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Going to NZ on holiday... Advice from Kiwis appreciated

28 replies

sjs · 05/11/2003 16:27

I know that there are lots of Kiwis who use the boards some in NZ and others around the world.

I've just booked up a 12 day trip to South Island straight after Christmas. This will be my first proper trip to NZ and the first to S. Island - I've been to Aukland for work a couple of times. We'll be travelling from Singapore to Christchurch and I'd love your advice and recommendations about what we should do and the must sees.

My dd will be close to 3 yo, so we don't want to spend the whole trip in the car. That's why I need your advice - I want to make sure we see all the amazing scenery, beaches, some wildlife (including some sheep!), drink great NZ wine and eat amazing fresh food but without it being a total trial.

Would love your inspiration! Thanks in advance.

OP posts:
udar · 05/11/2003 16:53

If you can get up to Nelson - you'll enjoy some great wine and food. There is a great beach out of Nelson called Kaiteri which is great for kids with lovely golden sand. There is amazing scenery driving up from Christchurch through Kaikora but the drive is very long, maybe better to do the flight. You may be able to get some super saver seats for under $80NZ return for adults from Chch to Nelson.
From Auckland but have visited Christchurch & Nelson but not for a while. Will keep trying to think of things.

bobthebaby · 05/11/2003 19:57

I live in Christchurch and have traveled all around the south island. I will have a think about some stuff to do with a 3 year old and post back when I've played with my baby a bit.

slug · 05/11/2003 20:43

Dunedin is fabulous for wildlife, it's the only mainland nesting spot for albatross in the world, you can see the chicks all year round. The drive from Christchurch to Dunedin is tedious though. The only really nice spot to stop is Mauraki where you can climb on perfectly circular boulders that have emerged from the cliff.

Otherwise, the drive from Christchurch to Nelson takes about 6 hours. The best spot to stop half way is Kaikoura where you can go whale watching.

Another spot to consider is Queenstown, which has the moniker of "The adventure capital" Bungee jumping, jet boats etc, but still things for small kiddies to do.

Another thought is Hamner Springs, in the Southern Alps, about 3 hours North of Christchurch (off the Lewis Pass Road). It's a mountain village with natural hot springs that have been developed quite sympathetically. Plenty of walks nearby, and if you borrow a torch, you can go possum spotting after dark.

bobthebaby · 05/11/2003 21:28

Me again, okay bob is now sleeping so here goes with Christchurch.

With a 3 year old in tow you have to go to willowbank wildlife park. They have the usual petting animals plus Kunekune pigs, Kea, and a wonderful kiwi house. Depending on bedtimes go in the late afternoon and look round the normal bit then a meal (from 6.30)and then have a guided tour of the NZ animals. They feed them so they come close enough for a 3 year old to see properly. I think the whole thing including the buffet meal is around $35 to $40 per adult. Oh and while you finish your meal the 3 year old can feed deer through the window. Can you tell I love this place?

If you have time in Christchurch and the weather turns to custard, the council pool at QEII park has an Atlantis theme with waves and a lazy river and costs the grand sum of $2 for a parent and preschooler and $5 for the other parent (just over 2 quid)Also brilliant and I go lots. All the libraries are great and have good childrens sections with seats and parents rooms. The one at New Brighton has views of the sea and a cafe next door. I know these are things you can do at home, but I certainly couldn't afford to do touristy things for every day of a holiday and the weather can be horrible sometimes.

On a practical note all the children's playgrounds are safe, clean and well equipped so leg stretching en route will be easy. Most small places on state highways have public toilets. It will take you longer than you think to get anywhere because the speed limit is 100kph and most roads in the SI are one lane highways. Oh, and buy ice lollies from supermarkets in small towns to save money.

You won't need to make any special effort to see sheep in the SI, in fact you will be sick of them. If you want to stay on a farm, I went to a really good one in Fairlie and stayed in a 3 bedroom house for $45 a night. There were a few tame animals for your dd to get up close and personal with and an excellent restaurant in the town.

I think I'll have a rest and see what other mumsnetters come up with.

oliveoil · 06/11/2003 09:13

Oh, v jealous, NZ is fab. Me and dh went on our travels and initally went for 4 weeks and stayed for 8. Fantastic places to visit but can't remember any names, will have to look at my diary. I saw TONS of wildlife and got amazing photos of seals. I remember a lovely town called Raglan (?) that was like a surfy type place and a place called Wanaka (?) and somewhere with an astounding blue lake ??.

Conceived dd in a place called Te anu (sp?) so bless the place if you visit!

florenceuk · 06/11/2003 10:46

OK, I'll have to look at a map. But off the top of my head, here are some things to consider:

Distances in the Sth Island are big. I'd choose a couple of places to concentrate on, and try not to do too much driving with a 3yr old. Flights are cheap, and consider the option of chartering a small plane - I once got a small plane from Wgtn to Awaroa Lodge for less than £100 return.

Personally I think Chch is not that interesting (for tourists, mind!) and would get out as soon as possible. There is a great beach nearby, can't remember name offhand, but very wild. I also like Akaroa, not very spectacular but lovely atmosphere - was a French settlement on the Banks Peninsula, has great restaurants. But if you want spectacular scenery, head for the Alps - Arthurs Pass is close, and not as touristed as Mt Cook or Queenstown, but you could justify going to all 3. You could even stay in an alpine hut at Cook and gawp at the climbers (very cheap!) There is an eco-lodge at Arthurs Pass which offers gourmet food and wildlife walks, expensive but very "authentic". Go walking on the glaciers, take a helicopter ride - your 3yr old will love it. Round Canterbury there are also some old gold-mining towns and relics, can't quite recall where, but interesting esp for kids.

If you don't mind the drive, I would go over to the West Coast and have a look at the forests there (another eco-lodge on this side near Haast Pass). Punakaiki is a fantastic rock formation, and you can go canoeing near there up the river into the bush, there are also good limestone formations here. Plus you can look at the Alps from the other side!

Wine - there are some good places to go around Canterbury/Queenstown. But the best place for wine is quite a bit further north, around Blenheim (about 4-5hr drive) - many of the vineyards have good restaurants attached as well, which by UK standards are very reasonably priced. Not quite so good round Nelson way, but the area itself is probably better for kids. The Abel Tasman National Park is a coastal national park with fantastic beaches, you can take a boat into Awaroa Lodge, stay there for a few days and go for day walks - a good trick is to take a boat down the coast and walk back. If you fancy sea kayaking, this is the place. If you keep driving round the coast, and over Takaka hill, you will come to a really lovely area with relatively quiet beaches. You can go to the "tip" and take a tour, where you will see lots of birds and seals. There is a lovely B&B near Collingwood.

Too much here for 12 days, but ask away about anything that particularly takes your interest. One thing to bear in mind is that this is peak holiday time for NZ'ers, so you may need to book accommodation esp near beaches (Nelson will be busy I think). Camping is a good option if you don't mind very basic facilities.

Ghosty · 06/11/2003 10:51

SJS ... wish I could help but I don't know much about the South Island at all really ... have done Kaikoura Whale Watching .... well worth it ... but so far my experience is with the North Island.
Hope you have a lovely holiday!!

sjs · 06/11/2003 13:44

You are all great. Thanks for the ideas - I've got the Lonely Planet book today so I'm about to print all this out and to take your lists and ideas and see if I can find them on the maps.
And then I'll be back with more questions...
I'm so excited. Thanks for the reminder about it being NZ holiday season too. I need to get organized in next day or so and start booking accomodation. Any recommendations of websites or booking companies? We prefer self catering, farm stays, nice B&Bs.

OP posts:
outofpractice · 06/11/2003 14:54

The Lonely Planet guidebook was really good when we were there. We travelled all round N and S Island, lots of driving. Accommodation was more expensive then we expected, so we ended up staying in YHA hostels. You can get a private room in nearly all of them and often private bathroom. All were very clean and relaxed and ds really liked it. We were terribly disappointed by the weather. If you go to Kaikoura to see whales, I would plan to stay 3-4 nights, otherwise, like us, the weather might spoil it for you. Ds and I thought the museum in Auckland was much better and more fun that the national museum in Wellington. The maritime museums in Auckland and Wellington were v gd for children too. Lovely national children's puppet theatre in Wellington, very nice aquarium in Hastings. There is lovely outdoor hot spring spa in Taupo where children are welcome - could not find a child friendly spa in Rotarua. Really good family skiing facilities at Whakapapa. Have fun!

bobthebaby · 06/11/2003 20:12

All motels are self catering, so that's nice and easy. The older style ones tend to have 1 or 2 bedroom units with a lounge/kitchen so you can put dd to bed and still sit up and drink some lovely NZ wine. I recommend the AA website for motel selection, although I can't get a link to work at the moment. Go to the homepage and then select travel.

slug · 06/11/2003 20:55

If you live in London, pop into the NZ embassy on Haymarket and pick up their accomodation guide. Absolutly essential, it lists, by town, almost every motel, hotel, b&B and hotel, along with prices and contact details.

And it's free!

Ghosty · 06/11/2003 21:12

LOL outofpractice re. weather ...
NZ weather is really really unpredictable ... don't believe that you are coming to a permanently hot country ... I spent a Christmas in Marlborough once and nearly got frost bite!
Mind you, the South Island is supposed to be drier than the North!

Fennel · 06/11/2003 21:28

I don't want to hijack the thread about S Island but do any of you Kiwis know much about the Coromandel peninsula, around Whangamata/Onemata area? We are thinking of moving there. We've been to NZ but only for a month and not to that bit. We particularly want to live somewhere with good beaches, watersports facilities (DP is a windsurfing fanatic and we both like sailing too) and lots of sunshine.

I do have a possible job there which sounds right for me which is why we're considering it. We currently live in Manchester which isn't ideal for sun-loving watersports enthusiasts. would you recommend it? NZ in general and Coromandel in particular? I know it's quite remote but we don't necessarily mind that.

thanks for any advice

bobthebaby · 06/11/2003 21:45

Two words Fennel; Do it!

Ghosty · 06/11/2003 22:25

Agree with bobthebaby Fennel ... Do It!

I absolutely love the Coromandel Peninsular ... it is stunning ... and if DH didn't work in Auckland I would seriously be considering living there.
I don't know Whangamata that well but we have been to a friend's holiday house in Hahei a few times and it is beautiful. Hahei is 3 hours drive from Auckland ... so Whangamata is not so far ... The whole peninsular is gorgeous though ... so I would live anywhere there!!!
It is getting very popular though ... house prices are rocketing ... so get in quick ...

sibble · 07/11/2003 07:58

about 5 years since went to whangamata, all the coromandel is beautiful, white sand, laid back etc. whangamata is inundated with tourists in the summer and we had a great holiday there but don't underestimate how quiet and remote NZ is in the low season/winter. if it sounds your thing I would go for it, if you fancy a 'city' you are not too far from Auckland and Tauranga by NZ standards. What is the job offer?

florenceuk · 07/11/2003 09:45

Whangamata is a beach town - very busy in the summer, quiet in the winter. Lots of young people "hanging out", trendy restaurants, surfy shops. Onemana is a dormitory suburb of Auckland, basically holiday homes and nothing else - literally a one-shop town, albeit with a beautiful beach on your doorstep. The area itself is lovely, although if I were going to do the back to nature thing, I'd head a bit further up the coast - Cathedral Cove is stunning, and the small town nearby (might be Hahei?) is very nice. Lots of bush for walking, beaches for swimming and surfing. Not too far to drive to Auckland/Tauranga. Weather is generally very good, although the water is freezing at most times of the year - too cold for my tastes! If you want something a bit more urban but also within driving distance of Auckland, Tauranga (or rather, Mt Manganui) has a lovely beach, the area is very popular with outdoor enthusiasts, and is just that little bit bigger and more populated.

Fennel · 07/11/2003 13:29

Thanks for the positive responses. The job is a research job similar to the one I do here for a university. It's with a NZ friend who works based in Hamilton but could be mostly done from home. So I could work from Whangemata going to Hamilton or Auckland once a week.

The friend has a beach house we could live in at Whangemata too. And she and my DP are considering a computer business based in that area though that may come to nothing.

Tauranga sounds good too. Remote but good outdoor facilities would make a nice change from here we have lived in a large city for a long time considering how much we like hiking, camping watersports beaches etc. and it sounds great for small children around there. I guess we could always move nearer Auckland if we found it too remote but that is part of the appeal at present.

sibble · 07/11/2003 22:07

Mount Maunganui is great, was there earlier this year and about 1 1/2 hours from Hamilton, plenty of trendy cafe's. property still reasonable although starting to go through the roof like all of NZ. Close to Tauranga (which is a port city so don't get too excited but if you need to shop it is close). Hamilton is a dive and as my husband is from there I feel I can say so with authority although the garden are amazing. I am working for Auckland uni at present. what will you be wokring on?

Fennel · 11/11/2003 10:14

Sibble I'm a social science researcher, the project would be related to what I do here which is a cross-European study of transitions to parenthood. My NZ colleague wants to do something similar in NZ, she's based in Hamilton but I wouldn't have to live there. We certainly don't want to move 15000 miles to live in a dump!

sibble · 11/11/2003 19:12

Hi fennel Sounds an interesting project. I have found working here a real eye opener and experience. It is culturally so different from anything I have experienced (and used to work in London and East End so thought I was culturally aware), the work ethic is also very different. The lifestyle however is amazing compared to communiting in and out of London etc. If I were you I would seriously consider the offer, but be prepared it is not Little England, especially in teh work environment. Let us know if you are coming over.

Fennel · 11/11/2003 19:37

Hi Sibble

What's your work? Glad to hear it's culturally different, one of my worries is it would be too similar to the UK. I've worked abroad before in more adventurous places (eg Guatemala, Tahiti) but don't fancy living in those with small children.

What's most different about the work ethic and work environment?

If we do come it won't be immediately it would take a while to sort it out and finish the project here.


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bobthebaby · 11/11/2003 20:06

Biggest differences I noticed were that employers provide tea and biscuits for morning and afternoon tea (even got cheese crackers in one job!) Also you tend to be a bit more of an all rounder, although I'm not sure this would apply to you as you are doing something specific. Also paid holidays are only 3 weeks. Again possibly not relevant to you. I found the job market is 70% who you know and really quite an old boys network, which could have implications for your dh. But that would depend on what level he was and what he does. On the plus side I got an opportunity here I would never have got in the UK because it was in a completely different industry, and I learned to play golf really cheaply which helped.

Fennel · 12/11/2003 15:36

Thanks for the info Bobthebaby.

Only 3 weeks paid holiday?!!!! I get 7 here.

DP is a computer programmer so sometimes finds loads of well paid job offers and sometimes there's nothing much, it's very variable.
He also teaches windsurfing which pays crap but he loves it and he might be prepared to do that plus childcare for a year or two.

sibble · 12/11/2003 19:23

Hi Fennel
Experience varied but here I am project managing a meningococcal B vaccine trial. Not really my speciality but as bobthe baby said people seem to get jobs here through the back door. My sister's friend rang as she knew I had research and management experience and said did I want a job 10 days later I had started!! I was also used to 7 weeks leave and now only have 3 although govt is changing legislation to 4 (but if you are employed by a uni 1 week is compulsory at christmas) working week longer 45 hours BUT and don't shoot me any kiwi's ...
it is more relaxed at work which can be a nice change from the UK but I am used to getting in, head down, working and then going... not endless tea/coffee/chat breaks and then cramming everything into the last hour!! The working week could be alot less if people worked!!
I find getting my head around the treaty of Waitangi intersting but sometimes frustrating becasue as far as research goes it is another cog in the wheel and official body to run things by when you just want to get started (but that's my problem)
I do however love the mix of people, cultural and ethnic diversity (which we do obviously have in the UK but I grew up more or less with that mix) the mix is still a novelty for me here - hope that makes sense.
It is also a very small world here - everybody knows everybody but if you have skills there are plenty of opportunities. people respond well and don't seem to be threatened by experience and ideas which is a breath of fresh air.

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