My family and I explored the North Island of New Zealand in 4-5 days. While many will argue that 5 days is way too short, that's the amount of time we had and it was enough for us. We started with a Hobbiton Movie Set tour and had a mud spa at Hells Gate. We then spent the next couple days at Skyline Rotorua, had a fun zorb ball adventure, immersed ourselves in Maori culture at Te Puia, and wondered at the Waitomo glowworms. Let's begin shall we?
Kia Ora, welcome to New Zealand.
Unfortunately, our flights were delayed so most of day 1 got wasted. We landed in Auckland and spent this day getting our rental car, getting settled in our hotel (Ibis Budget Hotel - incredibly cheap and incredibly cramped but we were only there to sleep for the night so it was fine), and buying groceries to prepare for the road trips ahead.
The ultimate first stop of course had to be the Hobbiton Movie Set tour which I wrote all about in a previous blog post. It was tons of fun and definitely something that you just absolutely CANNOT miss when travelling to New Zealand.
After lunch, we spent the rest of the day at Hells Gate Rotorua and our experience there include a walk through a geothermal reserve, a mud spa, and wood carving. Make sure you check out that blog post too!
I have to say that the only real reason we included this stop was because the Skyline in Queenstown would be undergoing renovations/maintenance for the dates that we were scheduled to go there and we didn't want to miss out on the luge fun. Our time here included a few rounds on the luge, a gondola ride, and spectacular views.
Make sure to check out the New Zealand Highlights on my Instagram to check out all the fun we had there.
From one adventure to another, off we went rolling down the hill in a zorb ball. We actually drove from the original Zorb to OGO and we found that the hill at OGO appeared to be much longer, and we also read a lot of good reviews for OGO so we opted to go there with no regrets. We went on the wet ride in the middle of winter but it was absolutely no problem because they let us wait in hot pools while it wasn't our turn yet and the water inside the zorb ball was warm too. We went on two rides, the first on the normal downhill slope, and the second - the sidewinder which was a zigzag slope. I honestly felt dizzy and nauseous on the zigzag one. I thought, how do I get out of here?? But it was over before I knew it. Was so fun and worth it though!
As part of The Trilogy package, we had booked our Te Puia tour which included a dinner feast which was incredibly delicious and worth it! The tour included a geothermal walk which was insightful, and a Hangi feast (where they showed us how they cooked their food underground using the heat from the geothermal wonder). The tour guides were of Maori descent and I loved how they talked about how the Maori have incorporated themselves into society and do not receive any sort of monetary sustenance from the government, They, like everyone else, work for a living. Kudos!
We got to take part of a ceremony where our "chief" presented himself (and us) as people who come in peace before we were welcomed in by the Maori tribe.
Members of the audience also got to take part in traditional Maori dances which was so fun to watch!! I wish I volunteered when it was the ladies' turn.
I also love that the number of people on this tour was controlled so it wasn't overcrowded at all and we got to enjoy the dinner buffet afterwards with no hassle. While planning our trip, I googled, "Is Te Puia worth it?" and here's my answer now - yes.
Waitomo Glowworm Cave and Ruakuri Cave
While it would have been so fun to go on the black water rafting adventure, we opted not to this time as we had a 5-year-old with us and it was just better for the whole family to stick together. It ended up being a good thing because on the day we were there, black water rafting was not allowed due to the weather. Exploring of caves was still fine though.
The Ruakuri Cave involved an approximately 2-hour walking tour where we learned about stalagmites and stalactites and we got to gaze at glowworms which was pretty cool. The Waitomo Glowworm Cave is where we got to hop on a boat and float along complete darkness with the glowworms illuminating the cave. To be honest, unruly tourists who didn't seem to understand "quiet" and "no picture taking" ruined that experience. And the boat ride was very quick. So to me, the Waitomo boat ride was a bit of a letdown after the Ruakuri Cave. If I had to pick one over the other, I would definitely opt for the Ruakuri Cave.
We didn't have much time as we had to catch our flight to Queenstown. So after grabbing some breakfast, we drove around a little bit and took photos of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. We took it easy as we prepared for the South Island leg of our New Zealand trip. We were ecstatic to find that the Auckland Airport had a Dunkin Donuts stall though - we missed this badly as we don't have a branch in Adelaide.
Here's an approximate budget breakdown excluding costs for food and petrol:
*Note that the costs reflected were costs at time of booking and hotel expenses were divided among the number of siblings in the family sharing accommodation.
Have you been to the North Island of New Zealand? Which part of the trip did you enjoy the most?