Kauri Wood

The Kauri Tree is one of New Zealands most famous and also one of the worlds largest reaching ages of up to 4,000 years and heights of 150ft and girth of 60ft. It's ancestors date back to the Jurassic or Permian period (230 million years ago). Due to a natural disaster in the past many of these now protected trees fell into swamp land, being preserved until the present day. Radio carbon dating puts some of the trees at up to 50,000 years old. (info from Natural Wood Creations literature)


A traditional Maori meal cooked in an earth oven using rocks heated on a fire. The food is wrapped and placed in the oven for 3 to 4 hours. In the Rotorua area the grounds natural heat can be used to the same effect.

Pohutu Geyser

The largest geyser in the Rotorua area. It erupts 10 to 25 times a day usually between 16-20 metres high but occasionally reaching heights of 30m. This area provides you to see many geysers from very close up, each erupting at different times so you are very unlikely not to see some activity on your visit.

A useful facility provided by the boiling water is cooking pools. The local tribes used these to boil their food as a quick and simple cooking method.

Orakei Korako (Hidden Valley)

Although three quarters of the reserve is now underwater the remaining quarter is still probably the best reserve to see. The following are some of the areas worth checking out:

Diamond Geyser - this erupts constantly and is well worth sitting in front of for a few minutes to see the best eruptions which occur every 10 or so minutes. If the sun is out you'll quickly see why this geyser got its name.

Rainbow and Cascade Terrace - Some of the most impressive terraces to be seen with vivid colouring caused by different algae living in the hot water.

Ruatapu Cave - Well worth the walk to the bottom if only for the view out! At the bottom is a pool reputed to clean some types of jewelry but certainly crystal clear.

Other points of interest are mud pools, other terraces, boiling pools and unique views across a thermal landscape that isn't hindered by hotels and the traps of tourism.


New Zealand has a couple of excellent additions to the regular travel stopover points. Firstly, most motels come with a small but fully fitted kitchen including all utensils as well as kettle and toaster, a jug or carton of milk is usually included. Secondly are an entirely new form of accommodation, the cabin. These are found at camp sites and provide a cross between camping and motels. The main type is a single room with beds, table and chairs. Toilets and showers are shared with the other campers (also en-suite versions are available). The cost is usually only 10-20NZ$ higher than camping making it very affordable and great if you arrive late and want to get going without wet tents.

Tongariro National Park

 This park will be most famous for its recent volcanic eruptions in 1995 when Mt Ruapehu devistated that years ski season. The national park is an amazing place with the large but ragged Mt Ruapehu at one end, Mt Tongariro (still active) at the other and the almost perfectly symmetrical Mt Ngauruhoe in the centre, also still active! The ski area is the largest in NZ with 30 groomed runs and 23 lifts.

The Interislander Ferry

The ferry is an easy way to go between the north and south islands but does come at a cost. Many people arrange to leave their hire car at one port, board the ferry by foot and pick up another at their destination. For daytime crossings a passenger fare is 39-46NZ$ each with a car 140-165NZ$. At night saver fares can be more easily found with passenger fares of 24NZ$ and cars 83NZ$.

The advantage of traveling by day is the scenery you pass by, especially Marlborough Sounds, although there is a way of cheating the system if you're willing to gamble. An earlier and more expensive ferry can be caught if you queue in the standby lane at the ferry port. If there are any spare places you're allowed to board the ferry.

Just remember that to work out the ferry fare add the number of passenger fares to the car fare (eg 23+23+83=129) and not like the Channel or Irish fares where a car price includes 5 passengers.

Shotover Jet

The Shotover Jet boats are custom made for canyon running, being built of heavy gauge marine aluminium. The power is provided by a 'highly modified 502 cubic inch 8.2 litre Chevrolet V8 engine running on LPG'. The 4.75m x 2.44m boats, throwing out 380 litres of water per second are driven soooo close to the canyon walls that you believe that each driver has had 120 hours training before being let loose at 70 kph with passengers. The Shotover Company is the sole operator in the series of canyons it uses so you are ensured not to meet someone else and I'll have to disagree with the Lonely Planet in that it is worth the money.

Kiwi Experience

Kiwi Experience is one of the bus companies providing travel around New Zealand but does pride itself in stopping in far more places than any other. Their guides are chosen because of their character and he buses, although basic, have a good stereo and can shift fast when they need to. Although we only took the one trip with them this time we may use them more in future as they are cheap, book the events for you and even book accommodation. Visit their web site for the latest routes.

Underwater Observatory

The unique environment at Milford Sound has given rise to normally deep sea coral living at very shallow depths. This is caused by the Sound's very high annual rainfall, an average of 5.5m but has reached 9.3m! This high rainfall leaches tannin out of the wood on the hills and combined with the heavy rain creates an opaque freshwater layer onto of the seawater around 5m in depth. This layer of less dense fresh water makes the light levels in the Sound appear to be those of a much deeper environment and combined with the still water here coral thinks it is 60m down where it normally prefers to live.

The floating observatory has a sunken turret to allow you to venture below this tannin filled layer and see the many fish and coral living below.

Edwin Fox

They Edwin Fox was originally built for the East India Company in Bengal, 1853 and is built from teak. At 157ft long and weighing 760tons it carried troops to the Crimean War, convicts to Perth, Australia and immigrants to New Zealand. These days, after having been used to store various things and then been beached it is the last ship in existence which can claim such an important part of Australia's and New Zealand's history and they are trying to slowly restore her.

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