Where has that time gone?
It feels like only a second ago I was getting off the plane and touching down in Auckland city, buzzing off caffeine and enthralled with excitement to start a new adventure.
Now, fast forward 10 weeks and here I am, on my last day before I grab my internal flight back to Auckland, to then have a further last day in New Zealand before becoming Australia bound.
I am leaving feeling I have achieved absolutely everything I set out to do and so much more.
I can’t even begin to explain the contentment of emotion in regards to what I have accomplished. I saw everything I wanted to, I went everywhere I had written down on the life list and I leaped into every single new experience that was thrown my way.
As my nan would say and good ole Frank, I did it my way!
So, before I start scribbling down my thoughts of a fresh country and brand new experiences, here is how I devoted my 10 weeks in New Zealand, the route I took for both islands, the overall mileage I conquered to the top places I’d recommend.
North Island route-
Auckland (city) to Piha beach (village)——Piha beach to Paihia (town)——Paihai to Waipu (town)——Waipu to waiwera (village)——-Waiwera to Coromandel (village)——Coromandel to Hahei (village)——-Hahei to Catherdral Caves (village)——-Catherdral Caves to Waihi (village)——-Waihito Tauranga (town)——-Tauranga to Matamata (town)——-Matamata to Raglan (town)———-Raglan to Waitomo caves (village)———Waitomo caves to Rotorua (town)———Rotorua to Lake Taupo (town)———-Lake Taupo to Tongariro (village)———–Tongariro to Napiar (town)——–Napiar through Hastings (village) to Wellington (city).
South Island route
Wellington to Picton (town)——-Picton to Nelson (town)——Nelson to Kaiteriteri (village)—–Kaiteriteri to Takaka (village)——Takaka to farewell split ( passing through and exploring- Abel Tasman national park, east Takaka, Collingwood, pakawau, puponga, cape farewell, motupipi. ) (all villages)——Farewell split to Takaka——-Takaka to punakaiki (village)———-Punakaiki to pancakes and blowholes (village)———Pancakes and blowholes to greymouth (town)———Grey mouth to arthus pass (village)——–Arthus pass to Okarito, (stopping on route and exploring Hokitika, (town) ross (village) harihari(village)——-Okarito- franz joseph, (town)——–Franz joseph to fox glacier (village)———-Fox glacier to haast beach to lake hawea to Wanaka (town)—-Wanaka to—–queenstown (town)—–Queenstown to milford sounds——Queenstown to Dunedin (city)——-Dunedin to lake tekapo (village)——-Lake tekapo to arthurs pass——-Arthurs pass to akaroa (village)——-Akaroa to kaikorua (village)——–Kaikorua to Christ church. (city)
26 villages – 17 towns- cities- 4
Rough estimate of mileage- 3, 305.28m but, New Zealanders are weird and measure everything in KM so that would equate to 5,158.4km.
Round of applause and a pretty bow for PAMELA!!!
Top 6 places to go in North Island
*As you might be able to tell with the random numbering to 6… I enjoyed so many places in both islands that 5 wasn’t even enough to whittle down to. But if I had to really pin point, my ultimate destinations to recommend would be the following*
Tauranga, Coromandal, Napiar, Taupo, Tongariro, Wellington.
Auckland is like any city, it feels as busy as London and has minimal culture.
A day stop to catch up on some sleep and spend the rest of the time paroozing around the boutique and swanky shops, baristas and quirky restaurants is plenty of time.
*Head East to Coromandal –
A quaint, picturesque, fishing village with stunning landscapes and walks. The drive there itself is windy and questionable with the coastal roads you take, but holds the most beautiful jumble of elements that make up an unforgettable landscape to drive through. Spend a few days here walking around the old western Texas themed village that offers fresh fish eateries and blustery walks along the edge of the coast.
*Then follow the road to Tauranga which you will find is a modern surfers paradise. Youthful and beautiful people are born here so get ready for your anxiety to kick in.
Besides the initial beauty, they are lovely people and everyone will hit the beach to surf after work.
Lively but not too over populated and very relaxed vibes.
Dabble in some water sports, have a turmeric latte or a smoothie as you take in all of the daily beach activities and don’t forget to try local dumplings and quirky localised ales in a pub after your trek up to the top of the mount.
*From here head on highway 33 down to Lake Taupo, stop on route if you fancy it to Wairakei where you can find Huka falls, a beautiful bright blue rapid waterfall with copious walks around it.
*If you’re an avid exercise bunny and love a hike – book yourself on the Tongariro Alpine crossing, you will not be disappointed with the challenge.
Able to do in any time, average completion time is 5-8 hours, trekking across the vast and spacious landscape of the national park, you will find moments of complete tranquility and be able to resonate with feeling as though you are on the moon…I’m afraid to declare ,there was no cheese. If you are an avid lord of the rings fan, you will enthralled with appreciation as most of the set was filmed in this glorious national Park. Emerald green lakes are a must see (Part of the walk) and make you realise some really true wonders of the world.
*Head east again over to Hawkes Bay/Napier a small quirky town renowned for being the worlds most famous art deco town.
Its great Gatsby vibes will have you wanting to have a little look for a monocle, wear fur and drink champagne… but don’t be silly, you’re travelling remember, so you will have to settle for envisioning the fancy feels and sticking to your well worn in flip flops and baggy trousers that have ketchup stains on from the egg sandwich yesterday.
It’s well worth the visit though- they have an art deco party every year at the end of Feb where the majority of the town dress in 1920s slapper style attire and a classic car show is held along the beach promenade.
Do check out the local art gallery and history museum, as there are some incredible real life storys from people who experienced the earthquakes that destroyed this little town before it re vamped itself to be the place it is today.
*Finishing up in Windy Wellington!
A thriving, pluralistic city, infused with arts and crafts, tattoos and eatery – you wont find yourself bored. Pay a visit to the largest museum Te papa, with so much incredible historic knowledge on Maouri culture and living, to the extinction of the mammals and animals that are the heritage of New Zealand. You must go into the Gallipoli War exhibition which holds the most insane life like figures, (on a giant scale) I have ever seen! (same designers of Lord of the rings make up and styling. Have a walk along the harbour with a spot of lunch on the interesting boat cavings that are designed for seats, before heading off to see the city from above with the cute and vintage cable car ride.
Top 6 places to go in South –
Franz Joseph, Wanaka (or Queenstown), Abel Tasman, Milford Sounds, Dunedin, Akaroa.
*There are actually so many places that you must stop through, but I’d suggest to start off in Takaka on the very north of the South island and follow it round to all of Golden Bay.
Kayaking or paddle boarding around the Abel Tasman is a must.
*It’s a lengthy drive down to the Franz Joseph glaciers but they are well worth it. The Town itself holds a slight ski resort atmosphere. Don’t be fooled by having to pay for guided walks, there are some really good walks on route up to the Glacier that you can do for free. If you want to actually climb the Glacier, you will need a guide. I did venture through Fox Glaciers on a free tour and I found it was plenty of an eye full. Matherson Lake is a definite as it’s a completed mirrored vision of the glacial mountains above to the shrubs that grown up from the lakeside, you won’t have seen anything quite like it, but it’s majestic vibe is all weather dependant, wind, rain and misery will affect the clarity of the reflection.
*Driving to Wanaka is simply stunning.
Lake Hawea is one of the most breath taking places I have driven along in the entire world. Such an undescribable blue that snakes round the mountenous peaks of old volcanic history. Wanaka itself is a smaller version of Queenstown and I much preferred it. Its cute and humble like Queenstown, without the in your face throw yourself off a bridge vibe. Chilled, laid back and very affordable, the lake is an easy spot to spend most your days if you have good company, guitars and beer. I would highly recommend you give yourself a rest day and pay a visit to the cinema. With its vintage ambiance and seriously comfortable seating of old recycled sofa’s and armcharms, they also top it off with offering phenomenal freshly baked thick, doughy, cookies which are the scent to all scenes during the interval.
If you want something active, the walks are endless but the beast of walks is Roys Peak. I stayed on the summit and camped up top, it was March… it was freezing. If you do it, remember to pack enough sleeping equipment and layers instead of prioritising an 8 pack of beers… like we did.
Its steep and a heafy 3-6 hours depending on your energy levels and fitness, but also the time of day you go.
Start the trek at 3pm the latest to be able to get up there to see the sunset at 8ish. You will not be disappointed with the colours that take to the sky when the sun is starting to snooze, it comes to life like a watercolour painting. The lake is so visible from the height you have conquered, that you quite literally feel on top of the world.
Also pay a visit to the puzzling world if you fancy being a big kid for a day by completing a maze, and for sure head over to the lavender fields just down the road from that! A perfume trail of purple haze, beautiful and tasteful for only $2 entry. Maybe even have a spot on lunch in the adorable artsy café afterwards.
*If you are more into extreme sports, nightlife, drinking, hikes and adrenaline then ditch the Wanaka chillaxed vibes and drive straight through to Queenstown.
You MUST try a Fergburger, it’s pretty much a felony if you don’t!
There is always a queue, don’t worry it wittles down pretty quickly and with over 10 people prepping and working in the kitchen, you get your burger fast!
Grab a ride up to the top of the Gondola and set off for some old school Mario kart luging…just without the costumes and please don’t throw bananas. The views from the top of the Luge are stupendously picturesque, just make sure on the Gondola ride up you don’t re-connect with your fear of heights… like I did and freak out a 20 year old German man who is sharing the ride up with you by expressing a full on panic attack.
Catch some of the most beautiful sunsets you have ever been alive to see on the Perkys floating boat, whilst watching the sun sink behind the navy mountains, adjusting the sky to become a thriving barbie pink. Sip on an affordable Gin and Tonic before painting the town red with the many bars and nightclubs dotted around the city.
A day trip to arrow town from here is ideal – an old mining village which has a Texan salon type feel, or, head the opposite way to Glenorchy for a viewing of some more exquisite mountain views and walks.
*Milford Sounds by helicopter was the highlight of my trip, it was my version of a skydive. I lack the lust to do adrenaline based activities so I decided to go for this instead and I wasn’t disappointed for any of the duration I spent in the sky.
45 minutes flying there and back in the heli and then an hours boat ride around Milford Sounds itself. If you’re lucky you may even get to see some Orka’s and Sea Lions. The most majestic views of mountain peaks, snow capped summits and natural pools that sit happily at 10,000-20,000 feet in the air.
Pack some snacks and suncream for the boat if you’re going in summer time, if winter, then a jumper is most certaintly needed!
*Dunedin…so much to do, a walk along the peninsula in the hopes of seeing some yellow eyed penguins and albatross birds is a good place to start, and even better to get a grasp of the city and all it’s alternative areas.
To going to watch a rugby game or gig at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The city is thriving with art that crawls from the pavements and screams from the sides of buildings, you can walk freely around it to try and locate the 28 painted graffiti walls from the artists who travel for all over the world to have their work splattered across the brick work of a dunedin claimed building. Finish the day in the dog adored museum above the old railway station which is a beautiful piece of history within itself.
*Akaroa is a stunning little seaside village, with various eaterys and shops, just plonk yourself on the beach and have a nice long swim watching the world go by and snoozing to the sound of the harbour boats clanking softly in the sun soaks waters. Amazing place to stay if you are camping or have a car is the Onuku farm hostel- on the top of the hills, overlooking the peninsula, its a beautiful spot to watch the day sink into night. You will have the company of free roaming rams, sheep, cockerels and chickens…don’t forget to wear your flip flops otherwise, you will be in the shit. Literally.
And there they are…my top fav places.
In all honesty, I have left a piece of my heart in every village, town and city I ventured into on New Zealand land, so this was a very small selection which took me so long to really weigh up where I adored the most.
The top 6 as a basis of if you’re in a rush or only have say 2 weeks to travel around.
What I would have done differently?
* Possibly buy a car instead of renting if you’re in no rush to leave.
I had no idea how long my money would be able to tie me over, in the long run the majorty of £3000 went on extending my car constantly, the petrol it needed for the long stints I took and all the food I purchased. Considering I had £4,800 when I set off, I realistically wouldn’t have been able to afford much longer than the time I have accomplished in New Zealand, even if I did buy. But, if I could do it all again with a little more money, I would buy a car, the only downfall with that is even with the WOF (our verison of MOT) and all the car history, you still can land yourself with something that needs a lot of work ( I met a lot of unfortunate people who had to deal with this).
That or you may find it difficult to sell if you are in a rush towards the end.
Problems with a rental is that you are constantly worried about damage to it, not so much of your driving but others on the road. New Zealanders are famous for swinging open their car doors when parked and not looking at how close your vehicle is to theirs.
They also get up your arse on the motorway 9/10 and bully you off the hard shoulder.
At the end of the day its preference, time you have to explore and funds to navigate what’s possible.
Id say if you have enough money to last you and a working visa, with intentions of staying longer than 2 months- for sure buy.
If you are here a couple of weeks to 2 months, rent and hitch.
Don’t be scared its super normal, even most of the locals do it to get around. North is so easy to do it and you will see an influx of hitchers along the drive. The South however, given that its only got 1million people in it, is a lot harder, make sure your on the highway near a busy village or on the hard shoulder so they have the ability to slow down and stop for you. Write a sign if needed to show where you are heading, remember to smile and don’t get too pissed off if it takes more than an hour.
It usually is anything from 5mins-45 mins max wait, and always keep your gut instincts about the person offering, if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not going to be your only option and someone else will come along.
Putting up a poster in a hostel saying where you need a lift to is sometimes an easy way of getting around and most often works as you will always have people heading out of big hostel citys or towns. Put your details on there maybe even a picture and splash it across reception or the communal areas.
There are so many places in New Zealand on both islands which offer so much.
This is a recommendation for someone with a month max, but mainly a few weeks to burn through the top beauty’s.
In all honesty, you will miss out a lot if you are planning to come for less than 8 weeks. I’d suggest 3 months onwards is roughly a good amount of time to really get to relax and explore the beautiful pockets of surprise the country as a whole has to offer.
So that’s New Zealand done… for now….
Auckland———-> MELBOURNE BABY ;D