New Zealand or Aotearoa as the Maori call it, is a truly stunningly beautiful country. Crammed with diverse natural beauty, from active volcanoes, icy glaciers, raging white water rivers, pristine beaches, ancient forests, huge mountains, rolling hills, lake's like deep blue mirrors, giant sand dunes, not to mention its spectacular native animals, Penguins, Kiwis, Albatross, the cunning Kea.. and one of the best night skies i have ever seen!
The Ultimate Road Trip
By far the ultimate way to travel around this amazing country is having your own epic roadtrip. There are buses between Cities and Towns and a very limited train network. However there is no better way to get around than having your own wheels. Go where you want, when you want, stay where you want, Stop where you want, sleep where you want!!
The North Island
Generally a warmer climate than the south. Home to volcanoes, Geo thermal wonderlands, stunning beaches, crystal clear water, huge trees, vast wineries, rolling hills and of course home of Frodo and the gang
The South Island
An outdoor adventurers dream, spectacular landscapes await you around every turn. Hiking and mountain bike tracks that run the length of the country. Hugh alpine peaks, glaciers, huge fjords, pristine beaches, Gigantic unspoiled national parks, lots of native wildlife around too
Things to Note
The North Island
Auckland-The Largest City in New Zealand. Home of the huge Auckland Sky tower which offers amazing 360 degree view of the city and waterfront, and yes you can jump off it. There is plenty to see and do here, some beautiful off shore volcanic islands to explore by bike. Lots of cafes, a great museum and a wonderful marina
Bay of Islands - Beautiful part of the Northern Island, charming little historic coastal towns and some beautiful beaches and islands
Cape Reinga - The very northern tip of New Zealand, you can see the Pacific and Tasman sea meet and swirl, an area steeped in Maori lore. The giant sand dunes of Te Paki are nearby and worth a climb up. If you have a 4x4 you can try the 90 Mile Beach, officially a highway. it is a long streach of driveable beach (4x4 only) beware lots of vehicles have been lost along the way so check the tides!
Coromandel - Rugged coastline, you can find the famous 'Cathedral Cove' here and the fantastic Hot Water Beach, where hot bubbling water lies just beneath the surface of the sand, perfect for digging your own hot pool.
Tauranga - Great Beaches, walk up old volcano of Muanganui There was a Bunch of Orca's visiting the coast whilst i was here
Rotorua - A Geo thermal wonderland, you may be struck by the smell of rotten eggs as you roll into town, dont worry its not you. the whole town sits on a huge bubbling steaming thermal zone. Do take a walk through the park in the town, its free and you will see alot of hot pools, boiling mud, and plenty of clouds of smelly steam wafting around. Check out Wai-O-Tapu, this park has some of the best thermal formations to be seen and home of the famous 'Champagne Pool'
Tongariro National Park - For all the Lord of the Rings fans, here lies Mt Doom, the park itself is home to three volcanoes and a couple of ski fields. The Tongariro Alpine Trek is one of the most popular one day treks in the country, walking the length of the park getting up close to the active volcanoes. It is recommended to arrange transport back at the end of the trek, which can be done at the isite
New Plymouth - Black volcanic beaches and Mt Taranaki. Often shrouded by cloud Mt Taranaki is a perfect cone Volcano offering many hikes around its surrounding parkland
Wellington- The windy city and also the capitol. It is surrounded by small hills Check out 'Te Papa' museum an excellent collection and exhibits about all things New Zealand. Wellington is the gateway to the south,
Hawkes Bay - Wine Country, and art Deco sea side town of Napier. If you like places with extra long names check out 'Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatau' A Hill in the Area.
Be Sure to take a the Forgotten World Highway. Heading North East from Stratford near New Plymouth, or South West from near Tongariro. This old route winds and straddles the epic valleys and hills through some amazing historic and scenically beautiful New Zealand landscape. Keep an eye out for Whangamomona, a small village that declared itself a republic in the 1980's!
By far the best way to see this magnificent Country. a few companies below
The South Island
The South Island is truly breathtaking, and if i had really really had to choose one over the other i would choose the South.
Within a couple of hours you can be hiking through lush forest, climb a glacier then after a surf have a bbq on the beach!
Then when night rolls around you have access to some of the clearest night skies in the world.
The South really does have it all and is one of my favorite places in the world
Picton- Arrival/ Departure point for ferrys to and from the North Island. It is a pretty little town in its own right with a nice coastal area, surrounded by hills,valleys and blue sea and the Beautiful Marlborough Sounds. If you have the time i recommend spending time in the area to explore some of the picture postcard drives or valley walks. Queen Charlotte Sound has a small drive winding though the valley following the coast with spectacular views.Abel Tasman National Park-A beautiful coastal national park offering golden sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, perfect for kayaking. Some Beaches are only reached by boat or by hiking.
Franz Josef / Fox Glacier Franz is usually the main attraction here, or perhaps the most talked about, it is indeed a beautiful spot, with amazing mountain scenery but if you want to get up close or actually onto the glacier you must get a Helicopter tour costing around $400NZ there are a couple of walks you can do to get a view of the glacier but if you drive the short distance to Fox Glacier. You can do walks that bring you right to the base of the glacier. If you want to get on the ice for a hike around you must book a guide, tours around $110 for about 3 hrs. If you are tight on time or money i recommend going to Fox you will see more for less.
Arthurs Pass A beautiful scenic drive or train ride Coast to Coast from Christchurch to Greymouth offering great views of mountains, forests, huge unusual rock formations at Castle Hill, rivers and waterfalls. There are plenty of short walks available along the way, including an hour walk to 'The Devils Punchbowl' a large water fall, its a worthwhile walk through a Kiwi Zone forest. also worth stopping for a look is the huge rock formations at Castle hill. Popular with rock climbers, these huge unusual formations give an interesting walk and if your up for it, a climb too.
Mt Cook Village Theres plenty of short walks, all doable in a day but if you have time do the Muellers Hut Hike. Allow about 8hrs return to complete this amazing day trek. You can stay over night in the hut if you want, which you can book in the information center. There is water and cooking facilities available. The track is Posted all the way up although the last section is a steep scramble up stones and over some large rocks. The views along the way are sheer magic, you will be surrounded by several different mountain peaks including Mt Cook and their clinging glaciers. You will hear the creaking and cracking of the ice on the adjacent mountains and maybe even the odd avalanche.
It is a steep hike and tough on the legs, my own legs where useless for a couple of days after, well worth it!!
Dunedin - An old Scottish settlement and the second largest city in the south. Do take a trip out around the Otago Peninsula, the rugged coastal drive winds you past pretty little boat houses, beaches, New Zealands only Castle (Larnach Castle) and finally out to the worlds only Mainland Albotross nesting site. The Royal Ablotross Center is well worth paying into, as they do great work and you can learn a lot about these magnificent birds. They are best seen on slightly windy days, there was a few chicks when i was there and alot of adults, most of which i seen outside the center flying out to sea or soaring around in the wind
Kaikoura- A nice coastal town albeit quite touristy, boasting great whale watching tours, a bit pricey though at $145nz each per adult or $60nz for a child..
The Catlins..Head to Curio Bay to sea a 160 million year old petrified forest, you might even see some yellow eyed Penguins come ashore just before evening. Giant Sealions laze around in grasses near the light house at Waipapa point, rare Hectors Dolphins are found in Porpoise bay which gives the opportunity to swim or surf with these amazing little creatures and amust vist to The Lost Gypsy Gallery bus, This place is a must if on a trip through the Catlins. A fun and quirky experience that left me with a smile for the rest of the day. The simplicity and creativity of the owner's creations never failed to amuse me.
Te Anau- Gateway to Fiordland, pretty little place on the shores of lake Te Anau. Fill up on petrol and supplies here before driving up to Milford. The drive takes about 2 hrs with a couple of scenic stops along the way.
Milford Sound- The most accessible Fjord in Fiordland. Taking a trip by boat is a great way to appreciate the colossal size of the sheer cliff walls. they are absolutely huge. Massive waterfalls spill over the immense sides dwarfing any nearby ferrys. The area is surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty and home to alot of native wildlife such as the Kea, the mischievous Alpine Parrot who loves to open doors and bags, one even locked some climbers in a mountain hut near Mt Cook!
Wanaka - A small little town at the edge of the beautiful Lake Wanaka, a quiet and extremely picturesque little place. Just outside the town is Mt Aspiring National Park which can be reached by road, the last section is unsealed and after heavy rain can get a bit washed out, really worth taking a trip out to as the scenery is Epic, huge mountains, glacial rivers, rolling hills and lakes like mirrors. some great hiking tracks around here too.
Queenstown The Adrenaline fueled heart beat of the South. A year round outdoor enthusiasts Mecca. The town itself is small filled with cafe's and some touristy shops. On its shore is Lake Wakitupu, one of New Zealands most scenic lakes. Surrounded by the Southern Alps and behind the town the saw toothed Remarkables range reach to the skies. All sorts of activities are possible here, Bungy, zip lines, sky dive, zorbing, jet boats, biking, hiking, snow boarding, parasailing, a Luge... the list is endless awesomeness. The surrounding countryside is filled with excellent hiking and mountain bike tracks, one of the best to do is Rock Peak, which gives amazing views through the valleys over looking Queenstown, the passenger jets will pass by below you as you take in the impressive views.