New Zealand – 2 unique islands, 4 Very different home exchanges

New Zealand delivers with amazing diversity! Where else can you find glaciers that reach into rain forests, hike stark volcanic terrain, visit lush Hobbit landscapes featured in the Lord of the Rings, go sailing with multiple stops at wineries, have miles of gorgeous beaches all to yourself, and cruise fjords with hundreds of gushing waterfalls. New Zealand is not a big country but it packs a lot in.

There is so much here that you really need to plan an extended stay. Home Exchange makes it all possible. We were lucky enough to plan four in a row. Throw in a road trip and a sailing charter with friends and we were all set for a seven week adventure.

South Island – Christchurch, Queenstown, Fiordland National Park and the West Coast Highway

A home exchange near Christchurch gives great access to the surprising Banks Peninsula and the town of Akaroa, plus Hanmer Springs, wineries, and city sites. Normally, the coastal town of Kaikoura with whale and dolphin watching would have been on the list too, but temporary road damage caused by the recent earthquake prevented it.

Try to get a home exchange in the Queenstown area. If not, a road trip through the area is still a must. The highway to Mt. Cook is gorgeous on a clear day.

Fiordland National Park is an absolute must do, including a cruise on either Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound (we chose an overnight cruise on Doubtful). Don’t be deterred by a rainy day because the waterfalls multiply exponentially and the mist is so magical you won’t care about rain.

The West Coast highway delivers glaciers, rain forests, blowholes, seal colonies, and dramatic coastline. Don’t pass by the Pancake Rocks!

North Island – Taranaki, Lake Taupo and Auckland

A home exchange to relatively unknown Taranaki was a welcome surprise. The dormant volcano used as a backdrop in “The Last Samurai” dominates the views. Mt. Egmont National Park features alpine hikes and the goblin forest. The town of New Plymouth has interesting parks, the Festival of Lights, and coastal walks.

A home exchange to Taupo gives lots of opportunities to explore. The Tongariro Crossing is a famous 20 km (12 mile) hike through incredible volcanic terrain including Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings. Lake Taupo features Huka Falls, lots of water sports and Maori cultural experiences. The enchanting Hobbiton movie set is just over an hour drive north. The art deco coastal town of Napier and wine country is only an hour or so to the east. Rotorua and nearby towns just north feature geothermal sights, sounds, and smells.

Sailing the Hauraki Gulf gives you the opportunity to visit many islands – some thriving with wineries and fine dining (like Waiheke), and some uninhabited and pristine (off the Coromandel Peninsula). The Bay of Islands is another popular sailing destination.

A home exchange in the Auckland area helps complete the New Zealand experience. Check out the view from the Sky Tower, one of many dining opportunities. Drive north to visit the ancient, huge Kauri trees and Bay of Islands or go just about any direction to find a secluded beach. The golf is also great (and inexpensive).

We just can’t say enough nice things about our New Zealand experience. Everywhere we went, folks were friendly, the landscape jawdropping and the wine delicious. We always felt safe and even though we were there in high season the crowds weren’t a problem. Seven weeks is a long time in one country but still not enough in this case.

Home Exchanges in New Zealand

We’re often asked how home exchange really works and our 4 in New Zealand are good examples of how much that can vary. Lots of situations and arrangements are possible. It’s all about flexibility and communicating.

Two exchanges were hospitality, meaning we were their guests while they were also in their home. We did our own thing and when schedules aligned we’d share a meal. Mostly we were spoiled by their cooking and the best we could do was treat them to wine or dinner out.

One exchange was part hospitality and part full exchange, meaning they were home for part of our visit, then went on their own mini-holiday. They also took us to a few of their favorite places, including cafes, golf and a manicure!

One exchange was a full exchange where schedules didn’t work to meet them during our stay. Two have booked their exchanges to our home in Colorado and two will do so in the future.

What our home exchanges had in common

Each home was gorgeous, well-maintained, interesting and beautifully decorated. They were well organized for exchangers to feel at home and unlike our American homes each one had some kind of garden, from small herbs and vegetables to huge orchards to a budding vineyard!

The backyards also featured black swans, pukeko, a swimming pool, and a golf course. Some of our hosts were native New Zealanders, others originated from England, South Africa and Peru. Sharing life and travel stories with them added so much to our experience! has over 500 New Zealand listings!


About the author

Tom & Sheila are Romancing the Globe! Their adventures began when they met on Christmas Eve of 2007, fell crazy in love, and discovered their mutual travel addiction! They’re empty nesters and enjoy home exchanges to interesting corners of the globe (21 so far). Whether it’s weeks abroad or a weekend road trip in the Colorado mountains, they can create a romantic adventure just about anywhere! Preferred activities include water, nature, wildlife, bare boat sailing, relaxing at a beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, golf, outdoor concerts, exploring local culture and festivals, volunteering for nonprofits and finding at least one Christmas ornament for their travel tree. See their stories at and share yours!

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