Austen and I are booked in for Christmas and New Years in New Zealand. I would like to share our itinerary with you all. If you are wondering how we put this itinerary together, I will explain first.
Austen and I have a list of places we want to see before we die. We actually take turns picking the next destination, according the top 3 on both of our lists. The last few trips have gone like this – I picked Peru, he picked Bali, and this time we both had New Zealand at the top of our list. Since we are now living in Australia, we have modified for those destinations we are closest to (we both really want to do Scandinavia next, but it doesn’t make sense if we are so close to Asia & New Zealand). We are going to Japan next year (his pick, but I can’t wait!).
Once a destination is chosen, we research like crazy before purchasing tickets. I pick out the top 10 things I want to do in that place and create an itinerary around that list. I try to allow enough time to thoroughly enjoy the different activities or destinations without feeling rushed. Austen and I do like the option of being able to change our minds while there, so here is how we create the perfect balance (at least for us).
For New Zealand we bought return tickets to the country as well as 2 one way flights to different parts of the country. Our hotels are booked for only the first and last night in Auckland (so we have a place to crash since we always come in late and leave early on the first and last day). I usually choose hotels near the airport for easy access and also free shuttles, usually compliments of the hotel.
Dates of travel: December 20th (Thursday) – January 4th (Friday) – Remember we are a day ahead in Australia.
Leaving Sydney after work Thursday, arrive in Auckland around 11pm. Pick up car at airport and drive to hotel.
Day 1, Friday – Explore Auckland. Here are some things we’re thinking about doing:
- Rangitoto Island — It’s one thing to know Auckland is set on 50 dormant volcanic cones. It’s another entirely to see the proof. Rangitoto Island rises 260m out of the Hauraki Gulf, just to the East of Auckland. It’s a genuine volcano island — the most impressive of many in the region — and with its unique fauna and flora, and historic WWII installations, it makes a great destination for sight-seers and hikers alike.
- Hauraki Gulf —The Hauraki Gulf is only a stone’s throw from downtown Auckland, so you can be out of the city, onto the beach, and basking in the charm of one of its many islands in mere minutes.
- Sky Jump — Naturally, no holiday to New Zealand would be complete without a little adrenalin hit. And even if you’re not an adrenalin junkie, Sky Jump is just the ticket. Unlike bungee jumping, there’s no dangling upside down and bouncing around. You’re comfortable and secure, and you fall smoothly. And after the initial fall, it slows down and you’re lowered calmly the last few metres. Of course, you do fall fast — 192 metres in about 11 seconds (approx 85 km/hr).
- Auckland Zoo — Built for the animals, not just for the visitors. A stunning park-like zoo with natural environments, it’s recognised as one of the most progressive in the world, and has won numerous environmental awards. Oh, and it’s also home to more than 750 animals (120 different species).
- Mount Eden — Rising 196m above sea level, Mount Eden offers outstanding views of downtown Auckland and its harbour.
- Cornwall Park — This picturesque 120 hectare park is a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Part cottage cosiness, part farmland, it boasts oak tree-lined roads, meandering paths and, of course, a local population of grazing sheep and cattle. Be sure to pack a picnic and a book, because you won’t want to leave in a hurry!
- Auckland Art Gallery (Toi o Tamaki) — Home to New Zealand’s most extensive collection of national and international art (15,000+ works), Toi o Tamaki is a world-class gallery that was recently renovated and restored at a cost of NZ$113 million.
- The Sky Tower — At 328m tall, the Sky Tower is the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere. And at night, the building itself is truly stunning, as are the views from the observation deck, night or day.
Day 2, Saturday – Get up early and drive 2 hours south to Waitomo, spend the day exploring the Waitomo cave system (that will be us in the image below!) and roam the village. These caves are noted for their stalactite and stalagmite displays, and for the presence of glow-worms…
Day 3, Sunday – Hike Pirongia National Park and enjoy the drive back to Auckland, making stops along the way to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.
Day 4, Monday – Wake up early and fly down to Christchurch. Rent a car and start the drive towards Queenstown taking in the sights along the way…
Day 5 , Tuesday Christmas in Queenstown!
Day 6 Wednesday – Day 13 Wednesday Explore the southern part of the Island Milford Sound, Fox Glacier, Mount Cook and every thing else this natural playground has to offer…
Day 15 Thursday, fly back to Auckland from Queenstown
Day 16 Friday, early morning flight home to Sydney.
Sound good? If you have any travel tips, please share them!!!