New Zealand – 1 week on the North Island

New Zealand – 1 week on the North Island

It’s about time to start recounting our amazing trip to New Zealand! In total, we spent 3 weeks, drove around 4,300 km and saw a lot of both islands. This is how we spent our first week in the north.

Day 1: Looking for Hobbits

Since we arrived at Auckland in the evening on Saturday, I’m counting Sunday as our first day in New Zealand. On day 0 we met our travel buddies Felix and Tammy at the airport, picked up our rental – Tom, the Toyota – and just drove to our hotel close by.

In the morning, we stopped for a relaxed brunch in a lovely garden cafe on our way to Hobbiton. We did a tour there at noon, since you can only visit with a guided tour. I was afraid it would be super overrun with people and all my pictures would have other tourists in it. They did a good job of organizing it and it didn’t feel rushed. We had plenty of time to wander around and take lots of tourist-free pictures – well, one still snuck in there 😉 Hobbiton is super cute, they put so much attention into the little details that make it look like someone will come out of the hobbit holes at any minute.

After Hobbiton, we stopped at Sanctuary Mountain, wandered through the forest, and saw some native birds. From here, we continued on to our next destination Waitomo.

Day 2: Exploring caves and chasing waterfalls

Waitomo is famous for the caves they have and the caves are famous for the glowworms. Thorben and I opted to do a package with 3 caves and saw the Waitomo glowworm cave, Aranui cave and Ruakuri cave.

We learned a lot about the glowworms, for example they aren’t actually worms but maggots and it’s their poop that is fluorescent to attract insects they can eat. When they catch something in the long sticky lines, they reel it up, bite it in the head, vomit inside and when everything has turned to mush, they drink it up like a smoothie. Lovely little creatures 😉 but still very pretty to see! The caves were really cool as well, with lots of different types of formations and colors.

After the caves, we took a little detour to see the Marokopa Falls, which some say is the most beautiful waterfall in New Zealand. It definitely is amazing!

And here is a picture with the whole crew:

After that we drove to Rotorua and had a great dinner in Eat Street.

Day 3: Thermal Wonders

The main thing on my list for Rotorua was Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. The geyser they have, Lady Knox, erupts every day at 10, or is tricked into erupting by putting a bit of soap in it to break the surface tension.

After seeing the erruption, we headed into the main part and walked all the trails they had inside. The place is really insane, there are so many colors and just as many bad smells 😉 It really doesn’t look like something out of this world!

Our final stop was at the mud pools, where lots of mud is bubbling and forming little and big bubbles and splatters. I found it quite entertaining to watch.

In the evening, we did a treetop walk in the redwood forest. They have 22 suspension bridges between the trees and everything is illuminated by beautiful light installations. It’s pretty magical.

Day 4: Driving to Tongariro

On our fourth day, we drove from Rotorua to Tongariro National Park. The trip was broken up by a few stops in and around Taupo. We had a look at the Huka Falls and then enjoyed the honey tastings and ice cream at the Huka Honey Hive. In Taupo, we almost got blown away by the wind at the lake and then ended up buying some hiking gear for the next day. And of course there are always pretty view points on the way.

Day 5: Conquering Mount Doom

19.4 kilometers and an altitude change of almost 1000 meters – that’s the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The hike is super popular, maybe because Mt Tongariro is also knows as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. The hike is supposed to be one of the best day hikes in New Zealand.

The landscape during the hike was very diverse: Volcanic landscape and soil, craters, emerald lakes, rock formations and then on the other side you look down over fields and a lake and finally end up hiking the last few kilometers through a rainforest. Coming down the mountain, my knee was not happy with me. The last part of the hike I was limping like a 80 year old (that might be a lie – the 80 year olds we saw during the hike looked quite fit). But I made it!

Day 6: An afternoon in Wellington

The next day, my sore muscles got a few hours recovery time while driving from Tongariro to Wellington. In Wellington, we went straight up Mount Victoria to enjoy the sweeping views over the city.

We spent most of the afternoon at Te Papa, a really great museum. They had a fantastic exhibition on New Zealand involvement in World War I and also many more interesting ones on the history of settlement, the Pacific Islanders journeys, immigration, women’s rights, and also modern art.

Thorben and I then took the cable car up to the Botanic Garden and spent some time at the planetarium learning about the beginnings of the universe and the Southern night skies. Every Friday night there’s a night market in Wellington so we wandered around there and had Moroccan and Syrian food for dinner.

And that’s it! The next morning we got on a ferry and continued our New Zealand adventures on the South Island.

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