Being complete New Zealand novices, we were pretty much guessing how we would find the driving, and where we should stop-over to break journeys. We put Hamilton on the itinerary as a break from driving down from the Bay of Islands, and, with huge snarl-ups around Auckland, we were glad we did. Hamilton, then, was a welcome break and a surprisingly nice place.
Our Airbnb was on the river and had a beautiful outlook.
Houses in this suburb were modern and light, with huge windows making the most of the views. The town itself was pretty ordinary but fine to provide food and beer to refuel us.
We woke up to rain, the marginal effects of the “weather bomb” hitting South Island and causing devastation there. We drove to Hobbiton, the site of filming for Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films. Whilst a really touristy thing to do, the visit was interesting and professionally done.
Then on to Tauranga, a town on the east coast of North Island. With many peninsulas and inlets, the geography of the town was hard to absorb, until you climbed Mount Maunganui.
After a relatively tough climb, the view from the top was spectacular.
A twilight Kayak trip was the highlight of our stay. A small group of intrepid would-be kayakers were taken by a Thor lookalike to McLaren Falls.
There we paddled along the lake until night fell, and then drifted slowly into a narrow cavern… There we looked up and saw constellations of hundreds of glow worms. It was absolutely stunning. By torchlight we paddled back through the darkness to the minibus, tired but happy.