What an adventure that was! 2125km in two and a half weeks. 30 hours of driving, 10 different accommodations and everyone survived to tell the tale! More than that, we had a brilliant time. There are still so many places left to see on our North Island list but this ‘Tiki Tour’ (I’m told that’s what the Kiwis call a ‘roadtrip’) definitely ticked off a lot of destinations in this beautiful part of the country. Here’s a brief overview of where we visited and what we loved most about New Zealand’s North Island. More detail, reviews as well as ridiculous/ cringe-worthy/ hilarious travel tales to come in the next few blog posts. Follow our adventures on Instagram too.
Day 1: Wellington to Taupo
374km on day one was quite ambitious, but the scenery and views on the way to Lake Taupo were stunning. We took our time getting there before enjoying an evening in Taupo town then hitting the road early the next morning in search of the Coromandel sunshine.
Day 2: Taupo to the Coromandel
Today’s journey was almost 300km and the scenery got more and more rugged as we journeyed up the Coromandel peninsula. New Zealand Christmas trees (Pohutukawa trees) were in full bloom on the beaches and the turquoise seas and skies were breath-taking. We found the beach on which Captain James Cook anchored his ship ‘The Endeavour’ in 1769 and Jeremy managed to fit in a few 70km cycles in preparation for his Tour of New Zealand race (700km in 7 days) later in the year.
Day 3: Cathedral Cove & Hot Water Beach, Coromandel
Christmas Eve was spent digging our own hot pools with Sophia’s plastic spade on the famous Hot Water Beach and soaking up the sunshine until the tide got threateningly close . Later we hiked down to Cathedral cove, which looked like a double spread page from a Vietnam travel brochure. P a r a d i s e.
Day 4: Christmas Day in Thames
On Christmas morning we packed up the tent and drove (Jeremy cycled) from Cook’s Beach to Thames to meet up with our friends for Christmas lunch. The day was filled with fun on the beach, a three-roast dinner and croquet on the lawn! How posh! We met up with these friends later on in our roadtrip and they were amazing at entertaining Sophia.
Day 5: Boxing day at Whangamata
Boxing day was spent at Whangamata beach, enjoying the sun, surf, paddle-boarding and kayaking. Our friends kindly looked after Sophia so we could kayak out to Donut Island, another little bit of paradise, just dropped into the ocean!
Day 6: Tapu to Snell’s Beach
The three of us headed up to the Bay of Islands today. We stopped off at an incredible hot chocolate café in Warkworth before giving some ancient trees a big cuddle at Parry Kauri Park. The evening was spent enjoying strolls along the boat-filled shore at Snell’s Beach before we were headed off further north the next day.
Day 7: Paihia and Kerikeri
Paihia was our next destination, where we camped for three nights and enjoyed beach days overlooking the beautiful Bay of Islands. Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri was the furthest point north that we reached and it was worth the journey. The nearby Haruru Falls was also beautiful and worth a visit.
Day 8: Waitangi
Whilst staying in Paihia we spent a day exploring Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which is a must do! The informative tour told the us the tales behind the carvings, wakas and showed us the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. It was the best tour I have been on in NZ and cannot recommend it enough. We left feeling much more informed about Maori heritage and culture. I’d love to come back here for Waitangi day in February when they take all the boats out in the water and have huge celebrations.
Day 9: Bay of Islands Boat Trip
You cannot possibly go to the Bay of Islands without going on a boat trip to get a glimpse of the 80-90 islands. We enjoyed a half day tour, got chased by dolphins, saw a flying fish, reversed the boat into the Hole in the Rock then stopped off at Uruphukaphuka Island for a hike. We got off the boat in Russell, where we had dinner before hopping on the ferry back to Paihia. A fun-filled and fully-packed day.
Day 10: NYE in Auckland
Doesn’t spending NYE in Sky Tower overlooking Auckland sound idyllic?….Well Little Miss Screams-A-Lot was out in full force tonight, shrieking non-stop for about two hours and absolutely nothing would settle her. Of course, this was at the exact time of our dinner reservation….seriously?! The other diners in the Orbit 360 degree revolving restaurant were very patient and gracious despite the teething monster, and meal was delicious. We enjoyed a well-earned glass of champers at midnight as we watched the fireworks being launched off the top of the Sky Tower from inside the restaurant. I can’t remember whether we were celebrating getting her to sleep to seeing in the New Year. Either way it was pretty spectacular.
Days 11 & 12: Wine tasting on Waiheke Island
I don’t think I have ever set an alarm on New Year’s Day before, but we were out the door by 7.30am and headed for the ferry which set sail for the Island of Wine (quite an incentive!). It was a much bigger island than I was expecting, with loads of beaches and towns and vineyards. Two days just wasn’t enough to get to all the cellar doors though. Peacock Sky, where we paired wine with food and Casita Miro, where we sampled wines and ports, were two of my favourite vineyards.
Day 13: Auckland to Tauranga
Today we covered a lot of miles and stopped off at the stunning Owharoa Falls on the way to Tauranga. We also found a seriously ‘Kiwi’ pitstop in Paeroa too, home of L&P lemonade (world famous in New Zealand!). Anyone for chilli and lime lemonade? It changed my life.
Day 14: Mount Maunganui
After hiking up Mount Maunganui and walking along the viewpoint peninsula we all enjoyed a soak in the Mount Hot Pools. These happen to be conveniently located just at the bottom of the mountain. What a clever marketing technique! With my 10kg passenger on my back, it was quite the workout and I thoroughly enjoyed bobbing along in the spa for a few hours to recover!
Day 15: Rotorua
Today we soaked in Rotorua’s natural hot pools, visited the British and Maori churches and best of all had the opportunity to go on the Te Puia Maori Experience. During this evening event we saw geysers in full action, enjoyed a Maori performance and shared a hangi meal. Jeremy had a go at the Haka and I tried the Poi-poi dance, an epic fail on my part, but such fun!
Day 16: Rotorua
Today the Skyline gondola and luge experience at Rotovegas beckoned us high above the sulphur smell! We took Sophia go karting with us and had the time of our lives! We also had time to explore Redwood forest, stroll through the geothermal lakes, see the bubbling mud pools and rising steam everywhere!
Day 17: Taupo
One final adrenaline junkie experience to finish the trip was the incredible Huka Falls Jet. Sophia sat this one out and the amazing staff entertained her at reception whilst we jetted off to the falls. It was incredible and yes, I did scream the entire way. It is most definitely on our ‘NZ Must Do’ list! 360 degree spins, splashes, we were thoroughly soaked and loved every minute!
Day 18: Taupo to Wellington
The final day was the same as the first, but in reverse! 374km and beautiful scenery along the way, Mount Ruapehu being a particular highlight. We stopped off at a quirky little coffee shop which happened to have an old DC3 plane parked up next to it. Where else would you drink your coffee?!
We are more in love with this INCREDIBLE country than ever. Which places did we not visit that you would suggest we go next? We’d love to hear recommendations!