Posted on: November 7th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
You won’t find a city with a more romantic name than Auckland.
The Te Reo Māori (indigenous Maori-language) name for Auckland is “Tāmaki-makau-rau,” meaning “Tāmaki (bride) of a hundred lovers.”
It’s hard not to fall in love with Auckland on first sight. With an iconic cityscape embraced by a sparkling gulf and fertile, green hills, the City of Sails captures the hearts of more than just a hundred lovers.
See the city through the eyes of its first admirers with these incredible Maori cultural experiences in Auckland.
Sail the Gulf like the Great Polynesian Navigators
Image: Waka Quest
There’s no end to the yachts and charters offering sailing tours along Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.
After all, this is “The City of Sails.”
But among the countless vessels docked along Waitemata Harbour is a portal into the past.
Here you’ll find the ‘waka,’ a traditional Maori canoe as once chartered by the ancient Polynesian navigators. Inspired by a recent resurgence of voyaging traditions, the New Zealand Maritime Museum in conjunction with local tourism operators developed a breathtaking journey into Maori seafaring traditions aboard Haunui, a handcrafted waka.
When you board Haunui, you’re embarking on a journey just as the ancient Polynesian navigators once did. You’ll learn the sailing traditions and stories of the Maori as an expert Maori crew charters across Waitemata Harbour.
If the famous Auckland landmarks you’ll see don’t captivate you, the oral traditions, artistry and rituals shared by your crew certainly will.
Feel the Land Come to Life on a Maori Walking Tour
Learn the stories behind Auckland’s green volcanic landscape on an intimate, Maori-guided walking tour.
Auckland is dotted with 48 volcanic cones, each bound with a story rich in cultural and spiritual significance.
In other words, a natural treasure trove of Maori culture.
Your Maori guide leads you through Auckland’s unique terrain on walking trails strewn across the volcanoes as they share the history of each site.
Walk to the top of Maungawhau, or Mount Eden, and learn about the legends surrounding this natural wonder. As the highest natural point in Auckland, there’s an unmistakable sense of mysticism from the incredible panoramic views atop this volcano.
Hear the story of how this mountain came to be, as passed down through oral traditions. Spot the remains of pā terraces, or hill forts, and food storage pits once used by the Maori.
As you walk down the volcano, you’ll come away with a sense of the Maori’s deep connection with the land. Ask our About New Zealand Destination Specialists about our favorite Auckland walking tours for your next trip!
Get Off the Beaten Path and Get in Touch with Nature
Image: Scott Venning
Auckland is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Black sand beaches, lush rainforests, waterfalls and soaring cliffs await just outside the city.
But that’s just the problem for many visitors. It’s all outside the city.
Fortunately there’s several tours setting out from the city into the pristine natural wonders at its doorstep.
On one of our favorite New Zealand wilderness tours, you’ll venture into Auckland’s spectacular west coast and into the renowned Waitakere Ranges. You’ll pass through Titirangi, which translates to “fringe of heaven” in Te Reo Māori, and learn about the unique flora and fauna that call these ranges home.
Hear the legends of the forest and its shy bush-dwelling birds so iconic to New Zealand. Discover the medicinal uses of the indigenous plants around you, as still used by the Maori to this day.
Finish the day off with a stop at the west coast’s most arresting black sand beaches – the west coast’s signature feature.
Discover Maori Treasures at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
Explore the world’s largest collection of Maori artifacts (taonga) at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Renowned for its interactive exhibits and respectful insights into Maori and South Pacific cultures, you could easily spend days in this three-level museum.
Visit the ground floor to see original full-size buildings adorned with intricate Maori woodcarvings and designs. See Te Toki ā Tāpiri, the last great waka once used in battle, carved from a giant totara tree. Get a glimpse of traditional dress including dogskin cloaks, feather cloaks and flax cloaks as worn by Maori ancestors.
On the first floor you’ll learn more about the Maori way of connecting with the natural world. Step foot on a topographical recreation of Auckland, outlining the routes of the seafaring ancestors and their stories. Learn the narratives behind the origins of the world as understood by the Maori.
Opt for a guided tour to fully immerse yourself and understand the unique culture on display before you.
Stick around the Auckland War Memorial Museum for what is lauded as one of New Zealand’s best Maori cultural performances.
This daily performance takes you on a moving journey through the story of Auckland and New Zealand. Watch as performers donned in gorgeous traditional dress dance the gracious poi and a spine-tingling version of the powerful haka war dance.
As Auckland’s only venue providing daily Maori cultural performances, you’ll want to pre-book this often sold-out event.
Performances begin at 10:45am until 1:30pm with additional times available during high season.
Get a Taste of Maori-Inspired Kai at Pasifika Festival
Image: Tourism New Zealand
There’s no way you can authentically experience a culture without tasting its food. Even if you’re averse to trying new foods, the scents of kai (Te Reo Māori for food) will have your mouth watering.
The traditional Maori method for cooking food in underground ovens is called hāngi. This usually consists of meats, root vegetables and kumara, a kind of sweet potato, wrapped in leaves and lowered into the earth. After cooking for three to four hours in the heat from the earth, a delicious dish of tender, fall-off-the-bone meat and roasted vegetables infused with a smoky fragrance is ready to eat.
Though you won’t find many eateries in Auckland showcasing traditional Maori cooking methods, you can find Maori flavors at the Hangi Shop or Puha & Pakeha.
One of the best ways to experience Maori kai in Auckland is at the Pasifika Festival, an annual celebration of South Pacific cultures. Not only will you get a taste of hāngi, but you’ll also see signature dishes unique to cultures all across the Pacific Islands throughout 200 different food and craft stalls.
Travel to Auckland towards the end of March to witness this spectacular event.
Experience Maori Culture in Auckland
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture brings the North Island to life with its warm Polynesian roots. Although the town of Rotorua is New Zealand’s renowned heart of Maori culture, you’ll find plenty of incredible experiences within Auckland to gain insight into this unique culture.
Want to add an unforgettable Maori experience in your visit to Auckland? Connect with our About New Zealand Destination Specialists for more ideas on experiencing Maori culture on your New Zealand trip.
Posted on: July 27th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
What’s your travel style? Are you an avid by-the-shoestring kind of traveler, tramping around (that means hiking in Kiwi-speak!) and bunking up with a bunch of hostelers? Never been one to bask in the lap of luxury?
Sure, we’re all about saving a few dollars if it means extending your trip a bit – an extra few nights, a flight to another city – all in the name of experiences over luxury.
But sometimes, it’s good to treat yourself to the 5-star, rock-star treatment you deserve. Five-star hotels, spa-treatments, the works – a real A-list experience.
When you’re short on time and can’t spend a month loafing around New Zealand (though we do recommend it!), a bit of pampering is the best way to supercharge your vacation for the ultimate in relaxation that makes you feel like you spent a month abroad.
And for the best city in New Zealand for that first-class experience, look no further than Rotorua.
Photo: Fraser Clements
Plane travel has certainly improved since the early days of commercial flying, but 13-hours in close quarters over 6,000 miles will leave even first-class flyers feeling a bit worse for wear.
Still, not a bad trade-off for getting around the world in less than a day!
Settle in to your first round of star-treatment in Rotorua’s geothermally heated hot pools in a “World Top-10” spa resort.
The Polynesian Spa features 28 hot-pools, fed from natural springs in the Taupo Volcanic Zone.
Each spring features a unique combination of minerals to provide an experience that is relaxing and therapeutic.
Water from the Priest Spring contain a high sulfur content, with other minerals to aid in soothing tired and cramped muscles. Perfect for a post-flight soak.
The Rachel Spring combines highly alkalized water with sodium-silicate that nourishes skin and leaves you feeling rejuvenated.
The Polynesian Spa is a perfect refresher when the rigors of the road wear you down.
Hell’s Gate Hot Pools and Mud Baths
Photo: Fraser Clements
That’s right, we’re spa-hopping and next on your list is Hell’s Gate. That’s how the rock stars do it, right?
This geothermal wonderland was originally named Tikitere.
All geothermal springs in Rotorua were originally given Maori names, as the Maori people are considered the “guardians of geothermal activity” in the region.
It became known as “Hell’s Gate” when an English playwright in for a visit thought the rising steam and bubbling mud pools must be what the gates of Hell looked like.
The star of Hell’s Gate are the hot mud baths. Semi-private vessels filled with geothermally-heated mud and sulfur water.
The pools are known for their curative properties as well as the gentle exfoliation that can leave your skin feeling renewed up to 6 weeks after your visit. A lingering reminder long after you’ve made it back home.
White Island Helicopter Tour
Sure, spa treatments and massages are great, but your indulgent, pampered tour of Rotorua doesn’t end there.
Nothing says “living the rock-star lifestyle” like boarding a helicopter and landing on an active volcano for a tour.
White Island Helicopter Tours offer an up-close look at New Zealand’s largest, most active volcano with an entrance that’ll leave you speechless.
Sure, maybe you’ve rented a fancy car or taken a limo out for a date night or special event, but once you board a chopper for a chauffeured ride out to an island, you’ll wonder why you travel any other way.
You’ll feel like James Bond being taken out to an evil villain’s lair. Or the Rolling Stones receiving that premium, star-treatment.
Everyone deserves a bit of pampering every now and then.
Upon arrival, you’ll view a Maori feast being prepared in the traditonal Hangi-style, a traditional, underground-oven cooking style used for centuries.
Then, a poi-dance (traditional Maori dance) and haka (war-cry) demonstration provides an intimate, cultural experience missed by many who travel to New Zealand.
After a blessing by a Maori leader, you’ll be treated to a feast featuring foods cooked in the Hangi and an array of delicious Maori and New Zealand cuisine.
To cap off your luxury-dinner experience, you’ll board a waka (Maori canoe) for a sightseeing, night float filled with oral history and storytelling that culminates at the famed Pohutu Geyser.
Treat Yourself in Rotorua
When you finally make it back home, skill still soft and glowing from the hot pools and mud baths, feeling culturally enriched and spoiled, you’ll understand why everyone needs a true A-list travel experience every so often.
We’ll set you up with the ultimate Rotorua experience so you can travel like a rock star from start to finish.
Posted on: June 20th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Photo: AJ Hackett Bungy
If A. J. Hackett jumped off a bridge would anyone follow him? That’s the question the New Zealand native asked back in 1986 when he opened the world’s first commercial bungy jumping operation in Queenstown. The world answered with a resounding “Yes!” and soon people from New Zealand and all over rushed to see the extreme sport of “bungy jumping”.
The rest is history and New Zealand’s place as the overseas adventure travel capital was solidified.
We’ll show you why picturesque Kiwi country continues to be known the world over for extreme adventure sports in our guide to overseas adventure travel in New Zealand.
Skydiving New Zealand
New Zealand’s landscape is some of the most picturesque in the world. Deep fiords, tall, snow-capped mountains and green, rolling vistas give New Zealand that postcard-look at every turn. What better way to see it all than by plummeting towards it from 12,000 feet up?
Skydiving in New Zealand is the most epic way to top off your overseas adventure travel vacation in New Zealand. You’ll receive instruction, suit up and strap on to an instructor for a safe dive. However, nothing can prepare you for that initial leap through the clouds!
Photo: NZOne Skydive
Not ready to take the plunge? Opt for a bungy-jump with the company that started it all. The A. J. Hackett Ledge Bungy provides you with nearly 9 seconds of free-fall before being hurtled back up by your ankles. It’s the unforgettable experience that put Queenstown on the extreme sport map.
High Speed River Boats and Kayaking New Zealand
Hop aboard a high-speed thrilling river boat for an exhilarating journey through the Shotover River Canyons. You’ll zip past past jagged cliff-faces at nearly 60 mph. Squeeze through stunning narrow canyons mere inches away from the rocky walls to your side. Hold on tight as the unique Shotover Jet performs high speed, 360-degree spins along the way. This is not your average river boat cruise.
Want to take it a little bit slower? Get your feet wet first with a bit of kayaking at Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Embark from Onetahuti Beach in a double-kayak and see some of Abel Tasman’s amazing landscape. Paddle around pristine waters and New Zealand’s renowned rugged coastline and rock formations. You’ll feel like you’re exploring uncharted land as you paddle your way through. Lay your eyes on the lush, jungle landscape that surrounds you.
Once you make landfall, you’ll have the chance to explore some of the island and continue your adventure on foot.
Photo: Camilla Stoddart
Tip: Paddle over to see the Seal Colony where you could see native fur seals frolicking in their natural habitat! Along the way, lookout for more of New Zealand’s great wildlife like sea birds or even a Little Blue Penguin. The pristine waters around the reserve are so clear, you can even see fish swimming by as you paddle through.
Caving and Canyoning New Zealand
Get to know New Zealand from the inside-out by trekking through some of its best caves and canyons. Strap on your helmet, turn on your headlamp and harness up. This spelunking adventure is the best way to see some amazing subterranean wonders. New Zealand’s cave system is among the most diverse and challenging in the world.
Sure, you can take the simple walk through wide caverns and see some great sights. Stalactites and black water rivers are pretty accessible to those looking for a slightly more hands-off experience.
Photo: Absolute Adventure
But what would overseas adventure travel be without the adventure? For a a more harrowing trek you’ll want to head in to New Zealand’s narrow cave system. You’ll crawl, squeeze and rappel through the complex cave network. Feel your way through certain sections with only the light of you and your cave mates headlamps. Along the way your guide will give you an informative run down of the caves history and geology.
Photo: Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
No trip to New Zealand is complete without heading to Waitomo for the iconic Glow Worm Caves. You’ll see beautiful rock formations and geological wonders before embarking on a silent “black-water raft” ride. The silent float on the river-cave offers a stunning look at thousands of glow worms that call the cave home. See the soft, blue light that these bio-luminescent insects give off as you drift silently through the dark expanse. Staring at the glow worms as you float through the silent, dark cave makes you feel like you’re looking at thousands of stars in the sky.
Glacier Walks and Volcano Hikes
Mountaineering has a special place in the hearts of New Zealanders. Did you know that Edmund Hilary, the first person to summit Mt. Everest, was a Kiwi? His interest in climbing mountains was spurned from a childhood trip to Mt. Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. Celebrate Hilary’s legacy with an adventure of your own in New Zealand’s glacier and volcano regions.
Start off at Franz Josef Glacier where you’ll take a scenic helicopter ride to the top. You’ll get an incredible view of the top of the glacier area along the way before landing right on the ice. An expert guide will lead you through the glacier’s rugged terrain. Walk through narrow ice canyons. See snow-capped mountains and pristine blue-ice. The almost Antarctic feel to Franz Josef Franz Josef Glacier makes you feel a thousand miles away.
Photo: Franz Josef Glacier Guides
From there head for the North Island. Make a stop in Tongariro National Park and participate in a “Great Walk of New Zealand“. You can even trek up Mt. Nguaruhoe – better known as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings.
Your final stop on this circuit of New Zealand wonders is the sulfuric, geothermal region in Rotorua. Once you arrive, don’t be alarmed if things smell a bit odd. “The Sulfur City” is more than just a nickname for Rotorua. The sulfur rich minerals brewing below the earth escape in to the atmosphere leaving a strong sulfuric smell all around. But after some getting used to, it’s just a reminder of the amazing geothermal activity happening just below you.
Just outside Rotorua proper sits the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This area was created by New Zealand’s largest volcanic eruption more than 100 years ago in 1886. In geologic terms, where things are measured in hundreds of millions of years, this valley is brand new. Valley walks take you through stunning emerald pools, hot springs and steaming crater lakes. Be sure to check out Frying Pan Lake – as the name implies, the lake cracks and sizzles from geothermal heating!
Photo: Rotorua Geothermal Region
New Zealand – Overseas Adventure Travel Mecca
In New Zealand you’re never short on options to push your vacation to the next level. Sure you’ll want to see the stunning landscapes that made Middle Earth come to life in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. But in between the relaxing walks and scenic drives, make a few stops that will truly take your breath away. Let us plan a trip that will show you why New Zealand’s reputation for overseas adventure travel is well-earned.
Posted on: June 8th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
New Zealand is, pardon the pun, a hotbed of geothermal activity. It’s located in the “Ring of Fire”, an aptly named cluster of volcanic activity around the Pacific Ocean.
In fact, many of the islands surrounding New Zealand were formed from volcanoes.
Luckily, most of the New Zealand volcanoes and powerful cones haven’t erupted in hundreds or thousands of years. Shooting geysers, hot springs and sulfuric lakes are active reminders of the country’s volcanic history.
Check out our list of the best places to experience the sights, sounds and smells of New Zealand volcanoes and geothermal regions.
Whakaari / White Island
Photo: Chris Sisarich
White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano. Its peak rises more than 1,000 feet in the air, but much of the mountain is hidden below sea level, making this the largest volcano in New Zealand!
For an epic tour of White Island, you’ll arrive by helicopter and land on its surface. Walk the rugged surface and feel real volcanic rock beneath your feet.
White Island seems to live and breathe as a living being as steam rises and falls. Vents and cracks along the islands exterior hiss and release gases up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit!
You can get up close to the bubbling mud pits and steaming acid lakes that make up the island.
Photo: Rob Suisted
Like many New Zealand volcanoes and regions, White Island was originally named by the Maori. In Maori, the name for White Island is “Te Puia o Whakaari”, or “the dramatic volcano”.
No stranger to drama, this volcano wants to be seen and heard. Numerous small eruptions and a peak with seemingly constant cover from thick, white steam ensure that White Island stays on the minds of native Kiwi’s and tourists alike.
Rotorua, The Sulphur City
Photo: Chris McLennan
Just a skip away from the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua is known for its unique Maori culture and amazing hot springs and geysers.
You’ll know you’ve arrived in Rotorua when you sense that distinct smell of sulfur that permeates the air.
It might take some getting used to at first, but just think of it as the Earth’s magic at work! Besides, it’s a small price to pay for being in one of the most historically significant sites in all of New Zealand.
You’ll want to check out Te Puia, an amazing geothermal wonderland that is home to the Maori Arts and Culture Institute.
Start your visit off with a visit to the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. Pohutu Geyser shoots steaming water more than 100 feet in to the air once or twice every single hour.
It’s a geyser so reliable you could almost set your watch to it.
Boiling mud pools, hot springs and steaming valleys all cover the landscape of Te Puia.
Witness unique Maori cooking that utilizes Te Puia’s boiling springs. Known as hangi in Maori, meat and vegetables are placed in to baskets and lowered in to steaming water from the Earth which cooks it through. The Maori have used this method of cooking for centuries and it’s still used today.
New Zealand is a new island nation. Its land isn’t even 10,000 years old yet! That’s just a blink of an eye in geologic terms.
The Waimangu Volcanic Valley was created just over 100 years ago from the eruption of Mount Tarawera. This eruption is New Zealand’s deadliest on record and remnants of the site’s violent history are still evident to this day.
Take a walk through Waimangu’s Volcanic Valley and you’ll see the rising steam of hot springs and crater lakes. The Emerald Pools are a stunning bright green water feature that sit atop a crater left by Tarawera’s eruption.
Many New Zealand volcanoes feature crater lakes and miniature ecosystems in the water atop extinct cones.
Be sure to check out Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world. You’ll be able hear the lake crack, sizzle, sputter and hiss from the geothermal heating below!
Tongariro National Park
Photo: Camilla Rutherford
Take a trip to Mt. Doom and see how the real-life mountain of Mt. Ngaruhoe became the fictional volcano of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings films.
Tongariro National Park also provided the backdrop for many of the films iconic scenes. The amazing local landscape, incredible mountain peaks and lush forest is unlike any other.
It’s no wonder that director and native Kiwi Peter Jackson chose to film much of the movie in his home country.
Tongariro is also the home of many of New Zealand’s greatest walks and hiking tracks. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Northern Circuit are among the top 9 Great Walks in the country. You’ll see the park’s amazing plant and animal life, snow-capped mountain tops and the emerald pools of the park’s crater lakes.
Microscopic minerals suspended in the water give the lakes a super-saturated, amazing turquoise and blue color.
New Zealand Volcanoes
We have no doubt that you’ll find these great regions and New Zealand volcanoes just as amazing as we do.
Maybe you’re a geology super-fan who wants to tour the “Ring of Fire”. Or you’re a Lord of the Rings super-fan who just has to see Mt. Doom. Or maybe you just want to walk on a real volcano.
Either way, we can put together the perfect itinerary to see one or all of these amazing sights.
Give us a call at (888) 359 – 2877 Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST or and we’ll plan the New Zealand trip of your dreams.
(...) the rooms were on the small side but adequate and comfortable. The guidance of my rep, Darin, was spot on and very valuable. I will use them again for a trip to Australia. The trip was a great value.
Arranged a completely enjoyable once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand
My 3-week trip to New Zealand took me to every place I had wanted to see and more besides. All of the arrangements for flights, day tours, hotels and traveling between places in New Zealand(...)
(...) (Exception Prince's Gate). Our excursions were fun, informative and accommodating. The trip was organized in the best way possible to ensure that we enjoyed all of New Zealand and our little bite of Australia. Our hats go off to Koda and Tiffany. They a made it a best vacation ever.
Overall Great Trip
We loved New Zealand and hope to return! 10 days was not long enough for the amount of public transportation we used. Queenstown was fun and we’re glad we added one day there to our itinerary. (...)
(...) Our flight from Queenstown to Christ Church was cancelled, so we had to fly from Queenstown to Auckland to Christ Church to pick up our rental car. Since we didn’t arrive in Christ Church until mid afternoon, we had to leave for Kaikoura without seeing Christ Church. We enjoyed Kaikoura that evening and the next morning. We had to be at the ferry by noon, so we had to move along to Picton. The ferry ran 1.5 hours late so when we arrived in Wellington, Thrifty was closed. So, we had to get to our hotel and back to the ferry the next morning to pick up the car. We felt like there was too many moving parts and wasted time on all of the public transportation delays. From Wellington, we drove on our own to Napier then Rotorua. All of the hotels arranged for us were nice. We also enjoyed the prearranged tours. We traveled in September and the weather was mostly sunny with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. About New Zealand was good to work with, and very responsive by phone and by email. The cost of the trip was very reasonable. The next time we travel to New Zealand we will rent a camper van, and move along at our own pace. There was plenty of camping on both islands. We will also spend more than 10 days. Thanks for a great trip!