My New Zealand adventure is concluded, 33 days and 6,480kms of driving around both North and South Islands since I arrived in Queenstown on 13 September.
It has been an amazing trip. Driving in New Zealand is very pleasant, despite the single lane roads, with smooth surface, very courteous drivers and just incredible landscapes around. In my first weeks I stopped a lot while driving to just get down and take pictures. That’s how pretty the sceneries around are. Local people are also generally very nice and helpful.
I stayed mostly in motel or hostel (mainly YHA), and I think it has some advantages doing this when you’re doing a road trip. First, there’s no point spending money on staying at nice hotel since most of the time you’re only there to sleep, although once in a while it’s nice to indulge. Second, you get to meet lots of travelers, whom you can share stories and get some inputs on destinations. Lastly, some of the hostel actually got excellent location! YHA membership also quite valuable for NZD25 fee it charges. You get 10% discount on accommodation, but they also got discount on lots of activities and you’ll make your NZD25 back in no time.
I spent my last couple of days around the northeastern part of the North Island. Initially I was going to skip Hobbiton but a friend convinced me to go and I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s the rundown, including some commentaries on food:
I like this place. It’s modern and charming. Very livable, reminded me of Sydney. Walked around Queen Street, the waterfront and surrounding area. Also went up to the top of Sky Tower, which is not that special to be honest but hey you gotta do it once right. I always thought of residing in Australia someday when I’m retired, but Auckland is actually a good option, and property price shouldn’t be as inflated!
Initially I was about to skip Coromandel altogether. I just didn’t have time. But then with some cancellation in Picton I managed to squeeze it in. I was not very impressed to be honest. The drive there is nice, sure, but then along the way there’s really not many things that interest me. The town Coromandel itself has not much to offer. I went to the New Chums beach which was quite nice and took a dip in the cold water. It is quite interesting because to get to the beach you gotta walk along the coast line from Whangapoua beach. There was only 1 other person while I was there so we have the whole beach to ourselves. Pretty cool!
Cathedral Cove is the most famous spot in the peninsula I believe. It takes 30-45 mins hike one-way to get to the beach and the cove. I think it’s ok, nothing special, though perhaps it would be more impressive if it wasn’t such a gloomy, grey day. In general the landscape of the peninsula is very pretty with lots of green hills along the coast.
This is the site where the Shire from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbiton series is actually located. Apparently, the structure is a temporary one when they filmed LOTR but then it was rebuilt permanently for the Hobbitons. It was a beautiful, beautiful farm. Green everywhere. Unreal. The whole Hobbit holes setup is very cool and apparently lots of effort was put into making sure all the details are correct. Fun fact: do you know that the willow tree above the Baggins hole is actually a fake, man made tree? Amazing details right. Anyway, let the pictures talk.
BAY OF ISLANDS AND POOR KNIGHTS
I went diving for a day each in the Bay of Islands out of Paihia and Poor Knights out of Tutukaka. Initially I wanted to dive the Rainbow Warrior wreck but the weather was not good so we went to dive the Canterbury wreck instead. Unfortunately the water visibility was not good so it wasn’t pleasant nor enjoyable when you’re on 7mm wetsuit diving in 10 degrees water. Second dive was a bit better, especially when we were allowed to pick up sea urchin and eat them! Did see mooray eel and a massive massive lobster though.
Poor Knights Island is a marine reserve about 45 mins boat ride from Tutukaka. Supposedly popular diving spot. Again, it’s just too cold I think to make it enjoyable. Having said that, we dive in a cave which was kinda new and cool for me.
I had the best food of this trip during the last week in NZ. Had the best steak at The Grill by Sean Connolly, which surprise surprise, is cooked sous-vide. It is without doubt, the best steak I had in NZ. At the end I also went to Jervois Steak House which is supposedly #1 in Auckland, but I think The Grill is better.