Words and Images By: Hasnul Azhar
On a vacation spell, last year my wife and I decided to take a 15-day trip around New Zealand. We had never taken a long trip together and each had different ideas about what we wanted to do and see. But once we started researching all the amazing experiences New Zealand has to offer, we knew there was only one way to see it. We were going to embark our epic road Trip!
Our journey started in Auckland when our plane arrived after dark. We planned to stay in the city for a few days before exploring the almost the whole North Island of New Zealand, then head South.
Auckland City Tour
An Auckland city tour is the perfect way to view the city highlights and to see first-hand why Auckland is known as the ‘City of Sails’.
Auckland’s highlights include: the Harbour Bridge, The Viaduct Harbour, Queen Street (Auckland’s main shopping and business district), Mount Eden (a dormant volcano whose summit offers panoramic views), Auckland Domain (the city’s oldest park), Parnell Village (one of Auckland’s trendy café and shopping areas), Tamaki Drive (scenic waterfront route) and Michael Savage Memorial (beautiful views of the Waitemata Harbour).
Only a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island boasts beautiful beaches and restaurants. It’s a great day trip from Auckland as well as a superb holiday destination or a weekend getaway. A bicycle is great way to exercise while making the most of a day trip to enjoy the island and its surrounding scenery.
Whale and Dolphin Cruise
The Hauraki Gulf is a very special place. Possibly New Zealand’s best kept nature secret, the Hauraki Gulf is a very rich marine habitat. Its waters and islands are home to outstanding biological diversity and are regarded as one of the best places in New Zealand to view dolphins, whales and sea birds.
We had booked a camper van with Apollo Office Hobitton and stopped for the night on the side of the road at Lake Taupo. The convenience of New Zealand is that there is plenty of wild and open space; you are unlikely to be bothered if you hunker down on the side of the road outside of town for the night. With no tour group to follow and no hard-pressed itinerary, we had the freedom to go just about wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted.
Here are some of the highlights from our road trip around New Zealand.
The Huka Falls are a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo in New Zealand. A few hundred metres upstream from the Huka Falls, the Waikato River narrows from approximately 100 metres across into a canyon only 15 metres across. The canyon is carved into lake floor sediments laid down before Taupo’s Oruanui eruption 26,500 years ago. At the top of the falls is a set of small waterfalls dropping over about eight metres. The final stage of the falls is over a six-metre drop, raised to an effective 11m fall by the depth of the water. The falls are a popular tourist attraction, being close to Taupo and readily accessible from State Highway One.
Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley
Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley is a geothermal power generation site that is open to visitors so as to acquaint them with this phenomenon. Here, you get to understand various concepts related to power generation as well as to take a stroll through natural geysers and mud pools. The Wairakei Geothermal Visitor Center offers guided tours of the field. Besides touring the power plant, you can also visit an indigenous Maori village as well as attend the evening concert where local talent comes to the fore.
Wellington – Capital Delights
Nestled between a sparkling harbour and rolling green hills, New Zealand’s capital city is renowned for its arts, heritage, culture and native beauty.
Relax at Oriental Bay, Wellington’s golden-sand inner-city beach and delve into the many museums, art galleries and theatre shows that make up the city’s pulsing cultural scene. If you’re into the outdoors, Wellington has action-packed adventure activities like mountain biking and sea-water kayaking, as well as beautiful walks around the harbour and surrounding hills. Try the visually stunning Makara Peak track, as well as the City to Sea walk where you can experience the best of Wellington’s waterfront. Ride the cable car up the hill to Kelburn for amazing views over the city and enjoy an ice cream at the top. On the waterfront, itself you’ll find Te Papa Tongarewa Museum,
New Zealand’s national museum. Te Papa, as it’s colloquially known, means ‘our place’ and is one of the best interactive museums in the world.
Our next big stop was the legendary Queenstown, deemed the adventure capital of the world.
This picturesque town in the mid-southwest of the South Island offers everything you’d expect at the birthplace of bungee jumping. Whether its speed boating, paragliding, or go- carting down a mountain, if you are an adrenaline junkie then this is the spot for you! We parked our campervan a bit outside of the town at a campground, which provided calm evenings to bring us down from our intense days.
Our final stop will be familiar to those who are fans of Lord of the Rings. While in fact the movies were filmed in New Zealand, the most notable landmark is Mt Doom. Locals call it Mt Cook. We didn’t have the time nor the energy to climb it, but many serious mountaineers use it as training for climbing Everest.
While the South Island of New Zealand, could be considered small, it is packed with beauty and adventure. Getting our own transport and camping out along the way will always be one of my favourite travel memories. With so many beautiful places to see you’ll want to be on the road to experience them all. I hope one day I can do it again, this time with my children and friends for the campervan experience.
Have you visited New Zealand?
Have you ever taken a campervan trip?