Here's a map that shows all the places we visited on our trip.
- Arrived in Auckland (A) from SFO. Flew immediately to Wellington (B).
- Checked out the Cuba St., the wharf area, the Historic Cable Car, Mt. Victoria
- Stayed at Travelodge, booked through Booking.com
- Went wine tasting in the Martinborough district (C), an hour's drive from Wellington
- Took the 3 hour ferry (Interislander) ride to South Island (Port Picton)
- Drove 2.5 hours from Picton to Kaiteriteri (D)
- Stayed at the beautiful Kimi Ora Resort
- Our Split Apple Rock (pictured on the right) kayaking trip was cancelled due to bad weather. So we hiked in Abel Tasman National Park instead.
- We also went to Te Waikoropupu Springs, the world's clearest fresh water spring (E), which was a 2 hour drive away in Golden Bay
- Drove 3.5 hours to Punakaiki (F). Reached there too late due to road closures (because of the bad weather), so couldn't check out the pancake rocks during sunset, which happens around 9pm during late December
- Stayed at the clean and neat Punakaiki Beach Hostel
- Checked out Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes (pictured on the left)
- Drove 3 hours to Franz Josef Glacier (G). Had we one more day to spare, I would have liked to fit in a guided glacier walk on Franz Josef Glacier and walked around Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier, enjoying views of Mt. Cook. You can take helicopter tours of the entire glacier valley too. Contact me for a list of various options/operators we were looking at. We had just enough time to sneak in a self-guided walk to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier, which was pretty cool.
- Drove 5 hours to Queenstown (H) and stayed at the Gold Ridge Resort, booked through Orbitz.com
- Hang gliding (booked through Queenstown's i-SITE center)
- Wine tasting in Otago valley, specifically Gibbonston Valley, Amsfield, and Aurum Wineries (I, J) - an hour's drive away
- Canyon Swinging (booked through Queenstown's i-SITE center)
- Jet Boating in Shotover Canyon (booked through Queenstown's i-SITE center)
- Drove 2.5 hours to Te Anau (K) after dinner in Queenstown
- Stayed at the very friendly and clean Bob & Maxine's Backpacker Hostel. Highly recommend this place!
- Drove to Milford Sound (drive is 2 hours each way)
- Took the Milford Sound cruise for 2 hours
- Drove 2.5 hours back to Queenstown (H)
- Went up the Skyline Gondola and rode the Luge track
- New Year's Eve at Queenstown (pictured on the right)
- Stayed at Coronet Peak Hotel, via hotels.com. This was the only place that had any rooms on New Year's Eve. I would suggest not staying here as everything looked and operated like it was from 1950s!
- Drove 3 hours from Queenstown to Manapouri (L) for the Doubtful Sound cruise through Real Journeys, including a tour of the Manapouri Power Plant (the entire Doubtful Sound trip was 8 hours long)
- Stayed at Bob & Maxine's again, in Te Anau (K)
- Drove 8 hours through the Southern Scenic Route (one of the vistas pictured on the left) from Te Anau to Dunedin (M), via Invercargill and Catlins National Forest, stopping at Nugget Point
- Wanted to check out The Penguin Place and Moeraki Boulder Beach (both 1 hour away from Dunedin), but couldn't due to schedule constraints
- Flew to Auckland (A) and stayed at the fully serviced apartment building Bianco Off Queen, with minimalistic and contemporary decor.
- Drove 3 hours from Auckland up to Paihia, Bay of Islands (N; pictured on the right)
- Took a 4 hour cruise to Cape Brett at the Bay of Islands, booked via the i-SITE center in Paihia
- Drove back to Auckland (A), stopping at Whangarei Falls (O) along the way (which you can easily skip if you don't have time)
- Stayed at Bianco Off Queen again
- Drove 2 hours from Auckland to Matamata (P) to check out the movie set of The Hobbit (the set is called Hobbiton) - allow 2.5 hours for the tour. Tours are only conducted till February 2011, which is when filming is supposed to commence on the sets. However, nobody knows if the sets will allowed to be preserved after filming. Send happy thoughts to Peter Jackson so he'll allow the Alexander family (who's farm the set is on) to keep the Hobbiton set even after filming!
- Continued driving for an hour from Matamata to Rotorua (Q). Had an awesome time Zorbing!
- Went white water rafting on Kaituna River
- Stayed at Cactus Jack Backpackers in Rotorua. I would recommend finding some other lodging. This place was very small, and the bathrooms were not that clean. We were spoilt by Bob & Maxine's and the Punakaiki Beach Hostel!
- Did the amazing 4 hour Lost World tour with Waitomo Adventures, which included rappelling/abseiling, caving, ladder climbing and glowworm spotting in Waitomo (R; pictured on the right) - 2 hour drive from Rotorua to Waitomo
- Drove 2 hours back to Auckland (A) and flew back to SFO!
I have a lot more details on various choices for activities as well as hotels/hostels. Leave a comment and we'll get back to you! Join our Facebook group, also called The Roving Mind, to peruse through other destinations and add tips and suggestions from your travels too!