because the bags that came with our Sawyer Squeeze water filter were full of holes.
We each went through two pairs of shoes - one pair per island. We both used Salomon Speed Cross shoes for the North Island, which are not included in our gear costs because we bought them several months before starting the TA. For the South Island David used his hiking shoes that he wore throughout Asia that still had some life left in them, and Lauren received a brand new pair of Altra shoes that she won for free at the 100km race we did in Malaysia.
Most of these costs came from cream that Lauren kept buying for a rash in her armpit. We also bought a notebook to keep a journal, and we bought a postcard to send to our friends in Auckland.
There are some long sections on the South Island where there is nowhere to resupply, so most people will send food parcels to themselves. We opted to hitchhike off trail to resupply, everywhere except St. Arnaud, so we only sent one food package. We also paid for postage to send David’s shoes from Auckland to Wellington.
Many people also sent bounce boxes with extra clothes and gear. Postage can add up, so consider how many food packages you will send and whether or not you will be sending any other gear.
Our transportation fees seem quite high considering we hiked the entire TA without skipping any sections and we hitchhiked almost everytime we went off trail to resupply. However, transportation is expensive in NZ, so expenses add up quickly.
To get to Cape Reinga we took a bus from Auckland to Paihia, then we hitchhiked from there. There is no bus to Cape Reinga except for an expensive tourist bus, which is why we didn’t take a bus all the way. The other option would be to take a bus to Kaitaia and hitchhike from there. It ended up taking us 7 rides to get from Paihia to Cape Reinga, and we ended up camping 3km away from Cape Reinga because we got there so late we waited until the next day to start hiking.
In Northland there are 3 times when you have to take a boat because the trail crosses bodies of water that cannot be passed on foot. The first is from Opua to Waikare. To cross this you can take a water taxi, but this has to be timed with the tides. We were unable to get a water taxi, so we took a short ride on the vehicle ferry, then got a ride to the trailhead. We had a group of 4 and it cost $25 per person. The other option is to rent kayaks and kayak across. Whatever you choose, it’s best to find a group of people because it will be much cheaper. The second water crossing is at Ngunguru. This is a very short boat ride, and James, the owner of Nikau Bay Eco Camp on the other side, will do this for you. He charges $10 for the boat ride and $15 to stay at his camp. James is very kind and has a great setup so we would recommend staying at his place. The third crossing is from Whangarei Heads to Marsden Point. This boat ride is no more than 10 minutes, and a local guy, Duncan, will boat you across. He charges a flat fee of $15 per person, regardless of the size of your group.
When you get to Puhoi the trail officially goes down the river for 7km. This requires hiring kayaks and timing your trip with the outgoing tide. We just walked the road beside the river instead which includes walking on the highway. If you plan to kayak, you should factor this in when creating your budget.
To get to Auckland you have to take the ferry from Devonport. This cost us $6.50 per person. It is a short ferry ride and runs regularly all day.
The TA includes a section on the Whanganui River. You have several different options for this section. You can rent a canoe and start from Taumarunui, from Whakahoro, or from Mangapurua Landing. If you start from Taumarunui you will either miss Tongariro or you will have to find transportation back to Taumarunui after doing the Tongariro crossing. If you start from Mangapurua landing it will be very expensive because they have to jet boat the canoes to you. So, we started from Whakahoro because that way we didn’t have to skip any of the trail, and it was the most affordable option. You can finish your canoeing at Pipiriki or at Whanganui. If you stop at Pipiriki you either have to walk the road all the way to Whanganui or rent a bike, so we decided to just canoe all the way to Whanganui. If you don’t want to canoe, you can also rent a bike for this whole section, or you can walk to Mangapurua Landing and take the jet boat to Pipiriki from there. We can only speak to the cost of canoe rentals as that is what we did. The larger your group, the cheaper it will be. We went with Blazing Paddles. We had a group of 4 and it was $200 per person. You normally need a larger group to get this rate, however, the owner had told us that there would be other people in our group and they never showed up, so we were still able to get the canoes for $200 each. The other company that we almost went with was Yeti Canoes. They also offer good rates for larger groups, but they didn’t have a group going at the same time as us.
The next big expense was getting to the south island. We first had to take the ferry from Wellington to Picton for $54 each, then we had to take a second ferry from Picton to Ship Cove for $50 each. TA hikers get a discount on the ferry to Ship Cove when you book with Beachcomber Cruises, so be sure to call or email them to get this discount instead of booking online and paying the full price.
On the South Island there weren’t any boats we had to pay for, however, the trail forces you to go around 3 big rivers and lakes, so you either have to hitchhike, which can be difficult in such remote areas, or you have to pay for transportation. The first roadblock is the Rakaia River. We hitchhiked/walked from Lake Coleridge to Methven, but to get back to the trail from Methven we paid for transportation. During the school year the bus driver will drive TA hikers to the trailhead for $20 per person on his way out to pick up the kids. We were there during summer holidays though. The bus driver still took us, but it was slightly more expensive for us. We had a group of 5 and it ended up costing $28 per person.
The next difficult hitch is getting around the Rangitata River. Luckily the weather was good for us, and the water levels were low, so we were able to walk across the Rangitata River and didn’t have to worry about transportation around it. The last body of water you have to get around is Lake Wakatipu (beside Queenstown). There is potentially a very expensive boat you can take across the lake, or you can just hitchhike around it, which is what everyone seems to do. We actually hitched a ride to the start of the Routeburn track instead of the Greenstone track where the TA officially picks up. We took an extra day to do the Routeburn track, then we took the Caples track to get back to the TA route, and we would highly recommend doing this because Routeburn is stunning.
By the end we were starting to get tired of hitchhiking, so from Te Anau we also paid for transportation back to the trail, which cost $20 per person. In general, hitchhiking in NZ is fairly easy, so it is up to you whether you prefer to hitchhike and save money or pay for transportation and save time.
As Canadians we are allowed to stay in NZ for 90 days with no visa. We stayed for much longer than that so we had to apply for extended tourist visas, which we did online before arriving in NZ. The other option would’ve been to get a working holiday visa, but we didn’t plan to work in NZ, so we didn’t choose this option. Visa requirements and costs will obviously vary depending on your nationality, so it is best to check out the NZ Immigration website (https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas/options/visit) to see what your options are.
"Hike your own hike" is commonly heard along the TA. Everyone has their own goals and reasons for being out there, so everyone’s hike will be unique. You may choose to walk every step of the way, you may choose to skip sections, you may choose to go off trail and do some sightseeing, you may choose to go for a speed record. This is a record of how we chose to hike the TA and how much it cost us, so use this as a guideline, but think about how you want to hike the TA and what your goals are and budget accordingly. Whatever you choose, we wish you a wonderful journey. NZ has won a special place in our hearts with its beautiful landscapes and warm hearted people, and we hope that you enjoy this incredible country as much as we did.