New Zealand to me, was as close to home as it got on my 7 month trip. I don’t mean it necessarily felt like home to me, it just felt extremely familiar to England, predominantly South Island with its green farming fields full of sheep, rolling hills and rain. It makes you realise that we are in very similar parts of the world, just on the opposite hemisphere!
Waihi Beach was originally a gold mining town and still has some mining today. Visiting one of the 250 metre deep Gold and Silver mines was pretty overwhelming. At the western end of the Bay of Plenty Waihi Beach experience’s some stunning weather along the 10km beach. This small village tacks onto Waihi town a few kilometres away, and was a large Maori community from pre-European times. With only one pub, two holiday parks and a hotel it’s still relatively small, but the beach and the hot springs at Athenree do bring in a few tourists.
Strewn across New Zealand’s North and South Island’s is large holiday park group ‘Top Ten’. Now when you think holiday parks in Britain you don’t always have the most delightful image. However, let me tell you that these parks were not only reasonably priced; they were extremely fun, family friendly and an ideal way to make your way around this incredible country in comfort! We first stayed in the Waihi Beach Top Ten and did so as some family friends ran the park, it had everything from tent pitches to little cosy cabins and larger family condos. With 49 parks across both Island’s you don’t have to stay anywhere else!
We had some energetic surfing lessons at Waihi Beach with ex-professional Trevor. Lessons were NZ$200 for a 2 hour lesson, for 5 people on this amazing stretch of beach. The surf was strong and Trevor was great at covering the safety of managing any rips and currents, before getting us all standing up by the end of the lesson!
Rotorua was an easy 2 hour drive south and can be done as a day trip. The smelly sulphur hit us before we had even arrived. It was incredible and a must for absolutely anyone visiting New Zealand. Paths and bridges had been built all around the hot steamy pools, and strict signs warning us that the geezer could decide to spurt out of the ground at any moment – which it did on several occasions. Drive another few kilometres south and visit Wai-O-Tapu, for a small entrance fee there are more hot springs, caves, lakes and my favourite, the ‘Champagne Pool’ with incredible colourings from the sulphur! If you can, then take a slight detour to ‘Te Wairoa’ a village that in 1886 was buried by volcanic lava, only part of it has been excavated so you can really see the difference and damage that was done. If you didn’t like geography before it will certainly get you thinking about what our planet can do in different parts of the world.
If you fancy taking a trip north to 90 Mile Beach then you can’t miss a sand boarding down giant sand dunes. We pulled up at Opononi a large bay with a tiny little jetty – one man and his little boat. He was there to take people across the bay to some huge sand dunes for boarding. I loved that the dunes came just as they should, completely un-touched. No visitors cafe, no steps to help you climb back up to the top of the dune, and absolutely no other human being in sight! We were simply given body-boards, trudged our way up the steep dune to the top, then lie down and lean to the front of the board for maximum speed – as the guide told us. We flew down the dunes at up to 30kmph, and as the sea was at the bottom we then skimmed across the water and ended up around 30 feet into the sea. If you can, finish the day by driving south for a scenic display of the Bay Of Islands.
New Zealand is something that a lot of Brits try and do but for some it is just that little bit out of reach. I would urge anyone that does get the chance to visit this great part of the world to take it, utilise family and friends that live there. This is the one excuse to be selfish in life so that you can explore the world even if only for a few weeks!!