Road trip by van to discover the North Island of New Zealand

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Martí Micolau

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A road trip to immerse yourself in the North Island of New Zealand, which greets us in Māori with a? Kia ora? in Aotearoa: the Land of the Long White Cloud, as New Zealand is nicknamed.
We discover that in this country that has existed for less than 10000 years, names in English are almost always accompanied by those in Māori. The Māori population, of Polynesian origin and that of New Zealanders, of European origin, coexist in perfect harmony. Thanks to the māori, recognizable by the ta moko, typical tattoos,? You can experience the local culture in person through: song and dance, such as the famous haka, meetings, banquets and museums that tell their story.
After a brief but exhaustive introduction to this wonderful land, Simone and I are as curious as ever to discover the content it offers: let's start like this? for the incredible 16-day kiwi road trip to New Zealand's North Island.

1 day

Let's start from the city? from Auckland, New Zealand, aboard our new friend Turbo Van: we decide to inaugurate our roadtrip, stopping in Bay of Islands. This ? the Bay of Islands, which thanks to its 150 wild islands, is one of the main scenic attractions of New Zealand.
IS? it was in this region that the Maori settled during the first migrations. We choose to visit Paihia, the main gateway to the Bay of Islands, where you can relax on the beach or take part in boat or kayak excursions.

2 day

The following day we decide to park the van in the vicinity? of Haruru Falls and visit cos? the waterfalls, and then explore the Waitangi Trail: a path that winds through the mangroves and lasts about an hour and a half round trip.
We stay both nights at Seaview Campervan Park where we pay $ 15 per person per night.

3 day

Three and a half hours from Paihia, we arrive in Auckland, the first city? that we visit in New Zealand: it looks like a mix between tradition and modernity.
Ethnic restaurants, alternative neighborhoods and pristine islands, do s? that this city? in addition to being the most? large of New Zealand, is also among the most? liveable in the world. Auckland, which stands on a volcanic area, creates a magical atmosphere for those who love the outdoors (without losing sight of the city, from its many vantage points).
We immediately visit the main square Aotea Square, to then stop at Albert Park, the public park that rises in the center of Auckland. After a first break, we arrive at the port, where the historic Ferry Building is located, the hub of the Auckland ferry network.
We spend the afternoon at the Auckland Domain, the largest park. ancient city. Here we take the opportunity to visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum, a museum where you can discover the Maori culture and the history of New Zealand.
Behind a great day, a great evening hides and which location best describes the Auckland sunset if not the Sky Tower: it offers a 360 degree panorama from its 328 meters high and the cost of the ticket to go up? of $ 32. However, we book an aperitif at the Sugar Club, the place located at 53? Sky Tower floor, which includes access to the tower.

4 day

The following day we decide to visit Waiheke Island. About 40 minutes by ferry from the center, this? the main island of Auckland, famous mainly for its heavenly beaches and wineries.
To explore the island, I recommend renting a bike or a car and we opt for the latter, given the small difference in price. We immediately let ourselves be tempted by the wonderful sea and? cos? that we visit Palm Beach and Little Palm Beach: a small bay hidden by the rocks, which leaves us breathless (and I assure you that we trained to have a lot of it;)). IS? the time then to know the other side of Waiheke: we go so? towards Mudbrick Restaurant & Vineyard, which gives us a panoramic view of the Auckland Skyline. This prestigious winery, offers the possibility? to make tastings of typical wines of the area, accompanied by platters of cheeses and cold cuts.

5 day

We then go down to the southeast to discover the beaches of Coromandel Peninsula, also called Hauraki, in Maori. First we make a stop in Coromandel Town, a town where gold was discovered. But we, since we cannot afford it, decide to devote ourselves to another specialty? local of the area: the shellfish of Coromandel, especially mussels, oysters and scallops!
We then head to the Tapu Camp, where we pay $ 10,00 per person, per night (price of March 2019), and the beachfront parking? guaranteed!

6 day

Fresh as the oysters eaten the previous day, we start the day from Cooks Beach, and then continue towards Cathedral Cove: the nearest beach. famous New Zealand with its gigantic rock arch. From 9 in the morning to 6 in the evening,? You can park your van for free at Cathedral Cove Park & ​​Ride and from there you can walk to Cathedral Cove; the alternative? pay $ 5 per person and take the shuttle bus from the same parking that leaves us at the entrance to the path.
The only way to get to Cathedral Cove? through the path along the coast that winds for about 90 minutes a / r. Every moment ? a good excuse to visit this wonderful place: the ocean and its nature know how to frame the magical journey, consisting of many scenic stages!
10 minutes from Cathedral Cove, passing through Hahei Beach, we decide to go to Hot Water Beach, a free beach with its own thermal spring! That's right, people's pastime here? dig holes to find (hot) water and relax like that. in a handmade tub;). As they say, first the duty and then the pleasure!
We spend the second night in Coromandel at the Opoutere Coastal Camping, paying $ 15 per person.

7 day

The next day we go to Whitianga beach, where a kayak excursion awaits us to explore Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary. This place ? also known as Donut Island, a unique nature reserve, which is located about 600 meters from Whangamata Beach. The guided kayak tour costs $ 80 per person, otherwise on your own $ 40 and takes about 2 hours. IS? It is possible to book the excursion on the SurfSup website.

8 day

Near Tauranga, there is Mount Maunganui, a seaside town famous for its restaurants that wind their way along the downtown street. We decide to give ourselves crazy joy, spending the day on the beach, where we walk along? The Mount Walkaway ?. In the evening instead, we opt to dine at the Asian Bamboo restaurant, and then let loose at the Astro Labe Brew Bar: a very popular place in this town where you can eat, toast and dance.
We sleep overnight at Beach Grove Holiday Park camping, at a cost of $ 12,50 per person, per night.

9 day

Pi? to the south is Rotorua, a city? renowned for its bubbling muds, geysers, thermal springs, as well as for its Māori traditions.
Are you curious about these activities? related to geothermal, we decide to start the day at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland: a surreal place that presents a kaleidoscope of colors and pools of boiling mud. Entry costs $ 32,5 per person.
The evening instead we decide to spend it at the Polynesian Spa, where we immerse ourselves in the hot pools overlooking the wonderful Lake Rotorua.

10 day

The following day we opt for an? Activity? free 35 km from Rotorua and? cos? that we go to the thermal springs of Kerosene Creek: a course of hot water where you can immerse yourself, while a 2-meter waterfall massages your back! Next we go to visit Ohinemutu Māori Village, a Maori village whose entrance? free. We then enter the church of St Michael? S Catholic Church, a two-minute walk from the village:? really distinctive thanks to its touch of Māori art.
Here we sleep at Holdens Bay Holiday Park, paying $ 15 per night per person.

11 day

We then go down to Lake Taupo, the largest lake. large of New Zealand, occupying the caldera of a volcano that has been active for about 300000 years!
Here we take a walk around the lake and then continue south, where Tongariro National Park is about 45 minutes away: the largest park famous of New Zealand, which has 3 active volcanoes.
This park? been declared a Heritage of Humanity? by UNESCO, both thanks to the spectacular volcanic landscape, and to the important cultural and spiritual Maori heritage.
Here are many free campsites run by the Department of Conservation and known as the DOC, to spend the night: we opt for the Waikoko Campsite, a simple but convenient campsite to reach our next screaming destination!

12 day

The next day we wake up at dawn, ready to start the journey that will lead us? discovering this beautiful park with numerous green lakes. You can choose routes lasting several km, obviously I recommend to do the 19.4 km to immerse yourself. in the wonders of the place: various scenes of the Lord of the Rings were shot here. We park at the Sky Parking (but looking for parking on the internet, an endless list will appear) and pay $ 40 return for the shuttle, which takes us from the parking lot to the entrance to the National Park. The prices of the companies are all almost? same.
After the intense but unforgettable trek lasting about 7 hours (I admit that we are starting to catch on, but now we still lack the other!), We continue our road trip. We then stop to sleep at Raetihi Holiday Park, for the price of $ 15 per person.

13 day

We decide to make an unexpected stage, taking advantage of the beautiful sunny day that made us want to go to the sea! Here we come across a terrific location: a campsite in front of a black beach; but we are not the only ones who have the idea of ​​coming here .. We meet cos? three beautiful horses along the beach! Area ? isolated, relaxation? guaranteed and the holiday becomes a dream! Koitiata Motor Camp only costs $ 6 per person and $ 2 for a shower, which doesn't? included in the camping price.

14 day

Passing through the Kapiti Coast, which owes its name to the Kapiti Island nature reserve, we arrive at the long-awaited Wellington.
This town located in the southern part of the north island,? nicknamed Windy Welly for its windy climate, despite often having blue skies! Precisely because of its geographical position Wellington? the capital pi? southern earth as well as? the "P? far from any other capital in the world!
Despite this, however, we do not feel out of this world at all and in Windy Welly you can breathe the atmosphere of a metropolis. The waterfront shopping street, the festivals, the many attractions and the people who crowd the urban streets day and night make it a unique experience.

During our time in Wellington, we stay in a fabulous hostel, to say the least, a 15 minute walk from the center: the Dwellington. Voted among the best hostels Oceania by Hostelworld, the Dwellington allows you to sleep in dorms, private rooms or in your own van, taking advantage of services such as: kitchen, bathrooms, living room, tennis court, cinema and laundry! The cost of sleeping in your van? of $ 15, otherwise in the dorm? about $ 40 per night including breakfast.
Let's take the opportunity immediately to test the services available to us!

15 day

Among the many activities? what can be done in this capital, we decide to take the Wellington Cable Car: a red wagon of the funicular, whose ride? $ 5 each way and departs every 10 minutes. From the city? takes us to the top? of a hill, where from here we decide to walk back to enjoy the view and visit: the Wellington Botanic Gardens, the Carter Observatory and the Cable Car Museum, all attractions very close to each other.
Let's have a coffee then? in Cuba Street, a pedestrian street famous not only for its clubs, but also for its rainbow pedestrian crossing.

In the afternoon, we take advantage of the good weather to reach the Mt Victoria Lookout: a must, for those like us who want to enjoy the panorama that this capital offers. From the center you can get there by car or on foot in about 40 minutes, following the Mt Victoria Lookout Walkaway.

To recover the energy spent walking, on our return we opt for a picnic at Waitangi Park, buying wine and cheese from Moore Wilson, a wholesaler who sells everything: fresh produce, household products, stationery, etc.

16 day

With the city? from Wellington we have reached the end of our incredible road trip to the North Island in New Zealand.
But a visit to this country can't? to be concluded without first having embraced the kiwi traditions and culture, at the free Te Papa museum! Here it will be a pleasure to get lost in history, art and knowledge of a new country, but that knows a lot!

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