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All set to make the most of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble with a trip to New Zealand? Let’s get started!
If this is your first visit, I’d suggest travelling from Auckland to Christchurch to experience a bit of everything, with the option of diversions or longer stays.
A friendly, vibrant and culturally diverse city wedged between two harbours, Auckland offers so much to discover with neat timber houses, boutiques, restaurants and many attractions, including the Sky Tower that provides panoramic views of the city from the observation deck.
Known as the city of sails for its stunning harbour dotted with boats, head for Viaduct Harbour, the streets near Queen Street including High Street, and the inner city neighbourhoods of Parnell and Ponsonby. The Auckland Museum is also a highlight, with displays on Maori culture a must see and if time allows, catch a ferry to Waiheke Island with its rolling hills, stunning coastline and 30 wineries.
Auckland – Coromandel Peninsula – Maunganui
From Auckland follow the coastline to Coromandel, where you’ll find craft shops, hiking trails and Kauri pine forests. Drive by the beach settlements of Whangapoua, Matarangi and Kuaotunu to Whitianga. The road continues to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, two must see attractions, and along to Whangamata, one of New Zealand’s most attractive surf towns.
On arrival in Maunganui, a popular holiday destination, with a relaxed vibe and beautiful beaches, look out for dolphins as you follow the base track around Mount Maunganui.
Maunganui to Rotorua
Neighbouring Tauranga has manicured gardens and heritage mansions, including the Elms Mission House. From here it’s a short drive past Kiwi fruit orchards to Rotorua where you can spend the day exploring the many geothermal attractions. From bubbling mud pools to erupting geysers and craters, the earth is alive with volcanic activity as well as offering walking trails to view waterfalls and lush native forests. I recommend both Wai-O-Tapu and Waimangu. End the day with a hot soak in the thermal pools or by immersing yourself in Maori culture at Te Puia.
Rotorua to Napier
Napier is famous for its distinctive Art Deco styled architecture, after an earthquake levelled the city and it was rebuilt in 1931.
Napier to Wellington
The drive from Napier to Wellington is lined with stunning forests, rivers and mountain ranges.
Nestled between the harbour and the hills, Wellington is ideal for exploring on foot. Delve into the many museums and galleries, sample local craft beers and experience the lively cafes, restaurants and culture of New Zealand’s capital city. Renowned attractions include the historic parliament buildings and the Beehive, Museum of New Zealand, a bustling waterfront, cable car and Botanic Gardens.
Wellington to Nelson
The Inter-islander ferry provides spectacular scenery as it passes the coastline, waterways and islands of Marlborough Sounds. On arrival at the South Island, continue to picturesque Nelson and spend a day to explore the Abel Tasman National Park.
Nelson to Christchurch
Drive along the windswept, rugged coastline to the mountainous coastal town of Kaikoura, known for its rich marine life including sperm whales and dolphins, before continuing onto Christchurch.
With a heritage of manicured parks, Gothic style university, sprawling villas and punting on the Avon River, post the devastating earthquake, a creativity has emerged of art galleries and high-tech urban design, lively cafes, bars and bistros.
Spend a day exploring the scenic lush countryside of the Banks Peninsula and the pretty seaside town of Akaroa, with brightly painted timber cottages, craft shops, cafes and art galleries and the quirky Giant’s House. In 1840, a ship carrying 60 French settlers arrived to establish a colony only to find the British had beaten them. Too far from home, they stayed on and Akaroa still retains a French influence.
While this itinerary provides a good overview, it misses out on some of my favourite destinations including the Bay of Islands, Mount Cook, Milford Sound and Dunedin. If you have time, I would definitely include Dunedin, a city with the steepest street in the world and a strong Scottish heritage showcased in striking cathedrals, gracious terraces and even a castle. Dunedin also boasts incredible wildlife including fur seals, penguins and sea lions and has been awarded with having the world’s best beer.
If you enjoy adventure you could also end your trip in Queenstown. Surrounded by mountains, Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure capital, with skiing, thrilling jet boat rides through the rapids, and bungy jumping all on offer. More relaxing are the many hiking trails, a gondola ride for fantastic views, a cruise on Lake Wakatipu and ending the day enjoying the lively arts and dining scene followed by a soak in an onsen hot tub.
The finer details
Go to newzealand.com for a wealth of information, including themed itineraries to get inspiration from. Consider what your interests are – from adventure, wildlife, snow-capped mountains, a beautiful coastline and pristine wilderness, as New Zealand has it all.
Once you’ve decided where to go, choose how you’ll get around. Hiring a car is the most convenient, though you’ll need an international driver’s licence, and road conditions are different to here. There are few expressways; many roads are single lane and hilly. New Zealand also has an extensive bus network as well as ferries and scenic rail journeys including the Northern Explorer, Trans Alpine and Coastal Pacific. Check timetables since not all services operate daily.
Cost wise, you’ll be paying similar prices to here, though the AUD is worth slightly more. For accommodation, backpacker accommodation is generally of a high standard and is widely available. YHA and BBH have hostels across New Zealand. The largest hotel chain is Accor, with the Ibis, Mercure, Novotel and Sofitel brands also well represented. B&Bs are widespread and Luxury Lodges are exclusive and highly renowned. Hiring a motorhome is popular and convenient. If you would rather an adventurous stay, Life’s an Adventure and Heritage Expeditions offer guided hiking trips.
Your adventure begins on the flight across the Tasman, as clouds part to reveal the majestic peaks of New Zealand’s South Island, or to the black sand beaches along the west coast of the North Island. Qantas, Jetstar and Air New Zealand are all offering flights and Virgin Australia will be resuming later. Airfare prices may drop after the initial surge in demand so sign up for email alerts and to suit your itinerary, consider flying into one city and flying out from another.
It’s cold in the South Island during winter so dress appropriately with layers, jackets, hats and gloves. Public transport in cities is excellent and hop on hop buses are also available.
Australia and New Zealand have reciprocal healthcare so take your Medicare card. Your Seniors card will also be accepted. Credit cards are widely used. Check the airline, car hire company and hotels to ensure they offer flexible cancellation policies.
Photos by: NZ Tourism
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