There is this great website which details “101 Must-Do Kiwi Experiences” as chosen by New Zealanders (www.aatravel.co.nz/101/) so I thought we would check which of them we have done during the past two months (a little traveller's liberty has been taken by me in reaching the judgment)
|Abel Tasman National Park||yes|
|Ahipara and Shipwreck Bay||no|
|Akaroa and Banks Peninsula||no|
|Animal & Crazy Kelly Tarlton||no|
|Aoraki Mount Cook||yes|
|Auckland Gulf Islands||no|
|Auckland War Memorial||yes|
|Auckland's West Coast||no|
|Bay of Islands||yes|
|Beehive and Parliament Building||yes|
|Canterbury Plains Hot Air Balloon Ride||no|
|Central Otago Curling||yes|
|Devonport and North Head||no|
|Fine Wine Hawke’s Bay||yes|
|Fiordland National Park||yes|
|Fox and Franz Josef Glacier||yes|
|Glenorchy and Dart River||no|
|Golf in an Alpine Amphitheatre||no|
|Hanmer Springs Christchurch||yes|
|Hot Water Beach||yes|
|Hundertwasser Toilets Kawakawa||yes|
|Kicking the Autumn leaves||no|
|Lake Taupo's Top Water Attractions||no|
|Marlborough Wine Trail||yes|
|Mitre Peak & Milford Sound||yes|
|Mount Maunganui: Mauao||no|
|Mount Tarawera Rotorewa||yes|
|New Chums Beach Coromandel||yes|
|New Plymouth's coastal waters||no|
|NZ Rugby Museum||no|
|Otago Rail Experience||no|
|Rere Rock Slide||no|
|Rotorua Luge, Skyrides||no|
|SkyJump & Sky Tower||yes|
|Southern Scenic Route||yes|
|Spa and well-being destination||yes|
|Te Mata Peak||no|
|The Blue Pools of Haast||yes|
|The Bridge to Nowhere Manawatu-Wanganui||yes|
|The Forgotten World Highway||yes|
|The Interislander Experience||yes|
|The Queen Charlotte Track||no|
|Tongariro Alpine Crossing||no|
|Tutukaka / The Poor Knights...||yes|
|Waitangi Treaty Grounds||yes|
|Wellington Writers' Walk||yes|
|Whanganui National Park||yes|
|Winter Mountain Fun||no|
We did / visited / saw over half of them which I suppose is not bad for a two month tour which did not set out to tick off a list.
In terms of what it cost us, we spent more than planned on “doing things” such as walking glaciers, boat trips, diving etc. Putting to one side the cost of getting here and van hire, the two months cost us around $10,000 with 35% of that spent on doing things, 10% on fuel and the balance almost equally split between food / drink (we drank a lot of wine!) and accommodation.
Everyone we met from the UK agrees with us that New Zealand is quite expensive (not helped by the strength of the kiwi dollar) but we decided that we were unlikely to get a second chance to do something so it was do it now or never. We got a better exchange rate when using our credit card (we use a Halifax Clarity or Post Office Mastercard because they do not charge an exchange rate commission) to buy things and used currency exchanged cash (poorer rate) only when we had to. We never took up the option of paying in UK£ when it was occasionally offered on our credit card because we know it costs you a lot more (at least 5%).
Food was more expensive that in the UK, camp sites were reasonably cheap (and in general of a much better quality than in Australia) and diesel also was much cheaper at about half the UK cost and Lead Free at about 80% of the current cost in the UK.
Comparing food costs with the UK, the table below shows the prices we paid at supermarkets in NZ and that charged in our local Tesco upon our return.
| ||NZ $||£ at $2.14=£1||UK$ Tesco||UK :NZ %|
|800g bread loaf||4.59||2.14||1.10||51%|
|300g fresh ravioli||5.59||2.61||1.65||63%|
|Corned Beef 340g||5.89||2.75||2.48||90%|
|Milk 2 litre||3.66||1.71||1.25||73%|
|Apples Braeburn 1kg||3.99||1.86||1.47||79%|
Of course prices vary a lot around both countries (and here are measured as of March 2011) but for me, “the shopping basket” comparison reaches an obvious conclusion even though you could argue that you can get it cheaper at your shop and these prices do not take into account “special offers”.
As a destination, New Zealand has some amazing scenery. The South Island is certainly the better of the two but you cannot dismiss the North Island – it has some remarkable areas as well.
Having two months at our disposal, we spent about 35% of at touring the north island. On reflection, a few extra days on the North Island would have been useful because we missed out a lot of the middle west and south west and we could have missed out a few sites in the South Island to compensate or done things a bit quicker.
Driving here is hard work because although the roads are in good condition, there are some taxing hills to go up and down with bends whose curve seems unreal. For this reason, you cannot always easily travel long distances in a day (although we met people who were doing so) – that was not an issue for us because we had two months but if you were trying to do both islands in a couple of weeks, it could become one.
We covered about 7500 kms in the two months which was less than our pre-departure worst case estimation.
Our actual route map shows that we visited a tremendous amount of this beautiful country. For those wanting a copy of the itinerary, it was:
|Day 1||Leave UK|
|Day 3||Arrive Auckland|
|Day 16||Te Araroa|
|Day 17||Mahia Beach|
|Day 20||Motutere Bay|
|Day 25||Farewell Spit|
|Day 30||Franz Josef|
|Day 35||Te Anau|
|Day 37||Milford Sound|
|Day 39||Te Anau|
|Day 46||Otago Peninsula|
|Day 47|| |
|Day 50||Mount Cook|
|Day 52||Arthurs Pass|
|Day 58||Hanmer Falls|
Some days we did not travel far at all, it was a great luxury to be able to stop and look at most things we passed along the route – both planned and unplanned.
Our van performed well and certainly was comfortable. We got the impression from other travellers that it was a better van than theirs – they would complain about things in their van and we had almost nothing to complain about with ours. The key issues for them were that their vans were not well equipped and not very comfortable at the back.
Average fuel consumption was about 9.7 kms to the litre and we noticed that the worst figures (around 8.75) came when we were in the mountains – not really a surprise there. We used 9 kms to the litre as a planning guide when considering fuel and could manage around 800 kms on a full tank (not that we ever tried).
The van is well suited to camping in the wild and can support you easily for around three days (it really depends on how much you wash etc). In some of the remoter places, we really did feel totally self sufficient. We had no difficulty on the dirt roads (i.e. the unpaved roads which are quite common once you get off the main roads anywhere in the country), they were certainly a bit bumpy in places but you have to adjust your driving style and speed to fit the road. We had a very good set of tyres with deep tread which was reassuring.
Once we had started the trip, we did not have much contact with Wilderness because there was no need to. Certainly their product (the van, the website, the advice) was well worth the slightly extra money it probably cost to hire through them. If we were doing it again, we would consider taking out campervan insurance with a third party insurance company rather than with them (because it is considerably cheaper) and we would probably buy our ferry tickets direct when we knew when we wanted to cross – there did not seem to be any capacity problems on the ferries when we were there even at the peak of the season. If you join the Top10 club for $40, you also get a 10% discount on the ferries which pays for almost half of the Top10 membership fee as well as 10% off camp site fees and Kiwi Club membership for a 10% discount at their sites is $20.
The weather was much wetter than we had planned on. About half of the time it was dry and sunny, one third it was dry and cloudy and the balance was wet or very wet or very very very wet! We found that New Zealand weather changes very fast during the day and distances of even a hundred kms can also make quite a difference in the weather. The weather forecasts on TV were usually quite accurate although sometimes a little difficult to follow (around 1850 is the time they appear on the main news channel).
One of the most useful things we bought with us was our SatNav – this is a standard UK TomTom onto which we downloaded a NZ map before we left. It was a boon when determining travel times and finding the actual location of addresses we were going to (such as attractions, parks or camp sites). It was also very good at giving us a feel for the shape of the road around the corner when we were driving very bendy and challenging sections.
Air New Zealand were very good compared to other long distance airlines we have travelled with and the airports (other than LAX) were easy to get through. We were not hit badly by jet lag, perhaps because we used Melatonin for the first time as an aid.
What didn’t we like? Sand flies were a great nuisance but they were not as bad as we thought they would be! Being vegetarian made food difficult on some occasions.
What was the best bit? There are too many for there to be one best bit but Doubtful Sound and the Bay of Islands would be high on the list. Personally, seeing Yellow Eyed Penguins feed at Curio Bay was a major major highlight as was snorkelling with a pod of over 400 dolphins off Kaikoura.
So that is all for this trip blog, reviews of many places we stayed at have been put into Trip Advisor for other travellers to read / use.
Later this year we are going to Pompeii for a week’s lecture tour (just booked it) and maybe a week of diving in the Maldives …………. life never stops for a busy traveller and blogs will follow.
Our next road trip may be the USA in the summer 2012, we have in mind Route 66, Route 101 (West Coast Highway) and then back through the Rockies (although we also want to drive Canada and Argentina sometime).
We hope you have enjoyed reading this blog trip, we certainly have enjoyed doing all of the things which featured in it.