Just don’t ever mention New Zealand to an Australian. It’s no secret there is a deep seeded rivalry that New Zealand has only just come to the table on thanks to Lorde (watch out, we’ll claim her soon), that divides these two perfectly great countries. On the surface they are pretty similar; accent wise, climate wise, people wise, location wise and coffee appreciation wise (NZ does win on the takeaway cup artwork hands down), behind all that though we are pretty different… Kiwis are undoubtedly friendlier, the country is grander and greener, the road trip-ability easier (because it’s 1/10th of the size…) and ‘touristically’ better, because let’s face it; New Zealand was made for tourists.
I was lucky enough to go against the dividing ocean current last year and become one of the few Aussies to live in New Zealand and I feel very lucky to have done so. Honestly I can’t wait to get back there. So, here are my insider favourites…
Auckland, North Shore:
In summer the best option is to head to Takapuna to beat the heat. The village itself holds a huge Sunday market with souvenirs, crafts, fashion and food it is well worth checking out in the morning before heading to the surrounding shops. Takapuna is full of youthful boutiques and the Kiwis have a fantastic culture of supporting locals so you can find truly unique homewares, clothes and accessories while supporting the local industry, or, if designer labels are more you thing head to ‘The Department Store’, the retail endeavour launched by Kiwi’s best Karen Walker. This store is a beautifully curated ‘boutique department store’ stocking New Zealand and international designers and also housing a beauty parlour and hip café.
I wont even bother mentioning top cafes here, there are plenty to choose from and you really can’t go wrong.
The beach and park here are a popular summer spot for locals, lay down a towel, hire a paddle board (because it’s no Bondi and the chance of waves is zero) and cool off in safe and calm waters of the main beach before taking the 1 – 2 hour walk along the beautiful costal line with plenty of opportunities for quick dips and defiantly stop by ‘The Store’ for gelato, fish and chips or a coffee.
Yes, it does stink, yes it’s worth it. You cannot miss this town; its surrounding geo-thermal parks are like nothing else you will find in this world, with beautiful colours, glass looking lakes and the best backdrops around.
Be sure to head to Kerosene Creek, a free and picturesque natural hot spring that’s a beautiful 20 minute drive from the town centre. Leave a spare day to simply wander around the local lake and visit one of the Maori cultural centres.
One thing most people miss here is the Red Wood Forest; it’s free, it’s full of amazing walks and words cannot describe the magic of this place, with the towering trees and the vibrant aqua streams this place is straight from a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, if you’re lucky enough to have a pony on hand they are also welcome for riding about.
A beautiful overnight stop when travelling the South Island, I was lucky to wake up here to a fresh dump of snow, vibrant white framing the stunning blue lake perfectly. Make sure to hike the 2 hours to reach the mountain summit (or drive) for breath taking views then head down and relax in the man made hot pools (particularly spectacular when the snow has fallen).
That’s my little list with a few tips that aren’t so often told, and please, Australians, visit your little sister.