New Zealand North Island Self-Drive Road Trip

This 1-week road trip to the North Island of New Zealand, was like a sequel to my South Island road trip, also a year ago in May 2018.  Most travel reviews cite South Island as the ‘prettier’ of the two – more scenic and less crowded with highlights like the spectacular Mt.Cook and Milford Sound or Fiordland National Park while the North Island has the beautiful Hobbiton Movie Set, thermal ‘hotbeds’ in Rotorua and the Bay of Islands.
North Island, with the major city Auckland is more densely populated and urbanised and we even encountered traffic jam on the city highway #01 (almost an hour during peak evening hours) and tolled roads in the city with many ongoing construction work in many places.

We experienced erratic weather on the 1st 2 days with gloomy overcast skies and sporadic drizzles alternating with sunny moments, rendering many beautiful spots less than ideal for photo-taking, with the rest of the trip at the whims of the weather too. We brought along our drone but its usage was hampered as most areas we wanted to film were no-fly zones with frequent helicopter and planes joy flights. 
While I personally favour South Island, North Island does charms in her own ways. Like they always say “E rua te pai ake i te kotahi” (Two is better than One – in Maori language) .

Brief Insights of North Island

The North Island is renowned for its volcanic activity, national parks and cosmopolitan cities. Its largest city Auckland host 77% of New Zealand’s total population of 4.8mil, on 113,729 sq.km of land. Surrounded by bays and islands, it’s known as the “the City of Sails.” North Island is divided into two ecoregions within the temperate broadleaf and mixed forests biome, the northern part being the Northland temperate kauri forest, and the southern part being the North Island temperate forests. The island has an extensive flora and bird population, with numerous national parks and other protected areas. (excerpts from Wikipedia)

Our North Island Self-drive Route Map

Despite New Zealand’s unpredictable weather where you may experience 4 seasons in 1 day, the good news is that any time is the “best time” to visit – whether you want to go surfing in summer or skiing in the winter, there’s plenty to see and do at any time of year. This self-drive trip commenced in Rotorua, which took just a snappy 20min domestic flight from Auckland. The direct flight from Singapore to Auckland via Air New Zealand took about 9.35 hours. The mileage logged on this trip was 1620km, with the rented car being an Aurion (Camry) from Hertz.

  • Tip #01 – Food restriction, even for personal consumption, is very stringent at the immigration checkpoints. When arriving in New Zealand, you must declare on your Passenger Arrival Card ANY food you’re bringing in. You may also need to show the snack (even the little packet of preserved plums in your pocket) to bio-security quarantine inspectors. Even if it is allowed, if you don’t declare the item you’re bringing to New Zealand you will be fined and have the food confiscated. If you are unsure, declare.
  • Tip #02 – Driving on New Zealand roads are generally safe as most drivers are law-abiding. New Zealand traffic rules are similar to Singapore and they drive on the left side of the road. Do note that fines for speeding are hefty.
  • Tip #03 – Singaporean passport holders don’t need a visa to visit and can travel around the country for up to 3 months per entry. Our passport can be used on their eGate.
  • Tip #4 – Contact Jetabout Holidays, a New Zealand specialist. The agency will get take away all the hassle of planning a trip on your own and customize a travel package that is tailored just for you. Just pack your bags and get ready for a great time.

Day #01

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Day 1 saw me arriving in Auckland at noon after an overnight flight via ANZ airline. After a quick 20min domestic flight, we reached Rotorua and commenced the drive to Lake Taupo after picking up our rental Aurion (Camry) from Hertz. The picture above shows a lovely rest-stop enroute to our 1st hotel at Lake Taupo.

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A typical scenery by the highway. You will love the neat and gorgeous landscape. Autumn is the best season if you like the various hues of leaves.

Huka Falls

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After checking into our hotel at Millennium Manuels Lake Taupo, we visited the Huka Falls, the largest falls on the Waikato River. It is the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand and one of the country’s longest rivers and it drains Lake Taupo – the largest freshwater lake in all of Australasia.

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We returned to the hotel in time to enjoy the beautiful sunset at the resort jetty, over at Lake Taupo. The weather was a chilly 11-12°C. Finally a shot for myself in the picture, with camera on tripod and travel mate Cindy as the shutter trigger. 

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The natural hot spring oozes steam right at the edge of the lake. Lake Taupo has some of the most famous thermal pools complexes in the region.

Day 2

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

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Day 2 saw us visiting the renowned Wai-O-Tapu GeoThermal Wonderland, which features features a number of mud pools, geysers and sulphur pools. Highlights include the stunning Champagne Pool and the powerful Lady Knox Geyser.

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Lady Knox erupting with the geyser hitting 20m into the air daily at 10.15am, after a presentation by the park ranger who pour bio-degradable surfactants (soap) into the blow hole to generate more foamy hot water discharge. Without the soapy added, the geyser erupts within 24-48 hours.

This picture shows the colourful Central Pools of Wai-o-Tapu, sculptured out of volcanic activities and thousands of years in the making. It is considered to be New Zealand’s most colourful and diverse geothermal sightseeing attraction extending over 18-sq. km.

Misty time at the renowned “Champagne Lake”, one of the most iconic photo spots from New Zealand’s North Island.

The Champagne Pool gets its name from the abundance of carbon dioxide akin to a glass of bubbling champagne. The contrasting vivid colours are due to high sulphur content combining with the ferrous salts in the water. The leading line of the orange sulphur deposit coupled with plumes of pungent steam makes photographing it difficult due to steam constantly hovering at the water surface. The crater is 65m in diameter and depth. The pool holds its heat at about 73°C by geothermally heated water that enters from its depth at 260°C.

This neon green pool of stagnant fetid water is a natural wonder nicknamed the Devil’s Bath. The bright green water gets its colour from deposits of sulphur that rise to the surface and float on top. The green identifies that active mineral while other hues found across the park such as blues, reds, and otherwise signify other volcanic elements. 

Craters of the Moon

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Our next destination brought us to the Craters of the Moon thermal park, with loads of thermal energy hissing from within the landscape. Such energetic blessing from nature indeed.

This thermal area sprang up in the 1950s when the nearby power station lowered underground water levels as hot water was drawn from deep within the field. The reduced water level in the deep reservoir and the remaining water boiled more violently, generating even more steam.

A huge crater at the park, you can hear the bubbling and gurgling mud among the vents in the craters, like many kettles boiling over.

A resident Pheasant at the attraction office ground. This is a game bird and pheasant hunting season with strict guidelines, generally begins on the first weekend of May and lasts until mid-August. It is illegal to shoot the hens as they are protected as the providers of the following year’s crop.

Eat Streat – Rotorua Dining Central

Just 5min drive from our hotel Sudima Lake Rotorua, is Eat Streat, one of Rotorua’s coolest places in the city. Located at the lake end of Tutanekai Street, you will enjoy quality restaurants, cafés and bars as well as the famous Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlour.

The LED light colours change on rotating cycles, bathing the place in various soothing hues. The covered central walkway with retractable roofing is the focal point for this all-weather al fresco dining area, making it ideal for year round entertainment. The thermally heated footpath and mood lighting give Eat Streat a vibrant dining vibe.

If you are hungry for spicy food, like me, the Indian eatery serves the most ‘authentic’ dishes or rather close to what we are used to back home. 

Accomodation – Sudima Lake Rotorua

The Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua, a well-maintained hotel conveniently located just by Lake Rotorua. The breakfast venue faces lake Rotorua and you will experience the rising sun shining into the dining area.

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My room was a newly refurbished room but it looked 90% complete with no table-side lamps or wall posters. Cosy, clean, safe and the water pressure is one of the most powerful I experienced to date.

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View of the lake from my room in the morning. Just a short walk will get you to the lake side with bubbling steamy mud pools.

Polynesian Spa

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The Polynesian Spa is a must-visit when staying at Sudima as its just a a few minutes walk away. Local Māori acclaimed the therapeutic benefits of the water and bathed for centuries in the acidic pool ‘Te Pupunitanga’, now called Priest’s Bath.

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Photo credit : Polynesian Spa

This hotspring and spa therapy centre will ease your travel fatigue while offering great view of the scenic Lake Rotorua, especially during sunrise.

Day 3

Hobbiton Movie Set

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This attraction will be one of the highlights on any visit to North Island. The venue was designed for the movie shooting and not as a tourist attraction. But with the viral success of the Hobbits and Lord of the Rings movies, it transforms itself into a top world-class attraction.

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The beautiful and scenic setting will endear anyone visiting the movie set. The entire location size is 1250 acres with the Hobbiton site at 16 acres.

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One of the most beautiful Hobbits houses (there are 37) on the set. You can enter a few assigned units for photography but the actual interior filming viewers saw in the movie are in purpose-built sets in movie studio as it’s too small here .

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Our guide, Beth, taking the group on the guided visit. Visitors can bring along their Hobbits costumes should they be keen to inject more fun in the photo-taking. We are addressed cheekily as “Hobbits” on the site tour.

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This iconic rolling hills and lush green pastures of Hobbiton was discovered in 1998 by Sir Peter Jackson’s team of location scouts during an aerial search. The 1250 acre farm belongs to the Alexander family. They noted the area’s striking similarity to The Shire, as described by JRR Tolkien and quickly realised that the Hobbits had found a home.

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The visit to the beautifully crafted Green Dragon Inn (the meeting place for all residents of Hobbiton) marks the end of the tour. Signature ginger ale or apple cider will be offered as complimentary (part of the entry fee) refreshment for the tour.

Tauranga – Waimarino Glow Worm Kayak

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Our next stop after The Hobbiton, was the beautiful town of Tauranga (4th largest in North island), where we were hosted to a 5-stars Glow Worm Kayaking event at the McLaren Falls Park. The founder of Waimarino Glow Worm Kayaking company , Blair Anderson came personally to fetch us from our hotel. The journey took 20min from the hotel.

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Enroute to McLaren Falls Park, Blair showed us the McLaren Falls, an amazing place anyone coming to Tauranga, must visit. Blair has some connections to S’pore, himself being engaged to train Singapore Navy sailors in kayaking some years back. He stayed for 4 months and counted durians as his favourite fruit!

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McLaren Falls Park is 190 hectares of parkland alongside Lake McLaren and is just 15 minutes by car, from Tauranga. One of the highlights of the park is the waterfall track where you can see glow worms after dusk, which was the highlight of this event.

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A great snack of biscuits with local NZ cheeses and pastes, fruits paired with warm wine before we commence the adventure on the lake.

A final safety check and coordination before our kayak is being pushed into the lake. We were warm and dry and had our camera gears on board. No worries, we were all safe, dry with no capsizing on the calm lake.

The lake ambience was serene and filled with swans and water ducks. An exceptionally beautiful lake indeed.

This the final shot before it got too dark for any more pics, as we paddled into the canyon. (for photography buffs, this pic was shot at ISO 12800).

Accommodation – Trinity Wharf

Our accommodation at Tauranga was the lovely Trinity Wharf, a nice hotel with a lovely view of the sheltered Rangataua Bay and the Tauranga Bridge in the background.

The hotel infinity pool – you can certainly shoot instagrammable pictures here with the pool and the calm bay.

The hotel breakfast menu is typical of most NZ hotels’ continental spread with juices and toasts, but served with great view here.

Day 4

After checking out, we made our way to our next destination for Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove but along the way, we checked out point of interest, like this “honesty selling” booth (unmanned sales booth) at a farm along highway #2. We bought the pack of persimmons and insert the money into the money-box.

Just a short distance down, we spotted this Persimmon tree and stop to shoot pictures as most cityfolks like us have rarely seen a Persimmon tree, let alone a fruiting one.

Along the road, our attention was caught by this gorgeous flowering plant – The Hot Poker (formal name is Kniphofia and a native plant of Africa).

The visiting bees were just so beautiful, perfect moment for macrophotography.

KatiKati Birds Garden

This place named KatiKati Birds Garden advertises itself as a ‘birds garden’ but we discovered the “real persona” of the venue shortly after.

Wherever we go, the garden big flock of chickens would come to us for food. It became more like a chicken farm. Although the chickens are of various species, I had kingfisher in mind, something more exotic or less commonplace.

The place can also be deemed a Duck Farm, plenty of them around.

A small part of the colonies of chickens in this “birds garden”. I wonder if the garden owner control their population.

Cindy got accosted and held “ransom” by the feathered residents. No wonder the entry fee was just NZD$10/adult and the packet of bird feed was NZD$1. The rest of the parrots and coloured birds were housed in cages which I have no mood to shoot.

The Porch Kitchen & Bar @ Waihi Beach

After a 25min drive from KatiKati Birds Garden, we stopped for a lamb pie at The Porch Kitchen & Bar Waihi Beach as Blair Anderson said we should not missed NZ Pie as “it’s the best in the universe”.

My first lamb pie on the trip, very delicious and can’t tell its made with lamb. NZ people are proud of their pies and rightly so.

Hot Water Beach @ The Coromandel

After 2 hrs drive, we arrived at the Hot Water Beach for a short visit. At certain stretch of the beach, you can use a rented spade to dig your own spa pool by the sea, during low tide.

Typical of most beaches away from city in New Zealand, you get to enjoy peaceful moments in expansive comfort.

With more time, making your own nature onsen is a highlight on this beach, just like in some parts of Japan.

Cathedral Cove

After another 15min drive from Hot Water Beach, we arrived at the Cathedral Cove which is part of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve. This lookout point, shows a lovely view of the South Pacific Ocean.

A nice look-out point, visitors can walk down to the beautiful Hahei Beach on The Coromandel where you can walk to Cathedral Cove, a naturally formed archway that truly deserves a place on anyone’s album. But as we were scheduled to reach Auckland, about 3hrs drive away, we had to give it a miss.

The beach at Cathedral Cove is often touted as the Top 10 most beautiful beaches in the country. Its also a film location of the Narnia films and since then has shot to international fame. This amazing attraction is 100% free to visit and requires no national park or entrance fees.

Highway #25

Enroute to Auckland along the way on highway #25, we could not resist stopping for an Autumn sunset photo session with passing cars, especially with this roll of beautiful trees.

Accommodation – Auckland City Hotel

My hotel room in Auckland. Nice room for sleep, especially after a long drive. The Auckland City Hotel is a strategically located in the heart of the city entertainment and business district, with easy access to motorways. An effortless five minute walk takes you to the Sky Tower, Aotea Square, and the center of town, Queen Street.

Day 5

Puhoi Valley Cheese Co.

Day 5 see us leaving Auckland for our next destination in Paihia, the northern town where the Bay of Islands is. But along the way, a stop at Puhoi for a cafe break at the Puhoi Valley Cafe and Cheese Store, a very nice cafe. And being so early, we were the 1st to arrive.

You can dine al fresco, enjoy the autumn colours and morning chill at 12’C. But we chose indoor for the lighting mood and decor.

Blue veined, Cheddar, Emmental, Gruyere and a wide variety for sale.

Another day, another pie, just to had to eat more to feel the vibe of NZ meat pies. This beef pie is pretty awesome too. together with a cup of latte.

Honey Centre Warkworth

Just a short drive from Puhoi, we dropped by the Honey Centre in Warkworth for some honey retail therapy.

All the honey related products you will ever need and more.

Manuka Honey, NZ’s pride and valued export. It’s a waste not buy this gorgeous honey when in NZ.

If the cafe at Puhoi does not appeal to you, this cosy cafe at the Honey Centre should convince you for a cuppa. 

Waipu Glow Worm Cave

An unscheduled visit brought us to the Waipu Caves area features a karst / limestone landscape and weathered rocks. The term “karst” refers to a type of topography that is formed over limestone, dolomite or gypsum by solution of the rock and is characterised by closed depressions or sinkholes, caves and underground drainage.

This was shot with torchlight shining to capture the image. You can see the green light spots behind, which are the light of glow worms.

A small section of the glow worms on the cave ceiling, all these are bioluminescence – light generated not by battery but insects. It’s simply amazing! imagine, the entire caves ceiling filled with them , just like looking at a starry night skies.

Without the torchlight, that’s what we see in the cave in total darkness. I mean 100% total darkness. This pictures was shot at ISO 12800

Paihia

From the Waipu caves, 1.5hrs drive took us to the beautiful coastal town of Paihia, this is the gateway town to the Bay of Islands, the northern most part of New Zealand.

Day 6

Day 6 required us to wake up early to make our way to the pick-up point for the tour bus from GreatSights, on a land tour that will take us through the key areas of the Bay of Islands including the northernmost point of Cape Reinga and the renowned 90-Mile Beach, covering about 500km on the trip. We can’t self-drive as the beach is limited to 4WD vehicles.

A visit to New Zealand is not complete without a journey to the very top of the North Island – Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua), where you will discover the wild beauty of this vast and untouched region that is rich in Māori culture and tradition.

Manginangina Kauri Walk

A boardwalk winds through the matured stand of kauri, swamp forest and associated vegetation. Interpretive panels help you understand and enjoy this special forest ecosystem. In fact, this boardwalk was built for the Queen visit to this spot sometimes back.

1st stop of the tour- we got up close to ancient and majestic giant Kauri trees and native bush in Puketi Kauri Forest. 

Houhoura – Lunch Stop with a View

Our lunch rest stop at Houhoura, looking out to Rangaunu Bay, a lovely peaceful setting to tease our appetite.

One of the best fish and chips ever. We were told not to feed the seagulls and apparently, every visitors, have been obedient. The seagulls did not attack us like those in Australia Sydney Fisherman Wharf. We had our al fresco lunch in peace. Coffee is not included in the meal, only iced water.

Lovely ambience under an awesomely gorgeous tree. That’s the beauty of Bay of Islands for you.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

After 10min walk from the carpark to the lighthouse, we experience outstanding views of the Northern Coast. To the west Cape Maria Van Dieman and Motuopao Island, to the east is Piwhane/Spirits Bay and Hikurua/de Serville Cliffs, the North Island’s most northern point.
Offshore, you can witness the immense power of two mighty oceans merging. The currents of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet in a foaming swell of broken water over the Columbia Bank.

The directional signpost at the light house with loads of stickers giving the signpost a well-visited look.

Sand Boarding @ Te Paki Sand Dunes.

The excitement at this leg of the trip was the driver takes the bus up Te Paki Stream towards the mountainous sand dunes, it’s all part of the off-road experience. Clambering up then sand-boarding down the enormous dunes (if you dare!) will give your legs a stretch after the first part of the tour.

Somehow, these fellas make me feel less young but I am the one with the camera, one by one, they will need my service.

90 Mile Beach

Ninety Mile Beach is another highlight of the tour – you’ll drive along the sand as waves crash a short distance from the custom-built coach. Feel the sand between your toes as you help your driver guide dig for shellfish (conditions permitting).

Everyone gets down for a feel of the beach and fresh Tasman sea breeze. A very nice experience indeed..

Look at the beach relief, the surface feels firm and non-sticky and feels nice to walk on.

Incoming! The Tasman waves started churning in. Good thing the beach is rather flat and a brisk walk escapes the wave.

Day 7

Bay of Islands

Early morning saw us going for the Bay of Islands cruise, to check out the renowned Hole in the Rock , dolphins sighting and enjoying the sights of the beautiful bay. A 2-hours trip that will give you an idea why the town is named as such.

This lovely wharf and the surrounding area has some the best eateries in Paihia, like : 25 Degrees South, Charlotte’s Kitchen Restaurant and Bar, The Pier Lounge Bar & Café, Waterfront Restaurant and Bar, Only Seafood and Amazing Thai .

The rainbow seems to be a “permanent” feature here, as in many places in New Zealand, it’s like the wharf signboard !

Getting ready to board the ferry, named Te Maki (Orca, in Maori language).

This is Russell, an island away from Paihia. A passenger ferry service runs between Paihia and Russell, while a vehicle ferry provides a link between Opua and Russell. On land, enjoy beautiful river and seaside walking tracks or encounter the mighty Kauri Tree in pristine subtropical rainforest.

Clean, neat and spacious deck. This ferry is the latest addition to the fleet from GreatSights.

Te Maki features outdoor seating, an indoor saloon/cabin and main saloon windows that start below the seat level and extend almost to the ceiling, offering amazing visibility.

The Black Rocks are a group of islets off the north and eastern coasts of Moturoa Island and are a very special feature of the Bay of Islands landscape. The islets are the visible tops of basalt lava flows from volcanic eruptions which have not been entirely covered by the rise of the sea to its present level. Believed to be around 1.2 million years old, their distinctive shape makes them very rare and of outstanding conservation value.

The landscape here is simply beautiful, no wonder so many films were made here.

A wild sealion enjoying the late morning sun, with plenty of seafood around.

This Hole in The Rock is one of the coolest attraction around – an easily accessible island tunnel so big it can fit medium-sized cruise boats through it. It’s dominated by its sheer cliffs that rise 148 metres out of the sea.

Within the Hole – this 18 m high hole at sea level was created over centuries by wind and waves making it one of the most naturally beautiful sites in New Zealand. 

We did not manage to see the resident dolphins in the bay but we spotted a school of Blue Mau Mau Fish congregating at the surface.

Charlotte’s Kitchen

After the cruise returned to the wharf, we had a lunch at the lovely picturesque Charlotte’s Kitchen located just at the wharf.

The freshest Pacific Oysters you can find on the island.

I had slow cooked pork with rice bun, pretty good interpretation but I think our Singapore’s version of “kong ba pao” has the edge.

Accommodation – Castaways Resort Waluku

My accommodation at this beautiful resort was a chalet-style villa, which can sleep up to four people in two bedrooms, with each bedroom having its own en suite. An ideal option for families, corporate or wedding guests.

Tired as we were we could not miss out on photographing the Milky Way just above the resort. But with the full moon was on her way, we only managed grabbed couple of shots as the light from the moon reduces the visibility of the Milky Way.

Day 8 (final day in North Island)

It was wonderful waking up to a most beautiful view of the Tasman Sea, with wispy clouds coloured a warm orange by the morning sun, with cooling 12’C made more chilly by the ocean breeze.

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Castaways’ two bedroom chalets offer panoramic views over Karioitahi beach. Featuring super king beds (or two singles), full kitchen and laundry facilities, dining set and lounge area and balcony to enjoy the stunning west coast sunset. Each Chalet can sleep up to four people in two bedrooms, with each bedroom having its own en suite. Just look at that million dollar view..

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What gorgeous and serene ambience with not single ship in sight. Can you hear the whisper of the Tasman in the distance ?

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The chalets on the hill slope. Beautiful resort with spectacular view of the Tasman Sea.

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The resort Balinese-inspired Bersantai Day Spa relaxing surroundings high on the cliff tops will set you at ease immediately.

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The soothing spa lounge with a wall-like poster view of the sea.

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The newly renovated Castaways Restaurant & Bar is my favourite place in the resort, with a supreme view of the Tasman Sea. You will especially love the spectacular sunset during early dinner.

That Little Cottage (Sushi Cafe)

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From the resort, we check out early to our next destination at Hamilton which takes a 1.5hrs drive. But of course, a rest stop for a cuppa along at the way when we chanced upon a unique Japanese sushi cafe, manned by couple of Japanese ladies.

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Simple and cosy cafe with home-made sushi for a quick bite.

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The late morning was still misty around giving the place a peaceful feel.

Hamilton Gardens

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Finally, we reached the beautiful Hamilton Gardens, an award-winning destination located halfway between Auckland and Rotorua, Auckland and Waitomo and just 45 minutes from Hobbiton.

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There are several themed gardens and the Japanese Zen-style with falls colours was my definite favourite.

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This is the reason autumn is the most ideal season to visit North Island.

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Spotted a beautiful Mallard Duck with its reflection at the garden pond. Would have been even better if it was a Mandarin Duck.

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The strong mid-afternoon sun is perfect to render Autumn colour in its fiery vibrant hue.

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The serene Bamboo Trees Grove in the Chinese Scholar’s Garden will be one of your favourite photo moment.

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The art of Chinese gardening is one of the oldest artistic expressions in existence with a heritage that stretches back to the Han Period, at least 2,000 years ago. Because Chinese gardening has been a very influential art form it is sometimes called the ‘mother of gardens’.

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Had a productive time shooting bees pollinating the flowers at the Indian Char Bagh Garden, inspired by a small hunting palace near Agra, called Lal Mahal.

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Lovely view at the garden cafe. The cooling autumn weather makes sitting outdoor all the more enjoyable. 

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Had the last beef pie before ending the trip. Delicious to the last bite.

Zealong Tea Estate

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Our last stop on the trip brought us Zealong Tea, widely touted as a Waikato icon, it is the only commercial tea estate in New Zealand, producing 100% organic award-winning tea and a world-leading destination for tea, art and hospitality.

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It is hard to believe that this magnificent 48ha tea estate was once a dairy farm. Today, 1.2 million Camellia sinensis bushes are loving nurtured by the farm team with the impressive tea rows providing a safe haven to an abundance of native birds and wildlife.

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The tea estate exquisite retail boutique, a beautiful showcase of all things tea. You might even find something ultra-rare as it is the first to have all of their teas before their release.

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The estate tea house which is the perfect place to conclude a visit to the North Island at a leisurely pace.

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This is the estate sleek and modern purpose built venue facility nestled in rolling hectares of tea fields. Royalties and celebrities have graved the place on numerous occasion.

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A nice peaceful ambience to better enjoy the tea, especially in the cooling retreating dusk skies.

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The estate sommelier helping us with our tea. The estate team of chefs and world-class tea blenders deliver exquisite infusions.

The tea estate is renowned for creative pairings and dishes infused with tea. Our order of Miso Tofu came perfectly presented, like an artwork.

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A Tea Ceremony session in progress – a very involved process. The tea tasting teaches the art of tea appreciation, of appearance, aroma, and taste, followed by an optional Signature High Tea at the Tea House overlooking the Estate.

Conclusion

I like to term this visit to the North Island as a “wrap up” trip after the South Island a year ago. Shorter drives, more urbanised and populated, it’s a marked contrast to her more laid-back southerly sister. With proper planning and good travel companion, a trip here will definitely serves up memorable time. And I like to repeat that one visit to either island is never enough. There is something for anyone, anytime in New Zealand.

Thanks for coming along the pixels journey. For other self-drive adventures, do check out my other travelogues here.

P.S – All pictures used in this blogs are all rights reserved and copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holidays