Ever since my plans to visit New Zealand became set in stone in the form of non-refundable flight tickets, I haven’t stopped researching what to do and see (and eat, of course) when I’m there.
That’s not even an exaggeration. There is always at least one tab open on my phone with some article or another, normally called “X Things You Can’t Miss in New Zealand” or “The Ultimate New Zealand Road Trip“. It’s funny, because I’m not even going on a road trip and I don’t even have a license but I’ve still read about 5000 variations on the same topic. Also, there are an awful lot of ‘ultimate’ New Zealand road trip itineraries and ‘ultimate’ lists of things to do in New Zealand. Kind of takes away from the ultimate-ness of ultimate, ya know?
Anyway, this time in two weeks I’ll be halfway through my journey to the other side of the world, ready to spend 16 glorious days in the semi-sunshine with my best friend, eating all the ice cream and hunting all the hobbitses. Even more exciting than that, in around three and a half months I’ll be flying to the other side of the world again, this time to hopefully live there for a while. I say hopefully because right now I’m supposed to be saving my money to apply for a Working Holiday Visa, but Krispy Kreme donuts keep accidentally flying into my figurative shopping cart by the dozen, and I’m currently 6 pages into ASOS trying to find a bomber jacket so there’s always the chance I’ll be too poor to go.
New Zealand wasn’t ever high on my list of places to visit. I mean, it seems nice enough, but my Kiwi aunt once told me that when she moved here to Wales she couldn’t believe how green it was, and it was almost on par with New Zealand. So I’ve always thought why would I go out of my way to travel all the way across the world to see somewhere that looks the same as my own home? Then my best friend planned to move there, and now I’m kind of obsessed.
On my first trip, I’ll be flying into Auckland and spending the weekend there before heading up to Hamilton (where my best bud lives) and using that as a base for the following two weeks. He’ll have college, so my days of exploration are a little limited in that we only really have the weekends to venture further than the front doorstep, but fortunately Hamilton is extremely accessible for most of the key points of interest in the North Island. Then the second time around (if I make it, #prayforRhiannonsbankaccount) I’ll again be heading to Hamilton for a while and then, who knows?
One thing’s for sure and that’s I’ll be spending A LOT of time in New Zealand’s North Island, which is quite unusual for visitors, as the South Island is definitely more well-known for its sites.
So with all of the above, I’ve compiled a wee little bucket list of 13 things I want to do in New Zealand’s North Island – some you’ll definitely have heard of, but others are quite specific to me – sorry ’bout that.
This could be a daily occurrence as I’ll be staying just around the corner from them and they look beautiful! My friend has sent me a few photos already (apparently they have a mini Taj Mahal?!) and I can’t wait to spend an afternoon or morning just wandering around, enjoying the open air and different themed gardens.
ENJOY HIGH VEGAN TEA IN AUCKLAND
Apparently, high tea is very typically British. However, as a British person who has never enjoyed high tea in my own country or elsewhere, I can confirm that these days it’s most certainly not very typically British. What is typically British these days is a trip to Nando’s.
High tea (or afternoon tea) is more of a special occasion type thing over here, and it seems I’m yet to have an occasion special enough, so FOMO has started kicking in big time. The Vegan High Tea available at Heritage Hotel intrigues me and, despite not being vegan, I want it.
RAFTING ON THE KAITUNA WATERFALL
I went rafting in Peru, and have been dying to go again ever since! A few days ago my friend (not the one who lives there, a different one – apparently my whole social circle are on the other side of the planet right now) went rafting at Kaituna Waterfall and I’m just full of envy. I’m a huge adrenaline junkie, and the route offered by Raftabout involves the highest commercially rafted waterfall. I mean, where do I sign up?!
Do I need to give an explanation? Call me cheesy or cliché as much as you like but how could I possibly stay so close to Hobbiton and not let my inner Frodo run wild?! I’m more of a Bilbo, if I’m honest. Or actually, I’m Charlie from LOST but in Hobbit form (can’t remember his name, oops).
VISIT THE NAUGHTY PENGUINS
Last year the National Aquarium of New Zealand went viral with their public shaming of naughty (and nice!) penguins and the very moment I set my eyes on Timmy and Betty, I fell in love. I’m not sure if the aquarium still does their naughty and nice list, but a visit to see penguins is a visit to see penguins, and penguins are marvellous creatures.
WAITOMO CAVES AND THE GLOWWORMS
So glowworms are apparently a real thing and not at all invented by Walt Disney – who knew?! Certainly not this gal. I just Googled a picture of one, and they look like those little bug penny sweets you can get that are half red and half yellow.
Since reading Migrating Miss’s amazing experience at the caves, I have barely shut about seeing the glowy little fellas in real life and navigating the windy caves. It’s happening, I’m excited.
THE TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING
This was a new addition to the ole list since a few weeks ago when I mentioned about 6,000 times on Twitter that I was going to New Zealand, and more than one person told me I couldn’t miss hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (weather permitting). As I’m definitely not a hike-for-fun kinda gal, I looked into it and guys, you can see Mount Doom from there!!! Like, I could be an actual hobbit on a mission to destroy the ring.
WATCH A LIVE RUGBY GAME
Rugby is a big thing in Wales. Rugby is a big thing in New Zealand. That, along with the ridiculous number of sheep in both countries, basically make us brothers. I don’t really follow rugby, I don’t understand the rules and I don’t go out of my way to catch a game, but I still find it mesmerising when I do sit down and watch. And I promise the mesmerisation has less to do with the giant thighs, and more to do with the huge hugs the teams always have. Scrums, I think they’re called. I don’t understand why they do them or what their purpose is, but I’m hooked. So yeah, I’d love to watch a live rugby game in New Zealand, especially if it involves the haka.
WATCH A NOT LIVE RUGBY GAME
It has to be a Wales vs. New Zealand match, though. I just have images of me sitting in a pub (does New Zealand have pubs? Is that a stupid question to ask??) watching the beginning of the match, blending in and looking all inconspicuous and whatnot until the national anthems start, then I stand up on the table, whip out my dragon hat and proudly sing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau word for word. Is that actually going to happen? No, because I don’t have a dragon hat and probably wouldn’t ever stand on a table in public, but a girl can dream.
My auntie is originally from Rotorua, and all I remember her ever telling us about where she’s from is that “it’s beautiful but it stinks”. So I’ve always wanted to see just how bad the stench is, if at all. Having visited a few geyser-filled places already, I’m pretty prepared for what to expect but I still want to go to Rotorua and just stand there and sniff the air. Obviously while there I’ll probably, you know, take a dip in the geothermal pools or Polynesian spa because why not?
GO ON A HORSE-RIDING TOUR
At the moment I’m torn between going for a horse-riding tour in Waikato or the Bay of Islands. I think exploring some of New Zealand’s most beautiful sites on horseback would be such a poetic (and exciting) way to spend an afternoon. As a bonus, I imagine it’d also make me feel like an extra in Lord of the Rings, which is always grand. Might even fashion myself a cape for the occasion.
BAY OF ISLANDS
Have you seen the Bay of Islands? If you haven’t, I think you need to Google Bay of Islands right now. It’s a haven for all things seaside-y and coasty. You can go sailing, snorkelling, diving, fishing, boating, everything! And the views of the bay itself are absolutely gorgeous! We’ve already booked accommodation there for my second weekend in the country, and although we have no idea what to do yet, I think just being there would be enough.
WATCH THE SUNSET ACROSS LAKE TAUPO
Would I fly all the way to the other side of the world just for a pretty sunset? Yes, I would. I’d also love to see Lake Taupo during the day, but there’s something about watching the sunset behind a huge body of water that makes me happy. Combine that with the dramatic mountainous backdrop, and I’m pretty sure if I manage to see it, it’ll jump straight into the top 5 sunsets of all time.
This is obviously by no means a definitive bucket list of things to do in New Zealand’s North Island – rather, it’s my own personal bucket list of things I want to do. And to be honest, it’s just a start! If I had the time and patience, I could write probably 60+ things I want to see and do in the North Island, and another 60+ for the South Island. Alas, I have dishes to clean and clothes to wash so let’s leave that for another day!
If you’ve been to New Zealand’s North Island, what should I definitely not miss?!