At the end of 2016, I spent three weeks travelling solo around New Zealand on the Kiwi Experience Bus. Apart from all the amazing people I met, here are my highlights of New Zealand and the Kiwi Experience bus. If you would like to read my review of Kiwi Experience, you can find it here.
Paihia, Bay of Islands
Paihia is the perfect place to chill out by day, watch the sunset and hit the bar once the sun goes down. There are many different activities to do during the day such as boat tours, hiking and swimming or kayaking at the beautiful beaches. Most of the people I went with did the extra day trip to Cape Reinga which was offered by Kiwi Experience and all said it was great, however I only spent two nights there so I enjoyed my day hiking, hitchhiking and kayaking in Paihia. I would recommend spending extra time here if you can.
Black water rafting, Waitomo
This was an awesome caving experience which involved tubing through rivers in underground caves, some of it in complete darkness where we got to see glowworms lighting up the roof of the cave (the photo obviously doesn’t do it justice, sorry!). There are different options for this activity, which range in price and offering, for example the longer one is not only tubing but abseiling and zip lining too. I went with the standard three hour tubing experience, which is what most people seemed to choose.
Maori Village Experience, Rotorua
This was definitely a trip highlight, as we got to learn all about the traditional Maori culture, which still exists to this day. I chose to do the whole experience and stay overnight, which I would highly recommend. We got to learn songs, have afternoon tea and play traditional games, before being joined by everyone else who was having dinner with us. We then had a traditional welcoming ceremony, followed by informative entertainment and a delicious dinner, which was cooked in a Hangi (underground pit). After dinner, those of us staying got to take advantage of the bar and nice warm hot tubs before sleeping in the comfiest of beds in a traditional Marai, which was much better than the hostels we usually stayed in!
This town is so peaceful that I ended up spending an extra night here. Although all of New Zealand’s lakes are beautiful there was something about this one that was so calming. I enjoyed spending the afternoon walking around and hanging out by the lake enjoying the sunshine, before watching a gorgeous sunset over the horizon. This was obviously followed by quite a few beverages and dancing at the bar next to the hostel.
The Tongariro Crossing
This is a challenging 19km hike across mountainous, volcanic terrain and also one of the most popular day hikes in the world. If you decide to climb Mount Tongariro or Mount Ngauruhoe, also known as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings, the hike is even more difficult. The views around every corner are spectacular and the feeling once you complete the hike is amazing.
A place in the middle of nowhere in which we stayed in a massive row of beds also known as the ‘orgy room,’ this place had a beautiful refreshing river right next to it, where we hung out and even went for an ice-cold dip. At night we had a nice home cooked dinner followed by drinks and games in the common area/ bar, which was a fun way to get to know everyone else on the Kiwi Experience bus.
This is a small town in the middle of nowhere, where we stayed in accommodation next to a pub, with a lovely lake across the road about 10 minutes walk. At night, we had a themed dress up party, which everyone on the Kiwi Experience bus had to vote for. Our theme was ‘I just came from…’ So I bought pom poms and dressed as a cheerleader (nice and easy!), and said I came from cheer practice. It was quite a fun (and drunk) night with everyone all dressed up.
This town is such a beautiful place and I especially enjoyed the scenery, which is even better from above if you get the gondola up the mountain to go luging, which made for a very fun afternoon. I also really enjoyed a delicious burger from the famous ‘Fergburger’ store, which I think definitely lives up to the hype. Also, don’t miss the Cookie Time store around the corner from Nomad’s, which has delicious freshly baked cookies and shakes.
This was a stop off on our way to Lake Tekapo in the South Island and is literally the bluest and most amazing lake you will ever see. They also had a small store, which sold salmon, so of course I bought some of the freshest sashimi I have ever tasted! You don’t stop there for long so make sure to take some pictures of the beautiful scenery.