A Land of Endless Discovery: How to Spend Two Weeks in New Zealand
Day 4: Te Puia in Rotorua
In the morning, drive back across the island to Rotorua. As you approach Rotorua, don’t blame your fellow travelers for the odor — the area’s geothermal activity produces a sulfur smell that tends to hang over the town. You’ll quickly get used to it!
Te Puia is a fantastic one-stop shop for all Rotorua has to offer, with geysers and mud pools, Māori cultural performances, demonstrations and displays, and the opportunity to see New Zealand’s famous national icon, the kiwi. Allow a few hours to experience all this attraction has to offer.
Guided tours leave every hour from 9:00 a.m. This is another one to book in advance, before you get to New Zealand, to be sure you don’t miss out.
In the afternoon make your way to Taupō. Check out Huka Falls on your way into town and then enjoy dinner at one of Taupō’s great restaurants, followed by a stroll along the lakefront.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Day 5: Napier
Napier in Hawke’s Bay is famous for its Art Deco architecture. An earthquake devastated the town in 1931, but the town was almost completely rebuilt in a two-year period — much of it in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time.
Leave Taupo in the morning and when you get to Napier head to the information center to buy the $10 NZD self-guided walking tour book. Following the path laid out in the guide will give you a really thorough look at town, and you’ll learn all about its fascinating story. Don’t forget to make a stop for lunch at one of the many fantastic cafes along the way.
In the afternoon, start to make your way down to Wellington, being sure to drive through the charming town of Hastings, just south of Napier. It will take you about four hours to get to Wellington, making this your biggest driving day so far. Make sure you have good music and enjoy the drive! Palmerston North is a good place to stretch your legs, find a bathroom and have a snack.
Stay the night in the city so you’re well placed to start exploring in the morning.
Photo Credit: Amanda Best
Day 6: Wellington
Spend the day enjoying New Zealand’s capital city. There are any number of things to see and do in Wellington, which will appeal more or less to you depending on your interests. Choose from:
- Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand): I’m not a big museum person, but this one I really enjoyed. Entry is free though donations are encouraged, and there is usually a special exhibit running that charges an entry fee. Te Papa has a huge number of collections available to see — there’s definitely something for everyone.
- The Beehive: If you’re interested in politics, take a free tour of New Zealand’s parliament buildings. (The Executive Wing is affectionately known as The Beehive because, well, it looks like a beehive.) Depending on your timing, you may even get to see members of parliament doing their thing in the Chamber of the House of Representatives.
- Weta Workshop: If you’re a movie fan, you absolutely have to take a tour of Weta Workshop. Most people know the Weta Digital studio worked on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, but they’ve done so much more than that, including Avatar, Mad Max: Fury Road, the Avengers franchise, The BFG, The Jungle Book, and so many more blockbuster movies. The tour gives you a fantastic behind-the-scenes look at how visual effects are created.
- Mt Victoria lookout: The best view in town! Drive up to the Mt Victoria lookout for 360-degree views of the city. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset.
- Miramar Peninsula: Take a drive around the coast of Miramar Peninsula, stopping to swim, enjoy the view or lounge on a beach.
- Indulge and imbibe: Eat and drink your way around the city. Wellington has a great selection of cafes, restaurants and bars and several companies offer food and/or beer tours.
- Ride the cable car: Catch the historic cable car from downtown all the way up to the Wellington Botanic Garden, then explore the extensive gardens.
However you decide to spend your day, wrap things up mid-afternoon and catch the 5:00 p.m. Interislander ferry over to Picton at the top of the South Island, enjoying the view over the water as the sun goes down. (Be sure to book the ferry in advance to save money and ensure you get the crossing time you want.) Spend the night in either Picton or Blenheim at the top of the South Island.