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Honeymoon Heaven



New Zealand has deserted beaches, romantic bush hideaways, private islands, exclusive lodges and relaxing spas in magic locations - what more do you need? You can not only honeymoon here, but be married as well! Below are two 10 day discovery itineraries that include plenty of time together as well as some time exploring the immense beauty of New Zealand. The first is in the North Island, the second is in the South Island - or you could combine them both for the ultimate honeymoon ....well, you do only get married once, so why not make this a trip of a lifetime!

Let me know if you would like a unique itinerary drafted to suit your individual interests - we will gladly assist you in planning the most perfect honeymoon. Price will be termined by the standard of accommodtions you chose and the number of excursions/activies that are included in your package. 


Self-Drive Holiday

Duration : 9 nights/10 days.
Activities included : Beaches, Outdoor Adventure, Sightseeing, Water Sports, Awesome Walks.
Notes : North Island only - see below for the South Island sample itinerary.

  North Island itinerary   

A ten-day self-drive tour of the North Island created specially for newly weds or the romantic at heart. Be sure to let me know your preferred activity level, so that I can adjust the itinerary accordingly. Remember this is just a sample.
Day 1 Arrive Auckland 

All travellers using Amazing New Zealand services are personally met at the airport by our friendly professional representative. You will receive at the airport a comprehensive Deluxe Travel Pack. The pack contains the prepaid service vouchers, maps, discount vouchers and brochures to local attractions, plus a detailed daily explanation of driving routes, including suggested stops en route.

The representative will then take you to your accommodation in Auckland, stopping en route on the extinct volcano Mount Eden to point out the city's many geographical features and attractions. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, straddling two enormous harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. We recommend that you stay here at least 24 hours to enjoy this beautiful city and to recover from your jet-lag. The problem is the city has so much to offer you may have trouble making choices. Buy a day ticket on the hop-on/hop-off bus which makes stops at most of Auckland's attractions - you can choose to get off and catch a later bus, or continue to the next stop.  

Suggested activities :-  
  • The Waterfront has many of Auckland’s attractions and is bustling with restaurants and cafés.
  • It is also where you will find the extremely informative Maritime Museum - the displays are chronological, so you begin with the Maori migration across the seas, step back in time on board a European immigrant's ship, then appreciate New Zealand's proud yachting history including the Whitbread Round the World race and of course the America's Cup. After all, Auckland is known as the City of Sails.
  • Catch the ferry to Waiheke Island and have lunch at Stoneyridge Vineyard.
  • Wander up to the Sky Tower - admire the panoramic view, do the Skywalk, bungee jump from the tower or just have dinner in the revolving restaurant.
  • Kelly Tarlton was the inventor of the undersea walkway where you can view the fish from below without getting wet - the Antarctic Encounter and Penguin Encounter are worth stopping here on their own.
  • Other stops if you have time include the Auckland Museum, Auckland Art Gallery or Victoria Park Market for the bargain hunters.
  • The bus will eventually bring you back to the Waterfront where you could head to the Ferry Building and take a ferry to Devonport. If you have 2-3 hours you could wander along the waterfront to the right and up the dormant volcanic cone North Head, then climb down to the popular Cheltenham Beach before wandering back to the ferry.
  • My recommendations for dinner are the seafood restaurant Harbourside in the Ferry Building, or wander along to the Princes Wharf where you'll find many more waterside eateries.

Day 2 Auckland - Paihia (Bay of Islands) 240kms

Head north over the Harbour Bridge on SH1 for 30 kilometres and take the 398 Exit to Silverdale (soon after the BP Service Station) and follow the ‘Free Route’ (and not the Toll Road) through Orewa. The next community is Waiwera, famous for their pure bottled water as well as the hot-pools.

Next, continue north over the bridge. Another 200m up this hill you will see a sign for Wenderholm Regional Park. Turn right into this park. The road will take you down to the beach, which is well worth the small detour. The park has a wonderful grove of Pohutakawa trees, a native with bright red flowers. The other name for these ancient trees is the New Zealand Christmas Tree as they usually begin to flower at Christmas time. The trees are full of native Tui and Fantail birds. The Tui is a black/shiny blue medium sized bird with a white ball of feathers under its chin, and has a beautiful song. The cute little Fantail flutters around your head as you disturb the insects while walking. There is a huge picture frame on the northern end of the beach, which makes for some interesting photographs.

Continue north. Soon after you will rejoin SH1, just north of the Toll Tunnel.

45kms - The cute little village of Puhoi is just one kilometre off the main highway. Most residents here are descendants from Bohemian immigrants. It may be a little early to stop at the historic pub, but if you drive a further 3kms down this side road there is an excellent café at the cheese making factory called the Art of Cheese, where you can also see the cheese makers at work. The service and cheese platters are excellent here and there is a large selection of specialty cheeses for sale. Return to SH1 and turn left. 

69kms – Ransom Winery (look for the turnoff left, just after the Honey Centre) has a casual restaurant with excellent platters of locally grown and produced gourmet nibbles. They offer a flight of 5 different wines, but as it only totals approximately 1 glass of wine, you are fine for driving afterwards.

162kms – Another alternative for lunch is at the Town Basin in Whangarei - turn right into Tarewa Rd and follow `Quayside and Town Basin` signs. The Basin is a wonderful waterfront development full of cafes, restaurants, art galleries and museums.

After lunch it is another 70 kilometres to Paihia. If you have time take the small diversion to Whangarei Falls – the turnoff is just north of the city by the golf course, follow the signs to Tutukaka. The 23m falls are more than worth a look and they are right next to the road. Plus there is an easy bush walk to the base of the falls. Return the way you came to SH1 and turn right, Paihia is another hour from here.

218kms – Even if the call of nature is not calling, you may want to make a stop at Kawakawa to check out the public toilets designed by Austrian architect Hundertwasser. He chose Kawakawa to retire and die in and his unique toilets have become world famous. They are not only incredibly beautiful, but also the cleanest you’ll ever have the privilege of using! Return 200 metres to the Paihia/ Bay of Islands turnoff and turn left.

240kms - Your first impression of the Bay of Islands may be somewhat disappointing, as the islands are not exactly visible – but believe me, they are out there – all 144 of them. The only way to appreciate this aquatic playground is from the water and there are a daunting array of companies willing to take you there. You can fish, kayak, snorkel or swim as much as you like as you cruise and stop at many of the islands tomorrow, often accompanied by dolphins.
Day 3 Paihia  

Your first visit should be to Waitangi– the birth place of our nation. The historical Waitangi Visitor Centre and Treaty House marks the site of the original treaty signing in 1840 between the Maori people and the British Empire. Drive another 2kms past Paihia.This is the heart of New Zealand’s historical beginnings, with audio-visual displays, an important Marae (Maori meeting house) which is probably the most visited by the Maori today, the beautifully restored Treaty House, and a Waka (Maori war canoe). After your visit and if you have time, take the ferry across to Russell, a quaint little village which was once the capital of New Zealand! It was also once known as the ‘hell hole of the South Pacific’ between 1830 and 1840, when whore-houses abounded and drunken brawls between whalers and seamen were the norm. Today it is a much quieter place!

Dolphin Discoveries was the first Department of Conservation licensed operator for dolphin and whale watching in the North Island and have knowledgeable and local guides that are extremely experienced to ensure you get the most from your cruise. A portion of your fare contributes to marine mammal research and conservation in the Bay of Islands. This is the perfect way to see and enjoy everything the “Bay” has to offer.

On your return you could disembark in Russell. This quaint little village was once the capital of New Zealand! It was also once known as the ‘hell hole of the South Pacific’ between 1830 and 1840, when whore-houses abounded and drunken brawls between whalers and seamen were the norm. Today it is a much quieter place! Russell is recommended for dinner before catching one of the regular ferries back across to Paihia (extra charge). 

Day 4 Pahia - Cable Bay 125kms

Today’s drive takes you first to the north to visit Matauri Bay – the most scenically beautiful bay in all of New Zealand (I think so anyway). Drive inland, direction Puketona.

The Haruru Falls themselves are well worth a look at, take the 3rd intersection on your right to access the parking on the northern side of the falls. Haruru means “noisy” in Maori and are of a historical significance as this was one of the first trading places between the Maori and the Pakeha (Europeans). The falls are not that spectacular in height but have a nice horse shoe shape.

At the T-intersection go right onto SH10.

17kms – At the major roundabout turn right and drive down to Kerikeri.

22kms – Kerikeri`s claim to fame is having New Zealand`s oldest stone building. It is on the water and is called the Stone Store. Overlooking the Stone Store is the original Kororipo Pa (Maori fortress), home of the Maori chief Hongi Hika (not to be confused with the famous chief Hone Heke). Across the river Rewa’s Village is an authentic recreation of a pre-European Maori fishing settlement. The Pear Tree Restaurant is recommended for a coffee.

Return up the hill and at the first roundabout turn right direction Waipapa. At the next roundabout turn left and drive about 2 kilometres to SH10.

28kms – In Waipapa turn right onto SH10 and drive north for another 13 kilometres and turn right towards Matauri Bay. The approach down to the beach has one of the best views in New Zealand - get ready for the `wow` view as you begin the descent to the beach. There is a place to park and admire the view immediately on the left. You are looking at the Cavalli Islands.

55kms - Matauri Bay is famous for deep sea fishing and diving. You must take the short but steep little walk up to the Rainbow Warrior Memorial on top of the hill – the views from the top are awesome. At the end of the road, continue straight on the gravel road and park opposite the campground shop and walk through the campground to the base of the hill. The track is rather steep on loose gravel in the beginning, so be careful. The Rainbow Warrior was a Greenpeace vessel specializing in disrupting French nuclear tests on the Pacific atolls. The French Secret Service bombed her in 1985 while she was tied up at the wharf in Auckland. This ridiculous act of terrorism resulted in the death of one of her crew, plus several others injured – something the New Zealanders have never forgiven France for.

Return up the hill and turn right and follow the coast road – the best place of all to photograph Matauri Bay is 1.5 kilometres from the intersection, the road then follows the picturesque coast through Te Ngaire and Wainui. 

82kms – At the Give Way sign, go right into Whangaroa Harbour. Drive through Whangaroa, past the marina and hotel, you will see a road on the right marked "public access to summit". Keep following the road right up to the top.

If you’re feeling energetic you could walk to the top of St Pauls – the large rock standing tall on your right. The path is unformed and rather steep and slippery at times – just follow the yellow markers. The view from the top is fabulous - however please note that it’s just as good from halfway!

Drive back through Whangaroa to the cross road where you turned right – continue straight towards Kaeo and Mangonui. At the SH10 intersection, go right, direction Kaitaia.

122kms – Turn off to Mangonui, famous for its fish and chips, so a great place to return to later on for dinner as this is a New Zealand specialty. The Mangonui Fish Shop 100m past the wharf holds the official sought after title of "New Zealands best Fish and Chips".

125kms - Drive another 3 kilometres. The pohutakawa tree-lined beach is just perfect to stroll along, also check out the next beach called Coopers Beach – paradise!

Day 5 Cable Bay - Cape Reinga - Cable Bay  

Today I reccomend catching the Fullers/Great Sights coach to visit Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet and where Maori believe the spirits of their ancestors depart New Zealand for the return journey north to Hawaiki. The northern most point of New Zealand is actually North Cape a little to the east. The thin strip of land north of Kaitaia was settled by Kauri Gum diggers in the late 1800s, most of the settlers were Dalmatians.

The drive north takes you past some of New Zealand’s most beautiful beaches, with a lunch stop at Houhora where you can enjoy a lunch of fresh fish & chips.

At the tip of the North Island you can visit the Cape Reinga Lighthouse where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. Your local guide will accompany you on your walk to the lighthouse, sharing the myths and legends or this very spiritual area.

The return trip takes you down the Te Paki Stream with its giant sand dunes where you can experience the exhilaration of sliding down the sand dunes and try some "sand surfing". 

Day 6 Cable Bay - Omapere 154kms

Drive west on SH10 for 30 kilometres and turn left onto SH1 to drive to Kaitaia and continue south on SH1. There is the steep and winding Maungataniwha Range to cross, the rain forest here is particularly lush.

90kms – Just after you cross over the Waihou River, turn right towards Horeke. Unbelievable as it may seem, but tiny Horeke used to be the centre of New Zealand. The land was governed here from Mission House for the first two years, before they built Government House in Russell. It was also here that the majority of the Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi – contrary to what you learnt at the Waitangi Visitor Centre! The town had New Zealand’s first shipyard and even had a Cathedral that could seat 800! They also have the oldest pub in New Zealand. It was built in 1827 to service the boat builders….although a bit run down you could stop for a drink and sit by the riverside. Continue through Horeke and go left after the one way bridge. 

104kms – If you are into geology then you may like to visit the Wairere Boulders – go left down McDonnell Road, the entrance is another kilometre down this road, pay $10pp in the honesty box. There is a lovely 1 hour walk through a strange labyrinth of 3 million year old basalt boulders scattered through this beautiful valley. Some have unique fluting caused by acid dripping from the kauris over thousands of years. This phenomenon has previously only ever been discovered on limestone rocks. Return to the road and go left.

120kms – Turn right, direction DargavilleOpononi is next, made famous in the fifties by the resident dolphin they named Opo. If you’d like to know more, visit the museum another kilometre along. The Hokianga Harbour is where Maori legend proclaims that the great navigator and explorer Kupe lived until he was an old man before returning to his home land. He discovered New Zealand around 800AD and named it Aotearoa, meaning the `Land of the Long White Cloud`. They then called the area Te Hokianga nui a Kupe - the place of Kupe's great return.

 154kms - The next village is Omapere, where there are excellent views across the harbour to the giant sand dunes on the other side, where they filmed plates for `Lawrence of Arabia` with Peter O’ Toole in the leading role.  It is hard to imagine that the landscape can change so dramatically from the dry desert like dunes to the rainforest just 20 kilometres south of here!

This evening I reccomend the Twlight tour of the Waipoua Forest with Footprints. This ecologically significant environment, in former times a home and playground to Maori is brought to life by not only the sounds and potential sightings of its inhabitants but by friendly, experienced and local Maori guides who willingly share their knowledge. Dusk is when the rare and elusive kiwis come out from their burrows – you may be one of the lucky to spot one in the wild! This is the perfect way to meet Maori in their own (untouristy) environment. NB wear comfortable walking shoes and a jumper and take insect repellent and a rain coat!

Day 7 Omapere - Waitakere (West Auckland) 300kms

Head south through the Waipoua Forest, one of the few remaining tracks of virgin native kauri forest. It is also home to another 300 species of trees. The main attraction here is the much loved giant kauri Tane Mahuta. At 2000 years old, it is one of earth’s most ancient trees and it stands only a short stroll from the parking. The Kauri are endemic to the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island and can live for 4000 years! They are the largest trees in the world if calculating volume of usable timber. Since 1952 it has been forbidden to cut down a kauri, so they are making a comeback.

82kms – Dargaville is proud to be the kumara growing capital. Kumara are delicious sweet potatoes brought to New Zealand by the early Polynesian settlers. The highway turns south 2 ½ kilometres further, direction Brynderwyn.

126kms – Matakohe is home to the excellent Kauri Museum. This museum is one of the best in New Zealand and definitely worth a visit. They also sell some excellent kauri products using 15-30,000 year old kauri logs found beautifully preserved in the swamps nearby!

Continue south direction Brynderwyn, which isn’t really a place, it is the intersection where SH12 meets SH1. Turn right and continue south until Wellsford.

180kms - Turn right onto SH16, following the Twin Coast Discovery route. Next you come to Helensville on the West Coast, lies on the southern reaches of the Kaipara Harbour, which is one of the biggest natural harbours in the world. The late 1800’s saw a hive of activity with the logging, sawing and exporting of kauris.

254kms – In Waimauku, turn right at the BP Service Station to Muriwai Beach - a solitary kind of place, with the added bonus of viewing the entertaining 2500 gannets in action as they come in to land to feed their chicks, all within metres of you. As you descend towards the beach take the `Gannet Colony` turnoff left - it is an easy 2 minute stroll along flax and pohutakawa lined paths to view the nesting site. The first path left leads to the best lookout where you can look directly down onto the nest sites and cute little chicks as well as admire the flying skills as the parents come into land with their two-metre wing spans. The stunning views along Muriwai Beach are a bonus.

Drive down to the beach and turn right to return to SH16 and Waimauku. There you go right and continue south.

282kms - In Kumeu turn right and follow the Twin Coast Discovery Route along the Scenic Drive south along the Waitakere Ranges ridge.  There are a few lefts then rights that are easy to miss so watch for the brown Route symbol. Once you are travelling along the road that follows ridge, and about 30kms from the Beesonline, look for the excellent lookout on the left awarding you wonderful views over Auckland. You can even see Coromandel and Great Barrier Island in the distance on a clear day. 

Day 8 Waitakere - Hahei 275kms

The Waitakere bush is a protected zone, with hundreds of waterfalls to choose from. The deserted beaches provided the perfect location for the filming of `Piano`. You could take the drive down to the stunning Piha Beach.

Continue south along the Scenic Drive towards Titirangi - there is another lookout on the right offering great views over Manakau Harbour – Auckland`s second harbour. Just after the lookout, there is the Arataki Visitor Centre (free), if you’d like to learn more about the bush and Waitakere Regional Park. There is another giant frame here to frame your postcard perfect picture.

17kms – You are now arriving in Titirangi, a lovely little village full of cafés and art galleries. Continue to Auckland along the Scenic Drive and then the North Western motorway into the city, then upon reaching the ‘Spaghetti Junction’ stay in the right lane and follow SH1 southern motorway, direction Hamilton. After the Bombay Hill, turn left onto SH2, direction Coromandel. After another 34 kilometres change again to SH25.

135kms – Just after passing over the long one-way bridge, turn left towards Thames – the gateway to Coromandel Peninsula. In the late 1880s this was a thriving gold mining and kauri logging centre. Follow the signs into the town centre. Just after the bridge at the northern end of town, you’ll find Soja Café on the right, for the best coffee in town. NB if you prefer a shorter drive today then take SH25A just after the long one-way bridge instead of going into Thames.

Continue north direction Coromandel Town. The excellent Orchid and Butterfly House at the Dixon Holiday Park just north of Thames is worth a stop. You are now skirting the Firth of Thames, the road follows the dramatic and winding coast, so please take it easy. But most importantly, please remember that the locals are not on vacation and are quite often in a hurry to get somewhere. So if someone is pressuring you from behind, just pull over and allow them to pass. You will enjoy the driving much much more and the locals will in turn be much much more friendlier when you do eventually cruise to your destination at your own pace! There are places to pull over and take photos all along of this dramatic coastline.

194kms – Turnoff for the 309 Road.

  • 4.8kms up this road is the Waiau Waterways Garden and café, where whimsical wonders are worked by water - the café is a good option for lunch. There are plenty of whacky contraptions to entertain the young and young at heart. There is swimming in the river and free onsite BBQs - bring your own sausages. They also provide umbrellas, plus toilets (a `long-drop` old style toilet – a rarity these days around New Zealand).
  • 7.3kms - The small but delightful Waiau Falls – best viewed from below in the bush glade where there is also a swimming hole in the river under the falls.
  • 7.9kms - Continue another 1/2km to the Kauri Grove parking. This stop is excellent, giving you a real taste for the New Zealand bush without much effort. The bush walk is an easy 10 minute stroll on a level path to 600 year old kauri trees. These trees are magnificent, with native bush wonderfully lush and cool and peaceful. Continue past the first lookout for a lovely circuit past the Siamese Kauri and to the Kauri Grove. The Kauris are endemic to the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island and can live for 4000 years and grow to twice the height of these ones! They are the largest trees in the world if calculating volume of usable timber. No wonder they call them the giants of the forest and were almost wiped out by the colonials for their timber. The cutting down of a Kauri is now banned as they are protected, so thankfully now we are seeing a comeback of these giants to our forests.

You have the choice of continuing over the hill on the unsealed road or returning to SH25 to visit Coromandel Town, another 5kms north. The main street is an old world delight, full of cafés and craft shops. After your visit, drive south 400m and turn left towards Whitianga – at the top of the hill there is a lookout point with views all the way back to Auckland.

232kms – You are now arriving in Whitianga, a safe harbour full of holiday homes favoured by Aucklanders. Follow the beach to where the ferry departs from. This is where all the activity is, including some good cafés. One of the best places for a coffee is on the other side at the Ferry Landing Café, just a short stroll up the hill. Continue south, following signs for Tairua and SH25.

262kms - Turn left to Hahei. 

Day 9 Hahei  

This morning you could visit Hot Water Beach. It is a lovely beach, but more importantly hot water rises to the surface here from a geothermal reservoir under the seabed. Check the tides, as you need to dig a hole below the high water mark, 2 hours either side of the low tide is your time limit. I recommend it after low tide, so you may then get to use an abandoned hole instead of having to dig one for yourself! You can dig a hole on the northern end of the beach, then sit back and soak in your very own private spa. Look for the sulphur bubbling to the surface of the sand.

Hahei's main attraction is Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous beach nearby hidden within a dramatic coastline. There are 4 ways of reaching it :-

  • Walk the coastal track which starts on the northern end of Hahei Beach. The views are excellent and it will take you about 1 hour to reach the cove itself.
  • Drive up to the car-park via Grange Road, then walk 45 minutes to the cove.
  • Take the Hahei sight seeing boat, departing 10am (no time at the beach).
  • Or my recommendation is to join the sea kayaking tour departing at 9am. A 3 hour truly kiwi experience, includes top quality kayaks and gear, tuition and even a coffee brewed for you on the beach while you take a swim. You can order which ever style – Cappuccino, Mochachino, even an L Baccino (long black). Sea kayaking is a "must do" in New Zealand, and this is one of the most beautiful places to try it.
  • Or drive back towards Whitianga where there are the adults only romantic & landscaped Lost Springs (geothermal hot pools),They offer an array of pamper treatments and massages plus there is an onsite licensed restaurant & café here as well.
Day 10 Hahei - Auckland Airport - International flight home or to the South Island

Allow 2.5 hours to get to airport (not allowing for any breaks). Also the traffic can be slow as you near Auckland and the airport, so aim to leave around 10am so you have time to go up Paku Hill.

Return to the main road and turn left and drive south on SH25. A great photo op is from the Paku Hill, turn left as you enter Tairua towards Ocean Beach. Keep following the road, at the marina go up Paku Drive, then follow signs to Paku Summit. A short walk will take you the rest of the way, for awesome views over Tairua Harbour and Pauanui Beach. Return to Tairua and continue south. Just after the Pauanui turnoff, SH25 goes left….you should go straight which takes you up and over the Kaimai Ranges to Thames and Auckland.

94kms - Soon after the roundabout where SH25 meets SH2, the Black Beagle Café on the right is a great option if you need a coffee break.

126kms - On reaching SH1 you go up and over the Bombay Hill to Auckland.

156kms – At Manukau exit SH1 and follow the South Western Motorway (SH20)  and follow the airport signs. Look for the airport exit after 5 kilometres, don’t panic if you miss it as you can otherwise just follow the motorway around.

I hope you enjoyed your whirlwind tour of Northland - if you'd like to visit the South Island as well then drive directly to Auckland Domestic Airport and catch an internal flight to Christchurch.


South Island itinerary  

A ten-day self-drive tour of the South Island created specially for newly weds or the romantic at heart. Be sure to let me know your preferred activity level, so that I can adjust the itinerary accordingly. Remember this is just a sample.

Day 1 South Island - arrive in Christchurch

If you are just arriving in New Zealand and using Amazing New Zealand services, you will be personally met at the airport by our friendly professional representative and taken you to your accommodation in Christchurch (see Day 1 of the North Island).

Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city which sprawls across the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps. The main attractions here are the English style gardens and parks, the city even has its very own Avon Riveron which one can punt. It has an English colonial feel to the city with school children in formal blazers and straw hats, with fine architecture and heritage sites evident everywhere. ……however, on February 22nd 2011 the city suffered a devastating earthquake that has unfortunately destroyed many of those heritage buildings, including the iconic Christchurch Cathedral!

Attractions still worth considering are :-
  • Head to Antigua Boatshed where canoes are available for hire. Request a picnic basket hamper to be enjoyed on the banks of the Avon River along the way.
  • Or hire your very own gondolier to punt you through the Botanical Gardens.
  • The Grand Café at the Casino is a great option ….open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
  • Visit the Canterbury Museum for their informative Earthquake exhibition as well as the Antarctic section and impressive Maori collection.
  • The new Christchurch Art Gallery is a must see.
  • The excellent International Antarctic Centre near the airport is where you can experience all there is to know about the icy continent.
  • Take to the Port Hills for stunning 360° views as you walk along the Crater Rim Track.
  • Mona Vale was a beautiful Edwardian-style homestead set amongst 5½ ha. of beautiful gardens…..the gardens are still worth the visit!
  • The nearby Dean’s Bush at Riccarton is home to the only surviving stand of wetlands podocarp forest.
  • Join the Christchurch Bike Tour…..they ride along the bike paths and through parks and there is not a hill in sight! Stops include both Mona Vale and Deans Bush, as well as Hagley Park and the attractions.
  • The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a zoo with a difference with plenty of opportunities to get up close and touch the sure to check out the massive eels! And buy a bag of food to feed the various animals as you walk around the well marked bush lined paths. Time your visit to include the 4.30pm guided tour (no extra charge) through the Natural New Zealand section showcasing our rare native birds, including the kiwi of course. Other highlights here are close encounters of the wildlife kind with various and the farmyard animals that clamber for your attention to be fed and stroked! 
Day 2 Christchurch – Akaroa – Christchurch 180kms

Today there is a day trip planned to Akaroa Harbour and Lyttleton Harbour which are actually 2 giant craters formed by two violent volcanic eruptions – together they make up the Banks Peninsula. Originally it was an island, but over the millennia the alluvial rivers have brought down the glacial debris from the Southern Alps, slowly joining the two and creating the Canterbury Plains.

Take the SH75 to Akaroa, (1 hour driving without stops).

50kms - Turn right to Birdlings Flat and Kaitorete Spit. I used to frequent this beach as a child to collect beautiful and rare gemstones polished smooth by the pounding waves, in every colour you can imagine. The beach is windswept and littered with driftwood – please take extreme caution as the beach is very steep with an incredible undertow so stay well above the high water mark and strictly NO swimming.

56kms - Possible stops en route include Little River Craft and Gallery and Barry's Bay Cheese Factory (73 kilometres) for cheese tastings. Lunch at French Farm is also highly recommended, depending on what time you left.

68kms - The Top of the Hill Cafe at the summit (68 kilometres) is a must before you make your way down to the harbour, if only to stop and look at the view.

From here it is another 20 kilometres to Akaroa. In 1835 French whaler Jean Langlois established a whaling station in the harbour at French Bay and bought some land from the Maori. Once he had secured the deal he returned to France to organize a group of settlers to come and establish a community. Unfortunately the English had placed the whole of New Zealand under British sovereignty only 13 days before, so the French settlers were forced to sell their claims. They did however stay, bringing both their rich French character and their culture to this far flung outpost of France. Akaroa’s other attraction are of course the tiny and very rare Hector’s Dolphin. These are the only dolphins endemic to New Zealand, with the majority of them using this sheltered harbour as their home. It is a beautiful and privileged experience to be able to swim with these friendly and inquisitive mammals.

I can recommend the scenic route back to Christchurch via the beautiful but winding road along the crater rim, offering stunning views along the way – access to the Summit Road is one kilometre back, the road sign says Eastern Bays. At the top turn left to follow the Tourist Drive - this has to be THE most awe-somely scenic route you'll ever drive in the whole world, the views down both sides really are spectacular!

122kms - Back at the Top of the Hill Cafe turn right and head back to Christchurch for 37 kilometres. At the Blue Duck Cafe you have the opportunity to turn right to return to Christchurch via the Lyttelton Harbour - the second of the craters that make up the Banks Peninsula. After passing over the Gebbies Pass, turn left to Governors Bay.

176kms – In Governors Bay, be sure to make a stop at the She Chocolate Café - they make the best chocolate brownies and iced chocolates in the whole southern hemisphere! Unfortunately it closes at 5pm.

Soon after, turn left onto Dyers Pass Road and this will bring you back to the Sign of the Takahe and your accommodation. The Sign of the Takahe is one of several original staging posts used by weary travellers crossing from the Lyttelton Harbour to the city.

Day 3 Christchurch - Tekapo 226kms

Follow SH1 through Ashburton and soon after passing over the Rangitata River, turn right onto SH79, direction Geraldine and Fairlie

Geraldine is a great place for a coffee and has a few attractions worth stopping for. You can choose from:-

·         A larger than fair smattering of arts and crafts galleries

·         The Vintage Car Club and Machinery Museum has a sizable collection of cars, tractors and aircraft

·         The Giant Jersey has, you guessed it, the largest jersey in the world, plus lots of woolly stuff on sale. It is also home to the incredible Medieval Mosaic, a perfect recreation of the famous Bayeux Tapestry.

·         Kiwi Country is purpose built for the tourist buses and is full of the usual souvenirs. However it does have excellent coffees and toilet facilities

·         Try the Swiss-style florentines at Chocolate Brown - the prices ensure they are sold fresh

182kms - Turn right onto SH8 to Lake Tekapo. The scenery dramatically changes as you cross over Burke's Pass. You are now entering the Mackenzie Basin, a flat expanse of tussock grasslands and home to New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki (or Mt Cook as it is known in English) plus the longest glacier Tasman and sparkling turquoise glacial lakes below the Southern Alps - and it bears little resemblance to anywhere else in New Zealand.

225kms – The village at Lake Tekapo is small - their claim to fame being that it has the cleanest and clearest air in New Zealand….the skies above will soon become the world’s first ever Night Sky Reserve. This evening you could join the tour to the observatory!

Tekapo is also home to the new Winter Park – here you can try ice-skating, curling and snow-tubing! This evening, you can enjoy a hot soak under the stars in the hot pools at the Alpine Spring & Spa (closes 9pm).

You can (should) drive up to the summit of Mount John by day (turnoff just south of the village) to Astro Café and enjoy spectacular 360° views. 

Day 4 Tekapo - Mount Cook National Park - Tekapo

From your accommodation it is an easy drive to Mount Cook Village. The scenic drive to Mount Cook Village at the base of Mt Aoraki and the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers encompasses world-class scenery at its best where your excitement grows in parallel with the vista before you as you enter this world heritage site known as the Mount Cook National Park.
This morning I recommend the Glacier Explorer Trip. It involves walking to Tasman Lake and then taking an informative boat ride to the face of the advancing glacier where you get to touch, taste and hear the creaking and cracking of the thousand year old ice.

Suggested activities while in the area :-  
  • Several different alpine walks with wonderful views.
  • Scenic flights either by ski plane or helicopter over Aoraki, with views of the West Coast and Franz Josef Glacier.
  • Eat, drink and just relax in the Hermitage while enjoying the incredible views that lie before you.  
  • I can recommend the Hooker Valley Track - This is one of the most popular short walks in the Mount Cook National Park. Start at the White Horse Hill camping and follow the Hooker River. There are massive views of Mt Sefton and the shrunken Mueller Glacier, past an Alpine Memorial and over two swing-bridges until the final destination of the terminal lake at the bottom of the Hooker Glacier. Here Mt Aoraki looms ahead with great walls of ice up on the left and buttresses of rock tower over the foaming river to the right. The walk takes approximately 2 hours one way – so walk as far as you can handle. This is New Zealand at its very best. Please note appropriate clothing should be taken - storms and snow can be upon you within a few hours, even in the summer, so always be prepared.

Day 5 Tekapo - Wanaka 156kms

Continue south on SH8, soon after Twizel you could stop at the Salmon Farm to feed the massive fish and to try the smoked salmon. Consider stopping in Omarama for petrol as there is not another fuel station for 80 kilometres! The highway will take you over the scenic Lindis Pass, the pass was first used by the Maori people walking to Lake Wanaka for summer fishing.

124kms - Just after Tarras, turn right onto SH8A to Wanaka. The tranquil lake has picture-perfect mountains as a backdrop and is one of my favourite places in New Zealand!

156kms - Wanaka lies on a tranquil lake with picture-perfect mountains as a backdrop and it is one of my favourite places in New Zealand!  

There are several options available here as well, ideally you should stay here an extra day :-
  • One of the best day walks in this country is to the Rob Roy Glacier. The walk will take you up through beautiful rain forest to a hidden valley, right to the face of the glacier. For a shorter walk, try the 2,5 hour Roaring Meg's Pack Track. 
  • Wanaka is also the best place to try tandem sky-diving!
  • Or how about a 4x4 quad bike tour on a sheep farm with great views.
  • Trout fishing and skiing are the locals other favourites.
  • At the northern reaches of Lake Wanaka in a little place called Makaroa you can try the Siberia Experience of 3 thrills – fly into the Mt Aspiring National Park (the Misty Mountains in LOTR), hike/tramp over the hill to the river and jet-boat back out. Wow!
  • Glendhu Bay is a sheltered and picturesque bay, particularly in autumn when the exotic trees provide rich colour for your postcard perfect photo of the mountains behind. Just beyond is a road leading to a popular swimming area in the spectacular Motatapu Gorge.
  • Visit the incredible Puzzling Maze – fun for young and old!
  • Take to the skies in vintage Tiger Moths to a remote location at one of the high country stations (farms) overlooking Lake Wanaka where you will be served a romantic picnic for two.
  • Mountain-bike along the lakefront.

Day 6 Wanaka – Te Anau 270kms 

Drive south on SH6 past Wanaka Airport. It is hard to believe that this sleepy region was the most populous in New Zealand during the chaotic gold boom years of the late 19th century. Cromwell is one of the sunniest, warmest places in the South Island (in the summer that is), making it ideal for growing fruit trees and the region is fast becoming renowned for fine Pinot Noir wines. Old Cromwell Town is worth exploring.

54kms - You then continue south on SH6 through the dramatic Kawarau Gorge.  Just before the gorge, look for the large fresh fruit shop on the left (Jones Fruit Stall), it is well worth a stop at as they have all sorts of seasonal fruit that you can try and their real fruit ice-creams are amazing!

Soon after leaving the Gorge there is the excellent Gibbston Valley Winery and café which is a good option for lunch. They also run the Gibbston Valley Cheesery next door!

90kms - The Kawarau River Bridge is home to A.J. Hackett's very first bungee jumping platform - this is where you get to tie a huge elastic band to your ankles and jump out into space over the river (if you dare?), or just have fun watching others.

106kms - At the Frankton roundabout (fill up with petrol here) turn left to stay on SH6, direction Lumsden and Te Anau.

194kms - At Five Rivers, turn right. The café on the corner is highly recommended – try their cheesy rolls, the specialty of the region!

270kms - Te Anau is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park – it is 1,250,000 uninhabited hectares of stunning wilderness. Fiordland has a primeval rugged landscape, largely untouched by humans apart from incursions by tourists at Milford and Doubtful Sounds and a few fishermen in other fiords. It was declared a World Heritage Area on account of the outstanding geological features and exceptional beauty, the jewel in the crown being Mitre Peak in Milford Sound.

You could check-out the Wildlife Centre (a 10 minute walk from the Visitor Centre/DoC) for a view of the near extinct pre-historic looking flightless Takahe as well as many other NZ native birds. It is run by DoC so donations are gladly accepted!

Another great option before an early dinner is to see the Ata Whenua – Shadowland movie at the Fiordland Cinema. It is a 30 minute film show cases the unique beauty and remote wilderness of Fiordland from the air to the screen for all to enjoy! No reservations are necessary, there is a screening every hour, on the hour between 3pm and 6pm

Day 7 Te Anau - Milford Sound - Te Anau 

Please allow at least 2.5 hours for the drive to Milford as you will be stopping all the time to take photos. NB it is a good idea to take a picnic to enjoy on the cruise as there are no shops en route or at Milford and only a limited selection on board the boat. Also note that what you do not manage to see on the way there you can always stop at on the way back!

The drive towards Milford Sound is quite stunning to say the least. Possible stops en route or on the way back include Eglington River Valley, Mirror Lake and Knobs Flat before reaching the Divide – the lowest pass over these mountains. Continuing along the road you next have the Falls Creek Lookout down to the Hollyford Valley. Please note that there are traffic lights at the Homer Tunnel as it is only one way traffic… can be waiting for up to 10 minutes!

Once through the 1.2km long Homer Tunnel you will see the spectacular Cleddau Canyon and the incredibly precipitous walls on which the road slowly winds its way down.

There is parking available 10 minutes walk from the Visitor Terminal. Don't forget the insect repellent as the sand-flies are not only a menace, but practically man-eating! Plus a rain coat - the area receives 12,000mm of rain per year per square metre - so chances are high that you will see rain!

120kms - Milford Sound is quite simply unparalleled to anything in this world - wet or fine Milford is incredibly grand. The awesome Nature Cruise on the fiord includes countless waterfalls tumbling hundreds of metres down sheer cliffs, mountains rising straight out of the sea, fur seals and (usually) dolphins. Mitre Peak magnetises photographers, as does the cascading Bowen and Stirling Falls.  A 'Sound' is a flooded river valley, but these are flooded glacial valleys with sheer sided walls that plunge hundreds of metres under water as well as above - so they are misnamed. The Maori believe the fiords were created by the titanic mason Tute Rakiwhanoa, who used an adze to cut out the steep sided walls and gullies.

Afterwards, return to Te Anau the way you came. If you feel like a short walk, the Nature Walk at the southern end of Lake Gunn is highly recommended (it starts from the Cascade Creek parking)… is like walking through a fairy tale!  

Day 8 Te Anau - Queenstown 206kms

Return the way you came on SH94 and then SH6 towards Queenstown.

165kms - At the Frankton roundabout, turn right and drive north another 8 kilometres on SH6. 

173kms – Turn left to Arrowtown. On the corner of the highway and Lake Hayes you will find the multi award winning Amisfield Restaurant & Winery, where you can stop and try some wines and have some lunch.

180kms - The pretty tree-lined town of Arrowtown is another former gold mining settlement. Two years after the first European settlers established high country farms in the Wakatipu area, gold was discovered in the Arrow River and news soon spread. Within weeks 1500 people arrived as the news of gold spread and people in search of the alluvial treasure arrived in droves. At the height of the gold rush, Arrowtown's population grew to over 7000. In 1865 many of the miners started to leave for other gold-mining areas and the local government invited Chinese miners to the area. Most worked in the Shotover and Arrow Gorges, although wherever Chinese stores opened communities began to develop. Wander amongst the historic cottages, visit the reconstructed Chinese Settlement (the Chinese were subjected to many prejudices so had their own settlement. The main shopping street is a shopper’s particular delight!

Return south by taking the road along the base of the hill, via Coronet and Arthur’s Point. You could (should) drive up the Coronet Ski-field Access Road for fabulous views of the Wakatipu Basin and Shotover River! You don’t need to drive all the way up….turn left onto Skippers Canyon Road and there is a parking and a Lookout immediately on the left.

206kms - Queenstown is the Adventure Capital of the World! The beautiful resort was originally named as 'fit for a Queen'. It lies on Lake Wakatipu where you can observe the strange seiches phenomenon - this is an unusual rhythmic rise and fall of 12cm in its water level every five minutes due to variations in atmospheric pressure. A Maori myth says it is the beating of a monster's heart lying in the depths of Lake Wakatipu! The sheer breadth of tourist activities available here is impossible to list, however the ' in-thing' at the moment are tours that have anything to do with the numerous Lord of the Rings and Hobbit filming locations. 

Day 9 Queenstown 

Today you have a free day in Queenstown. Options today could include:

  • Start your day with a Sunrise Balloon flight.
  • Visit the Underwater World Observatory on the pier, where trout and eels are visible in the clear waters of the lake; they live freely in the lake however as they are fed they like to hang out here. The cutest part is seeing the ducks diving for the food. Beside the pier are marks showing the level to which the lake rose in the floods of 1878 and 1983.
  • Take the Skyline Gondola for awesome views! There are various activities you can do up here such as riding the down-hill Luge, descending to the bottom by Zip-linesmountain-biking or Bungy-jumping!
  • Have a leisurely lunch at one of the wineries – the Amisfield Bistro & Winery on the corner of the Lake Hayes-Arrowtown turnoff is highly recommended! As it is a favourite with Queenstown locals, call ahead on 03 442 0556 to book a table! If you are feeling guilty then why not go for a walk around Lake Hayes before your meal!
  • Take the plunge and try a bungee jump, or just have fun watching others do it
  • Learn to fly-fish in the trout infested lakes and rivers
  • Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park near the gondola, the park spreads for over 2 acres and you need to allow about 2.5 hours to see everything!
  • Hire bikes from Around the Basin Cycle Adventures at 23 Brecon Street and follow the Queenstown Cycle Trail on purpose built cycle-ways through the Wakatipu Basin, past 2 lakes, three river gorges, historic Arrowtown and even the wine area of Gibbston Valley if you are feeling energetic. Choose either Guided or Supported (self-guided) tours, both offer a free shuttle back if you need it!
  • Or cycle along the lakefront track to Frankton, turn right and continue along the lakefront to the Hilton and then if you wish, you can even go as far as the Kelvin Heights Golf Club or Yacht Club or the Bay View Reserve and catch the water-taxi back across to Queenstown ($10pp) – call Queenstown Water-taxis on 03 441 1124 to request a pickup and to check on times.
  • Play golf on one of the most magically located courses in the world
  • Head to the Onsen Hot Pools at Arthurs Point. Each booking receives a private cedar-lined private pool, each with push-button retractable walls and ceiling so you can enjoy the dramatic scenery as you soak on the edge of the cliff overlooking the spectacular Shotover River – worth the 10 minute drive on its own! Call 0508 869463 to book.
  • For drinks, McNeill’s Cottage Brewery where there is a nice mix of heritage and atmosphere, plus fine home brewed ales; or The Sundeck Rooftop Lounge Bar on top of The Bunker at 14 Cow Lane is the newest bar in town and has incredible views!
  • For dining, the Madam Woo (Asian Restaurant) on Mall Street has funky décor and funky food; or Rata Restaurant is located in Te Nuku at 43 Ballarat Street and is Josh Emett’s (Michelin star chef and Masterchef judge) latest Queenstown venture; for a special dinner treat, try the Prime Restaurant & Bar on the waterfront of Queenstown Bay (the entrance is #2 Rees Street, above Sunglass Hut)…..if it is stunning weather then ask for a table on the upstairs balcony overlooking the lake.

Day 10 flight

If your flight back to Auckland or to Australia is in the afternoon or this evening then you will have time to enjoy a bit more of Queenstown.


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