New Zealand was somewhere my husband and I had always dreamed of travelling to. We both managed to get 2 months off work, and decided to go to New Zealand for 5 weeks, and added on the Cook Islands, Hong Kong and Macao towards the end of our trip.
My husband had always wanted to go on a campervan holiday, and New Zealand is best explored by campervan as it caters so well for campers.
We had always wanted to venture to New Zealand but always said we would only go if we could spend at least 3-4 weeks there, as it’s so far away to travel to. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do everything that we wanted to do in just 2 weeks alone. Even though we managed to do all the main sites in 5 weeks, we would both love to travel back and spend some more time there.
When you travel to New Zealand it’s clear to see why it’s a prime location for film and TV sets. New Zealand is unlike anywhere else I have traveled to before. The landscape is so diverse and goes from so many extremes.
The North and South Islands are completely different from one another. The North Island is much more populated than the South Island, although all of New Zealand only has a total population of 4.5 million people. The North Island is home to 3 quarters of the total population and is home to the largest city in New Zealand – Auckland.
The North Island is known for its Maori culture, volcanic activity, geysers, hot springs, and a much warmer climate. When travelling to New Zealand I would always advise to try and travel to both islands as they are so different from one another.
In this blog I am going to write about the places that we visited in the North Island, and what I would recommend and some helpful tips.
Auckland is a quirky and hipster kind of city. It has tons of amazing places to eat and drink, and you will be welcomed everywhere with a smile, Aucklander’s are a super warm and friendly bunch.
The city has a really nice feel to it, it feels intimate and not too large and overwhelming. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city but it doesn’t feel over crowded and hectic, it’s got a great laid back charm to it.
You can easily see all the main sights of Auckland’s city centre within a day or 2, however if you have longer I would suggest venturing out of Auckland to see some of the beaches etc.
Sights & Activities
Albert Park is a Victorian formal garden located in the city centre, and used to be part of the Albert Barracks. On a sunny day it’s lovely to walk around and maybe take a picnic. The Park is lovely to have a wander around and it’s great to see some of the old Victorian buildings and fountain still in tact. There are also some commemorative statues of UK royals dotted around the park.
Aotea Square is a large paved area located in Auckland’s city centre. The square hosts concerts, parades, festivals and markets throughout the year. While we were there we witnessed several events and stalls occurring.
Auckland Town Hall
Auckland Town Hall is located just by Aotea Square, although it won’t be the most impressive building you will ever see it’s worth going to have a look at it, as it’s really central and you will more than likely walk by it at some point while walking around the city.
Britomart, Viaduct Harbour & Silo Park
Britomart is made up of historic buildings and new developments, it is home to some of Auckland’s best bars and restaurants and houses some of Auckland’s top fashion designer boutiques.
The Viaduct Harbour is located just by Britomart, and used to be a busy port then in the early 2000s was given a major makeover. The Viaduct is now an upmarket dining and boozing area in the city. It’s a great place to sit in the sun with a drink and people watch and admire the yachts.
Silo Park is just by the Viaduct Harbour, and is a public park which is a former industrial site which has been repurposed for festivals, outdoor cinemas and markets etc.
Karangahape Road (K-Road)
The K-Road was our favourite area in Auckland, we also stayed on the K-Road as it’s a great central location. It has a great selection of bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as a ton of cool, quirky and inexpensive vintage shops and boutiques.
We found there to be a great selection of affordable places to eat, and it shows off Auckland’s diverse culture through its many cuisines on offer. If you stay in Auckland try and stay in or around the K-Road as there is so much variety.
We ended up walking up and down the K-Road on most days whilst in Auckland, and each time we would find something different that we hadn’t noticed before, such as a cool street food place or hipster cafe or shop to look around.
Ponsonby is a suburb and Auckland’s busiest restaurant and bar strip. Ponsonby is one of the hippest areas in Auckland and is home to up market boutiques and cafes. If your a foodie this is defiantly a must visit on your Auckland itinerary.
Queen Street is the main commercial hub in Auckland, here is where you will find high street brands and chains. There is also a variety of pubs, bars and restaurants. This street was definitely the busiest street we came across while in Auckland.
The Sky Tower is the Southern Hemispheres tallest structure, and it can’t be missed when coming into Auckland, and also walking around the city. There is also a sky bar and lounge at the top of the tower, we never went up the tower, as there are so many bars to choose from in Auckland, however if we ever return to Auckland this is something I would like to do.
St Kevin’s Arcade & Myers Park
St Kevin’s Arcade Links the K-Road and Myers park. The arcade is a gorgeous historical building, with lots of character. It has some charming boutiques and places to eat. It’s worth having a look around and going down to Myers Park which is a small quiet park worth having a walk along.
Food & Beverage
Best Ugly Bagels
Best Ugly Bagels are all made fresh on site and offer a wide range of delicious fillings. This place is great for breakfast, brunch and lunch or just if you love bagels. It has 2 locations in Auckland and 1 in Wellington . We visited the one in the City Works Depot in Auckland. The site is industrial and quirky and worth a check out.
City Works Depot
City Works Depot used to be council workshops that have now been converted into commercial leases. The building has an industrial chic look and is home to a range of food places such as Best Ugly Bagel, &Sushi and Beer Brothers to name a few. As well as food places on offer there is also a selection of small shops.
Cocos Cantina is opposite Haka Lodge on the K-Road where we stayed in Auckland. When we first arrived in Auckland we were starving and drawn to Cocos by its shabby hipster presence. It’s quirky and a little bit hippie inside which adds to its charm. If your a foodie you will fall in love with this place. The menu is homestyle italian cooking with a seasonal and rustic twist. While we were there I had the Arancini which was fresh and delicious. Try to book a table in advance as the evenings can become very busy.
If your abit of a coffee addict like my husband you need to check out one of the Eight Thirty cafes. They are renowned to have the inner cities best coffee. There are several locations dotted around Auckland, we visited the one on the K-Road. The cafe is decorated in bright white industrial decor, which adds to its hip vibe.
If like me your a girly girl and love somewhere flamboyant head to Gypsy Caravan. The decor is amazing I was in heaven, it offers a quirky selection of cocktails and a small and simple dining menu. We stopped here for a coffee while wandering around Ponsonby late afternoon and would love to go back here for an evening.
Holm is a minimalist coffee house which offer a selection of coffees and offer some delicious brunch options. Again this is also set along the famous K-Road.
Krung Thep Thai Street Food
If you love Thai food as much as I do, check out Krung Thep Thai Street Food, it’s got a wide selection of Thai food available at affordable prices. This no nonsense establishment is along the K-Road and offers up delicious food which you order from the counter.
Little Easy is a laid back pub which is in Ponsonby. It’s menu is great for home comforts such as a selection of burgers, wings and sharing foods at affordable prices. If you go between 3pm-7pm all burgers are only NZ$10. It’s great value and good quality food and beer.
Ponsonby Central is a strip lined with gourmet food vendors, chic cafes and bars. There is also a selection of shops offering local produce and crafts. There is a wide range of food available from burgers, pizzas, crepes, kebabs, sushi and lots more on offer.
If your on a budget and looking for cheap eats, and a wide variety of food choice then cross over the street from Aotea Square and Auckland Town Hall onto Queen Street. Set along this road are lots of small take away and fast food places such as pizzas, kebabs, churros and Asian food etc.
Rasoi is situated along the K-Road and is a non fussy order at the counter eatery. This is a great value vegetarian Indian place to eat. If your on a budget and want a full belly this place is great. They also offer a wide range of colourful Indian sweets and desserts.
Haka Lodge is in a great location along the K-Road, it used to be an old run down pub and is now one of Auckland’s best hostels. They offer a range of dorms and private rooms. Haka Lodge is one of the more up market hostels I have stayed in. We booked a private room with a shared bathroom, and everything is really well thought out.
The rooms are really clean and comfortable and well decorated. The bathrooms are immaculate, and the kitchen is well equipped.
The hostel offers free unlimited WiFi, and has a range of facilities on offer such as a laundry room, cinema room and social area. The hostel also offer a range of tours and sightseeing packages. The hostel is really well suited for flash packers on a budget. If I went back to Auckland I would stay here again and would always recommend Haka Lodge for anyone needing accommodation in Auckland.
Hot Water Beach
After spending a few nights in Auckland, we picked up our camper van from Happy Campers, and after going to the supermarket and stocking up on food and drink and camping chairs etc, we headed straight to Hot Water Beach, we didn’t spend the night here this was just a stop on our route to Rotorua.
Sights & Activities
Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is a stunning long beach which got its name from its geothermal activity beneath the sand. Approximately 2 hours either side of low tide you can hire a spade, and dig your own hot bath out of the sand. Unfortunately we arrived at the wrong time, so didn’t get to experience digging out a hot bath, so when travelling do time it right, and check the tide times.
Even though we didn’t get to witness digging down to bubbling hot water, we did have a nice stroll along the beach which was lush on a sunny day.
Food & Beverage
Before having a stroll along the beach, we stopped at Hotties Cafe and got some lunch. Hotties is the only place to eat directly on the beach, they offer up fresh dishes using local produce.
They offer take away or they have seating both inside and outside with great views over Hot Water Beach. If you go try the Fish Tacos they are delicious! However you get 2 quite large ones so we shared them and just ordered some chips and salad to go with them, works out a little cheaper and was plenty of food.
Rotorua is a must when visiting the North Island, there is so much to see and do here from stunning lakes, traditional Maori culture, geysers and so much more. On our road trip Rotorua was the first place we stopped at for a few nights in our camper. We drove from Auckland, had a brief stop at Hot Water Beach, then continued on to Rotorua.
Rotorua has something for everyone and seemed to attract a wide range of travellers from backpackers, campers, tour groups and many more.
Sights & Activities
Rotorua is a city surrounded by lakes, Lake Rotorua is probably the most well known, and is the second largest lake on the North Island. Lake Rotorua is worth having a walk around and has some boarded path ways. Just by the lake you can also view the Government Gardens with hot steaming pools dotted around.
Lake Okareka & Lake Tarawera
Both these lakes are just outside of Rotorua and are both lovely to drive around, there is also Green Lake and Blue Lake just by these too, which are also worth visiting. Tuhourangi is a small lay-by near Lake Tarawera, which gives the most amazing view over the lakes and its surroundings, plus there is also a tall monument.
Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest
Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest is a man made forest which was created back in 1899 to see which tree species could be grown. The Californian Redwoods give this forest its grandeur. There are several walks to take around the forest ranging from a 30 minute wander through to a full days trek.
This was a real highlight while in Rotorua, there is tons to see at Whakarewarewa Cultural Village. The village is set on thermal hot springs and had bubbling pools of water and mud dotted around. The residents that live here show you around and provide lots of information on the Maori way of life and what it was like and how it is today.
There are also daily shows which show traditional Maori dances and the Haka. There is also a selection of shops selling local arts and crafts. You can also purchase a buttery corn on the cobb which is pulled straight out of a hot mineral pool and makes a good snack.
It’s easy to spend a good few hours here as there is so much to see from the natural hot pools, Maori meeting houses and the show etc.
Food & Beverage
Air Stream Cafe
While driving around the lakes make a pit stop at the Air Stream Cafe which is situated on Blue Lake, it serves up a selection of drinks, snacks and lunch options.
Mitai Maori Village
While in New Zealand I would recommend booking a dinner at a Maori show, it’s really interesting and you learn a lot about Maori culture. We chose the Mitai Maori Village as its family owned and included a glow worm bushwalk.
It’s approximately 3 hours in the evening and included pick up from our campsite. The cost when we went was NZ$116 per person and includes a show and a traditional Hangi feast, then after dinner a glow worm bushwalk which was a really nice way to end the evening.
The Backyard Inn
The first campsite we stayed at was the Backyard Inn, it’s a little run down and you feel like your stepping back in time. However they had everything that you need such as hot showers, cafe and restaurant, kitchen area and a small pool.
Taupo is most well known for its lake, Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake. This area is very similar to Rotorua with volcanic activity and geothermal hot springs, the geology in and around Taupo is stunning. It is very much a family tourist hot spot with plenty of activities and resorts available.
Taupo is another must on your New Zealand North Island itinerary. We drove to Taupo from Rotorua which took just about over an hour.
Sights & Activities
Craters of the Moon
Craters of the Moon is a geothermal park with a loop walkway around it where you can take in views of the steaming craters, and bubbling mud from the ground beneath.
The walk takes approximately 45 minutes and you get great views of the surrounding mountains. There’s a kiosk at the entrance with information and entrance is only NZ$8 per adult. I really enjoyed our trip here, it’s a nice easy and relaxing walk.
Huka Falls are part of New Zealand’s longest river – The Waikato River. The falls mark a narrowing which causes the dramatic drop into a gushing pool.
There’s a footbridge overlooking the falls where you can witness the full force of the river. There is also a look out where you can get great photo opportunities.
We drove to Huka Falls and parked up, there is a kiosk by the car park too which has some useful information. However you can also walk the Huka Falls Walkway from town which takes about an hour.
Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake, it’s so large the it looks like an ocean. Taupo is set on the north eastern shores of the lake. There are tons of activities to do in and around the lake such as fishing, water sports and hiking etc.
If your happy just walking along the lake front you can take in some picture postcard views of the snowy peaks of the Tongariro National Park on a clear day.
When we visited the Lake it was a lovely sunny day and we sat by it and had a picnic and admired its beauty.
Wairakei Terraces Thermal Health Spa
After a day of sightseeing we decided to visit the Wairakei Terraces Thermal Spa to relax in. Mineral waters from the geothermal steam grounds nearby cascade over silica Terraces creating hot pools.
We visited on a particularly hot day so didn’t spend too long here as we did find we were getting uncomfortably hot, however there are different pools with different temperatures to choose from, so you can find one that is best suited to you.
The entrance was NZ$25 per person when we visited. There is also a range of treatments at the spa that are extra.
Wairakei Thermal Valley Holiday Park
The Wairakei Thermal Valley Holiday Park is really cute and quirky, it’s basic but has everything you need with hot showers, kitchen and an onsite cafe.
If your an animal lover like myself you will love this place, tons of chickens, peacocks, cats, sheep and alpacas running around. There’s also some hutches with rabbits too, this campsite was really peaceful and relaxing and the owner had a good sense of humour too. If your on a budget this place was great value for money and a great location.
They also offer a geothermal walk onsite, and their onsite cafe offers Devonshire cream teas.
Wellington is New Zealand’s capital, it’s only a small city, smaller than Auckland in fact. Even though Welly is a small city it has a ton of character, it’s a stunning city with gorgeous views overlooking the harbour. It has lots of old quirky Victorian buildings, funky boutiques and a huge array of amazing restaurants to eat at.
Welly is known for being a Windy City, however when we visited we had the most gorgeous sunny weather. When we visited we stayed with one of my husbands friends that lives there. His flat was set into the hillside with a steep uphill walk, and it had the most gorgeous views over the city and harbour. We spent a day and night here prior to getting the ferry down to the South Island, then stopped here again for another night when we got the return ferry back to the North Island.
The city has a very hipster vibe to it, and I would really recommend visiting and spending a few days here especially if the weather is nice and if your planning on taking the ferry down to the South Island.
Sights & Activities
Cuba Street is wellingtons eccentric Bohemia Street, it is a creative and culinary melting pot of buskers, galleries, graffiti-filled alleyways, cafes, top named restaurants and exhibition spaces.
There are also tons of second hand vintage shops and boutiques, the street is pedestrianised so it’s great to walk up and down, each time spotting something new and different.
Cuba Street has also been registered a historic area due to its Victorian buildings and heritage. No trip to Welly would be complete without visiting Cuba Street. Food & Beverage
Beach Babylon is a gorgeous little beach side cafe, its decor is retro and cool and the food is delicious. I think I actually had one of the best brunches in my life here. They have an amazing brunch menu on offer, I recommend the creamy garlic and thyme wild mushrooms on toast.
The cafe can become busy we were lucky and managed to get one of the last tables outside, so we did see people having to wait for a table, which just goes to show how popular this place is.
Capital International Market
If you want quick cheap eats and a variety of choice head to Capital International Market which hosts an array of street food vendors.
Husk is a bar and brewery and coffee roastery and also serves up food and small plates. If your into your beer you can also get a beer taster. We stopped here for a drink while having a wander around and it’s not far from Cuba Street.
My husbands friends housemate that we stayed with in Wellington worked at Olive, so we decided to go there for dinner. It was so good that when we returned to Welly we went there for brunch too.
Olive serves up seasonal and rustic dishes, and has the most gorgeous little cozy courtyard outback, if you do visit try and get a table outback.
The Arborist Roof To Bar
The Arborist is located in Welly’s city centre, it’s up 7 stories high and is an oasis and has stunning views over the city. On a sunny day it’s easy to sit here and drink sangria and enjoy the weather, this bar has a great vibe and worth a visit on a nice day.
New Plymouth is situated on New Zealand’s west coast and its main draw is Mt Taranaki and the surrounding farmlands around New Plymouth. It is a port town with an artsy scene with art galleries and lots of quirky cafes. The town also has lots of surf beaches and attracts many surfers from all over.
We drove to New Plymouth after we had arrived back in Wellington, it’s quite a long drive there but was on our way back to the North of the North Island.
Unfortunately while we were in New Plymouth the weather wasn’t great and we couldn’t see Mt Taranaki as it was overcast and grey and kept raining. We did have a walk around the town and went to visit the Puke Ariki museum which is a must when in New Plymouth.
Sights & Activities
Puke Ariki is a free museum and library which translates into ‘Hill of Chiefs’. There are lots of Maori artefacts, colonial antiques, geology and wildlife exhibits. The museum literally has everything you need to know about New Zealand and it’s history and wildlife.
When we visited there was a whole exhibit on beach wear through the ages which was quite cool to see, and fits in well with New Plymouth’s beach town vibes.
There is also a cafe and restaurant on site too so you can have some breakfast or lunch before or after visiting.
Urenui Beach isn’t in many guidebooks, however it is a great find and place to stop when passing. It’s approximately 30 Minutes north of New Plymouth.
I personally have never been on a beach like it, Urenui Beach has pure black sand and when we went on a drizzly day looked a bit gloomy. However I thought the Beach was so different we are all so used to seeing pure white sand beaches why not black sand beaches?!
We stopped here and walked along the beach and loved it here, so if you want to go to a beach with a difference definitely add this to your New Zealand itinerary.
Food & Beverage
Arborio is one of New Plymouth’s fine dining restaurants, it is situated in the Puke Ariki museum and has views overlooking the ocean. It’s decor is funky and stylish, and the restaurant sources New Zealand’s most freshest ingredients.
It’s a little on the pricey side but has a great ambience, we stopped here for a drink and a breakfast snack before entering the museum. There is a bar too and a light snacks menu, so if your on a budget you can still stop here to experience it without spending a lot.
When we visited Waitomo we decided to stay in Otorohanga, which is situated in between Waitomo and Hamilton and close to Hobbiton, so that we found it easy enough to travel between all of these main attractions.
Sights & Activities
Hamilton isn’t one of the most glamorous or exciting cities we have visited, and there isn’t a great ton to see and do here, it’s main site is the Waikato River, which runs right through the city, however the layout of the city almost ignores this river.
Hamilton does however have a good selection of vibrant cafes, bars and restaurants and you can also visit the Hamilton Gardens.
I would recommend if your pushed for time then knocking Hamilton off of your itinerary as there isn’t a great deal to see and do, and there are cities and towns in New Zealand with a lot more going on. However if your staying around Waitimo and near Hobbiton and have a spare few hours like we did it’s worth a wander.
Hobbiton is the movie set from The Lord of the Rings films and is situated in Matamata which is a small country town until it was put on the map by the popular film trilogy.
I myself am not a huge fan of Lord of the Rings but felt I couldn’t come all the way to New Zealand without seeing Hobbiton.
The attraction is a must see whether your a huge fan or not. I would recommend booking in advance, however we were lucky when we turned up and managed to get spaces onto one of the tours.
Tours buses leave from the I-Site in Matamata and take you to the set of Hobbiton, and the guide tells you all the behind the scenes stories and facts, which is really interesting.
The tour lasts approximately 2 and a half hours and finishes off in the Green Dragon Inn where you get a choice of a complimentary drinks. The guide allows enough time to sit and enjoy your drink before getting back onto the bus to take you back to the I-Site in Matamata.
I really enjoyed looking around Hobbiton and the surrounding views are stunning, when we visited it was NZ$84 per person which is quite pricey, but I’m so glad we visited Hobbiton I think I would have regretted it, if we hadn’t.
Waitomo Caves practically always comes up in every guide book about New Zealand and must dos while visiting, and I can’t say that I disagree. The caves are abit of a tourist trap. However the vast amount of glom worms is stunning and looks like a night time sky.
There are several options when booking Waitomo, we decided to book a package deal which was the triple cave combo which included near by Caves called Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave, finished off with visiting the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The triple cave combo package saved a lot of money and wasnt much more than visiting just one of the caves.
The guide tours around the Ruakuri Cave also allow you to take photos of the glow worms as long as your flash is off, where as in the Waitomo Cave photos of the glow worms are not allowed under any circumstances.
When we visited we spent NZ$97 per person on the cave package which saved a lot and we got to see so much. I would recommend doing one of the combo packages as the Waitomo Caves alone are around about NZ$50 per person, I would advise spending a little more and getting to see some caves near by on guided tours.
Raglan is a laid back surfer town. It has a great selection of bars, restaurants and boutiques. It has a gorgeous harbour area and a good selection of surf beaches. It’s quite an artsy town and has lots of craft and art shops too. Raglan just oozes cool and is a great little place to add to your New Zealand itinerary.
Sights & Activities
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is a 55 meter plunge waterfall and is located just on the outskirts of Raglan. You can walk all the way down to the base of the falls and the pool it’s created. These were some of the best waterfalls I’ve seen in the world, the surrounding plants, trees and greenery around the falls make it absolutely gorgeous. If your staying in Raglan it’s worth taking a drive over as it doesn’t take up a lot of time, we spent about 45 minutes here viewing the falls from the different platforms and walking down to the bottom.
Manu Beach & Ngarunui Beach
Manu Beach is the most popular surfing beach around Raglan and is about 1 mile away from Ngarunui Beach. Manu Beach is also known around the world by surfers to have the world’s longest left hand break, this is due to its position and angle where the Tasman swell meets the coast.
Ngarunui Beach is where you will find lots of novice surfers taking lessons and surf schools teaching on the beach and in the water. It’s a large beach with black volcanic sand, and it’s great to sit on and people watch, we didn’t take any surf lessons but really enjoyed watching all the waves and surfers taking to the water.
Ulo isn’t really a tourist attraction, however when in Raglan this quirky shop run by Japan born artist Kyoko Shirai has some bright colourful artworks unlike anything I have seen before. The shop sells vintage and second hand clothes along with lots of prints, clothing and homeware customised by Kyoko in her unique style. My husband and I fell in love with her artwork and the originality of it which combines Japanese, Maori and Pacific Island influences.
Whale Bay is a lot quieter than Manu Bay and Ngarunui Beach, but is still a favourite surf spot. Many of the surfers have to climb over the rocks to get out to the break, but here we saw watched some experienced surfers, and also found a nice spot to have a picnic. I wouldn’t recommend surfing here unless your an experienced surfer, however on a sunny day it’s a great place to come and watch the day go by.
Food & Beverage
Aroha Sushi is a small sushi restaurant and take away and is located next door to Ulo shop. The small restaurant is really good value for money and has a selection of sushi and Japanese dishes available, there are also a few tables outside. I opted to have the Katsu tofu which was delicious and filling. We also got a starter to share. This is a really good little find, especially if your on a budget and travelling around New Zealand for a while, this is a great and cheap place to eat.
Orca Restaurant & Bar
Orca Restaurant is located right on the sea front in central Raglan. The restaurant focuses on seasonal and fresh food and has a great selection of wine, and a bar area too if you just wanted a drink. We tried out the fish and chips which was delicious. The restaurant was really popular with locals and can get quite busy. The food wasn’t overly pricey either and had a great laid back atmosphere.
Kev’s Place was as a great little find, it was probably one of the most random places we stayed at, and was pretty basic, however it had the most amazing view overlooking Raglan, and it’s beautiful coastline. Kev’s place is located on Maungatawhiri ridge and the sunsets here were the best we witnessed while staying on all different campsites around New Zealand.
Kev’s place also offers chalets aswell as campervan and tent pitches. The toilets and showers are basic but it has everything you need. To add to Kev’s place quirky charm is the boat overlooking the campsite where you can check in at.
This campsite has no powered sites and is pretty much off grid and has a very laid back vibe to it. If you love dogs it’s also great as Kev’s dogs are always hovering around and love abit of attention. As Kev’s place is also away from everything you get the most amazing views of the stars at night.
Ahipara (90 Mile Beach)
Ahipara is situated at the end of 90 mile beach, this isn’t a huge bustling town, it’s mainly just locals and visiting surfers and tourists to see 90 mile beach. The area is mostly know for the beach, sand dunes and gum fields. When visiting bare in mind that this isn’t a great deal of choice for food and drink places, so if your on a budget and self catering ensure to stock up at a supermarket on the way.
Sights & Activities
90 Mile Beach
90 Mile Beach is not actually 90 miles long it’s more like 55 miles. There are several theories as to why 90 mile beach got its name, but the most common comes from when missionaries travelled on horse back and on average would cover 30 miles in a day. The beach took 3 days to travel therefore earning its name, but the missionaries did not realise the slower pace of the horses walking in the sand, so thinking they had travelled 90 miles when in fact they had only travelled 55.
90 Mile Beach stretches from west of Kaitaia towards Cape Reinga along the Aupouri Peninsula. This beach is officially a highway, but is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the tides. We personally didn’t feel comfortable driving along the beach in our campervan incase we got stuck and decided to book onto the Sand Safari Tour.
Cape Reinga is the most northernly point of New Zealand and the North Island. Cape Reinga is a historic site for Maori as they believe that departed souls jump off Cape Reinga to make their journey to the spirit world.
The light house is a steady walk and overlooks the ocean where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. The views up here are breathtaking and really make you feel like your at the end of the world. We were taken here on the Sand Safari tour too.
Sand Safari Tours is a great way to see 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reinga. After the drive along 90 mile beach, they take you to the sand dunes and provide complimentary sand boards. The tour also includes a lovely picnic bbq lunch at the beachey cove of Tapotupotu Bay which is on the way to Cape Reinga. The tour when we did it was NZ$55 per person, if your staying at the Ahipara Holiday Park we also received a small discount on top of that too.
This tour is really good value for money and personally I think this is the best way to see 90 Mile Beach and with confidence that your vehicle isn’t going to get stuck, we did see one car stuck in the sand while driving along the beach, so do take care if going alone.
Shipwreck Bay is at the southern point of Ahipara Bay, and contains a number of shipwrecks which are visible at low tide.
Shipwreck Bay is also well known as an excellent surfing area. The bay is sandy with a few rocks around the tip. We went and drove up to it however there is a charge for parking so we didn’t stay, I would advise driving up to it but we didn’t think it was worth paying for parking.
Food & Beverage
Bidz Take Away is the best and only fish and chips in Ahipara, there isn’t much choice in Ahipara, we saw one other little restaurant/cafe but it wasn’t open while we were there. So we went and got fish and chips at Bidz and I have to say for a take away it was really good and fresh. There are some tables outside to sit at if you don’t want to take away. They also offer burgers and a selection of other fast food on the menu. There is also a small grocery store attached which is handy if you need to stock up your campervan.
Ahipara Holiday Park
Ahipara Holiday Park is a large site which offers powered and unpowered campsites along with cabins and backpacker lodges. There is plenty of outside space and a well equipped kitchen. The reception area also has some snacks and food on sale and the lounge area around the reception is great to if you want to sit and relax. The Holiday Park is also part of Kiwi Holiday Parks which means its of a high standard and if you have a Kiwi Card you can receive discount on the cost of your overnight stay.
Paihia (Bay of Islands)
Paihia is where the Bay of Islands is situated, and it is also the birthplace of New Zealand and where the treaty was signed between Maori Chiefs and the British.
Sights & Activities
Fullers Dolphin Cruise
Fullers has been around for over 125 years, it is a well know and reliable cruise company which offers a range of cruises around the Bay of Islands. We booked the Dolphin and Hole in the Rock cruise which is a 4 hour cruise, and costs about NZ$107 per person.
On this trip it departs from Paihia and stops at Russel and takes you all around the islands in the bay, and we saw lots of dolphins which were coming up close to the boat. The boat also sailed through the Famous Hole in the Rock, this can only be done on days when the sea is calm.
The Cruises was really interesting and we got told a lot about the history and heritage of the Bay of Islands and about the wildlife that surrounds the bay. This is a must when in Paihia, it was a really relaxing day out which we both enjoyed.
Haruru Falls are some horseshoe falls, which have a walkway that leads from the treaty grounds along the Waitangi River. If you don’t fancy the 5 kilometre walk, you can drive straight to the car park. The falls are only small and you can walk along them and dunk your feet into the small pools.
Food & Beverage
Avo Sushi doesn’t look much from the outside but we liked it so much we ate there twice!! It’s got a display cabinet of a large variety of sushi and asian savoury snacks like spring rolls, chicken sticks, tempura etc. Prices range from as little as NZ$1 per item, so it’s really good value and really filling we only had a small box each of bits we had chosen and was full. There is also some tables and chairs outside Avo Sushi or you can take away with you, definitely check this place out even if it’s just for a snack or a cheap lunch.
Pizza Shack is located in the centre of Paihia, and is a laid back restaurant which sells a good selection pizzas and an option to build your own pizza. It is reasonably priced and delicious food and has a selection of starters and sides if your in need of a carb overload.
Bay of Islands Kiwi Holiday Park
Bay of Islands Kiwi Holiday Park has a lush green setting surrounded by tall trees, the patches are quite large and popular with Kiwis for their family camping trips. The showers were really clean and powerful here and it wasn’t far from the centre of Paihia. This campsite is also part of the Kiwi Holiday Parks which again if you have the members card you can gain discount off your stay.
Transport & Getting Around
The only way I would recommend getting around New Zealand in general is by camper van. You will see so many camper vans driving around because honestly it’s the best way to see New Zealand. You can pull over at all the breathtaking view points and make random pit stops and just enjoy the stunning scenery.
Plus all of the camp sites dotted around New Zealand are so well equipped and clean. The showers in the camp sites were some of the best showers I’ve ever had, they were more powerful than my shower at home! The kitchens are also really well equipped.
If you are going to drive around New Zealand, download the app called Campermate it shows you all the campsites in the location your looking at and you can read write ups and reviews to help you make the best decision for you.
We booked our campervan through Happy Campers as they worked out to be the cheapest and as we needed one for 31 nights in total they can work out quite pricey, but when you think about it, it’s your accommodation and your mode of transport all in one.
When driving around you will see tons of camper vans and RVs. We booked a basic campervan with a bed in, as we stayed at campsites every night, we didn’t need a toilet and shower as we used the campsite facilities. We had a small camping stove in the back and storage under and behind the bed.
I actually slept really well in the campervan and found it really cozy and was quite sad when we had to hand it back in.
There are several ferry companies linking North Island and South Island which go between Wellington and Picton. Make sure to book in advance as sometimes the ferries can become very busy, the ferry takes approximately 3 hours and you can either go on as a walk on or drive on, once you have parked your car or camper van you can then go upstairs where there is plenty of seating, a restaurant and WiFi.
If your on a tight schedule and don’t have a lot of time, New Zealand offers lots of domestic flights between the main cities and towns, however this can work out quite expensive but worth it if your limited on time. Have a look at Air New Zealand if this is the case.
Buses tend to be much cheaper than air travel, and New Zealand’s bus service is frequent and reliable. Have a look at Intercity which is New Zealand’s National bus company. There are also a whole range of tours you can book onto through companies like STA, Kiwi Experience and New Zealand Coach Tours etc.
New Zealand’s Trains are not cheap or fast to use, however they are regular and reliable. We didn’t use any public transport while in New Zealand so cant advise much on this other than from what I have heard.
Hitchhiking & Biking
Believe it or not you wouldn’t believe the amount of people we saw hitchhiking and biking around New Zealand. So many people with a tent and camping equipment attached to their bag or bike making their way around. However both of these are time consuming so would only be achievable if you have no time limit or you have a good couple of months in New Zealand.
These campsites tend to be of a really high quality with regards to their amenities, and by signing up and paying for membership you receive discount on your nights stay, discounts on favourite nearby attractions and entrance fees etc, and receive discounts at some restaurants too.
We saved quite a lot of money by signing up to the Kiwi Holiday Park Card, maybe have a look at which parks your more likely to stay at and sign up to one or the other rather than both.
I-Site is New Zealand’s official tourism information and you will see plenty of I-Site offices these are really helpful when getting ideas of what’s around the local area your in, and provide a wealth of tourist information on attractions and places to stay, and the staff are always really knowledgable and helpful.
The Department of Conservation also known as DoC are New Zealand’s agency for conservation. They ensure that New Zealand’s natural beauty and wildlife is preserved and looked after and will last for many years to come, while ensuring it’s enjoyable and accessible for locals and visitors.
DoC also provide lots of tracks and trails all over New Zealand as well as campsites. However the campsites don’t have facilities as such other than toilets so we didn’t stay at any of the DoC campsites as we needed showers and more facilities as or camper only had a bed, and I’m a girly girl and didn’t want to rough it too much.
While in New Zealand the plan was to do lots of cooking in the camper van and at the campsites to save money on food, however my husband and myself don’t particularly enjoy cooking at the best of times and especially while we are on holiday.
We did end up eating out in the evenings, my tips for self catering on the road would be to keep meals simple just think the more cooking the more food, herbs and spices you need to purchase and the more washing up!! We kept breakfast simple and healthy and ate fruit in the mornings and cereal or cereal bars. Then for lunches we tended to buy picnic type items so we had salads, olives, crisps, gherkins, tomatoes, cheese and breads etc and tended to have mini spreads for lunch.
If you purchase jars of olives, beetroots, gherkins, mini peppers etc they keep well and tended to last us a few days to go with our lunches and keeps the costs down.
Prior to going to New Zealand I bought some boxes of cereal bars, mug shots and hot chocolate to take with us as food shopping in the UK is much cheaper, and having a few snack type items for on the go was really helpful.
We covered a huge 3750 Miles of New Zealand, below is a map of our road trip itinerary, and all the places we stayed at and places we stopped off at to visit. I did loose track of how many times we actually pulled over to admire views and off the beaten track wonders of natural beauty. This was what my husband put together prior to our road trip.
Important Information & Links
• Currency: New Zealand Dollar
• Language: English, Maori