12 days in New Zealand – North Island

In November Pierre and I went to New Zealand for our honeymoon. New Zealand had been on my bucket list for years and it didn’t disappoint ! The landscapes are breathtaking, there are countless outdoor activities and the food is great.  We did so much that it doesn’t fit in one post so I’ll split it 2 posts : the North Island and the South Island.
The planning took us some time because we wanted it to be perfect and it really paid off ! The great weather helped a lot as well since all our activities were outdoors but it was truly all those evenings spent researching things to do and cool airbnb’s to come up with the best itinerary that made it so perfect while we were there. Pierre and I were super lucky to travel quite a lot in our 5 years together but our first trips were definitely not as great as this one because I have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on myself in everything I do so I would often be disappointed if things didn’t go my way. Is anyone like this as well ? I have gotten much better with time and practice and it really makes traveling more enjoyable !

With “only” 12 days in NZ, we were told by some people that the North Island wasn’t worth visiting  (most travel website recommend 2 to 3 months to visit NZ!) but being fans of the Lord of the rings, we knew we had to spend a few days there and we didn’t regret it !

Here is our itinerary summary :

  • Day 1 : Hobbiton then drive to Tongariro camping
  • Day 2 : Tongariro Alpine crossing
  • Day 3 : Rotorua + Taupo + Huka falls
  • Day 4 : Waitomo caves + flight from Auckland to Queenstown

We landed in Auckland after the longest commercial flight in the world (16h30 !) and we immediately picked up our van and drove to Hobbiton.

Hobbiton

Getting there from Auckland takes approximately 2hrs. We booked the 4pm tour and they took us by bus to the location. You can drive there yourself as well but the parking is quite limited. There is a new tour every 30 minutes so you don’t really have time to wander around at your own pace (which is normal because the paths are very narrow). We were lucky to have great weather and it was really beautiful. Our guide told us so many details about the movie and the shooting. Even if you aren’t a LOTR fan, you will enjoy the nice walk in beautiful landscape. At the end of the tour you get a free beer or cider (we chose the cider !) which we drank by the fireplace in the Green dragon inn. Pierre bought a Gandalf hat at the shop and he wore it everyday for the rest of the trip (even on hikes !!). He got SO many compliments on it, it was really insane. (I bought the elf ears but they didn’t stay in place so I didn’t wear them aha).

Tongariro alpine crossing

After Hobbiton we drove to Tongariro. We rented a small camper van so we stayed on a nice camping which is also a starting point for the crossing. NZ is really a camping country. We saw so many vans driving around and the campings are very well organized. We stayed at the Tongariro Holiday park camping.

The next day we woke up super early for the Tongariro alpine crossing ! It is one the most popular one day hike of New Zealand (its part of one of the 9 great walks, which we would love to do when we go back). We paid for transport to the start of the hike as they removed the parking. There are ways to do it for free but we went for the « easy » way. The hike is beautiful, you cross so many different landscapes. If you are a LOTR fan, you will feel like you are walking through Mt Doom. I will be honest : we didn’t really expect it to be that difficult. I struggled more than Pierre (obviously, he is the fit one!) but we still did it in good time (around 6hrs) and we really loved it. I heard that it would be crowded as it’s so popular but we were lucky because we went in low season. For this hike you have to be well equipped : good walking shoes, warm clothing (it was so cold and windy on top !) and plenty of water.

This is a one way hike, the end is not the same as the start, and we had a transport to go back to the camping.

We were so happy to learn the camping had a jacuzzi for rent, it was the perfect way to end the day !

Rotorua

The next day we woke up early and drove to Rotorua. We visited the “7 craters of the moon “and Wai-O-Tapu which are amazing geothermal sites (it stinks though !). We stopped in Taupo for the airplane Mc Donald’s as we are aviation geeks aha. We also went to Huka falls on the way.

We then drove to Waitomo as we had an early morning activity there. We dined at a surprisingly good restaurant over there : Huhu.

Highly recommended if you are in the area. We stayed at the Waitomo top 10 holiday park (it’s actually a chain of very well organized campings with locations all around NZ).

Waitomo caves

The next morning we woke up super early for the Waitomo Caves tour with the Black Water rafting co.We booked the earliest possible tour and we were super lucky to be the only people on that tour (we did the black labyrinth tour).  Our awesome guide Georges even showed us more that what was included in our tour. He was the best : he could imitate Gollum so well and he sang all the LOTR songs, we really felt like we were in the movies. I will not lie, wearing a cold wet suit when it’s 5C outside and you just woke up is not fun ! But you get used to it and we didn’t feel cold at all during the tour. The caves are amazing ! Full with glow worms that look like stars. Some of the things we did were a bit outside of my comfort zone but I’m so glad I overcame my fears (jumping from the rocks and climbing in the cave). It’s a really special and fun activity.

This is it for our North Island adventures ! See our South Island trip here.

Have you been to New Zealand ? What was your favorite activity ?