Where Do New Zealanders Go on Their Summer Holidays?

As we turn our attention to summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere, where many of you have either been or are about to go on that well-earned break, we thought you’d be interested to know where our Southern Hemisphere cousins choose to holiday during the Pacific summer.

The Pacific summer takes place during the months of January and February, corresponding to our months of July and August. Although as in Europe, many New Zealanders typically opt to take their summer holiday earlier in December or later in March.

New Zealand school summer holidays are generally from mid to late December through until late January.

Views over Queenstown from the Skyline Gondola.

New Zealand Holiday Destinations

Unlike many British or European seaside destinations, Kiwi resorts tend not to be too commercialised, with few shops or attractions in beach areas. So you won’t find donkey rides, “kiss me quick” hats or amusement arcades – the staple features of many British holiday locations.

You’re more likely to find just a surf shop and a small “dairy” selling general items from fruit, drinks and food basics. All other supplies you’ll need to bring with you to your holiday home – or “bach” as it is called in New Zealand.

In recent years, many New Zealanders have opted to enjoy the delights of their own country rather than travel abroad.

New Zealand was closed to international travel for longer than most countries during the pandemic, so for Kiwis domestic holidays were the only choice available and “staycations” have remained very popular.

Aerial view of Cathedral Cove in Coromandel Peninsula.

North Islanders

New Zealanders living in the main cities of Auckland and Hamilton usually choose from one of three popular locations to holiday on North Island: Waiheke Island, The Bay of Islands or the Coromandel.

Waiheke Island

Just a forty-minute ferry ride away from the central city terminal in Auckland, Waiheke is the second largest island in what is known as the Hauraki Maritime gulf - an area that encompasses all the islands offshore from Auckland.

This easy accessibility coupled with the wonderful beaches to be found on the island shores, means that the population almost doubles during the summer season as Aucklanders make for their summer homes or apartments.

Waiheke has also recently become “The Island of Wine” with wineries and vineyards a key feature of the landscape, with wine tours and food & drink festivals becoming a part of an island holiday.

Waiheke Island Vineyard
Waiheke Island Vineyard. Image credit: Julian Apse

The Bay of Islands  

Whereas Northern Europeans head south for their vacations in the sun, the opposite is true of New Zealanders. Kiwi’s will typically head for the northern beaches and bays of Northland for their holidays. Many activities are centred around the small town of Paihia, where there are excursions to the Outer Islands and beaches.

The Tutukaka Coast along the western coastline offers great opportunities for diving, swimming, snorkelling and kayaking and for visitors heading to the far north, there is 90-mile beach (not exactly 90 miles, but a pretty long beach all the same!) where coach operators drive across the sands and sand boarding is a popular activity.

The Coromandel 

This small peninsula, a two-hour drive from Auckland, is dotted with fine beaches, lagoons and small towns. Most Kiwi’s head to the popular locations of Tairau and Whitianga, where not only is there easy access to the beach but both places have fine restaurants, bars and cafes as well an array of shops and artists studios to delight visitors.

Most activities take place in or on the water - from jet boating, parasailing and windsurfing to yachting, surfing and snorkelling.

Further south, holiday makers are also well catered for in the Bay of Plenty region, with Mount Maunganui being the main destination.

Located on the southern tip of North Island, Wellington is a beautiful place to visit in itself during the summer months. But, residents of the capital have the envious choice of easily catching a flight to Auckland to delight in a holiday in those northern locations or taking a ferry across the Cook Strait to enjoy the attractions on South Island.

Bay of Islands.

South Islanders

Kiwi's living on the South Island (or the “Mainland”, as they like to call it) will often fly from Christchurch or Dunedin to the northern locations when looking for a more chilled holiday, or head south for a more high-octane getaway that usually involves a base in either Wanaka or Queenstown.

Here, they can participate in the many adventurous pursuits on offer or head further south to explore the beautiful World Heritage Park of Fiordland. Three or six-day hikes on the Milford track or Routeburn track are very popular, as are cruises on the Milford and Doubtful Sounds.

Vacations with an “eco” slant, such as those advertised on Stewart Island in the far south provide New Zealanders with the opportunity to view the bird of their National emblem, the Kiwi – which can be encountered during nocturnal tours of some of the island’s habitat’s.

Parachuting in Wanaka.

International Travel


For Kiwis who forsake domestic travel for the glamour and cultural influences of a foreign holiday, for most this means a trip to their nearest neighbour, Australia. With the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the reef and rainforest gateway towns of Cairns and Port Douglas being favourites.

It is only a three-hour flight across the Tasman to Brisbane and Kiwi travel operators offer attractive year-round packages to the city and its beach-side hotels.


Another holiday destination, just three hours away is Fiji, which in recent years has also become a popular choice for weddings on the beach or honeymoons. Most Kiwi’s head for a stay on one of the Mamanuca Islands, which are only an hour's ferry ride from the main port of Denerau.

There is usually a wide range of entertainment as well as cultural shows provided by these island resorts, as well as the near certainty of fine weather for sunbathing, snorkelling and swimming.

The Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are a more laid-back, less commercial holiday choice for Kiwi’s who just want to relax in the sun and enjoy the island’s beautiful turquoise warm reef waters.

Here, it is most likely they’ll stay in one of the island’s small hotels and travel around by local bus. There are no large resorts on the Cook Islands, no brand names and plenty of excellent restaurants and cafes, so it’s the perfect place to truly get away from it all.

Couple snorkelling near coral in Fiji.

Of course, these holiday destinations are very much “the general”. As they live so far from other land masses, Kiwi’s have to be adventurous in their travels if they wish to visit other countries during their holidays.

Asia and European destinations are also on their list during the longer summer holidays, with backpackers and other Kiwi travellers planning these longer trips months in advance - in much the same way we would consider a long haul trip to New Zealand!

Fancy experiencing a Pacific summer for yourself? Just get in touch to see how we can help you plan a New Zealand holiday that any Kiwi would be proud of!

Which Direction Should You Travel Around New Zealand?

This is a time-old question and one very familiar to the Silver Fern staff.

As New Zealand travel specialists, we can put together tailor-made travel plans and itineraries which begin on either island. We can start your trip from any of the air gateways or cruise terminals in the country, depending on your needs and requirements.

In fact, personal needs often play a big part in the direction people choose to travel through New Zealand. 

Some travellers may ask for a starting point or wish to include a destination in their trip to meet friends or family there. Requests like these usually determine the direction of travel.

Some of our travellers meeting up with friends.

Why travel from South to North?


If there are no personal reasons to consider, the determining factor is often the weather conditions - particularly in the months approaching winter.

During these months (late May, June and early July) you can certainly feel the difference between the alpine South and the warmer climes of the North. For this reason, many travellers prefer to start in cooler weather and end their trip in higher temperatures.   


Some international flights only depart from Auckland and not from the southern international airports of Christchurch and Queenstown. Depending on connection times, it’s often more convenient to conclude your holiday in Auckland.

A new airport transport hub being built in Auckland combines both international and domestic terminals under one roof, so this will be less of a factor in the not too distant future. 

Essentially, this means you will only need to move from one part of the building to the other, rather than hauling your luggage all the way to another airport. 


It is true that some rental car companies scale their charges in favour of a journey starting in the South because they want their vehicles returned to an Auckland depot where there is more demand for rental cars. 

However, our preferred car rental company, Budget/Avis, offers favourable rates so the difference is nominal, but this really shouldn’t be a factor in your decision-making.  

A birds-eye view of Auckland, which is the main entry point for many airlines.

Why travel from North to South? 

Auckland is the Main Air Entry Point into New Zealand 

Most international airlines will have Auckland as their main point of entry. So if you wish to start your journey through New Zealand in another part of the country you will have to transfer to the domestic terminal then await your flight connection. 

The transfer to the domestic terminal is an easy 10-minute walk but after a long 15 or 24-hour flight, the idea of a connecting flight is often too much hassle.

Understanding New Zealand  

Most Silver Fern travellers will have done some background reading on the country and its origins, but if not, we think if you start in the north (in the Bay of Islands more specifically), you’re really starting at the beginnings of modern day New Zealand. 

Here, you can visit Waitangi where the Treaty between representatives of the British Crown and Maori chiefs was signed in 1840. This document has guided the development of the country and is the basis for New Zealand’s constitution as we know it today.

The excellent visitor centre at Waitangi features presentations and displays that tell the country’s story and give visitors a background to the current issues debated today.

The visitor centre at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which opened in 2016.

A Succession of Wow’s!  

Think of your travels through New Zealand as a three act play. The climax comes towards the end of Act III, and the preface is Acts I and II.

Whilst the North Island has some outstanding natural features, the South contains no less than 10 National Parks, one of the best coastlines in the world, two glaciers (Franz Josef and Fox), and two magnificent sounds. It even has the highest mountain in New Zealand, the majestic Aoraki/Mount Cook

It makes sense to see these sights in Act III of your trip to make sure you end on a stunning and dramatic climax.

An Easy Final Drive 

You’ll be amazed by the sights you see and the experiences you enjoy as you travel around New Zealand, but you’ll probably be a little travel weary too. So what better way to conclude your journey with an easy drive across the Canterbury plains rather than plunging headlong into the Auckland traffic?

The incredible sights of the Canterbury Plains.


Whichever route you choose to take on your New Zealand holiday, you can be sure our teams both in the UK and New Zealand will be there to support you all the way. If you have more questions about which direction to travel around New Zealand, just get in touch

The Centre of New Zealand: A Brief Guide to Nelson

As we often say, Nelson is one of our favourite destinations on South Island. Not only because it’s the city with the highest average hours of sunshine (although that helps!), but also because of its location on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay. 

It’s surrounded by mountains that lead into the three National Parks: Abel Tasman, Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi, which offer world-class trails through pristine ancient forests and around the golden bays of the Pacific. 

It also includes Mt Owen, with rockscapes that are so fantastic it stands to reason they were featured in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.

Nelson also has a reputation as a creative arts centre, with galleries, workshops, festivals and many cultural events very much part of the local scene. It’s worth checking out the city’s events calendar to see if you’ll be in town when there’s a display, studio opening or music event that you’d like to take in.

As the oldest city on South Island and the second-oldest settled city in New Zealand, Nelson certainly has an interesting history, which very much shapes the town that places itself at “The Centre of New Zealand” in more ways than one.

What’s in a Name? 

As Wellington had been named in honour of Britain's most famous soldier, the New Zealand Company felt it was fitting to call the settlement across the strait by the name of her most famous sailor - Vice-Admiral, Viscount Nelson. 

The city has many names that are a nod to the mother country and to Nelson’s sea battles – including Albion Square and Britannia Heights. The main street in Nelson is Trafalgar Street, after the 1805 battle in which Nelson died.

A Brief History of Nelson

The Centre of New Zealand: A Brief Guide to Nelson - Silverfern Holidays

Early Settlement 

The Maori people settled in the Nelson region approximately 700 years ago and developed the land around the Waimea Plains. From the 1600’s, the area was controlled by the Ngati Tumatakori tribe through until the early 1800’s when they were attacked by northern tribes and virtually wiped out.

The New Zealand Company 

The company, based in London, planned a settlement of Nelson and intended to buy 200,000 acres from the Maori to divide it into lots and sell off to settlers. However, by September 1841 only about one third of the lots had sold. Despite this, the colony pushed ahead.

Three ships, the ArrowWhitby, and Will Watch, sailed from London under the command of Captain Arthur Wakefield with settlers for the new colony. After some negotiation with the Crown’s governor, William Hobson, they were given permission to explore the North western area of South Island.

The company then purchased an ill- defined area of land from the Maori people to include Nelson, Motueka, Riwaka and Whakapuaka (which became a source of conflict later) and soon ships began arriving with settlers to set up home in wooden houses, tents and sheds. 

The problem for the settlers was a shortage of arable land. Wakefield and his entourage tried to make out that the original land sale also included the Wairau valley, leading to the first serious clash of arms between the Maori and British settlers since the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi

The settlers attempted to arrest the chiefs, Te Ruaparaha and Te Rangihaeata and when fighting broke out, a shot was fired which killed Te Rangihaeta’s wife and Te Ruaparaha’s daughter. In revenge the Maori killed 22 of the settlers, including Wakefield, in what has since been called the Wairau Affray.

The new governor of New Zealand, Robert Fitzroy, ruled that the land was legally that of the Maori people – a wise adjudication since the Maori outnumbered the settlers by 900 to one.

A later sale enabled the settlers to establish themselves on this land and Nelson was proclaimed a city under proclamation letters by Queen Victoria in 1858. 

The Centre of New Zealand: A Brief Guide to Nelson - Silverfern Holidays
Trafalgar Street at dusk


A Provincial government was in place by 1860 to oversee the development of the town, where establishment of a port was seen as key to the area’s future prosperity. A new wharf was completed in 1876 which remained in place until the 1950’s. The port was to dominate the economy. Steamers provided regular services to West Coast ports, Wellington and the small ports of Tasman and Golden Bays - Tarakohe, Takaka, Collingwood, Pakawau, Puponga and Motueka. 

During the goldrush of the 1870’s on the West Coast, Nelson was the main administration centre for the export of the gold. It also became the main region in New Zealand for the growing of fruit, vegetables and hops. Production continued well into the twentieth century and between the 1950s and the late 1970s, the volume of fruit exported through Nelson’s port rose from around 500,000 cases to more than two million cases.

What’s Nelson like today?

The city today is a vibrant hub of around 60,000 residents with an economy built around the 'big five' industries: seafood, horticulture, forestry, farming and tourism. Port Nelson is the biggest fishing port in Australasia. There are also a range of growing industries, including art and craft, aviation, engineering technology, and information technology. 

5 Things We Recommend You Do in Nelson

The Centre of New Zealand: A Brief Guide to Nelson - Silverfern Holidays

Take an Easy Walk Along the Matai River

This is perfect for a morning or afternoon stroll. The path is clearly marked by tall laminated signs to the Hardy Street footbridge and the Botanical Reserve. This was the site of the first ever Rugby game in New Zealand! 

After your walk (or before it!) head to the River Kitchen. Relax on the terrace in the sun or find a cosy chair inside.

Enjoy delicious food, craft beers, wines from around New Zealand, and locally roasted coffee. 

Enjoy the Views From the Top of the Centre of New Zealand Walkway 

A slight detour off the Matai River walkway at the sign near the poplar trees, in the north eastern corner of the reserve, offers a track walk up Botanical Hill to the Centre of New Zealand. It’s not the exact centre, but surveyors in the 1870’s used it as a centre point.

At the summit, enjoy the stunning views over Nelson from seats around the viewing platform. Return to the base of the hill via the main track or opt to head along the hillside to Walters Bluff. A good option is to take swimwear, walk down the eastern side of the hill to Branford Park, and have a swim at Black Hole.

The Centre of New Zealand: A Brief Guide to Nelson - Silverfern Holidays
Enjoying the view from the summit of Centre of New Zealand Walk

Follow the Nelson Art Trail 

You can follow the art trail using the online map, or it can be found on a leaflet published by the Nelson Tourist Board and is available from the Information site in town. 

The trail takes you to galleries and workshops where local artists showcase their work - from ceramics and paintings to glass blowing, wood turning, jewellery and more. There are also two art galleries – the large Suter Art Gallery with its excellent café and the Red Art Gallery.

Gentle Pedal the Great Taste Trail 

This popular cycle trail winds its way past vineyards, stunning scenery and a varied range of arts, crafts and culinary attractions. 

The purpose-built cycle paths ensure that nearly the whole trip stays under Grade 2 (easy), making it perfectly suited for those looking for a leisurely ride they can enjoy, not endure. There’s a whole host of hire spots and access points, so day rides are an easily achievable option, but we highly recommend giving the whole 174km loop a go - taking in Nelson, Richmond and Wakefield. 

This covers rural, urban and waterside terrain, getting a great taste of all that the region has to offer, from delicious food, to quirky guesthouses and quiet, natural grace.

Bikes can be rented from Kiwi Journeys or the Gentle Cycling Company. 

The Centre of New Zealand: A Brief Guide to Nelson - Silverfern Holidays
One of the many arts and crafts fairs in Nelson

Explore Abel Tasman National Park 

It would be a tragedy to visit Nelson and not check out at least one of the national parks. Abel Tasman National Park encompasses some of the most beautiful coastline to be found in the world and Nelson is the gateway to this spectacular area. 

The drive to Kaiteriteri (the starting point) takes around an hour, but it may be better to take a coach because parking in the small settlement can sometimes be difficult.

On the sands are various booths of the boat operators who ply the coast, dropping off visitors for short walks, day walks or kayaking experiences. The Guided Track walk is operated by the Wilson family and walkers or kayakers stay at two excellent accommodations, Homestead House and Torrent Bay Lodge, with all meals included.  

The three or five day walk is guided by professional guides who have a huge passion for the area, which definitely shows as they impart their knowledge with sensitivity and humour. 

Also, near Nelson are two other national parks, Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes - both of which offer further opportunities for scenic walks of different lengths. The park visitor centres can provide maps of both areas.

The Centre of New Zealand: A Brief Guide to Nelson - Silverfern Holidays
Happy hikers embarking on a walk through Abel Tasman National Park

Accommodation in Nelson

The main hotels in Nelson are The Heritage Rutherford Hotel and the Trailways Inn, both are well situated for the town and offer 3-4-star facilities with restaurants. If you really want to embrace the outdoors and the beauty of the region, then the luxurious Kimi Ora Eco Spa Resort is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day exploring.

The Sails complex offers excellent, modern self-contained accommodation and there are numerous bed and breakfast establishments including Shelborne Villa, Warwick House and Sussex House.

Where to Eat in Nelson 

There’s a great range of places to choose from! 

Of which our suggestions would be Arden Bar & Kitchen and Harry’s Hawker House as top choices, but if you want to really spice up your menu there is also Little India and The Indian Café.

For cafes, we’ve already mentioned the Riverside Café on the Matai River walk but Melrose House café, The Suter Gallery café and Little Dove are also fantastic choices.


If you’re keen to take in the sights and sounds of Nelson as part of your New Zealand holiday, it’s important to plan a few days for your visit so you can really make the most of it - we recommend two days as a minimum, to fully appreciate everything the city has to offer. 

We’ve only covered a small handful of the key attractions here, but there are plenty more to be found both within the city and in the surrounding areas. If you’d like to learn more about Nelson and discuss what to do while you’re there, do get in touch.

The Best Hotels in New Zealand: The Bottom of South Island

To round off our coverage of the best hotels in New Zealand, this blog post looks at those hotels which, broadly speaking, sit to the south of the Tranz Alpine train line  - from Greymouth to Christchurch through the Southern Alps. 

As in our previous posts that cover the best hotels at the top of South Island and the best North Island hotels, our selection of hotels in lower South Island are not based on algorithms or the amount a hotel may pay to third party sites to be at the top of their lists. 

We’ve selected hotels that we’ve personally stayed at and worked with over the past thirty years, all of which have scored consistently high with our travellers as they’ve made their journey through the country’s key sites and destinations. 

The Best Hotels in Hokitika 

Oftentimes, travellers are encouraged to go down the West Coast of South Island. If you do choose to do this, we think it’s more than worth stopping in Hokitika for a while. It’s a town that is a little more “local“ in feel than some of the more “touristy” hot spots on the South Island - giving you a real feel for what New Zealand life is really like. 

There are several local artists based in the town and you can visit their studios and workshops to see glass blowing, wood carving, jade carving and sculpture designs.

Hokitika, 150 years ago was a very different place than the town you will find today since this was the main centre of the West Coast gold rush, which was depicted in the recent BBC adaptation, The Luminaries. It’s worth calling into the small museum to view the fascinating photographs of the men and their mine workings dotted across the hillsides as they panned for their precious metal.

There is really only one hotel to consider in Hokitika and that’s the Beachfront Hotel. As the name suggests, it is located right on the beach and the hotel’s Ocean Restaurant is elevated above the water, so you can enjoy a delicious fine dining experience while watching the waves break on the beach.

A sunset view from the deck at Beachfront Hotel - Best South Island Hotels - Silver Fern Holidays
A sunset over the sea from the deck at Beachfront Hotel.

The Best Hotels in Franz Josef Glacier 

Around a 40-minute drive down the coast from Hokitika, you’ll arrive at the first of the glacier townships. These small villages are primarily there to support the tourist industry that has evolved and there are a number of options available that enable visitors to walk to, walk on and fly around the glaciers and Mount Cook. 

The Scenic Franz Josef Hotel is the largest hotel in the area and has two distinct wings,each having its own charm and atmosphere, and making the most of the superb views, tranquil location and surrounding native bush.

In our opinion, the Te Waonui Forest Retreat is probably one of the best hotels on the West Coast - with prices to match!

This is a 5-star rated hotel with four separate wings, all linked by a covered walkway. The guest rooms are luxurious and spacious with excellent amenities, including high speed internet access, plush wool and down duvets and even a personal pillow menu!

Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be enjoyed in ‘The Canopy’ restaurant, where an open fire, and subtle rainforest theming adds to the warmth and ambience of the space.

Next would be Westwood Lodge, OK this is more of a bed & breakfast than a hotel, but it would be a massive oversight for us to omit it, it certainly deserves to be considered the “best of” because it is such a stunning property in a fabulous location.

The lodge is located right in the forest of World Heritage Westland National Park, with spectacular views of Franz Josef Glacier. The accommodation includes guest rooms with beautiful garden views, a breakfast restaurant with a range of dining options and an expansive lounge to relax in after a busy day. Natural wood is a feature of the architecture throughout this accommodation.

Fully immerse yourself in nature at the Te Waonui Forest Retreat.

The Best Hotels in Fox Glacier  

Like its counterpart, accommodation in Fox is primarily there to serve the tourist trade around the glaciers. And here we’d pick out Te Weheka Distinction Hotel

The hotel is well located for Fox Glacier village and the beautiful Lake Matheson, which are just across the road and about a mile down the track. With fantastic views of the whole Mount Cook panorama reflected in the lake’s deep waters.

Each room is beautifully put together with a living area and balcony, so you can fully immerse yourself in your surroundings from the comfort of your room. If you’d prefer, you can also curl up with a good book and a glass of wine in front of an open fire in the cosy lounge area (which has its own library!), looking out over the Cook River Valley

The Best Hotels in Wanaka 

Over the Haast Pass and you’re into the completely different environment of Mount Aspiring National Park, with its scenic range of lakes and mountains.  

As Wanaka’s only hotel located directly on the shores of Lake Wanaka, Edgewater Resort is a special place to stay. Having recently undergone full refurbishment, the hotel offers fabulous accommodation and excellent facilities, making it a lovely place to base yourself to explore Wanaka and the surrounding area.

Its location ensures you can relax by the calming shores of the lake, but it takes just fifteen minutes to walk into Wanaka township, so the location is hard to beat.

The cosy lounge cafe that overlooks Lake Wanaka at Edgewater Resort.

The Best Hotels in Queenstown

The town’s moniker as the Adventure Capital of New Zealand means there’s plenty of accommodation available in Queenstown - catering for all the adventure junkies as well as those who just wish to enjoy the scenic delights of the area.

When looking for the best hotels in Queenstown, we recommend two smaller properties which are more homely and personal than the rather corporate offerings of the larger hotels.

First, Chalet Queenstown. This is a small boutique hotel just a ten minute walk through the Queenstown Gardens to the centre of town.

The property has 7 well-appointed guest rooms which have a balcony with either lake or mountain views and triple sheeted beds with feather duvets for maximum comfort. There’s a guest lounge and garden patio to relax in and put your feet up after the day’s activities and there’s a laundry service if you need it, too!

Next is Brown’s Boutique Hotel. Perfectly located in a quiet street in the heart of Queenstown, this is a charming, European-inspired boutique hotel. Each room has a balcony which offers stunning views to the lake and mountains. There is also a small patio garden area often used for barbecues in the summer months.  

A room with a view at Brown's Boutique Hotel in Queenstown.

The Best Hotels in Te Anau 

Travelling alongside Lake Wakatipu and under the shadow of the Remarkable mountains, a three hour drive will take you to the small town of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland World Heritage Park.

There are a range of self-contained apartments in the town, but really only two hotels, both under the Distinction brand. Our favourite, because it sits right on the lake, is The 4-star rated Distinction Te Anau hotel and villas. It has a pool, sauna and spa and is surrounded by gardens which look out to the Fiordland mountain ranges. 

For those visitors contemplating one of the track walks, this is a good base because most of the operators begin their briefing at the hotel.

Across Southern Otago and you’re on the east coast and Dunedin, where we favour the recently refurbished Fable Dunedin

Head north and you’re into the mountains of Aoraki/Mount Cook. There isn’t much choice when it comes to hotels here, and the only one that's in Mount Cook village itself is The Hermitage.

You won’t be disappointed though, the hotel offers superb views to the mountains and hosts the Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre, with information and photographs of the great man’s mountaineering exploits, which are definitely worth a peruse.

Whilst you might stop in Tekapo en route to Christchurch, in our view the hotel accommodation is not as good as the Hermitage and it would mean back-tracking on the road to drive to the mountains.

Incredible views of the mountains from the Hermitage Hotel.
Incredible views of the mountains from the Hermitage Hotel.

So, that concludes our “round-up” of the best hotels in New Zealand. Of course accommodations are always being updated, refurbished or newly built, so there may be others who become worthy contenders in the near future (check out Sudima Hotels who are on a buying spree at the moment!), but we hope the selection chosen in these blogs have given you some food for thought as you choose where to stay on your travels around New Zealand!


If you still aren’t sure which hotels are right for you as you plan your New Zealand trip, just give us a call and one of our knowledgeable team will be on hand to help. 

The Best Hotels in New Zealand: The Top of South Island

Following our previous blog post that covered the best hotels on North Island, here we’re going to look at our favourite accommodations located at the “top” of the South Island. With so much fabulous accommodation to choose from on South Island, we’re going to focus in on our favourite places to stay north of the line drawn loosely by the Christchurch to Greymouth train route through the Southern Alps.

As in our “Best of the North” post, our selection of hotels is not based on algorithms or the amount a hotel may pay to third party sites to be at the top of their lists, they’ve been tried and tested by us!

So, we’ve selected hotels we’ve worked with over the past thirty years that have consistently scored highly with our travellers as they make their journey through the country’s key sites and destinations.

The Best Hotels in Picton

Starting in Picton, your likely arrival or departure point on the ferry to and from Wellington and gateway to the Marlborough Sounds. If you’re going to be staying just the night, then probably the Picton Yacht Club or The Beachcomber Inn are your best bet. 

They are both conveniently located on the waterfront and both have lovely restaurants. 

However, if you’re likely to be around the area for a while, a better choice would be to consider a waterfront apartment. In recent years, there has been more emphasis in building self-catering properties than hotel accommodation. 

Views from The Beachcomber Inn in Picton

The Best Hotels in Blenheim

The main road south will take you to Blenheim, with accommodation for those travellers who’d like to enjoy tours of the vineyards and a spot of “tasting” at the different boutique cellars.  

Among our top choices are The Chateau Marlborough, it’s a bit of a grand name but it does proclaim to be the only 5-star accommodation in the northern region of the South Island. As you’d expect, it has all the luxury facilities including a spa, pool and gym and fabulously plush beds. It’s also handily located close to all the shops and restaurants.

If you’re looking to stay within touching distance of the vines, then you can do no better than a stay at Vintners Retreat, self-contained accommodation with views across the vineyards – check out their stunning website video.

Or if it’s a smaller place with a lovely garden and a quiet location that suits you, then The Jolly Poacher Retreat is a lovely old farm villa on a sprawling five acre property.

Chateau Marlborough by night. Image credit: Jim Tannock

The Best Hotels in Nelson

It’s a pleasant two hour drive from Blenheim to Nelson and the Abel Tasman region, lovingly known as the “sunshine capital” of New Zealand, you’ll find a wide range of attractive properties both within the centre of the town and on the road out towards Abel Tasman National Park.

The Trailways Inn is centrally located within a few minutes’ walk of Nelson’s central shopping precinct, theatres and restaurants and cafés, and it’s also close to the scenic waterfront. A dip in the heated swimming pool is a lovely way to start the day, and an evening in the onsite restaurant and bar with its wonderful food and views over the Maitai River, is a great way to end it!

Another great choice is the Shelbourne Villa, which is an 1820’s Arts & Crafts-style property with four comfortable and quiet suites – there is also a well-furnished guest lounge and dining room.

If you fancy something a little more modern, Sails offers an excellent range of contemporary studio apartments with fully equipped kitchenettes and spacious lounge areas, with floor to ceiling windows that open onto a private balcony or courtyard.

Although the apartments are self-catering, there is also an extensive (and delicious!) breakfast menu available to order which can be delivered directly to your room. So if you don’t fancy cooking, you can still enjoy a delicious home cooked or continental breakfast on your balcony.

Closer to the National Park in the small settlement of Kaiteriteri, here you’ll find Kimi Ora Eco Resort – don’t be put off by the name though, it’s hardly a “resort” in the traditional sense, but it does have a swimming pool and there are sun loungers if you fancy taking in the rays. The accommodation on offer comprises a range of attractive self-contained units all set back in the native bush and the beach is just a five minute drive away. The views from the breakfast room out towards the ocean are fantastic.  

You might also want to consider Ocean View Chalets situated in Marahau, at the southern entrance to the Abel Tasman National Park, these natural timber chalets are nestled on the bush line, with stunning ocean views.

Graded as four-star, you can choose between studio, one bedroom or two-bedroom chalets, each with a balcony and views out to the sea.

Inside the Park itself, you’ll find the unassuming but wonderful Awaroa Lodge, which is actually located on the Abel Tasman coastal path and makes a fabulous base for walking on the path or kayaking along the coast.

The Shelbourne Villa in Nelson

The Best Hotels on the West Coast

Travelling down the west coast from Nelson, you should head towards Punakaiki and Pancake Rocks, which are much like the blowholes of the Devil’s Staircase in Northern Ireland. After you’ve walked to the Rocks (and no doubt been soaked by the sea-spray), we recommend returning to the entrance and continuing down the coast to the stunning Punakaiki Resort.

Another property that should remove the “resort“ tag from its name, since these are simply well-appointed chalets that stretch from the bush line to the beach, with a fabulous central hub that contains the reception area and restaurant. 

The Best Hotels on the East Coast

On the east coast of the South Island, you’ll come to Kaikoura, popular as the main place in New Zealand for whale watching tours and dolphin encounters.

Two stand-out properties for us can be found on the main promenade and are highly recommended.

The White Morph is a self-catering accommodation which offers a 5-star luxury spa room with stunning full views of the ocean and mountains, a 4-star deluxe studio room with a partial view of the ocean and balcony to enjoy the ocean vista. You can also choose an en-suite Garden Studio, which has a patio so you can really make the most of the beautiful gardens which surround it.

Just up the road from the White Morph is the newly-built Sudima Hotel, which has had many rave reviews since its opening.

The view from The White Morph

The Best Hotels in Hanmer Springs

Inland from Kaikoura is the spa town of Hanmer Springs and our favourite hotels here are the Hanmer Springs Hotel and the Braemar Lodge & Spa. Both of which offer exceptional levels of customer service in fabulous settings, with tranquillity and relaxation at their heart.

The exterior of the Hanmer Springs Hotel

The Best Hotels in Christchurch

And so, to the capital of South Island, the garden city of Christchurch. Of course, much of the city’s hotel stock was destroyed in the earthquake which shook the city in February 2011. Some properties have been re-built, some were mercifully untouched and a number of new one’s have been built.

Our pick of those in the city are The Chateau on the Park, which is now owned by the Hilton group and as the name suggests, is across the road from Hagley Park and the stunning Botanic Gardens. 

The Distinction Hotel and Rydges Latimer Square are both new hotels and have good access to the main attractions.

The George is widely recognised as one of Christchurch’s most luxurious boutique accommodations. Situated on the edge of the picturesque Hagley Park, the 5-star hotel offers contemporary décor with a nod to traditional sophistication.

The fine-dining restaurant is popular with locals and visitors alike in the evenings, with the alternative option to indulge in a spot of high tea before strolling to nearby restaurant-laden Papanui Road for an evening meal.

The lobby of The George Hotel in Christchurch

Our next blog post heads further south to look at places to stay in the stunning Lakes region of Queenstown and Wanaka, as well as featuring some unique properties on the southern west coast and in Fiordland National Park, so do keep a lookout for that!


You’ll also find more suggestions for places to stay in the northern regions of South Island as well as the rest of New Zealand in the accommodation section of our website. If you’re planning a New Zealand holiday in 2023 or 2024 and you’d like a bit of extra help figuring out where to stay, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly, knowledgeable team who’d be more than happy to discuss your requirements.

The Best Hotels in New Zealand: North Island

Unlike many “Best Of” lists that you’ll find on the internet, our selection of the best hotels in New Zealand is not based on algorithms or the amount a hotel may pay to third party sites to be at the top of their lists.

Instead, we’ve selected hotels that we’ve worked with over the past thirty years, all of which have consistently scored top marks with our travellers as they’ve made their way through the country’s key sites and destinations.

Our New Zealand Hotel Recommendations

Of course, there is always an element of personal choice in selecting the best hotels - what suits one person will not always suit another, and price will always be a factor.

We’ve taken a strong value for money approach in our selection, so they’re not always the most expensive or the most luxurious, but we feel they tick all the boxes when it comes to comfort, location, cost and service.

How do we go about choosing the best hotels?

As you’d expect, cleanliness, well presented rooms, comfortable beds and a good location are a given, but close to the top of the list comes customer service. We expect staff at all of our recommended hotels to go above and beyond for our travellers, and each property that makes our list is nothing short of what we consider outstanding.

There’s also something about these hotels - they may have a unique history, a top-rated chef or a particular architectural style that sets them apart from other accommodation in the area.

Those who have travelled with us before will know, we often suggest “mixing up” your accommodations so that you also have overnights in B&B’s, apartments and/or farm stays to really get a feel for what New Zealand hospitality is like - but we’ll get to those in another blog post.

So, let’s start by taking a look at some of the best hotels around North Island…

The Best Hotels in Auckland

Location is pretty important when visiting Auckland. You may see some top rated hotels that are in Auckland’s suburbs, but it’s a sprawling city and if you want to see the main sites and enjoy excursions in or out from the harbour, you really need to be down by the water.

Our first suggestion would be The Grand Millennium Hotel. Yes, a bit of a pretentious name but you’ll find the hotel has spacious rooms and open public areas with an excellent restaurant. It’s a short walk down to the harbour or to the Sky Tower, and we’re usually able to get rooms here at a very good price for a 4 star hotel.

Alternatively, Rydges Hotel is also well located on a pleasant side street which leads onto Queen Street and then just a short walk down to the harbour. Not quite as spacious as the Millennium but very comfortable with plush beds and coming in at a similar price.

More upmarket and the “new kid on the block” is The Fable. A 5-star rated hotel which is very tastefully furnished with luxurious décor that leads straight onto Queen Street and the hustle and bustle of the city.

And right on the harbourfront, you have The Pullman. Offering stylish accommodation with fantastic views of the city centre, harbour and surrounding parks. Guests also have access to a lovely day spa with a heated pool, sauna and steam room.

The Sofitel Hotel also boasts great views of Viaduct Harbour Basin. There’s a restaurant, French Press and a champagne bar on site. It also has very good sized rooms with balconies.

Finally, you might like to take a look at MSocial if you fancy something a little quirkier. Another weirdly corporate name, but again in a great location and full of fabulously fun interiors with great views across the harbour.

The view from the Club Lounge at The Grand Millennium Hotel

The Best Hotels in Paihia and Russell, Bay of Islands

In terms of size, these two settlements have hardly changed for over 150 years, so you’ll find very few high rises and corporations here. We actually favour some of the smaller Bed and Breakfasts in this area, but if you’re looking for an affordable hotel with great rooms and a great location, then you should definitely consider The Scenic Hotel, which is located just as you come into Paihia.

Or The Copthorne, which is in the next bay and closer to the Waitangi Park area. The Copthorne is more spacious and offers more in terms of facilities, but that all comes at a higher price.

The most characterful hotel in the area is The Duke of Marlborough on Russell – one of the oldest hotels in the area with wide decking around its frontage – sit on your rocking chair under the eaves and watch the world and the boats go by!

The fabulous outdoor pools at The Copthorne Hotel

The Best Hotels in Rotorua

The drive into Rotorua is down one long main street that leads to Lake Rotorua, and off the street are motels a plenty. It’s not until you get close to the lakeside that you’ll find the hotels we recommend, starting with Princes Gate which is a lovely historic hotel, originally built at the turn of the 19th century and features elegant rooms with traditional furnishings.

The Novotel Rotorua Lakeside, is a modern property with bright and airy rooms with fantastic views over the lake. The Millennium Hotel also offers spacious, comfortable rooms facing Lake Rotorua, and a really inviting heated indoor swimming pool.

A particular favourite with Silver Fern travellers has been the Regent of Rotorua, which always scores highly for its delicious restaurant dishes and its plush, spacious rooms.

The ornate exterior of the Prince's Gate Hotel in Rotoroa

The Best Hotels in Taupo

In most cases, our travellers will choose apartments or motels in Taupo, but if you want a hotel, the Hilton really is the best choice. It has spacious grounds, wonderful views over Lake Taupo and, unusually, very characterful colonial style architecture - it’s certainly not the sort you would typically associate with a Hilton Hotel!

The Best Hotels in Tongariro National Park

There’s only two hotels in the park, so it’s an easy choice; The Chateau Tongariro Hotel and the Skotel.

The Chateau Tongariro, as the name might suggest, is the more grandiose of the two. Offering large open spaces with an extensive range of facilities including a games room with billiards, sauna, indoor plunge pool and a fitness centre. The in-house cinema shows a range of films daily, too.

The accommodation is really a throwback “experience” of former glories, when visiting dignitaries and other notable travellers would drink champagne on the terrace and play golf on the 9-hole course. If you choose to stay here, then you have to view the accommodation in this light.

The Skotel Alpine Resort, which is almost hidden behind the Chateau, was primarily built for the ski season and has been crowned New Zealand’s highest hotel. But it’s more than just an upmarket ski chalet, with incredible views, pleasant interiors and a good kitchen in each room at a very good price during the summer season, it’s the perfect base for hiking and outdoor activities. Be sure to ask for a room with a view looking out across the park and not the car park!

The Chateau Tongariro with its impressive surroundings
The Chateau Tongariro and its impressive surroundings

The Best Hotels in Napier

If you’re looking for simple, clean and well located, The Scenic Hotel Te Pania is ideally positioned right on the waterfront, across from the open air pools and close to both the visitors centre and main street.

But, if it’s ostentatious charm you’re looking for, then head for the Masonic Art Deco Hotel. Featuring classic art deco architecture and décor throughout the hotel with super stylish rooms and interiors, it really is like stepping back into the 1930’s. The hotel is also located on the waterfront with panoramic views of the Pacific ocean and close to the Museum Theatre Gallery.

The exterior of The Masonic Art Deco Hotel plays host to a range of classic street cars

The Best Hotels in Wellington

As with Auckland, when visiting Wellington it’s all about location. Our recommendation is to be close to Lambton Quay so that you have easy access to the main shopping area, the restaurants along the quayside and to Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum.

With this in mind, we’d first recommend the James Cook Chancellor Hotel, with great views from the restaurant on the 7th floor, it’s probably in the best location. Turn left from the hotel and you’ve got the cable car up the Kelburn Heights. With great views of the harbour at the top and a lovely walk through the gardens back to the Quay, you’ll pass by the Beehive government buildings en route. If you turn right at the hotel instead, it’s an easy walk to Te Papa.

If it’s a museum experience you want, then take a look at the Museum Art Hotel. It was “moved” from the original site of the present Te Papa National Museum and is very much a cultural entity in itself.

Perhaps I should let the owners provide the description: “With abstract lines and playful patterns, we’re setting you up for eclectic dreams. Your Wellington hotel room is surrounded by urban hills and harbour views, landscapes of true visual indulgence. In a capital alive with expressive aesthetic, here you can let it soak in. This unusual accommodation in Wellington is your own creative hideaway.”

The Inter-Continental is very much the premier 5-star accommodation on the waterfront and if it’s a luxurious experience you want, then without doubt the Inter-Continental provides it from a location very close to the quayside too.

We should just mention a hotel, not on the waterside but nevertheless very much a Silver Fern favourite and that’s The Bolton Hotel. It has a range of accommodation options from elegant studios and suites to family style rooms, it’s very close to the shopping area and city sights, and has a good reputation for its customer service and ethos as a whole.

The stunning interior of the Hippo Restaurant at Museum Art Hotel


So that’s our round-up of the best hotels on North Island – I hope I’ve given you some food for thought in selecting your accommodation. My next blog will be our list of the best hotels on South Island, so do keep a lookout for that one. In the meantime, if you’re planning a New Zealand holiday in the coming months and you’d like to know more about any of the hotels mentioned, just get in touch!    

New Zealand Borders Reopen for International Travel

After over two years of isolation from the rest of the world, the New Zealand government has announced that the borders will be reopened to international travellers. Hurrah!

To begin, there will be a phased opening with those travellers from Australia and the Pacific Islands already able to enter the country, subject to vaccination requirements.

There are a number of conditions of entry (that may well change as we progress through the year). Here, we've covered what you'll need to know about the borders reopening, full chapter and verse, and what you'll need to consider when travelling to New Zealand from the UK, with due thanks to the New Zealand Immigration department. 

When will travellers from the UK be able to enter New Zealand?

From 11.59 on 1st May 2022, vaccinated visitors from the UK who hold a valid visitor visa are able to enter New Zealand and self-test on arrival.

There are also other requirements to be met including: proof of vaccination, the negative result of a pre-departure test, the completion of a travellers declaration form and the negative result of a rapid antigen test (RAT) taken after your arrival in New Zealand.

What proof of vaccination is required to enter New Zealand?

You will need either a digital vaccine certificate (such as the NHS passport) or another form of confirmation from a government health authority or approval authority confirming you have had a full COVID-19 vaccine course.

Your documentation must confirm that you've had one or more COVID-19 vaccines (how many doses depends on which vaccine you have received), as well as:

  • Your name
  • The name of the vaccine or vaccines you received
  • The name of the agency that administered the vaccine
  • The name of the place where you received the vaccine
  • The date of each dose or the date when a primary vaccination course was completed

What pre-departure tests will you need to take before your flight to New Zealand?

You must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 result from one of the following:

  • A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken no more than 48 hours beforethe scheduled departure of your first flight to New Zealand, or
  • Supervised rapid antigen test (RAT)taken no more than 24 hours before the scheduled departure of your first flight to New Zealand, or
  • A supervised loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test taken no more than 24 hours before the scheduled departure of your first flight to New Zealand

You still need to take one of the relevant pre-departure tests even if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, or you are self-testing on arrival.

These tests must be carried out by approved private health centres, not local community set ups offering free tests.

Medical Exemptions

If you cannot take a test due for medical reasons, you must provide a medical exemption certificate. You will need to get this 72 hours before your flight and present it as part of your check-in documentation.

If you have recently recovered from COVID-19

Even if you have recently recovered from COVID-19 (within the last 90 days), you still need to provide details of a current and valid pre-departure test. Your test may show a positive result, so you will need to see a medical practitioner who will examine you for current symptoms of COVID-19. 

If they are confident you do not have a COVID-19 infection and don't pose a threat to others, you will need them to provide:

  • A medical certificate with the date of your previous positive test, within 48 hours of your flight to New Zealand
  • Documentation stating that they consider you as no longer being infectious with COVID-19

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 3 months, the New Zealand health authorities recommend you book your medical examination in advance of receiving your test results.  

What tests will you need to take when you arrive in New Zealand?

Eligible travellers entering New Zealand will be given a pack of rapid antigen tests (RATs) upon arrival at the airport, along with instructions on how to use them.

You must take 2 tests. Take a test on day one when you arrive in New Zealand, and another on day 5/6.

How will you report the results of your tests to the New Zealand health authorities?

You must report both test results, irrespective of whether you test negative or positive.

After you complete your traveller declaration, you will receive an email from the New Zealand Ministry of Health. You'll need to follow the instructions in the email and report your results using the link that they send to you.

You can also call a COVID-19 Test Results phoneline with your result. Details on how to do this will be provided in your test kit. 

If you return a positive test result

If you return a positive RAT result you will need to:

  • Report it immediately and let them know that you have recently arrived in New Zealand
  • Isolate for 7 days, the same period as a community case in New Zealand
  • Get a PCR test. Tell the healthcare provider who does the test that you have recently arrived in New Zealand. The PCR test results can provide valuable insight into any potential new variants coming into New Zealand.

If you return a negative RAT

If you return a negative RAT, you must still report your result. You do not need to self-isolate. 

If you test positive after day 6

If you test positive after being in New Zealand for 7 days or longer, you will need to isolate for 7 days. You should have a contingency plan in place for this, you'll need to source your own accommodation and cover any associated costs, you may also need to pay for any healthcare costs should it be required.

How do I complete the New Zealand Traveller Declaration Form?

This form must be completed if you are travelling by air in order for you to be issued with a Travellers Pass to show at check-in and upon arrival in New Zealand.

You can start your declaration 28 days before your flight and you will need to include the results of your pre-departure test. Here's a handy guide on how to complete and submit your Traveller Declaration form, but if you're struggling, just give us a call.

How do I keep up to date with the changing entry requirements?

By referring to the Silver Fern Holidays website of course! We'll regularly update the website with any new changes to entry requirements. Or, you can sign up to receive our regular e-newsletters, get in touch at to be added to our mailing list.

Visiting Akaroa: The Jewel of Banks Peninsula

Akaroa: Māori for “Long Harbour”

Most Silver Fern travellers who wish to visit the small town of Akaroa on the South Island’s Banks Peninsula, do so at the end of their New Zealand holiday.

It’s an ideal, easy-going place to have a restful couple of days before returning to Christchurch and catching the plane back home.

Google Maps will tell you that the drive is only an hour and twenty minutes, but in my experience the twisting roads and the many options to stop along the way means the journey will take you most of a morning. The peninsula was named for botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain James Cook on the Endeavour.

The History of Akaroa

Akaroa has a special point of difference in history - it was the only French settlement in New Zealand.

In 1838 a French whaler, Captain Langlois, decided that Akaroa was an ideal location for a town that could service the whaling ships. He subsequently acquired the peninsula in a dubious land deal with the local Māori. He then returned to France and arranged for a group of French and German families to sail to New Zealand, with the intention of forming a French colony.

However, by the time Langlois and his colonists arrived at Banks Peninsula in August 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi had already been signed. The signatories, including two Akaroa chiefs and New Zealand's first Governor, Hobson, had declared sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand.

In spite of this unexpected turn of events, the French settlers decided to stay on and over the next few decades, Akaroa became quite cosmopolitan. The French established themselves at one end of town, the British at the other, and people from Portugal, Italy, Spain, China and Australia joined them.

Akaroa’s population never grew much past 1000 - today it has about 650 permanent residents, but its population increases by around 4000 during the peak of the cruise season.

The distinctive character of Akaroa village is enhanced by the large number of well-preserved colonial buildings. The historic French cemetery and the French street names with their unmistakable French style, run throughout this seaside town.

Akaroa celebrates its French heritage with a biannual event, FrenchFest, where visitors and locals alike can enjoy a re-enactment of the French landing, a French inspired market day and an evening Cabaret.

There are two museums which recount Akaroa’s continental past and they’re both very much worth a look-in to discover more about the history of Akaroa.

Akaroa Museum is in the village itself, and over the hill from Akaroa in Okains Bay you’ll find the Māori & Colonial Museum. Here, you’ll find significant Taonga Māori and early Pākehā items among the range of treasures on display in the museum’s diverse complex of heritage buildings. 

The Geography of Akaroa

Akaroa is situated on the shore of French Bay, inside Akaroa Harbour, which is a rocky inlet on the Banks Peninsula that was formed when the sea breached the erosion-enlarged crater of an ancient volcano. One of the few mistakes Captain Cook made in his cartography of the area was to assume the peninsula was an island.

Where to Stay in Akaroa

One of the attractions to Akaroa is the low-rise accommodation, which sits in stark contrast to the many floor hotels that are part of the Christchurch city landscape. For overnight stays you’re really looking at motels, apartments and small bed and breakfast establishments. Our tried and tested recommendations for places to stay in Akaroa are:

Oinako Bed and Breakfast

An iconic landmark since 1896, Oinako holds a cherished place in the heart of Akaroa’s French heritage. Elegant rooms, superb harbour views, beautiful period features and peaceful surroundings are the hallmark of this historic home.   

Te Wepu Pod Retreats

For something a little different, check out the latest in alternative accommodation - which seem to be a new favourite amongst farmers! It’s a 15-minute walk from the nearest road, but you do get to sleep on real beds in double-glazed, New Zealand-made pods with some of the most incredible and tranquil views you’ll ever experience (even more so from the private woodfired hot tub). As they say, “more solid than canvas, much more romantic than an ordinary hotel room”.

Akaroa Coastal Studio

The Akaroa Coastal Studio is perched above native bush, with spectacular views of the harbour. Attached to the owners home, it’s a quiet, private room with its own entrance, queen-bed, kitchenette and en-suite bathroom. Studio guests can also enjoy private use of the outdoor spa pool too.

Like many accommodations in New Zealand, they can also book activities directly for you.

Akaroa Criterion Motel

A newly renovated motel, it offers large studio apartments with stunning views over the harbour, private balconies, double glazed and under floor heating.

Akaroa Waterfront Motels

Probably our pick of the motels because it is the only motel in Akaroa on the water's edge. All units are self-contained with their own kitchenette and private bathroom to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

Akaroa Village Inn

No longer an inn but really another set of apartments that are well located with all the amenities you’d need. Family-friendly with a lovely outdoor pool, laundry service, cooking facilities and free parking - it’s perfect for those looking for a home away from home.

Other accommodations to consider are Mount Vernon Lodge or the Tresori Motor lodge – both offering convenient and comfortable self-contained studio apartments.

Activities in Akaroa

If you’re looking for things to do in Akaroa, most activities involve sea action. But if you are a “land-lubber” and fancy making it a walking holiday, you’ll also find plenty of walks to enjoy - ranging from just a few hours to three-day track walks. Most of the walks have spectacular views of the Akaroa harbour once you get up into the hills above the township.

Walks & Hikes Around Akaroa

To really make the most of the local scenery, then a walk around the Banks Peninsula is the way to go. Here’s some of our favourites:

Banks Track Walk

Let’s start with the big one – The Banks Track walk. Pioneered hut-to-hut walking over private land, it’s still regarded as the finest private walking track in the country.

Beginning in the village of Akaroa, the Banks Track includes spectacular volcanic coastline, waterfalls, native bush, open pasture, and delightful beaches. You can choose between the three-day Classic Walk or the two-day Hikers Walk option.

Akaroa & Banks Peninsula Short Walks

Recommended short walks are through native bush to the Gardens of Tane and across to the historic lighthouse.

Further afield, we’d suggest the Misty Peaks full day circular walk and the Round the Mountain trail which encompasses Purple Curry Reserve.

For a comprehensive guide to all the walks in the area, please visit the Banks Peninsular Walks website.

On the Water in Akaroa

If for any reason you’ve missed seeing dolphins in the Bay of Islands or off the Kaikoura coastline, you’ve plenty of opportunities to see them in Akaroa’s waters.

Here’s some of the operators who will take you out to see the local bird and fish life:

Akaroa's Fox II

Fox II Sailing will take you out into the harbour on New Zealand’s oldest ketch. With 2 wooden masts and 6 sails, there is always a halyard to hoist or a sheet to be pulled! So, if you’re into sailing this is the trip for you – the crew are pretty good on their local history and wildlife too and know exactly where to spot dolphins - you’re guaranteed a good time!

 Black Cat Cruises & Swimming with Dolphins

Black Cat Cruises proclaim they are the original dolphin swimming encounter. It is fair to say they have won numerous awards for their eco tours and only allow a maximum of twelve swimmers, so you can be sure of a quiet, personalised experience.

Pohatu Penguins Sea-Kayaking Safari

And if it’s penguins you’d like to see then this is an excursion you should take. Explore by kayak the towering volcanic cliffs, reefs and sea caves of Pohatu marine reserve to encounter its unique wildlife.

 Akaroa Dolphins Harbour Nature Cruises

Harbour nature cruises offer a more luxury option. You’ll board a cruise boat to view the dolphins, seals and seabirds on a 2-hour float around Akaroa Harbour - all the while enjoying complementary, award-winning drinks and food. For something even more special, they also offer private charters. You can hire a boat from 2 hours to a full day with many additional services available, such as catering, entertainment, and your own onboard photographer.

A similar operation is also provided by Southern Wanderer Scenic Cruises and EcoSeaker Harbour Cruises, but on a smaller cruise ship.

Where to Eat in Akaroa

And after all the excitement of the day, where are you going to relax and enjoy an evening meal in Akaroa?

Our absolute number one recommendation would be Bully Hayes restaurant and bar, which has panoramic views of the harbour and serves up an extensive menu of New Zealand produce, complemented by some fine local wines and craft beers.

And if it’s the wine you’ve come for, the French Farm Winery has a wide selection as part of their bistro offering in a peaceful garden setting.

For something different, you have to try Mandala. Run by a Fijian husband and wife team, they serve a tasty blend of Pacific Indian flavours with the best of traditional European food. 

Finally, there is Ethels Cinema, Café & Bar. Akaroa’s twin screen movie theatre that often features the latest blockbuster, documentary, foreign and arthouse films.

Each cinema has plush seating with a table for snacks, coffee or glass of wine. As well as the latest films, Ethels also offer dine-in and takeaway food including daily baked savoury and sweet treats. It’s also the place for Italian pizza, fresh salads, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

For such a small township, Akaroa certainly packs a punch and although some locals complain about the large cruise ships that visit the area, there is no doubt that the local tourist operators benefit from their presence.

I’ve found visiting in the autumn months to be the best time to visit – with the many hues of the season offering a wonderful display of colour against the rich light that softens the landscape at this time of year.


For more information about visiting Akaroa, do get in touch, we’re always happy to chat about this marvellous little place!

Christmas in New Zealand - Silver Fern Holidays

Christmas in New Zealand: Celebrate Like a Kiwi

Want to make the festive period extra special? Then, consider Christmas in New Zealand. 

With Christmas on the horizon, we thought it a good idea to give you a picture of what it’s like in New Zealand and some of the delights that await you if you decide to visit the country at this time of the year.

Christmas time in New Zealand is unlike anywhere else in the world. Spending the holiday season in New Zealand is an amazing way to learn more about the Kiwi culture, and give yourself a break from the bleak British winter too! 

As New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas is a much warmer affair than you might be used to. Christmas imagery in New Zealand still features lots of classic wintery designs, but it all comes with a special Kiwi twist. A traditional Christmas in New Zealand takes influence from Britain, North America, and the indigenous Māori population. 

This diversity is a big part of what makes New Zealand the incredibly unique place it is. 

So, we’ve put together a special guide to Christmas in New Zealand so you can really make the most of your festive Kiwi holiday…

Traditional New Zealand Christmas Food

Let’s be honest, for most of us a big part of Christmas is the food! Whether it’s a roast dinner with all the trimmings or arguing over the last Quality Street, food is a big part of tradition. 

New Zealand is no different and food plays a big part in Christmas celebrations. 

Like Australia, the warm weather does have an impact on a typical New Zealand Christmas dinner. While some families opt for a traditional roast dinner, it’s not the norm. Barbecue or a picnic at the beach is much more common. Seafood and locally grown vegetables are especially popular choices. 

Families with Māori roots often have a Hangi. A Hangi is a traditional form of underground cooking where fish or meat, vegetables and Kumara (which is similar to sweet potato) are wrapped in flax leaves or cloth sacks. They’re then placed on hot stones in a pit before being covered with a wet cloth and buried with earth. 

The Hangi is left to slow cook for at least four hours, which gives the food a delicious smoky flavour. Because the Hangi takes so long to cook, it’s perfect for Christmas day where people have more time to relax together and enjoy each other's company while they wait. 

A traditional Kiwi dessert is a pavlova pudding but be aware, serving one may end in a heated debate! Both New Zealand and Australia claim to have invented the pavlova, as do England and America. The ribbing is mostly good-natured, and it’s already been proven England invented it anyway! 

Pavlova - New Zealand Christmas Dessert - Silver Fern Holidays

Decorating for Christmas Like a Kiwi 

Christmas in New Zealand takes inspiration from a number of cultures and you can see this reflected in the decorations. It’s very common to have a traditional pine Christmas tree but that’s not the only traditional Christmas tree in NZ. 

The Pōhutukawa tree blooms in December and will continue to do so until early January and is known for its bright red flowers. They’re most common on the North Island but they do grow on the South Island as well, they’re just rarer and tend to bloom slightly later. 

Pōhutukawa trees are heavily featured on Christmas cards and in songs and poems, and because of their bright colouring, they don’t need as much decoration as a pine tree. 

Not only does the ​​Pōhutukawa tree feature heavily in festive imagery, but it’s also incredibly important to Māori culture. On the windy clifftop of Cape Reinga is an ancient ​​Pōhutukawa tree, which the Māori believe is where the spirits of the dead begin their journey to Hawaiki. 

Hawaiki, in Polynesian mythology is considered the ancestral homeland and is where all life begins and where spirits return to at death. 

You can find out more about Hawaiki in our blog post where we take a closer look at some of our favourite Māori myths and legends.

Pohutukawa in Bloom - Doubtless Bay, New Zealand - Silver Fern Holidays
Pōhutukawa in Bloom - Doubtless Bay, New Zealand.

Traditional Christmas Gifts in New Zealand

Every Christmas, you’re almost always guaranteed to get a pair of fluffy socks. As children, we might not get that excited by socks but as adults, we realise they’re actually a pretty great gift. New Zealand has a similar tradition with jandals. Jandals is slang for ‘Japanese Sandals’ and have been a popular gift since the 1950s.

If you want to make sure you’re on the good list and get plenty of great gifts from Santa, make sure to leave a treat for him. In New Zealand, it’s traditional to leave Santa some pineapple chunks and his reindeer carrots. Probably a healthier choice than cookies and milk!

Where To Spend Christmas in New Zealand

Now you know how to celebrate like a Kiwi, you just have to decide where to spend Christmas! You’ll find plenty to enjoy on both the North Island and the South Island. 

Christmas in Auckland 

If you’re looking for some traditional festive cheer, Auckland might be the perfect place for you. For over 80 years, Auckland has hosted an annual Santa Parade to get everyone into the festive mood. It’s normally held at the end of November, although it can be early December depending on the weather. It’s known for its marching bands, multi-cultural performances and decorated floats. 

If you want to spend more time with the locals and celebrate like a true Kiwi, head over to Auckland Domain for the Coca Cola Christmas in the Park. It’s filled with live music acts and performances from some of NZ’s most loved artists. 

For something a bit more classic, visit the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s annual Christmas concert. Concerts are usually held in mid-December at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and often bring in local community choirs. 

When you’re doing your gift shopping, you can’t go wrong with a market. Orewa Twilight Christmas Market is an annual market filled with artisan products and delicious local food - perfect for choosing some gifts to bring home, and a treat or two for yourself.  

If you’ve decided to travel solo, there are plenty of community events on Christmas day itself. The Auckland City Mission hosts an annual community lunch that’s incredibly popular for locals and visitors alike. In 2016, it had over 550 volunteers and 2000 guests. It’s a great way to make some friends over the holidays. 

The Auckland Santa Parade - Silver Fern Holidays
The Auckland Santa Parade

Christmas in Queenstown 

Of course, not everyone is looking for a traditional Christmas. Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world, is the perfect spot for an adventurous Christmas! Most places in New Zealand will be closed on Christmas day, but Queenstown never sleeps. 

Most activities will operate on a reduced schedule but you can still find plenty to do like kayaking and jet boating through Skippers Canyon rapids. There’s normally restaurants open as well, but if you’re looking for something less formal, then head down to the lakeside. 

Queenstown is surrounded by the beautiful Lake Wakatipu waters, or you can hike towards Glenorchy, which is perfect for working up an appetite. 

One of our favourite ways to dine in Queenstown is the Skyline Gondola which hosts a special Christmas and New Years Eve dinner. You can take a gondola up the mountain, enjoy live music, a buffet of traditional Kiwi food and even try out a luge ride!

It’s essential that you book in advance for Christmas day activities. Get in touch with us if you’d like help planning your Christmas adventure.

Queenstown as seen from Skyline Gondola - Silver Fern Holidays
Queenstown as seen from Skyline Gondola

New Year in New Zealand 

Being one of the first places in the world to welcome in a new year, New Zealand is the place to do it. If you’ve spent Christmas in Queenstown or Auckland, they’re great spots to enjoy the New Year as well. Of course, to make the most of your trip, you can always spend Christmas on different islands. With a short internal flight between islands for New Year’s Eve, there’s really nothing to stop you enjoying the best of both. 

Queenstown is great if you’re looking to party the night away. The city’s bars and clubs will be busy with live events, bar crawls and plenty of music! Make sure to head to the lakefront for midnight though where you can catch a fireworks display over the water. 

If you’re spending New Year in Auckland, the Sky Tower will give you the best views of the city and the fireworks show. If fireworks aren’t your thing, Auckland also hosts plenty of music festivals to see the new year in and harbour party cruises for some beautiful sights. 


Ready for your own festive New Zealand adventure? Get in touch with us and see how we can help you with a tailor-made holiday or one of our exciting small group tours.

Singapore Stopovers: A Complete Guide to Changi Airport

Singapore – the tiny island state just off the coast of Malaysia, has long been one of the favourite stopovers when travelling to New Zealand, with the tropical city offering a vast array of things to do and see with a few days between flights.

Singapore Airlines, the national carrier, is one of the most comfortable airlines we’ve travelled on. With well-balanced value combined with impeccable service, as well as some of the most sensible flight times between the UK and New Zealand.

For many of our travellers, the best combination of flight times and cost result in their spending several hours in Changi Airport itself (sometimes referred to as Singapore Airport).

In most other airports, it would be time filled with thumb-twiddling and numerous cups of coffee. Changi, on the other hand, is not like other airports and is often pegged as the best airport in the world.

Why is Changi Airport the best?

The first thing you’ll notice is the sheer enormity. In fact, there have been numerous accounts of people spending whole weekends in Changi Airport and not running out of things to do.

It also bags a number of award-winning and record-breaking attractions, including the Rain Vortex - the world’s tallest indoor waterfall in its newly-built Jewel Terminal.

There’s a futuristic glassed ceiling building containing the never-ending Shiseido Forest Valley indoor gardens, as well as sound and light shows projected onto the 40-metres high Vortex.

They’re just a couple of the unique attractions you’ll find, but after a long flight, these in particular are great for invoking a sense of calm and tranquillity as you recharge ready for the next leg of your journey.

Although the carefully curated gardens of New Zealand are well-respected, the options at Changi are almost endless with gardens in each terminal. Seeing nature within such an industrialised setting never gets old.

What can you do at Changi Airport?

Terminal 1

Terminal 1 welcomes arrivals with a 24-hour water lily garden and the Piazza Garden with its Singaporean plant species. There’s also the Tropical Rainforest Vivarium, which is a feast for the senses with flora chosen especially for their scent as well as a diverse range of complementary colours.

For those spending more time in Terminal 1, also open 24-hours is the rooftop Cactus Garden and Bar, which has several species from around the world. The Discovery Garden, which features a combination of sculpture and nature also has a number of raised pathways, enabling visitors to grab the perfect selfie with their favourite piece.

Terminal 2

For those exploring Terminal 2, the Enchanted Garden offers motion-sensored nature sounds, sparkling lighting and reflective sculptures contrasting with the genuine ferns and flowers.

Also in Terminal 2 is the delightful Sunflower Garden - staving off the jetlag with a good dose of sunlight during the day and innovative lighting by night. There’s also the popular Orchid Garden, with themed areas based on the elements of fire, water, earth, and air.

Terminal 3

Typically, the New Zealand and UK flights depart from Terminal 3, which is peppered with its own garden highlights. It offers the world’s first Butterfly Garden in an airport, as well as the Crystal Garden - another wonderful blend of sculpture with the natural world.

Not to be outdone, the new Jewel terminal has arguably got the pick of the crop, with the Canopy Park, and the 24-hour multi-level Shiseido Forest Valley, one of Asia’s largest indoor gardens, with over 100 different species of plants from around the world.

The free-to-visit garden comes complete with walking trails, and even a sensory section containing light shows, music and targeted scents. It offers one of the most peaceful and thought-provoking natural experiences you’re ever likely to come across at an airport.

What can kids do at Changi Airport?

If you’re on a family holiday to New Zealand and you opt for a Singapore stopover, there’s plenty for the kids to do too. For a more energetic garden visit, a small entry fee allows access to the Canopy Park, spanning the entirety of the top floor of the Jewel Terminal, with an enormous suspension bridge offering panoramic views of the Rain Vortex, including a nerve-wracking glass floor section.

In addition to the traditional Petal Garden, the Topiary Walk offers a fun trail through animal-shaped foliage, and the Hedge Maze is Singapore’s largest.

Kids can also enjoy the smaller mirror maze, the Foggy Bowls (mist-releasing bowls that give the illusion of being amongst the clouds), and the four integrated Discovery Slides - offering fantastic views of the Rain Vortex and the Forest Valley.

Baggage storage facilities mean you are free from the constraints of your luggage and with plenty of restaurants in the Canopy Park, you could easily spend a half day in this section of the airport alone.

Also at Jewel is the Changi Experience Studio, with interactive games including the chance to race a Boeing 747.

For those wanting to stay in Terminal 3, kids old and young will love The Slide@T3 - Singapore’s tallest slide, and the world’s tallest slide in an airport!  And you could lose the little ones for days at a time in the Games Area in Terminal 4, with arcade machines on offer as well as PlayStations, X-Boxes, and a Wii to enjoy free of charge.

If you want something a little more chilled, in Terminals 2 and 3, classic kid’s films are played on giant cinema screens alongside recent releases, complete with comfortable seats and popcorn.

And for the adults?

Sometimes you just need a bit of grown-up time and a relaxed meal! With almost 200 bars, café’s and restaurants to choose from throughout the airport, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Food & Drink - For a kid-free zone, challenge your friend or partner to make you a cocktail at the dedicated zone within duty free in Terminal 4, or try suggested food and beer matches at Tiger Beer’s Vortex-view restaurant.

For those desperate for a bit of fresh air, Hub & Spoke Café’s menu offers a range of Western and Singaporean classics served alfresco at Terminal 2.

Wellbeing - If all the kids splashing around at the Terminal 1 roof-top pool, have you craving a bit of peace and quiet, head for the Wellness Oasis Spa for a facial and a fish pedicure.

Shopping - If you’re desperate to flash the cash, fear not as Changi offers a mind-boggling array of duty-free shopping experiences - from local brands to international luxury and everything in between.

Art & Culture - For culture vultures, Changi is absolutely bursting with artwork.

Terminal 1’s Kinetic Rain installation made up of shining metal droplets suspended overhead that shift position inspired by the flow of passengers and planes through the airport. It’ll have you staring in wonder (or confusion, depending on how much sleep you managed on your flight).

Similarly, Terminal 2’s A Million Times at Changi, where hundreds of clocks harmonise their hands into creating messages and pictures.

In Terminal 3 the 13m tall Daisy is painted in Singapore’s national colours, with a giant propeller a nod to its location as it follows the movements of passers-by.

Finally, for those extending their holiday with side-trips to other Asian destinations, Terminal 4 offers its own shape-shifting piece, Petalclouds, which can be enjoyed from both the Departure and Arrival halls.

For a more traditional offering, Singapore Rojak is a giant heritage mural depicting a Singaporean Street Scene, with market stalls inviting observers in with their colourful wares. The garden in T4 also contains a series of giant bromeliads juxtaposed against an enormous steel creative centrepiece, and a gentle koi pond.

Wherever you turn at Changi Airport, you’re sure to find something incredible to look at.

Can I stay overnight at Changi Airport?

Yes! In fact, we recommend it to really make the most of your visit.

With the world’s highest indoor waterfall, tallest airport slide and the only airport Butterfly Garden, we’d be surprised if Changi could be beaten on number of sleeping options.

Free of charge rest areas are spread throughout the airport, offering comfortable seating including reclining massage chairs. Airport lounges also offer showers and multiple areas to relax and watch a movie while you recoup.

If undisturbed sleep and a private room are your top priority, we can book you a room at the transit hotel onsite with a bed and a shower available for blocks of 6 hours - perfect when travelling on Singapore Airline’s service between UK and New Zealand.

What if I don’t have much time to spend at Changi Airport?

Changi’s got you covered! It’s known in flight-booking circles as one of the most efficient airports around. Connection times here may be tighter than allowed elsewhere, and even if you’re only taking the Sky Train between terminals, you should still manage a glimpse of the Rain Vortex.

Unlike many other international airports that operate strongly reduced hours overnight, Changi offers a range of restaurants, duty free and other shopping options open into the late evening, with some Terminal 3 dining available 24/7.

We recommend you should also squeeze in a visit to one of the gardens, many of which are also accessible by night.

What about COVID-19?

Not only is Singapore one of a handful of countries (along with New Zealand, of course!) that the UK government will accept vaccination certificates from, they were also one of the first whose national airline carrier insisted their cabin crew wore facemasks to protect passengers, way back in early 2020.

Already known as one of the cleanest countries in the world with their infamous chewing gum ban imposed in 1992, since the pandemic hit, cleaning regimes have been stepped up even further. The airport website has a dedicated Covid-19 Hub to help make your time in the airport as safe and seamless as possible.

Anything else I should see?

Oh, so much more – but what would be the fun in exploring for yourself if we spoilt all the surprises before you arrived?

OK, I’m sold… how do I get there?

If you’re looking to book a New Zealand holiday, just give us a call to discuss your requirements with us so that we can book your transit through Changi.

If you plan to explore the city too, keep a look out for our upcoming blog post with all our latest tips on how best to spend your time whilst visiting Singapore.