During our month down under, Kait and I got to spend 7 days in New Zealand with my sister and her husband. Cost wise, we were expecting it to be similar to Australia, with the added advantage of splitting certain costs with another couple. Let’s see how we did.
We spent a total of $1,216.38 (CAD) over 7 days in New Zealand. It was a short excursion so there isn’t too much to discuss, but let’s see how it stacks up to all the other countries we’d been to so far in terms of cost per day.
So, the first thing to note here is that our accommodation costs for New Zealand were very low thanks to two things. First, my sister and brother-in-law had friends in Auckland and Wellington that hosted us while we were in those cities. Second, of the 2 nights that we did stay in hotels on the road, the costs were split between 4 people. Of the 2 nights we stayed in hotels, the total cost was $281.67, or an average of $140.84 per room per night. This was slightly more than it was in Australia, but since Kait and I only had to pay for half of that, our total came out much lower.
Food costs were also pretty much the same as Australia. Nothing too interesting about food costs.
As with the other countries, transportation costs were split between intercity and intracity travel. For our New Zealand costs, you can basically look at it as a single item, because all our costs were car rental related. (I roughly divided gasoline costs to being either intercity or intracity).
The Toyota Highlander we rented for 7 days was $464.13, or $66.30/day. We drove 1,222.8 km and spent $158.85 on gas. Gas was around NZ$2/litre.
This was my (and Kait’s) first time in New Zealand, so for me, I looked for banknotes and coins to collect. This worked out to be $103.56, which averages out to a pretty high per day amount because we only spent 7 days in New Zealand.
As expected, the travel costs in New Zealand were right around the same ballpark as Australia. After Australia and New Zealand, we’d be spending the rest of our trip in South East Asia, so going forward, I expect our costs to drop significantly.
Today was our first and only full day in Wellington before heading back to Australia. We had a pretty early start to the day as we made our way towards Wellington’s CBD. Wellington is extremely hilly and it seemed like the majority of their houses were all built on the hills surrounding the CBD. All the hills and winding narrow roads made driving in Wellington pretty difficult and a bit stressful (even as a passenger). It seems like cars can park wherever they want so basically it’s only one lane going up and down the hills.
When we finally got to the CBD, it took a while for us to look for parking. We eventually found a metered spot ($4 NZD/hr), which is cheaper than parking in one of the lots we went into, which was triple the price (max day was $60 NZD!). We walked around the CBD for a couple of hours to get the feel of the city. Wellington is a small big city that seems like it would be a nice place to live (and not drive). The CBD is in a bay and surrounded by hills and water which makes it look really picturesque.
After our parking time was up, we drove along the water towards Mount Victoria. We found free parking along the beach, on “Oriental Parade” and had lunch at a restaurant close by called, Beach Babylon. The food was well prepared with good quality ingredients (for the price it should be good quality!) so we were all satisfied.
After lunch the sun came out and we walked along the seawall back towards the CBD and the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand. Admission to Te Papa is free and the museum is quite extensive. In the amount of time we had for the day, we only were able to go through one of the floors – wildlife and the WWI, ANZAC Memorial floor.
Te Papa has a dead deep sea colossal squid that was huge. There was a video playing which showed how the squid was accidentally caught by fishermen around Antarctica. When it was caught, it weighed over 400kg and the eyes were the size of soccer balls. Now that it’s been preserved, it has shrunken down a bit and isn’t as big as it was alive.
The ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) part of the museum was a very well done history lesson about WWI and the ANZAC’s attack in Turkey. We don’t learn much about Australia an New Zealand’s involvement in the World Wars in (Canadian) school so it was interesting to learn about it here. Basically, the ANZACs attacked Gallipoli in Turkey during WWI without a solid plan and were not prepared at all, so a lot of troops died during those attacks. Also an interesting note was that 1 in 4 New Zealand men fought in WWI.
After Te Papa, we walked back to the car and drove up to Mount Victoria for 360 views of Wellington. We didn’t mean to, but we were there just in time to see the sun set (Tim: perhaps it seemed like good fortune to Kait, but I planned for us to arrive around sunset time). It was a nice way to cap off our day in Wellington.
We stopped by a grocery store on the way back to the house to pick up ingredients for a New Zealand onion chip dip called, “The Original Kiwi Dip”. Along with the ingredients, we picked up some other Kiwi snacks and actual golden kiwis. I know we get them at home but it didn’t feel right not eating a kiwi in New Zealand. We learned that kiwis aren’t even native to New Zealand, but are from China (Tim: and mostly grown in Italy).
When we got home, Johanna started cooking us dinner. Tonight’s dinner was likely our last home cooked meal until we get back home in July! She braised some pork with pasta and roasted some vegetables for dinner. It felt nice to share our last meal with Jess and Robin in a warm home setting. Our flight the next morning was at 6:45am, so we tried to have a fairly early night.
Today is officially the first day of Winter down here in the Southern Hemisphere. Since we’re slowly making our way south (on the North Island) to Wellington, we’re seeing temperatures drop drastically. The temperatures are beginning to feel like Sapporo weather when the sun goes down (below 5°C).
We slept well last night. The bed was quite comfortable and it was cool to stay in such a historic hotel. It felt more like it should be a B&B rather than a hotel from the style of the rooms. I opened the curtains and saw beautiful green hills, which we didn’t get to see when we came in at night.
We woke up earlier today to go to the information centre to book a Waitomo Caves tour, but they didn’t open until 9am (which we found out when we got there at 8:30am). We booked a combo tour to see the Ruakuri and the Glowworm Caves. The combo tour cost $87 NZD per person and included entrance to the Waitomo Museum ($5 NZD value). Our pick up time wasn’t until 10am so we had time to grab something quick for breakfast. There wasn’t much choice in Waitomo for restaurants since it was a very small town, so we went to the only nearby restaurant that was open – “Kiwi Paka”.
Kiwi Paka was a “cabin like” hotel and a restaurant that was only about 200m from our pick up point. Tim and I shared a big breakfast combo ($17 NZD) and a flat white ($4.50 NZD). It was a good breakfast to share since we wouldn’t be eating again until later in the afternoon.
We got picked up by the tour company from the information centre and taken to Ruakuri Cave. The tour lasted about 1.5 hours as we were taken deep into the limestone caves and were guided around. We saw some interesting formations and a few clusters of glowworms. The guide was only okay. She wasn’t as informative as I’d like and I felt like I didn’t learn too much from her.
After the Ruakuri Cave, we were dropped off at the Glowworm Cave, where we were lead into another cave in Waitomo. The guide for this portion of our tour was a lot better (in my opinion). She was Maori, and was a lot more knowledgeable about the caves and glowworms than our first guide (she was also pretty funny). We weren’t allowed to take any pictures in this cave though. The tour started off with us walking through a limestone cave, which wasn’t as neat as the Ruakuri Cave, and then we were lead to the river below to see the thousands of glowworms. They looked like clusters of stars and was amazing to see. Everything was pitch black and silent. The tour guide didn’t use a paddle to move the boat around but was just pulling on rope that was strung up inside the cave to move the boat. We were very impressed that she didn’t fall in. This tour lasted about 45 minutes. If we were to go back again, I would just go back to the Glowworm Cave, but I’m glad we did both this time around.
We headed back into town where we left the car but took one of the trails back instead of the main road. We took the Waitomo view point trail which lead us through a forested area and then up a hill with a view of Waitomo and the surrounding rolling green hills. My favourite part of New Zealand has been all the scenery. I can’t get enough of all the rolling green hills. They go on for miles and are so beautiful!
Once we got back into Waitomo Village, we went to the museum since we had free admission. We walked around the small museum, which is located at the back of the information centre, and watched one of the short documentaries they had available for viewing. We had the whole theatre to ourselves and I fell asleep (which normally happens to me in dark theatres). Everyone else seemed to enjoy the documentary about a group of New Zealand cavers who tried to find a connection between two caves but failed (Tim: Anticlimactic ending).
Feeling well rested, we got into the car and made our way towards Wellington. The drive down was about 5 hours south. On our drive we saw some amazing scenery. We saw two volcanic looking mountains that were covered in snow. Snow covered mountains aren’t things we usually get excited about but with New Zealand’s very green landscape, the solo snow covered volcanic mountains looked amazing.
We stopped in a small town called, Ohuke, for dinner. Since it was such a small town, we didn’t have much choice. We ended up going to a family run restaurant called Captain Kune’s. They served any fried food you can think of, burgers, and pizzas. The owners were friendly and you could tell it was a family run joint and everyone in town seemed to know each other.
After eating dinner and getting gas, we were on our final leg to Wellington with three more hours to go. Since the sun sets so early, it felt like it was very late in the evening. As we were driving to Johanna’s house (Johanna went to med school with Jess and Robin), my initial impression of Wellington was that it reminded me of San Francisco because of all the hills and the way houses looked and were spaced. We’ll see what it looks like in the day light. Maybe I’m totally wrong. Johanna lives pretty far up on the side of a hill, which most houses in Wellington seem to be situated, in an area with newer houses. She welcomed us with open arms and showed us our rooms for our time here. She has a really nice home and is very kind to let us (Tim and I) stay with her. We settled in and she made us some tea before we all washed up for bed.
Wellington seems like a really nice place. We’re looking forward to seeing it tomorrow in the day light!
We set an alarm to wake up in time to watch the Lady Knox Geyser erupt at 10:15am. Robin read about it the night before and was interested in checking it out. By the time we got ready and checked out, we had 20 minutes before the eruption and it took about 25 minutes to actually drive there. When we pulled up to the parking lot, we ran to the geyser and saw the presenter still talking about New Zealand’s geysers, so it was perfect timing!
As soon as the presenter stopped talking, the geyser began erupting, like clockwork. The geyser could erupt for up to an hour (unusually long). After about 5 minutes, everyone left after taking their photos. We stayed around to see the eruption end, but after about 20 minutes, we gave up and left, as did the other people who were waiting around. Tim felt sad for the geyser because it was still erupting with no one watching. People’s attention spans are so short, and I guess it was also starting to rain.
When we first arrived, there was a sign that said to be ready to show your tickets. We didn’t realize it cost money see the geyser because Robin read it was free. It worked out perfectly that we were slightly late because there was no one checking tickets when we rushed in. We ended up seeing the geyser and other sights around the Waiotapu area for free. I looked online tonight and apparently the sights were $32.60 NZD per person!
On our way out of the Waitapu area, we saw signs for a mud bath so we decided to check it out. The mud bath was another hot spring which made mud bubble up. Rotorua is a lot like the onsen town of Beppu in Japan, where we went around to all the different “hell” hot springs. It ended up being a similar day since we planned on going to a hot spring spa too.
We made our way back into Rotorua’s CBD for lunch. Jess read about a brunch restaurant in Lonely Planet called, Third Place Cafe, so we decided to go there. It was a casual cafe where you order at the counter and they bring the food out to you. The breakfast and lunch menu looked really good so I was excited to try it out. I ordered a “Roasted Kumara Mumble Jumble” breakfast and Tim ordered the “Middle Eastern Spring Lamb Platter”. Both dishes were really good. We were both happily satisfied. If we ever go back to Rotorua, I would definitely eat here again.
After lunch we headed to Lake Rotorua, which is the second largest lake on the North Island. We walked along the walkway of the lake and around a park and saw a lot of birds. There were a lot of black swans in the water, which I haven’t seen so up close before. There were also large gangs of New Zealand geese, which are large and white.
Rotorua is full of beautiful lakes, geothermal sights, Maori cultural centres, and spas. It was still fairly early in the afternoon so we decided to check out another lake in the area before going to the Polynesian Spa to end our time in town. We drove about 10 minutes to Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) where I hung out close to the car to admire the view and everyone else went for a quick walk through the forest.
We drove to the Polynesian Spa and decided to go into the “adult pools” ($27 NZD = $23.75 CAD). The Polynesian Spa is a geothermal spa that backs on to Lake Rotorua. The adult pool area had several different hot spring pools at different temperatures, ranging from 38-43°C. It was a nice and relaxing way to end our day in Rotorua. There was a Korean tour there at the same time we were, and at one point Tim and I were in a pool with the majority of them and we felt like we were back in Seoul. Too bad we didn’t know any Korean!
We washed up and left at a good time because a Chinese bus tour came and all the pools were jam packed with people. We spent about an hour and a half at the baths which was a good amount of time.
For dinner we went for Indian food at a restaurant called Indian Star. We saw it yesterday and it was full for of people for an Indian birthday party. We figured if it was good enough for a large Indian birthday party, it must be good! We shared four different types of curries, garlic naan, basmati rice, two mango lassis and a Kingfisher beer for $94.80 NZD = $83.60 CAD. We enjoyed everything we ordered. We were all surprised that we finished everything. I guess we were all hungry!
After dinner we drove for about 2.5 hours to get to a town called, Waitomo, which is a major tourist attraction for its caves and for Hobbiton (Hobbit and LOTR tours). On the way there, Tim pulled over and we looked at the stars for about 15 minutes (it was really cold out, 5°C!) and it was beautiful. I guess I don’t get that far out away from cities because I haven’t seen that many stars before. I turned around to hug Tim and I missed a shooting star that everyone saw. Oh well…
We arrived at our hotel, which is a historic (old) hotel called, Waitomo Caves Hotel. The hotel looked nice as we drove up to it. It has a lot of character and we were really happy with our two bedroom room ($125 CAD/night). Since Jess and Robin had a larger bed in Auckland, they took the two single beds in the other room while Tim and I get to enjoy the larger bed. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be a family room, so we got the “parent’s room” and they’re in the children’s bedroom.
We made some tea and tried some of the other NZ cookies we bought before heading to bed. We’re planning on waking up a bit earlier tomorrow to see what cave tours we can join. We couldn’t book anything online since they required 2 days notice for advanced bookings so we’ll have to go to the visitor centre to see what we can get.
Today, we were up and ready to go around 9:30am. Jess and Robin made us some cheese bagels for breakfast and we were off on our New Zealand road trip. Our plan for today was to go to Coromandel, which is a peninsula on the eastern side of the North Island. The drive was about 2.5 hours from Auckland (165km), which was much shorter than our drives down the east coast of Australia. We had some hikes in mind so we were hoping the weather would be cooperative. The weather was a mixed bag of sudden downpours and then bright blue skies, so we saw a lot of rainbows on our drive.
New Zealand is really beautiful because everything is so vibrantly green. There’s so many rolling green hills and mountainous terrain, so I get why people say it’s like Canada in a lot of ways.
The drive to Cathedral Cove in Coromandel was like driving on the Sea to Sky, except a lot narrower. We were lucky that we missed all the rain by the time we got to our first stop. The hike to Cathedral Cove was only about 45 minutes, so not too long. It seemed like every portion of the hike to the cove was very picturesque. The combination of the bright green grass, lush forests, and the bright blue Pacific Ocean was breathtaking. The view of the smaller islands reminded me of home. It was sort of like all the islands around Howe Sound. We know we’ve taken living in British Columbia for granted because it’s so beautiful there already and we haven’t really explored it as much as we could. We’ve met other tourists during our trip, who after finding out that we’re from Vancouver, go on about how beautiful it is and ask if we’ve been to all these different places on Vancouver Island. Then we both shamefully say no. I guess that’ll be something we’d like to discover more when we’re back.
When we finally made it to the beach, it was very beautiful. There were some tourists around but since it was down season in New Zealand (winter starts on June 1), there wasn’t crowds. It made for a nice and peaceful time at Cathedral Cove.
The morning and early afternoon flew by as we were taking in all the beautiful scenery. We drove to a town called Tairua to see what they had for lunch options. After walking up and down their “Main Street”, we decided to give Aaron’s Kitchen a shot. They advertised fish & chips, burgers, sushi, and Asian food! We figured Aaron was Asian so we went to support him (Tim: I just wanted fish and chips)… Plus the menu looked the best.
The food at Aaron’s Kitchen was actually really good. If you’re ever in Tairua, I would recommend trying it out! We were quite pleased with our meal except Jess’ veggie burger didn’t have avocado because they apparently did not get any from their supplier. When we went across the street to the grocery store, we saw avocados were selling for $6 NZD each – no wonder they weren’t in her burger.
After lunch we headed to Pauanui Beach for another hike. Since the sun was going to be setting soon we only got to do part of the trail and had to turn back before it got dark. The trail was along the coastline of the beach and it lead us to some really cool volcanic flat rocks that lined most of the beach at one point. This area was very peaceful and we caught the sun setting from here so it made for really nice way to end our day.
We got into the car and headed to our stop for the night, Rotorua, where we’d be spending the day tomorrow. The drive was pretty hard since the roads were super winding for most of the drive. Luckily, Tim was very alert and got us to Rotorua safely after 2.5 hours. We checked into Rydges Hotel (which is a hotel chain in Australia & NZ), dropped off our bags, and headed out to find dinner. Our options were quite limited since it was around 9pm already. We drove to the city’s “CBD” where we found a lot of Indian and Thai restaurants. But we ended up going to McDonald’s in the end.
After dinner we came back to the hotel, washed up, and did a bit more research about what we’re going to do in Rotorua tomorrow. The city is a hot spring so the city (and even our room) smells like sulphur (rotten eggs).
Being two hours ahead, we were all clearly jetlagged as we woke up at around 10:45am. By the time we got ready to go, it was around 11:30am and Howard had already gone out and come back home. He had a good start to his day as we were just starting ours. He had recommended a French Market to us yesterday, so we thought we’d start our day there.
The French Market is in a suburb called, Parnell, which is located just outside the CBD and is apparently Auckland’s oldest suburb. The market is called, La Cigale French Market and is only opened on weekends. The market is a food market that was filled with a lot of delicious food options. The prices at most of the stalls were very good/reasonable and a lot less than what we thought they would be. Tim and Robin got sausages in French bread and Jess and I got a Turkish gozleme (like a quesadilla). Inside the market there was a French bakery which had fresh croissants coming out so we got a chocolate croissant since it was piping out. It was awesome!
While at the market, the rain started coming down pretty hard. Luckily, all the vendors had tents up so we didn’t get wet. After we finished lunch, we headed to the Auckland War Memorial Museum which was close by. The museum is free for Aucklanders, by donation for New Zealanders and $25 NZD ($21.80 CAD) for everyone else. Tim asked if there was a Commonwealth country discount, but unfortunately there wasn’t (Tim: I was joking, but the guy seemed apologetic that they didn’t).
The museum was quite large and you could easily spend a long time there. The museum includes exhibits about New Zealand’s history (Maori and Pacific Islander), military history, natural history, geology, etc. There was an event going on in the WWII Memorial Hall for American Memorial Day (Tim: note the American flag on top of the building in the picture above. I asked and they said it was up only for Memorial Day). I thought the Maori exhibits were the most interesting since they were uniquely New Zealand. New Zealand is the coldest place that Pacific Islanders live, so when they brought their own plants and vegetation from other islands, they didn’t grow well here. So, it was actually beneficial (Tim: from one specific perspective) when the Europeans came because they brought over plants that grew better in New Zealand.
We stayed at the museum for about two hours before making our way to Auckland’s CBD. The rain started to come down quite hard as we were driving around. There wasn’t much parking available and the parking signage in Auckland is a bit confusing. After driving around Queen St. (which is like their Robson) and around the wharf we decided to just pull into one of the 15 minute free street parking and take a couple of pictures of the Sky Tower and walk up Queen St. for a bit. Overall the CBD wasn’t too lively because of the weather and most locals probably don’t live in the CBD.
We got back into the car and went to Mount Eden, whose summit is the highest natural point in Auckland so it has great 360 views of the city. Mount Eden is also a dormant volcano so it was neat to see the crater, which is now covered in lush green grass. When we got to Mount Eden, we had to walk about 10 minutes to the summit. Before January of this year cars were able to drive to the top and park but now cars are only allowed to park below and you have to walk up. I think it’s much nicer that cars are not allowed to go up any way and the walk isn’t really that hard/far. We were lucky because as we were driving to Mount Eden the sun started to come out, so when we arrived we had clear skies and even saw a rainbow.
Mount Eden was my favourite part of Auckland, it was really beautiful up there and I loved how vibrantly green everything was. It’s been a while since we’ve seen such lush greenery like this. As mentioned yesterday, I expressed how much New Zealand reminded us of home and seeing Auckland from the summit of Mount Eden reconfirmed that.
We saw some pretty cool clouds in the distance that made for some really awesome pictures but we also knew that those clouds were headed for us. Unfortunately, we were too slow and we were caught in the downpour. Luckily we all had our rain jackets and we had our umbrellas too. Vancouverites are always prepared for rain!
We headed back to the house to rest up and change for dinner. We all sat around for about 30 minutes looking up restaurants to go to. It’s hard to decide when there are too many options. We wanted to have seafood since the green lipped New Zealand mussels we had yesterday were really good. Robin found a place called Swashbucklers, near the Auckland Fish Market close to the CBD. The menu and reviews were good so we decided to give it a shot.
Swashbucklers is located in a pretty industrial looking area. It reminded us of the trek to get to the Cannery in Vancouver (before it closed). It’s located close to the water and a few blocks from Auckland’s Fish Market. Tim and I shared a seafood platter for two ($70 NZD = $61 CAD), which had green lipped mussels, oysters, battered fish, king prawns, shrimp, smoked salmon, and breaded scallops. I was super hungry so I was really excited to eat. Everything was really tasty and it was the perfect amount. New Zealand mussels are very plump and sweet. I’m sure I’ll be having more before we leave.
On the way home, we stopped by a grocery store to get some snacks for our road trip tomorrow and dessert for tonight. While looking up restaurants, Tim found a list of New Zealand only snacks. So when we got to the grocery store he was on the look out for a bunch of snacks. We managed to get the majority of them.
We got back to the house and had the Hokey Pokey ice cream we bought. Hokey Pokey is a flavour which is basically just vanilla ice cream with crunchy honey comb chunks. It was actually really tasty, I enjoyed the crunchy bits. We ate our ice cream while we watched the season finale of “Fresh Off the Boat” together. We’re planning on leaving Auckland by 9am tomorrow, so we set our alarms. We’re heading to a town called Coromandel for some hiking and some beautiful scenery.