New Zealand diaries (Part I) – North Island road trip.
From the archives (2015), when I was traveling across the amazing island(s) of New Zealand with my partner (at the time) – a Kiwi guy.
Almost two months in the land of the sheep, on the other side of the world. A country of amazing nature and breathtaking landscapes. Where the bush changes into the dunes, the dunes into a beach-highway, the beach into a volcanic landscape and the volcanos into canyons, farms, mountains, fiords, glaciers and national parks.
Omnipresent nature, friendly people, relaxed atmosphere. I loved everything in this country! The beauty of nature was spectacular. Even a normal country road was beautiful.
Of course the coastal pacific roads were the most breathtaking parts of the trip. Hmm.. or actually maybe it was the Ninty-Mile-Beach – a ‘highway’ on a sandy beach (with respect to the tides)? Or was it the walk between active volcanos? Or the sand dunes, where we got scared that we would get lost because it felt like we were in the Sahara. The whole trip was just epic and a bit unpredictable!
I was lucky to return a year later for another two months. My relationship didn’t make it into the ‘happy ever after chapter’ and building a home in this country remains a blurry dream but I will always be grateful to the universe and to my ex for making me discover this paradise on earth.
New Zealand – a paradise on earth
Waste of nature, omnipresent horizon, variation of amazing landscapes, chilled people, no crime, no dangerous creatures… If you ask me, it’s a paradise on earth !
Seriously, I was amazed, wherever I went. Whenever I was told that ‘tomorrow we will drive through an amazingly beautiful location’, I would wonder ‘because what we saw today was not amazingly beautiful?!’ (I even found my partner’s old school yard beautiful LOL).
I traveled the globe and often when people asked me, what country I like the best I would always reply ‘every place has its own beauty’. Until I went to New Zealand. I instantly fell in love with this country.
Auckland and Northland
After visiting family in Auckland, we drove all the way to the northest point – the lighthouse of Cape Reinga.
Driving up, we took the coastal east road, passing North Shore, Warkworth, Matakana and Omaha, Whangarei, Paiha and Kerikeri. Reaching the northern part of the country, a 100 km one-way road via Pukenui to Cape Reinga.
There, at the end of the world I had a funny encounter. The only other visitors were two couples, one of them German, the other one Polish. You never escape your roots ; )
Driving down we took the other side – the west coast road via Omapere and Dargaville. We returned for a few more days to the outskirts of the capital, where staying with my extended family I could discover the region. Waitakere Ranges Regional Park with its juicy vegetation, coastal walk trails and local beaches: Bethells, Piha, Huia and Karekare Beach (remember the famous piano beach scene from ‘The Piano’? That’s the beach!)… and my absolute favorite – Whatipu.
Then we took off, driving down to discover the center of the North Island (and the South Island, but that’s a separate article).
I really enjoyed the Coromandel Peninsula. Here we spent a few days, driving around the entire Peninsula, discovering hidden little beaches. I became friends with cute birds (so many types of them here! WOW), we went for walks and treks. Beach trails, Coromandel Forest Park, parts of the Coromandel Range… I loved the whole area.
I highly recommend you spend a few days in the area and just walk around as there are many walking paths and circuits. My favs were the Coromandel Walkway at Cape Colville and Opito Pa Historic Reserve Walk Bay at Opito Bay. Another tip for you is the Hot Water Beach, where you can sit in natural hot springs. Really cool!
Central North Island
Speaking of hot tubs: Our next stop was Rotorua famous for its mud and for hot baths. It would have been a nice experience, except for the crowds. Yes, indeed, crowds. Here, for the first (and only) time in New Zealand I had to share the space with other people – a group of very loud Chinese tourists. We were basically cooking in a noodle soup (no offense to my Chinese friends ;))
From the mud of Rotorua we went to the Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest with amazingly HUGE old trees! Epic experience! I love hugging trees but there it was impossible, as they were gigantic ! You realize how small you really are, against all the beauty of God’s creation.
I absolutely loved the next stop. A completely new experience for me and definitely one of my highlights was the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. A walk around a park with volcanic grounds and always changing colors (and smells) of the soil. With hot, colorful waters, springs and geysers. Epic (again) ! Beautiful on the eye (see picture gallery below), but you don’t want to fall into this hot pan and be boiled alive. So stay on the track if you go there (I highly recommend you do!).
After spending a lovely day at Lake Taupo and visiting Craters of the Moon and Huka Falls we reached the amazingly beautiful Tongariro National Park.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing – all landscapes in one hike
Active volcanoes, vivid crater lakes, steaming vents, glacial valleys, old lava flows, alpine vegetation, tussock and bush…
The Tongariro National Park is the oldest park in New Zealand and belongs to UNESCO World Heritage. Tongariro Crossing was one of my best experiences in the land of the Hobbit. An AMAZING 20 km (8 hours) trek through all kind of landscapes. It’s considered the best one-day trek in New Zealand and apparently also one of the top10 day-treks in the world. It really was, for me. Read more about it here.
Wellington & surroundings
Our big New Zealand adventure took us for a week to Wellington where we spent time with friends, while discovering the region. I liked the city. It reminded me of San Francisco (sunny but windy) and Montreal (European style mixed with New World). Modern and with a cosmopolite feeling, without being big (nothing is big here LOL). With cute hipster cafés and cool co-working spaces.
We discovered the surroundings of Upper & Lower Hut, visited the Pencarrow Lighthouse, drove around Lake Wairarapa and trekked in the nearby nature parks.
Eventually we dropped off our rental and took the Interislander Ferry, crossing the Cook Strait to reach South Island.
The crossing was absolutely amazing and with even more breathtaking views. Absolutely fabulous! On the ‘other side’ the same car (only in a different color) was waiting for us, to take us on an amazing 3 week long South Island discovery! Best time ever! But about that in my next post. Stay tuned and enjoy my picture-gallery, because you know, one picture is worth a thousand words : )