This journal was written as a physical diary by me during my gap year. I am typing this up to share my gap year experience. At the beginning of travels I was 22. I travelled with a friend (Kieren) and anybody else involved will be introduced during the journal. For more details, check here.

To travel through New Zealand, we booked a Kiwi Experience bus pass for the North and South Islands. This is a flexible bus pass so you can spend longer in places you want to, they have recommended hostels, and there are plenty of activities that they offer. We decided to travel New Zealand for 1 month.

Check out the previous instalment here.

Welcome to Part 17 of my Gap Year Travel Journal! Part 8-16 featured Melbourne and Victoria because this is where I decided to get a job to save up for future travels. Today, we finally move on and we are off to New Zealand for 1 month!

20th February 2018

We got up super early for our flight to Auckland. We caught the 6.40am SkyBus from Southern Cross Station to Tullamarine Airport for our 9.40am flight. Once we arrived in Auckland, we got the SkyBus to Auckland CBD.

We checked into Nomads Hostel then we wandered through the city to the harbour. Overall, the city is nice but not fantastic. However, the people are lovely. I’m looking forward to exploring a bit more outside the city.

(a) Melbourne-Auckland ticket and ticket for Skybus to Auckland CBD. (b) Exploring Auckland. (c) Nomads Hostel, Auckland.

21st February 2018

We met at the Kiwi Experience stop at 7am for our coach to leave at 7.15am. Today, we are heading further North to the Bay of Islands. The first stop was Warkworth – a nice river! The next stop was Whangarei to see a beautiful waterfall. We finally arrived in Paihia at 12.15pm, and we checked into our hostel – Pipi Patch – this is my favourite hostel I’ve stayed in so far on the entire trip.

Whangarei waterfall, New Zealand

Whangarei waterfall

We went on a cruise around the Bay of Islands to see some dolphins – we saw a lot, including a cute baby dolphin! The islands are stunning. We also got to see Hole in the Rock, which was pretty impressive. The boat was very choppy on the way back!

(a) Ferry ticket. (b) Cruising around the Bay of Islands. (c) Hole in the Rock. (d) Bay of Islands Map.

We got off the boat at Russell, a nearby island. This place is so pretty and has the oldest church in New Zealand! I loved this place! Afterwards, we got the ferry back to Paihia.

In the evening, we had a BBQ at the hostel with a few drinks and we played beer pong. So far, I’m really impressed with New Zealand and Kiwi Experience. We’ve met a few lovely people so far on the bus, and I’m so excited for the rest of the month!

(a) Old tree in Russell. (b) Cute swing on the beach, Russell. (c) View of Russell from the boat.

22nd February 2018

We did a full day trip to Cape Reinga, which is the northern tip of New Zealand. The first stop along the way was Taipa, which has a beautiful lake.

We then drove to Ninety Mile Beach (although it’s actually only 55 miles) and drove all the way along the long beach! The bus that we were in was a 4×4 so able to drive on sand. After this, we went to Te Paki Stream where we did some sandboarding. This was different from last time I did it in Port Stephens – this time we used body boards instead of snow boards and went on our fronts instead of sitting on the board. It was so fun!

(a) Sandboarding. (b) + (c) Ninety Mile Beach.

Next top was Cape Reinga to see the tiny lighthouse – so cute! Then onto Mangonhui for fish and chips. On the way home we went to Puketi Kauri Forest, which has some of New Zealand’s largest Kauri trees. The trip was incredible!

(a) Puketi Kauri Rainforest. (b) Cape Reinga. (c) Lighthouse at Cape Reinga. (d) Map showing where we visited on the day trip. (e) View of Cape Reinga.

In the evening, Kieren and I went to the beach and the stars were amazing! There isn’t a lot of light pollution here so the sky is clear. We paddled in the sea, and it wasn’t too cold. Exploring Paihia a little – it’s so nice here!

(a) Sunset in Paihia. (b) Bay of Islands Visitor Map.

23rd February 2018

I had a bit of a lie in (8.30am) and checked out of the hostel. Kieren and I headed to the beach for a bit of relaxing, then we did a bit more exploring of Paihia. It has a very cute library and amazing views from the beaches of islands, mountains and so much greenery.

We caught the 2.15pm Kiwi Experience bus back to Auckland and checked back into Nomads Hostel. We went for a drink at Habana Joe’s bar with a few people from the hostel, then had a late dinner on the roof terrace of the hostel. There was a Friday night food market just opposite the hostel so we got churros with caramel sauce for dessert.

(a) Beach in Paihia. (b) Exploring Paihia. (c) Churros at the Friday Night Food Market, Auckland.

24th February 2018

We got up early to go food shopping for some essentials and a cooler bag*.

When we got back to the hostel we realised that we hadn’t booked tonight’s accomodation. It was already after check out time and reception was closed 11am-2pm, so they were completely useless and they were sold out of beds online. We ended up moving hostels to Base for tonight.

In the afternoon, Kieren and I caught the local bus to Mount Eden Wood and climbed Mount Eden. This is an old dormant volcano that is now completely covered in grass. It was a pretty easy climb (only 25 minutes) and there were amazing 360 degree views of Auckland from the top. The crater was so cool! We had a picnic sitting at the top. We walked back down and decided to walk back to the city. On the way back, we came across the cutest cafe ever! It was an old house with a veranda and a nice garden. We obviously had to stop for a coffee.

(a) Views of Auckland from Mount Eden. (b) Drinking hot chocolate in Auckland. (c) At the top of Mount Eden. (d) Crater at Mount Eden.

We walked to the harbour for sunset, and it was ‘Japan Day’. There was food stalls and a screen showing Japanese films. We wandered around and all the food looked so good! We had a beer on the harbour then headed back to the hostel for food.

*We decided to buy this so that we could easily transport food between hostels and always put in a labelled bag in the fridge. We’ll only be staying 1 night in many places so it’ll be the easiest way to transport food, and save money by not eating out all the time.

25th February 2018

The Kiwi Experience bus to Hot Water Beach left at 8.50am this morning. This was a 2 hour drive. We checked into Hot Water Beach Holiday Park then headed off sea kayaking. This started at Hihei beach and we kayaked along to Stingray Bay – we actually saw a sting ray! We kayaked to Cathedral Cove. This is an incredible beach with a huge sea save connecting 2 sides of the beach. We stayed on the beach for a while and had lunch, which the kayaking instructor had brought, before kayaking around a couple of islands. We even kayaked through a cave! This was amazing! We then headed back to the beach and walked back to the Holiday Park.

(a) Sea kayaking. (b) + (c) Cathedral Cove. (d) Sea kayaking. (e) Hihei Beach.

At 7.30pm, we wandered down to Hot Water Beach to dig our own hot tubs with a spade. At low tide, hot water bubbles through the sand! Some of the water is too hot (65-70 degrees) so nobody sits in it – you just have to find the right spot! We chilled in our sandy hot tub for a long time then went in the sea for a nice cool down. This was such a strange experience, but I loved it!

(a) Digging holes at Hot Water Beach. (b) Enjoying the natural sand hot tub.

Check out the next instalment here (available 8th April 9am GMT).