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14 Best Things to Do in New Zealand

Posted on: December 14th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments

Mount Cook things to do in new zealand

When people think New Zealand they think stunning mountains, rolling green landscapes and sky diving from every inch of the skies.

But there’s so many more unique things to see and do in New Zealand, and we think it’s important you know about all the different wonders this destination has to offer.

New Zealand is divided into two islands, almost as different as night and day. Head to the North Island for beaches, wine and Maori culture. Venture to the South Island for dramatic scenery, mountains and extreme adventures.

To help inspire you, we’ve rounded up a list of the best things to do in New Zealand, divided up into the North Island and South Island.

Map of the Best Things to do in New Zealand

New Zealand is a rather small nation, with roughly the same surface area as Colorado. But looking at New Zealand on a map can be deceiving because it stretches out north to south. We’ve made it easy with this map of all the best things to see in New Zealand to help you plan your trip.

North Island

1. Visit Hobbiton

Hobbiton

Location: Matamata

Where to stay: Auckland or Rotorua

You don’t have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to feel the magic of Hobbiton. The green rolling hills, the bursts of colorful gardens and picturesque hobbit holes will transport you straight into the Shire of the films.

Tours of the Hobbiton movie set are led by passionate guides offering insightful tidbits and knowledge even diehard Tolkien fans might not know. Stay at the head of the group for the best opportunities to capture that winning shot in front of a hobbit hole with no bystanders in the frame!

For an unforgettable experience, book an evening tour with an included banquet. Seeing the Shire by twilight is only beatable by the indulgent feast you’ll share with other enraptured fans.

Contact an About New Zealand specialist for the best arrangements on including Hobbiton on your New Zealand trip.

2. Explore the Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves credit Shaun Jeffers

Photo: Shaun Jeffers

Location: Waitomo

Where to stay: Auckland or Rotorua

There’s something about twinkling lights that our eyes simply can’t resist.

That’s what makes the Waitomo Caves so enchanting. Adorned with thousands of tiny glowworms, the pitch-black caverns are illuminated by their unearthly blue glow. It seriously looks like something out of a fairy tale.

The most popular way to see the glowworm caves is on guided tours through the caverns, ending with a boat tour on the subterranean lake drifting through the illuminated caverns.

But one of our favorite ways to explore the caves is on a thrilling black water rafting adventure. Thrill seekers glide through the cave system and underground waterfalls, ultimately floating serenely through the Glowworm Grotto.

3. Indulge in Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island Auckland credit Miles Holden

Photo: Miles Holden

Location: Auckland

Where to stay: Auckland

New Zealand is dappled with wine regions all across the country, but nothing beats what’s known as New Zealand’s “Island of Wine.”

Waiheke Island, less than an hour ferry ride from Auckland, is an indulgent retreat for food and wine lovers. Complete with gorgeous bays, scenic walks and countless vineyards, this sublime island feels like something out of a Mediterranean legend.

Go on an endless wine-hopping adventure and delight your taste buds with the gourmet dishes of the island’s renowned restaurants. Everything from delectable oysters, Greek meze platters, woodfired pizzas and even gelato is on offer, paired with glasses of Waiheke’s finest wines.

If you’re looking for things to do in Auckland, Waiheke Island needs to be at the top of your list.

4. Check Out Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Location: Coromandel Peninsula

Where to stay: Pauanui or Auckland

The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the North Island’s idyllic stretches of green pastures, misty rainforests and golden beaches. It’s crown jewel is Cathedral Cove, a turquoise bay ringed by soft sands and gigantic arched caverns.

The secluded cove is perfect for a relaxing beach day, complete with several scenic walks and excellent snorkeling at the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve. An array of sea sponges, delicate corals and colorful fish can be seen in the waters of the reserve.

The remoteness of the beach and its stunning natural beauty create an almost tangible sense of serenity. We recommend visiting early in the morning not only to beat the crowds, but to witness the sunrise cast a breathtaking glow upon the beach. Cathedral Cove by dawn is truly like a slice of paradise that time forgot.

5. Learn About Maori Culture

Te Puia Rotorua credit Fraser Clements

Photo: Fraser Clements

Location: Throughout the North Island

Where to stay: Rotorua

New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture is rich in history, unique traditions and inspiring stories.

One of the best places to immerse yourself in Maori culture is at Te Puia in Rotorua. This center is where the Maori heritage is passed on through the arts institute, where Maori students hone their skills in traditional Maori woodwork and crafts.

Here you can also experience an authentic Maori hangi feast, where food is traditionally prepared by the heat of the earth.

Visit a recreated indigenous village at Tamaki Maori Village for a glimpse of how the Maori lived before European settler-days. Witness the powerful haka war dance, the graceful poi performance and other incredible Maori rituals.

6. Explore the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Champagne Pool Rotorua

Location: Rotorua

Where to stay: Rotorua

The North Island is famous for its turquoise bays and black sand beaches, but its most surreal landscapes are found in the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.

Some of New Zealand’s most spectacular volcanic features are found here. Bubbling mud pools, unusually colored lakes and spouting geysers highlight the trails laid out through the steaming valley.

Catch the spectacular colors of Champagne Pool, a hot spring of emerald water ringed by bright orange mineral deposits. See the neon green sulfur lake, Devil’s Bath, and catch the Lady Knox geyser in action.

7. Visit the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa credit Te Papa Museum

Photo: Te Papa Museum

Location: Wellington

Where to stay: Wellington

New Zealand’s most enrapturing museum resides in its capital, Wellington. Te Papa Tongarewa, located on Wellington’s waterfront, is a dedication to New Zealand’s art, history and culture.

This huge museum contains six levels, each with a central theme displayed through an array of exhibits. Discover the stories of New Zealanders during World War I in Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibit, located on the second level. Explore the cultures of Maori and other Pacific peoples through artifacts, architecture and artworks located on the fourth level. 

In short, you could spend days in this museum. Though you may like to wander on your own, we highly recommend a guided tour for the expert insight and information your guide will share. There’s no better way to explore a museum than with someone who knows it like the back of their hand.

Check out our guide on the best things to do in Wellington.

South Island

8. Hiking on the Glaciers

Franz Josef Glacier credit Jackman Chiu

Photo: Jackman Chiu

Location: Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, West Coast

Where to stay: Fox or Franz Josef Villages, or Queenstown

You’ve probably never thought about climbing a glacier. It’s hardly a thought that enters the mind.

But once it does, don’t you kind of want to do it?

Thrill-seekers who aren’t afraid of a little ice can hike on New Zealand’s glaciers.

New Zealand’s most famous glaciers are Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, both located along the west coast of the South Island. What makes these glaciers so breathtaking is the sprawl of tropical rainforest hugging their base. One minute you’re in lush rainforest, the next you’ve stepped back in time into the ice age!

Both glaciers provide an array of adventures for all levels of fitness, from guided walks to climbs complete with ice picks and crampons. For a truly spectacular experience, opt for a heli-hike, beginning with a scenic helicopter ride to the top of the glacier and hiking your way down.

9. Dolphin and Whale Watching in Kaikoura

Kaikoura Canterbury credit Sara Orme

Photo: Sara Orme

Location: Kaikoura

Where to stay: Kaikoura or Christchurch

Kaikoura is New Zealand’s unofficial capital of marine wildlife. In fact, Kaikoura is considered as one of the world’s best whale watching destinations.

Visit between June through August to catch a whale watching cruise with up close encounters with migrating humpback whales.

These gentle giants aren’t the only thing you’ll see in Kaikoura’s waters. Dolphin swims are very popular, with local dusky dolphins frolicking in the waters beside you. Seal swims are also available, offering a truly unique opportunity to interact with New Zealand Fur Seals.

Check out our highlights of the best things to do in Kaikoura.

10. Cruise the Fiords

Milford Sound

Location: Fiordland National Park

Where to stay: Te Anau or Queenstown

New Zealand’s famous scenery includes dramatic, green-clad peaks jutting out of dark, tranquil waters. No place better captures this landscape than Fiordland in the South Island.

Home to the stunning fiords Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, the natural features found in Fiordland encapsulate untouched wilderness at its most pristine.

Cruises are the most popular way to see the sounds, departing from Queenstown and Te Anau. As you glide on the glassy waters, a pod of dolphins swimming before your vessel and crystal clear waterfalls cascading down the forested cliffs around you, you’ll know you’ll never see a place like this anywhere else on Earth.

Milford Sound is the more popular fiord, but we like to recommend a cruise on Doubtful Sound. Bigger and arguably more majestic, the fewer crowds make this fiord a true gem.

11. See Mount Cook from Lake Pukaki

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park credit Rob Suisted

Photo: Rob Suisted

Location: Mount Cook National Park

Where to stay: Queenstown or Christchurch

The milky turquoise color of Lake Pukaki, framed by purple lupin flowers and the Southern Alps in the distance create a scene straight out of a story book.

Rivaling the beauty of the Swiss Alps, this snowy mountain range is home to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. The glaciers atop the mountain peaks feed into the remarkable Lake Pukaki, giving it its unique turquoise color.

Scenic helicopter rides and guided tours from Queenstown to Mount Cook Village are the best way to add Mount Cook into your New Zealand itinerary. More adventurous travelers can hike on tracks beginning near the village or climb the peaks for the ultimate challenge.

12. Go on a Bike Tour

Women biking through Nelson vineyards credit Dean McKenzie

Photo: Dean McKenzie

Location: Throughout the North and South Islands

Where to stay: Nelson

If the idea of mounting a bike while on vacation sounds dreadful, you definitely need to get on a bike in New Zealand.

This is just one of those places that makes you want to stay outside as much as possible.

The best part about cycling in New Zealand is that there are dozens of trails, ranging from super easy to hardcore mountain biking, in some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world.

One of our favorite bike trails is in Nelson, known as the Tasman Great Taste Trail. This leisurely trail loops through charming countryside and coastline, with stops at art galleries, boutiques, craft breweries and wineries.

Bike tours are also popular ways to explore New Zealand’s cities. There’s nothing like getting some fresh air in your lungs and color on your cheeks with an invigorating bike ride.

13. Bungy Jump in Queenstown

The Ledge Bungy, Queenstown credit AJ Hackett Bungy

Photo: AJ Hackett Bungy

Location: Queenstown

Where to stay: Queenstown

Queenstown is the destination for those extreme bucket list adventures. Skydiving, bungy jumping, canyon swinging – basically anything related to jumping through the air, with an optional cord attached to you.

If bungy jumping is on your list, there’s no better place to do it than Queenstown. As the birthplace of bungy jumping, you can jump from the Kawarau Bridge, the world’s first commercial bungy site. The breathtaking scenery around this historic bridge is enough to inspire your jump, with the turquoise waters of the Kawarau River rushing below the bridge.

For the more brave at heart, take the jump on the Nevis Bungy, the highest bungy site in all New Zealand. We guarantee the adrenaline rush will have you shouting and laughing with glee. And the bragging rights will be unbeatable.

Check out our guide for more things to do in Queenstown.

14. Ride the TranzAlpine

TranzAlpine credit Great JourneysofNZ

Photo: Great Journeys of NZ

Location: Greymouth through Christchurch

Where to stay: Christchurch

The romance of train travel from days long past is still alive and well in New Zealand. With rails running through mountains, viaducts and along the coasts, these scenic train journeys are among the finest in the world.

For stunning views of the Southern Alps, the TranzAlpine train is a must. This 5-hour train journey includes destination stops along its path from Greymouth to Christchurch, offering time to explore hidden gems of the South Island.

Ride in the observation car, wide open to the elements, to truly immerse yourself in the scenery around you.

Curious about more things to do in New Zealand?

As one of our favorite travel destinations, we love planning trips to New Zealand for our clients.

Connect with our Destination Specialists for a one-on-one consultation about things to do in New Zealand for your trip. We’ve been where you want to go, and we’d love to tell you all about it.

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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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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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!

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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!

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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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A Complete Guide to Waiheke Island Wineries – New Zealand’s “Island of Wine”

Posted on: July 11th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Waiheke Island Wineries

Photo: Mike Heydon

When you imagine your ideal, relaxing getaway – what comes to mind? Is it idyllic, rolling green vistas? Walking though sun-kissed vineyards heavy with ripe grapes? Kicking your feet up with only the sound of the birds and rippling water to keep you company?

How about copious amounts of some of the best wine on the planet?

Waiheke Island, also known as the “Island of Wine”, is going to be your next favorite vacation destination.

We’ll walk you through this veritable adult Disney World and show you the best glasses of wine from Waiheke Island wineries and vineyards. Spend a day or a weekend tasting the best wine this region offers – including the most expensive red in New Zealand.

Waiheke Island Wineries

Owhanake Bay EstateThis winery is located right on the edge of secluded Owhanake Bay. Idyllic rows of grape vines line the grounds of this more than 8-acre estate. The vineyard also grows organic olives, fruit and other produce that they use in their amazing food menu. Just a short stroll down to the Bay and you can enjoy your glass of wine right on the beach.

Try: ‘Anchorage’ Syrah 2013; Gold medal award-winning red

Waiheke Island Wineries

Photo: Miles Holden

Cable Bay VineyardsThese are the views that dreams are made of. Serene, lush vistas bob along the Cable Bay grounds. You’ll enjoy the hip, modern wine-bar aesthetic, the wide open-air patio and pristine lawn dotted with picnicking couples and friends. Sit on the lawn with a glass of Cable Bay’s amazing wines and charcuterie.

Try: 2016 Waiheke Island Rosé; Locally grown, Rosé all day

Mudbrick Restaurant and VineyardAlthough this list is all about the wine, it’s impossible not to mention the food at Mudbrick. Executive chef Matthias Schmitt has worked for some of the greatest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. He brings his expertise to Mudbrick creating dishes using fresh, local ingredients to pair with their award-winning wines. Grab a spot overlooking the lavender and rosemary fields and enjoy the sweet scent as you taste the vineyard’s best.

Try: Mudbrick Velvet 2015; 98/100 by renowned wine critic Sam Kim

Waiheke Island Wineries

Photo: Camilla Rutherford

Hay Paddock VineyardShort on frills, long on exceptionally flavored wine. Hay Paddock forgoes the high-profile chefs and high price tags that come along with visiting an amenity laden wine bar. Hay Paddock specializes solely in wine. Owners Chris Canning and Jules Silk, a novelist and painter respectively, put their passion for the arts in to every bottle they craft.

Try: Harvest Reserve Syrah 2012; Winning international favor when released, this wine showcases the ideal Waiheke Island climate that produces such amazing Syrahs.

Te Whau Vineyard and RestaurantFor more than 20 years Te Whau has been a premier vineyard and destination on Waiheke Island. It still retains the small, boutique family vineyard feel from their humble beginnings while still becoming one of the most renowned vineyards in the region. Te Whau produces ‘Bordeaux-style’ reds, a style found over much of Waiheke Island.

Try: ‘The Point’ Boreaux-style Blend 2013; The flagship wine of Te Whau, nationally rated and award-winning.

Waiheke Island Wineries

Photo: Julian Apse

Wild on Waiheke Estate VineyardHave you ever been drinking a glass of wine and thought to yourself, “I’d really like to shoot a bow and arrow right now”? Then Wild on Waiheke is the place for you. A family oriented vineyard and craft beer brewery, Wild on Waiheke is a quirky destination offering great wine and craft beer along with fun activities for the family or group outings. Try the life size chess board, archery, laser clay-pigeon shooting and more. Keep the kids occupied while you taste amazing wines or join in yourself.

Try: Sauvignon Blanc 2016; Self-described as “nothing too fancy”, these simple, honest wines are sometimes all you need on a hot day out on Waiheke.

Jurassic RidgeA family owned vineyard run by true wine lovers. Lance Blumhardt, a former neurosurgeon, and his wife, a current neurosurgeon opened Jurassic Ridge purely for the love of exceptional wine. The vineyard is named Jurassic Ridge due to the geology under foot. Rock formations more than 155 million years old form an ancient mountain ridge where the vineyards were planted. Making wine may not be brain surgery, but Blumhardt and his wife bring that same attention to detail to crafting amazing, aged wines.

Try: Jurassic Ridge Montepulciano 2009; Blumhardt was the first to introduce Montepulciano grapes to Waiheke Island. Nearly two dozen other wineries have since adopted the variety for their wines.

Waiheke Island Wineries

Photo: Miles Holden

Tantalus EstateIn the heart of the Onetangi Valley sits the 20-acre estate of Tantalus. Arguably the top destination in Waiheke Island, Onetangi Valley has several top wineries all within walking distance. The pristine grounds of the estate are covered in amazing plant life and greenery in attention to the acres of vineyard. Special attention has been paid to sustainability in the production of Tantalus’ wines. The entire vineyard is pesticide-free. Wildflowers and other plants are grown with the grape vines to increase biodiversity. This allows beneficial insects that control pests to thrive.

Try: Évoque Reserve 2014; 10-year vintage that received a score of 96/100.

Stonyridge VineyardOne of the first wineries on Waiheke Island, Stonyridge Vineyard is partly responsible for the New Zealand wine boom. Stonyridge produces some the top-rated wines not only in New Zealand, but worldwide. The picturesque vineyard is located at the same latitude as the southern tip of Sicily, another world class wine region. Stonyridge is settled behind a ridge that blocks cold southwesterly winds. This gives Stonyridge’s Cabernet’s a real chance to shine and thrive. Stonyridge currently holds the title for producing one of New Zealand’s most expensive reds. At $250 a bottle, the Larose Cabarnet Blend is pricy, but when it comes with this many accolades, it’s sure to please.

Try: Stonyridge Larose 2015; 94+ point-awarded world-class Cabarnet.

Waiheke Island Wineries

Te Motu WinePicky wine for picky palates. Using only prime specimen, fully ripe fruit, the wine at Te Motu Vineyard is pored over with the finest-toothed comb. Each step of the process is meticulously crafted to produce the same perfection for every bottle, every time. Te Motu produces only 4500 bottles of each vintage so that each small batch has the same attention to detail as the last. Stunning views of Onetangi Valley are reminiscent of the French countryside, while remaining distinctly Kiwi.

Try: Cabarnet-Sauvignon 2013; Te Motu’s flagship wine.

Obsidian VineyardSo named for it’s almost pure rock soil, Obsidian may as well be called the “little vineyard that could”. Growing wine grapes in conditions like Obsidian’s is difficult. The Knight’s Valley region is warm, almost too warm. The rocky-soil drains very fast, almost too fast. The fruit takes a long time to ripen and drop, almost too long. But, the wine that eventually is produced from the struggle has a subtle complexity that is hard to find in other wines.

Try: Obsidian Syrah 2015; Described by vineyard owners as “if black had a smell, this would be it… The wine is dark and mysterious with tremendous intensity and tannin.”

Peacock Sky VineyardA true family-owned affair run by a wine enthusiast husband and wife team. Peacock Sky has produced world class wines since 2008. The alfresco patio offers idyllic views of the vineyard. Enjoy a Mediterranean-inspired menu paired perfectly with the wines of the season.

Try: Pure Malbec 2014; 4-star single varietal.

Batch WineryTake a tour of this craft vineyard and winery for a look at the winemaking process from start to finish. You’ll peruse rows upon rows of ripe grape vines. See the harvesting and fermenting process up close. You’ll even get a chance to see the actual bottling and corking process in the bottling room. Not to mention, the views outside are some of the most picturesque on the Island. “Bach” (pronounced “batch”) in New Zealand means a simple holiday home where families congregate, relax and bond. A concept synonymous with Batch Winery.

Try: Thomas’ Batch Pinot Noir 2016; A fruity Pinot with hints of strawberries and cream, raspberry licorice and juicy red summer berries.

Waiheke Island Wineries

Destiny Bay VineyardsThere is a lot more to Destiny Bay then just impeccable attention to detail for their award-winning wines. Special attention was also given to the structure and layout of the winery itself. Utilizing the latest in energy efficient structures and winemaking practices, the vineyard is a model for sustainable practices. More than 500 native trees were planted around the vineyard to increase biodiversity and ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of the site.

Try: Destiny Bay Mystae 2013; A blend of all 5 varietals for a unique bouquet of fruit taste.

Casita Miro Restaurant and VineyardInspired by the food and wine of Spain and the Mediterranean, Casita Miro specializes in shared plate tapas-style service and amazing wine. The world-renowned restaurant has stunning views overlooking the vineyard below. No detail was lost in the Spanish architecture inspired building. The ambiance provided by this fine dining and wine experience is unmatched.

Try: Madame Rouge 2016; French-inspired Cabarnet-Sauvignon.

Man O’ War VineyardsThis vineyard is secluded away from the “wine belt” of the Onetangi Valley on Man O’ War Bay. The drive out to this vineyard is surely rewarded with the views you have that overlook the water. Sip a glass or three of any vintage (trust us, they’re all amazing) and soak in that Bay view.

Take your wine straight down to the water’s edge and relax on the lawn or walk along the rocky beach. Watch yachts and sailboats drifting lazily in front of you. The ambiance here is nothing less than serene.

Try: Man O’ War Pinot Gris 2008; A Waiheke staple.

Waiheke Island Wineries

Passage Rock Wines & BistroYou’ll feel like you’re amongst old friends in this intimate vineyard venue and restaurant. The unassuming, small estate produces a Syrah that is the most awarded in all of Waiheke. An outdoor dining area that is directly adjacent to the vineyards make dining at this classic bistro an event you’ll never forget.

Try: Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2015; Continuing the tradition of their multiple 5-star awarded wines.

Kennedy Point VineyardWaiheke Island’s only certified organic vineyard. Grapes are grown to organic standard without chemical fertilizers, sprays or pesticides. Olive groves are grown to the same standard, for production of truly organic New Zealand olive oil.

Try: Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015; Organic grown, supreme taste.

Poderi Crisci Vineyard and Restaurant Inspired in wine and design by Mediterranean vineyards, this winery is a small slice of Italy in New Zealand. You’ll love the Italian inspired villa that offers great wine and a fine dining menu of seasonal dishes. Figs, olives, greens and herbs are also grown on the estate and used in the menu.

Try: Poderi Crisci Chardonnay 2012; An inspired Burgundy-inspired white.

Waiheke Island is a mecca for the wine enthusiast. The Napa Valley of New Zealand has produced some serious wines that have won some serious awards. Try a tour of Waiheke Island and taste your way through the Island of Wine.

Add Waiheke Island to My Trip

Want to start planning your trip now?

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.

New Zealand Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways

Posted on: June 28th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments

There is perhaps no trip more memorable than a honeymoon. You’re riding the high from the biggest day of your life and want the good times to keep going. It’s a story you’ll tell for the rest of your life.

Better not make it a boring one!

The story of your New Zealand honeymoon is one that you’ll never get tired of telling. Just imagine the conversation when you get back:

“So, how was the honeymoon?”

“Well we went to New Zeala-“

“Wow New Zealand! THAT’S AMAZING!”

You won’t get too far in that conversation until everyone’s excitement is soaring. People are fascinated by the country and we’re sure you will be too.

Whether you’ve seen it in movies like the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, or you’re already aware of the gorgeous landscapes, fiords, glaciers and mountains. Any way you decide to experience New Zealand, you’re sure to have the perfect post-wedding adventure.

New Zealand Honeymoon Essentials

New Zealand Honeymoons Picnic Queenstown

Photo: Miles Holden

Romantic Dinner for Two

You’ve landed in New Zealand. It’s your first evening in Kiwi country and you want to get it started right.

New Zealand Honeymoons Romantic Dinner

Nothing says romantic night out like a quiet dinner out on the town. But don’t settle for just anywhere. Make it extra special with a visit to one of these amazing restaurants.

  • Want to dine from more than 700 feet up in the air? Orbit Restaurant at the top of the Auckland Sky Tower is the perfect option for bird’s eye views of the city. The restaurant even slowly spins 360° so you can see the city from all angles.
  • How about a romantic sky-gondola ride followed by dinner with an amazing view? Take a gondola ride up the Skyline to Stratosfare Restaurant in Queenstown. With a focus on delicious wine and fine dining fare, Stratosfare makes for a great spot for dinner, or even just after dinner drinks with a view.
  • Afraid of heights? Go underground to the chic Japanese restaurant Tanuki’s Cave. This hip sake bar is the perfect spot to start off a night on the town.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

You just ate dinner and the night is still young. What next? Dive in to New Zealand’s best night life and dance the night away at these clubs and bars.

  • Orleans – You may be thousands of miles away, but don’t skip out on this Kiwi take on The Big Easy. Orleans in Auckland specializes in New Orleans cuisine, but turns up on the weekend with live band, upbeat rhythm and blues.
  • Impala – This new addition to Auckland night life is all about the dancing. Craft beer, fancy cocktails and amazing wine round out the bar at this upscale venue. Famous guest DJ’s make sure the party stays turned up at Impala.
  • Ink Bar – Located in the super trendy “K-Road” neighborhood of Auckland, Ink Bar is a late night spot for underground house music and drinks.

Recover in Style with a Spa Day

New Zealand Honeymoons Polynesian Spa

Photo: Polynesian Spa

Partied a little too hard on your night out? Find the ultimate in rest and relaxation in one of New Zealand’s many spas and hot pools. There’s nothing like a soak in a heated mineral pool to clear the toxins from your body!

  • The Polynesian Spa is an amazing oasis surrounded by natural plants and rocks. Pools are filled with heated, natural mineral water for a relaxing soak. The Polynesian Spa was voted one of the top 10 spas in the entire world – it’s that good.
  • How about a personal spa of your own? Head to Hot Water Beach, rent out a shovel and get to digging. The water below the sand is HOT due to the geothermal heating beneath the surface. Hot Water Beach is one of our top thermal pools in New Zealand and we’re sure you’ll love it.
  • Hell’s Gate is a geothermal attraction with hot mud pools, geysers and waterfalls. In this unique spa experience you can exfoliate in the hot mud, see the southern hemisphere’s largest hot waterfall and take a soak in hot, healing sulphur pools.

Couple’s Wine Tasting and Vineyard Tour

New Zealand Honeymoons Vineyards

Photo: Camilla Rutherford

After you’re rested up, keep the relaxation day going. Go for the quintessential romantic couple’s experience: a vineyard and winery tour in New Zealand’s beautiful wine regions. Stroll through lush orchards. Treat yourselves to some of the finest dining in New Zealand. Taste New Zealand’s world-famous wines and toast to the rest of your lives.

Waiheke Island alone is home to nearly 20 wineries and vineyards. With splendid views of expansive, rolling vistas and the surrounding water in the distance, Waiheke Island is that picturesque, romantic getaway you’ve been searching for. Travel + Leisure even named Waiheke Island one of the best places to honeymoon right now.

Leaps of Faith

Now that you’re rested up, it’s the perfect time to get your adrenaline going again. New Zealand is packed with adventure experiences that you’ll love doing together. There are enough unforgettable experiences to be had to last a lifetime. Hop on over to Queenstown and participate in some of the extreme sports that this “Adventure Capital of the World” is known for.

  • AJ Hackett Bungy Jumping – The first commercial bungy company in the world. Bungy jumping put New Zealand on the map for extreme sports nearly 30 years ago.
  • Skydiving Queenstown – You’re 15,000 feet up and every instinct in your body is telling you not to do it. Your toes hang over the ledge of the plane as the countdown begins. And then you jump and find out first hand what made it all worth it. Skydiving over New Zealand’s picturesque landscape is indescribable, but we’re sure you’ll have the time of your life.

Take to the Open Road

New Zealand Honeymoons Kaikoura

Photo: Sara Orme

Driving yourself through a new country with just the two of you is an amazing journey and a personalized experience you’ll never forget. Every mile of a self-driven New Zealand road trip is a delight.

New Zealand is the ultimate self-drive destination. Rent a car and head up the rocky coast. Stop along the way for lunch. Wind your way along rolling hills, careening through lush greenery. Stop for a photo-op wherever you want – and believe us, you’ll want to stop often as you see the landscape pass by your windows.

No longer will you ask, “are we there yet?”. Instead, you’ll be saying “I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Explore Nature

Want to get outside but not quite the jumping-out-of-a-plane type? New Zealand is nearly 1/3 covered in National Parks, so you’ll find plenty to do to experience the country’s beautiful landscapes.

Take your partner on a kayak-for-two and paddle around Rangitoto Island. See amazing seal colonies in the wild. Crane your neck to the sky for unmatched views of rugged, mountainous landscape. You’ll both work together paddling your way around calm waters to secluded beaches and more.

Stargaze the Darkest Skies in the World

You may never look to the stars the same way again. The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is a gold-rated reserve. This means that it has some of the least light pollution on the planet.

Did you know that in many urban areas as few as 300 stars are visible at any given moment? At Dark Sky Reserves you’ll be able to see as many as 15,000!

See the cluster that makes up the Milky Way. Constellations come to life and you can pinpoint individual stars with ease.

Stargazing New Zealand Honeymoons

Photo: Vaughan Brookfield

With the use of telescopes, high powered binoculars and the simple naked eye, you can point out planets, distant galaxies, other planets’ moons and more.

Cozy up with your partner and stare off in to the galaxy. Keep an eye out for shooting stars – they’re more common than you think when there’s no light pollution washing everything out!

Get Away From it All

Honeymoons and other romantic vacations are meant to get away from it all and put the focus on having an enriching experience with you and your partner. So how about a chance to really get away?

Imagine yourself in a secluded, luxury cabin embraced on 3 sides by tall, lush hills. Right out front, through floor to ceiling windows and wide open space is a beautiful, calm bay just outside your doorstep.

New Zealand Honeymoons Secluded Lodge

Photo: Scrubby Bay

 

Bask in the lap of luxury with a stay in one of New Zealand’s luxury cottages. With your own personal waterfront, the privacy of complete seclusion, a private swimming pool and spa and New Zealand’s amazing landscape in your backyard – rest and relaxation has never been more relaxing.

Check out Scrubby Bay, just outside of Christchurch. The remote bay is only accessible via a 40 minute four-wheel drive transfer. Or, really live it up and upgrade to a scenic helicopter ride that lands just steps away from your luxury property for an epic entrance and exit you’ll never forget.

Don’t Start Off with a Headache

There are so many sublime experiences to be had in New Zealand, you owe it to yourself to make it your honeymoon destination. Remember, you’ll be relaying this story to friends and family for years to come – make it a good one. A New Zealand honeymoon is the perfect way to start your lives together and we can make it easy for you. Tell us what you’d like to do and we can make it happen for you. We’ll send you a free quote so you can start making priceless memories in no time.

Let’s Plan My Honeymoon

Want to start planning your trip now?

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

Posted on: February 9th, 2017 by About Australia Staff 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 Island

Alright, so you’re on your way to Rangitoto Island. You’ve got your flip-flops, your sand buckets. You’re all set.

But wait… where’s the sand? Where are the umbrellas? The lifeguard stands??

New Zealand isn’t your average country and this isn’t your average day at the beach. You didn’t fly halfway around the world to see the same old thing you could see back home!

What you will find is a 600 year old (just a baby in geological terms!) volcanic island with its rugged, black volcanic rock. Rangitoto Island and Scenic reserve is part nature hike and part sea kayaking adventure.

Take 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.

Start things off with a unique visit to this island reserve and we assure you won’t even miss the sand!

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.

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. It’s 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.

Ready to See New Zealand’s Fantastic Beaches?

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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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

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