In all these years of blogging, I’ve left one massive hole in my travel secret sharing. An insiders view of my very own home country – the beautiful shores of Aoteoroa, land of the ‘Long White Cloud’. New Zealand is an incredible place to explore – it’s beautiful, friendly and the brunches are world class – and I never really discovered that until I moved to the other side of the world.
I’ve written tasters here and there, snippets of fun that we’ve had between visiting family, celebrating weddings and snuggling with new nephews, but I’ve never actually put them all together in one place. I usually just patch together emails to friends and readers who have asked for recommendations as they have travelled – and who have probably seen more of my home then I have. So, when Flight Centre contacted me to about writing a bit of an insiders guide to New Zealand Holidays, I dusted off this post and filled it with a bit of home wonder.
Alongside many of the big ticket places that people visit, I thought I’d share a few cheeky alternatives – insider secrets that locals adore. If you enjoyed the former, you may just love the latter – or if you’re short on time, you could swap out the popular site for a gander at the secret spot that locals enjoy visiting.
I’m going to concentrate on the North Island mostly because compared to the glory of the South Island, it gets a bit of a bad rap, but is a beautiful place all of its own.
1. Hobbiton >> Rangitoto Volcano (the real Orodruin, a volcano in Mordor)
Nothing seems to surprise my husband anymore. I must come out with ridiculous scenarios so regularly now, he doesn’t even lift an eyebrow. Case in point, when I video called him from New Zealand to tell him that we were going up Rangitoto Volcano in Auckland harbour after brunch with my sister he didn’t even lift an eyebrow…
2. 90 Mile Beach >> Piha Beach
I hadn’t visited the strikingly beautiful black volcanic sands of Piha since I was in pigtails, aged approximately 9 & 2/3rds, so a return visit was needed. With a vicious surf swell, Piha beach and waves hold a challenge for many surfers (in high school I even knew crazy friends who would night surf there – how they made it back to class I’ll never know) and gets rather popular in summer…
3. The Fjords >> Karangahake Gorge
We made our way up the gradual rise of old mine tracks, with an occasional flurry up a flight of sturdy steps. Stopping every so often to grouch at our cameras, and then crouching to read the information boards posted in front of moss-covered mining equipment, we simply followed the path along Karangahake Gorge…
4. L&P Bottle >> A 20-meter high kiwifruit in Te Puke
The small town of Te Puke not only hosts some of the people most precious to me in the world, but is proud to boast the title of Kiwifruit Capital of the World. The unique volcanic ash soil and climate make this area perfect for growing all kinds of super foods that are exported all over the world – in fact when Captain Cook discovered New Zealand, he named the area the ‘Bay of Plenty’ because of the lush vegetation, probably never thinking that it would host a gigantic Kiwifruit statue…
5. Auckland Sky Tower to see the city lights twinkle >> Waitomo glowworm caves
One by one as the luminescent cave dwellers winked on, the ceiling began to resemble a galaxy of twinkling stars. Still sat with arms clutched tightly and our necks craned as we tried to absorb the moment, floating along a 30 million year old subterranean limestone grotto…
6. Coromandel Peninsula >> Waimaramara beach
Forget the tourist crowds of the Coromandel Peninsula – Waimaramara beach is a secret little spot that Napier & Hastings locals keep firmly to themselves as a little holiday nook. I spent many a weekend there, splashing about with friends and generally luxuriating in the hot summer weather.
7. Raurimu Spiral hike // Te Mata Peak, Hastings
Want to feel on top of the world? Rising up to 399m in the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand, Te Mata peak makes for a lovely afternoon visit. A sealed road leads to the popular lookout at the summit, as well as several trails for hikers and mountain bikers. As the highest peak in the area, it offers views over the Heretaunga Plains, and Hawke’s Bay, including Napier. On a clear day, the view stretches as far as Mount Ruapehu and Mahia Peninsula.
8. Waiheke Island or Napier Vineyards // Airport Winery
If you’re anything like me, you like to be out at the airport ridiculously early before a flight (especially on international trips) but instead of traipsing through security and waiting for hours with an overpriced coffee, we love to spend an hour or so at the beautiful Villa Maria Winery. With gorgeous rolling grounds, a lovely restaurant and oodles of delicious wine, what better way to beat the traffic. Oh, and did I mention its only a 6-minute drive?
9. Kaikoura Dolphins // Tauranga Wild dolphins
Honestly, I could almost just write this post as ‘wild baby dolphins’ ad finitum. Wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins. There, got it out of my system. Wild baby dolphins. Ok, now I have…
Do you like scooting off the beaten tourist track? What’s the best insiders tip you’ve been given? Do you have any more questions for me about New Zealand?
Pin for later adventures
Flight Centre kindly sponsored this post (sharing my own personal experiences) in order to keep our wanderlust strong and the travel fund topped up for future fun and blog posts.