Okay, so far, New Zealand has not been any fun at all, it's not paradise, and the people are so mean. Did I mention it's opposite day? It's 12/14/17, and we've become completely enamored with this beautiful country. However, to keep things segmented, we're going to keep this post about our first week in New Zealand, which consists of our travels from Auckland up through the Northland and back to Auckland. We've been pretty busy with our adventures, traveling from spot to spot, and fitting in work. There's been zero down-time, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
We've heard so many great things about New Zealand leading up to this trip, and we kept hearing everyone saying it's all good, especially the South Island. Well, the South Island must be amazing, because we've thought the North Island has been absolutely spectacular, so let's not discount the North Island. We've learned a lot while here so far. We've learned that everyone, especially the locals (but also all the other tourists), are so nice and hospitable. Positive attitudes everywhere. We've learned that tipping is not customary, that driving etiquette is quite different than America, that driving on the left hand side of the road is easy to adjust to, that good craft ales are also popular here, that everything is very eco-friendly, it's legal to camp in any public space (Freedom camping), that there may be more cows and sheep than people in this country, that the drinking age is 18, that van life is huge here, and that the Maori language and names are very difficult to pronounce. We've learned that the most reliable, unlimited wifi is hosted by McDonalds, sadly, and that we have to take advantage of good internet when we find it. Cafes and other locations typical limit time or data use or the speeds aren't up to par. We've learned that we love the liberty and flexibility of living in a van. We've learned in 5 days that we love the beautiful country of New Zealand and let's get into why!
Auckland is a city in Northern New Zealand that hosts 1/3 of New Zealand's whole population. It is semi-flat, but has many different hills and varying topography giving many different vantages to choose from. There are many parks scattered throughout the the city, and the vibe is very laid back. West of the city is the Watakere Ranges Regional Park, which is home to immaculate waterfalls and beaches. We found a home at St. Helier's beach while staying in Auckland, and we worked out of coffee shops while here. While in Auckland, we hiked to the top of Mt. Eden, dined at the top of the Sky Tower, basked in the waters of Kitekite Falls, watched sunset at Piha Beach, and went to a rock concert at the Whammy.
(Gallery of Auckland, Mt. Eden, The Skytower, St. Helier's Beach, Kitekite Falls, Piha Beach)
North of Auckland lies beautiful beaches, forests, and mountains. We set out north bright and early on day 3 heading for Paihia. On the way, we stopped by Whangerei Falls. Here there was another beautiful waterfall, swimming holes, and a scenic walk through the forest. Paihia is a coastal beach town on the eastern shore, and a town that we both identified with (especially Hannah being from Cocoa Beach). It had beach vibes, open-air restaurants, good seafood, and lots of water adventures. Here we enjoyed swimming at the beach, running the Opua Forest Paihia Lookout Trail, taking the Ferry to the town of Russell where we hiked to the top of Flagstaff Hill, and indulging in craft ales and locally caught fish and chips at Vinny's Takeaway. In the afternoon of day 4, we set out to the most northern tip of NZ, Cape Reinga. We arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset and walked to the lighthouse, as far north as you can go, to view the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean clashing together. We drove to our home for the night, the Tapotupotu Campground, where we caught a colorful sunset and camped for the first time out of the van, in our tent, underneath the stars and next to the ocean. On day 5, we woke up bright and early and adventured south to the sand dunes of 90 Mile Beach were we both went sandboarding for the first time. This was a thrill! 90 Mile Beach is an official highway that has no lanes and is just natural beach. After a three hour drive south, including a vehicle ferry crossing the Hokianga Harbor, through beautiful, green mountains and into the Waipoua Forest, we found New Zealand's largest Kauri Tree. Pictures will never do it justice, it's girth was huuuuge! We had a late night drive back down to Auckland where we'd post up for one more night. That concluded our travels of Auckland, up through The Northland, and back to Auckland. A great start to our New Zealand adventure!
(Gallery of Whangerei Falls, Paihai, Opua Forest, Russell, Flagstaff Hill, Cape Reinga, Sand Dunes, & 90 Mile Beach)
Check in next week as we continue south through the North Island! Follow our Instagram and Facebook stories for a play by play of our travels. With spotty cellular service & wifi everywhere, this is truly the best way to keep up with us. Click on our social media links in the top right hand corner to find us or search for us @case_eyesoftheworld & @hans_eyesoftheworld on Instagram. Leave comments below! Message or Facetime us!