Ron Laughlin The Ultimate New Zealand Travel Guide
From Auckland south through the middle of the North Island
(Please excuse me. I am building a new website and this portion is incomplete............working as fast as I can......sorry!)
I have created three different routes south one down each coast and one down the middle. It will be dependent upon your time here how you will want an itinerary created. Generally due to lack of time I recommend south to Waitomo Caves area over to Rotorua and/or a stop in Hobbiton then either directly to Wellington or to Napier then to Wellington. This is done in about a week allowing time in each area to experience the activities, etc.
Route 3 of 3 south - Down the Middle of the Island:
We like to take route 2 east off of route one south of Bombay so we can stay at one of the best parks in the North island -
Miranda Holiday Park. What a fabulous hot pool especially to enjoy at night.
From here return to route 27 south through Matamata the home of the hobbits Hobbiton Tours .
From here to route 5 and on to Rotorua.
Another way is to Hamilton but this time we continue along Route One toward Rotorua, home of the hot pools and volcanic activity.
Just don't miss this area. Very few places in the world is as naturally exciting. This is a major must in visiting New Zealand. There is only one place we recommend staying in Rotorua and that is the:
Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park. They have all the accommodations plus a cafe in the Park in season. Top quality all the way through.
Don't hurry though there are some exciting places along the way. It is 23kms from Hamilton to Cambridge. This is the horse capital of New Zealand. Lovely places and a pleasant town with good cafes. A really great holiday park there - Cambridge Motor Park .
From Cambridge continuing south of Route One on your right is Lake Karapiro for most of the 20kms to the junction of Route 29. Now we are only 20kms from a place you must stop and enjoy, the town of Tirau, the corrugated iron capital of New Zealand. You will note in your travels corrugated iron is the exterior of all farm buildings, now popular in home construction and even furniture. A giant corrugated sheep and shepherd is the Information Site in the centre of town.
Tirau is a place you can spend hours checking out all the art, antiques, specialty shops, cafes. Amazing places with shops such as Raining Cats & Dogs, Natures' Touch, Status Jewellery, The Honey Shop and a load of others.
Check out Corrugated Creations - unbelievable!
Tirau is a great base for central North Island. It also has several walkways and tracks such as the Te Waihou Walkway to Blue Springs, the Waikato River Trail, Waiere Falls and Maungatautari Mountain tracks.
You can get in some fly fishing in the nearby lakes and streams, kayak on Lake Arapuni, mountain bike Cougar Park. Check out the Tirau Information Centre .
There is a very special spot I recommend you stop by and stay the night. The Oraka Deer Park & Restaurant that provides stunning gardens. It is a four star cottage and homestay accommodation.
After a good night's sleep at Oraka you can go on to Rotorua (45 mins). Here you need to spend a couple of days to take in all the activities. Stay at the Rotorua Thermal Park as already mentioned above. Enjoy the park-like grounds situated in the very heart of Rotorua's scenic attractions. Relax in the free thermal pools, walk to thermal reserve and geysers or the golf course. Facilities include unique campervan/R.V./motorhome, covered walkways to kitchen facilities, dining room, lounge, shower and toilets and laundry. Free heated swimming pool, hot mineral pools, games and TV rooms, camp store, barbecues and children's play area.
Children under 3 years stay free (unless min rate period) Storage of caravans between stays is free. Treat yourself to bed and breakfast in the modern 100 bed lodge (groups are their speciality and all meals are catered for by arrangement). Let them book you into many of Rotorua's magnificent sites and top tourist attractions, of which many offer a free on-site pickup service.
Whether coming from Auckland, Taupo or Tauranga: Look for State Highway 5 signs, Old Taupo Road is part of State Highway 5. They are at the south end, opposite golf course, 10 minute walk from Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve.
Rotorua is where you can get total immersion in the Maori culture. Be sure to go to an evening meal (a hangi).
After Rotorua take route 5 south to Taupo nestled along side one of the best trout fishing lakes in the world.
Lots of other activities also available. Visit Huka Falls and the Huka Prawn Park and the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.
Three possible routes from here to Wellington. Either stay on Route One and continue on through the Tongariro Region and visit Ruepahu where the volcanic remains are now top ski fields. You also will go through New Zealand's desert country. For the hiker there is the world famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing rated as the best one day hike in the country.
Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's first National Park, and the fourth National Park to be created in the world.
South of Lake Taupo at Turangi you can go around the west side of the Tongariro Park on route 47 or you can go straight ahead on route one. Going straight ahead you will go through the high desert country and the Waiouru Military Area. Both routes end up at Waiouru . Of interest there is the National Army Museum.
Other towns to visit in the area south of Taupo:
Situated at the base of Mount Ruapehu, Ohakune caters for visitors to the popular Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields. Known as ‘New Zealand’s Carrot Capital’, Ohakune's giant carrot monument has become a kiwi icon!
Taumarunui is the entry point of New Zealand’s largest navigable waterway – the Whanganui River. Fishing, boating and swimming are popular in summer, with winter drawing visitors to nearby Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields. The Whanganui River Journey is one of the best in the world. For those driving through do the Forgotten Highway through to the Taranaki region. For those who enjoy trains vist the Raurimu Spiral known as a railway engineering marvel. Explore nearby Whanganui National Park.
Trout fishing capital of the world, Turangi lies alongside the Tongariro River and majestic Lake Taupo, and is also the gateway to New Zealand’s best one-day walk – the awe-inspiring Tongariro Crossing. Check out the natural Tokannu Thermal Area.
Located on New Zealand’s largest active volcano, Whakapapa Village & Holiday Park is an exciting ski resort with several accommodation options. Ski season runs from late-June to mid-November, but summer activities like scenic chairlift rides and hiking are also available. Visit the historic Chateau Tongariro. If a winter visitor ski or snowboard at NZ's largest ski area here. Play a round at New Zealand's highest golf course or explore the Tongariro National Park and its volcanos.
Then on south on route one you come to Taihape. For coffee lovers and those who enjoy good food I recommend the
Brown Sugar Café in Taihape on Huia Street, easy to find just off the main route one. We have always made sure our coffee schedule was set to get to Brown Sugar as we passed through this area. Same owners for 18 years and they have not only maintained their high levels but have improved. They get rave reviews from locals as well as travelers. Always friendly and efficient and a real pleasure to stop and take advantage of the peaceful surroundings during our travels.
Taihape - The Gumboot capital of the World - So what is special about the town of Taihape? And what is a gumboot? It is known in the US as the Wellington and is the common rubber boot worn around the world. Here in New Zealand the farmer and the fishermen, a large part of our community, use the gumboot on a daily basis.
Tuesday 9 April 1985, the first GUMBOOT DAY was held at Gumboot Park at the northern entrance to the town. There was gumboot throwing, gumboot races, decorated gumboots and shop window displays providing a day when both those from the farms and the town could get together and enjoy themselves while at the same time promoting Taihape. The next year in 1986 they developed the Taihape University theme. Degrees in “Gumboot Throwology" were awarded. The attempt on the gumboot throwing record has become a fixture for the event. the name ‘Gumboot Country’ now has become synonymous with the town and the event. Now it has become the annual affair and enjoyed by local and visitor alike. Perhaps you might get lucky and be there for the big day.
From Taihape on south on route one you then get to Bulls and follow the same route as I have already shown or take route 54 into Palmerston North and on south to Wellington.
An alternative drive from Rotorua is to take routre 30 to Whakatane. and visit the active volcano on White Island - White Island Tours . One of the best reasons to come this way is to stay at the Ohope Beach Top Ten right on beautiful Ohope Beach with total beachfront. It is a Qualmark 4 star park that we really enjoy in fact we like the entire area. From here back out to route 2 and through a fabulous scenic drive through the Raukumara Mountain Range to Gisborne staying at the Waikanae Beach Holiday Park within a five minure walk to the centre of town. Then on to Napier and Wellington.
OR at Taupo you could turn on Route Five to Napier, New Zealand's Art Deco city on the sea. Great spot. It is one of the major wine regions of the country. Many people overlook this place and we feel it is one of the finest places on the North Island to visit. Great shops and cafes in Napier and just down the road are Hastings and Havelock North well worth a visit.
When in Napier stay at MonLogis on the waterfront. It is a little piece of France nestled in the heart of beautiful wine growing Hawkes Bay. Originally built as an English terrace house in the 1860's this Colonial building was extended into a private hotel accommodation in 1915. It was one of the city buildings to survive the 1931 Napier Earthquake. Only a few minutes walk to the city centre, this grand two storey Colonial Villa overlooking the Pacific ocean, has a fascinating history as a private hotel since the early 1900's. In 1991 it became Mon Logis, meaning 'My Lodge'. Mon Logis Napier accommodation recreates a French tradition of a boutique hotel in Hawke's Bay.
Two places to take the motorhome in Napier one is right in the town at the Kennedy Top Ten Park and here is one you might enjoy especially on Sunday night when they have their "Pig on a Spit" feed..........fabulous. On site cafe/bar/restaurant. - Bayview Holiday Park .
Driving on south on Route 2 from Napier you also come to the Wairapa region around Martinborough with its world class wines. Two great places to stop and stay in this area are first the Carterton Holiday Park. If you plan to hang out awhile this is a handy place since you can catch the train and go into Wellington so you do not have to worry about driving in the city plus the park is one of the tops.
The other park is right in the middle of the Martinborough Village - Martinborough Village Camping .
Top Five Things to do in the Wairarapa
Enjoy world famous wine in Martinborough
Check out the scenery and seals at Cape Palliser
Visit Stonehenge Aotearoa near Carterton
Learn about NZ's sheep shearing history in Masterton
Explore spectacular Castle Point
From here it is over the hill and on to the Wellington region.............................
Lots more comprehensive information in my books - check it out!