- Discover North Island
Although not the capital of New Zealand, Auckland certainly seems like a capital. It’s a modern, thriving city with a multicultural population. Surrounded by islands and beaches there's an adventure lifestyle here and good nightlife. Queen Street is the main street.
The Sky Tower
The first thing you will notice in Auckland is the Sky Tower, the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere at 328m. Get a lift up to the viewing deck for around NZ$20. For a few extra dollars catch the skyway lift up to the highest level. You can also do the vertigo climb, where you will climb up outside the tower onto the spire, as well as the sky jump where you will throw yourself off the tower and you will be lowered at speed down to the street below.
Auckland Harbour Bridge is the longest road bridge on the North Island. You can bungee jump off it. AJ Hacket operate a 40m bungee from underneath the bridge. The Harbour Bridge Climb allows you to climb to the top of the bridge.
Kelly Tarltons' Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World is an impressive aquarium which has all the usual sea life. There's also an Antarctic display which has a replica of Scotts' 1911 antarctic hut among other things.
There's also the Auckland Zoo (Motions Road), Lionzone Brewery (Hyber Pass Road), Stardome Observatory and many museums.
The 'sky screamer' is sort of an upside down bungee where you are shot up into the air.
Canyoning - going down rivers and waterfalls without a kayak.
Also try skydiving, sailing, kayaking, and swimming with dolphins and whale watching.
Vertigo Bar (13th Floor, Mercure Hotel), Occidental Belgian Beer Café (Vulcan Lane), Globe Bar on Queen and Darby Streets has happy hours and backpacker nights. There's a few Irish bars doted around the city such as the Fiddler, across from the skytower. Head to the K Road to go clubbing.
The rest of the North Island
Up the far North of the North Island is the Bay of Islands, the Whitsundays of New Zealand, and one of its biggest attractions. It was here that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between Europeans and Maori chiefs.
The Bay of Islands is a playground that everyone can enjoy. Like every popular tourist spot there will be backpacker deals going. You can go on short day trips or overnight cruises, sailing, jet boating, kayaking, surfing and swimming with dolphins and scuba diving.
Otherwise known as Hobbiton in Lord of The Rings, Matamata lies roughly between Hamilton and Rotorua. A local farmer who allowed Peter Jackson to use his farm somehow managed to convince them to leave most of the set behind and with a little imagination you can relive the movie for yourself. Bilbos' house is the only one you can enter, the rest are just cutouts. The visitors centre on Broadway will book you on a rings tour.
The most famous and popular place on the North Island, Rotorua is home to geysers, hot springs and mud pools. If you can stand the rotten egg smell of the sulphar in the area and the big crowds, you will realise that you are in one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
Go visit one of the thermal parks such as the Whakarewarewa where you can see these magnificent geysers erupting up to 20m in the air. There are also all sorts of Moari arts and crafts and concerts going on, which are very interesting.
Take a cruise on Lake Rotorua, the largest of the 16 lakes in the area. You can also rent out your own boats, pedal boats, and sea kayaks. Go white - water rafting on the Kaituna river, which is a grade 5 river. You can also go white water sledging on this river. go mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa state forest park. Or take a scenic flight over this area.
Just out of town there's the Agrodome Adventure Park, where you can shear sheep, watch sheep dog displays, there's a woolen mill and a chocolate factory but many people come here to do the zorbing. Zorbing involves climbing inside a large plastic ball and getting pushed down a hill. You can do it dry or with some water thrown inside. It's around $35 for the first go and $29 for the second. It's a bit pricey because once you do it once you will want to do it again. The park also has a bungy, an agrojet, a skydive simulator and a swing called the swoop.
Taupo is famous for its lake, the largest in New Zealand, which was caused by one of the biggest eruptions ever some 26,500 years ago, which devastated the North Island. It's hard to imagine now when you look out across the peaceful waters of the lake.
Obviously there are lots of water sports to be enjoyed here such as cruises and jet boats. There’s some great trout fishing here. Do it from the bank or hire a charter boat and head out on the lake. The most popular bungee on the North Island is here, on the Waikato River. It also has a reputation for some fantastic skydiving from 15,000 feet up. Go rock climbing or tear it up on some quad bikes at the Crazy Catz Adventure Park, north of Taupo.
Go to Wairakai Park to see the Huka Falls. They aren't high waterfalls but they are extremely powerful. It's an awesome sight to see such a huge amount of water crashing through such a small place.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and lies at the bottom of the North Island. This is where the ferries to the South Island leave from. Wellington is a pretty cool city with plenty of cafés, restaurants, and good nightspots. There are also plenty of activities to enjoy so don't head over to the South Island without checking this place out.
Wellington has a reputation for being quite windy, and this makes for great sailing, while there are enough sheltered harbours to enjoy some more sedate activities, such as kayaking. Go mountain biking in Makora Peak Mountain Bike Park, or take a walk on the Red Rocks coastal walk. There are also the usual helicopter scenic flights and Lord of The Rings tours.
Molly Malones, The Grand, Mercury Lounge (Courteney Place), JJ Murphys (Cuba Street).
You will find restaurants serving Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, Cambodian, Italian, Greek, you name it, probably even New Zealand cuisine somewhere.
There are international airports in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.
Air New Zealand is the main domestic airline.
Intercity Coachlines are a national coach company connecting over 600 destinations nationwide, you can hop on and hop off.
Flying Kiwi Adventures are a tour bus company, a fun way of seeing the country.
Rent a campervan and drive yourself. New Zealand is small enough that you can see a large part of the country in a couple of weeks, but longer is recommended.
Why not rent a motorcycle, there are lots of motorcycle rental firms and it’s a fabulous country for motorbike riding.
The overlander – between Auckland and Wellington
The Capital Connection – Palmerston North to Auckland
The Transcoastal – Christchurch to Picton
The Transalpine – Christchurch to Greymouth (recommended)
The Ferry goes from North to South across the Cook Straight.
The NZD (New Zealand Dollar) is the national currency.
There are ATMs nationwide and EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) in most stores.
New Zealand is a peaceful country with a very low crime rate. The same advice applies here as in most countries. Be aware of your surroundings, leave valuables at home, do not walk alone at night and stick together when out drinking.
In an emergency dial 111. As in most countries you can call this number even if your phone has no credit.
There have been major earthquakes in New Zealand, such as those in Canterbury and Christchurch. In the case of an earthquake, drop to the floor. Get under a table if you can and cover your neck and head. Do not go far as you could be thrown to the ground. Do not run outside. If you are outside drop to the ground and cover your head and neck. Try to get away from trees and power lines if you can. Large earthquake are quite rare.
If you are in an accident, the Accident Compensation Corporation will cover the cost of treatment, even if you are a tourist. But you really should have travel insurance as there are many other reasons you could end up in a hospital or needing medical care. Healthcare is free for NZ residents.
There are very high standards in food and water in New Zealand.
Many campgrounds all over the country, most have very good facilities, hot showers, toilets, kitchens, electric power sites etc. Many of these campsites also have cabins to rent.
Self contained apartments. These can vary from a hotel size room to a full sized apartment.
Good quality hotels all over the country.
There is a very high standard of hostels all over the country. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable. Most hostels in New Zealand are privately owned.
You will find most of these top class lodges in areas of natural beauty.
Winters are colder in the south
Summer - December to February
Winter – May to August
Spring – August to November
Autumn – March to May