New Zealand Trip to Christchurch, South Island

Christchurch, South Island – The English City in New Zealand

Cathedral Square Christchurch

Friends told us that Christchurch, South Island, is very English. We soon realized it when we witnessed the elegant gothic architecture in the city. We had 3 nights in Christchurch during our New Zealand trip. An overnight stay to board the famous TranzAlpine train and two final ones end our tour in the South Island.

Christchurch is also known as ‘New Zealand’s Garden City’, the trees and gardens, along with the Avon River create a relaxing and laid back atmosphere.

We started at Cathedral Square which is also the hub of the city. You can’t be in Christchurch without being here! There is something about this place. It’s nice just sitting around here on a lazy afternoon. Do pop by the I-Site at The Square if you have few days here. This way, you can plan your adventures and time smartly and wisely.

Our first stop is Christchurch Cathedral, a very important landmark of Christchurch – that’s probably the first thing you will notice too. This awesome towering church is truly the heart of this city. Take a tour and admire the beautiful stained glass window panels and fine artistic architecture so delicately preserved.

There are a lot to see and do in Christchurch. If you are into a shopping spree, you won’t be disappointed here. We a nice boat ride and enjoyed a leisurely punt on the Avon River through the Botanic Gardens. This is our first punting experience. Something different.

punting at the avon

punting at the avon

Whether you are a garden lover or not, you must not miss the Botanic Gardens. This is one of New Zealand’s best. With the fine collection of exotic and indigenous plants, the gardens are a restorative place to visit. I always love flowers so I started going ‘oo-oo’ and ‘aahh’ as I strolled along the flower gardens, especially the rhododendrons and rose gardens. I have never seen such glorious blooms.

Well, even Alex enjoyed himself. He admires the fine collection of herbs and maple trees.

Next comes the cultural precinct of Christchurch – The Arts Centre. This is a must-must-must in your New Zealand trip! And if you can, plan your stay in Christchurch on a weekend for this purpose! The Arts Centre comes alive on the weekends with artists, craftspeople, musicians, street performers and food vendors.

christchurch-arts-centre

There is something for everyone. It’s even a great place to interest kids! It is also a fantastic place to pick up a New Zealand gift.

If you can’t make your way here on the weekends, don’t be disheartened. There are still more than 40 art galleries, craft studios, specialty shops, cafes, restaurants and bars occupying these historic buildings. The quality of the products is overall quite high.

Do you have a sweet tooth? Whether yes or no, there’s one shop you should visit which is often crowded with visitors and locals visiting Christchurch. That is none other than the Fudge Cottage Colonial Sweet Shop.

fudge-shop

The delicious gourmet fudges are made fresh in Christchurch Arts Centre. Enjoy a free tasting on site! The nicely packed fudges make great New Zealand gifts for you friends and families too.

We had a nice afternoon lunch at Le Café, great place, sumptuous new Zealand food. You can’t miss this place.

christchurch le cafe

It is usually packed with locals and visitors basking in the morning sun with a yummy sandwich or a nice cuppa. There is no shortage of eateries when it comes to dining in Christchurch. Check out the bunch of options at Oxford Terrace, known as ‘The Strip’.

le bon bolli

We had dinner at an award winning French restaurant, Le Bon Bolli, located near to Hagley Park. Try their special garlic bread but be prepared to sleep alone!

Our Visit to Akaroa New Zealand

One of our days in our New Zealand trip was reserved for a day trip to Akaroa, a romantic French-inspired village within 2 hours’ drive from Christchurch. The hilly roads may be winding leading to Akaroa but you will be fascinated with its scenic beauty.

If you do not have a car hire in New Zealand or like to travel stress-free, simply book with either The Akaroa Shuttle or the French Connection.

Though Akaroa is a small town, it is popular with couples and holiday makers. There are few nice cafes along the main street and the Fish N’ Chips shop is one popular eating stop for the locals. You can count on the freshness of the fish in this shop! We took a stroll through the charming harbourside village and browse in some of the shops on Rue Lavaud.

Akaroa-fish-n-chips

This is after our 3-hour swimming with the dolphins trip. It’s Alex’s list of ‘must-dos’ in our New Zealand trip! The dolphins on the waters of Akaroa are no ordinary dolphins. These are the world’s smallest, rarest and friendliest dolphins only on Akaroa Harbour!

akaroa cruise

The cruise was quite an experience. And we weren’t the only ones with a small child on board. We were excited to get to the Hector dolphins!

family-blackcat

Cruising in Akaroa waters can be a little rough if the weather is less than perfect. The most exciting moment for all of us in the cruise was when the “star” of the day appeared – the Hector dolphins! There were quite a few of them and the swimmers (including Alex) were all busy chasing after them.

Those of us who were not swimming had our fun of spotting those rare mammals! If you don’t feel like a wild adventure, pick one of the 2 hour scenic ones from the few tour operators here. Experience the wild side of New Zealand cruise.

Akaroa scenery

Even if you decide not to do any of these, sitting around or relaxing by the Akaroa harbour is a lovely way to enjoy the serenity of this French-inspired town. This can be a romantic part or your New Zealand trip 🙂 I must say that this quaint town may be small in size but big in character! If we come back here again, this town definitely deserves a night’s stay.

Our Travel to Nelson, New Zealand

Nelson, South Island
New Zealand sunniest playground

Nelson-beach

A travel to New Zealand South Island is not complete if you have not visited Nelson, the sunniest playground in South Island. It is no wonder that organic farming here is a popular activity in New Zealand, South Island. Nelson is a small town and one of the nice places to visit is Nelson beach.

The beach is long, flat and quiet that morning. It was one of those rare occasions that the weekend market was on that Sunday morning we were there.

This nice lady from the famous Boat Shed restaurant told me about the nice finds in the market. If you, like me, love and enjoy markets, do make time for this local experience.

nelson-Sunday-market

The usual Nelson market opens every Saturday at the Montgomery Square from 8am – 1pm. Nelson is also the home to many artistic talents and you can find alot of local artists, designers and craftsmen displaying their masterpieces in the market. You can also find lots of hand-made products and locally tailored garments by local designers.

This would be another great place to find your New Zealand gift to take home and you can proudly say that they are made in New Zealand!

You can also find fresh gourmet produce in the usual Saturday market too. This is definitely not a ‘junk’ market. It is one of the quality flea markets I’ve seen in the South Island.

Don’t miss a visit to the Nelson Cathedral after the market fare. It’s hard to miss this distinctive monument situated on top of Church Hill at Trafalgar Street.

nelson cathedral

The architecture of this cathedral is really something – it stands so majestically! When you stand in front of the cathedral, you know you are on Holy Ground.

Lambretta

We had breakfast at Lambretta’s. We could tell it is a popular cafe on a Saturday morning by the sheer crowd and the long wait for our food. But well, it was worth the wait. My pancakes were delicious and Alex licked up his big breakfast! Lambretta serves great coffee too!

penguino

Are you craving for some yummy New Zealand ice-cream? Don’t miss Penguino. It’s freshly made in Nelson – everyday! This ice-cream cafe is situated at 85 Montgomery Square. You will be entice by their wide range of flavors from gelato to sundaes and bambinos for kiddos.

Rosy-Glow

Being a chocoholic, I was fairly disappointed that I didn’t get to savour the delectable treats from the famous Rosy Glow. It is closed for business on a Sunday. I have heard so much from the locals about the mouthwatering treats it offers.

It is located on 20 Harley Street behind the police station. Ask the locals for some directions and you will find your way!

Boatshed-Nelson

There is one restaurant you must not missed when you are in Nelson. Every local seems to know about this place – it’s none other than the famous Boatshed Restaurant near Nelson jetty. We managed to get a table (with a sea view!) because we were early for dinner – don’t count on getting a seat without reservations on a weekend!

The Boatshed is situated on the edge of Nelson waters itself. There is no better place to have a good meal and be near the ocean. This place serves seafood at its freshest! We enjoyed our meal here – can ask for more. Lovely ambience, friendly service, cosy and the food – the best in this region!

Our travel to New Zealand South Island’s sunniest playground may be brief but it didn’t take us long to fall in love with this little town. Nelson definitely deserves a longer stay if time permits. It is a quaint place to just basked in the warm sunshine.

For those who love the outdoors and enjoy roughing it out, don’t miss Abel Tasman National park and Golden Bay. We continued our journey to Christchurch and made a stop-over in Kaikoura for a night as we continue our travel to New Zealand.

Our New Zealand Holidays in the South Island

Glaciers-View-

It’s time to mention about our New Zealand holidays in the South Island – the place that many people have been raving about whenever New Zealand is mentioned. I always think many people are biased about their opinions when they make comparison between the North and the South.

The moment we went on set sail on The Lynx to Picton (the entrance to the South), we understand why.

The New Zealand accommodation we stayed in the South Island are:

Joya Studio, Nelson

Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura

Stonehurst Accommodation, Christchurch

Glenfern Villas, Franz Josef

The Westhaven, Fox Glacier

The Heritage, Queenstown

Shotover Lodge, Queenstown

Garden Court Suites and Apartments, Queenstown

Oakridge Spa and Pool Resort, Wanaka

The Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook

Fino-Casementi Scenic Circle Hotel, Christchurch

Here are the regions we visited during our 16 days New Zealand travel in the South:

Nelson

Christchurch

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

Queenstown

Te Anau/Milford Sound

Wanaka

Mount Cook

We wish the list was longer but… like most travellers, there’s always a budget and time constraint and we just have to make choices and focus on certain key regions.

Picton sits at the stunning Marlborough Sounds. The ferry ride is more than just a cross over. It is a pleasant experience. The experience is enjoyable and the views – indescribable. To me, this surpasses any waterfront cruises.

The Lynx is a popular ferry. We noticed many families and groups. You can simply enjoy the winds (very strong) at the deck or sit back in the restaurant for a sumptuous meal. Or else, have some fun on the game machines!

This is a great way to enjoy a true New Zealand cruise.

Upon arrival, we picked our new car in Picton and headed off for the Queen Charlotte Drive. This is a popular scenic route if you are travelling to Nelson via a rental car in new zealand. Just be warned that the road is long, narrow and winding but it’s worth the drive. Highly recommended! You will be rewarded by the spectacular views of Marlborough Sounds. Just keep your eyes on the road while you enjoy too!

Do allow some time for stops to enjoy the beauty of the South during your New Zealand holidays. It gives the driver a rest too. Also keep in mind that the drive may be longer than planned or suggested in the New Zealand road map.

Queen-Charlotte-Dr1

This is Clayton and me with Marlborough sounds in the background.

The stop along Queen Charlotte Drive is a must during your New Zealand holidays in the south island!

Travel to Wellington New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand.
The city that can BLOW you away!

wellington harbour view

wellington harbour view

Our final destination in our travel to New Zealand in the North Island is Wellington.

We enroute to Napier, the Art Deco city in the North Island, for a look-see and as a stopover as it a long drive to Wellington. If you don’t have a car hire in New Zealand, you can book a flight with Air New Zealand.

It is a pity that we can’t stay on for a night as this seems to be a lovely little town in the North Island. We had breakfast in a nice local café, Ujazi.

Ujazi

Ujazi

There’s something about this place; it’s warm, friendly and cosy. We enjoyed the food and it was value for money. If you are in for a caffeine fix, Ujazi serves great coffee! We continued our North Island journey to Wellington.

We have been told about how windy Wellington is. But the truth is, it is windier than we truly expect! At some point, I almost take this city out of our itinerary but sure glad I did not. Some friends tell us that it is just another New Zealand city but it is not!

wellington architecture

wellington architecture

Wellington is sophisticated and artistic. In my opinion, it has one of the nicest and impressive architecture in New Zealand. Many of the old historical buildings are restored and used for commercial purposes. You can find cafes, restaurants and retail shops housed in some of these characteristic buildings during your New Zealand travel.

I find the shopping here trendier and more exciting than Auckland. If you have the time, you can start from Lambton Quay to Willis Street and into Cuba Mall. You won’t be short of places to get a good New Zealand gift.

One of my favourite shops is ‘Living Nature’ which has a flagship store in Lambton Quay. This is a locally owned skin/body care company from Kerikeri. It is organic, natural and affordably priced. Despite the cold winds and rain, we spent a day at the waterfront and the famous Te Papa museum. We got there after a few pit stops from the strong winds – typical of Wellington weather.

Wellington is a compact place and you can get around the city quite easily by foot. Most attractions can be seen via the excellent public transport If you can park your rental car in your accommodation, do so. Driving can be a hassle in the city.

The restaurant, bar and cafe scenes here is amongst the liveliest in New Zealand. This city is so cosmopolitan. I particularly adore the elegance in the architecture. Old with character.

old bank arcade

old bank arcade

We had lunch at Smith the Grocer, housed in the Old Bank Arcade. This seems a popular place for working corporates during lunch, and it is often booked for corporate functions in the evening. You can find a wide variety of ready-to-eat and specialty items. The food is casual and the atmosphere, very lively and relaxed.

As a mother to a one year old, I often find it a comfort to see a well-stocked grocery store when I travel. This is most important when I need to pick up a few items to cook for the little one. So if you are in my shoes or if you plan to do some cooking in your motel or apartment in Wellington, you will like New World Metro, a city supermarket on Willis Street.

It is better stocked (not cheaper) than 7-Eleven or some of those 24-hour convenience store.

Since it was raining that evening, we pampered ourselves with some fine New Zealand cuisine at Bisque, the fine dining restaurant in our hotel (The Bolton). This restaurant boasts a reputation for fine cuisine by award-winning chefs. It seems a little inappropriate to have Clayton in that kind of fine restaurant – dim lights, fine cutlery, impeccable service. But we were house guests so no one is complaining…

Bisque also serves delicious cooked breakfasts. This was where I had the best New Zealand pancakes too! Don’t forget to make a trip to the Botanic Gardens. It is so convenient getting there.

cable-car

Hop up the Kelburn Cable Car along Lambton Quay (next to McDonald’s) and you will get there. Besides, the view is splendid on a cloudless day. Just be prepared for very strong New Zealand winds and the cold if you are here on a less than perfect day.

See Wellington in a different light right here…

wellington botanic garden view

Well, if you can afford the time, step into the cafe next to the Botanic Gardens. Having a cuppa surrounded with lushing greens is a great way to spend a leisure afternoon.

Botanic Garden Cafe

Botanic Garden Cafe

Our trip in the North Island ends as we cross over to the south via the Interislander – The Lynx. If you have a car hire in New Zealand, this is where you return your rental car and pick a new one at Picton.

Ok… they say ‘pictures speak a thousand words’. So I’ll let our North Island pictures do the talking…

view of wellington from ferry

view of wellington from ferry

Shots of Wellington city from The Lynx.

wellington harbour view

the lynx viewing deck

The viewing deck in The Lynx is a nice place to enjoy the sea view.

Our travel to Wellington New Zealand is a memorable on with the ferry experience. Make plans for this trip if you can afford the time. It’s truly a great encounter for every New Zealand tourist.

Travel to New Zealand: Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

Moving on in our New Zealand travel, we decided to stop at Mount Maunganui for a night before arriving at Rotorua. Commonly known as The Mount, this small town resembles a little of Surfers Paradise at the Gold Coast, Australia, except that it is less crowded and not so commercialised. The Mount is also a popular place for joggers and climbers.

walk at the mount

walk at the mount

We did the full walk of 3.5km with Clayton in the pram. It is a easy and lovely climb. We stopped by a few times just to admire the sea views, at the same time, get some rest. Go for the climb to the summit if you can. It takes about 2 hours to get up there and this is a popular spot for hang-gliders and para-gliders.

The Mount

The Mount

We like this little town. It is one place where the Mount meets the sea and it’s so friendly and relaxing. It looks like a great place to retire which may explains why there are so many luxury properties facing the ocean. Doesn’t this look like a great place to retire?

The-Mount-

Ocean Beach is a great place to lay back…

The sidewalk cafes along Marine Parade are a favourite hangout for the locals. Unlike the Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast, you get more locals here than tourists. Take a drive and check out the grand, luxurious houses along Ocean beach, some of them are the most impressive in the North Island.

Cafe Pacifica

Cafe Pacifica

For sumptuous breakfasts, tasty sandwiches, fresh salads and aromatic coffee, we recommend the award-winning café, SideTrack Pacifa. This is definitely a favourite among the locals all-day long, you can simply tell by the regulars relaxing in al fresco style along the walkway.

copenhagen-cones

Don’t leave the town without savouring a double cone from the famous Copenhagen ice-cream parlour along the Marine Parade.

If you are deprived for some retail therapy or can’t wait to buy your New Zealand travel souvenir, take a short drive in your rental car to Tauranga.

Taupo – Home to New Zealand’s largest lake

On our way to Lake Taupo, we stop by at the Huka Falls. We were amazed at the speed on which the water move from the Waikato River to the drop!

Sunset at Lake Taupo

Sunset at Lake Taupo

It was raining during our two nights in Taupo. But then again, the poor weather didn’t spoil our fun in Taupo either. We had a great time in Baycrest Lodge. Our room came with a private courtyard and private thermal tub. We can then fill to our requirements with 50 degree C thermal water extracted from the ground.

It is so relaxing soaking in the tub in the moonlight… yep! And you don’t even have to bother about swim gear. It is so private. I’m sure you can star gaze on a clear night.

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is the biggest lake in New Zealand. Take a nice stroll and enjoy sunset by the calm lake. This town seems less busy than Rotorua. There are some nice shops to browse around so start shopping for a New Zealand gift. Don’t miss out on the many cafes if you like a lazy afternoon.

Taupo in the North Island is serene and quiet during our time of travel but this lakeside town can get very busy during summer months.

Replete Cafe

Replete Cafe

For food in Taupo, you ought to check out Replete Café. For some reason, the queue is endless during lunch. The food is quite tasty with a touch of Asian but the menu selection may be a little limited. I like the quirky store next to the café. You can find lots of nice- looking kitchenware and selected gourmet condiments on the shelves.

Few restaurants have opened up on the lakefront but unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to try any of them due to wet weathers on both the nights. So if you have the time during your New Zealand travel, don’t forget to stop by one of these cafes or restaurants.

Our Trip to Rotorua New Zealand

Hold your noses! We are in Rotorua! When in New Zealand, North Island, it is almost a crime not to make Rotorua a part of your New Zealand trip. This is one of the most visited places in the North Island.

You can smell Rotorua before entering the town. Every one on the street seems to be a tourist. You can tell by the many New Zealand gift shops in the city and popular attractions. Having said that, this town is energetic and full of life! It is packed with lots of activities and accommodations to suit all kinds of budget. There are many international hotel chains here and tour buses are a common sight too.

Apart from the sulphuric aroma, thermal spas and pools are common sights here. It’s a great opportunity for pure indulgence. Soak those aches away! If you don’t have a car hire in Rotorua, don’t worry. That is because most of the activities offer a pick up and drop off service to/from the Rotorua I-Site.

This is like ‘the landmark’ in Rotorua for visitors!

rotorua-i-site

This is the most well-designed and impressive tourist information centre we have seen in New Zealand. A great place to gather information for every New Zealand tourist. I recommend that you visit the i-Site first if you are uncertain about what to do here.

It pays to chat with one of the consultants to find out more about the activities and adventures. You can also find lots of accommodation brochures here on the North Island.

Make sure you also check out the geothermal attractions here. To name a few:

Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Waiotapu
Hidden Valley Orakei Korako Geyserland Resort
Hell’s Gate

It’s probably good enough to visit at least one, or if you have time, two of these geothermal sites. Among these, we pick WaiOtapu. The highlight of this colourful thermal attraction is Lady Knox Geyser which performs at 10.15am daily.

You will also see the spectacular Champagne Pool and the country’s largest mud pool.

lady knox

Lady Knox Geyser

champagnepool

Alex with Clayton at the bubbling Champagne pool.

It is a nice place to visit and we definitely had a better understanding of geothermal activities in this region after the walk through. If you have no time to travel to any of these attractions, go for the free geothermal action at Kuirau Park. It is in town itself, off Pukuatua and Ranolf Street.

There are heaps of outdoor activities to keep every New Zealand tourist busy in Rotorua, New Zealand. Alex booked an adventure with SledgeAbout (He’s a water junkie!). He was all ‘drained’ after sledging in the rapids!

Ws-in-Sledging-gear

Check out Alex in his gear with guide, Adam. All ready to sledge! While Alex got his adrenalin rush at the rapids, I had my own private moments at this award winning café, ‘Lime’. The roast lamb salad is yummy and the hot chocolate is rich with flavour! Enjoying good food is the highlight of our New Zealand trip!

You are spoilt with choices when it comes to dining in Rotorua in the North Island – from Turkish to Korean, Indonesian to Italian, and a good selection of local fare too. We tried The Pig & Whistle City Bar. This is a local favourite which serves a good range of beers and hearty New Zealand pub-style meals. Atmosphere here is casual and relaxed.

fat-dog-cafe

fat-dog-food

You will probably notice Fat Dog Café which is known for its lively ambience, you can’t miss it by the attractive signage. This busy place is very popular with almost anyone of all ages – food is reasonably cheap, tasty, good selection of counter food and sumptuous meals. Alex raved about the yummy milkshakes! For me, the big portion of salad I ordered was delicious and very filling! The Fat Dog Cafe is good value for money!

What better indulgence than to soak in the spa after a long day! We booked ourselves for a family spa at the Polynesian Spa. This is real fun.

polynesian spa

It is Clayton’s first ‘warm pool’ experience in New Zealand and he absolutely enjoys it! Look at that smile! I enjoyed having my stroll in and around Rotorua town. The Rotorua museum is one place you won’t miss. I simple adore the architecture.

rotorua-museum

dusk-rotorua-lake

Dusk at Lake Rotorua

Amidst all the adventures, activities and energy in this town, lake Rotorua is great for those seeking some calmness and peace. We head for Lake Taupo after our spa experience. Yes, it’s another wonderful experience in our family trip to New Zealand.

Our Trip to Northland & Coromandel, New Zealand

Cape-Reinga-tour

Next in our itinerary for our New Zealand trip in the North Island is Paihia and a day trip to Far North, Cape Reinga. This is the place where you will experience the unique side of New Zealand.

Paihia in the Bay of Islands is one quaint seaside village that attracts lots of tourists and locals. This is the hub for all New Zealand tours and cruises in the region. We spend two days here and it is nice just driving around in our hired car while enjoying the pristine beaches and clear blue waters in the North Island.

What is memorable for us in the Northland was our day trip (12 hours!) to the Far North, Cape Reinga on a 4×4 wheeler which was converted from a military truck! My husband and myself agree that this is the best of natural New Zealand in the North Island.

dune rider excursion

Besides the Kauri Forests, the highlights of our New Zealand trip in the North Island are the Te Paki sand dunes and the long flat stretch beautiful coastline of Ninety Mile Beach of the North Island. This is a ‘must-do’ and ‘must-see’ if you get a chance to visit the Bay of Islands and the Far North.

sand-boarding

The sand-boarding experience at the Te Paki sand dunes is something we enjoyed thoroughly. I must warn you that it is an aerobic activity! One word of caution: private cars are not allowed on 90mile beach unless you plan to get a tow truck to your rescue!

Coromandel

Speaking of beaches, Coromandel, North Island has lots to offer. Compared to the Northland, the coastline in Coromandel is more rustic and remote, complemented with the rugged forests. This is the rugged coast of the North Island. Due to time factor for our New Zealand holidays, we only managed to visit Hahei and Hot Water Beach.

CathedralCove

If you are in this area, please don’t miss the gorgeous Cathedral Cove. We could only catch a glimpse of it as it is challenging taking the full trail with Clayton on our backs!

cathedral cove walk

Cathedral Cove is easily accessible by walkway from Hahei. Bring a bottle of water with you if you are doing the walk. You do need few days to see and do more here in the Coromandel if time permits for your New Zealand holiday. In my opinion, it is more local, less touristy, more untouched.

And yes – your trip to Hahei is not complete if you haven’t experience the hot spring pool at The Hot Water Beach.

hot-water beach at hahei

Alex is having fun in his hot spring pool!

The Hot Water Beach is a natural hot water spa two hours either side of low tide. You can dig your own spot and soak yourself in the hot spring pool.

hot-water-beach

You may want to check out the low tide times with the reception of your stay or any tourist information centre in the area.

hotwavescafe

If you are looking for a nice place to eat, look no further. The Hot Wave Café, situated a few minutes walk to Hot Water Beach serves nice lunches. You even get live entertainment on Sundays. It’s a popular place with the locals.

There are probably more dining options in Whitianga, especially along the beachfront. To get here from Hahei, the quickest way is to board a ferry which only takes 10 minutes. It’s a lot further if you drive.

We had a very nice dinner at The Fireplace, a great waterfront restaurant with a cosy courtyard, fresh seafood, unique selections of wood-fired pizzas and most of all, friendly service.

So you can see how we truly enjoyed Northland and Coromandel during the short time in the North Island during our holiday in New Zealand. Read our later posts for more reports of our New Zealand trip.

Travel to Auckland, New Zealand – the City of Sails

sky tower Auckland

For us, our North Island travel in New Zealand began in Auckland. This would be a good base if you are planning to tour only the North Island. Other than being known as a big city, Auckland New Zealand does have a lot to offer for your travel experiences– from first class accommodations, a busy night scene and a host of popular attractions and leisure activities.

It is easy to move around in Auckland New Zealand even if you plan not to go for car hire. Though I prefer the shopping scene in Wellington city to Auckland, the specialty shops on Ponsonby are my personal favourite.

Ponsonby at sunset

This is Ponsonby at dusk.

The main shopping area (the starting point for visitors) in Auckland is Queen Street which is lined with all sorts of stores. I like Ponsonby. There are a few nice shops and lots of cool restaurants. This is one suburb you must not miss when visiting the North Island!

garden party at ponsonby

prego ponsonby

The shop that attracted me most is this big, colourful shop called ‘The Garden Party’. The shop has a large mural outside and it’s hard to miss it when you are walking along Ponsonby Road. It stocks lots of cute, quirky and unusual finds. This will be a wonderful place to find a New Zealand gift to take home.

We had lunch in Prego along Ponsonby road. This is a popular Italian restaurant and the food is simply delicious. Don’t forget to end your meal with their famous tiramisu.

If you are a burger lover, don’t miss the delicious patties at Burger Fuel, a burger-chain found only in New Zealand.

Ponsonby is known for its host of eateries but don’t miss out on the specialty design stores and boutiques. If you are all out to spend your money shopping in Auckland New Zealand travel, head to High Street, Newmarket and even Parnell.

Newmarket Auckland

Newmarket, a favourite fashion district for locals, offers mainstream shopping and here, you will also find Two Double Seven Shopping Centre, a 5-storey building.

parnell

Parnell, a short drive from Auckland city is a nice place to spend your afternoon. You will be quick to notice a yuppie crowd and and a whole lot of nice restaurants and cafes too. For lunch, we tried ‘Mink’, a cosy and casual café with great New Zealand food and nice coffee. Parnell village is popular with visitors.

The Chocolate Boutique Cafe is my favourite. Don’t miss the Hoglund Art Glass Gallery if you like fine glass art. An item from here makes a great New Zealand gift. You can get here on or The Explorer. Alternatively, you can take an easy drive if you have a car hire in New Zealand.

Shopping at High Street-Vulcan Lane can be an expensive one. I spotted a few shops stocking Korean/Japanese street fashion. You can also find some international labels in the fashion hot stops along High Street.

If you are after some New Zealand fashion labels, check out Mooch and The Untouched World. WORLD in High street and Ponsonby is a nice (but expensive) shop to browse. This designer boutique carries a few international labels and some nice collectibles.

When it comes to dining in Auckland, you are spoilt with choices. Just take a walk along the Viaduct Harbour and the options awaits you. The restaurants and bars in the area come alive in the evenings.

Tired of shopping? How about taking a drive to Mount Eden? For me, your visit to Auckland for your New Zealand travel should include this beautiful place. It is popular with families in the evenings and weekends.

Mt-Eden-cows

Alex & Clayton – a close encounter with the cows at Mount Eden!

We witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets here in the North Island. Mount Eden makes a wonderful spot for an afternoon picnic. It’s also an ideal location for picture moments in the North Island.

mount eden auckland

Right here, you get the best views of the city and the harbour too.

Auckland is a nice city to hang around for a few days. It is laid back but if staying in a city is not what you desire for your New Zealand travel, then Auckland may not satisfy. You still can take a drive to the beaches in Paihia and enjoy the space and idyllic waters.

Our New Zealand Trip in the North Island

Bay of Island, New Zealand

Welcome to natural New Zealand, North Island! Get ready your road map for your New Zealand Trip. Hire a car if you need one! Months before the trip, I have researched and looked at loads of New Zealand holidays websites.

As mum to one year old Clayton, my top requirement in my search for New Zealand accommodation is a place that can enable me to do some simple cooking. For me, it’s important to sleep comfortably when on a vacation. This must, of course, be accompanied with good location at a good price.

Then comes facilities and quality standards which also play an important role when making choices.

The places we stayed for our New Zealand trip in the North Island are:

The Duxton Hotel, Auckland
The Sebel Suites, Auckland
The Ascott Metropolis, Auckland
The Crows Nest Villas, Opua
Cathedral Cove Villas, Hahei
Oceanside Twin Tower Resort, Mount Maunganui
Troutbeck Cottage, Rotorua
Baycrest Lodge, Lake Taupo
The Bolton Hotel, Wellington

Very briefly, New Zealand, North Island is made up of the following regions:

Auckland
Northland & Corormandel
Waikato & Bay of Plenty
Rotorua, Taupo & Tongariro National Park
Gisborne & Hawkes Bay
Taranaki & Wanganui
Wellington

As it won’t be possible to stop by every region, we could only cover:

Auckland
Northland & Coromandel
Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty
Rotorua & Taupo
Wellington

Unless you have time (like more than a month) to move around for your New Zealand holidays, you can’t possibly visit every region in the North Island. Remember that New Zealand is a big country. Therefore, you would need some smart and careful planning to enjoy your trip in New Zealand.

That’s where the New Zealand road map comes in handy!

If you are not the adventurous sort and prefer to see all the popular highlights in New Zealand, I suggest you join a package tour.

Or, the better option would be to plan your trip according to your interests and liking with the help of a New Zealand road map or guide. Focus on certain regions and activities. This way, your New Zealand trip will be more memorable and you will not end up tiring yourself with too much activities.

Opposed to the comments we received on the North Island from many of our friends, we find that the North Island has its own beauty and characteristics which the South Island may not deliver.

Before you do anything, don’t forget to pick up a guide for your New Zealand trip. If you are a shopaholic, there are many places where you can pick up a New Zealand gift to take home. Whatever your travel options are – budget or luxury, you will be spoilt for choices, here in New Zealand, North Island. View our North Island Itinerary!