Our journey through the North island lasted just over a week and gave us a glimpse at the pure variety of rugged landscapes New Zealand offers. We mapped out a route that would take us to bubbling mud pools and steamy, thermal creeks and through small towns tucked away in forest-clad mountain ranges. It lead us up precipitous volcanic mountainsides, through leafy, green vineyards and through some of the island’s finest coastal scenery, before bringing us to the southern most point – the capital city known as ‘Windy Wellington.’
Here is a sampling of the highlights from our North Island adventures.
On this scenic peninsula jutting out of the east coast of New Zealand, we discovered beautiful, rocky beaches and charming coastal villages. The unspoiled land here rolls and dips like a sheet when you shake it clean and from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Oceans we enjoyed a magnificent sunset. The small town of Coromandel, sitting at the foothills of the mountains at the water’s edge, has a rustic, old-West sort of charm that I could have spent months soaking up.
This is the geothermal capital of New Zealand. Though the town wreaks of rotten eggs from the pervading smells of sulfur, it offers an array of attractions centered around the natural thermal pools, geysers and mud pools surrounding the area. Here we soaked in piping hot thermal creeks while enjoying the mystique of fog lifting off the remote streams.
The sparkling, deep blue Lake Taupo sits against a postcard backdrop of volcanic mountains. There’s a nice little town with some great cafes and restaurants, which we planned on spending a day to discover, however, over a morning ‘short black’ (Kiwi term for espresso) Ryan had the ingenious idea that we would embark on the ‘iconic’ Taupo experience – skydiving that is. With no more than an hour to mentally prepare for this impulsive decision, I was soon harnessed to a gregarious Brazilian guy and pushed out of a plane at 12,000 feet. Truly the most thrilling experience of my life and one that I can gladly say, I will never do again.
Tongariro National Park
Our first of many visits to the New Zealand National Parks brought us to Tongariro. Labeled one of New Zealand’s Great Walks by the Department of Conservation (there are nine in the country) it’s said to be one of the greatest one day treks in the world. The superlative seeker that my husband is, we would of course not miss our chance to partake — no matter the distance or weather. Pouring rain aside, we covered 15 miles and ascended 4,000 feet. We saw some spectacular views that almost made up for my body aches from head to toe.