Author Topic: New Zealand travel recommendations?  (Read 1631 times)

FIRE 20/20

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 404
New Zealand travel recommendations?
« on: October 13, 2019, 11:39:35 AM »
My partner and I will be travelling to New Zealand for about 6 weeks from approximately January 1 - February 12.  We haven't set exact dates because we are working with a relative who will house sit while we're gone.  We spent 2 weeks there a couple of years ago and it was one of the best vacations we've ever taken.  I'm looking for any travel tips, but in particular we're really struggling to figure out what regions and towns/cities we want to visit this time.  The only place we know we're not interested in is Auckland.  We spent a few days there and while it was a nice city, it didn't really feel all that different from a similarly sized US or European city. 
To give you an idea of where we've been and what we did, last time we started in Queenstown (hang gliding, canyoning), kayaked in Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound, took a glow worm cave tour, tramped the Hooker Valley track, saw Castle Hill, drove over Arthur's pass to the west coast, and drove up to Marlborough for wine tasting.  The only place we went on the North Island was Auckland and we walked around and went to a couple of museums. 

While the main reason for this trip is to escape the gloom of the northern hemisphere winter, we obviously want to see as much of what we've missed as we can.  That probably means spending time on the North Island, although we loved the scenery of the South Island so much we're really drawn to just go back to see what we missed last time.  We allocated a significant amount of our FIRE budget to travel, and this is our big trip for the year so we're not looking to keep costs to a minimum.  We'll probably try to stay in AirBnB's at roughly the $60-$110/night range (NZD).  We'll probably do a mix of a few days of relaxation on the beach with museums and restaurants in a city and plenty of tramping although we do not enjoy camping so we'll be limited to trails we can do in one day. 

Any advice - particularly towns/cities to stay in would be greatly appreciated!

GizmoTX

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1430
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2019, 11:52:19 AM »
We spent several days in the Rotorua area (North island) & really enjoyed it. Its very geothermal, like Yellowstone, but different. Also lots of Maori culture.

We loved the Queenstown area but toured it in their early winter, so Id love to return in a different season.

wotstheguts

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2019, 01:24:34 PM »
Aucklander here - agree that Auckland's nothing special, but did you check out the west coast black sand surf beaches such as Piha, Karekare, and Muriwai? I think there's a couple of surf schools at Piha. To get there you drive through the Waitakere ranges, which have hundreds of kilometres of bush trails. Also out there is a fresh-water lake in the middle of remote sand dunes, quite a walk but refreshing on a hot day - Bethells Lake aka Lake Wainamu.

EDIT: Bear in mind west coast beaches often have big waves and strong rips, so only swim where there is a surf patrol, between the flags. If you prefer safe white sand swimming beaches, try Auckland's north shore (East Coast Bays), especially Long Bay Beach. An hour or so north of Auckland, Te Arai Point is one of the nicest unspoiled white sand beaches IMHO.

Also a lot of people like to visit Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf, with its wineries. Rangitoto Island is Auckland's youngest volcano at about 600 years. (If you want to visit a live volcano go down to White Island in the Bay of Plenty.)

Bay of Islands is pretty. Way up north, check out Ninety Mile Beach (you used to be able to drive down it at low tide, not sure if that's still the case) and Cape Reinga at the northern tip of the north island. Be mindful the far north of NZ is a bit of a high crime area.

Coromandel Peninsula is very scenic, though attractions like Hot Water Beach can get very busy in January. Bear in mind very narrow windy roads. There's a day tramp you can do right up the top of the peninsula, near Port Charles (from Stony Bay I think). There's a company that will drop you off at one end and pick you up at the other.

You can catch the ski lifts up Mount Ruapehu in summer I believe, but make sure you go on a nice clear day so you can enjoy the view. Ohakune is a nice little ski village at the base with plenty of accommodation. Tongariro National Park is a popular place (try the Tongariro crossing walk if you're fit, see Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mt Doom).

Speaking of LOTR, Matamata has Hobbiton but I recall it was ridiculously expensive.

Rotorua is probably worth seeing as Gizmo said, though when I took my American friend there she turned her nose up and called it "stinky town" (though she was a NYC girl). Lake Taupo is quite nice, and there are some jetboat tourist attractions nearby which are quite fun.

Waitomo Caves are quite cool, miles of caves and more glow worms.

Wellington's Te Papa museum is good. Wellington is a nicer, more friendly city than Auckland IMHO, though colder and windier. Just north of Wellington is the Kapiti Coast, and I think you can get tours out to Kapiti Island, a nature reserve.

That's about all I can think of off the top of my head.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2019, 01:49:19 PM by wotstheguts »

middo

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 936
  • Location: Country Western Australia
  • Learning.
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2019, 03:46:37 PM »
Having been to NZ a couple of times, my suggestions apart from Queenstown are:

North Island - Rotorua

South Island - Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers.

kei te pai

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 376
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2019, 09:28:51 PM »
This is peak holiday season in NZ. I would suggest picking up a hire car or campervan at Auckland airport, and heading for the Rotorua area, then across to the east coast (skip Tauranga), and drive around east cape to Gisborne (beaches, wineries) at a gentle pace. Down to Napier/Hastings, then through the Wairarapa to Wellington.
Maybe catch the ferry to Picton and explore the Marlborough sounds.
Then head north from Wellington through Whanganui and New Plymouth following the coast over a few days. Some good day walks around Mt Taranaki. Then along the coast again northwards and inland through the King Country. Small rural towns, quiet roads and lots of farmland. Turn south at Te Kuiti toward Mt Ruapehu and the Central Plateau
Despite the presence of hundreds of others doing the same thing the Tongariro crossing is a fabulous and fairly strenuous day walk. Dont do it unless the weather is good, you will just be cold miserable and see not much!
There are lots of other walks in the area. Try and get to Blue Duck station. Maybe canoe the Whanganui River.
Have a few days around Lake Taupo, then head north, going out to Kawhia, or Raglan  both on the west coast. Drop the car in Auckland, and fly over to Great Barrier island to chill for a week. Have a lovely time!

mspym

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2570
  • Location: Downunder
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2019, 11:16:05 PM »
Kai te pai's recs are ⭐🌟⭐🌟⭐

honeybbq

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1333
  • Location: Seattle
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2019, 01:48:15 PM »
Mt Taranaki and Egmont National Park.

https://www.newzealand.com/us/feature/national-parks-egmont/

If you're a good hiker, the Tongariro (alpine) crossing:

https://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz/

Fomerly known as something

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 872
  • Location: Midwest
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2019, 06:22:45 PM »
I'd say if you have time and there are still reservations instead of the Tongariro Crossing, do the Tongariro North Circuit instead.  You still cross Mordoor but see some other parts of the park as well.  Plus the hut rangers will give advise on say, waiting until 9am to start your hike up to "mount doom" instead of going earlier.

I also enjoyed Paihia and going north from Auckland but I didn't get all the way up to 90 mile beach. 

As I enjoy wine, I had a good visit around Naprier and Martinborough on the north Island as well.

FIRE 20/20

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 404
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2019, 11:36:12 PM »
Thanks for all the responses!  I'll post more later, but it's getting late here and I need to get to sleep. 

damyst

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 194
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Canada
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2019, 12:37:40 AM »
Great suggestions here for the North Island. Based on your itinerary description, it sounds like there's plenty left for you to experience in the South Island too. Golden Bay and Abel Tasman park were highlights for me, as was the Queen Charlotte Track. Wanaka has astounding accessible scenery and is just a fun place to hang out. Then there's all those fantastic hut-to-hut hikes. Some of them are hard to get a reservation for, but even the "second tier" trails provide an experience that's hard to match elsewhere.

NonprofitER

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 180
  • Location: Texas
  • Reaching FIRE w/ High Purpose (Low Pay) Nonprofit
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2019, 09:25:09 AM »
We lived in Christchurch for ~5 years and frequently visit NZ.

We loved Kaiteriteri/ Abel Tasman - beautiful area, great beaches, lots of kayaking and hiking options, etc.
I think Wellington has its own feel too.

Second or third Rotorua.

We also liked the sleep-ish/ traditional NZ beach "bach" town of Waiwera and the surrounding areas - North Island.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1367
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2019, 02:35:44 PM »
Kiwi here. If you're in Wellngton, it's worth doing a trip out to Picton on the ferry and back. The scenery through the Sounds in gorgeous, really lovely. Picton is a tiny wee town but there's plenty of decent accommodation and food for a night away. Do NOT go on the ferry in the rough season. It's a big boat, but they will sail in 9 foot swells and you will not enjoy the results! Cook Strait can kick up some intense weather. Even on a decent day it will be cold on the crossing. There's a bar on the ferry but take a packed lunch or you'll be stuck with just snacks.

FIRE 20/20

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 404
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2019, 06:52:25 PM »
Thanks again for all the suggestions.  I'm building an itinerary in Google Maps now, and I'm starting with a few days near Piha / Kitekite falls, on to Rotorua, then Gisborne, then Napier/Hastings, etc.  We're going to spend some time tonight booking the first few places we'll stay and keep adding as we go. 

Thanks!

bayareasaver

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 21
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Wellington, New Zealand
  • Saving while single
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2019, 02:23:33 AM »
Hi Fire 20/20, Your trip is almost here! So exciting! Just wanted to offer that I'm based in Wellington and would be happy to meet up with you and drive you around to some of the sites, particularly Zealandia, where I am a member, which means I get you in for half price (it's an ecosanctuary and a nice place to take a walk and see and hear native birds). We could even have dinner at my house if you're willing to talk FIRE and give me some advice = ). I have a nice view. I'm currently working and will be on Christmas break 25 December - 9 January bouncing around the northern end of the south island before taking the ferry back to wellington. Hope planning is going well and you have safe flights - the weather is gorgeous here and the days are long and only getting warmer!

mistymoney

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 550
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2019, 09:51:32 AM »
don't visit any volcano sites....:(

damyst

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 194
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Canada
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2019, 11:11:18 AM »
I visited Whakaari/White Island in 2005. It was an awesome and very memorable experience. My wife doesn't remember it as favorably though, mostly due to the gas masks, that were occasionally helpful but never fun to wear.

Obviously no one will be running sightseeing trips to White Island anytime soon.

But as GizmoTX noted, there's a number of amazing geothermal sites near Rotorua. Orakei Korako was the one I most enjoyed, but there's a handful of others. If you've been to Yellowstone and liked it, you should probably check them out. If you haven't been to Yellowstone, even more so.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7427
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2019, 11:15:31 AM »
Aucklander here - agree that Auckland's nothing special, but did you check out the west coast black sand surf beaches such as Piha, Karekare, and Muriwai? I think there's a couple of surf schools at Piha. To get there you drive through the Waitakere ranges, which have hundreds of kilometres of bush trails. Also out there is a fresh-water lake in the middle of remote sand dunes, quite a walk but refreshing on a hot day - Bethells Lake aka Lake Wainamu.

EDIT: Bear in mind west coast beaches often have big waves and strong rips, so only swim where there is a surf patrol, between the flags. If you prefer safe white sand swimming beaches, try Auckland's north shore (East Coast Bays), especially Long Bay Beach. An hour or so north of Auckland, Te Arai Point is one of the nicest unspoiled white sand beaches IMHO.

Also a lot of people like to visit Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf, with its wineries. Rangitoto Island is Auckland's youngest volcano at about 600 years. (If you want to visit a live volcano go down to White Island in the Bay of Plenty.)

Bay of Islands is pretty. Way up north, check out Ninety Mile Beach (you used to be able to drive down it at low tide, not sure if that's still the case) and Cape Reinga at the northern tip of the north island. Be mindful the far north of NZ is a bit of a high crime area.

Coromandel Peninsula is very scenic, though attractions like Hot Water Beach can get very busy in January. Bear in mind very narrow windy roads. There's a day tramp you can do right up the top of the peninsula, near Port Charles (from Stony Bay I think). There's a company that will drop you off at one end and pick you up at the other.

You can catch the ski lifts up Mount Ruapehu in summer I believe, but make sure you go on a nice clear day so you can enjoy the view. Ohakune is a nice little ski village at the base with plenty of accommodation. Tongariro National Park is a popular place (try the Tongariro crossing walk if you're fit, see Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mt Doom).

Speaking of LOTR, Matamata has Hobbiton but I recall it was ridiculously expensive.

Rotorua is probably worth seeing as Gizmo said, though when I took my American friend there she turned her nose up and called it "stinky town" (though she was a NYC girl). Lake Taupo is quite nice, and there are some jetboat tourist attractions nearby which are quite fun.

Waitomo Caves are quite cool, miles of caves and more glow worms.

Wellington's Te Papa museum is good. Wellington is a nicer, more friendly city than Auckland IMHO, though colder and windier. Just north of Wellington is the Kapiti Coast, and I think you can get tours out to Kapiti Island, a nature reserve.

That's about all I can think of off the top of my head.
One of my local friends is visiting NZ right now for a couple of weeks, in a camper van mostly.  I am drooling over her instagram feed, and she just did the glow worm thing yesterday.  Just wow.

Vashy

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 160
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2019, 11:16:36 AM »
In Wellington, we enjoyed Te Papa (the local museum), and the Museum Hotel, which is a little bonkers with the weird art exhibited there - it's also right opposite Te Papa. I remember we got a really good deal on a suite there. Seconding Rotorua.

FIRE 20/20

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 404
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2019, 02:59:36 PM »
Hi Fire 20/20, Your trip is almost here! So exciting! Just wanted to offer that I'm based in Wellington and would be happy to meet up with you and drive you around to some of the sites, particularly Zealandia, where I am a member, which means I get you in for half price (it's an ecosanctuary and a nice place to take a walk and see and hear native birds). We could even have dinner at my house if you're willing to talk FIRE and give me some advice = ). I have a nice view. I'm currently working and will be on Christmas break 25 December - 9 January bouncing around the northern end of the south island before taking the ferry back to wellington. Hope planning is going well and you have safe flights - the weather is gorgeous here and the days are long and only getting warmer!

Thanks!  I'll send you a PM. 

FIRE 20/20

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 404
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2019, 03:01:50 PM »
don't visit any volcano sites....:(

We were booked to visit Whakaari on January 9.  The reports from there are absolutely heart breaking.  While I'm glad we weren't there when it erupted, it's difficult to be happy about that with all the suffering that's still ongoing. 

FIRE 20/20

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 404
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2019, 03:16:25 PM »
Thanks again for all the suggestions and inputs.  Our itinerary has changed a bit, but we're still going to do a lot of the things that people have recommended.  Essentially we're going to start in Coromandel (Coromandel Coastal Walkway, Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour), then move on to Rotorua and Taupo, Napier/Hastings, and Wellington (Kapiti Island/Te Papa) on the North Island.  There are a lot of things we want to do on the South Island, so we'll take the Ferry across to Picton and do some kayaking and wine tasting in the Marlborough region.  We'll visit Abel Tasman, Franz Joseph, Mt. Cook, and the Dark Sky Preserve before heading down to Dunedin.  We also have a few days booked on Stewart Island. 
It looks like Highway 6 near Whataroa and Haast Pass will be repaired before we get there.  Initially it sounded like the road closure would last longer, but the reports I've seen have been relatively positive. 
There's a lot to see, but with 6 weeks hopefully we have enough time for everything.  We only have one long driving day (Abel Tasman to Franz Joseph), but we had one even longer day last time we were there and didn't have any problems. 

AnnaGrowsAMustache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1367
Re: New Zealand travel recommendations?
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2019, 03:23:55 PM »
don't visit any volcano sites....:(

We were booked to visit Whakaari on January 9.  The reports from there are absolutely heart breaking.  While I'm glad we weren't there when it erupted, it's difficult to be happy about that with all the suffering that's still ongoing.

If you were still interested, you could probably parley your booking into a boat tour and get a close up of the island without getting on it. The boats will be running doing something like that, guarantee it. There's not a lot of other tourism there. Before everyone gets up in my face about any lack of sympathy, kiwi here. What happened is awful. What's going to happen to people's livelihoods in that region is also pretty grim. White Island has been burping for centuries. It's managed to avoid being a liability for quite awhile.