I'm planning a trip to New Zealand with my Boyfriend. We are interested in driving from the north island to the south island for 10 -14 days, and then ending the trip with 3-4 days in Fiji. We'd prefer to choose a few really great spots and spend more time in each location, rather than hopping to a new location every day.
Any advice on must see locations, suggested itineraries, hotels, restaurants, etc. would be greatly appreciated!
Interests: hiking, sailing, rafting, kayaking, hot air ballooning anything adventurous and active! We also love relaxing on the beach, wine tasting, great restaurants, anything romantic. (We're looking for a balanced mix of relaxation and adventure).
Budget: not restrictive
Timing: looking to leave from SFO around Christmas and stay for 2-3 weeks
Companion: two of us total!
I travelled New Zealand for two months last spring and my 4 weeks on the North Island were just as amazing as the 4 weeks on the South Island. So here are my personal highlights:
The park is located in the centre of the North Island and is a volcanic area with three active volcanoes. The so-called Tongariro Crossing is THE thing to do and was the best hike of my whole trip (and I hiked a lot). It takes 6-9 hours in which you see the hostile and incredibly amazing landscapes of the area. One of the volcanoes (you can even climb up to if you're fit enough) is "Mt Doom" from Lord of the Rings!
If you wanna see some nice beaches go north of Auckland. The beaches in the Northland are beautiful and most of the time completely deserted. The best way to see the area is by car (if you have a camper you'll find plenty of campsites) because that way you can stop whenever a beach seems particularly beautiful. Two beaches I'd recommend are Goat's Island and Whale Bay.
One of the most magical places I've ever been to is Cape Reinga at the most northern tip of NZ. Go there at sunset!! It's breathtaking and that way you'll avoid being there with hundreds of tourists who go there with a booked tour during the day. You'll find a campsite just 30 min away at Tapotupotu Bay(at the beach!), just follow Tapotupotu Road until the end.
I also liked the Waipoua Kauri Forest, where you can see the tallest and oldest Kauri trees in the world.
If you don't have enough time to see the Northland you should think about going to the Coromandel Peninsula which is just a 2 hour drive from Auckland. It's a very idyllic and quiet piece of land with amazing beaches and stunning nature. It's fun to dig your own pool at the Hot Water Beach and make sure you see the Cathedral Cove which is a fantastic bay with a cool rock formation.
4. South Island
I still can't decide what the highlights of the South Island are because wherever you go it's just beautiful. I particularly liked Abel Tasman National Park where I booked a fantastic Kayak tour. The area looks like paradise and you can also hike along the coast and see some secret beaches. I also liked the two glaciers (Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier)and if you have enough money I can totally recommend a heli hike on Franz Josef Glacier. I'm not a fan of Queenstown but the Ben Lomond Track is a day walk with the best views ever. The road from the glaciers to Queenstown is amazing by the way!
Enjoy your trip!!
Mentioned in this answer:
First post so apologies for any mistakes/long winded answers.
My Girlfriend and I travelled NZ for 4 wks in 2011.
Queenstown Adventure capital of the World.So many activities. So sad leaving here even after you have done as many as you can.
At first this seems like a Children'activity...Do not be fooled. a gravity Go Kart that will bring out the competitive spirit in absolutely anyone.
So Good we made sure to do it again at its 2nd location in Rotorua on the north island.
Unmissable. Weather cancelled our 1st scheduled tour- but we drove back 4hrs (against a tight schedule) to do it and it was Amazing.
Full Day tour. Hugely enjoyable.
Franz Josef Glacier is the more popular and busier Glacier- but this fit our schedule and was a Great experience.
Highest commercially rafted waterfall in the World with a 7M drop (http://www.riverrats.co.nz/rafting-new-zealand/kaituna-rafting-grade-5)
We also did our skydive in Taupo:
Waitomo- out of the way but well worth the trip.
Climbing, Cave Tubing and Glow worms.
http://www.caveraft.com/ Watch out for the Pink Pants they make you wear.
We had 4wks and it was a tight squeeze fitting in everything we wanted to do.
This is also considering We didn't spend any time in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch (Christchurch had only just experienced an earthquake in 2011)
This may sound obvious but the Country is much larger than you think (esp after coming from Australia where whole days are lost driving between locations), and significant time is taken up getting between locations and needs to be factored into your trip. best advice- try flying into one island and out of the other to avoid having to go back to your starting location.
Our caravan company actually flew us to Christchurch from Auckland to help facilitate bringing back a campervan- allowing us to start on the south island and make our way back up to Auckland to leave.
We did rent a caravan as stated above - but the supposedly "free" campsites are often very out of the way/off the beaten track and difficult to find in the first place- so you do end up spending on campsites- esp in the locations with multiple activities.
Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World -fun if en route
New Zealand is an absolutely amazing experience that anyone who enjoys outdoors and adventure activities must do.
Quick note on Fiji:
Bull Shark Diving (http://fijisharkdive.com/)
3M Bull sharks being fed 10M away from you.
unbelievable experience (so make sure you get the DVD! :) ) but not a great location- main island of Fiji
Mentioned in this answer:
For stunning natural beauty, Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo in the South Island. There is not much going on there, so make it a drive along the way. Oamaruhas charming architecture - but again, a one day thing - not for days. The Otago Peninsula by Dunedin is very pretty as is the Banks Peninsula by Christchurch. Further north, I loved the ocean drive by Kaikoura. Vineyards close in Marlborough. Further south, The Catlins have beautiful remote beaches, but I can't remember exactly where. Nelson in the north of the south island has beautiful views and the estuary is lovely when the sun is low. Wanaka - great scenery. For me, Queenstown is a bit too touristy, but there is activity there and there is the nearby Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump - AJ Hackett - that is fun to watch. It is the original bungy jumping site in the world, I believe. I went to Milford Sound and it was ok - but I am not sure I would make a detour there. It is often foggy and so not as dramatic as in the photos. There are a lot of biting flies on the west coast and it was a problem - so if you go near any water, make sure you are covered and use insect repellent. They scarred me for a long time.
In the North Island, I love Bay Of Islands. Also, Taupo is just really pretty and I always love Rotorua - architecture downtown and the thermal waters everywhere. You could spend a couple days there and in Taupo. The Coromandel Peninsula is very pretty, but the road is so windy and it goes on and on and on. I might skip that unless you overnight it there. There are beautiful beaches west (volcanic sand) of and east and north of Auckland (blue water) - but I would skip the city itself. NZ is so stunning that you really want to go for the natural beauty. Napier has art deco all around and black sand beaches.
It really doesn't matter where you go - NZ is fabulous. I have gone 3 times for about 11-14 days at a time, and just drove and drove because I could not believe my eyes. Around every corner is another vista and it changes dramatically where ever you go. It is quite remote altogether, so you may not feel the need to hang out in one town or area for long. I encourage you to stay at B & B's. They are fabulous in NZ, and you will have an experience totally different from hotels. Kiwis are charming, charming people. Don't worry about finding romantic things to do; NZ is the most romantic place on earth because it is so scenically out of this world and uncrowded. I am not sure about the roads when you are going. I understand there is traffic after Xmas for school holidays.
Mentioned in this answer:
I did a two week trip with my husband in New Zealand exploring both the North and South Islands. While road tripping is the best way to see the country, with only two weeks we obviously needed to take a few flights. Like you, we wanted a mix of romance, adventure and activities and I'm a hiking enthusiast so we did a little bit of that everywhere we could. Here's our itinerary and some of the activities we did briefly, hope it helps you!
Drove from Auckland to Waitomo Caves Rd to see the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Absolutely breathtaking experience. Started early so we were finished with the caves tour by evening and then drove onto Rotorua.
Flight from Rotorua to Nelson
Nelson (1 day) We used this small sleepy town as a base for our full day trip to the Abel Tasman National Park.
Abel Tasman Park (1 day) I'd recommend you to spend a night here, we could not because of rainy weather. But plenty of trekking to be done here. Fantastic kayaking experience to colonies of fur seals. One of the highlights of our trip.
Flight from Nelson to Christchurch
Christchurch (1 day) exploring the city under restoration.
Bus from Greymouth to Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier village (2 nights 2 days) Trekking around Lake Matheson, Guided Glacier Ice walk, scenic flights or independent hike to the face of Fox Glacier. All wonderful experiences, you can choose between options priced variedly.
Bus from Fox Glacier village to Queenstown
Spent a few days exploring the city and night life. Plenty of adventure activities here such as paragliding, you can read about that here, jet rafting, skydiving, bungee, zip lining. Highly professional operators and generally will satisfy if you're craving adventure!
We also went to Milford Sound in Fiordland on a day trip cruise with Intercity. They took us to places like Te Anau on the way for short treks and I enjoyed the trip with them. It's recommended to spent the night on an overnight cruise but we did not do that because of poor weather.
I've been meaning to post details of the trip on my blog but that will take a few weeks. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask me here. Generally speaking, if you'd like to visit fewer places, you could leave the whole Christchurch bit out and go from Nelson to see either Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier. We chose Fox because it sees fewer tourists and the village seems less commercial than Franz Josef.
New Zealand is a stunning country and I don't think I will ever look at any other place like that. It was like being in a painting all the time with perfect scenes in front of our eyes at every other corner. I hope you enjoy your trip, we absolutely loved it there.
Mentioned in this answer:
If you're in NZ for only 14 days, I'd strongly suggest choosing one place to fully explore. There is LOTS to see and do in one spot.
I'm going to be biased and scream from the rooftops "Come to Wellington! It's the coolest little capital in the world!" (That's our slogan. haha).
I live in Wellington ... Like I said it is the capital city. From here you have plenty of options to keep yourself amused and learning about the Kiwi way of life. You can easily rent vehicle/s from the airport when you fly in, or in the city itself. The city area is easy to walk around in, and it's mostly flat. There's lots and lots to do in the city and nearby areas. You can go on tours... everything from Tours of the Lord of the Rings Locations and movie info, to Red Rocks and Seal watching... to day trips to Somes Island.
Where to stay when you're in the city? Lots and lots and lots and lots of hotels, backpackers... from 5 star hotels right by the waterfront, to backpacker dorm style rooms, to shared ensuite rooms. There are so many options.
I live near Cuba Street which is famous for the Bucket Fountain as well as a large amount of cafes, bars and restaurants.
If you're wanting a long walk option you could do the City to Sea walkway which winds from Oriental Parade through to Lyall Bay it's a full days walk, but well worth it for the views and scenery you'll take in on the way. That walk also takes you up Mount Victoria which is an amazing spot to watch the sunset and the (night) city lights light up the skyline. There's lots of bars nearby too, along Courtenay Pl and surrounds.
You are also close enough, from Wellington to drive (rental car, road trip baby!) or train out to Carterton which is where you can Hot Air Balloon. There's some beautiful and awesome buildings out there to check out too, with museums and shops to have some retail therapy. The people are really relaxed and chill out there. I love it. Must see is the Paua Factory and shop. Well worth a visit.
Near Carterton is Masterton and Greytown (as well as Featherston). They're all pretty close and there's lots of vineyards up that way too.
It is probably cheapest to train out there in all honesty, and the trains are clean and nice. Although you may like a car, if you're travelling between those places.
Wellington's beaches also offer an adventurous walk and chat, have a picnic kind of vibe. Surfing and fishing are also popular.
You may want to explore Red Rocks Walkway which sounds like an awesome spot to relax and see seals etc. (I haven't been yet, but my friends tell me it's an awesome experience, so I have to do it!)
From Wellington city there are beaches and 'water front' walkways around the city front, it's nice in the evening around dusk to walk the area, and grab a drink and bundle up (it can get chilly by the water). There are a number of bars and food spots along the way there too. Grab a Gelato if you can from the shop on the waterfront at Frank Kitt Lagoon. It's yummy. And cheap. They also make coffees and other hot drinks.
(You may want to check their opening times at http://www.kaffeeeis.co.nz/ )
Matiu/Somes Island is an island in the middle of the harbour, it's accessible by boat. You can even rent a place to stay there for a sleepover. (That is on my wishlist to do!) Otherwise it's a great Day Trip. You take an East By West Ferry from the docks at Queens Wharf, then land on the island, you're free to explore and photograph as much as you like. There are resident sheep to meet and if you're lucky to pet! They were pretty skittish when I went, so none of us got to. There's also a lot of information about the history of the island, but it's interesting. There's also an old burial ground/ grave yard. (Cool to see by itself, the headstones are really old).
Another walk about place is to go and explore in the Botanical Gardens - http://wellington.govt.nz/recreation/gardens/botanic-garden
It is easily a walk from the city, or a bus ride up past Parliament.
Parliament and its grounds is another cool spot to wander around, there's lots of sculptures in the gardens and you can also go inside Parliament for a visit, if you're that way inclined! (There is a security check point, no photography or cellphones in some areas).
Parliament information can be found here: http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/about-parliament/visiting/find-us/00VisitVisitingFindUs1/find-us
If you need anything, please give a shout, there's lots of Wellingtonians who will help (literally anyone) out.
Mentioned in this answer:
Kia Ora Kaitlin,
Christmas is summer here, can be 15-30 degrees depending where you are, and rain is a possibility.
I live in Auckland, it's 8 hours drive to Cape Reinga (top of the North Island) and 8 hours drive to Wellington ( bottom of the North Island), there is a vehicle and passenger ferry to the south island approx 3hours.
Auckland, the city of sails, has a lovely viaduct harbour, great view, marina, restaurants: the Wynyard Quarter-further down has a range of great restaurants,(Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, French to name a few) anything here is good and overlooking the harbour.
Auckland best eats: Approximate costs, coffee= $4.50NZD, Quiche= $7, Cake$7, eggs benedict $17.00
Auckland is also close to loads of beaches. Snorkelling, diving, kayaking etc. Tawharanui: gorgeous east coast beach and regional national park. Mangawhai has a great beach, for a Wild West coast surf beach try Piha. You can bunjy jump off the Sky Tower, loads of hiking, abseiling, kayaking, sailing opportunities.
Rotorua, is the Maori cultural hub of NZ, lots of great cultural tours, some offer a traditional Maori hangi, food is cooked in the ground. "Tamaki Maori Village",also some great adventures to be had, the Zorb , the Luge, White water rafting, caving: Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Also some lovely geothermal areas, such as Waimangu thermal springs, and natural hotsprings,Polynesian spa is lovely,
Christchurch is a city of car parks as they rebuild the city after the earthquake.
The Hawke's Bay has some gorgeous wineries, Mount Maunganui is a lovely beach town, the far north beaches are amazing, the east coast has spectacular views, Wellington does great food, and has a great interactive museum "Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa", Queenstown is gorgeous, lots to do here. The Fiordland are breathtaking.
Have a fantastic trip, kiwis are pretty friendly, if you get lost ask a local, you will probably be taken home for dinner!
Mentioned in this answer: