The first week of a roadtrip through New Zealand
Auckland, Coromandel, Hobbiton and Taupo
Wow, somehow this post took me a lot of time. Even while half of it was already written before I came back from New Zealand. I’m not sure how that will work out for the next three posts on our roadtrip through New Zealand 🙂
Either way, let’s go back to 12 December 2016: goodbye 30 hour flight, hello New Zealand!
The weather was not all that when we arrived in Auckland, but everything soon cleared up. We picked up our car and started our trip. Just a 20 minute drive away from Auckland was our Airbnb in Fairsea Place. A studio with views on the beach and a swimming pool, ideal to relax after the flights and catch up on some sleep.
The reports we read on trips through New Zealand told us that Auckland itself isn`t really worth hanging around. I agree it was not the best part of our trip but it was nice though to wander around the city, walk through the parks and take a break whenever we needed it.
A must-do when you`re around Auckland: Waiheke Island. We bought tickets for the Explorer Tour on the Island, which includes return tickets for the ferry and a 1,5 hour bus tour on the island itself. The trip to the island took only about 45 minutes. The weather was great, and so were the views.
Apparently Waiheke Island used to be loved by hippies in the sixties. It was the perfect getaway from the city. But soon others discovered this hidden gem as well. The 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch (the South Island) unchained a massive migration movement of 250 000 people to the North Island of which a part to Waiheke Island. This made the real estate prices boom, making the island now one of the most expensive places to live in New Zealand.
Apart from that the island is beautiful. We had lunch on the vineyard Wild on Waiheke and enjoyed the nice weather on Palm Beach. We made a stop at another vineyard: Goldie Estate Wineries. Not only the wiens are great, the property is really cool as well: there`s a swing, you can walk up to the hill to enjoy your wine and picknick, with lovely views on a bay behind it.
On our way to Karekare and Piha we made a stop in Titirangi, a small town not far from Fairsea Place. We had very good Allpress coffee in The Hardware Cafe and then visited the brand new (free!) museum Te Uru, attached to Lopdell House. The architecture of the building was really impressive and so were the collections. The portage competition exhibition was beautiful: with artworks in all forms, from all over the world. At the end we stopped at the museum shop and bought some presents for family and friends.
From Titirangi we drove up to the Ataraki Visitor Center to inform ourselves on possible walks in the national park Waitekeri Ranges. Seen this was going to be our first walk, we chose a `mild` one of about 1,5h return to the Fairy Falls. In that way we would still have some time and energy to visit the black sand Karekare beach.
As expected, the walk wasn`t that mild for us 🙂 stairs, stairs and some more stairs. But we enjoyed the walk, it`s hard not to. The colours of the rain forest were really pretty, of all the forests in New Zealand actually. But they were really hard to catch on camera. I hope my photos can give you an idea 🙂
This place must have been our first `wow` moment during the trip. We first walked to the Karekare Falls: a 10min walk and falls that were just as (probably even more) impressive as the Fairy Falls. But the real highlight was the 15min walk to the black sand beach of Karekare. It was huge, dessolated and windy. The sea was rough and crashed into the huge cliffs besides the beach. Just nature doing her thing really. I refer to it as `the perfect grey day` (#nofilter). It became even better when my boyfriend stumbled and fell in one of the small rivers that flows into the sea 😉
We left Auckland behind us and traded it for the Coromandel Peninsula: a beautiful hilly region, mostly covered with rainforest. It was great to see the landscape change: from green hills to beaches, to Coromandel`s rainforests. We took the scenic (gravel) route RD309 and went through the heart of the national park.
We made a stop at the Waiau Kauri Grove and falls. The grove track shows a few of the biggest Kauri`s (type of tree) in the Coromandel. They are the biggest trees of New Zealand (in volume) and it takes them about 800 years to mature. Must-visits!
The home of our second Airbnb stay and just a 5 minute walk from its beach. This was a lovely place to relax (a long and quiet beach) and yet there were enough things to do in the surroundings. Right next to Cooks Beach you have the hidden gem Lonely Bay that you can reach via the Shakespeare Cliff and Reserve. Make sure you check out the lookout as well. While we were there we also visited Cathedral Cove, Hotwater Beach and Whitiangi.
A must-visit when you`re around the Coromandel: Cathedral Cove. A 45 minute walking track takes you to this world-famous rock arch that connects two beaches with each other. It is impressive, but just like a lot of tourist attractions, we thought it was slightly overrated. Partially because this region offers a lot of breathtaking beaches, cliffs and coastal scenery. Again one of the many gems in The Coromandel. If you want to stay around Cathedral Cove a bit longer, Gemstone and Stingray Bay are along the way.
Dig your own spa! That`s right, at Hotwater Beach hot water springs from the beach at 65 degrees. So whenever it is low tide: grab your shovel and dig your own `bath`. But watch out, don`t dig too close to the springs or the water will burn you. Depending on how hot you want it, choose your spot to dig. Or steal someone else’s 😉
Just outside Cooks Beach is Whitianga in the Mercury Bay. We took a cute little ferry from Ferry Landing in Cooks Beach to reach Whitianga. This place became an increasing more popular North Island summer get-a-way spot. And it’s a great place to have dinner and take a walk along the beach afterwards.
We weren’t sure about this one, but a friend convinced us to just do it. The Lord of The Ring’s cute little Hobbit village is really popular so booking on beforehand is recommended. A bus picks you up in Matamata and drives all the way to a sheep farm, where Hobbiton is located.
In 1999 the Lord of The Rings crew built 39 temporary Hobbit holes for the LOTR trilogy. About 10 years later they returned to build 44 permanently Hobbit Holes for The Hobbit trilogy. Even tough it was just for 10 days of filming 😮 anyway, they left an impressive movie set for you to visit.
Taupo is a very popular place for tourists to visit because of the geothermal activities and the Tongariro National Park just 1h20min away. The day we arrived we decided to hunt up a geothermal spa. Eventually we found a hot pool in a park on the banks of the Waikato river. So relaxing after a long day full of Hobbit holes and driving.
Spa park hot pools
Huka Falls in Taupo
Geothermal walkway ‘Craters of The Moon’ in Taupo
Tongariro National Park
Famous because of the three mighty (active!) volcanoes Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhu. The most famous walking track is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We made a day trip to the park and it was truly magnificent. An absolute must-visit.
Mount Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park
Our second week of roadtripping in New Zealand includes an art deco city, more wineries, alpine parrots & flowers (lots of them) and our visit to Christchurch, the biggest city of the South Island that was struck by massive earthquakes between 2010 and 2012.