Dying to go to New Zealand but don’t have anyone who’s willing to take that long flight down under with you? As New Zealanders say, no wakas (that means “no worries,” in case you’re unfamiliar with their slang). Rated the best country in the world for solo travellers by Travel + Leisure, New Zealand truly is an easy and comfortable place to navigate on your own.
Here are 11 reasons why New Zealand is an ideal place for travellers looking to explore alone:
1. It’s safe
As the top second country on the Global Peace Index – which considers a number of factors, including rates of violent crime and terrorism – New Zealand is considered safer than anywhere on the planet (aside from Iceland). That doesn’t mean that, as a traveller, you don’t have to take basic safety precautions, but it does mean that the odds of running into danger are much lower than anywhere else.
2. The animals won’t hurt you either
Though wild hares, possums and Kiwi birds abound, New Zealand has no natural predators of mammals. In other words, you can hit the trails without a buddy who needs to beat off a bear or get you emergency antivenom after a snakebite. (That said, if you’re hiking solo, make sure you’re familiar with your route and let someone at your accommodation know where you’re going and when you can be expected back.)
3. And the human population is super friendly
Canadians are known worldwide for being friendly. But after just five minutes in New Zealand, you’ll realize that our brand of friendliness is generally of a polite, but still somewhat standoffish nature (unless you’re down east). New Zealanders – a.k.a. Kiwis – are the real friendly ones. Rated the third best country in the world for making people feel welcome on the annual Expat Insider survey, New Zealanders live up to their reputation for being notoriously laid-back and warm. Don’t be surprised if everyone you encounter, from the car rental counter to the coffee barista making your flat white, chimes in with recommendations for a beloved restaurant and dish or to extol their favourite stops along your driving route. It’s worth taking the time to chat and get some some advice. After all, locals are the best tourism experts around.
4. But if you do feel alone, there’s no better place to eat your feelings
Kiwis are obsessed with sweets, meaning that they’ve got plenty of unique desserts and candy in which to indulge. From Hokey Pokey ice cream (vanilla ice cream with honeycomb toffee) and chunky, chocolaty Afghan biscuits to marshmallow-filled chocolate fish and chocolate-covered pineapple lumps, there are lots of ways to give your sweet tooth a unique workout. Which brings us to one of the best things about flying solo: if you’re by yourself, you’ll never have to share your treats.
5. Dining for one is still social
If the eating in restaurants alone factor is a deterrent to travelling alone, know that New Zealand has lots of options that won’t have you staring at your phone all through dinner to avoid gazing awkwardly at the empty seat across the table. Most of the eateries crammed into Ponsonby Central, a food and retail complex in Auckland’s hip Ponsonby neighbourhood, have bar seating (with so many varied spots under one roof, it’s a great location for a solo snack crawl). And dining in a group along with other guests is often the norm at wilderness lodges around the country.
6. Because, who wants to make conversation when you have views like this to stare at?
7. Gazing at art is also better without the chatter
The scenery isn’t the only thing you’ll want to stare at in silence. Celebrating New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture, the country’s stunning landscapes and European influences, the art scene here is world-class (and from the Auckland Art Gallery to Christchurch, admission to most public collections is free).
8. Adrenaline is a bonding hormone
Sure, it’s best associated with the fight or flight reaction. But fear – and the hormone it triggers, adrenaline – is a bonding emotion (why do you think so many dates on The Bachelor involve jumping off buildings?). And if you’re looking for a rush, well, Kiwi blood is pumped with adrenaline. From jumping off the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere to ziplining and skydiving, New Zealand offers adrenaline-boosting thrills for every adventure threshold; and it’s amazing how fast strangers become friends when you are – literally – coaxing each other off a ledge.
9. Know what else people bond over? Wine
At Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel, every day ends with free pours of a selection of local wines and house-made canapés. And whether you arrive solo or with a partner, guests come ready to have a bite, a drink and to share experiences with their fellow travellers. (It’s one of the big reasons – along with super stylish rooms, mountain views from the shower, and its close proximity to Queenstown’s main drag – why the hotel’s so popular with people travelling alone.) Don’t be surprised if you have to ask the front desk to change your dinner reservation to a bigger table after the hour is up — it’s easy to make friends in a place like this.
10. You don’t need a designated driver to taste all the New Zealand wines
It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that social hour sampling will whet your whistle for more New Zealand wines. But before you start to worry that the lack of a designated driver (or having someone to share a bottle with) will make tasting a challenge, head for Queenstown’s The Winery. This cozy cellar offers more than 80 local wines all in one place (with nifty swipe-card-activated push-button dispensers) as well as tours into the nearby Central Otago wine region, known for its Pinot Noirs.
11. Actually, you don’t need a driver to get around at all
While driving around New Zealand is relatively easy (and we’ve made it even easier, with this planning guide), New Zealand also has some easy options for getting around that don’t require getting behind the wheel. Though primarily aimed at backpackers, Stray and Kiwi Experience offer hop-on-hop-off buses with Eurail-style passes that let you travel across the country at your own pace. In both cases, the clientele are younger than you’d find on your coach tour (and of the two, Kiwi Experience has more of a reputation for being a party bus), but they’re both flexible, social options for solo travellers.