Travel Story | Freedom Again in New Zealand!

by Flip Flop Wanderers

Hi guys,

We are back with another update! As you could have read in our previous blog, we finished working at Hot Water Beach, and it was time to do what we came here for again: exploring this beautiful country! During this trip we saw almost the whole of the north island and saw much variety in nature, it’s almost unbelievable. In this story, we’ll tell you all about the first two weeks that we were back on the road again, where we went back to Auckland and especially explored even more of the Coromandel Peninsula because even after living there for 3 months, it was still one of our favorite parts of New Zealand :)

Read our travel story about working at Hot Water Beach – part 2!

On the road again!

Back to Auckland

When we left Hot Water Beach, our plans already changed immediately. We still wanted to see more of the Coromandel Peninsula, but our laptop had crashed, and that was a real problem for us since all our photos and other work is on there. Therefore we headed back to Auckland first instead. That was quite a change of scenery after living in a remote town, where you had to drive half an hour for a proper supermarket. But being back in the city made us realize that we had not missed it at all!

We went to see a couple of repair shops, but all of them had a long waiting time, and we didn’t want to stay that long in the big smoke :) After the fourth one, our laptop miraculously showed some signs of life again, and guess what, it started working again! The humidity had been really bad lately since we had continuous rain 3 days in a row, and we think that might have caused the problem. Happy that it was solved we quickly left the city after some shopping.

Sunset at Piha Beach

Auckland’s west coast

West of Auckland are some nice beaches to explore, so that’s where we headed next! We had been a bit spoiled with the beaches of the Coromandel, which was the reason that Muriwai Beach and Bethells Beach did not leave great impressions for us. We continued to Waitakere Ranges, and along that way, we passed the ‘Brabant Road’. Brabant is the province where we lived back at home, so we had to take some photos of this street sign!

Via a scenic drive that treated us with some amazing views over the Waitakere Ranges, we drove to Anawhata Beach. There is a nice walk to the beach, with beautiful views from above. There are also some rock pools, but unfortunately, they are on private property. We saw on Instagram and other blogs that people visit them anyway so we thought to do so as well since we saw some other people that went there too. But on our way over there we heard a car on the private road, so we hid ourselves in the bush. We decided to turn around. We would have loved to visit the pools, and if no-one was there we probably would, but we didn’t want any trouble.

We drove further into the ranges and visited the Karekare Falls. It is such a beautiful waterfall and you can even swim here, although the water was pretty cold! After we enjoyed this scenery we continued to Piha were we set camp for the night, but first, we watched the sunset because we are on the west coast again!

Back to the east coast

In the morning we visited Piha’s beach again to see it by daylight. 

After this, we left the west coast again and drove back towards the Coromandel but not without popping into the Dutch Shop first. On our way over to the east side, we had a stop at the Hunua Ranges, south-east of Auckland. Here you can find the Hunua Falls. We decided to chill there for a while, in our comfy Trono chairs, and plunging in the water! The weather was great today :)

We drove further to Thames and from there we went up North, back on the Coromandel Peninsula, towards Coromandel Town. A few weeks ago this coastal drive was heavily damaged by a storm, but it was already open again. It’s a beautiful small windy road directly along the coast and the views were amazing! If you visit the Coromandel, we can definitely recommend to drive up this way! We camped at Shelly Beach, on the west side of the peninsula so we could enjoy another beautiful sunset!

The tip of the Coromandel Peninsula

Back in the Coromandel, we wanted to walk the Castle Rock track. It seems to be a beautiful hike, but the road to the start of this track is often closed for logging, so, unfortunately, we couldn’t do this. We went up further North, to see the tip of the Peninsula. This part is less traveled, the road will soon change to a windy gravel road, and although it is only 60km from Coromandel Town, it will take over 1,5 hours to get there! And that’s when you only drive but, of course, we had to stop very often to take photos of the amazing views!!

Halfway this road we arrived in Colville, which is the last town where you can find a supermarket and petrol. From there the gravel road starts. We passed a couple of stunning bays and at Fantail Bay we parked our van next to a stoney beach to have some lunch.

Many bumps and bends, a couple of small river crossings, and many amazing views further we arrived at the most northern point of the Peninsula, Fletcher Bay. From here there is a 10km walk to Stony Bay, the Coromandel Coastal walkway, along the east side of the tip. You will have to walk back though since there is no public transport back. The drive to Stony Bay is 55km over gravel roads, and it will take about 2 hours. That’s why we wanted to do only half of the walk, and then head back but we were told that the part from Stony Bay is the nicest part so we decided to drive over there and walk it from that side.

We had to drive all the way back to Colville and then head up to Stony Bay. There is a nice DOC campsite were we stayed so we could do the walk the day after. It was such a beautiful place to camp, and while having dinner some little duckies came over to annoy us, so cute!

The Coromandel Coastal Walkway

So the next day we started the Coromandel Coastal Walkway. It was not a very hard walk, it was going uphill a bit, but we have seen worse ;) After 1,5 hours of walking we came to the viewpoint that we really wanted to see, and the view was so amazing!

We actually wanted to see even more of the track, and not only the part we decided to do. The part we walked now was through forest but we saw the rest of the walk was more open with beautiful views. That’s why Manon decided to walk further to Fletcher Bay, and Bram would drive the bumpy windy roads back up again to pick her up there… A bit of a hassle but the views made it absolutely worth it!

NZ’s most beautiful beach

We camped at Whangapoua and the next day we went looking for New Chums Beach. This beach is one of the 20 most beautiful beaches in the world, so we had to see it! It was high tide, and that didn’t make the walk over there easier. First, we had to cross a waist-deep river, and then we had to walk over rocks along the coastline for 20 minutes. The path could have been easier, but as with many spots in New Zealand, it is private land so you are not allowed to cross it. After a while, the path was a bit easier, crossing some land, and we arrived at a very stunning beach! It was worth the hike! We chilled on the beach and, of course, we made many photos.

Next to the beach was a hill with a view over New Chums Beach. The path up was really steep but when we arrived up there, the view was so amazing! From here you could really see why this is one of the most stunning beaches! There are some rock formations that looked like a chair with the best view ever! We walked back, and it was much easier now it was low tide! We didn’t have to fall over the rocks, and the waist-deep river was not even ankle deep anymore.

And some more beaches

We drove further down, passing a nice little beach called Kuaotunu Beach. From there we went off the main road again to visit a promontory. We visited Otama beach with beautiful white sand and Opita bay where we had a very nice view! The Coromandel is such an awesome part of New Zealand.

After this visit we were almost in Whitianga again, so we decided to pop in at the Hot Water Beach campground to stay there for a night. They asked us in the morning if we wanted to help cleaning again, but we weren’t really up for it :P We decided to visit some beaches again instead, not as fun as cleaning but someone has to do it.

We went to Sailors Grave. At this beach is a grave of an English sailor from a long time ago. There was a nice beach and you can walk a path towards Otara Bay, another nice beach.

Via Whiritoa Beach, another beautiful beach, we drove further to Waihi Beach where we stayed on the Top 10 campground. We applied for a job here too, but Hot Water Beach responded earlier and we already agreed with them before Waihi Beach called us back. But this is a really cool campsite too, with a hot spa, which was ideal because it had started to rain, so it was nice to chill in! The reason that it rained was another cyclone that was coming to New Zealand, cyclone Gita. Luckily, we only had some light rain because the cyclone went more south, inbetween the North and South Island.

Of course, we had to visit Waihi Beach itself as well. It’s a great surf beach, we actually wanted to surf with sunrise, but weren’t able to rent a board at that time of the day… We had a drive around the area and visited Anzac bay at Bowentown where we could enjoy some nice views, and we chilled a bit on Waihi Beach.

View on an island from Anzac Bay

Going land inwards

After our beach time, we went land inwards towards Waihi where you can find a big mining pit (not as big as in Kalgoorlie, Australia though). It had been closed for a while though because of a massive landslide inside.

After this visit, we continued to Karangahake Gorge where we visited the Owharoa Falls. Another beautiful waterfall, and we made some great shots!

Close to there you can find the Victoria Battery, an old gold processing site. You can walk through the foundations of the old factory which was quite impressive. You can also act like a train while walking over the old rails :P We camped at a cheap DOC campsite close to there.

That Thursday, the weather wasn’t great but we decided to do some walks anyway in the Karangahake Gorge. First, we walked the Karangahake Rail Tunnel Loop. This walk takes you through an old 1km long railway tunnel, and on the other side of this tunnel we found rain :p Luckily we could shelter in the tunnel.

The walk continued along a river between big cliffs, a beautiful gorge! At the end of this loop, you can walk another loop as well: the Karangahake Windows Walk but not before we took shelter underneath an old bridge pillar for the heavy rain.

The windows walk is truly stunning! We walked the long way which takes you through the remains of an old battery (gold processing factory) first. The path was really wet, and our legs were covered in mud. Via an old railway, we ended up in some tunnels that went into the cliffs. At the side of the tunnels, they made some holes where we could see the gorge through these windows, and that’s where the name of this walk comes from. The views from here are really spectacular. The tunnels are high above the river halfway up the cliff. At the end of the tunnels, we went down to the river and walked along it, back to the beginning.

We continued our way via Paeroa, a place that’s world famous in New Zealand for the drink L&P (Lime & Paeroa) that is made here. They even have a giant L&P bottle in this little town. We continued to Hamilton, where we visited the Hamilton Gardens. We are not quite often impressed with gardens, but these were really beautiful. There are several themed gardens like an Italian, Indian, Japanese, English and a Chinese garden, but also a Maori one and some other themes.

To the west coast again

Yes, we were really zigzagging around the Northern island. Now we went to the west coast again to visit Raglan, famous for it’s surfing beaches! When we arrived there, we first did some washing and stuff at the campground and organized some surfboard rentals for a sunset surf session. Sunset and surfing is just an epic combination! We went to Ngarunui Beach and surfing went well! The beautiful sunset was a treat!

The next day we visited Manu Bay and Whale Bay, another two surfing beaches, but we didn’t choose these because of the many rocks. The way over there wasn’t easy either since it was a windy, bumpy gravel road that we had to follow for a long drive. It had some spectacular views, like the Te Toto Gorge lookout, which made the drive worth it!

After the long, bumpy drive we arrived at the Waireinga Falls (Bridal Veil Falls). These huge falls looked amazing! These were a bit more touristic, which you could notice by the fenced tracks and the many visitors.

The road we followed was very scenic and after a while, we found our way to Lake Ngaroto. The water was so flat and the reflection of the clouds was really beautiful. We camped at a farm stay and had fun seeing the big fat sheep and some cute little cows.

The Waitomo area

In the morning, we found out that they had some Alpacas too. We continued our trip and we went to Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park. You could see some Kiwi’s here, and we could see why they are so hard to spot in the wild. If you make a little bit of noise they will be hiding in the bush immediately, and they only come out at night. There are some more native birds to see, some of them were quite funny!

We continued to Waitomo, where we booked some tickets for the Waitomo glowworm caves the next day. Today, we went west of Waitomo were we walked to the Mangapohue Natural Bridge. There is a kind of double natural bridge over a small river. It was really beautiful!

We also visited the Piripiri cave, which was just a staircase going into some small cave, not really special. Our next visit was the Marokopa Falls, the highest waterfall in New Zealand! After these visits, we called it a day and went to the campsite, where we had a plunge into the spa and pool.

Magical glowworm caves

Waitomo is famous for the many caves you can find here. It’s a shame that they ask a fair bit of money to get in there but it’s worth a visit. Unfortunately, you can only enter them with a tour, and we had planned 3 of them today. The first one was the Glowworm Cave, where we first walked a bit through the cave and then ended it with a boat ride over a river with many glowworms above our heads. Just like you are floating under a million of stars, so special!

The second one was the Aranui Cave. We hiked through these caves and soon found a big room called the Cathedral. Because of the structure of the cave, the sound in here is perfect and there have been concerts and weddings in this cave. You can’t find any glowworms here, because there is no river inside. Glowworms feed themselves with insects, and they are only in wet caves.

The last cave we visited was the Ruakuri Cave. The entrance was fake, and we went down through a spiral in a large pit. This part was man-made, but it looked amazing! The actual cave was very beautiful as well. You could see some seashell forms in the rocks, since those caves were born out of the sea bottom, squeezed up to the surface by the many earth movements.

Hobbit landscape at Pio Pio

After visiting these caves we drove via Te Kuiti to PioPio. It’s a great scenic drive through a hobbit landscape, and you can find the Hairy Feet estate here. At this farm, many parts of The Hobbit are filmed. There are some amazing cliffs, but it was closed now so we couldn’t visit it.

We continued our drive to the Waitanguru Falls since we had not seen any falls today :p. We went back to Te Kuiti were we saw a lot of sheep, not very strange since this is the sheep shearer capital of the world. We parked our van for the night at a stunning free campsite, with beautiful cliffs and a river as a backyard!

These first two weeks on the road again felt absolutely great! We had an awesome time, and there was much more to come. After this time we went to the smelly volcanic area of New Zealand, and we love to tell you all about it in our next blog. For now, thanks for reading again, and feel free to leave a comment below :)

The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.


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