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6 Amazing Maori Cultural Experiences in Auckland

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

Waka sailing on Waitemata Harbour credit Waka Quest

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

Auckland Maori Tour credit AucklandNZ.com

Image: AucklandNZ.com

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 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

Piha Beach, Auckland credit Scott Venning

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

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Image: © Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira

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.

Watch a Maori Cultural Performance

Maori Cultural Performance at Auckland War Memorial Museum

Image: © Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira

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

Maori Hangi credit Tourism New Zealand

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.

Plan a Custom New Zealand Trip

Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm)


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How to Explore Fox Glacier and Franz Josef

Posted on: October 8th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments

Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier

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

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

Fox Glacier Terminal Face Walk credit Fox Glacier Guiding

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

Fox Glacier West Coast credit Legend Photography

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

Franz Josef credit Fraser Clements

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

Franz Josef Heli 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

Franz Josef Heli Hike

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).

I Want to See New Zealand’s Glaciers!


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11 Best Things to Do in Wellington (For the First Time Traveler)

Posted on: September 27th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Wellington from Mount Victoria credit Rob Suisted

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

Things to do in Wellington Mount Victoria credit Julian Apse

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

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

Tulips at the Wellington Botanic Garden

Photo: WellingtonNZ

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

Cuba Street Wellington credit Jerry Aurum

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

Egmont St Eatery Wellington

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

Golding's Free Dive Bar credit WellingtonNZ

Photo: WellingtonNZ

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

Lamason Brew Bar credit WellingtonNZ

Photo: WellingtonNZ

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

Te Papa Te Marae credit WellingtonNZ

Photo: WellingtonNZ

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

Gandalf at the Weta Cave credit WellingtonNZ

Photo: WellingtonNZ

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

Oriental Bay credit WellingtonNZ

Photo: WellingtonNZ

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

Little Spotted Kiwi at Zealandia credit Zealandia

Photo: Zealandia

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.

I Want to Visit Wellington!

Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm)


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10 Best Things to Do in Auckland

Posted on: July 24th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments

Evening view of Auckland city from Kingsland credit Chris McLennan

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

Dining on Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf credit Todd Eyre

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

Views from Rangitoto Summit credit Todd Eyre

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. 

Visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum

Pataka Maori Court credit Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Not only rated as one of the top things to do in Auckland, the Auckland War Memorial Museum is also one of New Zealand’s finest museums.

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

Sky Walk Auckland credit AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand

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

Piha Beach credit Scott Venning

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

Sunset at Viaduct Harbour credit Chris McLennan

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

Mount Eden crater and view credit J Brew

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

Dining at the Shucker Brothers, Waterfront, Central Auckland credit Todd Eyre

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

Cruising on the Nirvana credit Chris McLennan

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!

I Want to Visit Auckland!

Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm)


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A Traveler’s Guide to New Zealand Slang

Posted on: June 7th, 2018 by About Australia Staff No Comments

Group of people on a canoe with Maori leader in New Zealand

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.

JandalsIt 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!”

People running toward the beach at Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel credit Adam Bryce

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.

Group of people dining outside in Queenstown credit Julian Apse

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

Couple with Maori woman in Waitangi, Northland, New Zealand credit Sara Orme

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. 

Plan Your Custom New Zealand Trip Today


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The Shire – Hobbiton Private Tour

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

Guests looking out from Hobbit hole in Hobbiton

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

Blue Hobbit Hole door in Hobbiton

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.

I Want to Take a Private Hobbiton Tour!


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Hobbiton Evening Banquet Dinner Tour


Hobbiton Evening Banquet Dinner Tour

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

Lanterns hanging above the Shire in Hobbiton

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.

Tour Hobbiton

Details of Movie Set in Hobbiton Evening Banquet Tour

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

Hobbiton Evening Banquet

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

Shire by Dusk at Hobbiton Evening Banquet Tour

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!

I Want to See the Shire!


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Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

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

Visitors taking pictures in front of Hobbit hole in Hobbiton

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?

Discover Hobbiton

Lush gardens surrounding Hobbit hole in Hobbiton

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

Party Marquee for Lunch in Hobbiton

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.

I Want to Go to Hobbiton!


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

Posted on: December 1st, 2017 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! Crisp, sunny days perfect for hiking through the gorgeous alpine landscapes.

Weather in New Zealand

Source: weather.com

2. Not as many tourists! New Zealand is very remote – and sometimes left out of world maps altogether! But that just means you can enjoy more of this unique island paradise!

Open roads for Spring travelers

3. World of Wearable Art happens every September! The rule is anything that’s in any way wearable is allowed on stage. The results are unbelievably breathtaking, original and creative! Who needs New York Fashion Week? Check out some of the awesome pieces in the past.

The World of Wearable Art

4. Spring time means so many cute lambs! We’re not kidding – New Zealand has the highest ratio of sheep per person in the world. Currently there’s about 27 million sheep and more than 4 million people. That’s about 7 sheep per person!

spring lamb in New Zealand

5. Perfect temperature for a canopy tour in Rotorua! Just imagine it…zip lining through ancient forest, adrenaline pumping through your veins, soaring through great heights – no better way to experience the natural beauty of Rotorua!

View from the Canopy Tours in Rotorua

6. The gardens are in full bloom! Purple lupins, golden Kowhai flowers, Mount Cook buttercups…colors are bursting everywhere!

Gardens in front of the Dunedin Train Station

7. Adorable baby kiwis are hatching! Though they are flightless, that didn’t stop them from becoming the national bird of New Zealand!

Adorable Baby Kiwi Birds

Photo Credit: kazzy from Instagram

8. The BEST time to see Milford Sound! Perfect for kayaking or a cruise on the glassy water. But for a tour to match this dramatic landscape, a scenic flight over the fiord is just the thing!

Milford Sound in Springtime

9. Whale watching is incredible this time of year, and Kaikoura is the place to be! Known as the whale watching capital of New Zealand, you’ll spot giant sperm whales, fur seals, humpback whales and maybe even blue whales!

spermwhale saddleback breaching Credit: Whale Watch Kaikoura

10. The Whangarei Growers Market happens every Saturday and has some of the best locally grown produce. Here you’ll find anything from bananas to olives, cheeses to salamis and so much more!

The Whangarei Growers Market

Image credit: The Whangarei Growers Market on Facebook.com

11. The lupins and bright blue waters of Lake Tekapo. I mean, come on. This looks like out of a fairy tale picture book!

Gorgeous Lupins at Lake Tekapo

12. Once you’ve see the lupins, why not stay in Tekapo and do a little stargazing? You’ll be in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, the largest dark sky reserve in the world with a Gold rating from the International Dark Sky Association. Keep an eye out for shooting stars and the Phoenix constellation!

Stargazing in Tekapo

13. Kayak through the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch. In a city known as the Garden City, there’s no way you’ll skip out on its gardens!

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

14. Imagine seeing New Zealand in spring by train. That is an event in and of itself! Pass through looming mountains, green hills and bursts of flowers on the TranzAlpine, known as one of the great rail journeys in the world!

KiwiRail Scenic in the Spring

Image credit: KiwiRail Scenic on Facebook

15. Hiking in the South Island is pretty spectacular this time of year. Check out the Routeburn Track in the Fiordland National Park!

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. Head to Queenstown for remarkable skiing in the Remarkables mountain range!

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. Once you’ve tried Kaitaia you’ll accept nothing else!

Kaitaia Fire from Chilies in Northland

18. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s last great wilderness, gorgeous every time of year. In spring, even more gorgeous! This is THE place for hiking with spectacular views – nothing else will come close!

Fiordland National Park

19. Ohau Waterfall & Seal Pups. Don’t know what this is? Check this out! It’s a bunch of baby seals having an epic cuddlefest!

Seal in Kaikoura

20. Abel Tasman National Park! Perfect for hiking, kayaking, snorkeling or just relaxing at the beach. You can do it all in the spring!

Abel Tasman Beach

21. Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival. (This happens in late spring!) Taste craft brews from all over New Zealand – from crisp pale ales, juicy saisons to refreshing lagers and heavy stouts, you’re sure to find something that hits the spot!

Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival

Image credit: Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival on Facebook

22. Warm, sunny days in Nelson wine region. And absolutely incredible Chardonnay. I mean, if you’re into that kind of stuff. The Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics aren’t too shabby, either.

nelson vineyards spring

 

23. Better deals on hotels and airfare during non-peak seasons! Who doesn’t like to save?

24. It’s fishing season in New Zealand, where you’ll find the world’s best wild trout fishing! Anglers are welcome! Be on the look out for “Anglers Access” signs. They’ll help you find the best fishing spots.

Spring Creek, West Coast Fishing Season

25. Baby yellow-eyed penguins in Dunedin! These babies may grow over 2 feet tall and are the rarest penguins in the world.

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. Get a light workout in and hike to the world’s largest hot spring in the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley – the surreal landscapes will make you feel like you’re walking on another planet!

Hiking in Rotorua

28. Seeing the gorgeous peaks in Wanaka with an experienced guide is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a dreamland of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and lakes so blue you won’t believe there’s not an Instagram filter overlaying them.

Man Hiking in Mount Aspiring Lake Wanaka

29. The weather in the Bay of Plenty is perfect for full gardens, vibrant wildlife, amazing beaches and spectacular sunsets! It’s easy to see why this is a favorite holiday destination for many locals.

30. Visit the rain forest in the Coromandel Peninsula in spring and have your own personal safari without the hustle and bustle of lots of tourists. Even better, try it by bike! Pedal along the Ohinemuri River to see the spectacular Owharoa Falls, or try the Coromandel Mountain Bike Track for more of a challenge.

Hauraki Rail Trail Waikato

31. The culture and sights in Northland in spring. Ancient Kauri forests, healing waters of Ngawha Springs, paddling a traditional Waka (maori war canoe) – the cultural sights and experiences are out of this world.

Northland-Sara-Orme

32. Do you have a green thumb? Check out the Taranaki Garden Spectacular, an event filled with gardens, landscape design ideas, tours, garden walks and community events. Find inspiration for your next gardening projects or simply admire the colorful and exotic plants around you.

 

Taranaki Garden Spectacular

Image credit: Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular on Facebook.com

 

33. And best of all, longer daylight hours means more time you can spend in the beautiful landscapes on the North and South Islands. If only there were more hours in a day!

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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Best Things to Do in Queenstown

Posted on: October 16th, 2017 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments

You’ve heard all the praise about Queenstown as the “Adventure Capital of the World.” Adrenaline-seekers everywhere know they can choose from skydiving to snowboarding, rafting to bungy jumping and anything in between among the best things to do in Queenstown.

But maybe your idea of the perfect vacation is a little more simple.

The good news is Queenstown offers many low-key local gems that are just as exhilarating and unforgettable as its fast-paced adventures. From world class hot pools with a view to mesmerizing starry skies, scenic day tours to unique New Zealand wildlife, you’ll achieve the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation.

Here’s our list of the best things to do in Queenstown.

Lake Wakatipu

This lightning bolt-shaped lake is the crown jewel of Queenstown.  It’s the third largest lake in New Zealand, and also the longest. Maori legend says this lake was created by the remains of a giant, named Matau, burned to death while sleeping as punishment for kidnapping Maori princess Manata. Matau’s heart remains beating in the depths of the lake, creating a ‘heartbeat’ or standing wave. The lake rises and falls about 20 centimeters every 27 minutes, adding to the magic and mysticism of Wakatipu.

Surrounded by incredible mountain scenery, Lake Wakatipu is a local favorite for scenic walks, bike trails, fishing and cruising. Board the TSS Earnslaw, a restored vintage steamship, for a leisurely cruise around the lake and take in the beauty of Queenstown.

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand

Skyline Gondola and Luge

Rated as one of the top ways to experience the best views of Queenstown, the famous Skyline Gondola is the perfect way to begin your visit.

The Gondola cable car takes you on the steepest lift in the Southern Hemisphere, carrying passengers more than 1400 ft above the city. Sit back and relax as you overlook the majestic views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables mountain ranges and Lake Wakatipu as you ride to the top of Bob’s Peak. 

The View from the Gondola

The stunning view from the peak will leave you feeling on top of the world. What better way to ride the high than racing downhill on a Luge!

Skyline Luge puts you in complete control as you ride down Bob’s Peak. You’ll begin with a scenic, leisurely track to get familiar with the controls and brake system. Don’t worry about your speed as you start out – you can go as slow as you like! And you’ll want to take it slow to enjoy the magnificent surrounds.

Once you’ve got the hang of luge you can choose the Advanced Track and feel the glorious mountain air as you zoom downhill through tunnels, dips and bends. With these two tracks to suit the inexperienced as well as thrill seekers, there’s no reason to skip this top must-do Queenstown attraction.

Luge in New Zealand

 Ski and Snowboard

You don’t want to just see Coronet Peak and The Remarkables from Bob’s Peak – you’ll want to experience these mountains.

What do we mean by experience?

Visit Queenstown in the winter to see its mountains transformed into one of the world’s top ski and snowboarding destinations.

Start with Coronet Peak, the closest mountain to Queenstown and only a 25-minute drive out. This local favorite offers stunning trails for seasoned skiers to glide effortlessly down the mountain. Coronet Peak is also perfect for first timers, providing dedicated trails and slopes for novice skiers.

Enjoy untouched early morning snow from 8am to 9am daily. Don’t worry if you can’t get your snow fix during the day – Coronet Peak also offers night skiing from 4pm until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

For epic skiing and snowboarding, The Remarkables provides the best terrain parks in New Zealand. Hire performance ski or snowboard gear on site and explore the steeps and gradients along its slopes with the striking mountain range in the background.

Skiing in Coronet Peak, Queenstown

 Movie Location Tours

The Queenstown region has captivated movie-goers with its otherworldly landscapes as seen in movies including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit film franchise, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 10,000 BC and many others. Its towering mountains, ancient beech forests and turquoise blue rivers and lakes make the region perfect for a fantasy setting.

Fall into your own fantasy on one of many film location tours in Queenstown. Traverse the dramatic landscapes you’ve seen on the big screen and see what makes New Zealand scenery a repeat star in Hollywood.

Tour Film Locations in New Zealand

Milford Sound

Only a few hours away from Queenstown lies what Rudyard Kipling called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” – the Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park.

Tall cliffs jut out of the dark waters and tower over the sound, creating a dramatic landscape that has attracted tourists from around the world. This is a must-see attraction for Lord of the Rings film buffs, to visit the natural wonder that served as the backdrop for Middle Earth.

Take a scenic boat cruise on the sound and admire the numerous waterfalls cascading before you, or spot bottlenose dolphins swimming below and sea lions basking on the rocks. Get up close and explore the sound by kayak and see the stark Mitre Peak, the tallest peak in Fiordland.

Quiet yet imposing, Milford Sound is a must to relax yet still experience the best of New Zealand in your Queenstown adventure.

milford and doubtful sound fiords

Kiwi Birdlife Park

No trip to New Zealand is complete without seeing its iconic wildlife. And no way you’ll miss the chance to see famous flightless bird, the kiwi. Cross this New Zealand must-do in Queenstown at the Kiwi Birdlife Park.

Find 10,000 native plants and more than 30 animal species, including tuataras, rainbow lorikeets, rare black stilts and brown kiwi at the park. Get up close and personal with New Zealand’s flora and fauna on a private tour or in a live conservation show. Observe the nocturnal kiwi at the park’s Kiwi Houses, set up with specialized lighting effects and infra-red cameras which allow the birds to feel at home and freely roam.

New Zealand wildlife

Queenstown Gardens

Located on a small peninsula jutting out into Lake Wakatipu, the Queenstown Gardens offer a nice, secluded respite for peaceful relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of the town.

Take the opportunity to enjoy the view of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu at your own pace, or bring a frisbee and play a couple rounds of frisbee golf. Be sure to bring a camera to take shots of the blooming rose gardens, towering heritage trees and ducks.

This small snapshot of tranquility is a must while in the city of endless adventure.

Relax in Queenstown Gardens

Bungy

Looking for a bit of culture in your Queenstown adventure? For a truly authentic New Zealand experience, take the plunge with Kawarau Bridge Bungy!

AJ Hackett put Queenstown on the map as a global adventure destination when he launched the world’s first commercially operated bungy jumping site in 1988. Native New Zealander Hackett was inspired by an ancient Vanuatu ritual in which young men journey into manhood by testing their courage and jump from tall wooden platforms with vines tied to their ankles.

Test your own courage as you hurtle down more than 140 ft towards the emerald green waters of Kawarau River.

 Looking to conquer even greater heights? Try the tallest jump in New Zealand and soar down 400 ft into glorious mountain terrain with the Nevis Bungy. This once in a lifetime experience will be sure to leave its mark on your Queensland adventure.

How’s that for New Zealand authenticity?

AJ Hackett Bungy in Queenstown

Swing

Want more than just a few seconds of thrilling aerial views over Queenstown? Get the best fast and furious sightseeing around on The Ledge Swing.

Forget the low-hanging swings in the playgrounds of your childhood. The rope style swing is the only swing found in the heart of Queenstown. Board the Gondola and up top to the Ledge platform on Bob’s Peak, where you’ll be strapped to a harness and lifted 1300 ft above the city. When you’re ready, pull the release cord – that’s right, you’re in control – and take flight!

Sky Swing in Queenstown

Skydiving

Skydiving is on every adrenaline seeker’s bucket list, and Queenstown – the birthplace of tandem skydiving – is the perfect place to take the plunge.

You’ll receive instruction and a history of the surrounding areas as you are transported through Queenstown’s stunning surrounds to the drop zone. Suit up and strap on to an instructor for a safe dive. Then plummet from 15,000 feet in the sky and free fall for up to 60 seconds towards glimmering Lake Wakatipu, tall, snow-capped mountain ranges and even the dusky fiords of Fiordland National Park.

You won’t get a better view of Queenstown’s gorgeous scenery than this.

NZOne Skydiving

Jet Boarding and Rafting

You’ve conquered Queenstown by air and land. Now you’re ready to take on the town by water with more fast-paced adventure. Extreme water activities can be found in abundance for visitors brave enough to traverse the crystal clear New Zealand rapids.

Hop aboard the Shotover Jet for a high-speed boat ride through the daunting and narrow Shotover Canyons. The boat is custom built for expert maneuvering and 360-degree turns, so be ready for a few hairy spins and close encounters with the canyons on your ride as your boat driver tears up the river!

If you’re looking to get your rafting on in Queenstown, you can whitewater raft on the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers. Immerse yourself in the brisk waters of the rivers – expect to be soaked to the bone!

For beginners, the four rapids on the Kawarau River are a great introduction to whitewater rafting. Calm stretches of water allow rafters to take in the scenery of the historic Kawarau Bungy Bridge and surrounding rocky cliffs.  

The Shotover River provides more challenging rapids for the adventurous rafter – with names like Aftershock, Squeeze, Toilet and Pinball, conquering this river will be a thrilling feat.

Jet Boating in Shotover River

Hot Pools

After experiencing the extreme thrills of the Adventure Capital of the World, unwind and pamper yourself in the lap of luxury in a rejuvenating hot pool. Soak in the gorgeous alpine view and fresh mountain air as your body and mind surrender to the pure waters and penetrating warmth of Queenstown’s world class hot pools.

On-site massage rooms are available for ultimate rest and relaxation.

Relax in Queenstown

Stargazing

The scenery in Queenstown is stunning from any location – land, air, or water. But at night, look up from the landscape below you and greet the illuminating expanse of stars above for a view you won’t want to miss.

Take the Gondola in the center of town to the top of Bob’s Peak, where you’ll be guided to a spot above the clouds with zero light pollution for ultimate clarity. Expert guides will have you spellbound with their wealth of information on stars, constellations and planets all visible from the industry standard telescopes available for viewing.

Canadian Goose down jackets are provided for maximum warmth to fight off the cold. But you’ll soon forget the chill as the mesmerizing stars of the Southern Hemisphere captivate you with their unbelievable brightness.

If you hail from a location too light-polluted to enjoy the night sky, stargazing is a must to complete any trip to Queenstown.

Skyline Gondola Stargazing

Experience the Best Things to do in Queenstown

Queenstown makes completing your bucket list a breeze. With so many things to do, it’s hard to pack the best the town has to offer in one visit. We’ll help you plan your trip to the Adventure Capital of the World and make sure you don’t miss the must-dos during your stay.

I want to visit Queenstown!

Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm) and speak to one of our expert Destination Specialists today


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