Wellington > Tongariro > Rotorua > Paihia > Auckland
To avoid totally boring you to tears vs. half boring you to tears, I split my New Zealand posts into the South and North Island. So, picking up where I left off on my previous post, we were about to board the ferry from Picton on the South Island to Wellington on the North Island. Just a side note: I bloody hate boats. With a passion. All consuming panic and nausea takes over. However, Sam’s aunty recommended some absolutely ACE travel sickness tablets, which meant that I not only survived but slightly enjoyed….(?) the ferry to Wellington. I could actually enjoy the spectacular views, take in the blueness of the water, the low lying clouds and lusciously green mountains…..AND watch the Fyre festival documentary on Netflix without feeling like I was going to pass out! Brilliant! It is notorious for being a rough journey, but honestly our experience wasn’t bad at all….. could be the tablets talking, but we’ll go with it.
Once we arrived in ‘windy’ Wellington (as it’s known), we headed straight to the hotel we had booked for a couple of nights, ditching Marco the motorhome for a bed that actually allows you to sit upright, and a loo that you don’t have to empty yourself. Wellington had a great feel, really friendly people and loooads of independent vintage shops and boutiques, which I loved a browse in, even though I really couldn’t cram anything else into my case. It felt busy and buzzy yet not over-crowded and intimidating. We also found some unusual street art down completely unassuming lanes and hidden alleyways, which we loved.
What to do:
- Explore the streets, without a doubt. There’s all sorts of hidden gems, unique places to explore and unusual cafes that you might not find on Google.
- Te Papa- The Museum of New Zealand. A pretty big museum, but with some brilliant interactive contemporary exhibitions and a (surprisingly) windy lookout deck.
- Wellington Cable Car. We struggled to find the entrance to this at first and walked past it about 5 times while grumbling ‘Google maps is so shit!!’ before realising that in fact it was us that were shit… at navigating. A really sweet, traditional wooden cable car with a light tunnel halfway up. The Botanic Gardens were at the top and although very hilly, were extremely pretty but FREEZING when the wind blows… which is all the time.
Where to eat:
- Viva Mexico. A tiny, hidden Mexican restaurant with the best jalapeño poppers with pickled red onion. AND the most delicious vegan tacos. That you would never know were vegan. However, they asked us if we wanted to taste their delicacy, fried crickets…. Which we politely declined.
- Fidel’s Café. If you fancy a hearty but healthy breakfast, here is a great shout. Tasty, fresh and pretty decent portions.
- They also have a Wagamama (and it’s on Uber Eats)…. We did get quite over excited about this as we were both feeling slightly yaki soba deprived.
We drove from here to Tongariro National Park, planning to do the famous Tongariro Crossing hike, however, the weather got in the way. Despite this, we did a different, brilliant, slightly shorter hike to Taranaki Falls, which had the most beautiful views all along the route. The terrain changed constantly, from open rocky paths with clear snowy mountain views, to narrow forest trails, streams, rushing waterfalls (where we kept saying ‘is this THE one?’) to the final Big Daddy waterfall, Taranaki. I’m actually so glad we did it and made the most of the National Park, despite our plans changing. It just means we’ll have to go back to complete the crossing hike another day!
Rotorua was next. One of our favourite places in the whole of New Zealand, probably a very close second to Queenstown. We stayed at such a great, central campsite (Rotorua TOP 10) with the best welcome. It was a small town, but packed a punch. Reknowned for its proximity to Hobbiton, the Lord of the Rings set, for being the hub of Maori culture and for being located INSIDE a volcano. We loved it and met some amazing people during our stay too.
What to do:
- Happy Ewe Cycle Tour. This was recommended to us by some people we met in Australia and I couldn’t be more grateful that they did. It was amazing. Rodger, the guide was honestly one of the nicest (hate the word nice) people I have ever met. Full of energy, enthusiasm and positivity, he really brought the town he lives in to life and you could tell how proud he was to live there. He took us to some amazing locations, gave us such a great flavour for the town and was a complete ray of sunshine. Thoroughly recommend.
- Hobbiton. When we visited, I hadn’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings films. I know, I know….but despite this, I loved it. I have a huge fascination with film anyway and it was just absolutely magical. I don’t even think it massively mattered that I hadn’t seen the films. I did lie when the tour guide asked us if we’d watched them I hasten to add….but even so it was brilliant.
- Tamaki Maori Village. We did a night experience here and were thrown head first into the wonder of Maori culture. They sang, danced, took us through some traditional crafts and activities, made us a Hangi feast and welcomed us into their village. It was wonderful.
Where to eat:
- Atticus Finch. One of my favourite finds of the whole trip. As I write this, my mouth is watering thinking of the burrata arancini.
- Artisan Café. We ate here for every breakfast and loved it. Really lovely veggie options and tasty coffee.
After Rotorua, we drove past Auckland and right up to Paihia (Bay of Islands). I had a streaming cold by then and luckily we had decided to book an apartment for a couple of nights, so there were a few more comforts (sorry Marco) AND A WASHING MACHINE. We relaxed on the beach and soaked up a little bit of sun (through a sweatshirt) and had a chilled couple of days pottering around the town and reading. There wasn’t masses to do there, but we just enjoyed the scenery and rest.
Auckland was next and where we dropped off Marco and concluded our motorhome journey. We loved Auckland. It was the first place we had been in New Zealand that felt like a proper city. Outdoorsy, picturesque places are probably our favourite, but there are aspects in me that love the city life too and saying that, Auckland actually was very pretty in parts. It was super clean, a great contemporary feel and sooo many cool areas to explore.
What to do:
- Visit Ponsonby. Our favourite area. Funky cafes, boho boutiques and stylish shops. Oh, and one of the best burgers of our trip was consumed in this area.
- Lime Scooters. After our first experience of scooters in Christchurch, we were thrilled to find they had them in Auckland too. They were pretty much our only mode of transport for the 4 days we had here. Fun, cheap and fast!
- Auckland Tower. So high. Not sure what else I expected, but it had such a brilliant panoramic view of Auckland. And the queue was nowhere near as long as the CN Tower in Toronto, so that was a bonus.
Where to eat:
- Chuffed. Great brunch place, great coffee and located in a tucked away spot, with an outdoor courtyard decorated with twinkly lights and faux fur throws.
- Ponsonby Central. The foodie area in Ponsonby, with so many different street food spots, cafes and bars and an outdoor/indoor feel.
- Burger Burger. I couldn’t keep you waiting any longer before I had to reveal where THAT burger was consumed. Wow oh wow. Mouthwateringly delicious.
- Depot. Yummy, sharing, tapas dishes. Still dreaming about the tempura cauliflower with taramasalata & anchovies.
- Dizengoff. We didn’t actually eat here, just had coffee. We regretted it as soon as the steaming breakfast plates wizzed past us out of the kitchen. It looked amazing.
We absolutely adored New Zealand. We knew we would. We just didn’t realise quite how much. Without a doubt we’ll go back, experience all the things we missed and feast our eyes on the unforgettable scenery once again.