JoYo New Zealand Guide

New Zealand – a country comprised of a North island and a South Island. More than a third of its population lives in the capital city Auckland and there are seven sheep for every one person in New Zealand (it used to be 22 sheep per person).

I went on a two-week trip to New Zealand with a 3-day pit stop in Sydney. We flew in and out of Auckland, rented a car, and drove around the North island before flying down to the South island and driving around there. Major things we skipped and missed were the observatories and Franz Joseph glacier – guess that’s for round 2.

Honestly, I only wanted to go to New Zealand for Hobbiton. My MO is typically go on Pinterest, pick the prettiest pictures and go to where those pictures were taken; that’s how I ended up in Cinque Terre and Greece with no regrets as the photos never do reality justice. I had heard about the lush green hills with sheep of New Zealand and I wanted to go. I haven’t even watched all the LOTR movies.

Auckland | Rotorua | Taupo | Queenstown | What to Eat | Transportation | Itinerary

New Zealand Tips

  • If you are a US citizen, you do not need to apply for a visa beforehand – you apply for one upon arrival.
  • Don’t bring in any dirty hiking boots to NZ – they’re very strict about that.
  • No need to tip in New Zealand; tax and tip are already in the displayed price.
  • There are sandflies in New Zealand so you may need some bug spray with DEET; you can buy it there too.
  • NZ weather changes fast and is hot and cold throughout the course of the day. It can be hot one moment, then raining, then freezing cold, then hot. Bring lots of layers, a rain coat/jacket, a light jacket, and socks that cover your ankles for outdoor activities (not only for the cold– sandflies!).

New Zealand City Guides

My NZ guide is made up of these four ‘City Guide’ entries.

Auckland
Rotorua
Taupo
Queenstown

What to Eat in New Zealand

New Zealand isn’t really known for its food, instead it’s known for inventing bungee jumping. Nevertheless, there is New Zealand cuisine and there are items that you should try while you’re there. Here’s what I noticed that New Zealanders like and offer often and well:

1. New Zealand Angus Beef

There are a lot of cows everywhere in New Zealand and they eat them. You can try NZ steaks, filet mignons, and even McDonalds burgers. It’s all New Zealand beef.

2. Lamb

Sheep everywhere so you shouldn’t be surprised lamb is on the menu everywhere. Soft, succulent, fatty meat is the lamb meat.

3. Feijoa (pineapple guava or guavasteen)

The feijoa is the fruit of an evergreen shrub or small tree and are also grown throughout New Zealand. It’s a good flavor – everything I tried with it was sweet.

4. Kumara (sweet potato)

Maybe because we call it sweet potato that I noticed it on everything.

5. Passionfruit

It’s a pretty tropical island so you’ll see passionfruit flavored sodas and desserts everywhere.

 6. Smoked Mussels

Living on an island, it makes sense seafood is part of a Kiwi’s diet. These mussels are plump, soft, and juicy with a smoky taste.

7. Pies (mince meat pies)

Just like the Aussies.

8. Fish and chips

Must be the British influence but this item is everywhere in New Zealand.

9. Dried Cranberries and Apricot

Why are there dried cranberries and apricot offered in everything? It makes sense it’s in their museli, delicious delicious museli and granola bars.

10. Pumpkin

Popular in curries and lots of stuff in New Zealand, this gourd is versatile in its use.

Transportation

Driving

Best way to travel around New Zealand is to drive across the country but remember, they drive on the LEFT side of the lane and the driver seat is on the RIGHT side of the car. It takes a lot getting used to, making New Zealand roads a challenge for many foreigners (and locals). We didn’t rent an RV/van, but many people do to avoid driving long hours to hotels in one day. We drove the long hours; it was fine as we rotated drivers.

Driving Calculator
Safe Driving Tips

To and From Airport

It depends on the city and the airport. Sometimes taxis are cheaper, sometimes buses are cheaper – you’ll need to determine the number the people in your party and distance to see the most price economical ones. I’ve outlined it per city in the NZ city guides.

Itinerary

We started off in Auckland, drove to Rotorua and then to Lake Taupo and then back to Auckland for the North Island. Then from Auckland, we flew down to Queenstown and then flew back to Auckland for Sydney, Australia.

Day 1 – Arrive in Auckland

  • 2:00pm: Land in Auckland airport.
  • 2:30pm: Use 24-hr SkyBus to get to city. At $16 one way, SkyBus provides the best value shuttle service to and from Auckland City.
  • 3:30pm: Check into Crowne Plaza Auckland hotel located at 128 Albert St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand. Check-in at 3:00p.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Auckland.

Day 2 – Explore Auckland

  • 9:00am: Breakfast at La Cigale Market, Bistro & Cafe. There is a French farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.
  • 12:00pm: Pick up rental car at airport. Take the SkyBus to the airport rental car.
  • 2:00pm: Lunch at Silo Park. There are a bunch of restaurants nearby the park. Every Saturday, there is the Silo Day Markets from 12pm–6pm offering a mix of food stalls, vintage clothing, contemporary artists and more. Get a bite to eat and walk along Auckland’s picturesque waterfront. Located on the corner of Jellicoe and Beaumont Streets, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland. Opening hours:
    • Friday – 5:00pm – late.
    • Saturday – 12:00pm – 6:00pm.
  • 4:00pm: Victoria Park.
  • 6:00pm: Skytower ($28 NZ per person).
  • 7:00pm: Queen Street for shopping.
  • 8:00pm: Dinner at Auckland Night Market.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Auckland.

Day 3 – Waitomo Glowworm Caves

  • 8:00am: Breakfast. Check out of Crowne Plaza. Buy breakfast, snacks, and lunch to-go.
  • 9:00am: Leave Auckland for Waitomo Caves (~3hr drive)
  • 12:00pm: Driving and eating lunch in the car.
  • 12:30pm: Arrive at Glowworm cave tour entrance located at 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo.
  • 1:00pm: Book your tour appointment ahead of time. Tour is approx. 45 minutes in duration. Maximum group size is 50. Hours of Operation: Open from 9am daily, 365 days a year. Summer Hours: 9.00am ­ 5.30pm (End of October to Easter Monday). Bring comfortable walking shoes and a warm jacket.
  • 2:00pm: Finish tour.
  • 2:45pm: Arrive and check-in at Black Labyrinth tour. All equipment is provided, including footwear, tubes, wetsuits, helmets, abseiling devices and safety equipment. Just bring swimwear and a towel. At the end of the expedition, enjoy a hot shower and complimentary hot soup and a bagel.
  • 6:00pm: Leave Black Labyrinth tour.
  • 6:00pm – 8:00pm: Drive to Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa at 326 Fenton Street Rotorua 3010 NZ. Check in at 2pm.
  • 8:00pm: Eat dinner in Rotorua at Seismic Gastrobar located at 1158 Whakaue Street.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Rotorua.

Day 4 – Hobbiton and Maori Village

  • 7:00am: Eat breakfast. Leave Silver Fern for Hobbiton.
  • 7:40am: Walk to The Rotorua Hobbiton Movie Set Store at 1235 Fenton st.
  • 8:15am: Hobbiton Tour is roughly a 4.5 hour tour. Show up 30 minutes in advance for check-in. Pick up at 8:15am from The Rotorua Hobbiton Movie Set Store, 1235 Fenton st.
  • 1:15pm: Hobbiton Tour ends. Back in Rotorua for lunch.
  • 2:00pm: Lunch at Brew Pub in Rotorua.
  • 5:15pm: Hotel pickup for Tamaki Maori Village. Please be ready and waiting at your accommodation reception area. Dependant on traffic conditions please allow for our driver to arrive up to 10 minutes after the stated pick up time. Booked in advance it’s roughly 3 hours tour with dinner included.
  • 8:15pm: Tamaki Maori Village tour ends.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Rotorua.

Day 5 – Huka Falls and Lake Taupo

  • 9:00am: Breakfast at Fat Dog Cafe. Opens at 7am, Fat Dog Cafe is located at 1161 Arawa Street, Rotorua Phone: +64 7347 7586.
  • 10:00am: Buy lunch and snacks for drive to Taupo.
  • 11:00am: Check out of Silver Fern. Drive to Huka Falls.
  • 12:00pm: Arrive at Huka Falls. The Huka Falls is located in the Wairakei Tourist Park, just five minutes drive north of Taupo town centre. You can walk or bike to Huka Falls from Taupo via Spa Thermal Park.
  • 4:00pm: Leave Huka Falls. Drive to Suncourt Hotel at 14 Northcroft St, Taupo 3330, New Zealand.
  • 6:00pm: Dinner at Ploughmans Restaurant, an English-styled restaurant with a garden bar, good honest food, fantastic beer garden, and great staff.
  • 8:00pm: Buy breakfast, lunch, and snacks for tomorrow’s hike.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Taupo.

Day 6 – Tongariro Alpine Hike

  • 5:45am: Leave the Hotel and drive to the car park. Drive ~1 hr.
  • 6:45am: Arrive at Tongariro Shuttle carpark.
  • 7:15am: Shuttle to the beginning of the trail.
  • 7:15am – 6:00pm: Hiking Tongariro Alpine Crossing Hike (~6-9 hours).
  • 6:00pm: Drive back to hotel
  • 7:00pm: Dinner at Jolly Good Fellows Restaurant & Bar, casual British Pub themed restaurant & Bar with good value, wholesome favor, and the best lake & mountain views from virtually every table.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Taupo.

Day 7 – Lake Taupo to Auckland (Drive) to Queenstown (Fly)

  • 8:00am: Breakfast at Replete Cafe & Store.
  • 9:30am: Check out of Suncourt Hotel.
  • 10:00am: Leave Lake Taupo for Auckland airport. Drive back to Auckland (~4 hours).
  • 12:00pm: Find and eat lunch.
  • 3:00pm: Return the car at Auckland airport.
  • 4:00pm – 7:00pm: Check into flight and bring something to do at the airport. Eat dinner at the airport.
  • 7:20pm: Flight out of Auckland to Queenstown.
  • 9:10pm: Arrive in Queenstown. Take a taxi to hotel.
  • 10:00pm: Check into the hotel Crowne Plaza Queenstown.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Queenstown.

Day 8 – Explore Queenstown and Skyline Luging and Buffet Dinner

  • 9:00am: Breakfast at Ivy and Lola’s kitchen bar located at 88 Beach St, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand +64 3-441 8572.
  • 10:30am: Hike up Queenstown Hill. Getting to the start of the Queenstown Hill walk on Belfast Street is an achievement in itself when you see how steep the streets are. Taking you through fur tree forests and emerging on high grasslands which look over Queenstown, this walk is worth the climb for the sensational views.
  • 12:00pm: Lunch at Fergburger.
  • 2:00pm: Walk around Queenstown Garden.
  • 4:00pm: Go to Skyline gondola and do luging.
  • 6:00pm: Dinner at Skyline.
  • 9:00pm: Nightlife dancing at Winnies, a good place to end your night out in Queenstown. The place gets busy in the early hours of the morning when people just want to dance!
  • 11:00pm: Continue dancing at Searle Lane.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Queenstown.

Day 9 – Nevis Swing in Queenstown

  • 8:00am: Breakfast at Fergbaker for croissant egg sandwiches and pies. Don’t eat too much.
  • 9:45am: Walk to Nevis Swing Check-in. Queenstown Inside the ‘Station Building’, Corner of Shotover & Camp Street.
  • 10:10am: Check-in at 10:10am for Nevis Swing ($179 NZD).
  • 10:10am – 2:10pm: Allow 4 hours. Supplied transportation is compulsory. The Nevis is located on private land and is only accessible by our 4WD buses. Buses depart the Station Building in the centre of Queenstown. Trips depart daily from 8.40am – 2.40pm. Check-in 30 minutes before departure.
  • 2:00pm: Arrive back in Queenstown.
  • 4:00pm: Go to airport to pick up car at 5pm.
  • 5:00pm: Pick up rental car.
  • 7:00pm: Dinner at Botswana Butchery located at 17 Marine Parade, Queenstown-Lakes 9300, New Zealand. +64 3-442 6994.
  • 11:00pm: Night life at Cowboys,  a themed bar is home to a bucking bronco, huge stuffed animals, table games, saddle bar stools, and liter handles of beer! Cowboys is usually pretty busy so don’t be shocked if you have to queue to get in, especially during the winter season.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Queenstown.

Day 10 – Driving to Milford Sound from Queenstown for Cruise and Kayak

  • 7:00am: Breakfast and pack snacks to-go.
  • 7:30am: Leave Queenstown for Milford Sound.
  • 7:30am – 12:45pm: Drive to Milford Sound (~4-5hrs).
  • 12:45pm: Arrive at Milford Sound pickup area. Check-in is required 20 minutes prior to departure at the Southern Discoveries counter in the Milford Sound Cruise Terminal. During the summer months (December to March), it is highly recommended to arrive 45 minutes prior to check-in time to allow plenty of time to park your vehicle.
  • 12:45pm – 1:10pm: Search for parking. There is free parking available opposite Discover Milford Sound Information Centre & Café approximately a 10 minute walk from the cruise terminal.
  • 1:30pm: Pick up for kayak Milford Sound. FREE Picnic Lunch. What to bring:
    • Warm clothing
    • Shorts or light trousers
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Insect repellent
    • Camera
    • Drink bottle
    • Change of clothes
  • 5:00pm: Return from Milford Sound tour.
  • 5:00pm – 10:00pm: Drive back to Queenstown. Pack snacks!
  • 10:00pm: Eat dinner at Atlas Beer Cafe. Closes at 12am.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Queenstown.

Day 11 – Fly from Queenstown to Auckland

  • 9:00am: Breakfast at The Boatshed Cafe located at 847 Frankton Rd, Frankton, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand.
  • 11:00am: Check out of hotel. Explore Queenstown.
  • 12:00pm: Get lunch at Bespoke Kitchen or Vudu Cafe.
  • 1:30pm: Leave hotel to airport to return car.
  • 2:00pm: Drop off car at airport.
  • 3:00pm – 6:00pm: Chill and relax at airport.
  • 6:05pm: Depart Queenstown for Auckland.
  • 7:55pm: Arrive in Auckland. Call the shuttle to Jet Park Hotel & Conference Centre.
  • 8:30pm: Dinner at the airport or at the hotel.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Queenstown.

Day 12 to Day 15 – Auckland, NZ to Sydney, AU

  • See 3-day Sydney itinerary here.

Day 16 – Sydney, AU to Auckland, NZ

  • 8:00am: Leave Sydney hotel for Sydney airport (30mins using taxi to airport).
  • 8:30am: Arrive at airport.
  • 10:40am: Flight from Sydney to Auckland (SDY to AKL).
  • 3:55pm: Arrive in Auckland.
  • 4:00pm: Skybus to Rydges Auckland Hotel.
  • 5:00pm: Arrive at Rydges Auckland Hotel.
  • 6:00pm: Dinner in Auckland.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Auckland.

Day 17 – Explore Auckland, NZ

  • 9:00am: Breakfast
  • 10:00am: Auckland Botanical Gardens
  • 12:00pm: Bus to One Tree Hill Volcano
  • 4:00pm: Bus back to the city
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Queenstown.

Day 18 – Leave New Zealand from Auckland

  • 8:00am: Breakfast
  • 8:30am: Wake up for Tiritiri Matangi Island ($70 NZ per person). Book ferrytickets in advance.
  • 9:00am: Ferry from Auckland to Tiritiri Matangi Island.
  • 3:30pm: Ferry leaves Tiritiri Matangi Island for Auckland.
  • 4:00pm: Arrive back in Auckland.
  • Details under JoYo Guide to Auckland.

JoYo New Zealand Guide

Auckland
Rotorua
Taupo
Queenstown

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