We visited New Zealand in January 2019, following a rough two-day sea crossing from Australia. Here are the places we saw:
We arrived into Port Chalmers, then did a city tour of Dunedin. Dunedin is known for its Scottish and Maori heritage, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and a large student population. They have a beautifully ornate railway station.
We visited the ZEALANDIA Eco-sanctuary, home to over 40 rare native species. ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban eco-sanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. We saw lots of birds, a creature called a giant weta, and a tuatara, a single species of reptile that is the only surviving member of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago. Fascinating!
We took a private tour of Napier, nestled in the Hawkes’ Bay wine region. This town was leveled in the 1930s by an earthquake, then rebuilt in the popular style of the day: art deco. All the buildings and many of the houses are built in art deco style and it is very interesting. We visited two vineyards for wine tasting – Mission Estate and Church Road Winery – then went to Speight’s Ale House for beer tasting. Five big ones! We tried a lager, a summer blackberry, a cider, an ale, and a stout.
It was a warm summer day, perfect for a visit to the Hobbiton movie set for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. Gorgeous flowers and landscaping, beautiful rolling green hills, and about 45 hobbit holes built into them, plus a Green Dragon Pub. It was so fun to walk around and explore this beautiful place.
We really liked Auckland. We started with a hike to the top of Mt Eden for the fantastic views. Then we went to the top of the Sky Tower, 1076 ft from ground to top of mast, making it the tallest freestanding structure in the southern hemisphere. More stunning views. We visited the Auckland Fish Market and did a couple of nice food tours here as well.
Waiheke Island is also known as the Island of Wine. It’s been rated one of the top islands in the world to visit and it has more than 30 boutique vineyards as well as olive oil plantations and manuka honey producers. Also, many multi-million-dollar homes. We did a food and wine tour, visiting three vineyards and one olive oil producer: Stonyridge Vineyard, Casita Miro and Mudbrick Vineyard as well as Rangihoua Estate for olive oil. The day was gorgeous and all had beautiful settings with fantastic views.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
This island is a wildlife sanctuary for lots of rare birds and other wildlife. We spent the day hiking around the wooded trails and searching for wildlife, and it was awesome! We saw a lot of birds, including one so rare that there are only around 300 in the wild.