New Zealand North Island 32-Day Road Trip Itinerary + 10-Day Cruise

Shakespeare Point Lookout View

In September and October 2018, we did a 32-day road trip around the North Island of New Zealand followed by a 10-day cruise that brought us back to Australia via the South Island of New Zealand. I know, 32 days seems like an awful lot to spend on just the New Zealand North Island, right? Especially considering we visit some of those same places again on the subsequent 10-day cruise home. However, there are actually so many places to see and things to do here that are often overlooked. We could easily have spent longer here, and there are places I want to go back to and spend some more time in!

A quick question

What is your number one must see place, or wish list place to see on the North Island of New Zealand? Let me know in the comments after this article!

Disclaimer:

This article is all our own experience. Our bookings were all paid for by us, and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Our Itinerary

Day 0

I call this day 0 because we haven’t left Australia yet. For us, we opted to spend the night at Sydney Airport so we didn’t have to get up quite so early for our morning flight to Wellington, New Zealand.

Day 1 - Sydney to Wellington to Greytown - 3hrs 10 mins flight + 87km's drive approx, 1hr, 30 mins + stops

  • Sydney to Wellington
    • QF161 Reward flight from Sydney to Wellington New Zealand
    • We arrived in Wellington at 2:40 pm
    • Pick up a rental car
  • Wellington
  • Upper Hutt
    • 35.8km’s from The Hop Garden, approx 31 mins.
    • Pick up some groceries at Pak’n’Save
  • Rimutaka Crossing Lookout
    • 20.7kms from Upper Hutt, approx 20 mins.
    • We planned to stop here but ended up skipping it as it was already dark by the time we passed this lookout, but it is definitely worth a stop if you are here during the day.
    • The winding road through the mountains is pretty hairy, and locals seem to think they have to do it at the speed limit, drive with caution.
  • Featherston
    • 10.5km’s from Rimutaka Crossing, approx 12 mins.
  • Greytown
    • 12.6km’s from Featherston, approx 10 mins.
  • Stay: Greyfriars Motel
    • Booked a Queen Room
    • Received a free upgrade to a Garden Studio (read my review)
    • NZD $135/night

Day 2 - Greytown to Cape Palliser return -  202km's drive, approx 3hr, 50 mins + stops

  • Martinborough
    • 19km’s from Greytown, approx 17 mins.
  • Lake Ferry
    • 35.5km’s from Martinborough, approx 32 mins.
  • Cape Palliser Lighthouse
    • 41.3km’s from Lake Ferry, approx 48 mins.
    • A short walk from the car park then climb 252 steps from the base to the lighthouse.
  • Ngawi
    • 6.6km’s from Cape Palliser Lighthouse, approx 12 mins.
  • Putangirua Pinnacles Reserve
    •  17.4km’s from Ngawi, approx 17 mins.
    • There is a rather confusing walking track from the car park to the Pinnacles, but you’ll find it if you follow the stream!
  • Greytown
    • 83.8km’s from the Putangirua Pinnacles Reserve, approx 1hr, 10 mins.
    • Via Lake Wairarapa, Western Lake Road.
  • Stay: Greyfriars Motel

Day 3 - Greytown (Work/Rest Day)

This was a work and chill in one place day for us (which I really recommend having once in a while) so we just explored some of the local attractions including:

    • Greytown
      • Schoc Chocolates
      • Cobblestones Museum
      • St Lukes Anglican Church and the Historic Eucalyptus Tree
    • Stay: Greyfriars Motel

Day 4 - Greytown to Masterton via Castlepoint - 159km's, approx 2 hrs, 41 mins + stops

  • Carterton
    • 8.2km’s from Greytown, approx 8 mins.
    • Paua World
      • A factory that produces a range of products using the New Zealand Paua shell.
      • The visitor centre has a range of Paua products available as well as information on the shell.
  • Masterton
    • 15.7km’s from Carterton, approx 17 mins.
    • Eat: Entice Cafe and Catering
      • Corner Bruce & Dixon Streets, Masterton
      • Official website
      • We stopped in here for breakfast and to get food to take out to Castlepoint for lunch.
      • They do amazing food here, so good!
      • They are opposite Queen Elizabeth Gardens which makes for a great outlook.
  • Castlepoint
    • 65.7km’s from Masterton, approx 1 hr, 6 mins.
    • Castlepoint Lighthouse
      • You’ll see it as you enter the town of Castlepoint.
      • Head all the way through the town until you find the car park near St Peters By The Sea.
      • From the car park, it’s a short walk, about 120m across the beach and up to the lighthouse.
    • Deliverance Cove Walk
      • 1hr 30 mins approximately at a leisurely pace.
      • The walking track on the opposite side of the car park from the lighthouse takes you around Deliverance Cove for some fantastic panoramic views.
      • You can do the circuit, or return the same way you came.
      • It’s easier going if you head through the forest and come back via the beach.
  • Masterton
    • 63km’s from Castlepoint to Henley Lake Park, approx 54 mins.
    • Henley Lake Park
      • This wasn’t somewhere we originally planned to stop, but it is on the way into Masterton and we had time.
    • Stay: Acorn Estate Motel
      • Studio Room
      • NZD $115/night
    • Eat: Tripoli Bistro
      • 452 Queen St, Masterton
      • A tiny little place in Masterton that does great food!

Day 5 - Masterton to Taihape via the longest place name in the world - 224km's, approx 3 hrs, 30 mins + stops

  • ANZAC Bridge, Kaipororo
    • 34.1km’s from Masterton, approx 22 mins.
    • A historic bridge built by returning WW1 veterans.
    • It isn’t listed in Google Maps, but you can find it here, or by going to these coordinates: 40°42’13.9″S 175°39’31.1″E
    • Access to the bridge is on the Northern side of the new road bridge.
  • Woodville
    • 49km’s from the Kaipororo ANZAC Bridge, approx 34 mins.
  • Herbertville
    • 91km’s from Woodville, approx 1 hr, 25 mins.
    • This little town is the ‘gateway’ to a beautiful beach. There isn’t much else here though.
    • I would consider getting fuel in Herbertville if you are on the low side because there is not a lot until Waipukurau.
  • Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu
    • 23.9km’s from Herbertville, approx 25 mins.
    • Also known as the Longest Place Name in the world.
    • Google Maps doesn’t know where this is, but you can find it here or by going to “748-382 Wimbledon Rd, Porangahau 4292, New Zealand”
  • Porangahau
    • 5.3km’s from the long place name, approx 6 mins.
    • There is a fuel at a mechanic here (Porangahau Garage) and it only operates while the store is open, so don’t get caught out like we almost did!
  • Waipukurau
    • 45km’s from Porangahau, approx 45 mins.
    • Lots of fuel here.
  •  Norsewood
    • 34.4km’s from Waipukurau, approx 25 mins.
    • We didn’t stop here, but keep an eye out for the Viking signs.
  • Dannevirke
    • 19.4km’s from Norsewood, approx 15 mins.
    • The viking theme continues through this town.
    • We didn’t stop here either.
  • Woodville (again)
    • 28km’s from Dannevirke, approx 20 mins.
    • This just happens to be the quickest way to Palmerston North after a long detour via the longest place name.
  • Ashhurst
    • 16.4km’s from Woodville, approx 18 mins.
    • We took Saddle Road and got to see Te Apiti Wind Farm.
    • State Highway 3, Napier Road (which follows the river and doesn’t involve climbing mountains), is the preferred route, but it was closed when we came through.
    • The wind farm route is pretty cool though as you are often as high as the blades on some of the big wind turbines.
  • Palmerston North
    • 14.2km’s from Ashhurst, approx 15 mins.
    • The Square
      • Right at the heard of Palmerston North.
      • Lovely gardens as well as the war memorial and Hopwood Clock Tower.
    • Victoria Esplanade Gardens
      • A must see in Palmerston North during cherry blossom season.
      • There is a miniature railway here. 
      • We were here while the cherry blossoms were in flower and it was spectacular!
  • Apiti
    • 63.1km’s from the Victoria Esplanade Gardens, approx 60 mins.
    • We didn’t stop here, but we used it as a waypoint on the GPS to follow the Manawatu scenic route to Taihape.
  • Mangaweka
    • 40km’s from Apiti, approx 45 mins.
    • The Manawatu Scenic Route is pretty spectacular, if you can see it. It got dark just as we started onto it though so we missed a lot of it.
    • Definitely drive this route during daylight for some beautiful vistas,
  • Taihape
    • 19.6km’s from Mangaweka, approx 15 mins.
    • If you arrive after 7pm like we did, there isn’t a lot open for dinner. There is however, a new McDonalds that does stay open late.
    • Stay: Safari Motel
      • Kitchen Studio Unit
      • NZD $126/night

Day 6 - Taihape to Napier via Gentle Annie - 247km's, approx 5 hrs, 11 mins + stops (excluding backtracking to Mangaweka)

  • Mangaweka Camping Grounds
    • 21km’s from Taihape, approx 16 mins.
    • From the campground you get a great view of the river, cliffs and bridge.
    • We backtracked here so we could get a proper look at some of what we missed the night before.
  • Taihape
    • The Giant Gumboot
      • Tying in with annual gumboot day in Taihape, you can’t miss the giant gumboot.
      • It’s on the way out of the northern side of the town.
  • Springvale Suspension Bridge
    • 41.5km’s from Taihape, approx 50 mins.
    • Follow the Gentle Annie route.
    • Historic suspension bridge over the Rangitikei River at Erehwon (Nowhere).
  • Hastings
    • 103km’s from Springvale Suspension Bridge, approx 2 hts. 
    • Rush Munro’s Ice Creamery
      • Famous for making great ice cream using local produce.
    • Civic Square
      • The war memorial is located here.
      • There is also a number of traditional Maori sculptures around the park which are quite interesting.
  • Havelock North
    • Te Mata Peak
      • 13km’s from Hastings, approx 22 mins.
      • You can drive all the way to the peak, or park at various points and walk. We drove.
      • The road to the peak is narrow, often only one lane wide with long drops off the edge, so drive with care.
    • Maraetotara Falls
      • 20.3km’s from Te Mata Peak, approx 26 mins.
      • Beautiful twin falls.
      • A short walk from the car park on a dirt track.
      • We were delayed on the way here as first responders after almost being run into by a car that lost control around a bend and ran off the road.
  • Ocean Beach
    • 8.5 km’s from Maraetotara Falls, approx 10 mins.
  • Napier
    • 37.1km’s from Ocean Beach, approx 35 mins.
    • Stay: The Nautilus
      • Executive Studio with Spa
      • NZD $249/night
    • Eat: Room service from Burton’s Restaurant
      • Not what we originally planned, but we were pretty shaken up after the car accident earlier and so were eager to chill and not go anywhere.
      • The full menu is not available every night, but the simpler options are still very good.

Day 7 - Napier (Work/Rest Day)

We spent the first  day in Napier working and enjoying our room and view over the ocean.

  • Napier
    • Stay: The Nautilus
      • Executive Studio with Spa
      • NZD $249/night
    • Eat: Indigo Indian Restaurant
      • 24A Hastings St, Napier
      • These guys do fantastic Indian cuisine, including great vegan options. Definitely try some of the options that are a little bit different from the everyday curries.

Day 8 - Napier (Work/Rest Day)

Day 8 was a work and rest day for us, but we squeezed in some awesome sights in the morning as well!

  • Napier
    • Sunrise walk along the Esplanade to Tom Parker Foountain and back to our hotel via the CBD.
    • Eat: Breakfast at Burton’s Restaurant.
      • Choose from the ala carte menu, or the buffet.
    • Shopping
      • We did a little bit of browsing around town after lunch.
    • Stay: The Nautilus
      • Executive Studio with Spa
      • NZD $249/night
    • Eat: Room service from Burton’s Restaurant
      • We didn’t really feel like going out again, and the room service food is pretty good!

Day 9 - Napier (Work/Rest Day)

Day 9 was also a work and rest day for us, but we did decide to head out after lunch and check out Cape Kidnappers, sort of. We were originally going to visit it on the way to Napier, but as we were delayed with the car accident we had to skip it.

  • Napier
    • Eat: The Black Shed
      • 36 Awatoto Rd, Meeanee
      • We had a tasty afternoon tea from the cafe here and did some shopping for local produce.
  • Havelock North
    • Arataki Honey
      • 21.8km’s from Napier, approx 21 mins.
      • Try out all of the different kinds of honey produced by the Arataki Honey company, including some uniquely New Zealand varieties and the world famous Manuka Honey.
  • Te Awanga
    • 15.4km’s from Arataki Honey, approx 16 mins.
    • You go through this little town on the way to Clifton. There isn’t much here, but there are some great views out to Cape Kidnappers and Napier from the beach here.
  • Clifton
    • 2.7km’s from Te Awanga, approx 5 mins.
    • This is as close to Cape Kidnappers as you can get by car. It was too late for us to do the 17.5km walk the rest of the way.
  • Napier
    • 22.7km’s from Clifton, approx 25 mins.
    • Stay: The Nautilus
      • Executive Studio with Spa
      • NZD $249/night
    • Eat: Indigo Indian Restaurant
      • 24A Hastings St, Napier
      • We enjoyed our dinner here so much a few nights before so we decided to come back!
    • Tom Parker Fountain
      • The fountain gets lit up at night and worth seeing at least once as the colours and patterns change.

Day 10 - Napier to Gisborne - 306km's, approx 5 hrs, 14 mins + stops

  • Napier
  • Tangoio Beach
    • 25.8km’s from Napier, approx 27 mins.
    • Put in 4 Beach Rd, Tangoio in Google Maps.
  • Waipatiki Beach
    • 13.6km’s from Tangoio Beach, approx 20 mins.
  • Lake Tutira
    • 22.4km’s from Waipatiki Beach, approx 32 mins.
  • Shine Falls
    • 20km’s from Lake Tutira, approx 26 mins.
    • 653 Heay’s Access Rd, Putorino.
    • The last 6km’s or so of the access road is gravel.
    • The walk into the falls is about 45 minutes each way and does pass through private land. There are also some cliff drops so watch out for children!
  • Wairoa
    • 76.5km’s from Shine Falls, approx 1 hr, 12 mins.
    • It’s worth a drive out to the river mouth and Historic Reserve.
    • The drive out to the Historic Reserve is about 4km’s or 7 mins.
  • Mahia
    • 56.1km’s from Wairoa, approx 52 mins.
  • Gisborne
    • 87.3km’s from Mahia, approx 1 hr, 18 mins.
    • Stay: Airbnb – Private Cosy Caravan
      • AUD $69.72/night
    • Eat: Burger Wisconsin
      • 26 Gladstone Rd
      • Really enjoyed their vegetarian burgers and chips!

Day 11 - Gisborne to Hicks Bay - 235km's, approx 3 hrs, 53 mins + stops

  • Gisborne
    • Titirangi Domain
    • Eat: Yoko Sushi
      • 87 Grey St
      • We got takeaway lunch, and it also ended up being dinner.
      • They make much more than just sushi, and it is delicious.
  • Pouawa
    • 20.4km’s from Gisborne, approx 19 mins.
    • Te Tapuwae o Rongokaka Marine Reserve – apparently the snorkelling here is good, but we didn’t have the time.
  • Tolaga Bay
    • 33.9km’s from Pouawa, approx 26 mins.
    • Tolaga Bay Wharf
      • Built in the 1920’s and reaching 600m in length, the Tolaga Bay Wharf is the longest on the North Island and the second longest in New Zealand.
    • Kaiaua Bay
      • 13.5km’s from Tolaga Bay, approx 18 mins.
      • It’s one way in and out of Kaiaua Bay and unless you surf, there is not a lot here. We love to see as much of the coast as possible though, which is what brought us in here.
  • Anaura Bay
    • 23.2km’s from Kaiuaua Bay, approx 26 mins.
    • This beautiful bay is one of the places that Captain Cook landed in New Zealand.
  • Tokomaru Bay
    • 28.9km’s from Anaura Bay, approx 28 mins.
    • Another old town with a big old wharf along this rugged coastline.
    • There are a lot of old shipping buildings in the wharf district. Much of it is inaccessible to the public but quite interesting to see how much industry used to be here.
  • Waipiro Bay
    • 17.3km’s from Tokomaru Bay, approx 19 mins.
    • Off the main road, Waipiro Bay used to be the largest town in the region, until the road bypassed it.
  • Lottin Point
    • 97km’s from Waipiro Bay, approx 1 hr, 34 mins.
    • Stay: Lottin Point Motel
      • AUD $69.72/night
      • Don’t follow the Google Maps all the way to the motel, it isn’t in the right place. Instead, get directions to 365 Lottin Point Rd, Lottin Point.
    • Eat: Remaining sushi from lunch
      • The only dining option in Lottin Point is the restaurant at Lottin Point Motel, so you will need to ensure you bring your own food, or be here during restaurant hours if you need food!

Day 12 - Hicks Bay to Opotiki - 234km's, approx 4 hrs, 28 mins + stops

  • Lottin Point
    • We left the Lottin Point Motel at 6:15 am to see the bay. We left Lottin Point itself at 7:00 am.
  • East Cape Lighthouse
    • 54.2km’s from Lottin Point, approx 1 hr, 22 mins.
    • This is the most easterly point on mainland New Zealand.
    • There is a climb of about 700 steps to the top.
    • If you are up bright and early, you can catch the first sunrise in New Zealand here. We were going to, but we ended up sleeping in until 6 and missed it!
  • Te Araroa
    • 20.2km’s from Pouawa, approx 28 mins.
    • Te Waha O Rerekohu – The Oldest Pohutukawa Tree
      • Moana Parade, Te Araroa
      • 21m high by 40m wide!
      • It is located beside the school of the same name.
  • Hicks Bay
    • 12km’s from Te Araroa, approx 12 mins.
  • Oruaiti Beach
    • 40.3km’s from Hicks Bay, approx 37 mins.
  • Waihua Bay
    • 3.8km’s from Oruaiti Beach, approx 3 mins.
  • Te Kaha
    • 35.9km’s from Waihua Bay, approx 34 mins.
  • Opotiki
    • 66.4km’s from Te Kaha, approx 57 mins.
    • Stay: Ranui Motel
      • Studio Room
      • NZD $120/night
    • Eat: Kashish Indian Cuisine
      • This is a really unique restaurant located in the old Masonic Lodge. It genuinely is like a maze inside, especially if you enter via the signed entrance for Kashish.
      • Make sure to enter via the pub entrance instead!

Day 13 - Opotiki to Tauranga - 174km's, approx 2 hrs, 53 mins + stops

  • Opotiki
    • We took the opportunity to drive around the town.
    • There isn’t a lot to see outside of the historic town centre. The old Masonic Lodge that houses Kashish Indian Cuisine is definitely one of the most interesting places here.
  • Ohiwa Beach
    • 13km’s from Opotiki, approx 13 mins.
    • There isn’t a lot at this beach, but it does have great views out to White Island!
  • Ohope Beach
    • 28km’s from Ohiwa Beach, approx 24 mins.
    • The Eastern end of this little town is partially is situated on a peninsula with a beautiful ocean beach on the North and wetlands on the South.
    • The beach and town continues to the West, almost all the way to Whakatane.
  • Kohi Point Lookout
    • 8km’s from Ohope Beach, approx 12 mins.
    • We spent a lot more time in Ohope Beach than anticipated, so we didn’t go all the way in to the lookout.
    • There is, however, another lookout on the road to Kohi Point.
    • It’s just after you turn off for Kohi Point Lookout and affords a beautiful vista across the Bay of Plenty.
  • Whakatane
    • 7.2km’s from Kohi Point, approx 11 mins.
    • Eat: L’Epicerie
      • 73 The Strand
      • L’Epicerie is a French bakery and they do some fantastic fare. It’s well worth stopping in for a bite to eat!
    • Whakatane Heads
      • We took our lunch out to Whakatane Heads to eat. It’s a beautiful location.
      • Whakatane Heads is also the historic landing place of both Maori and European explorers.
    • Muriwai’s Cave
  • Rotorua
    • 89km’s from Whakatane, approx 1 hr, 20 mins.
    • You will pass a number of gorgeous lakes on the way, including: Lake Rotoma, Lake Rotoehu, and Lake Rotoiti. We didn’t stop at any due to time constraints, but you definitely may wish to.
    • Rotorua Markets
      • Check what’s on during your visit. There are all kinds of markets here throughout the year.
    • Lakeland Queen Lunch Cruise
      • NZD $55 pp
      • The Lakeland Queen is a heritage-styled stern wheel paddle-driven vessel, the only one of it’s kind in New Zealand.
      • The cruise includes a buffet lunch and leisurely cruise around the lake.
      • If you have never seen the lake surrounds before, it is a great way to experience it.
    • Kuirau Park
      • Free entry.
      • Often overlooked in favour of well-known geothermal parks like Wai-O-Tapu, Kuirau Park is located in the centre of Rotorua and is a great place to experience geothermal activity without the price tag.
      • Put your feet in a surprisingly hot geothermal pool, something you can’t do at the paid geothermal parks.
      • Explore boiling mud pools and steaming ponds.
  • Hamurana Springs Nature Reserve
    • 17km’s from Rotorua, approx 19 mins.
    • There is an entry fee to this reserve which is known for it’s crystal clear waters.
    • Unless you plan on spending a lot of time here though, the fee is quite steep in our opinion.
    • Fortunately, you can see the beautifully clear waters from the bridge outside, which is what we did.
  • Okerere Falls
    • 10.3km’s from Hamurana Springs, approx 10 mins.
    • The site of New Zealand’s first hydro-electric power station.
    • There is a short walk in to the first viewing point from the car park.
  • Te Puke
    • 36.2km’s from Okerere Falls, approx 26 mins.
      • The home of the big kiwifruit and a major kiwifruit growing region.
  • Tauranga
    • 25.6km’s from Te Puke, approx 24 mins.
    • Stay: Quest on Durham
      • One bedroom apartment
      • NZD $210/night

Day 14 - Tauranga (Work/Rest Day)

Day 14 was almost entirely a work and rest day. So we got up early to watch the sunrise from our balcony at Quest on Durham. Otherwise, we just went out for a walk along the foreshore to get lunch.

  • Tauranga
    • Watch the sunrise
    • Walk along the city foreshore
    • Eat: The Cottage Cafe
      • 20 Second Ave, Tauranga
    • Stay: Quest on Durham
      • One bedroom apartment
      • NZD $210/night

Day 15 - Tauranga (Work/Rest Day)

Day 15 was also almost entirely a work and rest day. So we got up early to watch the sunrise from our balcony at Quest on Durham. Otherwise, we went out for a drive at lunchtime. We went out to Mount Maunganui where we got lunch at the Bayfair shopping centre. We made our way down Papamoa Beach, and then across to Bethlehem to check out a health food store before making our way back to Quest on Durham to get some work done for the rest of the afternoon.

Day 16 - Tauranga to Taupo - 162km's, approx 2 hrs, 33 mins + stops

  • Tauranga
    • Sunrise foreshore walk
      • We had some stunning sunrises while we were in Tauranga, and this was one of the best!
    • Eat: Bethlehem Hot Bake (aka Bakers of Bethlehem)
      • 6.9km’s from Quest on Durham, approx 7 mins.
      • 225 State Highway 2,  Bethlehem, Tauranga
      • Right next to Bethlehem Health & Tea Shop and recommended to us by them.
      • Drop in here for breakfast on your way through.
      • They make amazing bakery food, make sure you get some of their doughnuts for later, they aren’t round like a normal doughnut and they are unbelievably amazing!!! It’s a touch call, but possibly the best doughnut’s we’ve ever tasted, and we’ve tasted a lot of doughnuts all over the world…
  • Rotorua
    • 63.4km’s from Bethlehem, approx 1 hr.
    • Government Gardens
      • Rotorua’s iconic gardens.
    • Sulphur Point
      • A small sample of what the geothermal activity around Rotorua is like (and it’s free).
    • Hatupatu Dr and Scenic Point
    • Redwoods Tree Walk
      • We didn’t think we had time to do the actual tree walk, but the forest is beautiful and worth visiting regardless. It turns out we would have had time to do the shorter walk.
  • NZ RiverJet Thermal Safari
    • 48.4km’s from Rotorua, approx 37 mins.
    • 1 Tutukau Rd, Mihi
    • Race up the Waikato River, through Tutukau Gorge to Orakei Korako geothermal park
    • A very unique experience.
  • Taupo
    • 33.9km’s from NZ RiverJet, approx 24 mins.
    • Taupo McDonalds
      • 48 Roberts St, Taupo
      • Voted the world’s coolest McDonalds.
      • Features a decommissioned DC3 Plane as part of the restaurant.
    • Eat: Kefi
      • 47 Horomatangi St, Taupo
      • Delicious, healthy food and sweet treats.
    • Stay: Tiny House – Airbnb
      • AUD $85.13 / night
      • Paid for with an Airbnb super host bonus voucher.

Day 17 - Taupo (Work/Rest Day)

Day 17 for us was mostly a chill out and catch up on some work day while enjoying the tiny house we stayed in. We did, however, walk to the nearby Waipahihi Botanic Gardens which is definitely worth checking out.

  • Taupo
    • Waipahihi Botanic Gardens
    • Free entry.
  • Stay: Tiny House – Airbnb
    • AUD $85.13 / night
    • Partly paid for with an Airbnb super host bonus voucher.
  • Eat: Waterside Restaurant and Bar
    • 3 Tongariro St, Taupo
    • These guys do great food if you are looking for a nice night out. 

Day 18 - Taupo to National Park - 175km's, approx 2 hrs, 16 mins + stops

  • Taupo
    • Huka Falls Jet Boat
      • NZD $129.00 / person
      • We found the best price on Viator and booked there.
    • Eat: Kefi @ The Hub
      • 415 Huka Falls Rd, Wairakei Park
      • Like their in town counterpart you can get a great, healthy meal here.
      • There is also an old helicopter here you can check out.
    • Aratiatia Rapids
      • Parking available near the Rapids Road Bridge.
      • A short walk in to the lower rapids lookout.
      • Only visible when the gates are open at set times each day.
      • Check the opening times here.
    • Huka Falls
      • A short walk across the river and out to the falls from the carpark.
      • You can watch the Huka Falls Jet Boat from here.
  • Waiouru
    • 112km’s from Taupo, approx 1 hr 29 mins.
  • Ohakune
    • 27.4km’s from Waiouru, approx 22 mins.
  • National Park
    • 35.5km’s from Ohakune, approx 26 mins.
    • Stay: The Park Hotel Ruapehu
      • NZD $145 / night
      • Queen Room
    • Eat: 
      • The room has very little cooking facilities and is designed to encourage you to dine at the hotel restaurant. We were planning on eating food we had with us though, and fortunately there is a kettle which we used to boil water for instant noodles we had with us.

Day 19 - National Park

  • National Park
  • Turoa, Mt Ruapehu
    • 54km’s from National Park, approx 45 mins.
    • Sightseeing Passes – $35.00 / person
  • Whakapa, Mt Ruapehu
    • 75km’s from Turoa, approx 1 hr 10 mins.
    • Sightseeing Passes – $25.00 / person
      • We spent too long at Turoa and didn’t have enough time to go up the gondola here too.
      • Mt Ruapehu Website
  • National Park

Day 20 - National Park to New Plymouth - 231km's, approx 3 hrs, 15 mins + stops ​

  • National Park
  • Taumarunui
    • 42.1km’s from National Park, approx 31 mins.
  • Whangamomona
    • 6km’s from Taumaranui, approx 5 mins.
  • Stratford
    • 61.7km’s from Whangamomona, approx 52 mins.
    • Eat: The Wall Cafe & Restaurant
      • 200 Broaway, Stratford
    • Glockenspiel Clock Tower
      • Performs daily at 10am, 1pm, 3pm & 7pm.
  • New Plymouth
    • 39.8km’s from Stratford, approx 33 mins.
    • The Wind Wand
    • New Plymouth Coastal Walkway
    • Len Lye Centre
    • Paritutu Rock
    • Mt Moturoa Domain
    • Stay: The Devon Hotel
      • NZD $170 / night
      • Deluxe King Studio
    • Eat: Rig 66, New Plymouth
      • 280 Devon St E

Day 21 - New Plymouth (Work/Rest Day)

  • New Plymouth
  • Waitara
    • 15.1km’s from New Plymouth, approx 14 mins.
    • Beach and Marine Park
    • Waitara Floral Studio and Gifts.
      • A lovely little gift shop selling lots of local produce from the Taranaki region.
  • Bell Block Beach
    • 11km’s from Waitara, approx 13 mins.
  • North Egmont Visitor Centre, Mt Taranaki
    • 30km’s from Bell Block, approx 30 mins.
    • Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited.
  • New Plymouth
    • Eat: Koby’s Kitchen
      • 221 Devon St E, New Plymouth
      • Absolutely amazing dim sims, dumplings and spring rolls.
    • Eat: Egmont St Deli
      • 43 Egmont St, New Plymouth
      • Delicious cafe style food.
    • Stay: The Devon Hotel
      • NZD $170 / night
      • Deluxe King Studio

Day 22 - New Plymouth (Work/Rest Day)

  • New Plymouth
    • Eat: Giles Chocolatier
      • 169 St Aubyn Street,
        New Plymouth
      • Absolutely amazing local chocolatier.
      • Definitely try a hot chocolate.
      • If you like blue cheese, make sure to try the blue cheese truffles. MIND BLOWING!
    • Eat: The Good Home
      • 21 Ariki St, New Plymouth
      • We got dinner here. Really great food.
  • Stay: The Devon Hotel
    • NZD $170 / night
    • Deluxe King Studio

Day 23 - New Plymouth to Waitomo - 220km's, approx 3 hrs, 27 mins + stops

  • New Plymouth
    • Pukekura Park
    • Te Rewarewa Bridge
    • Bell Block Beach
    • Waitara Marine Park
  • Urenui
    • 21.3km’s from Waitara, approx 21 mins.
  • White Cliffs
    • 17.5km’s from Urenui, approx 20 mins.
  • Tongaporutu
    • 43.4km’s from White Cliffs, approx 40 mins.
    • The Three Sisters
    • Elephant Rock
  • Awakino Heads
    • 20.4km’s from Tongaporutu, approx 17 mins.
  • Piopio
    • 52km’s from Awakino Heads, approx 42 mins.
  • Waitanguru Falls
    • 20km’s from Piopio, approx 26 mins.
    • There is a short walk, about 200 metres down steps and a steep slope.
    • Allow about 10 minutes each way.
  • Waitomo
    • 22km’s from Waitanguru Falls, approx 30 mins.
    • Stay: Waitomo Big Bird Bed & Breakfast
      • NZD $110 / night
      • Queen Ensuite Homestead Room.
      • Delicious, home made breakfast included.
      • If you arrive earlier, there is a miniature animal tour too.

Day 24 - Waitomo to Hamilton - 194km's, approx 3 hrs, 57 mins + stops

  • Waitomo
    • Waitomo Caves
      • Glow Worm Cave Tour
      • NZD $45.90 / person
      • Every half hour during opening hours.
  • Mangapohue Natural Bridge
    • 24.4km’s from Waitomo, approx 32 mins.
    • 700m loop walk, approx 45 minutes.
  • Marokopa Falls
    • 5km’s from Mangapohue Natural Bridge, approx 7 mins.
  • Kawhia Hot Water Beach
    • 61.8km’s from Marokopa Falls, approx 1 hour, 20 mins.
    • There is apparently a hot water spring here somewhere. We couldn’t find it though!
    • The beach is still quite pretty nevertheless with some massive sand dunes.
  • Bridal Veil Falls
    • 36km’s from Kawhia Hot Water Beach, approx 60 mins.
    • 30-40 minute walk each way to the bottom and back.
  • Raglan
    • 20km’s from Bridal Veil Falls, approx 21 mins.
    • We were treated to gorgeous sunset here, and there are some amazing white sandy beaches.
  • Hamilton
    • 46.4km’s from Raglan, approx 41 mins.

Day 25 - Hamilton to Pukehina Beach - 178km's, approx 2 hrs, 34 mins + stops

  • Hamilton
  • Tirau
    • 50.9km’s from Hamilton, approx 37 mins.
    • Big Tin Sheep and Ram
    • Big Tin Dog
    • Big tin structures everywhere!
  • Putaruru Blue Spring
    • 12.5km’s from Tirau, approx 13 mins.
    • Stunning clear spring waters!
    • When you leave here, head back the way you came. Google Maps thinks the other way goes through and is much shorter, but it turns into a gated private road.
  • Mamaku Blueberries
    • 33.8km’s from Putaruru Blue Spring, approx 27 mins.
    • We actually didn’t stop here. We decided to keep moving and get to our destination a little earlier, plus it turns out, we went here way back in 2013 and forgot about it!!
    • They do delicious blueberry ice cream 🙂
  • Pukehina Beach
    • 74.4km’s from Mamaku Blueberries, approx 1 hour.
    • Stay: Kingfisher Beach House
      • 18 Pukehina Parade, Pukehina Beach
      • NZD $416.67 / night

Day 26 - Pukehina Beach (Rest Day)

  • Pukehina Beach
    • Chill out and enjoy the beach!

Day 27 - Pukehina Beach (Rest Day)

  • Pukehina Beach
    • Chill out some more.

Day 28 - Pukehina Beach to Waihi Beach - 111km's, approx 1 hr, 36 mins + stops

  • Pukehina Beach
    • Pukehina Beach SLSC
    • Dotterel Point Reserve
  • Bledisloe Park
    • 25km’s from Pukehina Beach, approx 24 mins.
    • Opposite side of the Waihi Estuary from Pukehina.
  • Maketu
    • 3.2km’s from Bledisloe Park, approx 5 mins.
    • Views across Maketu Estuary.
  • Te Puke
    • 14.5km’s from Maketu, approx 14 mins.
    • We just went via Te Puke to avoid the toll road.
  • Tauranga
    • Motiti Reserve
      • 14km’s from Te Puke, approx 15 mins.
      • The South-Eastern end of Papamoa Beach.
      • From here, we followed the beach North West.
    • Eat: Esquires Coffee @ Bayfair
      • Maunganui Rd, Mt Maunganui.
      • Really enjoyed the food we had here earlier in our trip, and it’s convenient.
  • Katikati
    • 44.1km’s from Bayfair, approx 40 mins.
    • Long Beach
  • Bowentown
    • 21.4km’s from Katikati, approx 19 mins.
    • A beautiful little town situated on a peninsula with ocean beach on one side and protected bay on the other.
  • Waihi Beach
    • 8km’s from Bowentown, approx 10 mins.
    • Stay: Beachaven Top 10 Holiday Park
      • 15 Beach Rd, Waihi Beach.
      • Leisure Lodge Studio
      • NZD $110 / night
      • Note, there are two Top 10 Holidays Park’s in Waihi Beach.
    • Eat: Flat White Cafe
      • 21 Shaw Rd, Waihi Beach
      • Yum yum!

Day 29 - Waihi Beach to Hotwater Beach - 149km's, approx 2 hrs, 43 mins + stops

  • Waihi Beach
  • Whiritoa
    • 27.7km’s from Waihi Beach, approx 27 mins.
  • Whangamata
    • 13.1km’s from Whiritoa, approx 14 mins.
  • Onemana
    • 9.3km’s from Whangamata, approx 11 mins.
  • Opoutere
    • 11km’s from Onemana, approx 11 mins.
  • Pauanui
    • 27.8km’s from Opoutere, approx 30 mins.
  • Tairua
    • 28.2km’s from Katikati, approx 31 mins.
    • Located on the opposite side of the Tairua River mouth from Pauanui but quite a decent distance by car.
    • Mount Paku
      • There is a summit walk you can do. We ended up skipping it.
  • Te Karo Bay
    • 8km’s from Tairua, approx 12 mins.
  • Hotwater Beach
    • 20.6km’s from Te Karo Bay, approx 22 mins.
    • Stay: Hotwater Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
      • 790 Hot Water Beach Rd, Hot Water Beach
      • Deluxe Cabin
      • AUD $93.75 / night
      • We found the best price on Agoda and booked through them.

Day 30 - Hotwater Beach

  • Hotwater Beach
  • Ferry Landing
    • 17.5km’s from Hot Water Beach Beach, approx 18 mins.
    • Shakespeare Cliff Lookout
      • 2.3km’s from Ferry Landing, approx 5 mins.
  • Cooks Beach
    • 1.9km’s from Shakespeare Cliff, approx 4 mins.
  • Hot Water Beach
    • 15km’s from Cooks, approx 15 mins.
    • Make sure to check the low tide times before you go. The Top 10 Holiday Park has them listed on a whiteboard each day.
    • Also, hire a shovel if you don’t have one!
  • Hahei
    • 8km’s from Hot Water Beach, approx 9 mins.
    • Cathedral Cove
      • 2.5km walk from the carpark to the cove.
      • Allow 1.5 hours return plus time there.
      • You have to park in Hahei Village during peak months.
      • There is a shuttle to the start of the Cathedral Cove walk for $5 per person during peak months.
      • You can also walk along Hahei Beach, but it adds 40 minutes to the return walk.
  • Hotwater Beach
    • 8km’s from Hahei, approx 9 mins.
    • Stay: Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
      • 790 Hot Water Beach Rd, Hot Water Beach
      • Deluxe Cabin
      • AUD $93.75 / night
      • We found the best price on Agoda and booked through them.

Day 31 - Hotwater Beach to Coromandel via Opito Bay - 121 km's, approx 2 hrs 40 mins + stops.

  • Hotwater Beach
  • Opito Bay
    • 57km’s from Hot Water Beach Beach, approx 1 hr, 5 mins.
    • Such a beautiful beach off the beaten path.
  • Matapaua Bay
    • 2.7km’s from Opito Bay, approx 10 mins.
    • Narrow, winding dirt road.
  • Rings Beach
    • 16.4km’s from Matapaua Bay, approx 30 mins.
  • Matarangi
    • Just a couple of minutes drive from Rings Beach if the coast road is open, otherwise it’s an extra few km’s around.
  • Whangapoua
    • 18.5km’s from Matarangi, approx 25 mins.
  • Coromandel
    • 20km’s from Whangapoua, approx 925mins.
    • Stay: Indigo Bush Studios
      • 19 Flays Rd, Coromandel
      • Lower Studio
      • AUD $145.13 / night
      • Redeemed a $30 Qantas Hotels voucher.

Day 32 - Coromandel - 98.6km's, approx 4 hrs + stops.

Day 32 was planned as a work and rest day in addition to visiting Driving Creek Railway, however, our accommodation was meant to include wifi. Unfortunately, it didn’t, so we definitely rested but we also decided to go for a drive! 

  • Coromandel
  • Driving Creek Railway
    • 900m’s from Indigo Bush Studio’s, approx 2 mins.
  • Kennedy Bay
    • 11.1km’s from Driving Creek Railway, approx 30 mins.
    • Winding road, so it can take longer than expected.
  • Tuateawa
    • 7.2km’s from Kennedy Bay, approx 11 mins.
    • On the way to To Tuateawa we passed a small bay and boat ramp located just off the road at these coordinates, 36°38’42.7″S 175°34’15.6″E. I didn’t see any signs indicating a name, but you can find it on Google Maps here.
    • The drive will obviously take longer if you stop here like we did.
  • Little Bay
    • 6.4km’s from Tuateawa, approx 13 mins.
  • Waikawau Bay
    • 2.5km’s from Little Bay, approx 4 mins.
  • Port Charles
    • 14km’s from Waikawau Bay, approx 30 mins.
    • Port Charles Wharf
      • We actually stopped in to check out the wharf on the way back since you have to come back through Port Charles.
  • Sandy Bay
    • 1.1km’s from Port Charles, approx 3 mins.
  • Stony Bay
    • 6.4km’s from Sandy Bay, approx 20 mins.
    • The road out to Stony Bay is a bit hairy – very narrow and winding with lots of blind corners and locals going waaaaay too fast on gravel.
  • Otautu Bay
    • 25.6km’s from Stony Bay, approx 60 mins.
    • Otautu Bay Wharf
      • The old wharf is at the far end of Otautu Wharf Rd on the opposite side of the bay from where you enter.
  • Colville
    • 5.6km’s from Otautu Bay, approx 8 mins.
  • Waitete Bay
    • 9.2km’s from Colville, approx 12 mins.
  • Amodeo Bay
    • 1.7km’s from Waitete Bay, approx 4 mins.
  • Oamaru Bay
    • 10.2km’s from Amodeo Bay, approx 13 mins.
  • Coromandel
    • 4km’s from Oamaru Bay, approx 5 mins.
    • Stay: Indigo Bush Studios
      • 19 Flays Rd, Coromandel
      • Lower Studio
      • AUD $145.13 / night
    • Eat: Zagnos Kitchen
      • 105 Kapanga Rd, Coromandel
      • Great kebabs!

Day 33 - Coromandel to Auckland - 260.4km's, approx 5 hrs, 21 mins + stops.

  • Coromandel
  • Wyuna Bay
    • 8.4km’s from Indigo Bush Studio’s, approx 13 mins.
  • Te Kouma
    • 15.2km’s from Wyuna Bay, approx 20 mins.
  • Thames
    • 51.5km’s from Te Kouma, approx 1 hr, 2 mins.
  • Kaiaua
    • 42.7km’s from Thames, approx 36 mins.
  • Orere Point
    • 23km’s from Kaiaua, approx 25 mins.
  • Clevedon
    • 28.2km’s from Orere Point, approx 30 mins.
  • Maraetai Beach
    • 16km’s from Clevedon, approx 17 mins.
  • Beachlands Wharf
    • 5.5km’s from Maraetai Beach, approx 9 mins.
  • Pine Harbour Marina
    • 4.3km’s from Beachlands Wharf, approx 7 mins following the coast around.
  • Auckland
    • Cockle Bay Reserve
      • 19.3km’s from Pine Harbour Marina, approx 22 mins.
    • Howick Beach
      • 1.8km’s from Cockle Bay Reserve, approx 4 mins.
    • Bucklands Beach
      • 5.3km’s from Howick Beach, approx 9 mins.
    • Sealink Half Moon Bay Ferry Terminal
      • 2.6km’s from Bucklands Beach, approx 5 mins.
    • Snake and Ladders Park
      • 4.3km’s from Half Moon Bay Ferry Terminal, approx 8 mins.
      • This park wasn’t as exciting as the name sounds, you could definitely give it a miss.
    • Mt Wellington War Memorial Reserve
      • 6.9km’s from Snake and Ladders Park, approx 11 mins.
      • This is a little odd as you have to drive through a golf course to get to it.
      • It’s quite an unusual war memorial and well worth a visit.
    • Point England Reserve
      • 2.2km’s from Mt Wellington War Memorial Reserve, approx 5 mins.
    • Tahuna Torea Reserve
      • 3.3km’s from Point England Reserve, approx 6 mins.
    • Achilles Point
      • 4.8km’s from Tahuna Torea Reserve, approx 10 mins.
    • St Heliers Beach
      • 1.2km’s from Achilles Point, approx 4 mins.
    • Mission Bay
      • 2.6km’s from St Heliers Beach, approx 5 mins.
    • Orakei Domain
      • 2.2km’s from Mission Bay, approx 3 mins.
    • Paritai North and South Reserves
      • 1km from Orakei Domain, approx 2 mins
    • Orakei Bay
      • 2km’s from Paritai South Reserve, approx 4 mins.
    • Ellerslie

Day 34 - Auckland to Golden Princess

This is the end of the road trip portion of the itinerary. Our original plan was to fly home, but after finding the cruise on Golden Princess that lined up perfectly with our times, we decided to cruise home instead! The only difference to the itinerary is going to the cruise terminal instead of the airport.

  • Auckland
    • Return the rental car.
    • Get a taxi to Shed 10 cruise terminal.
    • Board Golden Princess.

Bonus: Cruise

Day 35 - Tauranga

There is so much you can do in a day in Tauranga, and it is especially easy since the ship is docked. Having just had some busy days (and already having spent a number of days in Tauranga on this trip) we decided to just stay on the ship and enjoy it!

Day 36 - At Sea

Day 37 - Akaroa

We spent a few days in Akaroa in 2013 on our honeymoon and fell in love with the historic French town. It’s a beautiful place and access is via tender from the cruise ship. We opted to go ashore and just walked around town, reliving some of our past memories.

Day 38 - Dunedin

The dock for most cruise ships in Dunedin is actually at the town of Port Chalmers, about 15km’s from Dunedin proper. We spent time in Dunedin in 2013 on our honeymoon and we didn’t really feel like doing much so once again we just stayed aboard and enjoyed our time on the ship. 

Day 39 - Fiordland National Park Cruising

This is really special. Cruising Fiordland on board a cruise ship is so worthwhile. Weather permitting, you will go through Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. The weather was good to us and we saw all three. Again, we’ve been to Doubtful and Milford Sounds in the past. We’ve actually been to Doubtful Sound twice, once in 2013 and once in 2014, but it is worth every second of another visit.

Dusky Sound is extremely inaccessible, and Doubtful Sound is only accessed via limited tour operators (I highly recommend the Real Journeys Overnight Doubtful Sound Cruise). Milford on the other hand is very accessible with road, plane and boat access. Cruising through them on a big ship, you definitely miss out on the experience that a small boat has (eg most of the tour boats), however, it’s an unforgettable experience on a big ship with a sense of perspective totally unlike what the small ones offer. There is nothing quite like standing on an upper deck in Milford Sound and realising that in spite of how high you are above the water, towering over the small boats, the cliffs are still standing tall well above you.

Day 40 - At Sea

Day 41 - At Sea

Day 42 - Sydney

Almost home!

We picked up a hire car from Avis at Circular Quay and drove home.

It is so good to arrive home after a long, full, trip and be well rested!

Summary

This was a really amazing trip to New Zealand. The North Island has so much to see and do. As beautiful as the South Island is, the North Island can easily compete. Sure, it doesn’t have the massive Southern Alps or Fiordland, but it is full of contrast and geothermal activity. There are volcanos, beaches bubbling with boiling water, beautiful swimming destinations, snowy peaks, gorgeous rolling hills and rich cultural history and experiences. Don’t miss out on a spectacular trip by skimping on your time in the North Island of New Zealand. We are so glad we came back and spent so much time in the North Island. After a similar amount of time spent in the South Island in 2013, we were not at all disappointed by the North Island. 

What do you think of the North Island of New Zealand? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget, I’d love to know what your number one must see place, or wish list place to see on the North Island of New Zealand is? Let me know in the comments below!

Passing through Narooma, Wagonga Inlet and Bar Rock

Bar Rock, Narooma




Recently, Wifey and I made our way down the South Coast of NSW and were blessed with some beautiful days and stunning scenery.

Wagonga Inlet, Narooma
Wagonga Inlet, Narooma

Narooma is a quiet little town situated on the southern side of Forsters Bay and the Wagonga Inlet roughly half way between Bega and Batemans Bay. North Narooma is on the northern side of the Bay and Inlet. The Princes Highway runs through the town, so if you take that route you will pass through it. The bay and inlet are a beautiful blue as you can see in the photo above and looks so inviting.

Read morePassing through Narooma, Wagonga Inlet and Bar Rock

Can I plug my phone into the TV on Golden Princess and watch Netflix?

Can I plug my phone into the TV on Golden Princess and watch Netflix?

With apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime facilitating access to thousands of movies and TV shows, if you are anything like us, you probably download a whole bunch onto a smartphone or tablet before your cruise. It’s so much better to watch on the bigger screen TV in your stateroom though than on the small tablet or phone screen. Especially given that when Golden Princess was refurbished recently, the stateroom TV’s got a HUGE upgrade. They are enormous!

For us, I typically download a heap of movies and TV shows onto an iPad because it has a bigger screen than my iPhone. The iPad screen is bigger so it is more convenient for wifey and I to both watch and it doesn’t use space on my phone that I might otherwise be using to take photos and videos. By downloading content, we can watch it whenever we feel like without needing to purchase an internet package on board a cruise.

So, the question is, can you actually plug an iPad, smartphone or other tablet into the stateroom TV on Golden Princess and play your own content?

The short answer is yes.

How?

Make sure to purchase and take an HDMI adapter for your device.

For Apple devices like your iPhone or iPad, you will need a Lightning to HDMI adapter like the official one from Apple, or a cheaper alternative like one of these ones.

For Android smartphones and tablets you will need to pick up the appropriate USB to HDMI adapter based on what kind of USB port your device has.

The most common ones are:

Some tablets and smartphones may also have a mini-HDMI or micro-HDMI output that you can use instead. In this case, you will need one of these adapters:

Depending on what type of adapter you use, you may also need an HDMI cable, unless your adapter has the cable built in.

The gigantic smart TV’s on Golden Princess have multiple HDMI inputs, but depending on the orientation of your stateroom they can be awkward to get to. The next step is to plug your HDMI cable into one of the HDMI inputs on the TV. I found the easiest ones to get to were the ones on the back of the TV.

Golden Princess Huge TV

Once you have the cable plugged into the TV, go ahead and plug it into the adapter on your device. Most devices will automatically detect and begin mirroring their screen on the HDMI output.

Using the TV remote, press the source select button and then select the HDMI input you are connected to. If you don’t know which one it is, just check all the HDMI input sources until you find the display of your device.

That’s it, you are all good to go.

Simply select what you want to watch using your device and you can control the volume with the TV remote.

If you are really tricky, it’s also possible to use dual view mode on these humongous televisions to show your cruise map or any other channel at the same time as what you are watching from your device. I’ll let you figure out how to do that 🙂

It’s actually really cool, and I love that Princess has opted to leave a lot of the smart TV functions in place on these beasts so you can really get the most from your in-room viewing experience, unlike Royal Caribbean that have locked down their stateroom TV’s to only their own channels.

Cape Palliser Lighthouse & Putangirua Pinnacles, NZ North Island Roadtrip Vlog Day 2

New Zealand Roadtrip Vlog Day 2

Day 2 of our 42-day road trip around the North Island of New Zealand started off from our accommodation in Greytown, Greyfriars Motel. We headed down to the town of Martinborough, and then made our way to Lake Ferry, out to Onoke Spit, and then across to Cape Palliser Lighthouse.

On the way back, we hiked up to the Putangirua Pinnacles where some scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed. This is a ruggedly beautiful part of New Zealand and much to our surprise, we found some adorable seals and their pups chilling on the rocks by the road.

My Reviews:

Booking Links:

Video Credits:

Find Me on Social Media

Disclaimer

This article is all our own experience. Everything was paid for by us and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Sydney to Greytown, NZ North Island Roadtrip Vlog Day 1

New Zealand Roadtrip Vlog Day 1

Day 1 of our 42-day road trip around the North Island of New Zealand started off at Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel. We got a morning flight to Wellington, New Zealand where we arrived mid-afternoon. We picked up our hire car from Jucy Rentals and went to The Hop Garden for lunch. Finally, we made our way out of Wellington to Greytown via the Remutaka Pass. We stayed at Greyfriars Motel in a garden room, a lovely spot to be based out of for a few days!

My Reviews:

Booking Links:

Video Credits:

Find Me on Social Media

Disclaimer

This article is all our own experience. Everything was paid for by us and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Lunch at The Hop Garden in Wellington

Our lunch at The Hop Garden

When we landed in New Zealand, it was about 3 pm local time. Smack bang on lunchtime back in Australia, so by the time we got through customs, caught the free shuttle to Jucy, and picked up our hire car from them, we were starting to get pretty hungry. The first place on our list to visit for a bite to eat was The Hop Garden.

Lunch at The Hop Garden Wellington

A quick question

What’s your favourite thing to eat when you get off a long flight? Let me know in the comments at the end of this post!

Disclaimer:

This article is all our own experience. Our meal was paid for by us, and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Why we chose to go to The Hop Garden

Our primary reason for selecting this hotel is that they traded on Bartercard they are located reasonably conveniently. Parking in Wellington can be a pain, so we wanted somewhere that had reasonably accessible street parking at the very least, and there is street parking right outside The Hop Garden. We also were intrigued by the vegan crispy cauliflower on the menu.

About The Hop Garden

The Hop Garden is a bit of a hole in the wall kind of bar and restaurant. It’s hidden away on a narrow strip of land sandwiched between other buildings. It’s the kind of place I’d normally pass by and not even give a second thought to. Inside though it’s surprisingly spacious, and when we visited just after they opened, it was dead quiet.

On their website, the Hop Garden indicates they have a focus on the microbreweries of New Zealand, and while we don’t drink alcohol, it was nice to see that this extended to other beverages too, including some unique varieties of ginger beer. I gave the Hardieboys ginger beer a whirl. Made locally in Wellington, I can quite simply say it is the best ginger beer I’ve ever had, period. I wish I could share more about it and even find it here in Australia, but, unless I broke the internet, I can’t find hardly anything about them except this article.

What we got

So, besides the Hardieboys ginger beer I had, wifey got a hot chocolate which was delicious.

Hot Chocolate at The Hop Garden

Let’s not forget about the food though.

So, because we were there fairly early in the afternoon, only the bar menu was available, not the a-la-carte.

I was super excited to try the cauliflower burger, so that’s what I ordered. Wifey opted to go for the hamburger and we grabbed a medium size hot chips to share.

Wifey’s hamburger came out. The beef rissole is house made and while it’s not the most visually appealing burger you will ever see (not even close), wifey vouches for its tastiness.

Hamburger at The Hop Garden

Next came out my unusual looking cauliflower burger.

Crispy Cauliflower at The Hop Garden

As you can see, it was just cauliflower. No one said anything to us about it so I thought perhaps they mistakenly thought I ordered the crispy cauliflower. They are the same price, and I was hungry, so, while I was disappointed, I just went with it. What I can tell you about this cauliflower is that it is amazing. I was really surprised by just how good this cauliflower is. Whether you are vegan or not, this is something worth trying.

Our chips also arrived, and we were really surprised at how tasty they were as well. The chips are listed as hand cut, and the serving was a decent amount bigger than we expected it to be.

Chips at The Hop Garden

Pros

  • Vegan food options.
  • Reasonably priced menu.
  • Interesting drinks from local brewers.
  • Street parking.
  • Accepts Bartercard (sort of).

 

Cons

  • Doesn’t know how to process Australian Bartercard’s.

 

Overall

We really enjoyed the food we had. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the burger that I ordered. That said, they did check the order and noted that I had indeed ordered the burger, so they gave me the crispy cauliflower for free which I really appreciated. We did check with them by email beforehand and also when we first arrived to make sure our Australian Bartercard would be fine, but unfortunately, it turned out they didn’t know how to process it and we had to pay with our credit card instead, so that was also a downer on the experience for us. That aside though, the food really was yum and I loved the Hardieboys ginger beer. Our visit was very quiet and the food did arrive quite quickly. Overall, I’d have to go with 3.5 stars out of 5, mostly because of the cauliflower. It’s just a pity we had two issues when we were the only people there.

Drop in and check them out while you are in Wellington, New Zealand, it’s worthwhile, especially for the cauliflower.

What do others think?

The Hop Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Getting to The Hop Garden

Nestled between Mount Victoria and Wellington CBD, you can find them at 13 Pirie St:

By car

If you are driving, it’s quite easy to get to, the bigger problem is parking. Being just outside of the CBD, there is some free street parking available. However, While there is street parking right outside on Pirie St, there isn’t a lot, and some of it is limited to 60 minutes.

By bus

There are two bus stops nearby, one right around the corner on Kent Terrace and one further up Pirie St. You can get bus route 1 to the Kent Terrace stop, or route 2 to the Pirie St stop.

Opening hours

The Hop Garden is open every afternoon from 3 pm until late. Thursdays through to Sunday they open in the morning, but the hours vary. Check out their website for current opening hours.

Links

 

Don’t forget!

I’d love to know if there is something you particularly like to eat after a long flight, especially if it helps you with jet lag! For me, it’s more about having the nearest meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) in the local timezone than what I’m actually eating.

Like this article? Pin it for later!

 

Lunch at The Hop Garden Wellington

 

First published on: Nov 11, 2018 @ 08:34

Toyoko Inn Kuko (Tokyo Narita Airport) Deluxe Twin Room 11027 Review (Non-Smoking)

Toyoko Inn Narita Airport Deluxe Twin Room Beds

If you are travelling to Japan via the Tokyo Narita Airport, you might have already looked at it on a map and discovered that it is a loooooong way from Tokyo city proper. In fact, it’s almost 70 kilometres from the airport to Tokyo Station in the heart of the city. That’s an hour on the Narita Express train, and up to two hours to drive.

If your flight arrives in the evening or late at night, you probably aren’t going to feel like doing that hike. Especially not if you’ve just been on a plane for almost 10 hours from Australia (Unless, of course, you can afford to do a 20-minute helicopter transfer).

Yeah…

It isn’t high on our list either. Fortunately, there are a number of hotel options around Narita Airport.

We went with the cheapest non-capsule hotel option. Since we only booked it two weeks before our arrival, that turned out to be the deluxe twin room at the Toyoko Inn Narita Airport, also called the Toyoko Inn Narita Kuko on some booking sites. Everything else below $200 and within walking distance of the airport was booked out.

A quick question

If you’ve stayed here as well, either in a deluxe twin room, or another room category, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. I’d also like to know what your favourite things to do in the area are. Let me know in the comments after this article!

Getting to Toyoko Inn Tokyo Narita Airport Hotel

If you are just off a long flight and eager to stretch your legs or just plain keen to walk, the Toyoko Inn is within walking distance from Narita Airport. Keep in mind though, there are three terminals here, and the hotel is not central. The Toyoko Inn is closest to Terminal 3, but as Terminals 2 and 3 use the same entrance, it’s about 2km’s from Terminal there and 2.4km’s from Terminal 1.

The address is:

560 Tokko,
Narita,
Chiba Prefecture
286­-106

Shuttle Bus

For those of us that just want to get to our hotel, get some food and go to bed, there is a free shuttle bus, YAY!

The bus is extremely convenient. From the Terminal 1 building, it stops at stop number 16 just outside the arrival lobby at the South Exit S2. From Terminals 2 and 3, it stops at stop number 31B just outside the central entrance to the first-floor arrival lobby.

The shuttle is normally every 20 minutes (less frequent between 10 pm and 6 am) and is not bookable, it’s first come, first serve. We found that there weren’t a lot of people waiting when we got on at the Terminal 2/3 stop, but a lot more got on at Terminal 1. Since each shuttle stops at both Terminal 2/3 and Terminal 1, it can take 15-20 minutes to get to the hotel. More importantly, if you need to get the shuttle back to the airport during peak time in the morning, it can take up to 40 minutes due to heavy traffic (it actually took about 35-minutes for us to get to the airport again the next morning, departing the hotel at 8:15am. So make sure you leave yourself plenty of time.

Please note, the shuttle information was correct when we took it, and still is at the time of writing, but definitely check their website for the latest shuttle information.

Taxi

If you would like a more private and direct route to the hotel, there are lots of taxi’s waiting at all terminals. A direct trip will still take 10 minutes under light traffic though due to the way the roads take you.

Fees and other costs 

We found the best price through HotelsCombined, which took us to Agoda. However, Agoda is also the only booking site where they don’t seem to offer breakfast as an inclusion or an optional extra. Their website states breakfast is included free, but without that clarity on the Agoda website, we decided to go with a booking site that made it clear. For only a few dollars more, Hotels.com stated that breakfast was included. For those few dollars we couldn’t have bought breakfast elsewhere anyway and I had a 10% off coupon for them, so we went ahead and booked with them. In the end, after using the coupon, we paid $96.93 Australian which worked out slightly cheaper than the Agoda price. Hotels.com is not always the cheapest, or even close to the cheapest (t wasn’t this time except for the coupon), and price competitiveness varies from day to day, so definitely check HotelsCombined for the best rates before booking.

If you happen to hold a Toyoko Inn Club Card, you are eligible for a discount if you book directly with the hotel, however, that discount works out pretty similar to the prices you can get via the booking sites.

There is a Lawson convenience store in the hotel foyer. We actually picked up some food at the airport, but you can get fully prepared and heated meals at Lawson and they are very cheap, as long as you don’t mind pre-packaged food.

If you are paying for your accommodation at the hotel, payment is very flexible. They accept cash, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners, JCB, and Alipay.

Opening hours 

The hotel foyer is open 24 hours a day.

Check-in is available from 4:00 pm (3:00 pm if you are a Toyoko Club Card holder).

Check-out is by 10:00 am.

Breakfast is served in the dining room between 6:30 am and 9:30 am every day.

About the Toyoko Inn Narita Airport Hotel and the deluxe twin room

The Toyoko Inn Narita Airport was undergoing renovations while we were staying. These renovations had no impact at all on our stay, we didn’t notice any noise or disruptions. It does mean though, that there will likely be some newer room styles coming soon, something that is well overdue.

The hotel decor is dated, with the halls, elevators and rooms looking like they belong in another era altogether. That said, everything is clean and well-maintained. I’m looking forward to seeing what the newly renovated section looks like when complete.

Toyoko Inn Narita Airport 70's Elevator
Toyoko Inn Narita Airport 70’s Elevator

On a side note, if you happen to need parking, there are 205 spaces available at a cost of 500 yen for 24 hours.

Arrival and check-in

Upon our arrival, we were a little overwhelmed. As you enter the foyer, the front desk is on the right-hand side, and Lawson’s is even further to the right. The dining room and elevators are on the left along with vending machines. The shuttle lets us out right outside the hotel foyer, but there were people everywhere and there didn’t seem to be a clear queue for the front desk. Fortunately, it turned out that was because there were only two other people waiting to check-in.

The staff at the check-in counter were extremely helpful, their English was surprisingly limited for their location as an airport hotel, but definitely still enough to ensure the process was smooth. They also did a brilliant job of picking out the foreigners and making sure we were looked after and understood what was happening.

As at any hotel in Japan, the hotel is required to take a photocopy of all foreign guest’s passports, so ensure that you have your passports ready to go and this will speed things up.

After filling out our check-in form (which was in English), and getting our passports back, we were given key cards for our room, and a little gift pack for wifey that included a facial cleanser, facial oil and facial lotion. To our surprise, they turned out to be mostly natural products, and they smelled sublime.

The deluxe twin room 

We were in room 11027, which translates to room 27 on level 10 in wing 1. This is a non-smoking room, and you definitely want to check that when you book as both smoking and non-smoking rooms are available here.

So, onto the room itself. It turns out that level 10 is also the top floor of the hotel. We were exhausted and ready to go to bed, but couldn’t help but be a little excited at being on the top floor, even though we were only there overnight.

We're on the 10th floor!
We’re on the 10th floor!

Then we opened the door and were blown away by how huge this room is for less than $100 Australian! I’ll admit, the elevators are cosy, slow and seem like they are straight out of the 70’s, but it was worth the ride for what we saw.

Toyoko Inn Narita Airport Deluxe Twin Room Beds
Toyoko Inn Narita Airport Deluxe Twin Room Beds

The room is not only on the top floor, it’s also a corner room, which means lots of windows. The two beds, a queen bed and a double bed, back onto a sparsely decorated wall, and look across the room to massive windows. These windows start from about 60cm above the ground and run to the ceiling, covering almost all of the longest outside wall in the room as well as most of the shorter outside wall.

The beds face this huge window that runs almost the entire length of the room and up to the ceiling.
The beds face this huge window that runs almost the entire length of the room and up to the ceiling.

Even though the view is only of car parks, the airport, and roads, these enormous windows make the room feel even bigger and almost give it a feeling of luxury, somehow, almost.

The view out the main window
The view out the main window

 

The view out the side window
The view out the side window

Also in the room, you will find a lounge, reading lamp, flat-screen TV, bar fridge, safe, kettle, ice bucket, dressing table, hanging rail, and of course, the bathroom. The room is air-conditioned and has free wifi, and there is a little surprise in the bathroom.

The dressing table / work desk
The dressing table/work desk

The wifi is decent, but don’t expect mind-blowing speeds either. It’s comparable to what you can get on the National Broadband Network now in Australia. One thing to be aware of though, is that there is no written connection information anywhere to tell you which wifi network to use or what password to use. It turned out to be staring us in the face though. The home screen on the television shows those details in the bottom right of the screen. It’s fairly small, and parts of it are in Japanese, but it’s there!

The wifi details are on the TV home screen
The wifi details are on the TV home screen

This TV home screen also gives you access to a number of other features like on-demand movies, YouTube, nearby attraction information, location information, breakfast info, and everything else you would normally find in a hotel room compendium.

Last but not least, as with most Japanese hotel rooms, you’ll also find slippers, a shoe horn, and a shoe shine kit. It was surprisingly lacking pyjamas, shoe deodoriser, and an air purifier though, all items that are virtually ubiquitous at hotels in Japan.

The deluxe twin bathroom

If you’ve ever stayed in a Japanese hotel before, you are probably familiar with the pod bathroom. With its cosy beige pod, the Toyoko Inn is no exception. Inside the narrow door is the standard hotel bathroom found all over Japan with minor variations.

Toyoko Inn Narita Airport Deluxe Twin Room Bathroom
Toyoko Inn Narita Airport Deluxe Twin Room Bathroom

As you might expect, there is a Western toilet with bidet, hand basin, mirror, bath, and shower hose over the bath. There are two things that make this one a little bit different and a little bit special. The first is that the bidet is full-featured, in the sense that it warms the water before it sprays, and it blows warm air for drying your clean backside. Believe it or not, the percentage of hotel room bidet toilets that don’t dry your rear for you is quite high. There’s also a surprising amount that uses cold water.

The bidet toilet, basin and bath
The bidet toilet, basin and bath

The second surprise here, and this was the big one for me, is that there is a second shower head. In addition to the hose shower, up in the ceiling is a rain shower! I love these showers because I can actually get completely under them. At 6 foot tall, most showers are a little too low for me, and in Japan, it’s safe to say almost every shower is too low. So it’s not a big thing, but it’s just something unexpected that makes the experience more unique.

The rain shower
The rain shower

How did we sleep? 

An all-important question, especially if you have to be underway again early in the morning like we did. I’ll be honest, the beds are firm to the point of being hard.

Now when I say hard, I mean the carpet would not be much harder. We sleep on a firm mattress at home anyway since wifey and I are both stomach sleepers, but these beds take firmness to a whole new level. I didn’t expect to get a good sleep at all. That said though, we both fell asleep pretty quickly and felt refreshed in the morning when we woke up.

I should add to this, as hard as these beds are, this is pretty common in Japan. It seems to be a preference there, and these are not the hardest beds we’ve slept on in Japan either. It is however quite a shock when it’s your first night on one.

Come morning, we were appreciative of the heavy block-out curtains that kept the room dark after sunrise. So dark that when my alarm went off, I wasn’t convinced it was actually morning.

So overall, we slept well.

What was breakfast like? 

Hotel breakfasts are usually pretty similar, even in Japan, most follow a fairly standard model with fairly standard food. This one though was a bit different.

It’s a buffet style, and it was hectic. It seemed like every guest in the hotel was scrambling for food all at once. Some sections had a queue that appeared to be around 40 people long, and that’s not including those that were pushing in.

The quieter section at the breakfast buffet
The quieter section at the breakfast buffet

Top that off with it being the only place we went to on this trip (which included a lot of remote places in Hokkaido) that had no English labels and very few Japanese labels, and it made for an interesting meal.

The more hectic section of the buffet
The more hectic section of the breakfast buffet

If you don’t have any specific dietary requirements, then the labels aren’t a big deal. Even without them, I found it easy enough to pick out what things were vegetarian and what wasn’t. I’m sure the staff would be quite happy to help, but they seemed like they were pretty stressed trying to avoid the stampede while also getting the food out!

It would be easy for it to become a stressful meal, just because of the way people were behaving there, but if you plan out your time, there is no need to be stressed. Just avoid the busy areas. I got enough vegetarian food to eat while not queueing at all (except for an orange juice), so it is possible.

The vegetarian options I found in the quieter section
The vegetarian options I found in the quieter section

As at a lot of hotels in Japan, when you are finished your breakfast, you are expected to return your used plates, cutlery and cups to the dirty shelf where they are collected for washing.

Overall, the food we had was nice, nothing special, but there was nothing wrong with it either. The atmosphere was frantic, but if you plan your morning with some extra time, you don’t need to be a part of the rush.

Pros

  • Staff really look out for foreign guests.
  • Quick and easy check-in.
  • Great price for their top room category.
  • Rain shower.
  • Free shuttle to and from the airport that is easy to find.
  • Lawson convenience store in the foyer.
  • 24-hour front desk
  • Easy to access vending machines.
  • Free wifi with decent speeds.

 

Cons

  • Hallways are quite hot and humid in our opinion even though the rooms are well air-conditioned.
  • Breakfast is a mad rush.
  • No English and very few Japanese food labels at breakfast.

 

Overall

This is an airport hotel, and with that, there are a lot of travellers, both domestic and foreign. That means there are a lot of people worried about time and rushing around. In spite of that, our room was silent besides the occasional hall sounds.

The room itself was huge and had everything we needed, in fact, it was the biggest room we had during our entire trip to Japan that cost less than $300 Australian per night. It was also the cheapest room except for our night at the Tokyo Kiba Capsule Hotel.

The styling overall was dated, but it was very clean and comfortable, in spite of the hard beds.

We slept well, and really enjoyed the enormous windows for the short time we spent here.

So overall, I’d say that the Toyoko Inn Narita Airport is great value for money with friendly, helpful staff and convenient access to the airport and food.

We would definitely stay here again if we find ourselves in need of a hotel at Narita Airport in the future.

Attractions near the Toyoko Inn Narita Airport Hotel

Helpful links

 

Don’t forget

Let me know in the comments what you think about the Toyoko Inn Narita Airport Hotel if you’ve stayed there!

I hope you find this review helpful, and if you do, please share it. If not, let me know what else I can include and make it more useful for you.

Happy travels.


First published on: Dec 10, 2017 @ 17:00

Using an Australian Bartercard in New Zealand: What no one tells you

New Zealand from the sky

One of the big things we utilise our Bartercard membership for is travel. Bartercard is only available in a limited number of countries, and outside of Australia, New Zealand is one of the bigger ones. This makes it perfect for use when travelling. There are, however, a few caveats that Bartercard won’t tell you. Ironically because they either don’t know or don’t actually understand the problems that exist with the network when you are trading between Australia and New Zealand. It took me a great deal of pushing to finally come up with solutions to some of these issues, and if you are aware of them in advance, you can plan for them so they aren’t a problem.

In New Zealand, most merchants use EFTPOS terminals for Bartercard transactions

In Australia, very few EFTPOS terminal providers have ever been compatible with Bartercard and right now I don’t believe any of them are compatible. That means in Australia we are used to processing all our transactions using the trade vouchers, the mobile app, or the MyBC website.

In New Zealand though, they are much more advanced. Bartercard is compatible with pretty much every EFTPOS terminal provider in New Zealand. This means that most merchants only process transactions this way. Why? It’s so much simpler, especially for staff training, because it’s no different to processing a credit or debit card.

We encountered very few Bartercard members who knew how to process transactions any other way. Rather than making Bartercard a seamless experience this created some big problems for us.

Australian Bartercard cards don’t work in New Zealand EFTPOS terminals

It turns out that while Bartercard is much more usable and accessible in New Zealand, the EFTPOS terminals cannot process Australian cards.

The net result is primarily employees looking confused and unsure about what to do next because they aren’t trained or even aware of any other ways to process Bartercard transactions.

If you contact Bartercard about it, they will just tell you it’s all good, just pay using the app or trade vouchers. This is an ok discussion to have if you are dealing with the owner, but if they aren’t available, our experience was that everywhere outside of New Plymouth, employees didn’t know what we were talking about, nor did most of the owners we spoke to. Also, the app requires mobile data so if there is no wifi you need to be roaming or have purchased a New Zealand sim card.

We found that hotels/motels were typically more likely to know how to use MyBC or vouchers to process transactions, or to at least have processes in place for employees to get all the details and either the duty manager or owner would process it later. This was not always the case though and we did encounter one hotel, in particular, that would not entertain any other payment options, it was either through the EFTPOS terminal or cash. We encountered a number of others that also were not aware of the issue and didn’t know how to process the payment any other way.

Bartercard trade vouchers aren’t a solution

The next recommendation from Bartercard is, of course, to drop into a trade office and pick up a trade voucher book, because every merchant can process Australian cards that way with no problems.

Except, however, that most of the owners we spoke to had never even seen a trade voucher let alone knew what they were. Employees even less so. Owners were sometimes willing to learn, once they confirmed with Bartercard that they are in fact a legitimate method of payment. In most cases though, we’re talking a half hour conversation with the owner followed by them calling Bartercard. So this can easily kill your schedule.

Employees are generally suspicious. The first place we visited on Bartercard was The Hop Garden. This is where we first discovered the problem. They had confirmed in advance that Bartercard was fine, however, it turned out no one knew how to process it any other way so they required us to pay cash instead.

We found one restaurant out of all the Bartercard businesses we visited (excluding New Plymouth) that was willing to give the vouchers a go. The only problem was, it turns out they had no record of their Bartercard number, the 24-hour Bartercard authorisations line can’t give it to you, and it was outside of trade office hours so they couldn’t call their trade office either. Also, the owner was overseas and unreachable.

We spent over an hour with the duty manager that night trying to get it processed. With only one waiter and bartender on besides himself that night, there was a backlog of food coming from the kitchen, and a delay on drinks coming from the bar. It was starting to upset other people and we felt pretty awful. Not to mention, it was getting pretty late. Finally, they decided since the 24-hour authorisations line had confirmed the vouchers are legitimate, they would take it with our details and process the payment when the owner got back. We had a voucher with us so we filled it out with all our details. We also left all our contact info. 6 weeks later, the payment still hasn’t been processed.

Solution: Bartercard gift cards

In New Zealand, you can purchase Bartercard gift cards using your trade dollars. These gift cards work in the New Zealand EFTPOS terminals and behave just like any other Bartercard card. This is the best solution we were able to find.

New Zealand Bartercard Gift Cards

There are limitations though.

  1. Bartercard gift cards have a $500 limit.
  2. You can only get 1 gift card per person in a 12-month period.

Bartercard New Zealand was willing to load $1000 onto our gift cards and issue us two cards, one for me and one for my wife.

The caveats here were that it was not made clear to us (and yes I’ve checked all of our communications) that you can’t get more than 1 gift card per person in a 12-month period. It was only when we ran out 2 weeks out from the end of our trip and wanted to pick up just one more card that we were told that would be an issue. If we had been advised of that clearly, we would have used them differently and skipped a few of the things we did so that they would last us through.

Now, the gift cards did come with a terms and conditions sheet, which I skimmed over. So there probably was something about the 1 card per person limit in there, but it’s not something you expect given you can buy thousands of dollars in gift cards for supermarkets or department stores over the counter without issue. Apparently, there are anti-money laundering laws in New Zealand which are why this limit is in place. Again, odd given how many gift cards I could buy for New World or Farmers without anyone caring. Also odd given the solution is identity verification, which Bartercard Australia has already done, yet Bartercard New Zealand won’t accept that, even though they then send your ID back to Bartercard Australia to do the verification anyway. What? Yeah, I thought so too.

My suggestion

When you land in New Zealand, head to the nearest Bartercard office and let them know you want to buy a gift card for each person. If you think you will need more than the limit, let them know you are just visiting and since Australian cards don’t work in the EFTPOS terminals, ask them if it is possible to put $1000 on the cards instead. They may do it for you if you push for it.

Plan to use your Australian Bartercard as much as possible for accommodation providers as they are the most likely to know how to process cards online or with trade vouchers. Make sure to let them know before you arrive that it is an Australian card though and that they don’t work in the EFTPOS terminals.

Just use the gift card in places where it is higher traffic and they are less likely to have foreign cards come through, for example, restaurants, cafes and stores.

Greyfriars Motel, Greytown New Zealand – Garden Room Review

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room

Greytown is a small town about an hour north of Wellington. We chose it as our base for a few days because it put us on the opposite side of Wellington Harbour, the perfect place for exploring the south-east corner of the New Zealand North Island. There are not a whole lot of accommodation options here though. We chose Greyfriars Motel for two reasons.

A quick question

If you’ve stayed here as well, either in a garden room, or another room category, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. I’d also like to know what your favourite things to do in the area are. Let me know in the comments after this article!

Disclaimer:

This article is all our own experience. Our booking was paid for by us, and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Why we chose to stay at Greyfriars Motel, Greytown

Our primary reasons for selecting this hotel are that they traded on Bartercard and their location. Trading on Bartercard was essential for us because it made up a significant portion of our budget for this trip. Greyfriars Motel is right in the centre of Greytown, in easy walking distance to a FreshChoice Supermarket as well as some of the town attractions, like Schoc Chocolates, and Cobblestones Museum.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Entrance

More importantly, it’s in easy driving distance from Cape Palliser and Castle Point, two of the hidden gems in this corner of the North Island. Greytown is one of only a few places that are fairly central for exploring the south-east coastline of the North Island of New Zealand.

Our secondary reasons for this choice were:

  • The Internet is included – important since I needed to work while we were here.
  • The high average ratings by guests. It gets an average overall rating above 9 stars according to Hotels Combined reviews and a 4.5 star average on TripAdvisor.
  • We liked the look of the room in the photos; it looked modern and comfortable.

 

 

About Greyfriars Motel and the Garden Studio Room

This hotel is extremely well located in the heart of Greytown and holds a 4-star rating. We spent three nights here while we explored the area and I did some work. Being right in the centre of town, it worked out perfectly for walking to the Fresh Choice supermarket to get food, and it was a pleasant stroll down the street to visit Schoc Chocolates and the Cobblestone Museum. If you’d rather get your food at a restaurant, we noticed many different options within just a couple of blocks.

We booked the Queen Studio, but when we arrived, we received an upgrade to the Garden Studio. These two rooms are the same concerning what is in them. However, the Garden Studio is more spacious and looks over the motel garden whereas the Queen Studio looks over the carpark. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is remarkable how much more inviting it is to sit down and do some work when you are looking over a lush green garden compared to a bitumen car park. Granted, you can still see the car park on the other side of the garden space, but never the less, it made for a lovely spot to both relax and also get some work done.

Our view from the Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room
Our view from the Greyfriars Motel Garden Room

Check-in

Checking in is a quick, simple process and the owners, Sarah and her husband, are lovely and so helpful. We arrived around 7:30 pm, later than we planned, and we were able to choose to pay on check-in or check-out. We were pretty tired since we had an early start back in Australia, so we were very appreciative that within minutes of our arrival, we were in our room. Even though the weather was starting to warm up, it was still a chilly evening, and they had the heating on in the room, so it was nice and warm for us. It’s the little things that make you feel so much more welcome.

Check-in closes at 9:00 pm, so make sure to let them know your expected check-in time if you are likely to be arriving late.

The Garden Room

The garden room is a surprisingly large studio style room with a kitchenette, dining area, lounge area, bed area and bathroom.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Interior
Greyfriars Motel Garden Room Interior

The lounge is quite comfortable, as is the bed, and the kitchenette has most things you need for a more extended stay. Heating is provided by a split-system air conditioner that is more than powerful enough to handle a space of this size, and the TV is wall mounted so you can watch it from the lounge, or in bed, or really, anywhere in the room. The only qualm I have with it is that the TV is a bit high to watch from the lounge for long, but we didn’t spend much time watching TV anyway.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room TV

 

With big windows and sliding glass doors forming almost the entire front wall of the studio, I was a little worried that light coming in might be a problem after dark or in the morning. No one likes light on their face while they are trying to sleep right? However, the thick block out curtains completely covered it, and we didn’t have any problems with lights.

There is perhaps a lack of clear luggage space. There is a luggage stand, but not anywhere to put your bags or clothes while you are there that is out of sight. There are two small bedside table drawers, but that is about all. Not a big deal, especially if you are only visiting for a short stay, but I do find it helpful to be able to put at least some of our bags in a cupboard to keep things neater.

The bathroom

The bathroom is pretty standard and has more than enough space to use comfortably. Some showers and bathrooms can be absolutely tiny, but this one is very reasonable.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Bathroom

The towel rails are heated and the room overall is quite modern. It looks like it was built or refurbished very recently.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Heated Towel Rail

The kitchenette

The well-equipped kitchenette has everything you need to prepare food except for a hob. The microwave is a convection oven, and there is also a toaster, kettle and a large bar fridge.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Kitchenette and Dining
Greyfriars Motel Garden Room Kitchenette and Dining Area

While you can’t cook anything over a stove, there are mixing bowls, and the convection oven makes it possible to prepare a decent amount of hot food without much effort. For us, we made healthy chocolate porridge (yes, there is such a thing) for breakfast and had a variety of salad sandwiches and microwave frozen meals for lunches and dinners while we were here.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Kitchenette Inclusions
Greyfriars Motel Garden Room Kitchenette Cupboard

We were also pleasantly surprised to discover that even though the rooms are self-contained, you don’t have to do the dishes. When they service the rooms each day, they will replace any used dishes with clean ones for you.

If you need to do laundry, a communal laundry room is also available.

How did we sleep?

The bed is medium softness, ok for stomach sleepers but probably better for back and side sleepers. We found it quite comfortable as stomach sleepers, but it was getting close to too soft.

Internet access

The internet access is provided by wifi using quality Ubiquiti equipment that can be seen around the motel. Speeds are quite decent for a regional area and worked well for me to keep on top of my work here. While not the fastest, the Internet at Greyfriars Motel was one of the most stable internet connections we had on our New Zealand trip.

Speeds did vary and on different days I did notice some significantly different upload and download speeds, oddly enough with lower download speeds early in the morning.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Internet Speedtest 1

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Internet Speedtest 2

Pros

  • Central location, close to restaurants, attractions and a supermarket.
  • Great to have a lounge space in the room.
  • There is an in-room kitchenette with everything you need.
  • On-site parking available.
  • The room is quiet.
  • The garden atmosphere is very relaxing.
  • The room is new or recently updated.
  • Free, stable wifi.
  • There is stacks of space in the room.

 

Cons

  • Not much storage for luggage.
  • Nothing else really.

 

Overall

We personally really enjoyed this motel. The room was modern, spacious and comfortable. The location is excellent with a Fresh Choice supermarket just around the corner. Restaurants and the towns tourist attractions are within a short walking distance, including Schoc Chocolates and Cobblestones Museum.

Getting to Greyfriars Motel

Public transport options are pretty limited. The closest international airport is in Wellington, and other nearby airports are fairly minor, so you will most likely be arriving by car. Greytown is part way between Featherston and Masterton on State Highway 2, North East of Wellington.

The address is:

138 Main Street, Greytown, Wairarapa, New Zealand

Private Car

If you hire a car, prices vary quite a lot depending on what company you go with and how long you are renting. We usually book with Avis, but always check booking comparison sites like AutoEurope and with the smaller providers. When travelling to Greytown from Wellington, follow State Highway 2 through the Remutaka Pass.

By Train

There are two train stations nearby. One at Woodside and one at Featherston. You can get the Wairarapa Train from Wellington and hop off at either station (depending on the day of the week). There are connecting buses that will bring you into Greytown. Check the train timetable here.

From Woodside, the bus meets all weekday trains except the Friday late train. From Featherston, catch the route 200 bus.

Rates and other costs

We researched prices directly on Agoda and Booking.com as well as making our usual price comparison through Hotels Combined. However, we ultimately booked directly with Greyfriars Motel for three nights at $150/night.

If you need parking, there is free parking available on-site for one car per room. There is also free street parking available on the street.

Links:

 

Don’t forget!

If you’ve stayed at Greyfriars Motel too, either in a garden room, or another room category, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. I’d also like to know what your favourite things to do in the area are. Let me know in the comments after this article!

Visiting Sapporo TV Tower at night in August

Welcome to Sapporo TV Tower

Hey everybody, it’s Matt here again, and today, I want to take you through Sapporo TV Tower at night in August. I hope you find it helpful for your own trip planning. Be sure to share it if you do, and check back for more articles and videos from our travels in Japan and elsewhere around the world.

After arriving in Sapporo and checking into our hotel, the Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo, our first sight, the Sapporo TV Tower, was just two blocks away.

Matt outside Sapporo TV Tower
Matt outside Sapporo TV Tower

A quick question for you!

Before I jump into it though, I just wanted to ask, what’s your favourite tower and why? The only others I’ve been up in are Calgary Tower, Sydney Tower, and Tokyo Skytree. So far, I’ve found each one to have unique flavours, but, even though it’s nowhere near the tallest tower I’ve been in, I love the intimacy of Sapporo TV Tower and the city planning around it. Let me know down in the comments at the end of this post!

Getting to Sapporo TV Tower

Sapporo TV Tower is located at the Eastern-most end of Odori Park in the heart of Sapporo. It’s conveniently located for public transport access with nearby bus stops and the subway running below it. Being in Odori Park, it’s also convenient to access by foot from many of the hotels in Sapporo that are located near the park.

The full address is:

Sapporo TV Tower

1 Chome Odorinishi, Chuo, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0042, Japan

Getting there by car

There are a number of parking lots within 1 block of Sapporo TV Tower. The Sapporo Odori Underground Parking Lot is perhaps the closest. It runs under Odori Park and the Odori Subway Station, also connecting to Aurora Town underground mall. It has space for 366 cars and is across the road from Sapporo TV Tower.

Pricing starts at 390 yen for the first hour and 200 for every 30 minutes thereafter. You can also get one hour free by spending at least 2000 yen at one of the stores in Aurora Town. If you visit between 5pm and 10pm (closing time), the maximum charge is 1000 yen, and if you visit between 8am and 10am, you can get a half hour rate of 200 yen if you are there for less than half an hour.

The next closest car parks are to the south. There are around 4 lots in the blocks directly south of Sapporo TV Tower, including the Marui Imai and Mitsukoshi parking lots. These lots are located on either side of the Toho Subway line, with the Marui Imai being below the Marui Imai shopping centre, and Mitsukoshi on the opposite side of the road. Here, you can expect to pay 190 yen per 30-minute block. Most of these lots are underground, but there are some above ground spaces such as the one below that is almost opposite Sapporo TV Tower.

Getting there by public transport

The closest public transport link is via the Toho subway line, followed very closely by the Tozai and Nanboku lines. If you arrive on any of those lines you will want to get off at the Odori Station and head out of exit 27. This is a 1-minute walk from the Toho line or a 5-minute walk from the Tozai and Nanboku lines.

If you need to come in by train, it’s a 15-minute walk from the JR Sapporo Station and you will want to head out the South Exit.

Getting there by tour

There are some competitively priced full day tours available through Viator that include a visit to Sapporo TV Tower (however they do exclude the entry fee).

Admission fees and other costs

Standard pricing is 720 yen for adults aged 19 and over. For high school students the price is 600 yen, then 400 yen for junior high students, 300 yen for primary school students, and 100 yen for children aged 3 to 5. You can check the current entry pricing on their website and note that junior high and high school students need school ID to get their prices.

Before you arrive though, make sure you do some research as there are often discount tickets available. At the time of this article, the Sapporo TV tower website has a 20% discount available, just print out the voucher or present it on your phone when you buy your tickets. There are also often discount vouchers in the map books and promotional magazines that hire car companies include with a rental, so check them out to see if it works out any better for you.

Tickets can be purchased on arrival at the ticket counter or pre-purchased for a designated date through Klook. If you opt to pre-purchase via Klook, the pricing is the same as standard full price tickets, however, Klook guests get to jump the elevator queue.

If you book with Klook you will receive a voucher that you redeem at the ticket desk on level 3 of Sapporo TV Tower. Some things to note though is that when booking with Klook your ticket is non-refundable and the date cannot be changed. So you are sacrificing flexibility as well as a possible discount. However, you are gaining time, particularly if it turns out to be busy when you visit because you get to go straight up the lift on the next one that is available.

Buy tickets

Opening hours

Normal opening hours are from 9:00 am to 22:00 pm every day of the year except for New Years Day, special events and maintenance. You can check any upcoming closure dates here.

About Sapporo TV Tower

Built in 1957 and standing at 147.2 metres high, Sapporo TV Tower is one of the most recognisable landmarks of the Sapporo cityscape. It’s similar in appearance to the Eiffel Tower and Tokyo Tower, though much shorter.

As we approached it, just on dusk, we got to see the lights come on and it really does look quite underwhelming when it is first lit up at night with just minimal lighting.

Sapporo TV Tower starting to light up.
Sapporo TV Tower starting to light up, you can see the observation deck above the giant clock.

However, once all the lights come on, it’s quite dramatic.

Sapporo TV Tower all lit up
Sapporo TV Tower all lit up

There is an observation deck located at the 90.38-metre high mark, and it gives you a great view out over the Sapporo skyline, particularly down the length of Odori Park and looking towards the Mount Okura ski jump stadium.

Visiting Sapporo TV Tower at night in August
Looking across Odori Park from the Sapporo TV Tower observation deck. You can see the Okura Ski Jump lit up in the distance.

For the Australians, in comparison, Sydney Tower stands twice as high at 309 metres with the top floor being at 268 metres high.

Sapporo TV Tower vs Sydney Tower
Sapporo TV Tower vs Sydney Tower

Access to the Sapporo TV Tower observation deck is via lift from the third floor, which is also where you can purchase tickets or redeem your pre-paid tickets.

Our tickets and English guidebook
Our tickets and English guidebook

From ground level, you can either take the stairs or a short lift up to the third floor.

One of the lifts to the observation deck.
One of the lifts to the observation deck.

It’s worth noting though that if you opt for the stairs, each floor is higher than normal, so the third floor is more like the sixth floor of a normal building. The stairs are also pretty steeper. A lot steeper than a normal staircase. There are lots of encouraging signs though to help motivate you on your climb!

Once you have your ticket, it’s a short 60-second ride in the elevator up to the observation deck. Along the way, you can enjoy the views and listen to the recorded commentary. English is available, and it provides a very brief overview of the history of the tower on the way up. On the way down, you’ll get to hear a little bit more.

When you get out of the elevator you are immediately greeted with the Sapporo cityscape, looking roughly east.

Looking East from Sapporo TV Tower
Looking East from Sapporo TV Tower

There isn’t a lot to see out this side at night since Odori Park ends in this direction at the base of the tower, and you are looking away from the heart of Sapporo’s nightlife. That said, if you go at night like we did, you’ll be pleased to see that the deck is minimally lit, meaning it’s easy to take in the city lights outside without reflections from inside the tower.

I found a lot of the little things that were lit up quite interesting, even though they aren’t as spectacular as the view over Odori Park. For example, the Sapporo Hall garden clock to the North:

Sapporo Hall garden clock
Sapporo Hall garden clock

Even the patterns of crosswalks at intersections seem so much more entrancing from this view at night time, like this one directly below the Northeast corner of the tower:

A pedestrian crossing from above.
A pedestrian crossing from above.

The deck itself features a lot more information about the tower as well as binoculars and a small souvenir store.

The main attraction, at least at night anyway, is the view to the west, looking down the length of Odori Park.

Odori Park lit up at night - the view from Sapporo TV Tower.
Odori Park lit up at night – the view from Sapporo TV Tower.

This side is the side with the most lights and the most interesting city viewing, including the NORBESA Ferris Wheel which features a constantly changing, illuminated pattern.

Looking towards NORBESA Ferris Wheel
Looking towards NORBESA Ferris Wheel

In the far distance, you can also spot the Mount Okura ski jump stadium, almost perfectly aligned with Odori Park and the Sapporo TV Tower.

Mt Okura Ski Jump Stadium in the distance
Mt Okura Ski Jump Stadium in the distance

While you are on the observation deck, if you find yourself needing to share the views on Instagram but you are running out of data, free wi-fi is available. It’s not super fast, but it’s decent for free wi-fi.

Sapporo TV Tower Free Wifi Details
Sapporo TV Tower Free Wifi Details

When you are ready to head back down, just push the button the lift, and/or wait in an orderly fashion for the next one to arrive. The lifts run up and down pretty regularly so it doesn’t take long before you are headed back to the third floor.

One of the Observation Deck elevators
One of the Observation Deck elevators.

Once you get there, you’ll find yourself in the paid section, a section you can’t get into without an observation deck ticket. There is a much larger gift store here and you will find a lot of tower-related trinkets as well as wider Sapporo and Hokkaido related gifts.

One of the favourites in both gift stores is the TV Dad mascot. A personified TV Tower character who features everywhere in the tower, including in the cafe (which is closed at night).

It's TV Dad!
It’s TV Dad!

He even has a little shrine on the observation deck.

TV Dad shrine on the Observation Deck
TV Dad shrine on the Observation Deck

Altogether, you could go up, take some photos, check it out, and head back down in half an hour if it isn’t busy. You could probably do it all in 15 minutes if there is no wait at all and you are really pushed for time. We took about an hour in total by the time we just enjoyed the city lights for a while and browsed the gift stores.

Pros

  1. Cheap to access, especially if you have a discount ticket.
  2. Some of the best views you will find of the Sapporo cityscape.
  3. Can be a very quick destination to visit.
  4. Open almost every day of the year until 10 pm.
  5. Centrally located and extremely easy to get to.
  6. You can queue jump if you book a set date in advance through Klook.
  7. Low internal lighting at night for great night photos.
  8. Free wifi on the observation deck.

Cons

  1. Not much space on the observation deck if it is busy which could limit photo opportunities.

Overall

So, the big question, is it worth your hard-earned yen? For sure. It’s easy to get to and has great views out over the city of Sapporo. It’s also cheap, and extra discounts are easy to come by so you can save yourself some money too. The caveat though, is that there is not much space in the observation deck itself, so if it’s busy you might find you have to wait a little while before you can go up. Just be sure to allow yourself some extra time in case of a wait and you’ll be fine, or alternatively, book a fixed-date queue jump ticket with Klook.

Sapporo city skyline
Sapporo city skyline South of the TV Tower

Hotels near Sapporo TV Tower

Being located right in the heart of Sapporo, there are quite literally stacks of hotels within an easy walking distance from Sapporo TV Tower. We stayed in the Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo which is located two blocks south of the tower. However, you will find there are hotels located all along Odori Park and within a couple of blocks on both sides.

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo

Hotels Combined

Agoda

You can also do a search for nearby hotels using the search box below.

Helpful links

Don’t forget

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments what your favourite tower is, and why!

I hope this has been helpful for you, and if you have any questions about the tower or visiting it, just let me know in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.

 

First published on: Dec 31, 2017 @ 17:01

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