- Australia + Pacific,
- New Zealand
1st time to Aukland, New Zealand and going for about 10 days before visiting Tonga. Will be by myself during the day and with a friend in the evening. Am interested in day trips. I would like to see everything I possibly can in the time frame available.I enjoy mixing with the locals when I am on holiday so any suggestions on places to hang out, day trips, coffee shops/cafes would be welcome
North Island Shopping, North Island, New Zealand
It may not be considered much of a shopping destination, but New Zealand has a growing number of fashion designers and artisans whose work is getting international recognition. Many are based in Auckland's city center.
Karen Walker, whose fashions have been worn by the likes of Sienna Miller, Claire Danes, and Cate Blanchett, is New Zealand's most famous womenswear designer. Her pieces range from classics such as double-breasted trench coats to minidresses with pop art graphics and candy-colored nylon anoraks. Her flagship store (there are two other branches) also has a good selection of funky jewelry and sunglasses (15 O'Connell St.; 64-9-309-6299; www.karenwalker.com). Another chic clothing line is put out by Elisabeth Findlay of Zambesi. Her fashions are up-to-the-minute trendy—lots of bubble hems and cropped jackets for women; skinny pants for men—but the craftsmanship and somber palette keep them elegant. Her main shop in the city's center stocks more outré, deconstructed pieces from her sister Margarita Robertson's label, Nom*D (Vulcan Lane at O'Connell St.; 64-9-303-1701; www.zambesi.co.nz).
Unique jewelry is crafted in New Zealand from native materials like paua (abalone shell) and pounamu (greenstone, or New Zealand jade). High-end pieces incorporating rose, yellow, and white gold, along with semiprecious stones, can be found at Fingers, a jewelers' collective started in the 1970s (2 Kitchener St.; 64-9-373-3974; www.fingers.co.nz). Pauanesia also carries a variety of authentic pounamu pendants and paua jewelry in traditional designs—along with locally printed textiles and other Pacific Island crafts (35 High St.; 64-9-366-7282).
For a gift to bring home, it's hard to beat a terrific Kiwi wine. If you can't get to the wineries in the southern North Island or the South Island, drop by Caro's Wne Merchants, in the neighborhood of Parnell. Oenophile brothers John and Richard Caro stock New Zealand wines from small boutique producers as well as eclectic European labels—so you'll find treasures here that you won't see at the duty-free shops (114 St. Georges Bay Rd.; 64-9-377-9974; www.caros.co.nz; closed Sun.).
See + Do
Wineries, North Island, New Zealand
Among the North Island's wine-growing areas, one of the oldest and best-known is Hawke's Bay, on the east coast about 140 miles from Tongariro (www.hawkesbaynz.com). The balmy climate is ideal for chardonnay and rich red Bordeaux varietals, and more than 30 wineries have cellar doors open for tastings. One of the best is Te Awa Winery, with its award-winning 2004 Syrah and a terrific lunch restaurant that pairs seasonal dishes with house vintages (2375 State Highway 50, Hastings; 64-6-879-7602; www.teawa.com).
The Martinborough region, about an hour's drive north from Wellington at the southeast edge of the island, is all about pinot, and the notable wineries are almost too numerous to mention. Look for Martinborough Vineyard (Princess St., Martinborough; 64-6-306-9955; www.martinborough-vineyard.com www.martinborough-vineyard.com), a leader in establishing the region in the 1980s; Ata Rangi (Puruatanga Rd., Martinborough; 64-6-306-9570; www.atarangi.co.nz); and Palliser Estate (Kitchener St., Martinborough; 64-6-306-9019; www.palliser.co.nz)—all producers of outstanding pinot noirs and chardonnays.
See + Do
Sailing, North Island, New Zealand
It's no coincidence that Auckland is nicknamed "the City of Sails." Hundreds of schooners, sailboats, yachts, and megayachts dot the harbor year-round, and its Westhaven marina, with more than 1,400 dockings, is one of the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. The fervor of Auckland's yachties has only grown since New Zealand's two consecutive America's Cup victories, in 1995 and 2000 (the city hosted the regatta in 2000 and 2003). Sail NZ runs two-hour sails around Auckland Harbour on retired 12-meter America's Cup yachts. those who want to get a real taste of the Cup experience can try match racing along a course similar to the one used in the 2000 and 2003 regattas. Prices start at NZ$135—about US$100 per person (64-9-359-5987; www.sailnz.co.nz).
See + Do
Maori Food Tours with Charles Royal, North Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 7 345 3122
Maori chef Charles Royal is the closest thing New Zealand has to an Alice Waters—a fierce advocate of sustainable local cuisine, indigenous produce, and just plain good cooking. Royal started cooking in the New Zealand Army and now wears all the laurels of a modern-day celebrity chef, with a television show, cookbook, and recipes being served by Air New Zealand. Royal offers various tours on the North Island that introduce visitors to traditional Maori ingredients and techniques (before the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand, indigenous cooking was done mostly without metal or ceramic pots; instead, food was roasted or steamed in pit ovens). Royal picks guests up from their hotel and takes them on a bushwalk to seek out native flora and fauna, such as freshwater eel, kawakawa (bush basil), horopito (Maori pepper), and pikopiko, an edible fern. That might be followed by a hangi, the traditional method of smoking meats and vegetables in an earthen oven. From Treetops Lodge in Rotorua, for instance, Royal and his guests gather herbs while hiking past the cascading Bridal Falls, 800-year-old trees, and lush ferns. The feast that follows includes kawakawa tea, flaxseed soda bread, pikopiko pesto, horopito hummus, kumara (sweet potato), and smoked venison rubbed with local spices and served with wild mushrooms. Sampled in the forest setting, with Royal talking of his ancestors from New Zealand's North Island, this is a truly special culinary and cultural experience.—Lea Lane
See + Do
Auckland Museum, North Island, New Zealand
Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 9 309 0443
This Greek Revival museum, which sits atop the highest point of the sweeping Auckland Domain park, has the world's largest collection of Maori artifacts. Most spectacular is the 85-foot waka—a war canoe carved from a single log, which could carry up to 100 warriors. There's also a handsome assortment of tools and ornaments made from pounamu, or greenstone (a kind of jade particular to New Zealand), and the Whare Taonga, an entire Maori meetinghouse, with intricately carved columns representing different ancestors and deities. For an introduction to the famous haka—the traditional chanting dances that members of the country's rugby team, the All Blacks, still perform before every game—there are performances held three to four times a day in the museum at no extra cost.
See + Do
Hiking, North Island, New Zealand
Both central North Island and Northland have stunning national parks that are perfect for hiking, or tramping, as it's called here.
The World Heritage Tongariro National Park, in the central North Island, is a 300-square-mile preserve that's home to three active volcanoes—Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe (the last had a cameo as Mount Doom in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy)—and a range of walking trails. An easy two-hour stroll through mountain-beech forest brings you to the spectacular 120-foot Taranaki Falls. More challenging is the all-day Tongariro Crossing, a seven-hour journey that crosses a saddle between Tongariro and Ngauruhoe and passes the jade-green Emerald Lakes. Scotty Barrie of Central Peaks Touring and Guides takes small groups to the summits of all three volcanoes and to Taranaki Falls. He also leads tours of locations used in the Lord of the Rings films (64-27-448-0434; www.tongariro-tours.co.nz). He picks up from Taupo, Turangi, Whakapapa, and points in between by arrangement. For more information about the park, see "Parks & Recreation" on the Department of Conservation Web site (www.doc.govt.nz) or phone the Whakapapa Visitor Center (64-7-892-3729).
Waipoua State Forest, a roughly 35-square-mile preserve on the west coast of Northland (about a three-hour drive north of Auckland), is the country's largest remaining kauri forest. Kauri are slow-growing, sometimes enormous trees—the equivalent of California's sequoias. The oldest and largest kauri on earth are in Waipoua, including the 167-foot-high, 45-foot-around Tane Mahuta, or "Lord of the Forest," thought to be 2,000 years old. You can see it, and other extraordinarily ancient and stately specimens, along walking trails that wind through the forest. For a more singular experience, Footprints-Waipoua's local Maori guides take nighttime tours through the forest, pointing out wildlife and sharing Maori legends along the way (State Highway 12, Omapere; 64-9-405-8207; www.footprintswaipoua.com). For more information about forest visits, call the Waipoua Forest Visitor Center (64-9-439-3011).
Engine Room, North Island, New Zealand
Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 9 480 9502
This bustling, casual bistro just across the Harbour Bridge from Auckland's city center became a favorite just after it opened in February 2006. Chef-owners Natalia Schamroth and Carl Koppenhagen have created a menu that's unpretentious and rustic, with dishes like char-grilled steak brushed with butter and served with shoestring fries; pillowy goat-cheese tarts; and orecchiette with pork-and-fennel sausage. There would be howls of despair if they ever removed their churros with chocolate from the dessert menu. The bright, modest-size Art Deco room, inside a former post office, fills fast.
Dinner only. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
See + Do
Volcanic Wonders, North Island, New Zealand
Although roughly a third of the North Island rests upon a geothermal hotbed, known as the Volcanic Plateau, its most active part stretches between the central town of Rotorua in the north and the Tongariro National Park in the south. This territory encompasses more than 100 square miles of volcanic craters, mountains, and lakes; bubbling, steaming, oozing landscapes; and (unfortunate) sulfurous smells. About 17 miles south of Rotorua—smack-dab in the center of the action—is the geothermal preserve of Wai-O-Tapu, or "Sacred Waters" in Maori. Here, you can wander among 4,450 acres of simmering mud pools, surreally crayon-colored lakes and silica terraces. Be sure to see the dazzling gold-edged Champagne Pool and the daily (artificially prompted but still impressive) eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser (State Highway 5, Rotorua; 64-7-366-6333; www.geyserland.co.nz).