New Zealand – North Island

New Zealand has been incredible so far. So much action, so little time to write! I haven’t stayed anywhere longer than four nights until now, and every day is an amazing adventure. Here are the best bits of each place I have visited:

Auckland

Auckland was a very neat city. I enjoyed wandering around Queen Street and visiting the art gallery and museum. I got royally seasick on the harbour tour 🙂 I took the ferry to Devonport and saw an orca! The best part of Auckland was meeting my friend Jess from my Contiki Greece tour, driving up to Mt. Eden and having lunch in Mission Bay. It was lovely to see a familiar face.

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Auckland Harbour

Paihia

After a few days in Auckland, I headed up north to Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. It was gorgeous! There was a lovely beach just steps from my hostel, and I hiked to the local waterfall. I also sampled some of the best fudge I have ever eaten.

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Waterfall in Paihia

Hot Water Beach

From Paihia, I headed back down to Auckland and left bright and early for Hot Water Beach and the Coromandel Peninsula. In the afternoon, I took an amazing hike out to Cathedral Cove, a huge rock cave on a beach. That night, I stayed at Hot Water Beach, which was hilarious. At low tide, you can make your own hot pool. The water on the beach is ridiculously hot (something to do with volcanoes…), and you have to dig a trench out to the ocean to mix the hot water with some cold water. It is very, very hard to get it just right. To make it even more complicated, low tide was at midnight! After an evening of eating barbecue and playing games (Jungle Speed!), we traipsed down to the beach on a path lit up by glowworms, then ran around trying to make the pools, alternately getting scalded by the water in the sand and frozen by the incoming waves. I must have yelped about twenty times! Finally, someone left their beautifully designed hot pool and we hopped in. Problem solved!

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Hike to Cathedral Cove
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Rock formation at Cathedral Cove
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Hot pool at Hot Water Beach

Waitomo

There is only one thing to do in Waitomo, and that is caving! This was an activity that I had looked forward to doing ever since I knew that I would be stopping in New Zealand. I had seen the caves on a tv show and I had immediately put them on my bucket list. They were everything I had imagined and more! I abseiled down an extremely narrow hole, ziplined in the pitch dark, floated on an inner tube in the freezing water while looking up at glowworms, crawled through narrow holes and slid on my belly down slides. All the while, eels were wriggling around my legs! The best part of the whole adventure was climbing up waterfalls out of the cave. So cool!

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Jump for joy!
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Going into the cave
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Coming out of the cave

Rotorua

The whole town smelled of rotten eggs from the sulphur (again, something to do with volcanoes…) I did two very neat things in Rotorua. First, I went “luging” down a hill overlooking the town. The luge was basically a super mario kart-like contraption that sped down different tracks through the woods. You steered by leaning left and right, and you could go as fast as you wanted. It was a little scary for me, but so much fun! Next, I visited the thermal village and watched geysers explode. I also finally got to see a Kiwi bird! The best part was when the guide cooked hard boiled eggs using one of the hot pools.

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Geyser in Rotorua

Taupo

Taupo was by far my favourite stop on the North Island. It is known as the “adventure capital of the North,” so it was exactly my kind of place 🙂 I enjoyed basking in the (free!) hot waterfall in a nearby park and walking along a lake the size of Singapore. I had an awesome time playing games like Jungle Speed and mafia/werewolf (yea!) into the wee hours of the morning with the people at my hostel. But the best part by far was hiking the Tongariro Crossing. It is one of the top day hikes in the world, and for good reason! You get to hike in volcano craters and see amazing emerald lakes. You get to climb the “Devil’s Staircase,” a seemingly endless set of steps, and feel very accomplished at the top! You get to warm your butt on the hot vapours coming up from the ground while eating lunch at the summit of the crossing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the entire hike, since the crater on the other side of the trail had erupted a week or so before I got there, spewing ash on all the poor hikers there at the time (no one was hurt). We did, however, get to see all the best parts of the crossing.

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Chilling in the hot waterfall at Taupo
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Tongariro Crossing
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Mount Doom!
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Tongariro Crossing
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Tongariro National Park

River Valley

This was my most isolated stop on the North Island. No cellphone service! We stayed at an awesome lodge in the middle of a beautiful valley. I shared one large bunk bed with 15 other people! I celebrated my 26th birthday by jumping off a zipline into the river, and hiking up to the top of the valley, where the views were magnificent.

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Jumping off the zipline at River Valley
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Giant bunk bed in River Valley
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26th birthday in River Valley with Chrissie
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Bulls, New Zealand

Wellington

This city was incredibly neat. I got there the evening of my 26th birthday and shared cake with all my new friends 🙂 I loved touring the Te Papa museum (free wifi!). I took the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens and wandered down to the city and the Parliament building, known as the “Beehive.” I took a free tour, then watched the MPs have at each other during “question time.” It reminded me of home 🙂

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Cable car in Wellington

After a few nights in Wellington, I was ready to move on to the South Island and more adventures!

 

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