New Zealand With Kids - Day One, Auckland

Thursday, 3 February 2011



Hard to believe we’d not yet travelled to our across-the-ditch neighbour New Zealand… so a school holiday trip was long overdue. As we’re not [yet] skiers, we thought the height of summer might be a great time to take the kids for a two week, two-island tour – most especially because it meant we could travel light.

Here, then, is our rough family guide to 14 days in Kiwi Land with kids, no holds-barred.

After a five o’clock wake up, we arrived at Canberra airport with time to spare – some leisurely breakfast in the Qantas lounge, a lattè and onto the flight to Sydney, arriving 15 minutes late and scant time to get to the international terminal and our Auckland flight.

Tearing through the enormous check-in area, we arrived, much to our horror, well after the flight had closed. A kindly manager opened it again but told us we had limited time to get to the gate. Expedited through customs, we tore to our gate (yes, it was the furthest possible gate from our starting position) in a panic only to breathlessly arrive to a delayed departure. Not happy, Jan.

I’ll be having a word to Air New Zealand about booking our domestic and international legs so close together - it didn't even cross my mind to check the times properly, as the company booked these two legs on my behalf and I presumed they knew what they were doing. Be sure to check the flights times yourself when you book through Air NZ – remember, check-in for international flights closes an hour before departure and it was an unnerving experience watching that time slip away between flights. Not exactly a pleasant start to the trip.

But things got better. A lovely 2.5 hour flight across the Tasman, we had comfortable seats with our own tv screens, filled to brimming with movies, tv and games, which the kids always love.

Immigration and customs was a breeze and once on NZ turf, we jumped straight on a courtesy bus to the car rental place – Britz – about 10 mins north of the airport. The company specializes in motor homes but has a small fleet of slightly dated cars at a really reasonable price and not a lot of hidden extras. Best thing of all is that full insurance cover (with no excess) is only $15 a day. It’s not compulsory for residents to insure their cars in New Zealand, so you will want to take out insurance cover.

We picked up our white Toyota wagon (the car wasn’t exactly the epitome of luxury, but it was adequate and this was a budget holiday) and headed straight to Countdown supermarket for a grocery shop.

We checked in to the Quest Apartments at the top of Queen Street, which runs right down to the harbour. Quest are clean, efficient, no fuss and affordable. We generally prefer to stay in well-known chain serviced apartments, and you’ll later find out why. That night we headed out for a walk through town, right down to the harbour.

Helpful Sites


Auckland

Auckland is just lovely – a very livable city and a cross between Sydney and Brisbane both visually and climate-wise. We were delighted to meander past a cinema, Borders, Starbucks and a Japanese $3 shop, all within metres of each other before reaching the glittering harbour and a gelati bar (hokey pokey, lemon and choc mint) near the old Ferry building. Afterwards we walked back to the apartment to make spaghetti and settle in for the night.


On the 16th floor, our room overlooked the city with a fantastic view of Sky Tower and a glimpse of the outerlying land on the other side of the harbour. It takes about 20 minutes to walk to the harbour from the apartments (downhill) and they are very close to cinemas, restaurants and shopping malls.

A two bedroom apartment is around NZ$299 a night and with the Aus dollar being so strong, this was a good deal.

Shopping

New World and Countdown supermarkets are the way to go for stocking up on groceries, and there are several of these supermarkets located close to the city.

The Metro Centre is very central and has a great cinema and eateries. The super slick pink staircase in the middle of the centre is fun for kids.

Prices are pretty on par with Australia (once the dollar is converted and at the moment you can take roughly 25% off any price you pay) and some items are a little cheaper (eg: cut flowers). Stock up on Aus mags before you leave home because you pay more here.

super cool $3 Japan shop, right on Queen Street
GST is set at 15% and when shopping in stand alone stores, do check if it’s included in your item’s price because sometimes it’s not.

Driving

When turning, remember to give way to the right. Of course, this rule generally applies in Australia, except If you are travelling along a major road and want to turn left into a street. In this case – you have right of way against all other traffic. But not in NZ. If you are driving along a main road and want to turn left, you must give way to any cars wanting to turn right into that same street. If you neglect this, you’ll be an accident waiting to happen, so be careful, especially at crossroads.

NZ drivers are horrendous tailgaters, so again, take your patience with you. This is probably because dual lane carriageways are rare (especially on highways) and the poor buggers need to do so much overtaking to get anywhere with some vitesse.
Major highways are single lane undivided roads, making them very slow and a little hairy to travel on, especially on winding roads. NZ truckies are amazing, polite, don’t speed (probably too busy enjoying the incredible countryside views) and will pull over and let you pass frequently. Ditto caravaners and motorhome drivers, of which there are many.

Despite the high likelihood of being trapped behind traffic, the roads are not overly busy, even during summer hols, and overtaking lanes appear quite often. Be warned, though – they are short.

pink staircase in the Metro Centre on Queen Street

New Zealand with Kids - Day Three, Auckland
New Zealand with Kids - Day Four, Rotorua
New Zealand with Kids - Day Five, Rotorua
New Zealand with Kids - Day Six, Lake Taupo, Palmerston North, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Seven, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Eight, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Nine, Inter Islander ferry, Picton, Blenheim, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Ten, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Eleven, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Twelve, Queenstown
New Zealand with Kids - Day Thirteen, Queenstown
New Zealand with Kids - Day Fourteen, Queenstown, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Wanaka




3 comments:

Megan Blandford said...

Fantastic guide, Tania - can't wait to read the rest!

Anonymous said...

sounds like you had another fab vacation! Did you rest and relax - I hope you rested?? TB

Daniel said...

Great information !
Thank you so much for sharing it. that's amazing!
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