North Island Edit
- take a ferry for a day trip to Waiheke Island - there is a cute town, vineyards, and amazing beaches. My favourite beach isLittle Oneroa beach.
- Go up the sky tower - it's just a tall building but it's kinda cool. It's our version of the sears tower I guess. You can also do a modified bungy jump off it if you're keen, or take a walk around the roof on the outside. they sell tickets there.
- day trip to Rangitoto to hike up it - it's an iconic volcano (dorman) in the harbour
- much easier walk up Mount Eden/Maungawhau (about 20 min walk or you can drive up) to get a view of the city
- drive out to Piha for black sand beaches and rough waves
- Check out the Auckland Art Gallery - they've recently redone itand it's beautiful and has a great collection of art
- Go out at night in Ponsonby
- take a walk around Silo Park - sometimes they have markets and outdoor movie screenings.
- Awesome day trip to Tawharanui beach for a swim, stop off in matakana for ice cream (if it's a weekend, there's a fancy farmers market)
- our best Whale Watching is in the South Island, but since you won't make it down there but you still want to do it - then do it in Auckland http://www.newzealand.com/us/plan/business/auckland-whale-and-dolphin-safari/
- Bay of Islands is BEAUTIFUL, no specific recommends, it's all just lots of beaches and stuff. Russell is in the Bay of Islands, and it was our first capital. Now it's just a sleepy town.
- Mangonui - stop off for fish & chips at the restaurant over the bay. They catch the fish that day, the boats sail up and then the restaurant cooks them up for you. It's kind of a classic thing to do.
- Waitangi - if you are at all interested in New Zealand history, the Waitangi meeting house is really interesting - it's basically where our country was founded and the treaty between Maori chiefs and the Queens representatives was signed. That treaty is really important to NZ even today.
- Tane Mahuta - its our largest tree, a 2000 year old native Kauri tree. it's pretty cool, for a tree. But it's a pretty bush walk to get there.
- Cape Reinga - the top of NZ, where in maori legend spirits leave NZ on their journey to Hawaiki. Also where you can see the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean merge. It's pretty cool, a long journey - but some cool beaches to stop off and swim at along the way.
Coromandel Peninsula (south/east of Auckland) Edit
- Hot Water Beach - take a shovel (you can rent or buy them there) and get there early (at low tide) and dig yourself some hot water pools in the sand. It's super fun and chill.
- Cathedral Cove - not far from Hot Water Beach so you can do both in one day. It's a really cool little bush walk down to the beach and then through a cave into another secret beach. Obviously can only get through the cave at low tide, I think.
- Hahei - just a really cute beach town to stay in, with a lovely beach to swim at. Be warned, there's not much here apart from beach and houses. A few places to get food etc but not a lot!
Auckland to Tauranga drive Edit
There are a couple of ways to do it but you want to go via Paeroa and Waihi, not via Matamata (unless you *really* want to see Hobbiton, because you'll miss:
- karangahake gorge - it's a really beautiful drive, pretty breathtaking actually (for the North Island). You can stop off and go for a hike too if you want. It's along a river and you can swim in it. There's a rich gold mining history in the area if that interests you. Mostly it's just really pretty though
- Paeroa - you don't have to do much here except buy L&P (lemon & paeroa) which is a NZ soda made from the natural spring water that comes up in Paeroa. It's kind of a big deal in NZ - and it tastes great with pies. There's a big L&P bottle you can pose with. haha.
- Katikati - speed through as fast as you can. stupid katikati and its stupid murals.
Mount Maunganui Edit
- Climb Mt Maunganui / Mauao - it's about a 40 minute climb, but it's not too hard and the view at the top is AMAZINGLY worth it. Or if you're suckers you can just walk around the base of it.
- DEFINITELY go to Copenhagen cones and get a cone to replenish your calories and then eat it on the beach. It's a local tradition. It's right at the base of the Mount.
- R&R at the hot pools at the base of the Mount, or go to the harbour beach Pilot Bay or the main ocean beach about 10 minutes walk away
- get dinner at one of the cafes/restaurants along Maunganui Rd or along The Strand in Tauranga (across the harbour bridge)
- hike out to Kaiate Falls for a swim, or drive to McLarens Falls.
Highly recommend this white water rafting on the Kaituna river. It's fairly short - a half-day I think - but so worth it. And the waterfall at the end is awesome to go over.
Rotorua is smelly but it's also a hub for a lot of the maori tourism stuff so I would recommend trying to fit that in here and get a traditional hangi feast while you're at it.
- visit a geothermal area. There is a free one in the middle of Rotorua you can walk through, or you can pay to go into an area. Hell's Gate , Whakarewarewa and Te Puia are popular.
- Do a maori cultural experience so you can see the haka and poi dances and get to experience a hangi (food cooked in the ground)
Taupo is our largest lake
- the lake is cold water, but there are areas where hot springs bubble up naturally around the edge of thelake. It's always fun to find those spots.
- Huka Falls - it's about five minutes drive north of Taupo (on your way in from Rotorua or Auckland) and well worth the stop. The sheer power of the falls is pretty amazing to see. Plus nice bush walk etc.
- Craters of the Moon - if you don't stop in Rotorua for geothermal activity, go visit craters of the moon instead. It's cheap and it's pretty cool. You could easily do this and Huka Falls in an afternoon.
- this is also a great place to do bungy jumping, if that takes your fancy
Desert Road Edit
- Just really barren, awesome landscape with the three volcanoes of Nguruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu to your right (as you drive south). One of them was Mount Doom in LOTR. The Tongariro crossing is considered one of our Great Walks but it's a whole day activity.
Gumboot capital of the world. There's a nice cafe to stop in at on the way through, the Brown Sugar Cafe.
The capital of New Zealand.
- Best hot chocolate on earth at Midnight Espresso
- hipster restaurant / bar at Matterhorn
- The world famous Bucket Fountain
- take a day trip out to scorching bay or island bay or lyall bay and just chill at a cafe. Plenty of bays to explore.
- walk out to red rocks for a half day trip and see the seal colony
- take the ferry over to eastbourne
- visit our national museum Te Papa
- Take a tour through the Beehive (parliament)
- Wellington cable car
- lots of cool shops, restaurants and cafes.
Waitomo offers many attractions in itself. As a developing area there is always going to be something new and exciting to experience every time you visit.
There are around 16 different cave trips you can do from dry tours, wet tours and rock climbing and abseiling. There are tours that combine all of the above too.
The local cave companies are - Kiwi Cave Rafting, they also have backpacker accommodation here.
Waitomo Adventures - for black water rafting and rock climbing and abseiling. They have many tours that combine the activities at different skill levels.
The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company - many different black water rafting options.
Spellbound - They have an excellent dry tour with a boat ride and two different caves to visit on the one tour. The tour last around 3 hours and you are supplied with "smoko". (tea/coffee and cookies) Maximum of 12 people on your tour for a personal experience.
Cave World - These guys specialize in a dry tour and a wet tour. The dry tour lasts around 1 hour and you see glowworms from start to finish in an amazing cave. Their black water rafting tour lasts for around 2 hours and is suitable for beginners or those not wanting to do anything too physically extreme. Also a maximum of 12 persons on a tour.
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves - This company is the largest and most well known. Their cave is perfect for large groups and they can put 1000's of people through their operation a day. Their dry tour with the boat ride lasts around 45minutes. The first part of the tour you see all the rock formations and the last 10 minutes is the boat ride where you see the glowworm skies.
This company also has two more dry tours which are excellent.
While you are here there are also other activities, many free bush walks to do with spectacular rock formations, cycling - more tracks are being developed (2015) there are farm parks, Roselands - offers a farm park, $1000 golf challenge, clay bird shooting, scenic helicopter flights or the helipad for landing, private Chalet accommodation, large restaurant with Kiwi BBQ + Buffet menu for lunch, Beef Casserole Menu for dinner and cheap drinks on the bar after 4pm, lawn tennis court and gardens and bush walks. Cave World offers a twilight tour for something to do in the evening. Waitomo Caves Discovery center has a museum of caves, a must see while in Waitomo.
Eats: Waitomo Village offers great places to eat. The Huhu Cafe is a la carte. The general store for burgers and chips. Curly's bar for your local pub food. Kiwi Paka's Pizzeria for pizza but they also do cafe food. The Waitomo Caves Hotel does roast meals. The Glowworm Caves cafe for some jazzy burgers and chips. Roselands for a typical Kiwi BBQ and salads for lunch or traditional Beef Casserole for dinner. Waitomo Adventure center has great cabinet food and top notch pies. Legendary Black Water Rafting does great burger meals for the hungry adventurist.
Drinks: Curly's is the local watering hole with tv's and serves local brewed beer (the king country brewing company) and is located near the Kiwi Paka (backpackers owned by the same person) And Roselands garden bar is open till late, depending on the custom.
Places to stay: There are so many places in to stay in Waitomo! Back packers - Kiwi Cave Rafting, Juno Hall's backpackers, Kiwi Paka. BnB's - Big Bird BnB, Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge. Individual accommodation - Huhu Accommodation, Roselands Chalet, and further afield is Clarry's Cottage and The Rock Retreat. Or the Waitomo Caves Hotel, Woodlyn Park and Abseil Inn are located in the village.
There are many more activities to do in the surrounding areas like the Kiwi House in Otorohanga, Llama trekking in Piopio or a Hobbiton Film Location tour there also. The black sand beaches are only an hour drive out towards the west coast. There's lots of cycle tracks near by. Waitomo offers a central location to a broad range of activities to suit any traveler.
For more information on activities in the surrounding areas, the Hamilton Waikato Tourism site has everything on it! www.hamiltonwaikato.com
So overall, Waitomo is more then just one glowworm cave! And all the tours are a Qualmarked Visitor Experience including Roselands Restaurant for their BBQ Buffet Experience. There's plenty to see and do there and close by that you can stay 2-3 nights and not get bored! Waitomo's locals are also very friendly, so don't be shy to stop and ask for help if you need it.
Tips: Booking Cave tours last minute in the peak season (summer) can result in disappointment as they book out fast, so book well ahead and if you go to the individual cave company sites listed above you can pick up a great discount for booking early bird cave tours. :)
From there if you really want to hit Hobbiton, you could head to Matamata and do that.
South Island Edit
Check out the DOC website for any of the following Great Walks.
- Routeburn Track
- The Milford Track, is supposed to be one of the top 10 hikes in the world.
- Abel Tasman
With any of the Great Walks in NZ, you have to book the huts/camp sites early or they get booked up.
Food and wine: Edit
Kaikoura Seafood BBQ - it’s a roadside shack selling fresh seafood, crayfish (lobster), scallops etc, caught right there.. Kaikoura is also the best place in the country for whale watching trips etc.
Marlborough region Edit
Renowned for its Sauvignon Blancs. There is a bunch of wine tasting tours etc to do. It’s like the Napa Valley of New Zealand.
Touristy, but also very beautiful - nestled next to a mountain range called The Remarkables… for a reason. A great place to do some day hiking and then hit the bars. You can do a day trip (via boat) to the Milford Sound from Queenstown. Take lots of insect repellent, the sand flies are carnivorous.
Definitely get a burger at Fergburger or a pie at Ferg Bakery. Pies are a NZ specialty and we eat them all them time. The standards are steak & cheese or mince (ground beef) & cheese - but you can get other variants too, like butter chicken etc.
Just as beautiful as Queenstown, not quite as touristy - but only because its smaller. You can do a couple of day hikes here - ask at the information centre.
Lake Tekapo: Edit
It sits at the edge of yet another lake, but this one is a beautiful turquoise color thanks to ‘rock flour’ from glaciers. Also it has some of the clearest night skies in NZ and there’s an observatory there and it’s renowned for its night sky watching.
Great for whale and dolphin watching. But be warned - the tours are really expensive (~$200NZD). Alternatively you can rent kayaks for $35/hr and paddle out to the seals instead.
Other things to do in New Zealand on limited time Edit
^^ standard tourist fare.
Drink lots of wine while you're here. Also, we have some great boutique cheese.
Knife making in Barrytown
Diving in the Bay of Islands
Themes: Nature, natural history, LotR, Non-Tourist things, art, North Island ('cause it gets neglected sometimes), Important Maori things
Sailing - Bay of Island, Fjordland etc Adventure - Queenstown Generic Touristy stuff - Rotovegas The typical NZ things such as White water rafting and bungee jumps are pretty cool, too.
Go skiing or snowboarding in you're here between late-May and mid-October, and surfing in the rest of the year. Drive down the North Island from Auckland to wellington. Take three days to do this. Stop in Rotorua and Taupo, drive through the Desert Road, spend a day or two in Wellington.
Spend the rest of yuor time in the South Island and do Adventure Tourism. You will see beautiful parts of the country that don't exist in the North Island.
What are some good tourist attractions in Auckland?
Waiheke Island is a good in the summer. It's a chill little resort island.
Keep out of the centre city. Ponsonby or Parnell for boozing, west coast for black beaches and east for white. lol. I know you're joking but you can bet someone will read it that way. (in case anyone is wondering, he's talking about white sand and black sand.) Goat Island Marine Reserve is, well, north of Auckland, but pretty cool.
Hallertau (brew bar) out in Riverhead is an awesome place for a afternoon drive, [good] pint and a nice meal.
West coast beaches.
B&Bs or hostels are a great way to travel and meet other travelers. They are reasonably priced and offer many interesting experiences
Can I / Should I hitchhike? Can I pick up hitchhikers? If you're a guy, go nuts. I know heaps of people who've hitchiked across the country (and ferried between the islands).
It's pretty safe.
Can't say I've been there myself but I've often heard that Fiordland in the South Island is absolutely beautiful. Also highly recommended is the Bay of Islands in the far North. If you managed to visit both of those places it would be a good chance to see how diverse the landscape can be in this country. http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/091/cache/aerials-fiordland-new-zealand_9103_600x450.jpg http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2164/2071181017_33ac0b7adc_o.jpg
Staying on Marae would be a great way to learn about New Zealand Maori culture if you have the chance.