NGT Guide: 9 Of The World’s Best Backpacking Destinations For 2016

With expert tips on how to make the most of your budget. | By Julian Smith  
Hikers Patagonia Argentina
Two hikers on the Fitz Roy trail in Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia, Argentina. Photo: AZAM Jean-Paul/hemis.fr/Getty Images

Australia and New Zealand

Man taking photo of scenic landscape in New Zealand.

Man taking a photo on Mount Roy, New Zealand. Photo: Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

Australia’s southeast corner can feel as far from the rest of the world as it’s possible to go, at least from a Northern-Hemispheric perspective. Yet between Sydney’s sparkling seaside cityscape and the wild reaches of Tasmania—not to mention New Zealand’s movie-worthy landscapes across the water—travellers will find plenty to make the journey worthwhile. New South Wales is Australia’s most populous state, but you’d never know it in the dark-sky expanses inland. For extended overnights, there’s a six-bedroom homestead on site that can hold up to 12 people. Farther west, Outback Astronomy is a new company in Broken Hill offering naked-eye and binocular-assisted astronomy tours of the heavens.

Crossing the Bass Strait to Tasmania is like stepping back in time. The island’s natural beauty ranges from rock-strewn coastlines to national parks packed with lakes and wild rivers. World-class wilderness treks are another draw, and the new Three Capes Track out of Port Arthur is one of the best. The four-day, 47-kilometre journey winds across the fractal map of the Tasman Peninsula, skirting sea cliffs and stopping at cosy cabins at night.

If you’d rather roll, the new Rimutaka Cycle Trail out of Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island might be more your speed. The 114-kilometre mountain bike route climbs over forested hills to the Wairarapa Valley before circling back along the Pacific coastline. It’s not too difficult, and paved side branches lead to wine-country towns such as Martinborough and Greytown.

How To Get There Sydney Airport, one of the oldest continually operating commercial airports in the world, is the main hub for Quantas. Major carriers such as Quantas and Air New Zealand connect to Hobart on Tasmania and Wellington in New Zealand. Spirit of Tasmania runs at least one overnight ferry daily between Melbourne and Devonport on Tasmania.

How To Get Around As always, renting a car offers the most flexibility. More budget-friendly options include Greyhound Australia and “backpacker bus” companies such as Oz Experience. Metro Tasmania runs buses between the island’s larger cities.

Where To Stay Sydney’s Russell Hotel starts with a wonderfully central location in the historic Rocks district, then adds a rooftop garden, an excellent free breakfast, and a lively pub downstairs. In Hobart, Tasmania’s Battery Point waterfront area, the Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse is a solid step up from your average hostel. Set in a renovated 19th-century mansion, it has an outdoor terrace and a garden with barbecue grills. Rent a bike on-site to explore the city. The Lighthouse and the Keep, about 15 minutes from downtown Wellington, offers two separate but equally memorable lodgings: a three-story stone tower and a restored lighthouse, both fully self-contained units just steps from the water.

What To Eat Or Drink Sydney’s Old Growler isn’t a local curmudgeon—it’s a comfy basement alehouse with award-winning burgers and local craft beer and cider on tap. After a visit to Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills, one of ten in and around Sydney, you’ll understand why locals line up outside this tiny café for pastries, sandwiches, and celebrated sausage rolls. (Try the ginger crème brûlée tart.) Set in a former gas station, Hobart’s Room for a Pony is a trendy spot with great coffee and imaginative offerings for breakfast and lunch: Think chai-infused rice porridge and Cajun meatloaf with bacon. No ponies, sadly.

When To Go Summer (October/November to April/May) is the best time to visit, although Sydney qualifies as pleasant year-round. Expect the most fellow visitors in November and December.

Helpful Links www.visitnsw.com, www.tourismtasmania.com.auwww.newzealand.com

Currency Australian dollar, New Zealand dollar

Language English

Don’t Miss Helm’s Deep, Rivendell, Minas Tirith: If these names elicit shivers of excitement, hop aboard a movie tour of Wellington and the surrounding area, where many scenes from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy were filmed. If you have a car, you can take a tour of the Weta Workshop, where many of the special effects were done, and grab a guidebook there to do the tour on your own.

Fun Fact New Zealanders are justifiably proud of their country, but they are far outnumbered, starting with nearly seven sheep for every person. Overall, New Zealand is said to have one of the lowest human-to-animal ratios in the world.

Next page: Zimbabwe

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