I confirmed my flights yesterday!! At 12:20 on the 28th July I leave Heathrow!! It's all getting very real and very exciting, though I still have a lot of money to raise so these last few months are going to be very tight but it's going to be worth it times 1000!
A couple of days ago I was looking further into the itinerary of the 'Kiwi Explorer' pass that I am doing for the last couple of months of my trip, all the timings are flexible but here's where the bus takes you....
(Start anywhere, finish where you start)
Auckland to Mercury Bay (Whitianga)
After visiting Mt Eden (one of many dormant volcanoes in Auckland) we head towards the Coromandel Peninsula and spend the afternoon at Cathedral Cove accessible only on foot or by kayak - a beautiful coastal spot great for swimming, sea kayaking and spotting dolphins if you’re lucky. Provided the tides are right we may also check out Hot water beach and dig our own hot pools.
Mercury Bay (Whitianga) to Rotorua
We depart Whitianga early in order to make the most of our time in the geothermal and cultural centre of New Zealand, Rotorua. Our first stop en route this morning is a visit to the Karangahake Scenic Reserve to explore a native bush clad gorge, swing bridges and a one kilometre long tunnel. On arriving into Rotorua you will have the chance to go luging, zorbing or for a dip in a natural hot spring before experiencing the traditional Maori Hangi and Concert in the evening with Tamaki Tours - a night not to be missed!
Rotorua to Waitomo
Today we start with a visit to Te Puia - a large geothermal reserve and Maori Arts and Crafts Centre. Te Puia is also your first chance to spot the elusive Kiwi bird!! We depart Rotorua to drive on through the Waikato and King Country to the Waitomo caves. (Wai meaning water, tomo meaning cave) The local caves, hiding under the green Waitomo countryside, are made out of limestone, which is basically very old dead fish (in this case about 40 million years old). We spend the afternoon checking out Marokopa Falls (3rd largest falls in NZ), the 'Natural Bridge' and Ruakuri reserve. Apart from glow-worms in caves you may see stalactites, stalagmites, cave coral, rock sculptures, fossil oysters and fossil whalebones.
Waitomo to Taupo
We leave at lunchtime today so that you have time to experience the legendary Black Water Rafting in the morning with either the Labyrinth or Abyss trips! Other adventure activity options include the Quad Biking through rural farmland or the brand new Ruakuri cave which is an engineering masterpiece. We leave the Waitomo region behind us heading in the direction of the Tongariro National Park and Lake Taupo. Apart from the natural geothermal features of the surrounding area, Taupo is fast becoming known as the action adventure capital of the north. Activities include skydiving, bungee jumping, jet boating, walking the Tongariro Crossing (said to be the best one day walk in the world!), trout fishing and more…
Day off – Taupo
Enjoy a sleep in (for those not doing the Tongariro Crossing) and experience one of the many activities on offer. A walk down to Spa Park to relax in the natural hot springs by the river is also a great way to spend the day (or night). Alternatively If you have time head off on our 'East As' - 4 day, 3 night unique add on trip around the East Cape which takes you to places few tourists get to see, stay in small communities and experience Maori culture as a living reality.
Taupo to River Valley
We head south around the “great lake” to Turangi then head into Tongariro National Park for a picnic lunch and a two hour walk through native bush, waterfalls and braving the cool mountain streams of this alpine volcanic region. In the afternoon we travel through to our ultimate adventure lodge - River Valley, situated amongst towering cliffs and bush-clad hills. River Valley offers some great activities including a very scenic horse ride and grade five rafting on the Rangitikei River, which runs straight past the front of the lodge. Spend the evening enjoying the delicious roast dinner & relaxing by the open fire.
River Valley to Wellington
A late start after a morning white water rafting on the Rangitikei river or horse riding up in the hills full of deer, cattle and sheep. We arrive in Wellington late in the afternoon. This city is the undisputed capital of culture, the arts, restaurants, fashion and nightlife. It’s home to the largest cultural attraction in New Zealand, Te Papa Museum that is well worth a look (and it’s free).
Wellington to Picton to Nelson
We take the Cook Strait ferry across to the South Island (awesome scenery) and travel via Havelock, Pelorous Bridge over to Nelson, New Zealand’s sunniest city. A great place in summer to jump off the bus and explore the Abel Tasman National Park on either foot or kayak.
Nelson to Westport
In summer (October to April) we head into the Abel Tasman National Park to Kaiteriteri where you have the chance to do a half-day kayaking trip or a water taxi ride into the national park to do a short trek. In winter we visit the Nelson Lakes National Park for a walk in the forest and a visit to one of the spectacular lakes in the area surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains. En route to Westport we meet the team (and Rata the dog) from Buller Adventure Tours where you can experience the best value for money jet boat, horse trek and quad bike in NZ.
Westport to Lake Mahinapua
Today we head down the spectacular West Coast Road that stretches 435kms along the rugged Tasman shoreline. The road winds through diverse landscapes, which never cease to amaze both locals and visitors alike. Highlights Include Cape Foulwind seal colony, rugged beach walks & Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes. Tonight your driver will arrange a group meal for you at the legendary Mahinapua Hotel known as the “Poo Pub” (a traditional West Coast Pub). Be aware of the West Coast Cuisine is not your standard BBQ! The “Wild Food Feast” may consist of whitebait, bambi steak, wild mussels and other things. It’s an awesome evening to get to know your fellow travellers.
Lake Mahinapua to Franz Josef
Our first stop this morning is the Bushman’s Centre where you will get an insight into how people make a living on the coast with sphagnum moss growing, old timber-milling techniques, possum trapping and helicopter deer recovery – known as New Zealand’s last great adventure. We then head through to Franz Josef Glacier Village, nestled in the Westland National Park.
Free day - Franz Josef
Today is your chance to hike on Franz Josef Glacier, rated in the top three NZ activities by Kiwi Experience passengers.
Franz Josef to Wanaka
We start out early in order to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson, near the village of Fox Glacier.
We then cruise down the last stretch of the West Coast road (and the most scenic) stopping to check out Ship Cove, Haast River, Thunder Creek Falls and Blue Pools. After we pass the township of Haast we head into the mountains and bid our farewell to the coastline. Watch the scenery change dramatically as today’s journey continues. We cross the bridge at the gates of Haast, head up the pass and into Mount Aspiring National Park. As we come down the eastern side of the main divide, we track over toward Makarora, a wilderness stopover boasting a population of 20, but you try to find all of them in winter. We arrive in the awe-inspiring destination of Wanaka between at approximately 3pm.
Wanaka to Queenstown
A short but action packed drive today through to the NZ's adventure capital, Queenstown. Highlights include Puzzling World (check out the toilets - highly entertaining), skydive over Lake Wanaka & the Southern Alps and stop in at the world first commercial bungee site - the Kawarau Bridge. On arrival in Queenstown you will get a chance to book all activities and re-confirm coaches at the Info and Track Centre as well as get a group photo with all your new West Coast friends. What better way to enjoy a memorable trip down the coast with a night out exploring Queenstown nightlife with all the crew to finish things off!!
Free day – Queenstown
Queenstown is rated up there as being one of our passengers favourite spots to hang out in NZ so take the time to spend at least 3 days here apart from being one of the most beautiful places in the world, Queenstown is New Zealand’s, if not the world’s, adventure capital. You can take advantage of the beautiful lake and surrounding walks, or get into a whole range of adrenalin pumping activities. We do recommend one activity however, the overland day trip to Milford Sound, commonly referred to as New Zealand’s most beautiful spot, and that’s saying something!
Queenstown to Christchurch
We head out of Queenstown, up over the Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Country, named after James Mackenzie who was a notorious sheep rustler (or Velcro glove wearer). After dropping people in Twizel for the connection to Mt Cook, we travel through to the amazing aqua blue Lake Pukaki to see Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo for a view of the Church of the Good Shepherd, the bronze sheep dog and the milky blue colour of the glacier fed lakes. From there we have a very straight and flat run into Christchurch and will deliver you to the hostels of your choice between 4.30pm and 6pm.
Christchurch to Kaikoura
We travel across the northern Canterbury Plains towards Kaikoura arriving around midday. Kaikoura used to be the South Island’s best-kept secret, as not many people knew about its beauty and unbeatable marine experiences. Kaikoura means to eat Crayfish (kai - to eat, Koura - Crayfish), actually the full name is Te-Ahi-kai-koura-a-Tama-ki-te-rangi.
These days it’s the whales, dolphins, seals and the fish and chips that Kaikoura is becoming ever more popular for. Experience Dolphin Swimming, Whale Watching, Seal Colony walks or chill out at the hostel situated just up from the beach.
Kaikoura to Picton & Wellington Or Nelson
We head north and take in the last of the dramatic Kaikoura coastline. It’s a spectacular drive, and we may take the opportunity to stop for a close look at the seals that lay about on the rocks all day long. We make our way to the Picton ferry terminal in time to catch the 1.15pm sailing to the North Island. Say farewell to the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu) and we’re on our way! The ferry ride takes about 3 hours, and you will be met by our ‘Ferry Bus” Pukeko on the other side to whisk you off to your hostels.
Wellington to Taupo
We’ve got quite a distance to cover today so we head away from Wellington by 8am to beat the rush hour traffic. We pass through Taihape where we drop off and pick up people for River Valley. Departing Taihape we make the climb up to the Central Plateau, home of the Tongariro National Park. For access to the National Park, we can drop you off in the township of Turangi.
Taupo to Auckland (via Rotorua & Mt Maunganui)
Our first stop this morning is Rotorua, often referred to as 'rotten rua' due to the abundance of thermal activity in the area. After dropping off passengers who are spending a few days to have a good look around we travel through to Mt Maunganui, a seaside town well known for its awesome beaches and surf culture. We take a break here for you to climb the mountain, go for a swim of surf or laze around in the hot pools. From “the mount” it’s a 2-hour drive into Auckland for drop off’s in the city.
Minimum trip time: 20 days
Maximum trip time: 12 months from 1st day of travel
How AMAZING does that sound!!!?? - Definite activites on my list - Skydive at lake Taupo, Whale watching, kayaking, hiking!
More to be posted soon!