“Should I go to the North Island or the South?” says everyone on a travel time crunch who wants to experience the best of New Zealand. Most people will pretty eagerly say South, and I’m not going to disagree with them; the South is a mind fuck of beauty. But the North Island has some gems as well, and if you have the time I highly recommend checking out both spots. Here is a photo journal (featuring #truetea commentary and some tips and tricks) of my two weeks in the North Island! (Ps I rented a car and it is hands down the best way to get around the country. Although, be warned, petrol is stupid expensive).
I first landed in Auckland. I don’t have a picture of Auckland because it’s fucking Auckland. I know I know, it’s a big city so you think you should go here, but let us remember: No fucker goes to New Zealand to check out cities. If you have to fly into Auckland, I suggest catching the 45 minute ferry to Waiheke Island, the Hawaii of New Zealand.
It’s got beaches, lush forests, and fucking gorgeous wines.
After a few days of boozing in Waiheke (it’s cultural!), I drove to Cathedral Cove. This, hands down, was the highlight of the North Island for me. The drive itself is stunning, the hike down isn’t too hard (takes less than an hour) and the ocean and cave is just beautiful.
I then stayed in Whitianga which was sort of a piss in the Atlantic Ocean as far as memorable destinations go. It’s got a nice beach but that’s literally like saying Portland has a nice craft brewery.
Next, I drove to Mount Maunganui, a vibrant surfer town. If you’re not into water so much (because sharks are real y’all), there’s also an excellent hike up the mountain overlooking the town. Also, tons of fucking sheep frolicking around.
My next destination was Rotorua, a quick hour and a half drive away. I had high hopes for this place, as it was pitched to me as the Queenstown of the North Island. No. It’s fucking not. Just as Michelle Williams is not Beyonce, and will never BE BEYONCE, Rotorua will never be Queenstown. For starters, the smell of sulfur (it’s a volcano town) gave me a few voms throughout the day. Second, this town is boring as fuck. I would rather urinate on spark plugs than go to Rotorua for nightlife. A friend I met, an Irish gal, spent her birthday in Rotorua. We left the hostel at 9pm on a Thursday night and there was literally not one place open. Not a bar, not a club, not a fucking petrol station. It was dead like my soul.
During the day, however, there’s some cool shit to do!
Like Zorbing! Zorbing is when you get locked into a big plastic ball filled with warm water and then are pushed off a hill. It feels like being in a washing machine!
And luging! Luging is when you’re in a little go cart like thing and you race down a mountain! Is it safe? No! But it’s fun!
And the Redwoods! You can hike and mountain bike all around. It’s the only place in Rotorua that doesn’t smell of rotten eggs!
And Hobbiton! Confession: I’ve never seen any Lord of the Rings films, and I wasn’t like, PUMPED about visiting Hobbiton, but it ended up being dope. Everyone who works there is the cutest little nerd, and they love talking about the films and books. They tell some truly fascinating stories about how the location was secured and some of the issues that came up during filming. It’s really fucking majestic and you also get to drink a free beer when you go there! Who doesn’t love drinking at 10am?!
And the Glow Worm caves! It’s like a cave of glitter! Plus, most of the tour guides at the caves are descendants of the homeboy who discovered this shit, so they’re mad proud of their family lineage.
And the Polynesian Spas! Fucking ancient magical geothermal waters to heal your body and make you sleep like you just ate five grams of weed. Pro tip: Go at night, and pay for the Lake Spas. I know you want to go to the adult one, because children do not equal relaxation, but the Lake Spas are outside under the moonlight and the ambiance really adds to the experience. Plus, there are heated lounge chairs so yas queen to that!
Side note: While in Rotorua, a lot of people go to Maori cultural events. I also attended one, but I felt tragically uncomfortable. It felt very much like a performance that was being put on for a bunch of dumb ass white people. I’m still reckoning my experience, as I’m glad I got to learn a bit about Maori history and culture, but the actual evening event was a bit too Disneyland for me.
Another side now: I visited Waiotapu, the geothermal area in the volcanic centre, and I just puked a lot. If you’re into science, def hop on it. If you’re not/have a sensitive stomach, maybe take a pass on it.
After Rotorua, I drove to Upper Hutt and stayed in a fucking TREEHOUSE that had a HEATER and WIFI. It was $20 per night and I found it on Air BnB. I spent the night drinking shitty wine out of the bottle (because I couldn’t be bothered to schlep down the ladder and into the house), eating Sour Patch Kids, and reading the trashiest romance novel I bought at the grocery store. Money can’t buy you class, guys.
I then drove to Wellington, which is a pretty dope spot. Wellington actually has more bars and restaurants per capita than NYC. This is where you go when you want the best flat whites. I love Australians, but don’t let them tell you they are the creators of the flat white...it was the Kiwis who made this delicious, not-quite-a-cappuccino nectar. Wellington is also just fucking cute. Cute streets, cute beaches, cute homes. Fucking Cute.
My favorite night in the North Island was spent in Wellington, where I met up with my English and Irish friends again, and went to a janky bar called Electric Avenue, drank $5 double vodka red bulls, met a French rugby team who started collectively tap dancing, and got home at 4am.
The best meal I ate was at a restaurant called Plum the next day. I housed a pulled pork grilled cheese at 9:30am because, well, I like my heart attacks in the am hours.
If you’re not into eating and drinking literally everything, you may be a bit bored by Welly. I fucking loved it.
I then caught the Interislander ferry and I cannot recommend this enough. If you are heading to the South Island, this is the way to go! The views through the Cook Strait will make you believe in God. I highly recommend catching the first one in the morning, so you can witness the sunrise.
And don’t worry, there’s food, coffee, and booze aboard the ferry, so you’ll handle the 4 hour journey like a champ.