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

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

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

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

Day One:

Morning:

Te Puia – New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute:

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

Te Puia

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

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

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

 

Afternoon:

Off Road NZ:

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

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

Off Road NZ

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

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

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

Evening:

Mitai Maori Village:

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

Mitai Maori Village

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

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

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


Kiwi Kai:

Top Tip:

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


 

Day Two:

Morning:

Canopy Tours:

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

Canopy Tour Rotorua

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

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

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

 

Afternoon:

Mountain Biking the Redwoods:

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

Mountain Bike Redwoods Rotorua

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

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

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

 

Evening:

Rotorua’s Skyline & Gondola & Meal.

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

Rotorua Sky Line

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

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

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

 


 

Volcanic Hills:

Top Tip:

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

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

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

 


Day Three:

Morning:

Wet n Wild, White Water Rafting:

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

Kaituna rafting

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

10 Free Things to do in Wellington

Now we have been in Wellington a while we thought it was about time to tell you all how this fantastic this city is! It is packed with entertaining things to do, with many of these available at a small cost or even for free (who doesn’t love free!). Below in no particular order is a list of the best free things to do during a trip to New Zealand’s capital city and a little video to go along with it!


1 – Te Papa Museum:

Te Papa is a must-see during your Wellington visit. It is the national museum of New Zealand and has been recognised as a world-leading visitor-focused experience thanks to its many interactive features. There are permanent exhibitions that depict New Zealand’s amazing geology and geography; the historical lives of the country’s indigenous people, the Maoris; and the unique wildlife of the islands. There are also short-term exhibitions focusing on historical and geographical events, including the earthquakes that have occurred on these volcanic islands. Guided tours are available; however, with the amount of interactive material available, it can be better to spend hours moving through the museum at your own speed. Allow a day, or come back for a second visit – you will need it!

2 – Weta Cave

Weta Workshop is a world-leading design and effects facility used by the world’s creative industry. The company started in a room in a flat in Wellington, where the founders hoped to provide models and prop work for the home film market in New Zealand. This is now a multi-million-dollar business associated with a startling list of movies, including the amazing creations in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, and the modern-day adventures of the Thunderbirds.

The Weta Cave Shop is a focal point of the Weta Studio Tours. Here you can wander through a small museum, watch a documentary about the company and – best of all – it is free!

If you want to go for the full experience, you can pay for several tour levels and fill your bags with memorabilia from the shop. Selfies with sculptures and prop replicas can also be taken, providing great memories! The tours do incur a cost, but they represent good value for money – we have taken this tour and we shall be writing about our experience at the tour in detail over the next coming weeks – so watch this space 🙂

3 – Plane Spotting!

Yes, that is right, how about a bit of plane spotting! Wellington’s airport is in a really unique spot. Starting its life as simple, grassy runway in 1928 in eventually became a fully functioning airport in 1935. It is built on reclaimed land and over 180 houses in the area had to be relocated to make room for it! Due to the valleys either side it really was the only place for it! The main road to busy neighborhoods such as Miramar and Lyall Bay run right along side it meaning you can get real close to the planes that land here. It is quite an exhilarating experience!

4 – Walk along the Wellington Waterfront

The Wellington waterfront walk begins really just outside the train station. It really is exceptional and is considered one of the best waterfront walks in the world.  The city council manages the waterfront and does a great job. They actively promote the heritage buildings, stages public events, supports commercial development, manages properties, and provides general maintenance, security, and cleaning.

Well before European settlement, this area of Wellington was a centre of local Maori life. The first wharves were built in 1840 with the arrival of the settlers; more recently, land has been reclaimed to form the modern-day waterfront area that is now a key recreational, social and cultural hub of the capital city. Wandering through this coastal area is full of surprises, relaxing and free!

Restaurants, cafes and shops abound, which are great to browse around. The waterfront is also host to many city events throughout the year, including Waitangi Day celebrations, Chinese New Year and Guy Fawkes night. For atmosphere, one of the best times to visit Wellington is on New Year’s Eve as it becomes the first city worldwide – along with Auckland – to welcome in the New Year.

The waterfront is also a great place to sit and people watch. If you are looking for a cheap way to spend the day, there are lots of areas and decking along the quays where you can sit and think – or just sit! The walk finishes at the stunning Oriental Parade, Wellington’s best beach!

Wellington Oriental Parade

5 – Walk Mount Victoria

Mount Victoria rises to an altitude of almost 200 metres and is situated immediately to the east of the central area of Wellington. Offering an adventure area on your doorstep, there are multiple trails all over the hill that you can explore by foot or bike; alternatively, there is a loop walk of 4.7km that takes about two and a half hours to complete on foot. Anyone of average fitness can safely undertake this walk, which has a common start/finish point. All the walks on Mount Victoria offer amazing views of the city and the harbour. Top Tip: If your feeling lazy you can drive to the top – but don’t cheat!

6 – Visit Cuba Street

This is often called New Zealand’s coolest street and offers an inner city slice of bohemia. Upon our first day here in Wellington we went to check it out! It strangely has been registered as a historic area since 1995, but it is pretty cool! There are hotels, restaurants and bars and the bustling street is full of creative quirks, buskers, art galleries, graffiti, affordable bric-a-brac and exhibitions – there is literally something for everyone. Browsing is free and you could pick up some truly unique items if you are prepared to spend a little money.

7 – Tour of Parliament Buildings

New Zealand’s parliament sits in the Parliament Buildings in Wellington. There is a public gallery, a visitors’ centre, and exhibitions of some of New Zealand’s established and newest artists. The public gallery is open whenever parliament meets, with sitting in on the decision-making process of a democratic country providing a thought-provoking experience. Guided tours can be arranged; in addition, for those who can’t make it to Wellington or who want to relive the experience of their visit, there is a virtual tour available on the official parliament website. We are yet to experience this, but a good rainy day activity none the less.

Wellington Beehive

 

8 – Mountain Biking

Wellington’s hilly landscape is the perfect environment for mountain biking enthusiasts. It has been estimated that there are around 350km of mountain bike trails, making this a must if you have your bike with you this. You can spend days following the trails at your own pace. If you are a biker, this is without a doubt one of the best free things to do in Wellington.

9 – The Botanical Gardens

Wellington Botanic Garden is situated centrally within the city and hosts 25 hectares of completely unique landscaping and plants. It was established in 1868 and initially managed by the New Zealand Institute, with the Wellington City Council taking over in 1891. The gardens are open from dawn until dusk each day of the year and entry is free, with guided tours costing $4 per person.

Wellington Botanical Garden Sculptures

10 – Watch War Memorial 

Wellington’s National War Memorial is not on the usual’s tourist’s radar but well worth a visit. Every day at 5pm a Last Post ceremony is conducted on the forecourt of the National War Memorial. The service lasts for 7 minutes and any one can take part. A minutes silence is also acknowledged in respect for the soldiers who served in the First World War. The ceremony is longer on a Sunday and the building is open daily from 9am – 5pm and entry is free. 🙂

So there you have it a list of the best 10 free things to do in Wellington, do check back in a couple of weeks for our article on activity guide for this beautiful city! And remember once you have been through the list, you can start again and experience the whole adventure time after time, learning new things along the way!

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

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

Mountain, what mountain?

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

Mt Ruaphehu Volcanoe

Photo: GNS

First Time?

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

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

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

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

Happy Valley Going NZ

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

Going NZ Skiing
All the gear but no idea

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

Logistics:

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

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

Going NZ Skiing

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

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

ski knoll ridge

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

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!

Our Review of flying with Air New Zealand

As many of you may know we recently went back to England visiting our family and friends for the first time in almost two years! In New Zealand, Air New Zealand has a very strong reputation. Many of the kiwis we came across won’t fly with any other airline and are proud of the airlines history and safety record. Just recently the Auckland Museum hosted a special exhibition celebrating 75 years of the airlines success. It was something that the kiwis embraced and loved. We had never flown Air New Zealand so we thought we would give them a go! This is our review of flying with Air New Zealand based on the experience we had.

The Back Story:

Picture this: We just had a nice well deserved beer in the departure lounge after a busy and stressful day cleaning and moving out of our flat! We headed to the gate as requested it was 10:05pm. Isaac was had his new headphones on and was listening to music. He had just brought them from the airport and really couldn’t hear a thing when the announcement came. 30 minutes before we due to board (10.30pm) the announcement was the flight was delayed.

I sighed, Isaac was still oblivious. I then expected the lady to announce a delay of a few hours, I was eyeing up the sofas in the corner as my camping spot for the next few hours. But instead she told us it was delayed until tomorrow morning at 7.30am!!!!

The Service we Received:

Then the chaos came! I nudged Isaac to take his headphones off and listen, okay it was more of hit really and he looked across at me all annoyed and was confused at my knee jurk reaction. “It’s delayed until tomorrow morning” I kept repeating to him until it clicked what I was saying to him. Everyone was quiet at first not sure on what there next move was but Isaac shot up and went straight to the front desk.

Aucklander’s were told to go collect there luggage, go home and come back in the morning. Technically we were Aucklanders, but we were homeless! People who needed accommodation were to wait at the gate for further instruction. Isaac quick front desk sprint really did speed up the evening events. We found ourselves front of the queue for accommodation.

The hotel was the Holiday Inn 6 minutes from Auckland airport. We were one of the first to get our accommodation vouchers and we found ourselves to be one of the first at the bus stop. Air New Zealand representatives were at every stage of the entering NZ again, screening the luggage and at the arrivals hall directing people where to go. So it was all fairly swift and easy. The coach however wasn’t there, but I do think this was because we were one of the first out!

We jumped in a taxi to the hotel and decided not to wait for the free coach, (again to beat the crowds) as we checked in Isaac called the Air New Zealand number he was given.

When situations like this happen the airline main goal is to get you to your end destination the quickest and safest way possible.

The representative we spoke to on the phone was very attentive and forward thinking. He could see that our Shanghai connection would not work for us and would not get us into London in time for our departure to Bruges. He gave us three options and once we said “okay” we were rescheduled onto another flight the following evening. This time it was NZ2, via LA through to London. It is actually the fastest route, we don’t have to change planes and the lay over time in LA was very short. In hind sight this was the much better option for us we had a extra day and half rest in a lovely hotel room paid by the airline, got some much needed rest and didn’t have to worry about changing planes or seats with the airline. Don’t ask me how but somehow we departed 24 hours later but only arrive 18 hours later!

air new zealand review
Looking a bit worse for wear as we near our destination, but in good spirits!

Our On Board Experience:

At this stage we were happy to be on the plane! I always get a slight sense of excitement when I get on the plane, I strangely look forward to messing with all the dials and buttons to find out what they do. I like going through the TV and seeing what movies are available, I like getting the blanket and and snuggling into it. But straight away we both could feel a slight sense of claustrophobia. Unlike most airlines ANZ have recently adopted the 3-4-3 configuration on most of there latest models. I read they took a inch out of each seat to allow space for a extra seat.  That extra inch as immediately missed!

To add to frustration Isaac’s TV monitor didn’t work for quite a while and needed a factory reset to get it working again! We found the amount of movies to be fairly limited. The TV monitor was also slow at reacting to our demands which was beyond frustrating!

If you like to recline back to relax then you would like the seats, they recline back really far but it is a little unfair on the person behind you, we don’t think they should be allowed to recline this far back.

One other experience we weren’t impress with was the food it really was also insubstantial, for both breakfasts we had some sloppy looking yellow stuff that was apparently egg. I won’t go into detail, but think Ryan Air or Easy jet standard you will catch my drift! Once they put you all to bed like children (which I always find amusing!) the snacks can be ordered via the TV. We have flown long haul on numerous occasions, Singapore Airlines were constantly coming over with water with ANZ you have to order these. The snacks also just consisted of white chocolate cookies, when you are feeling hungry after such a small a substantial meal this is just not enough! We also did miss the hot towels that other airlines supply.

air new zealand review
Air New Zealand 3-4-3 Configuration = Squashed

To Summarise:

Essentially after our experience we think if customer service is important to you and you want to be looked after when a delay happens or appreciate that a airline want to get you to your end destination in the safest and quickest way possible, whilst being approached by polite attentive staff then Air New Zealand should be your top choice. We were very impressed with how they handled our situation and helped us when we got lost transiting through the maze of LAX airport (which is a whole other story!).

We could not fault them for that, however if for you comfort, food and working equipment during a long haul flight is important to you then I would consider another airline. They were missing a few fundamental elements of comfort and with some small changes as mentioned above they may just have the perfect long haul in flight experience that will set Air New Zealand well above the rest.

Our day trip to Abel Tasman National Park

Six years ago when we embarked on our South Island road trip we (stupidly) skipped the Abel Tasman National Park. I would like to say time constraints was the reason but it was probably more the budget at the time! It is something we have (well I know I have been) regretting ever since! So when we had the opportunity to go down to the South Island for the first time in 6 years with my parents last month, I made sure it was on the bucket list!

I had spent too much time hearing from people how idyllic the beaches were, how lovely it is to kayak in the region and basically how great it is! So we decided to book a trip with Abel Tasman Kayaks as we wanted to do something active and thought kayaking the park sounded fun!

image

We chose the ‘Remote Coast’ day trip, 4 hours of kayaking from Awaroa, visiting Shag Harbour, stopping for lunch at Onetahuti and then kayaking to Bark Bay. Our day started with putting the wrong address into the GPS! As we arrive into Marahau we found our selves parked outside some ones house, I wasn’t sure what kind of size operation Abel Tasman Kayaks ran but it didn’t feel right! We spoke to a man who was looking for people to jump on his water taxi (sorry not us today!) and he told us it was about 500 metres up the road. Problem solved!

And yes they operate a fairly large operation! It seemed like a nice area, they had toilets, some where you could get coffee and lots of picnic benches and then a really long queue to check in! We thought it looked like chaos! But as they checked more and more people in we noticed It was actually organised chaos! Each small group of people at each bench was a different group all waiting to head out into the park for the day! We got directed to our picnic bench where our group was waiting for us (we were late!) and introduced ourselves to our group leader for the day. She gave us a rundown of safety procedures before we got onto the boat which was driven by large tractors!

Ready to float!
Ready to float!

The large tractors took us out onto the slip way and we got out on the water – how easy was that! But then we had to battle with the wind, it was a very windy and very rough seas, as we closed in on Awaroa Bay though the water calmed but that didn’t stop us from worrying as we had 4 hours kayaking against the wind ahead of us!

And true to form, 2 hours in at our lunch stop, we were knackered! We used to own kayaks so we do consider ourselves fairly experienced but I had numb bum and Isaac had such bad cramp in his legs that he almost couldn’t get out of the sea kayak!

During lunch (we were starving!) we asked our guide if we continue the route on foot, I think it was pretty fair to say she looked slightly surprised! There was another couple in our group that was doing this option so I think we may have just screwed up the logistics of how they would get our kayak from that beach to our end destination. But a few moments on the radio and the problem was resolved, it probably gave her a easier afternoon for her as she had one less couple to look out for on the water! So essentially we ended up doing there ‘Two Gods’ day trip – which I strongly recommend is a better option!

A brief rest from the rough sea and wind in Shag Harbour
A brief rest from the rough sea and wind in Shag Harbour

So really our top tip for the Abel Tasman is if you really want to kayak just do it for the first half of your day. Two hours kayaking should be enough. Yes, it is really enjoyable and you do get to see hidden coves along the way that you wouldn’t see if you were hiking but as we took some time out and did the walk from Onetahuti to Bark Bay at our own pace we could truly reflect on the beauty of this place. You actually don’t bump into that many people on the walk and the walk doesn’t take as long as it says on the signs plus you will come across some beautiful beaches with plenty of down time to have a dip in the sea!

Beautiful hidden beaches along the walk
Beautiful hidden beaches along the walk

Next time (yes there will be a next time!) we come we shall camp for a few days, I was pleasantly surprised at the standard of the camp grounds, they have pretty good toilets, a kitchen shelter, somewhere you can have a camp fire and of course an amazing beachfront location. I also realised that water taxi’s come very often so pre booking a day trip like we did wasn’t really necessary. My parents just jumped on a water taxi and didn’t pre book anything. You can just imagine by camping here a few night, after all the day trippers leave you have this paradise all to yourself!

So now I get what everyone was going on about, but one day wasn’t really enough for us, if you can make it two days!

Hiring A Rental Car In New Zealand – Kiwi Road Trip!

It’s road trip time for us! We have ten days…to explore the South Island. We have decided to fly down to Queenstown and hire a car upon arrival. We have a time constraint so we decided this would be the best method for us. We are flying out of Nelson to make the most of the time that we have!

Our South Island Road Trip Route
Our South Island Road Trip Route

Finally open roads! Yes, they may not be that smooth but they are scenic and definitely a conversation starter! With a long drive ahead we are prepared for our journey. Below is our check list for hiring a car for your kiwi road trip:

GPS Unit: Who uses maps these days, anyone? You can hire one from the car hire company for around ten dollars a day but Google Maps on your smart phone is more than sufficient these days! *Top Tip* To save money if you are hiring a car for more than 10 days. Why not pop to The Warehouse and buy a GPS?

Mobile Phone: Don’t forget that smart phone which if you have 3G / 4G data signal can doubles ups as a GPS with Google Maps and emergency use! Make sure you also sign up to a network that has good signal…I swear by Vodafone for NZ there coverage here has never let me down!

Fuel: Make sure you know what fuel your rental vehicle requires, a nasty surprise may follow else!

Apex car rentals
Apex car rentals

Insurance: Don’t get caught short, opt for that extra insurance that the car hire company offer. Make sure you reduce your accident excess reduction all the way down to nil.

Cover your ass: Read all the terms and conditions of hire car, things such as returning the hire car late, or with a empty tank will all get you extra charges when you return he car. Protect your wallet and read the small print! Also note down, take pictures of any marks or scratches you see on the car when you first pick it up, if you are extra concerned before you leave talk to someone at the hire company and make them record the mark or scratch you have noticed.

Credit card: The car hire company will take a imprint of your card (usually around 250 dollars if you have purchased the extra AER, don’t forget the credit card else they will have to use your debit card and actually take the money!

Check list and route in tact and we are off, we shall be on social media during our vacation and posting photos as we go just to make you all that little bit more jealous! First stop is Queenstown, my we have missed you!

Queenstown
Queenstown

*Guest Blog* My experience of Whangaroa Harbour, North Island

Something a little bit different… a guest blog post from my sister who recently visited us! We took her to Whangaroa – her favourite destination of NZ and a the highlight of her trip. Plus we love it too and its not hard to understand why. Her guest post is below.

Sally
Sally

Guest Writer: Sally Lanji

The beautiful Whangaroa Harbour is an inlet on the northern coast of the Northland. It is 40 minutes drive north of the Bay of Islands and 30 minutes drive south of Doubtless Bay, making it an ideal stopover for travellers searching for something different that speaks of authentic Northland – unspoiled and unique. The harbour was formed when rising sea levels drowned a river valley about 6,000 years ago. According to Māori traditions, the waka Māhuhu-ki-te-rangi explored the Whangaroa harbour during early Māori settlement of New Zealand. The area was settled by descendants of Te Māmaru and Mataatua waka crews.

Whangaroa Harbour at its best
Whangaroa Harbour at its best

Like the Māori’s once did I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to explore this tranquil region and enjoy a relaxing New Year getaway from the city.

We stayed at the Sunseeker Lodge, in there one bedroom apartment, separate to the communal backpacking facilities. On arrival first impressions were good due to the views over the harbour and the communal hot tub facilities also overlooking the harbour. The apartment contained beautiful furniture and art work, it is great for the location but don’t expect the Ritz expect amazing views and fantastic friendly hosts!

The view and Hot Tub at Sunseekers Lodge
The view and Hot Tub at Sunseekers Lodge

The best way to explore Whangaroa Harbour is by boat, this is a must! We were lucky enough to go out in my sister’s, partner’s family boat around the harbour, and it was the highlight of my trip to NZ. The beautiful turquoise sea set amongst the green tropical cliffs, hills and islands around the bay were an amazing site to see. We spotted the ‘Dukes Nose’ made out of rock cliff and discovered a rare waterfall due to the previous days downpour! We were took to a little hidden gem and moored our boat outside the Kingfish Lodge (the location is so remote, the Spice Girls holidayed here during the height of their careers – or so we were told!) Kingfish Lodge features 5 newly renovated, stylish waterfront guest rooms and 7 studio apartment style rooms, terraced on a beautiful plot of coastal headland, a perfect retreat for anybody who has the cash!

The Kingfish Lodge
The Kingfish Lodge

We had refreshing beers and a orange juice at the friendly and welcoming bar area, it was only polite after parking our boat there! Then headed up to the top of the hill for our picnic and to see the panoramic views of the harbour. We had a bird’s eye view of the harbours entrance to the sea. We soon realised this was the iconic place with stunning scenery to take a special photo of us all for our future photo books!

Team :)
Team 🙂

On our last day we climbed St Paul’s Rock it is the highest point we could get to, to see the 360 degree views of the area we had visited was just mind blowing. The walk to the peak took about 20 minutes but it was a very steep walk and we had to practically rock climb up the last part of the rock using the chains provided so this walk is not for the faint hearted! But when you get to the top as you reap the rewards of self-achievement and take in the idyllic views you soon realise the climb to the top was worth it. Truly a moment to reflect and enjoy the well-kept lands which were first created 6000 years ago.

I would highly recommend a visit to Whangaroa Harbour, this untouched gem gives the guaranteed wow factor!

Things you can do in Lake Taupo

A Few Facts

Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand and roughly the same size as Singapore. The lake itself is technically a dormant volcano which feeds into the mighty Waikato river, New Zealand’s longest river. Lake Taupo was formed during one of the worlds largest volcanic events a ‘supervolcanic’ eruption thousands of years ago which basically created a huge crater which water has collected.

We spent four days in the town of Taupo, during that time we managed to accomplish quite a lot. Driving down from Auckland to Taupo takes only 3 hours and feels like a world away form the hustle and bustle of New Zealand’s most populous city. Below I’ve detailed what we got up to during our four days – a sort of suggested itinerary for Taupo if you will.

Lake Taupo – Walking.

You can walk stretches of the lake itself, but the most popular tracks are often a short drive from the lake and main town. We visited Opepe reserve (about 15kms from lake Taupo) and spent a few hours walking around the cemetery track bird spotting and taking in the beauty. Another popular option is the lions walk which can take up to three hours, according to locals there are some great swimming holes and private areas for picnics (next time, next time!)

Beauty of a spot in Taupo!
Beauty of a spot in Taupo!

 

Mountain Biking

Our bikes come everywhere with us, they make getting around a breeze. New Zealand was made for mountain biking, with so many trails and cycle paths, Taupo is no exception. There is no one trail I’d recommend, we did a portion of the great lake trail which is potentially a three day cycle!

Fishing

Lake Taupo is well stocked with brown and rainbow trout, native crayfish and whitebait. The lake is large enough not to be shoulder to shoulder with other fishermen. The best time to fish is during spawning season, but fish can be caught all year round. The  most popular locations for catching trout are where rivers and streams meet feed into Lake Taupo. If you need someone to take you out we reccommend chartering a boat from Chris Jolly Outdoors, great service and great fun! http://chrisjolly.co.nz/private-fishing-charters/ 

DeBretts Hot Pools

DeBretts is basically a hot thermal pool, it takes a little while to get used to swimming and paddling in warm water, but its quite an experience. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, it’s really easy to get dehydrated, don’t drink water from the pools or put your head under the water!

De Brett's Hot Pools
De Brett’s Hot Pools

Huka falls

No trip down from Auckland to Taupo would be complete without a visit to Huka falls, actually it doesn’t really matter which direction you are coming from as its less than 2Km from Taupo. The fall itself is created by more than 200,000 litres of water per second  (the Waikato river) being squeezed into a narrow gully then out, check out the photos below. Well worth visiting!

Huka Falls
Huka Falls

Maori Rock Carvings Cruise

The Maori rock carvings were our wild card purchase, we had a spare day and have not been out on the lake. Before the cruise, I didn’t know anything about the rock carvings and very little about the lake (most of the knowledge in the opening paragraphs was from the cruise – hopefully I got it right!) There are a couple of options for getting out on the lake and seeing the Maori rock carvings, we went with Sail Barbary. The cruise itself was enjoyable and not boring at all. The captain told her stories with enthusiasm and taught us about Maori history, the lakes history and even how to pilot the sailing boat. You might be surprised to learn that the carvings were created only recently in the 1970’s, nether the less, they are of great significance to the local Maori tribe and tourism in Taupo.

Maori Rock Carvings
Maori Rock Carvings

For a little more adventure, you could consider kayaking to the rock carvings – or do what I did and have a couple of bottles of beer, sit back and relax after four days of activity.

Are you heading to lake Taupo? If you had another day in Taupo, where would you go / what would you do? We’d love to hear from you.

Cycling in Waiheke

Waiheke has recently been voted by the Lonely Planet as the 5th best region to visit in the world! It is there top pick for 2016! One step off the ferry and onto this beautiful island and it isn’t hard to understand why. This is now our third time (and third article) to this stunning island, you could say we have fallen for this island hard! Each time we visit we discover something new it is quickly becoming our escape of choice from the busy Auckland lives we are currently living!

In Love with Waiheke
NZ has 3 more public holidays than the UK, that to us is 3 more weekend trips/getaways the first one of spring lands in Labour Weekend. A weekend where NZ commemorates the 8 hour working day (they were one of the first country’s to legalise it) we decided to utilise this time off in our busy schedules and explore Waiheke some more. This time around the agenda was to visit some areas of the island we have never been to before, some places you just can’t reach on the normal hop on and hop off bus service that the island offers to the many day trippers.

E Bikes at Palm Beach
E Bikes at Palm Beach

E Bikes to the Rescue:

To do this we needed transport. A quick Google search and we found we could hire Electric bikes for the day (or longer if you wanted) which was just perfect as we had already discovered the delights of a E bike back in June on our cycle trip around Auckland. We came across E Cycles and Darleen who runs the little shop in Oneroa. She is extremely passionate about everything bike related and has lots of knowledge about the island, she even gave us a handy map to ensure we couldn’t get lost (not hard!).
Darleen set us up with some fab bikes that are guaranteed to get you around the island in one day without breaking a sweat. A quick lap around her test track (the car park!) and we were off.

Our Cycle Route in a Day:

Ask anyone about Waiheke and they will tell you it is hilly! Do not under estimate! The first time we visited we were on foot, the second time we took our bikes (tiring) so this time we wanted to learn from our past mistakes! Riding Waiheke on E Bikes was a dream. The island has very good roads, courteous drivers and more cycle lanes than I expected.

The top of Seaview Road looking down to Onetangi
The top of Seaview Road looking down to Onetangi

At the bottom of the article is a map of the cycling route we took, we actually travelled a total of 30 km in the space of 2.5 hours but due to our stops in between we hired the bikes for a total of of 7 and half hours, we even had time for a cheeky 2 and half hour lunch break at Mudbrick Winery! I do believe this distance of travel will not over exert yourself and indeed the bikes (mine actually ran out of battery on the last hill -doh!).

Mudbrick Vineyard

Wine O'Clock
Wine O’Clock

In our last article we wrote about our plans to get as far east of the island that we could reach but unfortunately not even the E Bikes could make that happen for us – well there always is next time!