harbor

      Auckland Harbor 

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      Inferno crater lake 

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NEW ZEALAND ROADTRIP

It’s no secret that New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and the best way to enjoy it is in a campervan. If you are planning on visiting the country you must rent a car or a van, since the public transport will not take you to the hidden places. Another way to do it is with a tour, but I am not a fan of those, so I will not talk about it.

We chose the van because it gave us the kind of freedom we were looking for in a place like this. Remember that there are two islands and we saw both!

It is as well a cheap way to travel because you will share the price of the renting, food and fuel- this is very expensive, especially in the south island.

About where to stay overnight I recommend to download any camp app that tells you the options around where you are.

Tip! there are free campgrounds which do not offer any facilities. Most of the time we used these ones and paid just for shower in places that give you the option - you will find all of this info on these apps.

Important! New Zealand is a country of all kind of weather, your best bet is layers and comfy clothes and boots.

Now that you know how to travel the country, let's do it!

 
 

The north island has so much to offer and I wish I had more time to explore it. I decide the south island is my priority, but the north island has so many spectacular places to visit and things to do. I’ve created an itinerary that brings you all the major highlights and also takes you off the typical tourist path to some hidden gems!

Follow me on this road trip from Auckland to Wellington to experience the nature and cities. 

Auckland is New Zealand’s most populous city and an awesome window to see this multi-cultural country. Get ready for a hub of food, music, arts and culture.

Also known as Tāmaki Makaurau, this harbor city is located over volcanic hills and surrounded by a region full of places to visit.

Besides the excitement within the city, I should tell you to leave for some hours and to walk up Mt. Eden to get the best views of the city.

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auckland

Famous for its dramatic cliffs, lush rainforests, and perfect golden beaches, the Coromandel Peninsula is just an hour and a half drive from Auckland and a must!

Our first stop was at Thames, the rural center of Coromandel. Behind the town, the ancient volcanic Coromandel Ranges rise steeply. The magnificent Kauaeranga Valley hiking and camping area is just to the south, and the road to the north follows the coast past scores of sandy beaches.

An easy 45-minute walk brings you to a beach where you’ll find a cave that opens up into another hidden beach. This is known as Catedral Cove

Thames
Thames
beach
Catedral cove
Cave

Drive to the tip of Tauranga to Mount Maunganui, find free street parking and walk towards the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park where the 30-minute one-way path starts.

You’ll pass hillsides full of sheep- I told you, you'll see a lot- and after the short but intense uphill hike, from the top, you’ll get to see views of the Bay and Tauranga peninsula.

Once you get back down, run into the cold water to activate your blood circulation! - it was really cold.

view
Mount Maunganui

When I remember Rotorua the first word that comes to my mind is “smelly”. But the smell of sulfur is a small price to pay to experience one of New Zealand’s most unique destinations.

Rotorua is known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs, as well as the  fascinating Māori culture.

So many options to do here, since we had limited time we chose to see the Rotorua Volcanic park.

A 1.5km walk thought the  world’s youngest geothermal valley, with spectacular volcanic craters, hot water springs and geothermal features, all among unusual plant life and birds.

Rotorua
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A trip to New Zealand wouldn't be complete without visiting Hobbiton – the movie set where The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings Trilogy were filmed. Prepare yourself to explore Bag End, go inside the Hobbit homes and have a pint of beer at the Green Dragon Pub.

Get your ticket on the website and they will guide you through.

Hobbiton
Hobbiton
Hobbiton

This has been the most amazing boat ride of my life! You will sail through a glow worm grotto, get ready to see thousands of magical glowworms.

A guide will sail the boat in the darkness while you look up and see a sky plenty of stars, just they aren't stars but worms!

The glowworm is unique to New Zealand, making the Waitomo Glowworm Caves an absolute must-see. 

Located at Waitomo, buy your tickets in advance.

P,s, They don't allow pictures because of the flash, so I will share here one from their gallery.

waitomo

Located at the south of the north island , it is the capital city of New Zealand and is well worth a day or two of your trip. If you are going to the south island by boat, this is the harbor your boat will leave from.

Despite of being known as the windy city, it has more than this to offer. 

It is not one of the most popular places in the country but it is a really cool city.

I loved the night vibes, its bars, the cable car and the botanical gardens are simply beautiful, the view from Mt. Victoria and the waterfront is a gorgeous walk in the sunset with the planes landing and taking off.

mt. victoria
cable car

Take the old cable car to go up to the Botanical gardens.

botanical garden
waterfront
sunset
 
boat

A ferry from Wellington, through the Cook Strait, will take you to Picton in the south island in approximately 3 1/2 hrs. 

This trip is known as one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world and I will add it to the list of must-do.

The south island is bigger and more adventurous than the north island, and that is why we decided to spend more time here. 

Get ready for the most beautiful roadtrip of your life. Everything around, everything is spectacular. You will stop every 5 min to take pictures and to enjoy the mountains, lakes, rivers, etc. 

A 15 days road trip throughout the South Island.

Abel Tasman is the smallest National Park in New Zealand but it has a lot of adventures to choose!

We chose to do a 7.6 miles hike from Marahau to Anchorge. This is the first part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand's nine "Great Walks". 

The first part of the track walks through a low marshland and then you climb a little in to a lush dense rainforest. The views along the way are breathtaking. Most of the time you’re walking through dense forest and listening to the waves crashing. There are many spots where the trees open up and you will see turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, forested islands off in the distance, and if you are lucky, sealions.
 

Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman
anchorge

The West Coast is exactly what you’d hope for when visiting New Zealand.

I recommend taking this route that will amaze you and surprise you. Starting from the Tasman Sea with direction to the dramatic Southern Alps , the West Coast really is a unique place on earth.

West coast
road

This river is famous for its blue waters. Since the water is glacier fed, it will always have some of the rock flour that helps create the characteristic color. However, that effect is diluted by rainfall. Thus, after a heavy rain the water takes on a darker and grayish cast.

As you can see on the pictures, we saw it after heavy rains and the water felt like silver running down the river.

Gorge
gorge

Franz Josef along with Fox are the most famous glaciers on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island and the towns are named after them. These glaciers are also among the most popular tourist attractions in all of New Zealand.

Franz Joseph Glacier. (12km) From the parking lot, there are 3 km to the glacier. A path that goes through a beautiful forest, waterfalls and a thin river.

glacier
Glacier
Glacier
Glacier
Glacier

Fox Glacier (13km). Before you arrive at the parking lot, you will see a beautiful blue lake under an imponent mountain, where some waterfalls have their end.

A  30 min walk to the lookout over the glacier. 

Fox glacier

The longest highway in the country which takes you from the northeast of the South Island down the West Coast.

Glaciers to your left, ocean to your right, huge blue lakes and big mountains covered in snow.

Route 6
Route 6
Route 6
Route 6
LAKE
LAKE

This charming lakeside town quickly draws visitors in and begs them to stay longer than they’d planned. With epic nature to be explored you will fall in love with this place.

Walk up to Mt. Iron to have the best view over the towns and surroundings.

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mount iron

mount iron

The track starts from the carpark and follows an old road to Diamond Lake.

From Diamond Lake, the track climbs steeply to a viewing platform above the lake. From here you can go up to the Rocky Mountain.

A 3h return route to the top of 775 m Rocky Mountain. The views from here include the Southern Alps and Mount Aspiring.

rocky mountains

Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most exciting destinations. The town, surrounded by snowy mountains and positioned on the edge of a lake, is the perfect blend of a small town and a lively city, too lively sometimes with the sometimes-unapologetically obnoxious tourism.

Known as the “adventure capital of the world”, as you would expect there are an abundance of fun and exciting things to do in Queenstown. From Paragliding, to skiing, to looking from epic views, to riding the skyline gondola, etc.

queenstown
queenstown
queenstown

But from all of these fun activities and places to visit within Queenstown and surroundings, my favorite one was visiting Milford Sound, the Fiord.

Fiorland National Park is situated on the west coast of the South Island, hours from the nearest town, Milford Sound is where plunging cliffs and raging waterfalls meet inky dark waters. I could say this wild area was my absolute favorite.

Famously described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'eighth wonder of the world' and declared UNESCO World Heritage site.

Despite its name, Milford Sound is actually a fiord, not a sound. It is also the only fiord in New Zealand that is accessible by road, which is almost as beautiful as the fiord itself. Make the most of the trip and explore some of Fiordland's best short hikes, including stops such as the Mirror Lakes, the Lake Gunn Nature Walk, and Monkey Creek.

This was one of the most scenic roads I have ever been on.

ontheroad
ontheroad

A boat cruise is the best way to see the mountains, the waterfalls and the different animals around.

You will not realize how big these mountains and waterfalls are until you are sailing through them.

There are so many companies and times, I just recommend reserve in advance.

milford sound
milford sound
sea lions

McLean Falls, Catlins is a popular but quick stop. It is an easy and beautiful walk that will take you to this beauty.

mclean

The Purakaunui Falls is one of Otago's iconic, most-photographed sights.

the track through the forest is quick and easy, so do not miss this wonder.

falls

The lighthouse at Nugget Point is another spot well worth visiting, and driving to this point by the coastline is very beautiful.

The walk from the car park to Nugget Point Lighthouse and the main lookout takes you past dramatic coastal scenery. The Pacific Ocean is wild in these parts and has carved out some interesting features. 

nugget point
bay

Brighton Beach, located 20 km south of Dunedin city, is actually made up of several bays and beaches. Together they form one of Dunedin’s best coastal destinations. Go for a walk along the sand for miles without seeing anyone, sometimes someone riding a horse, and watch one of the most beautiful sunsets.

brighton

Famous for being a University city of Scottish heritage, Dunedin offers a delightful combination of fine Architecture and cultural riches. 

The city centre is full of old buildings, many dating back to the late 1800s. The Octagon is the focal point of the city, where you’ll find some great bars and restaurants as well as St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Town Hall.

Do not miss the Dunedin Railway Station, New Zealand’s most impressive old building.

railway
st paul
city center

Dare to walk  the STEEPEST STREET IN THE WORLD!

Baldwin Street is recognized by Guinness World Records as the steepest street in the world.

I always thought the steepest street would be in San Francisco but I was mistaken!

Going up it is very hard indeed but going down it is a lot of fun!

baldwin
ontheroad

One of the most beautiful lakes of New Zealand and one of the best places to admire the stars.

We spent the night at the Lake Pukaki Reserve, located right by the lake, with a view of the Mt. Cook and the Milky Way.

mt cook

 Lake Tekapo is located almost exactly in the middle of the South Island and lies on route between Christchurch and Queenstown. The region around the glacier lake is very sparsely populated.

The combination of the deep blue glacial waters of Lake Tekapo and the majestic mountain scenery in the background mesmerized me the first time I laid eyes on this place

I am always looking for the lookouts with the best views, so we did not want to miss the Mount John Observatory. As the name indicates it is one of the best spots to observe the sky. 

Have a latte with a planet drawn on it at the bar!

observatory
lake

When you are on the road you will realize that New Zealand is all beautiful. You will have the best views everywhere, mountains, rivers and all kind of nature will surround you. So enjoy the ride, stop and wander!

ontheroad

This large piece of land that juts out into the Pacific Ocean is all volcanic hills and quiet bays.

With two beautiful harbours, a collection of small bays and its charming historic villages, it’s easy to see why Banks Peninsula is loved by those exploring the eastern shores of New Zealand’s South Island.

Akaroa is the Canterbury region’s oldest town and was founded in 1840 by French settlers.  To this day, the British-French duality is evident throughout the township, as most of Akaroa’s streets still have French names, providing a contrast to the 19th-century colonial cottages that surround it.

We were so lucky to have arrived at the town a day the French Festival was taking place.

akaroa
church
nz

When we think of Christchurch, one sad thing immediately springs to mind: the earthquake in February 2011.

Though severely damaged by earthquakes in the last few years, Christchurch is making a comeback. 

While there’s a lot of open space from demolished buildings, there’s a lot of rebuilding, a sense of hope, vibrancy, and a feeling that the city is on the move. The town is now filled with funky bars, markets, new restaurants, shops, and art exhibits. The new city the locals are building — and the sense of hope they have, is really inspiring.

chirstchurch
chirstchurch

This makeshift container mall was home to some cool shops and cafés. After all this area was destroyed by the earthquake, they created this provisional mall, but I just came to know that the mall was finally closed in January 2018. I think it’s such a pity because the place was one of the coolest in Christchurch. The centre is now to be rebuilt.

city
city

After almost a month of enjoying this fantastic land, it is time to say goodbye.

What to say about this place? I could say this is my happy place in the world, where the nature is still raw, where you can wander the land by yourself and nobody else and when you need company you can find it in the cities.

Hope to see you soon New Zealand.

freedom
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