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! 

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!

See New Zealand In 30 Days With Our New Zealand Self Drive Itinerary

Continuing on from our ultimate itinerary series we thought we would put together all our favourite spots of New Zealand into one awesome itinerary. You can visit both the north and south islands in 30 Days very easily by following our 30 day New Zealand self drive itinerary which starts and finishes in Auckland.

This truly is a road trip of epic proportions, if you know New Zealand is going to be a  once in a lifetime opportunity and you want to see it all then this self drive, fast paced itinerary is perfect for you.

We have travelled the country in depth which took us 6 months in total to complete, this one-month self drive itinerary for New Zealand does visit quite a few “off the beaten track” destinations and often a first-time traveller to NZ may not have heard of all of them. But if you want to visit the true beauty of NZ we highly recommend these regions! So grab a campervan or a hire car and hit the road as this is our suggested self-drive itinerary including all the destinations within NZ that we think you should not miss!

Not got 30 days? If you are short on time, that is okay, we got you covered – check out our 10 North Island Itinerary and our 10 South Island 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 your through to our much more in-depth articles on that particular region/destination 🙂

The Route:

 

Highlights of this itinerary Include:

  • Sandboarding at Cape Reinga,
  • Exploring Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel
  • A day trip to White Island
  • Discovering Art Deco Napier
  • TheMarlboroughh Sounds
  • Kayaking at the Abel Tasman National Park
  • Heli hike at Franz Josef Glacier
  • Queenstown (nuff said!)
  • Getting away from it all in Stewart Island
  • Penguin watching at Oamaru,
  • Whale Watching in Kaikoura,
  • The Tongariro Alpine Crossing,
  • Surfing in Raglan

Day 1: Arrive into Auckland 

If you have an early morning arrival then you could pick up your hire car or campervan straight away and travel north to Paihia, (2.5 hours’ drive) the home of the Bay of Islands and your gateway to the Northland. Suggestions include: A visit to Waitangi which is close to Paihia and where the treaty between Maori chiefs and the British were signed back in 1840 it is well worth a visit. Or take the car ferry to the historical quaint village of Russell or jump on a boat cruise to explore the bay and its 144 different islands.

An alternative option would be to spend the day in Auckland, relaxing and exploring at your own pace and head up to Paihia the following morning.

Auckland Rainbow

Day 2: Explore Cape Reinga

You could drive to Cape Reinga as it is a great way to explore the Northland region at your own pace. Or you could let Salt Air take you by helicopter to Cape Reinga. Cape Reinga is the most northern point of NZ here your guide will take you along 90 mile beach and you will even have time to go sand tobogganing! All in the name of fun – it really is pretty awesome!

Sand boarding Fun!

Day 3: The Coromandel Peninsula 

Today you will travel south for around 5 hours to reach your next destination – the Coromandel Peninsula. It is a beach lover’s paradise! Stay overnight at Hahei and you will be close to all the highlights, Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove and Cooks Beach the region’s best beaches.

hot water beach going nz

Day 4: Beautiful Tauranga

Today make your way further south towards Tauranga (2.5 hours drive), there is plenty to see along the drive. Take a detour via the Karangahape Gorge and explore the walkways that follow the old railway lines along a jaw-dropping Canyon or climb Mount Maunganui for some incredible views of the Bay of Plenty.

Beautiful Tauranga

Day 5: Incredible White Island (Active Volcano)

Up early today to travel to Whakatane (1-hour drive), Whakatane is home to White Island. New Zealand’s only marine volcano. After an hour boat ride to the island, you will get a 2 hour guided tour of the island learning about the history of the miners in the island, the volcanic importance of the island and even get close to the active crater. Something truly and unique and possibly something you will only ever do once!

white island

Day 6: A Days Drive Around East Cape (Rural New Zealand at its best)

The Waioeka Scenic Drive from Whakatane to Gisborne (3.5-hour drive) takes you though the bush clad Waioeka Gorge, this narrow and winding gorge is a beautiful drive, takes your and time enjoy the views. After a spot of lunch in Gisborne, continue to your overnight spot just outside Art Deco Napier (3-hour drive).

An alternative option to this would be to drive straight to Napier and explore the city at your own pace, Napier is a beautiful small city with a stunning waterfront, marvel at the stunning Art Deco buildings, it is like stepping back in time!

East Cape Light House

Day 8: Drive to Wellington

Get up early to drive to longest place name in the world! This a photo opportunity you can’t miss! 85 characters long, but locals just call it Taumata Hill. Continue (4-hour drive) to Wellington where you can recharge your batteries for South Island ferry in the morning.

A great lunch time stop along the route is also the Wairarapa region. Stop for a spot of wine tasting at one of Martinborough’s award winning wineries.

Vineyards in Wairarapa
Vineyards in Wairarapa

Day 9: South Island!

Take the Interislander Ferry to the South Island (around 3 hours) enjoying a journey through the incredible Marlborough Sounds as you approach Picton. Upon arrival to the South Island travel to the Pelorus River. An opportunity to relax in the refreshing forest and river a must see for any Lord of the Rings fan.

picton going nz
Beautiful Picton

Day 10: Explore the Abel Tasman National Park

Today explore the Abel Tasman National Park with a days kayaking trip discovering all the hidden bays of the park. Enjoy a fresh picnic lunch half way through the day, enjoy a swim, snorkel and relax at the end! Find out about our fantastic day in the park here!

abel tasman

Day 11: Bullers Gorge

Travel to the Bullers Gorge Swing Bridge (2-hour drive) 110 metres in length in spans the Buller River and is NZ’s longest swing bridge. Over the other side, you can zip line across the river, take a jet boat ride, go swimming on walk one of the many trails following the earthquake faultline which was the epicentre of the 1929 earthquake that caused the land to rise more than4.5 metres. After, continue your journey to Punakaiki, home of the pancakes rocks and the beginning of the west coast highway.

Day 12: Explore Punakaiki and drive to Fox Glacier

Punakaiki is limestone country and is packed with caves systems that need exploring! The Charleston Glow worm cave tour explores the amazing underworld caving system you will see amazing displays of glow-worms and photogenic stalactites and stalagmite formations. In the afternoon travel to Fox Glacier (3-hour drive) and take in the stunning scenery at Lake Matheson.

pancake rocks goingnz

Day 11: Heli Hike Franz Josef Glacier

In the morning embark on a helicopter trip of a life time. Heli Hike the Franz Josef Glacier with the team at Franz Josef Glacier Guides. Explore spectacular ice caves and arches and access parts of the glacier that many don’t get to discover. In the afternoon travel to the Haast Pass (1.5 hours drive) a good overnight spot.

Exploring the Glaciers is a must.

Day 12: Blue Pool’s Track – Mount Aspiring National Park

Mount Aspiring National Park features the popular Blue Pool’s Walk. The short and easy walk leads to a viewing platform over the Blue Pools. Walks in these regions shouldn’t be rush bring lunch and enjoy the scenic surroundings. Continue your road trip to Wanaka before reaching your overnight destination in Queenstown.

haast pass

Day 13: Queenstown – Yes it really is incredible!

Queenstown is best known for its adrenaline filled fun! Rafting down the shot over the river has to be one of the exhilarating experiences! Other suggestions include: Stroll along the lakefront and take in the scenery or enjoy some down time in one of Queenstown many cafes and restaurants. You could try the world famous burgers at Ferg Burger for lunch, but go early there will be queues!

Queenstown Going NZ

Day 14: Travel to Te Anau – The Gateway to the Fiordland National Park

Travel to Te Anau (2-hour drive), stop at the visitor centre to learn about the many freedom hikes you can spend your day doing in this region. A section of the Routeburn Track or Kepler Track? You decide.

Day 15: Doubtful or Milford Sound?

Travel to the Doubtful Sound, the second largest fiord in the Fiordland National Park. Take a cruise along Lake Manapouri the wildlife is in abundance here, bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and rare crested Penguins can be seen here.

Another great alternative would be a visit to the Milford Sound, very similar but we personally prefer the Doubtful Sound as it is less visited, meaning fewer tourists!

Road to Fiordland

Day 16: Stewart Island

Travel to Stewart Island via Invercargill (2-hour drive) today. The one-hour car ferry will take you to Stewart Island. The island is well off the beaten track a great escape for a couple of nights.

Day 17: Free day on Stewart Island

Today you will be able to explore Stewart Island in your campervan at your own pace. The island is part of the Rakiura National Park, with its densely forested hills, tiny population, and untouched coastline and golden sandy beaches it is a wonderful place to unwind and enjoy the nature that surrounds you.

stewart island goingnz

Day 18: The Catlins

Heading back to civilization your overnight spot tonight will be in the Catlins (1.5-hour drive from Invercargill). The tranquillity of this region will blow you away, the untouched stunning bush land and rugged coastline is everywhere you turn.

Day 19: Visit and Explore Dunedin

Travel to Dunedin today (2-hour drive). A city renowned for its Maori and Scottish heritage, spend the afternoon exploring the city at your own pace. Suggestions include Visiting NZ’s only castle, Larnach Castle, a trip to Cadbury world, a chocolate lovers delight! Or walk up worlds steepest street!

dunedin goingnz

Day 20: Moeraki Boulders & Oamaru

On the east coach beaches north of Dunedin lies the Moeraki Boulders, this a must see! The huge spherical boulders are scattered along the beach a perfect photo opportunity for that empty photo frame that you have sat at home. Stay overnight in Oamaru just 40 minutes away from there is a – penguin colony. A sunset each night the Penguins come up onto the beach to rest, so close you could almost touch them!

 

Day 21: Mt Cook National Park

The drive inland to Mt Cook National Park (3-hour drive) will take in breathe taking panoramic views of lakes and mountains. There will be plenty of time to stop for photo opportunities. Enjoy an afternoon in Mt Cook Village exploring the serenity of the Southern Alps region at your own pace before resting up for the night under the stars.

Mt Cook Going NZ

Day 22: Tekapo and Travel to Christchurch

Tekapo is just an hour drive’s drive from Mt Cook, giving you plenty of time to relax and slow down the driving pace. Don’t forget to drive to the top of Mt John for non-interruptive views of Lake Tekapo. In the afternoon continue to Christchurch (3-hour drive) for your overnight stop.

goingnz

Day 23: Visit Akaroa

Today you will visit the very best sights of Akaroa (a 2-hour drive). Suggestions include: A cruise of the harbor and peninsula, visit the largest penguin colony on the mainland, swim with dolphins or take one of the many scenic walks in the region. Overnight in Christchurch.

Day 24: Visit Kaikoura – Whale Watching

Travel to Kaikoura (2-hour drive) in the afternoon catch the last cruise to do a spot of whale watching.

kaikoura goingnz

Day 25: Head back to the North Island

Travel north back to Picton (2-hour drive), to catch the afternoon ferry to Wellington overnight in Wellington.

Please note: Due to the recent earthquake in November 2016 the coastal road, unfortunately, received some damage. Currently, this road is blocked and you have to drive the longer 7 hour inland route via Blenheim (great wine region!) to reach Picton. We suggest if this still affects you when you visit NZ to maybe remove the Kaikoura or Akaroa day visit and take your time with the drive, some great overnight spots include Hamner Springs (awesome thermal spa) and Blenheim (for the wine of course!)

wellington Going NZ

Day 26: Visit the Tongariro National Park

Travel to Tongariro National Park (4-hour drive) to explore what the volcanic region of NZ has to offer. There are walks ranging from 1-8 hours in this park, visit the visitor centre for maps and advice.

tongariro goingnz

Day 27: Embark on one of New Zealand’s best day walks.

Up early for the shuttle transfer to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, this 7-8 hour walk passes some of the most stunning scenery the North Island has to offer.

Tongariro National Park

Day 28: Visit Waitomo and/or Hobbiton – Lord of the Rings

Depending on your personal interests on this day you could travel north to Waitomo, cave country. (2.5 hours’ drive). Here you can spend the afternoon exploring the glow worm caves but if you already have done some caving on the South Island you may find this very similar.

An alternative option would be to head to Rotorua if exploring some of NZ’s best geothermal spots is more your thing. If you are a huge Lord of the Rings fan then you could also visit Hobbiton on this day as it is very close to Rotorua.

Rotorua GoingNZ

Day 29: Raglan – for the surf of course!

Travel to Raglan (2.5 hours’ drive). A beautiful beach side town where the Kiwis holiday. Hire a surf board and ride the waves!

raglan goingnz
Surf at Raglan

Day 30: Goodbye New Zealand!

Today your road trip ends, return your campervan or car hire at Auckland Airport (2.5-hour drive) in time for your departing flight home – now that is what you call a road trip – make sure you send us a postcard!

Labour Weekend getaway’s from Auckland for under $150

With October’s Labour Weekend just around the corner, a weekend getaway must be one your radar! The hectic city life can sometimes be too over whelming at times. Here are our top 5 weekend getaway spots to escape city life in New Zealand, make sure you click on each sub heading to find out more and get ready to fall in love again with the true beauty of New Zealand!

Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Where: – Just a 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland CBD is the nearest getaway spot for city lover’s you can see the city in the distance but feel a million miles away!

Cost:  A returns journey booked via book me and an Air BnB stay will set you back less than $100 for one night, grab some fish and chips on the beach and your in for a winner!

What we love: The laid back island life, the proximity to Auckland CBD and the friendliness of the locals.

Surf at Raglan
Surf at Raglan

Raglan

Where: A 2.5 drive South West of Auckland, follow highway one and turn off at Huntly, and head to the ocean you can’t go wrong.

Cost: Factoring in fuel for your trip, a stay in a camp site in town, and utilising a Grab One deal for a cheap eat, should only set you back $100 for one night.

What we love: Being by the sea, the surfing and the backpacking culture.

Beautiful Tauranga
Beautiful Tauranga

Tauranga

Where:  Another 2.5 hours drive but this time on the opposite coast (South East coast) follow highway one and turn off at signs to Thames.

Cost: Again a night in a campsite, a meal at Bobby’s Fresh Fish Market and fuel should set you back no more than $120 

What we love: Paddle boarding in the harbour, climbing Mount Maunganui for the views and the cool hip bars!

Kayaking at Snells Beach
Kayaking at Snells Beach

Snell’s Beach

Where: 1 hour north of Auckland is a lovely inlet with a some great camp sites drive to Warkworth and it is about 8km west. This is a really great quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Cost: I wouldn’t even factor fuel in it is so close, but a night in a camp site and food may just put you back $50. Stay at Bethshan Seaside Cottages and enjoy there free kayak’s!

What we love: The beaches, the small town vibes, the locals and how close it is to Auckland!

View from Cathedral Cove Carpark
View from Cathedral Cove Carpark

The Coromandel Peninsula

Where: This one is a little further away from the rest but still achievable, it is a 3 hour drive from Auckland we suggest staying at Hahei or Cook’s Beach.

Cost: Factoring in a stay at Purangi Winery for free, eating there delicious pizza’s and a tank of fuel at day in the peninsula will only set you back $80 bucks.

What we love: Hahei, Cathedral Cove, digging your own hot pool at hot water beach, cooks beach, kayaking, Purangi Winery pizzas, The Pinnacles, need I go on!

Where else would you escape for Labour Weekend?! Tips and comments below!

Sunsets in Auckland

We just love a good sunset! The majority of our weekends here in Auckland are pre planned, to ensure we are in a good location just as the sun is setting!

In our view is nothing is better than sitting some where together talking a load of nonsense as we watch the sun going down. We would like to share a few of our favourite sunset spots with you here in Auckland.

Go West:

When we really want to escape the city life we take a short day trip and head for the western beaches of either Piha or Bethall’s. Or we take the bikes and head to Woodhill Forest we stay all day just to witness moments like these!

piha
Piha
Bethalls beach sunset
Bethall’s Beach
sunrise woodhill
Woodhill Forest

Waiheke:

Waiheke Island is becoming a very special place to us. A short 35 minute ferry ride and we are back to nature, enjoying the great kiwi outdoors. This photo was taken at our Bach last October over the labour public holiday.

waiheke
Waiheke Island

At Evening Events:

This summer the weather has been at it’s best. February was the 2nd hottest summer on record for New Zealand! We definitely took advantage of the bright nights and the amazing sunset’s whilst out and about. Our favourite is watching the sunset at the numerous free outdoor cinema events Auckland council put on. Free movie, free chocolate surrounded by lots of people just out for a good time!

outdoor cinema auckland
Movies in the Park
silo park
Silo Park
Mt Smart Stadium, winter
Mt Smart Stadium at the Rugby!

In the Car!

Isaac is a bugger for stopping and snapping the skyline even if we are just in the car driving home! Auckland really does have the best sunsets!

Stuck in Traffic
Stuck in Traffic
auckland car
Just had to pull over!

And finally:

Mt Eden, is our favourite. It is just 2 minutes from our house and worth the climb every time. There is something about Mt Eden that is special, your are in the middle of the largest city in New Zealand yet you just don’t feel like you are. It’s become a peaceful spot for for us and one that get’s better each and every time.

mt eden sunset

Day Trips Within Auckland

Now we are living and working in Auckland we have had time to visit all the tourist attractions that are here, there is so much to see and do here not just centrally but also in the vicinity of Auckland and all just a short drive away! Here are our top day trips in Auckland!

A Must Do: SKYCITY
A Must Do: SKYCITY

Central Auckland:

The Auckland War Memorial Museum is a must for any history lover, if you can prove you are a Auckland resident (take a bank statement, bill showing your address) entry is free, you can spend hours here on a rainy day learning all about Maori History and New Zealand’s contribution to the first and second world wars.

Auckland’s Sky Tower, is a must for any city lover. The telecommunications and observatory tower is 328 metres high and is home to SKYCITY entertainment complex. It has over 18 bars and restaurants, 2 hotels, a casino and a theatre in the complex it self! The best restaurants are in the Sky Tower including the revolving restaurant (Orbit 360) which rotates every hour, a bit of a novelty but the views on a clear day/night are incredible! You can also jump off the building and walk around the top of the tower with Sky Walk and Sky Jump – Hours of fun!

Free Container Library Auckland
Free Container Library Auckland

If you like sticking close to the coastline we suggest hiring a bike (or even better a E bike) for the day and cycle the entire, mainly pedestrianised coastal path of central Auckland. Starting west at Westhaven Drive underneath the Harbour Bridge you can walk towards the city passing through St Mary’s Bay (spot the expensive boats), along to Silo Park (don’t forget lunch at the Auckland Fish Market or along the Wynyard Quarter) across the Wynyard Bridge  (make a pit stop at the Container Library, a free book swap!) towards New Zealands Maritime Musuem along Quay St past the ferry terminal and then heading east to Judges Bay, Okahu Bay until finally hitting Mission Bay, Auckland’s best beach. Don’t forget your camera!

Mission Bay - Simply Beautiful
Mission Bay – Simply Beautiful

The Parks:

Auckland is built on volcanic field of scoria cone volcanoes there are over 50 dormant volcanoes in a 1000 square kilometre radius! This has made Auckland incredibly hilly and there are some brilliant parks to explore for this reason! Mount Eden is the nearest to the city but the most touristy, yes the views are incredible but the amount of people at times can ruin your photos! We suggest driving a little further to Mount Mangere which is less untouched than Mt Eden and making it a much more peaceful afternoon of exploration!

We also strongly recommend Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill it is the largest area of parkland in Auckland and the views are spectacular!

Beautiful Mt Eden
Beautiful Mt Eden

Another great park we discovered just recently is Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park in Devonport (North Shore) this is great for kids there are old army barracks here from the second world war with lots of tunnels and hidden passage ways to explore! Plus there are great uninterrupted views of Rangitoto Island and the Hauraki gulf as well as the city across the harbour.

Head West:

Heading West is a great option if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city in a short amount of time. Just 40 minutes drive west of Auckland lies some of the best black sand beaches NZ has to offer and some brilliant surfing!

You could easily spend days exploring the Waitakere Ranges, (You first stop should be the Arataki Visitor Centre) finding hidden waterfalls, cycling up at Woodhill Forest or driving along the Scenic Drive (trust me it has that name for a reason!) to Piha Beach, Murawai Beach or Bethalls Beach. Every time we head out this way we get reminded why we love Auckland so much! West is Best!

Bethall's Beach - West is Best!
Bethall’s Beach – West is Best!

Hauraki Gulf:

To me the main thing that makes Auckland so great is that it is so close to the sea! Just a short walk from our city apartment is Auckland’s Ferry Terminal where the Hauraki Gulf is on our doorstep, a pocket of the Pacific Ocean and home to over 50 islands! Your time in Auckland would not be complete without jumping on the ferry and exploring Rangitoto Island (Auckland youngest but dormant volcano) and Waiheke Island. Remember to check out Book Me for the latest deals!

Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island

Visiting Waiheke Island – The Low Down

Waiheke Island is definitely a feast for the senses upon taking a 35 minute ferry from down town Auckland you arrive on to an idyllic island that is so far away from the hectic culture of Auckland. If you can only visit one place in Auckland this should be it, you can get a real sense of what the rest of New Zealand is really like! Here are our tips on how to explore Waiheke and where to visit, but trust me you will be spoilt for choice!

Getting There:

Waiheke is in the Hauraki Gulf and is the second largest island, it has a population of nearly 8,000 people its popularity is mainly due to its ease and proximity to Auckland city centre. Fullers offer a ferry service on a daily basis every hour as well as Explore Waiheke Ferry. However, to take the 35 minute ferry ride here is not necessarily cheap, but if you check out Book Me you will often find ferry return tickets on certain days for just $1! So definitely worth planning your trip around these deals!

Oneroa
Oneroa

Getting Around

Upon arrival you can be collected by one of the many bus tours or hire a car (near the car park) or an even better idea rent an electric Bike from our friends at eCycles NZ, they are also situated in the main car park. We have had the delight of visiting twice, once on foot and took the public bus around the island and most recently we decided to take our bikes over. However they are not E-Bikes and we were naïve in thinking we would be able to explore a lot of the island in the time that we had! E-bikes are almost a necessity, lots of locals have them and you soon realise why!

Waiheke Executive Travel is the coach company that took us around for the day on my recent Waiheke Wine Tour. We had a local driver guide who filled us in on what life is like on Waiheke with very quirky and fun facts. Their coaches were comfortable and spacious, they also offer private cars for 1-2 people and they can even cater for larger groups of up to 250 people!

Where to Visit:

Without a doubt your first stop which ever mode of transport you take will be the main town of Oneroa. It has the tourist information centre, all the banks, all the shops and most of the best restaurants. It is only really worth a pit stop, for the view and maybe if you fancy stopping for lunch!

Okahuiti Creek we discovered on our cycle ride as we were trying to find a flat route from the central hub of Ostend (where Countdown supermarket is) to Surfdale. It is an inlet that has a lovely community of house boat owners! We had lunch amongst the locals who went about chatting to each other about their day! A beautiful spot for a picnic lunch!

The Perfect Spot
The Perfect Spot

Onetangi is all about its long stunning white sandy beach. Dotted with privately owned Bach’s and sea front restaurants this place would probably be your last stop on any tours you partake in as it is a good 20 minutes from Oneroa town centre and the ferry terminal. It is also the last settlement before you reach the real remote eastern side of the island that is often left unexplored by day trippers – even weekend trippers like us! This eastern side of the island is meant to be very different to any of the areas that I have  mentioned above and is on the top of list to explore for next time!

Beautiful Beach at Waiheke
Beautiful Beach at Waiheke

But don’t forget to visit a Vineyard or two! Read my article here on my day with Explore Waiheke.

Where to Eat:

There are so many great restaurants in Waiheke it is hard to choose! And for a budget conscious visitor like our selves you may have to be prepared that wallet may take the hit! We can only really comment on the ones we visited! The Oyster Inn in central Oneroa would be my top suggestion to anyone that loves shellfish and seafood. They had the most incredible locally grown mussels that I just had to try! Dinners are on the pricey side but the quality and the service outweighs this downside.

Oyster Inn Mussels!
Oyster Inn Mussels!

Fenice is a great small Italian just a few doors up from the Oyster Inn, we had our evening meal here on our most recent visit and had the most beautiful wine and chocolate desert I have tasted in a long time! The staff were attentive and friendly all the combinations you need for an great evening out!

Where to Stay:

On our first visit 5 years ago we stayed at the islands only camp ground, but it is extremely far out of the main attractions of the island! On our second visit we decided to stay at an Air BnB, a concept we have grown to love whist living in New Zealand. You get to meet some locals, stay in some really unique accommodation and often it is cheaper to stay at an Air BnB than a local hotel, don’t diss it until you have tried it!

Don’t Under Estimate The Size of The Island:

I don’t like to finish on a negative tone but I feel like this is an appropriate and most important point to make! We were very mislead that Waiheke Island was an easy island to explore. We learnt how big and difficult it was to get around on our first visit 5 years ago on foot and when we decided to visit a few weeks ago for a weekend getaway as I have previously mentioned we opted to take our bikes. We thought we had learned from our past mistake! We were wrong! If you really want to get off the beaten track, push the boat out and hire a car or an electric bike and make your life that bit more easier! We will be doing this next time to reach further afield than Onetangi!

I would love to hear your views on Waiheke, where to visit and where to stay! Post below!

My Winery Tour of Waiheke with Explore Waiheke

Waiheke Island has many wineries in fact I was told on my visit to Waiheke a few weeks ago the island has over 30 wineries, it really does hold its name of “The island of Wine” very well!

I had the most beautiful day (even if it was a little chilly!) on Waiheke a few weeks back. Explore Waiheke took us over on their large and modern ferry’s and Waiheke Executive Travel transported us around whilst giving us useful but fun facts of island life!

Cable Bay Vineyard - Must be your first stop!
Cable Bay Vineyard – Must be your first stop!

We visited two vineyards on our visit and Cable Bay Vineyard was our first stop, I suggest you make this your first stop too! It is extremely close to the ferry terminal (around a 5 minute drive) so it is almost criminal if you don’t pop in for a visit! The winery is located on high on a hill where you can overlook the view of the green rolling hills, the sea and of course Auckland city. The place has a really lovely wine cellar underneath the restaurant. They also have an underground private dining room which is really fancy with a glass wall where you can see through to the cellar! It demands exclusivity and uniqueness.

We were able to stop and have a tour of their facilities (brilliant location for a wedding FYI!) as well as try a few of their wines!

Cable Bay Lawn
Cable Bay Lawn

After a brief pit stop to Oneroa, the main town of Waiheke we were on our way to Batch Winery. This winery is located at one of the highest points of the island which we were told is great for the grapes especially in the long humid summers NZ often has. It has the most amazing 360 degree views of the island it feels like you’re in the middle of the island as all you can see is the rolling hills of Waiheke. From here you get a real sense of how large this island actually is! We had the absolute pleasure of meeting the owners whose professionalism and enthusiasm about wine impressed me, as well as their humour! They talked about wine as if they were talking about a piece of art, and they dug deep into the philosophy of wine making and the relationship of wine making and nature, etc.

High Tea at Batch Winery
High Tea at Batch Winery

One highlight of the tour I did enjoy was definitely the “High Tea” lunch that Batch Winery offer at their restaurant called Thomas’s Bach.  There restaurant was designed with the concept of the kiwi “Bach” in mind and I was actually impressed the restaurant actually looked like a Bach! Scaffolding and all! The lunch was delicately made and was welled match with a glass of Champagne! This visit to this winery definitely replicated the slow-paced culture that New Zealand offers – I felt like I never wanted to leave!

Thomas's Bach
Thomas’s Bach

Unfortunately we only had time to visit two wineries on this visit but we definitely intend on returning and exploring more, let me know which vineyard I should visit next!