New Zealand Trip Part 3: Chillin’ Further Up North
New Zealand Trip Part 3. I talk about the last part of our trip back in North Island.
Day 1: Christchurch → Auckland → Oponini
Right after our flight from Christchurch to Auckland, we shuttled to Ezi Car Rentals to pick up our car. We didn’t get a camper van this time around because we planned to stay at AirBnBs and hotels for this road trip. Instead, we rented a cute little Toyota Yaris, which was a joy to drive compared to the large camper van.
We immediately made our way north via State Highway 1. We then switched onto State Highway 12 towards a small town called Oponini.
We made a stop at Ruawai to hike up the Tokatoka Lookout Track. We found out about this hike through a pamphlet we picked up at a tourist centre. The pamphlet only mentioned that it was a nice, 10-minute hike, so we figured “why not?”.
Little did we know how steep the hike was. We climbed up countless flights of uneven, rocky steps and made it to the top in about half an hour. To be honest, the view at the top wasn’t that great. There was also no shade so we were baking like potatoes.
After the hike, we hit the road towards the Waipoua Kauri Forest, where the infamous Tane Mahuta tree is located. I thought I was going crazy on our way there. In order to get to it, we drove up what felt like an hour of windy road where everything looked the same after each turn. It was like getting lost in The Legends of Zelda’s Lost Woods.
When we finally reached Tane Mahuta we were surprised to see that we were the only people there. We enjoyed the view of Tane Mahuta on our own.
Tane Mahuta (i.e. The Lord of the Forest) is said to be from 1,250 and 2,500 years old and stands 51 metres tall. When I saw it, I was again reminded of The Legend of Zelda. It reminded me of The Great Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time. It looked so spiritual and full of ancient stories.
Afterward, we drove another 30 minutes to Oponini where we had booked an AirBnB. Oponini was absolutely beautiful and I wish we had more time to check out the beaches there.
We were exhausted from driving so we took it easy at the AirBnB. We got some meat pies and wine at a nearby shop and passed out.
Day 2: Oponini → Mangonui
The second day was a jam-packed day. Our first stop was Ninety Mile Beach, a beautiful coastline that stretches from Kaitaia to Cape Reinga. From what I’ve heard it’s actually only about 50 miles so the name is a little deceptive 😅.
What’s cool is that you can actually drive down this beach if you’ve got a four-wheel drive. There was no way our little Toyota Yaris could handle the sand, so we just made a brief stop and dipped our feet in the ocean.
Afterward, we made our way towards the Giant Sand Dunes in Te Paki. I was in absolute awe when I saw the dunes – it felt like I had teleported to the Sahara. There were sandy hills for miles, yet when I turned around I could see lush greenery. It was quite the trippy view.
The Giant Sand Dunes were a blast. We rented a boogie board for $15 and boarded down one of the bigger hills. It was a pain in the ass to climb up the hill as the sand was hot as hell and difficult to get a proper foothold, but the slide down was wicked! I bailed pretty hard on my second run however, and ended up getting sand everywhere.
Once we were finished sand boarding we made our way towards Cape Reinga. Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand and is where State Highway 1 ends. We walked the path down to the lookout where you can see the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean merging.
This was also where I proposed to Kylea. It felt like the appropriate place to do it, with the two bodies of water merging (in my head this symbolized our union). It might sounds a bit cheesy but it felt right 😛.
Freshly engaged, we made our way towards Mangonui. We had some fish and chips by the dock and called it a night.
Day 3 – 5: Paihia
The next morning we made a short drive over to Paihia. It was a bustling little town with many shops, restaurants, and attractions. There were also lots of people as it was the Auckland Anniversary long weekend.
We spent the first day in Paihia walking around town and checking out the shops. We felt extra relieved because, for the first time in a while, we didn’t have to worry about driving to another town the next day. We bought some fresh-fruit ice cream and hung out at the beach.
On the second day, we checked out the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, a historic site where the British and Māori signed New Zealand’s founding documents in 1840. Today, it’s a protected site with a museum and other attractions.
I enjoyed The Museum of Waitangi the most. There were a lot of artworks, photographs, and installations from which I learned a lot about New Zealand’s history. I found some of the controversies surrounding the treaty interesting, like how the British didn’t include many tribes in the South Island in the treaty signing and how the Māori translation was not very accurate and worked out in the British’s favour.
Day 6 – 9: Auckland
The next morning, we completed our ~1000km North Island road trip with a drive back to Auckland. The drive took three hours, but it was a pleasant one as we were on the wide and straight State Highway 1 the whole time. Our North Island road trip looked a little like this:
We met up with Kylea’s parents one last time for dinner at a Thai restaurant in Ponsonby. I felt my heart sinking when it came time to say goodbye to Kylea’s parents. They treated me so kindly and were so hospitable during my stay in New Zealand. It was also a bitter reminder that my New Zealand adventure was coming to an end.
The remaining days were spent exploring the city, mostly in Ponsonby and downtown. I really enjoyed Auckland, even though a lot of Kiwis I talked to hated it 😅. The Sky Tower, the harbour, and the overall vibe reminded me of a smaller Toronto.
After a month of exploring New Zealand, I flew back to Montreal on the 31st. It was tough to say goodbye to Kylea (who was staying another three weeks), her family, and the beautiful weather. I absolutely cannot wait to go back there.