Host Families NZ Blog

Top 5 must-sees in the North Island

April Brion - Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The North Island of New Zealand has some iconic tourist destinations, the natural landscape is totally unique and you can get a great mix of action and sightseeing. We’ve been around the whole island, and here are what we consider to be the Top 5 must-sees in the North Island:

TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING

This is an 18.5km one way day hike which crosses the volcanic centre of the North Island, between the summits of Mount Tongariro (1967m) and Mount Ngauruhoe (2287m). If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, Mt Ngaurahoe was cast as Mt Doom in the movies, and the landscape of this volcanic area will make you feel like you are trekking across Mordor.

Make sure as with all hikes to plan your trip with care – visit one of the websites that specialize in the region and can provide details for weather, gear and transport.

If you need any more convincing of how incredible the Tongariro Crossing is, check out this beautiful video.

ROTORUA

Rotorua is a treat to visit – even for native New Zealanders, this central plateau city is a wonderland and an incredible place to get the best of adventure, scenery and culture. Kind of like the Queenstown of the North Island, everything you can imagine wanting to do can be done in Rotorua:

  • Bungy jumping
  • Sky diving
  • Luge tracks
  • White water rafting
  • Jets boats
  • Gondola rides
  • Animal parks
  • And so much more!!!

We think the thing that makes Rotorua special is the volcanic activity. Visiting somewhere like the thermal wonderland of Wai-O-Tapu  is almost like travelling to another planet. There are shooting geysers, coloured lakes, brilliant coloured rock formations and of course, Rotorua’s famous “egg smell” which comes from all the sulphur.

The only downside to Rotorua is that because it is a major tourist market, things can be expensive. So budget accordingly and take advantage of sites like GrabOne or promotions being run by our Host Families travel partners.

EAST CAPE

The East Cape is where you go if you want to feel like you’re alone with the world – it has a tranquil feel about it and you will find a lot of peace here.

The views and scenery are amazing – lots of long stretches of deserted beach and towering cliffs. Activities are also on the quiet side, you won’t find much adventure tourism here. Think about horseback riding, fishing and cultural museums. Maori culture is strong on the East Cape, and if you’re familiar with the movie Whale Rider, this is the kind of landscape you’ll be in.

It’s not the quickest or easiest place to travel to, with long winding coastal roads, but will be worth it if you make the effort.

Check out the OutEast website which covers information for everything of the East Cape, from isolated beach towns such as Wairoa to the closest east coast city of Gisborne.

NORTHLAND

Northland is the area at the top of the North Island, and it holds some spectacular sights worth your time to travel to visit.

Cape Reinga is the most northern tip in New Zealand that is open to the public and is marked with an ancient pohutukawa tree (believed to be over 800 years old), a lighthouse and a signpost. It is also where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet, so you can imagine how incredible the view is.

This place holds special, spiritual significance in Maori culture as the place where spirits return to their ancestral homeland. Because it is a sacred site, eating is not permitted at Cape Reinga, but there are many beautiful picnic spots along the way.

90 Mile Beach is another feature of Northland renowned for amazing sunsets and surf breaks. Interestingly, the beach is officially a highway so driving is allowed – however only in 4WD vehicles and at times that work in with the safety of the tides. If you take a coach tour from Kaitaia, this is the best way to experience driving along the beach.

If you are after a bit of adventure in Northland, you can’t go past the Te Paki sand dunes. These huge golden mountains are fun to climb up, and even more fun to surf down. It’s fast and thrilling – you can hire boards on site which is a good option because they’re safer and easier to control than a simple piece of plywood or cardboard. The reserve also offers tramping, swimming, diving, fishing and bird watching so there is an activity for everyone.

There is so much more to see and do in Northland! Northland’s tourist website has good advice and links to read before you plan your trip.

WAITOMO GLOWWORM CAVES

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are world renowned and are very high up on most travelers must-see list. The glowworm called Arachnocampa luminosa is unique to New Zealand, so you’re only going to see these amazing creatures here.

Thousands of them light up inside the caves and create what seems like a starry night sky with their luminescence. You can catch a boat ride which will take you slowly through the peaceful caves, and the expert guides will tell you all about the history and science behind Waitomo and the Glowworm caves.

Host Families NZ have travel partners that run deals on trips to Waitomo, so let us know f this is somewhere you want to visit.

 

Top Tips for Road Safety in New Zealand

April Brion - Friday, July 22, 2016

 

New Zealand is such a beautiful country full of many remote landscapes and sweet local towns.

One of the best ways to travel around New Zealand is by car, because it is small enough that you could drive the length in just a few days, and it gives you the freedom to get to harder-to-reach places where buses and trains don’t go.

However, there is a down side. There has been a lot of news and publicity around the dangers of foreign visitors – in 2015 there were a number of road deaths which involved foreign drivers.

Some reasons for this can include not being familiar with New Zealand road rules, forgetting which side of the road to drive on, dangerous winding mountain roads, and sleepy drivers.

We want to make sure that all of our guests are safe – both for themselves, and the safety of other road users – so here are some tips for staying safe on New Zealand’s roads if you wish to drive.

Know the Road Rules

  • Make sure you understand the NZ Road Code
  • The AA also have a Visitor Driver Training Programme online, which you can take in 5 languages.
  • Remember in New Zealand we drive on the left hand side of the road, and our vehicles seat the driver on the right.

Research the areas you are going and the types of roads you’ll drive on

  • New Zealand’s diverse landscape means many roads are narrow, hilly and windy with sharp corners. Outside of the main cities, there are very few motorways - most of our roads are single lane in each direction with no barriers in between. There are also gravel roads, one-lane bridges and roadworks. Make sure to allow plenty of time, go slow and pull over in a safe place if you need to.
  • Download an app like Waze for the best local traffic and trip planning

Stay safe, and within the law

  • In New Zealand, it is illegal to drink alcohol and drive or use a cellphone while driving. Everyone in the car must be wearing safety belts, and adhere to the speed limits wherever you are.
  • Never stop to take photos unless it’s a designated stopping zone (no matter how beautiful the scenery is!)
  • Be informed of changes in rules, for example around Public Holidays such as Christmas, the tolerance for driving over the speed limit is lessened and you are more likely to incur a fine for speeding.
  • Only drive warranted, road-safe cars to ensure that both you, and other road users, stay safe

For more information, you can read the full NZTA Guide for Overseas Drivers

 

Best apps and sites when traveling New Zealand

April Brion - Thursday, June 30, 2016

The internet has made so many things in life easier – travel is one of them. We no longer have to carry around heavy travel guides, bilingual dictionaries, maps or transport timetables. Everything you could need when you travel, you can access on your smartphone or tablet.

Here are some really handy apps and sites to know when you come to NZ.

CAMPERMATE  Campermate is a free New Zealand travel app that makes traveling around NZ easier than ever before! Get locations of public toilets, rubbish bins, campsites, free wi-fi, supermarkets and much more.

TRADE ME   Trade Me is New Zealand’s most popular buy and sell website – but they also have links to holiday houses, used cars, insurance and personal connections (ie. Dating and personals) If you’re on a budget and need to buy something, definitely check out Trade Me before buying new.

METSERVICE   This is New Zealand’s info hub for all things relating to weather. No matter where you are in NZ, or where you’re planning to go, check out the weather. 4 Season’s in One Day is very true in a lot of New Zealand, and summer here can mean random hailstorms, and winter can mean a 20 degree sunny day. Our climate can be unpredictable, so be prepared especially if you’re venturing in to the mountains or to the coast.

GRABONE   GrabOne is a daily deals style site that delivers discounts on everything from cafes and restaurants to accommodation and activities. Each city in NZ has its own tab, so you can browse the deals in specific regions, or sign up for their daily emails and get the news straight to your inbox. Tourist attractions like theme park entry, water sports, bike hire and cultural experiences are all really common so if you’re making a travel plan, look here for great discounts. Make sure you check the T&Cs before you buy!

 

Why Queenstown is the perfect place for an NZ adventure

April Brion - Wednesday, June 08, 2016

New Zealand has a reputation as one of the best places in the world for adventure tourism. With our rugged landscape, space to roam and a population of people with a DIY attitude, no wonder Kiwis like to set things up for excitement and fun!

Queenstown, in the South Island, is a top destination for adventure tourism in New Zealand, and there AJ Hackett have 2 kinds of bungy attractions

In fact AJ Hackett, a New Zealander popularized bungy jumping into an attraction in the 1980s.

Once you’ve jumped off the ledge over one of the most picturesque cities in New Zealand, you might want to check out the view at a slower pace, from the Skyline gondola. At the top of the peak you can ramp it up again with a luge ride – which is like a manual go cart that sends you whizzing around a chute down the mountain. It’s a must-do for visiting Queenstown! Everyone will ask if you rode the Luge!

If you enjoy the thrill but prefer someone else to do the steering, the Shotover Jet will really get your heart racing! This speedboat will race down the river through canyons and spin you around in circles.

There’s so much more to discover in Queenstown, from mountain sports like skiing, hiking and mountain biking to white water rafting, hang gliding and 4X4 driving. Anything you can dream up for fun and adventure can be found in Queenstown – it should be top of your list for places to visit when you come to New Zealand!

For more information, you can read more about Queenstown here.


Anja from Germany

April Brion - Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My name is Anja and I'm from Germany. Before I came to New Zealand, Host Families NZ gave me some information about my homestay. It was really comforting to know where I have to live for the next couple of months. In my homestay lived two children who were very nice and it was really helpful for improving my English to speak with them. Unfortunately the family moved to another house and there was not enough space for me. Host Families NZ looked for a new homestay and I was able to tell them my wishes. The change was fast and easy. The new family was really nice too and I felt welcome. All in all I was very content with Host Families NZ and if I go back to NZ, I will live in a homestay again.