Auckland, 4 hours south, has all the motorcycle rentals, but in Whangarei, just an hour south, we found a motorcycle shop that had a bike they could rent. A quick packing and bus ride had us to the bike and off we went on February 22nd for a 10-day tour. Objective: to the south end of New Zealand's South Island and back.
(F.Y.I. New Zealand consists of a few territories and several islands, many not populated. The 2 largest are officially called the North Island and the South Island.)
The bike we rented was a rather fast street bike and the 1st day it quickly took us down to the big city of Auckland where we stopped at Immigration to submit for a needed extension to our given 90-day Visa. That done, we headed south through Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic. Here, while traffic crawls, it's allowed for motorcycles to go between lanes and all drivers are courteous and respectful of that, many moving over to accommodate us.
The famous Sky Tower behind sailboats in marina
By the end of the 2nd day, we made it to the southern tip of the North Island to the City of Wellington, New Zealand's capital. Known to be a windy city, it's situated on a large bay amongst steep hillsides. Its nickname is Wellywood due to the filming of movies such as King Kong, Avatar, and scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We visited Wellington's Cuba Street, a kind of eclectic place to hang out with a good choice of eateries, etc.
We managed to procure space on the Interislander ferry for the next morning for the 3-hour trip to the South Island. The ferries here are commercially run and are nice and comfortable. We had open mild seas for half the time and the later hour was through a meandering inlet to the small town of Picton.
Perfect motorcycle roads
Now on the South Island, the first route we chose gave us a scenic and very winding road along the north coast, through cute little seaside towns with kickback atmospheres. That first late afternoon got us out to the west coast beach to Punakaiki where we checked into a nice room 100 metres from the pretty, deserted beach.