Recap: Traveling New Zealand In Less Than 2 Weeks

What is this?

A sample itinerary with accompanying reviews and ratings.

I don’t get the ratings system.

Well, some parts of society need people who lack imagination. Fret not – I shall explain to you. Places and/or activities score on an incredibly subjective scale from 1-5 stars. Since I’m a film and media major, the “stars” will look like this:


(for those of you who were born and have since lived under a rock, that’s Sean Connery)

1 star = “not impressed- skip this,” 3 = “meh,” 5 = “magical; don’t miss it!” and 0 =


= “it is preferable to boil oneself in oil”  (yeah, I’m going to pick on KStew a bit today. I just found out that I’m watching Twilight for one of my classes. I’m actually excited to discuss it from an academic perspective, but I feel the need to rag on some characters a wee bit to make up for the fact that I’m about to watch the movie and possibly enjoy it….)

Why’d you write this?

Because someday you might find yourself stranded in New Zealand and will want some ideas about the best places to stay and what places to avoid. Also, you get to look at pictures of Sean Connery (granted, it’s the same photo over and over again, but then you get to experience it over and over again. weeee).


Pre-trip preparation (could take years)

What to pack: clothes (obviously. or not- you can actually do a lot of activities for free if you go naked), clothing items that you can layer (sweaters, etc. – the weather can be frisky), sunscreen and shampoo (they can be very expensive in NZ), warm socks (for those cold nights), and bugspray (kill all the sand flies).

Means of travel: Air Canada –

kristen-bella-stewart-1 Just don’t. Unless there is -10% chance of snow or fog or ice or precipitation of any sort – don’t. Find an alternate airline.

Another means of travel: Air New Zealand

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 Worth flying just to watch the safety video.

North Island (5 days)

Auckland: Coromandel Peninsula, Cathedral Cove, and Hot Water Beach

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 Ok, so I didn’t actually get to go here (because we were 3 days late getting to NZ because… Air Canada….), but I imagine that I would have given it 4 stars. I heard stories and saw pictures taken by friends who were able to go. One Narnia film did some shooting at Cathedral Cove, and at Hot Water Beach you can dig your own hot spring.

Matamata: Hobbiton Movie Set

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 Magical. Beautiful. So many photo opps, friendly tour guides, free Hobbit ale in the Green Dragon. A must-see for any Lord of the Rings fan (or for anyone who has friends who are fans and who wants to make said friends apoplectic with jealousy). Tip: try to go on the first tour of the morning (around 9 am) and you will have the entire Shire to yourself for a good portion of the tour.

Wellington: Te Papa Museum

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 Well, I didn’t actually visit Te Papa either…. But I hear that it’s amazing! Check it out if you’re in Wellington.

Nelson: Trailways hotel

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 One of the only hotels where you don’t have to pay extra for wifi. Clean, well-priced, delicious food, friendly staff.

Nelson: Jens Hansen’s

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 A jewelry store; the owner was the maker of the rings used in The Lord of the Rings films and the shop displays many of the rings. A hole-in-the-wall shop run by very friendly people. Might as well stop by if you’re in Nelson.

Nelson: Abel Tasman National Park

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 We went on the “Swing Bridge Bush & Beach Excursion.” It was a picturesque hike and made for an incredibly sunny and sweltering Christmas Day. Consider taking your swim suit; you end the hike at a beautiful golden beach and the water is fresh and cool. Take the longer hiking trail and see Cleopatra’s Pool (be sure to try sliding down some of the natural rock-waterfall slides). Be aware that the boat may not pick you up exactly on time (might even be an hour late. In which case you should reapply sunscreen. Or suffer interesting burn patterns).

South Island (7 days)

Queenstown (5 days)-

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 The adrenaline capital of the world. Endless activities, a lively night life, scenic and diverse downtown. Ferg Berger is an iconic place to eat, but Bobs Weigh is a less-known and equally enjoyable diner. The city is less busy after summer ends. Glassons is a relatively cheap and cute clothing store – sort of like the US’s H&M.

Queenstown: Heartland Hotel

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 Fairytale-esque triangle buildings. Easy walking-distance from downtown. Wifi rather expensive and slow-running. Beautiful view from balconies. Delicious and bountiful breakfast spread. No elevators.

Queenstown: Shotover Jet

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 A surprisingly fun and exhilarating boat ride in a rugged and picturesque setting.

Queenstown: ‘Safari of the Scenes’

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 Drive around in a Nomad 4-wheel drive vehicle to visit spectacular backdrops used in The Lord of the Rings and go gold-panning. I’m not usually a big fan of tours, but this one was wonderful. We had a incredibly knowledgeable and humorous guide, and there were fantastic photo opps on the tour.

Anywhere near water: Sand flies

kristen-bella-stewart-1 Bring bug spray. Apply generously.

Fiordland: Doubtful Sound Day Excursion

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 The view was breathtaking, but the ride out to the sound was 5 hours. Take a book or some music with you. Also, there were sand flies. I’ve heard great things about Milford Sound and the Overnight Excursion; if you want to see Fiordland, maybe try one of these options. You can also hike in Fiordland, but be sure to plan and book the trip a few months in advance.

Queenstown: Shotover Canyon Swing

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 I have not lived until now. Leap from a cliff edge, experience 60 metres of freefall just metres from a the cliff face, and then swing smoothly through the gorge. Don’t worry about whiplash. It was like nothing I had ever done before. Don’t think- just jump. The guides were hilarious and upbeat. There are special/secret jumps that you can do- ask me for further info if you’re interested. You can buy pictures and/or videos of your jump. Subsequent jumps are only $39 NZ. Naked jumpers swing for free. Some have said the Canyon Swing is even more nerve-wracking than skydiving.

Queenstown: Skydiving

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 It is the greatest regret of my short life that I was unable to go skydiving. Skydivers to whom I have talked have described skydiving as merely “indescribable.” Queenstown is a prime place to pursue this experience. Be sure to book your dive earlier rather than later so that you have to time to reschedule if weather cancels your jump.

Queenstown to Pukerangi to Dunedin: Taieri Gorge Railway Train

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 It’s a train. Not much more to say…. When you’ve been on buses and coaches and airplanes for days, a train is a pleasant change. This particular train stops so you can take pictures of the countryside. While the view was pretty, it was hard to wholly appreciate it just after seeing Doubtful Sound, Abel Tasman, the hills of Queenstown’s outskirts, etc.


Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 I’m excited to further explore the city, but if you have no specific agendas to pursue in Dunedin, you might be better off skipping it.

Dunedin: Quality Hotel Cargills

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0 Nice, clean, and spacious rooms. Less than stellar food menu. Rather expensive wifi (granted, Dunedin in general has pretty expensive wifi and Cargills’ was cheaper than some, but still, it irks me to pay extra for wifi). No elevator (normally I’d be cool with that. But I’ve been carrying 8 months worth of stuff in a suitcase. And I’m not a bodybuilder).

Dunedin: University of Otago

Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Sean-Connery_0Where I am.


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