Day 1 – Is Calling Someone a Kiwi Offensive?
We have arrived in the land of the Kiwis! After a 13-hour direct flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina we landed in Auckland, New Zealand at around 5AM. We were exhausted, but were determined to beat our jet lag. We grabbed our packs and headed to the closest McDonalds to use their Wifi. First things first, Clair needed a coffee:
Clair – Can I please get a black coffee?
McDonalds employee – Long or short?
Clair – Black
McDonalds employee – But long or short?
Clair – …?
They don’t really serve drip coffee here like they do in Canada. They serve espresso. If you order it long they’ll provide you with a kettle of boiling water to add to your espresso. It’s pretty good and very strong!
We burned some hours at McDonalds (aka Mackers) and headed over to Rental Car Village to pick up our campervan that we would be traveling in. When we started researching this leg of our trip we quickly realized that December and January are peak tourist season here in NZ. All the popular campervan companies we checked out did not have any reasonably priced campervans available. After emailing about a dozen companies we found this one and jumped on it!
Our van… is mediocre, but you get what you pay for. It was available and kind of affordable (we’re paying around $73/day.) It’s nothing fancy but we added a small fridge, for an additional cost, and it comes with most of the utensils you will need. We have also been staying at holiday parks which cost about $20/pp to stay at. If you are trying to save money, don’t copy us! You’re probably better off buying a van and selling it when you leave (this option is quite common). You can also stay at Department of Conservation (DoC) camp sites which are slightly cheaper (or freedom camp… but this can get tricky). If we were to do this again we’d buy a van instead of renting, but you live and learn! We also picked up a Kiwi Card, which for $35 gets you’re a 10% off Kiwi Holiday Park sites and a discount on the Bluebridge Ferry from the North to South Island. If you’re traveling during December/January like we are, book your ferry early! We booked a few weeks prior to entering New Zealand and were left with the 2 AM ferry.
Our first day was possibly one of the most stressful times of our trip so far. We were so tired, had no plan, and had to learn how to drive on the left side of the road while handling a stick shift with the opposite hand. Well…at least Kik had to. It was pretty much a nightmare but we only once went down the street the wrong way! Mantra: Wide Right, Tight Left.
We decided to get out of the city and try our luck on the highways. First, we needed to get groceries and some supplies. We bought our food at the Pak N’ Save near the airport. IT WAS SO GOOD TO EAT VEGETABLES AGAIN! Then we went to some smaller discount/dollar stores that were close to the airport. We could buy sheets, pillows, and blankets there for under $30 CAD. We pretty much just picked a location on the map, which turned out to be Port Waikato and decided to stay at the Port Waikota Holiday Park. Once we were on the road and out of the city we felt better. Although, the highways are quite curvy and narrow, it’s less nerve wracking than the stop-and-go of Auckland (remember that the max speed limit for campervans is 90km/h). There are also a ton of roundabouts but you get used to them and really appreciate how quickly they move traffic (Again, Winnipeg take note). Just remember to always look to your right and yield to cars already in the roundabout. We also found it helpful that the passenger is responsible for navigating and providing reminders as to how to take the approaching turn.
We plan on heading back up to Port Waikota on our way back up, because we really didn’t see anything while we were there. The campsite was nice and there are a lot of cool things to see and do in the area, but we were just too tired!
Day 2 – Town of Coromandel
We were on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula. We had planned to spend three days cruising along the coast and stopping at the Town of Coromandel, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, and Waihi.
It’s worth stopping in at the small Town of Coromandel. We stayed at the Long Bay Motor Camp. There’s a nice view with a beach and walking path through the forest. It’s a quick drive from Port Waikoto at just over an hour. Kik was majorly disappointed when he found out no campfires are allowed throughout NZ.
Day 3 – Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach
The next morning, we were off to check out Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, located just under two hours from the town of Coromandel. Our plan was to spend the day at Hot Water beach digging in the sand and sitting in the thermal waters and then head to Cathedral Cove on our way out of town. But one thing we have noticed in NZ is that the weather is unpredictable, and apparently slightly colder than normal on the North Island. It was rainy, so we spent the day lazing about our campsite at the Sea Breeze Holiday Park. How convenient that they had a craft beer pub on site? Thank you Hot Water Brewing Co.
The following morning, we were determined to check out Hot Water Beach. You need to get there two hours before or after low tide. Our campsite had the info available to us as well as a spade to borrow. You can rent spades there, but they are expensive so plan accordingly. Also, there are two parking lots once you arrive at the beach. The first one is $2 cheaper but a little further. Don’t worry about finding the beach, just look for all the tourists digging in the sand. Be careful as some of the pools are boiling hot!
After the tide starting rolling in, we headed out to Cathedral Cove. There’s no road access to this beach, so you can either water taxi ($25/pp) or walk. We decided to walk and would strongly recommend it. It’s not too strenuous (an hour), but bring water and sunscreen. At the outset of our day it was cloudy, we thought we’d walk there and turn around but by time we got to the beach it was hot and sunny. We were sunburnt, while family and friends were trapped in the snow back home in Winnipeg!
Day 4 – Waihi
On the fourth day, we headed to Waihi. We stayed at the Waihi Motor Camp. It was a quieter town and there wasn’t too much to do here. It was slightly rainy again, so we couldn’t go to the beach. We walked around town and visited the massive gold mine, the town’s main tourist attraction. It’s free to walk around the pathway around the open pit with some cool information about the site along the trail.
So far NZ has been a great and easy country to get around. A couple of things we’ve noticed is that gas is expensive (like over $2/L), free WiFi is not that accessible, and the weather can change in an instant. Also, we plan on staying at some DoC on the South island, we were just not sure what to expect. At holiday parks they provide bathrooms, showers, laundry, and most often a fully equipped kitchen. They also provide powered sites (powered sites cost more than non-powered sites). From what we understand certain DoC sites have this as well. We will let you know!
Can’t wait to tell you about Hobbiton in our next post! #NerdAlert