New Zealand – the northern island
New Zealand is the dream of many. It was (and still is) mine. In July 2017, I visited North Island. Why north when south is more attractive to most of the tourists? Simple. Time, costs, weather. In July, there is a severe winter in the south. On half of the roads is hard to drive. The North Island, however, has a lot to offer, and although smaller, it still captivates with its beauty and unusual landscapes. This is where the windy Wellington is located – the capital of the state, Tongariro with its volcanic landscape and tropical Auckland. And if you are interested in geology, you’ve come to the right place because the northern island is a geothermal paradise.
New Zealand is first and foremost a “different world“. At least for me. Different fauna and flora, climate, architecture, culture and customs. Everything is different here. But so a “good different”, if you know what I mean: D
So how to prepare for this paradise at the end of the world?
A handful of practical info
How to get to New Zealand?
- If you are flying for Europe the cheapest option is a long flight with a million stops through Asia but you can find an offer between AUD $900 – 1300 return (https://www.skyscanner.com.au/). But these are rare cases and it is rather difficult to hunt such tickets.
- In reality, you need to allocate a min. 2000 AUD. If you can find cheaper ones, it’s great, but in the budget, it is better to assume that you will spend more than less.
- The shortest travel time is flights via Doha with Qatar airlines – 25 hours.
- I flew to Auckland for $ 300, but from Melbourne. And that was the bargain.
Where and how to search for flights?
- I recommend SkyScanner but look for the incognito option otherwise, the cookies will spy on you and with each new query the prices will be higher.
- Fly4free is good for searching for promotions. If you are flexible and can fly on any date, this page will definitely be useful.
- I know the pilot – local website where you can find interesting promotions and cheap flights.
What to do when you are there?
It all depends on how much time and funds you have. I spent 10 days there, travelling on a very low budget (maybe I just went too crazy with skiing on the volcano, it was a big expense). During these 10 days, I spent about $ 2000 AUD (exact spendings list at the bottom of the post). Can it be cheaper? Of course, it can. It all depends on your travel style.
Due to the limited time, my route was as follows:
- 2 days in Auckland
- 2 days Rotorua
- Hobbiton – one day
- Taupo – one day
- Tongariro National Park – one-day skiing
- Wellington – two days
Map of places I have visited in New Zealand
Auckland: first stop
Auckland is a small city (less than 1.5 million) situated on the shores of the ocean, with many picturesque islands. Auckland is an amazingly green city. What surprised me was the weather. It is closer to the subtropics than to the temperate zone. Palm trees, fern trees and very pleasant 15-17 degrees, and remember it was July, the middle of winter in the southern hemisphere.
In Auckland, I stayed with Ilona, a Polish woman I met thanks to the Polish community in Auckland, to whom I wrote a query in search of a host. What are the prices of the hotels? I can more or less determine the prices based on my stay in Wellington (theoretically it should be similar).
Shared room, 4 people – $22 AUD/ night
What to see in Auckland?
Auckland is a stretchy city, but the city centre has the biggest number of tourist attractions. CBD is tiny compared to Melbourne’s. What we need to remember is working/trading hours. This is not Europe, this is not Poland, where shops are open until 10 pm. Here, at 5 pm, there is already silence in the streets. Some pubs or clubs are open, but most shops are locked.
- Sky Tower
- Britomart – it is a transfer station, but also a market square close to the port, a very vibrant place
- Queen St – the main street in CBD, full of shops and cafes
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki – for fans of modern art, for free
- Downtown Terminal – port terminal building
- port – modern architecture and beautiful yachts
- Silo Park – probably not very captivating for many, but it made an impression on me. I spent a good half an hour there, sitting in the rain, looking at the Harbor Bridge.
- Auckland War Museum – easy, it is not only about the war. The museum is housed in a huge, beautiful edifice on top of a hill surrounded by a park. The museum is divided thematically. From the origins of the Earth, through volcanic and plutonic processes, fauna and flora, the indigenous inhabitants of the Maori Islands until the present day. It made a great impression on me and I regret that I spent so little time there. You can easily spend the whole day here.
- Rangitoto Island -a volcanic island that is now a nature reserve. To get on it, you need to buy a ticket at the Port (Terminal 4). The island is beautiful, wild, inhabited only by numerous species of birds. Also for me, an ornithologist – amateur, a must. Climbing to the top takes 1-3 hours, depending on the trail and condition, it is also good to spend the whole day on this trip.
Where to eat?
A friend recommended a Mexican restaurant for me. I have never experienced such an explosion of flavours before. OK OK, I can hear voices – how can you eat Mexican in New Zealand? I also tried New Zealand cuisine too and no offence, but their cuisine is rather poor or I was unlucky. Mexico – Britomart – must eat here.
Rotorua and surroundings
Rotorua is a small town located in geothermal areas, which immediately makes it interesting for geography and geology lovers. The whole city is shrouded in fog, but it is actually exhausted from the depths of the earth. It has its pros and cons of course. On the one hand, it looks phenomenal, on the other hand, is the smell quite disgusting. However, for me, it was the smell of nostalgia that took me for a moment to my beloved Iceland. In addition to geothermal spots, the city is famous for its still alive Maori culture. There are several villages around, unfortunately, focused mainly on mass tourists, but it is worth visiting one or two such villages anyway.
Accommodation: I did not pay for the night again, because I had the pleasure of visiting the area with Nika, the president of a Maori organization working to preserve heritage and culture. But from what I know you will pay about $40/night for a private room with a shared bathroom.
What to see in Rotorua:
- Rotorua Museum – a beautifully decorated building. A highlight of the city.
- Saint Faith’s Anglican Church – the primeval heart of the city and the Maori district.
- Rotorua Lake
- Polynesian Spa – hot spring bath.
- Whakarewarewa – The Living Maori Village
- Te Puia – Maori village (more for show than real), Haka dance, folk songs, mini zoo with Kiwi birds (probably the only opportunity to see these birds), geothermal areas, a geyser.
- Blue Spring – Blue Springs with crystal clear water located in a redwood forest. A short but very pleasant walk in the shade of the tallest trees.
- Redwoods Treewalk – near Rotorua, in the sequoia forest, there is a treetop park, where for about half a kilometre you can hike on wooden footbridges suspended among trees. Personally, I recommend taking this walk when the forest is lit with lamps.
- Wai – O- Tapu – a huge geothermal area in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, 27 km from Rotorua. This is where the famous Champagne Pool is located – a rusty coloured hot spring. Wai-o-Tapu requires a minimum of 2 hours.
My travel dream of New Zealand started with J.R.R. Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings. At first, I was charmed by the film, but I quickly realized that I would certainly find more in the book. I was right. New Zealand has become number one on my list. I knew that November is the best month to visit the Antipodes. Spring, flowers in bloom. But … I decided to do something crazy. Again. Spend my birthday in Hobbiton. And so I did: D And how to get here? There are two routes: from Rotorua or Auckland. The ticket must be booked in advance and you must arrive at the agreed place, where the coach will take you to the World of Hobbits.
Tongariro National Park and Taupo
From Rotorua, my friends drove me to Taupo, a sleepy town on the shores of the largest lake of the North Island of the same name. The view is breathtaking. The snow-capped volcano peaks tower on the horizon, and the sky is the colour of violets. I will never forget that view. In Taupo, I spent the night in a hostel ($22/night) to go to Whakapapa Ski Arena in the morning to ski in Mordor. It was here that the scenes for the film were shot. I went to the park by a rented car, but as far as I know, you can also get there by bus, but it’s not that easy and you won’t see everything.
Wellington: windy capital
From Wellington, I will remember the wind that took my head off and the weather like in Denmark. Every 10 minutes Sun – rain, Sun – rain. Wellington is smaller than Auckland and but it has a much bigger CBD, but basically, it’s a small city and 2-3 days is enough to see a lot. Unless you are a city tiger who wants to pass each museum, then more time will come in handy: D What is necessary and worth seeing:
- CBD – full of shops and modern buildings
- Cable Car and Botanic Gardens
- The Weta Cave – for Lord of the Rings fans is a must!
- Te Papa museum – a mega modern facility with a huge exhibition. Entry is free, and the museum does not resemble the boring ones I know from my country, so it is worth spending 2-3 hours or more.
- The marina and the port
The costs I incurred are minimized to a minimum because I travelled on a low-budget basis. For accommodation, I paid only for a hostel in Taupo and two nights in Wellington. I ate Chinese soups and toast. Only in Auckland, I went to the restaurant twice which cost me around $50. I travelled in cheap buses ManaBus and InterCity., which I can recommend with a clear conscience. Convenient and with free WiFi.
List of costs incurred:
Sky Tower Auckland- $29
Auckland War Museum – $25
Auckland bus ticket for one day – $10
Bus Auckland – Rotorua – $25
Bus Rotorua Taupo – $25
Rotorua detour with a friend (fuel) – $20
Car and fuel (Tongariro trip) – $100/day
Skis and boots – $50/day
Skipass – $120
Coffee and bun on the slope – $15
Bus Taupo – Wellington – $30
Bus Wellington – Auckland $50
Te Puia – $55
Rangitoto Island – $30
Souvenirs – $300
Food $20/day *10 = $200
Restaurant – $50
Plane tickets – $300
Redwoods Tree Walk – $25
Wai – O – Tapu – $33
Hobbiton from Rotorua $120
The Weta Cave – $45
Hostel Dixon in Wellington (city centre) – $22/night
Some would say, $1600 it’s a lot but too be honest it’s quite all right considering a very expensive day of skiing ($300) and Hobbiton for $120 and of course $300 souvenirs. So if you do not plan to ski or but so much you can easily close your budget is $1000 AUD.