Experience the 100% Pure North Island Inland
Part 1: Three days in New Zealand
Studying abroad provides amazing opportunities. Not only life skills, career skills, cultural expansion, new friends and school credit in the best places, but of also, more traveling! Attempting to do school work in Australia is hard enough, but then you add in the fact that you’re literally on the other side of the world and closer all these other Oceania nations- what’s a student to do?! The easiest one to mention of course is New Zealand and how can you not make the hop over the Tasman Sea to experience 100% Pure? Even if you only have a few days, it’s completely possible. So come along for a three day journey in this two part series.
Day 1 – Auckland to Matamata
New Zealand is an island of volcanoes and Auckland itself is built on many extinct volcanoes, however, the first thing you’ll notice is the freshness. Everything feels and smells simply fresh, clean, and pure.
The Harbour area provides lovely photo opportunities and boasts some pretty special yachts. Auckland Harbour presents historical yachts of the past as well as the outrageously expensive personal ones parked at the pier. For example, you might come across a personal helicopter perched on someone’s yacht!
As you stride through town, notice the architecture and see if you can pick out the designers unique trademark signatures in some of the stonework. While in the nation’s largest city be sure you get on top of some of these old volcanoes and take in the views over the city. It’s amazing to know you can see both the Pacific Ocean in one direction, and the Tasman Sea in the other. Drive to the top of Mt. Eden and look out over a volcanic crater to Auckland.
Then head across the bridge to Devonport and North Head to see the South Battery with an 8-inch disappearing gun, but don’t worry, it’s actually massive. The recoil of the gun actually was so strong that it seemed to hide after each shot. Also walk in the old military tunnels from the 1870s.
After having your fill of the city jump in the car and head south, we’re going to Hobbiton!
Halfway through the drive stop in the little town of Paeroa and at lunch be sure to grab an L&P to wash everything down. L&P, Lemon & Paeroa, is the town’s claim to fame. It’s a “lemonish” drink that’s “world famous in New Zealand” so sip and enjoy the slightly citric flavour on your tongue! There is a huge oversized bottle of L&P at the visitor centre which would be a fun addition to those crazy tourist photos you’re collecting in your travels. Driving through New Zealand will feel like driving through the country, but with really great roads!
Hobbiton is the movie set where the world famous Lord of the Rings, and now The Hobbit trilogy, scenes of the Shire were filmed. During your 2 hour tour to each of the 44 Hobbit holes a pinch may be required since it’s truly like walking in a dream. New Zealand is the land of sheep and the farm where Hobbiton is located is a sheep and cattle farm but the area is so vast it won’t feel or smell like it. Once you arrive at the Green Dragon, enjoy your traditional Hobbit cider or gingerbeer by the roaring fire.
Day 2 – Rotorua to Tauranga
As you drive along, pay attention to the windy roads, but enjoy the refreshing mountain scenery. Leave the window open and let the sounds of nature be your driving track. Lush greens, exotic birds, and sometimes the sheep will cross your vision in addition to the continuous beauty that exudes from everything.
Rotorua is in the Waikato region and is the north island’s main touristy spot offering Polynesian spas, Rainbow Springs wildlife park, gondola and luge rides plus dozens of other attractions. Despite that, it’s located on Lake Rotorua and is a land of lakes, geysers, thermal pools, and mud pools. Here, start at the public park, Kuirau and smell the sulphur as it permeates the air from the mud and thermal pools. While there, soothe your feet in the public ‘baths’ created around some of the non-boiling-hot thermal pools.
Even if the weather decides to surprise you with a cyclone, Rotorua can still be enjoyed; the views are just less sunny. Which also means you should bring your umbrella or raincoat and probably a sweatshirt/jumper with you just in case.
During your time in Rotorua be sure to stop at the Government Gardens and watch a little lawn ball before heading into the gardens and museum. Then stop by Lake Rotorua, and Te Puia to see one of Lonely Planet’s top 5 geysers in the world: Pohutu Geyser. It is considered one of the most reliable geysers in the world as it erupts up to twenty times a day to a height of 30 meters (100 feet). Before departing town pick up a couple souvenirs at the gift shop such as lanolin cream made from the oil left after cleaning sheep’s wool, or items featuring the New Zealand exclusive and exotic Paua abalone shell.
As you start heading North again you’ll pass by Hells Gate mud bath & spa as well as an opportunity to see Okere Falls which boasts the “highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world.” Here you will also want to enjoy the full walk along the Kaituna river-walk down to Trout Pool.
On your drive towards to Tauranga, you’ll pass through Te Puke, the kiwifruit capitol of the world! A quaint town worthy of a stop for a meal and meandering the main street store fronts. Depending on how long you want to stay in Rotorua, you can decide to stop in Mount Maunganui, the beach peninsula suburb of Tauranga and enjoy an evening hike up “the Mount”. Said hike is up the extinct volcano, Mauao, and provides magnificent views across the peninsula down the sandy beaches and over “the special place”, a land jetty. Be sure to rest up though, you won’t want to miss the sunrise here in the morning!