The jet lag will be lower when you arrive in New Zealand in broad daylight. That said, we spend the first night at the hotel attached to the airport around midnight on arrival. 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. We head to the northeast, in the Coromandel Peninsula. The weather was beautiful, although it was the height of summer, though less warm and humid than ours. The coastal landscapes show immediately their splendor and wealth of flora and fauna. 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 and in fact well there is around 4 sheep per inhabitant. The lush pastures are not lacking. Sheep graze undisturbed on parceled meadows on tot square meters. It ensures their quality of food and thus, 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. Here 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 the British colonial style.
The houses, streets, drive on the left side of the road and education seems to be as in England. The Maori culture is everywhere, with a double translation of anything written. There is also the 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. In the beach where the geothermal activity gets revealed by 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 is very intense and extensive, and in some ways even alarming. There are areas occupied by sulfurous thermal areas, volcanoes, and natural spa.
The day after, in fact, we reached Whakatane. We board to 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 only the crater of an active volcano.
Lady Knox Geyser
As soon as we arrive, guides bring us to the shore in 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. He then makes us walk a couple of kilometers on foot in the strangest landscape I have ever seen.
The gray and yellow sulfur are everywhere. There are pools of boiling mud and gaseous emissions from the crater. 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. In the first leg, we passed 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 many hotels, to suit every taste and every budget.
The next day we head to Rotorua, the real heart of North Island. It is a symbol of Maori culture and nerve center of geothermal activity. The city has a strange atmosphere. In fact, a heat comes from the earth. Rotorua has Maori villages and natural spas. It's worth a visit to the spas, even if you are not fans of the genre. The pools of open water courses in water pass from 36 to 42 degrees.
The center is full of shops, clubs, and motels to suit all tastes. We stopped to stay for two nights. In our hotel, we met several authentic Maori families on vacation with tattoos and all the rest. They were playing in the pool with the kids.
The next day we treat ourselves to a trip to Waitomo. We make a fascinating visit to the caves where there live fireflies. We visit in complete darkness on a boat, which runs through the underground caves. In the Rotorua area also we visit the different spa areas of the surroundings.
When you enter the natural park, you enter another world. The land erupts from every crack. The pools of boiling mud and blinding colors will leave you breathless. So much so that one area gets called Artist's Palette. The minerals left on the surface through the 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. It includes those of the Tongariro National Park. It is home to three of the most active volcanoes in the country and Lake Taupo which of course has a volcanic origin.
We arrive at 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 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 is spectacular as the ship wedges in Picton fjord. The scenery is breathtaking.
After arriving in the South Island, you can count on two things, the lowering of the temperature. Keep in mind that being in the southern hemisphere, everything is the opposite. 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 get closed. We book a beautiful outing with the whales for the next day. The next day we see the whales! From this point, the journey takes through extreme fauna. We head towards Christchurch.
The shops of the historic center in containers descend to Dunedin. The Otago Peninsula is the undisputed realm of the penguins. We see the sea lion, seals and royal albatross in the only nesting colony of the continent of Oceania.
It's admirable how locals seek to preserve nature and create wildlife protection areas. There are barriers and explanatory signs on the habit of the species and how to behave. We arrive at the extreme south, to Catlins, where the breathtaking scenery captures us. Here there is a 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. From here the boats go to the pole and here 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. The port is the most characteristic area. It is full of restaurants and clubs.
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 like those in Europe, especially Britain. This gives an idea of security in a recognized system that allows you to 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 present on the islands. And then the huge mussels. 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. Travel is more enjoyable during the warmer summer months from November to April. During Christmas, the country remains very busy, especially from mid-December to January. For this reason, we recommend you to plan your trip for the months of November, February, and April. Snowboarding and skiing are possible during the winter months in July and August.
New Zealand Passport and Visa
If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, 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. The compensation scheme for accidents covers visitors for personal injury caused by accidents. I 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.
Are you planning 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 changes. If you plan to visit this country in the summer months, carry the mosquito repellent and a good sunscreen. They are important but not essential.
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. Everyone must complete the arrival questionnaire distributed on the plane before landing.
New Zealand has many facilities for visitors. There are over 100 official tourist information offices throughout. The National tourist information centers provide comprehensive information on the spots and bookings. The Local Visitor Information Centers 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. It is worth climbing to reach the summit from which to enjoy the splendid view of the lake. There are fantastic hostels with lots of backpackers from around the world. Despite its small size, it will be very difficult to leave. From Queenstown daily tours are there to Milford Sound.
Day 4/5 - Franz Josef Glacier
After the ascent of the glacier enter the thermal baths of the village. Here you can recover after a day in the cold. Indulge in winter sports which are 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 the nature, imposing mountains, and pristine coastlines. There are lakes with crystal clear water. The national parks include the stunning Abel Tasman. It is a few hours drive from Nelson. All this makes this country unique and recognizable.
All hostels organize day trips to the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. Travel a day between boat trails and walking in silence. Here you will meet the few and sporadic tourists who meet often in the opposite path to your own.
Day 10/11/12 - Wellington
With its small size, it does not seem like a capital. The city is fascinating and colorful. It lends itself well to represent the entire country. Wellington is the mirror in the small peaceful and pretty 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 increases. Above all, from now on you will be able to find out and meet the Maori people and their culture. In particular, Te Papa museum is beautiful with free entry.
Day 16/17 - Waitomo
Day 18/19/20 - Auckland and Bay of Islands
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 a reason to reach this place. Here the first Maori landed more than 1000 years ago. Many tourist agencies offer combined tours of Waiotapu and Bay of Plenty. Auckland is not as beautiful as Sydney nor vibrant and colorful as Wellington.
Once upon a time of Zealandia
Zealandia is a continent almost completely submerged. It 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. Most of it still lies below the Pacific Ocean. Its fracture is visible even now on the Queensland coast, along with the Cato Trough. Here two continental crusts are only 25 km apart.
The eighth wonder of the world is the Terraces of Lake Rotomahana. It is a cascade formed from geothermal sources saturated with silicon.