This week was dedicated to discovering the central part of the North Island to finally arrive in Auckland, the most populated city of New Zealand.
In total, during this second part of our trip we will have done almost 1,500 kilometers, and yet we have the impression of having visited only 20% of the island!
So many things to discover, so many landscapes to meet… it’s impossible to do everything. We made choices naturally, especially since we try to work at the same time during our trip.
Finding a quality Wifi network has been a tricky exercise during our whole trip to New Zealand.
Without further ado, the details of our week and a condensed conclusion of our trip to New Zealand.
Visiting the North Island of New Zealand
A note on the road between Napier and Taupo. It was a pleasure to drive it, so scenic were the curves, the majestic forests.
The town of Taupo and its eponymous lake remains one of the must-see places for visitors, as there are so many tourist attractions to see in the area.
The center is small and the restaurants are quickly taken, better to book or go in advance in order to have a spot, which is what we did the next evening.
Many people also go to Tongarino National Park to climb the trails and get a closer look at the volcano. The main hike is intense and very touristy, but it is known as one of the most beautiful. A full day is usually needed to get the most out of it.
The walk is marked out and takes 1 hour on a wooden footbridge through various active formations. The site is very interesting to visit even if not the most impressive compared to the other sites. It allowed us to see many fumaroles.
Huka Falls was another must-see in the Taupo region. We took advantage of its proximity to the geothermal zone to get close. Two main accesses are possible.
An easy site for the whole family to show children the power that water can have: the equivalent of an Olympic pool every 10 seconds!
The city of Rotorua is like its neighbour Taupo, with a lake of the same name and the most important geothermal activity in New Zealand.
Many will go for a swim in the hot springs or to the geothermal parks in the region. That’s what we did again!
We walked through the large public garden, the Garden Government and its Museum, the shopping streets, the Eat Streat and finished with a walk along the lake.
Unfortunately, the latter was under construction and we could not enjoy it properly.
We chose to go to the geothermal site of Wai-O-Tapu located halfway between Taupo and Rotorua ($30 per adult). More spectacular than the previous one visited with its Champagne Pool, we were treated as soon as we arrived at the carpark to the very characteristic odour of sulfur, similar to a rotten egg. It stayed with us throughout our stay in Rotorua.
The smell was overwhelming at times, and I must say that we were not unhappy to leave the city after two days because we were so nauseous. The children covered their faces as much as possible.
The visit takes about an hour through the various craters, fumaroles and bubbling lakes. An instructive, fragrant and visually surprising visit due to all the formations and colours of the rock, from ochre to red.
One of the original activities the children loved was our tree walk, in Redwoods Treewalk. The highlight of the show being the evening with the illuminated lanterns.
The ticket costs $30/adult and the tour usually takes 45 minutes. In order to admire the post-sunset show, we went there around 7pm. We were almost the only ones there at the time. It was quite different at sunset!
We continued the next day with a visit to an animal farm, The Farm Tour, with a lovely guide we booked for ourselves ($43 per adult instead of $48 – paid online to get a 10% discount).
The children had the opportunity to meet pigs, llamas, ostriches, deer and were happy to feed and stroke the sheep, alpacas, goats, cows while I learned a lot from the guide about their different species coming from all over the world (Asia, Peru, Africa and so on).
The farm dog finally showed us its skills in leading a flock of sheep. A very nice and relaxing visit!
The area is famous for its Blue Lakes and Green Lakes . A short walk allowed us to appreciate the beauty of the area, or for the more experienced, to continue the hike for more than 2 hours.
The town of Tauranga is a very relaxing seaside resort located 1 hour drive from Rotorua, perfect to breathe the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches!
Surfers as well as nature lovers gather there.
After a good meal at the Waterfront, we admired the view of Mount Maunganui under the song of the cicadas, an impression of Provence.
Jean-Maximilien will return with the children to the beach to allow me to see a little more. After a climb up the steep stairs, you can see a view of the surrounding islands.
The Best Western Hotel in Rotorua is ideal for families: outdoor games (trampoline, swing, and slide) and a pool with jacuzzi kept the kids busy. The mini-golf course and the indoor playroom were abandoned.
Our booking had two closed bedrooms including a master suite, a kitchen and a living room.
The Coromandel region
Known for its beaches, Cathedral Cove and hot springs, the area is very touristy.
Frankly, we did it out of curiosity. Upon reflection, we should not have done so, and should have stayed longer in the town of Whangamata, a small town whose centre does not lookm great, but whose beaches are superb, wild and, most of all, without a tourist.
We wnt to Hot Water Beach. but skipped our turn regarding Cathedral Cove.
Withianga City is not so interesting except for its beach in my opinion, as well as Coromandel City. However, if you are passing by, there are several beaches to see such as Lonely Bay, New Chums Beach and Wangapoua Beach.
Moreover, the view on arriving on the Coromandel Bay is worth the detour.
After a narrow scenic road, all curves and along the rocky coastline, we paused again at a viewpoint to observe Coromandel Bay before stopping on Thames to stretch our legs.
After having crossed entire regions made of farmlands, we were happy to be able to find a city made up partly of buildings, even if it announced the end of our adventure in New Zealand!
The city offers a light, lively atmosphere and seems to welcome a lot of wealthy young people and families with a predominantly Korean and Japanese population. At least, that’s what it looked like from all the restaurants we saw.
It’s a green city that’s breathing and changing, with cranes and a lot of work going on right now in the Central Business District and along the Queen Wharf (but forget the pictures) to access the Terminal Ferry.
We really enjoyed walking around despite the noise and the orange banners (reminding us of our Montreal cones).
The Skytower is one of the highlights of the city, but we preferred to wander the streets, listen to a band in Aotea Square and worship at St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Cathedrals or enjoy the facilities at the docks.
Jean-Maximilien did his best to answer the Facebook community during our walk! We pushed on to Silo Park before returning by bus.
Two main museums are recommended, we visited the Auckland War Museum ($20/adult), a visit I highly recommend. Very well designed, rich exhibits and some interactive.
We ate in a playground before heading to the top of Mount Eden to observe the crater of the volcano and have a 360 degree view of the surroundings.
The location of our hotel, the Four Points, was perfect for walking around the city (up and down), as it was central and on Queen Avenue, the city’s most commercial avenue.
It was convenient for us to walk there and avoid having to find a parking space.
Our room was spacious and classic, a very decent stay.
We dined one of the evenings at the hotel restaurant, a menu offering a variety of choices at all prices, as well as being child-friendly.
Conclusion of our 21-days stay in New Zealand
New Zealand is a country with a thousand facets which surprised, seduced and amazed us with its culture and its landscapes.
We will have travelled over 3,400 kilometres. The highlight of our stay was when we visited Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki and hiked around them with the kids.
This country invites to silence and zenitude. The cicadas reminded us of our paradise spots on the Côte d’Azur and my calanques, while in the mountains we enjoyed the blazing silence and could observe starry skies like no other.
A country where we will have to come back and visit differently.
There is no shortage of leaflets and brochures. Take them if you are visiting, you can find sometimes interesting discounts of 10 to 20$ or even free meals for children, not negligible discounts in this country! Also, check the websites, many of them offer online discounts.
Also, take a few minutes to sign up for the various loyalty programs (at New World for example): without this, you will not be able to benefit from the important discounts displayed on the supermarket labels. Also, supermarkets are partnered with gasoline banners (New World with Z for example in the Airpoints program), which allows for 10 cents per litre discount. Not insignificant when a liter of gasoline costs $2!
In order to limit our food costs, we filled up on groceries (the Cobalt card was accepted absolutely EVERYWHERE (New World, Four Square, Countdown…) – and granted 5 points per dollar) and picnics in the parks, the children were delighted and for usm it was an opportunity for a moment of rest, where we were sure they could shout, run, dance without disturbing anyone!
The sirens of the fire brigade sometimes sound and can be surprisingly loud. An earthquake, a tsunami or a volcanic eruption is expected. Fortunately, this was not the case.
See you next week in Australia!