North Island, New Zealand

Paihia/Bay of Islands:

North of Auckland you will find Paihia and the Bay of Islands. It’s such a pretty part of the country. We stayed 4 nights but 2/3 is more than enough. We stayed in Pipi Patch Hostel.

We went to Cape Reinga, the most Northerly part of New Zealand, on a day trip from here. It was part of our bus package with the Kiwi Experience but the company we went with was Great Sights. It’s a long day on the bus, with a lot of driving but some of the views are amazing. We went sand-boarding too which was pretty cool!

In Paihia itself, you can do a lot of activities during the day. There are a number of walks to do around the area or boat trips to the Hole in the Rock. You can also do activities like paddle boarding and kayaking too. We decided that we could go parasailing here for something different. I don’t normally like these kind of things but it was so cool! 1300 feet and amazing views of the Bay of Islands! I loved it!

One evening, we got the ferry over to Russell. It’s a very small town but has a number of restaurants on the beachfront where you can see great sunsets. The Duke of Marlborough has great views and is New Zealand’s oldest licensed pub. You can get some fish and chips too and sit on the beach for the sunset.

Auckland:

We didn’t have much time in Auckland, so the Auckland Explorer Bus was perfect for us. It brought us to all of the main stops in one day. You can get a 24 or 48 hour pass. You also get a free ferry ticket to Devonport Island from Viaduct Harbour/Princes Wharf.

Our first stop was Devonport Island. Here, there are some museums, the Americas Cup course and 2 volcanoes you can climb (Mount Victoria and North Head). North head has a great view of the Auckland skyline and there is an old fort there too and Mount Victoria has amazing views too.

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Back on the mainland, we headed to another volcano, Mt Eden. You can walk up to the top and see the filled crater and take in views of the city. It’s so nice on a clear day.

For rugby fans, Eden Park is nearby. There were no matches on while we were there but it’s worth looking up the fixtures to check.

As in all big cities, you have the skyscraper. We have been up so many at this stage that we decided not to go up the Sky Tower. It has 360 views and you can eat there in the revolving restaurant, do a sky walk or a sky  jump. There’s a casino there too.

During the summer/warmer months, a trip to Waiheke Island is meant to be amazing. White sandy beaches, vineyards and a lovely place to relax.

Hot water beach:

After Auckland we headed for Hot Water Beach. On the way we stopped at Cathedral Cove. It was around a 30 minute walk each way and it was so pretty down there and the views on the way were so nice. Narnia was filmed there and part of a Macklemore music video.

Next stop was Hot Water Beach. At low tide you head to the beach and dig holes in the sand to make hot pools. It took a while to dig deep enough for us to fit in but we made it eventually. The water was so hot. We stayed in Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Parks and they gave us shovels to use at the beach.

It looks quite shallow here but we did have a good pool at one stage!

Waitomo:

Next stop was Waitomo. On the way, we went and did the Karangahake Gorge Walk. It was a nice walk that took around 30 minutes and was a nice chance to just stretch our legs on the long drive.

Waitomo caves are a must! Here is where you will see the glow worms. You can do a walk there or you can choose between a 3 hour tubing experience or a 5 hour tubing and abseiling experience. (Your not in the caves for the whole 3/5 hours) I heard the walk was kind of disappointing so I decided to do the 3 hour tubing. I was nervous about it but it was so good and not scary at all. There were no major jumps and the staff were so friendly that if any one was uncomfortable they would help them or find another easier route. I would definitely recommend it. We went with the legendary black water rafting company. We even got free soup and bagels afterwards to warm us up!

Rotorua:

On our way to Rotorua we headed to Hobbition. This is where Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. You get a guided tour around to see the hobbit holes and end up at the Green Dragon for a drink. The views there are amazing and the attention to detail in every aspect of the set makes the tour even better.

That afternoon we headed to the Tamaki Māori village. You can choose between a dinner experience or an over night stay. We did the over night stay. We had afternoon tea, played Maori games and sang Maori songs, got a tour of the Maori village and saw their traditions, such as their dancing, the haka and their cooking, to name a few. We had dinner that was cooked in their Hangi oven and ended the night in the hot tubs.

The next morning, we headed to Te Puia. Here we saw the geysers and kiwi birds. It was a 1.5 hour tour and was good but I would prioritise the Maori village and spas over it.

There are Polynesian Spas that you can go to too and the Rotorua Skyline, where you can get a cable car up the mountain and enjoy a luge ride. We decided to do that in Queenstown.In Rotorua there is so much to do. We just didn’t have enough time to do it all. I would recommend at least 2 full days there.

Taupo:

Taupo is such a pretty place, sitting on a lake surrounded by mountain views. Here, there is so much to do as well.

You can go on a sailing trip and watch the sunset on a boat with BYOB and pizza. The sunsets are so nice so it’s worth the trip.

We decided to tackle the Tongariro Crossing. We got up at 6 to hike 19.5km up the mountain. The views were gorgeous along the way but, I’m not gonna lie, there were times that I didn’t know if I was going to cry, vomit or pass out. I would consider myself quite fit but parts are very steep and it can get extremely cold, especially in the winter. You can book guided or unguided tours. Ours was unguided and unless you’re an experienced hiker, I would get a guide.

At Huka Falls nearby, you can walk around the falls or go Jet Boating down the river and falls.

From Taupo you can visit the Spa Park with natural hot springs to bathe in or if you’re looking for more of an adrenaline rush you can bungy or skydive.

Wellington:

On the way to Wellington you can head to River Valley for a night for white water rafting. We didn’t go here on our bus but you can still do rafting in other places.

The Te Papa museum was recommended to us. It is a massive museum with free entry. We spent nearly two hours there but you could spend a lot more. There are so many different displays.

We also walked up the steep hill to Mount Victoria. Once you reach the top, the views of the city are so nice. The return trip took around an hour. We headed for a lovely breakfast afterwards at Sweet Mothers Kitchen. It was such a good feed.

If you’re looking for a beach day in Wellington, Oriental Bay is a nice place to visit. There are LOTR tours available too.

Top Tips:

  • We did our bus trip with Kiwi Experience and would recommend it. Keep an eye on their website as they offer discounts on certain passes every month. Stray is another similar option too.
  • We got discounts on our activities when we booked with the Kiwi Experience.
  • If you are doing the Hobbiton visit, make sure you bring your passport with you if you want to get your free drink in the Green Dragon pub afterwards.
  • If you’re doing the Tongariro Crossing, summer would be better than winter/spring. It was very cold when we did it!
  • Bookme.co.nz is a great site for booking tours and activites at a discounted price
  • We used Super Shuttle to get the the airport. I would highly recommend. Cheap, punctual and they pick you up.

Happy travels,

Top Tip Traveller

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