Back at the beginning of the year when I came up with my travel bucket list, I included Australia and New Zealand in one fell swoop on the list. Hah. As if they aren’t two separate, huge countries that could easily take someone a month to conquer! When I started to really look at it, I realized that there were too many things that I wanted to do in Australia and none of them were concentrated in any one area.
Instead I jumped over to New Zealand and did some more digging. From what I can tell, Auckland has a lot to offer culturally (plus it’s without driving distance of my absolute must-see spot), so let’s take a look at what my ideal long weekend would look like!
To begin your three days in Auckland, you should get acquainted with the city itself. From what I’ve read, a climb up Mount Eden to see the views of the city is a must-do, which sounds like the perfect way to learn the lay of the land.
It’s a half-hour walk from Mount Eden to the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, a museum that I’d have to see simply for its extensive collection of New Zealand national and indigenous art. What’s the point of exploring a new country without taking in as much of the culture as possible? Perusing the exhibits should take you an hour or two.
The majority of the day should be spent on Waiheke Island. It’s just a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland, and the vineyards that it boasts are among some of the best in the
LUNCH: Find a vineyard and enjoy some wine with your lunch!
Book one (or two!) guided tours of the famous vineyards and have a leisurely day to help make up for the jet lag before hopping the ferry back over to the city. The final thing to add to your already full day is a ride to the very top of the Sky Tower.
DINNER: Orbit 360° Dining — This upscale restaurant is located at the very top of the tower, and it literally boasts 360° dining because it rotates! Have some good food and take in the sunset in Auckland.
Today is all about getting outside of the city and exploring what the rest of New Zealand has to offer culturally. And of course, I’m talking about both the native culture and the fictional! I looked into a few tour companies’ trips to the Hobbiton Movie Set, and most of them sounded spectacular (a helicopter ride to Middle Earth?!) but a little pricey. Instead I would prefer to go the budget route with New Zealand’s InterCity bus company. This Hobbiton Day Tour from Auckland departs at 8 am and takes about two hours to get to Matamata.
Once you arrive at the set, it takes about two and a half hours to see the Shire, which includes the mill, the Green Dragon, and various Hobbit holes, including Bag End! (You guys, my childhood self would be crying tears of pure joy right now.)
LUNCH: The Green Dragon — Where else would you go to eat than this iconic Hobbiton pub? Would I buy a pint? Yes! Would there be singing and dancing on tables? It’s very likely.
At the end of the tour, InterCity gives you a few options, but I would definitely use the opportunity to get out further into New Zealand and explore a bit of the real culture. Going directly to Rotorua, an area further south and east of Matamata, will get you in at around 4:45 pm, and then it’s a quick turn around to get ready for the Mitai Maori Village!
I can’t imagine traveling all the way to New Zealand without taking advantage of a few unique cultural experiences, and when I looked for a guided tour/experience package (because I admittedly know little to nothing about the Maori) I was captivated by the Mitai Maori Village. The standard experience involves a thorough introduction to the indigenous culture, including an authentic hangi dinner and a concert with the Haka, the Maori war dance. Also glowworms. I’m so intrigued by them, and you can see them during the short bush walk before the end of the day.
Your final day in New Zealand involves first getting back to Auckland and then saying goodbye to such an amazing place and whirlwind experience. The bus ride from Rotorua is supposed to take about four and a half hours, so I’d get on it early and catch any extra zzz’s on the way back to Auckland.
Once you’re back, it’s all about exploring the interesting neighborhoods in Auckland — Vulcan Lane, Queen Street, Parnell.
DINNER: Ebisu — Because New Zealand is comparatively pretty close to Japan, so this one’s gotta be pretty authentic, right?
And finally, the Auckland Bridge Climb will close out your three days in Auckland! This sounds both terrifying and exhilarating, and I can’t imagine how lovely the view must be at night.
Pin-worthy Posts about New Zealand to Fill in the Gaps:
- A Dangerous Business‘s post on The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List
- Lonely Planet‘s post on New Zealand for Hobbit-hunters: how to visit Middle-earth
- The New York Times article on A Quick Island Getaway from Auckland (more info about the vineyards on Waiheke Island!)
Have you been lucky enough to make it over to New Zealand? What other fantastic destinations and restaurants around Auckland should be on my itinerary?