Five New Zealand cities that make great budget breaks
Home prices may be falling, but homeownership still feels like a pipe dream for many as the national median price is still over $800,000.
There are places where you can buy a property for less than half that – you just have to be willing to venture far off the beaten track.
They may be remote and rough, but some of New Zealand‘s cheapest cities are also some of our most underrated.
Take a trip to any of the five locations below and you might find yourself looking for property there when you come back.
* Manawatū: A spectacular bike ride into the unknown
* Whanganui: The beautiful river town with a fantastic food scene
* School Holiday Stay: Ten of the best things to do during winter break
Havelock North’s scruffy little sister might not be most people’s idea of a Hawke’s Bay holiday, but she has an understated charm all her own.
About 30km from Napier, Wairoa is a city-sized testament to how the region used to be before wealthy blow-ins began buying up lifestyle blocks and visitors spent most of their time there under the influence of fermented grape juice.
The Wairoa District is home to some of the cheapest homes in the region with an average price of $340,000 in May according to the latest figures from the Real Estate Institute New Zealand (REINZ), and you can also find budget vacation rentals.
Driving up from Napier, the vacation park on the often footprint-free Waipatiki Beach offers as basic a Kiwi vacation experience as you can find in 2022: Imagine days of swimming, surfing, walking the golden sands, and Bush walks in the nearby nature reserve.
Wairoa is an ideal base for exploring Lake Waikaremoana, home to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and also offers many other beautiful places to hike, from its riverside walkway to the scenic nature reserves that surround it. The Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve, a major wildlife sanctuary that includes Hawke’s Bay’s tallest waterfall, and the Tangoio Falls Scenic Reserve are outstanding.
In town you’ll find the excellent Wairoa Museum, an intricately carved marae, a boutique movie theater with $10 tickets, and a cake show (Osler’s) that has been thriving for more than a century. Try the lamb and mint if they have any in stock when you stop by.
Its wide, empty streets might make it look like just another old coal mining town gone broke, but Blackball is a bit of a dark horse.
The birthplace of the Labor Party, the city has retained a pioneering, rebellious spirit and is very proud of its history. Learn all about it at the Blackball Museum of Working Class History or peruse posters and old newspaper clippings over a cold drink at the more than century-old Formerly Blackball Hilton, which was forced to change its name to accommodate a lawsuit with a certain celebrity Hotel to avoid chain.
Homes in the Gray District on the west coast fetch some of the lowest prices in the country — the median price in May was $337,000, but blackball is at the heart of the region’s post-pandemic renaissance. The Paparoa Track, which connects Blackball to Punakaiki, New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, has brought about a new cafe, shuttle and car move services and more opportunities for guests to rest at night.
The formerly Blackball Hilton is an ideal base for exploring the city and further west coast. The owners recommend a stroll with the Blackball History Group brochure to guide you, venturing into the old mine’s ventilation stack, panning for gold (they are happy to provide the pans), exploring the underground tunnels and supposedly the house of the old mine manager is one of the most haunted buildings in the South Island.
If that’s not enough to keep you occupied, you can hike the Croesus Trail or venture into Paparoa National Park, where the scenery ranges from clearings of subtropical Nīkau palms to Alpine peaks. No trip to the city is complete without a stop at Blackball Salami Co, whose canned meats, patties and bacon are world famous on the West Coast and beyond. With the Pike29 Memorial track due to be completed by Christmas, Blackball is likely to see many more visitors, so visit largely tourist-free while you can.
Deep within the rugged North Island is a self-proclaimed republic that you may only need to buy a pass to enter.
Located at the north end of the Forgotten World Highway, this King Country town is often used as an inexpensive base for kayaking the Whanganui River or skiing at Mt Ruapehu. Its other attractions are not so much forgotten as never properly celebrated.
The average house price in Ruapehu County was $470,000 in May, making it the cheapest spot in the Manawatū/Whanganui region. And there are plenty of reasons for those who did to think they got a bargain.
Forgotten World Adventures railcar tours are a great way to explore this underrated region, but if you can’t afford to shell out $285 per person for the cheapest ride, type “Stratford” into Google Maps and go for it set off along New Zealand’s oldest heritage trail under your own steam. Lauren’s Lavender Farm, where you can enjoy coffee and cake amid fields of bright purple flowers in season, and Whangamōmona, which proclaimed itself an independent republic in 1989, are two standout stops along the way.
The Timber Trail, which follows old logging roads and trams through Pureora Forest Park, is a great way to explore it on two wheels. If you don’t want to spend a full two days in the saddle, shorter rides include the Piropiro to Ōngarue route via spectacular suspension bridges and the Piropiro Discovery Loop to the Okauaka Stream—a favorite haunt of local Duck the Whio ($10 value). Fame).
Taumarunui Holiday Park on the banks of the Whanganui River is one of the best value places to stay, and the fire engine-red Kai Nui food truck is one of the best options for cheap dining (if it’s on the menu when you visit, try the Scotch Filet). steak roll).
With well-preserved Edwardian architecture, larger-than-life street art and wild wallabies roaming the hills, Waimate is no average New Zealand small town.
The average home price in Waimate County was $385,000 in May — the lowest in the Canterbury area — and residents have plenty to keep them busy.
Located just inland from the east coast between Timaru and Oamaru, it is often used as a gateway to the Waitaki Lakes and Mackenzie Basin, but has much to offer on its own.
Perhaps the city’s most striking feature, the murals atop oversized grain elevators depict local legends in stunning detail (you can learn more about their backstories at the local museum). You’ll also find an eco-sanctuary criss-crossed by hiking and mountain biking trails, and plenty of places to get up close and personal with a wallaby.
Raised like crazy in the area after being introduced from Australia in 1874, the marsupials pose a threat to our native flora and fauna, but since you can’t seem to get rid of them, you might as well say hello. EnkleDooVery Wallaby Park is one of the best places to do it – ‘wallaby whisperer’ Gwen Dempster-Schouten (another local legend) has been hand raising the marsupials since the ’70s.
The district’s microclimate is particularly conducive to growing berries and grapes, and no visit would be complete without sampling both. You can pick your own berries at Butlers Fruit Farm or have them served in jam format with tea and a scone at the onsite cafe.
This Bay of Plenty town had a bad reputation until a growing number of refugees from Auckland and Tauranga moved in and made a dance song about how much it has to offer.
The average house price in the Kawerau district rose from $380,000 in May 2021 to $490,000 this May, while tourism also picked up.
Yet sitting at the foot of the volcanic Putauaki (Mt. Edgecumbe) and surrounded by pine forests, it still feels like a town that time – and other tourists – have forgotten. Take a walk to Tarawera Falls, kayak or white water raft on the Tarawera River, hunt for the Big 3 (pig, deer and trout), visit Onepu Mountain Bike Park, warm up in the free hot Check out the community pools, visit the Rose Gardens or see the Joe Kemp Sculpture Gallery on Lake Rotoma.
If you’re into hardcore physical competition, you’re in luck. The city hosts the Tarawera Ultra Marathon, the National Woodskills Competition and Woodfest, and the Tarawera 100 cross-country motorcycle race. Re-energize at the Jive Cafe, which serves generous portions of the classic kiwi tucker.
What are your favorite small town adventures on a budget? Let us know in the comments.