Hello everyone! Finally I’m sharing my first itinerary around New Zealand (yes I have several itineraries hehe. For summer trip itself, I have two more itineraries. Hoping to share them in the future). This itinerary is going to be an 11 days 10 nights summer trip covering both North and South Island. As an introduction, this trip that I did on January 2015, is not a 100% backpacker kinda trip, and it’s also not that cheap. (I will say it’s moderately pricey).
However, my rule of thumbs in you want to travel to NZ, RM5000/per person (for 10 days trip) will be enough (insyaAllah) which includes (International flight (Air Asia)), domestic flight, car rent and gas, hostel stays, food, one or two activities/trips, provided that you travel with more people (3 to 4 people and more), stay in hostels, what activities you want to do, and cook your food most of the time. Nevertheless 5K should be save. However, this budget doesn’t apply for this itinerary, but you can skip certain places and adjust your trip accordingly 🙂
Anyway, since I have my parents travelling with me, I have to mix and match the itinerary to suit their need (although I am more of backpacker person and enjoy free and cheap things). Instead of staying in backpacker hostels, we stay in motels, and we also visit several places that have entrance fees. I think this itinerary suit well if you have parents and kids tagging along :). Nevertheless, I hope this itinerary will guide you on your self-drive and self-exploration around New Zealand, and which/where/what places to visit. Before you start your once in a lifetime journey, don’t forget to turn on your gps (I use Waze all the time! Definitely a life saviour), or if you prefer an old-school way, have your co-pilot checking the map for you :D.
I will start with the North Island Trip
Route : Auckland airport to Whangarei
Duration : 2 hours 30 minutes (158 km)
I fetched my parents at Auckland airport late noon, and (skipping Auckland), we drive straight to Whangarei (Northland side of North Island). We did our groceries along the way (Pak n Save is cheaper). We arrive around 6pm, check in, cook for dinner and rest for the next day.
Early morning, I drop my father at Tutukaka for scuba-diving in Poor Knights Islands. My father loves scuba-diving, so he wanted to try diving in New Zealand. I made an early booking for him with Dive!Tutukaka. If you love scuba-diving/snorkelling, Poor Knights Islands is one of the best diving place in New Zealand. The price for the activity boleh tahan mahal juga. It is actually a ship-wreck diving/exploring, and if you are lucky enough you might be able to swim with dolphins and seals. Sorry I don’t have personal pictures of the diving place. But you can check the pictures here. It’s a pretty cool place.
While my father enjoying his diving, me, mum, and a friend of mine went to Matapouri Bay. Northland (North area of New Zealand) is blessed with many beautiful beaches, hence the best time to visit Northland is during Summer.
Another reason we went to Matapouri bay is to visit the Mermaid Pool, a natural pool forms between big rocks during the low tide. While my mum relaxing at the beach, we went for a hike on the left side of the beach (probably around 30 minutes, the first part is quite hard though). Before you go there, you have to make sure it is during the low tide. During the high tide, the pool will be submerged under water. The view from the top of the hills is amazing, and the Mermaid Pool itself is a charmer. Since it looks deep ( and we don’t know how to swim haha), we just sit on the rock and eat our lunch. Don’t miss this when you go there, it’s worth a visit! (How to go to Mermaid Pool)
After our trip to the beach and picking up my father, we visited Whangarei Falls. Not a bad view. You can walk down the stairs to see the view of the waterfalls from the front side.
Entrance fee to Whangarei Falls: Free of charge (FOC)
Basically this all we did in Whangarei. The drive to Matapaouri Bay and Tutukaka, and the activities we did there already took half of the day. So after visiting the waterfalls, we drive around Whangarei town and went back to rest for the next day.
Route: Whangarei – Auckland (lunch and city sight-seeing)-Matamata (Hobbiton)-Rotorua (overnight)
>Whangarei to Matamata (Hobbiton): (317.5km)-3 hours 45 minutes (excluding the time spend in Auckland)
>Matamata to Rotorua : 45 minutes (67km)
Since we already booked the ticket to the Hobbiton at 1.30pm, we decide to start our journey very early from Whangarei. Besides, the drive is quite far, plus we also plan to stop by Auckland to grab lunch and just to show a glimpse of Auckland street to my parents (just Queen St and the Auckland Sky tower)
Entrance Fee to Hobbiton: $79 (RM224) (Book here)
Firstly, it is best to book the ticket earlier, than buying the ticket on the spot. You might run the risk of the ticket being sold out on that particular day. Secondly, there are two pick-up places for the Hobbiton tour (yes you will join a tour bus and you will have your own guide). a) The Matamata I-site and b) the The Shire’s Rest. I highly suggest that you book for a pick-up from Matamata I-site. The place is easy to find and not far from Matamata town. Just make sure you on your GPS and Matamata I-site as the location.
It’s my first visit to Hobbiton. As an avid fan of LOTR and The Hobbit movies, definitely it’s dream come true. A must visit for fans. However, if you’re not a fan, you never watch the movie and you’re in a tight budget, I suggest you can skip Hobbiton (unless if it’s still your bucketlist, and you don’t mind spending your money, I won’t stop you haha.). Don’t forget to wear proper shoes and bring a cap/umbrella since it’s going to be a long 2 hours-ish walk around the beautiful set, and the heat during summer can be unforgiving.
After the trip, we have a quick lunch nearby the Matamata I-Site (I remember having a vegetarian and seafood pizza), solat at the nearby park and freshen up. Later, we left Matamata for Rotorua, and stayed at this beautiful cozy cabin at Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park. We stayed there for 2 nights.
Yay! Since we have full day in Rotorua, we decide to visit three places. First stop:
Although NZ is well known for its nature beauty, please please don’t skip the cultural Maori village. There are several Maori villages you can visit (Temaki, Matai village to name a few) but I decide to visit Whakarewarewa Maori Village because it is an original Maori Village run by the original family who still stay there. Plus, the review for the place is good and the entrance fee is cheaper compared to the other Maori Village. A bonus, the place is also a geothermal area where you also visit the hot bubbling thermal pools, and it’s a home for a famous NZ geyser called the Pohotu Geyser.
Entrance Fee : $35 (RM99.30) (adult) ( you can get it cheaper if you purchase it earlier from Grabone, a website similar to Groupon)
If you want a farm experience? Head to Agrodome. The place offer different packages, from farm tour, sheep show, and also visiting a fruit orchard. It’s really fun! The sheep show ( I called it the Sheep Beauty Peagent haha) it’s fun and entertaining!
Entrance Fee for Show & Tour Combo : $65 (RM184.37) (but the place has cheaper packages you can check from the site)
I love this place, it’s calming and refreshing. It is surrounded with New Zealand native plants, and you can witness two New Zealand native wildlife, the Tuatara ( a prehistoric looking lizard, looks like a baby dinosour, and it can live for hundred of years), and the Kiwi birds! This place in my our personal favourite. Observing kiwi birds minding their business is the highlight of the day. It is a rare animal that you can only see in this country so I highly suggest that you visit this place.
Entrance Fee: We took the Park Entry + Kiwi Encounter : $50 (RM141.83) (adult). The place however has various packages including package with Agrodome visit which cost $32 (RM90.70) (adult). However, the later package doesn’t include the Kiwi encounter.
Route: Rotorua – Taupo (lunch) -Palmerston North (overnight)
Rotorua to Taupo: 1 hour (81km)
Taupo to Palmerston North: 3 hours (242km)
We check out from the motel and made a few stops along the way.
a) The Government Gardens
Since my mum love flowers, I bring her to this place which is situated in front of Rotorua Museum. Oh, if you went there during Spring time ( around early October), you can see various of Tulips here, they event Tulip Festival! If you admire flowers and landscape this is the place to be. Kalau ada extra duit skit, you can try the browies from the Rotorua Museum Cafe. One of the best one I’ve tried so far in NZ.
Entrance fee : FOC
On the way to Taupo, we stopped by this place. This has to be the most colourful place I have ever seen in NZ, consist of colorful thermal pools and geysers. So surreal you have to see yourself to believe. Oh don’t forget to wear a comfortable shoes it’s going to be a long walk in this place. The place has three connected trails, with the walking duration from 30 minutes to 75 minutes.
Entrance fee: $32.50 (RM92) (adult)
c) Huka Falls
Ahh the stunning Huka Falls. Another one of my personal favourite and it is very famous among the tourist. The best thing about this place (besides it is woohoo stunning), there’s no entrance fee! Which explains why tourists will flock to this place. Please please stop by and visit stop if you’re heading from Rotorua to Taupo, and be prepare to be blown away!
Entrance Fee: Again it is FOC!
d) Lake Taupo
After a quick lunch in Taupo, we walk nearby Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, which sometimes can be mistaken as a sea. The size of of the lake in terms on it’s surface width is as big as Singapore! A lot of activities can be done here, such as lake crusing, skydiving ( which is much cheaper compared to Wanaka and Queenstown), swimming to name a few, or maybe just have your lunch there while enjoying the view.
During your journey from Taupo to Palmerston North, you will pass by a huge barren golden grass field, and for the first time during the trip, you will be greeted by snow capped mountains, in this case Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. FYI the picture of these two mountains were taken during winter, hence it explain the heavy snow on the mountains. However, during summer both of the mountains still look magnificent even with less snow. Try to drive at this road before sunset so you can witness the amazing the view along the way.
This area is called Desert Road and it is one of the famous scenic drive in NZ. One of the many highlights of my road trips is driving through this road. The view is spectacular. This area is a part of Tongariro National Park. If you are a LOTR fans, you must know that Peter Jackson shot the scene for Mordor (The Return of The King) here, and Mt Ngauruhoe (a cone-shape like mountain) is the mountain used in the movie where Frodo need to throw the rings. For photo opportunities, you can stop by at any designated stop (please don’t just stop anywhere along the road, respect other road users).
After a long journey for the day, we arrived in Palmerston North. We overnight at..my place! Hehe. But there are several hostels and motels available in Palmy (nama manja Palmerston North) such as Pepper Tree Hostel and Grandma’s Place.
Route: Palmerston North (Palmy) – Wellington (Welly)-Christchurch
Duration Palmerston North to Wellington: 2 hours (140 km)
a) Palmerston North
On this day, we decide to spend half day in Palmerston North and half day in Wellington.. Usually people will skip Palmy very early and head straight to Wellington (which I highly suggest) since Welly has a lot more to offers in terms of place to visit/see! However, if you are still interested to explore Palmy for a half day, you can do any one of these suggested places.
>First, you can visit the Piazza Verde Lavendar Farm. Best time to visit this farm is from January to February since the lavendar is sort-off “full bloom”. This place is quite a drive out of the city (1 hour), and you need to book your visit a day earlier since it is a private property (the phone number is stated in the website).
>Secondly, another place worth a visit in Palmerston North is the Te Apiti Windfarm, which is just 30 minutes drive out of the city. Here you can see giant wind turbines on top of the hills. These turbines generate annual elctricity for 45,000 houses. It’s a quite a sight especially seeing the turbines towering above you, which made you feel like a dwarf haha.
>Last but not least, if you are a minah/mat bunga (lol), you love roses oh so much, don’t miss the Dugald MacKenzie Rose Garden at Victoria Esplanade Park. I swear you will love it. This place is in Palmy itself so if you don’t have enough time you can visit this garden. It’s still a magical place for me. I was never a rose fan (more of lilies and magnolias), but after staying in Palmy and visiting this place every Summer, dah jadi minah bunga rose dah. During summer, the roses will be in full bloom, and this place is dubbed as one of best rose park in New Zealand.
The best part is there is no entrance fee for all this 3 places.
I personally like Wellington more than Auckland. It is a cool little city, less crowded, traffic is less heavy, good food (plenty of halal food) and the coffee oh!! Plus you go everywhere basically on foot. Me and my parents arrived at Welly around 1 pm, just around lunctime. We parked our car besides the Te Papa Museum carpark, and walk towards Cuba St and Dixon St, which are the best place to hunt for food. There you can find several of Malaysian restaurants such as Little Penang, Cinta and Satay Kajang (not the real Satay Kajang though). There is also middle-east/medditerranean Halal Food along this street. Halal food is definitely not a problem in Wellington.
There are several places you can visit in Wellington. Here are some of the places:
a) Te Papa Museum. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED even if you’re not a museum fan. Very interactive and it is FOC! I always thought that museum is boring, however this place is nothing like that.
c) The Weta Caves for Peter Jackson Film Production but only if you are a nerd (lol), sci-fi and film enthusiast. You see the props from LOTR to Narnia: The Prince Caspian. I personally enjoy it 🙂 (Entrance Fee: $25 – RM70.91)
Due to the time constraint, and later we need to catch our flight to Christchurch, we decide to walk along Cuba St for lunch and to see the some street performers, window shopping at Lambton Quay, and visit Port Nicholson harbour (my other favourite things to do when I Welly, a nice walk at a harbour on a hot sunny day, with ice-cream dripping on my hand haha).
So here you go, my 6 days 5 night in North Island, hopefully this post will help you with your self-exploration around this Island. Next post will be our visit to the well-known beautiful South Island of New Zealand. Part 2 coming soon!