During July and August 2013 we used the Kiwi Experience bus to get around New Zealand for three weeks. This meant our stops were planned for us – here is a run-down of each overnight location on the North Island (unless stated we spent one night there). Check out the South Island Review.
Auckland (2 Nights)
Everyone had warned me not to expect much from Auckland and I’m glad I didn’t have high expectations as we arrived to a grey and rainy city that didn’t feel inviting. The iconic skyline is viewed all over but we took a quick trip up Mt Eden to really get to see what Auckland had to offer. The views from here were stunning and I could see the collection of islands worth visiting across the bay. The suburb of Parnell by night was cute with its fairy lights lining the streets and little boutique shops. Overall I found the city very dull but the suburbs and surrounding areas made up for this.
Where to stay: Nomads Auckland
Hot Water Beach
A complete holiday destination with an abundance of holiday parks, this is certainly a huge summer destination in New Zealand. It is a very small township but with a beautiful and unique beach – rated one of the world’s best. If you head down to the beach two hours each side of low tide you can dig yourself a nice little hot pool to soak in. Not far from the township is the famous and stunning Cathedral Cove – which you can either walk or kayak to. A perfect holiday destination otherwise it’s worth an overnight stop just to experience the beach
Where to stay: Top Ten Holiday Park
Waitomo and Its Caves
There is nothing here except the glow worms and the caves, so unless you are interested in either then it isn’t worth stopping here. If you do want to see the caves and glow worms then you have the Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. on hand to offer you some awesome activities. We took part in the three hour Black Water Rafting tour but they have plenty of options ranging from short walks, try caving and the full five hour rafting session. If you don’t fancy a group tour then you can head out on your own and explore some of the more quiet areas which are still full of glow worms.
Where to stay: Kiwi Paka
I really liked this place; the bizarre steam coming up from under the street and in people’s backyards really interested me. Kirura Park is the main tourist attraction and is free. Showing off much of the geothermal activity this town has to offer. We took a walk around by the lake which is beautiful on a sunny day. Rotorua is also home of the Maroi culture and provides plenty of options for going to a culture show – be careful some have a reputation for being gimmicky and touristy. I would love to have spent time exploring the areas around the city where there is much more geothermal activity going on.
Where to stay: Base Hot Rocks
Taupo (2 Nights)
Home to the biggest lake in New Zealand and gateway to the Tongariro National Park, this place is a huge tourist hub. With a nice sized town and plenty of hostel it’s a great place to spend a few days as a backpacker. The north islands equivently of Queenstown with Taupo Skydive and bungy jump – you are spoilt for choice with what to do. You can also see Mt Ngauruhoe or better known as Mt Doom from Lord Of The Rings – this is also where the well-known Tongariro Crossing is, which is what we spent our day off in Taupo doing.
Where to stay: Urban Retreat
This was an exclusive Kiwi Experience stop and somewhere I don’t imagine you’ll stop unless you happen to be on the bus. It is a beautiful spot in the Valley with very little around – not even phone service! They offer a spa, grade 5 white water rafting or horse trekking – which we took part in. the lodge there is so homely and welcoming. In case you’re wondering where this little place is the biggest town nearby is Taihape. One of the most beautiful stops we had along the trip and one of the best nights accommodation.
Where to stay: River Valley Lodge
I barely spent any time in the Capital City however I did LOVE what I saw. Arriving in as it got dark you could see the city was set around the bay. With not much in the way of tall buildings it barely felt like a city. Heading up to Mt Victoria gave us a real perspective of everything. Wellington is prone to earthquakes sitting on a fault line however is it fully prepared for what Mother Nature throws at it. The city feels small but has plenty of cute suburbs dotted around the bay – most people seem to live outside of the city centre. It was beautiful and full of character so different to my first impression of Auckland.
Where to stay: Yha or Base (We stayed with a friend here but the Kiwi Bus guys stayed at both of these hostels)