New Zealand

[Disclaimer: Miranda’s mom joined us in Auckland, so our overall standard of living increased greatly. The restaurants and hotel are reflective of that change.]

North Island

When was the rating made?
We were there February 11-February 20, 2007.Where did we go?
Coromandel Peninsula (Hahei)
Rotorua
National Park (Tongariro)
Auckland

Coromandel Peninsula (Hahei)

Accommodation

  • Hahei Beach Resort – Campground with self-contained cabins. Clean, simple, no bedding provided. 2 stars.

Restaurants

  • Luna Cafe (Hahei) – Good dinner with fresh ingredients, a bit pricey. Salad was great. 2.5 stars.
  • Nina’s Cafe (Whitianga) – Arrive in Whitianga by 3 minute ferry. Seafood chowder was delicious as was the chicken and mushroom pie. 3 stars.
  • Colonso Herb Garden (south of Hahei on SH25) – Lovely, pricey cafe in a fabulous garden. Coffee, tea and pastries. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Cathedral Cove walk
  • Hot Water beach – go to Hot Water beach around low tide, dig a hole in the sand and sit in the geothermal hot water just under the sand. Careful – it’s hot!

 

Rotorua

Accommodation

  • Nomads Backpackers – Large, basic backpackers. Cheap and a bit banged up. 1.5 stars.

Activities

  • Attend a Maori Hangi – The meal is cooked in an underground oven. Very touristy, but may be the only way to get a glimpse into Maori culture.

Notes

  • This is a very active geothermal area. There are lots of geysers and other natural atractions, however, the area is very touristy and smells overwhelmingly like sulphur. “They” say you adjust, but Miranda didn’t…

 

National Park (Tongariro)

Accommodation

  • Discovery Lodge (Whakapap) – Close to Tongariro Crossing trailhead and transport can be arranged through the lodge. Clean, simple with a range of accomondation types. On site restaurant is a bit overpriced, but nice when you feel lazy after hiking.

Activities

  • Hiking the Tongariro Crossing – said to be New Zealand’s most beautiful one day hike. Gorgeous views of the volcano and mountain lakes. Start early because lots of people do it.

 

Auckland

Accommodation

  • Sebel Suites – Amazing waterfront location over Viaduct Harbor. Suites were very nice and well appointed. Close to many restaurants and a great place to recover from a long flight. Staff at the hotel was unknowledgeable about local activities. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Soul Bistro (Viaduct Harbor) – Great brunch. Interesting menu. 3 stars.
  • Kermadec (Viaduct Harbor) – Seafood restaurant with excellent appetizers and fresh fish. Nice views. 3 stars.
  • Pasha – Tapas and wine bar on waterfront. 2.5 stars.
  • Waterfront Cafe – Casual, pub-style food. 2 stars.
  • Umi (Viaduct Harbor) – Sushi and other japanese dishes. 2.5 stars.
  • Mudbrick Vineyard (Waiheke Island) – Beautiful ambience, stunning vista overlooking the ocean. Good value wine tasting – 8 tastes for $5. Cheese board and olives were fabulous. Wine is acceptable. Fine dining option is available, but we didn’t eat there. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Wine tasting on Waiheke Island – need a tour or a car because the island is very hilly

 

South Island

When was the rating made?

We were there Feburary 20 – March 8, 2007

Where did we go?
Arrowtown
Te Anau
Fox Glacier
Punakaiki
Hokatika
Cape Foulwind (Westport)
Nelson
Blenheim
Kaikoura
Christchurch

Arrowtown (20 minutes from Queenstown)

Accommodation

  • Millbrook Resort – Pricey, but gorgeous with large, self-contained suites. Nice sheets, large common area in suites. Large buffet breakfast included. We don’t typically like golf resorts, but this place was very comfortable. 3.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Postmaster’s House – innovative menu. Interesting ordering option – any dish can be ordered as an appetizer or main dish size. Lovely atmosphere. 3 stars.
  • Amisfield Winery and Bistro – Gorgeous location. Chef’s tasting menu is very tasty and the 7 small courses is reasonable at $45 / person. They close at 8 or go for lunch or an early dinner. 3.5 stars.
  • Gibbston Winery Restaurant – Lovely outdoor restaurant for lunch. We shared a delicious platter of cheeses, meats and other delights including pickled walnuts (new for all of us!) There is also a cheesery on site. It is known for pinot noir, but that was not a highlight for me.
  • Arrowtown Thai – Good thai menu and less expensive eating option. 2.5 stars.
  • Cavern – Menu looks good. We only had a quick snack of cheeses and salad and thought it was enjoyable. 2.5 stars.

Activities

  • Routeburn Track – walk part or all of this well known tramp. Overnight walks need to be pre-booked through the DOC.
  • Endless adventure activities both on the water and off.., but we didn’t choose to partake.

 

Te Anau

Accommodation

  • Blue Thistle Cottages – Self-contained cottages just outside of town. Clean, without a lot of personality. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Kepler’s Restaurant – keep looking for a restaurant. 1 star.
  • Red Cliff Restaurant – Said to be the best restaurant in town. Interesting decor and good homemade ice cream. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Day trips to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound – Take boat trips of both. They are spectacular. Milford has more dramatic sheer cliffs. Doubtful Sound is much larger and there is more opportunity to see wildlife.
  • Horseback riding at Fiordlands Westray Horse Treks (0800 148735 / 03 2499079) – the best horseback trip I have been on… Andy led us through his 500 acre property which is central in the Te Anau basin. It truly felt a world away and it was great seeing his cows, horses and sheep up close.
  • Kepler Track – do some or all of this “Great Walk”. The summit portion is said to be the best part of the trail and can be reached by water taxi on a one day hike.

 

Fox Glacier

Accommodation

  • Westhaven Motel – Simple, clean. 2 stars although I am not sure there is a better option nearby.

Restaurants

  • Plateau – overpriced and probably not worth it. 2 stars.
  • Cafe Neve – Good salads and sandwiches. 2.5 stars.

Activities

  • Fox Glacier Guiding – the most reputable tour operator for glacier and heli tours.
  • Reflection of Mt. Cook in Lake Matheson – on a clear, calm day, the mountain is reflected perfectly in the lake. This doesn’t happen everyday though, and the walk without the view is quite average.

Notes

  • It rains and has cloudy weather a lot in the area, particularly in the summer. Helicopter tours are supposedly cancelled 50% of the time. If getting to the top is important you will need to allot 2 or 3 days to the area, so you have the best shot at making the trip. The area is not a lot of fun, so you need to be very committed to seeing the glaciers for it to be worth it. Having said that, when the skies are clear, it is supposed to be spectacular.

 

Punakaiki

Accommodation

  • Punakaiki Rocks Hotel – great location. Walk to the pancake rocks on the right-hand side of the beach in front of the hotel for a great upclose view of the pancake rocks. Great restaurant, which is convenient because there is very little else in the area. 3 stars.

Activities

  • See the blowholes in full effect at high tide.
  • Kayaking on the Porariri river. The owner is not particularly helpful, but it is good exercise and fun to explore a river yourself.

 

Hokatika

Notes

  • Stop at Preston’s bakery for a warm apple strudel for a snack. It tastes just like homemade apple pie!

Cape Foulwind (Westport)

Restaurants

  • Bayhouse Restaurant – Amazing location, seemingly on the edge of nowhere. Good menu and the first restaurant in miles. Get the bread and dips, which change daily. 2.5 stars. Eat here while you are visiting the seal colony nearby.

Activities

  • Seal Colony at Cape Foulwind – Go in the summer to see the young pups and bring your binoculars!

 

Nelson

Accommodation

  • Muritai Manor – nice B&B about 7km outside of town. Nice decor. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Saltwater Restaurant – good, waterfront location. Tasty, but a little pricey. 2.5 stars.
  • Stephano’s – perfectly acceptable wood fired oven in the same building as movie theatre. Try the Regina Margherita. They will even let you bring the pizza into the theatre. 2.5 stars.
  • Haven (?) Fish and Chips – Takeaway next to Saltwater restaurant- purported to be the best fish and chips in Nelson and we loved it. Bluenose was the best fish. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Abel Tasman National Park – Hike, kayak and enjoy the day in a tramp completely different than others found on the South Island. It looks tropical. 1 hour from Nelson so it may make sense to stay in one the small towns closer to the park.
  • World of Wearable Art (WOW) museum – interesting collection from the annual show. Video at the end shows the art in full effect.
  • Saturday Market in Nelson – Fresh food, snacks, jewelry, crafts, etc.

 

Blenheim

Restaurants

  • Highfield Estate Restaurant – Part of the Highfield winery. Estate is really beautiful done in the style of an Italian estate and the lunch was very tasty. We ordered an assortment of appetizers made with local produce and a delicious mixed berry tart for dessert. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Tour the many wineries of the Marlborough region.

 

Kaikoura

Accommodation

  • Anchor Inn Motel – Top-rated motel. Clean, very friendly and helpful service, but the decor is nothing to write home about nor is the location on the main road. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • The Pier – Near water, decent food. 2 stars.
  • Nin’s Bins – Roadside crayfish stop about 20 minutes north of Kaikoura on the ocean near the Oahu Seal Colony. Less expensive crayfish than anywhere in town and you get the wonderful experience of eating it out of newspaper at a picnic table looking at the ocean. On a nice day, there is no better meal to have… 3.5 stars.

Activities

  • Whale Watch – This is what has put Kaikoura on the tourist map. Sperm whales live here year round and they have the whale watching experience down to a science – literally – they use a series of techniques including a listening device that can listen for whales up to 4 miles away. You can only see a small bit of these giant creatures but it is stil awe inspiring. 3 stars.
  • Dolphin Encounter – Swim with the incredibly, acrobatic Dusky Dolphins in the wild. For the dolphin lover (like myself) this is an extraordinary experience. 3.5 stars.

 

Christchurch

Accommodation

  • Chestnuts on Holly B&B – A beautifully appointed and comfortable B&B with wonderful service. However, the owner says she is selling, so check on the status before booking.

Activities

  • Antarctic Experience – An educational experience with many exhibits on various aspects of life and science in the Antarctic. The strangest exhibit is the one where you go into a subzero room with a wind machine going to “experience” an Antarctic storm – felt just like standing on a windy street corner during the winter in NYC, which I normally don’t enjoy either. 2.5 stars.
  • Lots to do here, but we didn’t get to most of the activities…
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