New Zealand is home to an endless amount of waterfalls, coasts, forests, hot springs, and green rolling hills, and my girlfriend and I wanted a chance to taste it all while taking some time to relax. On our first full day there we rose with the sun and swiftly grabbed our packs to get on a three hour bus ride to Rotorua. Rotorua was surrounded by forests, landscapes, and natural hot pools, and we wanted to get there early to be sure we weren’t going to miss anything.
We headed towards Lady Knox Geyser, not to see the geyser itself but because a friend had told me about a beautiful natural hot spring tucked in the forest nearby. To locate it, my girlfriend and I walked for 40 minutes, following random trails off the road and listening for sounds of water. Once we found it, the excitement and sense of awe I had while being there was a true love for nature and adventure.
While I was shooting the hot spring, we met another traveler and together we visited multiple other hot pools until my bus arrived. The next morning I took the first bus to the Redwood Forest to catch some nice light but found rain instead, which cleared and got more magical the farther I hiked in. Being among the biggest trees in the world can have a profound effect on those who enter. I stayed as long as I could, until the last bus heading north was ready for pick up.
The next morning we ditched the busses and rented a car to drive north of Auckland. We had no plans other than to see everything we could. As we rolled into Whangarei, everyone on their phones searching for a place to stay, we landed one, got food and relaxed. I was up at 5am for Whangarei Falls, a beautiful dense forest with a big waterfall at the beginning of the trail.
Next, we hit the road for Tutukaka Coast. National Geographic rated it the number one beautiful coast in the world, and they weren’t lying! We snagged the most unreal place to stay for crazy cheap right on a peninsula off the coast and we had no idea what we were in for. A two minute walk to the ocean and a porch view with the salty ocean smell. We watched sunset over dinner and cold New Zealand beer.
About 15 minutes away we found the hidden gems, pristine bays, black sand and white sandy beaches of the renowned Tutakaka Coast. One side was rugged and the other calm and clear. We hiked up and over a coastal mountain to find the Mermaid Pools, a volcanic rock wonderland with crystal clear pools that the ocean spills into. It was one of the most insanely beautiful places I’ve seen.
Paihia was the next stop and our last in New Zealand. Located right on the coast, it was a small town full of coffee shops and was where we’d stay for two nights. On the first morning we left for a quick trip to Rainbow Falls, then headed down some dirt farm roads to the Kauri Tree Walk. Kauri trees are only found in New Zealand and have been around for about 1,000 years, and will glue themselves back together if cut.
After Paihia, our time in New Zealand was over and we boarded a plane to Tahiti for three days of relaxing, kayaking, snorkeling, and, well… relaxing.