After we were done touring the South Island, the map above shows the stops we made on the North Island. We got off the ferry in Wellington and met up with our friend Lauren, who we met in India, and then hooked up with again in Vietnam! She gave us the locals tour, and we stopped at a café on Cuba street, walked to the Te Papa museum, and had dinner at a nice little Louisiana Kitchen type place.
We wish we would have had more time in the museum- it was awesome! We got a little more history of the country and its Polynesian inhabitants. It also housed the most incredible museum display that Jeff and I have ever seen. It was an exhibition that explained New Zealand’s role in WWI. Besides being extremely well put together, it also featured huge figures designed by Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame). I am not big into any art scene, but I could have stayed and looked at these displays for hours.
The next morning, we were up early and went to the Beehive for a tour of the parliament buildings. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, and it was interesting to learn more about the country’s government. I wasn’t super impressed with the tour of parliament, but mostly because I was comparing it to our capitol building in Washington D.C. NZ is a much younger and smaller country than the US, therefore the buildings were newer, and smaller.
After our tour, we drove out of town and headed to Lake Taupo. On the way, we stopped and did a short walk in a thermal area. None of the thermal areas we visited smelled very Sulphur-y, but they did remind us a little of Yellowstone. We hit a lot of sparadic rain on the North Island, so rainbows were abundant!
The next day was Easter, so we attended a nice service in Taupo, then went to explore Huka Falls, Craters of the Moon, and Spa Thermal Park. We threw on our swim suits and went to find a place along the small thermal stream that feeds into a larger river. The water was way too hot to even stand in along the stream, so we hopped in the freezing cold river and fought with other tourists for a spot where the stream met the river. There was a small waterfall of hot water coming from the stream and it felt great! And super weird that we were having a hot tub experience in a river. After a nice Easter dinner of lamb and fish, we drove to Waitomo.
Waitomo is a small town of 41 people that is on the map due to the extensive cave systems that are there. This is home to blackwater rafting- sticking your butt in an inter-tube and going rafting through dark caves. It was a little chilly while we were there, so we opted for a drier tour. We checked into the Waitomo Caves Hotel. I am convinced it was straight out of a horror flick. Super creepy by night, and kind of sad looking by day.
After we survived the night (without any ghosts that we were aware of), we went on a tour of two caves in the area to see glow worms. The tour of the glow worm cave ended up being one of the highlights of our entire trip around the world. We had a small group of 13 people, and our tour guide took us into a cave without lights. We sat in the dark to let our eyes adjust and then he took us down the river inside the cave on a small inflatable raft. It was incredible! There were thousands of little glowworms on the roof of the cave (read about our other glow worm experience and why they glow here). Without the glow worms, we would have been in complete darkness, but since there were so many of them, it was bright enough for me to see Jeff’s face when he was sitting right next to me.
From Waitomo, we drove straight to Auckland. We had one full day in Auckland, and it turned out to be one of the nicest days we had in NZ. Warm and all sun! We drove out to the black sand beaches on the west coast and then met up with my parents who had just ended their bus tour in Auckland that day. It was nice to be able to catch up again before we all headed to the airport early the next morning. We found a delicious Vietnamese restaurant for dinner.
Our time in New Zealand was fabulous, and the country had made it to the top of the list of places that we want to go back to someday. I think we left with more things on our to-do list, than we were able to accomplish! I know that 2 weeks is a very short amount of time to see both the North and the South Island, but Jeff and I were extremely happy with everything we were able to do and see, and we think that we got a pretty good glimpse at the whole country!
Jeff’s New Zealand Totals:
Modes of transportation: Plane, ferry, boat, bus, rental car, taxi
Total Spent: $3372.80 (Includes flight into Christchurch and the rental car, plus gas is quite expensive in New Zealand)
Average Per Day: $210.80
New Zealand is definitely one of our more expensive stops. Even though the currency exchange works in our favor, everything is imported to the island so costs are driven up. Even though we stayed at budget lodging we spent quite a bit in New Zealand, and we decided not to partake in the most expensive activities such as taking a helicopter onto one of the glaciers.