Going Our Way: A honeymoon in New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand, offers beautiful parks and gardens.
Christchurch, New Zealand, offers beautiful parks and gardens. (Lou Piezzo - Lou Piezzo)
By Carol Sottili
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Who: Dave Smaldone, 40, and his fiancee, Erin Himmel, 31, of Morgantown, W.Va.

Where: New Zealand

Why: Honeymoon

When: Late December 2010/early January 2011 for 14-18 days

Budget: $6,000

"We are very interested in the outdoors and nature activities, including hiking, glacier trekking, whale/dolphin watching, photography and sea kayaking, with some relaxing at beaches. We are looking at places to stay that are eco-friendly, and would consider a farmstay or homestay."

New Zealand is a good match for an outdoors- and nature-loving couple looking for a honeymoon spot, like Dave Smaldone and his fiancee, Erin Himmel. Nearly one-third of the land, which is divided into two main islands and a few small ones, is protected, and the friendly Kiwis take pride in being environmentally aware. With a population of about 4.5 million and a land area the size of Colorado, it's a sparsely populated country, with miles of open space.

Because New Zealand is on Dave and Erin's wish rather than been-there list, I went straight to a trio of experts for their take on the top to-dos and must-sees.

-- Rhys Darby, a New Zealand native and the comedian who played band manager Murray Hewitt on "Flight of the Conchords," an HBO comedy about a Kiwi band trying to make it in New York City, recommends Abel Tasman Regional Park in the Nelson region of South Island, where "you'll be swept away by the mythical landscape"; whale-watching in Kaikoura on the east coast of South Island ("eat fish 'n' chips on the beach"); Queenstown on South Island, "our Switzerland down under where bungee-jumping was invented"; climbing Mount Cook on South Island, "where Sir Ed Hillary learned to climb"; and taking a horse ride along Ninety Mile Beach on the western coast of North Island.

-- Sean Keener, who is chief executive and co-founder of Bootsnall.com, a site for planning independent travel, and who spent six weeks touring New Zealand last year, recommends Ohope Beach on the North Island as "a great beginners' surf spot"; Wanaka on the South Island, "a smaller version of Queenstown, more romantic to me"; exploring the entire West Coast of South Island in a camper van; Christchurch on South Island, which has "lots of parks and places to walk and go for runs"; and Hanmer Springs on the South Island for "superb natural hot springs."

-- Sam Mickell, a nativeNew Zealander living in Los Angeles who works for Tourism New Zealand, has these picks: "Experience New Zealand's unique Maori culture by learning the traditional haka dance; take a bike tour of boutique wineries in Hawke's Bay on the North Island; make friends with a local and have them invite you for a dinner of roast lamb; visit Waiheke Island near Auckland; "watch the sunrise at Cape Reinga, at the northern tip of New Zealand, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide."

Smaldone and Himmel won't be able to do it all, but here's a possible itinerary, including a few of my own picks:

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