Darlings, we have a special treat for you today. Recently, one of my Honey Bee’s, Kayla Grosse, traveled to New Zealand. I asked her to write up about her travel experience, and I’m so happy she agreed. I hope you enjoy reading about her journey.
An Experience of a Lifetime
For almost half of my life, I’ve dreamed of traveling to New Zealand. When I was 15-years-old, a friend of mine forced me to watch Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I was immediately enamored by the beautiful landscape of New Zealand (and maybe the hot actors too), and I knew that one day I would travel there.
It took me until I was 32 to travel there, in fact, this was only the second time I’ve been out of the country, the first time when I visited Vancouver, Canada, but it was worth the wait.
I’m freshly back to the states from my two-week excursion across the globe, and I am very excited to share my journey with you all.
Traveling New Zealand’s North Island
Since I’m a big Lord of the Ring’s fan, I decided to travel the North Island as Hobbiton (better known as The Shire) a big filming location is located there, as well as the city of Wellington, where 50% of the movie was filmed.
I was told that you had to drive the island instead of fly because the scenery of New Zealand was just too great to miss. So, my travel companions and I rented a car for the entire 2-weeks of our travel. Actually, the price was very reasonable, and we were able to return the car to Wellington, even though we started our travels at the top of the island in Auckland. (We rented our car through Aerodrive Car Rental, they were great!) Just make sure you’re comfortable with driving on the left side of the road!
Give Yourself Enough Time
New Zealand is a small country, and you can travel from the top of the North Island to the bottom in under 9 hours. However, the country is so lush and vast, with so much to see and do, make sure you travel with enough time to enjoy what the island has to offer. Even though we were there for two weeks, we only traveled the North Island, deciding we must go experience the beauty of the South Island on our next trip. In fact, every time we spoke to a local, we were told we must come back to visit the South Island. And indeed I will… someday!
Planning Your Trip
Many people asked how we planned our trip! Well, it wasn’t actually too difficult. If you don’t want to use a travel agent or go on a cruise line (which are both great options) I found it fun and exciting to plan our trip. First, I started with research… lots and lots of research. I started by googling travel blogs on the North Island and “must-see” adventures. I opened up a google doc and added anything that sounded fun or interesting.
After that, I looked on a map to see the locations of each, and eliminated ones that were far out of our path from Auckland to Wellington, or didn’t seem realistic for me and my travel partners. Once I had our destinations planned, we booked a few adventures ahead of time, as well as all our Airbnb’s and one motel. Having our accommodations booked and these few excursions planned allowed us a skeleton travel-plan with time open in each location to explore the area and make plans accordingly.
It was nice to not have the trip planned minute-by-minute because it gave us the freedom to enjoy each city or town without feeling rushed.
So, without further ado, enjoy my trip to New Zealand’s North Island!
Auckland & Waiheke Island
Flying into Auckland is ideal because it’s one of their major cities and has a large airport. Because we had a car, we were able to stay out of the city center, and in a lovely area called Bucklands Beach. Our Airbnb was decedent and only 2-minutes away from a coffee shop, and 5-minutes from a grocery store and the ferry to both Waiheke Island and the Auckland City Center.
While in Auckland we enjoyed beautiful sunsets, a trip to Waiheke Island aka “Wine Island” and a fun afternoon in the Auckland CBD where we had drinks with a view. By far my favorite was Waiheke island because you take a 40-minute ferry to the island and then you can experience their many wineries. It was so much fun… and boy oh boy does New Zealand have great wine!
Also, this destination was special because I recently wrote a novel and found out 3 of my books are in circulation at the Auckland Public Library! I even got to hold a copy. It was definitely a wonderful and defining moment for me.
Coromandal Pennisula & Hobbiton
Our next stop was the Coromandal Pennisula and the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata before making our way to Rotorua. I will warn you that getting to the Coromandal Pennisula is quite the drive, and if you feel uncomfortable on winding roads, maybe look into a tour group that will take you there.
In Coromandal, we took a boat ride through the peninsula which was one of my favorite things we did. The boat ride was through the Cathedral Cove Crusie Line and was a great deal, taking us for a 2.5-hour boat ride showing us all the sites and letting us jump off the boat and snorkel for ten minutes. It was amazing, and we saw some Red Snapper!
The following day, we made the journey to Matamata (there are lots of sheep & cows there) to visit the Hobbiton movie set. The home of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. It was so fun, and such a sight to see! Especially if you are a fan of the films. This was definitely a dream come true for me.
Rotorua, Lake Taupo & Waitomo Glowworm Caves
From Matamata we traveled to Rotorua where we spent two nights in an Airbnb. Rotorua is a cool city but just a warning, IT SMELLS LIKE EGGS! This is because of all the natural hydrogen sulfide emissions coming from all the hot pools. However, this is the reason we went! We spent the day at the famous Polynesian Spa soaking in geothermal hot springs and getting the spa treatment. It was amazing! We also visited their Redwood forest and learned about the history of forests in New Zealand. I definitely recommend stopping here for at least a day or two.
From Rotorua, we traveled to both the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and to Lake Taupo. Now, the caves were a little out of the way, but so worth it! The Glowworm Caves are famous, and you actually travel on a boat in complete dark and silence to see them. The “worms” are actually larva… but glowworms sound way more fun!
From the caves, we drove to Lake Taupo… which looks like a normal lake but it is actually an active Volcano! We took a 1.5-hour boat ride along the tranquil waters and saw amazing rock formations and enjoyed the beautiful weather and a glass of wine. It was delightful!
Tongariro River Rafting & Hawkes Bay
The next stop was white water rafting on the Tongariro River just south of Lake Taupo. I saw this company online and knew I had to go. Over the course of 3-hours, you make your way down the river on grade 3 rapids, which are not very difficult and family-friendly! The water of the river is so pure you can actually drink it straight from the river. It was delicious. I had so much fun and would definitely recommend it if you’re in the area! We stayed at a local Motorlodge for one night, which was perfect for our quick stay.
The friends I traveled with, including myself, are all big fans of wine. So, after rafting, we made our way to Hawkes Bay, the winery region of the North Island. We actually made it our mission to try as many Sauvignon Blanc’s as possible while we were there. I think we did a great job. 😉
We spent two days at an awesome Airbnb that was actually a horse farm. It was amazing and so peaceful! We went to tons of wineries (our favorites were Black Barn & Askerne) and even caught Ben Harper’s show at Church Road Winery. It was a great couple of days and fun to hang out with so many locals.
Final Destination: Wellington
Our final location before the end of our trip is the beautiful little city of Wellington. Because we had a car, we were able to stay about 30-minutes from the city center. Our Airbnb was located right on the water, and not far from some great little restaurants. Our first night there we watched the sunset from our large windows and ordered local Indian Food. It was a relaxing night enjoying the nature of the area.
Then, the following day, we took the Interislander, an awesome cruise ship-like ferry that takes you from Wellington to Picton on the South Island. It’s a 3.5-hour ferry that is massive and has lots of fun things to do aboard. We even saw dolphins as we were sailing! Now, normally you would take the ferry to the South Island and explore it, but since we didn’t have time, we explored the beautiful port city of Piction, had lunch, then hopped back on the next Interislander back to Wellington! I would definitely recommend it if you enjoy sight-seeing and relaxing on a big ship.
Our last two days we spent exploring the Wellington City Center and taking Lord of The Rings tours via Rover Rings Tours and the Weta Workshop. My friends indulged my nerdy side and we even did a self-tour of several filming locations in the area. It was so much fun, we even re-enacted scenes from the film at the locations. Even if you aren’t a fan of LOTR, I suggest visiting the Weta Workshop. It’s very cool, and they’ve worked on several movies and television show’s I’m sure you’ve seen!
The Journey’s End
I was sad to board the flight back to the USA but so grateful for the journey I took and the people I experienced it with. I used to be jealous of kids that got to travel with their families all over the world, but as I get older, I realize that now is the time I’m meant to experience travel and new countries. Planning and executing this trip gave me a great sense of pride and feeling of self. I did it! I actually made the dream I had since I was 15 come true.
So, in conclusion, it’s never too late to travel, it’s always possible to make dreams come true. All you need is passion and moxie!
p.s. Thank you to Honey Good for inspiring this travel blog! You are an inspiration.
Have you ever traveled to New Zealand? Tell me your favorite adventures in the comments below! I want to hear from you.
Kayla Grosse is the Content Manager at HoneyGood.com and a published novelist. Her debut novel, W.I.S.H. Revelations released in November 2019, and she spends her days writing, drinking coffee and enjoying sunny Southern California with her cockatiel Fiyero. She also owns and operates www.socialvoracity.com a social media management company.