New Zealand explorers: week 1 of a 4-week itinerary

with 38 Comments

We love the fact that New Zealand is so distant. Even though the trip to there took 30+ hours and lots of flying , it is a journey that is totally worth it. Being so far away from… everything, means that this Middle-Earth preserved its natural beauty of landscapes and cultures up to a high degree.

Aotearoa is so beautiful that all you need to get a car and drive! Just make sure you can afford many stops and mind-blowing views. Here we share what we experience on week one of our 4-week (during December and January) itinerary. We tried to cover as much as possible from the vast lands of this endlessly fascinating country.

Day 1 Kia ora! Welcome to the Land of the Long White Cloud!

We hoped on the SkyBus from the airport. It dropped us at Auckland CBD(Central Business District).
After 10 minutes uphill walking (first exercise after two days of flying) we reached our Airbnb accommodation and set off to the Sky Tower of Auckland. The tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. 360 degrees views of Auckland while standing on a glass floor is a cool first New Zealand experience. For the thrill-seekers there are options to bungee jump from the tower or to walk around it in the open air on the 192-meters-high platform.

And it’s the beginning of the summer season so flip-flops all over everywhere but don’t forget your jacket for the evenings!

traveling to New Zealand
In the distance you can see the volcanic island of Rangitoto. We visited it on our very last day in NZ.
traveling to New Zealand
Those pink cycleway!
traveling to New Zealand
Sky Tower’s Chrismas colors

Day 2 Sweet as hanuka kumara

Decided to spend the day on the Waiheke Island. A 15-minute walk from CBD takes you to the ferry terminal and after 40 minutes of sailing we arrived at the beautiful Waiheke Island. A quick look in the brochures assured us we can do many things on foot not going far from the Oneroa village. According to the locals the island has a very well developed bus network and everything else is not more than a 20-minute bus ride.
We managed to visit two beautiful sandy beaches and three wineries with magnificent wines and surroundings. On our way back to Matiatia Bay we took an of-the-beaten-track hike, through unspoiled green fields and azure sea reflections.

Weiheke island is a true jewel in the crown of Hauraki Gulf! Cheers!

 

Let the journey take you to  Journey to the other side of the globe - road bumps

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

Day 3 The great drive north

As we had to pickup our car at midday we afforded one relaxing morning in one of the local cafes. We combined adapting to the left side driving rules and driving up north. On our way to Northland we made a few short stops visiting some points of interest. We had a late lunch in Whangarei to explore the town basin with many boats in the backwaters and well-preserved Victorian style houses, and last but not least – the picturesque Whangarei waterfalls. Than it was time for a toilet stop and Kawakawa was the perfect place for this. This village is famous for its Hundertwasser toilets and probably survives on the tourist map because of them. We reached Kerikeri just in time for dinner (which usually is between 7 and 9 pm in New Zealand). Then we enjoyed the sunset time with our host in the countryside villa.

NZ and all its visitors are very lucky to have only one native very poisonous and very very rare species – the katipō spider. We never met one or met one who has seen them.

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

Life is so much better with a glass of cabernet franc on the porch

Day 4 Where two seas collide, bad spirits do not abide

We woke up early to drive to Kaitaia for our 90 Mile beach and cape Reinga tour. Our Maori driver (who was named Waru – Number 8 in maori, you know why) and guide drove us along the 88-kilometer-long beach. Then he showed us how to slide on the sand dunes. We explored a bit the local flora and fauna and walked around the cape Reinga park, saw where exactly the Pacific ocean meets the Tasman sea. Visited some hidden white sand beaches, special ice cream place and the Kauri kingdom workshop featuring a giant kauri log with staircase inside.

Let the journey take you to  Christmas and New Year's traditions and customs around the world

The northernmost part of the country proved to be amazingly beautiful!

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand
Starting from the top of the dune…
traveling to New Zealand
…and ending in the stream

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

Day 5 Spot the marine life and soak in the hot pool

Today we visited the Bay of Islands for a dolphin spotting cruise. Departed from Paihia and not very far from the wharf we spotted killer whales or orcas. This is very unusual for this place and time of the year. We went through the “Hole in Rock” – another spectacular creation of the nature. We stopped at one of the islands for a short walk and to absorb the beautiful scenery around. The cruise ended in Russel, another port town with historical significance. We spent the afternoon in hot spring pools following the advice of our host. We can still smell how good it was in those plenty of pools with different temperatures.

Don’t mistake orcas for orcs! They are both very dangerous and ready to eat you though!

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

Day 6 700 kilometers and 7 chords

This day was meant for a long drive from Northland to Central North island. During our 700K drive we stopped for a coffee break at the picturesque Rawene backwater village. Then we enjoyed the view of the Tasman Sea becoming backwaters with pristine beaches near Opononi and drove along the ragged costline of the Tasman Sea. Accidentally we threw a look at the Kai Iwi lakes – bluer than any lake we’ve seen before. The road passed the ancient kauri forest, where we had the chance to see the oldest living kauri tree Tane Mahuta. After some traffic jams in the 100km long Auckland metropolis we finally reached the Middle-Earth and our house at Otorahanga. It was Friday night so we enjoyed live music in the only working place after 9 p.m.

Let the journey take you to  Senegal - the full of contrasts Saint Louis

Blooming Pohutukawa trees and guitars!

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

Day 7 Starry starry fluorescent skies…

Waitomo Caves are world-known for the glow worms. We believed combining “stargazing” in the caves with some black-water tubing would be one of the highlights on our trip. It turned out so. Then we did cave tour with a boat to silently admire those shiny little cacoons. The tour guide used ropes to navigate in the dark underground world so that we are able to see the fluorescent bulbs of the glow worms. After that we drove to Rotorua ending up on Eat street on a lovely Saturday.

Sulfur town on an ancient land!

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

traveling to New Zealand

Copyright © 2010 Tourism New Zealand (or its licensors), 147 Victoria Street West, Auckland, New Zealand. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2010 Tourism New Zealand (or its licensors), 147 Victoria Street West, Auckland, New Zealand. All rights reserved.

traveling to New Zealand

 

traveling to New Zealand

Check out week two of our itinerary, where we tirelessly continued to be amazed!

 

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38 Responses

  1. Gotta say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your super organized, detailed blog posts! I have a friend who lives in NZ and she’s been egging me to visit for years. With this guide doing all the planning for me ;P, looks like all I have to do is buy the ticket!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Thanks a ton! We did our best to “infect” more people with NZ magic. Aotearoa is one of those places you’d want to stay as long as possible. Don’t hesitate to visit your friend! Let us know if you need more help planning your trip there 🙂

  2. Katie
    | Reply

    What a fun first week in New Zealand! Sledding on the sand looks like a blast, and your pictures of the orcas are fantastic! Can’t wait to read week 2.

  3. great photos sliding down the sand dunes looks super fun.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      It is fun and not scary at all! Kids do it, elderly people do it, it’s amazing! 🙂

  4. natalietanner
    | Reply

    That crazy bathroom! It reminds me of something you’d see in a Museum of Modern Art. I love it!! 🙂 I’ve heard so much about New Zealand – that it is just crazy beautiful. I see from your photos that it really is. We would love to visit!! It is on the list of places we are hoping to go. We travel with the kids and know they would enjoy it, too!

  5. This looks like such an amazing adventure! I love the sledding down the dunes and the whales! Such a great guide.

  6. Kimmie Conner
    | Reply

    And to think this was just one week!! What incredible adventures – so many beautiful whales, and the sand boarding looked insane!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      It was a fully packed itinerary. 🙂 But we found some time to chill, this is New Zealand after all and we wanted to follow the locals and be more relaxed. So we did quite a lot of picnics but also lots of hiking 🙂

  7. gtcookbook
    | Reply

    Usually when I see pictures of NZ it’s of their mountain ranges, but it was so cool to see the coastal parts in your post! I definitely want to check out the caves and the glowworms!!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Nature is magic in New Zealand! Glowworms shouldn’t be missed – they’re like starry skies in the caves 🙂

  8. Wangui
    | Reply

    They have such lovely weather there….. thank you for lovely pictures and the virtual tour…. the sliding down the dunes looks like loads of fun….

  9. The sand sledding is mental!!! I’m trying to get out to New Zealand in October time so thanks for this amazingly detailed post. Bookmarking it for when I book my flights! Would love to see some of these places for myself

  10. Neha Verma
    | Reply

    What a wonderful trip. I had never known of a dune which ends right at the sea. Also, looks like you had such a wonderful time at the island.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      It was really wonderful! We highly recommend New Zealand!

  11. Maria Jesus
    | Reply

    I love the places you chose to visit – all of them are amazing! Specially Waiheke Island: I’ve been told that it’s a stunning place but I couldn’t visit it when I was in NZ. It’s on my pending list! Thanks for sharing your amazing stories and pics!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      We got to know about Waiheke the very first day we arrived in Auckland. It’s a gem! There is also another interesting island – Rangitoto – which we visited on our very last day in NZ. It’s a volcanic island and had great views towards the Auckland.

  12. Lizzie Jones
    | Reply

    What an incredible adventure! New Zealand has been on my list ever since I saw Lord of the rings haha and I’m already planning my trip there for next year so thanks for this!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Great you’re going to visit NZ! Let us know if you need any help choosing the places and experiences!

  13. Gem
    | Reply

    I love visiting isolated places. Like you said because of such isolation, natural beauty of landscapes and cultures are preserved. I had the same experience when I visited Iceland. Because it’s so isolated, it was also quite unique.

    Maybe one day, I will visit NZ. It sounds like you guys had a lot of fun.

    Happy Travels 🙂

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Iceland is on our bucket list from a loooong time! We hope to visit it very very soon! So we’ll be happy with any recommendations!
      Thank you!

  14. New Zealand sounds like a dream destination – I can’t believe you can get from to an island from the city in just 40 minutes! And those beaches – wow!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Yes, ferries are a big deal and could go quite fast! Beaches are wonderful even if water might not be perfect for a long swim! 🙂

  15. Wow New Zealand is so fun!! I will definitely need to check out Waiheke Island, sand dunes and Waitomo Caves when I visit!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Great! Don’t forget the Hobbiton Movie Set and also the Milford Sound – everything is just magical!

  16. New Zealand has so many amazing things to explore! A true paradise for adventurers. Thank you for a detailed wander-lust inspiring post.

  17. Sandy N Vyjay
    | Reply

    New Zealand springs alive in all its beauty and charm in your post. Your photos stunningly capture the lovely landscapes. The beaches look spectacular, hope to visit NZ someday.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      You wouldn’t regret it! Hope you managed to get there soon!

  18. tabassumtrails
    | Reply

    So many activities in just a week. Wow! The sand dune slides look brilliant!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Yes, we’re kind of too active travelers. But we try to enjoy slowly and relax more. NZ definitely helps that, too! 🙂

  19. Dante Harker
    | Reply

    We’ve yet to be to New Zealand and the more I read the more I want to go – your post just added to that want 🙂

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Thank you! We’re glad to inspire travelers to visit stunning places like New Zealand! We wish you to visit it soon!:-)

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