We embarked from Auckland and headed south to Raglan (on the west coast), one of the best surf spots in all of New Zealand. 1.5 hrs south of Raglan is the Waitomo Caves with some of the most incredible glowworm caves in New Zealand. The tour we took offered a longer than average boat ride into a pitch black tunnel to see millions of glowworms (actually it’s the larva glowing). The boat ride ended at a small waterfall that sounded massive from the echo of the tunnel. Very magical! Sadly the glowworms are not very photogenic.
From Waicomo we drive to Lake Taupo (central north island) where our first day was washed out with chilly rain. Thankfully the sun reappeared on day 2 when we visited Huka Falls and the thermal area ‘Craters on the Moon’. I had high hopes that it would be bubbling cauldrons of mud and steaming geysers but it was more like steaming, sulfuric smelling sand holes.
It was back to the west coast to explore the Taranaki region on the surf highway 45. Our first night there was during a massive windstorm, that was literally ripping trees up and out of the ground and we had a scary night in the rocking, shaking van. In Taranaki James had his trusty NZ surf guide leading us down farm roads and tiny airports alike, to find waves. One spot near Oakura was a particular hike on a long deserted beach to the surf break, where James had a private surf session (with so-so conditions) with a dedicated (if novice) photographer. After a few days of coastal exploration, we headed south for Wellington.
In Wellington we, with the faithful and stinky van, took the Bluebridge ferry across the Cook Strait to the south island. The ride is 3.5 hours long and the sea can be quite rough, so it’s not always the most pleasant ride. Our journey was relatively tame but halfway through the ride I had to go up to the top deck for some air to shake off a queasy feeling but as soon as we were close to the south island the sea calmed down and the views were INCREDIBLE. This part of the south island looks as pristine and rugged, as it might have when first seen by early explorers. I was filled with gratitude that we were able to come to the South Island and SO excited to see more of it – like, if this is your opener OMG what’s to follow?