I fell in love with New Zealand when I visited Queenstown in 2015, so before I jetted off to London, I took a short but jam packed little trip to North Island, New Zealand (in Sept’16) and stopped by Auckland, Waitomo Caves, Rotorua and Matamata.
My trip seemed forever ago and after looking back at all of my photos, I’m surprised I still remember certain details. A quick overview of what I got up to is:
- Auckland Sky Tower Jump
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves
- Ruakuri Caves
- Black Labyrinth black water rafting (tubing)
- Huka Falls
- Wai-O Tapu Thermal Wonderland
- Kaituna River white water rafting
- Polynesian Spa
- Redwoods Treewalk
- Hobbiton Movie Set
- Hike to Wairere Falls lookout
For those of you wanting to visit North Island, I’d highly recommend stopping by the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Huka Falls, Wai-O Tapu Thermal Wonderland, any spa in Rotorua and Hobbiton (only if you’re a LOTR/The Hobbit fan).
Activity wise, you can do just about any hike and I mean any hike in New Zealand because they’ll all offer you some great views and a killer leg workout. White water rafting was also highly enjoyable however quite cold as I did that during Winter. I’d also recommend conquering your fears and taking on a bungy jump! I didn’t jump on my recent trip but did twice in 2015 and loved it.
Each stop was a couple of hours drive from each other, so be prepared to hire a car. The drive is extremely picturesque and will blow your mind away by the postcard views and amazing greenery. Although I planned a strict itinerary because I was time restricted, there’s so many things to see along the way so keep that in mind otherwise you’ll get carried away.
Day 1: We landed in Auckland at about 2:30PM. After picking up our car rental, we headed straight to Auckland Sky Tower as we had a SkyJump booked in at 4:30PM.
I originally wanted to bungy off of Auckland Bridge however couldn’t get a booking for that afternoon and figured the SkyJump was the next best thing. It’s similar in regards to having to leap off of something however with the SkyJump, you’re attached to 2 wires, feels much more secure and is more like base-jumping. You can actually see the 2 wires in the first photo below! The jump was 192M high and it was such an exhilarating feeling, especially since I jumped in the rain! After my jump, I headed back to the top of the tower to the viewing deck to soak in the amazing views of the city from 220M high. The rest of my night was dedicated to dining at Kushi Japanese Kitchen & Bar and hitting up the casino.
Day 2: The following day, we packed up our bags bright and early and headed straight for Waitomo Caves which was a 2.5hour drive from Auckland. Arriving with just enough time to spare, we collected our tickets from the ticket booth and headed off to our first tour which was at Ruakuri Cave. The company van picked us up and drove us about 5 minutes away to the entrance of Ruakuri Cave. Once inside, we walked down the gorgeous spiral staircase entrance and at the bottom saw a beautiful piece of limestone formation and crystal tapestry. Our tour guide explained the history of the cave, how it was formed, all that good stuff and then we got to see thousands of glowworms up close.
After the first tour was done, we quickly had lunch at the restaurant on site and headed off to the next tour, which was the Waitomo Glowworm Caves- the bread and butter of Waitomo. To simply put it, the Glowworm Caves is Mother Natures light display. Made up of thousands of magical glowworms, it honestly looks like a bunch of twinkling stars in the sky except for the fact that its not in the sky but instead in a cave. The only downside to this was you weren’t allowed to take any photos inside otherwise you wouldn’t be able to fully experience the Glowworm Grotto.
I saved the best for last and by best I mean the Black Labyrinth black water tubing tour through Ruakuri Cave. This was a 3 hour adventure that would have me cave tubing, jumping off small waterfalls backwards, getting thrown around by the underground river current and floating serenely down the river as we gaze up above at the limestone galleries covered by thousands of glowworms. The water was freezing which was the only downside and even though a wetsuit was provided, it didn’t keep me that warm. This was probably my favourite part of the day and such a great experience.
Day 3: The next day saw a 2 hour drive to Huka Falls in Taupo. This wasn’t on my original itinerary and was a little out of the way however I just had to see the most visited natural attraction of New Zealand in real life and boy oh boy was it breathtaking. The waterfall itself is 11M high and can fill up an Olympic sized swimming pool in 11 seconds!
About half an hour away was Wai-O Tapu Thermal Wonderland- New Zealand’s most colourful volcanic area. Definitely a must see and you’ll be blown away by the stunning geothermal activity and beautiful scenery. The Champagne Pool was my favourite of the bunch however was one of the most smelliest spots.
We then headed off to white water rafting with River Rats along Kaituna River. It’s a grade 5 river and the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world with a 7M drop. A wetsuit and fleece jumper is provided to help keep you warm as the water is quite cold. This was so much fun and perfect for any adrenaline junkie out there. The best part was surprisingly when our raft capsized down the 7M drop and made for many laughs afterwards. Seeing as we had to steer our raft through calm waters and crazy rapids, it was quite tiring and my whole entire body was sore after. We ended the day relaxing at the Polynesian Spa soaking away in hot mineral baths before retiring for the night.
Day 4: It was finally the day I’d been waiting my whole teenage life for- visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set. We had a tour booked in later that afternoon, so we started our day bright and early and went to have brunch at Abracadbra Cafe. Following brunch, we headed off to the Redwoods Treewalk in Whakarewarewa Forest.
We left Rotorua and drove about an hour to the Hobbiton Movie Set. I was just bursting with excitement at this point. Hobbiton exceeded my expectations and more! The journey starts when you board the bus and get driven about 15minutes away to the movie set. Hobbiton is exactly how I pictured it to be and looked just like in the films. Our tour guide taught us a couple of tricks for when they filmed the movies and why some hobbit holes were smaller or larger than others as apposed to being all one size. He threw in a couple of jokes here and there then gave us free time to wonder about and take photos. The 1hour tour ended with a complimentary apple cider at The Green Dragon Inn. I left the set one very happy camper with a new Hobbit beanie and mug.
My last night in New Zealand was spent dining at Stratosfare Restaurant which is situated at Skyline Rotorua up on Mount Ngongotaha and requires a gondola ride to get to. Seeing as we were staying in Matamata that night, we drove back an hour just for the buffet dinner and it was totally worth it. Great food and an even better view. The drive back to our motel was probably the most memorable moment of the trip as it was when The Weeknd had just released his new track ‘Starboy’ and it was the first time either of us had heard it and needless to say, we were hooked and listening to the track now will always remind me of New Zealand.
Day 5: Lucky last day and I wanted to end it off with a bang, so I squeezed in a little cheeky hike to Wairere Falls lookout. I originally wanted to hike to the very top but was strapped for time and could only hike to the lookout otherwise we would’ve missed our flight back home! Wairere Falls is the highest waterfall in North Island at 153M tall and was such a beautiful sight. It was about 45 minutes each way.
Drenched in sweat and starving from our hike, we headed off to Auckland airport which was a 2 hour drive away and stopped by McDonald’s on the way to dropping off the rental car.
New Zealand is by far one of my favourite travel destinations, even after having visited cities throughout Europe, Asia and America. The people are super friendly and welcoming, there’s so much to see and do and the food ain’t so bad either. I loved it so much so that I plan to return in a couple of years time and hire a campervan to roadtrip at least a month or two through both North and South Island and tick off things I couldn’t do because of timing.
I tried to gather up as much photos from my trip as possible but realised I didn’t have that many because I’d broken my Sony A5000 camera on my previous trip to Korea and hadn’t purchased a replacement yet. All photos below were taken on my iPhone 7. Enjoy!