NEW ZEALAND NORTH ISLAND TOUR
A few weeks ago we heard from Lorraine as she travelled around New Zealand’s South Island. Now she’s back to fill us in on more of her honeymoon adventures, this time in the North Island! In contrast with it’s Southern neighbour the landscapes here are less dramatic, but what it lacks in grandeur it makes up for in buzz and culture, with over 75% of the New Zealand population based here and the centre of Maori culture.
Destination: New Zealand
Travel: By air to Christchurch, New Zealand South Island (via Singapore) and then boat from South Island
Time of year: January/ February
WHAT TO DO? Wellington has a busy but chilled vibe, it’s easy to understand why it is consistently voted amongst the top 10 cities in the world. Wellington is a hilly city which is reminiscent of San Francisco. Any film fan should take a trip to Weta Workshop ( a special effects company, known for their work on, ‘The Lord Of The Rings’, ‘Krampus’, ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Elysium’ to name a few). You can take a guided tour in the workshop where you are shown behind the scenes of how various models are made. Our stay in Wellington was lucky to coincide with the Meridian Garden Magic music festival, taking place in the botanical gardens (which in itself is well worth a visit). We went with a friend of ours who knew the signer of the main band, it was such a chillout and friendly evening.
Being a lover of all things of art deco, Napier was a must. After disastrous earthquake in the 1930s, Napier was rebuilt with art deco designs and landmarks. Even the hotel we stayed at was full of 1930’s character.
Our hotel in Lake Taupo was not only right on the lake but had its very own hot tub! Like most New Zealand towns, Lake Taupo had a calming relaxed feel. A hidden gem we found was ‘Tokaanu Thermal Walk’, which is a short drive from Lake Taupo. Richard and I were the only people on the path so enjoyed a nice romantic stroll amongst the natural mud pools and and silica springs.
One of the Highlights of our honeymoon was visiting ‘Hobbiton Movie Set’ in MataMata. We had been dreaming of going here for absolutely ages, and it blew us away. The ‘Hobbiton’ set used in ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ had been rebuilt for ‘The Hobbit’ movies. As you walk through the set, you get a real feel of intricate details that went into making the set so impressive. I particularly loved the ‘‘The Green Dragon’ pub, which had been so masterfully recreated. You are shown here at the end of the tour, where you can enjoy a nice tasty cider. It was a day to remember!
In Rotorua we visited the quaint ‘Government Gardens’ and had a delicious cream tea in the elegant and stylish Prince’s Gate hotel which is just outside the gardens. The Rotorua Skyline adventure complex is a just few miles out of the city centre and well worth a trip. In additional to the Luge and Gondola, there is also a huge adventure swing and zip line! While in Rotorua we visited ‘Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park’, where we enjoyed a rejuvenated mineral mud pack and bathed in sulphuric waters. One thing to be aware of, the sulphur can damage jewellery, even though I took off all of my rings before the spa, when I put my wedding ring on the following morning, after a couple of hours of wear the inner side of my wedding ring slightly changed colour. So maybe leave it a couple of days before you put any jewellery back on!
The Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Park is amazing! It is a huge wonderland of geothermic activity, providing so many stunning colourful landscapes.
The ‘Bay Of Islands’ was our last stop on our honeymoon. Here we stayed in a beachside apartment with stunning views out to the bay. We took a boat tour through the world famous ‘Hole In The Rock’ and explored some of the Bays smaller islands, seeing some gorgeous dolphins along the way! It was as relaxing as it was beautiful!
Our final trip on our way to the airport was the ‘Kawiti Caves’. These glow worm caves were extra special as not only were they visually astounding, they had a wonderful story behind them. It wasn’t until the end of our tour, that our lovely guide inform us that actually his family own the caves, as they were discovered by his great (many times) grandmother who ran to the caves. She then took ownership of the caves and they been in the family ever since.
WHAT TO EAT? I loved Monsoon Poon in Wellington not only has a great atmosphere but scrumptious food too. Specializing in Thai cuisine and mourish cocktails.
If you have a sweet tooth, are in in MataMata, there is a little ice cream stand right before the entrance to the ‘Hobbiton Movie Tours’. Their Hobbit Crunch sundae was heavenly.
Princes Gate hotel in Rotorua served us the most delicious cream tea, which we had outside in a charming flower filled garden. We were so impressed we even went back for an evening meal the main restaurant. I am so glad we did as it was one of the best meals of our honeymoon!
It didn’t take us long to realise that New Zealanders love their burgers. Burgerfuel is a New Zealand gourmet burger chain. The food is cooked fresh to order and is well worth the wait, plus their lime milkshakes are to die for! Burgerfuel has expanded to 6 countries and the UK is not one of them! I really hope the UK is the next country on their list!
HOW TO GET AROUND? I do highly recommend to hiring a car. New Zealand is such a magnificent and vast country, to explore it and see it at its best a car is vital. In the towns and cities you can get by without a car but New Zealand doesn’t offer a comprehensive passenger train network.
PACKING TIPS? Pack for all weathers! Particularly if you are visiting both North and South Islands. We went in January/ February which is their summer, but we still needed jumpers and coats especially when on Milford Sounds. Also, Abel Tasman and The Bay Of Islands is hot hot hot, so bring a swimming costume. If you are going to New Zealand you will likely be doing a lot of walking so bring a good sturdy pair of hiking boots.
ANYTHING ELSE? If you use a debit card, when asked if you would like to pay in pound or dollars, always pay in the local currency as you will save money on the currency conversion.
It is worth remembering that New Zealand sits under a hole in the Ozone layer, so you must wear sun cream, even when it doesn’t feel very hot.
WOULD YOU GO AGAIN? I think about going back every day! It truly was the best experience of my life. Richard and I will definitely go back in the future. Next time in addition to revisiting many of our honeymoon locations, we will visit Doubtful Sound, a naturally imposing fiord in the South Island, and the Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island. There is still so much of New Zealand so see, I am so looking forward to going back!