A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand - North Island

Route: Napier – Ohakune – Taupo – Rotorua – Whakatane – Katikati – Whitianga – Coromandel – Thames – Warkworth – Paihia – Pukenui – Donnelly’s Crossing - Auckland

APRIL 2016

Back on the North Island, our first destination was the east coast town of Napier. Our main goal for our visit was to see the Gannet colony, one of the worlds largest. There are no roads to the colony and access is via the beach. So instead of the 20km round trip and the threat of being caught by the tide, we opted for a beach tractor tour. This turned out be great fun and allowed us more time with birds.

Cape Kidnappers Gannett Colony

Cape Kidnappers Gannett Colony

Gannett

Gannett

Tractor ride to Cape Kidnappers Gannett Colony

Tractor ride to Cape Kidnappers Gannett Colony

From Napier we headed inland to the volcanic region and to our first stop the quant town of Ohakune. The drive there was the first highlight, with constantly changing scenery and probably the most beautiful so far, followed by the second, our accommodation. For the price of a motel room we had been able to secure a whole house. And not just any old house, entered up its own private gravel drive, it was set in acres of mature gardens with ponds and streams, had four bedrooms (we chose the one with a volcano view, on-suite and walk in closet), massive well equipped kitchen, large entertaining area, Pool table and a resident cat called Paris (which we found out had a big appetite, as we were required to feed her). We had three nights in our mansion, and with so many activities on our doorstep and great accommodation we could have stayed longer.

View of Tongariro NP

View of Tongariro NP

Our accommodation at Ohakune

Our accommodation at Ohakune

Our first day was sunny with clear blue skies, so we decided to climb the volcano. The volcano in question was Mount Ruapehu, listed as dormant and hadn’t erupted since the 1990’s. The climb began easily, a drive to the ski station then a chair lift ride. But then it got tougher, now at around 2500 meter and at altitude, we were on boulders and scree, but the effort was worth it when we finally got the view at the top.

Mt Ruapehu

Mt Ruapehu

View from Mt Ruapehu

View from Mt Ruapehu

View of Mt Ruapehu

View of Mt Ruapehu

Our second adventure was a hike along an old coach trail, dating back to the 1880’s, to reach an old railway viaduct, built in 1907. A walk mixed was history and nature.

Old Coach Trail Viaduct in Tongariro NP

Old Coach Trail Viaduct in Tongariro NP

It was then time to leave our mansion and move on. Our next few days were spent between Taupo and Rotorua, in the heart of geothermal country. This area (as does Ohakune) lies on a fault line where two tectonic plates are pushing against each other, forming steam vents, geysers and bubbling mud pools. These geothermal actions are happening all over the region and we spent a few hours exploring one such place. Amazing the power of nature. The rest of the time was spent hiking along rivers and forest tracks to explore the area.

Craters of the Moon at Taupo

Craters of the Moon at Taupo

Craters of the Moon Taupo

Craters of the Moon Taupo


Huka Falls in the Wariakei Park

Huka Falls in the Wariakei Park

We did however do something unusual for us, we joined an organised tour to visit a traditional Maori village. Although fearful of the commercialism, we really wanted to learn more about the Maori culture and this seemed like a good way. To our delight, the evening exceeded expectations. We learnt a little bit of Maori history, culture and their traditions, before being treated to a culinary feast at the end of the evening. As people may have witnessed on Facebook, I (Malc) was selected as chief for our tour group, supposedly an honour but I am still not too sure. The reason for this is, in times gone by when one tribe visited another the chief of that tribe would be required to accept greetings and lead his followers through all the various ceremonies. Therefore to put some authenticity to our visit to the village our tour group needed to function like a visiting tribe.

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest

From geothermal country we headed north to the Bay of Plenty. The coastal town of Whakatane was our base and the White Island was our main attraction. The White Island is the only active marine volcano in New Zealand and is located in the Bay of Plenty, about 50 kilometres off the coast of Whakatane. The boat ride each way took around an hour and a half and on route we were entertained by a pod of common dolphins. We landed on the island in what was a blown out crater. All around us were steam vents and bubbling mud pools, and in the middle a lake pumping out vast amounts of steam that formed into a cloud above the island. With our guide we were able to wander around and get a closer look at the activity. Because of the gases being emitted we were provided with masks and in case of eruptions or rock falls, hard hats were provided as well. All very necessary as the island had experienced a 4.1 earthquake just before we arrived.

Cormorant

Cormorant

Whakatane

Whakatane

Dolphin in the Bay of Plenty

Dolphin in the Bay of Plenty

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

Breathing on White Island can be difficult

Breathing on White Island can be difficult

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

Wahakatane Sunset

Wahakatane Sunset

Driving northwest around the Bay of Plenty our next stop was the small town of Katikati. The reason for this stop was to catch up with some friends we hadn’t seen for 15 years, Colin and Mandy. Our journey then took us onto the Coromandel Peninsular where we spent a couple of nights at three different locations; Whitianga, Coromandel and Thames. This allowed us plenty of time to fully explore the region. Exploration meant lots of beautiful coastal walks to deserted beaches and into protected woodlands.

Cathedral Cove walk

Cathedral Cove walk

NZ flora

NZ flora

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Grouse

Grouse


Kauaeranga Valley

Kauaeranga Valley

Our next and last region of discovery was also a Peninsular, the region of Northlands. This sub-tropical region is the most northerly in New Zealand, and allowed us to visit the most northern point of mainland New Zealand, Cape Reinga. The approach was similar to Coromandel, with four different locations (Warkworth, Paihia, Pukenui & Donnellys Crossing), which allowed to fully appreciate the region. This peninsular was very different to Coromandel and best described as one giant sand spit. This phenomenon was most evident the further north you went and in particular the massive dunes on the west coast. However, it wasn’t the dunes that impressed us the most, but a small regional park called Tawharanui for its beauty and wildlife.

NZ340.jpgNZ351.jpgTakahe

Takahe

NZ358.jpgNZ357.jpgNZ363.jpgNZ367.jpgBrick Bay Sculpture Trail

Brick Bay Sculpture Trail

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

Tepaki Giant Sand Dunes

Tepaki Giant Sand Dunes

Starfish on 90 Miles Beach

Starfish on 90 Miles Beach

90 Miles Beach

90 Miles Beach

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

Big Tree

Big Tree

Auckland airport was our final destination in New Zealand. Next stop New Caledonia, a Pacific Island 3 hours flying time north of New Zealand. However, this is not the end of our New Zealand experience, as we have 3 days in Auckland as part of our return journey.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Supermarket in New Zealand:
Now when you shop in a supermarket in NZ be aware that you might find same products in different places in the shop. Example, you are looking for cheese, simple yes, but no, there might be 3 or 4 different places in the store where you would find it. I asked a kiwi who confirmed that’s the case. You might have the imported cheese in one place, the expensive ones in another place, the cheaper ones in another place, etc. You get the idea. But it’s not just the cheese; the same goes for bread and cold meat. You learned to walk the whole store before you choose what to buy.
Still on the supermarket theme, this is one country in the world that still provide plastic bags for your groceries and also a packer. As we had our own bags, I gave them to the lady who was doing the packing. I explained that in quite a few countries now in Europe, store don’t give away plastic bags anymore to pack your groceries. She was a bit horrified and a reaction was “does it mean you have to buy rubbish bag now for the bins?” yep!
Alcohol: you can buy alcohol in supermarket but only if the alcohol content is low, which means anything can be bought except spirits.
In the south Island they call a trolley a trumbler in the north they call it a trolley.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:54 Archived in New Zealand

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