We spent about 5 weeks in New Zealand so we had a pretty good look. So what did I think of NZ? Here is a summary:-
Auckland is a big city with a corporate feel and traffic jams. But it also has historic areas and cool suburbs.
The Bay of Islands is almost as far north as you can go in NZ so it has a warmer climate and has a relaxed feel to it – think chilling out in the South of France. There is also a lot of Maori and colonial history here, and spectacular forests of Kauri trees. One of my top recommendations.
If you are into Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit movies then visiting the location used for filming is interesting. This central area of North Island is pretty, but unspectacular. The Bay of Plenty is nice too and we had one of my favourite experiences there…a dusk kayak trip to see glow worms in a ravine.
Rotorua is where the geology of NZ comes to the surface, literally. The hot springs and associated landscapes are stunning and there are some great walks. To say it is a mini-Yellowstone is true in some ways, but, when combined with the NZ scenery and tree ferns, it becomes a must-see.
Hawke’s Bay is a fertile plain with many orchards. It also has many vineyards with Napier, an Art-Deco town, at their centre. Hawke’s Bay wine is commonly found for sale in the UK.
Wellington is the capital and has an international and quirky vibe – lots of coffee shops. It is nestled in a bay surrounded by mountains, making it pretty but strangely windy! If I were to ever have the opportunity to work in NZ I would pick Wellington.
Ferries join North and South Island. They take car and foot passengers between Wellington and Picton. The trip to Picton must be the most beautiful ferry trip in the world as the ships dance between the many islands and inlets of the Marlborough Sound.
Abel Tasman is a beautiful National Park at the top of South Island. Lots of lovely coastal forests to walk through.
The Northwest coast was a last minute change of itinerary for us, resulting from earthquake damage to the eastern coastal highway. It is rugged and spectacular but has changeable weather and lots of sand-flies! I am sure some people love this area, but it wasn’t my favourite.
Making your way south, over Arthurs Pass and visiting Lake Tekapo, you get used to stunning scenery and stopping the car to take photos is a frequent event.
Queenstown is a party town and full of backpackers. It is also extremely beautiful. The shallow “braided rivers” are perfect for spectacular white-knuckle jet boat rides.
Milford Sound is spectacular but I don’t think it is any more spectacular than many other places that we visited on our journey.
Wanaka is worth a visit. A beautiful lake, stunning vineyard, and just a very “nice” town.
Visiting the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers is, like Milford Sound, a big commitment in terms of miles. If you like seeing the power of nature, and the worry effects of global warming, it is well worth the effort.
NZ is full of people who like to make things. The craft scene is huge and Hokitika is a prime example and is the home to a surreal driftwood beach sculpture competition.
Christchurch is a city still bearing the visible scars of recent earthquakes but has an optimistic feel of regeneration.
That was our trip. It was longer than most are able to make but I still feel we missed out a lot. It is one of my favourite countries, with very welcoming people. I am sure we will be back!!