Last year for Christmas, our family, together with my in-laws decided to spend the holidays in New Zealand. We originally wanted to go to Sri Lanka but were disappointed to find that as early as July, all the good hotels were already fully booked. While searching for a new destination, the thought of New Zealand came to mind because I had never been there and it always seemed like an interesting place full of adventures. Luckily enough, we found out that there were still a lot of availability on flights and hotels at the time of our search and so we decided to immediately go for it. And we were not disappointed. It was one of the best trips and one of the best places I have visited.
Our first stop was Auckland. We arrived mid-day from our very long and tiring flight. Auckland was bright and summery in December but it gets quite chilly at night. We got a hotel close to Victoria Street and the harbour. It was Boxing Day when we arrived and all the shops were on sale. It’s a very pleasant city for walking. There were very nice restaurants along the harbour where we sat for apéro and had dinner. We also had our New Year’s Eve dinner at a very nice and modern restaurant called Matterhorn.
The next day we took a boat trip to Waiheke, the closest island from the city. We originally wanted to go farther out but we considered how it would be too tiring for my small daughter. Waiheke is a lovely island with beautiful beaches and huge vineyards. We took a half-day bus trip with a tour guide that told us about the history of the island and also gave us tips about which vineyard restaurant to go for lunch.
After the bus tour, we stopped by a couple of beaches. It’s too bad the waters were not warm enough for me to swim. We found a nice vineyard restaurant where we had a semi-lunch. Most of the vineyard restaurants were fully booked but we found one that served apéro at their cozy wine-tasting garden area, filled with sweet-smelling herbs.
The next day, we went on a road trip to Rotorua. Before going straight to the hotel, we took a side-trip to Hobbiton in Mata-Mata. The place was really nice, huge and interesting especially for the kids. But I find that there were too many people and that it was very hot to walk around early in the afternoon. Good thing they offer free refreshments at the end of the trip.
The director of the movie, Peter Jackson is actually a native of New Zealand. The driver of the bus fom the i-Site and the tour guide at Hobbiton offered lots of interesting trivia about the movie. As we neared the place, there were parts of the area where it looked a bit like Tuscany. I thought at first I would have difficulty understanding the locals because of their accent, but surprisingly, I didn’t.
We stayed for a few days in Rotorua at a motel close to the city center. There was an interesting park called Kuirau Hot Pools nearby, where you can soak your feet in some shallow baths and cross a wooden bridge across a giant pool of smouldering hot water. It was amazing! For a cooler and more relaxing walk, we spent one afternoon visiting a forest filled with tall sequoia trees and giant ferns. You can either go for a short leisurely walk or camp for several days.
About an hour’s drive from the center you arrive at Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. Make sure to get there early as the tiny road that deviates from the highway is really narrow and causes jams due to people going in and out to see the geyser. If you want my opinion, you can totally skip the geyser, just head directly to the park. It is advisable to carry a sunhat, put on some sunblock and carry some water with you as there is not much shade on the trails. The hot pools were a sight to behold, with such magnificent colors. Although, you will have to forget about the putrid smell of sulphur, if you want to enjoy the trip.
New Zealand for Christmas is not a bad idea at all, especially if you don’t mind having an out-of-the-usual, warm holiday season instead of the cliché-ish cold. It is very suitable for adventure trips and surprisingly enough, it is also family-friendly. What’s even more special about the yuletide season in New Zealand is that you get to experience the new year way ahead of most everyone in the planet! What a treat! 🙂
Thanks for reading and have a good weekend! 🙂