I'm Candace and I'm a destination wedding & portrait photographer based out of the Washington, D.C. area. Chances are you won't find me in the DMV for too long. Come and explore my corner of the world with me!
Goodness. Im drooling all over again. New Zealand was the real reason I booked that round trip flight to Australia and it was SO WORTH IT. I gave myself 6 days on both islands and road tripped them both to the fullest extent of my time. I took things a little less hard core and just rented a car but stayed based in Auckland at my hostel. This was my first mistake because I could have stayed at about 9 other towns that I loved. Auckland is a beautiful city but at the end of the day, it’s still a city and having to drive back to it every day was tiring.
My first day in Auckland was a good one. I drove the 3.5 hours to the Coromandel Peninsula. I figured why not start off nice and easy? The driving in New Zealand is super easy, just note that there is no such thing as a straight road on the north island =P. Driving along the coastal road around the peninsula, you’ll even notice how narrow it can get. Im surprised I didn’t see a single accident because winding roads and stunning views can be really distracting and dangerous. Almost every “enclosed” part of the road gave way to the most amazing views of rolling hills and farm lands. The north was blowing me away.
My goal was to the finish off my first day at Cathedral cove. It was a lot of driving with only little stops here and there to eat and take in the sights but I love driving in other countries, as strange as that sounds. Road trips are one of my favorite thins to do, as long as you have good tunes. There is no parking at Cathedral cove, so you either have to hike in or take a water taxi. I opted for the water taxi because I wanted to take in the views of the cove from the water too. I was super bummed because it was HOT and I didn’t bring my bathing suit this day. I would have LOVED to swim at Cathedral cove. WHAT was I thinking?
I finished day one off in the cutest little town for some dinner at a BBQ spot. I had to stop at the beach to catch the last little bit of light there was left. The next day was a day I was definitely looking forward too. BEACH DAY. I wasn’t without a bathing suit on day 2. I decided I would split my beach day in two. Enjoy the east coast beaches first and then finish the trip off with a west coast beach day. Beach Day number 1 was a hit! I drove about 4 hours north to Helena Bay. I saw at two separate beaches in this bay and both were completely different from each other, besides the fact that I had them both completely to my self! HEAVEN.
The first beach had high, rocky cliffs and a rocky shoreline. The water was super refreshing. Cold but not too cold. Doesn’t hurt that the water was also SO blue and clear. There was hardly a cloud in sight. I could have stayed here all dang day. I then drove over the cliff side to the next beach which was like a whole new world. Both still in Helena bay, but this beach had the softest white sand. I chatted with the sweetest local couple here about my travels through New Zealand and we both agreed, I did not give myself enough time here.
I made quite a few stops this day. I stopped at about 4 or 5 beaches total and swam at each of them but my last one, Mangawhai Head. I loved this little town. I picked up some food from a market in town and ate dinner at a picnic table over looking harbour before walking down to the beach. This place was STUNNING. People were swimming in the harbour, fishing in the ocean, hiking along the cliffs that over hang the beach. A misty fog was starting to roll in off the water, the sky had the softest shades of oranges and pinks and blues. I loved this little spot and noted that if I were to move to the north island, this would be my spot.
Ohhhhhh buddy. This day I went full on Tourist. It was HOBBITON DAY! If you don’t already know, this is the movie set for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. If you don’t know what either of those are, I cannot help you. The set was rebuilt for a permanent stay for The Hobbit and now tourists like myself can visit here and take in the beauty that is known as the Shire. The attention to detail and the mind tricks this set plays on you is wild. Most of the hobbit holes are small, like really small. While others are big enough for you and I to walk into and around. Most of these holes lead to nothing. Some actually open to little small rooms. The mini clothes on the clothes line ripped my heart into piece because they were so darn cute. It was HOT walking around this set. The sun is a real Motha out in that part of the world – hello ozone hole – but the air is cool. It’s all deceiving. Me and a fellow tourist agreed we came at the perfect time because it was no longer summer. That must be torturous that time of year.
My final exploring day in the North Island (I spent my actual last day getting work done back at my hostel and relaxed) I made my way to the west coast to see what it had to offer. It was a cloudy day but the sun showed its face and warmed things up a bit. The west coast on the north island is very similar to the west coast here in the states. The ocean is meaner, the waves are intense and the currents are strong. The lifeguards are already in the water with you just in case you get too tired or the waves knock you off your feet. The water is a bit colder than the east and the beaches are surrounded by high, dramatic, rocky cliffs. THEY WERE PERFECT. I stopped at just a few beaches, Muriwai, Bethels and finished the day off at Piha. Bethels and Piha were by far my favorite. Piha reminded me of Cannon beach (my favorite) with Lion Rock being the main focal point. You drive down this super sketchy road down the mountain to THE BEST views of Lion Rock. I sat and swam at this beach for almost 3 hours because it was just too good to leave. Watching sunset from that shore was UNREAL. The glass like reflection the water left on the beach. Im not sure I can accurately describe just how happy I was in that moment.
Now I get to head to the South Island, I always leave the best for last =P. But before I head south, I had to take in one last view of Auckland. But my heart was ready for the goodness that the South has for me.
Part II | the South Island coming soon..