If you’re heading for a vast country like New Zealand and you only have seven short days, you can still have a thoroughly exciting week. Of course, spending seven days in some of the famous cities of the country still won’t scratch the surface. However, by organizing your itinerary in advance, minimizing your travel time and prioritizing which destinations you would really like to see, you can make the most of one-week New Zealand vacation.
Things to know before traveling to New Zealand:
Combining expansive greenery, impressive snow-capped peaks and bucketful of fresh air, New Zealand is a top tourist destination offering countless outdoor adventures, cultural and historical experiences and of course, internationally acclaimed New Zealand wine and Pacific Rim cuisine. It is relatively easy and simple to travel in New Zealand but there are a few things that you should know before you go.
1. Safety – New Zealand is one of the safest holiday destinations in the world with a very low crime rate, few endemic diseases and advanced health care facilities. However, you are advised to observe the same precautions with your personal safety and health as you would in any other country. For any type of emergencies, you may call 111 if you need a quick response from the fire service, police, ambulance or search and rescue.
2. Health – Public and private hospitals in New Zealand are all equipped and specialized for any emergencies. But arranging your own health insurance is recommended as treatment and services are not free, except as a result of an accident. It is also important to know that there are no vaccinations or inoculations required to enter New Zealand.
3. Money – New Zealand’s unit of currency is the dollar (NZ$). All major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, Bureau de Change Kiosks and some hotel, which are located in the airports and city centers.
4. People and Language – New Zealanders are also knows as Kiwis. New Zealand is a multiethnic society with a history of Maori, European, Pacific and Asian cultures thus, it considered home to people of many national origins. English is the predominant language spoken in New Zealand but Maori is the official language as declared in 1987.
5. Visa – Many people will qualify for visa-free entry, depending on the country of origin, some will still need to apply for a visa before they travel. Citizens and permanent residents of Australia are exempted from the requirement to hold a permit. They can visit, live and work in New Zealand indefinitely for as long as they do not have any criminal records. British passport holders can enter the country for up to 6 months on arrival without a visa.
DETAILED DAY BY DAY SAMPLE TRIP TO DISCOVER NEW ZEALAND
Let’s be honest – New Zealand is far far away and tickets from US and Europe are expensive! You should defenitely consider a week in New Zealand if you are in Australia – tickets Sydney-Auckland and Queenstown-Sydney are only 340 USD; from and to Hong Kong – about 1000 USD, from and to New York – 1649 USD; from and to Amsterdam – 1317 USD.
Day 1: Auckland
Where to stay in Auckland:
Take an international flight to Auckland, New Zealand. It is best to get an early morning arrival so you could fight off your jet lag before you go exploring in the afternoon. Enjoy a two and a half hour dinner cruise (prices start from 77 USD) on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor on your first night. While the boat is at anchor, you will be served a delicious three-course dinner. Afterwards, soak in the highlights of the city, including Sky Tower and Auckland Harbor Bridge. Your guide will also share some interesting facts about Auckland and its famous attractions.
Day 2: Auckland
Start early on your second day and join the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Movie set tour in Matamata. The location is set in a rural Waikato town in New Zealand and is approximately two and a half hour drive from Auckland. It is recommended to avail a guided tour so you could access some secret places that were only accessed by the film crews.
On the most picturesque private farmland, you can explore the Green Dragon Inn, The Mill, doubled arched bridge, Hobbit Holes and other structures built for the films. You can also chill out and soak up the unique atmosphere with a delicious meal in the Shires Rest Cafe. Whether you are a “The Lord of the Rings” fan or not, a visit to the Hobbiton Movie set is a must.
After you tour, head back to Auckland and stop along the way for a scoop of New Zealand’s signature Hokey Pokey ice cream at Pokeno. It is one of the best places for the old fashioned ice cream on a cone.
Day 3: Rotorua
On your third day, you can either rent a car or join a tour to Rotorua, New Zealand’s geothermal capital. Here, you can marvel at the views of boiling mud pools and thermal valley of geysers. You can get an insight of the Maori culture though traditional performance including carving, weaving and arts.
You can also avail an authentic Maori hangi dinner with an evening tour of Tamaki Maori Village on the outskirts of Rotorua. Your guide will explain some reminders and protocols before entering the village. Prepare for an amazing experience as you step inside the village, you will surely be transported into another world.
Day 4: Christchurch
Today you’re up early to catch a domestic from Auckland to Christchurch (you can fly with Jetstar for 53 USD one-way). Christchurch is the second largest city of New Zealand and is the gateway to the South Island. After the devastating earthquake of 2011, the city is very much on the rebuild and there are still many beautifying works to be done. However, a visit is still is a must so you could see a city pulling together to make use of vacant spaces after the earthquake.
Hotels to consider in Christchurch:
After lunch, explore the tranquil side of Christchurch with a classic boating experience on the majestic Avon River. The flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow is designed for small rivers and is operated by a punter who uses a long pole to navigate across the river. Your punter also serves as your tour guide as they share interesting facts about Christchurch history and the sights along the river.
Day 5: Christchurch – Greymouth – Franz Josef
On your fifth day, catch the TranzAlpine train for a journey across New Zealand’s Southern Alps to Greymouth. The TranzAlpine is a world famous train journey that travels through untouched snow-capped mountains, deep gorges and delightful valleys. You will first pass by the Canterbury Plains, then the Waimakariri River. This is perhaps the most scenic train ride in the world and the journey takes four and a half hours from Christchurch and a one-way ticket costs about 115 USD.
In the evening, take a bus to the small village of Franz Josef, where you will stay overnight. The drive from Greymouth to Franz Josef Glazier is approximately two hours, but you have the option to stop along the way for some photographs. There are numerous selection of accommodations in Franz Josef, most of it are located centrally within walking distance of Franz Josef Glacier facilities. Before you go to sleep, book your Franz Josef Glacier Trip for the next day thru your chosen accommodation or online in advance.
Where to stay in Franz Josef:
Day 6: Franz Josef – Queenstown
Start early and go to the glacier facility to have your equipment fitter before you take a short bus ride to the outskirts of the glacier. As you and your group make way up to the summit, the guide will provide some interesting facts about the glacier, the history and what can be seen in this majestic giant. You will also learn the legend of Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere.
Travel to Queenstown from Franz Josef in the late afternoon. Journey is approximately four hours and like so many routes in New Zealand, the views are majestic so you might want to stop along the way. Check in at one of the resorts and head out to check the many excellent restaurants in the little town of Queensland.
Where to stay in Queenstown:
Day 7: Queenstown
Today is your last day in New Zealand. Spend the rest of your day checking out some attractions in the scenic town that you might have missed. Fit in one last amazing breakfast or lunch in the town. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping before you travel to the airport. You can catch a flight from Queenstown’s International Airport – either via Australia, or via Auckland going home.
Have you been to New Zealand? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Mount Cook and Pukaki lake New Zealand (DmitryP / Bigstockphoto.com)