New Zealand is a honeymoon destination at the other end of the world. We were in New Zealand with a beautiful extension to the Cook Islands for our honeymoon. We arrive on site at the International Airport of Auckland. Although not the capital, it is the largest city and a vibrant place. When you fly here the time zone is important. When you arrive in New Zealand but also to the east coast of Australia, you will spend approximately 24 hours in departure, but locally it will be night time, and as you will be exhausted by the journey, you will naturally feel sleepy even for a few hours.
The jet lag will be significantly lower when you arrive in the new continent in broad daylight or worse in the early morning, and you will have to wait all day to be able to go to bed. That said, we spend the first night at the hotel attached to the airport locally around midnight on arrival and the next morning we rented a car and begin the North Island tour.
New Zealand Panorama
We leave the Auckland area, which we will see again on the way back, and head to the northeast, in the Coromandel Peninsula. The weather was beautiful, although it was obviously the height of summer, though less warm and humid than ours. The coastal landscapes and interiors show themselves immediately for their splendor and wealth of fauna and flora. With vivid colors surrounding us, almost every few minutes we stop to take pictures.
One thing is immediately evident is the sheep, which are almost everywhere and in lots. There are about forty million against four and a half million people and in fact well there is around 4 sheep per inhabitant. The lush pastures are not lacking and sheep graze undisturbed on parceled meadows on tot square meters, to ensure their quality of food and therefore, good wool. But sheep aside, this country, so close to Australia and Fiji Islands is a world apart. South America is also close and from Auckland in fact there are direct flights to Santiago in Chile.
We make a brief stop in Coromandel, a bohemian little town where we make our first foray into a local supermarket and to our delight, we buy snacks for lunch, which gives us great satisfaction I have to say. Meanwhile we find the symbols of this land, on which live perfectly the British colonial style as in houses, streets, drives on the left side of the road and education seems to be as in England and the Maori culture is appreciated everywhere, with double translation of anything written and in kiwi above all, which is the result of that nocturnal bird.
New Zealand White Island
We continue towards the Bay of Plenty, but we stop again at Hot Water Beach, a beach where the geothermal activity is revealed by literally boiling water in pools dug on the beach. The effect is spectacular. You can dig your own spa pool in the sand, and the earth will throw out boiling water! In some places the water is so hot that you cannot keep your feet in it. The geothermal activity in New Zealand is very intense and extensive, and in some ways even alarming. There are plenty of areas occupied by sulphurous, thermal areas, volcanoes and natural spa.
The day after, in fact, we reached Whakatane, and we board at a time of White Island, an active volcano, yes at fifty kilometers from the coast. And the hike alone is worth the travel. White Island is an island consisting practically only from the crater of an active volcano.
Lady Knox Geyser
As soon as we arrive, they bring us to the shore an inflatable boat. I go down and the guide tells us to follow exactly in his footsteps, because the gases trapped underground can leak at any moment, and then makes us walk a couple of kilometers on foot in the strangest landscape I have ever seen with gray and yellow sulfur, everywhere. Pools of boiling mud, important gaseous emissions emitted from the crater and finally, in the best of traditions, there is an abandoned sulfide mine, marred by the last eruption.
You can get to White Island by helicopter, but for us it was too expensive. The boat trip instead, with lunch included, cost half, and in the first leg we passed closely across the dolphins! For the rest of the area, I'd say Whakatane is a charming town and equipped with everything, although the restaurants have left us a bit high and dry. They are few and with little choice. We've stayed at a motel, with reasonable price for a spacious room with spa bath. There were may hotels, to suit every taste and every budget.
The next day we head to Rotorua, the real heart of North Island and is a symbol of Maori culture and nerve center of geothermal activity. The city is surrounded by a strange atmosphere by sea, but it is in the middle. In fact, the heat comes from the earth. Rotorua is surrounded by Maori villages and natural spa. It's worth a visit to the spas, even if you are not fans of the genre with pools of open water courses in water passing from 36 to 42 degrees.
The center is full of shops, clubs and motels to suit all tastes. We stopped to sleep for two nights, and in our hotel we met several authentic Maori families on vacation with tattoos and all the rest, who were playing in the pool with the kids. The next day we treat ourselves to a trip to Waitomo, where we make a fascinating visit to the caves where there live fireflies. The visit takes place in complete darkness on a boat driven by a / a Maori, which runs through the underground caves. In the Rotorua area also deserve the different spa areas of the surroundings.
When you enter the natural park, you enter another world. The land erupts from every crack, as pools of boiling mud and blinding colors leave you literally breathless, so much so that one area is specifically called Artist's Palette. The minerals left on the surface through the eruptions or geothermal activity color the ground. Do not miss the Champagne Pool. We then head south and cross the entire island while enjoying the spectacular views, including those of the Tongariro National Park, which is home to three of the most active volcanoes in the country, and Lake Taupo which of course has volcanic origin.
We arrive to the capital, Wellington, in the late afternoon. The town is very pretty and clean, but no guide tells you it's a very windy city. There is always the wind, every day. For the inhabitants it is normal, but for those who arrive from Rotorua, the wind and the lowering of temperature are a shock.
The explanation is simple indeed. Wellington is located right at the entrance of the strait between the two islands that make up New Zealand. The prices here are a bit higher than normal and the next day we're on the ferry to the South Island. The rental cars cannot cross the strait. You must leave your car at the ferry terminal in Wellington. The trip takes about three and a half hours and the sea is calm even if the weather is not that good. The last stretch of the route, however, is spectacular because the ship is wedged in Picton fjord and scenery are breathtaking.
After arriving in the South Island, you can count on two things, the lowering of the temperature. Keep in mind that being in southern hemisphere, everything is the opposite and the more you go south, the colder it is and can have close encounters with wildlife that you have only seen in books. We take the car to our next destination Kaikoura, a stop for hikers who love whales. For the way, we stop twice because of the beach and on the rocks, a short walk, where the seal's rest. We took hundreds of photos, then we learn that that is normal.
Kaikoura is nice, but it is almost evening and the shops are closed. We book for the next day a beautiful outing with the whales. The next day we see the whales! From this point on the journey takes through extreme fauna as we head towards Christchurch, with the shops of the historic center in containers descend to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula, the undisputed realm of the penguins, sea lion, seals and royal albatross, in the only nesting colony of the continent of Oceania.
It's admirable how man seeks to preserve nature and create a local wildlife protection areas, with barriers and explanatory signs on the habit of the species and how to behave in order to comply with them. We arrive to the extreme south, to Catlins, where the breathtaking scenery repays us of the way done and the total lack of ability to communicate with no signal for mobile phones and wi-fi. The last stop is Invercargill, a sleepy town to the extreme south, where the boats go to the pole and where is the famous sign with the distances of the world's major cities. But be careful, to reach you have to walk for about forty minutes, and despite being the middle of summer it is 6 degrees!
Back from Cook, we still stop three days at Auckland, the real heart of the nation button. We discover a clean city with efficient service, which is very livable and endorsable even while walking. The port is The City of Sails, which is the most characteristic area, full of restaurants and clubs. There are also many restaurants, and, almost always, are happy to have a chat because those parts are not seen by many of our countrymen.
In conclusion, even if the journey is long and tiring, I'm glad I visited this corner of the world. The living standards are quite high and in any case very similar to those in Europe, especially Britain. This gives an idea of security in a recognized system that allows you to fully enjoy your holiday.
As for the food, the lamb is the most popular, as you can imagine. But there are many possibilities for salads, fish and other meats, that is abundantly present on the islands. And then the huge mussels. Its worth noting that almost all the places we've been, even pubs in small towns or in the hotel breakfast buffet, has on the menu the dishes suitable for coeliacs and vegetarians. Almost always they have at least one option for both and there is bread.
When to go to New Zealand
It is possible to visit New Zealand throughout the year. However, travel is more enjoyable during the warmer summer months from November to April. During Christmas the country remains very busy, especially when the schools are closed from mid-December to January and for this reason we recommend you to plan your trip for the months of November, February and April. Snowboarding and skiing is possible only during the winter months when it usually snows and at the top in July and August.
New Zealand Passport & Visa
If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, you will surely asked yourselves the question: do we need a visa?. The answer is you will need a visa but it's very easy to get. For the tourist visa, you do not need to go to the embassy. You can apply online at the official website of the Government of New Zealand which is valid for 90 days and is free. While the compensation scheme for accidents covers visitors for personal injury caused by accidents, I highly recommend you take an insurance.
How to Travel in New Zealand
Unlike Australia, New Zealand is well equipped for travelers and backpackers. The bus transport system is one of the best I've ever used.
If you plan to visit New Zealand during the colder months between May and September, bring warm clothes, gloves, a waterproof jacket and the usual hiking boots. This clothing is especially important in the Alpine regions, where the weather can change quickly. If you plan to visit this country in the summer months, carry the mosquito repellent and a good sunscreen, which are important but not essential. Of course, these products can be purchased upon arrival.
New Zealand has three international airports in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. The flight time is approximately 4 hours and 11 hours from Australia to Singapore. Each person who arrives in New Zealand must complete the arrival Questionnaire distributed on the plane before landing. We personally have reached New Zealand with the round the world ticket.
New Zealand has many facilities for visitors and there are over 100 official tourist information offices throughout. The National tourist information centers provide comprehensive information on the spot and on bookings, to meet your every demand. The Local Visitor Information Centers provide information on the zone in which they are located and are open during the day and working hours.
New Zealand Travel Itinerary
Day 1/2/3 - Queens Town and Milford Sound
This small town lies on the slopes of a mountain, which is worth climbing to reach the summit from which to enjoy the splendid view of the lake. Fantastic hostel, lots of backpackers from around the world and despite its small size will be very difficult to leave. From Queenstown depart daily tours to Milford Sound, New Zealanders fjords.
Day 4/5 - Franz Josef Glacier
With the ascent of the glacier is given entry to the thermal baths of the village where you can recover after a day in the cold and sports which is not so extreme and more or less suitable for all ages.
Day 6/7 - Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park
Nelson seems to please many, but I am a strong supporter of the fact that New Zealand is real and unique paradise. Here we must not look for the beautiful cities. The uniqueness of the country is given by the rich and vital nature by imposing mountains, the pristine coastlines, lakes with crystal clear water and national parks, including the stunning Abel Tasman, a few hours drive from Nelson. All this makes this country unique and unmistakably recognizable.
All hostels organize day trips to the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. A day between boat trails and walking in silence, where you will meet the few and sporadic tourists who meet often follow the opposite path to your own.
Day 10/11/12 - Wellington
Despite its small size and its does not seem like a capital, the city is fascinating, colorful and ultimately lends itself well to represent the entire country. Wellington could be considered the mirror in the small peaceful and pretty much perfect New Zealand.
But what is interesting happens in the passage from the island of the South to the North are two things. The concentration of people suddenly increases and above all, from now on you will be able to find out and touch the people Maori and their culture. In particular is beautiful Te Papa museum with free entry.
Day 16/17 - Waitomo
Day 18/19/20 - Auckland and Bay of Islands
Just 3 hours drive north from Auckland is the beautiful Bay of Islands. The path that leads from the city to the extreme north of the island itself is reason to reach this place which is said to be where the first Maori landed more than 1000 years ago. Many tourist agencies offer tours combined, Waiotopu + Bay of Islands, departing daily from Auckland and other tour options of 1 or more days. Auckland is not as beautiful as Sydney nor vibrant and colorful as Wellington, but it is from here that the planes arrive and leave.
Once upon a time of Zealandia
Zealandia is a continent almost completely submerged, which sank 85 million to 130 million years ago to form the new continents of Antarctica and Australia. It may have been completely submerged about 23 million years ago and most of it (93%) still lies below Pacific Ocean. And whose fracture is visible even now on the Queensland coast, along the Cato Trough, where two continental crusts are only 25 km apart.
Recently another study redraws the ancient continents identifying another in submerged lands under the Mauritius is Mauritia, fragment of the ancient continent of Gondwana, the submerging of which more than 200 million years ago formed Africa, India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Madagascar 80 million years ago, which was then covered by successive volcanic eruptions.The eighth wonder of the world, the Terraces of Lake Rotomahana was discovered after 131 years which resurfaced and is a cascade formed from geothermal sources saturated with silicon.