David and I have been on many road trips in California. We grew up there, so how could we not!? We have explored California’s contrasting beauty, appreciating its valleys, mountains, and coast lines. We have even trucked up the West Coast to Canada exploring the lush forests of Oregon (sneaking into the Nike Headquarters Compound…) and cruising around the bays of Washington. However, nothing could prepare us for the beauty that laid ahead of us on the North Island of New Zealand.
When we decided to go to New Zealand for our winter holiday we were unsure of the type of trip we wanted. Did we want to do a “planned to the T” trip or a total no reservations “go with the wind” trip? Guess which one we chose? Yup. If you know us, then you guessed correctly. We chose to do the no reservation trip. The only thing we planned was our first night in Auckland because, after flying for hours, the last thing you want to do when you land is figure out where to rest and freshen up.
With our New Zealand Lonely Planet book successfully dog eared and filled with notes, we headed to the nearest car rental place and took off from there. New Zealand truly stole our hearts. The wonders we witnessed will fuel our imaginations about mythical creatures and inspire daydreams for the rest of our lives. I think we said, “We have to come back!” or “Are the schools hiring?” at least a dozen times during our stay on the North Island.
I have decided to write about this trip a little bit different than I have written my previous travel posts. I believe that each place we visited deserves its own post to fully describe the experience and beauty. David is even going to do some blogging about a few places! Get ready. Below is our entire itinerary filled with suggestions of things we would do differently and things we would not change at all! Look for more posts with detailed information about each stop on our road trip 🙂
Itinerary for 8-10 days:
- Spend 2 nights. Check out Ponsonby, Viaduct Harbour, and Waiheke Island.
- Bay of Islands
- Spend 2 nights. We only spent 1 night and I wish we would have stayed longer to explore the turquoise waters a bit more.
- We stopped here for a night to sleep and it totally took us by surprise. It is filled with amazing restaurants. I guess it is a big foodie getaway for people who live in Auckland. Make sure to go wander around the Hamilton Gardens. It is free and breathtaking!
- Waitomo Caves
- Spend the day doing the underwater tubing and glow worm tour. I did this on my birthday and was not disappointed! Explore the hills where the “Hobbits” live and take in all the green hills that go on for miles.
- Tongariro National Park
- Spend 2 nights. We only spent one night and totally regretted not spending more time. Spend a day climbing the Tongariro Crossing and another day exploring the rest of the park.
- Spend the day soaking in the natural hot springs. We did this because we had been hiking all day. It felt amazing, but I am not sure if it was worth it yet. If this is not your thing, skip this stop altogether and hit up Taupo and explore the lake. This is one thing we wished we had done.
- Spend 1 night. This is a port town full of delicious food and views of the port.
- Spend 1 night. We did not because everything was sold out. It’s the price we paid for not making reservations during peak season. It was bound to happen. We only explored Hot Water Beach and then headed to Auckland. If we could have, we would have spent a night or two in the area.
- Spend your last night here. Hike Mt. Eden and take in the view of Auckland. Explore the Viaduct Harbour and eat at a fancy restaurant with good cocktails. Try not to cry when you board the plane to head back home.
Things we will do differently when we road trip the South Island of New Zealand (yes we are headed back!) :
- Spend at least two nights everywhere we go.
- Rent a Campervan/car! (Reserve it ahead of time.)
- Bring less luggage. (Ughh we hate luggage. Maybe we will do a no reservations and no luggage trip. Now that would be interesting…)
- Drink more wine…