Posted on: December 14th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Things to Do in New Zealand
When people think New Zealand they think stunning mountains, rolling green landscapes and sky diving from every inch of the skies.
But there’s so many more unique things to see and do in New Zealand, and we think it’s important you know about all the different wonders this destination has to offer.
New Zealand is divided into two islands, almost as different as night and day. Head to the North Island for beaches, wine and Maori culture. Venture to the South Island for dramatic scenery, mountains and extreme adventures.
To help inspire you, we’ve rounded up a list of the best things to do in New Zealand, divided up into the North Island and South Island.
Map of What to Do in New Zealand
New Zealand is a rather small nation, with roughly the same surface area as Colorado. But looking at New Zealand on a map can be deceiving because it stretches out north to south. We’ve made it easy with this map of all the best things to do in New Zealand to help you plan your trip.
1. Visit Hobbiton
Where to stay: Auckland or Rotorua
You don’t have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to feel the magic of Hobbiton. The green rolling hills, the bursts of colorful gardens and picturesque hobbit holes will transport you straight into the Shire of the films.
Tours of the Hobbiton movie set are led by passionate guides offering insightful tidbits and knowledge even diehard Tolkien fans might not know. Stay at the head of the group for the best opportunities to capture that winning shot in front of a hobbit hole with no bystanders in the frame!
For an unforgettable experience, book an evening tour with an included banquet. Seeing the Shire by twilight is only beatable by the indulgent feast you’ll share with other enraptured fans.
Contact an About New Zealand specialist for the best arrangements on including Hobbiton on your New Zealand trip.
2. Explore the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Photo: Shaun Jeffers
Where to stay: Auckland or Rotorua
There’s something about twinkling lights that our eyes simply can’t resist.
That’s what makes the Waitomo Caves so enchanting. Adorned with thousands of tiny glowworms, the pitch-black caverns are illuminated by their unearthly blue glow. It seriously looks like something out of a fairy tale.
The most popular way to see the glowworm caves is on guided tours through the caverns, ending with a boat tour on the subterranean lake drifting through the illuminated caverns.
But one of our favorite ways to explore the caves is on a thrilling black water rafting adventure. Thrill seekers glide through the cave system and underground waterfalls, ultimately floating serenely through the Glowworm Grotto.
No matter how you choose to see the Glowworm Caves, it’s undoubtedly one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
3. Indulge in Waiheke Island
Photo: Miles Holden
Where to stay: Auckland
New Zealand is dappled with wine regions all across the country, but nothing beats what’s known as New Zealand’s “Island of Wine.”
Waiheke Island, less than an hour ferry ride from Auckland, is an indulgent retreat for food and wine lovers. Complete with gorgeous bays, scenic walks and countless vineyards, this sublime island feels like something out of a Mediterranean legend.
Go on an endless wine-hopping adventure and delight your taste buds with the gourmet dishes of the island’s renowned restaurants. Everything from delectable oysters, Greek meze platters, woodfired pizzas and even gelato is on offer, paired with glasses of Waiheke’s finest wines. This decadent island is one of the best things to do in New Zealand for foodies and wine lovers.
The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the North Island’s idyllic stretches of green pastures, misty rainforests and golden beaches. Its crown jewel is Cathedral Cove, a turquoise bay ringed by soft sands and gigantic arched caverns.
The secluded cove is perfect for a relaxing beach day, complete with several scenic walks and excellent snorkeling at the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve. An array of sea sponges, delicate corals and colorful fish can be seen in the waters of the reserve.
The remoteness of the beach and its stunning natural beauty create an almost tangible sense of serenity. As this is one of the best things to do in New Zealand, we recommend visiting early in the morning not only to beat the crowds, but to witness the sunrise cast a breathtaking glow upon the beach. Cathedral Cove by dawn is truly like a slice of paradise that time forgot.
5. Learn About Maori Culture in Rotorua
Photo: Fraser Clements
Location: Throughout the North Island
Where to stay: Rotorua
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture is rich in history, unique traditions and inspiring stories.
One of the best places to immerse yourself in Maori culture is at Te Puia in Rotorua. This center is where the Maori heritage is passed on through the arts institute, where Maori students hone their skills in traditional Maori woodwork and crafts.
Here you can also experience an authentic Maori hangi feast, where food is traditionally prepared underground by the heat of the earth.
Visit a recreated indigenous village at Tamaki Maori Village for a glimpse of how the Maori lived before European settler-days. Witness the powerful haka war dance, the graceful poi performance and other incredible Maori rituals.
6. Explore the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Where to stay: Rotorua
The North Island is famous for its turquoise bays and black sand beaches, but its most surreal landscapes are found in the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
As one of the best things to do in New Zealand, some of its most spectacular volcanic features are found here. Bubbling mud pools, unusually colored lakes and spouting geysers highlight the trails laid out through the steaming valley.
Catch the spectacular colors of Champagne Pool, a hot spring of emerald water ringed by bright orange mineral deposits. See the neon green sulfur lake, Devil’s Bath, and catch the Lady Knox geyser in action.
7. Visit the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Photo: Te Papa Museum
Where to stay: Wellington
New Zealand’s most enrapturing museum resides in its capital, Wellington. Te Papa Tongarewa, located on Wellington’s waterfront, is a dedication to New Zealand’s art, history and culture.
This huge museum contains six levels, each with a central theme displayed through an array of exhibits. Discover the stories of New Zealanders during World War I in Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibit, located on the second level. Explore the cultures of Maori and other Pacific peoples through artifacts, architecture and artworks located on the fourth level.
In short, you could spend days in this museum. Though you may like to wander on your own, we highly recommend a guided tour for the expert insight and information your guide will share. There’s no better way to explore a museum than with someone who knows it like the back of their hand.
Location: Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, West Coast
Where to stay: Fox or Franz Josef Villages, or Queenstown
You’ve probably never thought about climbing a glacier. It’s hardly a thought that enters the mind.
But once it does, don’t you kind of want to do it?
Thrill-seekers who aren’t afraid of a little ice can hike on New Zealand’s glaciers.
New Zealand’s most famous glaciers are Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, both located along the west coast of the South Island. What makes these glaciers so breathtaking is the sprawl of tropical rainforest hugging their base. One minute you’re in lush rainforest, the next you’ve stepped back in time into the ice age!
Both glaciers provide an array of adventures for all levels of fitness, from guided walks to climbs complete with ice picks and crampons. For a truly spectacular experience, opt for a heli-hike, beginning with a scenic helicopter ride to the top of the glacier and hiking your way down.
9. Dolphin and Whale Watching in Kaikoura
Photo: Sara Orme
Where to stay: Kaikoura or Christchurch
Kaikoura is New Zealand’s unofficial capital of marine wildlife. In fact, Kaikoura is considered as one of the world’s best whale watching destinations.
Visit between June through August to catch a whale watching cruise with up close encounters with migrating humpback whales.
These gentle giants aren’t the only thing you’ll see in Kaikoura’s waters. Dolphin swims are very popular, with local dusky dolphins frolicking in the waters beside you. Seal swims are also available, offering a truly unique opportunity to interact with New Zealand Fur Seals.
Cruises are the most popular way to see the sounds, departing from Queenstown and Te Anau. As you glide on the glassy waters, a pod of dolphins swimming before your vessel and crystal clear waterfalls cascading down the forested cliffs around you, you’ll know you’ll never see a place like this anywhere else on Earth.
Milford Sound is the more popular fiord, but we like to recommend a cruise on Doubtful Sound. Bigger and arguably more majestic, the fewer crowds make cruising this fiord one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
11. See Mount Cook from Lake Pukaki
Photo: Rob Suisted
Location: Mount Cook National Park
Where to stay: Queenstown or Christchurch
The milky turquoise color of Lake Pukaki, framed by purple lupin flowers and the Southern Alps in the distance create a scene straight out of a story book.
Rivaling the beauty of the Swiss Alps, this snowy mountain range is home to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. The glaciers atop the mountain peaks feed into the remarkable Lake Pukaki, giving it its unique turquoise color.
Scenic helicopter rides and guided tours from Queenstown to Mount Cook Village are the best way to add Mount Cook into your New Zealand itinerary. More adventurous travelers can hike on tracks beginning near the village or climb the peaks for the ultimate challenge.
12. Go on a Bike Tour
Photo: Dean McKenzie
Location: Throughout the North and South Islands
Where to stay: Nelson
If the idea of mounting a bike while on vacation sounds dreadful, you definitely need to get on a bike in New Zealand.
This is just one of those places that makes you want to stay outside as much as possible.
The best part about cycling in New Zealand is that there are dozens of trails, ranging from super easy to hardcore mountain biking, in some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world.
One of our favorite bike trails is in Nelson, known as the Tasman Great Taste Trail. This leisurely trail loops through charming countryside and coastline, with stops at art galleries, boutiques, craft breweries and wineries.
Bike tours are also popular ways to explore New Zealand’s cities. There’s nothing like getting some fresh air in your lungs and color on your cheeks with an invigorating bike ride.
13. Bungy Jump in Queenstown
Photo: AJ Hackett Bungy
Where to stay: Queenstown
Queenstown is the destination for those extreme bucket list adventures. Skydiving, bungy jumping, canyon swinging – basically anything related to jumping through the air, with an optional cord attached to you.
If bungy jumping is on your list of things to do in New Zealand, there’s no better place to do it than Queenstown. As the birthplace of bungy jumping, you can jump from the Kawarau Bridge, the world’s first commercial bungy site. The breathtaking scenery around this historic bridge is enough to inspire your jump, with the turquoise waters of the Kawarau River rushing below the bridge.
For the more brave at heart, take the jump on the Nevis Bungy, the highest bungy site in all New Zealand. We guarantee the adrenaline rush will have you shouting and laughing with glee. And the bragging rights will be unbeatable.
The romance of train travel from days long past is still alive and well in New Zealand. With rails running through mountains, viaducts and along the coasts, these scenic train journeys are among the finest in the world.
For stunning views of the Southern Alps, the TranzAlpine train is a must. This 5-hour train journey includes destination stops along its path from Greymouth to Christchurch, offering time to explore hidden gems of the South Island.
Ride in the observation car, wide open to the elements, to truly immerse yourself in the scenery around you.
Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
New Zealand is one of the world’s top travel destinations. From the snow-dusted mountains and ancient rainforests in the South Island to the balmy beaches and geothermal wonderlands in the North Island, New Zealand is known for encapsulating all the world’s landscapes in one country.
This can make packing for your trip a challenge. It’s even more of a challenge if you’re traveling to both the North Island and the South Island, as they couldn’t be more different than night and day.
Waterproof Phone Case – New Zealand is a place of extreme adventures, photo-worthy landscapes and marine wildlife experiences. You’ll want to make sure your phone is well protected against water, dirt and other debris. A waterproof phone case not only lets you stay in touch, but also allows you take pictures of your travels no matter the environment.
New Zealand Power Adapter – New Zealand uses the same power outlet as Australia, which is different compared to the rest of the world. You’ll need a power adapter to keep your electronics charged while traveling in New Zealand. We recommend a universal power adapter with USB ports, making it easy to charge your phone and other handheld electronics that charge through a USB cord.
Rain Jacket – No matter where you’re traveling in New Zealand, you will absolutely want to bring a rain jacket. The weather is known to vary from region to region, more so from the North Island to the South Island. A good rain jacket can also double as a light jacket for those chilly mornings and evenings.
Camera – The moment you set eyes on New Zealand’s stunning mountains, turquoise lakes and lush coastlines, you’ll know your phone won’t do them any justice. As you travel throughout New Zealand, the jaw-dropping scenery will have you snapping photos every second. Bring a camera to capture crisp photos of your travels.
Sunscreen – Whether you’re visiting the mountainous South Island or the beaches of the North Island, sunscreen is super important. Due to the strong Southern Hemisphere sun, skin damage from UV rays can happen even on a cloud-covered day. Avoid the nasty sunburn – always a downer on any trip.
Portable Charger – Perfect for the days where you’re always on the go. Simply charge it up at your hotel and bring it with you on your travels. This is incredibly useful for long days on the road in tour buses or day trips.
Prescriptions and Over the Counter Medicines – If you know you are prone to motion sickness, sea sickness, headaches or even allergies, it’s a good idea to bring OTC medicines to ease any discomfort. It’s really daunting when you have to wonder around a foreign pharmacy looking at unfamiliar brands trying to figure out which medicine is best to cure a sour stomach. We also recommend Kaopectate for traveler’s tummy. And of course, bring along any prescription medicines you regularly take.
Insect Repellent – You can expect a few mosquitoes around most of New Zealand, but if you’ve got a good insect repellent they’ll be a non-issue. If you’re traveling along the west coast of the South Island, you’ll want to make sure your insect repellent also works on sandflies. These small, gnat-like creatures can be a greater nuisance than mosquitoes.
Reusable Water Bottle – Staying hydrated is important anywhere, especially while on long-haul travel to the other side of the world. A reusable water bottle is a great way to always keep water at your side, and is refillable wherever you go.
Hiking Shoes – New Zealand is full of scenic walks and day hikes, and you’re no doubt at least going to be walking around the cities. Walking shoes are always a must, but if you’re exploring the mountains, geothermal hot spots, glowworm caves or even beaches, you’ll want shoes that can do it all.
Travel Documents – Always know where your travel documents are and keep photocopies of them in case anything happens. One of our favorite tips is to keep online copies of travel documents. Simply email copies of your passport, trip vouchers, flight confirmations, etc. to yourself, giving you the ability to access your documents wherever you can log in to your email. This can be a lifesaver, even if you lose your phone!
Figuring out what to wear in New Zealand can be a bit challenging. Sunny beach days are common at the top of the North Island, yet its urban cities often see changeable weather with winds and rains. The South Island is home to the sunniest regions in New Zealand, yet its mountains accumulate snow and cold weather the further south you go.
This is why we’ve made it simple with our guide on what to pack for New Zealand based on each island and season.
Coromandel, North Island. Photo: Adam Bryce
Summer (December, January, February)
These are New Zealand’s warmest months of the whole year, with temperatures averaging between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. During this time, daylight can last until 10pm, so be sure to keep up with sunscreen!
Northernmost regions such as Cape Reinga, Bay of Islands and the Coromandel enjoy subtropical weather. Think balmy sunshine, warm golden beaches and inviting bays. Summery clothes with a light jacket for any sudden changes in weather are ideal.
You may want to pack your swimwear and jandals (New Zealand’s word for flip flops!) if you fancy a dip at the beach. Sunhats and sunglasses are also great sun protection.
For more urban areas including Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington, comfortable walking shoes are a must. You might like to bring some dressier clothes for nights out in the cities. Don’t forget a rain jacket and cardigans or sweaters for the cooler mornings and evenings. Pants or trousers are recommended over shorts, but for any outdoor activities such as hikes or beach days, shorts are fine.
Nelson is one of New Zealand’s sunniest regions, so sunhats and sunglasses are essential. Summer clothes are perfect, with cardigans or light jackets for the evenings and cool mornings.
The further south you travel, the lower the temperatures drop. Christchurch sees temperatures in the low 60’s, so pack thin layers with a sweater or light jacket. In southernmost destinations such as Queenstown and Dunedin, bring light layers you can mix and match, with a sweater or light jacket.
Canterbury, South Island. Photo: Fred Rood and Elite Images
Fall (March, April, May)
Cooler temperatures create perfect conditions for outdoor activities with a gorgeous setting. Colorful changing leaves, tufts of gold and orange, snowy peaks in the distance – autumn in New Zealand will take your breath away. With less crowds and temperatures averaging between 45 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, this is one of our favorite season to go to New Zealand.
Cold mornings and evenings are common, with sunshine during the day. It’s important to pack cozy clothes you can layer up or down as the day goes by, with a jacket to keep warm against any drops in temperature.
A rain jacket is a must, as this is when rains start to pick up in major cities such as Auckland and Wellington.
The South Island is where you’ll see those changing autumn colors. Comfortable layers with a warm sweater or jacket will keep you most comfortable. Boots or comfortable walking shoes will keep your feet sheltered from the elements.
Queenstown, South Island. Photo: Skyline Queenstown
Winter (June, July, August)
Winter in New Zealand brings cooler temperatures averaging between 35 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The one essential item you need to pack for winter in New Zealand is a raincoat, as these months see the most rain.
Winter is temperate enough to explore the northernmost region of the island on hikes and scenic walks. Warm layers, a cardigan or sweater, and a light jacket will be enough to get you through the day. Bring a warm jacket for the cold mornings and evenings, especially in major cities.
July is the wettest month, so apart from a rain jacket you might also want to bring an umbrella.
The mountain ranges are blanketed with fresh snow, making for stunning views. Frosts and heavy snowfall are common, so warm layers, sweaters and jackets are recommended. You might like to bring scarfs, gloves or hats to help protect you from the cold in wilderness areas such as national parks, the glaciers and fiords.
Bay of Islands, North Island. Photo: Alistair Guthrie
Spring (September, October, November)
Blossoming trees, cascading waterfalls and colorful blooms – New Zealand in spring is a wonderful time to visit. Keep in mind the average temperatures for your New Zealand packing list in spring, ranging between 40 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Warm sunny days gave way to crisp evenings, so definitely pack a sweater or light jacket. Thin layers you can mix and match are highly recommended, keeping you prepared for any sudden drops in temperature. If you can easily withstand cooler temperatures, one layer and a light jacket will be just fine.
One basic jacket or coat and versatile layers are perfect for South Island destinations. A warm sweater with a light jacket is also a good alternative. Keep in mind that mornings and evenings can still get quite cold. If you’re traveling along the west coast to the glaciers or Mount Cook, be sure you’re prepared for rain.
No matter what time of the year you’re visiting New Zealand, it’s always important to use sunscreen – yes, even in the winter!
Now that you know what to pack for New Zealand, you’re ready to enjoy the trip of a lifetime!
Safe travels from your mates at About New Zealand!
Posted on: November 7th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
You won’t find a city with a more romantic name than Auckland.
The Te Reo Māori (indigenous Maori-language) name for Auckland is “Tāmaki-makau-rau,” meaning “Tāmaki (bride) of a hundred lovers.”
It’s hard not to fall in love with Auckland on first sight. With an iconic cityscape embraced by a sparkling gulf and fertile, green hills, the City of Sails captures the hearts of more than just a hundred lovers.
See the city through the eyes of its first admirers with these incredible Maori cultural experiences in Auckland.
Sail the Gulf like the Great Polynesian Navigators
Image: Waka Quest
There’s no end to the yachts and charters offering sailing tours along Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.
After all, this is “The City of Sails.”
But among the countless vessels docked along Waitemata Harbour is a portal into the past.
Here you’ll find the ‘waka,’ a traditional Maori canoe as once chartered by the ancient Polynesian navigators. Inspired by a recent resurgence of voyaging traditions, the New Zealand Maritime Museum in conjunction with local tourism operators developed a breathtaking journey into Maori seafaring traditions aboard Haunui, a handcrafted waka.
When you board Haunui, you’re embarking on a journey just as the ancient Polynesian navigators once did. You’ll learn the sailing traditions and stories of the Maori as an expert Maori crew charters across Waitemata Harbour.
If the famous Auckland landmarks you’ll see don’t captivate you, the oral traditions, artistry and rituals shared by your crew certainly will.
Feel the Land Come to Life on a Maori Walking Tour
Learn the stories behind Auckland’s green volcanic landscape on an intimate, Maori-guided walking tour.
Auckland is dotted with 48 volcanic cones, each bound with a story rich in cultural and spiritual significance.
In other words, a natural treasure trove of Maori culture.
Your Maori guide leads you through Auckland’s unique terrain on walking trails strewn across the volcanoes as they share the history of each site.
Walk to the top of Maungawhau, or Mount Eden, and learn about the legends surrounding this natural wonder. As the highest natural point in Auckland, there’s an unmistakable sense of mysticism from the incredible panoramic views atop this volcano.
Hear the story of how this mountain came to be, as passed down through oral traditions. Spot the remains of pā terraces, or hill forts, and food storage pits once used by the Maori.
As you walk down the volcano, you’ll come away with a sense of the Maori’s deep connection with the land. Ask our About New Zealand Destination Specialists about our favorite Auckland walking tours for your next trip!
Get Off the Beaten Path and Get in Touch with Nature
Image: Scott Venning
Auckland is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Black sand beaches, lush rainforests, waterfalls and soaring cliffs await just outside the city.
But that’s just the problem for many visitors. It’s all outside the city.
Fortunately there’s several tours setting out from the city into the pristine natural wonders at its doorstep.
On one of our favorite New Zealand wilderness tours, you’ll venture into Auckland’s spectacular west coast and into the renowned Waitakere Ranges. You’ll pass through Titirangi, which translates to “fringe of heaven” in Te Reo Māori, and learn about the unique flora and fauna that call these ranges home.
Hear the legends of the forest and its shy bush-dwelling birds so iconic to New Zealand. Discover the medicinal uses of the indigenous plants around you, as still used by the Maori to this day.
Finish the day off with a stop at the west coast’s most arresting black sand beaches – the west coast’s signature feature.
Discover Maori Treasures at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
Explore the world’s largest collection of Maori artifacts (taonga) at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Renowned for its interactive exhibits and respectful insights into Maori and South Pacific cultures, you could easily spend days in this three-level museum.
Visit the ground floor to see original full-size buildings adorned with intricate Maori woodcarvings and designs. See Te Toki ā Tāpiri, the last great waka once used in battle, carved from a giant totara tree. Get a glimpse of traditional dress including dogskin cloaks, feather cloaks and flax cloaks as worn by Maori ancestors.
On the first floor you’ll learn more about the Maori way of connecting with the natural world. Step foot on a topographical recreation of Auckland, outlining the routes of the seafaring ancestors and their stories. Learn the narratives behind the origins of the world as understood by the Maori.
Opt for a guided tour to fully immerse yourself and understand the unique culture on display before you.
Stick around the Auckland War Memorial Museum for what is lauded as one of New Zealand’s best Maori cultural performances.
This daily performance takes you on a moving journey through the story of Auckland and New Zealand. Watch as performers donned in gorgeous traditional dress dance the gracious poi and a spine-tingling version of the powerful haka war dance.
As Auckland’s only venue providing daily Maori cultural performances, you’ll want to pre-book this often sold-out event.
Performances begin at 10:45am until 1:30pm with additional times available during high season.
Get a Taste of Maori-Inspired Kai at Pasifika Festival
Image: Tourism New Zealand
There’s no way you can authentically experience a culture without tasting its food. Even if you’re averse to trying new foods, the scents of kai (Te Reo Māori for food) will have your mouth watering.
The traditional Maori method for cooking food in underground ovens is called hāngi. This usually consists of meats, root vegetables and kumara, a kind of sweet potato, wrapped in leaves and lowered into the earth. After cooking for three to four hours in the heat from the earth, a delicious dish of tender, fall-off-the-bone meat and roasted vegetables infused with a smoky fragrance is ready to eat.
Though you won’t find many eateries in Auckland showcasing traditional Maori cooking methods, you can find Maori flavors at the Hangi Shop or Puha & Pakeha.
One of the best ways to experience Maori kai in Auckland is at the Pasifika Festival, an annual celebration of South Pacific cultures. Not only will you get a taste of hāngi, but you’ll also see signature dishes unique to cultures all across the Pacific Islands throughout 200 different food and craft stalls.
Travel to Auckland towards the end of March to witness this spectacular event. Pasifika Festival will be held from March 23rd – 24th, 2019.
Experience Maori Culture in Auckland
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture brings the North Island to life with its warm Polynesian roots. Although the town of Rotorua is New Zealand’s renowned heart of Maori culture, you’ll find plenty of incredible experiences within Auckland to gain insight into this unique culture.
Want to add an unforgettable Maori experience in your visit to Auckland? Connect with our About New Zealand Destination Specialists for more ideas on experiencing Maori culture on your New Zealand trip.
Posted on: October 8th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Ready to step back in time into the Ice Age?
On New Zealand’s West Coast, rainforest-clad valleys dip into spectacular glaciers. Its most famous glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, draw travelers from around the world to hike and explore their stunning ice formations.
From blue ice caves to rippled ice currents, stepping onto these glaciers is like stepping into a completely different world.
Franz Josef and Fox glacier both provide an array of activities for all levels. From glacier valley walks to glacier hikes and scenic helicopter rides, seeing these natural wonders is easily done on your terms.
Fox Glacier is a 13 kilometer long (8.1 mi) glacier, the longest of New Zealand’s West Coast glaciers, located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. With gorgeous ice caves and dappled arches, Fox Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. During the high tourist season it sees about 1000 people daily. The glacier was named after one of New Zealand’s Prime Ministers, Sir William Fox. Its official name is Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe, incorporating its original Maori name.
Still flowing almost to sea level, the front of the glacier, known as the terminal face, rises at a slow incline, making valley walks and ice hikes fairly easy. However, shelving in the valley deep beneath the glacier causes the ice to crack and slide, constantly changing the face of the glacier along with surface melting. Guided tours are a must to get on the ice due to these unstable conditions.
Yet these changeable conditions can present breathtaking surprises along the way.
The Fox Glacier township, “Weheka,” lies 4 miles from the glacier with a population between 300 – 400 residents. With delightful cafes, restaurants and glow worm caves just a short walk from the town center, this cozy township will warm you up with its genuine Kiwi hospitality.
Meet the Glacier on a Terminal Face Walk
Visitors can walk close to the face of Fox Glacier, but a guided tour is where the real adventure lies.
Venture through the pristine Fox Valley toward the face of the glacier on a terminal face walk. This moderate trail is the perfect way to get closer to the glacier than any unguided walkers without leaving your footprints on the ice.
Walk along the flowing Fox River, emerging from the ice, as your expert guide brings the dynamic terrain to life with their informative commentary. Come across fantastic ice boulders and if you’re lucky, you might witness extraordinary ice collapses.
Explore the Glacier on a Heli Hike
Combine the thrills of soaring high above the ice and walking the spectacular glacier formations on a Heli Hike on Fox Glacier.
Flying in by helicopter allows you access to remote parts of the glacier where its dynamic forces work hardest and create stunning ice caves and arches. Once you land your guide will fit you with crampons, spiked footwear used for secure mobility on the ice.
One of the biggest differences between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef is in how they are guided. Fox Glacier, with its extremely varying conditions, offers more spontaneous hikes set by your guide as you make your way. A tour on one day may be completely different than a tour the next day.
As you step through narrow ice caverns, a blue glow emanating from the icy depths, you’ll feel like you’re on an expedition in the Arctic. The photo ops will be out of this world.
Franz Josef Glacier
The more popular of the two glaciers, Franz Josef draws around 250,000 visitors each year. It is named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria by German explorer Julius von Haast in 1865. Maori call the glacier Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere, meaning “The tears of Hine Hukatere.”
With a length of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) and a steeper drop from the Southern Alps, Franz Josef constantly shifts, create rippled ice formations and icy crevasses. Guided walks and hikes on the glacier are usually on pre-cut and predetermined paths, more suitable for beginners. This also affords more opportunities to see extraordinary ice formations.
Located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park only 12 miles away from Fox Glacier, you can easily see the face of both glaciers on a quick road trip.
But you’re in New Zealand’s West Coast, where the scenery is as varied as the continuously changing glaciers. Become one with the landscape and explore these incredible rivers of ice.
Challenge Yourself on a Heli Ice Climb
Get your heart racing with an exciting Heli Ice Climb on Franz Josef. Offering some of the best glacier climbing in the world, this experience rewards you with unique views and an unbeatable sense of accomplishment.
You’ll begin with a scenic helicopter flight, surrounded in the full panoramic majesty of the glacier and nearby mountains. Once on the ice your guide will lead you to your climbing starting point, where your adventure begins.
With all technical equipment and climbing gear provided, the Heli Ice Climb serves all skill levels with expert guides instructing you along the way. The high you’ll feel as you reach the top of the blue ice will be just as thrilling as the jaw-dropping scenery around you.
Take it Slow on a Franz Josef Glacier Walk
For those seeking the beauty of the glacier at a slower speed, try the two hour Guided Glacier Walk. You’ll take a flight up to the top of the glacier and get to see the beauty of the surrounding mountains as the guide lets you explore the awe-inspiring formations.
This adventure gets you up close to the blue ice tunnels, between towering walls of ice and in the ice caves carved out of the glacier. Your guide will reveal extraordinary knowledge of the glacier along the way, leaving you with a deeper understanding of why this special landmark is so special.
One of the highlights of a Franz Josef excursion is complimentary access to the Franz Josef Hot Pools. What better way to soothe your tired muscles after an incredible hike out on the ice? The township of Franz Josef also boasts an array of accommodation and places to grab a bite to eat, setting up the perfect stay for your Franz Josef adventure.
Explore New Zealand’s Iconic Glaciers
Whether you want to take a heli flight to the top of the glacier and walk around, or just want to see where the glacier runs into the waters below, there are glacier experiences fit for every person’s adventure level. Don’t miss out on this gorgeous sight you can only see in New Zealand.
If you are ready to start planning your glacier exploration, call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US).
Posted on: September 27th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Photo: Rob Suisted
Many first time travelers to New Zealand skip over Wellington, but this capital city is full of surprises at every turn.
As the the king of all things cool, Wellington thrives on the creativity emanating from its passionate locals. Step in any direction and you’ll come across a fantastic coffee shop, a lively art gallery or bright new eatery. In fact, Wellington has more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York!
The large city delights combined with a small town feel create an experience entirely its own.
Known as the “coolest little capital,” the thriving arts, culinary, coffee and food scenes are heaven for the city lover. The gentle bays, lush greenery and surrounding hills offer a natural playground for the nature lover.
Here’s our guide on the best 11 things to do in Wellington.
Visit the Mount Victoria Lookout
Photo: Julian Apse
The best way to get your bearings in Wellington is to take in the whole city at once at the Mount Victoria Lookout.
The spectacular panoramic views of the city are framed by lush greenery, the tranquil harbor and rolling hills in the distance. You’ll get a feel for Wellington’s unique coastal charm of vibrant city life set against serene waterways.
Located right next to the city center, you can take the Number 20 bus all the way up or take the scenic walk up to the lookout. The clearing is perfect for a picnic overlooking the city.
Be sure to take a light jacket – nicknamed windy Wellington, you’re bound to feel a breeze as you make your way to the summit of Mount Victoria.
But as you take in the breathtaking vista below you, you might not even feel the wind.
Ride on the Wellington Cable Car
One of Wellington’s most charming assets is the historic Cable Car.
This little red cable car climbs the steep slope from Lambton Quay in the heart of Wellington to Kelburn, a suburb in the hills overlooking the city below.
Locals, students and visitors alike make up the nearly one million passengers traveling in the cable car each year.
The five minute journey travels along a quaint, white-fenced railway through dark tunnels illuminated by colorful fairy lights flashing into stunning patterns and imagery.
Emerge at the top for a lookout taking in unsurpassed views of the hill-fringed city.
You’ll also find the Wellington Botanic Gardens, Space Place and the Cable Car Museum at the top. These Wellington-essential attractions are the perfect way to spend an afternoon, ending with a cable car ride back down the hill.
To find the cable car, make your way to Cable Car Lane between Flight Centre and Countdown Supermarket off Lambton Quay.
Stop and Smell the Roses at the Wellington Botanic Garden
Fancy a light freshening up? At the Wellington Botanic Gardens, the rose beds, begonias and the Fragrant Garden perfume the air with wonderful aromas to reawaken your senses.
After riding up on the Wellington Cable Car, wander downhill through the colorful tapestries of blooming hydrangeas, tulips and rhododendrons.
Step through the Exotic Forest, planted in the 1870s, and marvel at some of the oldest pines in New Zealand. Find your zen in Horseshoe Bend, a tranquil garden of Asian woodland plants and trees.
Escape into the dense forest of the Pukatea Bushwalk, where the calls of native birds will make you feel a whole world away from the city.
Let your nose guide you through the arresting aromas of the Herb Garden and the Fragrant Garden, where the flowers are as alluring as their scent.
Pass through a charming waterfall and bubbling streams to reach the Main Garden. You’ll find ducks gliding on a small, glassy pond, letting out eager quacks for bread crumbs.
At the bottom of the hill you’ll reach the Lady Norwood Rose Garden. This haven of over 3,000 roses set around a heritage fountain is romantic simplicity at its finest. Visit between mid-November to December to see the roses in full bloom.
Stay after dark for a chance to see glowworms light up the gardens for a magical light show.
Explore Wellington’s Laneways
Photo: Jerry Aurum
There’s a transformation taking hold right in the heart of the city, but if you blink you might miss it.
Tucked away between high rises and unassuming buildings of the city center you’ll find quirky little spaces home to Wellington’s hidden gems. These laneways are home to some of the best of Wellington’s three C’s: cafes, craft beer and coffee.
Wander down Hannahs Laneway, dubbed “the world’s tastiest laneway,” for an inner city haven of eclectic local bars, good eats and sweet treats.
Find low-key class in the leather bound menus, fur pelt decor and bookshelves lined with classics in Hanging Ditch, a cocktail bar mastering casual elegance with friendly bartenders who know their craft. Try arguably the best pizza in town at Pizza Pomodoro, and top it off with a stop at Wellington Chocolate Factory, a wonderland for all things chocolate.
No trip to Wellington is complete without visiting Cuba Street, a bohemian playground of vintage shops, world class cafes, restaurants and bars. Fidel’s Café, the crowning king of cool on Cuba Street, serves strong single-origin coffee late into the night and revolutionary homestyle dishes.
Don’t let the minimalist sophistication of Loretta fool you – this Cuba Street staple serves superb coffee and crisp dishes with slick service. Even more impressive is its extensive drink menu, featuring classic cocktails, craft beers and an array of wines.
Score a secondhand designer find in the colorful racks of darling dresses and vintage shoes at Ziggurat, Cuba Street’s shopping treasure trove.
Taste Your Way Through Wellington’s Food scene
Photo: Egmont St Eatery
There’s always a slew of new cafes and trendy joints opening their doors.
Step inside the Wellington food scene and you’ll find exciting flavors set in vibrant spaces with an unrelenting passion for all things local.
Wake your senses in the morning to the warm, fresh scents of Husk’s breakfast menu featuring local, free range produce. Tuck into scrambled eggs with kasundi relish, manchego cheese, fresh coriander and toasted polenta bread or a dish of rousing shakshouka topped with baked eggs and sheep’s feta cheese. Be sure to return in the evening to taste some craft beers brewed on site!
Taste modern, local Kiwi cuisine at Shepherd, an informal yet flavorful dining experience with creative dishes set in a restored canteen.
Hidden away in one of Wellington’s laneways is the intimate Egmont St Eatery, a delightful nook with fresh sharing plates, wines and local craft beers reflecting the season – perfect for a romantic night out.
Sip on Craft Beers
In Wellington, passion and creativity extends to all things – even beer.
The craft beer movement currently taking hold across all corners of the world is more than just a scene in Wellington – it’s an institution. Even if you’re not one to touch a drop of the stuff, the experimental brews you’ll find in Wellington are sure to pique your interest, if not at least lift your brows.
Try something new at Garage Project’s taproom, 91 Aro, known for churning out quality beers unafraid of blending wild flavors into the mix. You might taste anything from honey and elderflower to chamomile flowers and smoked chipotle in their beers.
The capital of craft beer in Wellington, Hashigo Zake prides itself on having “no crap on tap,” as per their staff t-shirts. Here you’ll find a careful curation of some of the best craft brews found not only in Wellington but also across New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the US. With something for every taste, let the bartenders know the flavors you enjoy – be it chocolate, coffee or any kind of fruit – and they’ll sort you out.
Don’t miss Golding’s Free Dive Bar, reminiscent of your neighborhood bar, for a colorful and friendly spot showcasing New Zealand’s quality brews. As a “free dive,” Golding’s is free to choose any sort of liquor they wish to serve, so you’re sure to find a selection of champion beers.
Fall in Love with Wellington’s Coffee
There’s no better way to start your day off in Wellington than with a strong cup of locally roasted coffee.
Named as one of the world’s best 8 cities for coffee, the flat whites served here are unparalleled – even in Melbourne.
Get an up close look at the art of coffee brewing at Lamason Brew Bar, a cozy retreat on the corner of Bond and Lombard Street. Specializing in top shelf espresso and single origin coffee, their siphon coffee is undeniably the star of the show, brewed with siphons looking like something out of an alchemist’s arsenal.
Find ethically sourced coffees with a detailed backstory at The Flight Coffee Hangar. Every cup is served with a card reviewing the taste profile of the coffee. With friendly recommendations from the knowledgeable staff, you can’t go wrong with a cup at Hangar. Try the flight of three coffees to sample their impressive blends.
A Wellington icon, L’affare is the considered the grandaddy of the local café scene. With the look and feel of an industrial coffee packaging plant, their wholesome menu and espresso roasts will warm you right up.
Go Museum and Gallery Hopping
Think you don’t have a single artistic bone in your body? Wellington is guaranteed to change that.
Noted as “A powerhouse of the arts in the Southern Hemisphere” by Going Places Magazine, creativity pulses through every corner of Wellington. Throughout the city you’ll find dozens of art galleries, museums, theaters and public art. Not to mention the world famous World of Wearable Art (WOW), an international design competition where artists push the boundaries of fashion.
Enter a world dedicated to New Zealand’s art, history and indigenous culture at Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum of New Zealand. You’ll find a day isn’t enough to explore the vast collections of modern art, Maori woodworks and artifacts, historical masterpieces and interactive exhibits.
Here you can immerse yourself in the emotion emanating from the Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibition, and relive this World War I campaign through the eyes of eight New Zealanders. Learn about the cultures of the various Pacific Island peoples through clothing, textiles, tattoos and photos.
After discovering the treasure troves of Te Papa, skip on over to City Gallery Wellington. With an ever-rotating array of compelling exhibits by local and international artists, you’re guaranteed to come away with rattling feelings of amusement, anger or amazement.
Travel further up the waterfront to Wellington Museum, often considered Wellington’s best kept secret. This small museum packs in a wealth of history and exhibitions detailing the evolution of Wellington into The Coolest Little Capital. Stop in The Attic at the top floor for a steampunk-styled exhibit displaying curiosities ranging from flying saucers and lions to art installations with captivating cinematic elements.
Experience Movie-Making Magic
As internationally recognized director Guillermo Del Toro puts it, Wellington is “Hollywood the way God intended it.”
Home to world-class movie-making talent, leading international studios and spectacular filming locations, there’s no doubt Wellington is considered New Zealand’s film industry capital.
Indeed, the movie magic found within the hills of windy Wellington has earned it the affectionate name “Wellywood.”
Movie buffs can browse the meticulously crafted props, costumes and collectibles created for films such as the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises on a tour behind the scenes at the Weta Cave.
Visit different filming locations around the city on a guided tour – sometimes led by an extra from one of the films! Walk through Middle Earth as you learn about the specific scenes from Lord of the Rings shot on the ground you’re standing on.
If you’re more about the cinematic experience of sitting back and being transported into a completely different world, Wellington’s world-class cinemas will do the trick. Ever the haven for Lord of the Rings fans, catch a flick at the Embassy Theatre, a classy cinema once host to the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Lovers of all things film will want to stop by Time Cinema, a small spot dedicated to the display of vintage film memorabilia and quarter-monthly film screenings.
Explore the Wellington Waterfront
Escape from the bustle of the city center and stroll along Wellington’s quiet waterfront.
Lined with brightly colored boatsheds, heritage and art trails, local cafes and a stretch of golden beach, the waterfront is the perfect place to unwind by the sea.
Learn the history of Wellington on the Maritime Heritage Trail, stopping at historic buildings showcasing Edwardian industrial architecture.
Discover the subtle yet powerful Writers Walk along the waterfront, dotted with fifteen text sculptures featuring quotes about Wellington from prominent New Zealand writers.
Make your way down to Oriental Bay, an idyllic strip of golden sand and sparkling turquoise water. Roll your towel out and soak in the sun or rent some kayaks or stand up paddleboards and take to the water.
End your afternoon with a scoop of perfectly creamy gelato from Kaffe Eis on Oriental Parade and sit back as you enjoy unbeatable views of the bay.
Get close to New Zealand Wildlife
Surrounded by nature, Wellington is dotted with pockets of green and incredible native New Zealand wildlife experiences.
Nestled in the green belt south of the city center is Wellington Zoo, New Zealand’s first ever zoo. Learn more about the over 500 native and exotic endangered animals that call this zoo home. Get up close to the irresistibly cute Red Pandas, meet Tahi the one-legged kiwi and leave with a sense of wonder and amazement at the careful conservation efforts and spacious green habitats you’ll find here.
Step into a world of untouched New Zealand nature at ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary, a picturesque reservoir home to New Zealand’s most rare and extraordinary wildlife. Only 10 minutes from the city center, you’ll feel an entire world away as you walk through the ethereal wilderness – as nature intended.
ZEALANDIA’s mission is to restore its native ecosystem to its pre-human state, complete with native wildlife roaming freely. Spot exotic birds on scenic walks or join a guided tour for knowledgeable insights into the sights and sounds of the sanctuary. Visit at night to join a kiwi-spotting tour!
Want More Things to Do in Wellington?
No trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to the nation’s capital. Nowhere else combines a big city experience with small town charm as well as windy Wellington.
For more ideas on things to do in Wellington, contact our expert Destination Specialists. We’ll help you plan your New Zealand trip to hit all the highlights and must-see destinations, including Wellington.
Posted on: July 24th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
New Zealand is a land of extraordinary contrasts, and no city encapsulates this better than Auckland.
Urban yet blessed with natural beauty right on its doorstep, Auckland holds unique treasures waiting to be explored.
From volcanoes and museums, black sand beaches and sensational cuisine, we’ve made hitting all the Auckland highlights easy.
Here are 10 best things to do in Auckland for an unforgettable stay in New Zealand.
Indulge on Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is all about shamelessly enjoying the good life.
And you deserve it – you’re in New Zealand, after all!
Dotted with sensational restaurants, endless vineyards, cellar doors and microbreweries, the culinary delights in Waiheke Island will tempt any palate.
With a nick name like “Island of Wine,” wine-hopping in Waiheke is a must. Our favorite small-group winery tours stop at some of Waiheke’s top award-winning wineries with visits to hidden gems around the island.
After delighting in oysters and champagne at Oyster Inn or a leisurely Italian lunch at Poderi Crisci, stop in at Island Gelato for a cool scoop of gelato with tasty flavors such as coffee affagato with roasted almond or mango lassi.
Waiheke Island is also known for its strong art community. Scattered with galleries and sculpture parks, there’s a sense of creativity that mingles around the island, making all creatives feel at home.
With such stunning natural beauty around the island, it’s easy to find inspiration everywhere you look. Surrounded in sparkling bays, inviting beaches, lush gardens and rainforest, if the wine hasn’t made you fall in love with Waiheke, its scenery definitely will.
A ferry trip from Auckland to Waiheke Island takes about 40 minutes, with numerous daily departures and returns.
Explore Rangitoto Island
You don’t need to travel far from Auckland to find iconic New Zealand natural beauty. In fact, a 25-minute ferry to Rangitoto Island will do.
This volcanic island is the youngest and largest volcano in Auckland – it even looks like those perfect, symmetrical volcanoes you see in movies.
Home to over 200 species of flora, native bird life and the world’s largest Pohutukawa forest, Rangitoto is a haven for hikers, daytrippers and nature lovers.
With walking trails strewn across the island, the most popular trail climbs the summit of Rangitoto. At the very top you’ll see incredible views over the emerald islands dotting the blue Hauruki Gulf, out toward Auckland city.
Tick off a bucket list item you didn’t know you had and walk on the lava fields in Rangitoto, where the ground is literally lava. The island is made entirely from hardened lava after spectacular eruptions occurred between 1400 and 1450. The Maori who witnessed these eruptions then gave the island the name Rangitoto, meaning “bleeding skies.”
There are seven lava caves to explore on the island, popular with families for a unique island adventure. Adventurous kayakers also like to brave the waters and kayak from Auckland to Rangitoto, a divine trek across the Waitemata Harbour where Little Blue Penguins and Cooks Petrels may be spotted.
Here you’ll find incredibly rare Maori and Pacific Island treasures, natural history exhibits and cultural artifacts all telling the story of New Zealand as a nation.
Housed in an elegant and imposing heritage building, you could easily spend hours roaming the unique collections within its multiple levels.
Explore the worlds of the Maori, Pakeha and people of Oceania on the ground floor. Stroll through the corridors of Maori carvings, canoes, jewelry, ceremonial objects and other Pacific masterpieces.
On the first floor you’ll find life-sized replica skeletons of cryolophosaurus and malawisaurus dinosaurs that once roamed New Zealand. Discover other prehistoric treasures such as the now extinct 9-foot tall moa bird and other fossilized lifeforms.
Wander up to the war memorial galleries for historic aircraft, photos, diaries and military collections uncovering New Zealand’s unique war history.
See Auckland from Above on the Sky Tower
Feel the rush of adrenaline pump through your veins as you climb to the top of the Auckland Sky Tower.
Standing at 1,076 ft (including the antenna spire), it is the tallest freestanding building the Southern Hemisphere, an iconic feature of the Auckland city skyline.
As one of Auckland’s most popular attractions, the tower holds something for every visitor.
Its main observation deck on level 51 features a glass floor as thick as concrete, offering visitors incredible views of Auckland below.
Treat yourself to the wonderful 360-degree views and delightful degustation menu at The Sugar Club on level 53, a feast for the senses surrounded by a splendid art deco ambience.
Here on level 53 is where daredevils take on the SkyJump, a 630 ft guide-cable-controlled jump where divers may reach speeds up to 53 miles per hour. What a perfect level to jump from!
For those with a taste of adventure but not exactly looking to jump off a building, inch along a narrow walkway around the tower on the SkyWalk. Guided by experienced climbers and safely attached with a harness, this exhilarating challenge will get your blood pumping as you stand at incredible heights, enjoying unobstructed views across Auckland.
See the Black Sands of Auckland West Coast Beaches
New Zealand is framed with many stunning beaches, and Auckland adds its own gems into the mix. Its famous black sand beaches on the west coast are about an hour’s drive away.
Possibly the most famous and most accessible black sand beach is Piha, a black iron sand beach popular for surfing.
Other black sand beaches include Karekare, Muriwai, Ngarunui and Hot Water Beach. Like Piha these beaches are also known for great surf, so grab a board and take on the waves! Surfing schools and rental shops around the beaches are the perfect way for first-timers to learn, and what better place to learn to surf than on a black sand beach!
Even without getting wet, these beaches are stunning to look at. The sands shine like glitter reflecting the sun, leaving tiger fur-like patterns on the beach.
Stroll Along the Viaduct Harbour
At the heart of Auckland’s CBD is Viaduct Harbour, the place where the City of Sails gets its name.
Boasting some of Auckland’s finest restaurants and bars, there’s no better way to sip on fine wines and enjoy mouth-watering cuisine as you overlook the waters and buzzing atmosphere around you.
Spend a sunny afternoon or calm evening exploring the coffee shops, ogling the docked luxury yachts or even indulging in a cruise along the harbour.
Step into New Zealand’s Voyager Maritime Museum or grab a gelato and take in te gorgeous views of the harbour. Don’t forget to grab a souvenir!
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
The fabulous Maori portraits by artist Gottfried Lindauer alone are worth the visit to the Auckland Art Gallery.
Housing over 15,000 artworks showcasing different periods and styles from international, New Zealand, Maori and South Pacific artists, it is the most extensive art collection in New Zealand.
Lindaeur’s portraits are an enduring favorite, accurately depicting Maori people and chiefs with their unique facial tattoos, clothing and weapons.
With short films, modern installations and traveling exhibitions, the gallery is a must for art lovers looking to delve deeper into Maori art.
Complete the day with a coffee from the gallery cafe and a unique treasure from the gift shop.
See Auckland from the Top of a Volcano
With 48 volcanic cones dotted across the city, these smooth, green-clad volcanoes are part of what makes Auckland’s landscape so unique.
Rich in history and bound with spiritual and cultural significance, each of Auckland’s volcanoes have a story to tell.
From Rangitoto across the Hauraki Gulf to Mount Eden – Maungawhau and One Tree Hill – Maungakiekie in the mainland, Auckland makes climbing a volcano an easy tick off your list.
Mount Eden features three large craters with traces of pa terraces and food storage pits still visible, once used by the Maori. The deepest crater, named Te Ipu-a-Mataaho meaning The Bowl of Mataaho, is named after a deity said to live inside it, guarding the secrets of the Earth.
The peak of Mount Eden is the highest natural point in Auckland, a popular destination with locals and tourists alike for sweeping views of Auckland right from the heart of its volcanic landscape.
Taste Auckland’s Amazing Food and Wine
Explore a world of flavors in one of Auckland’s many growing food and wine precincts. From farmers markets to cooking glasses, islands of wine to harbor-side dining, you’ll find something to suit every taste.
Find some of Auckland’s hippest cafes restaurants and bars at the Britomart district. Settle in for a seriously good roast at a cozy coffee shop, indulge at a dumpling bar or enjoy savory Mexican sharing plates.
Stroll through the Federal Street district and discover a number of bars and restaurants headed by internationally renowned chefs. This foodie hotspot boasts freshly shucked oysters at Depot, Spanish tapas at Bellota and authentic contemporary Chinese cuisine at Huami.
Grab a pint of carefully crafted beer at 16 Tun in the Wynyard Quarter waterfront precinct or a smooth glass of wine at Viaduct Harbour.
With so many sensational restaurants, bars and hidden gems, it may be difficult to navigate Auckland’s food scene as a first time visitor. One of our favorite small-group tours excels in showcasing the best of Auckland’s food and wine hotspots for a local’s taste of Auckland.
Take a Cruise on the Harbor
Don’t just gaze wistfully at the yachts docked on the harbor – join a cruise!
As one of the best ways to take in Auckland’s main sights and surrounding islands, a cruise is the perfect way to experience this harbor city.
No better way to take on the “City of Sails!”
One of our favorite cruises sets off from the Viaduct Harbour with the Auckland skyline behind you. Glide past the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the Devonport precinct, the Bean Rock Lighthouse and Bastion Point. Your skipper will provide entertaining commentary and history of the landmarks as you pass them by.
Cruise past Rangitoto Island, the tranquil Browns Island, and picturesque Motuihe as you savor a delicious lunch.
Want More Ideas for Things to Do in Auckland?
Auckland is the perfect first stop on your New Zealand trip. We’ll make sure your visit is filled with the best things to do in Auckland and bucket list items. Let’s begin planning your journey!
Posted on: June 7th, 2018 by About Australia Staff No Comments
The chilly bin is chocka, you’ve got your jandals on and you’re ready to take a tiki tour through the wop-wops for a bit of tramping with your mates.
Or, you would be if you had any idea what those words even mean!
If you’re a native English speaker, traveling to English speaking New Zealand is super easy, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hit a few language barriers when you’re chatting it up with the locals.
New Zealanders have enough local slang and colloquialisms that you could easily find yourself lost in translation. Luckily, we’ve put together a quick guide to keep your conversation on track and have you talking like a Kiwi in no time.
Common New Zealand Slang
Kiwi – An endearing nickname New Zealanders have given themselves based on the flightless bird of the same name. All New Zealanders love the Kiwi – it’s even featured on the New Zealand one dollar coin.
Sweet as – When something is a step above good, it’s sweet as. Use sweet as any time you would use the word awesome back home and you’ll be good as gold (another Kiwi-ism!).
Mate – Just like their Aussie cousins, New Zealanders refer to their friends as their mates.
Chocka – When something is full, it’s chocka, whether you’re talking about a closet full of clothes, a bin full of rubbish or a stomach that’s just eaten too much Pavlova. In the U.S. we would say chock full, but we don’t use it quite as often as the Kiwis do.
Jandals – It seems like every nation has their own interpretation of this thin-soled, open-toed beach wear. Whether you call them sandals, flip-flops or thongs. They pretty much all mean the same thing, but in New Zealand, they’re jandals, a truncation of “Japanese sandals”. “I’m putting on my jandals and heading to the beach!”
The Wop-wops – The wop-wops refer to a rural area in the middle of nowhere. Often shortened to simply, the wops. You might refer to them as the boonies or the sticks. Generally, any place that’s an hour or more from civilization is in the wops.
Keen – This work is used when you’re excited about something. “Want to head to the beach?” “Keen!”
Dairy – This one might be one of the more confusing Kiwi terms if you’re not familiar with it. A dairy is not just a place where cows are milked and cheese made! A dairy is most generally a convenience store or corner store where one would buy eggs, milk, newspapers, general goods and more. “I’ll pop by the dairy and pick us up a few things on the way home.”
Tomato sauce – What you probably call ketchup is simply tomato sauce in New Zealand. Chips (that’s fries to you – try and keep up, now!) are a staple food among Kiwis so don’t be surprised if a restaurant asks if you’d like tomato sauce with your chips.
Chippie – Chippies on the other hand, are potato chips.
Tramping -Going for a hike, walking through rugged terrain, trekking through the mountains. Whatever your outdoor pleasure, it’s all called tramping in New Zealand. Since New Zealand is such an amazing outdoor paradise, with tons of Great Walks, you’ll probably hear this one a lot.
Dag – Kiwi’s use this term when something or someone is funny or outrageous. You’ll know you’re joke landed if someone comments, “You are such a dag!”
Chilly Bin -Exactly as it sounds, a bin that’s cold inside, perfect for keeping things chilly! In the U.S. we call them coolers, a name that’s a bit less descriptive and not nearly as fun to say.
Shout – Someone shouts when they treat someone to a meal or drinks. “It’s nice to meet you. Let me shout you a drink.”
Choice – If you’re from the west coast, you might be familiar with this one. When something is excellent or above average, it’s choice.”That bike is choice!”. A very versatile Kiwi word, choice can be used any time you want to express positive feelings about something.
No worries – If you thank someone, they’ll likely respond with no worries.
Tiki Tour – To go on a tiki tour is to take the scenic route to your destination, or simply to go on a scenic tour to see the sights with no particular destination in mind. The word itself is no doubt Maori influenced, with tiki referring to a Polynesian wood-carving.
Eh – Just like our cousins to the north, Kiwis like to add eh to the end of sentences. “It’s a great day, eh?” It normally sounds more like, aye.
Knackered – When you’re more than simply tired, or you’re completely wiped out and exhausted, you’re knackered. “I pulled an all-nighter last night, I’m completely knackered today!”
Loo – The toilet or restroom. No doubt a holdover from British influence, what we would call the “bathroom” New Zealanders call the loo. There’s not a hold lot of solid evidence out there about where the British even got the term loo, so don’t try and make too much sense of it, but you’ll definitely want to know it! Besides, how many of our bathrooms actually have baths in them anyway?
Yeah nah – New Zealanders say yeah nah as a slightly hesitant way of technically, sort of saying no. But they also use it to technically, sort of, kind of say yes. Sometimes they even use it to say maybe! Yeah nah is an indecisive word that’s made it’s way in to the Kiwi lexicon as a way to agree or disagree in the most agreeable way possible. Or maybe that you understand what someone’s saying, but don’t personally agree. Use this one anywhere and often!
Footy – Rugby, New Zealand’s national sport. Kiwi’s are huge fans of rugby. New Zealand culture is reflected in the sport as the national team, the All-Blacks, perform a haka (a native Maori war cry) before every game to intimidate their opponents. Not to be confused with “soccer” which is no where near the national obsession that footy is!
B.Y.O – This is a license given to restaurants which allow customers to bring in their own alcoholic beverage. Very useful to know if you are the type to enjoy libations on vacation.
Ta – This simply means thanks. “Here’s your baggage.” “Ta.”
Biscuit – Just like in the UK, a biscuit in New Zealand is a cookie. So if you’re looking for something sweet, head to the biscuit section of your closest dairy.
Togs- This is a swim suit. “I’m heading to the beach.” “Wait for me, I got to get my togs on!”
Bach – Being on vacation you may hear this word from time to time. It means a holiday home.
Te Reo Māori
While the Kiwi language has been heavy influenced by the Brits, you’ll also find that Te Reo Māori (the Māori language) is very much a part of the New Zealand vernacular. Here are a few Māori sayings you might find useful on your New Zealand vacation!
Kia Ora (key-or-ah) – This is an informal hello. It’s very versatile and used to address people from all walks of life. It could mean hello, good morning/afternoon/ evening, thanks and show agreement.
Haere Mai (hi-ra-mi) – You’ll see these words on signs as you enter new cities and buildings. It means welcome.
Tēnā Koutou (ten-a-ko-toe) – This common saying means, hello everybody. Say it when you are greeting more than one person.
Haere Ra (Hi-ra-raw) – A goodbye of sorts, said to the person who is leaving. If you are leaving, you would say e noho ra as a farewell.
Now that you have a few basic Kiwi phrases, you’re ready to make your way to New Zealand! Since New Zealand is an English speaking country, it’s very easy for Americans to communicate with the locals.
Start Planning Your Trip to New Zealand
It’s a little harder to plan a stress free New Zealand vacation, especially if you are planning on visiting multiple destinations.
As you may know, New Zealand is one of the world’s most popular destinations and with so little populated areas, it fills up quickly. Let the experts at About New Zealand help you navigate vacation planning and contact us today.
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.