New Zealand, November 2017

I spent three weeks road-tripping in New Zealand. My journey took me from Auckland to Queenstown to Christchurch and involved 12 different stops between.

Itinerary

1-2 Nov – Fly in from London to Auckland via Jakarta

3-4 Nov – Auckland

4-5 Nov – Piroa Falls, Paihia

6 Nov – Coromandel, Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, Omanawa Falls, McLaren Falls

7 Nov – Mata Mata, Hobbiton

7-8 Nov – Rotorua, Maori Village

8 Nov – Wellington

9 Nov – Cross over to South Island, Abel Tasman

10-11 Nov – Abel Tasman

12 Nov – Franz Josef Glacier, Wanaka

13 Nov – Wanaka

13-19 Nov – Queenstown

20-22 Nov – Christchurch

Observations

  • New Zealand’s Sleepy Cities – It surprised me how quiet some of New Zealand’s cities were. Christchurch, which is still recovering from an earthquake 7 years ago, was deadly quiet at 5pm when we walked through the city center. Wellington was reasonably quiet when we walked through the city center in the evening. It was a reminder to me that not all cities have the 24-hour hustle and bustle attitude of a London or New York.
  • Natural Beauty – I was told that New Zealand was one of the most beautiful countries I would see, but I was still surprised by just how amazing it was. I was expecting amazing forestry and woodland and was amazed to see just how tropical it was in places, with fantastic beaches and coastline too. Most New Zealanders I know are quite humble in nature so perhaps they undersold it to me because it is a truly beautiful country.
  • Care for the Environment – I was really happy to see the local people and tourism industry really looking after nature there. It was clear they really respect their environment and understand its importance in their future. A favourite saying that they used everywhere was “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories”.
  • Very American – Another surprise was just how Americanised New Zealand was. Given that it is a former British colony, I was surprised to see so many US brands and a generally US feel. Driving through the smaller towns on our road trip felt very much like driving through middle America.

Recommendations

  • Travel
    • Rent a Car: I really recommend renting a car in New Zealand. Although it is more expensive, the landscapes you see on the way are amazing. There are so many little stops (hikes, views, waterfalls) that you would miss if you were on a fixed-route bus.
    • ID: If you’re planning to go to 18+ venues, they are generally very strict on identification and they didn’t accept anything but a passport.
  • Paihia
  • Cathedral Cove
    • This was a really nice stop. We had planned to visit only briefly and ended up staying longer. It’s a beautiful beach and given it is an hour walk to get there, you may as well enjoy it for the whole day.
  • Rotorua
    • Rotorua itself is not particularly nice. I highly recommend doing a tour to a Maori village. We went to see the Temaki Village and the whole evening was really great.
  • Abel Tasman
    • Hostel: We stayed at The Barn hostel. This was a lovely bugalow style hostel with a central courtyard, right next to the park. I highly recommend.
    • Hikes: The hikes here are amazing. It’s worth looking at a map closely first though as some of them can be very look. We made the walk all the way to Cleopatra’s pool which took over 6 hours there and back. (The pool also wasn’t that impressive).
    • Restaurant: The Fat Tui is a great burger truck right by the park with really friendly staff. Park Cafe is more of a sit in restaurant with good food (last stop before the park itself).
    • Nightlife: Not really a nightlife place, but Park Cafe has a open mic night that was actually really great. It was led by a Reggae singer called “Cool Vibes” and got reasonably busy.
  • Franz Josef Glacier
    • Aside from seeing the glacier itself, I’d recommend a relaxing day at the thermal pools. After a few days travelling and hiking this was actually really nice.
  • Wanaka
    • Is a surprsiningly nice small town compared to many of the other towns in New Zealand. We only stayed for one day, but could have stayed longer. Fitzpatrick’s Irish Bar was a good place for a drink in the evening with live music.
  • Queenstown
    • To Do: The Luge is really fun. We did it several times. The walk up is pretty tough (both steep and long) so if you’re wanting relaxation, get the gondola up. Milford Sound is absolutely amazing. One of the best things we saw travelling. If you do drive there, beward the speed limits. There is a road were the speed limit drops dramatically and tourists are often caught out. The Queenstown Gardens are also nice to wonder around in. People are often playing frisbee golf.
    • Nightlife: Queenstown is seemingly 50% youthful travellers and expats, so its often difficult to tell if it’s a weekday or weekend. People are generally out, all the time. 1876 was a good pub/bar to have a drink at. For a later night, The World Bar, Bungalow, Rhino’s Ski Shack and The London were all good. Each have a variety of nights, but it generally seemed to be that you would catch a wave and one would be busy on a specific night. There is also a popular Queenstown bar crawl. I preferred Bungalow, which also happened to stay open until latest so people generally finish there anyway. Pog Mahone’s was a good Irish pub that had a very lively Irish band playing on some nights.
    • Restaurant: Ferg Burger is a very famous Burger place and rightly so. The burgers are amazing but expect to queue. The Ferg Baker (same owner) next door is also very good. We also had a great steak meal at Musket’s & Moonshine that was great value (with live music on Friday’s too).
    • Hostel: We stayed at Black Sheep Hostel which was great.

Takeaway

A beautiful country with a rich cultural history. Slightly disappointing cities (bar Queenstown) and not the place for a culinary experience. I’d highly recommend a road trip here to anyone as the landscapes and views all along are remarkable and small random stops often turned into little adventures.

 

Forever racing @fedepaullier to be the first one in the water.

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