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 in 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!
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 off-the-beaten-track hike, through unspoiled green fields and azure sea reflections.
Waiheke Island is a true jewel in the crown of Hauraki Gulf! Cheers!
Day 3 The great drive north
As we had to pick up 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. Then 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.
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 a staircase inside.
The northernmost part of the country proved to be amazingly beautiful!
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 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!
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 rugged coastline 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 Otorohanga. It was Friday night so we enjoyed live music in the only working place after 9 p.m.
Blooming Pohutukawa trees and guitars!
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!
Check out week two of our itinerary, where we tirelessly continued to be amazed! Or if you’re afraid that just one week will not be enough to explore the North Island, check out this amazing 1-week itinerary by a Kiwi.