Note to self: Every year my siblings and I try and go on trip where we can reconnect and explore a new location. Last year in March, we went to New Zealand and it was amazing! The best part of the trip would have to be visiting Hobbiton, zip-lining through the rainforests, and the Redwoods Treewalk in Rotorua. The entire trip was breathtaking and while the hikes were a little rough for me personally, I felt accomplished that I persevered and continued on till the end. Below is our basic travel itinerary of where we went each day and all the places we went to eat.
Mount Eden – Dormant Volcano
We landed pretty early in Auckland, rented a car and dropped our bags at the hotel. We decided to go on a small hike on Mount Eden to see a dormant volcano. The hike was pretty simple and the view was alright. In my opinion it wasn’t amazing and “worth it” but since we had just landed and wanted something simple and close by it was nice to check it off our list. I think the view would have been amazing to see if you were up higher and/or had a drone to see aerial shots of the place.
Mercer Bay Trail
After that we went on another hike at Mercer Bay Trail. The views here were breathtakingly gorgeous and it was a longer hike than the first, but we had a lot of fun. The sun was close to setting while we were there so the pictures came out beautiful and there were a lot of places to take pretty cool IG pictures.
Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove)
The next day was filled with a lot more activities, and we were going to be out most of the day. New Zealand can be pretty expensive so to save money we decided to make a grocery trip run the night before and grabbed some granola bars, fruits, water bottles and supplies to make some PB & J sandwiches. (Make sure to grab ziplock bags to store the sandwiches in!) We started off with a hike to Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove). To be honest this was an intense hike for me personally. We took a lot of breaks and there were steep inclines as well as tons of stairs, but the views at the end were so worth it. We also took mini side hikes while on the trail and saw gemstone bay as well (There’s also an option to do some snorkeling there). The beach and water were refreshing after the long hike and I would recommend to bring a towel as well as snacks, water and some food while on this hike.
Gem Stone Bay
Hot water beach – hot springs
After that we went to hot water beach where you have to bring your own shovel to dig in the sand and make your very own hot bubbling spa pool. We stopped by to check it out but there were SOO many people there and since we didn’t have a shovel it was kind of a miss. In theory it seems fun and pretty nice, but unless you have your bathing suits and are prepared with your own shovel it’s not really worth it. Though it might be a fun activity if you have kids.
After that we decided to go on our last hike of the day to Karangahake Gorge. It was kind of spooky since we were the only ones there and it’s filled with abandoned gold mining tunnels. Definitely take a flashlight because the tunnels get really dark and scary. We didn’t end up going all the way because the sun was setting and it got super creepy. It reminded me of those hiking movies where people get lost in the woods but then something is after them ready to kill everyone. That’s the vibe we got while we were there, but it had pretty cool views though and I would go back again. (Albeit when more people are around) I loved seeing the history of the place and the old tunnels and railways.
This is the day we all were waiting for! All of us are pretty big Lord of The Rings fans and we couldn’t wait to see Hobbiton. It was definitely worth it and everything was amazing. It’s super cool seeing everything come to life and actually seeing a part of your favorite movie right in front of you. The tour was awesome and you learn so many tidbits and behind the scenes stuff while on it.
The tour ended at the Green Dragon Inn where they gave us a complimentary beverage. Most of them were alcoholic drinks but there was a non alcoholic ginger “beer” which was delicious. It was kinda hot during the tour, so downing this ice cold drink was a great refreshing way to end the tour.
Waihou Blue Springs Walkway
After Hobbiton we went on another hike and I can’t begin to explain how beautiful the water was. We went to Waihou Blue Springs Walkway and it’s one of the purest water sources in the world. Most of the bottled water from New Zealand comes from here and the water and views are breathtakingly gorgeous and worth the hike.
The hike is pretty easy in comparison to the other trails we did and the underwater plants flow like mermaids hair. It’s like a swimming pool for fairies and pixies with how bright and turquoise blue the water is. I would totally recommend it, and it doesn’t take long either.
Redwoods Treewalk in Rotorua
The last thing we did for day 3 is the Redwoods Treewalk in Rotorua. They have these suspended bridges to create walkways in between the Redwood trees, and it’s a lot of fun to be able to walk through them. We got there about an hour before sunset so this is how it looks in the daylight.
Someone recommended to wait until nighttime because they light everything up and have these lanterns that light up the sky. So while waiting for darkness to hit we did a mini trail around the area. It wasn’t anything major and was pretty easy. The redwood trees were really cool to look at and it kind of reminded me of the scene from Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows for some reason. Which is pretty awesome in itself because lets face it…who doesn’t love Harry Potter 🙂
How amazing does the place look lit up?! It was really nice to walk through the redwoods and see all the lights and lanterns. It was something out of a fairy tale, and a lot of fun.
Ruakuri Cave Tour
The next day was all about the glow worms and exploring caves. The ruakuri cave tour is a must but only if you have Wayne as a tour guide. He is absolutely HILARIOUS and makes the whole tour worth it. I can’t speak for the other tour guides but if you can request him, you won’t be disappointed. His wit, deadpan sharp comments, and gollum impersonations make the tour super enjoyable. Not to mention…the cave views though!
This is one of the things we were looking forward to so much and it’s known to be one of the major touristy attractions that people think of when going to New Zealand. Our expectations were pretty high considering all the glow worm pictures floating around online and on Pinterest. We got to take a few pictures and get a sneak peak of the glow worms during the Ruakuri cave tour with Wayne (which can be seen below). But on the Waitomo cave tour before we went in we were told there’s no video or photography allowed so we respected their wishes. The reasoning behind it is because the flash isn’t good for them, but also regular cameras won’t really be able to capture them. If I was honest, it was all very disappointing and kind of a waste. The only good part of this was actually the food at the end lol. They have this cafe/restaurant and we had this really great black Angus halal burger that was super nice. I personally didn’t think this glow worm cave was worth it, not because of the picture/video situation, but overall it was just hard too see and it wasn’t anything like I expected. Granted my expectations were super high after seeing these gorgeous images on Pinterest but I could understand going just for the sake of going. I mean you’re traveling all the way over there so might as well right?
This was a such a spontaneous decision to go do this. It was mostly poni’s idea and we decided to just go with it because why not? I mean Zorbing was invented in New Zealand so might as well go to the original. If I’m honest I was slightly nervous but I had already decided prior to this trip that I’m going to get out of my comfort zone and be brave and start to experience life. Not let anxiety and worry hold me back and just do it. So there’s 3 courses with this zorbing experience, one where the ball goes down in a straight line, the second one which you can see below in like a curvy wavy path, and I believe there was a 3rd path but I don’t really remember why we didn’t choose it, either it wasn’t open or it was for super experienced people. But we ended up choosing the 2nd path which was a good combination of the two tracks. They also didn’t have the dry option available at the time so we did hydro zorbing. That’s when they fill up the ball with some water and you get in and it’s like a water ride inside this giant soft plastic hamster ball while you roll down the hill. Definitely take an extra pair of clothes because you get soaking wet during this and whatever you do keep laying down and try not to get up during the track. Water will get into your nose and it’ll be not fun at all. It was overall fun, but a once in a lifetime kinda of experience for me and I’m glad I can check it off as something I did.
If you’re traveling with family or little ones that can’t hike very far this would be a great place to go. There are a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo. There’s this view of the river with rushing water that can be seen right when you go in and it’s breathtakingly gorgeous. You can see the picture of it below! We stopped by here because it was getting late and it could be experienced pretty easily. The only thing that you have to keep in mind is that the car lot is open only until 6pm (5:30pm if you’re going in winter). And once they close, they close and your car will be stuck there until the next morning when they open at 8am so plan wisely.
The road to the junction was a pretty steep-ish climb but the hike was alright. It wasn’t anything mind blowing or amazing so if you have to cut something out this can be it. Granted we did take the shorter route but there is a longer one which apparently has greater views that people really love.
Mount Doom aka Ngauruhoe
We definitely wanted to visit and see everything we could from Lord of the Rings and how can we not visit Mount doom in the black land of Mordor? Well we didn’t, we ended up doing a “drive by” of sorts from super far away because it’s actually a 5/6 hour hike from the car park and the actual mountain is made of soft ash (so climbing it, while it can be done, is probably similar to climbing a sand dune). It was still a pretty sight to see and on the plus side it wasn’t a long detour from our plans.
Mount Ruapehu and Mangawhero Falls
Our last bit of LOTR destinations was a spot where gollum catches a fish in the movies. Not an epic scene in the slightest or something where it’s even memorable but still, as die hard fans we had to check it out. The views were incredible to say the least and there was a spot where you could take really nice pictures. (as seen below). The hike wasn’t bad at all and overall it was a really nice spot.
Rotorua Canopy Tours
We saved the best for last and went zip-lining through the forests of New Zealand. Rotorua canopy tours is the only one that offers zip lining through the native forests of New Zealand. Hands down this was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It was my first time zip lining so obviously I was inwardly super scared and deathly afraid. But I did it, and I’m so glad I did. The adrenaline rush of jumping off the ledge, into the air and soaring over some of the longest zip lines in the world was unbelievable. The guides were really funny and super cool and in the middle of the whole experience it had started to rain lightly and that in itself made the whole experience magical. I had a few other chances to zip-line back home in the US and nothing is comparable. This was and forever will be, the most epic zip line I have ever experienced.
Tip: New Zealand is really expensive so for most of the hikes we saved money by grocery shopping and making our own PB&J sandwiches. We also got granola bars, water, fruit and snacks for in between meals. Sometimes the hikes can go on for hours and the drive between cities are long without any major towns to stop by in for food. So to prevent getting hangry and doing this trip on a budget we totally recommend stopping by a grocery store. It’s also important to note that they don’t use grocery bags, and if you need one they’ll charge you per bag. I love the concept and being environmentally friendly, and totally think we should adopt that here in the US as well. But I noted it because we were thrown off by it.
Third Place – 35 Lake Rd, Ohinemutu, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand
Really cute brunch place, and the food was good too. Their slogan is “The first place is your home and those you live with. The second place is your work, school or place of study. The third place is where you choose to go to relax, connect and enjoy.” which I thought was adorable.
Eggs ‘Bene’: Toasted ciabatta topped with wilted spinach, 2 poached eggs & hollandaise sauce with Smoked salmon, Eggs on Toast: Toasted ciabatta served with your choice of 2 eggs (poached, scrambled or fried), Lemon tart, Mushroom panini with onion jam, Green Tea, and a Latte
Spoon and Paddle – 101 Heuheu Street Taupō, New Zealand
I got curry fries from here and they were SOO good. It had a dusting of curry powder, spring onion, and you dip it in this delicious coriander mint yogurt sauce. It was divine. I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture, but totally worth it.
Ciabatta – 38 White Street, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand
I really loved this place, the food was great and the people were really nice and friendly. It’s rated really high and is apparently one of the best bakeries there. Try the cronuts! They were filled with this yummy passion fruit filling and they were amazing! My siblings got these ciabatta egg sandwiches and some coffee and it was great as well.
Scarecrow – 33 Victoria Street East (corner Kitchener St) Auckland CBD
It was a cute artisanal kinda of breakfast joint but the food was just ok-ish. They were very green though and environmentally friendly which I appreciated and they had cool stuff on the walls that they sold, like homemade jams, or chocolates, or ceramic wares etc.
Bluebells Bakery – 361 New North Rd, Kingsland, Auckland 1021
It was a nice bakery but nothing amazing. We got a chocolate raspberry cupcake and a I believe some sort of tart but I don’t remember what the flavor was. It was alright, I wouldn’t really go again though.
Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlour – 1092 Tutanekai St, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand
The ice-cream is pretty decent but they only give out 2 samples to try so choose wisely. After two they cut you off, so if you’re still unsure you’ll just have to order blindly. I ended up going with a mint chocolate chip and it was good. It was a bit pricey but not a hole in the wall must try. I think when we went we were craving dessert and it was one of the few places that were still open.
Ali Baba’s Tunisian Cuisine – 1146 Tutanekai St Rotorua 3010
A hole in the wall joint but fantastic food. I got the Tunisian Rice Meal and it was really really good. Definitely a place to hit if you’re in Rotorua. A hole in the wall joint with amazing food and totally halal.
Nandos – 360 Queen St, Auckland, 0820, New Zealand
If there was one place that we knew we wanted to try it was Nandos, and we weren’t disappointed. My siblings and I each got different burgers and then split them in four and exchanged a quarter with everyone. That way we ended up with getting to try all four but still eating just 1 burger.
Ayutthaya – 182 Karangahape Rd, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
This place was one of our first food stops when we landed and it’s located in the middle of a food court. We almost missed it because the location is hard to find but it’s basically a halal Thai place. We got a curry and rice dish and a noodle dish for the four of us to share and boy were the portions huge. It was pretty good food and hit the spot after traveling so long on the plane.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves Cafe – 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo Caves 3943, New Zealand
So this cafe was right after the glow worm cave tour and we were eyeing this halal Angus beef burger from the menu before we even went on the tour. We decided to just get one and split it four ways because it was a bit pricey. Overall it really good, but the wait was a little long and the place was crowded because it was right after the tour exit.
Burger Fuel – 92 Fairy Springs Road Fairy Springs, Rotorua New Zealand
This place was really good as well, and there’s nothing like a good burger. there’s limited seating inside which normally wouldn’t be a problem but since it was raining when we got there we had to wait a little to find a table. But the burgers were great and the people were friendly. Definitely would recommend.
For the life of me I can’t remember what the name of the restaurant was called. But the food was amazing. I tried researching but couldn’t find it because I don’t remember the location we were at when we went. If I ever find out I’ll update the blog, but all I remember was that the walls were painted red, the waiters were attentive, and even though the place was empty, the food was awesome.