In case you didn’t know, my travels for this year don’t just stop at Western Australia/Northern Territory (read my post about my itinerary for that trip here) – I’m off to New Zealand for 6 weeks! I’m flying straight from Darwin after my WA/NT trip to Melbourne and then will be landing in Auckland, New Zealand on 30th October at a shocking 5:10am. Seriously. Don’t expect me to be any kind of awake that day. Actually, who am I kidding? I’ll be so excited you won’t be able to stop me from running around this brand new city.
For trip, I did consider doing another fully guided tour, but I was inspired by my friend Danielle to go with Stray Travel, a hop on hop off bus company that does routes all over both islands. As I land on 30th October, I’ll have a few days to explore Auckland before heading off on my travels with Stray. I’m really excited to explore the city (who knows – maybe I’ll be back to do another working holiday here…) but when discussing my options with the travel company that I booked this all through, Peterpans, I decided to do a trip over to Waiheke Island and to do a joint wine tour AND zip-lining experience! I’ll be doing this on 1 November, which is a great way to start of a brand new month of adventure.
I’ll be heading off with Stray on 3 November, when we ride up to Paihia from Auckland. Paihia is a beachy town on the northern island, commonly known as the gateway to the dive sites of the Bay of Islands. The next day is a day trip up to Cape Reinga and back; this is the only day that isn’t 100% guaranteed, as my place on the bus is currently marked as “standby”, meaning all the places on this trip have been filled up and I’ll get put in if someone drops out. This trip is actually run by another company that Stray use to run the trip, so I hopefully someone will drop out and my place will be guaranteed.
From there, it’s back down to Auckland for another night before heading for Hahei for a chilled out day at Hot Water Beach. I can’t really describe this place, the name quite literally says it all. After that I’m off for quick pit-stop at Hobbiton! Even though I’m not a huge Lord Of The Rings fan (I’ve seen them, but I’m not crazy obsessed with them) I am really excited to go and tour the set and be in a place that is made for short people like me.
Then it’s onto my first major stop of Rotorua where I’ll be spending four nights! I have a few activities booked here, including a visit to the Hells Gate geothermal park and mud spa (which I’m hoping isn’t as scary as it sounds), a trip to Wai-O-Tapu and white water rafting at the Kaituna river and waterfall.
Next up it’s the journey to Lake Aniwhenua, a special “Strademark Stop” just for the Stray tour. I mean, you can go there if you’re not doing Stray (obviously, it’s not blocked off with some kind of secret password…), but the place that we stay and the experience that we have is unique to this company. It’s essentially a true Kiwi culture experience, with the hosts at the Kohutapu Lodge that we stay in being run by the local Maori whanua (family) who have lived in the area for generations. As a part of this stop, we get to learn the haka, kayak on the lake at sunset, try hangi – a traditional ground cooked meal – see the oldest Maori rock carvings in New Zealand and leave with our own Maori bracelets that we weave ourself. Cool, right?
After a night at Lake Aniwhenua, it’s off for a quick stop at Taupo to do some Skydiving. Not kidding. Don’t worry though mum and dad, I’ll make sure I land with all my limbs intact. We won’t be there for long though, as after that we head off to Whakahoro to stay at another Strademark stop, Blue Duck Station. It’s basically a farm in the middle of nowhere, where you can go horse-riding, 4WD safari, hiking and all that jazz. We get to stay two nights here, and it’ll be nice to see a side of New Zealand that regular tourists don’t get to see.
Then it’s off to Raetihi, right next to the Tongariro National Park, where I’ll be able to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the top 10 day-hikes in the whole world. It’s also the location they used for Mordor in Lord Of The Rings (Mt Ngauruhoe was used for Mt Doom), so that’s kind of cool too.
Next up is the capital city of Wellington! I’m really excited for this stop. Not for any activities in particular, it just looks cool. This is the last stop on the North Island (until I’m heading back up to Auckland in December), so I’ll be catching the ferry over to Picton to continue my journey.
After getting off the ferry at Picton, I’ll be picked up by Stray again and will be continuing on to Abel Tasman, which is like the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, only the kiwi version. Hopefully I’ll be able to go on a kayak trip here to explore the islands of the national park, but that will be down to the weather on the day. One of the places I’m most excited for is next – Franz Josef! While I’ve only got one day and two nights, I’ll be doing a heli hike up the glacier which will be incredible. Basically, the glacier is too melted to actually walk up now, but you can get a helicopter up to the top and the hike around and explore.
Then it’s a night in Wanaka before heading over to Queenstown for a night (don’t worry, I’m spending more time there on the way back north). Then it’s over to another Strademark stop call Gunn’s Camp (a little historic camp in the Fjordland National Park – where there is almost no light pollution. I can’t wait for those stars), which is our stop for the night after visiting Milford Sound, where I’ll be doing a cruise to see this amazing landscape.
After this, the bus takes us down to Invercargill, right at the southern tip of the island, where we catch the ferry over to Stewart Island for the night. I’ve been told this is the best place to see kiwi birds, so I’m really excited for this stop. Can’t got to New Zealand without seeing a kiwi bird!
Queenstown is next, and this is when I get to spend a few nights in the town and get to do all of my booked activities. Apart from generally exploring Queenstown and seeing the amazing landscape, I’ll be doing a jet boat around the rivers that surround the town and doing the Nevis Bungy Swing (which I’m hoping I won’t chicken out of ). I know I’m saying that I’m excited for everywhere, but this place genuinely is probably the place I’m most excited for. It looks like everything I’m imagined New Zealand will be.
Next is a night at Mount Cook before stopping at Rangitata for a night before hitting Christchurch. These final few days of the trip will go part quick I’m sure, as it’s a brand new place each day – so much to do!
Kaikoura is the last *new* stop that I’ll be visiting, and it’s the best place to see all kinds of marine wildlife, like dolphins, whales, seals and albatrosses. It’s actually be inaccessible for quite some time after the earthquake in Christchurch as the roads were so badly damaged, but now the roads are back open and I’m able to go and hike Kaikoura peninsula walkway and try and spot some of my favourite marine animals. After this stop, it’s a quite drive up to Wellington, another night in the capital, and then a full 12-hour drive the next day back to Auckland.
So, that’s it! This is pretty much everything I’ll be getting up to while I’m over in New Zealand, and I’m so excited I pretty much spend 64% of my time talking about it (the other 36% is me panicking over how I’m going to pack enough stuff to wear in my 10kg luggage allowance that I’ll be carrying after my Western Australia trip).