“off-the-path” new zealand

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Darn NZ traffic.

While planning a New Zealand road trip, it’s a little necessary to have “must stops” and some other short visits along the way! Of course, the app CamperMate, has some surprisingly incredible suggestions. The app had helped us numerous times along the way, from finding places to check out along the way, to free camping spots. We cannot recommend downloading it enough (they aren’t paying us, by the way). Without further ado, here are some suggestions and opinions for both islands. See the bottom of the page for maps and locations. 

North Island

The Bay of Islands

For us, we didn’t do it right. We left it as a last-minute decision after dining late at El Sizzling Chorizo. We saw the pictures of the stretches of white sandy beaches and thought possibly about getting PADI-certified. We drove late, late, late into the night/early-morning and ended up sleeping in the car on the side of a road in a car park. Whatever it takes to get there, was our mantra. There wasn’t an available public restroom to be found in any of the surrounding areas and to be honest, we were a little miserable and cranky. The Happy Nomads weren’t entirely too happy at that moment. We drove until we reached Whangarei, home to beautiful beaches and marine activities. We are sure it would have been, if it hadn’t down poured the entire time we were there. We drove around the town which honestly, was not worth the time nor energy that was used to get there. Sadly, we found a diner to grab some coffee and continued backtracking towards Auckland once more. We hope that if you are planning to visit, you have better organization and overall luck than we had!

Hobbiton: Middle Earth (why we didn’t)

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Poor goat chained up on the side of the road. We fed him!

 Yeah, yeah, one of life’s regrets. Not for us, anyway. With the pricetag reaching a whopping $80 per person, we contemplated on whether we were actual fans of the movies. Ryann had previously downloaded the trilogy of Lord of the Rings to view during downtimes in Australia or on the plane, but only got through one, by herself. We both found that although we thought it would be amusing to visit, we didn’t think it would be worth the amount of money that would be required to spend.

With that being said, New Zealand has definitely grasped LOTR as “one of their own,” and take pride in the books and movies so much, that the actors and characters are even featured in the airplane safety video. Many places throughout NZ pay tribute to LOTR references and take pleasure in any mention that is possible.

Until next time, Frodo.

Otumuheke Stream (Hot Springs), Spa Park

With so many advertisements and hype regarding the “geothermal springs area,” we wanted to indulge in a soak ourselves, but not also drown in the price. Featured on the CamperMate app, the springs are a short drive from Taupo. We parked our car at Spa Park, crossed a large field and followed the sidewalk until coming across a group of people huddled in a stream, adjacent to a bridge. We were a little worried about leaving our valuables, piled and mixed with everyone else’s, but we were fine (as a precaution, just don’t bring anything TOO valuable!). We dipped our toes in the water, brrr. But not for long! As we waded closer to the bridge, the water temperature intensified greatly. It was very relaxing. We soaked in the hot water until we couldn’t take the fierce heat any longer, then moved towards the river’s edge, where it was drastically colder. Back and forth, we went from a relaxing natural spa treatment to cooling off in the river. Around us, people were involved in the same exchange as us, but soon we felt over-crowded. It probably wasn’t sanitary, either. We decided to continue walking around the Spa Park.

We brought our towels and a hammock, with hopes that we could find a place to hang it up and unwind in peace. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any trees suitable. On the bright side, we DID find a private spot to swim, reserved just for us! We both took turns jumping off a rock into the refreshing water. Looking back, we agree it was one of the more fun days in New Zealand! So simple, undiscovered and free!

We know we’re missing some. Do you have any others to add for the North IslandTell us in the comments!

South Island

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Split-Apple Rock.

Split-Apple Rock

Driving along the northern part of South Island, provided us with some incredible views. But rather than remaining a spectator, we wanted to be more of a participant! We decided on a stop in Abel Tasman National Park (near Kaiteriteri Beach). We noticed en route, that there were kayak rental companies selling expeditions specifically for Split-Apple Rock. We bypassed that, choosing to follow the signs to the parking lot instead. Luckily, we scored a spot, for the parking lot was pretty small. We walked down the steps and took the path to the small beach area that hosted the Rock. We jumped in the water, eager to make the swim to the rock. *Warning- the rocks that surround Split-Apple Rock are quite sharp and hurt to climb or bump into. Be careful! We swam out, briefly climbed it and swam back to shore. Of course, amidst our excitement, we forgot the GoPro for the “typical Split-Apple Rock” picture. Oh well.

Hokitika Gorge

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Hokitika Gorge.

Before driving into the range of glaciers and mountains, get a glimpse of the “that has to be fake,” turquoise glacial water. The gorge was beautiful! We drove a little out of the way and we didn’t regret it! We parked and walked the 10 minute walk (if that) to the bridge. The swing bridge was another fun touch to the park, maybe even a tiny bit scary. The trees flourished on all sides, the bluest of blue water beckoning a dip. We refrained from all desire to take the icy plunge and instead, wandered around the trails. It was a very quick stop, enough to stretch your legs and absorb some natural beauty.

 

Arrowtown (When you’ve tired of Queenstown)

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Coffee at Ritual Espresso, mm.

We stayed at an Airbnb, including our own living room and more importantly, alpacas! They were entertaining to say the least. Ryann had to promise Devin that one day, yes, we’ll get alpacas.. While staying in the Queenstown area, we quickly grew bored of the city. We saw enough hang gliders, tour buses and had it with the parking debacle. Queenstown was indeed beautiful, but we wanted a place less tourist-driven and a little more with local flair. That’s where Arrowtown came in. It was a cute, endearing little town with one major main street, lined with cafés and shops. Yes, tourists are there, but parking was SO MUCH EASIER and the overall vibe was more welcoming and small-town. We enjoyed lunch at The Fork and Tap. We recommend it! Also, while in the Queenstown area, there are signs promising “Paradise,” about 48 kilometers north. Don’t do it, don’t go. The most happening thing there, are the amount of sandflies.

Lake Wanaka

We decided to stop at Lake Wanaka for a superb view of the mountain range behind the serene town’s name-sake lake. Situated an hour outside of Queenstown, this town carved a place in our hearts.  If we had to choose a town to live in, THIS IS IT. Families cycling around, couples picnicking lakeside, elderly strolling the sidewalks- it was a place unspoiled unlike its nearby neighbors. Home sweet home. We devoured a mouth-watering breakfast (New York bagels!) at a new favorite spot, Ritual Espresso Café. Sadly, we only spent a few hours in the town, basking in the sun at the park by the lake- but one day, if fate allows, we will return!

 

Moeraki Boulders

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Moeraki Boulders.

We know, add more rocks to your itinerary. Upon arriving in the airport in Christchurch, we saw a very large, wall-sized image of the Moeraki Boulders. Reading Ryann’s mind, Devin said “Yes, we’ll go.” Hooray!  Situated on the Otago coast, is a humble-sized beach area featuring these spherical giants. According to Moeraki Boulders website, “these boulders are actually concretions that have been exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs…” Grab a coffee and a camera and have some fun!

 

Akaroa

Thanks to our Airbnb hosts in Hervey Bay, Australia, we were suggested to visit this quaint seaside town with French influence. Donned “the most French town in New Zealand,” the food definitely won’t disappoint. We drove the 1.5 hours from Christchurch and enjoyed the scenery, searching the coastline for Hector’s dolphins (no luck). We did have the pleasure in sampling some of Akaroa’s finest French cuisine at The Brasserie. If you feel up to a little picturesque drive, venture out to Akaroa for a meal. Bon appétit!

 

We know we’re missing some. Do you have any others to add for the South Island? Tell us in the comments!

 

Whangarei, The Bay of Islands

Otumuheke Stream

Split Apple Rock

Hokitika Gorge

Arrowtown

Lake Wanaka

Moeraki Boulders

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