Day trips from Auckland New Zealand when stopping over

In August 2015 I had a 2 day stopover in Auckland and I found many opportunities for day trips and excursions from the city of Auckland. If you find yourself with the chance to stop over, I highly recommend it. Even better plan an entire trip just to visit New Zealand.

Hobbiton

Experience the Lord of the Rings movie set to take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Middle Earth. Hobbiton is a must see for travelers to New Zealand where they are given an opportunity to see the living movie set and immerse themselves in the wonders of the Trilogies.

Wonder the paths of the Shire, escape into a Hobbit hole and attempt to recreate your favorite scenes. The land Sir Peter Jackson loves so much comes to life as your guide shares details of moving making and famous movie sites.

They even have a banquet room on site and opportunities for dining after your tour.

I had never even seen the movies before experiencing Hobbiton but I still found the tour the be very interesting and a great introduction to the countryside of New Zealand. This is only a 2 hour drive from Auckland.

My time as a Hobbit

My time as a Hobbit.

Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are another must see when visiting New Zealand. The glowworms radiate luminescent light that illuminate the caves with historical and geographical interests.

Enjoy the tour by boat ride under thousands of magical glowworms and become a part of over 120 years of cultural and natural history. While on the boat ride you cannot have any light and must stay extremely quiet or you will scare the light out of them. You are guided through the caves by a pulling system lead by a professional glowworm dude.

I wish I had more opportunity to explore here but it was pouring rain and the caves had flooded. It is very rare that this happens so I will plan it to go back because what I did see was worth every minute. This is only 2.5 hours from Auckland.

America’s Cup Sailing Adventure 

Enjoy the thrill of sailing on the America’s Cup sailing ships. With no sailing experience necessary, you can still be involved in all things sailing. It takes more than you think to get these ships race ready. As the wind hits the sails, the professional crew shares their experience with you while letting you feel the exhilaration and power of a sailing regatta.

Not only did I enjoy the race I also enjoyed seeing the contrast of natural landscapes and city skyscrapers that line the harbour from the best view in town. I was given the opportunity to steer, use the grinders to raise and trim the sails and try not to fall off the ship. Located in Waitemata Harbour in Auckland.

I specialize in travel to Australia and New Zealand. Use my insider knowledge and experience to help you plan your bucket list vacation.

New Zealand – North Island

I just returned from a week exploring the Maori Culture on the North Island of New Zealand, as well as wine, olive oil, food, beaches, adventure and more.  We took a wine/olive oil tour of Waihiki Island, only a half hour ferry ride from Auckland.  There are many wineries to explore and sample on the island.  It is best to take a tour to the different wineries so that you can sample the different wines that they offer.  We had an excellent meal at the Mudbrick Winery with fabulous views of Auckland in the distance.  Auckland itself offers many museums, shopping opportunities as well as wine and food.  You can get a bird’s eye view from the Sky Tower and even bungee jump from the top for a real adrenaline rush.

 

The Bay of Islands to the north of Auckland provides rugged coastline, many beaches and sand dune surfing.  Our tour took us to Cape Reinga to see the lighthouse, an opportunity to surf the sand dunes and then take a drive on the 90 mile beach.  This is a more wild rugged area to explore.  We were then on to Rotorua where they have sulphur pools, geysers and mud pools.  This is a very nice city and easy to get around.  All of these areas offer opportunities to spend time learning more about the Maori by going to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and the Tamaki Maori Village.  There is so much to learn about the hangi, the hongi, the haka and other traditions of the Maoris.

 

We also were able to see the glow worm cave in Waitomo, the Hobbiton Movie Set and the Agridome where you can watch sheep shearing and working sheep dogs.  The Bush and Beach Tour company offers tours out of Auckland to visit many destinations which you can use for pre and post clients to Auckland.  

 

New Zealand is really a must see for everyone.  You can find something for everyone to enjoy between the North Island for more culture and the South Island for adventure.  Would I go back – absolutely!  There is still a lot to explore.  Ask me about the opportunities of travel to New Zealand.

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Client Review: Honeymoon Adventures in the Land Down Under

The trip was fantastic.  Of the 4 places we went, I’d be pressed to pick a favorite because they were all such different experiences.  The location of all the hotels you found were perfect, we could just walk to do anything we wanted during our free time.  Each hotel had gotten your note that it was our honeymoon and had left out some wine or chocolates or both and a couple of them even gave us hand written congratulatory notes which was extremely touching.  The Hobbit tour driver Damion even had a printout of a very kind email you’d written to them and gave us a special memento to take back with us.  Chris from Quicksilver met us when we checked in, walked out to the boat with us, made us feel very welcome and mentioned your name and even gave us some drink tickets which was great!  All the tours went well, it often felt like they were really chaotic, but incredibly they all ended precisely as described.  The Sydney harbor bridge climb was amazing and its accessible to far more people than you’d think based on how they describe it.  To get a sample of the great barrier reef, both Tusa and Quicksilver are great options for a try scuba day trip.  If you have to pick, Cairns seems like a better place to stay than Port Douglas, there just seems to be more to do.  The service we encountered at all locations and tours was very welcoming and the amazing concierge in Auckland helped us find entertainment and a delicious Valentines Day dinner.

I’m really struggling to summarize the diving portion as Quicksilver and Tusa both really did a great job.  The staff at both outfitters were nice, competent, efficient, all good things.  I’m not sure which I’d recommend over the other as they were quite different.  Quicksilver was a longer day as they fetched us from our hotel (which was great), there were many times more people on that boat, but it was also bigger and faster so you were able to get to better places on the reef.  Quicksilver broke people out into groups of 4-6 and had a dive guide, Tusa gave you more autonomy unless you asked to have a guided tour.  The food on both was very good, though I did think Tusa’s was better.  I think we only paid for 2 dives on Tusa, but they gave us a 3rd for free which was really nice.

If I ever went there again, I would spend the money to do a live aboard and get better dive sites and a more intimate group of divers.  I would say for you, if someone asked about it I would find out how much diving they’ve done.  If it’s not much, then either of these outfits are perfect (or if they’re really set and cannot do more than 1 or 2 days).  If they’ve done a bit of diving (like more than 50 dives) then maybe steer them to a liveaboard.  Anyone can do either obviously, you’ll probably get a more experienced group doing a live aboard.  Or at least no college kids betting on who can hold their breath the best. haha

Overall it was definitely a success and we had a great time.  Thank you!!

Client Review of New Zealand December 2014

I went on an Adventure! The entire time I imagined I was a Hobbit on an epic adventure across Middle Earth but discovered so much more to the country of New Zealand than what I had known of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Auckland was a diverse city and I immediately threw myself off the sky tower like a good tourist. While staying in Auckland I took day tours to incredible sights outside the city like the beautiful bay of islands where I got to see a pod of dolphins and even more amazing orcas.

The black sand beach of Piha was one of my favorite tours, which I added on once I arrived. One of the best things about my itinerary was the great balance of scheduled tours and free afternoons to potentially add additional tours or discover less well known attractions recommended by the locals.

Hobbiton was by far the highlight of my trip, it was a beautiful day and even if you are not a fan of the movies it is something to see with all of the beautiful landscaping and little gardens. Plus you can grab a steak and ale pie and a cider at the Green Dragon pub.

Weta Workshop was also a must see for me and I actually ended up going twice and jumping tours, since everyone is so accommodating and genuinely excited to share their knowledge of Tolkien facts as well as native history of New Zealand.

Queenstown was my favorite of the cities and I was happy I got to spend so much time there. I fell in love with the south island and hope to return sooner rather than later. Paradise and Glenorchy have breathtaking views and the city of Queenstown is always full of activity. The country is full of activities and adventures and I’ve already started a list of places to see and things to do on the next visit.

 

 

New Zealand

Maori welcome to New Zealand in the Auckland Airport.

 

Christchurch – The city is working extremely hard to rebuild after the earth quake of 2011.  They are still taking down ruined buildings and making temporary buildings out of shipping containers.  There are more hotels and restaurants being opened all the time.  They have a five year reconstruction project going on.  With that being said, it is a beautiful city and a must see on a trip to the South Island.

 

Lake Tekapo – Being part of the Southern Alps, this is a stunning area for viewing and hiking, biking, etc.  The scenery is breathtaking.

 

Mount Cook – Sunrise is spectacular.  This is a view from the Hermitage Hotel.  Sitting in amongst the mountains, it gives you the opportunity to hike, bike or just sit back and absorb the beauty

 

Wanaka – This is a fantastic location especially if you would like to be close to Queenstown, but not stay in the hustle and bustle.  The Edgewater Hotel, with all rooms facing the lake is quiet with fantastic views, but close enough to town if you would like to walk around the lake and into town.

 

Queenstown – Sunrise brings many colors over Queenstown, though all times of the day are beautiful.  This is the adventure capital for almost anything you can think of – bungy jumping, zip lining, hiking, skiing, snow shoeing, jetboating, whitewater rafting, and the list goes on.  A high adrenaline location, but it can also be as calm as you would like.

 

Skippers Canyon – Today I went on the Skipper Canyon Tour with Nomad Safaris from 8-12 noon.  It was great!  We were in 4WD vehicles and followed the gravel road that the government had built over a seven year period, which was completed in 1890.  It is very rough and runs right along the canyon walls.  You can see the trail where the gold miner’s walked and took their pack mules (which only lasted about three months) until the road was completed.  The area is beautiful, but they explain where the miner’s worked and flattened the different areas.  The miner’s also brought in trees to plant and these trees have taken over the area.  They are now trying to destroy the trees and bring the countryside back to the original type of landscape.  After going over the suspension bridge, you end up at Skippers Point.  The canyon and Skippers Point were named after ‘Skipper’ Malcolm Duncan, who discovered gold in the canyon in 1862.  The town had about 1000 people initially.  The pictures you can look at in the restored schoolhouse and farmhouse, the girls wore white pinafores, the ladies wore Victorian dresses and the men wore suits on Sunday.  There was a hotel, stores, homes, church, a telegraph and a school.  They played cricket and rugby.  They did have electricity here for the telegraph and eventually to have power driven mining

 

Gibbston Valley Winery, Queenstown – If you enjoy wine, the Wine Trail Tasting Tour is wonderful.  You will visit a number of wineries on a tour or on your own, and be able to do tastings at each winery.  The Gibbston Valley Winery also offered a restaurant where you could sample some of the wines with your meal.  They have many different wines from Pinot Noir to Sauvignon Blanc.   We had a great time tasting the wines and New Zealand has some wonderful choices.
Mirror Lakes on the way to Milford Sound – The drive to Milford Sound is stunning and the Mirror Lakes were so beautiful.  Mirror Lakes offers a good place to stretch your legs during the drive to Milford Sound.  Small lakes provide stunning reflections of the Earl Mountains. Water fowl and wetland plants can be seen against a backdrop of beech forest.  This is an easy walk suited to all ages and accessible to wheelchairs.

 

Mirror Lakes on the way to Milford Sound – The drive to Milford Sound is stunning and the Mirror Lakes were so beautiful.  Mirror Lakes offers a good place to stretch your legs during the drive to Milford Sound.  Small lakes provide stunning reflections of the Earl Mountains. Water fowl and wetland plants can be seen against a backdrop of beech forest.  This is an easy walk suited to all ages and accessible to wheelchairs.

 

The Chasm on the way to Milford Sound – Wow!  There was a fantastic waterfall and 20 minute walk around the area.  The Chasm is an impressive hole where a series of waterfalls have sculpted and scoured the granite over thousands of years.

 

Milford Sound – It takes about three hours travel time from Te Anau to Milford Sound with stops along the way at Mirror Lakes and The Chasm.  Milford Sound is by far the best known of all of the fiords and the only one that can be accessed by road.  It is approximately 10 miles from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means you can comfortably travel the length of the fiord in 1½ to 2 hours cruising time with Real Journey’s.  We had a buffet lunch on board during the cruise.  The captain is very familiar with the area where the fur seals and waterfalls are, so he can direct the boat close enough for everyone to have a chance to see.  It was spectacular.  We then returned to The Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas.

 

Hobbiton Movie Set – Discover the real Middle-earth on the most picturesque private farmland near Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand, where you can visit the Hobbiton Movie Set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogy in a fascinating two-hour guided tour.  The set has been completely rebuilt and can be seen as it appeared in the films. During the tour, they explain how the location was chosen for the filming, how they prepared the location and then the set itself.  The Green Dragon Inn is now open and is a special feature of the tour.  All tour groups visit the inn as part of their tour and receive a complimentary refreshment.  There are spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges from the rolling green hills of the movie set, which is still a working sheep and beef farm.  Even if you have never seen the movie or read the books, you will enjoy taking a tour of the movie set.

 

Kiwi Haka, a live Maori Cultural show – We had the opportunity to see a few different Haka shows which provides you a little insight into the Maori Culture.  The Maori’s are the native peoples of New Zealand with the majority living on the North Island.  Journey through the mythical legends and step into the world of the Maori.  Feel the spirit of their proud history celebrated in traditional song & dance.  Experience the fearsome haka and the stunning poi display.  A unique live show performed by Queenstown’s leading Kapa Haka group.

 

Shotover Jetboat –From the mment the accelerator hits the floor, your adrenaline hits the roof as you speed within mere centimetres of water along the famous Shotover River and deep into the spectacular Shotover River Canyons. It’s an amazing white water ride, as the Shotover Canyon walls tower over you, your expert driver puts your ‘Big Red’ Jet Boat through its paces and skillfully whips it past rocky outcrops, skims around crags and boulders, and speeds through the dramatic and narrow canyons. Rock faces blur in your peripheral vision and the water sprays into myriads of white water crystals with every turn as you speed in your state of the art ‘Big Red’ Jet Boat at up to 85kph (53 mph) over crystal clear water as shallow as 10cm (3.9 inches) deep.  This is a real adrenaline rush – and I did it!

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