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! 

Marlborough & The Abel Tasman 10 Day Itinerary

In March 2018, we had the absolute delight in hosting Dawn’s parents in New Zealand for their second time to New Zealand. When we asked Dawn’s mum “Where do you want to return to this time around” before Dawn could even finish the question the reply was “The Abel Tasman”

Of course, it wasn’t hard to convince us not to return, it’s something about those white sandy beaches that make us feel like we are in paradise. So back to paradise we went!

This time around when the parents were visiting we decided to travel at a much slower pace and concentrate on two regions of the South Island instead of travelling the whole length of the South Island like we did back in 2016. This is the 10-day route that we travelled from Wellington.

Watch our video here to see what we got up to!

The Route:

top of south island

Highlights of this itinerary include:

  • The Queen Charlotte Track, hiking, and biking;
  • Pelorus Bridge;
  • Havelock;
  • A visit to Rabbit Island;
  • Numerous days of adventure at The Abel Tasman National Park;
  • An overnight stay at Awaroa Lodge;
  • Wine tasting in Blenheim’s top vineyards;

Please Note: This is not a sponsored post we embarked on this trip with our family and all views are based on our observations and experiences.

Want to explore more of the South Island? We got you covered – check out our 10 day itinerary of the South Island

 

Day 1: Ferry to Picton

We took a mid-morning Bluebridge ferry from Wellington Picton as we had decided to take our car over – perks of living in Wellington! The ferry ride itself wasn’t a bad journey, it was a calm sailing all the way. We kept ourselves busy by taking photos of the Wellington coastline as we left and the Marlborough Sounds as we arrived. We enjoyed the coffee on board and the TV Room.

However, it is important to note that do allow for more time than you think is necessary.  Our ferry on this occasion was late leaving thus late arriving, a 3-hour journey turned into a 5-hour crossing. It seemed to take them ages to unload and load us all, boredom was truly setting in! We were glad that our accommodation was only 25 minutes outside of Picton in a small settlement called Anakiwa.

As travelling days go this was quite a long one so I would advise you all not to underestimate the extra time it does take to make the crossing. It is timely and with the number of cars/cargo/lorries, they have to load and unload it does test your patience!

Top Tip:If you can take the ferry as a foot passenger we do recommend it, foot passengers were on first got the best seats on the ferry and off first – much quicker!

Wellington Ferry
Goodbye Wellington…

Day 2: Discovering Anakiwa & The Marlborough Sounds

Due to the impending turn of the weather, it seemed this was our only day to explore the Queen Charlotte Track. So, there we were thinking we were in for a leisurely morning of bacon and eggs instead by 10 am we were on the track trekking to Davies Bay.

Our accommodation came with some Kayaks and Mountain Bikes that we could use. So, whilst Isaac cycled the track (which you can easily do in the summer months when its dry) and got further we only went as far as Davies Bay (a two-hour return walk) and enjoyed a picnic lunch at a more leisurely pace!

Unfortunately, the heavens opened late into the afternoon. Our dreams of kayaking the bays vanished.

Top Tip:Anakiwa turned out to be a great base for walkers wanting to walk sections of the track as a ferry runs daily to certain points along the track. It was also considerably cheaper than staying in Picton.

Anakiwa
Rainy day at Anakiwa

Day 3: Pelorus Sounds & Kenepuru Sounds

The weather really did put a dampener on our experience of the sounds, we did plan to take a cruise and explore more of the sounds on foot, but it was a very wet day for us, so we decided to hop in the car and drive the incredibly scenic drive of the Queen Charlotte Drive & Kenepuru Sounds, taking plenty of stops for photographs. We would certainly suggest this as a great alternative for a wet day activity.

For dinner, we decided to eat at Havelock just a 25-minute drive from our accommodation. The Captains Daughter was our choice and we can highly recommend. It has very cosy and friendly atmosphere which was welcomed by us especially on the wet and windy day we were having!

Day 4: Travel to Motueka (2 hours & 15-minute drive)

This was our second travelling day of the vacation, as we had previously explored Havelock the day before in the rain our pit stop as such as Pelorus Bridge and the Café. We reminisced as this was one of the first stops we visited back in 2010 when we explored NZ on an epic 6-month road trip! Nothing had changed much!

We took a short 45-minute loop walk through the bush and along the river and enjoyed a quick coffee at the café before getting back on the road.

We had forgotten how incredible this drive is to Nelson! As soon as you drive over the hill you reach Nelson and the highway basically follows the sea all the around the bay. It’s an incredible coastline!

Our lunchtime stop was Jester House located on Aporo Road just off the highway as you get closer to Motueka. We were told by some friends to visit Jester House and to allow at least two hours there, we stayed for three! Jester House is a true kiwi gem. Their café was set up twenty years ago and is in the most beautifully presented gardens. They grow all their own fruit and veg and their love of food really is reflected in their menu.

It’s family friendly as well, they had a treehouse (yes I had to climb it!) with a slide, a children’s play area and a place where you can feed the ‘tame’ eels. Hours of fun to be had!

Pelorus Bridge
Beautiful Pelorus Bridge

Day 5: A day exploring Rabbit Island

As we knew we were spending a good time in the Abel Tasman National Park in the days to come we took the opportunity to venture further and explore a bit more of the Nelson coastline.

Rabbit Island is a small island located just 20 minutes from Nelson connected by a bridge. Cars are able to easily access the beach and its forested woodland. We had an incredible day relaxing at the beach (the sun was shining for us now!), swimming, going on long circular walks in the woods and enjoyed a picnic.

Top Tip:If you want to avoid the tourist trail then Rabbit Island is the place for you. The visitors to the island were clearly all kiwis (who else brings buses to be beach and camps up for the day?!) so we had a very relaxing local’s day!

Beach day at Rabbit Island
Beach day at Rabbit Island

Day 6: Kaiteriteri – Beach sunbathing

The weather had really started to pick up for us now, we were officially in vacation mode and loved every minute of the sunshine poking down at us! We decided to spend the day beach sunbathing at Kaiteriteri. But little did we know we had picked a day for the local fun run, the beach was packed!

We headed over too Little Kaiteriteri beach which was a lot quieter. Our afternoon was spent at the Sprig & Fern at Motueka’s craft beer bar, who doesn’t love a beer in the afternoon sunshine!

Kaiteriteri
View of Kaiteriteri

Day 7: Awaroa Lodge & Awaroa Inlet

This was the day we were all looking forward to the most and we were praying for the good weather to hold out, and it certainly did!

We took the 9:00 am Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles ferry to Awaroa Inlet from Kaiteriteri. I managed to get everyone there early (8.30) to check in and we were glad that we did as at 8.30 am no one was there queueing to check in but within 10 minutes the queues were around the block!

As we guessed the popularity of Abel Tasman has increased. After a bit of confusion of which boat we were on, putting up with a large queue to get on the ferry we were on our way!

Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles had very good commentary of the coastline, we got to see Split Apple Rock and as we headed up the coastline we really felt like we got a good tour of the Abel Tasman, as well as just a shuttle service.

Split Apple Rock
Split Apple Rock

Our accommodation for the night was at Awaroa Lodge, a four-star lodge in the middle of the bush a short 5-minute walk from the beach. Well, at least it would have been a 5-minute walk if the storm that hit the region a few weeks prior hadn’t damaged the wooden platform meaning the only way to get to the lodge was via a longer 20-minute walk, at least it was flat and sheltered!

We spent our morning exploring the Awaroa Inlet before the tide took it over and stranded us and we spent the afternoon climbing up to the viewpoint and walking a section of the great walk. The views up here of the inlet were incredible and we even came across a sketchy placed swing, which of course we had to try out!

Awaroa Lodge has two dining options, their outside Pizzeria or their in-house restaurant. As the evenings were getting considerably cooler we opted for the in-house restaurant, with no plans to consume a 3-course meal, but the food was so scrumptious we did overindulge slightly!

Our evening was topped off with a glow-worm spotting excursion of the wetlands, it was a beautifully clear night, one we will remember for a long time.

Top Tip:If you can stay overnight at the Abel Tasman National Park we strongly recommend it. In the evening all the day trippers have left and you get to enjoy the park the right way.

Chalet at Awaroa Lodge
Chalet at Awaroa Lodge

Day 8: Leaving paradise, travel to Blenheim. (2 hours & 45-minute drive)

Today it was time to leave paradise and head back to civilisation. We decided to stay in Blenheim for two nights so the journey back to Wellington wasn’t quite so lengthy.

We had a beautiful full English breakfast at Awaroa Lodge and made our own way back to the beach to await the ferry. We had to wait a long time at the beach for our ferry as the ferry was delayed but we didn’t mind too much as the sun was shining and the beach is so beautiful!

It was a quicker journey back to the mainland and we picked up our car which we had left safely in Kaiteriteri for the night. We didn’t reach Blenheim until well after 4 pm though, so if you do decide to do this route do bear in mind that most ferry departures from the Abel Tasman leave after the first schedule of their day. As their priority is getting the day trippers out and about in the park and they pick you up on the way home.

Top Tip:If you are going to have an overnight trip in the Abel Tasman then stay in Nelson the following night. The drive to Blenheim with the scenic stops was longer than we had expected!

Bye Bye Abel Tasman
Bye Bye Abel Tasman

Day 9: Wine O’clock – Blenheim

This was our day to get out and explore the incredible international renowned vineyards of New Zealand. We had our designated driver (so important) Dawn’s father (he pulled the short straw) and summer dresses (boys as well!) at the ready.

Brancott Estate was our first stop. Now this vineyard wasn’t originally on our radar as we didn’t really want to visit a well-known brand and wanted to try something a little bit different. But you really can’t fault their location and their presence in the industry.

Their website claimed to have a Heritage centre but all we saw was a T.V room where you watch a 6-minute video on the history of Brancott, that was not so impressive, but the wine tasting one on and one attention we received was outstanding.

There were 3 different wine tasting options, one for $5, one for $10 and one for $15, we opted for all three so we could all taste something a bit different. Of course, we left with a bottle or two – or three! As it makes the tasting free!

Top Tip:Let’s just say we were quite happy at 11.30 in the morning, as we were leaving the place was filling up so we would recommend coming to Brancott early to avoid the crowds.

The second vineyard on our agenda was Highfield Estate mainly for its Chateau-like building, they weren’t as attentive as Brancott but a lovely girl served us and for $5 we got to taste more than 3 wines each.

We weren’t as fond of these wines as much as we had hoped but you could certainly see this place was soon filling up, what we read online that this was the place to come for lunch.

The third vineyard and our lunchtime stop was Wither Hills, located on the main road but you really don’t notice it as they have built an enclosed beautifully landscaped courtyard. This time our wine tasting was done sitting down at a table. We felt less rushed this way and I think we all enjoyed it more for this reason. The lady was very attentive, gave us a map of the region which really helped when she explained about where the grapes were from!

After our wine tasting, we moved into the restaurant area and overindulged in large sharing mixed platter and of course a bottle of wine! It certainly was the definition of long lunch and it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Wine Tasting in Blenheim
Wine Tasting in Blenheim

Day 10: Return back to Wellington

It was time to leave the beautiful South Island for another year. We filled our car with all the beautiful bottles of wine we had purchased the day before and took the early morning Bluebridge ferry back to Wellington. But it was worth it as this time we were on time and back at home by 1 pm, right in time for a spot of lunch!

There you have it, the Top of the South Island in 10 days, looking back, if we had to do it all over again we would have:

  • Stayed in Kaiteriteri instead of Motueka (nicer and more to do locally);
  • Stayed an extra night in Nelson after the Abel Tasman;
  • Not underestimate the time it takes to get from A-B!
  • Eat at Jester House more than once and;
  • Visited Golden Bay, which was originally on the agenda but unfortunately the storm that hit the region a few weeks beforehand meant the road was closed for repair.

Until Next Time South Island!

Visiting the North Island too? We got you covered – check out our Check out our 10 day itinerary for your North Island road trip!

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.

New Zealand Accommodation Guide & Cost’s

From luxury lodges, 5 star centrally located hotels, 4-star family hosted unique B&B’s, 3-star motel style accommodation, backpackers or cute Kiwi Bach’s NZ really does have it all!

Of course which options you choose all does come down to your budget. Each style of New Zealand accommodation offers something unique whether it be the location, the outstanding facilities or simply because they offer some classic kiwi hospitality. If you are wondering what style you can afford please use the below as a guide.

It’s difficult to give you an exact across the board cost for each style as costs do vary from region to region. For example, popular destinations like Queenstown will be more expensive than say the small but quaint town of Punakaiki, so do bear this in mind when you factor accommodation into the cost of your trip.

You could always mix it up and stay all of them at least once – after all, it’s all part of the fun when visiting NZ!

 

Backpackers:

Price Range: $70 – $140 NZD per night for private room.

YHA Rotorua

A dorm room or private room in a New Zealand hostel is your option here. They can come with ensuite rooms or shared bathrooms. All have shared kitchen facilities and modern facilities. If you are more of the adventurous type and love meeting new people from all walks of life they can be a great option for the budget conscious traveler! We have previously stayed in Base hostels and YHA’s nationwide and have come across all ages of people, they certainly are not just for the youngsters!

Kiwi Bach’s:

Price Range: $150 – $250 per night

kiwi bach
Beautifully unique kiwi bach near Nelson

If you want to holiday like a kiwi this would give you a truly authentic experience. BookaBach (the kiwi version of Air BnB) would be your go-to site to find kiwi’s holiday homes that they rent out when they aren’t using them. Perfect if you are traveling with a family or don’t want to be bothered whilst vacationing.

Motels.

Price Range: $140- $250 NZD per night.

motel accomodation
Your typical style of Motel’s throughout NZ.

Motels in New Zealand are often a little further out of the town centers, but they are really great value for money. They often will have free parking, free wifi, and a kitchen (or kitchenette) with the option of either one/two or three bedroom apartments with all the amenities you would need. They are great for an overnight stop to recharge your batteries before continuing the road trip the next day.

Family Hosted Bed & Breakfasts.

Price Range: $180-$250 NZD per night.

morepork lodge
Greeted with a glass wine at the Morepork Lodge, Paihia.

Kiwi’s are famed for their hospitality, if you want to meet the locals then this is the best way. They have converted and opened up their family homes to ensure you get a stay in NZ you won’t forget. They often only have 2-4 rooms, offer breakfast the next day as well as free parking and free wifi. This is a great option if you are after a more personalised service whilst in NZ.

 

4-5 Star Hotel’s.

Price Range: $220-$380 NZD per night

The Martinborough Hotel
One of our favourites, The Martinborough Hotel in Martinborough!

If you want the service without paying through the nose then hotels are a great choice. Rooms are often large, the hotels very centrally located and have the service to match. You can opt for a room only price range or room and breakfast. Often they will have all the facilities you need, a gym, a swimming pool, restaurants, and bars. Don’t expect free wifi or free parking though, they usually charge extra for these.

Luxury Lodges & Exclusive Private Retreats.

Price Range: $350 – $1,500 NZD per night. More if the retreat is all yours!

luxury lodge NZ
Luxury Accommodation at Mudbrick Vineyard on Waiheke Island, Auckland

NZ is fortunate to have some of the best scenery in the world, mix this with Kiwi hospitality with lodges in the most stunning remote locations imaginable and you will get the best of the best. Luxury Lodges in New Zealand will often only have a few rooms allowing for a more personalized service.

Amenities such as swimming pools, full meal options, spa treatments will be at your fingertips, you will be relaxed the moment you walk through the door and feel like royalty all at the same time!

Something Different?

Price Range: Depends on the style.

Treehouse at Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura

Think Glamping, Glass Pods, Treehouses, Hobbit Houses accommodation and Farm Stays. NZ really has an incredible range of unique styled accommodation, designs you could only dream of! A quick google search of the above keywords will certainly bring up the types of places we are talking about. If you want a few tips just get in touch!

Camping & Freedom Camping.

Price Range:$24 – $55 per night for 2 people, possibly even FREE.

camping in NZ
Waterfront freedom camping spot in Wanaka

The camping culture is huge in NZ. Kiwi’s will often spend weeks upon end camping at their favourite campsites and return year upon year. Facilities differ from campsite to campsite. The Top 10 brand undeniably have the best facilities nationwide but they are also usually the most expensive. There is a great App that we love called CamperMate that you can download to find the campsites upon your route. In the busier months arriving before 3pm to get a spot (more so relevant if you haven’t booked) is a good idea.

Freedom Camping is also an option if you have a campervan/Motorhome. Basically, if you are fully self-contained you can camp in designated spots for free. To find out more information on both options above check out our guide to Freedom Camping.

 

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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

5 Great Things to do in Wairarapa

Where do you go for a weekend away when you live in Wellington, I hear you ask? As every Wellingtonian will tell you, you go up “over the hill” (The Rimutaka Hill) to the beautiful and rugged Wairarapa region.

Wairarapa is just an hours drive from Wellington but it feels worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of busy central Wellington. Driving to Wairarapa is an adventure in itself, as you drive over windy Rimutaka Hill make sure you stop by and make time to complete the Rimutaka Trig Walk. The walk only takes about an hour and on a clear day you can see some spectacular views of Wellington and the Wairarapa region – it truly is spectacular. You can also get to Wairarapa by train (get off at Featherston) but we suggest taking your bikes and packing up your car for the weekend as the Wairarapa region is quite remote and having your own car and bikes will make this charming place more accessible.

Check out our fun video of our time in Wairarapa!

1 – Martinborough

Your first port of call should most certainly be Wairarapa’s wine capital Martinborough. A small town with a lot of charm and character plus it is home to some of the best wines in NZ! When we visited last, we stayed at The Martinborough Hotel, which if you are not staying in – you should definitely stop in for a drink before you go check out the square and the rest of the town.

Martinborough Hotel - Going NZ
Our hotel for the weekend, The stunning Martinborough Hotel.

Wine Time!

Wairarapa’s vineyards in Martinborough are all in really close proximity to each other. The easiest way to go between them is with a bike or arrange a tour (Green Jersey Cycle Tours & Bike Hire are great) though I guess if you are not drinking wine then you could drive around – but where is the fun in that? You can’t really get lost in Martinborough, it’s a small town, you’ll be fine! To reach to vineyards head towards Princess Street you can do the circle in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Most of the vineyards offer $5 tasting and serve scrumptious food – you can’t go wrong! If you are coming to Martinborough in the summer you will always find an event on – there is always Wairarapa events running almost weekly!

At the Vineyards in Wairarapa
Vineyards in Wairarapa

Poppies

We also had the pleasure of visiting Poppies. Poppies is run by husband and wife team Poppy and Shayne Hammond. They have developed a destination vineyard that every Wellingtonian seems to love! We popped in (no pun intended!) for tastings and to have lunch. We enjoyed the best platter of food and a couple of fantastic glasses of wine and would strongly recommend dropping in.

Top Tip: This place is definitely worth a visit but please do book in advance especially at lunch times, as they are very busy! 

Poppies, Going NZ
Poppy, doing her thing at Poppies!

2 – Driving to Cape Palliser

Wairarapa is lighthouse land! Cape Palliser is THE lighthouse to visit, it is the North Island’s most Southerly point. The road to Cape Palliser has the water on one side and breathtaking scenery on the other, we must have pulled over about 10 times to take it in and get some snaps.

Top Tip: Make sure you stop at Ngawi, a very rural fishing village right on the beach. There is a lot of scenic beauty to see here along with a large number of what looks like (but are not) neglected tractors/ parked on the beach.

The Lighthouse

Once you reach the end of the road (which turns into a dirt track) you have to climb over 250 steps to the top. Here you feel like you are literally at the end of the world 

Cape Palliser - Going NZ
At the top of Cape Palliser Light House.

Seal Colonies

Along the drive back you will come across a fur Seal Colony they really are mesmerising to watch, especially the babies! Make sure you stop and see these smelly sea beasts. But please give the seals space, they are after all wild animals with huge teeth. Oh, by the way they are also used to a diet that doesn’t include sandwiches.

Watching the seal at Cape Palliser
Watching the seal at Cape Palliser

3 – The Putangirua Pinnacles

A geological formation and one of New Zealand’s best examples of bad ass badlands erosion. After Martinborough, The Pinnacles walk is the next most popular thing to do in the Wairarapa. You can do this walk by parking at the DOC campsite here. The walk/hike takes around 3-4 hours return and there are two routes you can take. The high/bush track which is shady (good for a hot, hot day) but also steep and challenging in places, the common route which is a much easier route follows the river bed. In the summer the river bed is more like a trickle so you won’t even get wet socks!

Top Tip:  There is little shelter from the sun when you reach The Pinnacles, especially when the sun is high in the sky. So take some sun cream and suitable clothing.

The Incredible Pinnacles, Going NZ
The Incredible Pinnacles

4 – Lake Ferry

Lake Ferry is worth the drive. We went out in the evening, to watch the sunset and have a stroll along the beach. Sounds romantic ey?! We also stopped for dinner at the Lake Ferry Hotel.

There isn’t much to do at Lake Ferry – unless you have your rod and a boat. But the place is really beautiful, the beach stretches for miles and the Lake Ferry Hotel is well situated for windy days. We had some great freshly caught fish for dinner, that along with a nice refreshing pint made our excursion to Lake Ferry extra special.

Lake Ferry Going NZ
Driving to Lake Ferry!

5 – Castlepoint

Castlepoint is worth the detour! From Martinborough, we stopped in the quaint town of Greytown along the route for a spot of coffee before heading to Masterton and fueling up. From Masterton, Castlepoint is an hours drive.

Castlepoint is Bach haven (what the Coromandel is to Aucklanders). We arrived on a beautiful but windy day. The journey up to the lighthouse involved both walking and some gentle climbing – nothing challenging and has the most incredible views of NZ’s eastern coastline. We took a picnic, pitched up on the beach and watched the world go by.

Castlepoint Going NZ
Us at Castlepoint

A perfect beach day before heading back to the city lights!

Want to check out more of our travelling adventures or simply want ideas on where to go next? Check out our Travel Map for more tips and advice on travelling around New Zealand!