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Monday, September 19, 2011

Travel Guide: North Island, part one

If you have very limited time in NZ, I would suggest heading south.  However, the North Island also has a lot to offer.

Highlights:

Hot Water Beach: fantastic!  Definitely a favourite, just so weird and unexpected.  You have to time your visit right, so make sure you take that into account.  I regretted not walking down to Cathedral Cove, looks like it would have been gorgeous but it was kind of rainy.  Can be a day trip from Auckland, about 2.5 hours away.


Northland: loved all of the time we spent here, except the losing of the wallet part.  This is basically the peninsula of land north of Auckland, and is the warmest, most tropical part of the country.  Many Aucklanders have bachs (cabins) up here and head up for the weekends.

- Kauri trees: disclaimer - I love trees.  Tree lined streets make me grin.  Therefore seeing humongous trees made my day.  They were really cool.  We did about a 1/2 hour loop in this little weird abandoned-feeling park.  Hint though, if you are with your husband and he is impatient, do not plan to do a small hike first before seeing the biggest tree, as you will only do one hike, and it may not include the biggest tree, Tane Mahatu.  All throughout NZ you can find the most gorgeous wood products made from these trees that were preserved in swamps in the north.  I would have loved to stock up on wooden bowls and cutting boards, they were beautiful.


- Cape Reinga: One of my favourite NZ days was taking a bus tour up to Cape Reinga.  90-Mile Beach, the very tip of New Zealand, that beautiful blue water, sledding down the sand - all wonderful.  A great day, quite long though.  Our tour was through Sand Safaris.  Do not miss!  We absolutely loved Cape Reinga.
** We dreamed and dreamed about heading back up north and camping at Tapotupotu.   It would have been so beautiful, so isolated and right on the water and the most beautiful little bay.  It makes my heart hurt a little to think of, so lovely!  If you can make it work, do it!

- Bay of Islands: If you have a few extra days, spend them in the Bay of Islands area, just gorgeous.  This is a really great spot for a more vacationy feel.  It felt kind of like a BC lake town, but with the ocean and dolphins!  There are wild dolphins in the bay, and after seeing them splash in their natural habitat, I am very distinctly against dolphins in captivity.  Not okay.  We did a whole day boat trip out to the Hole in the Rock, with the dolphin spotting.  The Hole was pretty neat, but a full day on the boat was too much.  If you could go for a sail up here, it might be perfection.  The dolphins were one of those pure joys.  I thought it would be cheesy, but it was so good.  I've heard Russell is nice to spend a day in the old town and I really regret not scuba diving in this area, especially since we missed it in Australia.  Just do it when you have the chance!  It was supposed to be a really cool spot for diving.
We stayed at Hotel Paihia, which was quite nice except for the gigantic stick bug in the shower in our first room.  They had movies to borrow and a small fridge I think.  We got a great deal through Expedia, about $50 NZD per night for a large room.  It was also nice and close to the bay.

Rotorua
A stinky place.  Pretty cool though, full of geysers and stuff.  There is a national park that is supposed to be really good, but was also really expensive, so we did not go.  Also, lots of natural hot springs etc.  Would have been good, as well as the Maori presentations.  All things we did not do.

One thing we did do though was go zorbing.  Highly expensive but highly recommended!  We did the water one and it was a ton of fun.  You get soaked, so be prepared.  We booked this through the Information booth in town.  It is a bit out of town, so keep this in mind if you don't have a vehicle.

The park in the middle of town had a lot of hot spots where you could see mud boil and soak your feet and best of all, it was free.  Be careful though, some are very hot.  The diner with the Coke sign was good for fast, greasy food.  Rotorua was worth a stop, full of lots of activities to distract you into spending lots of cash, but with some solid attractions as well.

More to come about the North Island!  Looking at these links is making me wish we had never left, so I hope you are starting to fall in love with this country like we did.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What happened to the post every week??? lol:);)