#17: Auckland and our last days in NZ

After visiting Hobbiton, we drove the last stretch up to Auckland where we found a campsite as close to the center as possible. With only 15 in to the city, Avondale Motorpark seemed like a good place to spend our last days camping in NZ. But the place was a dump, with bad facilities and not really worth the $50 per night… So the next morning we packed the campervan for the last time.

View of Auckland from One Tree Hill

The last day with the camper, we decided we might as well use to see some of the sights in the outskirts of Auckland. First we drove to Auckland Zoo, where we spent the morning wandering around looking at all of the animals. And we got to see a kiwi!

After lunch we wanted to experience some of Auckland’s volcanic fields, so we drove to One Tree Hill. The surrounding Cornwall Park was nice but the volcano top itself was very disappointing. We were expecting something else, but it felt more like just visiting a hill-top (maybe that’s where the name comes from..?).

Mai was asleep in the car so we decided to drop the walk in the area and drove straight back towards the area of the airport (close to where we had to drop off the camper), where we had booked a night at a hotel. We spent the last parts of that day relaxing in the sun by the pool and unpacking the camper /packing our stuff, so the camper could be ready for drop off the next day. After a little more than 3 weeks in the camper, it was SO nice sleeping in a real bed!

The next morning we returned the campervan and took a taxi to the city center. From home we had booked a nice apartment hotel, Celestion Waldorf Apartments Hotel – if you’re ever in Auckland, you must stay there! The hotel is perfectly situated in 5 min walking distance to Queen Street and the waterfront, the staff is really sweet and helpful and the apartment was huge with 2 big bedrooms and a large balcony. After 3 weeks camping, it felt really luxurious.

The view from our apartment

The last days in Auckland we spent strolling the sunny streets and relaxing. We followed a walking path mapped out in Lonely Planet, that took us through most of the city sights, but after 2 months of travelling, we were pretty “full” of experiences, so we really felt the need to just be in the city without any agenda or plans.

The last day we met with my friend Karin, her boyfriend Peter and their daughter Frida, who’s two months younger than Mai. They just arrived in Auckland the night before and was just starting their roadtrip in NZ. It was so nice to see them and we spent the day catching up on stories from home, us giving them tips on travelling in NZ while drinking G&T in the sun.

A perfect way to end our trip around NZ and our 2-months long journey!


#16: Rotorua and a visit to Hobbiton

From Wellington we drove all the way up to Rotorua. On the way we spent one night at a campsite around Lake Taupo. 

Rotorua is known for its geysers, mud pools and hot springs. The most famous one is the geyser Pohutu, which is the biggest geyser in the southern hemisphere that erupts up to 20 times a day! Unfortunately the geyser did not erupt when we visited the thermal reserve Te Puia, where the geyser is, but the nabouring geysers was quite active with water spurting several meters up in the air almost continously. The whole place was really interesting and we spent close to three hours just walking around between all the gleysers, mud pools, hot pools and streams. 

In the afternoon we found a nice spot at the top 10 holiday park and relaxed for the rest of the day. The day after, Thursday, we spent the entire day doing pretty much nothing. We had breakfast at the local irish pub, which just happened to also be the local sports bar 😉 Martin watched Juventus play the champions league and I went for a walk around the city with Mai when it was time for her morning nap. Other than that we hung out in front of the camper or in the lounge room playing. 

Friday we drove to the farmlands around Matamata, a peaceful and beautiful area with lush green hills and sheeps guarding the fences. Until 1998 it was just that and only local farmers drove around those hills, but then a guy called Peter Jackson discovered the area and decided to use the location for his movies…

The famous hobbit village that stars in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies has been built into a permanent village for tourist purposes. We didn’t quite know what to expect, but we were both very pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was expensive, but everything is expensive in NZ. We were shown around in a group by a guide, telling us all sorts of interesting facts about the film set, how the movies were made and “behind the scenes” stories. The village itself was absolutely beautiful and you could really feel the atmosphere from the movies. It was peaceful, full of flowers, vegetables and small hobbit houses 🙂


#15: Marlborough region and Wellington 

After some days with really good weather, it started raining again on Friday when we left Nelson. Our plan was to drive around Marlborough Sounds all the way to French Pass, but after about 20km or so we decided to turn around. The view over the water and all the bays where blocked by the grey clouds and we felt it was a bit waste of petrol to drive around in the mountains without a pretty view. Instead we headed for Picton via the scenic route. It was a bit better, but having just seen Abel Tasman we were not overwhelmed.

We got to Picton and it still rained. A lot. Picton is the city where the ferry to Wellington departs from and we thought it would be a busy touristed town with plenty to do. But it really wasn’t. We thought about checking in to a motel and hiding from the rain the rest of the day there, and actually asked a few places, but we ended up going to the nearest campsite and spent the rest of the day there inside the camper.

The next day, Saturday, we drove to Benheim and the Marlborough wine region. Since it was a bit too early to start drinking, we went for a walk and a lunch in Benheim. We then went to some different wineyards, starting with Wither Hills.

After that we went to Cloudy Bay, where I tried their tasting menu. It was a very fancy and tranquil place with big comfy swings hanging around the trees in their garden.

We then drove to a nearby town, Renwick, where we had discovered a free camp”site” that did not require a “self-contained” sticker at the back of the camper. It was just a parking lot outside a sports facility but there were clean restrooms and only two other cars than us, so we decided to stay. We chatted a bit with the german couple in the van beside us, and then went for a walk in the area. The town is in the middel of the wine area so we could walk to a small and local wineyard called Forrest, and since Martin wasn’t driving, we both tasted some wine.

The next morning we where woken up at 6.45 am by a knock on the door – the parking lot only allowed 10 overnight campervans, but during the evening a lot more had appeared. And since the spots were not numbered, it was difficult to tell which ten campers were there first, so everyone had to leave! So we left and had breakfast inside the camper on a parking lot outside McDonald’s 😉

We found the local farmers market and did some shopping and then drove back to Picton. At 2pm we boarded the ferry taking us all the way across Cook Strait to Wellington. It was a beautiful day so luckily it was a quiet 4 hour sail where we got to see more of Marlborough Sounds.

In Wellington we had booked two nights at a motel in the center. We needed to sleep in a proper bed and also, it was nice to stay in the venter where we could walk to things, instead of staying at a campsite outside of the city.

Monday we spent all day in Wellington. In the morning we visited Te Papa, New Zealand’S national museum. The rest of the day we walked around in the city, eating lunch outside near the harbour front and just enjoying the sun. We also tried the cable car where there was a beautiful view of the city.


#14: Abel Tasman and Nelson

After arriving in Motueka, we immediately booked a tour to the Abel Tasman National Park for the following day. The national park was one of the sights on the top of our list to see in New Zealand, but since you are not allowed to drive into the park, we weren’t sure if and how to experience it – sea kayaking and 3-4 days hiking is not really an option (for us at least) when travelling with an 8 months old baby. 

The next morning we drove to Kaiteriteri where we boarded a water taxi. On that we cruised through the national park and saw lots of beautiful bays and beaches. We also sailed by Adele Island where we saw some seals sunbathing on the rooks. 

We got off at Anchorage, an absolutely stunning beach! It was still low tide so we could walk around and see some cool caves at the end of the beach. 

We put Mai in the carrier and did a hike up to the Cleopatra Pools. It was roughly 6 km and one hour to the pools on a well marked path that was shaded but with beautiful views. Unfortunately, to reach the actual pools we had to cross the little river and walk on the wet stones.  With Mai fast asleep in the carrier, I did not want to risk slipping on those rocks, so I waited while Martin went over for a quick look at the pools. 

We hiked the same way back to the beach and spent a few hours relaxing and having lunch before taking the water taxi back to Kaiteriteri. 

From there we drove to Nelson. The weather was great and we got a nice campspot with some grass, so we spent the rest of the day playing on a blanket with Mai. 

The next day we spent in Nelson, just walking around soaking up the atmosphere of the city, drinking a coffee while Mai took a long nap in the stroller. We had a nice lunch outside in one of the pubs and spent the afternoon back at the campsite, enjoying the sun and again playing outside. 


#13: Queenstown and the west coast

From Milford Sound we drove to Queenstown. Another beautiful drive, it really is amazing how much beautiful scenery and how many scenic routes one country of that size can hold!

We found a cute little campsite in walking distance to the town center, and spent a day and a half strolling around Queenstown. The sun were shining and we finally managed to find ourselves in a city on a Saturday, so we could enjoy a market! We had a nice lunch and just relaxed and enjoyed the sun. Mai was a bit sick, with fever during the nights there, so it was needed. 

On Sunday we started our drive up the west coast, with first stop at Fox Glacier. It was late afternoon when we got there, and the sunny weather from the last days was replaced with rain. And lots of it. 

The following day it rained even more, so much that the road up to Fox Glacier was closed. We got a peak at the glacier from afar, and the little walk to the viewpoint in the very green rainforest lightened our spirits a little. 

We drove the 20km north to Franz Josef Glacier and hoped for it to stop raining in the meantime. Unfortunately, it only got worse. So much that we decided we did not want to hike the 2 hour (at least) hike to the glacier, so we continued driving north up the coast instead. Just another reason to come back to New Zealand. 

Pitstops along the way.

We made it all the way past Greymouth to Punakaiki, where we spent the night at the local campsite. The next morning, we went to see the star attraction; the Pancake Rocks. The rough sea have carved into the limestone rocks so much that some of them looks like giant stacks of pancakes. It was indeed very interesting, but the rain wasn’t quite done with us and we got caught in the rain and had to run back to the van. Soaking, we headed further north, all the way up to Motueka, on the north part of the South Island.