JC Travels: The ULTIMATE New Zealand Travel Itinerary
When I was putting together my little travel archives, which you can see on the right hand side over there, I had a bit of a realisation. I’ve never written about New Zealand on my blog. Which is actually mental. I know life is now all about London and Europe, I did spent a grand 14 years living in the old NZ, and went to school and Uni there. Being a good old kiwi is still a major part of my life.
I was around 7 when we first moved there, and as we all know, NZ is in the middle of bloody nowhere. Yes, Australia is kind of near, but still usually over 3 hours on a plane. This then lead to many, many road trip holidays where the 4 of us would jump in the car and explore the gorgeous country we were living in. It also meant that as all the family made their way over to visit us, we would then do the whole trip again. So from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South (though not yet made it to Stewart Island!), I thought I’d pull together my favourite bits of New Zealand into this ultimate itinerary. Pull up a chair, it’s gonna be a long ‘un.
The best way to get around New Zealand is by far car, flights can happen but are generally really expensive for internal ones. Plus when you drive you really get to experience the country and see scenery constantly. Plus, the main highway is like a two lane road so it’s not exactly stressful to drive along. So jump in a car and lets get started. Just a note, I don’t actually have many photos of NZ, I’ve tried to pull out a few but most are actual photographs which are at my parents!! I actually discovered that 100% pure New Zealand has a heap of photos available to promote tourism which is totally awesome and explains why there are some random people in some of the pics. But hey, they are gooduns!
Auckland – Climb the Sky Tower and visit little blue penguins at Kelly Tarltons
Auckland isn’t my favourite place in kiwi land but really, it’s the place most people fly into and you’ll probably be tired and grumpy and need some time to adjust so why not do it here! The main thing people remember about it is the Sky Tower, the big thin needle thing in the middle of town. I’ve always enjoyed going up to the top, and you can jump off to get back down to the bottom if you don’t fancy the lift which is always handy.
Nearby is the awesome aquarium – Kelly Tarltons, we went here a heap when I was young and I always really enjoyed it – especially the penguins. One of my best memories is doing a behind the scenes with some injured little blue penguins where we fed them tiny fish and it was just generally epic.
The Coromandel – Bask in the sunshine and have a beach break
As NZ is in the southern hemisphere, not only is Christmas a hot affair, but so is New Years. Queue some kind of road trip somewhere over New Year to chill and drink and all that good stuff. The place to go was the Coromandel, up the top of the North Island, kinda to the right of Auckland. Expect a lot of white sand beaches, warm water, huge forests and a hot water beach which is very enjoyable. Dig yourself your own little hot tub and sit back and relax. Oh and go to Cathedral Cove beach because everyone does and take a photo of the hole in the rock. Ironic as I bet after living in London I’d think the place was deserted!!
Waitomo – Explore the glow worm caves
An absolute bloody must do. There are two options here, the one which me and mam went for which is where you jump into a little boat and sail serenly through underground caves full of staligmates and staligtites. Then before you know it, you appear in a cavern absolutely full of sparkling glow worms. It’s almost like an amazing night sky. I seriously want to go back all the time.
The second option is what Dad + Reb always did, abseiling down a 300 foot abyss before caving and tubing through tiny holes until they reach the same kind of cavern. But hey, each to their own to their preference of how to get there!!
Rotorua – Smell the eggs, see the bubbling mud and thermal wonders
Yes, it smells like rotten eggs. It’s weird. It will go away within like 10 minutes of being there then it’s not such of a big deal. Rotorua is really the home of all the thermal wonders, from giant pools of boiling mud, to huge magically blue ponds, to giant geysers which explode and spurt right next to you. There are several places to see them, and a load of them are just like little spots on the side of the round where you pull in and get a load of bubbling mud. It’s good for the skin too – though please buy it from the gift shop rather than burning yourself to get some of the real thing.
The Maori culture is huuuuge in NZ, as the natives of the land. What with school there, I got a heap of Maori culture growing up (I can still swing a good old poi and sing tutira mai nga iwi to this very day), so we never went out of our way to search it out. But from what I can see, there is a lot in Rotorua for you to see and learn from.
Hawkes Bay – Go wine tasting
Want to hear something ironic? I bloody hated wine when I lived in NZ. Ridiculous right. A good bottle of white was like $10 and I worked in hospitality where we got to take the partially opened bottles home. But not me, now I’d kill for a good NZ Sauv.
But anyway, if you have any sense, then you will go wine tasting and it will be amazing. You can do it in a load of places, but Hawkes Bay is a goodun. I really like Napier and it’s somewhere we ended up really frequently.
Kind of funny that the place I lived for 14 years was the place I couldn’t quite decide on what you should do there. I finally settled on just living like a kiwi. Wellington is the best place to live up the food scene – from a good flat white and a slice of lolly cake, to getting a giant bowl of mussels and a bottle of wine. Eat all the food and enjoy it, I’ve still not found anywhere in the world that does it any better.
Whilst in between all the food, you must see the kiwi bird. Two options here – head to the zoo, which is a zoo I really rate, good size and an array animals. We did the meet the red pandas once which was the best. But you can see a kiwi there too. There is also Zealandia which is the outdoor reserve where you can go on a night tour and see a kiwi in the wild which I really rate too.
Nelson – Walk the Abel Tasman
I walked the Abel Tasman twice, once I had tonsilitis. And you know, it was still brilliant. Tramping (or rambling if you’re British) is a national past time so you have to do it. Grab a big back pack along with some scroggin and get your walk on. This is particularly gorgeous as you wind around isolated, idyllic beaches and through some epic bush. If you’re ambitious then stay in one of the little huts over night as you wander through, otherwise jump on the boat and get a comfy ride right back to where you started.
Punakaiki – Visit the Pancake Rocks
We really had the South Island road trips down. And the first place we always stopped was at Punakaiki on the West Coast of the South Island near Greymouth. And well, go and see the rocks. They look like giant stacks of pancakes and are quite spectacular. There are a heap of blow holes nearby too which always look very impressive.
Franz Josef – Walk on a glacier
From volcanoes to glaciers, you will pretty much find it in NZ. And climbing a glacier is definitely a good idea. There are a couple of glaciers down the bottom of the South Island and even though they are melting, you can get climbing. And not the whole ice climbing, there are generally steps cut into the ice in the lower levels. You also have the option of being a little lazy and jumping on a helicopter which will fly and land you right on the top. I really love this bit of the South Island as not only do you have the amazing coast but it’s right by the Southern Alps. If you are a skiier then this is definitely where you should be headed.
Kaikoura – See some whales
Now, I’ve never seen a whale, which is unfortunate. But I’m pretty sure that most people who go whale watching will see a whale. And the best place to do it is in Kaikoura on the East Coast. There are a heap of boats out to see whales and dolphins in the bay – and I’m very keen to go back and actually see some!!
Queenstown – Get on a Luge (or something more exciting!)
Queenstown is the place most adventure lovers know – not only is it an awesome place to ski, but you can pretty much do any kind of thrillseeking. My sister did her first bungy jump here, but you can do skydiving and a heap of other things. For the non thrill seeking kind, it is one of the most gorgeous places anyway so you can do a load of walking and eating. There is also a luge (kind of like a little go kart that you sit in and ride down a steep hill) which even I enjoyed – so really, something for everyone.
Milford Sound – Get a ferry through the Sounds
You will look at the photos of here and it is the shot, you know the most beautiful idyllic shot which is at the very top of this post. It will rain when you visit and look like the photo above. But that’s okay, it still looks pretty in the rain. Jump on a boat, sail the sounds and breathe in some cold mountain air.
Dunedin + Christchurch – Pretend to be a Uni student
The two of the larger cities in the South Island (and when I say large, I really mean small). Now I’ve been to both of these many a time, but usually because I was visiting some of my friends who were going to uni there. Sooo, it mainly involved drinking and sleeping. So I can’t recommend too much for these places, but put them on your list as I can guarantee there will be something good for you to see there!
It’s kind of ironic as I think I was worried about writing about NZ on the blog for ages because I thought I wouldn’t have enough to say on the topic. Well, apparently once you start tapping, you just can’t stop me!! So you know, over 2000 words later, here we are. I hope I’ve convinced you that NZ is a place you should get on your visit list ASAP – it may be a long flight from Europe but it is SO worth it.
Tell me, if you’ve been to NZ where is your fave (and what have I missed?) and if you haven’t where do you want to go first?!
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