Elizabeth's Favourite NZ Spots...

Elizabeth Marshall
Lizs Trip

A Driving Holiday Through the Country I Love: Elizabeth Marshall 


I love showing off New Zealand. Our road trip centred on places that were admittedly chosen for their promise to stretch us a bit, and to share some of my favourite places. We travelled in late October, when there were fewer travellers around and the weather (fortunately) was perfect. I knew we would need lots of stops to enjoy views and take a bite, and we had some long trips between our highlight stops, so we packed plenty of picnic food because. From Mum and Dad’s home we did about 1500 kilometres, the long way to Picton and the ferry terminal. In the North Island, Wellington to Auckland airport was about 800 kilometres. These are the highlights of a car-load of intrepid adventurers.

Map of Lizs top hot spots

Moeraki Boulders


I can’t just drive by Moeraki boulders. It is one of my truly favourite places. I am intrigued by the huge, near perfectly round stones on Koekohe Beach on the Otago Coast. Geological, legend, and sci-fi origins captured the imagination of our car-load for many kilometres. By the way, the restaurant at Moeraki offers a wonderful feed of blue cod among other delights…

Photo: Contemplating the origins of some very big boulders...

 Moeraki boulders

Cardrona Distillery

Cardrona Distillery was a first time-visit for all of us having opened only a few years back. Cardrona Distillery is a family-owned artisan distillery producing hand-crafted spirits from scratch. On a comprehensive tour we learned about the whole process from malt-milling to distilling, and enjoyed a tasting too. The distillery produces vodka, triple sec gin and rose oil. We have scheduled a repeat trip in 2025 for the first ten year old Cardrona single malt whisky.

Photo: Enjoying a sample at Cardrona Distillery.

Cardrona Distillery

Franz Josef Glacier

You could walk up to the glacier, but you see so much more from a helicopter, and while you are up there you may as well do a tandem skydive. That was our logic anyway. Skydive Franz is uniquely located near New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki/Mount Cook, and the biggest glaciers Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. We maxed-out on mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers, blue skies and ocean. There is no better place to skydive. If skydiving isn’t you, then a flight should be on your list.

As the flights are weather dependent, we arranged a flight while in Fox, and drove on to take the flight in Franz with enough time to do a few shops and indulge at an eatery while we anticipated our next adventure.

The enormity of this area is mind-boggling. My recommendation is do a flight of some sort. If skydiving isn’t you, then a flight should be on your list. You see so much more from the air.

Photo: tandem skydiving with Skydive Franz.

Elizebeth West Coast Skydiving

Charleston: West Coast Caving

I love underwater rafting! This is a train ride through the rainforest to limestone cliffs, then a walk into spectacular caves. We floated underground on Nile River in inner tubes looking at glow worms, which were really doing their thing, and then out on some gentle rapids.

This trip spurred us into going into Te Tahi Cave for a full-on experience in the wet cave system, abseiling, crawling and squeezing, through chimneys, bridges and waterfalls. Gear and tuition is provided before you start but my recommendation is to be sure you can cope with confined spaces and darkness, and that your physical fitness is up-to-par. The trip was a challenge but truly awesome!

Charleston is a Goldmining town founded in 1867, now better known as an adventure tourist village located 30 km south of Westport. We had accommodation booked in the town, there was plenty of food and drink options and plenty to places to poke around in. And no, I’m afraid we did not see nuggets lying around in the street.

Photo: Caving in Charleston, with West Coast Underworld adventures.

Black Water Rafting

Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Abel Tasman Coast Track has extraordinary natural beauty and peace. We explored thoroughly over six days, and spotted all sorts of birdlife, from bellbirds, fantails, tui, wood pigeon, and pukeko to loads of sea and wading birds. The track winds though lush native bush, Black beech, and across golden sand and estuaries. We took all the side trips to Tinline Bay, Pitt head, Cleopatra’s Pool, Falls river, Sandfly Bay and Separation point. Abel Tasman is the perfect place for relaxing and contemplating, and just getting back to basics.

The track is 60 km that can be tramped in three days from either Marahau or Wainui, as I have done previously. At Awaroa Inlet, (and if you choose, Onetahuti estuary), you cross the mud flat at low tide, so you do need to time the crossing with the low tide. You take the water taxi back to your starting point, or between highlights if you need to cut things short. We booked huts before leaving home, but campsite can be booked if you prefer.

Photo: Between Torrent Bay and Anchorage, on a detour off the Abel Tasman Coast walkway you will find this beautiful rock pool complete with a natural, moss-lined waterslide (Cleopatra’s Pool).


Elizabeth on the Abel Tasman Track

Beautiful Pelorous River

Pelorus River near Havelock, is one of the most beautiful rivers in New Zealand. It also features in Peter Jackson’s movie the Hobbit. We kayaked the river with Pelorus Eco Adventures taking in the stunning panorama and some filming locations. The tour gets you well off the beaten track into a hidden valley surrounded by pristine native bush. Our guide was very informative, in kayak handling, the attributes of the location, and movie knowledge.

Photo: kayaking Pelorus River with Pelorus Eco Adventures

Elizabeth kayaking Pelorus River

The Tongariro Crossing

Tongariro national park is a natural landscape of craters, active volcanoes, scattered pumice, mountain springs, lava flows, scoria and volcanic rock. We did a 19.4km hike high into this volcanic alpine environment. This walk start at 1120 meters and climbs the Mangatepopo Valley to the saddle between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, through South Crater before climbing again to Red Crater (highest point 1886 metres).

A reasonable level of fitness is needed for this walk as some bits are steep, and you do need to be prepared for all eventualities (eg unpredicted weather, injuries) and its worth swatting up on the environmental care code. We booked shuttle transport to and from Whakapapa, who provide car parking, and would also provide back-up if things turn to custard. The Tongariro Crossing is a full one-day hike, but well worth the effort

Photo: on the Tongairiro Crossing


Tongariro Crossing


I love anticipating a bungy, don’t you? Taupo Bungy is five minutes from Taupo town centre on the Waikato River. At 47 metres, this is apparently the country’s highest water touch bungy jump. Our mates had a great dunking into the river.

It’s a lovely spot but I admit I didn’t see much of that until I’d done my bungy swing. I teamed up with a mate to do the Taupo cliffhanger. You get harnessed into this huge swing and, when released, you drop down towards the river below, then up to nearly 180°. It is reckoned that you reach speeds of 70kph. The cliffhanger was a total buzz.

While in Taupo we also took a bike ride to Huka Falls, an 11 metre waterfall. The Waikato River narrow from 100 metres wide into a 15 metre channel and this creates a massive rapid. We also went into the geothermal mineral hot pools. Just the job for a relaxing end to a big couple of days.

Photo: Taupo Bungy

Taupo Bungee


Tamaki Brothers Maori Cultural evening was a new experience for me. We experienced ceremonial rituals, a powerful cultural performances, storytelling and a delicious hangi at Tamaki Maori Village. Tamaki village arranged pick-up and drop-off at our accommodation.

Photo: Maori Cultural evening


Elizabeth at Tamaki Maori Village

Phew – what a great trip!

What have I learned?

I am a bit of a South Island girl and I admit to not knowing the North Island quite so well. I really enjoyed the North Island centres that we went to. I like to spend enough time in a place to try everything and really get to know it. This way you can do the same road many times, stopping in different places and getting a new experience each time. I can see a North Island trip on the horizon.

I would do this trip again in a heartbeat. The companies we used laid on everything and really the only extra we needed was our swimming gear. These guys are truly professional and you feel like you are on a day out with a bunch of mates. Perfect!

Elizabeth Marshall
Elizabeth Marshall
: 11 Jun 2018 (Last updated: 12 May 2021)

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