Hello all, I’m back from almost 3 weeks in New Zealand and Australia! I just wanted to share some of my impressions and notes in case others are also looking to do a similar trip like this. We did most my trip on a Holland America cruise, I felt like it gave us the most bang for our buck, for that particular corner of the world. I book ended the cruise with a few days in Auckland and Sydney, the trip was from December 16th to January 5th.
We were on the MS Noordam (14 day cruise), we started in Auckland (spent a few days there before) and went to Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Akoroa (Christchurch), Dunedin, Milford Sound, Hobart (Tasmania), Port Arthur (Tasmania), Burnie (Tasmania), and Sydney (where we stayed a few days after). Quite the adventure but I'm glad I saw that part of the world!
Auckland - Is like a mini Sydney, the city area is ok, it was raining most of the time we were there, the highlights were the Auckland War Memorial Museum (told the story of Maori and European history of NZ) and also the top of the Sky Tower (the weather cleared the day we went).
Tauranga - This is where we had my favorite excursion, to the Hobbiton Movie Set! I really enjoyed the experience there, the sights, sounds, smells all made the place come to life. I highly recommend a stop here if you can. The best part - English ale and mince pies at the Green Dragon inn. We also visited Rotarua, after Hobbiton, it was a two part excursion. I liked it well enough, though it got quite hot when we were there, only if it's sunny (not because of the geothermal stuff lol). It was nice to see the geyser, but my favorite thing was seeing a Kiwi bird up close. They have a little sanctuary for a few kiwis on-site at the Pohutu Geyser, you can't take any photos though, the kiwis were a lot larger than I expected!
Napier - Our least favorite stop, really felt like a slice of old Brighton or Blackpool from 30-20 years ago.
Akoroa (Christchurch) - Our second favorite stop, a beautiful lush bay and the site of the only French colony in NZ. From there we took a tour bus up to Christchurch, which I can say is my favorite city in New Zealand! It's called the "Garden City" for a reason. So great to see their amazing recovery after the earthquakes from a few years ago, the city felt so modern and livable.
Wellington - another great stop, I wanted a few more days here. We went on our own and visited the WETA Studios, they produced all the props for the Lord of the Rings movies, we took the on-site tour they offered which I can highly recommend. From there we went to Te Papa, another fantastic museum of the history of NZ and the best part - it's free! Mt favorite exhibit was on Gallipoli, it was very unique but it's hard to describe, I'd just use Google, it was also designed by Peter Jackson.
Dunedin - this stop was ok, it felt like a bit of Scotland in NZ, but other than that had little of interest for us, plus had very bad rainy weather (just like Scotland) on the day we went.
Milford Sound - the site of the many Fjords of New Zealand, very impressive, almost as impressive as the ones I saw in Norway. Our cruise ship spent the whole day sailing around the area plenty of good photo opportunities.
Hobart - here we took a private guide and really liked Tasmania, we stopped at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, very good opportunity to get up-close and personal with Australian Wildlife. From there we traveled to Mount Field National Park (UNESCO Site), for a bit of hiking in the tall ancient forests of Tasmania which I can't recommend enough! We got back in time to the ship for the New Years festivities, and some very cool fireworks in Hobart.
Port Arthur - Another UNESCO site, the oldest convict prison in Australia, it was good to see that kind of history, easy to do on one's own.