11 Amazing New Zealand Beaches You Don’t Want to Miss

Posted on: February 9th, 2017 by bradf No Comments

New Zealand has more than 9,000 miles of coastline, making it a premier destination for beach-goers. Whether you prefer active adventures like surfing and kayaking, or tranquil days soaking up the sun with a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful scenery, New Zealand’s diverse beach culture is worth a top spot on your vacation to-do list. We’ve compiled 11 of the most amazing New Zealand beaches to check out on your next vacation to Kiwi Country.

Rangitoto Beach

Rangitoto Beach

Part of a series of islands just east of Auckland, Rangitoto Beach and Scenic reserve is part beach, part nature hike and part sea kayaking adventure. A volcanic island formed more than 6000 years ago, Rangitoto holds a unique spot among beach islands in New Zealand. Your Rangitoto visit is best experienced through a sea kayaking tour, ending up with a hike to the top of the island that provides vast 360-degree views of the water and land around you. Along the way, you can explore the native flora and volcanic rock.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula

Despite Cathedral Cove being tucked away from the main roads, it still proves to be one of the most popular – and picturesque – New Zealand beaches. The 2,100 acre marine reserve, accessible only by foot or by sea, still manages to attract more than 150,000 visitors per year. A one mile hike in over gorgeous terrain takes you deep in to the heart of some of New Zealand’s most beautiful topography, rock formations, and coastline. Sure to be worth the trek, Cathedral Cove’s crystal clear waters provide some of the best snorkeling in the area, while white sand beaches provide the perfect spot to simply sit and relax surrounded by some of the most pristine, undeveloped natural land in New Zealand.

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach

A staple among all New Zealand beaches, Hot Water Beach is notable for its heated mineral water that naturally springs up through the sand. The interesting thing about the beach and the hot natural spring below the sand, is that you can dig your own personal hot spring beneath the sand. Forgot to pack your shovel? Local cafes and stands have taken to renting shovels out for curious tourists. Be sure to arrive two hours before or after low tide, as the stretch of sand that is hiding the hot water will be exposed enough to dig.

Both Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove are ideal to visit in one New Zealand visit. Check out a potential itinerary for taking in both beaches here https://www.aboutnewzealand.com/tours/?itinerary_id=15423

Kaikoura Canterbury

Kaikoura, Canterbury

A small coastal city on the northeast portion of the South Island, Kaikoura is a must see just a short drive from Christchurch. While the coast has plenty of great recreation options such as kayaking, white water rafting, and mountain biking, the real highlights in Kaikoura are the numerous wildlife experiences available. Whale watching trips leave throughout the day and the coastal area is home to many of New Zealand’s native animals, such as dolphins and fur seals.

Piha Beach

Piha Beach, Auckland

Best known for its striking black sand, Piha Beach – on the west coast of Auckland – is a must see for your New Zealand trip. The shining feature of this rugged coastline is Lion Rock, a large rock formation eroded from a volcanic neck some 16 million years old. In fact, the black sand of the beach is caused by its high iron content, a by-product of its volcanic beginnings. Although this beach is also known as the birthplace of surfing in New Zealand, its calm looking waters hide deceptive rip currents invisible to the untrained eye. For this reason, surfing and swimming at Piha Beach are recommended for confident swimmers, while lifeguards are on duty.

Piha Beach is also part of the overall Piha Canyon area, where more adventurous visitors can participate in canyon adventuring. Taking you rappelling through narrow canyon crevices, through waterfalls, swimming through canyon waterways and jumping in to natural pools, a canyon adventure is the most heart pounding way to experience the entirety of the Piha Beach and Canyon Area.   

Eastland Gisborne

Eastland, Gisborne

In Eastland, you can truly be the earliest riser in the entire world. Due to its geographical location, Eastland holds the unique distinction of being the first land in the world that the sun touches every morning. Whether from the soft sand beach or standing atop Mount Hikurangi, the sunrise in Eastland is a breathtaking event not to be missed. After the sunrise, the beach area is pure New Zealand splendor with its quintessential white sand beaches and clear waters. Don’t forget to take some time out to walk along the pier at Tolaga Bay, the longest pier in the country at nearly half a mile in length.

Buffalo Beach

Buffalo Beach

Located on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula, Buffalo Beach is another of New Zealand’s beaches famous for its white-sand coast and surrounding local beach culture. While named for a ship that crashed off the coast in 1840, Buffalo Beach has calm waters suitable for all swimming during all tides of the day. While you are in the area, check out the surrounding Lost Spring Thermal resort close to Buffalo Beach.

Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach, Dunedin

Located in Dunedin, in the southeast region of the South Island, the tunnel for which Tunnel Beach was named was hand carved nearly 150 years ago to provide an entrance to a small, secluded beach at the bottom of a rock cliff. Tunnel Beach is popular for its stunning views, interesting geology, and crystal clear waters.  Tunnel Beach is one of the most popular of New Zealand’s beaches, attracting both locals and tourists all throughout the year. Even in the colder months, the views and rock formations make Tunnel Beach a must visit no matter when you travel. The walk to and from tunnel beach features a fairly steep grade, so wear your walking shoes and come prepared for an experience well worth the short hike in and out.

Scrubby Bay

Scrubby Bay

Located on a private stretch of coastal bay, Scrubby Bay is perfect for those seeking a private beach retreat that features everything New Zealand nature has to offer. Surrounded by high cliffs, vistas, and beautiful rock formations, Scrubby Bay features a semi-open air farmhouse nestled in a valley overlooking the water. A lush, green meadow takes place of sand on this coastline just east of Christchurch, making Scrubby Bay a unique inclusion on our list, but its feeling of seclusion and relaxation is unprecedented. Spend your day in nearby Christchurch before taking the 1.5 hour drive on a highway that takes you through the beautiful rolling vistas of New Zealand, straight to your own private bay.

Sumner Beach

Sumner Beach

Very much a locals hang out spot, Sumner Beach is sure to provide an intimate look at local beach culture in New Zealand, besides being a spectacular natural site to behold. Surrounded by a quintessentially coastal, beachy town, Sumner Beach provides both your standard feet in the sand beach experience, along with easy walks and strolls along the promenade, giving you picturesque views of coastal New Zealand. Along the promenade, take some time to stop in to local cafes and restaurants, many of which provide open air café-style outdoor seating, allowing you to drink in the local scenery with your latte.

Easily accessible by car, with ample public parking, Sumner Beach is best visited as a stop along a self-drive tour through New Zealand.

Birdlings Flat

Birdlings Flat

Dangerous rip currents, rough breaching waves, and not a speck of sand in site, Birdlings Flat is not your average day at the beach. Due to dangerous conditions in the actual water, it is not advised to swim in the ocean here, but what Birdlings Flat lacks in water sport, is made up for with wildlife spotting, gemstone hunting, and walking along the unique flat, pebbly surface of the coast. Birdlings Flat is worth a visit for those not looking to take a dip, but simply enjoy the natural beauty of a beach that trades tons of sand for millions of tiny flat rocks, hiding agates and other semi-precious stones. Also keep an eye out for the local wildlife like dolphins, whales, and seals that are known to call this coast home. Birdlings Flat is by far one of the most unique New Zealand beaches and a can’t miss on your next trip!

Make Birdlings Flat a part of a driven tour of New Zealand as you ride the beautiful coast at your own leisure.

 

The diversity of beaches and relative ease of getting to them make New Zealand’s coast a must visit for anyone planning a trip to the country. Because New Zealand is such a great country to rent a car and get around yourself, you can easily jump from some of the larger cities to several beaches in no time, at your own pace. If you’re ready to see all that New Zealand has to offer, let us do the work for you and book your next custom New Zealand vacation today.

 

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!

 

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What’s it like to vacation in the Cook Islands?

Posted on: October 18th, 2016 by MelissaM No Comments

Cook Island Island Vacation

A vacation in the Cook Islands is a vacation in tropical paradise. The Cook Islands consists of 15 small islands in the South Pacific.   Rarotonga, where you will most likely stay, is the largest island and the capital.  It’s surrounded by a reef, making the sandy beaches white and calm waters a tropical turquoise color.   You’ll also find lush dense rainforests and mountain peaks on this island.  

Unlike many Caribbean islands, the ‘Cooks’ remains unspoiled. Many of the islands are uninhabited making this destination one of the few paradises in the world to remain relatively ‘undiscovered’. It’s a great place to relax, hike, swim, snorkel, and really just ‘get away from it all’. Here is what you might expect when you travel to the Cook Islands.

Flight

Coming from the US, you’ll likely fly out of Los Angeles (LAX) on an Air New Zealand red eye. Maybe you’ll watch some New Zealand sitcoms, read, or catch up on your sleep. Air New Zealand is a notoriously fun airline and most people have a pleasant experience with the staff and crew. You’ll arrive in Rarotonga around 6am and your tropical paradise awaits!

Where to stay in Rarotonga

Still relatively untouched by “Western Culture” you won’t find common franchise properties anywhere on the island. The locals are quite proud of this fact and even through you won’t recognize the name of your hotel, you will have great service and a wonderful experience. Your About New Zealand Destination Specialist will find you the best deal on the perfect Rarotonga accommodation for you.

Getting around

At this point, you’ll want a way to get around the island. Most people rent a car or a scooter. To rent one of these, you will have to buy a Rarotonga driver’s license. It’s a fairly easy process, you just have to have a current driver’s license and pay about $20. For the scooter rental, you either have to have a motorcycle license or take a test for an additional $5 to show you can handle the motorbike.

There is also a bus that goes around the island (about 20 miles) and takes about an hour to circle the entire thing. The buses are labeled “Clockwise” and “Anti-Clockwise” so it’s pretty easy to get around without the rental.

You can also rent a bike.

Insider Tip: Scooter rental is the way to go. It’s a great experience and adds to the uniqueness of the vacation. Just be careful! Scooters aren’t toys but often seem like it while you’re on vacation. “Scooter Scars” (as the locals call them) are common due to many tourists’ lackadaisical attitudes.

Stuff to do in Rarotonga

There is an abundance of well-priced tours and adventures in The Cook Islands to keep you entertained. Ask your About New Zealand Destination Specialist to find you the best deals that fit in with your idea of fun.

Options include boat tours to surrounding islands, snorkeling around the reefs, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, hiking, lagoon cruises, sunset sailboat rides, horseback riding, safaris into the jungle, and more.

We highly recommend visiting Te Vara Nui Village where you can enjoy a delicious dinner and night show featuring the traditional hip shaking Polynesian dancing. Yes, just like in Hawaii!

Likely, you’ll have a lot of free time to relax on the beach. Most resorts we work with are walking distance from the beach but we also recommend checking out Muri Beach. The water is blue, warm and inviting. The sand is golden white and soft. It’s easy to rent kayaks, catamarans and windsurfers here. The best part about this beach is that it’s swimming or canoeing distance from the smaller islands of Koromiri. These smaller islands are nearly uninhabited and pretty amazing to see.

If you enjoy a good hike, be sure to hike out to Papua Waterfall. There you will find a natural pool where you can take a swim after your long hike!

Another spot to check out for snorkelers is the Maitai Wreck. The Maitai was on her way from San Francisco to Wellington when she wrecked on South Reef, Avarue, Raratonga on Christmas Day in 1916. Pretty amazing history! You can dive there too, but the wreck is only about 16 feet underwater, so it’s great for snorkelers.

Last tip! Don’t leave Rarotonga without checking out a black pearl shop. The black pearl is a great Cook Islands souvenir. Every time you see it, you’ll be reminded of the time you spent in a true tropical paradise with a small-town community feel to it. You’ll remember the sandy beaches, the Polynesian culture, the amazing marine life, the reef, the forests, the lush tropic plants, and the delicious tropical fruit.

The people, the atmosphere, the sights and the experience all make a Cook Islands vacation a truly magical adventure.

Check out our Cook Islands itineraries or call 888-359-2877 to speak with a Destination Specialist.

33 Reasons Why the Best Time to Visit New Zealand is in the Spring

Posted on: July 18th, 2016 by MelissaM No Comments

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!

Weather in New Zealand

Source: weather.com

2. Not as many tourists!

Open roads for Spring travelers

3. World of Wearable Art happens every September! Check out some of the awesome pieces in the past.

The World of Wearable Art

4. Spring time means so many cute lambs!

spring lamb in New Zealand

5. Perfect temperature for a canopy tour in Rotorua!

View from the Canopy Tours in Rotorua

6. The gardens are in full bloom!

Gardens in front of the Dunedin Train Station

7. Adorable baby kiwis are hatching!

Adorable Baby Kiwi Birds

Photo Credit: kazzy from Instagram

8. The BEST time to see Milford Sound!

Milford Sound in Springtime

9. Whale watching is incredible this time of year!

spermwhale saddleback breaching Credit: Whale Watch Kaikoura

10. The Whangarei Growers Market happens every Saturday and has some of the best produce.

The Whangarei Growers Market

Image credit: The Whangarei Growers Market on Facebook.com

11. The lupins at Lake Tekapo.   I mean, come on.

Gorgeous Lupins at Lake Tekapo

12. Once you’ve see the lupins, why not stay in Tekapo and do a little stargazing? (You can see the Phoenix constellation)

Stargazing in Tekapo

13. Kayak through the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

14. Imagine seeing New Zealand in spring by train. WHAT?

KiwiRail Scenic in the Spring

Image credit: KiwiRail Scenic on Facebook

15. Hiking is pretty spectacular this time of year. Check out the Routeburn Track!

Gorgeous View of Hollyford Valley on Routeburn Track

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.

Spring Sking in New Zealand

17. Love spicy food? Try New Zealand’s hot sauce – Kaitaia Fire (Made from the chilies blooming in spring in Northland.)

Kaitaia Fire from Chilies in Northland

18. Fiordland National Park, gorgeous every time of year. In spring, even more gorgeous!

Fiordland National Park

19. Ohau Waterfall & Seal Pups.  Don’t know what this is? Check this out!

Seal in Kaikoura

20. Abel Tasman National Park!

Abel Tasman Beach

21. Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival. (This happens in late spring!)

Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival

Image credit: Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival on Facebook

22. Warm, sunny days in Nelson. And absolutely incredible chardonnay. I mean, if you’re into that kind of stuff.

nelson vineyards spring

 

23. Better deals on hotels and airfare during non-peak seasons!

24. It’s fishing season in New Zealand, anglers are welcome!

Spring Creek, West Coast Fishing Season

25. Baby yellow-eyed penguins in Dunedin!

Yellow-Eyed Penguins

26. Golf courses in New Zealand. Enough said.

Kauri Cliffs Northland Golf Course by Amos Chapple

27. Hiking in Rotorua along the awesome volcanic and geothermal landscapes is a must.

Hiking in Rotorua

28. Seeing the gorgeous peaks in Wanaka with an experienced guide is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Man Hiking in Mount Aspiring Lake Wanaka

29. The weather in the Bay of Plenty is perfect for full gardens, vibrant wildlife and spectacular sunsets!

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!

Hauraki Rail Trail Waikato

31. The culture and sights in Northland in spring. Out of this world.

Northland-Sara-Orme

32. Do you have a green thumb? Check out the Taranaki Garden Spectacular, an event filled with gardens, landcape design ideas, tours, garden walks and community events.

 

Taranaki Garden Spectacular

Image credit: Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular on Facebook.com


33. And best of all, longer daylight hours means you’ll maximize the time you can spend in the beautiful landscapes on the North and South Islands.

Castle Point in Wairarapa

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!

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Kaikoura Whale Watching in New Zealand

Posted on: May 24th, 2016 by MelissaM No Comments

humpback whale watching kaikoura

New Zealand is made up of gorgeous rolling hills, natural hot springs, awe-inspiring mountains and a lot of lovely coastline. In fact, no matter where you are in the country, you’re never more than 79 miles from the ocean! The scenery and lush landscape are breathtaking and often the reason people travel to the country.  But in New Zealand, there is just as much life brimming under the sea!

Kaikoura

Kaikoura, which is a Maori word for “meal of crayfish”, is home to some of the most diverse marine life on the island. In fact, it is considered to be one of the world’s best whale watching locations in the southern Hemisphere. Large male Sperm Whales feed just off the coast and the unique geographic make up allows Kaikoura to host these majestic residents.

There is a ten thousand foot drop off in to the ocean just off the shore that has a pocket of cool ocean water where the whales reside.   The large fish that live off the coast provide a great diet year round.

Thinking about visiting Kaikoura? The US summer months (June, July & August) are when the whales come much closer to shore.

This is also migration season for the Humpback Whales from Antarctica.  They pass the coast of Kaikoura as they move towards warmer waters so there’s a high possibility of seeing the majestic creature during this time.

You may also spot a number of other whales including:

  • Blue Whales
  • Southern Right Whales
  • Orca Whales
  • Pilot Whales

What else is there to do in Kaikoura?

Not only is Kaikoura home to some of the most gorgeous and majestic whales, there’s a thriving marine life of a smaller size in the waters.   Perhaps the most adorable are the New Zealand Fur Seals that make their home in Kaikoura.

Make Friends with the Seals

New Zealand Fur Seals are known for their sleepy nature, in fact, many who visit New Zealand might run into a seal or two snoozing off the coast line!  They can often be quite the road block too, as seen in the below picture!  It’s important to give seals the space and respect they deserve.  They maybe cute, but can be dangerous to humans and dogs if they feel threatened.

New Zealand Fur Seals Kaikoura

Photo Credit: Jacanruss from Instagram

Though fur seals are usually pretty docile, they can scoot pretty quickly if they feel threatened or want to protect their pups. Luckily, if you’re hoping to get a good snapshot of these cuties, there’s a spot where you can see hundreds of seal pups tucked away just north of Kaikoura.

A Kiwi who lives in Kaikoura told us that every year these seal pups find their way from the ocean up to this waterfall and it becomes nature’s day care center for the pups. Even our Destination Specialists ensure us it’s something you won’t want to miss.

If you can handle the cuteness, check out this video below!

Want to swim with the seals? Why not ask your specialist about this Seal Swim Tour?

Meet the friendly dolphins

Dusky Dolphins have also been known to be found in the Kaikoura waters. They almost always try to steal the show when visitors are on whale watching tours.

dusky dolphins playing in kaikoura

There are estimated to be several hundred dusky dolphins in the waters of Kaikoura. They are fun, energetic animals that like to put on a good show. They can be seen splashing and jumping when visitors in boats & kayaks venture by.

Pods containing several hundred dolphins are said to call Kaikoura home.   You’re able to swim with the dolphins, kayak alongside them or if you want to just sit back  — you’re sure to see dolphins on a boat tour!

Check out a few of our favorite shots from travelers who explored the vibrant marine life of Kaikoura, where the mountains meet the sea!

Plus lots of other activities including..

  • Kayaking
  • Golfing
  • Maori Cultural Events
  • Llama Trekking!
  • Museums & Theatres
  • Mountain Biking
  • Stargazing
  • White Water Rafting
  • Just to name a few…

Want to visit Kaikoura and see this gorgeous wildlife? Give us a call Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US)!

Let us help you find the perfect time to take part in Kaikoura Whale Watching or maybe a swim with the dolphins. Our Destination Specialist would love to help plan your dream vacation. 

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Glorious Glaciers of New Zealand

Posted on: May 11th, 2016 by MelissaM No Comments

Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier

New Zealand is home to some of the most beautiful sights in the world. From the rolling hills in Matamata to the breathtaking mountains in both the North and South islands. Something very unique to New Zealand are glaciers that feed into breathtaking rain forests.

Two of the most famous glaciers to visit are Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. There are a number of experiences that are available on both glaciers for visitors of all activity levels.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier is a 13-kilometre-long (8.1 mi) Glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of the South Island.  Home to gorgeous ice caves and arches, Fox Glacier was named after one of New Zealand’s Prime Ministers.  The Maori name is Te Moeka o Tuawe.

If you want to visit this incredible glacier, there are multiple ways to see it which cater to both active and leisurely travelers.  You can go ice hiking, see its spectacular areal views from a scenic flight or get-right-on-it during the glacier face walk.  Guided tours are available.   It is not recommended to go beyond the barriers and climb onto the glacier due to the unstable terminal face.

Stay in the Fox Glacier township, “Weheka” 4 miles from the glacier. 

Fox Heli Hike

The fly-in, fly-out heli hike combines the excitement of walking on the Fox Glacier with the thrill of helicopter flights. By flying in you are able to access and explore a part of the glacier where its forces work hardest and often create spectacular ice caves and arches.

Fox Face Walk

This is an informative and leisurely trip to the dynamic face of the glacier. It is here that the Fox River emerges from the ice and where ice collapses are often heard and seen.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is visited by adventure seekers from all over the world.  Maori call the glacier Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere.  Located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of the South Island, this glacier welcomes 250,000 visitors every year and is a must-see for adrenaline seeking adventurers.  The glacier has different activities for all travelers, so you don’t want to miss out!  Guided and unguided walks are available, but a helicopter is required to get up to the glacier due to the unstable terminal face.

Heli Ice Climb

Explore the glacier in a heart pumping way by vertically climbing the ice. This is a day packed with adventure and adrenaline highs. You’ll have an expert guide you through the glacier every step of the way, whilst still enjoying the dramatic scenery and awesome terrain of the Franz Josef Glacier.

Franz Josef Glacier Walk

For those who are seeking the beauty of the glacier at a slower speed, why not 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.

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).

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New Zealand Hot Springs Indulgent Experiences

Posted on: February 17th, 2016 by MelissaM No Comments

hot springs activities New ZealandEver have the urge to jump into the ocean in the middle of winter? Maybe you’d wish it was warm enough outside to take a swim. New Zealand doesn’t let silly things like seasons dictate when you can enjoy the water. In fact, there are countless number of hot spring experiences all across the North and South Islands. Here are our (and the world’s) favorite Hot Spots in New Zealand.

Hot Water Beach New Zealand – Mercury Bay

Located on the east side of the North Island, Hot Water Beach is a unique experience to dig your toes in the sand and relax in the natural hot water. You can rent a shovel for $5 and dig your own spa in the sand! The water can get very hot but luckily the ocean is just a short walk away!Friends at Hot Water Beach

Waiwera Thermal Resort – Waiwera

Just north of Auckland, Waiwera is a popular thermal water destination. There are hot water thermal pools surrounded by native New Zealand fauna. And this destination is family friendly! Whether you want to relax or relive your childhood, don’t miss out on Waiwera.Waiwera Water Slides in New Zealand

Taupo Thermal Hot Pools – Taupo

Located in the middle of the North Island, the Hot Pools in Taupo are a great place to stop. It offers a number of attractions anyone can enjoy. While some of their services do cost, Otumuheke Stream is a hot stream that flows into Waikato River and free for visitors. There are lots of little hot spots along the way – just follow the steam! Taupo Hot Springs

Hells Gate – Rotorua

Hells Gate is an awesome way to experience the thermal phenomenon in Rotorua in a relaxing spa setting. Most people come to see Kakahi Falls, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere! It’s a special waterfall to the Maori people because they believe the sulfur in the water healed their ancestor’s years ago. If you’d rather stay in, there are a number of hot mud spas in the park too.

Couple at Hells Gate Rotorua

Polynesian Springs – Rotorua

This is one of NZ’s oldest spa attractions and a must see if you’re traveling through Rotorua. You can choose to relax in a Hot Mineral Bath, take part in one of their numerous spa treatments or experience the healing properties of one of their mud treatments. Whatever you choose, the Polynesian Springs provide a place to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the hot water year-round.

polynesian spa rotorua

Onsen Hot Pools – Queenstown

Travel down to Queenstown in the South Island for this relaxing gem. The Onsen Hot Pools provide a romantic backdrop for any traveling couple. Filled with a soothing and nature provided combination of rain water, purified lake water and mountain spring water, the pools are truly a natural source of relaxation.

Friends relaxing in the Onsen Hot Pools

Whether you’re traveling during the US Winter or the NZ Winter (May-July), these New Zealand hot springs experiences will not disappoint. Start planning your trip today and make sure to include some of these glorious, natural H2O experiences!

If you need some help planning, call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US).

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The Best Things To Do In Auckland

Posted on: February 5th, 2016 by MelissaM No Comments

Auckland is located on the North Island of New Zealand and is one of the most visited cities in the country. It is home to iconic sky tower, the Auckland Domain and an extinct volcano. It is a city full of adventure and activities that span all ages and interests. Plus it is easy to fly to Auckland with numerous direct flights from the US. There are plenty of things to do in Auckland but here are a few tours you should check out!

Auckland Harbour Cruise

This half day cruise takes you through the gorgeous harbor where you can see the city skyline, hear commentary about the nearby landmarks and enjoy a mouthwatering lunch. This is a great tour to do when you arrive in Auckland.  Sit back and enjoy the ride as well as the spectacular views.

 

Taste of Auckland City Tour

This full day tour lets you experience the beauty of Auckland with all of your senses. See the gorgeous city of Auckland, taste the complex flavors of New Zealand Wine, smell the salty air as you drive along the coastline, hear the local Gannets as you visit their nesting site on Tasman Sea and feel the true spirit of Auckland with every step.

 

Piha Canyon

Located in the Waitakere Park Ranges near Auckland, Piha Canyon is an action-packed experience. Abseil under waterfalls, jump from caves and natural slides as you explore a historic logging dam from over 100 years ago! End the day relaxing by the gorgeous Tasman Sea. It’s a great way to experience the awesome natural beauty New Zealand offers.

 
Coromandel Peninsula

Just a short drive from Auckland and you’ll end up at the Coromandel Peninsula. This beautiful destination is a hot spot for water activities, so if you feeling like taking a dive into gorgeous blue waters make sure to check out these spots:

-    Cathedral Cove
-    Hot Water Beach (a true natural spa experience!)
-    Coromandel Peninsula

Start planning your trip there. Check out one of our favorite deals!

Looking for more things to do in Auckland? We have put together a comprehensive list of all the things to do in Auckland or call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US) with any other questions you may have.

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5 Reasons You Need to Visit the Hobbiton Movie Set

Posted on: November 23rd, 2015 by MelissaM No Comments

New Zealand is known for its green hills, mountain scenery and picturesque views. It has been the set of a number of movies but the most well-known and, dare I say the most-loved, is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

5 Reasons to Visit Hobbiton Movie Set

The twelve-acre spread in Matamata gave Peter Jackson the perfect backdrop to bring Tolkien’s world to life and now this magical world is a reality for all who visit New Zealand. While popular landscapes from the movie can be seen across both islands, Hobbiton Movie Set is the only place where the set, including 44 Hobbit holes, has remained in place.

Here are 5 reasons you need to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set!

1. It is one of the most visited attractions in New Zealand!

Though one of the newer attractions in New Zealand, opening after its reconstruction for The Hobbit series in 2011. The Shires Rest & Hobbiton Movie set located on Alexander Farm has quickly risen in the ranks and now hosts more than 350,000 visitors each year!

Gorgeous view of the Hobbiton Movie Set

Photo credit: Hobbiton Movie Set

2. Enjoy Ginger beer at The Green Dragon Inn!

The Green Dragon Inn, featured in the movies as a popular meeting spot for Hobbits in The Shire, is open to the public. Every tour offers a complimentary beverage at The Green Dragon Inn including Ginger Beer, apple cider or ales.

People enjoying the Green Dragon Inn

Photo credit: Hobbiton Movie Set

3. The guided tour is full of movie secrets!

The Hobbiton Movie Set is only available by tour but that doesn’t limit you on what you’ll see. The best part about a guided tour is you hear tidbits of information about Peter Jackson, movie making techniques — like how some Hobbit Holes are larger than others depending on the size of the actor — and interesting facts around the set. Did you know The Party Tree in the movie is artificial? The leaves were imported from Taiwan and wired onto the branches!

Hobbiton Party Tree, Image by jackie.lck

4. You can now eat dinner like a Hobbit!

One of the newest additions to Hobbiton is theEvening Dinner Tour. You’ll make your way through the twelve acre set as your experienced guide recounts facts and movie magic. At the end of the tour, you’ll settle in at The Green Dragon Inn and enjoy traditional Hobbit Fare in a banquet style feast. To end this magical night, every guest will be given a lantern and will travel back through the glowing enchanting village. The Shire in the moonlight is a breathtaking view that is unforgettable.

Dinner at the Green Dragon Inn

Photo credit: Hobbiton Movie Set

5. The photo opportunities are endless!

The stunning scenery and sets of Hobbiton make you feel like you’ve stepped into Tolkien’s world. Throughout the tour you’ll get opportunities to take pictures at iconic stops including Bilbo Baggin’s house, The Green Dragon Inn and the home of Samwise Gamgee. The picturesque charm of Hobbiton will inspire anyone to snap a picture or two.

Hobbiton Hobbit Hole Photo Op

Photo credit: Hobbiton Movie Set

The best part is that The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit sights don’t stop there! There are a number of locations in New Zealand that you can visit to retrace the steps of beloved Tolkien characters including Christchurch, Wellington & Queenstown.

If you need some help planning your Middle Earth vacation or just want to know more about Tolkien themed day tours, call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US).

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Houston to Auckland Flights Open Doors for About New Zealand

Posted on: October 19th, 2015 by MelissaM No Comments

City scape of Auckland New Zealand

In December 2015, Air New Zealand will host direct flights from Houston to Auckland, New Zealand. This means traveling to New Zealand just became even easier with five Air New Zealand hubs in North America!

Training with Tourism New Zealand

In preparation for the inaugural flight from Houston, the staff at About New Zealand partnered with Tourism New Zealand for a massive training event Thursday. 24 vendors from all across New Zealand showed up Thursday morning and, after a Texas sized breakfast, the teams got to work.

About New Zealand meeting with Tourism New Zealand

The morning jumped right into fast paced training sessions for our staff. The vendors in town ranged from luxury accommodations to award winning Maori Cultural experiences and even self-drive experiences in the comfort of a camper van, like tourism New Zealand’s Kombi Diaries.

There are some pretty interesting things waiting you in New Zealand including Helicopter Tours to Franz Josef, luxury day cruises on Doubtful Sound, accommodations fit for royalty (literally) and lots of Hobbit inspired experiences. We even got a look at a real prop worn by a Dwalin in The Hobbit!

Dwarf prosthetic worn by an actor in The Hobbit

  Photo courtesy of Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand

By midday the About New Zealand staff was full to the brim with New Zealand knowledge and Tourism NZ was out the door to Houston for their final stop. Housing this many vendors in one day was a milestone for About New Zealand. It was exciting and exhausting but most importantly it was another way we can improve your travel experience!

What does this mean for you? Our partnership with Tourism New Zealand and the amazing turn out of New Zealand vendors ensures your next New Zealand vacation is one you’ll never forget! After extensive training, our Destination Specialists are even more excited to start planning your New Zealand vacation!

Call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US) or Start planning my trip

Quick Guide To New Zealand Airports

Posted on: October 14th, 2015 by MelissaM No Comments

Looking for information on New Zealand airports for your future trip? Check out our quick guide to New Zealand airports, both international and domestic.

Fly to New Zealand

New Zealand International Airports

With five international airports, traveling to different areas in New Zealand has never been easier. Christchurch & Auckland are the largest airports, housing millions of passengers each year! All of the New Zealand airports have facilities and transportation options to make traveling to and from this beautiful country more comfortable. 

New Zealand International Airport Map

Auckland International Airport – AKL

Considered the main hub for international travel to New Zealand, Auckland airport recorded over 15 million passengers in 2014. The airport services all major airlines for international flight as well as domestic flights all over the country. 

Transportation Options

Bus: Bus fares from AKL to Auckland city average $16 per adult with an approximate travel time of 45-60 minutes. The bus operates 24/7 to accommodate all travelers. The bus schedule can vary, so check online for departure times. Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time or at one of the kiosks in the airport.

Shuttle: Costing a little over $30 a person, plan to take an hour from the Airport to the city with a shuttle ride.   Shuttles are shared with other passengers and depending on peak traffic time, travel may take longer.

Taxi: Taxi fares from the Auckland airport range from $75-$90 on average and can take 30 minutes from the airport to the city center. All taxi drives carry a value and service guarantee, so travel should be smooth. Traffic can present problems, so it is best to leave early during peak driving hours.

Facilities

Wifi is available (first 30 minutes free), toilets and showers, pharmacy, Luggage Trolleys, VIP Lounges, Family Facilities, Medical & First Aid, Foreign Exchange & Banking, Telephones  & Chapel, playground for children.

More information on: http://www.aucklandairport.co.nz

Christchurch International Airport – CHC

Christchurch Airport recently completed an upgrade in 2013 to accommodate the growing number of passengers coming in and out of this airport. Christchurch has had over 727,000 international passengers this year and is the stop for travelers visiting the South Island. The Christchurch airport services major airlines including Air New Zealand, Jetstar, China Airlines, Emirates, Fiji Airways, China Southern Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia.

Transportation Options

Taxis: Travel time by taxi to the city center of Christchurch averages 15-20 minutes and costs $45-$65 per fare, though prices may vary.

Buses: Christchurch airport buses operate 7 days a week and offer an inexpensive option to the city center. Expect bus fare around $8 one way. Tickets can be purchased directly with the driver.

Shuttle Shuttle rides average about 30-40 minutes for travel time from CHC to the city center and cost around $25 for one passenger, $30 for two. Shuttle rides can be scheduled ahead of time or at the airport. Make sure to allow plenty of time due to the amount of drop offs on one trip.

Facilities

Unlimited Free Wifi available to all passengers, Toilets & Shower facilities, Foreign Exchange & Banking (open for all international flights), wide array of food options, 20+ of retail & service stores

More information on: http://www.christchurch-airport.co.nz

Dunedin International Airport – DUD

The Dunedin airport, located 30 kilometers south of the city, services the Lower South Island & international flights to and from Australia. Major airlines include Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Virgin Australia Airlines and Mainland Air.

Transportation Options

Shuttle: It takes about 35 minutes from DUD to the city with a far of $30 per person or $40 for two. The DUD shuttle provides an inexpensive way to travel but travelers should allow extra time when using the shuttle for transportation, due to the number of drop-offs.

Taxi: Taxis to Dunedin from the Dunedin airport can cost about $90 fare and take 20-30 minutes. Please allow extra time depending on peak traffic periods.

Car Rental: Car rental services are available at the Dunedin airport with a number of major car rental services. Bookings are recommended to ensure a car is available.

Facilities

Dining options, Toilets & Shower facilities, exchange facilities for international flights, bars, fast food, parenting room, arcade room, tax-free shopping and souvenirs, wheelchair access, conference facilities

More information on: http://www.dunedinairport.co.nz

Wellington International Airport – WLG

Wellington services destinations in Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Gold Coast & Melbourne) & domestic flights to Lower North Island. Major airlines include Qantas, Virgin Australia, JetStar, Fiji Airways and Air New Zealand.

Transportation Options

Shuttle: Shuttle Rides can be found outside of baggage claim. Discounts apply to travelers in groups of two or more ($20 for one person, $25 for two). Plan for about a 25 minute trip from WLG to Wellington city.

Bus: Bus trips cost no more than $6 per person with a travel time of 30 minutes from WLG to the city. The bus leaves every 20 minutes from the airport till about 9:20PM at night. Check the schedule online to plan ahead.

Taxi: Taxi trips average about 20 minutes from the WLG airport to the city at a rate of $40, though prices vary on peak traffic times. All taxi drivers must possess special license, so they are considered “knowledge experts” in Greater Wellington.

Facilities

Toilets, Showers; lots of shopping options including tax-free souvenir shops, bookshops, clothing, fine clothing, music and movies, dining options including cafes, restaurants and bars; banking and currency exchange options, wifi, wheelchair access, parenting room, Wildcard programme offers exclusive deals for shopping food & beverage, parking, competitions and giveaways.

More information on: www.wellingtonairport.co.nz

Queenstown International Airport – ZQN

Queenstown is an international hub for travelers and out of all the New Zealand airports, this one has the most scenic landing strip next to a gorgeous mountain range. Air New Zealand, Jet Star, Qantas and Virgin Australia flights are serviced here.

Transportation Options

Bus: Bus fare to the city is $8 a person and can take about a half hour from ZQN to the city. The bus travels to all major hotels in the area.

Shuttle: Shuttles from the Queenstown airport cost about $10 a person and travel time takes about 20 minutes. Discounts apply for two or more travelers.

Taxi: Fare costs average $30 and take about 15 minutes to the city center. Please allow more travel time for peak traffic hours.

Facilities:

1st hour free Wifi available to all travelers, toilets, shopping, retail stores including jewelry, souvenirs, clothing, reading material, food and drink options like bars, cafes, lounges available open and pay-for-use, disabled access, parents room with toys, telephone areas

More information on: http://www.queenstownairport.co.nz

New Zealand Domestic Airports

Map of New Zealand's Domestic Airports

Domestic airports are located throughout the country to accommodate travel inside the North & South Islands. Travel accommodations for each airport depend on location and size.

  • Hawke’s Bay Airport – NPE
  • New Plymouth Airport – NPL
  • Palmerson North Airport – PMR
  • Nelson Airport – NSN
  • Invercargill Airport – IVC
  • Tauranga Airport – TRG
  • Blenheim Airport – BHE
  • Rotorua Regional Airport – ROT

Ready to book your flight?

If you need assistance planning your flight or trip, our destination experts are ready to help you. Our ARC Accreditation ensures you’ll get the best experience when book your flight to New Zealand with the help of seasoned travel agents. Call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US).

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