North Island of New Zealand

Stops in Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and on to Honolulu

Barbara and I were thinking about India, Columbia or maybe Venezuela but so far in 2013 we hadn't taken a trip.  I was getting restless and suddenly I got a phone call from Seattle.  Barbara left a message, she said she have a good price on a trip and it is something we talked about once and it is not the usual Europe or South American trip.

I wondered where that could be and she called me later in the evening and said she had found a fantastic price for a trip to New Zealand.  Air fare from San Francisco or Seattle to Hawaii and on to New Zealand.  All for around $2,000.00 including airfare, four star hotels and car rental! 

That is almost the usual airfare to New Zealand from the West Coast at times Eight days in New Zealand and three in Hawaii on the return trip.  We also are looking at extending the trip for three more days to see more of the western side of the North Island.

In 2004 we met on a trip to Turkey and here we are having coffee in Vietnam and then we continued on to Cambodia in 2007.  We also visited Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  So you can see, we like to visit out of the way and interesting places.

Check out the following link to view a short history and maps of New Zealand.

This is the itinerary and cost of the trip and can be used to determine the best price for a trip like this one.   Barbara just informed me the total mileage round trip to New Zealand is 13,580 miles!   I had to initiate my United Frequent Flyer Mileage as I hadn't flown United in years.   Barbara told me Hawaiian Airlines is a partner with United so I can use my FF # on my Hawaiian Airline ticketing.

September 23 Monday - Day 1 : Flight to Hawaii and on to New Zealand on Monday.

Round-trip airfare on Hawaiian Airlines, from San Francisco (SFO)and Seattle(SEA). Land Tuesday eveningin Aukland. Hawaiian Airlines' long term future is wrapped in the Airbus IndustriesA330 and A350 jets.

The first A330s started service in 2010 and to dateHawaiian has about 5 of them flying between Hawaii, Asia and the U.S.mainland.

On arrival at Auckland airport, you will be transferred to Copthorne Auckland City hotel.

San Francisco - Honolulu - Auckland New Zealand - 2013.09.23

Flying over San Francisco on the way to New Zealand at nine a.m. Monday morning!

A quick landing in Honolulu before flying on to New Zealand.

September 25 Wednesday - Day 2: Visit Auckland

You'll find the cosmopolitan vibrancy of New Zealand's largest city where, on the one hand, you have sophisticated shopping, restaurants and entertainment and, on the other, a harbor full of still-pristine islands and spectacular natural beauty.

We went to the top of the Sky Tower 328 meters high. There are 1,029 steps if you don't want to take the elevator.

As we looked out, there were tower divers who were hooked up to cables and jumped off the building and somehow were slowed down near the ground.

It had been raining so the weather wasn't as clear as we had hoped but did get some good photos and even the jumpers!

We had coffee and a nice dinner to top off the first day in New Zealand.

View of Auckland

The Baron Auckland and the Earl of Auckland are titles of the English nobility. The first Baron Auckland, William Eden, had the city of Auckland in New Zealand named after him. Bishop Auckland is a town in the county of Durham in Britain which has lent its name to the title.

Driving Around Auckland

Tour the Sky Tower 328 Meters High


The first morning in Auckland, a coffee and then off to the thousand foot tall Sky Tower!

Views of Auckland

People jumping off the roof and hanging onto steel cables.

September 26 Thursday - Day 3: Rotorua

Pick-up your rental car at the downtown depo (just a short walk from your hotel) and drive to Rotorua for a 2–night stay. On your way you can make a detour to see the famous Waitomo caves and take a guided boat tour along underground rivers and caves that are illuminated by thousands of tiny glowworms.

In Rotorua you will witness turbulent geothermal activity - geysers, mudpools and thermal springs, have the opportunity to experience fascinating Maori culture first hand, and, if you're up to it, try some high-adrenaline fun, such as Zorb globe riding or Bungee jumping.

Two nights at 4-star Copthorne Hotel Rotorua in a Standard Room - First night stay inRotorua

Today we went to the famous Waitomo Caves and Glow Worms living on the roofs of the caves. They light up and in the dark, catch insects that get blown into the caves. We were told they actually were a maggot type worm, change into an insect and breed and die in two days or so.

Rotorua Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe

The second great lake of Kahumatamomoe" is a city on the southern shores of the lake of the same name, in the Bay of Plenty area of the North Island of New Zealand. The city is the seat of the Rotorua District, a territorial authority encompassing the city and several other nearby towns. The majority of the Rotorua District, including the city, is in the Bay of Plenty local government region; a sizable southern section and a small western section are in the Waikato local government region .


Rotorua has a great lake with a river boat and lots of birds, we loved the black swans with the babies!

This is the St. Faith Anglican Church on the shores of Rotorua.

Waitomo Caves and Glow Worms

We visited two caves with 'glow worms' and later were told they actually were a maggot type larva.   The insects breed and lay eggs on the roof of the caves.  They secret a line of mucus that can extend up to 10 inches or so long as can be seen in the right photo.  The worms glow in the dark very brightly and the insects that are blown into the cave fly to the light and become stuck to the line.  The worm eats the line and draws the insect to their mouths.  Eventually the worms go into to a pupae stage and emerge as a fly and live only a few days, just enough time to mate.

The biggest cave was about 30 stories under the surface and it was a long walk down to the bottom and back up again!

September 27 Friday - Day 4: Rotorua Second over night stay in Rotorua.

Today we drove to the famous Wai-o-Tapu Thermals. We had to laugh, the famous geyser is smaller than I thought it would be. The guide said there used to be over 300 geysers but due to electric generation from steam, the pressure has dropped all over the north island.

In the late 1890s or so, a group of prisoners used to come and wash their clothes in the hot water. One day a man throw a bucket of soap into the geyser and shortly there after, it erupted!

So now around 10:30 a.m. a man dumps a bag of soap substitute into the mouth and within a few minutes it blows. This happens once a day, the chamber below needs the time to replenish and heat the water!

Wai-o-tapu Thermals - Mud Lakes


In the late 1800's we were told, a group of convicts from the near by jail used to come here to wash their clothes in the hot waters.  One man threw his laundry soap into the mouth of the geysers and suddenly it erupted!  Now around 10:30 a.m. a man pours a bag of environmentally safe detergent into the mouth and the geysers erupts after a few minutes.  This is done once a day so the geyser can replenish the water chamber below.  The guide said at one time there were around 300 geysers but due to the thermal electric generating plants, only about 18 geysers were left on the north island.

Beautiful large tinted lake.

A hot springs with bubbling mud!

September 28 Saturday - Day 5: Auckland

Drive back from Rotorua for an overnight stay in Auckland. Consider stopping by the Hobbiton movie set to see how this beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle Earth.

September 29 Sunday - Day 6: Bay of Islands

You will be traveling 150 miles northto Paihia, a coastal town on the Bay of Islands. You can kick back on an outdoor deck at the Kingsgate Autolodge hotel and get a lovely view of the Pahlia Wharf, a turquoise inlet situated just 100 meters away.

To fully experience the Bay of Islands, known for its stunning natural beauty, it's worth to take a boat tour. You can also explore the surrounding area.

Visit Russell, a charming historic town in the Bay of Islands or head to the northern most tip, Cape Reinga.

Two nights at 4-star Copthorne Hotel & ResortBay of Islands.

Tonight we looked for a place to eat and foundS hippey's restaurant on a ship that is dry docked on land. We had fish and chips and loved the atmosphere!


Paihia is the main tourist town in the Bay of Islands in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand. It is located close to the historic towns of Russell, and Kerikeri, 60 kilometres north of Whangarei. The origin of the name Paihia is obscure. One, possibly apocryphal, attribution is to Reverend Henry Williams. When Williams first arrived in the Bay of Islands he knew only a little of the Māori vocabulary, one of the words he did know being ‘pai’ meaning 'good'. When they came to the place now known as Paihia, he told his Māori guide ‘Pai here’. Henry Williams named the missionary station Marsden's Vale; eventually the name Paihia became the accepted name of the settlement.


We stayed in Pahia in northern New Zealand on the way to the cape.

We found this restaurant on a ship and had fish and chips there one evening.

September 30 Monday - Day 7: Bay of Islands

We drove to the tip of the north island. It poured down rain as I drove to the cape, heavy and hard to see the road.

We got to the cap and suddenly the rain stopped and it cleared up.

But the wind was so strong it almost blew one over.

I loved seeing the Tasman Sea, another body of water to put on my bucket list!

We then had a nice drive backto Pahia.

Cape Reinga - Tasman Sea

Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māori) is the northwestern most tip of the Aupouri Peninsula, at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand. Cape Reinga is located over 100 km north of the nearest small town of Kaitaia. State Highway 1 extends all the way to the Cape, but until 2010 was unsealed gravel road for the last 19km. Suitable vehicles can also travel much of the way via Ninety Mile Beach and Te Paki stream bed.  We were going to try and drive the 90 miles of beach but was told by some travelers that their bus almost got caught in the incoming tide with no where to go.  We decided it wasn't worth trying to beat the high tide of the Tasman Sea!

The name of the cape comes from the Māori word 'Reinga', meaning the 'Underworld'.  Another Māori name is 'Te Rerenga Wairua', meaning the leaping-off place of spirits. Both refer to the Māori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld. The Tasman Sea is a southwesterly marginal sea of the South Pacific Ocean between Australia and New Zealand, approximately 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) across. It extends 2,800 km (approx.) from north to south. The sea was named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoom Tasman, the first recorded European to encounter New Zealand and Tasmania.

The British explorer Captain James Cook later extensively navigated the Tasman Sea in the 1770s as part of his first voyage of exploration.

The Tasman Sea is commonly referred to in both Australia and New Zealand as The Ditch; for example, crossing the ditch means going to Australia from New Zealand or vice versa. In Māori, the Tasman Sea is called Te Tai-o-Rehua.


Here I am overlooking another sea, the Tasman Sea!

The winds almost blew one over!

The lighthouse at the tip of northern New Zealand.

October 01 Tuesday - Day 8: On our own.

Today we visited Russell, a beautiful small town across from Pahia.

It is very expensive, houses for sale were around $600,000.00. Idon't know how people there could afford the prices.

We took the ferry over and spent a few hours there and then decided to start driving south. I drove for over six hours and was worn out.

Finally Barbara drove and we found achalet type hotel in Thames! It was expensive but we were worn out, driving all day and having troubles at time finding the numbers for the roads, very hard to know on what road one was on!



We took the car ferry over to Russell from Pahia.  There were interesting old churches and houses around the city. 

This is one of the oldest houses in northern New Zealand and still lived in.

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel was built around 1930.

Sheep and Beautiful Valleys


Sheep now are being lost to huge farms raising milk cows!  The milk is turned to powdered milk and sold to China, a 30 billion dollars a year sale!

A special grass is grown to feed the sheep and cattle.

Great views of the hills, valleys, grass lands and forests.

October 02 Wednesday - Day 9: On our own.

Today we took the small gauge railroad - Driving Creek Railroad and Potteries - to th e top of the mountain.

Barry Brickell started this project in 1973. He is a potter and founded the pottery works and is still living and working there. He has donated the land to the government so it can be turned back into the native trees.

Farmers move into the are in the early 1900s and cut down all the trees and raised cattle. When the gold prices and stock market crashed, they lost everything and left.

One thing they left behind were scrubby California pine trees. Now they are cutting them down and replanting native plants.

Driving Creek Railway


Barry Brickell started this project in 1973.  He came to New Zealand in 1961 and became the first kiwi-born fulltime handcraft-potter.

Empty wine bottles hold back the dirt along the tracks!

A great view from the top of the mountain!

The land has been given to the state as land that cannot be used for any other purpose and is being renovated back to the original forests of Waiau Kauri trees.

Pigs and Sheep Buildings and Chickens on the Roof


We had to stop on the second trip through this little town to photo the interesting buildings!

We never did find out what was in these buildings.

Our favorites were these two chickens on the roof, especially the one with high heels and pearls!

October 03 Thursday - Day 10: Coromandel Peninsula

We drove all along the Coromandel Peninsula and saw a lot of great views of the sea.

We found a great hotel and spent time on the beach and in the distance was a volcanic island spewing smoke!

The owner of the Aquarius Motel told us we couldgo to the private club down the road and tell them she sent us. So off we went to a private club for a great dinner and some wine.

Then time to get some sleep and we had a long drive back to the airport and then a nine hour flight back to Hawaii for four days to rest up before flying back to the Hawaii and after a few day, back to the Mainland!

Coromandel Peninsula

We stayed at Thames one night in a Swiss chalet.  They went to bed so early that when we rang the bell for the owner, he came out in his bathrobe!   The entire town was shut down and half the houses were dark by 9:30 p.m.  Thames /ˈtɛmz/ is a town at the southwestern end of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand's North Island.

It is located on the Firth of Thames close to the mouth of the Waihou River. The town is the seat of the Thames-Coromandel District Council.   The Māori iwi are Ngāti Maru, who are descendants of Marutuahu's son Te Ngako. Ngāti Maru is part of the Ngati Marutuahu confederation of tribes or better known as Hauraki Iwi.

Many people migrated to Thames at its peak, and it was soon the second-largest city in New Zealand (the largest being Dunedin then Auckland). However, as the gold began to diminish, so did the number of inhabitants, and although Thames never shrank, it has never grown much either. It is still the biggest town on the Coromandel. The population in the 2006 census was 6,756, an increase of 51 since 2001.


We stayed at a Hostel and got a kitchen, living room, bathroom and two bedrooms for $64.00, such a deal!

Beautiful views from the parks along the way!

The statue is of a woman commemorating the original inhabitants who came to the island, she jumped off the rock saved a boat full of people!

Waiau Kauri Grove


These are very rare trees and now are being protected and planted in suitable areas that they need to grow in.

Aquarius Motel and Fresh Catch of the Day ~ White Island Volcano


Our last evening before heading back to Auckland and on to Hawaii for a few days.  This was a great motel on the east coast of the North Island.

We found a hut and a Maura totem pole on the beach!

A fisherman asked us to visit him in his back yard to view the fish he had just caught.

This is what New Zealand is about, lots of fresh fish to eat right out of the sea!

This is White Island, one of the most active volcanoes in the North Island.  It is off the coast and we saw it in the distance.  We wished we had time to go visit it in a boat!

October 04 Friday - Day 11: Drive back to Auckland and drop off car & fly to Honolulu at 11:55 P.M. - Arrival time - 9:45 A.M.

Spend 3 nights in Honolulu, just a few blocks from the famousWaikiki beach, world-class shopping, fine dining, music and entertainment.

Kick back and relax on the beach or explore the surrounding area at either the Shoreline Waikiki Hotel or a similar hotel in Honolulu.

Maori Design on a Wooden Box

About the only souvenir I could find that looked like something from New Zealand.

October 04- 07 Friday to Monday Day 15: Honolulu – LAX/SFO/SEA/PDF/PHX/SMF/LAS/SAN

Catch an early afternoon flight from Honolulu back to the mainland.

Please note that you arrive home on the same date.

I have the Hawaii trip on a separate webpage!

Created on: 2013.09.30
Return to Chuck's Home Page
Updated on: 2020.10.15