Covid-19 has been devastating across the world in so many ways. Here in New Zealand, we have been lucky enough that the virus is currently under control, and our lives have returned to a somewhat new normality. However, it hasn’t been without pain. The global pandemic has forced us to put our dreams on hold. Those dreams were to travel through Europe in a campervan with our children. Instead, we ended up stuck at home, in lockdown, unemployed.
But when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So we have decided to follow the road where it takes us, in New Zealand. We have purchased a new caravan in the South Island, and are busy packing and planning for our “detour dream”.
In the meantime, I thought I’d write a series of New Zealand Travel Blogs on my favourite spots in New Zealand, from a Kiwi’s perspective. The inside word, the secret spots, the best sunsets, etc.
I’m starting this first post with a few highlights from my favourite travels. Each of these spots is a destination in its own right, and deserves its own blog which will follow in this series.
Our campervan trip around Northland marked our first family adventure in a campervan. It gave us a taste of the freedom it offered us, and the beautiful spots we could get to only in a home with wheels. And we were hooked.
Northland is also the best place to experience Maori culture and to learn about the history of New Zealand, at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Having grown up around Maori culture and its traditions all of my life, I still found the visit to the Treaty Grounds and the Wharenui (Meeting House) moving.
A trip around the East Cape of the North Island of New Zealand is like taking a step back in time to when horses and bareback riders roamed the roads and the cars are straight out of the 80s. Along the way you can stop to collect cockles (clams) from the Ohiwa Harbormouth and cook them up on a seaside bbq. You can sample macadamia icecream (and marmite if you are brave enough), relax with live music in wineries, visit lighthouses and historic churches and watch the sunrise in the first spot to see the sun.
OK, so Rotorua was originally in my list of “don’t bother”. The “culture” that overseas tourists flock to Rotorua for is deceptively fake. The landscape is forgettable, as is the lake. However, it has grown on me. Rotorua has fantastic forests and mountain biking. Which can be followed by mineral hotpools and a dinner out, equals a fantastic family day out.
Rotorua is also home to the Redwoods Treewalk. This swing bridged walk is 20 metres up in the canopy of 115-year-old Redwood trees, and at night is illuminated by huge David Truebridge lights, artwork in their own right. Taking the treetop walk under the stars is majestic.
If you know New Zealand, you may have picked up by this point that my “highlights” mostly mirror the best wine regions in New Zealand. Martinborough was no exception. In fact, Martinborough is an idyllic little town with fantastic cafes and wine bars. Our campsite was within walking distance of the township, and surprisingly, wineries! No driving required.
Martinborough was also a great base from which to take day trips – Wellington, Cape Palliser to see the lighthouses and seal colony, hike the pinnacles or spend the day sampling chocolates and antique hunting in the cute historic town of Greytown.
My love of the Hawkes Bay came later, and it crept up on me. The slogan says it all – Eat, Drink, Cycle and Art Deco. What is not to love? There is fantastic wine in unbelievable settings, tractor rides along the beach to see colonies of Gannets at Cape Kidnappers, fantastic parks and smooth cycle paths along the waterfront. And if that is not enough, the entire city was rebuilt in Art Deco style after the 1931 Earthquake and fires, making it a rare gem to explore in style.
West Coast, South Island
The rugged westcoast has also won my heart with its lush green bush, beautiful Nikau palms, stunning coastline and warm and welcoming locals. We will definitely be spending time in Hokitika again on our new detour dream trip.
There are some notable areas missing from my list of highlights. The areas you would likely see in a mainstream travel brochure – Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown. All beautiful spots. But i’m not a fan of visiting cities. And Queenstown has become overcrowded. Although i’m going to give it another chance, with overseas tourism shut down in New Zealand, it could suprise me.
I will be sure to include a post on where “not to visit” in this new series.
See you soon!
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