I spent a month and a half travelling both the North and South Islands of New Zealand via the Kiwi Experience Bus; a service I had struggled to find much in-depth info about before I arrived in NZ. Therefore I thought I’d keep a travel diary of my time in this AMAZING country for anyone else who finds themselves in the same boat as I was and doesn’t quite know what to expect from the bus service.
Basically, the Kiwi Experience provide a variety of different bus passes you can purchase which include different stops across either just one, or both islands. You can then tailor your trip to suit your time limits and how long you want to spend at each location. The bus drivers are super helpful at recommending the best places to spend more time and which ones to maybe just stay one or two nights! For me the bus was a perfect half-way-house between having the freedom to go off and do your own thing but also having help organising activities and meeting loads of other solo travellers on the bus!
My travel diary is just what I personally did in NZ and what you could potentially do if you travel with Kiwi, however there is sooo much more to do and I would definitely urge you to explore outside what the bus can organise for you!
My first stop in New Zealand was Auckland, a city I had been told was nice but lacking in attractions that couldn’t all be seen in a day. However, I didn’t find this the case; there was a ton of stuff to there to fill my two day in the city! On day one I headed down to the harbour just to have a look around and get my bearings. There’s so much to do down there from boat trips to loads of lovely looking restaurants (all way out of my budget unfortunately) and the ‘Lighthouse’, which is an art exhibit of Captain Cook seated inside a house full of neon lights. Very unassuming when you first walk up to it but really quirky! Albert Park is another great spot; I took my book up there in the afternoon to catch the last bits of daylight and then had a wander round the University and some of the little shops off High Street, which are all very cute!
On my second, and last, day in Auckland I walked to Auckland Domain to visit the Wintergardens and War Memorial Museum. The Museum is well worth a visit, with exhibitions on Maori culture and their history in travelling from the Pacific to New Zealand, as well as New Zealand’s involvement in WW2 and a Weird and Wonderful kid’s section, which I probably enjoyed more than I should have! The Wintergardens were my highlight though and I’d highly recommend a visit (in fact I already have to a girl in my dorm room!) There were quite a few people doing photos shoots around the area, which is understandable as it’s beautiful! They even hold weddings there- future husband take note!
Bay of Islands:
My first taste of the Kiwi Experience was hopping on the bus and heading up the country from Auckland to the Bay of Islands in the ‘winterless north’ of New Zealand. The Bay was absolutely stunning! I arrived early afternoon so had plenty of time to check out the area and walk along the coast of Paihia.
The next morning I had a dolphin eco tour booked, departing from Paihia and cruising around the Bay on a dolphin-friendly catamaran trying to spot some pods! I have to say this was probably one of my travelling highlights! They came so close to the boat and we were also able to see penguins, fur seals and just chill on the front deck of the boat as we sped around the water. Cue the need for hot tea and soup when I got off the boat in Russel to try and restore some feeling to my frozen fingers (it may be sunny but the wind is brutal!) When suitably warm again I walked up to Flagstaff Hill and down to a little beach before catching the ferry back to Paihia ($7 single, $12 return).
On my last day I had to board the coach at 2:15pm back to Auckland, so there was just enough time to get up early and complete a 16km walk along the Oromahae Traverse to Opua and back along the Coastal Path to Paihia.
*Don’t forget to check out the Bay at dawn.
Hot Water Beach:
After a quick, one night pit-stop in Auckland it was time to start travelling South to Hot Water Beach in the Corramandel. Unfortunately, due to the recent Cyclone that had hit New Zealand, when we arrived on the bus it wasn’t possible to walk along the coast to see Cathedral Cove, most of the path was still safe to walk along though which had the most amazing views!
The best time to head to Hot Water Beach to dig your own hot pool is after dark when the tide is going out and the stars are clear, so at about 7:30pm we grabbed some spades, bottles of beer and went to find out what all the hype was about! And that’s where we kind of failed…one side of our pool burnt your feet and the other side froze them! By the time the fifth wave had flooded us, broken our walls and washed away our bottles and flip-flops, we decided to call it a night! Definitely a funny experience that was short and sweet! Everyone appreciated a hot shower afterwards!
On the move again! This time to go hang with some glow worms in the Waitomo caves!
Exploring the caves with the Black Water Rafting Company was such a cool experience! They offer loads of different tours through the caves from walking tours, taking a boat through them or the Black Abys tour including abseiling 30 metres into the caves, doing a zip wire in the dark, rafting through the underground river and climbing back out up two gushing waterfalls! I did the later and it was freaking awesome! Floating under the glow worms feels like sailing through the stars! After five hours underground it was only right to celebrate with home-made bangers and mash and a few pints at Curly’s Bar (which I really felt in the morning…)