Hey all you happy smiley people!
Myself and my girlfirend are starting our travels in New Zealand in March - have a campervan booked for 5 weeks so are zooming all aorund the islands.
Spending the first weekend without the van in Auckland - so any tips on how to best start off our journey in Auckland? and what is there under the "cannot miss otherwise you are nuts" category in New Zealand....we have read loads of books and done a lot of research but first hand experiences from you lovely people is definately the best!
If you are starting from Auckland then a trip up to The Bay of Islands is a definite Can't miss place .. I'm sure you have found out a bit bout this already. Hole in the Rock Cruise, Dolphin watching (and swimming), Relaxing in Russell, Game Fishing
Generally March would be the best time, schools are back and weather relatively settled
On the way up Zion Wildlife Park just out of Whangerei is an interesting stop Barbary & White Lions .. Royal White & Orange Bengal Tigers in a relatively natural environment their website has details
In Auckland .. you can go up any of the 30 or so Volcanoes free and get a great look over Auckland "One Tree Hill " of U2 fame or Mt Eden are the most popular. Harbour cruises are very popular .. so many islands to see .. Spend a day on Waiheke Island .. and I highly recommend a trip to Rangitoto Island .. our most recent volcano (600 yrs old)
Not sure where you are staying but if in city centre cruises leave from Ferry Building .. and there are explorer buses covering main
I haven't got to many photos up here but a few of Auckland .. Regional Parks are great but you may struggle to get to them without transport ..My Photo Blog site is on Fotothing ... I am Midworlder there. Have a look under Members Tab and "whose Online " and click on me if I'm there or search in The directory under M .. Have a look at the albums may give you an idea of some places to see .. Simple free things like dawn at Westhaven Marina under the Habour Bridge are sometimes worth more than any arranged thing.
further to the above suggestions about auckland, piha and bethells beaches are nice and there is also a gannet colony on in murawai west of auckland which is worth a visit. if you are into nature/bird watching there is an island called Tiritiri Mantangi which is beautiful - i'm not even into bird watching and I loved it.
in the north island outside auckland i would recommend:
-bay of islands, cape reinga and 90 mile beach
- taupo especially if you want to do a sky dive as its the cheapest place in NZ to do it.
-wellington, don't miss Te papa museum
-white island off the east coast if you have time - an active volcano and one of the best things i did in NZ
People often suggest waitomo caves but personally i thought these were overated.
-nelson and abel tasman national park - stunning!
- the west coast and glaciers
-doubtful sound and milford sound (doubtful sound is prettier and less touristy in my opinion)
-queenstown - touristy but beautiful
stewart island if you want to get off the beaten track
-kaikoura is a nice town and you can do whale watching here.
-christchurch is worth a couple of days
hope this helps - i also have some pictures of NZ in my gallery.