We spent a large portion of our World Trip in New Zealand … from Wed 27 Feb to Mon 8 April … nearly 6 weeks. It was just about enough. We flew in and out of Auckland and travelled through both North and South Islands. We drove most of the way but did get the Northern Explorer train for the final part of our journey from Wellington back to Auckland. It was a full day on the train.
I don't propose writing a huge monologue of all of our travels but will list our stopping points and am happy to give details on specific areas if anyone would like some. We mainly used B&Bs rather than hotels and generally ate out … some great meals, but NZ is very expensive. If you do decide to visit, don't rush it … it's a long way to go and there is so much to see and do. Unfortunately NO Marriotts ...
Our journey overnight locations ...
Paihia (Bay of Islands)
Blenheim (Marlborough Wineries)
Milford Sound (on a ship)
Flock Hill (Arthur's Pass)
Awaroa (Abel Tasman Reserve)
We have its of pics to share and will post some over the next week and I'll trickle in some points of interest. There are a lot of great wineries in NZ … oh, what a trial!
Hi IAHFLYER, If there is anywhere in particular that you would like info on, I would be happy to focus on those areas of NZ first. I received some excellent info from other MRIs who had done brief visits to certain parts of the country. Strange that you are having to convince your wife to make the journey … Ann Marie was fine with the flight once I told her that we would be staying for nearly six weeks …
Like myself, she loves walking, finding stunning scenery and searching for wildlife in its natural habitat … you can do that in spades in NZ. We came face to face with penguins, seals, sea lions … and even formation gull flying … (none of the pics have been enlarged - this just shows how close we were ...
I was trying to decide what our favourite location was on NZ to give you a taste of what to expect but it is very difficult to choose. There are so many great places to see. By a very small margin, I think that the Abel Tasman Reserve tops the list. We stayed in the Awaroa Lodge which can only be reached by boat or helicopter. The Lodge is comfortable but not up to Marriott standards. However, the walks and views are stunning and the beaches empty.
I'll start posting some summaries of the locations that we visited … there are even better pics to come! If you do go, make sure that you put Moereki on your list. There is an amazing fish restaurant there called Fleur's Place. It is Rick Stein favourite restaurant in the world and Fleur is generally there in person. But needs booking well in advance.
Sorry about the delay in getting going on the NZ write up … we've been having some work done on our house and been a little distracted. Things are now improving so I'll crack on ...
We landed in Auckland and picked up our hire car at the airport. We tried a local company but wouldn't do so again. They were cheaper than the international companies, e.g. Hertz and we now know why … rubbish cars! We spent our first night at the Hilton in Auckland … was nice but we stayed here at the end of the holiday too, so I'll summarise it at the end. Our first major stopover was The Bay of Islands ...
I chose Paihia as our base as it seemed a good central location for touring around the main historic sites. It proved a good choice. Russell is another popular location but it is easier to do a day visit from Paihia rather than the other way around. Paihia was about 140 miles from Auckland but took nearly 4 hours driving to get there … NZ roads aren't great.
We have found that using B&Bs is the best accommodation when touring NZ. They are much better equipped than many UK hotels and some rank up there with Marriott for comfort. However, you need to be choosy. We stayed at the Marlin House for 3 nights, which had about 4 en-suite rooms. Breakfast was taken on the deck overlooking the bay … pretty stunning. There are some good restaurants in the town, which is a short walk (5-10 mins) from the B&B.
There is lots of history around this area. The Waitangi Treaty site, the Haruru Falls, Kerikeri (Stone Store and Kemps House are all worth a visit around Paihia. Across the bay in Russell there is also the Pompallier Mission, the Russell Museum, a Heritage Walk and a drink at the historic Duke of Marlborough awaits you at the end! There is also a boat trip around the bay.
B&B luxury - Marlin House
The view across the bay at breakfast
The Stone Store at Kerikeri
Historic Church on the Heritage Walk in Russell
After Paihia we headed for Rotorua. This meant driving back past Auckland and took most of the day … 260 miles. If you have driven in the UK, think country roads with a smattering of freeway … it is pretty slow driving! Certain parts of Route 66 also come close.
This is a great area for seeing the volcanic geology. We stayed 3 nights in a B&B overlooking the lake - Ariki Lodge. The lodge didn't look particularly stunning from the outside, but the view from our lounge and the accommodation itself was great. There is a huge number of fascinating sights in the area … Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a full day if you do the walk and the boat trip around the lake there - great geology. Te Puia was recommended as the best location for a Maori Show and to see some impressive active geysers and mud pools. There is also an excellent free walk through a Redwood Forest. Not surprisingly, we found a great pub for dinner and a drink after the Redwood walk … the Pig & Whistle.
There are quite a few hot spa pools in the area. Some are very expensive and others crowded. However, if you check with the locals, they can direct you to some public pools that are either free or very cheap.
We were warned that there was a strong hydrogen sulphide (bed egg) smell in Rotorua. It was overstated … we only noticed it to be bad in a few small areas. The restaurant area in town had no problem when we were there. There is a good selection of restaurants in the centre of Rotorua. We ate there twice.
Hot pool - Waimangu Valley
Te Puia - the geysers may not be high but the volume, noise and frequency are stunning
Te Puia - Maori greeting before the show
View across Lake Rotorua from the lounge in the B&B
WOW, what lovely pictures and spots to visit. Thanks so much for the excellent intel and for sharing it with us. Now if Marriott would just get a few properties we would be able to use points (maybe) rather than money as razorbackfan put so well.
Hi, Chris. I am going to bookmark this topic because we would like to travel to New Zealand and Australia in the near future. Can you give me an estimate of what an average night's stay costs at a bed and breakfast? What travel guides did you find the most useful? I'm so sorry we didn't get to have our Insiders Meet 'n Greet in New Orleans.
Hi razor, the accommodation rates varied quite a bit. We tend to look for 'comfort' when travelling and were only doing 2-3 nights at each location so couldn't get great rates. The rates for most stayed varied between $160NZD to $225NZD per room per night including breakfast. (I just checked a currency converter and it looks like about $135 - $190 USD.) The Awaroa Lodge was about $350NZD per night but this included dinner as well. When we previously toured NZ, we just tried to find accommodation when we got to a location - sometimes we got better deals but sometimes we had to call at a lot of B&Bs before we found space.
As you can see, accommodation is not cheap but some of the stays at the $225NZD end were at wineries.
I used the DK Eyewitness Travel guide to NZ - lots of colour pics (works for me). A friend lent us a Lonely Planet guide which had a huge amount of helpful info but not many pics. The combination of the two was excellent. However, I checked everything on the web before I booked.
chris thank you so much for this post and all the great accumulated information regarding New Zealand. I too am going to bookmark this like razor as it will be in addition to seeing parts of Australia and the great info gathered mainly from pluto but also others on the site. It looks as if there are many here who want to take this trip but haven't had the opportunity as of yet, so your information as well as others' will be most helpful when finally setting down to create the bucket list trip for myself.
Great pics as well. I really didn't think the B&B pricing was too bad. When we took our New England trip in 2009, most of the B&B's we stayed at were anywhere from $200-$250 a night. Of course, each stay was only one night long so that probably made it higher cost.
Keep posting more pics and info until you get tired. We all are eating them up.