Help me plan my NZ honeymoon.
December 26, 2007 5:03 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are *finally* going to go on our honeymoon and we're aiming for mid-March. We live in Tokyo and we're thinking of going to New Zealand. Assuming we have a week (or perhaps shorter, like 5 full days), what could we do in NZ? How's the weather? North Island or South Island? Can we get around either island by train/bus easily or is renting a car a better idea?

Things my wife absolutely wants to do are swim with dolphins, lounge on the beach a bit, and do some shopping. I'd like to do some (relatively easy-going) hiking in the forests and/or mountains. Any ideas?
posted by zardoz to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We just had a 2-week honeymoon in New Zealand in late October/early November, and it was awesome. We stayed entirely on the north island, rented a car, and generally took it easy.

I would recommend car travel as the way to go -- the scenery from the highway is fantastic, and the roads are not very crowded.

As far as sightseeing, with only a few days to work with, you might think about staying in the Northlands/Bay of Islands -- an area a few hours north of Auckland. We had a really great night at a bed-and-breakfast near the edge of the Waipoua National Forest (the Waipoua Lodge, a little expensive, but well worth it), which houses some really enormous kauri trees, and has some easy, well-marked walks. I think that there's more strenuous hikes in the area, too. Driving either north or south from there along Route 12 (the Twin Coasts Discovery Highway) will bring you to some really nice beaches.

If you wanted to go in an entirely different direction (southeast of Auckland), we also had a great couple of days in the Hawke's Bay region, using the cool art-deco town of Napier as a base. Lots of great little wineries within a half-hour's drive, and the gannet colonies at Cape Kidnappers are something else.

(And, if you were driving from Auckland to Hawke's Bay, and you're at all interested, you should definitely take the tour of the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. A half-torn-down set shouldn't really be that cool, but there's something magical about it.)
posted by Ringtail at 5:43 PM on December 26, 2007

Ringtail (my husband) forgot to point out that there is swimming with the dolphins in Paihia, which is also in the Bay of Islands/Northlands. We found Paihia a bit touristy for our tastes, so perhaps someone else will have a different dolphin-swimming suggestion.
posted by divka at 5:53 PM on December 26, 2007

With that little time, I'd pick a small-ish area and stick to it. It takes longer to get around New Zealand than people tend to think it might. And if you can spend more time there, then definitely do.

Both islands are beautiful, but the South Island is even more spectacular than the north. However, if you're going in March and want beaches, the North Island may be a better bet weather-wise. Northland is lovely (as Ringtail mentions), and the Bay of Islands would be a great place to spend your honeymoon. There are some great beaches near Auckland as well as up north. Also consider the Coromandel Peninsula (not too far from Auckland), or, if you want to be somewhere really remote, go to the East Cape. Everywhere you go there are hikes of varying length and difficulty. If you go the Bay of Islands, I'd recommend a half-day kayak trip to see the bay and mangroves from a different perspective.

If you decide on the South Island, Christchurch or Dunedin would probably be the cities to go to. For scenery, the drive down the West Coast is unbeatable, and the Milford Sound/Doubtful Sound area is the most gorgeous place I've ever been. The challenge with New Zealand is deciding what not to do, since there's so much.

Definitely rent a car; taking buses is slow and inconvenient, and the trains don't go everywhere you want them to (though if you go to the South Island, the train ride across the Southern Alps is very scenic).

This is a ridiculously scatterbrained comment, but I lived in New Zealand for a year and would be happy to offer more ideas, so feel free to MeMail me.
posted by bassjump at 6:04 PM on December 26, 2007

Short time, so you could probably do all of North Island, but you'd spend all time driving, so as suggested in a previous post, staying in one greater area is probably better. Beaches, you do want to be north, but otherwise I am not a fan of Auckland, if you are from Tokyo you don't need another city. Wellington is far more quaint. Scenery in NZ is fabulous anywhere you go, but gets better/wilder the more South you go. Queenstown is a tourist attraction, but with a reason, especially if you take a trip down to the Fjordlands (Milford/Doubtful sounds).

There is really no car/bus service worth speaking about, outside of the very center of cities. Rent a car, roads are empty, and actually really nice to drive. (if you like curvy scary mountain roads!)

I lived in NZ for 7 years, and wife is a kiwi. I have driven pretty much all over NZ. I live in Tokyo if that matters. Have fun. Oh, and get used to everything being much slower there! (as in the checkout staff will generally chitchat with you and so on).
posted by lundman at 6:29 PM on December 26, 2007

I secong the South Island. Rent a camper van and take in the scenery. People wave to you on the highways, just to say hi. Bizarre. But then again there are more sheep there than people that probably explains a lot...
posted by dawdle at 7:26 PM on December 26, 2007

I spent 2 weeks in NZ on both islands (5000 kms on a motorcycle) and although I really liked Wellington, and various parts of the North Island, the South Island was more impressive. If you only have a week, I'd focus on the South Island. If you like outdoor activities, then I'd base in Queenstown. If you'd rather drive around and relax, then base from Christchurch. I'm also in Tokyo now too. I don't have my NZ photos online at the moment but if you MeFiMail me I can get a few up this weekend.
posted by gen at 9:57 PM on December 26, 2007

The weather will be similar to September in the US (I'm not sure how that compares to Tokyo). I spent a month traveling around the south island and it was fantastic. You'll need to rent a car. I have a bunch of pictures here which are labeled with locations if you see anything you like. Gratuitous specific photo links below.

Here's a possible itinerary [google maps] (although this may be unrealistic with the time you have)

1. Christchurch
- Where you'll most likely fly into. Plenty to do [photos]
2. Franz Josef Glacier
- Gorgeous and well worth the drive [photos]
3. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
- Cool stop on the drive up [photos]
4. Cape Foulwind
- Lighthouse [photos] and seal colony [photos]
5. Kaiteriteri
- Home to Kaiteriteri Beach [photos] (one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen) and Abel Tasman National Park (we kayaked up, got caught in a storm and walked back)
6. Nelson
- A scenic city, some things to do but mainly added because it's on the way back [photos]
7. Kaikoura
- Seal colony [photos, whale watching, dolphin watching (I'm not sure if you can swim with them)

Even if you don't do the above, I'd suggest driving around the South island. It shouldn't be too crowded in March and is overwhelmingly beautiful.
posted by null terminated at 3:08 AM on December 27, 2007

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