How to spend eight days exploring the best bits of New Zealand’s North Island
Like a lot of Aussies, an overseas trip to New Zealand has been on my hitlist for a long time. The allure of taking a short, three-hour flight from Sydney to step out into a new country is hard to beat, and of course Tourism New Zealand the LOTR movie trilogy have both played their part in making me ache to experience the country’s natural beauty. I have always wanted to visit but never made any concrete plans.
Then, within the span of one year, I became best friends with a Kiwi, started working with a bunch of them and even got the opportunity to travel to Auckland for work. Suddenly my desire to visit became hard to ignore.
I’m a lover of using public holidays to my advantage to get the most out of annual leave, so taking some time ahead of the Easter four-day weekend to get eight consecutive days off was very tempting. It also just happened to be the week of mine and Sam’s anniversary, so we already had a great excuse to take a trip somewhere. Suck it, last year’s anniversary! (And watch yourself, next year’s anniversary. This is going to be a tough one to beat).
But here I am blabbering about the reasons we decided to visit New Zealand when really I could just show you. The pictures speak for themselves.
We decided to fly to Auckland and do a North Island road trip, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the flights weren’t too expensive, and I fell in love with Auckland the last time I was there, so I wanted to explore more outside of the city. The North Island also seemed more achievable in our time span than the South Island, which is larger and therefore entails longer driving distances.
Greeting us with luscious green countryside, pristine coastlines dotted with majestic islands, and otherworldly volcanic landscapes bubbling up from the earth, North Island did not disappoint. It was an incredible trip and I have so many different stories to share. But first, I wanted to share our Hitlist – how we chose to spend eight magical days in New Zealand’s North Island.
Stop One: Coromandel
First of all, the road from Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula has to be one of the most amazing coastal drives I’ve ever experienced. The road hugs the water’s edge as it slowly sweeps around the Firth of Thames. Once we arrived in the Peninsula, we found no shortage of incredible activities thanks to the Coromandel’s stunning beaches, volcanic islands and dense forests.
The road along the Firth of Thames
Kayaking tour from Hahei Beach
Swimming at Cathedral Cove
Stop Two: Rotorua
Next up was a visit to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Here we were greeted by steaming lakes, bubbling mud pools, hidden hot springs, and of course that unmistakable smell of sulphur (which the Rotorua tourism site promised we would come to miss on our departure from the town. We did not).
The steaming, hissing landscape around Lake Rotorua
My overly excited face at all the volcanic activity
Steamy, bubbly Kerosene Creek: nature’s spa
Stop Three: Lake Taupo
We continued on to Lake Taupo, worthy of a visit for many reasons beyond being the largest lake in Australasia. We toured the famous Huka Falls and surrounding countryside by mountain bike, and spent our evenings lazily wandering the lakefront to the various restaurants and bars in Taupo town. There was even time for a picnic at Wharewaka point, where I swam and floated in the crystal blue waters thinking that maybe I had stumbled upon the meaning of life.
Incredible, powerful Hukka Falls
Mountain biking around Taupo
Floating in Lake Taupo, contemplating the meaning of existence
Stop Four: Auckland
Arriving back in Auckland to release our little rental car may have signalled the end of our road trip, but not of our adventure. The harbour city treated us to a blissful ferry ride over to rugged and quiet Rangitoto Island (worthy of a blog post on its own) and of course, enough food to kickstart the first diet I’ve embarked on in years upon our return to Australia. Do I regret it? I’ll let the below photos answer that for you…
The view from Rangitoto Island over the harbour to Auckland
No-regrets food stop one: Federal Delicatessen
No-regrets food stop two: Sal’s New York Pizza
No-regrets food stop three: Cafe Hanoi (at least this one was kind of healthy!)
There you have it, how to spend eight days in New Zealand’s North Island. I can’t wait to share more stories from each stop (all special for their own reason) and all the photos we snapped along the way.
To be continued.