04/2009 - New Zealand- the North Island

13-day trip to New Zealand – North Island- visiting Rotorua, Whakarewarewa, Rainbow Springs Natural Park, Waiotapu Thermal Reserve, Lady Knox Geyser, Waimangu Valley Volcanic , Hell’s Gate ( Tikitere ) , Orakei Korako Geyser, Tongariro National Park , Taupo , Waitomo Caves, Aranui Cave , Glowworm Grotto , Katikati , Coromandel Peninsula , Otama Beach , Bay Opito , Driving Creek Railway , Cathedral Grove , Hot Water Beach , Trounson Kauri Park , Waipoua Kauri Forest , Tane Mahuta , Kaitaia , Ninety Miles Beach , Cape Reinga Ancient Kauri Kingdom , Kerikeri , Waitangi , Russell , Bay of Islands , Kawakawa , Whangarei , Goat Island , Auckland, Devonport

After our arrival in Auckland, we immediately move to Rotorua which is the best place to know the Maori people and visit many volcanic and thermal areas. Rotorua faces the homonymous lake and presents very nice gardens with typically English lawns and rose gardens, all around the great Tudor-style building , which originally was a spa and now is a Museum .

A bit northern there is the ancient Maori village Ohinemutu where we visited the St. Faith’s Anglican Church and the Tamatekaupa Maori house.

Te Puia is the reconstruction of a Maori village with workshops where there are skilled wood carvers on work. Close by, there is the most famous geothermal area of Rotorua with an almost impossible name: Whakarewarewa , abbreviated to Whaka . There are some geysers, a basin in silica ( Brainpot ) and … everything smokes and bubbles.

We visited the Rainbow Springs Nature Park where we could see many strange animals. The main attraction was the kiwi, a nocturnal bird that can be seen (and photographed) only with a dim red light.

We ended our intense first day in Rotorua having dinner in the Tamaki Maori village, reproduced in the middle of the forest. It is a touristic reconstruction, but is well done .

This geothermal area is famous for being the most colourful with its “Champagne Pool” and the “Artist’s Palette” .

Within this thermal area, there is the so-called “Lady Knox Geyser”, described as the geyser that erupts a jet of water up to 21 meters daily at 10.15 a.m. It is a big hoax !

A person in charge puts in the geyser opening (as documented in the photos ) something that induces the eruption of the water jet.

The Waimangu Volcanic Valley is considered “young” having been formed in 1886 during the eruption of Tarawera Mount. We followed a path along the Frying Pan steaming lake and met the Cathedral Rocks and then arrived at the Rotomahana lake with steaming and colourful steep banks .

Hell’s Gate, Tikitere in the Maori language, has a spectral atmosphere with eddies of boiling mud which are the largest in the entire New Zealand.

The Orakei Korako Geyser is the last, not least, thermal reserve visited in the area of Rotorua.

We could enjoy beautiful and colourful view, especially from the Emerald Terrace .

We left Rotorua Volcanic Zone going towards the Tongariro National Park .

Along the way, first we saw the spectacular Huka Falls, called ” Hukanui ” by the Maori , meaning ” large column of foam”.

Then, we stopped in Taupo, a beautiful town on the shores of the homonymous lake , the largest in New Zealand. Its waters are surrounded by the volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro , Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu .

In the evening we arrived in the area of ​​Tongariro National Park . We stayed there also the next day to allow our friends (the mountaineers of our group) to climb Mount Tongariro which , together with Mount Ruhapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe, are the three still active volcanoes of the park .

I also wanted to document the emergency instructions in case of a volcanic eruption hung in our hotel room and the ski resort of Tongariro where there was a meeting  of vintage cars

We started a very busy day. Our destination was Coromandel Peninsula which is beyond Auckland, that we overpassed with the highway.

We made a first stop in the Waitomo Caves area and visited, at first , the Aranui Cave . It is very large, well-lit, with numerous and very fine stalactites of various colours ( white , pink, brown ). Then, we visited the Glowworm Grotto where it is strictly forbidden to take photos not to disturb the glow worms, small creatures that have filaments that glow like fireflies .

The little highway traffic in Auckland area allowed us to make a detour that took  us to the town of Katikati, famous for its murals .

We dedicated the whole day to visit the Coromandel Peninsula .

We began by making an excursion with a small train that climbed up on the slopes of a hill, dense of vegetation , and we could enjoy wonderful views.

Going ahead, we met other landscapes, always very beautiful , consisting of bays and spectacular beaches such as Otama Beach and Opito Bay.

In the afternoon we made a walk, enjoying the magnificent views, along a path which brought us down near the sea where it stands a limestone arch of gigantic proportions : Cathedral Cove.

We also stopped at the Hot Water beach, a long and wide beach which is a surfers’ paradise ; it is famous for the presence of boiling water  just below the sand on the seashore.

We had a very busy day (13 hours) both for the kilometers to drive and for the visits to be made.

We made a first stop at the Museum of Kauri trees (see below) where, in addition to the reconstruction of an ancient sawmill (working) we saw numerous pieces of furniture , sculptures and paintings and the resin , like amber , which after being processed and polished , is considered a gem .

We continued our trip and visited the forest of Trounson Kauri Park. We could admire the huge Kauri trees (up to 60 meters high) that have an extraordinary longevity ( two thousand years).

Then we entered the Waipoua Kauri Forest and saw Tane Mahuta , the Maori name which means ” Lord of the Forest .” It is the largest Kauri tree in New Zealand .

In the final part of the journey we met spectacular sceneries made ​​even more beautiful by the light of the sunset.

At the Hokianga Harbour we took the last ride of the ferry. We arrived at Kaitaia at 21.00 .

The next day we touched the extreme northern edge of New Zealand.

To get there we had to cross the beach called Ninety Mile Beach , although the actual length is only 96 km. , that is 60 miles.

Being forbidden to cross the beach with unauthorized vehicles, we made the trip with the Far North Outback Adventures.

Our guide ( and owner ) is a retired bank clerk ( actually the five of us are all retired bank clerks) .

At mid-morning he offered us tea with homemade cake , then some fishermen gave him  freshly caught fish which he skinned ( so that we could taste them at dinner); once the, “Ninety Mile” was completed, he prepared a pic-nic letting us enjoy good wine in crystal glasses .

Cape Reinga is embellished by a white, solitary and distinctive lighthouse.

It is the most northerly lighthouse in New Zealand , visible from sea from more than fifty kilometers afar.

Returning to Kaitaia, we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom art gallery.

We could see Kauri logs dating back to over fifty thousand years ago, as well as valuable artifacts.

We drove along the road southwards, along the Pacific Ocean coastal side.

We met magnificent bays (Tauranga and Matauri ) and reached Kerikeri , a small town that offers beautiful views along the homonymous river  (with waterfalls ) .

Along the way, before arriving at Waitangi , we stopped to admire the Hararu waterfalls .

Waitangi is famous because in 1940 was the location where the Treaty between the Maori and the government of Queen Victoria was signed; there,  we saw the war canoe ( Maori War Canoe ) , the Maori meeting House ( Whare Runanga ) and the He Toho show of Maori dances .

We slept in Russell, a beautiful town overlooking the calm waters of the bay of Kororareka .

The next day, we embarked for a cruise on the Bay of Islands.

Very beautiful views were offered by the islands of the bay and it was exciting to see the many young people present in the boat to swim with the dolphins.

On the return trip, we stopped at Cape Brett to see the perforated rock called ” Hole in the Rock .”

We left very early to go to Auckland.

We made a first stop in Kawakawa , a small town known for the most famous public baths of New Zealand. They are the work of the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who characterized them using ceramic mosaics and coloured bottles .

Going on, we met the Whangarei Falls before the homonymous nice little town with its lovely marina .

As we approached the Goat island, we could admire magnificent cormorants.

Unfortunately, the very rough seas prevented us from making the trip with the glass bottom boat to see the underwater world rich in fish and colourful sponges .

I would like to introduce Auckland with the photo of the volcanic cone of Mount Eden . It is the highest volcano, about 200 meters high, of the 48 volcanoes in the area.

It overlooks the city and offers (when there is visibility , not that day ) a great view of the bay and the city.

The panorama, shot by the viewpoint of the Sky Tower , shows , in the foreground , the harbor and the city center . On the left there is the Harbour Bridge and in the bottom and in the center, the town of Devonport.

From this distinctive building, the Ferry Building , leave ferries .

On the left, there is the Maritime Museum , as well as , a huge watery area ( Viaduct Harbour ) with many docks where private boats of all sizes are moored . Inland there are blocks of flats created for the boats’ owners.

The Harbour Bridge, opened in 1959, as well as allowing the adrenaline ” bungy -jumping ” , is used to join two areas of Auckland and reach, with a fast highway driving , the north of the country.

Devenport is a small town with beautiful Victorian houses and elegant shops that attract many tourists.

We ended the visit of Auckland at the City Museum. There is a wide collection about Maori culture and one part dedicated to the animals of the past.

It is interesting the Aquarium with numerous species of fish and a huge (over two meters) squid of the deep.

Before concluding this long journey, a curiosity.

Along our trip, we met many curiously painted buses and I want to show them to my readers .

I also thank the New Zealand autumn : the dreaded sudden weather changes only influenced us minimally and we could fully enjoy the natural wonders of that beautiful country .

I invite you to continue the journey with me in New Zealand, the South Island.


The photos of this trip can be seen in the musical slideshow through the following link: www.viaggiaresempre.it – Nuova Zelanda del Nord