Tag Archives: North Island

My North Island Adventure

By the end of September, I got to travel through the North Island with Stray. This week was the most amazing week I had so far in New Zealand. Stray is known to get off the beaten track and have unique sleep locations. This shouldn’t be underestimated at all. I loved that I got to see the beautiful highlights of New Zealand. But what I loved even more is that I got to see places which you will never find as a regular tourist. Because I was away for 9 days, I have a lot to tell, but if I do that you will not be finished reading after a couple of hours and I do not want to do that to you. Therefore, I will only tell you about the stuff which are important to know and the most remarkable experiences I had during that week.

When I hopped on the bus on the 29th of September I was greeted by a spontaneous driver from Stray. Stray works with New Zealand bus drivers because they have a lot of knowledge about New Zealand and all the tours in general, they know the country by heart and they will speak about it with passion. All the passengers who were travelling with Stray were around my age (24), which I really liked because everybody has the same state of mind around that age. The youngest was 22 years old and the oldest 31.

The bus was really small, it could only fit around 16 people, but this bus is only used in the low season when there aren’t so many customers to fill the big busses, which can have 60 people. But I did not mind that, since the group size wasn’t that big I got to know everybody really good and it made it easier to talk to people. But not only the group size made it easy to talk to people. Almost everybody in the bus was travelling, just like me, alone. Because of that, everybody is in the same situation as you are. We are all away from home, alone and we want to explore New Zealand and meet new people. For those reasons you have so much in common and it makes it easy to start a conversation with people.

I have been sleeping in 6 different towns, all around the North Island. But the bus will not go straight towards the next destination. Along the way the bus will stop a couple of times for different reasons: to get some coffee or breakfast, for a short hike, to jump in a hidden hot spring or to get some groceries. The bus driver will tell you if it is the last supermarket you will see before we hit the town or even before we continue the next day. Because Stray has accommodations in unique places, it can happen that you will sleep in the middle of nowhere, with no reception and no supermarkets.The driver will always inform you about this in the bus. Every day you also have the opportunity to cook the food for the evening for yourself, or to go to a local bar and eat together with the group.

Like I already mentioned before, Stray will go off the beaten track, which means that you will stay at unique locations and see things you wouldn’t see as a regular tourist. The locations where you will stay the night are all breath taking. In the 9 days I was away, I only slept two times in a hostel. This was in Rotorua and nearby the Tangoriro National Park. Every other night my sleeping area was unique in its own way.:

In Hahei we stayed two nights on a camping which was a 5-minute walk away from the beach! Stray has its own area at the camping which is only allowed to enter by Stray customers. The wooden houses that we we’re sleeping in were very big, tidy and the bunkbeds were extremely comfortable. We also had our own kitchen, bathroom area and a chill out place were later that night we would have our barbeque and bonfire.


The accommodation in Raglan was extremely beautiful. We were sleeping in small, wooden lodges which was located in the middle of the nature. It made me feel that I was sleeping in the jungle.  The lodges were layered in different levels on the mountain, Stray had the lodges on top of the mountain, so my room had an incredible view above the tree’s and the ocean in the background.

After Rotorua, we stayed the night in Lake Aniwhenua, which was one of my favourite places. The houses where we would stay the night had a beautiful view of the big lake in front of us. In the back, the giant green mountains were rising in the sky. It was something I never saw before.

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In Whakahoro, situated in the Whanganui National Park or known as the Blue Duck Station, we stayed again two nights. The drive in this National Park towards our accommodation, was breath taking. It looked a bit like the Shire from the Lord of the Rings movies. We were surrounded by big green mountains and there were sheep and lambs running everywhere. In Whakahoro Stray has a couple of houses where 16 people can sleep in one house. Each house has its own kitchen, bathroom, dining area and living room with a fireplace. Whakahoro has only a population of 8 people, and they provide everything for themselves. When you are there you can really experience the feeling of a community. The food that you can eat there is hunted by their own people. The water you use is coming from the mountains and even the food you want to throw away is going to be eaten by their animals. Even though the town has a small population, there are many activities you could do there. And Stray will arrange a party in the evening which everyone can join.

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I did a 3-hour horse track in Whakahoro and it was such an amazing experience. I never ride a horse before, so even if you are not experienced at all, it is still possible to do a horse track over here. But you can do a lot of other things over there like: hunting, kayaking or clay bird shooting.

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Everywhere you go there will be all kinds of activities you can participate on. Make sure that you know what you want to do, where you want to do it and if the weather is good enough to do it. It would be unfortunate if you did participate for a kayak tour when it’s raining, especially because there are a lot of places in New Zealand where you can go for a kayak tour.

Some things, like visiting Hot Water Beach or some hiking tracks, are free to do. For other activities you have to pay for. When you are in the bus, the driver will pass down a sheet of activities which you can apply for. This way you will not have to think about what you can do in the area yourself.
In Hahei you can hike to a lot off beautiful places. Ask at the reception where you sleep if they can give you some recommendations. But you surely have to go the Cathedral Cove. This hidden spot each is only accessible by foot or by boat and it is one of the locations were the movie ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ is been filmed. I did the one-hour hike to the Cathedral Cove and it was extremely beautiful. But you can also do it with a kayak tour. In the evening, you will also go to Hot Water Beach with Stray. Over there you can, due the hot water streams below, dig your own Jacuzzi.

 

Raglan is the place to be if you are interested in surfing or if you want to learn surfing. Raglan is situated at the west coast and it is really popular among surfer because of the strong sea and the high waves.

If you want a unique experience, please do visit the Waitomo Caves. The Waitomo Caves are famous of their glowworms. Because they give light it looks like you are surrounded by the stars. You can enter the caves in a couple ways: you can either choose the dry or the wet option. If you choose the dry option, you will sit in a boat with a guide and you will sail through the caves and see a lot of the glowworms. If you are claustrophobic, I would recommend doing the dry option, because the wet options are also the more adventurous option where you will go down in the caves, which sometimes can be very narrow. If you already done the Waitomo Caves, or you are not interested in doing it, you can also do some of the free hikes in that area.

At Lake Aniwhenua you will get a full Maori Experience, but not in a tourist way at all. You can learn the haka over there, make traditional bracelets and end the evening with a traditional Hangi. It was a day I would never forget. While you are on the bus you can choose to go to Lake Aniwhenua or skip it and go straight to Taupo where the bus will pick you up the next day. I am glad that I went to the lake. When we were driving towards the lake we stopped to pick up a Maori woman, who would be our guide for the rest of the day. She told us about the Maori culture and especially of her tribe. Somewhere along the way we stopped and she took us with her through a hidden path in the forest. If you don’t know it’s there, you will never find it. Eventually we stopped in an open place surrounded by the walls from the mountain. In these walls, you could see so many rock cravings, it was absolutely amazing. She told us that these cravings were one of the oldest cravings of New Zealand, all the way back around the year 1.000, when the first Maori arrived in New Zealand. Travel agencies are not allowed to promote this hidden spot, because it is situated on secret ground and you can only access it when you are invited by the Maori tribe. And because Stray and its customers are their guest, we were allowed to be there.

The last thing I would recommend to do is the Tangoriro Crossing. It will take you a while to finish it, but it will be an experience you will never forget. However, do it when the weather is good! Especially in the lower season, when it can be foggy, cold and it will be snowing in the mountains of the crossing. Because of the weather conditions in the winter season, you will have to pay more to enter the crossing compared to the summer season. Instead of $40 you have to pay around $200 for winter equipment and a guide, because you will be lost without it. If the weather is bad, even for winter conditions, and you want to enter the crossing, you will not receive your money back. When I could do the crossing, I decided not to enter it, because it was extremely foggy and cold. And I wanted to do it in the summer when the prize would be cheaper. Therefore, I decided to do the 2-hour free hike in that area. The hike was so beautiful, I had a really good day. But when I returned to my hostel I heard from the others, who did the crossing, that they couldn’t see a thing due the fog. Their experience was really bad and that was unfortunate.

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The next day I unfortunately had to head back to Auckland.

I can’t tell you what I liked the most of my whole trip, but everything what I did, what I saw and what I experienced was absolutely amazing!

Cheers,

Dani

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My incredible experience traveling New Zealand’s North Island

Last week, I went on an amazing tour with Kiwi Experience, I took the Geyserland and Lake pass. We visited Hot Water Beach, Waitomo, and Rotorua. On Wednesday morning, the bus driver picked us up at the Kiwi Experience office and we took off for our backpacker adventure. Before we went out of Auckland we did a quick toilet stop at the Auckland Domain and here our bus driver told us everything about the Kiwi Experience adventure, safety, activities, and accommodation during the bus trip. After that, we started our journey to Hot Water Beach, our first stop of the bus trip. My bus driver was really amazing! He was really funny and knows everything about New Zealand. He tried to help us as much as he could with our travel and activities and he really wanted us to have fun.

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During our trip to Hot Water Beach, we stopped once in a little town with a shopping mall. We had some time to do some groceries and get some lunch. We stopped nearby a PaknSave, the cheapest supermarket in New Zealand. Kiwi Experience is really trying to think about your money and tells you when there is time to do shopping and they will tell you where you can find cheap food.

Around 14.00 pm we reached our hostel in Hot Water Beach and we had about 30 minutes to check-in, go into your room and get changed. Then we went for our first activity of the trip. The bus took us to Cathedral Cove and we had to walk 45-minutes down. It was a really easy hike and the moment you reach the beach is breathtaking. This beautiful spot was used for the movie ‘Narnia’ and it was one of the locations in the music video for the song ‘Can’t hold us’ by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. We spend an hour around the beach before we went back up. When we visited the beach, the weather was really great and the view looked like a brochure picture. We went back to the hostel for dinner and we eat some fresh fish and chips.

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We were not able to get to Hot Water Beach before 12 pm. We missed the low tide at daytime so we went to the beach at night. This experience was amazing! We went with the whole Kiwi Experience group and had to find our way in the dark. At the beach, we had to find the perfect spot where we could mix hot and cold water to make our own natural Jacuzzi! The sky was clear, so we sat under the stars and had a perfect night in the hot water. This activity is definitely one of the best experience I’ve ever had!

The next day we were really tired, but we had to get up really early because of our busy day. Most people slept the first 1,5 hours on the bus and after that, we had our first stop to get some breakfast and do some groceries for Waitomo. After our break, we did a short hike track in Krangahake. Our bus driver guided us around the track that leads us through mines.

Next, we went back on the bus and continue our drive to Waitomo. During the ride, different accommodation and activity sheets were given and you could sign up for everything you wanted. I signed up for the Maori dinner and accommodation in Rotorua the next day. When we reached Waitomo, we first had to get out tickets for the Glowworm caves and the Maori dinner or sleepover. After that, we went to the hostel and we had some free time. Around 3 pm, 10 others and I were picked up at the reception and we went for the Black Labyrinth in the glowworm caves! This tour was really impressive. We had to climb and walk in the caves and when we reached the water we did the cave tubing and some small waterfall jumping. The most impressive moment was when all the lights went out and you could see all the glowworms in the caves!

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The next day we left Waitomo to go to Rotorua. After a 10-minute drive, we stopped for a short morning hike and afterward we left for Hobbiton. I did not go to Hobbiton this time, but we had some really nice weather so the people that went on the tour had a perfect day! The people that did not choose to go on the Hobbiton tour left for the OGO balls in Rotorua. I went in the OGO balls with one other girl and it was so much fun! First, we did the Straight Track, where you race another OGO balls downhill. The second time we did the Sidewinder Track, this is de world’s largest track. When we had to wait we could just chill in some outside Jacuzzi and enjoy the view over the Rotorua lake.

After a while, our bus driver picked us up and we went to our hostel in Rotorua. I stayed here for two nights and enjoyed my time with different people in the hostel. The first night, I went with the Kiwi Experience group to Tamaki, the Maori village. This cultural experience is amazing! You will learn a lot about the Maori culture, they will show you Maori dances, tell you stories and they will sing old songs. After that, we got some traditional food that they cooked beneath the ground on hot stones. They will end the evening with all the guys performing the Haka and some lovely songs.

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The next day, I left the Kiwi Experience group and went to explore Rotorua. In the afternoon, I visited the Redwoods with some people I met in the hostel. This forest is really beautiful and you can choose to do the free hiking tracks or go for a tree walk at day or night. We ended our trip in de Lava bar that is next to the hostel!

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On my last day, I went on another Kiwi Experience bus and went back to Auckland. Before we left Rotorua, we stopped at the Rainbow Springs Nature Park to learn something about the kiwi birds in New Zealand. We got on a tour and saw some baby kiwi along the way. After the tour, my trip was done and we went back to Auckland. My experience was really great, I had the opportunity to see many beautiful places and enjoy many different activities!

 

Cheers,

Melanie

 

INTERNeX New Zealand: STRAY trip north Island

Hi there,

Wow, wow, wow, what an awesome trip was that. Last week Luus and I went on a trip to the North Island with the STRAY bus. For so far we only had seen Auckland, what we really enjoyed, but it was really fun to see the real stuff of New Zealand, the Nature!

It was an week full of amazing activities, STRAY did a really good job! We went on a trip from the 18th till the 22th of September. It was an trip around the north island of New Zealand. We will tell you about every stop we made, to get a good view from what we did and what you also can do!

Wednesday we left from the office off stray early in the morning, so we still had the hole day. We first drove to a supermarket, so don’t worry if you’re not prepared (as we did). After the supermarket we made a quick stop at an beautiful waterfall from eleven meters high. Then we drove to the highlight from that day namely Raglan, the surf paradise from New Zealand.  It was an beautiful day for surfing, so we were really lucky. It also is an really quiet beach, what’s good. But maybe that was, because it was winter season. You can get a lesson from two hours from some really kind surf teachers. You start with practice on the ground and after a few minutes they bring you to the beach, where you can practice your surfing skills. If you don’t like to surf, there is also an possibility to hike in to the mountains (the sleeping lady). In the evening we did an harbour cruise to see the sunset. You sleep in an amazing hostel when you go to Raglan. The hostel is in the bush bush, but still with an view over the sea.

The second day we went to waitomo caves, were we did some caving. That is absolutely amazing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or boy, you definitely think this is extreme. You go via a really small entrance into the caves and then you follow some small course. You go abseiling for 80 meters under the ground, also along some waterfalls. A cool part in the caves is that you can see a lot of glowwurms. After the caves, we went to a maori family to experience their culture. First you do the ceremony with the maori traditions including the hongi (nose kiss). After the ceremony, you got some really good food, made by the family and then you’re going to watch to some maori dances. Of course you also going to try them by yourself, what is fun! Post a good night you will sleep together in a beautiful maori house.

 

The next day we went to a national park called National park. Because of the wetter we were not allowed to do the hiking. But if you go there, try to do one of the beautiful walks. Instead of hiking we went to the hidden pool from Gollem, of the Lord of the Rings movie. The hostel were we stayed that night is absolutely relaxed. You have a good room for three people, so you just share your bathroom with two other people. Besides that, you have two hot tubs, were you can relax the hole evening. Or you can go to the bar just 100 meters further. That is what we did, a cool place to grip a beer.

After a good sleep in the hostel, we went to a place that called the blue duck station. Is was in the middle of nowhere, what makes it very special. In the midday we went haunting. You go with an jeep into the bush and see the beautiful nature and if you want you can go shoot some goats  or rabbits. In the evening we make an fire and enjoyed some beers and have some good talks and good sings. So conclusion, the STRAY trip was absolutely amazing!!! If you also want to go with stray just ask Chris or Luus or Lies for more information or experiences and you can book it via INTERNeX (if you’re from INTERNeX) with some discount.

Cheers,

Lies & Luus

Picture of the Week: Paihia

This week’s photo of the week is of the Wharf Building in Paihia. Paihia is located around 4 hours north of Auckland and is known as the “Jewel of the Bay of Islands”. It is a beautiful place to visit with plenty to do including dolphin tours and the opportunity to swim with dolphins, visiting the historic site where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, taking the ferry to Russell, visiting the scenic Haruru Falls, Kayaking, Fishing and much more. If you’re visiting Paihia be sure to stay with our friends at the Pipi Patch Base Backpackers Paihia 🙂