Postcard Scenery: The North Island

01-11-2013 386After arriving in Wellington and spending a few days meeting my sister’s flatmates and exploring the little capital, we headed out for a trip North. Our final destination (for the holidays) was Clive, a lovely vineyard/orchard covered spot near three larger towns: Napier, Havelock, and Hastings. This area is also referred to as Hawke’s Bay.

Our basic route (excluding some stops of which I don’t know the names):

Wellington > Wanganui River Road > Tamarnui > Te Kuiti > Waitomo > Rotorua > Taupo > Clive (Hawke’s Bay)

We headed up toward. Although the actual driving distance is only a few hours from Wellington to Clive, we took the “scenic route” and hit up several other towns, taking several days to explore and relax instead of cramming it all in at once. It seemed as though every corner we turned (sometimes on really windy mountain roads) brought another beautiful view of the native bush, sheep pastures, mountains, fragile rocks, and rivers covering the countryside. Random picnics along the side of the road were accompanied by breathtaking views of each town and its nearby rolling hills. Sometimes we would hit gravel roads. These were a pain to drive (our poor car – who is now named “Allen”) but brought the coolest scenery and animal spottings! On one trek along Wanganui River Road to a campground in Papriki, we saw three different hawks eating their prey just on the side of the road as we drove by!

Highlights:

An amazing park in Wanganui – home to a huge playground and a zip line! Fun for all ages.

Mosquito Point in Wanganui: Up the road from the park there’s a huge swing that swings out way over the water. Scary but a blast.

Tiffany’s in Te Kuiti: best veggie burger I’ve ever had.

Waitomo Glo-Worm Caves: We took a tour into a privately-owned system of caves located on a farmer’s property. The view of the glo-worms was spectacular.

Kerosene Creek: A hot spring near Taupo.

Reid’s Farm FREE Campground: Near Huka Falls a little outside of Taupo. It’s a gorgeous property located right along the river.

Our biggest challenge was finding safe, inexpensive places to camp. A few years ago New Zealand passed some laws that no longer make it OK to “freedom camp,” so we had to find legitimate places to camp – or pay thousands of dollars in fines. The best (cheapest and most abundant) campsites were Department of Conservation (DOC) sites. Very minimal, but only $7/person/night. You can pick up a pamphlet of locations at any iSite (tourist info office) or you can buy a Road Traveler’s Map book that has them listed.

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