At the end of February/beginning of March 2014, my husband and I went to New Zealand for our honeymoon. I won’t lie, we picked New Zealand from our love of the Lord of the Rings movies which seemed to highlight the beauty of New Zealand. This was my first trip as a “grown-up” so my type a personality really kicked in and I had the whole trip planned almost to the minute. We drove from the near bottom of South Island to the top of North Island (all on the “wrong” side of the road). We learned more about each other, and about ourselves on this trip. We got “hit” by not one but two cyclones, which changed my perfectly planned itinerary, but also made the trip all the more memorable. In no way was this trip perfect, but it taught me a lot about traveling and I wouldn’t forget it for the world- I mean it’s New Zealand, who doesn’t want to go there at some point!
Below you will find my 18-day itinerary, along with things I would have changed (because I definitely made some mistakes), plus my type a tips for exploring this beautiful country.
|Day 1||5:45am Arrive Auckland|
|11am Arrive to Queenstown|
|Afternoon/Evening: Climb Queenstown Hill to lookout|
|Day 2||Morning: (10am) Helicopter flight to Milford Sound, with ferry ride of the Sound|
|Afternoon: (2pm) Shotover Jet|
|Day 3||All Day: Horseback riding at Dart Stables (9:15am start time)|
|Day 4||Morning: Trip to Arrowtown|
|Afternoon: Queenstown Gardens|
|Day 5||All Day: Drive to Christchurch (about 7 hours) Many stops along the way!|
|Day 6||Morning: Sleep in!|
|Afternoon: International Antarctic Centre|
|Day 7||Morning: Whale Watch Kaikoura (about 2.5 hr drive from Christchurch)|
|Afternoon: Kaikoura Kayaks|
|Day 8||Morning: Orana Wildlife Park|
|Afternoon/Evening: Drive to Picton (about 5 hours) Many stops along the way!|
|Day 9||All Day: Marlborough Icon Tour (Wine and mussel tasting)|
|Day 10||Morning/Afternnon: Kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park (8:30am start) (3hr drive from Picton)|
|Afternoon/Evening: Ferry to Wellington (from Picton) at 6pm|
|Day 11||Morning: Wellington Botanic Garden, New Zealand Museum|
|Afternoon: Weta Cave|
|Rotorua||Hostel: Base X Rotorua|
|Day 12||Morning/Afternoon: Drive to Rotorua (about 5 hours)|
|Afternoon/Evening: Lake Tikiapu|
|Day 13||Morning: Hobbiton set! (about 1 hr from Rotorua)|
|Afternoon: Zorbing, aMAZEme|
|Evening: Te Puia Tour (starts at 4:30pm)|
|Northland/Kerikeri||Hotel: Carrington Resort|
|Day 14||All Day: Drive to Kerikeri (about 6 hrs)|
|Stop: Waitoma Cave- Glow warm cave (about 2 hrs from Rotorua)|
|Day 15||All Day: Stuck inside due to cyclone|
|Day 16||All Day: Stuck inside due to cyclone|
|Day 17||Morning: Drive to Auckland|
|Day 18||Morning: Wander|
|Afternoon: Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari|
|Evening: 10:45pm Departure Flight Home|
While traveling we were “hit” by two cyclones meaning some of my carefully laid plans got ruined/canceled. Below is a list of activities we were supposed to do but couldn’t due to the weather.
- Black Car Cruise, in Christchurch. This cruise was supposed to get us literally in the water with the Hector dolphin. The Hector dolphin is the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world.
- We were supposed to go to Orana Wildlife Park after the cruise, on day 6. However, due to rain, all our plans for that day were ruined. However, we did manage to see the park on our way out of Christchurch.
- Footprints Waipoua, Northland: These tours are lead by Maori guides into the kauri forest. You guide teaches you about Maori history, traditions, medicine and more. This is a highly rated tour- I am very sad we missed it due to poor weather!
- Bay of Island Tour, Northland: This is a cruise of the Bay of Islands where we were likely to see dolphins.
- 90 Mile Beach and Sand Dunes, Northland. This is one of New Zealand’s longest stretches of beach and also includes some gorgeous sand dunes.
Things I would Change:
- I would have spent one less day in Queenstown. Three days would have been perfect to explore this small but action-packed town. If you plan on doing more hiking than maybe more time in Queenstown is worth it.
- We made the mistake of having Christchurch as our home base than driving to Kaikoura than back to Christchurch. Then the next day to go to Picton we had to drive thru Kaikoura again. We should have just spent the night in Kaikoura. However it did kinda work to our advantage since we were able to see Orana Wildlife Park on our way out of Christchurch- we were supposed to go two days earlier but couldn’t due to rain.
- I would have loved to spend more time in Abel Tasman National Park. This park is gorgeous!!! However, my husband is not as much of a hiking fan as me so I tried not to torture him too much.
- Don’t get hit by cyclones! The one is Christchurch wasn’t bad- just a lot of rain. However, the one in Northland was worst- we even lost power for a bit. We stayed in hostels for most of the trip, and Northland was supposed to be our romantic portion of the trip, I got us a villa in a resort that was supposed to have some of the most beautiful beaches- we never saw them due to the rain. Sadly I have no control over the weather and assuming you don’t either, this isn’t something you can really plan for.
My Favorite Parts of the Trip:
- As a nerd, I won’t lie, the Shire was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. I could barely hold my excitement back. To have a pint of ale (or cider in my case) at the actual Green Dragon was a dream come true!
- Queenstown: The whole town was just gorgeous, with even more beauty to be explored all around! If you love hiking there are plenty of options for you in and around Queenstown. I wish I had been to fully explore this area.
- Milford Sound is a must see. So beautiful and just a fun relaxing boat ride on top.
- I honestly loved the Shotover Jet. This high-speed boat needs only a few inches of water to fly over and can do a full 360 turn in a second. This exhilarating ride takes you along a river with steep cliff walls that you nearly hit but don’t due to the well trained and experienced drives.
- Orana Wildlife Park: I am not usually super into zoos, but this park is so much fun! There is a multitude of options to interact with various animals. My favorite being the lion exhibit. For an extra price, you can literally be driven into the lion exhibit in a cage. The lions then jump onto and around the cage- the caregivers have some meat they feed them. You aren’t able to touch the lions – they warn you multiple times about this beforehand- but simply being up that close to them is incredible!
- Whale Watch Kaikoura: This is probably my second favorite thing we did in New Zealand. The whale watch takes you out to find sperm whales. It couldn’t be in a more perfect location with the white peaked mountains as your backdrop. In fact, my homepage photo is from this very tour- and is probably one of my favorite photos I have ever taken.
- Marlborough Icons Tour: This all-day tour starts with wine tastings from various wineries in the famous Marlborough region. Then after a yummy lunch, you get to go on a Greenshell Mussel cruise, where you learn about how they farm mussels. And even better you get to eat many yummy mussels! The tour can be booked privately or with other people. We booked an open tour, but no one else signed up so we ended up with a private tour with the nicest guide!
- Kayaking in Abel Tasman Park: this gorgeous almost tropical paradise park is worth more than the half day tour we only had time for. We did a kayaking tour and loved it! It offered a unique view of this park. We also had sea lions swimming literally all around us while we kayaked. The kayaking was easy, so don’t worry if you aren’t an experienced kayaker- plus they give a mini-lesson before you even start.
- Weta Cave: If you are a Lord of the Rings fan then you MUST do a tour of Weta Cave, the company that created most of the props, costumes and digital effects in the movies. You know you are in the right spot when the infamous three trolls great you before the door.
- Zorbing: There isn’t much to zorbing. You literally get strapped into a large ball and rolled down a hill. Despite this simplistic design. This is a TON of fun! At $50 NZD it might seem expensive, but I thought it was worth the price.
- Te Puia Tour: This is more than one thing. It’s a geothermal valley, the home of the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute and a place focused on educating the public about the Maori. We did the Te Po combo tour, which included a guided tour of Te Puia (geothermal valley and art institute) and the Indigenous Evening Experience. There they cooked us dinner per their traditions and taught us even more about Maori traditions including dance and the purpose of the famous Haka.
Type A Tips for Exploring New Zealand:
- Currency: One NZD is about 65 cents (USD)
- Everyone in New Zealand is incredibly nice and more than willing to help you out if you have any questions about exploring their gorgeous country.
- Other than remembering to drive on the left side of the road, and that your turn signal and wiper blade are also on reverse sides, driving in New Zealand is easy and enjoyable. Often just the drive from one location to the next was as breathtaking as the destination.
- This is an expensive trip. The exchange rate isn’t on the US side, and housing and food are not cheap! Then factoring in airfare, this trip can get expensive. However, it’s definitely worth the money and if you are smart it doesn’t have to break your bank.
- The temperatures can change quite drastically from island to island or even city to city. Pack accordingly.
I hope this has helped you in planning your trip. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I would love to hear from you!
-Teresa, the Type A Trekker