Traveling In New Zealand

New Zealand is a beautiful country located in the South Pacific famous for its varied landscape of breathtaking mountains, lakes, glaciers, and beaches. 

We decided to take the kids on an adventure and I can’t wait to share everything with you guys. We were making our way from Australia and the kids were so excited to get surfing. I did tons of research and I put together a few helpful tips and places to go.

People often research when is the BEST TIME TO VISIT:

When it comes to New Zealand there isn’t a bad time to visit. If you’re wanting hot, dry weather then December to February is the time to visit. This will give you the longest days in terms of sunlight but be aware this is also the most popular time to visit so things can be more expensive.

A less populous time that still offers good weather is during springtime—between September and November.

The best months to ski at resorts like Cardrona and Coronet Peak is July through to August but we live in the land of Skiing so that wasn’t our priority. Another great time to visit is November to December for lupin season where the lupins decorate areas such as Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook.

The next question WHAT DO I PACK: I usually pack for the 6 of us and this is the usual selction no matter where we are going in the world.

What to Pack

New Zealand is known to experience four seasons in a day so packing can be tricky. I’ve experienced all seasons here and these are my packing tips.

First things first, you’ll need an visa – AVAILABLE ONLINE)

I’d recommend buying your toiletries in New Zealand to save room in your suitcase. The prices are very similar to Canada.

Road Trip Essentials:

  • Electronics (camera, chargers, adaptors)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Day/evening bag
  • Hiking backpack

CLOTHING FOR ALL SEASONS:

  • Leggings
  • Shorts
  • Tops
  • Running Shoes
  • Sandles
  • Light Rain Jacket
  • Jeans
  • Underwear
  • Swimsuit
  • Micro Fibre Towel

Travel Ideas

Day 1: Auckland

We Flew into New Zealand’s largest airport in Auckland just a 25-minute drive to the city center. I’d recommend getting an Uber for ease or a shuttle to save money. You can find all the airport transfer details at the Info Counter. We booked an Air BB but there are many hotels in Auckland. Its just way easier when there is a large family.

Now the fun begins! I’d recommend spending no more than 2 days  in Auckland or use this as a base for day trips, it’s a nice city but there are glaciers, volcanoes and beautiful beaches to explore. Auckland highlights include a visit to the Mount Eden Summit, Sky Tower, Albert park, Domain, and the Winter Gardens. We rented a spacious car and sometimes it often felt like driving in Alberta Canada. Easy driving conditions and the lookouts are unreal.

Paihia & the Bay of Islands

Leave Auckland early and head north to Paihia. Spend a few hours on Paihia Beach and take a boat trip to explore the Bay of Islands. Great Sights offer a great boat tour where you can see dolphins and head through the famous hole in the rock Stunning sunset!

Cape Reinga

Head north again to the most northern point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. Here you can see the famous lighthouse and watch the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.

Take a 20-minute drive south-west to the Giant Sand Dunes and hire toboggans to surf down the dunes.

Drive towards Cathedral Cove

It’s an 8-hour drive to Cathedral Cove so stop for rest breaks or stay overnight at the halfway point. Popular spots to stop include 90-Mile Beach, Kai Iwi Lakes, Muriwai Beach, Te Henga Walkway, Bethells Beach, and Piha.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove is one of my favorite beaches in New Zealand, with its soft white sand and clear blue water, the buzz of a few hours here is unbeatable. It’s a popular spot so if you’re hoping to beat the crowds get here for sunrise.

I recommend taking a kayaking tour for a unique way to reach the beach.

Other sights nearby include Shakespeare Cliff Lookout and Hot Water Beach where you can rent a spade and soak in the thermal water.

Hobbiton

Begin the 2.5-hour drive to Hobbiton and stop by the breathtaking Owharoa Falls for a rest stop.

Spend the afternoon in Middle-earth enjoying a guided walking tour of Hobbiton. This is a must-do whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not. It’s spectacular to see the detail that went into this set.

Make sure you book ahead as this is one of the most popular tourist activities in New Zealand.

Waitomo

Next head to Waitomo, just an hour away, and head to the underground caves where you can see glow worms. I spent 5 hours doing the Black Abyss Tour where you abseil, zipline, climb, and tube through the caves. If confined spaces aren’t your thing, you can take a 45-minute boat ride through the caves to see the glowworms this way.

If you’re looking for a place to stay and relax overnight I highly recommend Waitomo Hilltop Glamping.

Rotorua

Two hours east is the popular town of Rotorua. There’s a lot to see here but my top picks are Redwoods TreewalkPolynesian SpaWai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, and an evening at the Tamaki Maori Village(voted one of the best things to do in New Zealand).

If you want to hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, I recommend staying nearby the night before at either the National Park Village or Taupo. If you drive through Taupo make a quick stop at Huka Falls.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is known as New Zealand’s best day hike and for featuring serving as the location of Modor in The Lord of the Rings—making it a must-do for any hiker.

This 19.4km hike features a volcanic landscape with emerald lakes and takes between 6-8 hours to complete so I recommended you start early to avoid hiking in the dark. You’ll be tired after this hike so take the evening to relax your feet.

Wellington

It’s a 4-hour drive to Wellington but I’d recommend stopping to see the capital which is also my favorite city in New Zealand. Wellington has a bit of everything; the beach, harbor, parks and great places to eat. Take the cable car or hike to Mount Victoria Lookout to see views over the city.

Visit Cuba Street to explore shops, restaurants, and cafes (try Midnight Espresso for coffee, 1154 Pastariafor lunch, and Olive for dinner) and take a tour of Weta Workshop to see how the props and costumes from your favorite movies are made.

Helpful Tips

  • Kia Ora means hello in the native Maori language
  • Hiking is often referred to as tramping
  • There’s no expectation to tip
  • There are strict laws about what you can bring in to the country. You can see all of the prohibited items here to avoid a fine at the airport
  • If you look under 25 you’ll need your passport for ID when purchasing alcohol
  • iSite’s are in every town/city and are full of information on things to do in the area

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