exploring New Zealand's North Island - travel diary

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New Zealand has always been one of the top countries on my travel bucket list. So when all my Australia plans were in safe hands, I immediatly knew that I had to see at least a little bit of NZ as well.

Now this dream is finally becoming a reality: Together with kiwiexperience, my friend Svea and I are going to explore the North and South Island for two weeks and we couldn’t be more excited. Flexible bus passes focused on giving backpackers the possibilty of seeing the most beautiful parts of NZ while making mates and memories of a lifetime - that sounded like the very best option for us to make the most of our time and we eventually went for the Buzzy Bee pass.

As we will stop at losts of different places each day, I thought the best way to let you take part in our travel, is to work on a detailed travel diary summarizing every single day.

 So here we go:

 

Day 1 – Auckland

Our flight from Melbourne took off early in the morning, so we arrived in Auckland in the afteroon. After catching the SkyBus into the city we checked in at the Nomads Hostel, which is located right in the city centre, close to the waterfront and the main streets. We then spent the rest of our day strolling through the city. No clouds and summery 25 degrees made it even more beautiful to explore everything close by. Watching the sunset at Auckland's pretty harbour was probably our highlight. But after walking around for a few hours we were really happy to finally cook some dinner on the rooftop of our hostel and get a good sleep before catching our bus the next day.

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Day 2 - Hot Water Beach

It’s Tuesday and we hopped on our first Kiwi bus this morning - now the adventure officially started. We actually didn’t really know what to expect at first, but our driver Guy was just awesome! He explained the whole Kiwi concept to us in detail - how to book accommodation, activities and what we are doing while getting from one place to another. 

After stopping in a little lakeside village for lunch we checked in at our accommodation at Hot Water Beach and quickly jumped back on the bus again to explore the famous Cathedral Cove. Just the walk there was absolutely stunning and made us realize what a unique place New Zealand really is. You can easily spend a whole day walking around the area, but because we wanted to check out Hot Water Beach as well, we only had one hour.

So for sunset we went to the beach ready to dig our own hot water pools and guess what? It actually worked. Chilling in 40 degree warm water while watching the sunset was definitely not the worst way to end the day. 

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Day 3 - Waitomo

New day - new adventure. Today our final destination was Waitomo. To be honest - there’s not a lot to do in this little town, except from the tours the blackwaterrafting company offers, but they make it absolutely worth stopping there for a night. We did the 5hrs Black Abyss and it was incredible. I never thought the tour would actually be that challenging, but all the abseiling, zip-lining, jumping, rafting and waterfall-climbing made it one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I’ve you ever get to travel around New Zealand’s South Island it’s one of the things you shouldn’t miss. It’s quite pricey, but I don’t think there’s anything comparable to floating through caves lighted up by millions of glowworms - so go for it!

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Day 4 - Rotorua

Our bus didn’t leave that early today, so after sleeping a little bit longer, we headed towards Rotorua. We did stopped for a short nature walk, a lunch break and another walk to pataruru blue springs, which was absolutely stunning. I was totally amazed by the shimmering blue water and the best thing was probably that there were barely any other people around. After that we used the rest of our day in Rotorua to get myself a (desperately needed) new suitcase and just walked around the city centre and lakeside. We also saw some of the famous geothermal springs. I have to say that seeing all the hot water coming out of the earth is pretty impressive, but I couldn’t really get used to the strong smell.

Anyways, I wish we would have had some more time in Rotorua, as there’s so much to see and do, so make sure to spend at least two nights there if you can.

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Day 5 - Taupo

After the bus picked us up at our hostel, we started our day with a nice little walk through Redwood Forest. I  love how kiwiexperience doesn’t just take you from one place to another, but makes sure you see everything pretty on the way. We stopped for photos and walks every few hours. After the walk we made our way towards Taupo, where the most exciting part of the day was about to happen. 

I jumped out of a plane from 15 000 feet. Again. After having done my first skydive in Byron a couple of months ago, I already knew what to expect, but of course I was still freaking excited ...and maybe still a little bit scared. The whole Skydive Team was super friendly and made it the best experience ever. I don’t think there’s a feeling comparable to sitting on the edge of a plane when you know that you’re going to jump off it in the next couple of seconds - overwhelming and probably addictive. If you’re in New Zealand and skydiving is on your bucket list, I can only recommend doing it in Taupo. The view you’ve got over the lake and the mountains is absolutely beautiful and the whole team is super nice. Thank you again to Skydive Taupo for making this awesome experience possible!

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Day 6 - Taupo

Today we got up at 4:30 in the morning. Yes 4:30. When we woke up, we were pretty unsure what we had got ourselves into, but that changed as soon as we were on our shuttle bus and caught the first sight of Tongariro National Park at dusk. That’s when we realized that no matter how hard the walk was going to be, it would be absolutely worth it.

It was when we got out of the bus, that they told us that it’s going to be around minus 7 degrees up on the mountain and it was already freezing outside the shuttle. Wearing light sweaters and a rain jacket, we weren’t prepared for temperatures like that, so we had to spend 20$ on a fleece jacket and gloves. If you plan to do the crossing as well, be prepared for all weather conditions, as they tend to change really quickly. The first and last part of the walk were pretty easy, but the middle part was what’s actually really challenging and it's what makes the whole walk really exhausting. Anyways, we got rewarded with the most amazing views ever. When we saw the Emerald Lakes for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes. That’s how I always imagined New Zealand to look like and why I always wanted to go there. All the pain from climbing up the mountain was forgotten in a second.

The walk took us about 6,5 hours in total and we just spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our hostel, doing some grocery shopping and strolling around Lake Taupo. It really is a beautiful little town, that has got everything you need and you can easily spent 2 or 3 days there. We originally wanted to check out the Natural Spa Park - it’s free and you can hang out in the river getting warmed up by hot springs, but we were just too exhausted from the walk.

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Day 7 - River Valley

Our first stop of the day was Tongariro National Park again, but this time we didn’t go for a long tiring 20km walk. We only did a short 20 min one and got a lovely view over the volcanoes. After that we had a picknick lunch and chilled out in the sun for a little while before heading further towards River Valley. Just driving along the winding roads through the mountains was spectacular enough, but when we arrived at the River Valley Lodge I immediately fell in love with the whole place. It’s literally in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a beautiful river and hundreds of green hills. We used the rest of the evening to walk around the river, cook our dinner and play some cards.

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Day 8 - Wellington

Horseriding was probably the activity I was most excited about. When I was little my whole life basically consisted of ponies, so I couldn’t wait to be back on a horse, especially in beautiful New Zealand. And what can I say? The whole trip was just stunning. With the morning sun glimpsing through the mountains, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful location to go for a ride. 

After lunch we then had to go for rather a long drive. It took us around 5 hours to get to Wellington, so we arrived quite late and didn’t have a lot of time to explore New Zealand’s capital city. Anyways, we had a lovely view from our room at Base Backpackers and while strolling through the street, we noticed lots of cool cafes, bars and restaurants. Definitely a place I would like to spend more time when I come back one day.

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So that’s it. Since we got on the ferry taking us to the South Island the next morning, our North Island adventure was already over and couldn’t have been any better. New Zealand, you stole my heart already.