Kia Ora! If you are a big fan of Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, then I’m pretty sure you’ve been dreaming of visiting the “Middle Earth”. With breathtaking landscape and interesting activities it has to offer, New Zealand is the perfect place for people who love road trips, laidback travels, and even for adrenaline junkies.
New Zealand is a mountainous island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main islands, the North and South. For this itinerary, we’ll cover the North, which is Auckland, Rotorua, and Queenstown for the South.
Ready for an adventure like Bilbo Baggins? Let’s start the 10-day adventure now!
GETTING TO NEW ZEALAND
There are lots of airlines that fly directly, or with layover/s, to New Zealand. In our case, we opted to land in Auckland with lay overs in Malaysia and Australia.
It was year 2018 when we flew via Air Asia, had a 7-hour lay over at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, then flew to Gold Coast, Australia for a 2-hour lay over, then landed early evening at Auckland, New Zealand. It was actually a tiring trip but good thing it was a connecting flight and we don’t need to get our luggages every time we get off the plane. As of this writing and upon checking with other airlines, travel time from Manila to Auckland, with less than 2-hour lay over, is more or less 14hrs.
Some airlines that fly to NZ from the Philippines are, Philippines Airlines, Air New Zealand, Jetstar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Nippon Airways, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NEW ZEALAND
Secure your Visa. If you are from the Philippines, you need to secure a visa to New Zealand. Tourist visa only costs less than P1,000. In my opinion, getting a New Zealand visa is easier and faster compared to getting a Korean visa. How to get one? Check out my article How to Apply for a New Zealand Visa in the Philippines.
Accommodation: There are many motels, hostels, hotels and AirBnBs in New Zealand. During the course of our 10-day trip, we booked a total of 5 accommodations! We’re always on the move or on the road that’s why we need to stay in one place near our next destination to save gas. Will talk more about our accommodations one by one, per destination. Just a reminder that rate of BnBs or hotels is more expensive during summer, which is every last week of December to last week of March.
Transportation: There are few public transportation in New Zealand, thus, it is highly recommended to rent a car, especially if you will travel to different cities. During our visit, we rented a hybrid Toyota Camry for our North and South Islands tour at Go Rentals. Check out their website for their most updated rates. We got a discounted rate of NZD134.10 per day for the Toyota Camry last 2018, exclusive of gas, plus NZD2,500 bond that will be paid in cash or via credit card. They will freeze the said amount in the card and release it provided there’s no damage or requirement for insurance claim once vehicle is returned.
Also, just to note that there’s no need to get an international license to drive in New Zealand, as long as your license is written in English, then you are good to go. NZ is right hand drive by the way.
Meal: Nothing really special or spectacular with New Zealand food unlike in other Asian countries, but what I really love about NZ is their coffee! Too bad their coffee shops close as early as 4:00PM so we don’t really have much time to try many coffee shops, except during our brunch outs. Price of food is expected to be on the expensive side but I think it’s pretty much the same when you are in other countries, except that they really don’t have much hawker food, especially when you’re in a budget.
Touring: You can opt to join group tours when in New Zealand, but I highly suggest that if you are travelling in group of 4-5, just rent your own car because it’s more convenient, cheaper, and you have more control of your time and activities.
THINGS YOU NEED TO BRING WHEN GOING TO NEW ZEALAND
Comfy footwear. You’ll do lots of walking, especially when you go for a trek in Mount Cook
Camera of Smartphone with a nice camera. Need I say more? New Zealand, especially Queenstown, is very beautiful not to capture through your lens.
Money. Although I’m pretty sure they accept cards in New Zealand, it’s still better to have extra stash of cash on hand.
Wind breaker or winter clothes. This actually depends what season you’ll visit New Zealand. In our case, we visited early summer so weather gets a bit chilly sometimes, especially at night, so it’s always safe to keep a light jacket or wind breaker handy.
BUDGET: Flight to New Zealand is not that affordable. You really need to watch out for promo fares if you are on a budget. In our case, we were able to score our roundtrip flight via Air Asia for only P34, 677. But again, downside is it has 2 lay overs.
For a group of 5, estimated budget, exclusive of air fares to Auckland and Queenstown, is P60,000.
NEW ZEALAND DAILY ITINERARY (NORTH ISLAND)
Note though that the itinerary below is our actual itinerary when we visited New Zealand, you may or may not follow it.
1st stop: Arrived late in the afternoon at Auckland. Called Airport Goldstar Motel, where we are checked in, for their free shuttle pick up. After settling down, we wandered outside to look for a place where we can eat dinner. Unfortunately, most restaurants are either closed already or far from our place so we just settled for a fast food in one of the gas stations.
1st stop: Alphra Lavender. After picking up one of our friends, who flew from Melbourne to Auckland, we picked up our rented car from Go Rentals, and drove to Alphra Lavender in Kihikihi , which is approximately a two-hour drive.
It was still early when we arrived in the Lavender farm so there were still few people which made picture taking with the aromatic Lavender a breeze. The Honey bees just freaked me out so some of my pictures were awkward. There’s no entrance fee in entering the Lavender field and they also sell some products made from Lavender. Too bad I wasn’t able to buy any.
2nd stop: The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest. Coming from Alphra Lavender, it will take you approximately 1.5 hours to The Redwoods. If you love outdoors and nature, this 5,600 hectares of forest will definitely excite you. It has biking trails, walking tracks, and the majestic and towering Californian Coast Redwoods are truly a sight to behold. No entrance fee so you can enjoy the forest as long as you want.
However, when we went there twice, it rained so hard that we weren’t able to enter the forest. We just took some photos outside.
VISIT REDWOODS WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
3rd stop. Check in at Backyard Inn Rotorua. Redwoods to Backyard Inn is just a 5 minute-drive. Nothing really special with this hostel, we just really need a place to stay for 2 nights. Place is decent enough, it has a bar, laundry, parking lot, and small restaurant. If you want to explore other places to eat, head to Eat Street in Tutanekai steet. The street is packed with restaurants and bars that offer al fresco dining.
1st stop: Hobbiton Movie Set. Rise and shine and get ready to head to the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, which is an hour drive away from Backyard Inn. Be sure you have purchased your ticket online few months before your trip because walk-ins are not allowed and tickets easily run out. To BOOK YOUR TICKET, visit the official website of HOBBITON TOURS. As of this writing, ticket costs a little over P3,000 but they always have new tours so better check their official website from time to time.
The 2-hour adventure is a fully guided tour so you can’t just go anywhere you want in the 12 acre movie set. During the tour, you will pass by several hobbit holes, see the famous Party Tree in Bag End, and will be treated with an exclusive southfarthing beverage at the Green Dragon to conclude your journey to the middle-earth.
Too bad it was raining hard when we visited Hobbiton so it was kind of inconvenient to take photos, nevertheless, we really had fun, and the free ale was the icing in the cake after being drenched under the rain for two hours. By the way, in case you are already famished due to too much walking, or arrived a little early for your tour, they have The Shire’s Rest where you can eat your brunch or snacks, and there’s also The Shire Store that sells lots of Hobbiton merch.
2nd stop. Countdown Grocery. Since we have time to spare, we decided to check out and busy some pasalubongs at Countdown. We did not buy that much though since we still need to fly to Queenstown. Just bought some nuts, chocolates, teas and quinoa as they are very affordable as expected.
1st stop: Whakarewarewa: The Living Maori Village Tour. Checked out at The Backyard Inn to visit one of the Maori villages in Rotorua. The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand, and the Whakarewarewa Valley is an active geothermal area with hot pools, boiling mud and geysers that the Maori people even cook or boil their food in the ground.
If you are a fan of the sports rugby, you have probably seen the New Zealand rugby team do the haka dance. Get a chance to witness the world famous and OG ‘Haka’ dance and even partake in the dance. How cool is that? Sounds fun? Make sure you BOOK YOUR TICKETS in advance. As of this writing, tour costs more or less P1,390.
2nd stop: Check in at Auckland Airport Kiwi Hotel. After almost 3 hours of driving from Rotorua to Auckland, we checked in at a simple hostel near the airport just to have a place to stay for the night. Returned our rented car at Go Rentals and looked for a place to have our dinner before calling it a night. Next stop, QUEENSTOWN!