Tourist hits for Brits in Kiwiland
January 16, 2010 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Things for 2 Brits to do on New Zealand North Island in late Feb...

My wife and I have been talking about emigrating, with New Zealand at the top of the fantasy league.

With that in mind, we're planning to visit twice - once in February and again in August.

Our plan is to fly in to Auckland, and then spend 2 or 3 days in Auckland and Wellington (as the most likely places to get IT jobs). That leaves us with ten days to look around the island doing a mixture of checking the country out and satisfying our tourist needs (in case we decide we never make it out there for good).

So, Kiwi Hivemind, what things should we do in our two weeks? We're after suggestions for things both normal and touristy because of our dual agenda.

A bit about us...
* We're a couple of years either side of 30.
* We're both averagely lazy countryside lovers (country walks great - route marches notso).
* We both love taking photos of attractive urban and countryside landscapes.
* We'll have a hire car to get to places.
* We're not nightlife types, and neither of us have travelled the hour into London for a decade (work & rugby aside).
posted by twine42 to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You'll get better suggestions, but a few ideas might be:
- a day trip to Waiheke Island (in Auckland harbour);
- spending a few days driving round the Coromandel Peninsular, including some walks and some beaches;
- Rotorua: mud pools, spas, lots of outdoor activities - very touristy, but unlike anything in the UK (as far as I know);
- you'll be there during the Super 14 rugby season, so go watch the Hurricanes (in Wellington);
- maybe the Waitomo glowworm caves.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:09 PM on January 16, 2010

I visited New Zealand a dozen years ago and have fantasized about living there ever since.

Take a trip up to the Bay of Islands at the tip of the North Island. You can hire a sailboat for a tour. It is just gorgeous.

Also, this is going to sound really stupid, but the best ice cream in the whole wide world is from New Zealand. The national flavor (or something like that) is "Hokey Pokey". YOU MUST TRY IT.

I was forever ruined for other ice cream after I ate my weight in hokey pokey while I was there fora few weeks.
posted by Edubya at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2010

Since you are considering emigrating, it might be wise to think of your visits more as 'research' and less as holidays. With that in mind, I'd suggest you spend more time where you would be likely to live (Auckland and Wellington) and pretend you're already residents.

Instead of a hotel, rent a furnished apartment or house for a few days--preferably one that's located in a neighborhood that you might consider living in long-term. Ride the bus, if you think you would do that in real life. Drive on the motorways and obey the give-way rule in town. Go shopping for groceries and clothes (at 'real' stores, not souvenir shops). Explore the city parks like Auckland Domain, One Tree Hill, and Mount Eden and take lots of photos. Eat at local restaurants, not tourist traps.

This is not to say that you shouldn't do touristy things... by all means, climb Rangitoto and have dinner at the top of the Sky Tower and sail the harbor. But do these things with the realization that what one does on vacation is rarely what one does in real life. If you base your decision to emigrate on the fact that bungy jumping off the bridge was AWESOME, then you may build a skewed vision of reality and be disappointed when you arrive permanently. Better to create a 'real life' vacation that will let you make an informed decision whether NZ is for you.
posted by oceanmorning at 3:10 PM on January 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wellington is a lot nicer and picturesque the Auckland. Get out of Auckland as soon as possible :)

Rotorua is 2-3 hours away and is amazing - lots of thermal parks and sights around the town, as well as steam coming out of back yards and the lake inside the town. They have the nicest thermal baths, best enjoyed at night.

Taupo is very pretty, has a river and a gorge coming into town from the Thermal Park [Also, you can watch people bungy jump there or jump yourselves]. You can walk down to the Falls, an easy stroll, a few km long, starting at the Thermal Park. Check out the thermal stream under the bridge on the way there. There are a bunch of cheesy tourist attractions around there - prawn park, high ropes park etc. Craters of the Moon is a cute park with more geothermal activity.

Tongariro national park is on the way from Taupo to Wellington. One of a kind scenery. You can do the Tongariro crossing day walk, but it's not a walk in the park - there's lot of climbing involved and many tourists. However, the sights are worth the effort - volcanoes, alien landscape and colorful lakes.

Wellington is pretty. Check out the promenade around the National Museum, and drive around the coast line.

I've traveled through this area of New Zealand twice - once alone and the second time with my mom - and enjoyed every moment both times.
posted by ye#ara at 3:22 PM on January 16, 2010

There is a ton of good stuff around Rotorua. Go Zorbing!

Waitomo has great caves and blackwater rafting.

posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:37 PM on January 16, 2010

I like that you are planning to see the place in two seasons. February is wonderful. August can be chilly and wet.

I have family that emigrated to Auckland about 10 years ago. Two girls and moving the grandparents into a granny flat later, they love New Zealand. After visiting them 4 to 5 times a year for the last 8-9 years, it's funny. We almost had to force ourselves to go to the Viaduct for breakfast over the holidays. I hadn't been there for years. It's just not a place that locals would normally head. There are so many villages with great cafes, why bother?

I'm going to second oceanmorning's suggestion. This should be a research trip. Maybe take a "long weekend" for one or two touristy activities, but otherwise try to get an understanding of what it would mean to live there.

Go driving during rush hour. Head to New Market on a Saturday afternoon and buy some groceries at Two Double Seven. If you're like my family, you'll be spending a lot of time there. Plus you will get a much better impression of daily life in a new country which, for me, is one of the pleasures of travel.
posted by michswiss at 6:02 PM on January 16, 2010

2nding/nthing Waiheke, Bay of Islands, and Zorbing, mostly touristy but generally fantastic. If you're there in early February, you might be able to check out events happening around Waitangi Day.
posted by supramarginal at 7:57 PM on January 16, 2010

2nding Rotorua and Taupo. Two great places to get some touristing done.

When you're down Wellington way, you can try a day trip out to the Wairarapa. Just a couple of hours drive over the ranges, there's some lovely countryside, wineries and some nice walking tracks. Mt Bruce is a personal favourite, which I recommend if you like birds, or you like forest walks.

In Wellington itself, leave the rental car where you're staying, and get a Daytripper ticket on the bus. They're available after 9am, cost $6 each, and lets you ride the buses for the rest of the day. You can catch a bus from almost anywhere back to Lambton Quay downtown, so you don't have to worry about getting lost. The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary has the same sort of thing as Mt Bruce, birds and bush, and it's a 15-20min bus ride from downtown. The Wellington Botanic Gardens are a nice walk, but quite steep in places. I recommend buying a one way ticket on the Cable Car from Lambton Quay to the lookout at the gardens, and walking down.

And if you're in Wellington around the 4-6th of Feb, do not panic. Those strange people are just dressed up for the Rugby Sevens tournament. Underneath, they are perfectly normal.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 4:54 AM on January 17, 2010

I agree with others on Rotorua. My wife and I were there one August. It was cold outside but the outside steam baths were, well, steaming and warm. One of our favorite memories of the trip.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:10 AM on January 17, 2010

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