New Zealand is the ultimate road trip. With so much to see and do, New Zealand had been on my bucket list for ages. We knew we had to make the trip to this adventure playground when we had the rare opportunity to take 4 weeks off work over Christmas.
We planned our New Zealand adventure to give us a mix of fine wines, beaches, glacial lakes, vistas and adrenaline pumping sports.
The best way to save time in this huge country is to fly into one island and out of the other and hire a car to get around the area in- between. On reflection we wished we had booked some internal flights to cut down on the inner island drives. We spent a lot of days driving rather than having exploring.
Auckland, 3 Nights
We flew into Auckland and stayed a few nights to help get us into NZ time. Auckland is a small city with two harbours surrounding it so there’s a great maritime vibe.
Head up the Sky Tower for 360 views of the city and a tasty lunch. Feel good factor – 8/10)
Auckland is much like many other cities and you’ll forget your time here in comparison to the rest of the country. It’s best used as a base for a night or two to refresh then move on.
On the way to Rotorua you can stop at Hobbiton and get you fill of Lord of the Rings. We didn’t do the tour as you need to book far in advance and we’re not the biggest fans.
Rotorua, 1 Night
Don’t be put off by the geothermal activity and the stench of sulphur, there’s more to Rotorua than bubbling mud.
Our main reason for coming were the 5600 hectare Redwoods (Whakarewarewa) forest for mountain biking and it didn’t disappoint. Biking between towering redwoods and the native bushland was an unforgettable experience and it’s clear to understand why it’s a mountain biking mecca. A definite 10/10 for fun and feel good factor even if I did stick to the easier of the 160km of tracks and lost Mr E. for 2 hours!
Tongariro, 1 Night
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is reported to be one of the world’s best one-day hikes. Unfortunately we had torrential weather and the crossing was closed for two days so we’ll have to explore it another day. If you’re not interested in the hike then don’t make the detour to get here.
Detouring to see the beautiful lighthouse at Castlepoint was a great idea and definitely recommended.
Martingborough, 1 Night
Just over an hour from Wellington in the Wairarapa region is Martinborough. The Martinborough vineyards are well known for producing a well structured Pinot Noir that goes well with many foods. One of our favourites was the 2014 Te Terra from Martinborough Vineyard.
We headed to the Martinborough Hotel & Restaurant – Paddock to Plate for dinner. I recommend you try the New Zealand Lamb which was so good.
On route to Wellington we stopped at Cape Palliser to see the lighthouse and sea lions. It was definitely worth a stop.
Wellington, 2 Nights
Nicknamed the windy city (and for good reason), Wellington is a great place to visit museums, galleries and shops. Head up Cuba Street for trendy coffees, craft beers and a bohemian vibe. We had dinner at Italian restaurant Ombra. It has a Mediterranean vibe about it (feel good factor 8/10) and a great selection of healthy drinks. Visit the museum for a tour and learn about the aborigine culture.
From Wellington we caught the ferry to Picton to continue our adventure in the South island.