New Zealand master thread

Old Feb 16, 05, 7:23 pm
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New Zealand master thread

New Zealand master thread


No, not a thread about NZ (Air NZ). This is a central place for useful advice, tips and collective wisdom of FTers about travel in NZ.

Links to external sources are italicised. Please feel free to post (or PM) suggestions, corrections and constructive criticism.

Where is New Zealand?

World map showing New Zealand in its rightful place!.

map of New Zealand including most placenames (zoomable), and a searchable topographic map of New Zealand (warning second link takes a while to load).

New Zealand is located around 42 degrees south and close to the international date line. The antipodes of New Zealand is Spain - Auckland is close to opposite Malaga whereas Queenstown is opposite the Bay of Biscay. This means it has seasons reversed from North America and Europe, and we are nearly a full day ahead of California and half a day ahead of Western Europe.

New Zealand is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. There is a lot of water between us and the major landmasses. A common misconception is New Zealand is right next to Australia and not much south of Hawaii, but distance on a map is deceptive. Here are some example great circle distances to Auckland - Sydney 1,345 miles; Antarctica (McMurdo Station) 2,838 miles; Santiago 6,011 miles; Los Angeles 6,504 miles; Honolulu 4,389 miles; Tokyo (Narita) 5,472 miles; Singapore 5,225 miles; London 11,404 miles.

When to visit?

The peak season for international visitors is summer - December through February in particular. Ski areas can also be busy in winter time - July through September. It is worth knowing the dates of public and school holidays in New Zealand, as this is when accommodation may be harder to obtain (particularly summer beach areas and winter ski areas) and traffic heavier on the roads (especially start and end of summer school holidays and also at long weekends). These dates can be found in the NZ Key Dates thread, along with the dates for start and end of daylight savings.

Due to the terrain and the range of latitude across New Zealand, daylight hours vary significantly by location. Here are the official sunrise and sunset times in New Zealand (for 2007). Note that twilight lasts for about an hour (in summer) at New Zealand's latitude - ie it is light well after sunset and before sunrise.

Climate and weather

New Zealand's climate is temperate - generally dont get extreme heat or cold. However our weather is very changeable - as a general rule most places wont get the same weather for more than a few days, and we can sometimes get "Four Seasons in One Day" as the song goes. Particularly in mountain areas, or if out on the water, check the forecast before you go and be prepared for sudden changes in the weather.

Summer is December to February, with usually the best weather in February. Winter is June to August. The northern parts of New Zealand have an almost subtropical climate, warm summers and mild winters (snow is unheard of and frost is confined to the most sheltered inland areas a couple of times a year). Generally most rain falls in winter, but apart from the east coast of both islands and inland South Island, summers are not excessively dry. Wellington is famous for its wind. The west coast of the South Island (and also Mount Taranaki and Tararua Ranges in the North Island) get phenomenal amounts of rain due to the prevailing westerlies (we are in the roaring 40s) and orographic effects. Fiordland and south Westland get 10 metres of rain a year in the mountains!

For more climate information, please visit Metservice (the government weather forecaster).
For current weather and forecasts see here and this useful rural focussed version (good local forecast summaries, national rain radar and rain & wind forecasts).
For current weather warnings see here.

Getting to New Zealand

As New Zealand is so far from most other places, the most common and easiest way to get here is by plane. There are also many cruises from Australia and the South Pacific.

As at time of writing the following major airlines have passenger services to New Zealand by alliance and by route. The main gateway is Auckland (AKL), with smaller number of flights to Christchurch (CHC). Other airports with international flights tend to only have Australian and South Pacific flights and none from further afield - these include Wellington (WLG), Hamilton (HLZ), Palmerston North (PMR), Queenstown (ZQN) and Dunedin (DUD).

Star Alliance
Air NZ (NZ)
Singapore Airlines (SQ)
Thai Airways (TG)

One World
Qantas (QF)
SYD-AKL, SYD-CHC (now shared with Jetstar), SYD-WLG, SYD-ZQN, MEL-AKL, MEL-CHC (now Jetstar), MEL-WLG, BNE-AKL, MEL-AKL-LAX, BNE-CHC (now Jetstar), BNE-WLG, MEL-ZQN (seasonal) and BNE-ZQN (seasonal)
Cathay Pacific (CX)

Sky Team
Korean Air (KE)

Emirates (EK)
Royal Brunei
Eva Air (BR)
Air Pacific (FJ)
Polynesian Blue
See Virgin Blue
Aerolineas Argentinas (AR)
Air Tahiti Nui (TN)
Air Vanuatu
Malaysian Airlines (MH)
Air Calin

Low cost carriers
Freedom Air (SJ)
(note Freedom Air is discontinuing service 31 March 2008, from that date Air NZ will operate all these routes except flights to/from PMR which will cease)
Pacific Blue (aka Virgin Blue in Australia) (DJ)
Pacific Blue under Polynesian Blue name TBU-AKL, APW-AKL, RAR-AKL

From Australia
CNS-AKL Air New Zealand
BNE-AKL Air New Zealand, Qantas, Royal Brunei, Emirates, Freedom Air, Pacific Blue
SYD-AKL Air New Zealand, Qantas, LAN, Aerolineas Argentinas, Emirates
MEL-AKL Air New Zealand, Qantas, Emirates
PER-AKL Air New Zealand
ADL-AKL Air New Zealand
SYD-WLG Air New Zealand, Qantas, Pacific Blue
MEL-WLG Air New Zealand, Qantas
BNE-WLG Air New Zealand, Qantas, Pacific Blue
SYD-CHC Air New Zealand, Qantas, Pacific Blue, Jetstar
MEL-CHC Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Emirates, Pacific Blue
BNE-CHC Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Freedom Air, Pacific Blue
SYD-ZQN Air New Zealand, Qantas
MEL-ZQN Air New Zealand, Qantas
BNE-ZQN Qantas
OOL-AKL Freedom Air, Pacific Blue
OOL-HLZ Freedom Air
OOL-CHC Jetstar
BNE-HLZ Freedom Air
SYD-HLZ Freedom Air
MEL-HLZ Freedom Air
BNE-PMR Freedom Air (ceases 31 March 2008)
SYD-PMR Freedom Air (ceases 31 March 2008)
MEL-PMR Freedom Air (ceases 31 March 2008)
OOL-WLG Freedom Air
BNE-WLG Freedom Air
OOL-CHC Freedom Air
OOL-DUD Freedom Air
BNE-DUD Freedom Air
SYD-DUD Freedom Air
MEL-DUD Freedom Air

From South Pacific
PPT-AKL Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui
RAR-AKL Air New Zealand, Pacific Blue
RAR-CHC Air New Zealand
APW-AKL Air New Zealand, Pacific Blue
NAN-AKL Air New Zealand, Air Pacific
TBU-AKL Air New Zealand, Pacific Blue
IUE-AKL Air New Zealand
NOU-AKL Air New Zealand
NLK-AKL Air New Zealand
SUV-AKL Air Pacific
NAN-CHC Air New Zealand, Air Pacific
NAN-WLG Air New Zealand, Air Pacific
VLI-AKL Air Vanuatu, Air New Zealand
NOU-AKL Air Calin, Air New Zealand
NAN-HLZ Freedom Air
NAN-PMR Freedom Air

From North America
LAX-AKL Air New Zealand, Qantas
SFO-AKL Air New Zealand
HNL-AKL Air New Zealand
YVR-AKL Air New Zealand

From South America
EZE-AKL Aerolineas Argentinas

From Asia
NRT-AKL Air New Zealand
NRT-KIX-AKL Air New Zealand
NRT-CHC-AKL Air New Zealand
KIX-AKL Air New Zealand
KIX-CHC-AKL Air New Zealand
ICN-AKL Korean Air
ICN-CHC Korean Air
HKG-AKL Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific
BKK-AKL Thai Airways
BKK-SYD-AKL Emirates
SIN-BNE-AKL Emirates
SIN-AKL Singapore Airlines
SIN-CHC Singapore Airlines
KUL-AKL Malaysian Airlines
BWN-BNE-AKL Royal Brunei
PVG-AKL Air New Zealand

From Europe
LHR-LAX-AKL Air New Zealand
LHR-HKG-AKL Air New Zealand

From Antarctica
There are no commercial flights to or over Antarctica, although both New Zealand and United States Antarctic Research programmes fly from Christchurch to McMurdo Station and Scott Base.

Immigration and Customs

In New Zealand, duty free may be purchased for departure and on arrival. New Zealand's very generous duty free limits are outlined below. Prices at the main outlets (Regency and DFS Galleria) are generally very competitive, and you can check prices online for both these and other duty free stores.

In most cases each adult can import 3 x 1125ml bottles of spirits or liqueurs, plus 6 x 750ml bottles of wine or port or equivalent in beer, plus 200 cigarettes without paying any extra duty or tax.

On entering New Zealand you are permitted two additional bottles of spirits under the special 'Over Allowance' provision, providing you do not exceed the following provisions:

200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars or a combination weighing not more than 250 grams.

Six bottles (4.5 litres) of wine, port or sherry or 12 cans (4.5 litres) of beer. One 1125ml bottle of spirits or liqueurs.

Personal quantities of fragrances and cosmetics are additional to the above, although perfume concentrate is included in the General Allowances provision.

NZ$700.00 of other goods.

Agriculture inspection

New Zealand is very strict about bringing in food, plant and animal material. If in any doubt either dispose in the amnesty bins prior to agriculture inspection, or disclose on the arrival form. If something banned is found (even dirt on tramping boots) and you have not declared it, then you will be fined NZ$200 on the spot (ie must pay before you are allowed to enter New Zealand) and for serious offences risk going to jail. If you have declared it then the worst that can happen is take up a small amount of time and item gets confiscated. In case anyone thinks I am overstating how seriously this is taken, let me tell you of the time nearly a whole plane-load got fined NZ$200 - this was shown on a documentary called "Border Patrol". Apparently the flight attendants had not warned the passengers who took apples from the flight and ignored all the warning signs plastered everywhere.

For details on what is or isnt allowed, please see the Quarantine Service website. Note they are very helpful in answering any questions.

Departure Tax

Currently the departure tax is NZ$25 per adult (over 12) and collected at the airport on departure - pay at the bank branches, or some airlines will handle it at their premium desks (only). Visitors who stay in NZ less than 24 hours can collect an exemption sticker upon proof (ie inward boarding pass). From 1 July 2008 the tax rises to NZ$26, charged as NZ$13 arrival tax and NZ$13 departure tax, and will be collected at time of ticket issue.

Work in progress. Please bear with me. Thank you.


Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Nov 13, 07 at 10:55 am Reason: update links, flights & departure tax
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Old Feb 16, 05, 7:23 pm
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Getting around New Zealand

Refer to previous post for links to maps, as well as the Automobile Association links below. Online street maps of all cities and towns can be found here - includes street lookup facility and directions for getting from A to B.

Travel by car/motorhome
New Zealand is a relatively small country and so road travel isnt too tiring. However for those not used to it, driving on the left hand side of the road may be a challenge! The road rules are fairly standard and speed limits generally well signposted (in km/h of course). I would watch out for the give way rule and no left turn on red in particular.

There are lots of speed cameras on main and secondary roads.

A word of warning. Dont expect to be able to drive the same kind of distances you may manage in a day back home. The only motorways in New Zealand are very near the main cities. Most roads including state highways are one lane in each direction, no median strip. The state highways usually have passing lanes at frequent intervals, however lesser roads usually will not. New Zealand is generally hilly, and roads arent as heavily engineered here as some other places. This means hill sections and mountain passes can be quite windy and slow.

The state of the highways (major roadworks and closures) can be found on the AA roadwatch. For the road to Milford Sound (prone to avalanches at times of the year) there is also a separate website for road conditions.

In times of heavy rain, watch for floods and surface flooding, and if in mountain areas also rockfalls and slips. Snow is relatively rare in New Zealand and so even small snowfalls can be enough to close roads. All mountain passes on the main highways that are liable to snow have snow clearing equipment and so may reopen fairly quickly after snow stops falling. However, very rare snow at lower levels (in the South Island) may cause prolonged disruption as these areas are not equipped to handle snow.

In some areas high cross-winds may also be a problem at times (particularly for motorhomes). These are generally well signposted.

Please visit the official road code and the Automobile Association website for more driver information. For AA's driving distances and times, click here then on the link bottom right (sorry no direct link any more).

Some selected road signs that may not have obvious meanings
one lane bridge, please give way and with right of way signs
speed limits - limited speed zone means open road limit (100km/h) or less when conditions require it

While train track crossings are fairly rare, please note many are uncontrolled (no barriers) and some have no warning lights & bells. Please take care.

Travel by bus and train
There is a good bus network including many tour buses connecting main tourist attractions. New Zealand has a very limited train network with few passenger services. Ferries connect the North and South Island between Wellington and Picton (and also some local services in Auckland, Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman and Invercargill to Stewart Island).

Interislander has the most frequent services across Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton with 3-5 sailings each way a day - taking vehicles and passengers, journey time is about 3.5 hours (vehicles must turn up 1 hour before sailing, foot passengers 30 minutes). Blue Bridge also operate up to 4 sailings each way a day. Be warned that due to the "wind tunnel effect" in Cook Strait, seas are often rough - take sea sickness tablets if you are prone.

On the main tracks, passenger rail services operate by TranzScenic between Auckland and Wellington (daytime Overlander is under review and may close and includes the famous Raurimu Spiral), Christchurch and Greymouth (TranzAlpine rated one of the top train journeys in the world), Christchurch and Picton (TranzCoastal). There are also a small number of local and steam trains on some lines (eg Kingston Flyer south of Queenstown, Weka Pass, Tieri Gorge). Local commuter trains serve Auckland and Wellington (including Manawatu and Wairarapa).

Travel by plane
Flying around is also an option in most places. The main domestic airlines are Air New Zealand (and subsidiaries) and Jetstar. There are also a number of tourist airlines (eg connecting Queenstown and Milford Sound) and commuter airlines - these offer very localised service, usually in very small aircraft.

Air New Zealand has the most extensive network. Hubs are in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Airports served by Air New Zealand include
KAT Kaitaia (to AKL)
KKI Kerikeri (to AKL)
WRE Whangarei (to AKL, WLG)
HLZ Hamilton (to AKL, PMR, WLG, NSN, CHC)
TRG Tauranga (to AKL, WLG, CHC)
WHK Whakatane (to AKL)
ROT Rotorua (to AKL, WLG, CHC)
TUO Taupo (to AKL, WLG)
GIS Gisborne (to AKL, WLG)
NPE Napier/Hastings (to AKL, WLG, CHC)
NPL New Plymouth (to AKL, WLG, CHC)
WAG Wanganui (to AKL)
PMR Palmerston North (to AKL, WLG, NSN, CHC)
BHE Blenheim (to AKL, WLG, CHC)
NSN Nelson (to AKL, HLZ, PMR, WLG, CHC)
WSZ Westport (to WLG)
HKK Hokitika (to CHC)
TIU Timaru (to WLG)
DUD Dunedin (to AKL, WLG, CHC)
ZQN Queenstown (to AKL, WLG, CHC)
IVC Invercargill (to WLG, CHC)

Jetstar has a limited network. Airports served by Jetstar include
AKL Auckland (to WLG, CHC, ZQN, DUD)
WLG Wellington (to AKL, CHC)
CHC Christchurch (to AKL, WLG, ZQN)
ZQN Queenstown (to AKL, CHC)
DUD Dunedin (to AKL)

For local transportation see the sections for the relevant city or region.

Taxis in New Zealand

All cities and main towns have at least one taxi operator. The larger cities have several. Taxis can be called by phone (may incur an extra charge), picked up at designated stands, or hailed on any street (look out for their light to be showing on the roof sign, which means available) - stick out your arm and catch the drivers eye.

Most taxis charge flag-fall (fixed $), an amount per kilometer (in increments) and an amount per minute waiting time (eg stuck in traffic). Charges are usually higher in the evening/night.

Airport information

See dedicated Auckland (AKL) airport thread.

Information on arrivals, departures, shopping and transport at New Zealand airports. Includes links to external websites of airlines and airports.

Paying your way (currency)

New Zealand has its own currency the NZD $, worth about 10% less than the Australian $. The value of the currency can be quite volatile with 50% appreciation or depreciation relative to major currencies possible over a period of a couple of years.

We have notes for $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5 showing famous New Zealanders and wildlife. Notes are plastic (complete with clear see-through section), with each denomination of different size and colour to the rest which makes it easy to distinguish. We have coins for $2, $1, 50 cents, 20 cents and 10 cents. Watch out for old 50 cent (very large), 20 cent (large), 10 cent (silver) and 5 cent pieces - these are no longer valid. Unlike Australia the $2 coin is larger than the $1 coin. $2 and $1 coins are gold, 50 cent and 20 cent silver and 10 cent bronze.

Prices are marked in $ and cents, and by law must include Goods and Services Tax (GST) - a flat 15% - or else clearly marked excluding GST. Duty free is exempt from GST outbound, and inbound goods will only be charged GST if brought into New Zealand for commercial purposes or over personal allowances. Note that it is legal to charge amounts to 1 cent (eg $4.99) but anything paid for in cash will have the total bill rounded to 10 cents. It is up to the retailer whether rounding is up, down or nearest. Purchases by electronic means do not need to have the charge rounded.

GST cannot be recovered on purchases made in New Zealand. However, if you purchase goods and arrange with the retailer to ship overseas then they are deemed exempt from GST. Only some shops will provide this service but ask if you are interested in this.

The following payment methods are common in New Zealand. Cash, credit card (mastercard and visa are very widely accepted, amex and diners are generally accepted but not everywhere), debit card, cheque (on New Zealand bank account). Travellers cheques generally are not accepted - they need to be changed at a foreign exchange bureaux or bank.

New Zealand has a wide network of automatic teller machines (ATMs) - most of which link to international card using Maestro, Cirrus or Plus. Major cities will have ATMs on every block in the city centre. Smaller towns may only have one or two ATMs and the most remote areas may not have any ATMs. ATMs accept only 4 digit pins, and please do not count on letters on the keypad (although many have them).

Some ATMs allow Australian dollars to be withdrawn.

Debit cards are used so much that many New Zealanders carry little or no cash. We have a system called EFT-POS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) which is available almost everywhere (certainly all tourist attractions, most accommodation places, transport operators, restaurants). EFT-POS operates by either PIN or signing, and can be used by debit and credit cards. At many, but not all, places cash can be withdrawn by EFT-POS at the time of purchase. Retailers are not required to offer this service and some may not offer it or may limit the amount to say $50 or $100.

A tip - New Zealand cash and travellers cheques tend to have a high spread when purchasing or cashing in excess overseas, presumably due to low volumes. Try to cash in before leaving New Zealand, or at an international gateway to New Zealand (Australia, South Pacific, Singapore).


For emergencies call 111 (a free call from any phone in New Zealand). An operator will ask which service is required - police (includes traffic), ambulance or fire. These services also have non-emergency phone numbers, refer to the phone book for details.

The international dial code for New Zealand is 64. All landline phone numbers are 7 digits with 1 digit area code for non-local phone calls (dial 0 first if ringing another toll area within New Zealand). Calls from within New Zealand (from landlines only) are free to numbers that start with 0800 (Telecom), 0508 (Telstra Clear) and (need to check if there are any others.) Calls to these numbers from mobile phones may be charged (depending on call plan) and calls to overseas free phone numbers (eg 1800 in the US) are charged at international rates.

Online phone books are white pages (residential & commercial by location and name) and yellow pages (commercial by location and type of business).

New Zealand has three providers of mobile phone network (plus a number of retailers who provide branded service). Telecom Mobile has CDMA and also analog network, and Vodafone GSM network. Vodafone provides rental handsets and SIMs at all international airports. Mobile coverage is good in the cities, towns and along major roads. However, the hilly/mountainous terrain means some areas have poor or no signal. Here are maps of cellular coverage for Telecom CDMA, and Vodafone . Wireless hotspots are listed here.

Cities and main towns have pay phones on the street (and also in hotels etc). Most (all?) now require pre-paid card (available from any diary, supermarket or service station) or credit card - coin operated phones are being phased out.

Accident and medical care

For medical emergencies ring 111 and ask for ambulance.

We hope your visit to New Zealand will be accident-free. But if you are injured here, you may need the help of Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). In New Zealand you canít sue anyone for personal injury, if you are injured. Instead, ACC helps pay for your care - and that means paying towards the costs of your treatment (within New Zealand only), helping in your recovery and, in some cases, compensation for lost pay (if you have earned income and paid tax in New Zealand).

In New Zealand a prescription is required for most medicines. Any chemist will be able to tell you if a prescription is needed or not. If you need a prescription then will need to visit a general practitioner (GP). These are listed in the phone book. Foreign visitors are not entitled to government subsidy - expect a simple doctor visit to cost around $50 in regular hours, more after hours or if call out (eg to your hotel). Prescription costs vary but expect $10-20 for most items. Cities and large towns all have emergency clinics including after hours pharmacy. Smaller towns have a doctor rostered on after hours - phoning any doctor after hours should get a recorded message of the nearest after hours GP or clinic.

Miscellaneous information and tips

Official New Zealand Tourism Board website

Automobile Association website - has useful driver information as well as extensive travel information & accommodation listings

Library of links to trip reports for New Zealand (also Australia and South Pacific).

New Zealand's time zone is GMT+12 (12h45 for Chatham Islands), with Daylight Savings Time (1 hour ahead) from October to March.

New Zealand's English language is full of sayings and is called kiwi slang. Some examples are found here, here and here.

Maori is an official language of New Zealand (along with English). Many Maori words are also used in everyday speech, and there are many placenames in Maori. Maori pronunciation can seem a bit daunting with many vowels and the "wh" and "ng" letters. To help, here is a Maori pronunciation guide.

New Zealand government portal - has lots of information and links for visitors as well as residents.

In New Zealand tipping is not expected (in service areas wages are much higher than US for example). Any tip for extra good service will certainly be appreciated (max $5 for wait staff, porters etc; round up for taxi; etc).

New Zealand uses the metric system. So speed limits are in km/h (100km/h = 60 mph), distances are in km (50km = 30 miles), weights are in kilograms and grams, liquids are in litres, etc.

New Zealand doesnt have many poisonous or dangerous animals, although some may dispute that after encountering the sandfly on South Island's west coast (hint get some repellent at supermarkets or chemists). There are no snakes. Keas can be a nuisance in the high country (they're very clever native parrots) - one ad for motor insurance showed them taking apart a car over a weekend, a slight exaggeration.


Kiwi foods (fish and chips, burgers with beetroot, mince pie, tomato sauce, pavolva)

The national sport is rugby, with the main national team called the All Blacks. At the start of each test they perform a haka.

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Aug 2, 14 at 1:52 am Reason: added some new direct flights, updated links and some out of date information
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Old Feb 16, 05, 7:24 pm
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Some general information on what to see and do

Struggling for ideas? The new 101 kiwi must do's website hosted by Automobile Association has a great selection of places and activities.

Abel Tasman National Park
Ahipara and Shipwreck Bay
Akaroa and Banks Peninsula
Animal & Crazy!
Aoraki Mount Cook
Arthur's Pass National Park
Attend a Must-Do Event - North Island
Attend a Must-Do Event - South Island
Auckland Gulf Islands
Auckland Volcanoes
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland's West Coast
Bay of Islands
Be A-mazed!
Beehive and Parliament buildings
Buller Gorge
Camping Country
Canterbury Plains Hot Air Ballooning
Cape Kidnappers
Cape Palliser
Cape Reinga
Central Otago Curling
Christchurch City
Coastal Kaikoura
Coromandel Township
Cross-country skiing
Devonport and North Head
Doubtful Sound
Dunedin City
Farewell Spit
Fine Wine
Fiordland National Park
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
Glenorchy and Dart River
Golf in an Alpine Amphitheatre
Hanmer Springs
Hollyford Valley
Hot Water Beach
Hundertwasser Toilets
Kapiti Island
Karangahake Gorge
Kicking the Autumn leaves
Lake Matheson
Lake Taupo's Top Water Attractions
Lake Tekapo
Lake Waikaremoana
Marlborough Sounds
Marlborough Wine Trail
Mitre Peak & Milford Sound
Moeraki Boulders
Mount Maunganui: Mauao
Mount Taranaki
Mount Tarawera
New Chums Beach
New Plymouth's coastal walkway
NZ Rugby Museum
Orakei Korako
Otago Peninsula
Otago Rail Experience
Port Waikato
Queenstown Adventure
Rere Rock Slide
Rotorua Geothermal
Rotorua Luge, Skyrides and Skyswing
Rotorua Rafting
Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro
Seafood City
SkyJump & Sky Tower
South Westland
Southern Scenic Route
Spa and well-being destination
Stewart Island
Stonehenge Aotearoa
Takaka Hill: Rameka Track
Taranaki Gardens in Paradise Tour
Te Mata Peak
Te Papa Tongarewa
The Blue Pools of Haast Pass
The Bridge to Nowhere
The Forgotten World Highway
The Interislander Experience
The Pinnacles
The Queen Charlotte Track
Tongariro Crossing
TSS Earnslaw
Tutukaka / The Poor Knights
Ulva Island
Wainui Beach
Waipoua Forest
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Waitomo Caves
Wellington Writers' Walk
Whanganui National Park
White Island
Winter Mountain Fun

A good source of information on New Zealand's many fine walks and tracks is the Department of Conservation (DOC), which administers the national parks (and certain other areas). The main tracks, and many lesser known ones, have tramping huts at regular intervals. They typically have bunk beds, fireplace, basic cooking facilities and dunny (long drop toilet). For some years now, DOC has required permits for use of the huts on popular tracks. But note that even a permit is no guarantee of getting a bunk in peak times. On the most popular tracks at busy times, it is recommended to take a tent just in case!

The most well-known tracks are the Milford Track (between Te Anua and Milford Sound), Heaphy Track (between Collingwood and Karamea), Tongariro Crossing (on Mount Tongariro of course!) and the Routeburn Track. However all national parks, forest parks and major reserves have fine walks ranging from half an hour to several days.

Adventure activities

New Zealand has many different adventure activities to give adreline rushes. Many are based in Queenstown (adventure capital) and Taupo, but there are generally adventure activities to be found near all cities and large towns.

Here are just some of the more popular adreline rushes, with some locations.
  • Bunjy jumping, reinvented in New Zealand (originally from Vanuatu). Variations include off bridges/platform, off gondola, reverse bunjy (aka rocket bunjy), etc. Some locations - Queenstown (multiple locations), Taupo, Wellington, Rotorua, Auckland.
  • Jet boating, invented in New Zealand. Some locations - Queenstown (Kawerau, Shotover and Dart Rivers), Christchurch (Waimakariri River), Wanganui (Whanganui River), Taupo (Waikato River), Hamilton (Waikato River).
  • Sky diving, tandem or solo - all cities and large towns with aero clubs.
  • Parapenting (leaping off a hillside), tandem - Queenstown, Nelson.
  • Fly by wire (motorised "plane" attached by wire to hillside) - Queenstown, Wellington.
  • Flying fox (cable across river gorge) - Queenstown (Skippers Canyon), Nelson (Motupiko and Cable Bay).
  • White water rafting, tubing and similar - Queenstown, west coast, Rotorua.
  • Black water rafting - Waitomo.
  • Spelunking (caving) - Nelson (Mt Arthur/Mt Owen, Takaka Hill), Waitomo.
  • Skiing (alpine) - Queenstown, Mt Hutt, Arthurs Pass region, Hanmer Springs, Nelson Lakes, Mt Taranaki, Ruapehu.
  • Luge - Queenstown, Rotorua.
  • Zorbing (rolling down a hill in a bubble) - Rotorua.





Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Oct 18, 06 at 1:44 pm
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Old Feb 16, 05, 7:25 pm
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North Island

The North Island has the majority of New Zealand's population, including the largest city (Auckland) and also the capital city (Wellington).

The North Island is fairly hilly, with small volcanic fields in Auckland and Northland, much larger and active volcanoes on the plateau in the centre, and the main mountain ranges along the east coast.

Roughly from north to south the regions are
Northland - rural, Maori culture, subtropical, early New Zealand history
Auckland metropolitan area - largest & most ethnically diverse city, Pacific Island culture, shopping, main gateway to New Zealand, city of sails and former home to the Americas Cup
Coromandel peninsula - bush and beach getaways
Waikato - intensive farming (dairy & horse)
Bay of Plenty - sunshine coast
Central plateau - geothermal activity and volcanoes, fishing, Maori culture, adventure activities
East coast - rural and remote (heartland New Zealand), surfing
Hawkes Bay - intensive farming, wine, art deco
Taranaki - provincial centre, surfing
Manawatu - farmland
Wairarapa - wine getaway, rural
Wellington - capital city, entertainment, the windy city

South Island

The South Island is more sparsely populated (especially on the west coast), with just one large city (Christchurch).

The South Island is mountainous with the Southern Alps running the length of the island and many lesser ranges parallel or branching off. Canterbury Plains in the middle of the east coast are the largest flat area in New Zealand. On the west coast, and also at Kaikoura in the east, the mountains reach up from the sea with little flat land.

Roughly from north to south the regions are
Nelson - provincial, sun belt, parks & hikes, arts & crafts
Marlborough - ferry to North Island, wine, whales
Christchurch metropolitan area - english city, extinct volcanoes
Canterbury - flat, agriculture, Mount Cook (highest peak)
West coast - rural, remote, rugged, bush, wet
Lakes district (Queenstown) - mountains & lakes, adventure capital
Dunedin metropolitan area - scottish heritage, scarfies (university students)
Southland - wilderness, rural

Stewart Island, Chatham Islands and other offshore islands


Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Feb 21, 05 at 1:53 pm
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Auckland city

Intro to Auckland city

Auckland is New Zealand's largest city by far with over 1 million residents (about 30% of total New Zealand population). It attracts most of the immigrants to New Zealand, as well as a high proportion of internal migration; on account of being the major commercial and industrial centre. It is a common misconception that Auckland is the capital. It is not - Wellington is the capital, although Auckland did serve as capital for a short period in the 1800s.

Auckland is located on a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour (to the west & opening to the Tasman Sea), Waitemata Harbour (to the east) and Hauraki Gulf (also to the east & opening to the Pacific Ocean). Not one but 2 Americas Cup regattas were held in the Hauraki Gulf. The central business district (CBD) is close to the entrance of Waitemata Harbour, but the city doesnt really have a single centre with several suburbs having their own centres with shops and businesses.

What to see?

The city is on an active volcanic zone (dont worry its been a long time since the last eruption) and is dotted with over 50 volcanoes. Mount Eden is very accessible (by city tours or take a Three Kings bus to Mount Eden village and walk up) and provides a great view of the central city from the summit. Rangitoto Island in the Hauraki Gulf also provides great views - take a ferry and walk up (allow half a day in total).

Sky Tower is the most prominent building in Auckland, being the largest building in australasia. There's the obligatory revolving restaurant on top as well as viewing platform - the lifts have windows so you can see the scenery as you whizz up. One section of the viewing level has a glass floor to look down on the city streets.

Two good wet weather places are Kelly Tarlton's (aquarium east of the port) and Auckland Museum (in the domain, take the Link bus or a Newmarket bus).

Mission Bay is a nice beachside suburb with some nice cafes and restaurants. Fairly close to the central city too.

What to do?

On a sunny day its great to take to the water. Auckland is known as the City of Sails due to the vast number of yachts, and with so many bays and inlets on the doorstep its no wonder. The most popular is to ferry across to Waiheke Island and visit some wineries, art & craft shops or the beaches. The ferry runs regularly so can easily make it a half day or full day outing. There are other yachts that cruise the gulf - some include dolphin swimming (summer), visit to nature reserve on Tiritiri Matangi Island, and you can even sail an Americas Cup yacht.

Sky Tower has 3 adreline activities - the sky walk (mesh walkway 6m out from the building with no railing and even a glass plank to walk out a bit further on), a climb up to the crows nest on the antenna for the highest viewpoint still attached to land (allow 90 minutes), and a controlled wire descent over 200+m. Entrances to both are on the ground level. There are plenty of bars in Sky City and nearby to relive the moment, tell war tales and recover the feeling in your arms! Both activities are closed if there's a thunderstorm in the area (like right now!) as the tower attracts a lot of lightning, or if the wind is too high.

Adjoining Sky Tower is Sky City casino and theatre.

For a different perspective there is a bridge climb (leaves from CBD side) - similar to the one in Sydney (indeed the harbour bridge is similar too). Allow a couple of hours minimum for this. The harbour bridge also has a bunjy jump (of course!).

For those missing (or dreaming of) colder climes, take a visit to Minus 5 bar on Princes Wharf.

Where to stay?

There are a couple of hotels near the airport but these have had bad reviews (both on FT and through friends and colleagues). If you're wanting to be near theatre and other cultural stuff then need to stay in the CBD. If wanting to be near restaurants and bars then Ponsonby or Parnell are good inner city locations.

Only a few major hotel chains are represented in Auckland.
  • Hilton, on Princes Wharf. Great location over the water. Nice hotel if pricey by New Zealand standards. No HH lounge. Within walking distance of Viaduct Basin restaurants and pubs. In summer may have cruise ships pull up alongside during the night - watch what you're wearing (or not) when opening the blinds
  • Crowne Plaza, Albert Street. On a ridge above the main road (Queen Street), and near Sky City.
  • Langham, near spaghetti junction (CBD fringe). Very easy vehicle access to the motorways. A 20-40 minute walk down the hill to the central city sights. Has complimentary shuttle service and also bus stops right outside.
  • Hyatt, Waterloo Quadrant. Between business area and university.
  • Stamford Plaza, lower Albert Street. Just a few minutes walk from Viaduct Basin and Queen Street. Note from Jun to Sep 06 this hotel is closed for renovations.
  • Copthorne, 1 on Quay Street near Viaduct Basin and 1 on Anzac Avenue near the old railway station (10 minutes walk from Queen Street).
  • Mercure, 2 in downtown area bottom of Queen Street.
  • Carlton, upper Albert Street. Near cultural centre.
  • Rydges, Hobson Street. Also near Sky City.

How to get around?

Auckland (and NZ in general) has a fairly poor public transport system compared to many other cities overseas of similar size. A particular issue in Auckland is the sheer size - it is a very spread out city. Fortunately most of the tourist attractions and accommodation are centrally based. A rental car will come in handy if travelling out of the city, or for most day trips. Parking in the inner city is generally limited and expensive - best to leave the rental car at the hotel while exploring the central city.

Website for bus, train and ferry info including handy trip planner.

Within the CBD bus costs only 50c (30c for children). A free red City Circuit bus runs every 10 minutes from Britomart (train & bus station) past Auckland University, Civic Centre and Sky City casino.

The main train station is at Britomart. The suburban trains run on two lines (western and southern), and probably wont be much use to visitors except for events at Eden Park (Kingsland station on the western line). There is one passenger train a day to Wellington (leaves early am arriving in Wellington in the evening, return service leaves Wellington early am arriving in Auckland in the evening) and a small number of passenger trains to Hamilton (and Tauranga?).

Most ferries either depart or arrive at the ferry terminal in downtown (CBD) Auckland. Ferries run between CDB, north shore and islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

For information on Auckland airport (AKL) including transport to/from the airport, please see the AKL Airport Information thread

Auckland motorway live traffic updates

Taxis stands can be found on most blocks in the central city, and near all major hotels. Fares from the airport (not to) have a $5 surcharge. At peak hours (6:30am - 10am and 3pm-6:30pm monday to friday) it can be relatively expensive to take a taxi for a short trip across the CBD.

Major events

There's usually one, two or three rugby tests in June/July period. Mostly at Eden Park but sometimes at North Shore Stadium.

Fashion Week is in mid October.

The Auckland Marathon is run the last weekend in October.

Ellerslie Flower Show runs for about 5 days in mid November.

Puhinui 3 Day Event (equestrian) is held early December.

Pasifica festival


Tips & tricks

Auckland's weather can be variable as its exposed to weather from the north and west; and in summer can get sea breezes converging over the isthmus causing showers on otherwise fine days. Unless the weather is particularly settled it may pay to have an umbrella handy, although most days wont end up using it.

If you want to find out where a street address is, use and enter the address plus where you are coming from (or just put anything in such as "Britomart Train Station"), and click on submit on the Quick Search Journey Planner. Will bring up one or more options for public transport, including the walk to nearest bus/train/ferry - click on the "map of this walk" link and you get a street map that includes street numbers for every property. Can do the usual map stuff - zoom, pan, etc.


Central Auckland map

Tourism Auckland website

Heart of the City

When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - December through early March
Best music and public events - December/January
Least crowded - winter, except when there's a big rugby game on

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Dec 11, 07 at 11:28 am
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Northland & Bay of Islands

Intro to Northland and Bay of Islands

Northland is the only part of New Zealand approaching a subtropical climate. It is a large peninsular north of Auckland and as such, no places are far from the sea. Many small extinct volcanoes dot the landscape, but there are no true mountains.

Many of the oldest Maori and european settlements in New Zealand are found in Northland, and in particular in and near the Bay of Islands. The founding document of New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi, was mainly signed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. Apart from the city of Whangarei, most of Northland is rural with lots of small towns. The area closest to Auckland is heavily populated, while the far north (around Hokianga and between Kataia and Cape Reinga) is lightly peopled and has few services.

What to see?

The main attraction is the Bay of Islands, especially in summer. Thousands of bays and inlets dotted with beaches and islands (hence the name!). Game fishing and boat cruises (eg to the Hole in the Rock) in and near the Bay of Islands are popular. There are also historic and picturesque villages such as Waitangi (where the Treaty was signed), Kerikeri (oldest store in New Zealand), Paihia, Russell. Bay of Islands is easily reached in several hours drive from Auckland, on a hilly road most of the way. On the main public holidays the traffic for the first 75km or so into/out of Auckland can be very bad.

Cape Reinga is very near the northernmost point of New Zealand and has spiritual significance for Maori. The road there is long but if tides are right you can drive along Ninety Mile Beach for part of the way (some great dunes and fishing).

On the west coast of the peninsular, Waipoua Forest has the largest trees in New Zealand - think similar scale to Seqioua or Giant Redwoods and you get the idea. Nearby Hokianga district is like going back in time. A slow pace of life and great people, coupled with nice scenery. The main "towns" on the shores of Hokianga Harbour are Opononi and Rawene. If there is time, it is quite good to do the loop of the southern part of the peninsular, between Auckland and Bay of Islands - one way along the east coast (through Whangarei) and one way along the west coast (through Dargaville, Waipoua Forest & Hokianga).

The town of Kawakawa on the main road north has 2 worthwhile sights. One is the train tracks running through the middle of the main street, which is very wide (as in many rural towns in New Zealand) dating back to the days of bullock "train" (need to turn them around). The other are the colourful, work of art, public toilets designed by Hundertwasser [need a bit more info here].

[need to find more details of Kiwi sanctuary near Whangarei]

What to do?

Go fishing - on the beach at Ninety Mile Beach, or off a launch in the Bay of Islands.

Hug the massive kauri in Waipoua Forest.

Spend a few days lazing on a beach by a small rural town.

Enjoy the thermal springs at Ngawha.

If you're into golf, Kauri Cliffs golf course and resort has a stunning location and scenery, plus a lot of pampering.

Where to stay?

No major chains in Northland. There are some local chains eg Scenic Circle, but for the most part accommodation is locally owned hotels, b&bs, backpackers, motels or homestays. The smallest towns wont have any accommodation, but plenty in Whangarei and Bay of Islands, and some in the larger towns (eg Kaitaia, Kaikohe).

How to get around?

Best to have a rental car. The train referred to above is freight only. Tourist buses run regularly between Auckland, Whangarei, Bay of Islands, Kaitaia and Cape Reinga. Local buses connect the smaller towns but service is infrequent.

Kaitaia, Kerikeri (Bay of Islands) and Whangarei all have airports with flights to/from Auckland.

Major events

Mainly around New Years, unless there is a major golf competition at Kauri Cliffs.

Some game fishing tournaments - both Ninety Mile Beach and also Bay of Islands.

Auckland to Russel boat race.

Tips & tricks


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - summer (except on very rare occassions when tropical storms threaten)
Best music and public events - xxx
Least crowded - winter

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Jan 11, 06 at 10:19 pm
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Waikato & Waitomo

Intro to Waikato and Waitomo

Waikato is the region to the south of Auckland. It has one main city, Hamilton (the largest inland city in New Zealand), plus lots of large towns. As such there are several fairly busy major roads. Most of Waikato is devoted to farming of one sort or another.

The topography of Waikato region is generally a large valley system (around the Waikato River) with many small hills. In winter cool air can get trapped and so the region is prone to fogs. In summer, heat buildups can bring isolated thunderstorms from time to time.

Waitomo is to the southwest of Hamilton in an area of limestone, which together with plentiful water has created the many nice caves.

What to see?

Waitomo caves - not for the claustrophobic but range from very easily accessible to those for experienced cavers.

Kiwis at Otorohanga, near Waitomo.

The "old English" town of Cambridge, just to the south of Hamilton.

What to do?

Black water rafting in the Waitomo Caves.

Where to stay?

Most of the accommodation is in Hamilton, or at Waitomo. However all the main towns have at least a couple of hotels.

How to get around?

There is frequent bus service between Auckland and Hamilton, Hamilton and Cambridge. Other towns on the main highways are also served by long-distance/tourist buses. Towns off the main highways are connected to the main centres by local buses on a regular service (eg a couple of times per day).

Passenger trains to/from Auckland and Wellington also serve Huntly, Hamilton, Taumaranui.

Hamilton has an airport (actually between Hamilton and Cambridge) with frequent flights to major cities in New Zealand, and also a few flights to Australia and South Pacific.
Major events

Fieldays near Hamilton is a major agricultural event over several days [timing?]

There is usually one rugby test in Hamilton each year (June/July), plus Super14 franchise and NPC provincial games.

Tips & tricks


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - Late summer
Best music and public events - xxx
Least crowded - Winter

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Rotorua & Taupo (central north island)

Intro to Rotorua & Taupo (central north island)

The Rotorua/Taupo region is also known as Central Plateau or Volcanic Plateau, and is in the middle of the North Island. The most active volcanic areas in New Zealand are found here (and also White Island off the Bay of Plenty coast), and everywhere the landscape has been shaped by volcanism and geothermal activity.

This area is highly prized by Maori and has a thriving Maori culture.

While there is some farming, forestry predominates in this area and there is also a sizeable semi-desert in the acidic soils and rain shadow of the 3 highest volcanoes - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.

First time visitors to Rotorua be warned - there is a distinct sulphur smell. However after a few days this becomes less noticeable.

What to see?

Lakes. There are lots of lakes in this area. Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake and popular water activities including boating and fishing (some of the rivers are much better). Lake Rotorua is the other main lake, with the largest city in the region, Rotorua, on its shores. There are however dozens of other lakes. All are in the craters of volcanoes, most of which are merely dormant not extinct.

Geysers at Whakarewarewa (Rotorua), mud pools and champagne lakes in the Rotorua area. Sadly the most famous geothermal sight, the pink and white terraces, were destroyed in a volcanic eruption in the 1870s.

Huka falls - while not particularly high the volume and flow of water is impressive. These are just north of Taupo township (and well signposted).

What to do?

Ski on an active volcano (usually winter only but some years will remain open through spring into early summer) - Turoa, Whakapapa and Tukino skifields on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu.

World famous trout fishing on the Tongariro River (south of Lake Taupo) or one of dozens of other fishing rivers near Taupo and Rotorua. If not wanting to fish but just look, visit Rainbow Springs or Fairy Springs near Rotorua.

Try out an adventure sport -bunjy jumping at Taupo and Rotorua, sky diving (amazing views over much of the North Island), luge on Mount Ngongotaha (just out of Rotorua), grass skiing near Taupo, etc.

Experience Maori culture and have a hangi in Rotorua.

A great hike is the Tongariro Crossing. Can be done as day trip. But be prepared for sudden changes in weather at any time of year. Some chairlifts on Mount Ruapehu run during summer to provide an easy option to explore the mountain. Be careful near the crater lake - check the current conditions with Department of Conservation before visiting.

Drive the "Desert Road" between Turangi and Waiouru. Great views of the 3 main volcanoes (unless the weather is bad) and the semi-desert landscape. Note this road may close a few times each winter due to snow and ice, but most of the time chains are not required (the snowline is well above the road except during winter storms).

Where to stay?

There are a lot of hotels and other accommodation in Rotorua, but as with most of NZ the major international chains are not really represented. Taupo also has lots of options even though its a smaller town.

There are also some luxury lodges notably Huka Lodge near Taupo. For something a bit different try Treetops near Rotorua.

How to get around?

Rental car is best. Tour buses stop at Taupo and Rotorua. Local shuttle buses run to the track for Tongariro Crossing, and the skifields. Fishing guides will include transport to the rivers and lakes.

The main train line has stops at Taihape, Waiouru, Raetahi, Ohakune and National Park. Note these are all south or west of the 3 main volcanoes - nowhere near Taupo or Rotorua.

Rotorua has an airport with regular flights to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Taupo has a smaller airport with flights to Auckland and Wellington.

Major events

Round Taupo Cycle Race - 160kms of hills and mountains each December.

Taupo Ironman.

Tips & tricks


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - summer or mid-winter
Best music and public events - xxx
Least crowded - spring and autumn

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Jan 11, 06 at 10:36 pm
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Coromandel & Bay of Plenty (excl Rotorua)

Intro to Coromandel & Bay of Plenty (excl Rotorua)

Coromandel Peninsula is the favourite holiday area for many Aucklanders - seeing as it has great scenery (both on land and on water), and is fairly close by. Almost everyone stays at one of several townships scattered around the coast - inland is mostly dense bush and mountains. Note there is also a town called Coromandel - but common usage of Coromandel means anywhere on the peninsula.

On the far side of Coromandel Peninsula from Auckland is the large Bay of Plenty which faces north into the Pacific Ocean. The main city is Tauranga which is a rapidly growing retirement area (sunshine belt), but there are lots of other towns as well - notably Whakatane. Not far inland is Rotorua and the volcanic region, and indeed the most active volcano in New Zealand is White Island off the Bay of Plenty coast. No guesses needed as to why it has this name.

What to see?

The number one attraction is the beautiful scenery - mountains, hills, bush and sea.

What to do?

Laze on the beach. If you visit Hotwater Beach at low tide you can scoop out your own hot pool in the sand!

Go boating in the sea or major rivers. There is also good fishing off Coromandel Peninsula and in the Bay of Plenty.

Take a boat or helicopter ride to White Island's active volcano.

Great Barrier Island off the tip of Coromandel Peninsula is a nice place for a day or two - very quiet and rural due to its relative isolation.

There are plenty of bush walks and tramps. Best for day trips rather than longer hikes.

Where to stay?

Tauranga has several hotels, and smaller towns in Bay of Plenty generally have one or two. None of these are major chain hotels. The Coromandel Peninsula has a number of fine lodges and resorts.

How to get around?

Best to have a car. Public transport is thin on the ground. Tour buses and local buses connect Tauranga with Rotorua and Hamilton. Some tours also connect with Gisborne to the east.

Tauranga has an airport with regular flights to both Auckland and Wellington. Whakatane has a smaller airport.

Major events

Tips & tricks

In Coromandel Peninsula in particular, and to a lesser extent in Tauranga, try to avoid long weekends (public holiday on Thursday, Friday, Monday or Tuesday) - especially in summer. The roads to/from Auckland tend to be very congested at the start and end of long weekends, and accommodation may be tight.


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - summer
Best music and public events - xxx
Least crowded - winter

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Gisborne/East Coast & Hawkes Bay

Gisborne/East Coast & Hawkes Bay

The "east coast" is the part of the North Island that sticks out to the east into the Pacific Ocean. Gisborne is located in Poverty Bay and is the only large town in this very rural area. The east coast is a farming and forestry region, and Poverty Bay is a fine wine growing region. There are a lot of Maoris living in this region.

Hawkes Bay is further south along the east coast and is more heavily populated with the twin cities of Napier and Hastings. Southern Hawkes Bay has a lot of wineries and agriculture, while northern Hawkes Bay has farming. Napier was completely destroyed in an earthquake in 1931 and was rebuilt in a common style of the time - art deco. Much of the central city has been preserved as an open air art deco museum.

What to see?

The centre of Napier for the art deco buildings.

See the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.

What to do?

Do a wine tour (Hawkes Bay or Poverty Bay). Hawkes Bay even has wine tours by bicycle (its flat enough for this)!

Take a couple of days to leisurely drive around East Cape coastal road.

Where to stay?

Napier, Hastings and Gisborne have a few hotels (no major chains). Other towns are limited in the accommodation. Some coastal areas have motor camps (inexpensive).

How to get around?

Buses connect Napier and Hastings with Wellington and Taupo, as well as with Gisborne and on to the Bay of Plenty.

Easiest to hire a car or walk/use taxi around town.

Napier and Gisborne both have airports with service to Auckland and Wellington.

In Napier, hire a cycle and explore the surrounding plains.

Major events

Art deco festival.

Opera in the vines.

Tips & tricks


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - summer and autumn
Best music and public events - xxx
Least crowded - winter

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Taranaki, Manawatu & Wairarapa

Intro to Taranaki, Manawatu & Wairarapa

Taranaki is the "bulge" on the west coast of the North Island. It is dominated by Mount Taranaki (formerly called Mount Egmont) - which is a classic volcanic cone (even a stand in for Mount Fuji in The Last Samurai). The main centre is New Plymouth but there are lots of other smaller towns. Taranaki has a lot of farming (particularly dairying which is exported around the world) and is also home to New Zealand's small oil and gas industry. To the southeast is the small city of Wanganui. Being exposed to the prevailing westerlies, and at the western entrance to Cook Strait, Taranaki has a wet climate and can get rather windy (but not as bad as Wellington).

Manawatu is a large plain wedged between sea and mountains, to the northwest of Wellington. The main city is Palmerston North which is home to the Massey University. There are many small towns supporting the farming and agriculture of the region. The Manawatu River has a unique distinction of flowing through the main divide of the North Island (at the Manawatu Gorge).

Wairarapa is to the northeast of Wellington and is a mixture of plain and hills. Since it is surrounded by hills and mountains the pace is quieter. There is a lot of farming, and also wineries. There are no cities but several towns.

What to see?

The Rhododendron Garden at New Plymouth (flowering season is xxx).

Black ironsand beaches along the Taranaki coast.

The Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre in inland Wairarapa has nice bush and see rare native birds including kiwis.

Have a coffee and a bit to eat inside an aeroplane at the cafe at Mangaweka (on State Highway One between Bulls and Taihape).

See all the wordplays on the name of Bulls township in Manawatu (on State Highway One).

What to do?

Surf on the west coast, climb Mount Taranaki (be prepared for changeable weather at any time), take a boat cruise along the Whanganui River. Bungy jumping and jet boating on the Rangitikei gorge at Mangaweka.

Where to stay?

New Plymouth, Wanganui, Palmerston North, and Masterton have a few hotels (no major chains). Other towns are limited in the accommodation.

How to get around?

New Plymouth, Wanganui and Palmerston North all have airports. Palmerston North has flights to/from a number of centres but New Plymouth and Wanganui are limited to Auckland and Wellington.

Major events

Tips & tricks


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - summer
Best music and public events - xxx
Least crowded - winter

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Wellington city (the capital)

Intro to Wellington city (the capital)

Wellington is the capital city and home to most of central government and related ministries and agencies. Greater Wellington is several cities and large towns that cling to the (mostly) steep terrain around Wellington Harbour, the Hutt Valley and along the Kapiti coast to the northwest. Cook Strait forms the a spectacular southern and western boundary.

Wellington is also the main cultural centre in New Zealand with plenty of shows, ballet, opera, symphony orchestra, several museums, etc.

What to see?

See the Beehive (round building) and Parliament Building - tours are available to some areas as well as a public gallery when parliament is in session.

Spend a day exploring the national museum - Te Papa. The museum is less than 10 years old and is quite interactive - so good for kids of all ages. Entry is free or by koha (leave a donation).

You can drive up to some great lookouts over the city and Cook Strait. Each has its own special views. Mount Victoria is the most accessible and lowest lookout - view is over central city and harbour, plus directly south. The botanic gardens has similar view but from the other side of the central city. The Brooklyn wind turbine is considerably higher (note narrow road access) and has better views to the south north and east. Further along the ridge from the wind turbine, accessible only on foot or bicycle, Hawkins Hill has great 360 degree views. Further north near Porirua, Colonial Knob has views to the west, and some hills you can walk up from Makara on the coast west of Karori and Johnsonville also have views of Cook Strait.

What to do?

Visit the seaside village of Eastbourne and enjoy a stroll along the beach and out past the lighthouse. See the penguins in the evening.

Walk along the boulders of the south coast (west of Island Bay) and see the rugged beauty of Cook Strait and the Seaward and Inland Kaikoura Mountain ranges on the other side. You can often see seals along this coast, and possibly sight dolphins and whales off shore.

Take the cable car from Lambton Quay up to the Botanic Gardens for great plantings and views over the city. Walk back down the steep roads on the Kelburn side of the gardens, or take the gentler slopes on the far side stopping by the art galleries and cafes of Tinakori Road.

Enjoy the cafes in Cuba Street area, or bar hop along Courtenay Place.

Take a ferry ride across Cook Strait - either as a day trip or for your onward journey. Amazing scenery - just hope you get a calm day.

Where to stay?

Wellington's main hotels include Intercontinental, Duxton, xxx. Other chain hotels include Mercure, Novatel, Ibis, xxx. For something a bit different there is the Hotel de Wheels opposite the museum - it took its name from the shift it underwent before construction started on Te Papa.

How to get around?

Wellington has a lot of variety of public transport. Buses run very regularly through all suburbs within 10km of the city centre and less regularly to outer suburbs. Buses are a mixture of diesel and electric trolley buses. The airport has a regular bus service to central city and Lower Hutt - note the airport bus costs more than the regular buses. If you want to save money you'll need to walk to Miramar (about 1km) or Rongotai (1-2km through the pedestrian tunnel under the runway).

Ferries run from downtown to Eastbourne.

The cable car is a short ride up a particularly steep hill to the botanic gardens from Lambton Quay.

Commuter trains run regularly from downtown (just off the northern end of Lambton Quay) to Johnsonville, the Hutt Valley, Porirua and Kapiti coast. A couple of trains operate peak hour commuter services to Palmerston North and the Wairarapa.

Major events

International Sevens Rugby Tournament - February
International Festival of the Arts - February and March of even-numbered years (eg 2006)
Fringe Festival - February and March
There's usually one, two or three rugby tests in June/July period.
Wearable Arts Awards (quirky fashion) -

Tips & tricks


Wellington traffic webcams

When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - any time it is not windy
Best music and public events - xxx
Least crowded - mid summer when parliament is in recess and many government agencies shut

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Feb 3, 06 at 9:53 am
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Intro to Nelson

A microcosm of New Zealand that is off the beaten track in the northwest of the South Island, Nelson has a lot of variety to offer. Much of the land and some of the waters are protected in the 3 national parks - Abel Tasman (coastal), Nelson Lakes (alpine) and Kahurangi (mixture) - as well as forest and regional parks.

What to see?

Unique landforms - ranging from the Boulder Bank in Nelson city, to kaarst landscape on Takaka hill and nearby ranges, granite headlands and golden sand beaches of Abel Tasman. Farewell Spit at the far end of Golden Bay is a major haven for seabirds, and is a big contrast to the nearby wild west coast (eg at Whakariki).

See the many arts and crafts on display all over the region.

What to do?

There are the usual and less usual adventure/adreline activities like flying fox, parapenting, sky diving. For those active, there are many fine walks and tramps in the hills surrounding Nelson - ranging from a short stroll up the Centre of NZ hill, to day walk up Dun Mountain to multi-day tramps.

There is a nice 2-3 day coastal walk in Abel Tasman National Park (tip - walk one way and get water-taxi or canoe back), but watch tide times as a couple of estuaries need to be crossed at low to mid tide. The kaarst limestone formations can best be seen from the inland track.

The Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park requires a higher level of fitness and covers a wide variety of terrain and scenery. Allow about 4 days for the walk, plus a minimum of one day at each end to get to/from the remote start and end of the track.

Nelson Lakes National Park has a nice moderate walk (1 longer day or 2 easy days) around Lake Rotoiti, with longer hikes in the back valleys and mountains. Note in this alpine region the weather can change suddenly and snow is possible year round. Parachute Rock is a short day walk from St Arnaud township with fine views. There are very easy walks through the beech forest around the township, and also near Tophouse on the road to Nelson.

Other short walks in the city include Cable Bay, The Glen/Boulder Bank, Maitai Valley, Byrant Range (hills behind Richmond township), etc.

When the weather is good and warm, laze on one of the many nice beaches. Tahunanui Beach is right in the city and focus of many summer activities and festivities. Rabbit Island is a huge beach about 30 minutes drive away towards Motueka, but is closed overnight due to fire risk. Further afield Kaiteriteri and surrounding bays are very popular with deep water only a few metres out and golden sand, nearby Marahau is much shallower but watch out for the large tidal range.

In season you can pick your own berries at many orchards to the south of the city. Mmmm fresh.

As with other wine regions, there are organised wine tours available.

World of Wearable Art museum in Stoke has a great collection of wearable art (the event itself has now moved to Wellington) as well as lots of cars.

There are 2 ski-fields near St Arnaud with relatively short seasons - Mount Robert requires a strenous walk in (or pay to be helicoptered) while you can drive in to Rainbow Valley (chains needed and a rough road).

Where to stay?

There are no major hotels in Nelson. Apart from the centrally located Rutherford Hotel, the hotels are small scale and mostly boutique type. Some B&Bs are award winning. There are also several large motor camps - be sure to book in advance if visiting during December or January as they do sell out.

How to get around?

Public transport is limited and not much help to tourists. There are a few buses running to Kaiteriteri and Golden Bay (Takaka or Collingwood), and to St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes. Water taxis ply the coast of Abel Tasman National Park and you can pre-arrange pick up at many of the bays (some bays are not possible due to shallowness). Services are more frequent in season (summer for Abel Tasman and Golden Bay, winter for Nelson Lakes).

Major events

Summer festivals run from December through early February.

Tips & tricks


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - generally good any time due to the sheltering effects of the surrounding mountains
Best music and public events - Dec/Jan
Least crowded - winter

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; May 19, 06 at 8:23 pm
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Marlborough & Kaikoura

Intro to Marlborough & Kaikoura

This area covers the Marlborough Sounds - a haven of tranquility, the wine growing region around Blenheim as well as the majesty of Kaikoura where mountains meet the sea.

Hanmer Springs and Waipara are North Canterbury, but I'll include it here since it fits better. Hanmer Springs is inland between Christchurch and Nelson nestled in the mountains. Waipara is a wine region near the coast between Christchurch and Kaikoura.

What to see?

Hanmer Springs is a laid back resort town surrounded by mountains, and also some large exotic forest plantations. (Hint looks great in autumn.)

What to do?

Wine tours from Blenheim (some pick up/drop off at Picton as well to cater for those arriving or departing by ferry from Wellington), whale watching (plus other wildlife - seals etc) off Kaikoura's coast, relax in the almost unpopulated sounds - many places only accessible by boat or windy road. A nice day trip would be the loop between Blenheim, Picton and Havelock (taking the Queen Charlotte Drive coastal road between Picton and Havelock - watch for traffic in summer).

During the summer season (except at times of extreme fire hazard), the huge inland Molesworth Station opens up their road - see a high country sheep station up close. Note permit is required for this and careful planning (there are no petrol stations for example).

Relax in the hot pools at Hanmer Springs after a day walking or skiing (in season), or after jet-boating, bunjy jump on Waiau River.

Where to stay?

There are no major chains in Marlborough. Blenheim and the Marlborough Sounds have some very nice upscale places, as well as more affordable options. Kaikoura is limited to motels and camping ground.

How to get around?

Buses run very regularly between Picton and Blenheim. Tour buses run between Picton and Christchurch (stopping at Blenheim and Kaikoura en route). The Coastal Pacific Train does the same route. Buses also run between Picton, Blenheim and Nelson.

There are organised shuttles for wine tours around Blenheim.

Major events

Concert in winery.

Tips & tricks


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - summer (winter for Hanmer Springs)
Best music and public events - ?
Least crowded - winter (except Hanmer Springs)

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; May 19, 06 at 8:43 pm
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Christchurch city

Intro to Christchurch city

The only moderate sized city in the South Island, Christchurch is gateway to both the wild west coast and the southern alps including Queenstown. Located at the edge of the only large flat area in the country, the Canterbury Plains, Christchurch is nestled against a pair of extinct volcanoes of Banks Peninsula. Christchurch is seen as a very English city, and indeed has been portrayed as such in some movies.

What to see?

The Antarctica Centre near the airport (and just a short bus ride from central city) is a must for anyone interested in that great frozen land. Christchurch is the departure point for both US and NZ missions to the ice, as well as various historic expeditions.

Hagley Park and Dean's Bush are pieces of England. The nearby Dougall Art Gallery is interesting.

A short drive away is the township of Akaroa, which retains a French flavour from the days of its settlement.

Further afield, Arthurs and Porters Passes on the road to the west coast provide a neat day trip in winter especially. Drive or take the magnificent Tranz Alpine train (the day trip to Greymouth through Arthurs Pass is rated one of the best rides in the world).

Watch and listen to local icon, The Wizard, in Cathedral Square.

What to do?

In season there are plenty of skifields - Mount Hutt is best known, hosting international events, but there are others in and around Porters Pass.

For a nice view over the city, walk or take the gondola up the Port Hills.

Where to stay?

How to get around?

Most of the tourist attractions are central - buses help with getting to/from the Antarctica Centre etc. A tourist tram in downtown is not particularly useful.

Major events

Tips & tricks


When is the best time to visit?

Best weather - autumn
Best music and public events - xxx
Least crowded - spring or autumn

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; May 21, 06 at 10:45 pm
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