Thursday, August 05, 2010

New Zealand arrangements

Bay of Islands, Opua
Although the Volendam cruise from Vancouver to Auckland takes up four weeks of the six week trip I will be on, the arrangements while we are in New Zealand have taken some considerable effort to put in place over the last couple of weeks.

The friends I am traveling with and myself agreed that we would confine ourselves to touring the North Island of New Zealand, and we wanted to stay in B&Bs or Farmstays in a few locations.  Staying in each location for a few days each will give us a base to work from - we can then take day trips to explore the surrounding area. We also wanted the option to do nothing, choosing to just relax beside the pool, perhaps go for a walk, or simply read a book on the patio. Rushing around, trying to see as many sights as possible in a short period of time doesn't appeal to us.  Don't get me wrong...we want to cover as much ground as possible and not miss out on the major sights, but running ourselves ragged is simply not going to happen. We decided to not stay in Auckland or the other major cities or "tourist towns"; favoring instead smaller towns and rural areas.

So what did we decide on?  First of all, we are renting a car and will be driving ourselves around the North Island.  This will give us considerable flexibility, however it also means we have to decide what we want to see and do, and put some kind of plan in place to try to accomplish those goals.

Oct 22 - arrive Auckland aboard Volendam

  • pick up Hertz rental car
  • drive to Kerikeri

Oct 22-25 - Kerikeri - 4 nights - Glenfalloch B&B

  • Bay of Islands
  • Ninety Mile Beach & Cape Reinga
  • Waipoua Kauri Forest, west coast Dargaville
  • Whangarei, east coast, offshore islands (Hen & Chicken, Barriers)
  • Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Oct 26-27 - Warkworth - 2 nights - Warkworth Country House

  • Kaiparo Harbour & east coast, or boat trip to Hauraki Gulf islands
  • Day trip to Auckland - harbour front, shopping, Skytower, Ponsonby & Parnell districts

Oct 28-30 - Coromandel - 3 nights - Kotuku B&B, Whangamata

  • Coromandel town
  • Hot Water Beach
  • Waihi & other east coast beaches

Oct 31-Nov 3 - Rotorua-Lake Taupo - 3 nights - Lake Okareka B&B

  • Rotorua - see volcanic geysers & mud pools; Maori culture
  • Lake Taupo - spectacular scenery, hike or ?
  • Tongariro - explore national park & mountain

Nov 4-5 - Waitomo - 3 nights - Simply The Best B&B, Waitomo

  • Raglan day trip
  • Waingaro Hot Springs day trip
  • Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Nov 6 - Auckland to Victoria, Canada - Qantas flight

All the B&B accommodation we have booked is modest in cost (NZ$50-$110 single, NZ$100-150 double), and yet offers us comfortable (and sometimes luxurious) rooms. Being B&Bs means all offer breakfast, which can range from a nice Continental breakfast of fruit and pastries, through to full cooked breakfast including fresh farm eggs and home made sausage.  Most, if not all offer Internet connections, off street parking, and as much free advice on local attractions as you want from the hosts.

Online resources provide an easy-to-use way to research places to stay. We used The New Zealand Bed and Breakfast Book and other online directories as a first resource, although we also used TripAdvisor to read how others rated the accommodation we were considering.  We also searched for the B&B website using a search engine.  If we found a website, then we raised that property higher on our list for consideration than those who were only listed in online directories.

Booking the B&Bs
We then reduced our list to three B&Bs for each location and contacted them using email for rates and availability.Since we were already only considering the listings which were modestly priced, we dealt with the operators who got back to us first.  Response times were typically about 24 hours...which is not bad considering the time difference between New Zealand and Canada.

Some B&Bs had secure online forms which we could fill out giving them our credit card info as a guarantee for the booking.  Others wanted us to send credit card info by email, which we refused to do since it is not secure.  In those cases, we either called them directly to confirm, or used the fax.

Waitangi Canoe House
Now that the New Zealand planning is in place, all we have to do is sit back in our deck chairs aboard the Volendam and read the New Zealand guidebooks.  As the cruise unfolds, we will experience four Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, two ports of call in Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Fiji, as well as Bay of Islands and Tauranga in New Zealand before disembarking in Auckland.  Not too hard to take!

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