Ron Laughlin      The Ultimate New Zealand Travel Guide

From Auckland Down the West Coast to New Plymouth and on to Wellington
Please excuse me. I am building a new website and this portion is incomplete............working as fast as I can......sorry!

I have created three different routes south one down each coast and one down the middle. It will be dependent upon your time here how you will want an itinerary created. Generally due to lack of time I recommend south to Waitomo Caves area over to Rotorua and/or a stop in Hobbiton then either directly to Wellington or to Napier then to Wellington. This is done in about a week allowing time in each area to experience the activities, etc.


Now off we go toward New Plymouth, south along the West Coast. If you want a place to stop along the way south we recommend the Clark's Beach Holiday Park and if you plan to stay in the Hamilton area a fabulous park is Hamilton City Holiday Park.

A little about the Waitoma area:
Leaving Auckland south on St Hgwy 3 one of the New Zealand's highlight attraction areas is south of Hamilton an hour. Turn to the Waitomo Caves area. Take a boat ride or a raft trip in the caves. Stop by Woodlyn Park for the 1:30 show, a true Kiwi experience. You might want to drive your own jet boat or even stay the night in a train or perhaps an airplane or even a hobbit hole. Whatever the area has a lot to offer the traveler. You might even want to stop and watch them shear an Angora rabbit!(what!)

Billy Black's Woodlyn Park
Waitomo Caves
Black Water Rafting 
Waitomo Museum of Caves
Waitomo Adventures

Now let's go on south..................oops wait a minute!

Let's not overlook a place just 30+ minutes out of Hamilton (take Route 23 west) approx 50kms - less than an hour's drive) worth visiting for those with time, Raglan. A small wonderful community built on a surfing laid back lifestyle but now boasts quite a town of interest. Great place to park up and stroll around.

The best way to really enjoy Raglan is to stay at the Raglan Kopua Holiday Park just a very short scenic walk across the footbridge to the centre of Raglan situated right on the Raglan Harbour.

From here we now can continue on south to the Taranaki region:

..................Take Route 3 and have a pleasant drive through the countryside of New Zealand and a number of small towns. You will soon reach the colorful route along the Awakino River before finally reaching the west coast at the town of Awakino. The rivers along this stretch are known for whitebaiting. Good place to get your introduction into one of the country's top culinary delights.
A really pleasant place to stay in this area is the
Onaero Bay Holiday Park........................ Great hosts.....

Soon you will find the road beginning the climb up Mt. Messenger, a twisting and turning route that will eventually bring you back down to along the ocean. After about 80 kms out of Awakino you will be in New Plymouth.
(more info on New Plymouth)
A very forward thinking community that provides a pleasant place to stop. Everything in this region is dominated by Mt Taranaki.
We recommend staying in New Plymouth at the Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park, New Plymouth's camp on the beach within walking distance to restaurants and shopping centre.

As a visitor to the area you should take the circle Route 45, the surf highway, around the mountain stopping at Oakura and Opunake to check out the shops and gallerys.
Also don't miss Okurukuru, New Plymouth's first commercial vineyard, between New Plymouth and Oakura. Perched on the edge within the vineyard is an architecturally supreme restaurant with one of the most startling coastal views in the country plus the added feature of Mt Taranaki dominating the scenery to the east. Check out their website: Okurukuru Good idea to take a side road up the mountain out of Stratford and perhaps a visit to Dawson Falls. A day or so in the region wold be most rewarding.

Out of Taranaki on Route 3 we pass through vast acreages of dairy farms on our way to the city of Whanganui and on to Wellington (about six hours drive from New Plymouth to Wellington) on Route One after the town of Bulls.

It is a drive of 2 ½ hours to Whanganui and the Manawatu region from Taranaki. Situated by one of the majestic rivers of New Zealand up through the Manawatu Gorge this area has long been a place of importance to the local inhabitants and visitors alike. Located on the northwestern side of the river and close to its mouth Whanganui is 200 kilometres north of Wellington at the junction of routes 3 and 4.

This area was settled early by pre-European Maori with the first Europeans arriving in 1831. In 1854 the name of Wanganui was established but in 2010 local Maori petitioned it to be changed to Whanganui. This was the scene of the Land Wars of the 1860’s between the Maori and settling Europeans. The conflict still goes on to the present day.

The Top Five Things to do in Whanganui
Explore the Whanganui National Park
Go boating on the Whanganui River

Visit the Sarjeant Gallery
View local glass art works
Enjoy one of the many local parks and reserves

When in the Wanganui area the top place to stay is at:

Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park


Going on south stop and stay at the Himatangi Beach Holiday Park - in Manawatu (near Palmerston North) Two hours north of Wellington. Lovely spot.
Good spot to stop and visit the Palmerston North area:

At the crossroads of your New Zealand journey in the lower half of the North Island, rugby heritage from every rugby playing nation is showcased. Palmerston North City is home to New Zealand Rugby Museum - the Country's one and only, and first museum in the world, devoted to the oval ball code.

Much more than static displays of memorabilia and historic information, NZ Rugby Museum is a place where you can experience rugby culture, connect with the heroes, be physically challenged by the interactive exhibits, and gain a sense of just how compelling this much loved game is.

For an all encompassing New Zealand cultural experience, you needn't travel further than a few steps to learn Maori legends, see native animals, walk through a waterfall and see the nearby Manawatu Gorge being formed at Te Manawa - museum, gallery and science centre.

Palmerston North City is easy to access from Napier, Wellington, Taupo and New Plymouth. All roads lead to the compact city centre, which is based around The Square - a popular inner city park and social hub surrounded by boutique stores and sprinkled with public art.

First stop is Palmerston North i-SITE Visitor Information Centre. Free Campervan parking right outside. Touch base with the friendly team to get directions to key attractions, cafes, restaurants and shops. Everything is within close walking distance so park your vehicle here and go for a stroll.

Dining out here is always exciting for the taste buds – everything from spicy Korean and Thai, Kiwi/Euro fusion to the subtle and interesting flavours of authentic Japanese cuisine. Exploring the area you’ll discover interesting cultural and historic attractions, a lively theatre scene and green places to rejuvenate yourself. ‘Must do’ activities include visiting The New Zealand Rugby Museum, Te Manawa (museum/science centre/art gallery), Victoria Esplanade and The Herb Farm.

The dramatic scenery of nearby Manawatu Gorge and the mountain ranges draw you into an ‘off the beaten track’ experience rich in tracks of native bush, sweeping valley views and encounters with down to earth and friendly locals. Drive, walk or jet boat through, or fly over in a helicopter.

If you're visiting Palmerston North on a Friday, make a side trip to the nearby township of Feilding. This charming town has been judged New Zealand's Most Beautiful Town 14 times and offers authentic New Zealand experiences, including a tour through the live stock auction at Feilding Saleyards (Fridays 11am - book in advance via Feilding and District Information Centre. $5). After the tour, visit nearby Feilding Farmers' Market to pick up ingredients for a gourmet picnic.

The area surrounding Palmerston North is Manawatu. The Maori name Manawatu is evocative of the power and size of the local river, which when sited by the ancestor Hau, he uttered “ka tu taku Manawa” meaning ‘my heart stands still’. This breathtaking sentiment is echoed as you journey through The Country Road through the picturesque valleys, to high country lookouts and charming villages.

From the centre of Palmerston North City, you can see the mountains surrounding you, and yet you are only a short drive to the local beaches, including Himatangi Beach, a long sandy beach with the largest sand dune field in New Zealand and the most amazing sunsets.

and on south toward Wellington........................

We also usually go to Otaki Beach. One of the finest in the country to stroll along and enjoy. Worth the few minutes off the main highway to get there. One of our favourite restaurants too at Byron Brown's. Leaving Otaki south just on the outskirts of town is one of the best cafes in the North Island - Brown Sugar. Never miss a stop there for a Supreme coffee. Just a few kilometres continuing toward Wellington one of the most eccentric collections of goodies made into a museum I have ever seen. Stop at Te Horo on the right and have a look. It is free and just mind boggling. Great fun. There are quite a few other shops and a cafe there also. Run into the lady who owns the Paua Shop and she asked me to mention her place.(so I just did).

Through the town of Waikanai and just before the town of Paraparaumu on the right is a world class auto collection/museum. Southward Car Museum. Anyone into old cars has to stop here. I really enjoyed the place and don't consider myself a car enthusiast at all. Tweaks the mind to think all these cars from all over were brought way out here to New Zealand. Have a look! Then on to Wellington!

I will write a bit more about Wellington later. We lived there for eight years and loved it. Everything in walking distance and jammed pack full with top entertainment, restaurants, cafes and excitement. Plan to stop over for a bit before catching the Bluebridge ferry to the South Island. You won't regret it. You can park your vehicle next to the Museum right on the waterfront and stay overnight for $8.00 one block from the major "fun" streets or they have a motor park downtown.

Check in with the other routes to Wellington for more information.


Win a Free Night's stay