A Christmas Road Trip in New Zealand
Use our tips for a memorable Christmas in New Zealand
Christmas is usually a time to cherish all the things you love about home, celebrating with friends and family. To be far away is going to feel strange, especially if you are visiting from the Northern Hemisphere, and are unfamiliar with New Zealand's shorts and jandals Christmas celebrations. At VroomVroomVroom, not only can we can get you into the perfect vehicle for a holiday road-trip, we've got some great tips on how to get the most out of your Christmas visit to New Zealand.
Pre-Christmas, things in the big centres can get pretty frantic. If you are on holiday, I would recommend spending the week leading up to the big day somewhere remote. The great thing about travelling distances in New Zealand is that you are never more than half a day's drive from civilisation. Stock up on festive goodies, and try glamping at Lake Tarawera, rent a holiday home in the Tasman bays, or do a cruise in the Bay of Islands, while the rest of the population runs itself ragged.
There are some beautiful places of worship around New Zealand. Once you've run out of lamb steaks for your barbecue, find a Christmas Eve service and really get into the spirit of the occasion. Christchurch has the Cardboard Cathedral, the only cathedral in the world made substantially of cardboard. It is located in Latimer Square, just a short distance from the damaged Christchurch Cathedral, and Cathedral Square. Nelson also has a fantastic and historic cathedral.
My pick for the North Island would be to head back to Auckland on Christmas Eve, and attend a service at the beautiful St.Matthew-in-the-City. This historic Anglican church is situated right in the CBD, and is greatly admired for its neo-Gothic architecture. Now, here's the thing about Auckland after Christmas. Starting on Boxing day, a large proportion of the population leave town, to go camping on northern beaches, or visiting holiday homes on the Coromandel Peninsula. If you stay in Auckland, you'll be able to easily travel the length of the city without stress in your rental car. Take a picnic to Piha beach in the west, go for a walk in the Hunua ranges in the south, then be back in time for dinner in the Wynyard Quarter. Do not decide to follow the herd to the holiday hot spots in the North Island at that time, these gems are much more enjoyable once the crowds head back to work through the first week of January.
Make sure you are well stocked up, all shops will be closed for Christmas Day. The local convenience stores, or dairies, as we call them may stay open until midday, but will close in the afternoon. By spending Christmas Day itself in a major town, you will be able to find restaurants who are open for Christmas lunch. Staying with my Auckland plan, you could take in lunch at Orbit in the Sky Tower, or head to the beach suburb of St. Heliers and dine on the special Christmas Day menu at Annabelles restaurant. Bookings are required. This year Christmas falls on a Sunday. This means that the 27th, a Tuesday, will be considered a statutory holiday, but in the main centres and tourist towns all essential services will be running. Boxing Day sales will be well underway at that time.
Because the population is much sparser in the South Island, you won't find the same holiday crowd problems there. Between Christmas and New Year would be a great time to book into a campground and soak up the family atmosphere. Many holiday parks in New Zealand will offer a range of accommodation, including motel units and cabins, as well as tent or campervan sites. You need to book well in advance for a cabin or motel in the most popular spots during this peak time, but if you are travelling in a campervan, or have thrown a tent into the back of your rental car, you should be able to find a site without too much difficulty.
Think ahead, and check out our advice for the best place to spend New Year's Eve! Have you got any other ideas for a unique Christmas in New Zealand? Let us know!