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New Zealand

"A Visit to North Island"

Article and Images by Ron Sutton

January 2013 found me fortunate to be able to visit the North Island of New Zealand albeit on this occasion for only ten days.

The decision of how to spend the time eventually came down to hiring a motorhome and concentrating on the top end of North Island.

For anyone from the UK the obvious point is that New Zealand is a heck of a long way so best to combine a visit with exploring other countries perhaps in Australasia or the Far East.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

After a brief look around Auckland – a lovely city known as The City of Sails because of the harbour, the inlets, and countless sailing boats, we picked up the motorhome – first impression a lot bigger than expected – and with a six speed manual gearbox.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

Having driven automatics for the last fifteen years this was to prove a little unsettling especially driving across Auckland city centre at 5pm. I only stalled it twice, the local drivers were very patient, and we were soon heading north to our first nights stop at the lovely little town of Sandspit.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand
Places to Photograph - New Zealand

I had pre-booked sites and we were on the water’s edge looking across the river.

Setting up was so easy – plug in the electric cable, turn on the gas bottle, and that’s it. Home from home – including a hot shower and air con – wonderful!

So restful to walk along the water’s edge, look at the boats and take in the beautiful scenery.

Next day saw us heading north up the coast road past lots of little upturned hills (something you see all over North Island – personally I think it’s where the Hobbits or even the Teletubbies live) to our next stop at Paihia in the Bay of Islands. Places to Photograph - New Zealand

Everyone will tell you how beautiful this area is but words do not do justice to the magnificent scenery.

Paihia is a lovely little town on the coast and at the mouth of the Waitangi river.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

Places to Photograph - New Zealand  
There’s a lovely viewpoint along the river for some great sunsets.

The best and most obvious way to explore the Bay is of course by boat and one of the most popular trips is to visit The Hole In The Rock and if conditions are suitable a sail through the hole is possible.

It takes some seamanship (or in our case seawomanship) to take a three deck catamaran through a not overlarge hole in the cliff with a tide and a swell running – very impressive!
Places to Photograph - New Zealand

The Bay of Islands is simply beautiful and I think the pictures speak for themselves. Chances are you will have a dolphin escort as you travel around the bay.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

If you walk across the bridge over the Waitangi River from Paihia you very soon reach one of the most famous places in New Zealand, the Waitangi Treaty grounds. It was here on the 6th February 1840 that the Waitangi treaty was signed which put in place a British Governor and gave the Maori the rights of British subjects.

Alongside the splendid Maori Meeting House is the original Treaty House. There is also the Maori War Canoe which carried up to 120 warriors and is launched every year on Waitangi Day 6th February.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

So after some time in Paihia it was time to head back south of Auckland to our next stop Waitomo.

This is an area with a 45 km network of underground caves and grottoes linked to the Waitomo River.

A visit into the caves is recommended with the final section by boat drifting through tunnels which are lit by hundreds of thousands of glowworms.

Total silence and a magical experience.
Places to Photograph - New Zealand

Next day and we head off south then east through the Pureora Forest Park with Lake Taupo as our destination. This is a lovely drive across the tops with some stunning views.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand
Places to Photograph - New Zealand

It’s an area dominated by the twin peaks of Mts Ngauruhoe and Tongariro.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

We soon start the descent to Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, and at the northeastern end Taupo town itself. Very much a resort town with fishing and sailing being two of the main attractions.

Although not on our agenda on this visit mention should be made of Napier, a town on the east coast, and a must see place to visit.

The town centre was all but destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1931 but was rapidly rebuilt in the then fashionable Art Deco style. On high days and holidays many of the residents dress in 1930’s costumes and some wonderful old cars take to the streets.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand
Places to Photograph - New Zealand

But now we head off to our last destination, Rotorua. This is one of the main centres of thermal activity with steam coming out of many fissures in the ground. Well worth a visit are the Government Gardens and the Rotorua Museum.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

The biggest centre for thermal activity is the Te Puia geyser on the outskirts of town.

New Zealand

Conducted tours are available and there is also a school of Maori carving.
Places to Photograph - New Zealand

For a wilder experience head 10 miles out of Rotorua to Hells Gate, a fantastic two level thermal valley connected by a hot waterfall.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand  
The numerous pools vary in temperature from warm, where you can immerse your feet in hot sticky mud (more pleasant than it sounds), to The Cooking Pool where a sign tells you that a full size pig would cook to perfection in just two hours. Probably wouldn’t do much good to any photographer who fell in either!

A few miles away are the Blue and Green Lakes, so called because one looks Green and the other looks Blue, and something to do with the minerals in the water. The Blue Lake is a popular day out for people from the Rotorua area but the Green lake is private ,inaccessible, and sacred to the Maori.

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

So next morning it was back to Auckland via Hamilton to start the journey home. In summary New Zealand is a beautiful country with the locals unfailingly polite and friendly. The cost of living would appear to be on about a par with the UK and a mobile home is a great way to travel. Outside the main cities the roads have very little traffic so I didn’t really need to use the six speed gearbox all that much!

A place to enjoy! New Zealand

Places to Photograph - New Zealand

Larger sizes of these photos and a further selection taken on Ron's trip are in the Gallery of Better Photographs.

More of his work is on his Website at - Ron Sutton Images.

Why visit this place?

Fantastic scenery, lovely people, and relatively easy on the pocket!

When is the best time of year to visit?

October - March


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