What to do in NZ?
November 16, 2010 7:03 PM   Subscribe

We'll be spending a week in New Zealand in early February, flying in and out of Auckland. (This is tacked onto a trip to see friends in Tasmania). There's two of us, plus our will-be 18 month old. We like child-friendly museums, interesting historical sites, good vegetarian food, moderate-level day hikes, and most everything else that comes with traveling.

We aren't planning on creating a firm itinerary but felt that we should probably have a rough outline or plan for the week. Any recommendations on activities? Places to stay - particularly in towns that would be good to spend a few days in and/or use as a home base?
posted by buttercup to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: True story:

I went to Auckland for the first time many years ago (almost back before the Age of Dinosaurs) and stayed in a hotel down by the waterfront. On an a-frame sign by the Ferry Building on the docks was an advert for an early morning "coffee cruise" on a ferry around the harbor, I think it cost $5...

45 minutes later, the ferry dropped us off at Rangitoto Island, an actual VOLCANO. The announcement said, "Have fun on the hike. Pick you up in 2 hours!"

How we went from "coffee cruise" to "volcano hike" I'll never know, but I wish I had worn appropriate shoes and sunscreen.

Bottom line: I know for under $10 you can hike a volcano in Auckland Harbor and be back by noon.

posted by jbenben at 7:25 PM on November 16, 2010

Best answer: one week is not enough to really even consider the south island. You could fly to wellington and rent a car for a week, drive back to auckland via rotorua and taupo (and detour to Tauranga I reckon). That would be good, Te Papa in Wellington is choice, and the desert road is pretty interesting.
Or you could do day trips from Auckland. We stayed for several days at helensville, not far norht of Auckland, went to Whangarei and the beaches, that was great.

Heaps of good day walks around from there, such as karekare.

I really like auckland war memorial museum (though they've got an idiotic "voluntary but not really voluntary" entrance fee) - it's not all about war.

Climb Mt Eden. Get the ferry to rangitoto.
posted by wilful at 7:25 PM on November 16, 2010

Came back to nth staying in Whangarei!!
posted by jbenben at 7:30 PM on November 16, 2010

Best answer: It's a 2.5 hour drive from Auckland but Hot Water Beach is what it sounds like. Be sure to time it with the low tide and bring a spade to dig yourself a spa, buy some fish and chips, and if you want a drink don't take glass onto the beach but by all means transfer what you want into plastic bottles. The sun goes down at 8:30-9pm.

There's a museum In Auckland called motat that's child friendly too. See if they've got an exhibition that you're into first though.
posted by holloway at 8:30 PM on November 16, 2010

It's a one hour flight from Auckland to Wellington so you could travel down for the day to see the capital, and Te Papa which is very kid friendly.
posted by holloway at 8:32 PM on November 16, 2010

18months is a bit young, but Chipmunks are in a few places, which is kids (large/pay) play warehouse. Many places have parks/play areas as well, often visible from the road, to entice people to stop by. I don't know Auckland at all, always avoid it, but any other place of NZ I have been to, and driven on. :)

Feb you will have great weather and very strong sun. Suncreen is recommended, and you might find that you squint a lot due to the sharpness of the sun. Maybe even consider sun glasses, even though I generally don't like them personally.
posted by lundman at 9:32 PM on November 16, 2010

Best answer: A week isn't really very long, but there is a bunch you can do, even just in Auckland.

Auckland is on a volcanic field, so we have heaps of sweet volcanoes to climb up (one tree hill is a must), and a bunch of them ended up as islands. Rangitoto as mentioned above, is right in the harbour and a great 2-3 hour trip (just don't do it on a scorching hot day, it is all black volcanic rock). There are a bunch of other great islands, if you are interested in historical stuff maybe try Kawau Island - it was bought and used as a private zoo by one of New Zealands first governors (which he rode around in in his zebra drawn carriage), and still has a wild Wallaby population.

The Waitakere ranges are 45 minutes to the west of Auckland and have a bunch of walks through them ranging from 45 mins to 4 days, and some of the best ever beaches. For vegetarian food, you have a bunch of options, and most places have vegetarian stuff. I am too poor to know the fancy ones, but in the city Sunflower Cafe, Golden Age, Revive and Raw Power are all great. The city life is also pretty good, try spending a day on K rd, or the viaduct/ponsonby or you are a bit more fancy.

If you leave Auckland, North is the bay of islands, where a bunch of NZs early European/Maori history happened. To the east is the Coromandel and hot water beach. Depending on how far you want to go, you could hit up Rotorua, which is famous as a geothermal area or Taupo, which is a big lake tourists seem to like.
posted by scodger at 11:14 PM on November 16, 2010

If you like fishies, Kelly Tarltons on Tamaki Drive, about 10 minutes from the CBD. MOTAT (ministry of Transport and Technology) is good for history and geekiness. Auckland War Museum (not about wars at all) is a good day's wandering.

For historical/touristy stuff, go North for Russell, and South for Rotorua.

Rangitoto is kinda boring - if you really want to say you've been inside a volcano, Mt Eden and/or One Tree Hill are not a boat trip away.

If you're just in Auckland for a week, it's better to spend less time travelling and more time looking.
posted by arzakh at 3:07 AM on November 17, 2010

Seconding Kelly Tarlton's. My kids and I loved it. Full of fishy/octopussy/penguiny cuteness.

(And to add an extra dimension to Holloway's recommendation, Te Papa has a pretty good online presence too. We followed the colossal squid thing until our eyes turned square.)

The Auckland Sky Tower was fun and a great view, but there was a lot of shrieking (on my behalf) when the bungee jumpers would catapult down past the windows.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:44 PM on November 17, 2010

Best answer: You might want to go to Cape Kidnappers for the Gannets if you decide to travel the North Island instead of just staying in Auckland. It's 4-5 hours from Auckland or Wellington, or 1.5-2.5 hours from Rotorua or Taupo.

I went a few years ago and it was just really cool to see a vast colony of birds mating and caring for their young. We took the tour bus, but I think you can also walk if you want to.

This is in Hawkes Bay, so you can also visit the wineries if you like that kind of stuff.
posted by fallsauce at 7:12 PM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry for the late followup on this. I marked a few as best as they sounded the most interesting. We'll definitely check everything out we can.
posted by buttercup at 10:25 AM on December 28, 2010

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