New Zealand offers a variety of budget accommodations with extensive hostel and backpacker lodgings, plus tented campgrounds. Hundreds of campgrounds also have cabins and on-site vans that rent at reasonable rates.
Youths can write for a free copy of the 1991 "Camp, Cabin and Caravan Assn. Directory." It lists facilities at 220 different locations in New Zealand and is available through the New Zealand Tourism Office, 501 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 300, Santa Monica 90401, (213) 395-7480. The 1991 "Good Bed Guide," which lists 51 youth hostels in New Zealand offering lodging for $5 to $15 per night, is also available free of charge through the same office.
Basic cabins at campgrounds average $15-$18 per night for two people and about $6 for each additional person. Most have simple beds or bunks with mattresses (renters supply their own sleeping bags and can rent linens).
Don't count on finding pillows or cooking facilities in the cabins. Also, most of the campgrounds listed in the caravan directory have communal kitchens. In addition, there are usually laundry rooms. Deluxe campgrounds also have swimming pools, stores, TV lounges and sports-equipment rentals.
Many campgrounds in Australia and New Zealand also have permanently parked mobile homes that can be rented by the night or week. They are equipped with cooking facilities, but don't expect bedding. Renters will have to provide their own sleeping bags and can rent linens from the campground. Current rental rates for on-site vans in New Zealand average $21 per night, $7 for each additional person per night.
Campers who have their own tents will find that sites (with and without power) average under $5 per adult per night.
Keep in mind that New Zealand's seasons and school-holiday periods are different than ours, and that during the New Zealand holiday weeks, tourist services very likely will be requested by local residents.
The New Zealand school-holiday periods are May 10-27, July 5-15, Aug. 16 to Sept. 16 and some Christmas breaks begin Dec. 6.
New Zealand is also an excellent country for hikers. No snakes or dangerous animals to worry about, and hundreds of miles of maintained trails that enable hikers to walk for several hours or several days.
In most of the 12 national parks, camping is allowed as long as hikers stay more than about 50 yards from the trail. Rental equipment for camping is available at many sporting goods stores. In parks, too, tents can be rented in many areas.
New Zealand has also developed a network of 860 back-country huts that are operated by the Department of Conservation. Be prepared for spartan facilities--bunks, mattresses, some form of cooking facility and pit toilets. Nightly fees average $2.50-$8. Best hiking months are October through March. Some famous trails, such as the Able Tasman and Greenstone Valley on the South Island, are open year-round.
Probably the most popular area for young visitors is Queenstown on the South Island. Not only does it have a lovely waterfront setting, surrounded by mountain ranges, but it is also a good base for two of New Zealand's most thrilling activities--jet boating and bungee jumping.
Jet-boat operators will whisk Queenstown visitors to the Shotover River, where their propellerless boats fly over rapids, through narrow gorges and over ankle-deep water at about 45 m.p.h.
Bungee jumpers fearlessly leap 140 feet off the local Kawarau Bridge with nothing more than a large rubber band, or bungee, attached to their ankles. Thousands take the plunge every year.
Based on a manhood ceremony performed in New Hebrides, where young men dive from a bamboo tower with vines attached to their ankles, the activity was made popular by a local resident who decided that people might be willing to pay for this bizarre experience. The cost is now $55 per leap, and business is thriving.