I hope that you have all had a wonderful few weeks. It has been a very busy but fun few weeks for me. Adventuring the North Island with two of my friends, Heather and Tracy, came with all the excitement of jumping into a car and exploring, as well as all the ‘what in the world is happening?’ moments too. For now, I would like to take you on a visual journey of the path that we took and the activities we marked off.
My friends arrived in the middle of Spring, here in the southern hemisphere. And before we even reached the North Island, we explored some sunny days down south.
Our first day was spent around Oamaru as the harbour came to life with a gypsy fair. The Victorian buildings with steampunk flair, the shows, the art and the music filled the town this weekend.
Little by little we made our way more north, to Kaikoura, mentioned previously in my blog when Aoife and I went whale watching. I love this spot as the majestic mountains meet the sea all in one breath taking view.On our way out of town, we got to see a plentiful of seals and their pups laying on the accompanying sea rocks.
After Kaikoura, we made our way to Picton and crossed over on the ferry to Wellington. It was then that we were on the North Island and really ready to start the road trip. Our first day in Wellington was spent at Weta Workshops. Although, I wasn’t able to capture it on camera for you, I can tell you of how creatively inspiring it was to walk through the studio and see the artists at work. Of course, we learned lots about the craftmanship of the set design and costumes in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy, as well as other movies to add to their list. It definitely is a must to visit here! After this, on our travels to Napier on the east coast, we so happened to cross Rivendell and stopped here for a little walk. ( I must point out here for any LOTR fans, that I will eventually be posting a separate blog post on the film locations that I have been to on both the North and South Island from the LOTR and Hobbit films….so stay tuned! )
Napier was a pleasant surprise with the art deco that filled it’s street. It was indeed taking a step back in time, not quite as far back as the Victorian influence, but one that you certainly wouldn’t want to miss! For amazing 360 views, Te Mata peak is a must with the coast in one background and rolling hills to surround the rest!
The next stop on our map was Taupo. Here, we viewed the turquoise gushing waters of Huka falls and a natural hot spring where you can submerge yourself into it’s warm waters.We intended to do the Tongariro Crossing with views of emerald lakes and various active volcanoes ( Mt Doom!) but the conditions were not in our favour for the time we were there. We did, however, take a short walk to Taranaki falls!
The next day was one of the strangest that I have ever experienced in both Taupo and Rotorua. I really did feel like I was on another planet and Craters of the moon as well as the Thermal Wonderland was one experience that I will never forget. Volcanic activity close to the earth’s surface, mud and water bubbling as steam rose from the surface. The smell of sulphure filling your nostrils and the strangest colours of various minerals permeating the extremely hot waters.
Later on that day, we went ziplining through an untouched forest in Rotorua. We were up in trees as high as 22 metres (and still not close to the top!) and flew through the air (sometimes upside down) for lengths of up to 200 metres. With the silver fern below us and the sunshine above us, we got to experience what New Zealand would have looked like before settlement from a very different perspective.
Here are a few more photos from Rotorua’s gardens and city.
And here comes little Hobbiton, nestled in the hills of a farmer in Matamata. Like I said, I will be writing another post on this alone but in the mean time, let this whet your appetite. How quaint is this permanent set, as it brings the books and films to life before your eyes?
Onward and upward we go. Although facing a little bump that morning in which delayed us in hitting the tides at the right time. We eventually made it to Hot water beach where you grab a shovel and dig a hole,as the natural warmth below gives you your very own hot tub in the sand! Afterwards, we made our way to Cathedral Cave (one of the film locations in the Narnia movies) and walked down to one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand (in my opinion!).
Northward bound we continued, as we came to stay in the Bay of Islands. Tracy went diving to the Rainbow Warrior wreck as Heather and I relaxed with these views.
From here, we began our journey south and down the west coast.In Waitomo, we went blackwater tubing through glow worm caves. How beautiful to lean back in the water with no light around you except for the stars of the caves-little glow worms lighting your way. You had to work for it, as you walked through cave, trudged through waters and jumped down waterfalls and slides. What a way to see something so illuminating and magical. It was definitely one we would do again!
An evening walk in New Plymouth calmed the adrenaline of the day, however. The next morning we faced another little bump on the road, that delayed us on our drive from New Plymouth to Wellington. However we were fortunate to see a clearing of the stand alone Mount Taranaki!
Wellington was a treat! Lovely buildings nestled in the city among hills. What a coffee and dining culture to experience here too. We would recommend Hangar’s flight coffee where you can get a coffee tasting and information on the brews you select.Any coffee snob’s dream. The Te Papa Museum captured our attention with a part of Kiwi history displayed in life-like giant models, created by the team at Weta. It was here that we departed the North Island at the end of week two and headed on the scenic ferry back to the South Island.
Our last day was spent in Christchurch where we ended our two week road trip. We covered over 3,500km with many hours on the road and so many sites to see. It was a beautiful adventure and exciting memories were made. There is something special and care free about having a map in your lap and beautiful places to explore. I’m really thankful for such opportunities to see a lot of the North and South Island. And I’m very blessed to have had friends come to the other side of the world to see me (and New Zealand!). That being said, my next holiday will be in one place and with one accommodation (instead of around 14 different!). Please take a look at my South Island and Auckland blog post too! And hopefully, it will convince more people to come to these breath-taking Islands.