North of the North Island

So from Taupo we headed North to Rotorua, we visited back in 2006 so this time we used it as a stopping off point as it was equal distance between Matamata (for Hobbiton) and Hamilton so we could see the Chiefs play rugby on the Friday night.  We went to Hobbiton on the Friday but it was rammed and really wet so we moved our tour to the Saturday and instead headed a little west to Cambridge and used that as our nights stay as it was about 30 min drive from Hamilton.  The next day we headed back to Hobbiton and spent a couple of fabulous hours being shown around the Shire and having the tricks of the trade explained to us re the Hobbit houses.  It’s very worth it if you ever head out this way.

From there we headed east to the cost and Mount Maunganui.  About 20km out of Mount Maunganui something went pop within Ludwig.  We managed to limp him to the camp site and got the mechanic out to look at him.  Luckily it was only the pipe from the turbo that had come lose but it had us both a little worried.  We stayed for two days as the weather was fabulous.  We climbed Mount Maunganui and then made the most of the hot pools that were adjoining our camp site.

From there we stayed along the eastern coast line but went further north and headed to Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel Peninsula.  The name is as it sounds, as it has underground hot water springs which you can access by digging 2 hours either side of low tide.  The first day we went it was overcast, and about an hour before low tide but the beach was already full and there were hot water pools everywhere.  Day two, low tide wasn’t until 17.12 so and time from 15.00 would be good, but we decided we would get there around 13.00 so that we could stake out the best spot.  We weren’t the only ones to have the same idea but whilst there we got talking to a young couple from New Orleans called Roger & Jana and between the 4 of us got ourselves a pretty decent hot pool, and this time the sun was out all day which was lovely.

From there our next stop was Russell in Bay of Islands but we visited Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve on our way up to it.  The drive to Russell was 441km so we broke it up into a few days.  Our first day we just stayed in a little town called Miranda and from there we went to Tutukaka which is where we would be diving Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve.  It’s been three months since we both last dived and we were really missing it.  On our way up there we found out that the bad weather we knew was coming in was actually a category 5 cyclone called Pam, so we were pleased we were diving when we were.

The diving was amazing and it was so good to be back under the water.  At Poor Knights the bottom is predominantly kelp, where in SE Asia and Australia it is coral. What’s very disconcerting is when you are swimming along and the sea bed is moving in the opposite direction that you’re swimming in. We won’t now be diving again until we get to Fiji & Tahiti as it’s just too expensive but you never know!!

From Tutukaka we made our final move up north to Russell. You can either take a long winding road there or go to Opua and get the car ferry over which takes about 15 min, so we went for the crossing. Russell is a small holiday resort. It’s got history as it was the original capital of New Zealand before Auckland then Wellington took over. It’s a shame that Cyclone Pam was on her war path with the top part of the island marked for her destruction as we both would have so loved to have spent more time in Russell.

So we headed back down south towards Auckland, knowing we had only 48 hours left in the camper van and not wanting to get caught out by the storm. So we ended up spending 36 hours in Orewa beach which is about 50km outside of Auckland to the east. The Sunday night was wet but no where near as windy as we expected and high tide the next day was a lot higher than the locals have seen before. On both days the kit and normal surfers were out making the most of the big waves.

So it is with sad of heart that we have to hand Ludwig back in. It was a lot of fun and I would recommend it to anyone, and the best thing about it all, we didn’t kill each other!!

Our last two days in New Zealand were spent in Auckland, it was always the plan to treat ourselves to somewhere nice after our time in the camper van and found an fabulous little B&B in Ponsonby called Bellas.  We had a wander round the city, visited the art gallery which had a collection from Billy Apple which we both thoroughly enjoyed, and we went to the top of the Sky Tower in the centre.  As with any focal point at night the tower was lit up and we were lucky enough to have a great view of it from our room in the B&B.


Cathederal Cove
Mount Maunganui