White sand beaches, sheep and Maori culture – a motorhome adventure through North Island, New Zealand
In this Guest Post, Allison MacLaughlan shares her journey through the North Island of New Zealand by motorhome in which she found stunning white sand beaches, dipped into Maori culture, passed thousands of sheep and kayaked in the waters of the Tasman Sea.
This past winter my partner and I set off for the amazing adventure of traveling through New Zealand. The plan was to do two weeks on the North Island and then two weeks on the South Island. After much research, we decided to explore the whole North Island by motorhome.
Starting our Motorhome adventure
Both of us love to travel but neither one of us had ever driven or gone anywhere in a motorhome. The idea sounded convenient and fun. So we did our research, chose the motorhome we wanted to rent and flew off for the adventure of a lifetime. We met up with the owners of our big 2-bed motorhome at a large parking lot close to the Auckland airport. We loaded in our stuff, got comfortable, pulled out our maps and headed out for the open road.
As we navigated our way down the busy Auckland highway we realized that driving our new camper was going to be a bit of an adjustment. For one we were driving on the opposite side of the road than we were used to and for another this motorhome was big! In fact it seemed far larger in person than it did on the website and the streets felt very narrow.
In hindsite taking our first drive in rush hour traffic was probably not the brightest move. We left the busy streets of Auckland as fast as we could.
Once we hit less populated roads we began to relax, get into the groove and enjoy the scenery. We headed first to a little town called Tutukaka on our way towards the Northern tip of the North Island. I loved the name of the town and it was to be our first stop over.
Tutukaka is a gorgeous little fishing town right on the ocean with stunning white sand beaches and a vibe that says “welcome, come chill out with us”. The holiday park bordered on a farm that had hundreds of cows who at some point during the afternoon all ventured by to take a look at our home on wheels. We walked the beach, ate some particularly good food at the Oceans Resort Hotel restaurant, had a mediocre first sleep in our motorhome and took off the next morning for more adventure.
Heading Towards Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is at the very northwestern tip of New Zealand along the Aupouri Peninsula. It is literally 100km from the nearest town and is home to a stunning 90-mile long beach, warm sunny weather and loads of spiritual folklore. The locals quickly informed us that the native Maori of New Zealand named this cape ‘Reinga’ which means the ‘Underworld’. They believed that the cape is the point where spirits of the dead enter the underworld.
The drive to Cape Reinga took us through a lot of farmland with tons of sheep… and I mean tons of sheep. I learned that New Zealand is home to over 4 million people and over 30 million sheep! As you can probably imagine there were fields and fields of them. Eventually we arrived at a town that quickly became a favorite of ours called Paihia. Paihia is a funky little town on the ocean with lots going on. The Maori culture is very prominent which is reflected in the artwork and architecture of the buildings.
Paihia is rich in history and a fascinating stopover. It is well worth a visit to the grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between various Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown.The grounds are stunning and have a sprawling view of the turquoise colored ocean. The design and architecture of the Maori treaty building are unique and beautiful. We enjoyed Paihia so much that we stayed for three nights and really took full advantage of the nice weather and abundance of sightseeing.
Later that week we finally made it up to the Northern tip of Cape Reinga. This area of New Zealand is particularly hot and we found that although the 90-mile beach was gorgeous, it was far too hot to walk on with bare feet. After removing our sandals we could not walk for more than a few seconds without scorching the soles of our feet! We took it all in, admired the beauty of our surroundings then decided to quickly move on and continue our journey.
We began to make our way back down the other side of the North Island. Driving narrow and winding mountain roads with a large motorhome was an experience I will never forget and not likely ever do again. Gorgeous scenery but a bit too nerve racking to fully enjoy it.
New Zealand Hospitality
At the end of our two-week North Island trip and after many crazy driving experiences, both my boyfriend and I decided that we would never rent a motorhome again… at least not in a place where we have to drive on the opposite side of the road. We found it to be fairly exhausting and the gas was extremely expensive. However I have to admit that it did allow us to see a lot of New Zealand that we probably would not have even realized existed had we traveled another way.
With a motorhome we found that we explored back roads, tried out different campsites and met a lot of very happy and friendly New Zealanders. We heard much about the endangered and flightless Kiwi bird – which we never once saw. We tried all kinds of interesting food, walked countless beaches, kayaked in the waters of the Tasman Sea, explored the wineries of Napier, survived the toxic smells of Rotorua and braved the crazy wind ripping rain of Wellington.
We ended the trip in what turned out to be our absolute favorite town, Mount Maunganui. This is a small surfing town in the Bay of Plenty with a little mountain at its far edge. The beach, the mountain, the great food and the surfing vibe made this place electric and I could have stayed for a month. It was the perfect place to chill for a few days before leaving the North Island.
We dropped off our motorhome back at the Auckland airport parking lot, breathed a sigh of relief and headed to our next destination… the South Island of New Zealand. It was hard to imagine topping this amazing experience but we were going to give it a try!
My thanks for this Guest Post to Allison MacLaughlan from Inflatable Kayak World who loves to take her kayak along with her on her travels to explore new destinations and waterways. You can follow Allison on Twitter @IK_World and on her Facebook Page Inflatable Kayak World
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Some cities around the world are known as backpacker-friendly; others would just as soon have you move on to another location rather than be seen tromping around their streets. Queenstown, New Zealand, is in the former category, which makes sense, given that New Zealand is a fairly rugged country known for outdoor adventure. New Zealand is well accustomed to backpackers and understands that it will draw many of them due to its wide open spaces and laid-back vibe. You should be warned that visitor testimonials talk of intending to stay for three nights and ending up staying for three months!
Queenstown has a nice selection of hostels, many of them highly rated. Most are within walking distance of the city centre and provide a kitchen, Internet access and laundry facilities. Some also have a restaurant and bar. You can usually find doubles, twin and family rooms, dorms and even private suites in Queenstown hostels.
Prices range from NZD $20-$250 per room per night, and backpackers are advised to use the in-house activity booking office and dining facilities to get the best deals. Where you end up crashing for the night depends on how much you are willing to pay, where you want to go and what you want to do when in Queenstown—hike? Ski? Go out on a lake? Some of the best hostels in Queenstown are on the edge of the city or a short distance away. If you’ve grabbed a rental car from one the many Queenstown car hire companies, this distance shouldn’t be much of a problem though.
Here are the top-rated hostels in Queenstown, as judged by people like you, the actual visitors:
This one is in the heart of Queenstown, so if you like to be within walking distance of the supermarket, shops and a fairly hot nightlife, this should be your choice. All of those conveniences are mere steps away. It is a member of the BBH, New Zealand’s backpacker accommodations network. 4 ½ stars.
This one is right on the lakefront in Queenstown and has been recently refurbished. It has boutique dorms (4 and 6 beds), double and queen rooms. It also has a fully equipped kitchen, a newish Laundromat, a TV and games room. Key card entry with 24-hour guest access and 24-hour security. 4 ½ stars.
One of the newest hostels for backpackers, a five-minute walk to the town centre. There are 48 beds in this smallish facility that prides itself on its hospitality and cleanliness. 4 ½ stars.
Another hostel a short distance from the centre of town. Butterfli Lodge is five minutes from recreational reserve walking tracks as well. This hostel might have the best view in all of Queenstown—hard on Lake Wakatipu with a 180-degree look at it and the Remarkable Mountains from every room. Users rave about the scenery right out the window. 4 ½ stars.
A couple of minutes from downtown, smaller facility with dorm share rooms, twins and doubles. Outstanding reviews by users. 4 ½ stars.
This outstanding hostel is in Arrowtown, about 15 minutes from Queenstown. Arrowtown has a fascinating history that revolves around the gold rush of the mid-1800s. There are doubles, twins and share rooms with shared facilities. There is also a separate cottage and a bedroom unit if you so choose. Lots of users appreciate this calm escape from Queenstown. It has a large garden and BBQ, central heating and wireless Internet access, as well as off-street parking. Numerous river and mountain walks are nearby, as well as many local vineyards. Used as a base for mountain bike hire and 4WD Southern Explorer trips. If you want to go more rural and frontier feel, this should be your choice. 4 ½ stars.
For more information on Queenstown’s hostels, visit Backpackerboard
This article comes courtesy of Omega Car Rental New Zealand, one of New Zealand’s top independent car hire companies.
More to see and do in New Zealand and Australia
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My sponsored post today from Wotif, takes us on a tour of some of some favourite spots in New Zealand, and not surprisingly, for a country with such a stunning coastline, many of them are close to the water.
Surrounded by ocean waters, from the sub-tropical to the sub-Antarctic, New Zealand is a stunning destination, even if it does take some time reach its beautiful shores. Protecting the countryside are over 15,000 kms of coastline with large numbers of bays, islands, towering cliffs, sandy beaches, harbours and fjords dotted along the rocky shoreline.
Whether it’s the salty ocean waters, surging rivers, bubbling brooks or tranquil lakes – it doesn’t matter; I love the water. For this reason, I want to share with you my top five destinations in New Zealand, which unsurprisingly, are all near vast expanses of water!
Far North – Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is the north westernmost tip of the Aupouri Peninsula on the North Island. What I find fascinating about this peninsula is that it’s the meeting point of the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. Its lighthouse, built in 1941, guards the wild and unpredictable northern most reaches where you have seas swirling and clashing together. The views are spectacular and you’ll feel like you’re at the end of the world! Check out this Far North Accommodation
Bay of Islands
Discovered by legendary Maori navigator Kupe, the Bay of Islands is an amazing area of rocky shorelines and 144 islands. The area is a fusion of Maori and European culture, once a bustling seafaring region; it’s now home to the historic site of Waitangi, where Maori representatives and European representatives signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. A day trip on a yacht is a must in this region. Explore the bays, inlets, islands and beaches, and if the seas are calm you might make it through Hole in the Rock; you’ll also be able to see dolphins, seals, penguins and during the migration season – whales. Watching these majestic mammals playing in the waters will make your day. Try these Bay of Islands Hotels
Auckland – Rangitoto Island
What I love about Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’ is that you nearly always have views across the water. There is however a destination that gives you the reverse views, that is, one from the water looking back on the city. It’s great every now and then to get a different perspective of the city. Take a ferry to Rangitoto Island – the largest, youngest and now extinct volcano – in the Auckland region. Your walk to the crater top will take you over the lava flow and through native trees and flowering plants; you’ll be rewarded at the summit with fabulous 360 degree views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. Try these Auckland hotels.
Amongst the rainforests, beaches and hideaways you’ll find three fantastic destinations on the Coromandel Peninsular: Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach and the Kauri Grove. For two hours either side of low tide, hot water bubbles out on to the beach through the fine sands. You’ll have plenty of time to dig your very own spa pool, sit back and then relax. An hour’s long coastal walk will take you into Cathedral Cove; white sands, blue seas, sheer limestone cliffs and a sea cove await you. Finally, visit the Kauri Grove with its beautiful 13 towering Kauri trees, just off the 309 Road, it’s not hard to find. Try these Coromandel hotels.
The adventure capital of New Zealand has never failed to disappoint me. Every season in this region has something special to offer, the vistas always change as the seasons roll in. New Zealand’s longest lake – Lake Waktipu – its crystal clear waters shimmer in the sunlight and then become incredibly mysterious when shrouded in fog. I love the vivid colours of the autumn foliage; Queenstown’s backdrop will be shades red, orange and yellow with touches of gold. Queenstown’s the perfect spot for a little kayaking or sailing on the lake, and of course, skiing on the surrounding ski slopes! Check out these Queenstown hotels.
Thanks for this sponsored post to Wotif.co.nz, the No. 1 provider of online accommodation in Australia and New Zealand. Wotif.co.nz’s online booking site has a wide range of accommodation styles where you can compare prices and easily book your accommodation which is instantly confirmed by a 24/7 Customer Service Team. Wotif.co.nz’s additional features include Wot Hotel, Flaming Deals and Wotmail – be the first to know about exclusive deals!