Trip of a Lifetime: New Zealand’s North Island in One Week
Having buckets of time and money to explore a far away region is every traveller’s dream. But, if you don’t have all the time and money in the world, that shouldn’t stop you from travelling. I went to New Zealand’s North Island with only a week (and a small budget) to explore its greatest treasures, and it might just have been the best trip of my life.
Here’s how I did it: using InterCity coaches, hostels, and Pinterest, I decided on an itinerary that covered everything I wanted to see in the North Island, and booked coaches and hostels in advance. My itinerary was Auckland, Whitianga, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and Wellington.
New Zealand’s North Island in One Week: Auckland
The trip began with an evening flight from Adelaide that turned into an early morning arrival in Auckland airport. It was raining, but given the season it wasn’t too much of a surprise. I spent the day walking around the city’s highlights, including the Auckland domain, the Britomart and Auckland’s large art gallery. I found Auckland a little boring given it is home to over 1.6 million Kiwis, and was pleased to be moving on. If I’d had another day in the city, I would’ve done a mini tour to Auckland’s Puka Beach (a gorgeous black sand affair).
After an early bus trip, I began the day walking along the beautiful Buffalo Beach into town. The scenery in Whitianga is amazing, and I spent a long time admiring the views on the way into the main part of the town, which was where I planned on grabbing the ferry. The ferry is very frequent, and takes only a few minutes to cross the Whitianga harbour, a trip that takes 40 minutes by car! Following local advice, I headed to do the walk up to Shakespeare Cliff, an amazing viewpoint that looks over the entirety of Mercury Bay.
Instead, I found myself invited by a lovely local on a car tour of all the main attractions! After thanking her profusely, we headed to our first stop; hot water beach. Hot water beach is a sandy beach with hot springs underneath, so when you dig down into the sand it fills the depression with warm to hot water, which was lovely to enjoy in the winter chill. She then took me to HaHei beach, which we strolled along whilst sharing travelling anecdotes. The last stop was the wonderful Shakespeare Cliff, which we enjoyed before heading back to the ferry.
Unfortunately, I missed my alarm and my early bus and had to get the later one! This meant I got in to Tauranga late, and only had a little time to head to Mount Maunganui and explore the local eateries and the tiny Moturiki Island before it got dark. I wished I’d been there earlier to walk up Mount Maunganui itself and enjoyed the inevitably beautiful views.
One Week in New Zealand’s North Island: Rotorua & Hobbiton
An early morning arrival in Rotorua lead to my first adventure of the day being Kuirau Park. Kuirau Park is a large geothermal park with hot foot pools, a huge mist-covered geothermal lake, and various thermal and mud pools. Most of them are off-limit to the public as they’re too hot! Luckily, there was also a quaint farmer’s market on as well, and I grabbed a delicious lunch of samosas.
I spent some time wondering around the stunning blue lake front and around the town itself, which did not smell nearly as bad as everyone warns! I spent the evening at the Polynesian Spa (cheap at NZ$30 for the day). With 7 pools available, all of differing acidities and temperatures, the spa was a great way to end the day relaxing and enjoying the lake views.
The second day was my trip to Hobbiton! As a huge Lord of the Rings fan, I adored the informative tour and there were so many opportunities to take photos with the actual set used in the Hobbit movies!
Taupo was probably the highlight of my week on the North Island. Partly because it was my birthday (happy 20th to me), and partly because it was so amazing. I spent my birthday with a friend from the hostel, and we enjoyed the lake, the botanic gardens, and the gorgeous hot pools. In winter the hot pools weren’t so busy, and I spent most of the two days there, relaxing and meeting new people.
A birthday dinner at the curry house brought a lovely surprise; it was a cute little girl’s 1st birthday and the restaurant played happy birthday songs, which made my day. Given the chances of that happening were slim to none it was delightful!
The following day I met a group on the Kiwi Tour and went out with them on the town. At the local Mexican I won the bingo and we all got very merry!
WellingtonThe only thing I would change about my trip to New Zealand's North Island would be to spend more time in Wellington and Taupo. But otherwise, even a one week rushed trip round the North Island was incredible. Click To Tweet
Due to the previous night’s antics, I decided not to get the overnight bus, instead sacrificing time in Wellington to sleep well and head there early. As the trip is a long one, I got in late. I enjoyed a walk round the waterfront, a brief outing at a local comedy club, and then went to bed early.
The only thing I would change about the trip would be to spend more time in Wellington and Taupo. But otherwise, even a one week rushed trip round the North Island was incredible. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back and spend longer exploring!
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