Our journey around New Zealand started in Auckland. A large relief landing after a long flight from India! We had an AirBnB booked in the suburbs of Auckland, where we planned to stay for 3 nights to adjust to the time zone, buy a car and plan our route around NZ. Our AirBnB was amazing! Hosted by a lovely British expat, who many will now know as Aunt Marilyn. We had a great room with an en suite and a WARM SHOWER! We felt completely at home, and enjoyed relaxing over the weekend. We found a car relatively swiftly: a 2000, Volvo V70 Wagon (some say it’s the limosine of estate cars) which was slightly under our budget, and had enough room to organise a bed in the back of the car. We insured the car for only £209 for the year (fully comp!!) and headed to a local warehouse store where we purchased some bedding and cheap cooking equipment. Our ‘palace’ was made and so we set off on our journey touring NZ for the next few weeks!
From Auckland, we ventured north, with the aim of reaching the tip of NZ, where two seas meet. The drive was amazing! We stopped at least every 20-30 minutes to admire the breath-taking views and take photos. Arriving in a forest campsite, we pitched up / parked, and spent our first night comfortable and warm in the back of our Volvo.
On our journey north the next day, we made two stops before reaching the tip of the country. The first was Coopers Beach, which is a beautiful coastel town with a golden beach and deep blue waters. The second location had giant sand dunes; where on one side of the dunes ran a dense, dark green forest, and the other, a vast, blue ocean. We rented a body board and surfed the gigantic dunes!
Toasting off with a delicious ice-cream, we reached the tip of NZ. The views were incredible! A white lighthouse stands on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a kilometre long wirlpool where two seas literally collide together. The turquoise waters against a backdrop of miles of beach and rolling green hills made this one of our favourite places in all of our travels. We spent ages staring into the water, watching the raw-ness of the natural world.
That night, we camped on a beach in Topatoputu Bay. Lauren bravely went for a dip in the sea, but unfortunately it was no where near as warm as the beaches of Thailand and Vietnam! After dinner, we walked around the bay, which is in a valley of forest and hills. To our surprise, we heard a man playing Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes; with everyone going silent in awe of the beautiful backdrop, and echoing music across the bay, it gave us goosebumps!
Travelling south again, we journeyed to Rotorua; home to hundreds of hotsprings and several volcanoes. We explored the town, which has a smell of sulfur to it from the gases released from the ground (although I do think Josh used this as an excuse for some of his natural gases!), and then travelled to our campsite on the edge of a beautiful lake. The next day, we hiked up to a viewpoint overlooking the surrounding area. On the walk you can feel the ground is hot from how thin the earths crust is, and from some points, steam breaks through the rock.
In need of a shower, we found a campsite which had a number of natural hot spring pools as well as a campground. For a bargain price, we had warm showers and unlimited use of the pools. At 38 degrees, the pools were a relaxing way to spend an evening, and also meant we had a second dip early morning. A short walk from the campsite, you can also visit the place where the hot water comes from: a natural spring of water which is the largest pool of boiling water in the world. Omitting an intense amount of steam, the pool boils at 98 degrees all-year round!
Our journey onwards to our next stop, Tongaririo Park for a day of trekking, included a stop over at Lake Taupo – a huge, blue lake – and the Huka Falls – roaring, turquoise rapids! Despite the grey clouds, the landscape in this natural park is quite magical. Forest areas have an enchanted feel to them, and throughout our walk, we had sight of two volcanoes, and a huge waterfall. Noted as a place we would return to in the future for further exploring, as we only scratched the surface with our mere 3 hour walk. Our next destination was Hawkes Bay, where we would be staying with some of Lauren’s family friends.
We stopped in the town of Napier, enjoyed some delicious ice-cream in the warm sun and walked around the town, before heading to Hastings where we would be staying. Located on an apple orchard, the Wiltshere family were very generous hosts, providing delicious home-cooked meals, a comfy bed and even a tour of the local area. Cate, (our New Zealand adopted Mum!), took us on a walk through the local wilderness to a beautiful waterfall, as well as a windy viewpoint overlooking Hawkes Bay. Our tour peaked with some wine and cider tasting the next day. Home to some of the best vineyards in the world, we got slightly tipsy enjoying some delicious wines and purchasing a bottle, or two…. maybe three! (Update: I think it was actually 4)
Our last place on the north island we’d be visiting was Wellington, which is a beatiful city built across hills in a bay. Known for how windy it gets, we were fortuntate to arrive on a sunny, calm day which would be a treat while we spent hours walking around the city. One of our stops was the local museum, Te Papa, where there was a moving WWI exbition on the role of NZ in the war, where we learnt so much about the impact the war had on NZ, which we hadn’t learnt in school. We also took a journey on a retro cable car and walked around some amazing gardens overlooking the city, before getting caught up in a street festival walking back to the car.
North Island was an amazing 2 weeks. By the time we were boarding the ferry to south island, we had both fallen in love with New Zealand. The people are so friendly, the food is fresh and delicious, wine doublely so, and the landscape is incredible everywhere you look.