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POlson Sep 17th, 2013 05:59 AM

Wine and Hobbits - N.I. NZ itinerary plan
Hi all: just booked a trip to the North Island of New Zealand for my family (traveling with kids and Lord of the Rings Fans). Here is the basic outline of our journey. We are traveling in early April 2014. We have our flights and hotels confirmed. Any further suggestions, places to eat, wineries to visit, best museums, kid based activities, easy trails, favorite shops (love artisan crafts, local foods), and not to miss highlights are appreciated.

Day 1 - Morning arrive in Wellington. Weta visit scheduled with Windows into Workshop Tour. Te Papa museum visit. Overnight Wellington.
Day 2 - Wellington Zoo (doing an animal encounter - a must do highlight for kids) and drive the Classic Wine Trail to Hawke's Bay. A few winery stops anticipated (more for me than my driving DH - love Pinot Noir). Maybe Tui Brewery stop for late lunch. I know this will be a long driving day. We'll take our time and enjoy the scenery and drive. Overnight Havelock North.
Day 3 - Guided customized tour through wine country with stops for art, walks, Maori culture, ice-cream (still in planning stages with tour company). Overnight: Havelock North
Day 4 - Drive through Taupo (possible jet boat excursion), end up in Rotorua. Overnight: Rotorua
Day 5 - Guided half-day fishing trip for me and kids (and hiking for DH). Overnight Rotorua.
Day 6 - Explore Rotorua, maybe go kayaking, Maori arts and crafts, thermal pools, hangi at Te Whakarewarewa. Overnight: Rotorua
Day 7 - Drive to Hobbiton, maybe visit Hamilton Gardens too. Overnight Hamilton
Day 8 - Morning in Cambridge, maybe Thoroughbred Lodge visit, Waitomo Caves in afternoon (Glowworm cave tour). Overnight: Hamilton
Day 9 - Drive to Auckland, visit Kelly Tarlton sea life aquarium, shop, late flight home.

Melnq8 Sep 17th, 2013 03:04 PM

Would love to help POison, but I know the SI much better than the north.

I'm sure some folks will chime in.

Have a good trip - hard to go wrong in NZ. I've just returned from 30 days on the SI and it was wonderful, even the 11th time around.

ElendilPickle Sep 17th, 2013 07:04 PM

This sounds great to me.

You might want to get a copy of Ian Brodie's The Lord of the Rings Location Guide before you leave. We found it very helpful when we visited in 2004, using it to see filming sites in Wellington, Kaitoke Regional Park, and Tongariro National Park.

How old are your kids? If they're old enough, look into blackwater rafting in Waitomo. We did the Black Labyrinth tour, which was a lot of fun.

Lee Ann

michelhuebeli Sep 19th, 2013 01:16 PM

Make sure you check out Napier while based in Havelock North, and read up on why it looks the way it does. Also drive up on to Bluff Hill for a look out over the harbour etc.

I would spend a night in Taupo before going on to Rotorua, enjoy the sunset by the lakefront (lots of hotels and motels and guest houses along the stretch that takes you along the lakefront into the "center" of the little town). The sunset can be gorgeous with the reflections on the water etc., and there's a walkway all along the water - very nice!

Two nights in Rotorua will be plenty - you may not enjoy the sulphur smell for too long...

Diamantina Sep 19th, 2013 07:59 PM

In Wellington, you might want to take a ride on the Cable Car. It takes you up to a great view and a garden.
There is also a great view from Mount Victoria Lookout.

The Pinot Noir lover might want to visit Martinborough, home to some of New Zealand's finest Pinot Noirs, and less than an hour's drive from Wellington via steep and curvy State Highway 2/Rimutaka Hill. Ata Rangi, Schubert, Martinborough Vineyards, Te Kairanga, and Palliser are just a few of the top Pinot Noir producers here whose cellar doors are open without an appt.

You can pass through Martinborough from Wellington to Napier, but this route would take longer than the quickest route. Your second day already looks like a long one.

In Hawkes Bay, you might be interested in the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony.
The National Aquarium in on Marine Parade in Napier is not that large, but interesting with a focus on native species. It's right on the beach, which is pretty (but not safe for swimming--if the kids feel like swimming, the city has swimming pools/aquatic parks).
The view from Te Mata Peak near Hastings is worth seeking out:
Te Mata Peak is close to one of Hawkes Bay's best wineries, Craggy Range.
Craggy Range makes some good Pinot Noir, but sourced from Martinborough or Central Otago grapes. Hawkes Bay isn't really known for its Pinot Noir. NZ's best pinots come from Marlborough, Martinborough and Central Otago.
If you like local foods, you might visit Arataki Honey in Havelock North:
Here's a link to Hawkes Bay Farmers' Markets:
There's a wide choice of restaurants in Napier's Ahuriri waterfront area (Ahuriri is also the Maori name for Napier) and some good inexpensive restaurants along Napier's Marine Parade.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum is worth a visit.

I've heard many glowing reviews for the walks and bike trails around the redwood groves/Whakarewarewa Forest outside of Rotorua. While I've been to Rotorua a few times, I've not been there myself (I grew up near the giant redwoods of California). I was more interested in the geothermal activity and Maori culture, and it's in abundance in Rotorua.

POlson Sep 19th, 2013 09:41 PM

ElendilPickle - thank you for the book suggestion, I ordered a copy.

Michelehuebeli - we hope to drive through and/or stop in Napier on our way to Taupo/Rotorua specifically so I can see some of the architecture (and maybe get some breakfast coffee etc). I also originally considered a night in Taupo and 2 in Rotorua but we think the lodge we booked has good potential (Hamurana) and it is easier with the kids to keep the one night stops to a minimum, so we will probably keep the 3 nights in Rotorua but I think the suggestion is a good one. Both plans have merit.

Diamantina - thank you for all the suggestions, in particular the wine. Much appreciated. We know that second day is a long one but if I can get a decent glass of Pinot (and pick up a few bottles to take home) the detour will be worth it! What wine is the standout in Hawke's Bay area - Syrah? whites? Thank you also for the other suggestions. My DH will be happy about the honey in Havelock North (he still pines for the Pohutukawa Honey we bought over a decade ago on a SI trip). I will do a little research with your links and add the info to our itinerary. You never know when you might drive right by something cool, if you only knew to stop.

Melnq - so jealous of your extended SI trip! How wonderful. We'll be back to the SI on one of these vacations but the kids (including my DH) really wanted to go to Hobbiton.

Thank you all for your input.

Diamantina Sep 21st, 2013 07:54 PM

Pohutakawa honey is my favorite, too. I doubt you'll find it at Arataki Honey, but you can find it in Auckland Airport's duty free (the "Kiwi Discovery" shop has it). Most Pohutakawa honey is harvested around Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, and Auckland, as it grows most abundantly in the north. Have you tried rata honey? It is a bit like pohutakawa and widely available.

Hawkes Bay is best known for its chardonnays, merlots, cabernet sauvignons, and, increasingly, their syrahs, but of course you can taste other varietals there as well, even ones not normally grown in NZ, such as tempranillo. Te Mata Winery in Havelock North (near Arataki Honey) makes the classic Hawkes Bay red, The Coleraine (it's a Bordeaux-style blend). I like the HB reds of Craggy Range, Trinity Hill, and Brookfields.

You'll find HB Pinot Noir, too. Some wineries, such as Craggy Range, Church Road, Esk Valley, and Mission, make pinot noirs sourced from Martinborough, Marlborough or Central Otago grapes, while others, like Trinity Hill and Sileni, use HB grapes.

Best to defer to an expert: Michael Cooper has a list of NZ "super classic wines" and describes in great detail NZ's wine regions on his website. He writes an annual guide to NZ wines.

Here's a shorter WineNZ article describing Pinot Noir regional styles:

Here's Cuisine Magazine's recommended Pinot Noirs, but it's not a complete list by any means:

Bob Campbell's NZ wine reviews are also online:

If I were choosing a Pinot Noir to bring home (though for me, home is NZ), it would be Felton Road from Central Otago. In fact, I'd buy two from different vintages. My third choice would be an Ata Rangi. For a fourth bottle, another from Central Otago or one from Marlborough--too many to choose from. Out of these major areas, Pegasus Bay (Canterbury) and Neudorf (Nelson) also make notable pinots. Everyone's taste is different, but I think NZ's pinot gris and rieslings are also terrific, and not as easy to find outside of NZ as the ubiquitous NZ sauvignon blanc.

in HB, Advintage in Havelock North is good wine shop. Nationwide supermarket chain New World Market has good prices and selection, but you won't find Felton Road there. When I was at Felton Road recently, I was severely informed, "We don't sell our wines in supermarkets." I did buy the just-released Ata Rangi Pinot Noir at New World Market, though.

You'll definitely want to detour through Martinborough, then, to stop at a winery or two. It's a small wine region with excellent wineries. Hard to choose just one. I recommend Ata Rangi, Martinborough, Palliser, Schubert, James Murdoch, to name few. Dry River makes outstanding wines, but it's only open by appt. Same with Escarpment, which makes fine Pinot Noir.

Here's a link to a wine trail map for Hawkes Bay.

This 2009 article from Gourmet Traveler Magazine about touring the wine country of Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa (Martinborough) might give you some ideas (though you won't have as much time)

Sounds like a fun Hobbit-touring trip for your lucky kids!

kbob88 Sep 27th, 2013 03:58 PM

Sounds like fun! Check out my TR at North Island is down towards the bottom of the report.

- There's some good thermal stuff between Taupo and Rotorua, so take your time there.
- Hobbiton was really good.
- Waitomo Cave was OK, not fabulous, but worth doing. I've heard the tour where you float down the river (not in a boat) is better. There's a great little hike from the Aranui Cave parking lot; see the TR.
- Unless the kids are jaded 18 year olds, consider the Agrodome sheep show and the luge in Rotorua. They might have a lot of fun.

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