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Outback Outings Part 2

Feb 02, 2017

We arrived in New Zealand on January 2nd after a fantastic month in Australia, flying into Auckland. After a couple of days exploring the city, we picked up a hire car and started our exploration of North Island. The driving here is far more relaxed than in Australia - mainly because the distances are much smaller, but also because the roads are much quieter. Unlike Australia, where six hour journeys were not just normal but necessary because of the size of the country, the average journey time here between centres seems to be less than two hours. However, that's the driving time... it doesn't include the frequent stops to marvel at the fabulous views!

We drove north from Auckland, following the west coast to Ruawai. The next day we climbed a fantastic rocky peak called Mount Mangarehu (an old volcanic plug), then continued through the awesome Kauri forests to reach Rawene, on one of the many inlets that characterise this part of the coast. From here we took the ferry and made our way to Doubtless Bay, which we used as a base whilst exploring the Northland, visiting he stunning Cape Reinga (the northernmost part of North Island) and the incredible 90 mile beach (which is really only 45 miles long!). Then it was off to the Bay of Islands, where we sailed out to (and through!) the Hole in the Rock, and walked around the historically important Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Our next destination was the Coromandel Peninsula via a lovely walk around the Shakespear Regional Park at Orewa, and the incredibly scenic road around the Firth of Thames. From Whitianga, we walked the fabulous coastline between Hahei Beach and the very crowded Cathedral Cove, and visited the much quieter Stingray Bay and Gemstone Cove. Further south at Waihi we followed two of the walkways through the Karangahake Gorge - an old gold mining area full of fascinating industrial relics - before driving to Matamata so I could indulge my passion for all things Tolkien with a visit to Hobbiton - amazingly well done and nowhere near as commercialused or touristy as I had feared. Then it was south to a the thermal region around Rotorua where we got close-up with bubbling mud, hot springs, steaming lakes and geysers, and Maori culture ... amazing!

Rather than head straight down the tourist route to Lake Taupo, we headed away from the crowds to visit the East Cape around Hicks Bay, where our exploration was somewhat hampered as we got hit by the tail end of a cyclone! We eventually made it to Gisborne, then continued to Napier via Wairoa, and a very welcome lazy-day visit to Crab Farm Winery... well, we were in Hawkes Bay and it would have been rude not to!

We then headed to the huge Lake Taupo where we trekked through the Huka Gorge to the amazing Huka Falls (the hydro scheme here supplies 13% of New Zealand's electricity!), then we headed south again into the amazing volcanic landscape of the Tongariro National Park where we did the superlative Tongariro Alpine Crossing - widely regarded as the best one-day walk in New Zealan... which, by default, must make it one of the best in the world! What a route! I was blown away!

We are now recovering in Masterton before heading down to Wellington and taking the ferry across the Cook Strait to South Island in a couple of day's time... more of which in a later post!

I will be posting a selection of pictures oshowing our journey so far on my Facebook page at - or you can follow any of the FB links on my website.



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