Waiheke – Auckland
New Zealand is comfortingly familiar and fascinatingly different from the USA. Perhaps best known for the fantastical scenery in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, this exciting country offers natural wonders and incredible sights that travelers can’t find anywhere else. Alan Flynn, a consultant for Worldwide Traveler, recently discovered the magic of this destination on a recent trip. He has shared the five things you absolutely must do when traveling halfway around the world…and the one thing he wished he would have done during his New Zealand adventure.
S T E D ITIN
DAY 1-3: Auckland, Waiheke Fly into Auckland and stay at The Langham Hotel, Auckland. The luxury hotel has a great location with upscale dining at The Eight restaurant.
An island 35 minutes from Auckland, Waiheke is a relaxing retreat with more than a dozen wineries, white sandy beaches, and vibrant forests. Delve into history with the Stony Batter Walkway, where you can explore World War II gun emplacements and underground tunnels. After a day of wine tastings and discovery, relax with a dinner cruise around Waitemata Harbour. Not only will you see the lovely city lights, but you’ll also enjoy a scrumptious three-course dinner. You might even get to pilot the boat.
DAY 4-5: Rotorua, Maori Culture, Forests, and Geysers Stay at the Novotel Rotorua Lakeside Hotel, located on the lake and offering geothermal mineral pools.
The TranzAlpine Train – Christchurch
DAY 6: Christchurch, TranzAlpine Train
Known as one of the most scenic train rides in the world, the TranzAlpine Train travels through the Canterbury Plains and the picturesque gorges of the Waimakariri River, and up New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Marvel at the majestic Arthur’s Pass, almost 3,000 feet above sea level boasting spectacular bridges and waterfalls. The train rolls through beech rainforests before stopping in Greymouth. With panoramic views, local delights, and comfortable cabins, the TranzAlpine Train is a relaxing, mesmerizing journey.
Glacier Experience – Franz Josef Franz Josef Glacier is located 20 minutes from the eponymous town, and here you can take a helicopter adventure to the top of the glacier to behold 360-degrees of snow, ice, lakes, and waterfalls. “It’s like something out of a movie,” Alan says, and you can explore this real-life Hoth with a heli-hike – first a helicopter ride to the glacier followed by a hike through the icy landscape. After the exciting adventure, relax in the glacier’s hot pools for ultimate relaxation.
Milford Sound – Queenstown “Queenstown is a cross between Aspen and Lake Tahoe,” Alan says, and Worldwide Traveler’s biggest sightseeing adventure in the area is Milford Sound. Located in breathtaking Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is a natural wonderland with tons of activities. Kayak through imposing canyons with tumbling waterfalls, snorkel in an underwater observatory with black coral, or take a scenic cruise to see dolphins, penguins, and other marine mammals.
Rotorua – Aboriginal – Village Tours This unique area offers a plethora of adventures, starting with the Whakarewarewa Forest, a stunning redwood forest last seen in Disney’s remake of Pete’s Dragon. Your journey continues in Dinosaur Forest, one of the last prehistoric rainforests in the world with trees reaching almost 200 feet high. Venture to Taupo Volcanic Zone, a geothermic area with Te Puia, a geyser that erupts 20 times a day and shoots more than 100 feet into the air. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about the Maori culture with culinary experiences, traditional stories, and fascinating art.
The One Wish-I-Did New Zealand Adventure: Put on your elf ears and travel to Middle-earth with full-day guided tours of The Lord of the Rings movie locations. Discover Edoras, the Rohan capital, and explore The Hobbiton Movie Set. Get a cold brew from the Southfarthing™ line at The Green Dragon Inn, a replica of the inn used in the movies. Then, see and hold actual weapons and costumes used in the movies, and marvel at the stunning landscape of the Remarkables mountain range, which was seen predominantly in the series.
DAY 7: Franz Josef Glacier Stay at the Scenic Hotel, a comfortable abode situated on the edge of the Westland World Heritage Park. DAY 8-10: Queenstown, Milford Sound Stay at the Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa, located in the dining district with breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu. DAY 11: Fly back to Auckland for flights to the US
PEAK SEASON: December – February (summer in New Zealand) OFF-PEAK SEASON: March – August (winter in New Zealand)
Travel Tidbit There’s a lot of driving involved when exploring New Zealand, all of it on the other side of the road. Do it! That’s part of the adventure.
Fun Fact The popular tourist destinations of Milford and Doubtful Sound are named incorrectly! Sounds are normally created by the sea, but these were created by glaciers. That means they’re really Fiords!