Hi there! I'm actually going to be a guest on Katie Couric's daytime TV show, "Katie" this week to talk about honeymoon's and travel. She's actually getting married and planning to visit New Zealand and wants suggestions of really UNIQUE, authentic, and fantastic places to visit, things to do, and what to see.
She and her fiancee really like to explore new things together -- what would you recommend? I'll give her the best tips on the air live this Wednesday.
They should be adventurous and head to the west coast. Hike 17km up to Welcome Flats Hut. Gorgeous setting with snow peak mountains. Carry up a bottle of wine and have a drink in the Natural Hot Springs just outside the Hut. Stay 2 nights and explore.
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Queenstown is a base for all sorts of activities: bungy jumping, jet boating, river surfing, kayaking, river rafting, skydiving. T.S.S Earnslaw was built in 1912 and is a beautiful ship - with a much better track record than the Titanic that was built the same year - and will take you across Lake Wakatipu in style. Should you be a golfer, you will have no trouble finding a suitable course. Avoiding crowds is easy on the hundreds of kilometres of tramping (hiking) trails on South Island: many you will be the only ones on that patch of land on the day. We have world class restaurants, and I can personally recommend Valli Wine as being one of the very best in the world. Only our scenery and local people top the activities available in Queenstown.
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First of all, New Zealand is a great choice for a honeymoon. It is the most beautiful place going IMHO.
So, where should you go? The answer depends on how long you have, but here's a good list:
You'll likely start off in Auckland, and while there are a range of places to stay, Mollies is the perfect place to start your honeymoon. Don't expect chain hotel sameyness. Do expect a 5* plus luxury boutique experience, located in a heritage suburb near the CBD. Auckland is a great place to eat and drink too, take in the bars and restaurants of the Britomart Precinct - it's the old warehouse district right on the waterfront that has been extensively refurbished in recent years, and is now distinctly hip. Eat at Cafe Hanoi Britomart for Vietnamese with a local twist, or cocktails at their sister bar XuXu
While you're in town, for a high-end dining experience, check out The Grove Restaurant, O'Connell Street Bistro or, for meat lovers, the Jervois Steak House and Saloon. All offer the best in Kiwi local produce (but at a cost!). Also while in Auckland, jump on the ferry to Waiheke Island. Or even better, jump on a helicopter from the heliport next to Mikano and fly in. Eat at the jaw-droppingly beautiful Te Whau Vineyard. The helicopter can take you right there :-) Make sure you try a glass of their signature 'The Point' Cab-Sav blend.
But the best of NZ isn't in Auckland. There's luxury further North in the Bay Of Islands - a hugely scenic area a few hours drive from Auckland. Stay at Eagles Nest near Russell - it was featured on the US show The Bachelor. Then play golf at the utterly beautiful The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs at Matauri Bay .
Then I'd drive South and take in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves - yes, it's touristy, but it's also amazing. Make sure you do all three caves, not just the glowworms - the others are better. Not far away is a place that few people know about Mangapohue Natural Bridge - an ancient limestone arch hidden away in natural bush, but only a 5 minute walk from the road. Grab a bite and a pint at the King Country Brewing Company and Bar in Waitomo (their IPA is particularly fine). If you're a Hobbit fan, also check Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours in nearby Matamata.
Then take the drive across to Taupo (where I call home). Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand, and is actually the crater of a super volcano. Stay at Huka Lodge Taupo for a real luxury experience, or at Hilton Lake Taupo for a nice alternative, closer to town. While there, check out Huka Falls and the Orakei Korako thermal area (where some of the BBC series 'Walking with dinosaurs' was filmed). Grab a coffee at L'Arte Cafe & Gallery - it's quirky and has some great local art.
From Taupo, go East across to Hawke's Bay, which is one of New Zealand's main wine producing areas. Stop off in Rotorua to visit the geysers and boiling mud pools at Te Puia. Head for Napier which has a lot of Art Deco architecture (due to the earthquake in the 1930s which leveled much of the centre of town). While there, check out the National Aquarium of New Zealand, stay at Black Barn Vineyard in nearby Havelock North - they have awesome luxury retreat lodges, right in the vines. And the restaurant is great too.
From Havelock North, head South to Wellington. Wellington is a great place to visit, but can be a bit cold and windy. Visit Te Papa Tongarewa - Museum Of New Zealand for all the history of New Zealand. Wellington is also a great place to eat and drink. Stay at Bolton Hotel and grab a few of the great craft beers that Wellington has become famous for (get them at Hashigo Zake, Little Beer Quarter or The Malthouse). Eat at Logan Brown Restaurant & Bar (but book ahead).
Visit the glaciers at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, taking another helicopter ride (there are a lot of helicopters in NZ!) up onto the glacier itself with Franz Josef Glacier Guides. This is one of the only places in the World where glaciers cut through rainforest to the sea. Have a soak at the Glacier Hot Pools, tucked away in the natural rainforest.
Further South, cut inland over the Haast Pass and head for Wanaka. Stay at Minaret Station - it's a luxury tented camp in a stunning location. And the best bit is - you'll have to helicopter in (again!) from Wanaka :-)
Then head for the tourist and extreme sport mecca of Queenstown. Do the bungee jumping at Kawarau Bridge Bungy - AJ Hackett Bungy and then calm your nerves at the nearby Chard Farm Winery or Gibbston Valley Winery which both do a great Central Otago Pinot Noir. Also stop off at Amisfield Winery, it's in a great spot.
If you're here in winter, ski at The Remarkables Ski Area or Coronet Peak Ski Area. Eat at The Bunker or Botswana Butchery. Again, in winter, if you're really brave, try some heli-skiing with Harris Mountain Heli-Ski (they hold the World Heliski Championship on the mountains in the area).
Finish off your trip with a night or two at Blanket Bay at nearby Glenorchy (where the BBC drama series 'Top of the Lake' was filmed). It's one of the best luxury lodges in New Zealand. And the views are to die for.
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I’m actually the aforementioned best friend of Bianca— she did an awesome job of helping me plan so now I’m happy to pay it forward a bit if I can!!
Bianca was totally right—both Huka Lodge Taupo and Minaret Station were amazing. Minaret is sort of more if you just want peace and quiet and views and Huka is more if you want luxury—just depends what they want.
Next time I go back and if money were no object, I would stay atThe Lodge at Kauri Cliffs. We didn’t stay there but my husband played a round of golf there while I went to the spa. It’s literally on something like 6,000 acres and has some of the most breathtaking views you could ever wish for—our pictures from there look like something out of National Geographic. We actually asked to see a suite “for next time” and it was gorgeous. I would come back just to stay here as you can probably tell.
Another really cool thing we did was visit a natural hot spring—there are lots of them there. The one we went to was the Hot Water Beach and it was so much fun. Thanks to some underwater volcanoes the water there is naturally hot and you can literally dig your own little pool to form your own personal hot springs. Just make sure you go about an hour or so before low tide—we didn’t realize that the first time and had to come back.
My husband surprised me with an incredible balloon ride/champagne breakfast which was the most romantic thing you could ever imagine. Aoraki Balloon Safaris was the one he used—they offer flights all year long so no matter what time of year they go, they’ll be OK. You go over these incredible snow-covered mountains—it was so beautiful.
If they like to snorkel, I would try the Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei) which is some of the most beautiful snorkeling in the country. The area is even dotted with buoys that will tell you what kind of marine life you’ll run into there which was really cool. We saw some amazing coral there, too.
Another absolutely amazing site that another friend told us about was the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and one of those things you have to see to believe. You ride boats through these caves that are covered in real glow worms. Seriously, it looks like a Disney ride and is one of the most incredible things I think I’ve ever seen in my life.
And definitely tell them to check out the Moeraki Boulders. These are these round boulders that are called the “Stonehenge of New Zealand” partly because they’re so mysterious. They rolled up on the beach about 15 million years ago and there are all these crazy legends about them. Some are even so big my husband got inside one.
If they want to do something totally crazy and silly I would tell Katie to try “Zorbing”! This is a “sport” where you basically roll down a hill in a giant plastic ball. All the fear is kind of gone because you’re laughing so hard. The original Zorb actually started in New Zealand so what better place to try it!
Admittedly this one is pretty touristy but it was so cool we had to try it: Skywalk around Sky Tower in Auckland. They basically put you in harness and a you literally walk around the perimeter of the top of the building—on the outside!!! It is crazy scary but so much fun and such a completely unique experience that they really should try it. You can also do a sky jump off the building, too, but that was just a little too scary for us!
We kind of got to a point where we just wanted to see a city so we went to the Art Deco district of Napier. This is a lovely little town that has all these Art Deco buildings and monuments because an earthquake practically leveled the city in the 30s. It was even nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site a few years ago.
I hope this is helpful and I hope you have an amazing time!!
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Kia Ora Kim!
It's great to hear someone talking about New Zealand on TV.
In the North Island you really can't beat a number of spots...
I'm going to go back and forth all over the place... but generally you'd travel down from Auckland towards the Capital city - of Wellingtonin the North Island before jumping on a Ferry across the Cook Strait .
I highly recommend getting a (rental) Car so you can travel at your own pace - you can hire them from the Airport in Auckland. Be sure to take them up on the full insurance deal - break ins and broken down vehicles are a common occurrence here. There are also Buses from Intercity or Nakedbus which travel daily all over the country.Fares are from $1, and a booking fee of around $4-$5 must be paid on top of the fare price. The buses are generally good - but you can't choose when/ where you stop, so you're at the mercy of the driver (as well as whoever is on board with you). Flights from Auckland to most parts of NZ daily too. Some are more expensive. It takes 12 hours to bus from Auckland to Wellington, but only an hour in total to fly.
Auckland Airport (AKL) International Terminal is likely the airport you'd travel into, there's a bustling city there, it's sprawling. I'm not a fan of it, but that's me.
Sky Tower is a highlight. There's also a Casino there. Generally concerts on at the Vector Arena (near the Central Business District).
There are a couple of Ice Skating Rinks in the city as well;
Paradice Ice Rink paradice.co.nz (Avondale).
Paradice Ice Skating (Botany)www.paradice.co.nz (Botany Downs).
Waitomo Glowworm Cavesis a great spot to stop on the way, it's a cave system - there's white (and black) water rafting in the caves, as well as a gentle glow worm tour via a gentle walk. It's guided no matter which way you go. It's a great day time event.
If you like exploring the City/ Towns in New Zealand - there's plenty of them around, road tripping is common in the summer months (December to February). Bear in mind we drive on the "other" side of the road. We drive right-hand drive vehicles.
New Plymouth is another surfer's paradise, with the possibility of Surfing and Skiing in one day. With Mount Taranaki it's a short drive from the beach. Beltroad Seaside Holiday Park is a great spot to Camp (in a tent, or their baches) right next to the sea.
Lake Taupo is another beautiful spot. It's not far from Tauranga.
Dunedin is a typical student city, but it's nice. (It's the only place I've been to in the South Island).
Burning Couches is a common occurrence, further out in the suburbs the houses are nicer. Lots of younger students live in close to the city.
I haven't actually been travelling very much in the South Island - it's on my to-do list, haha. It's actually common to hear Kiwi's saying they haven't been to either Island, but they have been over to Australia! (A few years ago it was cheaper to fly from NZ to Australia than to the South Island from the North and vice versa).
Okay now I'm going to sound really biased, okay so I live in Wellington (the capital of NZ) and it is glorious, I love it. In Wellington there's plenty to do, see and explore. I've lived here nearly 5 years now and I still haven't done everything!
Cuba Street is a buzzing place from Night Markets on Wednesday and Friday nights, to day time shopping. There's people watching from Cafes and lots and lots of people. Local stage theatres from BATS Theatre http://bats.co.nz/ and http://www.eventfinder.co.nz/whatson/events/gryphon-theatre-wellington (two local theatres I volunteer in). Tickets are under $20 per person, so a cheap night out. They are open 5 days a week.
There's also the Botanical Gardens an awesome place with a Herb Garden, Lady Norwood's Rose Garden; the Wellington Cable Car and the Carter Observatory http://www.carterobservatory.org/ All great to wander around. The top of the Cable Car also has a Museum - it's good to learn the history from them.
Te Papa Tongarewa - Museum Of New Zealand is well worth a visit too - lots of NZ history, from geology to religious views to roving (new) exhibits. It's free except for one gallery (and that's still pretty cheap to enter).
Mount Victoriais a great lookout spot, for night photography of the city lights. It's a romantic spot for lovers too.
Courtenay Place, in the Wellington Central Business District is the spot for Nightlife as well. From bars, clubs, adult entertainment places to family friendly movie theatres... it has it all!
*** It looks like the map on the side there, is a little mixed up. Google Maps should have it sorted though - if you pop the place names in. If not, leave me a comment and I'll try to attach a better map.
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Wow, how cool and what an original choice! There’s so much to do there! My best friend and her husband actually spent their honeymoon all over New Zealand recently and I helped her plan it so I’m actually pretty up on this right now. I know they had a great time and said they couldn't have chosen a more romantic place.
An awesome luxury hotel option and where my friend spent part of her honeymoon is the Huka Lodge Taupo at Huka Falls, not too far from Rotorua. It’s almost 100 years old and is considered one of the best hotels in the world—seriously, everybody has stayed there--Bill Gates, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Queen Elizabeth—you name it. They chose it because it only has 25 rooms and they have these gorgeous gardens that she said made it feel like a forest. They even have a helicopter airport “meet and greet” service in case Katie and John just don’t feel like dealing with cabs.
They also wanted to try “Glamping” (glamour camping) while they were there so we booked them at a place called Minaret Station. It’s a super-secluded luxury camp ground that’s accessible only by helicopter—she said the mountain views were stunning and that they really felt like they could be totally alone there and just focus on each other. What’s really cool is that they can arrange to have you flown to just about any area spot. I know they used it to go wine tasting somewhere. I know they can also arrange photography and/or art lessons but I don’t think they did that. Good to know you'll have those options though!
Congratulations and I hope you have a great time!
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Kim! You've gotten a lot of great responses, so I'll keep mine short.
Craig and I were together for eight years before we finally got married, and we'd done lots of romantic vacations, food vacations, etc. We chose New Zealand for our honeymoon, landing in Auckland with very few additional plans, except a plane down to the South Island for later in the week.
On a whim, we took a day trip via ferry (at The Ferry Building) to Rangitoto Island. The island was formed from a volcano, and no one lives there full time, and one half is this amazing hike through volcanic rock, to the very top of the mountain, where you get stunning views of both the harbour and Auckland. The other side is lush, vibrant green and very 'Lord of the Rings.' It wasn't a long walk, but an exhausting one, and the tiny rocks and pebbles made the steep incline down a bit of a nerve-wrecking one. It was actually a perfect honeymoon choice because we ended up having to be patient with each other, and use a little bit of teamwork to climb through some of these trails. May not have been the candlelight dinner and spa date, but there were lots of laughs, amazing views, and I even fell once and scraped myself up a bit (earned some street cred).
Apropos of nothing, when we landed that night, the infamous The White Lady truck was just across the street from the ferry terminal, and we sucked down juicy burgers and Fanta. They were delicious.
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