New Zealand is one of those places that I have always wanted to visit. As it is so far away from every place I’ve ever lived, it simply never made it on my immediate travel destination list. In fact, both times I’ve been to the region prior to this post, were spent travelling through Australia. A week or two vacation simply wouldn’t be enough to really get underneath New Zealand. Our sabbatical changed that. With much more time on our hands and a goal to work our way around the world, New Zealand served as the perfect place to visit as we left South America and headed towards the East.
New Zealand is split between two main islands – North and South. We decided to fly into the North Island and work our way to the South. It took us some time planning the itinerary. How else do you make sure you strike the right balance between city visits, wildlife spotting, venturing on some of the world’s most famous treks, exploring glaciers, and last but definitely not least – visiting the world-renowned wine countries of New Zealand? Now you know why I said two weeks just wont cut it.
We gave ourselves 3 weeks to navigate both the North and South Islands. We packed our gear, rented a 4×4 and away we went. Over the course of the trip we clocked up over 3,000km. The next series of posts will feature the nuances of this beautiful place.
Here is a snap shot of our overall adventure.
//AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Our mega New Zealand roadtrip kicks off in the North Island’s most populous city – Auckland. Like many large cities it is well-connected and chock full of things to do. That is, if you don’t lock yourself up in your comfy hotel room sleeping your jet lag off. Our visit included a stroll through town to Mission Bay, a visit to the beaches in the suburbs and picking up our 4×4 that served as our mode of transport for the course of our trip. As for the comfy room I was speaking of, we stayed at the conveniently located, five-star Langham Hotel in the heart of the city.
Check out Destinations // Auckland for a closer look at this pit stop.
//TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND
Taupo is a popular holiday destination for locals and is the next stop on our Kiwi Adventure. Taupo is located on Australasia’s largest lake Lake Taupo, which was formed by a mega volcanic eruption over 20,000 years ago. The crater of the volcano is now full of water and offers tons of fun for visitors. We opted to enjoy the waters aboard a sailboat and visited the famous Maori Carvings. Our time was also spent visiting Huka Falls and the many Geo Thermal hot spots in the area. We stayed at the kitschy Wellesley Hotel on the Lake. Cheap as chips and located close to all the activities it was a perfect place to enjoy the road trip vibes.
Check out Destinations // Taupo for a closer look at this pit stop.
//HAWKES BAY, NEW ZEALAND
We were originally scheduled to hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing just south of Taupo. We woke up at 5am to a call stating that it was cancelled for the day due to inclement weather that would pose a danger to hikers. With a free day we decided to head to the coast towards Hawkes Bay. If we can’t go hiking, we may as well enjoy our other favourite pastime – drinking wine. After a pit stop in Napier to visit Opossum World (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like) we headed to wine country. We picked up a couple of bikes from the gang at On Yer Bike Tours and visited the seven vineyards on their route map (hiccup). As we made a last minute booking we stayed at the cheap and cheerful Elmore Lodge Motel in Hastings.
Check out Destinations // Hawkes Bay for a closer look at this pit stop.
//WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
After our wine shenanigans, we made our way to the southern tip of the North Island and the city of Wellington. This wasn’t so much a destination for us, but a jumping off point to get the Interislander Ferry to the South Island. With just a mere evening allocated to Wellington, we dropped off our luggage at the simple Boulcott Suites and beelined to The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. This national museum and art gallery of New Zealand was a great way to spend an afternoon. In addition to the Gallipoli: The Scale of War Exhibit, we got the opportunity to learn more about Maori history and culture.
Check out Destinations // Wellington for a closer look at this pit stop.
//MARLBOROUGH, NEW ZEALAND
After a short trip across the channel to the South Island, we had one thing and one thing only on our minds – Sauvignon Blanc. Located at the northern tip of the South Island, is Marlborough – New Zealand’s largest wine growing area and home to my favourite grape varietal – Sauvignon Blanc. We booked ourselves into a lovely cottage in the town of Renwick which happened to be owned by the owners of Bike2Wine. Having been on the road so long, it was nice to unpack our bags, cook for ourselves and do our own laundry. Our time in the Marlborough region was time to slow things down a bit and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings (and by surroundings I mean Sauvignon Blanc).
Check out Destinations // Marlborough for a closer look at this pit stop.
//CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND
On our way further south to Christchurch, we planned to pass through Kaikoura. Recent earthquakes, with the epicentre here, meant that the roads leading to and from this famous whale watching town were destroyed and no longer drivable. Christchurch not only served as a stopover on the long drive to the south, but also as the location where we caught our post-road trip departing flight. We took the Christchurch Tram to orient ourselves with this earthquake devastated town and explore the much talked about rebuilding efforts. During our stays we overnighted at the Hotel 115 and Quest Serviced Apartments – both conveniently located just off Cathedral Square.
Check out Destinations // Christchurch for a closer look at this pit stop.
//DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND
As we continued our journey further south to Dunedin we visited the famous Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach. Admittedly Dunedin was just a town we decided to overnight in to cut our long drive through the South Island. When we arrived we opted to join Elm Wildlife Tours to explore the nearby Otago Peninsula and had quite the afternoon. We got the opportunity to spot animals such as Hookers Sea Lions as well as Yellow Eyed and Blue Penguins. Considering we only intended to sleep here, the late afternoon wildlife tour was a nice surprise. During our stay in Dunedin, we overnighted at centrally located Scenic Hotel Dunedin.
Check out Destinations // Dunedin for a closer look at this pit stop.
//FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND
Our road trip continued as we cut across the South Island and made our way to Te Anau. This town served as our base for the next few days as we explored New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park. We made a visit to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves and joined Doubtful Sound Kayaks for an awesome day out paddling through the vast and pristine wilderness of Doubtful Sound. Check out Destinations // Doubtful Sound for a look at the day out. We also made our way on one of New Zealand’s most scenic highways – Milford Sound Road – to enjoy a cruise on the more touristy Milford Sound. Be sure to check out Destinations // Milford Sound for more on this adventure. During our stay in Te Anau, the Distinction Te Anau Hotel And Villas served as our home.
Check out Destinations // Fiordland National Park for a closer look at this pit stop.
//QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND
No visit to New Zealand is complete without a stop in the Kiwi adventure capital of Queenstown. After a night at the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa we checked into a lovely AirBnb and unwound. There was no bungee jumping or skydiving for us. We were here to relax and enjoy the beauty of Queenstown. One of the highlights was taking the Queenstown Gondola to the view point and admiring the town from above. Of course we also took a couple rides on the Skyline Luge. Queenstown also served as our base as we went on the Routeburn Trek – considered one of the New Zealand’s Great Walks.
Coming Soon: Destinations // Queenstown for a closer look at this pit stop.
//GLACIER COUNTRY, NEW ZEALAND
The West Coast of New Zealand provides tons of adventure – and that’s exactly what we were after. Our next stop as we made our way further up the coast was Glacier Country – home to both Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Glacier trekking and one heck of a helicopter ride were on the agenda as we explored these regions natural wonders. In addition to getting on the ice, we also visited the West Coast Wildlife Centre to get a closer look at the national bird – the Kiwi. During our visit in Glacier Country, we stayed at the simple Scenic Hotel Franz Glacier.
Coming Soon: Destinations // Glacier Country for a closer look at this pit stop.
After our visit to Glacier Country we drove cross country back to Christchurch via Arthurs Pass. It was a great way to see more of the Alpine region of New Zealand’s South Island.
New Zealand is a fantastic place to road trip. I am glad we got the opportunity to visit when we had nothing but time on our hands as we didn’t need to rush through this adventure lovers paradise. It is crazy to think that even though we spent three weeks here we only only touched the surface of this vast, amazing country.
HAVE NEW ZEALAND TIPS AND TRICKS OF YOUR OWN TO SHARE? LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW.