This is part two of a two-part itinerary masking each the north and south islands of New Zealand. Learn part one: 10 days in NZ’s south island right here.
For the outside lover, New Zealand is actually the motherlode. Just the mere point out of its identify brings to mind amazingly numerous landscapes, scenic hikes and drives, and heart-racing actions that’ll make you are feeling so alive.
Sick views are aplenty on the Mount Prepare dinner area in the South Island.
We set out to cover New Zealand’s two islands in two weeks, all underneath a complete finances of S$2,500. We first explored the mesmerising 10-day South Island street trip for S$1,900 — highlights embrace breathtaking points of interest like Mount Prepare dinner, Fox Glacier, as well as (literal!) hair-raising adventures like skydiving.
Learn additionally: 2 Weeks in New Zealand Under S$2,500 — North & South Island Trip Planning Guide
In this New Zealand itinerary, we spent 5 days touring the North Island’s icons. While there is probably not as many mountain ranges or fjords as the South, the North’s magnificence and culture are value visiting. In any case, it’s distinctly recognized for geothermal exercise, intriguing Maori culture, and plush rolling hills that resemble middle-earth.
Welcome to the land for short individuals, by brief individuals!
However, plot twist! As an alternative of replicating our South Island street trip (by automotive), we took a leap and rented a campervan for our North Island leg. Being a #vanlife virgin, let me simply say touring round in a campervan offered one helluva totally different experience! I’d say this was in all probability my greatest price range, bucket-list activity yet.
Here’s how we explored the North Island’s greatest sights, and experienced dwelling on the street — all for S$600.
- 1 Finances Breakdown
- 2 North Island Route
- 3 Day 1: Auckland — Waitomo
- 4 Day 2: Waitomo — Taupo
- 5 Day 3: Taupo — Rotorua
- 6 Day 4: Rotorua — Matamata
- 7 Day 5: Matamata — Auckland
- 8 Pre-trip Necessities
- 9 Expertise NZ North Island’s Greatest Adventures
- 10 Like what you see? Comply with us on Fb, Instagram, and YouTube for extra journey updates!
Accommodation: S$37.16 (this can be utterly free for those who freedom camp all the best way!)
Food & Miscellaneous: S$101.34
Click on right here for a detailed breakdown
North Island Route
With only five days to spare, we targeting exploring the guts of NZ’s North Island. Specifically: Waitomo, Taupo, Rotorua, and Matamata. Each location has a specialty of its personal, which shouldn’t be missed particularly for a first-timer!
When you’ve got extra days, you possibly can head further North and go to the breathtaking Bay of Islands. Or, the hardcore hikers can go South to complete the a lot revered Tongariro Alpine Crossing (if the weather permits!).
Day 1: Auckland — Waitomo
Decide Up Your Campervan
When you’ve touched down, head to your selected campervan rental office and decide up your house on wheels!
Make sure that to get a fast rundown of the campervan — easy methods to arrange the mattress, the place the LPG fuel cylinder is situated, refilling recent water and emptying the greywater tank. In case yours has a porta potty, right here’s tips on how to use it!
When you’re prepared, get on the street and start your #vanlife journey!
Freedom Camp in Waitomo
We made a pitstop at Countdown close to Auckland Airport, and stocked up on groceries earlier than driving in the direction of Waitomo. The journey takes about two and a half hours in line with Google Maps, but considering a campervan travels slower than a automotive, realistically it takes about 30 minutes longer.
Be accountable. Drink solely after you’re achieved with driving!
For our first night time, we freedom camped at a campground subsequent to Roselands Restaurant. The tap water in the campervan’s not potable, so we used the free-to-use faucet outdoors the restaurant to refill our bottles and kettles. We then acquired cosy inside our house on wheels, made dinner for the night time, and chilled out with some low cost wine.
*Pro-tip: The campground has no bogs, so use public restroom at the Waitomo i-Website Visitor Centre earlier than proceeding to the campground in case you’d wish to settle your No. 2 business in consolation.
Should you’re fortunate, you may have the ability to nab a area that overlooks the valley. It’s the right spot for a magnificent sunrise.
Day 2: Waitomo — Taupo
Waitomo is especially famous for glowworms which are unique to New Zealand. Mystical appearances apart, it’s fascinating to note that glowworms’ luminescence is definitely their excretion used to draw prey! Still, it’s a spectacular sight greatest seen with your personal eyes.
Embark on a Glowworm Caving Journey
Typically, it’s worthwhile to get down and dirty to glow up. That’s what you’ll be able to anticipate with a Black Water Rafting journey contained in the Ruakuri Cave.
The Black Labyrinth tour isn’t your average caving tour. Guided by a high-spirited teacher, this underground experience could have you navigating tight, rocky areas, and jumping off two small waterfalls into 10°C waters. The most effective hangover remedy in any case that wine!
The exhilarating work pays off although — ultimately, you’ll be tubing by way of a glowworm-studded canal. With all lights turned off, it’s akin to floating in area. At the end of the tour, you’ll be able to heat up with a scorching bathe and complimentary meal.
Tour Timings: Every 90 minutes from 9AM – 3PM (varies by season)
Assembly Point: The Lengthy Black Cafe
Tips on how to get there: From the campground, drive for ~10 mins by way of Fullerton Road and State Freeway 37 to the cafe.
These averse to getting wet can go for a guided Ruakuri Cave tour (~S$68.59). This tour walks you through the cave’s unique formations, with an entertaining information providing more insight (typically surprising) to the glowworms.
Make a Detour to Waitomo’s Different Pure Beauties
Listed as certainly one of New Zealand’s most lovely waterfalls, the 35m Marokopa Falls is a beautiful attraction to loosen up by. From Waitomo’s city centre, it’s a scenic ~40-minute drive and a straightforward trek by way of the forest right down to the viewing platform.
On your means out from Marokopa Falls, make a quick cease at the Mangapohue Pure Bridge, a 10-minute drive away. The boardwalk passes by means of lush forestry and a limestone gorge that leads you beneath a big arch — the survivor of a cave collapse. Should you’re visiting at night time, you’ll be able to see plenty of glowworms around too.
Freedom Camp in Taupo
Photograph credit: Newshub.co.nz
Once you’ve had your fill of Waitomo, drive for two and a half hours to Taupo. On the city centre, you possibly can refuel your fuel tank and food stash at the many petrol kiosks and supermarkets. There’s additionally a free consuming water level at the Superloo reverse the Taupo i-Website Visitor Centre.
Then, you’ll be able to both freedom camp at Whakaipo Bay Recreational Reserve or 5 Mile Bay Recreation Reserve. Each are about a 20-minute drive from Taupo city. The previous is a big, secluded lot with none amenities, whereas the latter has one drop rest room, and may be quite crowded during peak durations.
We freedom camped at 5 Mile and managed to snag a spot by the waters once we arrived. It felt as if we have been camping proper beside the seashore!
Day 3: Taupo — Rotorua
Taupo is New Zealand’s largest city in the Lake Taupo district, a bustling area for both locals and travellers who take pleasure in adventurous activities like boating, bungy jumping, and fishing.
Fun reality: Lake Taupo (NZ’s largest freshwater lake) is claimed to be the dimensions of Singapore. In true Singaporean style, we skeptically asked: Actually? Properly, Lake Taupo is roughly 616 sq. kilometres, and that’s how huge we have been over 40 years in the past!
Dip in a Free Scorching Spring
Photograph credit score: Taupomustdo.co.nz
Taupo has numerous pure scorching springs (because of its location in the Taupo volcanic zone). While most charge a payment, the recent springs at the Spa Thermal Park are solely free! The water may be extremely scorching, so check the waters earlier than hopping in.
There are amenities reminiscent of bogs, altering rooms, and a cafe close to the park. Nevertheless, hold your private belongings close and lock your car as there have been many theft stories in the world.
Methods to get there: From Taupo town, drive for five minutes by way of Spa Road. Flip left after the Taupo Bungy Centre onto County Ave, and hold driving till you attain the carpark. Comply with the path to the river, where the recent springs are beneath the bridge.
Go to Huka Falls, the “Great Body of Spray”
Probably the most visited points of interest in New Zealand, Huka Falls is sort of a pressure to be reckoned with. You’d hear it before seeing it — over 200,000 million litres of water per second gushes by way of the gorge. That’s enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool in simply 11 seconds.
From the viewing point, Huka Falls is oddly therapeutic to observe. The spectacular stream price creates multiple shades of hanging blue from the start to the top of the river.
For many who need to rise up close to the motion, bounce on a Huka Falls Jet Experience (~S$115.75)! The jetboat speeds you right as much as the falls, with a whirlwind of exhilarating twists and 360° turns along the best way.
How one can get there: From Spa Thermal Lake, drive back to Taupo, then up in the direction of Huka Falls Road. The drive takes 10 minutes. Once you attain Huka Falls, you’ll be able to either turn to a larger viewing point, or proceed downhill to the primary viewing platform.
Immerse Your self in the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
The Devil’s Tub. No Photoshop here, we swear.
On the best way to Rotorua, make a stop at the must-visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It’s thought-about NZ’s most vibrant and numerous geothermal attraction — collapsed craters, steaming fumaroles, boiling pools of mud, and bright-coloured swimming pools.
One of many park’s largest points of interest is the Champagne Pool. This scorching springs’ identify derives from the bubbling exercise occurring inside the water, like a glass of champagne (except, y’know, it’s insanely hotter).
Around the Champagne Pool is the Artist’s Palette. The world is roofed with vibrant colours, or somewhat evaporated minerals originating from the pool’s mineral-laden water. What’s fascinating is that the Palette by no means seems to be the same two days in a row. Elements like wind course can simply change the format, so day by day is a totally different masterpiece!
Opening Hours: eight:30AM – 5PM (varies by season, last admission 75 minutes before closing)
The right way to get there: From Huka Falls, drive for 45 minutes to Wai-O-Tapu by way of the Thermal Explorer Highway.
Lodging: Rotorua Thermal Vacation Park (NZ$25, NZ$20/further pax in a powered campsite). Consists of free mineral swimming pools, scorching showers, bogs, a gray water dump station, and a communal kitchen (convey your personal cooking gear and utensils).
Word: There are very few freedom tenting spots in Rotorua, they usually are likely to refill shortly. Tenting illegally can incur an NZ$200 high-quality. You possibly can attempt your luck, however this was our various accommodation.
Day 4: Rotorua — Matamata
Renowned for geothermal activity and Maori culture, Rotorua is definitely one of the North Island’s must-visit towns. There’s loads of things to do and discover, a lot so that you may overlook the pervasive odor of rotten eggs (sulphur) that wafts by means of the air!
Hike the Pohaturoa Monitor at Rotorua Redwoods Forest
Feeling small isn’t all the time a dangerous thing, especially once you’re wandering around groves of big Californian Redwood timber. The Whakarewarewa Forest is a massively common attraction in Rotorua, and rightfully so. The forest gives a number of strolling tracks, mountain biking trails, and even an award-winning treewalk.
For a good workout coupled with higher views, spend the morning mountaineering the Pohaturoa monitor. Ranging from the Redwood i-Website customer centre, the 7.5km monitor (marked in yellow on the web site) loops by way of the Redwoods Forest and other various terrains. The spotlight of this route is which you can climb as much as the Whaka decrease lookout level and get panoramic views of Rotorua town, lake, and thermal parks.
The complete journey takes two hours.
The view from the Lower Whaka Lookout.
Should you solely need to go to the lookout point, drive to the Mountain Biking begin point and hike from there. Simply past the bogs, you’ll come to a fork in the street. Ignore the Pohaturoa Monitor indicators telling you to go proper. As an alternative, flip left and trek uphill for ~20 mins.
*Pro-tip: Spend a little longer at the lookout level when you’re not in a hurry. With sufficient endurance and luck, you may catch the Pohutu Geyser erupting as much as 30m in the air! It’s a secret, free approach to see this attraction. 😉
Take pleasure in a Taste of Rotorua’s Iconic Ice Cream Parlour
Greatest eaten cold, in cold weather!
Climbing is tough work, so deal with your self to sweet, sweet victory! Woman Jane’s is nicely often known as “Rotorua’s ice cream parlour”. This long-running store sells a large number of flavours, ranging from regular classics like salted caramel to premium flavours like kiwi pavlova.
We obtained two scoops of normal ice cream in a waffle cone (NZ$5.90). This was accompanied by a beneficiant heap of free toppings like chocolate syrup and peanuts. It’s great value-for-money, and excellent for sharing!
Study the Methods of the Maori
Of all the actions in New Zealand, this was my #1 favorite! At the Mitai Maori Village, the Mitai tribe will train you a great deal about Maori culture (one of the youngest in the world).
On prime of enriching stories about their customs and traditions, the Mitai Maori Village experience additionally consists of a slew of fantastic cultural performances and demonstrations. These embrace warriors paddling in a waka (historic warfare canoe) down a river, to showcasing weapons, poi dances, and video games that youngsters play.
For me, probably the most memorable efficiency (by far) was the haka. The long-lasting conflict dance is used to organize warriors for battle each mentally and spiritually, nevertheless it’s also carried out when two tribes come together in peace. But, watching the Mitai tribe carry out it reside with intense ardour left me awed.
As a “visiting tribe” in their residence, anticipate to be properly fed. Come actually hungry as you’ll be having a traditional hangi meal for dinner! The food is cooked underground (an “earth oven”) using river rock, so that you’d be savouring some actually succulent and tender eats like kumara (NZ sweet potatoes), lamb, and hei hei (Maori for hen).
Avoid wasting abdomen area ‘cos there’s dessert too!
Showtimes: 5:30PM (Apr–Sep); 6:30PM (Oct–Mar)
How one can get there: You possibly can go for a complimentary shuttle bus that may decide you up at a Rotorua lodging. Alternatively, self-drive to the village (arrive 20 mins earlier than the show begins). From Woman Jane’s, drive for ~10 mins by way of Lake Road then SH 5.
Stay at Matamata
Matamata positive is proud in telling the world it’s the house of the Shire! Photograph credit: Adventscape.com
After the activity ends, drive for an hour to stay in Matamata — the house of the Shire. There are a few freedom tenting websites in the world, but they could be too distant or crowded.
Accommodation: Opal Scorching Springs and Holiday Park (NZ$20/pax for a powered campervan website). Amenities embrace scorching showers, rest room amenities, and a communal kitchen (convey your personal cooking gear and utensils).
Day 5: Matamata — Auckland
Step into Center-earth and Discover the Shire
“But he is in love with the Shire, with woods and fields and little rivers.” — J.R.R. Tolkien. We will see why.
All around New Zealand, you’d discover numerous places that have woven their methods into the fantastical Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton trilogies. But the one location that rules all of them (heh!) is the Shire.
As soon as a humble family farm, the inexperienced pastures have been reworked into the long-lasting Shire that Tolkien had envisioned. Immediately, Hobbiton movie set tours (~S$69.39) transport mortals to the fantasy world of Center-earth. Good news: you don’t need to review the books or films to experience the magic!
Our guide tells us how this hobbit gap, owned by Samwise Gamgee, was nicknamed the “Happily Ever After” house. It was featured in the final LOTR movie.
Our tour was peppered with entertaining fun details concerning the films’ cinematic methods, and the set. For instance, the exteriors of all 44 Hobbit Holes are extremely detailed. Each house has a distinct character, just like the native artist, cheesemaker, and even city drunk!
With so much effort put into the set, it’s shocking that the Shire solely had a complete screentime of 12 minutes in every trilogy. That stated, we left the tour with a higher appreciation for the LOTR/Hobbiton movies. The tour additionally included a complimentary beverage from the cosy Inexperienced Dragon Inn (which in all probability performed a half too). 🍻
Value: NZ$84 (~S$75.57, ~S$69.39 on-line)
Tour Timings: Each 30 minutes from 9AM – 3:30PM from the Shire’s Rest (further excursions depend upon the season)
The best way to get there: From Opal Scorching Springs, drive for 25 mins by way of State Highway 27 to the Shire’s Rest. Examine-in at the ticketing counter about 15–20 minutes before your scheduled tour.
Drive Back to Auckland Airport
All the time verify your mirrors.
From the Shire’s Rest, it’s about a two-hour drive again to Auckland Airport. Nevertheless, we advocate allocating an additional hour (or more!) to settle the nitty-gritty like refuelling petrol and the LPG fuel bottle earlier than returning your car. It’s worthwhile to notice that visitors can also be heavy on the best way to the town.
Attending to NZ North Island: There are two ways to get here. (1) Should you’re coming from the South Island, take a home flight by Jetstar or Air New Zealand to Auckland. Flights start from ~S$55. (2) From Singapore, either fly on to Auckland, or transit in Australia. Flights can begin from as low as ~S$570. Do give your self adequate time to rest before embarking in your campervan street trip.
Connectivity: We shared a 4G pocket WiFi gadget for our journey. This nifty system can connect as much as five units, and offered good protection in most town areas. Nevertheless, there is probably not any reception at all when on the street and in mountainous regions — so download offline Google Maps nicely in advance!
Campervan rental: We acquired a JUCY Apartment for NZ$45/day. The self-contained car can comfortably sleep 4 to five individuals, and consists of essentials like pillows, duvets, cooking gear, and a fridge. We additionally obtained stress free extra discount protection for NZ$30/day.
Do word that campervan prices throughout all rental corporations are likely to fluctuate throughout peak seasons, so guide early!
Expertise NZ North Island’s Greatest Adventures
Cliched as it might sound, travelling in a campervan opened a entire new world of experiences. In comparison with street tripping in a automotive, the campervan lets you get monetary savings by camping beneath the celebs, and cooking your personal meals on the go.
Campervan apart, our time in New Zealand’s North Island was equally unforgettable. While most individuals are likely to solely visit the South Island, the North can also be packed filled with its own distinctive actions that can rival its common counterpart.
For one, we completely loved actions like the Hobbiton film set tour and the Mitai Maori Village expertise. Our guides have been each so warm and humourous, and immersed us in the magical worlds of Middle-earth and Maori tradition. We booked our experiences by way of Klook, which helped us save both money and time. All we needed to do was show up, scan our vouchers, and be proven to our seats.
We additionally delved into Waitomo’s glowworm caves on a black water rafting adventure, and learnt the gory particulars of how glowworms kill their prey in their net. Let’s simply say glowworms look a lot higher in the darkish.
Right here’s a record of activities we enjoyed in NZ’s North Island:
– Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland 1-day ticket (~S$26.39)
– Hobbiton Movie Set Tour (~S$69.39)
– Mitai Maori Village Night Tour (~S$106.35)
– Ruakuri Black Water Rafting — Black Labyrinth (~S$125.89)
Read additionally: 2 Weeks in New Zealand Under S$2,500 — North & South Island Trip Planning Guide
So pack your weapons luggage and collect the fellowship!
GIF credit: Gifimage.internet
Ever been in a campervan? Or visited NZ’s North Island? What do you take pleasure in about them? Tell us in the feedback!
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