Thursday, December 27, 2007

Take a Tiki Tour

On a two week tiki tour, you can fly into Auckland, rent a car or RV (movan), spend a day or two in Auckland. Then, check out the Bay of Islands, drop south again,and head west to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, or east and spend time in Napier, the Art Deco town. Farther south, free tours of parliament are available in windy Wellington where you'll catch the interislander across Cook Strait to the South Island, maybe dropping off your rental car and picking up a new one in Picton.

In that two week time frame, you can slip down the west coast of the South Island and cross back into Queenstown, the adventure capitol of New Zealand, about two thirds of the way down the Southern Alps, then cut back up to Christchurch and have time for a train ride back across the Southern Alps to Greymouth or a quick trip out to Akaroa, a former French settlement. In Christchurch, you'll probably end your tiki tour, drop off your car or RV and fly back to Auckland.

New Zealand is clean, green and spectacular, but New Zealand roads are narrow, and sometimes winding and steep. You will drive around solitary lakes, cross river-filled gorges, and climb snow-covered mountains. You can't and don't want to zip through this scenery you've traveled so far to enjoy. To plan your trip and maybe drive less and see more, check Travel Times here. Don't get clapped out. Enjoy that spectacular.


Warning: Don't get your knickers in a knot if that elderly gentleman at the motel desk asks, "Can I knock you up for breakfast?"

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting Around

New Zealand has a unique giveway rule. Check this one out before trying it. Round abouts are easy. Just remember to always give way to the right. Get yourself in there and keep going round and round until the navigator figures out which exit you want-- or you run out of gas.

One-Way bridges are a snap, too. If the thick arrow on the sign points the direction you're headed, you have the right of way. In the South Island, you share very high one-way bridges with a train. Your first trip over a deep gorge clicking along straddling the rails with only more rails in sight, hoping the driver knows what he's doing, will be just as memorable as your first bunji jump.

Warning: Avoid the one-eyed Taniwha, a distant cousin of the Loc Ness Monster. He hangs out south of Auckland near the motorway at Meremere.


Have a question?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Getting Lost

In New Zealand-- you will get lost. If you rent an RV (motorcaravan) or car, they'll give you a map to get you out of town. Most towns have Tourist Information Centers which have free maps. Jason Route Planners are the best. They cover smaller areas and point out major attractions. Top Ten Holiday Parks and HAPNZ (Holiday Accomodation Parks) provide free touring maps with directions to their next park. Each town will also have a free local map and maps of walking tracks indicating length and the kind of shape you better be in to make it back to your car. Even with a map, you'll get lost. You can't rely on the sun-- it's in the wrong place. Even if you know where you're going, there's no warning when you get there--just tiny signs you can maybe read as you're going past with a truck on your tail. And, only the cross roads are marked, so you're never sure which road you're driving on.

Maps are a trick to read. Papakura, Papamoa, Papatoetoe. TeAnau, TeAraroa, TeAwamutu.

"What road are we looking for? Papa--something."

I don't recommend traveling alone. You need a driver-- and a navigator to read the map and yell at the driver, "There it is! We just passed it-- I think."


Warning: Watch those greasy roads.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, December 10, 2007

What About Those Ferries?

There's ferries everywhere in New Zealand, from faster than a speeding bullet to pokey little things that nearby ducks pass. The one you need to worry about is the inter-island ferry. About eight hours south of Auckland by car, the Interislander links the north and south islands. Cars, trucks, and movans ride below, while passengers ride outside on the deck or in one of the lounges. Ferries cross the sometimes very rough Cook Strait, then nose their way through Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton, a small town on the north end of the South Island. Three ferries link the North and South Islands. These are ocean going vessels that zip through the Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton in about three hours.

If you're planning to island hop with a car or RV, book your ferry passage in advance at If you pull up unannounced, you'll end up cooling your heels in the middle of a Wellington freight shipping yard.

Cheaper rates are available if you leave at 1:30am. In my book RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand,, I talk about sleeping in TranzRail's parking lot to catch a 6:30am passage. This really isn't as bad as it sounds. There's parking space RVers use behind the main parking lot-- not next to the railroad switching yards where we spent our first noisy night. When RVing, we always liked the 6:30am passage because the ferry passes through Marlboro Sounds during early morning. Ferries depart several times a day. Departures are occasionally cancelled during bad weather. My first passage, a December passage, (I can only guess how bad it gets in their winter) I couldn't even get out on the upper deck without getting soaked to see the scenery that wasn't there, anyway.

If you do have a rough passage, thank your lucky stars you're in New Zealand and not a third world country. Kiwis take their safety standards very seriously.

Have a question?

Stumble Upon Toolbar