14 November 2017

Discovering New Zealand's North Island

Hello all! As I type this, it is the 27th day of our trip, and we have been in New Zealand for about 3 weeks. Our Kiwi Experience 'Funky Chicken' bus ticket has allowed us to stay at several towns & cities in the country's North Island. I thought I'd do a recap post of the North Island, to show what this part of the country has to offer. It's also a chance to reflect on what we have seen so far, as tomorrow we take the ferry from Wellington to Picton - finally stepping foot on the South Island.

  •  A U C K L A N D  &  W A I H E K E   I S L A N D

We flew from Vancouver to Auckland where we stayed in the city centre for 2 nights, before taking a short ferry ride to Waiheke Island. Auckland is a very trendy city, with lots of lovely shops & coffee places to choose from. Everyone is very well dressed, so put-together & smart. Sadly we didn't get to see a lot of Auckland because of the rain & recovering from the flight over. Waiheke Island is a beautiful island, with vineyards & beaches. It's a lovely day-out or one-night-stay, just make sure you rent a car or bike to get around as it's very hilly!


Our first stop on our bus tour was the Coromandel Peninsula, where we went to the famous Cathedral Cove before staying at Hot Water Beach for the night. Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve is where you will find the famous Cathedral Cove, which is absolutely stunning. It is however only accessible by foot or boat : it requires a 45 minute walk to get there but when you do, you're greeted by a stunning beach. 

Our first hostel stay was at Hot Water Beach. Hot Water Beach is located on Mercury Bay (175km from Auckland, 12km from Whitianga), on the eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. The beach gets it's name from the hot water springs: if you dig a hole at the right spot, within two hours either side of the low tide, the hot water will rise to the surface and form a hot pool. The water can reach temperatures up to 64'C!

  • W A I T O M O  C A V E S
Our next stop was the village of Waitomo, famous for it's incredible underground cave systems. The Glow Worm cave experience was on our bucket list, and it did not disappoint. There are also lot's of activities you can do in Waitomo, but I highly recommend doing the Black Water Rafting Cave experience. I have never had so much fun in my life! To read our review on the Waitomo Caves, click here.

  •  H O B B I T O N ,  M A T A M A T A 

Matamata is a town located in the Waikato Region, near the Kaimai Range Mountains. The drive from Waitomo to here is a treat in itself, with stunning landscapes at every turn. Matamata is also home to Hobbiton, the Shire film set used for the Lord Of The Rings & Hobbit trilogies. Hobbiton is considered a must when visiting New Zealand's North Island - you can follow Gandalf's steps in to the Shire and even recreate Bilbo's I'm Going On An Adventure! from the Hobbit. To read our review on Hobbiton, click here.

  • R O T O R U A  &  T A M A K I   M A O R I   V I L L A G E

The town of Rotorua is renowned for it's geothermal activity and Maori culture. Here you will find mud pools, a geyser and tons of geothermal ponds - it's definitely a must-see in New Zealand's North Island. We spent several days here where we experienced the Tamaki Maori Village & wandered around the town to see the geothermal activity. The smell of sulphur is omnipresent and can be overwhelming at times, however it is home to some truly stunning landscapes such as the Whakarewarewa 'Redwoods' Forest. 

  •  T A U P O  &  T H E   T O N G A R I R O   N A T I O N A L   P A R K

Taupo is located near the center of the North Island, on the shore of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. The town is home to some breath-taking natural landscapes, such as the Tongariro National Park, Mount Ngauruhoe & the Huka Falls. We hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing & saw the Maori stone carvings on the lake. It's a town meant for adventurers, with lots of outdoor activities available for all.

  • R I V E R   V A L L E Y   L O D G E

River Valley Lodge was a mandatory stop on our Kiwi Experience Bus Tour, we stopped here for a night before arriving in Wellington. The lodge is completely off the grid, surrounded by picturesque hills in every direction, like an endless Hobbiton. In sunny weather it is stunning! I would only recommend the lodge in the summer months as the kitchen & bathrooms are outdoors which made it a little uncomfortable. It's a great place if there is a group of you hoping to do some water rafting or horse riding, otherwise I would suggest heading straight to Wellington.

  •  W E L L I N G T O N 

Wellington, like Auckland, feels more like a city, in the sense that it has taller buildings & more westernised shops. A lot of the other places we have been to are more like 'big towns'. We stayed in a wonderful apartment in the centre, a short walk away from restaurants & museums. We both really enjoyed Wellington, there is definitely a lot to do here: The Te Papa Museum, the Weta Workshops, Mount Victoria and some lovely restaurants & shops too - something for every one. Wellington is the last stop on the north island: you can take a ferry to Picton from here, which is definitely worth it as it offers picturesque views of the Malborough Sounds.

Let us know if you have any questions regarding accomodation or places to eat, although we are currently working on inidivual posts for each town!


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