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North Island New Zealand

Hello Middle Earth! This is my last travel for 2018 and also my graduation trip. When I was planning this summer road trip for both North and South Island, I was very shocked by how expensive New Zealand is. Everything is easily at least NZD100 per pax hence I had to be very selective in my choice of activities. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed myself in the North Island especially at Rotorua and Taupo. We started the journey in Auckland and ended it in Wellington. From Wellington, we flew via Sounds Air to Picton for our South Island road trip. I really enjoy planning and sharing my road trips with fellow travellers. Feel free to leave comments or ask any questions!

Travel plan

Screenshot 2018-12-17 at 9.18.08 PM

Destination Duration of stay Distance travelled to next destination
Auckland city 1N ~168km (2h 40min)
Coromandel 3D2N or 2D1N ~156km (2h 20min)
Matamata (Hobbiton Movie Set) Passing through ~88km (1h 20min)
Waitomo 1N ~140km (2h)
Rotorua 3D2N ~81km (1h)
Taupo 2D1N ~372km (4h 40min)
Wellington 1N

Day 1
Arrive in Auckland city and spend a night there. Being born and raised in Singapore, this city does not impress me at all. My parents flew in from Singapore and I flew from Sydney to meet them in Auckland for the start of our four weeks road trip in New Zealand.

Day 2 and 3
Drive from Auckland to Coromandel. Coromandel is a nice coastal town with lots of hiking, biking and water activities. But if you are short of time, you may choose to skip coromandel. Spend either one night or two nights at Coromandel. You may consider staying at Coromandel or at Whitianga. Along the drive, you will pass by a town called Thames with a Pak’nSave which I would recommend buying food there because there are no big supermarkets in coromandel. We stopped by Coromandel Oyster Company for lunch – fresh oysters at a reasonable price and the delicious mussel chowder!

We did two hikes in Coromandel – Hike to Cathedral Cove and the Coromandel Bay Coastal Walk. The drive from Coromandel to Hahei Beach (start of Cathedral Cove hike) takes about an 1h 30min. If you are considering doing just the cathedral cove hike, staying at Whitianga would be a closer option. It is a pretty easy hike (5km return) with nice views of the ocean along the way. The next day, we did the Coromandel Bay Coastal Walk (20km return). The drive to the start of the hike either at Stony Bay or Fletcher Bay comprised of >20km of driving through unsealed, narrow, steep and winding roads so it takes about 1h 30min drive from Coromandel. The hike brings you through coastal forest with views of the Pinnacles. The hike can be pretty challenging especially towards Fletcher Bay. My “fun over sixties” parents smashed the hike. However, the unsealed road drive makes me wonder if this hike is worth the while. At the end a hard day of hiking, treat yourself to a delicious dinner at Pepper Tree Restaurant and Bar. Their signature steak is to die for!

Day 4
Start off early and drive from Coromandel to Matamata for the Hobbiton Movie Set tour if you are a Lord of the Rings fan. Stop for lunch at Matamata – there are plenty of food options there and some very good op-shops. Remember to pre-book your tickets because this place gets very crowded. During the tour, you will get to take lots of photos of the different Hobbit Holes however, bear in mind that none of the Hobbit Holes are furnished – the interior was taken in the studio in Wellington so you can only take photos of the shire. Nevertheless it was pretty fun but I would probably only do it once.

After the two hours tour, drive from Matamata to Waitomo for the glow worm cave experience. You get to walk through the cave before taking a 10min boat ride through the underground Waitomo river gazing at the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto. I really enjoyed this experience unfortunately photos are not allowed to be taken when in the caves. There are a number of accommodation options available at Waitomo to rest a night there.

Day 5
Drive from Waitomo to Rotorua. I fell in love in this place and wished that I had more time here. Spend at least 2 nights here to explore the different geothermal sites, experience the Maori culture and relax in the hot spring. We visited the Waimangu Volcanic Valley which was about 30min away from Rotorua. Be prepared to walk because the sites are pretty far apart. I love this valley because you get to walk along the craters and hot springs. If you walk all the way to the lake (4km one way), you get to see different types of birds all flourishing in the lake. There are free internal shuttle buses that operate every hourly if you prefer not to walk. There are other geothermal sites that you can visit such as Wai-O-Tapu and Te Puia. Te Puia is located less than 5min drive from the city centre and it is also the heart for Maori Culture. At the end of the day, treat yourself to a thermal spa at Waikite Valley. Unfortunately, I only had the time for the Waimangu Volcanic Valley but it was definitely worth visiting! I would recommend visiting Waimangu, Wai-O-Tapu and Waikite Valley in the same day because they are close to one another.

Day 6
Leave  for Taupo where you get to see the beautiful Lake Taupo. Huka falls is one of the main attractions for Taupo. You can choose to drive straight to the falls but I would recommend walking to the falls. It is a relatively easy hike (3km one way) from Spa Thermal Carpark. The scenic walk takes you through the winding banks of the Waikato River. Remember to bring your swimmers because you will be rewarded with nature’s hot spring right at Spa Thermal Carpark. Not only is this hot spring free, if you find it too warm, you can always swim closer towards the river stream for a cool refreshing hit. We also went to Taupo Debretts for hot springs but it is really not worth the money especially since you can visit Spa Thermal Carpark for a free dip!

Day 7
Drive from Taupo to Wellington. Another unimpressive city but plenty of food options available at Cuba Street. If you are travelling to South Island, I would recommend travelling by Sounds Air. It is a small propeller plane that can only take 12 passengers but the prices are reasonable and it is like taking a scenic flight across to South Island!

If you are thinking of travelling to the Bay of Islands, you probably need another 3 more days in the North Island. For a glimpse of the North Island, I would recommend visiting Rotorua and Taupo. Watch this space for my South Island Itinerary!

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