As a Kiwi (a native New Zealander), how can I fully convey to you just how beautiful the country I was born in truly is.
Pictures of New Zealand certainly do it justice, and invoke the wow factor for those who are seeing her for the first time, but how do you fully portray that in words. Allow me to take you on a journey of my own personal memories for a moment.
New Zealand is also known as Aoteoroa. The natives of New Zealand are the Maori, and Aoteoroa is a Maori word that means “land of the long white cloud”. The Polynesians were the first to settle in New Zealand, and it has been suggested that they may have travelled from as far away as Hawaii. Abel Tasman was the first European to set foot on New Zealand shores in 1642. The fairer skin settlers became known as the “pakeha” (meaning those who are of European descent. The Maori and the Pakeha have continued to live together ever since.
There are three main islands in New Zealand; North Island, South Island, and Stewart Island. The North Island is the most populated of the three, Stewart Island is the smallest. The capital of New Zealand is Wellington, and this is located at the bottom point of the North Island. The largest city is Auckland, and this is also located on the North Island. When you are flying into New Zealand from overseas, you are likely to begin your exploration from one of these two points.
The most satisfying way to explore the North Island of New Zealand is by car. Grab hold of your rental car and start your journey right at the top at Cape Reinga. When you stand here at this tip, you can see the point where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide. Take the time to visit the Cape Reinga lighthouse before you head on down to 90 mile beach which is located on the west coast. It stretches from Cape Reinga down to Ahipara.
Despite the name, 90 mile beach is actually only 55 miles long. However, it is one of the most pristine beaches in the world. Favourite ways to explore this area include horseback, dune buggies and guided tours by bus. Interestingly, this beach is officially classed as a highway. However, only 4 wheel drive vehicles can negotiate it safely. Swimming is safe in this area, and body boarding down the sand dunes is a lot of fun.
Next stop on your tour is Auckland. Also known as The City of Sails, the two sides of Auckland are connected by the Harbour Bridge. Auckland is the most populated city of the North Island with a population of 1.3 million people. This city offers a lot of water attractions, in addition to beaches, cruises, and sailing trips. Its cultural attractions include museums, art galleries and shops galore. Accommodation is easily found and dedicating several days to exploring this vibrant city will certainly keep you busy.
If you are a Lord of the Rings movie trilogy fan, then your next stop will be the Waikato area. Hamilton is the major city and is located a mere 90 minute drive from Auckland. The Waikato area played host to a lot of the filming of the Lord of the Rings movies. In Matamata, you can even visit Hobbit Town movie set which contains the actual hobbit houses that were used in the movies. The Waitomo Caves are also located here which play host to a fascinating colony of glow worms. You can experience these caves through black water rafting if you are looking for an adrenaline rush.
If you visit New Zealand in the winter months, then Ruapehu is the place for the skiers and snowboarders of the family. Made up of three volcanos, which are still active, world class ski field resorts are located here. Two of the North Island’s most spectacular ski resorts are located on Ruapehu. Accommodation is aplenty and covers all budget choices from backpacking hostels to the glorious Chateau for those with a little more money to spend.
Located around the middle of the North Island is Rotorua. This city’s claim to fame is the smell of rotten eggs – you can smell it easily when approaching the area. The smell is caused by sulphur and this is produced by the vast number of mud hot pools that exist here. Rotorua is a tourist paradise with Maori cultural displays, active geysers and hot springs. You can learn a lot about the indigenous people of New Zealand by adding a stop here to your itinerary.
Not too far from Rotorua is the stunning Lake Taupo. This was created by a massive volcanic explosion over 2000 years ago. The most visited tourist attraction in New Zealand is located not too far from here. This is the Huka Falls, and its claim to fame is the 220,000 litres of water that plummet over its edge every second of the day.
Right at the bottom of the North Island is the city of Wellington. Known as the Windy City, Wellington is the home of the New Zealand government building known as the Beehive. It is also the capital city of the country. Wellington is touted as being the cultural centre of New Zealand. Its abundance of gourmet restaurants and lively nightlife intermingle with fantastic shopping and art galleries. The Wellington Museum is a must see while you are in town.
New Zealand is a country that MUST be on the bucket list of every person in their lifetime. Its friendly people, green landscapes, awe inspiring scenery and 44 million sheep attract over 2 million visitors every year. Bearing in mind that the population of New Zealand is only just over 4 million, this is quite the feat indeed. Take the time to come on over and visit my homeland, you will never regret the decision to do so.