Posted on: March 20th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
New Zealand is a nation of otherworldly scenery, but one of its most magical sights is the Shire at Hobbiton.
This scenic movie set is preserved just as it appeared in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.
Middle Earth comes to life before you the moment you step onto its picturesque landscape. It’s like walking straight into a Lord of the Rings film, adventure waiting just around the corner.
Hobbiton draws in visitors from around the world – that means you must book a tour way in advance if you want to go. There are several types of tours including lunch, an evening banquet, or even private tours.
For travelers seeking a magical adventure in New Zealand, a Hobbiton private tour is perfect for experiencing the Shire without the crowds.
Begin Your Journey to Your Hobbiton Private Tour
Private Hobbiton tours depart from the Shire’s Rest, located on 501 Buckland Rd in Matamata.
To get there from Rotorua, the scenic drive through the Kaimai ranges is about one hour. From Auckland the journey is about two hours – a delightful day trip.
Driving in New Zealand may be tricky for first time visitors, as they drive on the left side of the road. If you don’t want to drive to Hobbiton on your own, our Destination Experts at About New Zealand are able to arrange transfers from Auckland or Rotorua.
We’ll make sure your journey there and back again goes without a hitch.
Experience the Real Middle Earth
From the Shire’s Rest your guide will escort you with a scenic drive through the farmland of Hobbiton. The spectacular views of the distant Kaimai ranges and stunning green hills prepare you for the visual spectacle of the Shire.
Along the way your guide will recount tidbits and fascinating details about how the Hobbiton movie set was created.
You’ll walk through the twelve-acre site and explore the Shire on your guided tour. Colorful Hobbit holes overrun with verdant vines and gardens, bright flowers and shrubs towering over fences – this set will take your breath away.
You’ll see Frodo and Bilbo’s Hobbit holes, as well as Samwise Gamgee’s. Spot the Bag End Party Tree, decked with hand-crafted artificial leaves. Stop in at the Green Dragon Inn for a pint or a bite to eat – what better place to eat, drink and be merry than in Hobbiton?
The best part about a private tour is all the incredible photo opportunities with the least amount of crowds.
But you may find yourself forgetting about snapping photos altogether as you’re taking in the amazing details and sweeping views.
Want to Tour the Shire?
If seeing Hobbiton isn’t on your bucket list, it should be! Even non-fans leave raving about this magical place.
Not sure if you want to drive to Hobbiton or take a transfer? We’ll help you decide the best option for your trip. As New Zealand experts, we’ll make sure your vacation is the trip of a lifetime.
Posted on: March 6th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Transport yourself into Middle Earth and experience a magical evening on the Hobbiton Movie Set and Dinner Tour.
This evening banquet tour is perfect for Tolkien fans looking for something a little more special on their trip to New Zealand – be sure to come hungry!
How often do you get to feast on a banquet set in the cozy Green Dragon Inn?
How to Get to Hobbiton for the Evening Banquet Tour
Surrounded in stunning green landscapes and far-off mountain ranges, the Shire’s Rest houses a cafe and gift shop. This is where you’ll meet to depart for the evening banquet tour.
To get to the Shire’s Rest from Rotorua, self-drivers must make their way from Rotorua through the Waikato region – about one hour’s drive. From Auckland, the drive is about two hours.
The scenic pastureland and Kaimai ranges in the distance make this a perfect option for travelers self-driving in New Zealand. Booking in advance is strongly recommended, as the Evening Banquet Tour sells out fast.
When you book your evening Hobbiton tour with About New Zealand, we’ll make sure you get your preferred booking squared away. We may also arrange private transfers from either city if you so wish – we’ll make sure you see Hobbiton your way.
Your guide will walk you through the perfectly manicured village of the Shire and recount fascinating stories and movie secrets. You’ll make your way through the gorgeous green hills covered in gardens and colorful hobbit holes.
Perhaps the most charming features of Hobbiton are the details put into the set. You’ll spot mailboxes, clotheslines, food baskets – small remnants that give life to the Shire.
Pass by Bilbo and Frodo’s Hobbit hole, or linger just a little and snap a photo in front of the bright, round door. The set is so exact it’ll feel like Frodo will come around the corner at any moment.
Evening Banquet at the Green Dragon Inn
Your tour will conclude at the Green Dragon Inn, the popular watering hole of the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Let the warmth of the fire place and a complimentary beverage relax you as preparations for your banquet finish.
You’ll then be guided into the Green Dragon Inn dining room where your massive feast awaits.
The tables before you heave with decadent platters of meats, potatoes, rolls, salads – a hearty feast of traditional Hobbit fare.
As is tradition in the Shire, second helpings are strongly encouraged.
See the Shire by Dusk
After dinner you will rejoin your guide for a stunning journey under the moonlight.
See the Shire illuminated by bright lanterns and feel the magic flow through the glowing hills.
Walk along the lighted paths with your own authentic lantern, provided to all guests.
The soft glow of the Shire by night makes for a truly breathtaking scene.
Ready to See the Shire?
As your New Zealand planning experts, we want your Hobbiton experience to be a highlight of your New Zealand trip. Whether you’re booking your Hobbiton trip from Auckland or Rotorua – we’ll take care of the details for you.
Book a Hobbiton Evening Banquet Tour and experience magical Middle Earth for one night!
Posted on: March 5th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, those magical Middle Earth landscapes of New Zealand are no doubt on your bucket list.
You’ll need to travel across both New Zealand’s North and South Islands to experience all the scenic locations featured in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.
But one of the absolute musts is Hobbiton, where the green hills of the Shire preserve the simple comforts of food, song and dance.
And if you’re in Auckland or Rotorua, Hobbiton is just a delightfully short trip away.
How to Get to Hobbiton from Rotorua or Auckland
When you book your Hobbiton Movie Set tour with About New Zealand, we’ll arrange a coach tour that takes you to Hobbiton from Rotorua or Auckland. This way you may also use the tour as a transfer between the two cities.
You’ll arrive in Matamata, where director Peter Jackson scouted out the Alexander Farm, the large sheep farm transformed into the magical Shire.
For the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the original set was made of non-permanent materials and was torn down after filming. A few remnants remained, though rather dilapidated and unkempt.
Still, the site attracted tourists and Tolkien fans from everywhere. This led to an agreement for filming the “Hobbit” trilogy – the set must be rebuilt to stand permanently once filming finishes.
Now Hobbiton has become one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand. Who wouldn’t want to explore a little slice of Middle Earth?
Your tour guide will walk you across the unbelievably green landscape and show you the hobbit holes within the hills. Apart from the lush trees, flowers and gardens, keep an eye out for the incredible details you’ll find throughout the tour.
You’ll walk through the charming hobbit holes, all varying in size, as your guide shares filming and movie set secrets. See the famous Bag End Party Tree, and if you’re lucky your guide might give you one of its leaves as a souvenir!
Enjoy a Feast Fit for Hobbits
When you book your Hobbiton adventure with your About New Zealand travel agent, you’ll enjoy a buffet style lunch brimming with decadent meats and fresh produce.
Indulge in a variety of desserts and wash it all down with a pint from the Green Dragon Inn.
It may not be Second Breakfast or Elevensies, but it’ll truly be a feast fit for hobbits!
Ready to go to Hobbiton?
Visiting Hobbiton from Rotorua or Auckland is easy – we’ll take care of all the planning for you. As specialists in New Zealand travel, we’ll make sure your New Zealand vacation is the trip of a lifetime. We’ll tailor your vacation to include all your bucket list items.
Thinking about a vacation to New Zealand and not sure when to go? We think the best time to visit New Zealand is in the Spring (Sept, Oct, Nov.) The weather is beautiful, the flowers are blooming and the food & wine are at their best! Don’t believe us? Here are 33 reasons to visit New Zealand in Spring!
1. The weather is gorgeous! Crisp, sunny days perfect for hiking through the gorgeous alpine landscapes.
2. Not as many tourists! New Zealand is very remote – and sometimes left out of world maps altogether! But that just means you can enjoy more of this unique island paradise!
3. World of Wearable Art happens every September! The rule is anything that’s in any way wearable is allowed on stage. The results are unbelievably breathtaking, original and creative! Who needs New York Fashion Week? Check out some of the awesome pieces in the past.
4. Spring time means so many cute lambs! We’re not kidding – New Zealand has the highest ratio of sheep per person in the world. Currently there’s about 27 million sheep and more than 4 million people. That’s about 7 sheep per person!
5. Perfect temperature for a canopy tour in Rotorua! Just imagine it…zip lining through ancient forest, adrenaline pumping through your veins, soaring through great heights – no better way to experience the natural beauty of Rotorua!
6. The gardens are in full bloom! Purple lupins, golden Kowhai flowers, Mount Cook buttercups…colors are bursting everywhere!
7. Adorable baby kiwis are hatching! Though they are flightless, that didn’t stop them from becoming the national bird of New Zealand!
Photo Credit: kazzy from Instagram
8. The BEST time to see Milford Sound! Perfect for kayaking or a cruise on the glassy water. But for a tour to match this dramatic landscape, a scenic flight over the fiord is just the thing!
9. Whale watching is incredible this time of year, and Kaikoura is the place to be! Known as the whale watching capital of New Zealand, you’ll spot giant sperm whales, fur seals, humpback whales and maybe even blue whales!
10. The Whangarei Growers Market happens every Saturday and has some of the best locally grown produce. Here you’ll find anything from bananas to olives, cheeses to salamis and so much more!
Image credit: The Whangarei Growers Market on Facebook.com
11. The lupins and bright blue waters of Lake Tekapo. I mean, come on. This looks like out of a fairy tale picture book!
12. Once you’ve see the lupins, why not stay in Tekapo and do a little stargazing? You’ll be in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, the largest dark sky reserve in the world with a Gold rating from the International Dark Sky Association. Keep an eye out for shooting stars and the Phoenix constellation!
13. Kayak through the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch. In a city known as the Garden City, there’s no way you’ll skip out on its gardens!
14. Imagine seeing New Zealand in spring by train. That is an event in and of itself! Pass through looming mountains, green hills and bursts of flowers on the TranzAlpine, known as one of the great rail journeys in the world!
Image credit: KiwiRail Scenic on Facebook
15. Hiking in the South Island is pretty spectacular this time of year. Check out the Routeburn Track in the Fiordland National Park!
16. Snow may still be on the ground in certain places, time for a late season shred? Some say this is the BEST time of year to ski. Head to Queenstown for remarkable skiing in the Remarkables mountain range!
17. Love spicy food? Try New Zealand’s hot sauce – Kaitaia Fire, made from the chilies blooming in spring in Northland. Once you’ve tried Kaitaia you’ll accept nothing else!
18. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s last great wilderness, gorgeous every time of year. In spring, even more gorgeous! This is THE place for hiking with spectacular views – nothing else will come close!
19. Ohau Waterfall & Seal Pups. Don’t know what this is? Check this out! It’s a bunch of baby seals having an epic cuddlefest!
20. Abel Tasman National Park! Perfect for hiking, kayaking, snorkeling or just relaxing at the beach. You can do it all in the spring!
21. Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival. (This happens in late spring!) Taste craft brews from all over New Zealand – from crisp pale ales, juicy saisons to refreshing lagers and heavy stouts, you’re sure to find something that hits the spot!
Image credit: Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival on Facebook
22. Warm, sunny days in Nelson wine region. And absolutely incredible Chardonnay. I mean, if you’re into that kind of stuff. The Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics aren’t too shabby, either.
23. Better deals on hotels and airfare during non-peak seasons! Who doesn’t like to save?
24. It’s fishing season in New Zealand, where you’ll find the world’s best wild trout fishing! Anglers are welcome! Be on the look out for “Anglers Access” signs. They’ll help you find the best fishing spots.
25. Baby yellow-eyed penguins in Dunedin! These babies may grow over 2 feet tall and are the rarest penguins in the world.
26. Golf courses in New Zealand. Enough said.
27. Hiking in Rotorua along the awesome volcanic and geothermal landscapes is a must. Get a light workout in and hike to the world’s largest hot spring in the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley – the surreal landscapes will make you feel like you’re walking on another planet!
28. Seeing the gorgeous peaks in Wanaka with an experienced guide is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a dreamland of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and lakes so blue you won’t believe there’s not an Instagram filter overlaying them.
29. The weather in the Bay of Plenty is perfect for full gardens, vibrant wildlife, amazing beaches and spectacular sunsets! It’s easy to see why this is a favorite holiday destination for many locals.
30. Visit the rain forest in the Coromandel Peninsula in spring and have your own personal safari without the hustle and bustle of lots of tourists. Even better, try it by bike! Pedal along the Ohinemuri River to see the spectacular Owharoa Falls, or try the Coromandel Mountain Bike Track for more of a challenge.
31. The culture and sights in Northland in spring. Ancient Kauri forests, healing waters of Ngawha Springs, paddling a traditional Waka (maori war canoe) – the cultural sights and experiences are out of this world.
32. Do you have a green thumb? Check out the Taranaki Garden Spectacular, an event filled with gardens, landscape design ideas, tours, garden walks and community events. Find inspiration for your next gardening projects or simply admire the colorful and exotic plants around you.
Image credit: Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular on Facebook.com
33. And best of all, longer daylight hours means more time you can spend in the beautiful landscapes on the North and South Islands. If only there were more hours in a day!
If you’re not convinced yet, give us a call Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US)! Our Destination Specialists are experts in planning the best vacations in New Zealand. Tell them what you like and let them give you 33 more reasons to visit New Zealand!
Posted on: October 16th, 2017 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
You’ve heard all the praise about Queenstown as the “Adventure Capital of the World.” Adrenaline-seekers everywhere know they can choose from skydiving to snowboarding, rafting to bungy jumping and anything in between among the best things to do in Queenstown.
But maybe your idea of the perfect vacation is a little more simple.
The good news is Queenstown offers many low-key local gems that are just as exhilarating and unforgettable as its fast-paced adventures. From world class hot pools with a view to mesmerizing starry skies, scenic day tours to unique New Zealand wildlife, you’ll achieve the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation.
Here’s our list of the best things to do in Queenstown.
This lightning bolt-shaped lake is the crown jewel of Queenstown. It’s the third largest lake in New Zealand, and also the longest. Maori legend says this lake was created by the remains of a giant, named Matau, burned to death while sleeping as punishment for kidnapping Maori princess Manata. Matau’s heart remains beating in the depths of the lake, creating a ‘heartbeat’ or standing wave. The lake rises and falls about 20 centimeters every 27 minutes, adding to the magic and mysticism of Wakatipu.
Surrounded by incredible mountain scenery, Lake Wakatipu is a local favorite for scenic walks, bike trails, fishing and cruising. Board the TSS Earnslaw, a restored vintage steamship, for a leisurely cruise around the lake and take in the beauty of Queenstown.
Skyline Gondola and Luge
Rated as one of the top ways to experience the best views of Queenstown, the famous Skyline Gondola is the perfect way to begin your visit.
The Gondola cable car takes you on the steepest lift in the Southern Hemisphere, carrying passengers more than 1400 ft above the city. Sit back and relax as you overlook the majestic views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables mountain ranges and Lake Wakatipu as you ride to the top of Bob’s Peak.
The stunning view from the peak will leave you feeling on top of the world. What better way to ride the high than racing downhill on a Luge!
Skyline Luge puts you in complete control as you ride down Bob’s Peak. You’ll begin with a scenic, leisurely track to get familiar with the controls and brake system. Don’t worry about your speed as you start out – you can go as slow as you like! And you’ll want to take it slow to enjoy the magnificent surrounds.
Once you’ve got the hang of luge you can choose the Advanced Track and feel the glorious mountain air as you zoom downhill through tunnels, dips and bends. With these two tracks to suit the inexperienced as well as thrill seekers, there’s no reason to skip this top must-do Queenstown attraction.
Ski and Snowboard
You don’t want to just see Coronet Peak and The Remarkables from Bob’s Peak – you’ll want to experience these mountains.
What do we mean by experience?
Visit Queenstown in the winter to see its mountains transformed into one of the world’s top ski and snowboarding destinations.
Start with Coronet Peak, the closest mountain to Queenstown and only a 25-minute drive out. This local favorite offers stunning trails for seasoned skiers to glide effortlessly down the mountain. Coronet Peak is also perfect for first timers, providing dedicated trails and slopes for novice skiers.
Enjoy untouched early morning snow from 8am to 9am daily. Don’t worry if you can’t get your snow fix during the day – Coronet Peak also offers night skiing from 4pm until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
For epic skiing and snowboarding, The Remarkables provides the best terrain parks in New Zealand. Hire performance ski or snowboard gear on site and explore the steeps and gradients along its slopes with the striking mountain range in the background.
Movie Location Tours
The Queenstown region has captivated movie-goers with its otherworldly landscapes as seen in movies including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit film franchise, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 10,000 BC and many others. Its towering mountains, ancient beech forests and turquoise blue rivers and lakes make the region perfect for a fantasy setting.
Fall into your own fantasy on one of many film location tours in Queenstown. Traverse the dramatic landscapes you’ve seen on the big screen and see what makes New Zealand scenery a repeat star in Hollywood.
Tall cliffs jut out of the dark waters and tower over the sound, creating a dramatic landscape that has attracted tourists from around the world. This is a must-see attraction for Lord of the Rings film buffs, to visit the natural wonder that served as the backdrop for Middle Earth.
Take a scenic boat cruise on the sound and admire the numerous waterfalls cascading before you, or spot bottlenose dolphins swimming below and sea lions basking on the rocks. Get up close and explore the sound by kayak and see the stark Mitre Peak, the tallest peak in Fiordland.
Quiet yet imposing, Milford Sound is a must to relax yet still experience the best of New Zealand in your Queenstown adventure.
Kiwi Birdlife Park
No trip to New Zealand is complete without seeing its iconic wildlife. And no way you’ll miss the chance to see famous flightless bird, the kiwi. Cross this New Zealand must-do in Queenstown at the Kiwi Birdlife Park.
Find 10,000 native plants and more than 30 animal species, including tuataras, rainbow lorikeets, rare black stilts and brown kiwi at the park. Get up close and personal with New Zealand’s flora and fauna on a private tour or in a live conservation show. Observe the nocturnal kiwi at the park’s Kiwi Houses, set up with specialized lighting effects and infra-red cameras which allow the birds to feel at home and freely roam.
Located on a small peninsula jutting out into Lake Wakatipu, the Queenstown Gardens offer a nice, secluded respite for peaceful relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of the town.
Take the opportunity to enjoy the view of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu at your own pace, or bring a frisbee and play a couple rounds of frisbee golf. Be sure to bring a camera to take shots of the blooming rose gardens, towering heritage trees and ducks.
This small snapshot of tranquility is a must while in the city of endless adventure.
Looking for a bit of culture in your Queenstown adventure? For a truly authentic New Zealand experience, take the plunge with Kawarau Bridge Bungy!
AJ Hackett put Queenstown on the map as a global adventure destination when he launched the world’s first commercially operated bungy jumping site in 1988. Native New Zealander Hackett was inspired by an ancient Vanuatu ritual in which young men journey into manhood by testing their courage and jump from tall wooden platforms with vines tied to their ankles.
Test your own courage as you hurtle down more than 140 ft towards the emerald green waters of Kawarau River.
Looking to conquer even greater heights? Try the tallest jump in New Zealand and soar down 400 ft into glorious mountain terrain with the Nevis Bungy. This once in a lifetime experience will be sure to leave its mark on your Queensland adventure.
How’s that for New Zealand authenticity?
Want more than just a few seconds of thrilling aerial views over Queenstown? Get the best fast and furious sightseeing around on The Ledge Swing.
Forget the low-hanging swings in the playgrounds of your childhood. The rope style swing is the only swing found in the heart of Queenstown. Board the Gondola and up top to the Ledge platform on Bob’s Peak, where you’ll be strapped to a harness and lifted 1300 ft above the city. When you’re ready, pull the release cord – that’s right, you’re in control – and take flight!
Skydiving is on every adrenaline seeker’s bucket list, and Queenstown – the birthplace of tandem skydiving – is the perfect place to take the plunge.
You’ll receive instruction and a history of the surrounding areas as you are transported through Queenstown’s stunning surrounds to the drop zone. Suit up and strap on to an instructor for a safe dive. Then plummet from 15,000 feet in the sky and free fall for up to 60 seconds towards glimmering Lake Wakatipu, tall, snow-capped mountain ranges and even the dusky fiords of Fiordland National Park.
You won’t get a better view of Queenstown’s gorgeous scenery than this.
Jet Boarding and Rafting
You’ve conquered Queenstown by air and land. Now you’re ready to take on the town by water with more fast-paced adventure. Extreme water activities can be found in abundance for visitors brave enough to traverse the crystal clear New Zealand rapids.
Hop aboard the Shotover Jet for a high-speed boat ride through the daunting and narrow Shotover Canyons. The boat is custom built for expert maneuvering and 360-degree turns, so be ready for a few hairy spins and close encounters with the canyons on your ride as your boat driver tears up the river!
If you’re looking to get your rafting on in Queenstown, you can whitewater raft on the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers. Immerse yourself in the brisk waters of the rivers – expect to be soaked to the bone!
For beginners, the four rapids on the Kawarau River are a great introduction to whitewater rafting. Calm stretches of water allow rafters to take in the scenery of the historic Kawarau Bungy Bridge and surrounding rocky cliffs.
The Shotover River provides more challenging rapids for the adventurous rafter – with names like Aftershock, Squeeze, Toilet and Pinball, conquering this river will be a thrilling feat.
After experiencing the extreme thrills of the Adventure Capital of the World, unwind and pamper yourself in the lap of luxury in a rejuvenating hot pool. Soak in the gorgeous alpine view and fresh mountain air as your body and mind surrender to the pure waters and penetrating warmth of Queenstown’s world class hot pools.
On-site massage rooms are available for ultimate rest and relaxation.
The scenery in Queenstown is stunning from any location – land, air, or water. But at night, look up from the landscape below you and greet the illuminating expanse of stars above for a view you won’t want to miss.
Take the Gondola in the center of town to the top of Bob’s Peak, where you’ll be guided to a spot above the clouds with zero light pollution for ultimate clarity. Expert guides will have you spellbound with their wealth of information on stars, constellations and planets all visible from the industry standard telescopes available for viewing.
Canadian Goose down jackets are provided for maximum warmth to fight off the cold. But you’ll soon forget the chill as the mesmerizing stars of the Southern Hemisphere captivate you with their unbelievable brightness.
If you hail from a location too light-polluted to enjoy the night sky, stargazing is a must to complete any trip to Queenstown.
Experience the Best Things to do in Queenstown
Queenstown makes completing your bucket list a breeze. With so many things to do, it’s hard to pack the best the town has to offer in one visit. We’ll help you plan your trip to the Adventure Capital of the World and make sure you don’t miss the must-dos during your stay.
Posted on: August 4th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
New Zealand is full. Booked. No vacancy.
“But I reallllyyy want to see those beautiful landscapes! The fiords! The glaciers!”
Too late. Nothing else to see here, move along, pick a new country to visit, later gator.
In 2017, New Zealand officially has more people wanting to visit than there is space available to house them.
It’s a huge problem.
Of course, it’s not surprising. New Zealand’s postcard-ready landscape, mild climate and rugged coastline seem tailor made for the wanderlust of travelers of all ages.
But as native Aussies, in proper brotherly fashion we prefer to blame a Kiwi – namely Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.
Since the release of the Lord of the Rings films, New Zealand has absolutely exploded as a tourist destination.
Hardcore fans of the film look to retrace Frodo’s steps to Mt. Doom or have a pint at the Green Dragon Inn, while non-movie buffs can’t help but appreciate the photogenic, sweeping vistas of the countryside.
Photo: Hobbiton Tours
There really is something that could tickle anyone’s fancy – and that’s exactly why tourism in New Zealand is shattering records all over the place.
Developers have been scrambling the past few years, trying their best to put up more hotels and rooms for eager visitors. But it seems like they just can’t put them up fast enough.
Room for accommodation is so tight that just recently a group of 53 traveling senior-citizens had a delayed flight and ended up stranded for the night – not a single hotel room left to spare.
Luckily, they were treated to some Maori hospitality and put up for the night in a traditional Maori meeting house. Sleeping bags on the floor and all – just like at camp.
And that’s just the hotels!
Photo: Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand’s overall infrastructure is being stressed so much that estimates put a $1.5 billion-dollar price tag on improvements to set the tourism industry up for the future.
Think about the rental cars needed to go on those epic self-drive adventures New Zealand is so well known for. The tickets and space needed to participate in the extreme sport staples people know and love like bungy jumping and skydiving.
All these pieces work in unison to create an amazing New Zealand experience and if you don’t plan ahead, you could find yourself stuck.
We’ve been in the travel game for nearly 20 years and we’ve never seen anything like it. But we have picked up some tips along the way to make your trip seamless.
The earlier you book, the better your chances at getting your preferred trip, it’s as easy as that. Some seasons are busier than others, but the fact remains that the quicker you get your trip booked, the easier it will be.
But don’t expect to simply book a hotel room and be on your merry way.
How will you get to the hotel from the airport?
Taxi queues can be long and that meter keeps running no matter how much traffic you’re stuck in.
Uber, Lyft and other car-sharing services are available in New Zealand, but increasingly subject to increase rates during peak times known as surge-pricing. With the number of tourists and locals clamoring for a ride, you could be paying even more than a taxi.
That’s why car-transfer shuttles with their flat rate are the way to go. They’ll be ready and waiting for you at the airport. The last thing you want to do is figure out getting your cell phone to work in a new country immediately after your 13 hour flight! Better book this early while you’re at it.
December, January, February – By far the busiest season. Warm weather and school children are on vacation.
March, April, May – Milder temperatures and the summer rush is dwindling. Fall is a GREAT time to experience the great New Zealand outdoors.
June, July, August – You’ll want to bring a coat, but there’s still plenty to do in the colder months like skiing, glacier hiking and more. The North Island tends to stay a bit warmer than the South Island, but if you really want to embrace the wintery chill, head to the mountains for snowy peaks and fun, outdoor winter activities.
Photo: Julian Apse
You’ve always wanted to snowboard in July, haven’t you?
September, October, November – Beautiful weather. The perfect time to hike one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Pleasant weather all the way through.
Make your car your home by freedom camping in a pop-up camper vehicle or RV. Freedom camping in New Zealand is just as it sounds: the freedom to drive yourself around to your hearts content, pull in to a designated area and stay the night.
No hotel check ins, no shuttle transfers. Just you, the open road and a sense of adventure.
Freedom camping can get you places you otherwise might miss, but despite the name, there are still a few guidelines you need to follow.
Until the past couple of decades, New Zealand was a free-wheeling, camping free-for-all and you could pull over wherever you wanted and stay the night in your camper van or truck.
But as word got out on this come-as-you-please, bohemian travel style, property owners began to crack down and “No Camping” signs began to go up.
Nowadays, a map of designated DOC (Dept. of Conservation)-friendly sites will do you good for finding spots to call home for the night.
The good news? DOC sites are plentiful and can get you beyond the average tourist bubble of accommodations. Find yourself in a remote wilderness one day and chatting up the locals at a pub the next.
Oh, and did we mention they’re free?
Have an Expert Plan Your Vacation to New Zealand For You
We don’t mean to toot our own horn, but after 20 years we think we’ve got this travel thing figured out. We can put you up in a preferred travel accommodation, book you a ride from the airport and get you to and from tours without hassle.
Sometimes the slightest snag can throw off a perfectly good vacation. Can’t find a ride to the airport in Auckland? You could miss your flight to Queenstown.
Trying to bungy jump or simply tour Hobbiton but tickets are sold out? If you didn’t book ahead, you’re out of luck.
We specialize in putting the parts together and setting them in motion. All you need to do is enjoy the ride.
Let us build a free quote for you and we’ll make sure you have a place to lay your head at night.
Posted on: July 27th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
What’s your travel style? Are you an avid by-the-shoestring kind of traveler, tramping around (that means hiking in Kiwi-speak!) and bunking up with a bunch of hostelers? Never been one to bask in the lap of luxury?
Sure, we’re all about saving a few dollars if it means extending your trip a bit – an extra few nights, a flight another city – all in the name of experiences over luxury.
But sometimes, it’s good to treat yourself to the 5-star, rock-star treatment you deserve. Five-star hotels, spa-treatments, the works – a real A-list experience.
When you’re short on time and can’t spend a month loafing around New Zealand (though we do recommend it!), a bit of pampering is the best way to supercharge your vacation for the ultimate in relaxation that makes you feel like you spent a month abroad.
And for the best city in New Zealand for that first-class experience, look no further than Rotorua.
Plane travel has certainly improved since the early days of commercial flying, but 13-hours in close quarters over 6,000 miles will leave even first-class flyers feeling a bit worse for wear. Still, not a bad trade-off for getting around the world in less than a day!
Photo: Polynesian Spas
Settle in to your first round of star-treatment in Rotorua’s geothermally heated hot pools in a “World Top-10” spa resort.
The Polynesian Spas feature 28 hot-pools, fed from natural springs in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Each spring features a unique combination of minerals to provide an experience that is relaxing and therapeutic. Water from the Priest Spring contain a high sulfur content, with other minerals to aid in soothing tired and cramped muscles. Perfect for a post-flight soak.
Photo: Polynesian Spas
The Rachel Spring combines highly alkalized water with sodium-silicate that nourishes skin and leaves you feeling rejuvenated. The Polynesian Spas are a perfect refresher when the rigors of the road wear you down.
Hell’s Gate Hot Pools and Mud Baths
That’s right, we’re spa hopping and next on your list is Hell’s Gate. That’s how the rock stars do it, right?
This geothermal wonderland was originally named Tikitere. All geothermal springs in Rotorua were originally given Maori names, as they Maori people are considered the “guardians of geothermal activity” in the region.
It became known as “Hell’s Gate” when an English playwright in for a visit thought the rising steam and bubbling mud pools must be what the gates of Hell looked like.
Photo: Fraser Clements
The star of Hell’s Gate are the hot mud baths. Semi-private vessels filled with geothermally-heated mud and sulfur water. The pools are known for their curative properties as well as the gentle exfoliation that can leave your skin feeling renewed up to 6 weeks after your visit. A lingering reminder long after you’ve made it back home.
White Island Helicopter Tour
Sure, spa treatments and massages are great, but your indulgent, pampered tour of Rotorua doesn’t end there. Nothing says “living the rock-star lifestyle” like boarding a helicopter and landing on an active volcano for a tour. White Island Helicopter Tours offer an up-close look at New Zealand’s largest, most active volcano with an entrance that’ll leave you speechless.
Sure, maybe you’ve rented a fancy car or taken a limo out for a date night or special event, but once you board a chopper for a chauffeured ride out to an island, you’ll wonder why you travel any other way.
You’ll feel like James Bond being taken out to an evil villain’s lair. Or the Rolling Stones receiving that premium, star-treatment.
Everyone deserves a bit of pampering every now and then.
Te Po Dinner
Wind down with a relaxing dinner with entertainment and storytelling by Maori guides. Upon arrival, you’ll view a Maori feast being prepared in the traditonal Hangi-style, a traditional, underground-oven cooking style used for centuries. Then, a poi-dance (traditional Maori dance) and haka (war-cry) demonstration provides an intimate, cultural experience missed by many who travel to New Zealand.
After a blessing by a Maori leader, you’ll be treated to a feast featuring foods cooked in the Hangi and an array of delicious Maori and New Zealand cuisine.
To cap off your luxury-dinner experience, you’ll board a waka (Maori canoe) for a sightseeing, night float filled with oral history and storytelling that culminates at the famed Pohutu Geyser.
Treat Yourself in Rotorua
When you finally make it back home, skill still soft and glowing from the hot pools and mud baths, feeling culturally enriched and spoiled, you’ll understand why everyone needs a true A-list travel experience every so often. We’ll set you up with the ultimate Rotorua experience so you can travel like a rock star from start to finish.
Posted on: July 19th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
When it comes to New Zealand wildlife, you might be thinking sheep, sheep and more sheep. And you wouldn’t be wrong, either! Until recently, New Zealand’s sheep-to-human ratio sat at about 22 sheep for every man, woman and child in the country.
That’s a lot of sweaters!
But that’s not all that the island nation has to offer. A diverse collection of unique animals make this coastal county their home. In fact, there wasn’t a single mammal to be found for millions of years before humans arrived. Instead, a plethora of wild bird species, reptiles and marine life thrived in the region.
This includes a lizard whose DNA goes back 200 million years, unchanged since the days it walked the land with dinosaurs.
What you won’t find though, are snakes. That’s right, not a single snake slithers around New Zealand. Great news for all the ophidiophobics out there (that means fear of snakes!).
We’ve rounded up a few of the most unique creatures you’ll find, so that your next trip will have you doing more than just counting sheep.
A storied history riddles this legendary bird’s past. Sailors once thought that seeing an albatross in the sky meant good luck. The giant bird was said to have carried the souls of dead sailors to protect the ship from danger. However, if one were to kill an albatross, certain doom would come to all aboard.
These days the albatross isn’t as rife with superstition, but the real facts behind the bird are just as interesting. They are among the largest seabirds on the planet. At their largest, their wings can span more 12 feet across – almost 6 times the average seagull!
The albatross is kind of like the drone of the bird-world. They use nearly autonomous, micro-wing movements to stay aloft using little to no effort. For the albatross, this makes flying a breeze.
They can even sleep while flying and have been known to stay out to sea for years, only returning to land to mate and feed their young. Scientists tracked an albatross recently circling the entire globe – more than 10,000 miles – in just 46 days.
Tip: Before you see an albatross in person, keep tabs on the newest addition to the Taiaroa Head albatross colony via live web-stream! This albatross chick hatched in late January and will remain until it’s old enough to fly away in September. The chick’s parents return from sea daily to feed their young. An amazing look at New Zealand wildlife up-close.
What has three eyes, zero ears and has called New Zealand home for more than 200 million years?
The tuatara, New Zealand’s “living dinosaur”, still carries the same DNA since it walked side-by-side actual with the famed mega-reptiles. A third-eye on top of it’s head (physical, not metaphorical) is thought to help produce vitamin D and regulate night and day cycles, but even scientists still don’t know what it’s really used for.
At the very least, it makes up for having no ears!
As mammals like wildcats and rodents were introduced to the mainland, tuataras became quick and easy prey and populations were decimated. These days they thrive solely on the islands off the New Zealand coast – like Jurassic Park, right in New Zealand.
However, being banished to an island turned out to be a good thing. Without any natural predators, the tuatara can live to be more than 100 years old. The benefits of island life.
If you thought you had to travel to the tropics to see parrots, think again. This New Zealand exclusive is the world’s only alpine parrot and is found only in select parts of the South Island. Like most parrots, the Kea is an intelligent bird. Researchers estimate that the Kea is as smart as a 4-year old – without ever having stepped foot in pre-school.
The Kea is notorious for it’s brash personality. They’ve developed almost non-existent boundaries and humans, a blessing and a curse that makes getting an up-close picture of the Kea possible, but also less savory encounters. Because of the bird’s hyper-curious nature and general trust around people, they have been known to peck and damage cars and rifle through bags and clothing. One Kea even made off with a tourist’s unguarded wallet in Fiordland National Park.
It’s no wonder they call these pick-pocketing parrots the “clowns of the mountain”.
You’ll want to see this beautiful bird in person and the best place to do it is in Fiordland. Take a nature cruise of Milford Sound for beautiful landscapes and wildlife spotting. Kea have been known to hang out in the parking lot of Milford Sound so be sure to keep an eye on your wallet!
Photo: Corin Walker Bain
No other animal can stake the claim of attracting more than 400,000 visitors to New Zealand every year. In fact, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are the most popular cave in all of Australasia, which includes New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea and other islands.
How do they do it?
Tourists flock to the Waitomo Caves to see the hypnotic, blueish glow that lights up the subterranean site. Millions of glowworms cover the cavernous interior and light up like blue fireflies during their feeding stage. The best part about seeing the glowworms is the silent, “black-water” river raft ride that you take to see them. You’ll float along the water beneath the canyon in total darkness, with only the star-like light of glowworms above.
Tip: Waitomo Glowworm Caves make a great back-to-back trip with Rotorua’s amazing geothermal features. Take a tour of both for a day tour you’ll never forget.
These quirky marine-mammals are best known for their aerial-acrobatics. While all dolphins exhibit breaching behavior in order to breathe from their blowholes, dusky dolphins seem to perform out-of-water stunts like aerial jumps, spins, tail-over-head dives, barrel rolls and more – seemingly for no other reason than their own enjoyment!
Dusky dolphins are found off the the south African coast, South America and many oceanic islands, but the largest concentrations are found all over New Zealand waters, including the Kaikoura Coast. Guided tours allow you to swim with these curious creatures in their natural environment.
Dusky dolphins are curious around humans and interaction with them is possible without the need for feeding, changing their environment or otherwise disrupting their natural habitat.
Tour-goers have reported dusky dolphins in pods numbering in the hundreds. The dolphins swim with and seem to mirror the behavior of humans (diving in as humans dive in) without being coaxed in to an encounter.
This tuxedoed New Zealand native is the rarest species of penguin in the entire world. The distinct, yellow banding around their eyes sets these quirky creatures apart from their Antarctic cousins to the south.
Yellow-eyed penguins, also known by their Maori name hoiho, are increasingly endangered. They generally breed on the South Island of New Zealand and habitats are found off the coast of Dunedin.
You didn’t think we’d get away without mentioning New Zealand’s most iconic animal, did you? This large, flightless bird is an icon that is inseparable from New Zealand. The word Kiwi is used as a term of endearment for native New Zealanders and even adorns the country’s $1 coin.
Not bad for a bird that can’t even fly.
The Kiwi’s arrival to the island nation remains sort of a mystery. Some say the bird descended from an ancestor capable of flight. Others say they arrived before New Zealand broke off from Australia millions of years ago. Essentially, just walking right over.
The Kiwi is a cherished part of New Zealand wildlife and culture, whichever way they arrived.
We’ll set you up with the perfect trip for wildlife watching in beautiful New Zealand. Whether you’re Albatross-spotting off the coast of Dunedin or staring in awe at glowworms, you’ll be sure not to miss anything on your trip.
We’ll even send you to Fiordland National Park, but make sure to watch your valuables around the Kea!
Posted on: July 11th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Photo: Mike Heydon
When you imagine your ideal, relaxing getaway – what comes to mind? Is it idyllic, rolling green vistas? Walking though sun-kissed vineyards heavy with ripe grapes? Kicking your feet up with only the sound of the birds and rippling water to keep you company?
How about copious amounts of some of the best wine on the planet?
Waiheke Island, also known as the “Island of Wine”, is going to be your next favorite vacation destination.
Owhanake Bay Estate – This winery is located right on the edge of secluded Owhanake Bay. Idyllic rows of grape vines line the grounds of this more than 8-acre estate. The vineyard also grows organic olives, fruit and other produce that they use in their amazing food menu. Just a short stroll down to the Bay and you can enjoy your glass of wine right on the beach.
Try: ‘Anchorage’ Syrah 2013; Gold medal award-winning red
Photo: Miles Holden
Cable Bay Vineyards – These are the views that dreams are made of. Serene, lush vistas bob along the Cable Bay grounds. You’ll enjoy the hip, modern wine-bar aesthetic, the wide open-air patio and pristine lawn dotted with picnicking couples and friends. Sit on the lawn with a glass of Cable Bay’s amazing wines and charcuterie.
Try: 2016 Waiheke Island Rosé; Locally grown, Rosé all day
Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard – Although this list is all about the wine, it’s impossible not to mention the food at Mudbrick. Executive chef Matthias Schmitt has worked for some of the greatest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. He brings his expertise to Mudbrick creating dishes using fresh, local ingredients to pair with their award-winning wines. Grab a spot overlooking the lavender and rosemary fields and enjoy the sweet scent as you taste the vineyard’s best.
Try: Mudbrick Velvet 2015; 98/100 by renowned wine critic Sam Kim
Photo: Camilla Rutherford
Hay Paddock Vineyard – Short on frills, long on exceptionally flavored wine. Hay Paddock forgoes the high-profile chefs and high price tags that come along with visiting an amenity laden wine bar. Hay Paddock specializes solely in wine. Owners Chris Canning and Jules Silk, a novelist and painter respectively, put their passion for the arts in to every bottle they craft.
Try: Harvest Reserve Syrah 2012; Winning international favor when released, this wine showcases the ideal Waiheke Island climate that produces such amazing Syrahs.
Te Whau Vineyard and Restaurant – For more than 20 years Te Whau has been a premier vineyard and destination on Waiheke Island. It still retains the small, boutique family vineyard feel from their humble beginnings while still becoming one of the most renowned vineyards in the region. Te Whau produces ‘Bordeaux-style’ reds, a style found over much of Waiheke Island.
Try: ‘The Point’ Boreaux-style Blend 2013; The flagship wine of Te Whau, nationally rated and award-winning.
Photo: Julian Apse
Wild on Waiheke Estate Vineyard – Have you ever been drinking a glass of wine and thought to yourself, “I’d really like to shoot a bow and arrow right now”? Then Wild on Waiheke is the place for you.A family oriented vineyard and craft beer brewery, Wild on Waiheke is a quirky destination offering great wine and craft beer along with fun activities for the family or group outings. Try the life size chess board, archery, laser clay-pigeon shooting and more. Keep the kids occupied while you taste amazing wines or join in yourself.
Try: Sauvignon Blanc 2016; Self-described as “nothing too fancy”, these simple, honest wines are sometimes all you need on a hot day out on Waiheke.
Jurassic Ridge – A family owned vineyard run by true wine lovers. Lance Blumhardt, a former neurosurgeon, and his wife, a current neurosurgeon opened Jurassic Ridge purely for the love of exceptional wine. The vineyard is named Jurassic Ridge due to the geology under foot. Rock formations more than 155 million years old form an ancient mountain ridge where the vineyards were planted. Making wine may not be brain surgery, but Blumhardt and his wife bring that same attention to detail to crafting amazing, aged wines.
Try: Jurassic Ridge Montepulciano 2009; Blumhardt was the first to introduce Montepulciano grapes to Waiheke Island. Nearly two dozen other wineries have since adopted the variety for their wines.
Photo: Miles Holden
Tantalus Estate – In the heart of the Onetangi Valley sits the 20-acre estate of Tantalus. Arguably the top destination in Waiheke Island, Onetangi Valley has several top wineries all within walking distance. The pristine grounds of the estate are covered in amazing plant life and greenery in attention to the acres of vineyard. Special attention has been paid to sustainability in the production of Tantalus’ wines. The entire vineyard is pesticide-free. Wildflowers and other plants are grown with the grape vines to increase biodiversity. This allows beneficial insects that control pests to thrive.
Try: Évoque Reserve 2014; 10-year vintage that received a score of 96/100.
Stonyridge Vineyard – One of the first wineries on Waiheke Island, Stonyridge Vineyard is partly responsible for the New Zealand wine boom. Stonyridge produces some the top-rated wines not only in New Zealand, but worldwide. The picturesque vineyard is located at the same latitude as the southern tip of Sicily, another world class wine region. Stonyridge is settled behind a ridge that blocks cold southwesterly winds. This gives Stonyridge’s Cabernet’s a real chance to shine and thrive. Stonyridge currently holds the title for producing one of New Zealand’s most expensive reds. At $250 a bottle, the Larose Cabarnet Blend is pricy, but when it comes with this many accolades, it’s sure to please.
Te Motu Wine – Picky wine for picky palates. Using only prime specimen, fully ripe fruit, the wine at Te Motu Vineyard is pored over with the finest-toothed comb. Each step of the process is meticulously crafted to produce the same perfection for every bottle, every time. Te Motu produces only 4500 bottles of each vintage so that each small batch has the same attention to detail as the last. Stunning views of Onetangi Valley are reminiscent of the French countryside, while remaining distinctly Kiwi.
Try: Cabarnet-Sauvignon 2013; Te Motu’s flagship wine.
Obsidian Vineyard – So named for it’s almost pure rock soil, Obsidian may as well be called the “little vineyard that could”. Growing wine grapes in conditions like Obsidian’s is difficult. The Knight’s Valley region is warm, almost too warm. The rocky-soil drains very fast, almost too fast. The fruit takes a long time to ripen and drop, almost too long. But, the wine that eventually is produced from the struggle has a subtle complexity that is hard to find in other wines.
Try: Obsidian Syrah 2015; Described by vineyard owners as “if black had a smell, this would be it… The wine is dark and mysterious with tremendous intensity and tannin.”
Peacock Sky Vineyard – A true family-owned affair run by a wine enthusiast husband and wife team. Peacock Sky has produced world class wines since 2008. The alfresco patio offers idyllic views of the vineyard. Enjoy a Mediterranean-inspired menu paired perfectly with the wines of the season.
Try: Pure Malbec 2014; 4-star single varietal.
Batch Winery – Take a tour of this craft vineyard and winery for a look at the winemaking process from start to finish. You’ll peruse rows upon rows of ripe grape vines. See the harvesting and fermenting process up close. You’ll even get a chance to see the actual bottling and corking process in the bottling room. Not to mention, the views outside are some of the most picturesque on the Island. “Bach” (pronounced “batch”) in New Zealand means a simple holiday home where families congregate, relax and bond. A concept synonymous with Batch Winery.
Try: Thomas’ Batch Pinot Noir 2016; A fruity Pinot with hints of strawberries and cream, raspberry licorice and juicy red summer berries.
Destiny Bay Vineyards – There is a lot more to Destiny Bay then just impeccable attention to detail for their award-winning wines. Special attention was also given to the structure and layout of the winery itself. Utilizing the latest in energy efficient structures and winemaking practices, the vineyard is a model for sustainable practices. More than 500 native trees were planted around the vineyard to increase biodiversity and ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of the site.
Try: Destiny Bay Mystae 2013; A blend of all 5 varietals for a unique bouquet of fruit taste.
Casita Miro Restaurant and Vineyard – Inspired by the food and wine of Spain and the Mediterranean, Casita Miro specializes in shared plate tapas-style service and amazing wine. The world-renowned restaurant has stunning views overlooking the vineyard below. No detail was lost in the Spanish architecture inspired building. The ambiance provided by this fine dining and wine experience is unmatched.
Man O’ War Vineyards – This vineyard is secluded away from the “wine belt” of the Onetangi Valley on Man O’ War Bay. The drive out to this vineyard is surely rewarded with the views you have that overlook the water. Sip a glass or three of any vintage (trust us, they’re all amazing) and soak in that Bay view.
Take your wine straight down to the water’s edge and relax on the lawn or walk along the rocky beach. Watch yachts and sailboats drifting lazily in front of you. The ambiance here is nothing less than serene.
Try: Man O’ War Pinot Gris 2008; A Waiheke staple.
Passage Rock Wines & Bistro – You’ll feel like you’re amongst old friends in this intimate vineyard venue and restaurant. The unassuming, small estate produces a Syrah that is the most awarded in all of Waiheke. An outdoor dining area that is directly adjacent to the vineyards make dining at this classic bistro an event you’ll never forget.
Try: Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2015; Continuing the tradition of their multiple 5-star awarded wines.
Kennedy Point Vineyard – Waiheke Island’s only certified organic vineyard. Grapes are grown to organic standard without chemical fertilizers, sprays or pesticides. Olive groves are grown to the same standard, for production of truly organic New Zealand olive oil.
Poderi Crisci Vineyard and Restaurant– Inspired in wine and design by Mediterranean vineyards, this winery is a small slice of Italy in New Zealand. You’ll love the Italian inspired villa that offers great wine and a fine dining menu of seasonal dishes. Figs, olives, greens and herbs are also grown on the estate and used in the menu.
Try: Poderi Crisci Chardonnay 2012; An inspired Burgundy-inspired white.
Waiheke Island is a mecca for the wine enthusiast. The Napa Valley of New Zealand has produced some serious wines that have won some serious awards. Try a tour of Waiheke Island and taste your way through the Island of Wine.
Posted on: July 6th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Think of Milford and Doubt Sounds as metaphors for life. The grandiose fiords are world-famous for their size and striking appearance. But they didn’t start out that way.
Sometimes, the key to creating something grand is by making small steps every day. Over time, these subtle changes will lead to something magnificent.
You don’t have to look far to see this proven right in your own life. The very ground you walk on was shaped and shifted over millennia. Land masses broke from super-continents to form the places you call home.
It was smell steps like these that formed Milford and Doubtful Sound, the “Eighth Wonders of the World”.
See why New Zealand’s most beautiful places are two can’t-miss destinations on your next trip to Kiwi country.
Both Milford and Doubtful Sound are in a region of New Zealand known as Fiordland National Park. The nearly 5,000 square miles of New Zealand’s south-west tip contains some of the most quintessential and incredible landscapes in the world.
When you think about New Zealand and the amazing scenery it’s known for, you’re probably thinking of two things: the rolling, grassy vistas that were popularized in movies like The Lord of the Rings, and tall, steep peaks, shadowed by mist, rising above calm waters below.
Photo: Tourism Holdings
The latter is Fiordland. And by far the two most visited places in Fiordland are Milford and Doubtful Sound.
Over the course of millions of years, shifting tectonic plates caused tall rock formations to reach out from beneath the sea. As the earth continued its slow-motion crash on to itself, sharp peaks reached high in to the air.
During the ice age, glaciers formed and began to move. Inch by inch, they slowly began to erode rock and sediment, forming the narrow-tunnels found in Fiordland today.
Small steps. Big changes.
Photo: Tourism New Zealand
Sometimes it’s the journey. Other times it’s the destination. When it comes to Milford Sound, it’s both.
The scenic drive out from Queenstown is like a “best-of” tour of New Zealand’s pristine landscapes. You’ll drive along winding roads that hug Lake Wakatipu, a turquoise-blue, glacier-fed lake.
Stop along any of the pull-outs and viewing points along the way and you might recognize the vast expanse of water, rimmed by mountains. On the big screen, it served as the backdrop for Middle Earth in several scenes of The Lord of the Rings.
As you enter New Zealand hill country, tall mountains give way to grass-covered, wavy hills and colorful lupins line the highway.
This scenic highway is precisely why Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most accessible and most visited site in Fiordland.
Every year nearly 600,000 tourists come to Milford Sound, taking advantage of the highway leading there. This makes it easy to take a day trip from the populous city of Queenstown, or a quick stopover if you make your base in Te Anau.
And it’s easy to see why once you arrive. Although you could argue that the word “epic” is a bit overused in travel writing, there is no better way to describe Milford Sound.
Photo: Adam Bryce
The tall, steep crags jut out of the water, peaking high overhead. It’s home to the tallest peak in Fiordland, Mitre Peak, reaching in to the sky nearly 6,000 feet. It’s the iconic landscape that single-handedly has attracted visitors from across the globe.
But an increase in visitors also means an increase in the number of boats cruising the Sound to accommodate them. On Milford Sound, you’re in the company of a number of different tour boats, operators and cruise ships, all looking to see the same sites that you are.
However, this doesn’t mean you’re going to be surrounded by raging party-boats – but nothing beats the ambiance of feeling alone on the water, a mere speck among rocky skyscrapers towering overhead.
If silent ambiance is your prime objective when visiting a natural wonder, look no further. Doubtful Sound is the slightly less popular younger brother to Milford Sound. It doesn’t have quite the same name recognition, it’s a little bit harder to get to and the peaks aren’t quite as tall.
But being a little more out of the way proves beneficial to the unmatched ambiance found at Doubtful Sound.
Access to Doubtful is limited to a ferry ride over Lake Manapouri. You won’t find the rows of coaches, buses and cars that cover Milford. Instead, a very limited number of boats cruise through the beautiful fiord.
This makes Doubtful Sound a slightly more solemn excursion, if you’re looking for a true “one-with-nature” type of experience.
The rocky cliffs that arise from Doubtful Sound apex at a round crest, as opposed to Milford’s angular, jagged peaks. Soft, green ferns and forest cover much of the mountainous rises and foggy mist often rests like pillows in the treetops.
But the main attraction at both Milford and Doubt Sounds isn’t what you see, but what you hear.
The Sound of Silence
Much like the world’s other natural wonders, Milford and Doubtful Sound have the power to leave you speechless. If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, you’ll know that upon reaching the rim, there’s a distinct shift that happens upon arrival.
All the usual chatter that fills the parking lot on the way of families swapping stories of the road and siblings arguing over who won the “License Plate Game” seems to disappear.
Looking in to the void that the Earth created renders an eerie hush where you could almost hear a pin drop all the way in the valley below.
Maybe it’s the overwhelming sense of your place on the planet, or maybe no one wants to be the sole person to break the silence and ruin the mood. In any case, it’s an experience that’s unique to witnessing something so grand that an entire crowd can be left short for words.
At Milford and Doubtful Sounds, you’ll feel that same majestic sound-of-nothing from the “valley” itself, on a “sound of silence” cruise. You’ll cruise through the giant fiords, craning your neck to take in the enormous rock formations, standing tall around the still water.
As you reach a center point in the great fiord, the captain of the ship turns off the ship. Then, all you’re left with is the soft babble of water and the call of birdsong. But the Captain didn’t call for silence.
They didn’t need to.
Visit Milford and Doubtful Sounds
Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are the crown jewels of Fiordland. Let us plan your Fiordland adventure. Whether you’re up for a scenic drive from Queenstown or a ferry ride in to the unknown, it’s a trip that you’ll never forget.