How To Make The Most Of A Long Weekend In Auckland

For a lot of travellers arriving in New Zealand, Auckland will be your first port of call after you get off that long flight! The misconception, I know we certainly had when we first visited NZ was that there wasn’t a lot to do in Auckland, the longer we lived (1.5 years in total!) in Auckland the more we discovered this wasn’t quite true.

Auckland certainly is a great place to base yourself for your first 2-3 nights in NZ as you adjust to a new country and time zone. Or if you’re like us and just want to visit the city for the weekend (something we did recently now that we live in Wellington) we do have a few suggestions of what you can do during a long weekend in Auckland:

Friday – You long weekend in Auckland starts here, Welcome to The City of Sails!

long weekend getaway to auckland

If you’re coming from the airport, its easier to just jump in a taxi upon arrival, the new motorway from the airport to the CBD (which opened last year) has sped up the time it takes getting to the city. Yes, you could wait around for a shuttle, but you would be roughly paying around the same price, and the shuttle doesn’t take you to the door!

On this occasion we decided to travel the slow way to Auckland from Wellington, we decided to take the North Explorer, the North Islands only rail service.

Why? Did I hear you ask! Well, we had time on our hands and thought it would be a good way to see some more stunning scenery of the North Island that we had not yet done before. I wouldn’t recommend it if you were a visitor to this country for a few weeks as you would be skipping out on a lot of the best bits of the North Island, but it is certainly a great way to travel for domestic tourists.

The journey in total was 10 hours and it was the most incredibly relaxing way to reach Auckland in our opinion, we were more tired on our return journey flying back to Wellington with Air New Zealand.  It must be something to do with airports, they can be just too stressful! Here is a little video of what we got up to on the North Explorer!

For us, the best place to stay in our opinion in Auckland is either in a centrally located Air B&B (close to the harbour) or one of the Waldorf Apartment Hotels. They are cheap, (but not too cheap), comfortable, clean and central.

Use your arrival day to get acquainted with the beautiful waterfront of Auckland. From the ferry terminal, you can walk all along the water’s edge, past the beautiful Wynyard Quarter (lots of great cafes and bars to choose from here) around to Silo Park (in the summer they put on free movies here, its great) and around towards Westhaven Drive and the Harbour Bridge. An even better idea would be to hire a bike and cycling the fully pedestrianized route in half the time.

Other great central parts of Auckland that are worth exploring on this day or another day would be Auckland War Memorial Museum, a must for any history lover and Auckland’s Sky Tower (you can’t miss this from the skyline of Auckland!). The telecommunications and observatory tower is home to SKYCITY entertainment complex with many bars and restaurants and even a casino. There’s a lift that will take you to the top to check out the incredible views of Auckland and if you want you can also jump off the building and walk around the top of the tower!

sky tower goingnz
A Must Do: Auckland’s Sky Jump

For dinner and drinks, we suggest anywhere in Britomart. It’s not just a train station anymore! This area has been revitalised with a small shopping mall and lots of bars and eateries overlooking the water. If you want somewhere romantic check out XuXu Bar, it’s quite hidden and down a side alley, their cocktails are incredible and the dumplings are just the perfect match!

Saturday – Explore the Hauraki Gulf:

Waiheke Island
Wine O’Clock of Waiheke Island

No trip to Auckland is complete without getting out on the water and exploring the harbour. We certainly think you have to visit Waiheke Island. We LOVE Waiheke Island, when we lived in Auckland we would always jump at any opportunity to visit the island. The island is just a short 35 minute ferry ride away but offers you a completely different pace of life! If you want a taster of what NZ is like outside of Auckland then visit Waiheke Island. To check out what to get up to on Waiheke click on our article here.

Another great island that we love is Rangitoto Island. It is basically an extinct volcano in the middle of the harbour. Fullers ferries will get you there is less than 20 minutes, take a packed lunch (as there is nowhere to buy lunch on the island) and go off and explore at your own pace. The most popular thing to do here is to climb to the top (takes about an hour) to the lookout spot, but we also love taking the detours to other sections of the island, don’t worry though, you can’t get lost!

Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island – A great day trip

Other ways to explore the harbour would be by the Americas Cup sailing experience (we are yet to try, but hear it’s great) or by getting out west to The Riverhead Tavern. An awesome pub/restaurant that offers some really great outdoor seating. Every Saturday they run a cruise that departs from the ferry terminal, it’,s a great way to see the harbour in all its glory!

 

Do what the locals do We personally love heading to where the locals go whilst we are on vacation and this boat cruise and an afternoon at their restaurant really does tick those boxes!

For evening activities, we would suggest staying late on Waiheke Island if possible to enjoy dinner at one of Waiheke’s best vineyards (we love Mudbrick and Cable Bay) or restaurants as the last ferry returns at 10 pm or if you chose one of the other harbour options above, then dinner and drinks at the Wynyard Quarter would be a good alternative!

Sunday: Discover More – Get Further.

Mission Bay – Simply Beautiful

The one thing we miss about Auckland now we live in Wellington really has to be the beaches! We never even knew that Auckland had some spectacular beaches until about 6 months into our 1.5 year stay in Auckland. We suggest using your last morning/afternoon in Auckland to get further out of Auckland and explore the surrounding areas of this beautiful region. Our favourite beaches are:

Devonport, North Shore: This is a lovely little settlement just opposite the ferry terminal, the other side of the harbour bridge. The best way to get there is by jumping on the Fullers commuter ferry to Devonport which takes around 20 minutes. The white sandy beaches right next to the ferry terminal is a great spot to watch the world go by for a few hours!

Mission Bay: Mission Bay is a very popular place with the locals of Auckland. You can get here by taking bus number 61 from the ferry terminal. Or better yet if you hire a bike you can cycle along the waterfront (there are cycle lanes) to Mission Bay in under 20 minutes. The white sandy beaches here are swimming friendly as well as family friendly. We also love this place as it has our favourite bar just across the road, a Belgian beer bar!

Out West, Piha, Bethalls Beach and Murawai: If you have a car then West really is Best! If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city this is a great option, it is just 40 minutes from the city centre. It has some of the best black sand beaches in the region and is very popular for surfing. Every time we head out this way we get reminded why we love Auckland’s beaches so much!

Do you have a tip to share from your long weekend trip to Auckland? Feel free to share them in the comments below! 

Napier & Hawkes Bay Travel Guide

If you talk to your friends about how great NZ wine is then you are probably going to want to visit Hawkes Bay & Napier, NZ premium wine growing region. As you approach the Hawkes Bay region you start to drive along long (and we mean long) and wide roads where each side of the road is either an orchard or a vineyard. The beautifully flat plains along with its Mediterranean style climate (the temperature in Napier was 32 degrees whilst we were there!) makes this region the destination for wine, relaxation, a spot of cycling and a bit of beach hopping.

The city of Napier is a waterfront city renowned for it’s 1930s Art Deco architecture it is like stepping back in time! The city has a splendor of Art Deco Buildings along a long stretch of promenade following the beach.

We last visited Napier over 8 years so we were keen to revisit and see what had changed.

Don’t forget to watch our video of our time spent in this beautiful region, we had the best weather and had a blast!

 

 

 

Please Note: This is not a sponsored post we recently visited Napier whilst visiting family that live in the region. We have been twice now since our time in NZ and all views are based on our observations and experiences.

Napier Accommodation Options:

Napier has an array of different accommodation options for all types of budgets. We camped both times we visited this region (towards Cape Kidnappers) but we came across a small suburb of Napier this time around called Ahuriri. We thought this would be a great location to recommend to our reader, far enough away from the city that you aren’t in the actual hustle and bustle but close enough that you can drive too. Ahuriri has a lovely beachfront café and bar culture and a good safe, family friendly vibe about it. They even had freedom camping spots available at the car park!

Things to do in Napier:

Napier Waterfront, Beaches & Art Deco Buildings:

Napier Marine Parade
Beautiful Gardens at Napier’s Marine Parade

We were impressed with how much the promenade has expanded and developed since we were last here. Along the waterfront which is also home to a long stretch of beach you will find beautiful shady gardens, incredibly well constructed Art Deco Buildings, a children’s park, a skate park, a mini-golf club, a safe place for the kids to ride their bikes, walking tracks, fitness apparatus, and a outdoor swimming pool. We have probably missed something but trust us when we say there really is something for everyone along the Marine Parade and we are lead to believe it’s not even completed yet!

Te Mata Peak:

Te Mata Peak
Te Mata Peak You Beauty

A drive out to Te Mata Peak is a must. You can’t even explain how those hills were formed, think hobbit hills times a hundred! On a clear day all, you can see if hills for as far as the eyes can see. We went up at sunset when it was a little bit quieter and it really was quite magical.

Bluff Hill Viewpoint:

bluff hill napier
Tree loving at Bluff Hill Lookout

This is the lookout point between Ahuriri and Napier’s Marine Parade. It’s worth going up here as you can see the whole of Hawkes Bay and you can get your bearings of the region whilst up here.

Napier Wineries:

Craggy Range
Craggy Range

Visiting some of Napier’s wineries is a must whilst you are in the region. Along Marine Parade you will see a lot of shops offering cycling hire. This is because the region is very flat and cycling to the vineyards is a good afternoon activity to take part in. Most of them are self-guided (they give you a map!) but some are guided. Our two favourite vineyards in the region have to be Craggy Range (simply for its view of Te Mata Peak) and Mission Estate (they do the best Pinot Noir).

MTG Hawke’s Bay Museum & Theatre Galley:

This is a museum based along the Marine Parade (of course!) in central Napier. It certainly is a good rainy day activity, on the bottom floor you can learn and watch videos/ see photos of the historic 1931 earthquake that hit the city. It really is quite incredible to see how they restored the city after the tragedy. We only popped in for half an hour (to escape the heat!) but we would certainly return. Oh, and it is also free to enter, who doesn’t like free!

Cape Kidnappers:

We have never been to Cape Kidnappers, so can’t comment too much on this! But if you’re into nature and want to visit a Seal Colony it’s worth the excursion. You can’t get here your self though (well you can, you can walk the beach but we got told it’s 5 hours one way) so a tour is required. It’s certainly up there on the NZ must do list!

Don’t Miss – Napier’s Art Deco Festival:

Napier Art Deco Festival
Yes, he did read the book the whole time.

And if you visit in February (like we did in 2010) then make sure you visit during Napier’s annual Art Deco Festival. This is when the whole city comes alive, and it truly is like stepping back in time! The whole street is lined with 1930’s classic cars, people are dressed for the occasion and in the evening the street party begins! We had no idea this festival was happening when we visited 8 years ago, but we danced the night away in our poor attempt of 1930’s fancy dress and had a blast!

Napier Art Deco Festival
Evening Street Party at Napier Art Deco Festival

Enjoy Guys!

Did you enjoy this article? We also have comprehensive guides on most destinations around the North Island check out our travel map for more articles like this.

The Ultimate New Zealand Adventure Itinerary

For our next instalment of our Ultimate Itinerary Series, we thought we would put together all of the best adventure activities that this beaautiful country has to offer! After all, New Zealand is an adventurer’s playground that can be consumed quite comfortably in 14 day, 14-night itinerary. This itinerary doesn’t include every region in NZ as you would certainly need longer than 14 days but this route does include the best award-winning adventure activities that we think you should not miss!

Queenstown is often referred to NZ’s adventure capital so with no time to spare this is where you should start! After an adrenaline filled couple of days in Queenstown we suggest you embark on a road trip of a lifetime in a campervan or a hire car concluding your journey in Auckland.

Not feeling so adventurous? If you would like some other itinerary ideas we got you covered – check out our 10 North Island Itinerary, our 10 South Island Itinerary. And our incredible See It All in 30 days itinerary.

Top Tip: If you want more information on each particular region/destination that we mention then do click on the hyperlinks within this article as it will link you through to our much more in-depth articles on that particular region/destination.

Please Note: All views are our own, this is not a sponsored post and as we have done the majority of these activities that is why we can confidently recommend the suppliers and the activities to you!

The Route:

Queenstown to nelson Goingnz

rotoruatoauckland goingnz

 

Highlights of this itinerary include:

  • Bungy jumping the world’s first commercial bungee jump over the Kawarau River with AJ Hackett in Queenstown;
  • White Water Rafting on the Shotover River;
  • Kayak and explore the Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park at sunset;
  • Heli Hiking the Franz Josef glacier;
  • Kayak and hiking in the Abel Tasman National Park;
  • Get off-road in Rotorua
  • Embrace your fears – skydiving in Taupo!
  • Canyoning in the Coromandel perhaps the most challenging adventure of your trip!
  • Black Water Rafting in NZ’s cave country, Waitomo.

The Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive at Queenstown, go Bungee jumping!

Most international flights will arrive in Auckland if you have an early morning arrival we suggest flying straight down to Queenstown upon arrival and transfer to your accommodation of your choice for a two-night stay. You really wouldn’t require a car for your time in Queenstown as the town is so compact and most of the activity providers will offer free transfers to the place where the activity actually is based.

In the afternoon, we suggest you hit the ground jumping, quite literally! With a bungee jump at the Kawarau Bridge courtesy of AJ Hackett. Transfers will be organised from Queenstown.

bungee jump Goingnz
Fancy dipping your head in that?!

Day 2: Explore the best of the best in Queenstown:

In the morning, we guarantee you will be thankful for a lie in, the jet lag may have caught up with you! If you are still feeling adventuress you could try your hand at the new crazes- Flyboarding or even White Water Sledging! Or how about something a bit more romantic? A Hot Air Balloon ride over the Otago region with champagne breakfast included.

No trip to Queenstown is complete without a trip out to the Shotover River. The jet boating excursion here is really popular but we loved getting soaked whilst White Water Rafting the Shotover River. Or for the real daredevils they even off a Heli Rafting option!

Queenstown Going NZ
Your options are truly endless in Queenstown

Day 3: Travel to Te Anau, Explore Milford:

On this day pick up your campervan/ hire car and travel to Milford Sound (4-hour drive) for an overnight stay in the Fiordland National Park. In the afternoon Explore Milford Sound with a difference. A sunset kayak and Rosco’s Milford Kayak on the Milford Sound, this is the best way of avoiding the crowds and see the sound at its best. Return to Te Anau for an overnight stay to break up your drive to Wanaka the following day,

picture of milford sound, new zealand
Milford sound awaits

Day 4: Stunning Wanaka:

Wanaka is often now given enough credit than its neighbour, Queenstown. However, there is still plenty of adventurous activities in this small lakeside town to make your overnight stay worthwhile. Something really fun and different would be the U Flying activity that Wanaka offers. It’s a chance to see Mt Aspiring in a unique and different way, whilst flying your own plane J

Day 5: Travel to Franz Josef Glacier – Road Trip!

Now the real fun begins…Road Trip! An early start to travel to Haast Pass all the way to Franz Josef Glacier (4-hour drive tops). In the afternoon embark on a helicopter trip of a lifetime. Heli Hike the Franz Josef glacier – finishing in their hot pools (which is included in the package) to wind down after an exhilarating day.

dawn and isaac franz
Exploring the Glaciers is a must.

Day 6: Explore Punakaiki

Travel to Punakaiki (3-hour drive) to explore the west coast and world famous Pancake Rocks. Maybe even explore the tremendous caves that Punakaiki has to offer.  Or for something a little bit different we recommend a two-hour horse trek along the beach.

Pancake Rocks Going NZ
The West Coast is not to be missed.

Day 7: Fall in love with The Abel Tasman National Park.

Travel to Abel Tasman National Park (3-hour drive), ditch the car/campervan and explore the Abel Tasman the right way. There are overnight kayaking and walking trips you can do in this beautifully stunning national park. We suggest staying overnight in Kaiteriteri ready for an early start in the morning.

Day 8 & 9: Get off the beaten track in the Abel Tasman National Park

Wilson’s offer overnight kayaking and walking trips within the park itself, with all transfer at each end so you won’t have to worry about a thing. They also have access to the most beautiful lodges if you want your stay to be extra special. If you don’t mind a bit of camping then we recommend Abel Tasman Kayaks as they offer overnight walking, kayaking and camping trips within the park. They even supply all the equipment, all you have to do is bring your own food!

Kayaking Abel Tasman GoingNZ
A Kayak trip through Abel Tasman National Park is a must.

Day 10: Travel to Rotorua

Return your Campervan or hire car at Nelson Airport and to save time we suggest flying to Rotorua (via Wellington). Pick up a small hire car in Rotorua and discover the incredible geothermal activity that the region has to offer. Rotorua is the North Island answer to Queenstown, with a list of adventure activities as long as my arm! Off Road NZ have to offer the best 4WD adventure in the North Island, you even get to drive the car, it’s pretty fun! We also suggest getting off the beaten track and discovering the geothermal hot spots at these free locations around the city!

 

 

Off Road NZ
Get off the beaten path with Off Road NZ

Off roading isn’t for everyone, if you’d prefer to go mountain biking for the day Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Red Woods Mountain Bike Park has New Zealand’s finest mountain biking.

Day 11: Get Crazy in Taupo.

Time to get crazy…Sky Dive in Taupo (1-hour drive from Rotorua) the cheapest place in the world to sky drive. Your choice of options, 12,000ft or 15,000 ft., video and photo packages also available. It is pretty epic!

skydive goingnz
Us, just before we took the leap of faith.

Day 12: Visit the Coromandel Peninsula

Travel to the Coromandel Region (3.5-hour drive) – brace yourself for the best canyoning adventure in NZ around. The Sleeping God canyon tour is a vertical descent of over 300 metres, abseil, and jump and challenge yourself! You will have to leave Rotorua for this excursion as it is an all-day activity but it is certainly worth it!

Day 13: Travel to Waitomo

Travel to Waitomo, cave country to try your hand at Black Water Rafting, caving with a difference! You will tube through the majestic Ruakuri Cave and float underground in the river in rubber tubes, through in a few waterfalls and drops and it can get pretty exciting!

Day 14: Discover Auckland

End your vacation the exact way you started it – with a jump. Embark on the Sky Jump and Sky Walk of Auckland Sky tower – Goodbye New Zealand – hello memories!

sky tower goingnz
A Must Do: Aucklands’s Sky Jump

Please make sure you send us a postcard along the way!

A Weekend in Wellington on a Budget

Now we have spent a considerable amount of time in Wellington we finally feel comfortable to write this post. When we first arrived we pretty much didn’t know anything about Wellington, except that it was windy and that the city has a great museum. Which by the way, both are true.

If you are planning a weekend in Wellington anytime soon and are on a budget this weekend itinerary should be just what you are looking for!

Friday – Welcome to New Zealand’s coolest little capital!

 

Wellington GoingNZ

If you want to stay somewhere central, safe, clean and on budget Base Backpackers should be your base for the weekend (no pun intended, honest!) Located just off Courtney Place you won’t have to go far on your first night to grab some budget eats and some happy hour deals!

If you arrive by coach the coach stops at Courtney Place so you won’t have far to walk, a taxi from the airport should set you back $30 or less if you use Uber and Super Shuttle also offer shared transfers from the airport.

If you are arriving in your hire car you are in luck. Wellington is probably the only city in NZ that offers free weekend parking. After 8 pm you can park in the city for free, some zones have a strict 2-hour limit so do check before you park up for the weekend. This is valid until 7 am Monday morning.

Base GoingNZ
Base Backpackers

Friday nights should be spent discovering all that Courtney Place has to offer. Pretty much every bar you pass early on a Friday will be offering a happy hour deal of some kind and the city has an excellent range of microbreweries. Wellingtonian’s love their craft beers so much you can even pick up a “Beer Map” from the tourist information centre, it the ultimate pub crawl without even trying too hard! Our favorite has to be The Malthouse for some exceptional micro-brewed beer, at around 6 pm they serve free nibbles for the whole bar! 

If you want to venture a little further then Cuba Street would be a great stop, if you can find the Wellington Night Market you are in for a treat, budget eating at its best. The benefit of staying so close to Courtney Place is that you are so close to everything, Wellington is a very walkable city.

Saturday – Explore the best bits of Wellington.

Oriental Bay

Base Backpackers is great as it is simply a stone throws walk away from Mt Victoria, the best lookout in the city. We suggest walking along Oriental Parade and joining the path this way as it certainly a less steep of a climb and much more scenic as you walk along the seafront.

If you want to view the city from another angle we suggest taking the Cable Car, at the top, you will find The Wellington Botanical Gardens (worth a stroll) and The Cable Car Museum (free entry) we surprisingly spent an hour here – it very interactive and very informative!

Do check out our video of our time in Wellington – we love it here!

 

From here you can visit Zealandia as they offer free shuttle transfer’s to the countries best eco-sanctuary.  It is actually a fenced off eco-sanctuary where they take care of all things native, think Jurassic Park fences and you’re not far off! 

Allow at least two hours to explore the valley forest, Zealandia are doing a great work on their conversation project and your entrance fee goes towards maintaining the valley where you can witness remarkable native species of birds, reptiles, and insects. It really is an insightful and educating visit!

Zealandia
Zealandia, a land not too far away

If you have time after once you return down the Cable Car turn left for about 1km and here you will reach the Parliament Buildings, they are free to enter. Here you can visit the free visitor centre, take part in a guided tour of the government buildings and even sit in the public gallery as the MP’s debate the latest things on their agenda. It is a great place to learn all about NZ’s democratic processes.

The Parliament Buildings are very close to waterfront – a great alternative way to walk back to Courtney Place. Wellington without a doubt has one of the best waterfront’s in NZ, we walk it almost every week, it is fully pedestrianized and so beautiful!

For dinner and drinks, we suggest the waterfront, there are plenty of bars and restaurants. We love The Foxglove for its outside decked seating and delicious food. If you want somewhere closer to your accommodation but still on the waterfront then we suggest St John’s Bar and Restaurant, it is a bit more casual than The Foxglove and also has a great outside seating area.

Wellington Waterfront

Sunday: Discover More, Get Further.

No visit to Wellington is complete without a visit to Te Papa Museum, The Museum of New Zealand. Be warned, you could literally spend hours here though, allow at least 2 hours to really get a feel of it, the coffee on the 4th floor (there is also a cafe on the ground floor but the cafe on the 4th floor is more comfortable and quieter) is pretty good as well.

If you are a Hobbit fan then Weta Cave should be a must, here you can see exhibits of props from all of the Lord of Ring films plus watch a free documentary about the props. The Weta Cave Workshop Tour for $25 pp is also worth the extra expense. Here you can really learn the behind the scenes of how every element small or large from the films actually got made, plus you can have the chance to touch/hold some of the real props used in the films!

 

Hobbiton Going NZ
Weta Cave – Worth the excursion!

For dinner, The Bresolin on Wills Street is perfect if you want an early dinner, especially if you have to leave Wellington on this night. They offer $20 roast’s after 5 pm (be on time, it is popular!) they really are the best that we have found in town and trust us we have eaten loads of them – we are British after all!

 

The Coffee – Don’t forget your pit stops.

Coffee Wellington
So much love for Wellington Coffee.

To Wellingtonians coffee is everything. Before I arrived, I did not like coffee, now I drink it almost every day. However, believe us it is still possible to get a bad coffee in Wellington our top places if you would like to seek them out are, Aro Café in Aro Valley, Havana Coffee, Prefab and Peoples Coffee. They are also great places to get a spot of lunch.

 

Do you have a tip to share from your trip to Wellington? Feel free to share them in the comments below! 

5 New Zealand Destinations that should be on every persons bucket list

New Zealand has long been a destination upon the bucket lists of travelers from across the globe, with its prevalent heritage making for a country of cultural wonder. There is so much to see and do in this pint-sized country, here are 5 New Zealand destinations you should visit and consider for your trip of a lifetime to NZ!

 1) Doubtful Sound

 

The lesser-known big sister to Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, is practically a stone’s throw away yet goes largely unnoticed. It’s a shame, really ­– with a surface area ten times larger than the aforementioned Milford, it’s here you really want to go if you’re looking to escape from the world.

As mentioned, Doubtful Sound is missed by many travellers who pass it by without a second thought, meaning you’ll be free to explore this undisturbed natural paradise to your heart’s content. Cascading waterfalls drop from dramatic mountain faces, while the waters lay quiet and still. Cruise upon said waters to take in the surrounding scenery right in the heart of it all.

If you’re visiting Fiordland, make sure Doubtful Sound makes its way onto your itinerary. It isn’t something you should miss – never in your lifetime will you be able to discover such a majestic example of natural grandeur, made even better by the total absence of any other human throughout.

 

2) Rotorua

 Visit Rotorua if you want to discover the cultural hub of New Zealand. Maori culture is prevalent in Rotorua, as highlighted by our friends from this blog, and the welcoming locals will be sure to put on a show. Take a guided tour of one of Rotorua’s many villages and be greeted by the Maori people, gaining an insight into their day-to-day routines as well as watching chants and dances.

The geothermal activity in Rotorua is also something that has to be seen to be believed. Natural hot springs and geysers are wondrous enough but it’s made even better by hot baths you’re able to immerse yourself in – not to mention the health benefits and opportunities for relaxation, what with the natural spa-like qualities of the waters.

 

Rotorua 

3) Great Barrier Island

 

Being so close to Auckland, it seems almost impossible for Great Barrier Island to be as untouched as it is. In fact, it’s so off-the-grid that it boasts being home to the only community in the entirety of New Zealand without mains power. Instead, the residents of the island rely solely on solar and wind power. This stunning island is truly still on our Bucket List, hence why it is still worth a mention and we encourage you all to beat us too it!

It’s already pretty clear Great Barrier Island is the perfect destination for the traveler looking to escape for a while, but there’s so much to do here regardless of what you’re looking for. If you’re an avid hiker, for example, the rolling hills are home to countless tracks and trails to explore.

Great Barrier Island is also home to a diverse underwater community – you’ll be able to see everything from blue cod to snapper fish in abundance. If you a big fan of fishing consider sticking around for the Black Jug Fishing Competition, drawing in fishermen from nationwide each and every year.

4) Dunedin

 

It has to be said that Dunedin isn’t exactly a secret destination in New Zealand, but many travelers don’t bother to explore it simply as it is too far south. This effectively means a very authentic look into a relatively large Kiwi city awaits – there’s even a university here, meaning the influx of students has given way to a recent surge in hipster culture.

One interesting thing to witness in Dunedin is a prevalent Scottish influence, with the city’s history deeply rooted in Scottish Gaelic history – that’s after the first European settlers in the city during the 19th century were Scotsmen. Known as the “Edinburgh of the South”, expect to try a spot of haggis during your stay.

It’s also the perfect destination for the avid party-goer – as mentioned, the hundreds of students frequenting the city for years has made an impact on the local bar scene, with an energetic nightlife beckoning for you to come and let your hair down.

 

dunedin goingnz
The worlds steepest hill, worth the walk!

5) Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

 

Head to New Zealand’s Glacier Country to discover some of, if not the country’s most beautiful natural sites. This should simply be on everyone’s bucket list as they won’t be here for long, global warming is affecting the glaciers and they are eroding at an epic rate.

Franz Josef is the more frequently visited glacier – and for good reason. Being the fourth-largest glacier in the country, you’ll be overcome with awe as it comes into view. Being steeper than the aforementioned Fox glacier, the face of Franz Josef is effectively more dramatic – expect to see ice caves and crevasses, with the infamous “blue ice” making for an almost unbelievable photograph.

The township isn’t so bad either, head there to discover a selection of authentic bars and restaurants, where you’ll be able to sample some of the most delectable examples of Kiwi cuisine. It’s here that you’ll also be able to soak in the renowned glacier hot pools after a long, exhausting day of exploring.

franz josef glacier goingnz 

Do you have a kiwi location still on your bucket list and you want others to see it for themselves? Suggest your destination in the comments below 🙂

Milford Sound is Magical– even in the rain!

We finally got to visit Milford Sound:

A few years ago we were lucky enough to finally get around to visiting Milford Sound. When we traveled around NZ over 7 years ago now we never made it to Milford Sound (due to budget and time restrictions) so we were delighted to finally be able to visit in the summer or 2016.

We were praying for a sunny day, it started well, we woke up to blue sky and was able to take some wonderful photos of the drive along the journey, but then the clouds started rolling in, the skies opened just as we got on the cruise – it didn’t stop raining!

milford sound goingnz
The Beautiful Sunny Drive on the way to Milford Sound!

People told us it’s the wettest place in New Zealand – with almost 7,000mm of rainfall across 182 days of the year. That means in the course of 24 hours, Milford Sound gets as much as 250mm of rain. It felt like it on that day for sure!

In fact, many who ply the Milford Sound route daily will tell you that a rainy day is a perfect day for cruising. For us once the sky opened we noticed something amazing – thousands of stunning waterfalls start to form! We learned after that the granite peaks don’t absorb water and have no shorelines so the water comes cascading down the cliff face straight into the fiord – and it’s simply stunning.

Clouds & Rain Welcomed!

The rain will enhance your experience:

Aside from the instant waterfalls, there are several permanent ones in Milford Sound. And when it rains, it amplifies and intensifies the already strong downward current. We certainly felt lucky to see this.

The high level of rainfall in Milford Sound also helps the area thrive. The lush rainforest comes alive in the rain. The combination of sunshine with the high precipitation creates a tropical climate that benefits the flora and fauna of the surrounding national park.

Another benefit of the rain is that it creates the black appearance of the fiord’s waters. Milford Sounds sits on a fiord that is hundreds of metres deep – but the rain creates a fresh layer of water about 6 metres deep. The rain actually stains the fresh water with tannin from the forest, creating the uniquely dark hue.

In that moment, on that wet cruise after we learnt all this we were happy the heavens opened up on us!

milford sound goingnz
My Mother centre – Enjoying a brief moment of dry.

When to go and what to bring:

The peak period for rainfall is in the months of December and January. Keep in mind that while it is mostly wet during these months, temperatures can range from a low of 18 degrees to a high of 27 degrees Celsius – which means there’s going to be a lot of humidity. It is best to be prepared for this kind of weather by keeping clothing light, staying hydrated and packing a waterproof layer and maybe even gumboots. If you do visit in winter, opt for warmer clothing as the temperature drops to 4 degrees. Again, the rains may come so your raincoat should be ready.

So, when you’re planning your Milford Sound cruise and the forecast says rain, don’t let the grey skies and misty views get you down like we thought it would. Milford is actually at its most beautiful in the wet weather.

Enjoy!

The Bay of Islands – Travel Guide

If you think of white sandy beaches in New Zealand, you will probably be imagining The Bay of Islands. Most visitors to New Zealand make the mistake of heading south as soon as they arrive into Auckland, we think you will reconsider your route after reading this article. Here is the low down of what to see and do when visiting the Bay Of Islands just an easy three-hour drive north of Auckland. Don’t forget to watch our video below of our time exploring the bays – we had a blast!

Here is the low down of what to see and do when visiting the Bay Of Islands just an easy three-hour drive north of Auckland. Don’t forget to watch our video below of our time exploring the bays – we had a blast!

Please note: This is not a sponsored post, we recently went up there for a family wedding and all views are based on our observations and experience of visiting 5 times over the last few years.

Where to Base Yourself:

The two mains towns that offer a variety of accommodation options are Paihia and Russell. If you want the town that you stay in to be full of bars, cafes & shops Paihia is most likely where we would suggest you stay. Paihia is also very accessible for the traveler, who say, doesn’t have their own set of wheels as all the coach companies stop here.

Russell is a little further off the beaten path as a car ferry is required to get there. It still has plenty of shops, cafe, restaurants and beaches (note: no supermarket, only a corner shop/dairy) to keep you entertained but it is more quaint. If you want a small traditional, quaint town with a quirky British feel then Russell is for you. Why, you ask? Because this place was actually the first capital city of New Zealand and has deep European and Maori history!

After visiting recently it is clear to us that the two towns attract a slightly different audience. But whichever one you stay at the other is still worth a day trip for a spot of lunch and to browse the shops. You may just find the nighttime entertainment is slightly different!

Paihia Ferry Terminal & Tourist Information Centre
Paihia Ferry Terminal & Tourist Information Centre

How to get out to the Islands:

What is the one thing you are here for? To get out to the islands right? Your trip would not be complete if you don’t get out onto the water. And there are a number of ways to do this:

Fancy cruising in style?

With Vigilant you can board their luxury 42ft Yacht with their friendly skippers, your skipper will take you to parts of the Bay of Islands that not many people can reach. With dolphin swimming (depending on conditions) possible, a fresh fish lunch, a small group of like-minded people and the option to go kayaking and get on the smaller islands within the Bay this is a unique and genuine experience you will love!

The Hole in the Rock Going NZ
The Hole in the Rock

The Main players – Fullers or the Explore group?

When you reach Paihia’s Ferry Terminal you will discover two main players, the Fullers office is right outside the ferry terminal  (it also is sneakily in the same building as the town Tourist Information Centre) whilst the Explore Group offices are across the main road (the yellow boats). Essentially they both offer the same experience, their boats are much larger (so you could be stuck on a boat with over 100 people for a whole day) they both will take you to the Hole in the Rock, (An island out in the bay, that has a hole in it that you can sail through – conditions dependent) and they both will stop at Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka – yes I challenge you to pronounce the name of that island!

Fullers-Explore-Group-Going-NZ
Fullers or Explore Group?

The difference?

Depending on what trip you book onto (full day or half day) you only get a shortstop on Otehi Bay. If you are with the Explore Group this is to walk up the hill, visit the cafe and use the facilities. If you are with Fullers, then this is only to walk up the hill. Yes, that is right. It seems there is a tad bit of rivalry between the two companies. Fuller’s will tell you there is limited to no toilets on the island so go before you leave the boat. This is because they don’t want you using The Explore Group’s Cafe.

We have heard reports that Fuller’s actually rope off the entryway to The Explore Group Cafe and not allow you to go and order something with them! This hasn’t happened to us personally, but we know some friends it did happen to.

We decided to embark on a Fuller’s day trip and us being little rebels we actually ate at The Explore Group’s cafe on the island, we were delighted with the platter we got – it was yummy!

Explore Group Going NZ
The Platter – We got the small one, larger available.

Overall the option of which you go with is up to you, our recommendations would be, if you want to eat at the cafe, eat at the cafe but do reconsider a full day trip, we did feel the trip was a little long for our liking, the boat was quite overcrowded and we felt that we really could have seen it all a half the time!

For Those on a Budget:

Top Tip: If you want to see the islands but can’t afford the over $100 odd plus dollars for a fuller or explore or Vigilant trip? Pop into Explore Group offices and book the commuter ferry to Otehei Bay for a tiny $35 return. This is the island that the day trip ferry stop at (but only stop for like an hour if your lucky) You could ferry here, have time to explore the island, go kayaking, see the bay’s en route, enjoy a tasty platter at the cafe/restaurant  and generally see a whole lot more than what the day trippers can see of this beautiful island!

Feeling adventurous?

During our time here, Dawn got the incredible opportunity to go on a helicopter trip with Salt Air. You can’t miss Salt Air, their base is right on the waterfront just left of Paihia’s Fery Terminal. On a fine day you will notice helicopters coming and going all day long and if that doesn’t make you want to enquire into one their trips I am not sure what will!

We do suggest you book in advance if possible as they do get extremely busy, however, if you don’t do feel free to pop in and speak to one of the friendly team members who will happily talk you through the helicopter trips available to you. They even do half day trips to other parts of the Northland, like Cape Reinga and scenic flights to the upper region of the Northland, great if you don’t have the time to head further north after your time here.

Their helicopters are small, they essentially only hold 4 people, 2 in the back, the pilot and one in the front. This means it is highly likely that if you book with your partner or just your friend that you will have an exclusive helicopter trip all to yourself! If they take a 3rd person on the trip, then, of course, this doesn’t happen, but the odds are in your favour!

Dawn landed on top of the hole in the rock during one of their 35 minute trips, she tells me it was incredible! She said it was great to land on top of the island and be the only group of people on that island at that point in time. Plus she got to see the islands from a different perspective it left buzzing not just for hours but for days afterward. It was clearly the highlight of her trip!

Saltair Going NZ
On top of The Hole in the Rock with SaltAir.

Love History? Visit Waiting Treaty Grounds

Fancy your feet staying firmly on land? The bay of islands is rich with Maori history. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is home to where the Treaty of NZ was signed, with over 506 hectares of land this place will easily entertain you for more than an afternoon. The grounds have an incredible visitors centre and top of the range museum which opened here just last year (2016) which is already winning awards. We were wowed by the new museum it really is worth the entrance fee alone.  You can also experience a traditional Maori Hangi here if you wish along with a performance in the Marae, (however, it is not as good as the performance centre’s in Rotorua) the gardens are also worth a mention as you really do get a great view of the bays from another angle. This place is a must for any history buff!

Waka at Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Got an extra day? Venture North.

Just an hours drive north is  Whangaroa Harbour it is totally worth the excursion, the harbour is full of history, it is very similar to the Bay of Islands but certainly untouched. It holds a special place in our hearts as this is where my family (Isaac) originates from, we have spent manyChristmas’ss and vacations up here. We never get bored of exploring somewhere new within the Northland, often known as the winter less North, we guarantee you that you will not be disappointed.

Enjoy guys!

Did you enjoy this article? We also have comprehensive guides on most destinations around the North Island check out our travel map for more articles like this.

Skiing in New Zealand; Mt Hutt, Treble Cone & Porter Heights

With the winter season just around the corner for New Zealand we’re starting to see the temperature drop and snow will soon cap the many mountain ranges throughout New Zealand.  We’re getting ready to embrace the refreshing change in season and so should you – get out on to some of the worlds best ski fields, it’s a sure way to get past the scheduled winter blues =)

It’s currently Spring in the UK and it seems as though everyone is coming out of hibernation – my social media is continually popping and pining with photos showing friends and family wrapped up warm taking beach walks. Well, I guess it is their turn to make us jealous that the sun is hitting the northern hemisphere!

We have now spent two winters in NZ, slowly but surely we are getting the hang of skiing and winter sports, best of all we don’t even have to leave the country to go skiing!

For skiers and snowboarders the best time to visit New Zealand is June – September

For true snow sports fans, winter in New Zealand may be the most energising and wonderful time to visit. Skiing and snowboarding season starts toward the beginning of June and for the most part, ends at the start of October. The South Island is the place to be in winter and Queenstown is New Zealand’s most well-known ski destination, with various amazing slant’s within a simple reach of the town. With its ideal powder and dry atmosphere, Queenstown makes a perfect place in the winter time.

Winter is coming Going NZ

Did you know there are 25 ski fields in New Zealand? 18 of them are commercially run, and the rest are smaller club-run ski fields.

Ski fieilds in New Zealand

Here are New Zealands best ski fields:

  • Mt Hutt

Named New Zealand’s Best Ski Resort in 2015, by the World Ski Awards, Mt Hutt is only a 2-hour drive from Christchurch. With some of the freshest powder covering 365 hectares of skiable mountainside, this territory is reasonable for all ability levels. What’s more, clutch your ski shafts since it additionally gloats one of the longest vertical drops in the South Island. Just before skiers go down the slopes, they can see the sight of the sparkling Pacific Ocean in the backdrop, making for a genuinely uplifting view. Now, where else can you ski whilst being able to see the ocean at the same time?!

  • Treble Cone

Treble Cone situated close Wanaka has turned out to be a standout amongst the most popular ski regions in the nation. It is the biggest ski range in the South Island. Surrounded by popular attractions it is only an hour and a half hours drive from Queenstown. The longest run is an incredible 4 kilometers in length and incorporates a 700 meters vertical drop. In any case, don’t stress, in the event that you aren’t up to that test, there are a lot of trails that will give you a chance to take things a tiny bit slower. The mountain has impeccably prepared inclines which make it simple for skiers to appreciate the stupendous perspectives as they ski the day away.

Treble Cone, NZ

  • Porter Heights

In case you’re searching for a ski trip reasonable for the entire family, this is the mountain to take everybody to. Just Across Mt Hutt, Porter Heights is perceived as one of the best places to figure out how to ski and prepare before building you up to the bigger slopes. But for the pros, don’t stress, as there are difficult trails for those searching for more thrilling experiences. It’s great for all skiers in light of the fact that the trails running here are quite often uncrowded.

Other Winter Activities to Check Out:

Heli­ Skiing/Snowboarding

Why not take it to the next level and achieve different heights? You are in the land of adventurous activities after all! Heli Skiing is for those that want a unique and thrill seeking experience. The experienced pilots know all the best spots, offering you breathtaking views as well as the freshest powder the mountain has to offer while you speed through slopes and bends. Not for the faint hearted!

heli ski new zealand

New Zealand really is a Winter Wonderland

If skiing and snowboarding are not really your cup of tea, you’ll discover a lot of other winter activities to keep you entertained in the winter months, ­there’s snowshoeing, ice skating, jet boating, ice climbing and more.

Got an extra day? Check out the glaciers

franz josef

Franz Josef Glacier on New Zealand’s West Coast all deserves a mention, it is one of the nation’s most one of a kind and mind-blowing sights. Investigate the effective and great ice sheet up close and personal with an ice climb or a guided walk.

And when it all gets a bit too much…

Check out the hot pools. What better way to relax after a day on the slopes than to keep warm and be pampered. New Zealand has some of the most remarkable spa experience and hot pools that have an awe-inspiring backdrop. Get away from the snow and plunge into the warm and restoring geothermal ­rich and unwinding hot springs and spa. It demonstrates as a mental and physical getaway that benefits your body, and loosen up, and alleviate any sort of weariness, stress or muscle aches.

If you would like more information on where to do any of these activities just get in touch with us!

Logistics

Get the right gear

TradeMe is the best place for picking up second hand and new gear (the Kiwi equivalent of eBay)

It is important to have all the right gear for your time on the slopes. Over the last couple of years, we have purchased some of the gear off Trade Me or have been given some gear by friends. But gear hire does come easily, there are many stores and resorts that offer equipment, some may even store it overnight for you so you don’t have to carry it all the way to your accommodation.

Money saving tip: Save money on rental costs by renting from shops that are further away from the resorts.

Accommodation – Make a weekend of it.

There’s plenty of accommodation in Queenstown and the South Island  but it does get booked out early so get in quick!

Getting there:

Fly to Christchurch or Queenstown – both are international airports.

Rent a car at the airport, or get the shuttle bus to your resort – could be a safer option given the driving conditions.

Money saving tip: do your car rental online in advance for the best savings.

Do remember that a portion of the roads up to the ski zones are additionally quite shaky. It is a good idea to have snow chains at the ready. Chains can be rented in towns close to the ski fields. If you are going through with hiring a car, you’ll most likely need ski or snowboard racks fitted. Some car rentals do snow bundle packages that incorporate snow chains and ski or snowboard racks, so make sure to plan ahead.

Now, who is counting down the days until June?! I know I am!

Things to do in Rotorua: 7 Rotorua activities not to be missed

Rotorua in our opinion is giving Queenstown a run for its money! Rotorua has become the North Island’s top destination for adrenaline, thrill seeking, adventurous individuals something  that New Zealand is famously renowned for. This winter we had a weekend in Rotorua with time to kill put together a list of top activities and cool things to do in Rotorua over a weekend or 2-3 day period.

Visiting Rotorua is a New Zealand must do, but be warned it stinks of eggs 😛

Check out our little video we put together of our time in Rotorua!

Day One:

Morning:

Te Puia – New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute:

What attracts people to Rotorua it’s vast array of geysers, craters and volcanic activity that the city has the city itself is often described as a geothermal wonderland. Depending on what time you arrive we suggest your first stop should be a visit to Te Puia, you can truly and quickly get a sense of what Rotorua is all about. In your ticket entry, you can learn about Maori culture, see a Haka performance in an authentic marae, see craters up close, view a kiwi, try your hand at arts and crafts and also watch the famous Pohutu geyser erupt every 20 minutes without fail.

Te Puia

What we loved: Sure, Rotorua has a lot of geothermal centres to visit but this one has everything you would need for all ages, it’s great for kids, wheelchair users and couples. The facilities are top of the range and that is what puts it a level above the rest.

Top Tip: Beat the crowds, go early. We were off for a coffee and a bagel at Ciabatta Bakery by 11:30am – refuelling for an afternoon with Off Road NZ!

Cost: Day passes starts at $46.80 for an adult and $23.40 for a child.

 

Afternoon:

Off Road NZ:

An afternoon of adventure was then upon us! We had never been off roading before and we didn’t quite know what to expect. Ian and his wife are originally from England and moved here in 2002, they brought the already established business and built it into something extra special!

Here you can go karting, have a thrilling ride on their 4×4 Monster truck and embark on a self-driving 4WD Bush Safari adventure all on the grounds of the farm. They also offer corporate trade events – clay bird shooting, team building challenges, archery and camping. You could easily spend a day here doing all the different activities they have to offer. Plus it is just that far out of Rotorua (but not too far!) that you really get to enjoy the countryside of NZ. They truly do have a stunning setting!

Off Road NZ

What we loved: The team at Off Road NZ are exceptional. You can see they love what they do, they are professional, calm (when you may not be!) and are safety conscious. 4WD Bush Safari is by far their best product, it is thrilling seeking at it’s best!

Top Tip: If you have a bad weather day don’t be put off by the rain, it adds to the adventure!

Cost: The Ultimatum package (all 3) $209 per adult & $109 for a child. There are cheaper packages available for the more budget-conscious travellers but we recommend all three of their activities as this really is a place you don’t want to leave in a hurry!

Evening:

Mitai Maori Village:

A must for any visitor to New Zealand is to experience and learn about the Maori culture. The best way to do this is by partaking in an evening cultural show in Rotorua. Mitai Maori village offers learning in a fun and interactive way that is fun for all the family. First, you enjoy a welcoming drink as you get to know the people around you. After a brief introduction of how the evening is going to flow you go on an exploration of the grounds, see a Waka (war canoe) sail down the river, witness the rising of the food from the Hangi and watch a cultural performance. After your meal, you then get a chance to go out again and view glow worms. It really is an evening that is full of variety.

Mitai Maori Village

What we loved: Seeing the tribe sail down the river on a Waka as the sun is just going down is pretty special. As you travel around NZ you will see many a display Waka’s so seeing one in action really steps you back in time. The food was incredible too!

Top Tip: Eat a little snack before you go, we arrived at 5:30pm and after all the activities didn’t eat until just before 7:30pm – we were starving! We probably enjoyed the meal even more so but a small snack at 5pm would be a great idea to tide you over!

Cost: $116 per adult & $57.50 for a child (aged 10- 15 years) & $22.50 for child 5-9 years of age. Under 5’s are free.


Kiwi Kai:

Top Tip:

This is our top tip for the evening if you are a more budget conscious traveller but still want to experience authentic Maori hangi. Kiwi Kai on Amohau St in central Rotorua, is locally owned and you will often find the owner working behind the counter as well. Their Hangi’s are available to takeaway or eat in. Served in a large tin foil takeaway tray to keep hot the portions are enough to feed the whole family! We spent $27 on two Hangi’s, (one pork & one lamb) – and some fried bread (Trust me you will love fried bread) We even had enough for lunch the next day!


 

Day Two:

Morning:

Canopy Tours:

On Day two we were up early to seize the day and try our hand at ziplining! Canopy Tours offers 3 hours of “hanging from the trees” fun for all the family. They have six zipline’s in total and with their small groups it means you aren’t waiting long for your next go. Even when you are waiting there is good conversation to be had and a view of the tree tops which is just spectacular.

Canopy Tour Rotorua

What we loved: What we loved the most about this was the fact that the tour actually runs a conservation project to protect the native plants and birds that live in the forest and with your contribution to the tour (your tour fee) you are. You learn about this along the adventure, it was actually something unexpected that we didn’t know about until we arrived. It just makes it that much more special!

Top Tip: Take a snack bar and if you can a small carton of juice, the team at Canopy Tours are very environmentally conscious (as they should be) and wouldn’t let us take our large water bottle with us. Safe to say half way through with all the adrenaline kicking through me I was feeling a little withdrawn.

Cost: $139 per adult & $95 per child.

 

Afternoon:

Mountain Biking the Redwoods:

When you meet any local in Rotorua they will tell you to visit the Redwoods forest and we guarantee you they will be avid mountain bikers, almost everyone in Rotorua is. The Redwoods is worth exploring even if you don’t mountain bike there are walks from 15 minutes to 3 hours, but mountain biking is really the best way to explore the forest, their tracks are internationally known and possibly even better than Queenstown tracks! (Yes I said it!)

Mountain Bike Redwoods Rotorua

What we loved: The Redwoods are only 2km outside the city centre so you don’t have to go far to reach this beautiful spot. You really don’t feel like your in a city when you are here and everyone you bump into is so happy and relaxed, there something special about a place when you know a local visit’s the place all the time. Then you know it is good!

Top Tip: Take a photo of the map, you will get lost! Ask a local about what tracks are best and stalk them if needed! Also park away from the visitor centre all the best tracks start further down the road Long Mile Road – the hill to climb isn’t that big – honest!

Cost: Mountain biking is a free thing to do in Rotorua if you bring your own bike. You can hire a bike at Mountain Bike Rotorua (who also offer guided tours of the tracks) for $60 for 2 hours or $90 for half day/4 hours.

 

Evening:

Rotorua’s Skyline & Gondola & Meal.

Built high above Rotorua is Rotorua’s top activity park. The Gondola is safe & fun for all the family, the view of the lake is incredible. There is so much to do up here you may need to arrive little earlier to explore the nature trails, the Luge rides, do a spot of wine tasting at volcanic hills (more on that below!) it is like a mini theme park on a hill! The meal is a buffet, don’t be put off the food is incredible!

Rotorua Sky Line

What we loved: The variety of food is outstanding! Seafood, fish, steak, salads, local vegetables, and the most amazing variety of desserts you will ever come across. Basically if you fancy it they will have it!

Top Tip: Arrive early, go hungry! Queues for the Gondola at the bottom can be quite lengthy (those who already have tickets have to queue with everyone else) which can cause delays getting to the top. We recommend coming an hour and half before your dinner, allowing time in the queue and few go’s on each of the Luge tracks to build up your appetite!

Cost: Gondola & Dinner packages are the most reasonable starting at $65 pp ($39 for a child)

 


 

Volcanic Hills:

Top Tip:

For those want to go up the Gondola but don’t fancy a sit-down meal or for those who have already eaten then we suggest a pit stop at Volcanic Hills, located behind the gift shop at the top of the Gondola be sure not to miss it this is the true hidden gem of Rotorua. This truly was for us the highlight of our weekend. Owned by Sean & Jo Beer (no beer here!) you can buy 5 wine tastings for $14 each with a difference.

When we have visited wineries in the past you purchase the wine tastings and get given a card with all the information of the wines you are trying, you may if you’re lucky get a brief introduction into the wine you are drinking. At Volcanic Hill’s Sean and his team take the time to sit with you, talk to you about the wine he is serving you. One at a time. There is no rushing here, one by one the wines come out along with some really great conversation. Expect to leave hours later feeling relaxed, and maybe a little tipsy! And you have just made a friend.

Sean’s approach to customer service and how he treats you is something very rare and this is why it is a hidden gem for Rotorua, you are truly missing out if you don’t make time for this!

 


Day Three:

Morning:

Wet n Wild, White Water Rafting:

Who doesn’t want to go home on a high? This is one of the coolest things to do in Rotorua if you have time before hitting the road we recommend white water rafting with Wet n Wild. The Kaituna river is Rotorua’s best white water rapid offering and it doesn’t disappoint as it is also home to the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall.The 45 minute trip gave Isaac (myself a little too scared of water!) a thrilling experience!

Kaituna rafting

What we loved: The rafting with Wet n Wild was awesome, the adrenaline was going all the time especially over the drops – will I fall out? Pete and the team we’re entertaining and made the whole experience fun and personal. This activity was a great bonding experience too as teamwork was required to keep the boat from smashing into walls, trees and capsizing!

Top Tip: Go to the toilet before hand, at times it’s pretty intense – don’t be that guy who shits his pants.

Cost: A very reasonable $99 for rafting on the Kaituna, Wet n Wild also offer rafting trips on other rivers in the area.

 

If you want to read more about travelling in NZ do check out our Travel Map, there are some more articles on tips on travel in Rotorua and also itinerary ideas to ensure you get the most out of your time in NZ. And why not, you only live once!

 

 

A Weekend Learning to Ski at the Jewel of New Zealand’s North Island Mt Ruapehu

We love visiting the Tongariro National Park, whether it is for a spot of hiking, rafting or getting onto the snow. Between June and October the mount becomes a winter wonderland and is the best time to visit if you’re looking to enjoy the snow. Mt Ruapehu offers some of the best slopes for skiing and boarding and has the highest lift accessible peaks in New Zealand.

Mountain, what mountain?

You might be surprised to learn that Mt Ruapehu, isn’t actually a mountain – it’s a volcano, which last erupted back in 1996. Mt Ruapehu is ideal for a long weekend getaway and is reachable in around 4 hours from both Auckland & Wellington. There are two ski fields on Mt Ruapehu: Turoa & Whakapapa we choose Whakapapa for this trip as we heard they had a great beginners valley, also known as Happy Valley!

Mt Ruaphehu Volcanoe

Photo: GNS

First Time?

If this is your first time skiing or snowboarding, or you haven’t been on the slopes in a while we’d strongly recommend taking at least one day of lessons. At Whakapapa for $115 ($85 for a little person) you get a two hour lesson, a Happy Valley lift pass, boots, snowboards or skis and poles for the day.

The lessons themselves are fairly basic: how to walk on the snow, stopping (very important) and turning pretty much. However if you have been skiing before but still consider your self to be a learner you will be bumped up to the “Next Step” lessons where you will learn to turn and stop more efficiently. Once you have the basics though you can  easily enjoy Happy Valley!

I can’t express enough, do try and go on a week day Happy Valley was extremely busy the weekend we went, kids everywhere, adults running into kids, kids running into adults! When you are just learning to turn yourself it is pretty hard to not bump into someone!

Top Tip: Just before your lesson do make sure you are well fed and watered, the two hour lesson can be quite strenuous!

Happy Valley Going NZ

Cheapskates Tip: If you are learning or don’t own your own gear, Snow Centre in Auckland are the cheapest place to rent gear. They don’t charge for the pick up and drop off days and just the amount of days in-between so all in all pretty handy! However you can’t rent gloves, goggles or helmets from them. Ski Biz, 3989 in National Park were the next cheapest. We saved around $30 a day on equipment renting from these two businesses, if you go for a whole week, its a few lift passes and a tank of fuel.

Going NZ Skiing
All the gear but no idea

Foodie Tip: The Station Café, 3989 (funnily enough at the National Park Village Train Station) has a mean eye steak for a very reasonable $30 bucks, wash it down with a glass of Syrah!

Logistics:

We stayed in the National Park Village, a 25 minute drive from the skiing up Bruce Road. If it snows or the weather isn’t great the road up the Bruce might be closed or you might only be allowed to travel up if you have snow chains and/or a four wheel drive vehicle.

If like us you don’t have chains or a 4×4, you can hitch or take the bus up the Bruce. The last bus back to Whakapapa village from Mt Ruapehu is 4:30pm and the first bus leaves for the snow at 8:30am, in August 2016 the bus cost is $20 NZD per person with Roam which operates from Whakapapa Holiday Park.

Going NZ Skiing

Luckily this year the weather when we went was outstanding, but last year it was pretty grim! It was raining, very windy and visibility was very low which meant last year we could not get up to New Zealand’s highest cafe, the Knoll Ridge Cafe (I heard they do the best hot chocolates).

This year however was a different story. Blue sky and great visibility meant me we could reach the Knoll Ridge Cafe and enjoy that Hot Chocolate (and chocolate cake!) it really was incredible!

ski knoll ridge

Have you been up the mount or know a great spot in New Zealand for skiing? If so we’d love to hear from you!