Help a Reader Travel: Auckland

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Welcome to another post of helping a reader travel! As I’ve mentioned before, I have not been to every destination (unfortunately), but do get questions from friends and other blog readers on all sort of travel destination questions. Thus far, we’ve been able to help other readers travel to MauiThe Greek IslandsPacific Coast HighwayArgentina /Buenos AiresCosta RicaCape Cod & The IslandsIcelandGenevaCanadian RockiesRomeIsraelPeru, StockholmChicago, ParisHanoiAustinPuerto RicoBrugesSalzburg, Istanbul, Las Vegas, and India/Golden Triangle.

So this weeks travel destination includes Auckland. I received the following email from reader Ronald:

“I am looking to do an Australia and New Zealand trip for 14 days. We’ll be flying into Auckland and it would be great if readers have thoughts on the best places to visit, as well as ways to get around (bus vs. rental car. vs. flights). In New Zealand, we want to see glaciers, penguins, fjords, and Lord-of-the-Rings-style scenery. We’re more interested in seeing nature than cities or museums, and we want to keep it to a relatively moderate cost (although happy to splurge using hotel points — Marriott, Hyatt, Starwood, Hilton, or Priority Club). Thanks for all the help!”

If you’ve ever been to Auckland and have any recommendations, let’s help out reader Ronald by commenting below. In the next few “Help a Reader Travel” posts, we’ll hit on the South Island of New Zealand as well as different parts of Australia to fully help out Ronald on his 14 day journey.

Also, if you have any upcoming travel where you need some help, feel free to email me at to be a featured “Help a Reader Travel” Monday special. Thanks!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. While not cheap, fly from AKL-SYD on the Emirates A380 in their suites (and take a shower inflight) for about $900-1000 one way.

  2. I was in Auckland two years ago and took a hike & bike tour of the north island. Tongariro National Park was awesome! Lots of hiking options. Also the ‘glow worm cave’ tour/ride was very good. In Auckland I stayed at the Rendezvous Grand Hotel Auckland. Price was medium, room was nice and they had a non-mandatory ‘resort fee’ that got you internet, a drink at the bar, and some laundry. It worked out well.

    Good luck!

  3. I’d go with car hire for getting around. Most of the local companies will include even some sort of ferry ride between the islands on one-way rentals, while Avis for example will let you combine two rentals into one.
    For jetting around, check the local Air New Zealand page for best fares, planning ahead you’re likely te spend less then $100 for AKL-WLG/ZQN/CHC etc (international site will only show up the higher fares) and make sure to get the +bag option even if you’re Star Gold, since they wont let you get that first bag for free due to status (you’ll get a seat upfront usually though, and access to great lounges).
    I spent a couple days there last month and decided to fly to the South Island and rent a car to do the major stuff like Milford and Doubtful Sound – recommend Te Anau as a great starting point for those. Then you can backtrack/go north to Queenstown, have a Fergburger, do some extreme sports if interested in go the Glaciers.
    Hobbiton is an easy day tour from Auckland or Rotorua, doable by tour bus or car (cheaper, site tickets are like $75 rather then $150 or more some companies charge from Auckland).

  4. PS: also, internet access in NZ can be expensive. I’ve used Boingo, that gave me unlimited data with affiliate hotspots for ten bucks. They usually work in the Priority Club hotels.

  5. I agree that tongariro national park is great. Waiheke Island, just off the coast from Auckland, is beautiful and very relaxing. Worth a day trip at least I not an overnight stay. With only 14 days for both Australia and New Zealand, you might consider flying around in New Zealand. It’s a lot faster than driving and with the cost of gas there, nearly us $8 per gallon, it isn’t really anymore expensive. Absolutely go to queenstown and enjoy the surrounding mountain scenery.

  6. Jim Jam has got it right on Waiheke Island. That is a can’t miss, especially if you like wine. There are some fairly priced tours that will take you to two-three vineyards, and don’t forget to try the olive oil!

    As far as hotels, in my experience, Marriott and Hyatt are non-existent (or at least were in June when I was there). Hilton is your best choice, and you can get status fairly easily, I would highly recommend it, free breakfast and internet access helps! We stayed in a Holiday Inn by AKL airport where we also visited the Villa Maria vineyard for a tasting. Really, if you’re wine aficionados, you will have a lot of great ones to try.

    Overall, though, we found Auckland to be one of the pricier places we’ve visited outside of Europe, so be prepared.

  7. I flew PVD -SYD First class for 7 days in Sydney and I then did SYD to AUK coach class on Air New Zealand (buy your ticket via ANZ website as if you were in AU it is cheaper than buying from the USA) and was there for 4 days.

    Auckland Bridge Jump, you walk under Bridge to get to where you bungee (see you tube of it)

    Drove around area north East of Auckland see the beaches and Auckland Centennial Park

    Drove to Rotorua and then headed back to AUK via Hamilton.

    In Rotorua area there are the thermal hot springs and geysers. I visited Wai-O-Tapu which was a self-guided view of the thermal, mud and Geyser. It was cheaper and on my schedule.

    In both places I rented automatic car (left hand stick shift there) as it was on my schedule and there is no transportation form AUK to Rotorua.

    Auk to Milford sound is a 24 hr auto trip each way and there are white outs in the winter on the south island. At end of October it was 55 F during day and there was snow in Christchurch that day.

  8. I went to AUS,NZ last new year. NZ was unbelievable!!

    Our routes:
    Drive great ocean road – Melbourne – Sydney NYE – Train to Blue Mountain – Christchurch to Queenstown driving – Queenstown to Milford driving (great drive) – QT back to Christchurch drive – flew to Auckland – drove to Hobbiton (awesome) – drove to Lake Taupo – visited several thermal parks.

  9. Getting around Auckland you will want a car. Try the Muriwai Gannet Colony northwest of Auckland (less than an hour to drive) for something different and to see a black sand surf beach. Go to Waiheke via ferry (leaves from the ferry terminal at the northern end of downtown, mentioned earlier, for some great wine (small but NZ’s best wine region in my opinion) and open spaces. Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World is an aquarium that also includes a penguin colony.
    Head south from Auckland to Rotorua, it is an active geothermal area where you can see naturally boiling mud and geysers. Almost everyone that has visited New Zealand goes there. There is quite a bit of tacky tourism there as well, so I wouldn’t spend a long time in Rotorua (perhaps one night at most).
    As suggested the Tongariro Crossing is a very worthwhile hike (called tramping in NZ). There are several operators that will drop you at one end of the trail and pick you up at the other. It is quite an moderate day walk. As you are on active volcano, check ahead since there has been some activity earlier this year. Also Mt Ngauruhoe (a much harder hike) is one of Mt Tongariro’s two sisters (the other Mt Ruapehu) is visible and was Mt Doom in LOTR.
    I recommend a short visit to Wellington. A very cool little city at the southern end of the the North Island. Again if wine is your thing (it is one of mine) then head over to Martinborough for in my opinion NZ’s next best wine region (after Waiheke).
    Get to the South Island via the ferry, you get to see scenery on the way, although if it is a rough day can be a little unpleasant. As mentioned above you will need to leave a rental car in Wellington (in their agreements most companies won’t let you take them across the Cook Straight).
    South Island I did a trip similar to what I will describe using just public transport, you could also drive. Picton to Christchurch follows pretty much the east coast. There are seals lounging on the rocks and if you stoke at Kaikoura you can go on a whale watching tour (depending on the time of year). From Christchurch you can take the TransAlpine train across to Greymouth (this is better than the drive) and you will see much more on the train. In Greymouth you can visit the Monteith’s brewery and see small town NZ. I took a bus down to Franz Joseph and did a heli-hike to the glacier. There are three options: you can get to the base of the glacier during the day; spend several days hiking in and out to get to the top and you will want a guide to do this safely; or take a helicopter to the top walk around with a guide for a couple of hours and helicopter out (ie heli-hike) and I went for a voluntary swim in a pond whilst up there. Note that the heli-hike is more expensive and does need to be booked well in advance during peak. From there you could head south to Milford Sound to see amazing scenery. From Milford Sound head over to Queenstown for bungy jumping (it started in its modern form here) and jet boating on the Shotover River if you want something to get your heartgoing. Otherwise you have mountains to explore. You can then either fly out of Queenstown or head to Christchurch to fly out. Note that Christchurch is still getting over a major earthquake that did a lot of damage to the CBD and you may also find that accommodation there is still tough to find.

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