How to get there?
Where to go?
What to do?
What is it like?
What to take?
Step 1: New Zealand
We have friends who emigrated to New Zealand some 40 years ago and have been invited over to see them many time. We resisted their hospitality as going for the normal 2 weeks of UK holiday didn't seem worth the effort to travel such a distance (what a mistake!).
Eventually we both retired and had the time to pack our bags and go. Having now been 3 times in the past 6 years we think we have the process off to a fine art. This Instructable is how we did it.
.1. Travel to New Zealand is going to be horrifically expensive.
Not necessarily - out last trip for 6 weeks cost in total £880 a week per person, about the same as a holiday in the Mediterranean.
2. Traveling such a distance is a serious pain.
Not if you sensibly break the journey, we stopped over for a few days in Singapore, well worth the visit.
3. There isn't anything to see that i can't see at home.
Nothing could be further from the truth, no matter where you live.
For our most recent trip we decided to take another couple with us and make it something of a road trip. We covered in 6 weeks just under 4000Km. The map above shows our route from Auckland on the North island to Queenstown on the South Island.
Step 2: New Zealand the Island
New Zealand is slightly bigger than the British isles. In many ways similar, a long thin island, similar weather, Similar, but more extreme terrain.
Split into 2 islands the North island and the South island. The North island enjoys a similar climate to Southern England and the South island a similar climate to Northern England and Scotland.
As it is a long thin Island you can be skiing in the morning and on the beach in the afternoon if you so wished. The home of extreme sports such as Bungy jumping and jet boating New Zealand has much to offer the thrill seeker as well as the nature lover.
They drive on the left ( an advantage to UK travelers) and the natives (and the Kiwis) speak English.
A very diverse population ranging from the indigenous Maori to the immigrant population largely, until recent times, from the UK and Europe.
Political changes over the past 20 years has seen New Zealand forging trade links with China and the pacific rim countries which has led to considerable Chinese and Korean immigration.
A population of 4,000,000 compared to the UK population of something around 65,000,000 in the same land area.
leaves plenty of space.
What to take:
Well it isn't called Aotearoa "the island of the long White cloud" for nothing and when it rains it can get torrential but having said that we have had good weather every time we have gone. You may need a jumper in the evening and a light rain proof is sensible. Otherwise dress as for a British summer ( OK not that wet).
The best months to go are from Oct through to March. Their Spring through to Autumn. Worth bearing in mind is to look up when Chinese new year is - New Zealand is a mecca for them at this holiday time and the crowed out popular places and as tourists tend to be very pushy.
Step 3: Getting There
Of the two options available, (Air travel and Cruise ship), we have taken the flying route. Flying by choice with Singapore air and stopping off in Singapore for a few days either on the way there or on the way back.
My personal preference is to stop over on the way back as excitement and coffee will keep you going for the first few days when you get there.
As an indulgence we have on the last two trips traveled business class which gives you a lay flat bed on the aircraft a luxury for me at 6 foot 2 inches tall. For a reasonable length trip the extra cost is worth it in our opinion. The £880 pounds includes the business class flights.
Internal flights via New Zealand air are not all that costly and easily arranged on line.
From the UK the journey time is 28 hours although going out your going to lose a day so it will appear to take 2 days by the calendar.
Step 4: Where to Stay
Not being very keen on hotels we elected to make our own arrangements and took advantage of a New Zealand and Aussi trend for holiday home ownership. When they aren't using them for their own holidays many Kiwis rent out their holiday accommodation to others. These holiday homes are locally called Bachs.
Easily booked on line we used BookaBach
and New Zealand Holiday homes and Bachs (pronounced as if written BATCH)
Both sites proved to be reliable, easy to use and offered options that were good value for money.
By their nature these holiday homes are sited in beautiful areas, although to be fair it would be hard in New Zealand to find a place that wasn't beautiful no matter where you go. You can also find accommodation in the cities on these sites.
Email conversations with the Bach owners was easy and friendly. As over seas visitors we of course wanted bed linen and towels included, even where these were not normally on offer arranging them proved to be no problem.
Deposit payments were made by direct bank transfer although this proved a little difficult in a couple of cases the owners were understanding and happy for us to pay on arrival, (refreshingly trusting lot the Kiwis).
The cost of living in New Zealand is slightly cheaper then in the UK at present, (2015), and the exchange rate very favorable. Food shops and restaurants abound with the sea food being cheap and world class. The New Zealand attitude to life is very laid back. Small cafes are all over the place and sell the best coffee and cake anywhere you like to name.
Car hire is easy to arrange from the UK, we used Apex and found them to be very competitive and accommodating. All of the major hire companies are represented although most if not all cars are automatic. Driving in New Zealand is very easy, a 60 MPH blanket speed limit sounds rather slow but once outside Auckland and on ordinary 2 way roads you will find traffic light and averaging 50 MPH is easy even when you include stopping to sight see.The cost of hiring the car was, however, the single largest bill we had after the air fare.
Step 5: What to See and Where to Go.
This has to be very individual of course. We have been up to the bay of islands in the far North of the north island and down to Queenstown in the South island.
For the last trip we decided to start at Auckland and travel south missing out the northern coast. We planned our travel so we progressively traveled further each trip giving our guests time to acclimatize to the idea of going places. Each car trip was separated by at least 4 days of residence in each stopping spot.
Starting in Auckland and having 1 night in a B&B to allow us to acclimatize to NZ time. We traveled 1.5 hours to the Corrimandal. A beauty spot on the east coast close to Auckland and a popular tourist destination.
4 days later we moved on to lake Taupo for a week a central position from which we could visit Rotorua and the volcanic areas around there. Lake Taupo is actually a flooded volcanic crater and the water is bath warm, to our guests surprise. heated by underground volcanic action the water can rise out of the ground boiling. So if the sign says HOT WATER - you had better believe it.
We traveled on to Napier a noted wine growing area best known for its Art Deco buildings. In 1938 the area was devastated by a major earthquake and the city fathers elected to rebuild the town in the same style as the original. many of the art deco features were preserved and stand today to be enjoyed by visitors.
If you should happen to be in the area then make an effort to visit the Mission winery. The first vineyard in New Zealand this was until the 1980's a working monastery although now the monks live in more modern accommodation in town they still own and oversee the running of the winery. The food in the restaurant is excellent and not at all costly well worth a meal there for the experience - Although their premium wines can be expensive they do have very acceptable wines for as little as $20 a bottle.
Moving on, we wanted to take the ferry across the cook straights. By reputation and experience one of the most picturesque ferry crossings in the world (and often one of the roughest). In hindsight our choice of accommodation in the city center wasn't the best one we made. Although a very nice apartment we are not really city people and hated the crush of people. Although Wellington has some terrific sights and is worth a visit for a couple of days.
Step 6: Where to Go Cont:...
The Feryy trip is all it is cracked up to be. The ship itself is rather utilitarian and obviously a ferry rather than a cruise ship, (think cross channel ferry and your not far away), it is functional and your focus will be on the scenery rather than the ship.
Blenheim is arguably the capital of the Marlborough wine growing area and well worth the stop. Many wineries of world class reputation will open their doors and welcome you in to look around and sample their wares.
The run from Blenheim to Queens town was our largest journey. We broke it twice in B&b accommodation North of Christchurch and just South of Christchurch which as you might know was devastated by an Earthquake in 201. Much rebuilding is still taking place and most of the city is a building site. We elected to avoid this.
If you should take this route then I would strongly suggest using the Highway 8 just for the scenery and the views of Mount Cook.
Our Final Destination on the South island was Queenstown the adventure capital of New Zealand.
At least a week is essential to take in the scenery and atmosphere of this vibrant town. Its permanent inhabitants are outnumbered 3 times over by the tourists who come to the area every year. A 365 day tourist attraction with good weather in the summer and skiing in the winter for a small town Queenstown has much to offer the tourist both actively seeking thrills and those of a more passive nature.
Step 7: Time to Return
Alas another spectacular holiday over we returned via New Zealand air to Auckland for 4 days of retail therapy although we did manage to find several local beaches that were well worth a day or two sitting around.
New Zealand architecture is very varied and some of the most costly housing is around Auckland although by UK standards even outstanding property is still reasonably priced with beach front mansions going for £500,000.
Leaving sadly until next time we flew to Singapore for our 4 day break in the journey back to the UK.
If visiting New Zealand has any drawbacks it is that you have to return to crowded, cold and grey England. Although you can always look forward to going back to New Zealand again!
No doubt about it a trip to New Zealand is the trip of a lifetime. well worth the effort and had we done this 20 years ago we would now be resident in New Zealand permanently!
Worth noting New Zealand has reciprocal health agreements with the UK and if your take seriously ill in New Zealand you will be treated in hospital for free. Medivac back to the Uk isn't of course covered.
A visit to the doctor will however cost you around $40 and medication is paid for at cost so you may still choose to have health insurance if you go.
If you go you WILL enjoy the peace, slow pace of life and the beauty all around you. If your a thrill seeker there is plenty to feed your desires without vast theme parks or Disney worlds, in fact you could say the whole country is a Lord of the rings theme park wherever you look.
During our holiday I took just over 2000 pictures. many of which can be seen in these 2 blogs about our holiday.