this page you will find some actvities which you may want to try when
we are not having class. There is a South Island section for those of
you going early or staying late. All of the prices are in New Zealand dollars
(the exchange rate these days is about 1.50 NZD to 1 USD). All of the
prices also include taxes (GST in New Zealand means goods and service
tax). All of New Zealand tends to be pretty safe, even Auckland.
However, be sure to show some common sense when you are away from the
class. Don't travel alone at night and don't carry/show a lot of money.
If you are looking for a good travel book for all of New Zealand, Let's Go New Zealand
works very well. It is geared specifically for the budget traveller. By
far the best sources of information are the people who work at the
backpackers. They know all of the fun activities and can schedule
anything for you. As a rule the people who work at reception are very
friendly. Joe Workman has spent 17 total months in New Zealand on nine
separate occasions so he is a good person to talk to about non-volcanic
activities. Everything below was written by him. You should note that
many activities have discounts for students so you should bring your
Click here for a North Island itinerary
Click here for a South Island itinerary
is the largest city (by far) in New Zealand. There are ~1.5 million
people living in Auckland and only ~3.5 million total in the country.
Many Kiwis who live outside of Auckland have a dim view of the city and
its inhabitants. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful and vibrant city. You should have one day to explore the city.
The downtown area is fairly compact and thus you can walk everywhere.
Remember that they drive on the left in NZ so be careful crossing the
street. If you want to visit some of the outer neighborhoods, take the
bus. The bus system is pretty good. The Link Bus does a circular run
through most of the popular sights in the city. Most one-way fares are
$1.80, but if you're going to do a lot of exploring get a day pass for
$14.50. You can get bus information at the visitor centers on Queen
Street near Aotea Square or in the American Express Village by the
harbor. The Britomart main bus terminal is next to the Ferry Building
where you can also get info.
- Skytower: Take the elevator to the observation deck
on top for spectacular views of the city ($15 for students). You can
also jump off the top for $175 (it's not a true bungy jump, but a
controlled descent). There's also a casino that will be filled with
- Cruises: Fullers Ferries
offers several different cruises of the harbor. We will be taking a
cruise to Rangitoto which may satisfy your cruise
tendencies. Several 2014 students took a cruise to Waiheke Island on their off day in Auckland.
- Beaches : The best beaches are out in Mission Bay—take bus #765 or #769. On the way you can stop at Kelly Tarlton's which is an aquarium that's fun.
- Shopping (most places close at around 6 pm, except for the souvenir shops).
Street (the main downtown street) has lots of souvenir shops selling
the same things. You can pick up your All Blacks (the national rugby
team) gear at the harbor end of the street.
you need general supplies, there's a Wal-Mart-like store located in the
shopping center at the harbor end of Queen Street. It's called the
- If you want
some upscale stuff, there are nice shops around the downtown area and
in Parnell (take the Link Bus). There's a spectacular glass shop in
Parnell called Hoglund Glass.
- If you need some outdoor gear, there are several places on Queen Street. I always go to Kathmandu.
- There is a large Whitcoul's Bookstore (look for the evil giant Santa) in the middle of Queen Street.
- Zoo: The Auckland Zoo is very good and you can take the bus there.
The cheapest food option is to prepare it yourself. The most convenient
large grocery store is the Countdown a few blocks from the backpackers
we will stay at. It resembles a typical US grocery store, but check out
the dog food in the refrigerator section. There's a small New World
grocery store on Queen St. near our backpackers.
- If you are not into preparing your own
food, there are lots of takeaway (don't call it “to go” or “take out”)
places. If you do want to splurge on a meal, try Euro down on Prince's
Wharf or Soul Bar and Bistro in the Viaduct Harbor. There are also some
really nice seafood restaurants in the America 's Cup Village. Seafood, lamb, and venison dishes are really the best
bet in NZ.
- The Wynyard Quarter beyond the Viaduct Harbor has a lot of eating places.
- The Britomart area next to our backpackers has a lot of new eating places that I have not tried yet. Many are supposed to be very tasty.
- Queen Street has the usual collection of American fast food, but you can also get Indian, Turkish, and sushi takeaway. Try to eat something other than American fast food--you are in a foreign country after all.
- The food court below the Force Entertainment Center (see below) has surprisingly good food at cheap prices.
Burger Fuel around the corner from our backpackers serves
great burgers and chicken sandwiches. Be sure to get the kumara fries
(NZ sweet potato) with aioli sauce. I have not tried the Velvet Burger next to our backpackers.
- The Food Alley food court at 9-11 Albert St. (Albert runs parallel to Queen St.) has some good/cheap
authentic Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Noodle, Thai and Vietnamese
food. Here is an article talking about some other food courts in Auckland.
- There are two good gelato places, one in the Ferry Building and another next to the Force Entertainment Center.
Force Entertainment Center is located in Aotea Square on Queen Street.
It has good movie theaters that will be showing first-run (for NZ)
movies. Tuesday is cheap movie night.
- I wasn't much into the club scene so I can't give you any advice about that.
- There are some fun bars down in the American Express New Zealand Cup Village. Try the Loaded Hog.
- Cultural Activities
Auckland Museum is located in the large Auckland Domain Park (a
volcano, of course). We will take a tour of it as part of the class.
There is a large collection of Maori and Polynesian art and exhibits
dealing with NZ history. Steve Powell has a piece in the museum. The
Domain also has some nice botanical gardens.
are a few art museums and galleries in the downtown areas. If you are
interested in Maori culture, Rotorua will be a better place for you to
Rotorua is the
second largest city (~80,000 people) that we will visit. Apart from its
many geothermal phenomena, Rotorua is one of the major Maori cultural
centers in New Zealand. The downtown area is fairly compact and it's
very easy to walk to everything.
- Cultural Activities
- The Rotorua Museum ($3 for students) near the lake is worth a couple of hours.
- Tamaki Tours does an excellent, but expensive ($75) hangi —a traditional Maori cultural show and feast.
The New Zealand Arts and Crafts Institute is a thermal area we may not
visit as a class, but you can see traditional Maori carving there and a
huge geyser. It's about 1.5 miles on the outskirts of town so you can
walk there. ($50)
- There are some nice jade shops showing traditional jade carving within easy walking distance.
- Outdoor Activities
fishing on Lake Rotorua is supposed to be spectacular. You can visit
any of the fishing outfitter stores to get advice and rent tackle. You
can't buy trout in the supermarket or restaurants so fishing is the
only way to get it in NZ. You'll also be able to fish on Lake Taupo and
in the Turangi River further south.
- I went to the Rainbow Springs agricultural
show ($25) which was pretty fun. It includes a tour of an animal
reserve where you can see Kiwis (the bird not the people). It's a bit
outside of town, so you'll have to get our bus to drop you off.
- The Skyline Gondola and street luge is
right next to Rainbow Springs. You'll get a good view of the city and
lake and have a good time street luging ($45 for the gondola and 5 luge
- The Agrodome Adventure Center has bungy, Agrojet, Zorbing, and Swooping. Ask at the backpackers about all four. They probably do free pick-up and drop-off.
Whakarewarewa Forest Park has spectacular mountain biking trails. It
will take you about 30 minutes to get there by bike. You can rent bikes
at one of the bike shops in town ($50 per day) and ride about 20
minutes to get to the forest. Many students have done this in the past
and it's really a blast, although quite strenuous.
- There are several whitewater rafting options with Kaituna Cascades. There are also kayaking and sledging options, see the website for a description of sledging.
- You can skydive in Rotorua with Nzone ($399 for 15,000 feet), but the sights will be better (and the price cheaper) in Taupo.
- Indoor Activites
Polynesian Spa ($20) by the lake has a wide selection (different
temperatures) of thermal pools. It's fairly relaxing but you really
only get to meet Japanese tourists. Our backpackers has a small thermal
- There is a an indoor climbing wall at base backpackers in town
- There's a movie theater within easy walking distance of our backpackers which shows first-run movies.
- The Lava Bar next to the Hot Rocks backpackers always seemed to be the most lively night spot.
- There are plenty of souvenir places which sell Maori jade and wood products.
- Food (all of these places are downtown within easy walking distance)
- Zippy Central Bar and Café has really good food at reasonable prices.
- Tastebuds Mexican Cantina has OK Mexican food.
- Fat Dog Café and Bar was a fun place with good food.
- Hell's Pizza has a wide variety of pizzas with interesting names (Gluttony, Purgatory, Lust).
- Pig and Whistle has good pub food and it shows
American football games (I watched part of the national championship
game between Florida St. and Auburn in 2014).
- There are a few Indian restaurants clustered downtown, pick the one with the most people in it
are a few large supermarkets a relatively short walk away if you want
to prepare your own food at the backpackers. Pak 'N Save is the
cheapest. Bring your own bags to avoid extra charges.
- You can generally bring your own wine into restaurants and pay a minimal corkage fee
won't be visiting this area as part of the class, but some of you may
want to visit it on one of our off-days in Rotorua. If you're going to
be spending some time in NZ before or after the class you should
consider a visit. It is famous for its caves and the glowworms that
live in them. There is a bus you can take from Rotorua ($55 return).
There are lots of options for just looking at some of the caves or you
can do some serious spelunking. I did a 5 hr trip that had a 100 foot
rapel down into a cave and then floating on innertubes with glowworms
sparkling on the ceiling. All for $100. Inquire at the backpackers in
Rotorua or check at Auckland Central Backpackers in Auckland. There are
many adventure caving companies, try Waitomo Adventures.
Taupo is a much smaller town (~22,000) than Rotorua on a much larger
lake. We'll probably spend a few off days in Taupo, but we won't stay there overnight.
- The trout fishing in Taupo is supposed to be better than Rotorua, and the prices are probably about the same.
are several options for lake tours including jetboats, steamboats, and
sailboats. Several people in past classes have kayaked on the Waikato
River under the bungy jump. Inquire at the backpackers.
- There's a nice trail to Huka Falls which only takes about an hour return.
- Taupo has the cheapest skydiving in the country, $339 for 15,000 feet. There are two companies with basically the same prices: Taupo Tandem Skydive and Skydive Taupo.
You might be able to get better rates for a group. About 10 students
went skydiving in Taupo on the 2014 course. Your skydive can be
videotaped for an extra $160 (it's worth it).
- We usually stop at the bungy jump
47 meters into the Waikato River ($99). This is one of the few places
where you can tandem bungy with a friend. Ten students did this
bungy jump in 2014.
- The Rock n' Ropes course is supposed
to be even scarier than the bungy. The course consists of a number of
confidence building obstacles and people I talked to said it was
definitely worth the $59 for a half-day. They provide free transport
- Taupo also has kayaking to see some interesting Maori rock carvings. Whitewater rafting is available.
- The nicest public bathroom in NZ is the SuperLoo located in the park next to the library and info center.
- Holy Cow is supposed to be one of the best bars in all of NZ.
- There is a movie theater in town showing first run movies.
- Hell Pizza has a branch in town.
- There are two large grocery stores (Pak 'N Save and Countdown) in town.
- There is the usual selection of good restaurants on the lake front.
is the last place we stay. It is much smaller (3500) than Taupo and
sits at the south end of Lake Taupo. We will be in a significantly
smaller (but nicer) backpackers called Extreme Backpackers. It has a
climbing wall. Turangi claims to have the best trout fishing in New
Zealand (most of it is in rivers and streams). Several people rented
fishing poles and lures and fished for a day (~$40 including the
license). See any of the outdoors stores in the small shopping mall.
There is a nice New World grocery store. There is a good whitewater
rafting outfit across the street from the backpackers. The Grand
Central Fry (around the corner from the backpackers) has great fried
food for very reasonable prices. This is the place to get your fish and
chips. There aren't many other restaurants. The Chinese restaurant is
OK and the Italian restaurant is good, but expensive.
NORTH ISLAND itinerary
Some of you may be traveling to New Zealand before the
course starts. You probably won't have time to go very far (like to to
the South Island), but there are three places that I recommend within a
few hours of Auckland on the North Island. Remember that you need to be
back in Auckland for the first day of class, January 1 at 9 am. You are
probably better off spending New Years Eve in Auckland. That will give
you three nights out of Auckland. I think it's best to rent a car, but
you can also catch the bus to these three places. A car will allow you
a lot freedom to explore. If there are enough of you a van makes more
sense. A van that will carry five comfortably (six + luggage is pushing it) is ~$100 NZD/day. Gas is $7.50 NZD/gallon. I use Omega Rental
when I'm in NZ. Pick the car up at the airport and drop it off in
Auckland City. The Omega office in Auckland City is about a 10 minute walk from our
backpackers. Make sure you check the closing time for the car rental so
that you don't get charged for another day (Omega Auckland City closes
at 5 pm). There are several bus companies like Intercity and Naked Bus.
BAY OF ISLANDS
Bay of Islands is the most well-known area in the far north of New
Zealand called Northland. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from the Auckland
Airport depending on traffic. It's a very popular spot so you need to
make reservations ahead of time. You can also catch the bus to the
largest city called Paihia. Paihia is a great base for exploring the
Bay of Islands and the rest of Northland. You will see a bunch of
volcanic features, though the Northland Volcanoes were active about
15-20 million years ago.
- Where to stay: I like Mousetrap Backpackers in Paihia. Most backpackers in NZ are ~$25 NZD/night for a bed in a dorm room.
- Things to do in the Bay of Islands
- You can swim with dolphins and do other cruises with Fullers
- There are many deep sea fishing guides (ask at your backpackers)
- You can kayak around the area. Some backpackers have free kayaks and there are other places to rent (ask at your backpackers).
- There are many good walks/hikes in the area
- If you are interested in Maori history you should walk over to the Treaty of Waitangi site. There's a huge war canoe on the site.
- There is some good diving/snorkeling in the area
- Hang out on the beach
Paihia, Bay of Islands
Hapuka, Bay of Islands
Green Lipped Mussels
The Hole in the Rock
Bay of Islands
you have a car, there are a number of great places to visit in
Northland. There are many commercial tours that incorporate the places
- The entire west coast is one loooong beach with numerous access sites and very few people
- Go to the very tip of the North Island, Cape Reinga where the Maori believe the souls of the dead depart the country
- On the way to Cape Reinga you can go sand surfing at the Te Paki giant sand dunes (rent a board nearby or in Paihia)
- Some of the largest trees in the world, kauri trees, are found in the Waipoua Forest. Make sure you visit Tane Mahuta, the Lord of the Forest, the largest tree in NZ
- Go to the Ancient Kauri Kingdom shop to see some beautiful carved wood
- One of the best fish and chips shops that I have ever eaten at is the Mangonui Fish and Chips Shop which is in a town north of Paihia
to eat: there is seafood everywhere in Paihia. There is also a
Countdown supermarket within walking distance of the backpackers
Coromandel Peninsula is a little closer to Auckland (2.5 hours) than
the Northland. It's also pretty popular with Aucklanders and can get a
little crowded (by NZ standards, but not by our standards!). I think
the best town to stay in is Whitianga on the east coast of the
peninsula. There are many beautiful beaches and forests as well as
plenty of on the water activities. The Coromandel Peninsula also has
volcanic origins, but it's a bit younger than Northland, 5-15 million
- Where to stay: On the Beach Backpackers is literally across the street from a beach in Whitianga
- There isn't too much to do in Whitianga, but it makes a great base for other places on the Coromandel Peninsula
- The beach in Whitianga is a little rocky, but Hot Water Beach and New Chums Beach (a bit of a hike to get there, but really worth it) are not that far away
- There are many pleasant hikes in the area. A must do is Cathedral Cove
(featured in the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian). Pick up some
snorkeling gear because there is a marine reserve off the trail.
- There is sea kayaking, diving and snorkeling in Cathedral Cove (ask at your backpackers).
- Where to eat in Whitianga: most of the restaurants in
town are OK (fish and chips takeaways are everywhere). There is a New
World supermarket near the backpackers.
New Chums Beach
NEW PLYMOUTH AND EGMONT NATIONAL PARK
town of New Plymouth is south of Auckland on the west coast. It's about
4.5 hours from Auckland. New Plymouth is a beautiful town with a great
waterfront area. It's significantly larger (55,000 people) than
Paihia (1,800) or Whitianga (3,800) though still small by US standards.
The main reason to visit is to explore Egmont National Park which has
the volcano Mt. Taranaki as its centerpiece. This is the only major
volcano that we will not visit in NZ.
- Where to stay: Seaspray House is really nice and within walking distance of downtown. There are many other choices.
- Things to do in New Plymouth
- The coastal walk is very nice. Be sure to check out the Wind Wand kinetic sculpture. The artist, Len Lye, has a brand new centre named after him.
- The major reason to visit New Plymouth is as a base for Egmont National Park. There are some great hikes in the park, especially the hike to the summit
of Mt. Taranaki. It's pretty strenous, but the views are spectacular on
a clear day. You will be able to see the volcanoes in Tongariro
National Park where we will spend the last third of the class. Be
careful! More people have died on this volcano than any other mountain
in New Zealand. Mt. Taranaki was used as a stand-in for Mt. Fuji in the
Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai. There is no convenient public transportation to the national park so you will need a car.
Egmont National Park
Inside Mt. Taranaki Crater
Black Sand Beach
Dawson Falls near New Plymouth
WAITOMO GLOWWORM CAVES
One of the more unique places in New Zealand are the glowworm caves in
Waitomo 2.5 hours south of Auckland (and on the way to New Plymouth).
You may have seen these caves in the Planet Earth cave episode. Waitomo
isn't much of a town and the only reason to go there is to see the
glowworm caves. There are many caves and tours to see them. The tours
range from 45 minutes to seven hours. They are pretty expensive, the
cheapest is $50 for the basic boat ride into one of the large caves to $500 for the seven hour adventure
which involves abseiling 100 m into a cave and blackwater rafting. You
can see glowworms all over New Zealand. Basically, all that is
necessary is running water, some sort of shelter (river bank, cliff,
forest or cave) and darkness. Waitomo could be a nice stop on the way
to New Plymouth. You can easily do the 45 minute tour and there are
some slightly longer blackwater tours that could be fun. You can stay
the night in Waitomo or continue to New Plymouth. You could also stop
off on the way back to Auckland.
SOUTH ISLAND itinerary
The class will not be traveling to the South Island which is
unfortunate because it is much more beautiful, though not as volcanologically interesting. If you will have some
extra time in New Zealand you are strongly encouraged to spend at least
a week on the South Island. Dr. Workman has put together an intinerary shown below which will take
a week. You should look at both of them. Almost everything can be
booked on the internet. Flights to the South Island are about $150
roundtrip from Auckland to Christchurch. Dr. Workman can book all of
the South Island flights if there is sufficient interest. Be sure to
use the New
Zealand websites for these airlines and not the US ones. You will need
to rent a car to get around conveniently. Normal sized cars are about
$55 per day and you can also rent a big van for ~$110 if there are lots
of people. Most of the backpackers I list are about $25-30 for a bed in
a dorm. Be sure to try to book things (plane, car, backpackers, some
adventure activities) well in advance because January is the high
tourist season and also school holidays. Once again, all prices are in New Zealand dollars.
When you are looking at prices on NZ websites they will generally
include the GST (goods and service tax) so you don't have to calculate
the taxes like you do in the US. There are three must-do things on the
South Island: 1. Glacier Hikes on Franz Josef or Fox; 2. Visit
Queenstown, the Adrenaline Capital of the World; 3. Drive to and Cruise
on Milford Sound. There are absolutely spectacular hikes everywhere on
the South Island. You should see the Department of Conservation website for the most famous hikes.
This itinerary lasts 9 nights:
class charter bus dropped us off at the airport in Auckland (the rest
of the class left for the US) in the afternoon and we flew to
Christchurch, staying there for one night
next morning we got our rental van ($105 per day) and drove to Franz
Josef Glacier and hiked to the terminal face that afternoon. We stayed the night in Fox Glacier. The next
day we did an all-day hike on Fox Glacier. After the hike we stayed a
second night in Fox Glacier.
- The next morning we drove all the way to Queenstown, stopping for lunch in Wanaka and a few other places along the way.
spent three nights in Queenstown. We went street luging, hiked in the
Remarkables, drove to Glenorchy and walked around Lord of the Rings
sights, and relaxed.
- Our next stop was Te Anau
where we spent two nights. On one of our days there we drove to Milford
Sound and took a cruise. On our way back, we did a hike up to Gertrude
- After Te Anau we drove to Mt. Cook and
did a half-day hike through Hooker Valley to
the terminal face and glacier lake of Hooker Glacier. We stayed near Mt. Cook National Park (Twizel) one night.
- The next day we drove back to Christchurch Airport, dropped the van off and got on our flight to Auckland and the US.
of you will probably use Christchurch as a stopping off point on your
way to more of the South Island. It's a beautiful city and much smaller
than Auckland. Christchurch was hit by a major earthquake in 2010 and
is still rebuilding.
- It's easiest to catch a Super Shuttle into the city. Book online for the # of people in your group to save money.
- Where to stay:
Check out this BBH website for places to stay in Christchurch. Two years ago a bunch of students stayed at Jailhouse.
- Things to do
- Most of Cathedral Square and the central business district was demolished by the earthquake.
- The Arts Center is pretty nice and you can see Ernest Rutherford's first lab.
- The botanical gardens are quite spectacular and a good place to go for a jog.
- Places to eat
- I'm not sure what's open in downtown Christchurch due to the earthquake
- If you want a really great meal, go to Cookn' With Gas (it sounds hokey, but the food is spectacular).
- Rental Cars: Try Omega Rentals
- I used these guys in Auckland and Christchurch
- I think they will pick you up from your backpackers--just call the day before
have a branch at the Christchurch Airport, but they won't be open when
we fly in. I usually catch a shuttle from the airport to the
backpackers and then get the car the next morning. Make sure when you
are booking to specify whether you are picking up the vehicle at
Christchurch Airport OR Christchurch City.
CHRISTCHURCH TO FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER
drive will take you around 5-6 hours and follows the TransAlpine
Railway. You go over the Southern Alps through Arthur's Pass. This is
also part of the route of the Coast-Coast Triathlon (Running, Kayaking,
Biking). If you have time, you can take a 45 minute detour north to the
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Hokitika is the first town you will hit as you
start to go
south on the coast. It has some nice jade shops and some OK places for
eating. Be sure to stock up on food at the New World in Hokitika since
groceries are limited/more expensive in the glacier towns further
south. Further south you will hit the town of Franz Josef Glacier and
then about 20 minutes south of that, the town of Fox Glacier. The
glaciers are not in the towns! You will need to make a choice of which
town to stay in. Petrol tends to be more expensive in the glacier towns
so you should fill up in Hokitika.
- Where to stay in Franz Josef: Glow worm Cottages on Cron Street (both Franz Josef and Fox are really tiny towns so it's hard to get lost)
- Where to stay in Fox: Ivory Towers. This is just off the highway and was one of the nicest backpackers I stayed in in NZ, especially in terms of the atmosphere
- Things to do
best reason to come to Franz Josef/Fox is
to hike the glaciers. These hikes were the best things I have ever done
in New Zealand. Every time I go to New Zealand I hike at least one of
the glaciers. Right now, you can only do helicopter hikes on either
glacier ($400). Even though you can't do all-day hikes on the glaciers,
it's still worth hiking to the terminal faces of both. Don't try to
hike on the glacier without a guide!!! These trips are
only around 1 hour roundtrip. There are other longer hikes around that
offer spectacular and different views of the glaciers. Visit the DOC
office in either town or ask at the backpackers for a map.
- Before you get to the glaciers you might want to
take a side trip to the Okarito Lagoon which has fantastic views of the
Fox Glacier Terminal Face (note Dr. Workman in the foreground)
- Outside of Fox Glacier there is a beautiful
lake with one of the most photographed spots in NZ, Lake Matheson. Late
in the afternoon/evening or early in the morning you can get fantastic
reflection pictures of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman in the lake. It's about
a 5 minute drive and then 45 minute walk to get to the reflection spot.
Gillespie's Beach is about a 30 minute drive away and you can get
awesome views of the mountains. Be sure to pick up some insect repellant since the sand flies are ferocious.
Mt. Cook (right) and Mt. Tasman
Reflected in Lake Matheson
- Places to eat
- The Blue Ice Café in Franz Josef has a great pizza and beer special
Cook Saddle Café and Saloon in Fox Glacier is OK but Café Neve next
door is a really nice restaurant that serves a tasty lamb dish (it's
FOX GLACIER TO WANAKA
drive will take you around 5 hours and has beautiful scenery,
especially through Haast Pass. Be sure to take a few minutes to stop at
some of the waterfalls along the way (bring insect repellent). You may
want to drive all the way to Queenstown (only about another 1.5 hours)
or stay in Wanaka which has some great scenery and adventure
- Where to stay in Wanaka: Wanaka Bakpaka is a little outside of town, but very spacious and quiet.
- Things to do:
I did the 3-hour Diamond Lake Walk about 25 minutes outside of town and
got great views of Mt. Aspiring (the Southern Matterhorn), but didn't
do any of the other adventure stuff that's in Wanaka. The town has
skydiving, fishing, mountain biking (they take you up the nearby ski
slopes and you ride down), canyoning etc. The 6-hour round-trip hike up
Mt. Roy is supposed to give spectacular views of the Southern Alps
Puzzling World was a great cheap way to spend 2 hours. The outdoor maze
is a lot harder to do than it looks and inside are some cool rooms and
- The movie theater, Cinema
Paradiso, is worth an evening. It's cheap and you get to sit on couches
or even in a Volkswagon Beetle. They also serve fresh-baked cookies
during an intermission.
- The place where they filmed the Ringwraiths chasing Arwen and Frodo in the Fellowship of the Ring is somewhere near Wanaka but I never had time to check it out.
- Places to eat
- I had a pretty good meal at Cinema Paradiso
- There is an awesome bakery right on the lakefront
is justifiably called the Adventure Capital of NZ. There are far too
many things to do and you need to be careful about getting burned out
(or spending too much money). In addition, the nightlife really rocks.
Remember, that if you are hungover the next day, you won't get as much
out of the activities your're planning. Quite a few companies offer
combination packages (bungy, jetboat, 4WD, flying fox) that are cheaper
than doing the things individually. If you want to do several bungy
jumps, it's definitely worth doing a package. Almost all of the
activities offer free pick-up and drop-off back in town, so you don't
really need a car once you are in Queenstown. There are lots of
beautiful hikes/drives, especially in Glenorchy if you don't want to
spend any money.
- Where to stay in Queenstown: Southern Laughter is a good place. There are tons of other backpackers.
- Things to do
- The Dart River Jetboat Safari in Glenorchy (45 minute drive or town pickup) was awesome. You go on a 4WD bus through Lord of the Rings film sites and then get on a Jetboat down the Dart River. You should book this ahead of time.
Dart River Jetboat Safari
Mountains Near Isengard
Beech Forest Near Glenorchy
Final Battle from Fellowship of the Ring
you don't want to spend the money on the Jetboat Safari, Glenorchy is
still worth a visit. The drive there is quite beautiful. This area is
where many scenes from the Lord of the Rings were filmed. It
is a starting point for many fantastic hikes. The Routeburn Track (a
Great Walk), the Rees-Dart Track, and the Greenstone and Caples Track
all originate in Glenorchy. See the Department of Conservation website for information.
The Skyline Gondola ride gives you fantastic views of Queenstown and
the Remarkables mountain range. Go up at sunset. The street luge is a
lot of fun and much faster than it looks. We had a
group of five racing each other. The gondola + five luge rides is $50.
You can also watch the bungy jumpers up here (it's the only one that
operates at night). They also have paragliding off this hill.
Remarkables from the Top
of the Gondola
Over Lake Wakatipu
- I did not bungy jump here, but some people in my group did the 140 fott
Kawarau Bridge and the 440 foot Nevis Highwire all run by the AJ Hackett
operation. He's the one who commercialized the first bungy jump. I
think there are around 6 different bungy jumps around Queenstown
ranging from ~150-440 feet drops. The
Kawarau Bridge jump is the original one and it's easy to get to from
the road to watch the jumpers.
- I went
river surfing with another student. This was really fun and extremely
strenuous. Basically, it's white water rafting on a boogie board. Serious Fun is the only company and it charges $195 for a half-day trip. It was definitely worth it.
Remarkables ski area is another place for some great hikes. The road up
is horrible (45 minute gravel road), but it's worth the trip. The
Remarkables were used as the mountains encircling Mordor in the Lord of the Rings. They also filmed some scenes from the Fellowship of the Ring in the ski area (Lake Alta is behind Aragorn just after the Fellowship leaves Moria and before they enter Lorien).
View down from Remarkables
Lake in Remarkables Ski Area
good hikes are the strenuous hike up Ben Lomond (you can catch the
gondola up part way) and the easy Queenstown Hill Time Walk.
- Places to eat
- Do NOT eat at the Chinese restaurants since they are horrible.
- The Cow serves great pizza
- There are two really great hamburger places called Devil Burger (not crowded) and Fergburgers (extremely crowded!). See the student below eating one. If you want to splurge, hit Botswana Butchery.
QUEENSTOWN TO TE ANAU
is the departure point for daytrips to Milford Sound. Te Anau is the
closest town to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. It will take you 2-3
hours to drive from Queenstown to Te Anau and you should leave very
early in the morning or around 9 am to avoid the tour buses (check when
they generally depart—I think it's 7:30 in the morning). Te Anau is a
really beautiful town that is the starting point for the Milford Track
and the Kepler Track (both Great Walks). The Kepler is the most
accessible of the Great Walks (except for the Tongariro Northern
Circuit on the North Island that we'll do a part of—the Tongariro
Crossing). Te Anau is an excellent base for trips into Fiordland
National Park, especially going to Milford Sound.
- Where to stay: We stayed for two nights at the Te Anau YHA and it was just fine.
If you have a small group, try to stay at Rosies Backpackers which was really phenomenal.
- Things to do
took a half-day hike through the beech forest on the Kepler Track which
was nice. There's a much more strenuous day hike up the mountain end of
the track to Mt. Luxmore. To do the whole hike you'll need three days.
A bunch of students did the Kepler Track in 2006.
- I also did a day of sea kayaking on Doubtful Sound which was spectacular because it was a sunny day. You can also do sea kayaking on Milford Sound.
MILFORD SOUND AND THE MILFORD ROAD
Sound is one of those must-see New Zealand sights. As a consequence,
there are always a lot of people on the road to it. There are NO towns
close by and it's a 3 hour drive from Te Anau. The Milford Road is
spectacular with plenty of stopping points for photos. Most people take
a cruise on Milford Sound, but you can also do sea kayaking and scuba
diving. Be sure to buy gas and food in Te Anau since both are very
expensive at Milford Sound.
- Things to do:
you have just one day, take an early morning cruise (you tend to avoid
most of the tour bus crowd) and then do a short day hike. There are a
number of operators and all of the cruises seem to be about the same
price. The Jucy Cruise seems to be the cheapest.
- You can also sea kayak on Milford Sound and about 10 students did that in 2014.
Mitre Peak, Milford Sound
Waterfall Milford Sound
The Routeburn Track (another of the Great Walks) is close to Milford
Road and I did a 2-3 hour hike to Key Summit which was beautiful and
well worth the time. Keep your eyes open for the turn-off. The
beginning of the Two Towers was filmed around Mt. Christina
which you can see from the Key Summit. The Gertrude Saddle Hike is even better, though more strenuous.
Key Summit, Routeburn Track
Waterfalls on Gertrude Saddle Hike
- There are many other day hikes that you can do in this area; check with your backpackers.
TE ANAU TO CHRISTCHURCH
Most of you won't have much more time than to drive back to
Christchurch from Te Anau. It will take you about 6 hours. If you have
a chance, you can stop and see Mt. Cook from the eastern side (the
western side is seen from Fox Glacier/Lake Matheson). You can drive all
the way up to the park (~30 minutes from the highway) to get some
closer views, but it can also be seen pretty close to the highway just
past Twizel (they filmed the huge battle from the Return of the King
there, but I don't know if you can get to the site). There are some
nice short hikes close to the visitor center. There's only one
backpackers in Mt. Cook (a YHA) and it's more expensive than the
majority of backpackers in NZ. Food options are also scarce so bring
your own or pay a lot in the village. Alternatively, you can spend the night in nearby Twizel.
Swingbridge, Hooker Valley Hike
Hooker Glacier Lake, Mt. Cook
OTHER NORTH ISLAND ACTIVITIES
of you who will be in New Zealand outside of the course times will
probably be interested in outdoor activities. We will be doing parts of
many of the top hikes on the North Island and seeing most of the
predominant geological features. The South Island is completely
different which is why I spend much more space describing places to go.
If you want to see more of the North Island, you should head north of
Auckland. During the past two trips, most of the people who went early
spent time in the Northland. Rent a car and go to Pahia (the largest
town in the Bay of Islands) which is a good base to see many of the
sights up there. You can spend all of your time in Pahia or go to
Whangerai for a night or two. In Whangarei you will definitely want to
do a scuba diving/snorkeling trip at the Poor Knights Islands, one of
Jacques Cousteau's top 10 dive sites. See Dive!Tutukaka
for trips. I visited Mt. Taranaki, the one large volcano we won't see
as a class, in the western tip of the North Island. It's a beautiful
volcano and the summit hike is awesome. Some of the Last Samurai
was filmed around Taranaki and the volcano was used as a Mt. Fuji
stand-in. I only briefly visited Wellington, the capital of the
country, on the southern tip of the North Island. It's a beautiful city
and there are many Lord of the Rings sites nearby. Other
places that are great to visit are the Coramandel Peninsula (fairly
close to Auckland) and the East Cape to Napier region.