New Zealand Adventures
North Island

Tales of traveling the entire length of New Zealand with 2 teenagers for a month!  Just ‘me and my girls’, and our New Zealand Adventures North Island

We had a travel journal for the trip, with the title  ‘3 Blondes in New Zealand'!  My girls were 13 and 15 at the time and I decided it was time for an adventure.  This was in 2005 when I was in my 40’s and a single parent.  Luckily at the time the girl’s school saw the whole trip as educational and allowed them time out.

New Zealand Adventures NorthTime for a New Zealand Road Trip!


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After re-mortgaging my house I bought 3 airline tickets and started planning!  I decided it should be a true adventure, so I only booked the first night’s accommodation and planned a rough route to follow – then it would be a case of ‘turn up somewhere and find somewhere to stay!’  I must admit now I’m older, in my 50’s, I do plan my adventures a little bit more….

Here’s the route we ended up following, starting off at Auckland in the North Island.

New Zealand AdventuresOur Route!

First Stop Auckland

Four flights, 54 hours later we arrived in Auckland via London Gatwick, Dubai, Singapore and Brisbane!  I’d decided after the long journey we needed a treat for the first night so had booked the Copthorne Hotel -  after this it would be hostels and motels.

New Zealand Adventures NorthAuckland Harbour

After much needed sleep I picked up the hire car booked for the North Island part of the roadtrip.  In those days you could start driving at age 15 – it was a real shock to pull up at traffic lights, look across and see someone my daughter’s age at the wheel!!  It’s now 16 years – but still pretty young.

I discovered my NZ driving was no better than my UK driving, mistaking wipers for indicators and wheelspinning through residential areas!  I also discovered my daughter didn't know her left from her right, resulting in us seeing nearly the entire city from the car.

New Zealand Adventures NorthThe Tower!

We did the trip up the Auckland Skytower - the view is amazing from the top and I braved the glass floor viewing point!

North to Bay of Islands

After a brief stay in Auckland, it was time to head north towards the Bay of Islands.  After 3 hours on the road, a food stop involved 3 blondes, 3 diet cokes and 3 cheese and ham toasties.  With my driving improving now we were on the open road and out of the city we arrived at Paihia and booked into the Bay Adventurer Hostel – the hostel is still there today;  I’m adding links to the places we stayed in if they’re still around, but obviously I'm not sure how good they are now but worth checking out the websites if you are looking for budget accommodation in the area.

Sailing on Freewind

That evening in Paihia, we booked a sailing trip for the next day on a yacht through Freewind Sailing. The company is still going strong with Ron the Skipper, a real character who has many stories, sea-tales and experiences to share.

In the morning, we woke up to cloud, rain and wind. When we set out on the yacht, we felt like full-on sailing shipmates, but in safe hands, despite the yacht tilting over at 45 degrees to the sea due to the weather conditions!

New Zealand Adventures NorthWild Sailing at 45 degrees!!

It was pretty wild and windy, but great fun flying and sliding from one side of the yacht to the other, and trying to keep our balance.  Luckily none of us suffer from sea-sickness, unlike one of the other passengers....ooh no!

During the day the weather improved, and we arrived at a gorgeous sandy bay. We went ashore in a small tender, and took kayaks to go paddling. Since those days I have done a lot of kayaking, but at this time we were all novices. At one point my youngest handed me her paddle  (not sure why!), and I drifted off with it, not sure what to do. Fortunately her sister came to the rescue! 

3 blondes in kayaks ... 

We went back to the yacht, and the return sail trip was not as wild. At one point we went through the middle of a yacht race which was very cool.

I highly recommend this sailing and kayak trip if you visit Paihia, experience the thrill of sailing and enjoy great food and Kiwi hospitality aboard.

New Zealand Adventures NorthFreewind Sailing - the crew in 2005!
New Zealand Adventures NorthBeach we kayaked to from the Freewind

Heading Back from Paihia

After our adventures in Paihia, it was time to turn back south from the Bay of Islands towards Auckland, and explore! Heading south we stopped at the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves followed by a proper bush walk that felt like we were walking through a full on jungle!

New Zealand Adventures NorthInside the glow worm caves

Time to move on and search for the famous toilets – the Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa, made from reclaimed materials and a mix of pillars, tiles and decorative features.  We later found out these are the most photographed toilets in New Zealand!  They are mentioned in all the tourist books and my youngest was super keen to see them.  We found them to be bright and very quirky and actually worth a visit!

New Zealand Adventures NorthKawakawa Famous Toilets!
New Zealand Adventures North

New Zealand Adventures
North Island

Whangarai Falls

Moving on to Whangarai, The Falls are very beautiful and well worth a visit - we did a circular walk that showed different views of the Falls.  We did manage to get lost in Whangarai whilst leaving, or trying to leave, that area.  This roadtrip was beginning to get a bit of a 'lost in NZ' theme ..... We were still struggling with navigation!

New Zealand Adventures NorthWhangarei Falls

Some of my photos are originals from 2005, so they have been scanned and may be slightly 'fuzzy', but I wanted to share original pictures!

Boy Racers in Thames

Driving south from Whangarai, we arrived at Auckland again, but no time to stop - we had to press on! Having negociated the busy road through Auckland again, we headed east and the road took us to a town called Thames - we drove through it in about 10 seconds, and thought - 'Was that it?' - and then realised that time was getting on, and we would have to stay here overnight.  Luckily we found a very nice colonial style B&B with a room available - Brunton House - this later became known to us as 'the posh B&B in dodgy Thames'!

Our night out in Thames was scary to say the least ... there weren't many people about, or places to eat, but we found a restaurant called the 'Goldmine' and the meal was good. However it was interrupted every few minutes by either a police car or a boy racer screeching past! We then had to find our way home in the dark and hope we didn't encounter any trouble .... it was a relief to get back to our B&B safely, lock the door, and collapse into a queen size bed -  a real treat!

The B&B was lovely, the landlady was lovely, the meal was lovely - shame about Thames!!!  This was of course many years ago and it has probably changed, so if any readers are from Thames I do apologize.

Time to Climb a Mountain

It is said that during your lifetime (and especially if you are an adventuress) you should climb a mountain – here was our chance!!

new zealand adventures northClimb that mountain!

Set on a peninsula, Mount Maunganui is a laid-back suburb known for the extinct Mount Maunganui volcano, a sacred Maori site with ocean-view hiking trails. Long, sandy Main Beach is popular for its surf breaks, while Pilot Bay Beach has calm waters for paddle boarding.  Brunch spots, global restaurants, and boutiques fill the town centre. 

New Zealand Adventures NorthThe town from the top of the mount

En route to Mt Maunganui we had passed through a place called Bethlehem - this proved very appropriate as when we got to Maunganui it was a bank holiday, there was a major surf competition going on, and there was 'no room at the inn' - whatsoever!!  All hostels and motels were fully booked, and the only place available was a 5* apartment in the Anchorage Apartments,  at a ridiculous price. However, we decided the town and surfing looked very cool, and in a rash moment, I booked it!

After a fun time on the beach with the surfers, a meal at the sailing club (which was surprisingly cheap and delicious) and a night in the amazing accommodation that would be the best of our entire trip, it was time to climb the mountain the following morning!  Oh Wow!  The views were amazing - well worth the climb - even though we had to convince my youngest daughter to get to the top!

New Zealand Adventures NorthAmazing View from the top of the Mount

New Zealand Adventures
North Island

A Smelly Moment in Rotorua!

Arriving in Rotorua we managed to get a basic bunk-bedded room at the Kiwi Paka youth hostel, and headed out to the Wai-o-Tapu thermal wonderland that Rotorua is famous for!  The Wonderland is a spectacular showcase of New Zealand's most colorful and unique geothermal elements sculpted by thousands of years of geothermal activity.  The area is associated with volcanic activity dating back about 160,000 years and is strictly protected.

There are many pools, craters, and geysers to see, including the Lady Knox Geyser that can reach heights of 10-20 metres.  Be prepared for the bad smell of hydrogen sulfide in the area though, which does carry over into parts of the whole town!!

New Zealand Adventures NorthWalking amongst the steam!
New Zealand Adventures NorthStanding by the thermal pools

Despite the stink of rotten eggs, we all decided it was very interesting and the girls thought 'super cool'.  My eldest made the mistake of treading in a pool, and the bad smell lingered all day .. eugh!!  Lots of photos and notes were taken for the geography teacher to read back home!

One of the highlights of our Rotorua stay was the evening excursion to the Tamaki Maori Village – we chose the night tour and dinner.  It was great to get a better understanding of the Maori culture.  Each 'station' in the reconstructed village in the woods explained a different Maori activity with fun demonstrations. This was followed by a traditional dinner and dancing - a great evening I'd highly recommend if you are in the area.

New Zealand Adventures North

On leaving the hostel I somehow reversed the hire car into a rock!!  Stupid place to put a rock .... :)  Our cheap night at the hostel may not be so cheap - but fortunately when we handed the car back later, my insurance covered it.  Note to all future adventuresses, make sure you have adequate insurance if hiring a car!

New Zealand Adventures
North Island

Huka Falls and Huka Jet

En route to the next planned stop, Lake Taupo, we stopped to take a look at the spectacular Huka Falls and decided to have a go on the Huka Jet Boat - it looked great fun, and it was!  We got soaked and the girls in the back were screaming as much as me....

Back on the road and off to the Lake for an even more exciting adventure!

New Zealand Adventures NorthHuka Falls

The Big Jump!

Sky-Diving 12,000ft over Lake Taupo
“The Big Jump!”

So my 42nd birthday was the next day – over dinner I asked the girls shall we go horse-riding, or sky diving – having seen a leaflet at the desk by the door?  You can guess the reply!  So after a couple of glasses of wine I went to the desk and booked it for the morning, before I could change my mind – eek!

Next morning, we arrived at the aerodrome nice and early, with our hearts in our mouths. . .  We had a pre-jump briefing and watched a video of some guys jumping earlier – not sure if that was good or not but there was no going back now!
I didn’t have to sign a consent form or anything for the girls, I’m sure these days there would be mega regulations and forms involved!

Check back to find out about 'The Big Jump!'.......

To be continued……

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