WHEN TO GO TO NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand’s summer is December through February, and much of the country goes on vacation during this time period. This is peak season, and it is more expensive. October and November are more moderate and less crowded, as are April and May. The “shoulder” periods on either side of summer are less expensive and temperatures are moderate.
The winter months, June through August, is ski season and also expensive. The east side of both islands are dryer and the North island is warmer than the South island, oddly.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN NEW ZEALAND
- Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans might like a tour of the Shire in Matamata, a couple hours south of Auckland. Visitors can go into Bilbo Baggins’ house! There are other sites from the filming of these movies, and visitors can see them in organized tours. Many self-guided tours are also available. The brides have been alerted; good luck with this.
- There are some very high zip lines here; it is a country of mountains. The views are reason enough to see New Zealand, especially looking down at the water from a cliff. Rolling around in the inside of a big puffy ball is an activity somewhere in the country.
- Cruises on the Milford Sound are memorable simply for the pure, unadulterated scenery that looks too good to be true, but it is. The magic landscape fairy outdid herself on this one. There is no equal. It is on the southwest side of the south island, and worth every cent.
- Scuba, snorkel, snow-ski, tour on ATVs, lie on the beach or see a vineyard. New Zealand is rife with possibilities. Activities are seasonal, of course, but they all have stunning views.
BEST RESORTS IN NEW ZEALAND
One New Zealand dollar equals .84 of a US dollar. Resorts are costly, but again, the surrounding scenery is spectacular.
Fiordland Lodge on South Island, southeast of Queenstown, is made of wood and stone and has a large glass wall of windows on the lake side. It is amazingly beautiful in its grassy setting beside the lake. The hills in the background provide a dramatic view on the edge of the fiords. Tours of Milford and Doubtful Sounds are close by, and the honeymoon package includes them. For about $4058, a couple gets four nights, all meals except lunch on one day, and the cruises. There are large fireplaces in the lobby and on the outdoor patio.
River Valley Lodge is in the middle of North Island on a beautiful river that is in the area of…the middle of nowhere. This adventure lodge is for active people that like white water rafting, horseback riding and hiking. It is called “Hill Country” for obvious reasons, and the views that go with it are well worth the trip. The spa has a sauna and an outdoor hot tub; massages and beauty treatments are also available. Rates were not readily available, and it takes actual booking to get them.
BEST HOTELS IN NEW ZEALAND
Hapuku Lodge and Treehouses, yes, treehouses, is on the northeast coast of South Island and overlooks the Pacific. Mountains provide great scenery out the back door, and the tree houses sit about 30 feet off the ground for prime viewing. Just over $625 US per night will secure a one-bedroom tree house suite for a couple, and it has a fire place and lovely bath. Made of natural materials and big glass windows, the tree houses also allow for ocean views. Whale watches are good if the weather cooperates.
Westhaven Cottage advertises rooms starting at $97 per night, and it is on the Tasman Sea on the northwest coast of South Island. The hotel will arrange kayak trips, caving, fishing and horseback riding. The scenery is absolutely spectacular, and it is not apparent that there is a downside. This is an outright steal, and it’s only two years old, so the rooms are in great shape. It is self-catering, but guests can have three-course meals cooked for them every day.
Why spend four times this amount when this place is available? It’s a puzzle, but it might work out really well.