One of the perks of living in Australia and being so isolated from the world is our proximity to New Zealand. Despite living here for over half of my life, I never got the chance to visit New Zealand until my summer holidays. We spent a little under a week in the North Island, but what I saw there was enough to entice me for a return trip sometime soon.
Day 1: Auckland → Rotorua
We landed at around 4 p.m. in the afternoon. I am honestly still baffled as to why there was so much traffic on the way out of the airport, but it took us around an hour in total to get onto the highways and officially leave the vicinity of the airport.
It took a little over 3 hours to get to Rotorua.
It smelt like rotten eggs and there were little flies everywhere, but the view over the lake was stunning as the sun set and turned the sky into pastel purples and oranges. I’m pretty sure that there are different walks at Sulphur Point but since it was getting dark and the airplane food was long digested, we only stayed for a few minutes before heading off to dinner.
Address: Hatupatu Dr, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand
Day 2: Rotorua → Lake Taupo
Our first stop of the day was Te Puia! It is a geothermal valley called Te Whakarewarewa, with many bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers. It all smells like rotten eggs but after spending half a day in the town of Rotorua, it is something your nose adjusts to. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the night experience tickets as we had to move to Lake Taupo but the geysers were still breathtaking during the day and the Haka was an enriching experience that presented one of the most well-known aspects of Maori culture (you have to get additional tickets for the Haka performance but in my opinion, it was really worth it!)
There is even a little kiwi hut! However, because they’re nocturnal animals, the entire hut is shrouded in darkness and you’ll have to let your eyes adjust so you can see them. I heard some other visitors saying that they couldn’t spot any but I was lucky enough to see one! They’re very fluffy.
The place is a little reminiscent of Tjapukai Cultural Park in Cairns that I visited when I was nine, likely because both are centres of indigenous culture. The whole park is absolutely beautiful; we spent around two hours here and had an early lunch before leaving.
Address: Hemo Rd, Tihiotonga, Rotorua 3040, New Zealand
These are a set of waterfalls along the Waikato Rivers, which we passed by on our way to Taupo. There’s a bridge overlooking the river at one of its narrowest points, with paths on either side of the river, leading to bends and areas of the river where it becomes wider. It does get quite crowded around noon but it is definitely worth visiting. A cool breeze is carried by the rapid movement of the river, with a gift shop in the nearby carpark selling ice cream to cool you down further.
Address: Taupo 3377, New Zealand
We checked into the Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort after wandering around Lake Taupo for a while in the afternoon. As the area is popular for those who are doing water activities, there wasn’t much for us to do so we went to the pools instead, before having dinner at The Steak House.
My parents went for steak and I opted for the caesar salad, which was delicious, just like the other dishes they served. If you’re a bread kind of person, they have a mixed bread platter with olives that was so so good.
Day 3: Lake Taupo → Waitomo
My favourite leg of the trip! However, we didn’t do much in these few days because I thought we’d be more packed for time when, in fact, we weren’t. Nonetheless, here are some destinations I would’ve liked to visit before arriving at the Waitomo Farmstay:
- Lava Glass Garden
- 165 State Highway 5, RD4, Taupo, New Zealand
- Barbary Cruises to Maori Rock Carvings (visit their website!)
This farm was absolutely stunning. We stayed in one of their lodges, dating back to the early 1900s, although there were also other accommodations and camping areas. The farm is expansive with the usual farm animals and an alpaca that turned its back to me whenever I approached it. The owners were extremely nice and provided us with eggs from their farm for breakfast.
Address: 22 Waitomo Caves Road, 3977 Hangatiki, New Zealand
Day 4: Waitomo → Hamilton
We saved some of the best for last, and on Day 4, we visited the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Photos were not allowed inside so all I can show you is the sign outside the main building.
I do suggest taking a photo against their green backdrop before the start of your tour as they offer you an option to buy photos that have you photoshopped into the cave at the end of your visit. If you can, try to visit in the morning! I went for one of the earlier tours at around 9:00AM and it wasn’t as crowded as some of the later groups that I saw.
While we only visited the glowworm caves, there were two other limestone caves that you can explore, but we chose not to due to the proximity of the Jenolan Caves to us in Australia.
We drove to Hamilton after this, passing by numerous smaller towns on our way.
This was our accommodation for the second last day of our trip. I don’t have that many photos, but the house is situated on a hill overlooking expanses of farmland. It’s decorated beautifully with souvenirs from other visitors all over the world. The owners have a few friendly dogs and there were roses planted right outside the windows. It is a little bit far from Hamilton, but it was pretty close to Hobbiton, which we were visiting the next day.
Address: 957/4 Taotaoroa Road, 3496 Karapiro, New Zealand
Day 5: Hamilton → Auckland
We were off to visit Hobbiton! This was the part of the trip that I looked forwards to the most. Despite never really watching all of the films, I have read the books and the site just took my breath away and made me make a mental note to go back and watch the movies.
We went for the earliest Chinese tour so my parents would be able to understand with ease (while it’s not that they can’t speak English, the Chinese tour guide’s explanations were easier to understand due to the nuances with the films and the landscape’s construction), although it meant that I was partially lost the entire time.
If you go early enough in the morning there won’t be that many visitors, especially if you’re going on the Chinese tour. However, even at 8:15, there were already full buses being driven off to the site.
The site takes around two hours to go through, although it felt a lot shorter than that. You’ll end your tour at the Green Dragon Inn and a cold apple cider (or was it ginger beer?) made at the inn itself, with other alcoholic options if you’re over 18 which, I was not yet at the time we visited.
I strongly suggest that you visit Hobbiton if you’re going to be in the North Island, the views are too stunning to miss out on.
Address: 501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata 3472, New Zealand
From there, we got back on the bus back to the main visitor centre and grabbed a quick bite and some souvenirs before leaving.
This was one spot that I didn’t have on my list but was suggested to us by the other Chinese tourists that were at Hobbiton with us. Supposedly, the whole walk takes 3 hours if you’re going from one side but if you’re just visiting the Blue Springs, which is what we opted for, the walk is around 30 minutes in total.
I don’t think I’ve seen so many ferns growing underwater but it was so beautiful and raw here. On hindsight, I wish we had taken the whole walk but we were driving back to Auckland later that day and had to skip it.
If you’re after the faster route, I suggest parking your car by Leslie Road.
Address: Leslie Rd, South Waikato 3483, New Zealand
This was a quick stop before we drove back to Auckland. I suggest visiting if you have a lot of spare time but it isn’t a necessary, must-visit.
The whole park is split into different sections and themes, which we didn’t explore fully because we had to leave. Entry is free but there is a boat ride along the river if you have enough time.
Address: Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton 3216, New Zealand
Day 6: Auckland → Sydney
The New Zealand trip ended here, as it was our last day and we didn’t have much planned in Auckland. We did visit SkyTower, from which we got an amazing view, and it was also Chinese New Year, which means there were traditional lion dances and fireworks in the city after it had gotten dark.
Overall, New Zealand really left an impression on me and I’d love to go back again, perhaps with some friends and do the more adventurous things I missed out on and visit the South Island.
Have you ever been to New Zealand? Tell me about your experiences!