New Zealand is a great country to go to, if you want to have a full schedule but don’t want to spend too much on your activities. Obviously it is not a budget option if you include the flight prices: it is far from almost everywhere. Unfortunately travelling within NZ is not that cheap either there is virtually no public transport to speak of, so you’ll need to rent or buy a car. The rental prices are pretty ok though but the fuel prices were not merciful on the wallet either. Also, if you want to participate in the multitude of the cool experiences NZ offers from zorbing to rafting it is also easy to spend loads in a short time. But in the beautiful country there is so much to see and to do for free or just a little money too.
Here are my 10 best tips for the north island, and most of it is good for all ages:
1) Dig a hole that fills up with warm water on the beach in Kawhia.
2) Volcanos – I definitively recommend the Tongariro Crossing day walk if it is open. Is not a walk for toddlers but even they liked to watch the smoke come out of a mountain last time we were in Taupo. There are volcanos to see in an easier way if you are travelling with a family, e.g. the one on Rangitoto Island outside of Auckland. The ferry ride there cost some, climbing the volcano is free. It is a beautiful green island (on the right)
3) Sandboarding in Te Paki – well, most tourist would have to hire a board so not quite free but cheap anyway.
4) Plenty of great walks ranging from a few minutes e.g. to see nice waterfalls or hot springs (e.g. Craters of the moon in Taupo) to a few days. I recommend the walk around Lake Waikaremoana, it is absolutely beautiful there!
5) Beautiful water falls, e.g. Hunua Falls.
6) Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in small towns or villages. I fell in love with surfy Raglan, dreamy Rawene and the Coromandel peninsula. On the peninsula thre was Thames, a was a very English looking town, and the drive there with villas right next to the road and the water front was simply beautiful. Other places to visit: Haihei beach, a great view from the Castle Rock Summit (supposed to be an easy walk but it is very steep at the end) and from the old Pa site in Tairua (also good for paddling, but obviously renting canoes was not free of charge). I would also recommend a visit to the Waiaua waterworks for a lot of fun, if you can spare a few bucks.
7) Watch a blow hole. We had fun watching one cover all the fishermen on Muriwai Beach (and go to beaches in general).
8) A walk in a Kauri forest is impressive in the north. The trees are simple huge.
9) Scenic drives; lovely buildings, light houses, gorges, sun sets…
10) Sheep, sheep shearing (picture below from a speed shear event in the Takapau village), sheep dogs at work (I am so impressed by this!). Woofing may be a good option to get close to action!
Edit 25/8/13: Wish to have more to see? Take a look at the Top 10 Landmarks in New Zealand by A Dad’s Guide to Growing a Nerd, pretty cool, and I was lucky to find a few more things to see over there on my next trip.