First week of the new year in New Zealand
December 29, 2014 7:22 PM   Subscribe

I'll be at Lake Taupo in NZ for New Year's Eve, then am looking to spend the next five-six days (leaving Auckland on the evening of the 7th) wandering the north island. So far, aside from a night tomorrow, I've nothing booked or solidly planned. Suggestions?

I'll be at Lake Taupo in NZ for New Year's Eve, then am looking to spend the next five-six days wandering the north island. So far, aside from a night tomorrow, I've nothing booked or solidly planned.

So far, I've spent close to a week in Rotorua, which has been a fun, if a bit sleepy town, and explored the thermal parks (loved Waiotapu, never seen anything like it, te puia was okay, and by the time I got to the in-city parks, I think I'd had my filled of staring at bubbling mud), gone horseback riding (a blast, hadn't done that in years), zip lining (fun, though the cost-benefit arbitrage means that I'm probably done with it for this trip, and the course was a lot of hurry-up-and-wait as a group of 10), gone through the Waitomo glow-worm caves (interesting. Wouldn't've flown over here for it, but they were beautiful), and kayaked the lake (enjoyable, if low-impact and somewhat boring to me).

I'm interested in the Tongariro crossing hike and my wife and I will probably do that 1 or 2 January, but other than that, have no idea what to do for the week. Suggestions?

I've a car, and was looking to drive to Wellington and take the ferry to see the south island, but I think that may mean I'll spend the majority of my vacation in transport. I don't mind driving at all, but my wife prefers it in 2-3 hour stretches max, so I think that's about our daily-stray limit.
posted by Seeba to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (7 answers total)
Head north to the Bay of Islands. You can break your journey in Auckland and there are plenty of things to do there (Auckland), from museums to volcanoes.
posted by dg at 8:49 PM on December 29, 2014

The south island is much more striking and awe-inspiring than the north island in terms of what you can see there, but it's beyond your time horizon in terms of driving time and time you have for sightseeing. You could spend a month down there.

The Tongariro Crossing is beautiful and definitely worth doing, although obviously it will take you all day. If you're doing it on 1/2 January, that means you have to stick around the central north island area for several more days, and you've already seen a lot of what that area has to offer. If you cannot do Tongariro tomorrow, I'd consider ditching that option and heading north. Because there are not any great things to see southwards until you get down to Wellington area, which is outside your driving range, so it's not a great idea to go south first and then catch Tongariro on your way back northwards. You should definitely not try to push your wife past her transit time limit, because the drive to Wellington from Taupo is pretty boring so it's not like you'd be seeing a lot on your way.

There are plenty of other amazing things to see on the north island. My favorites that you are within striking distance of right now include the following places you could head to initially from Taupo:
- Mount Maunganui and White Island - volcanic islands and hills, more great beaches
- The Coromandel Peninsula - scenic but quiet, beautiful beaches, relaxing
- Raglan - surf/beach town due west of Hamilton
Also once you get up to Auckland area, the following are great places to head from there:
- Piha, Karekare, and the Waitakere - incredible, striking, scenic beaches, kauri forests
- Tiritiri Matangi (ferry from a short drive north of Auckland) - a sanctuary island free of predators where you can see NZ native birds including takahe and kokako, if you are a bird lover this is a must see
- Waiheke Island (ferry from Auckland) is gorgeous in the summer too, basically it's an island of vineyards, extremely beautiful as well but I would definitely go here if you and your wife love wine, it's a great day trip

I'm not sure what sorts of things you like, that would dictate where you might want to go next. There are so many options. I have particular fondness for wildlife and striking beach scenery, so I love the Waitakere and Tiritiri, but I enjoyed all the other places I listed greatly as well. It will be hard to decide what to do with only a week to spend, when there are also at least 1-2 days' worth of sights in Auckland at minimum. Feel free to Memail me for more information on anything.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:41 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please explain to me why you are not going to the Coromandel? Go all the way to the end and stay at the Farm W/ accommodation there.

I spent my last week in NZ on the beach at Whangerei and absolutely loved it.

Took a ferry from Auckland and slept on a beach on Waiheke Island once and it is one of my best memories. Good vineyards there.

Tongariro is fun! We stayed overnight in the DOC hut about a 1/3 from the end - don't regret that. Three seasons in a day on Tongariro tho (it snowed! And was HOT) so be prepared!

I'm a giant fan of Ta Papa National Museum in Wellington, don't know if you'll get down that far. It is built on springs to accommodate frequent earthquakes! There is a little room in the beginning that tells the Maori Origin Story Myth that brought me to tears, reason there still unknown.

Hot Water Beach. Full moon night. Slept on the beach in sleeping bags. Best. Thing. Ever.

There are those little travel stores that help you with itineraries and bookings for free (what are they called??) Get thee to one.

On the South Island I did glacier climbing, seal swimming, canyoning, and white water kayaking. Lived in Wellington. Did a lot of eating and drinking. That's all I've got for the North Island.

Kia Ora!
posted by jbenben at 12:53 AM on December 30, 2014

I'd head north if I were you. Piha & Karekare are stunning, amazing places, and afterwards you can head further north to Paihia etc. Bay of Islands is a beautiful place - I really enjoyed the boat trips and there are some good (and easy) diving trips too. Make sure to take time to walk around some old woodlands too - it's a very different vibe.
posted by kariebookish at 2:11 AM on December 30, 2014

The Tongariro crossing is awesome, and so is the Coromandel. If you're into seafood, the quality of the oysters on Coromandel is astounding, particularly at this little shack we stopped by on our way out of town, is amazing. To have fresher oysters, you'd probably have to physically be out on the water still.

You mentioned that you've been through the glowworm caves, but did you do the underground tubing in Waitomo? It was amazing and a really, really different experience from going into the glow worm caves on a canoe with a big tour group.

(Just be careful if you bring your own special awesome best ever travel towel. They have a group locker to stash stuff, but somebody else walked off with it (#*$&)(*@@.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:02 AM on December 30, 2014

I had a great time staying at a farm hostel in the far north. The couple that runs it are absolute sweethearts (and it's not what you think of as a hostel, even though they call it that... it's more like a BNB). The husband Stefano is Italian and makes killer pizzas. The wife Lindsay is, I think 4th or 5th generation on the farm. Ask them how they met and about the history of the buildings on the farm -- they have great stories.

Anyway, the best part is that there's a secret creek with incredible rock pools on the back of the property... it's a huge farm, so it takes an hour to walk to the forest. They'll give you a hand drawn map. It's very beautiful there and since it's private property you'll probably have it all to yourself -- ask Stefano which pool is the best to jump into. The directions can be tricky, so don't hesitate to flag down some locals if you get confused... kiwis are super nice (you'll pass some gravel access roads and homes on your way across the farm).

Google "Kahoe Farms Hostel" and you'll be all set.
posted by topsykretts at 7:29 AM on December 30, 2014


Thanks y'all, it's been great so far:

Tongiriro was a blast, and a great way to spend the day (though I'll admit, the last hour of the hike was a slog - talking to our driver afterwards, the last 6.7km (advertised) is actually 9.something km as they rerouted the track following the 2012 eruption).

Waitomo was pretty cool, much better in a tube than the canoe.

Now we're in Auckland breaking the trip for a day on the Phia beach and will head up to the Bay of Islands tomorrow. (I tried to justify the coromandel, but it ended up as that or the BoI, and though I'm a spa/hot-springs/sauna junkie, sailing won the day)

Thanks for all the help, it's much appreciated!
posted by Seeba at 8:49 PM on January 2, 2015

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