Whilst visiting family in Auckland, we took a 5-day road trip from Auckland to Lake Taupo and Mount Manganui. (± 640km round trip / 9 hours traveling time).
EN ROUTE TO LAKE TAUPO
New Zealand offers natural beauty and more wherever you go, SOUTH WAIKATO being no exception. One starts seeing glimpses and of the Waikato (from Maori, means flowing water) River just south of Auckland and it remains your travel companion all the way to Taupo. The Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest river (425 km) it’s origin from Mount Ruapehu to Lake Taupo, NZ’s largest lake, all the way to the southern ward of Auckland, the mouth of the Waikato into the Tasman Sea (West coast)
The road leads through HAMILTON, a city on the Waikato River and the biggest in the area, followed by Cambridge, a small town, Lake Karapiro, often used for international rowing competitions and Tirau.
TIRAU, (approximately 700 people) is the Northern gateway to the area, offering retail therapy (marino products, lines, antiques, clothing & curios). The tourist information center and shop is housed in a large corrugated iron dog and sheep, definitely not your usual shop front. This was a good opportunity to buy some t-shirts to take home (N$ 10) and NZ Katiti ice cream to enjoy on our onward journey.
Our last stop before Lake Taupo is the mighty HUKA FALLS, New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction. The Huka falls is a natural narrowing part of the Waikato river, almost 250 000 litres of water rush through this chasm per second, over an 11 meter drop into basin. This is one of those sites where you have to be there to really appreciate this natural phenomenon as taking photos does not do it justice. There are several viewing points, entry into this area being free. For the more adventurous, one can also opt for an exhilarating jet boat ride (from N$ 185 per person)
TAUPO (population around 22 000), more or less in the middle of the North Island, Taupo is a popular tourist destination and often referred to by locals as ‘the Events Capital of New Zealand’. ‘Tau’ means settle, and ‘Po’ means night. Taupo hosts many festivals and sporting events during the year (5 March – Bonita Ironman NZ, 15-17 April Taupo Home & Garden Show, 7 August – Mizuno Half Marathon, 20-28 November Bikefest) Lake Taupo will host South Africa, Ireland and Wales during the Rugby World Cup from 9 September – 23 October 2011. We stayed in the Waimahana Lake Front Holiday Apartments (In high season / weekend rate of N$ 400 per night, 6 pax, self catering)
From Taupo a base one can EXPLORE the area by driving along Lake Taupo, via Turangi to Tongariro World Heritage Park, Kaimanawa Forest Park and the Mount Ruapehu ski fields. Taupo area also offers a wide range of adventure activities including Hukafalls Jet / NZ Riverjet / Rapids Jet, Tandem skydiving, Tongariro river rafting, river safaris, Bungy jumping, cliff swing, quad bikes, paintball, funski & helicopter flips. This area also offers hot pools, swimming, fishing, golf and more than 70 kilometers of off-road tracks for mountain biking enthusiasts.
MOUNT RUAPEHU is a popular site all year round. During summer the area attracts many visitors enjoying the beautiful green mountain, scenic chairlift rides and guided treks, affording you many opportunities to admire the the cap being snow covered throughout the year. The area attracts even more visitors during winter for skiing and snowboarding. There are three main skiing areas namely Whakapapa, Turoa and Tukino.
LAKE TAUPO TO MOUNT MAUNGANUI
On leaving Taupo, we visited the CRATERS OF THE MOON, an area developed with boardwalks and pathways to get closer to the thermal activity, monitored by scientists from the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science. To walk the entire circular tract takes approximately 45 minutes and suited to visitors of all ages and fitness levels and it is also wheelchair accessible. The area consist of a variety of craters, the last eruption was in 2002. Eruptions take place when steam passages, well below the surface, are blocked by mud after heavy rains or earth movements.
From Lake Taupo we traveled via ROTORUA well known for its thermal activity and mud pools as well as Lake Rotorua. One of the interesting ways to see more of the Rotorua as well as 16 lakes in the Rotorua regions, is to book a tour on the Rotorua Duck Tours, also known as amphibious sightseeing. They conduct their tours using an authentic amphibious craft from World War II, covering important sights in Rotorua city and then heading to Lake Rotorua, Mokoia Island as well as Lake Tikitapu and Lake Okareka.
MOUNT MAUNGANUI, referred to by locals only as ‘the Mount’ & Tuaranga are neighboring towns on the West coast of the North Island in the Bay of Plenty; one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday areas for local and international visitors, offering many beautiful beaches, seaside towns, culture, sport, adventure and wildlife activities.
We stayed at the Oceanside Twin Towers Apartments in on the Marine Parade in Mount Maunganui, (In high season / weekend rate of N$ approx 400 per night, 6 pax, self catering). The apartments are fully equipped, centrally located and within walking distance of the main beach, the extinct Mauao volcano, shops and restaurants. An average of 900 000 people walk the base tract of Mauao annually!
More than 50 cruise ships carrying in excess of 120 000 passengers and crew dock at the port of TAURANGA between October and April each year. Mount Maunganui is very popular in summer, but it is an all year round destination offering many cultural and sporting (national & international) events throughout the year.
There is no shortage of great restaurants in the area and during our stay we enjoyed great meals at Dui’s Thai Restaurant as well as Zeytin Café, Mediterranean food. (located in Mount Maunganui as well as Tauranga). Both these restaurants are highly recommended.
MAUNGANUI TO AUCKLAND
Although we did not stop, the highlights on this stretch include:
- The mural town of Katikati
- Karangahake Gorge
- Paeroa – home of L&P, a favorite New Zealand soft drink
Last, but not least, AUCKLAND, the city of Sails
Auckland is a beautiful city and my personal favorites include:
- VIADUCT, the waterfront development with great shopping and dining options as well as ogling the most beautiful yachts
- MICHAEL SAVAGE GARDENS, great views towards the islands, the city centre and Devonport, also great for picnics and sport, a great day out for the whole family
- The residential areas of MISSION BAY, Kohimarima, St Heliers up to Achilles Point. These areas are connected by a waterfront road with a wide sidewalk, allowing you a great run, walk or ride with beautiful views of the bay and islands
- PARNELL &Parnell Village, a shopping precinct with cafes, restaurants, boutiques, jewellery shops and art galleries in graciously restored buildings and surrounded by beautiful gardens
- PONSONBY, the inner city suburb that oozes ‘cool. This area has many designer shops and a wide variety of bars and dining options. Heritage walks available
- The DOMAIN, a big park with lush trees, landscaped gardens and ponds, dating back to Victorian times and offers extensive sports fields and the Auckland Museum
- DEVONPORT, old world suburb across the bay from Auckland city, can be reached by car or ferry, great shopping and dining options
- Note that Auckland has been rated the most preferred international travel destination for 2011
- Fact: Auckland has more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world
- Manuka honey, utterly delicious
- Manuka honey, Kiwi and Alpine Silk beauty products, quality products to take home
- Merino & Possum wool products for the cold days
- Arnott’s biscuits, from Australia and very popular in New Zealand. My top 3: SHAPES – baked, not fried savoury snack biscuits; barbeque, pizza, cheddar, sour cream & chives or cheese & bacon flavor, CHEDS, a crisp cracker with a baked on cheddar cheese flavor, TIM TAM Original, the most irresistible chocolate biscuit
- Ice cream – New Zealand Natural, Kapiti or Killinchy Gold Premium; the signature flavor being Hokey Pokey (honey comb)
|2010 ranking||New Zealand||South Africa|
|Population||4 367 700||49 991 300|
|Biggest population in the world ranking||123rd||25th|
|Size of country||268 021 km²||1 221 037 km²|
|Biggest country in the world ranking||74th||25th|
|Density||16.1 people per km²||41 people per km²|