I’m pretty sure it’s on the bucket list op 90% of all travelers, and if it’s not on yours it’s probably because you have already ticked it off or because you are insane ( but hey, no offence, nothing wrong with a bit of insanity). They call it the land of the long white cloud, Aotearoa or simply: New Zealand! There is so much to see but for now, i’ll take you around The North Island of New Zealand.
As you can already tell after two sentences, I am quite fond of this country that’s hidden at the end of the world. And end of the world it is! If you are lucky (or have enough dough) its possible to fly there in about 26 hours. However, cheap bastards like me need 48 hours of flying, layovers and bad airplane food to touch NZ soil (but then you did save 300 euro’s on the tickets, which is all the more spending money when you are there). New Zealand is known for their sheep, kiwi fruit, Hobbits and friendly people (called Kiwi’s). But those sweet people are also batshit crazy thrill seekers. It is with a reason that they opened up the first commercial bungeejumping location in the world ( Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge near Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand ). Soooo, I would advise you to soak up that NZ spirit and take on some adventures for yourself once you are there, mate. Since almost all European flights connect to Auckland, on the North Island of New Zealand, I’ll cover that part first. You’ll have to come back here later to find out about the South Island shenanigans. If you are heading for New Zealand, make sure to check out Grab One on a regular basis, its the NZ Groupon and they offer pretty sweet deals, also on a lot of adventures! www.grabone.co.nz
First things first, the distances in New Zealand are quite far, so make sure to get yourself some solid transportation around the islands. Of course it’s most adventurous to rent a campervan. But a normal car is also pretty cool. On a budget or on your own? Take a look at Stray Travel, they offer up some nice itineraries to get around by bus (and find travel buddies). Armed with a Lonely Planet or booking.com you’ll be able to book some sweet hostels. Be aware though, it’s a pricey country.
Bay of islands
Okay, ready for your first adventure? Drive or bus up to Northland, about 3 hours from Auckland. It’s where you enter the Bay of Islands, which is full of breathtaking views and cute small villages. And it’s also the place where you can get yourself thrown out of an airplane with a sassy Kiwi on your back. Of course accompanied by a parachute, it’s perfectly safe (although you won’t feel that way when you are hanging out of the plane on a 5 KM height). Skydiving above the Bay of Islands is gorge! The grassy hills and azure waters dotted with islands will cause some serious neck pain from wanting to look all around you. You almost forget that you just tumbled down the sky and you are floating with just a thin piece of fabric behind you (oh right, and of course that sassy Kiwi). If you ever had just one fiber in your body thinking about doing this, the Bay of Island is the place to go! While you are in the area, there are tons of other nice things to do and to explore. Visit the most northern part, Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman sea collide. Or book a day trip to 90 mile beach. This usually includes sand boarding on some steep dunes, another must for adventure seekers! skydivebayofislands.com
Just like most of the country, the Coromandel is beautiful and very different from other areas. From Auckland you can get there in 2,5 hours, enjoying the scenic road or take the ferry (but that leaves you out of transport once you arrive). This is where super famous cathedral cove is located and a great spot to do some hiking or canoeing. Make sure to touch down at hot water beach. Yep, this is the place to start digging some holes to create your own hot tub (or boil some eggs) as the underground hot springs warm up the water that comes up when you start removing the sand. After chilling in the warm water, it’s time to actually get some thrills (and chills). Leave the beach behind you and make way for the extremely freezing water. Yeah, the contrast is quite big, but the massive waves will make up for it. This is the time to jump and scream around in the water, as if you are ten years old again. It’s a pretty mean surf spot as well.
Lord of the Rings fans, pay attention! Here’s your chance to pretend to be Frodo, Lord Sauron or some other kind of Ork and walk around Mordor (with or without a ring). Near Lake Taupo, in the middle of the North Islands lies the Tongariro National Park. Mt Ngauruhoe appears in the movies
as Mt Doom and is a part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This (approximately) 7 hour hike will lead you through a volcanic wasteland and you will definitely recognize Middle Earth at it’s finest. Although the hike very is do-able, make sure you have good walking shoes (leave your beloved Converse in your backpack) and watch the weather forecast as it can get a bit spooky (and dangerous) if the conditions are bad. But men oh men, this is one cool day trip. From Emerald lakes to snowy mountain tops and sliding down black ashes from the latest eruption, all of it will make you feel amazed and full of wonder. A beer at the end of the day is much deserved (and needed).
Where most travelers continue their trip south after completing the Tongariro crossing or lounging at Lake Taupo, I advise you to stick around for a couple of days. Why? Because canoeing the Wanganui river is almost a life changing experience. Imagine a river, surrounded by lush green forest, high stone walls and bird songs. And then imagine paddling for 3 days through it with just you and your canoe buddy. That’s what happened to me and it was astonishing. Okay, it did rain a bit every once in a while, and the huts you sleep in along the way are no 5star resorts, but it’s just you and nature. Stress does not exist and complete peace of mind is guaranteed. As well as your imagination running wild, thinking there might be fairies and other magical creatures hidden in the forest. If you are very lucky (like me) you run (eeh paddle) into a group of Maori’s (original New Zealand inhabitants) and you get to spend a bonfire night full of spiritual tales and laughter. After this trip, without showering for a few days, it’s perfectly normal to pamper yourself a bit in a city like Napier or Wellington and enjoy a more lively environment. Find a nice little bar and reminisce about all the adventures you’ve experienced on the North Island of New Zealand, memories for ever. I still think about it all, every day. And then I haven’t even told you about all the geothermal parks, surfspots and that place where the hobbits live… I guess you’ll just have to go find out for yourself!
*Jill is one of our guest bloggers living in Amsterdam (@jillgwendolyn) where she works as a content manager for a digital agency. She’s Crazy about traveling and has spend her studies in New Zealand . You can read a new article from Jill in every 3rd week of the month!