New Zealand – Waikato (Coromandel, Hamilton, Waitomo, Waikato, Lake Taupo)

This portion of our north island travels brought us to the Waikato region. First up was Lake Taupo, the caldera of the Taupo volcano and New Zealand’s largest lake. Despite the inclement weather, we signed up for a cruise across the lake to visit the Maori carvings, which was a lot of fun with Sail Barbary and included free cups of mulled wine…yum. Since the rain never eased up, we made the most of our time in Taupo by soaking in its lovely hot pools – the perfect activity on a rainy day! From Taupo, we left the Waikato area to explore the east coast, but eventually made our way back to check out the Coromandel Peninsula. Highlights from this section of our trip included the hot water beach at Mercury Bay (make sure you time it just right to visit at low tide and bring a bucket and shovel), Cathedral Cove (lovely hike leading down to a spectacular beach with a walk through arch), Driving Creek Railway (ride NZ’s only narrow guage mountain railway up the country’s steepest track), and getting to see 19th century methods of extracting gold at the Goldmine Experience in Thames. After leaving the Coromandel Peninsula, we zipped over to visit the massive L&P bottle in Paeroa. After all, since L&P was our first beverage in New Zealand so we simply had to see the hometown of Lemon & Paeroa soda! From Paeroa, we continued on to the stunning Karangahake Gorge, where we visited the Owharoa Waterfall, Victoria Battery and the Windows walk (a must for anyone interested in the historic gold mining era). Next up was a visit the the ginormous Sheep Shearer statue in Te Kuiti, and a quick zip over to Awakino black sand beach. Then it was cave and glowworm time! Hiking around Ruakuri Cave did not disappoint, and camping at Mangapohue Natural Bridge was awesome because where else in the world can you witness thousands of glowworms for free by yourself!? From caves, we moved on to waterfalls, (Marokopa and Bridal Veil Falls, the latter one is spectacular and not to be missed). To wrap up our time in Waikato, we stopped by Raglan, home to a black sand beach that is super popular with surfers, even in the winter time! The final leg of our New Zealand adventure will see us in the Auckland and Northland regions…time is flying by and we can’t believe our 3 months here will be over so soon.

Visiting Huka Falls on a rainy day; Taupo Huka Falls is reputed to be New Zealand's most popular natural attraction.Water flows at an astonishing rate, fast enough to fill an Olympic sized pool in about 10 seconds! Vintage steamship Ernest Kemp crusing across Lake Taupo The Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings are only accessible by water. We visited them on the lovely Sail Barbary electric yacht Lizard standing guard near the Maori carvings of Lake Taupo Becky takes a hand at steering our yacht; Lake Taupo Shag in a spread-wing position; Lake Taupo Natural geothermal hot springs at Spa Thermal Park, one of Taupo's best free activities Silica terraces of Wairakei Terraces The waters and minerals of Wairakei were known to the Maori for their healing properties Silica terraces of Wairakei Panorama of the mineral rich hot thermal pools of Wairakei Terraces Maori section of Wairakei Maori carving; Wairakei Carved wooden post (pouwhenua); Wairakei Terraces Wooden shack; Wairakei Taupo Debretts Spa Resort Visiting hot water beach; Mercury Bay Birds screeching to be fed; Cathedral Cove parking lot An easy 40 minute hike brings us to the picturesque Cathedral Cove The famous rock arch at Cathedral Cove; Coromandel Peninsula Another view of the arch at Cathedral Cove Becky by Te Hoho Rock; Cathedral Cove Chiton clinging to a rock (a chiton is an oval mollusc with a shell divided into eight dorsal plates); Cathedral Cove Viewpoint on our drive towards Coromandel Town Maori statues; Coromandel Town Robby is ready to ride; Driving Creek Railway Clay figurine watching the train pass by; Driving Creek Railway Becky enjoying the ride on New Zealand's only narrow gauge mountain railway; Driving Creek Retaining wall made from recycled bottles. Driving Creek Railway was built by Barry Brickell, a passionate conservationist One of Driving Creek Railway's 3 tunnels View of Hauraki Gulf at the Eyeful Tower, viewing platform of the Driving Creek Railway Robby smiles as we enter the double deck viaduct section of Driving Creek Railway Driving Creek Railway is New Zealand’s steepest railway and a must do Coromandel experience! Coromandel peninsula views Colorful wooden carvings; Coromandel Peninsula Antique cars in front of the Goldmine Experience; Coromandel Peninsula Costumed visitors; Thames Goldmine Experience Visitors smiling for the camera at the Thames Goldmine Experience. Here, we got to witness the operation of 19th century gold mining machinery Robby posing in front of a giant Lemon and Paeroa soda bottle (NZ's lemon juice soft drink); Paeroa Owharoa Falls Waikino Station Cafe Victoria Battery, which served as the largest quartz crushing plant for gold extraction in Australasia back in 1896 Remnants of an old historic gold mining area in Waihi; Karangahake Gorge Robby pushing a wagon along the Karangahake Gorge Windows Walk Windows walk; Karangahake gorge Old mining tunnel in Karangahake Gorge Becky strikes a pose inside the mining tunnel; Karangahake Gorge Painted kiwi; Otorohanga Robby helps out a giant sheep shearer; Te Kuiti Pretty scenery on our drive through Waikato Waterfall of black sand Awakino Beach Ruakuri Cave Becky crawling through a walkway at Ruakuri Cave Free camping under a full moon; Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walkway to Mangapohue Natural Bridge Rock arch of Mangapohue Natural Bridge A glowworm sets a beaded trap; Mangapohue Natural Bridge Marokopa Falls The spectacular Bridal Veil Falls, a 55 m high plunge waterfall View of Bridal Veil Falls from the base of the waterfall; Pakoka River Ostrich mailbox; Waitomo Big Bird Bed & Breakfast 30 km of curvy roads coming up! Gravel road leading to the rugged west coast; Waikato region Sheep with lambs near Te Toto Gorge Te Toto Gorge Lookout Statue looking over Ngarunui Beach Entrance to the Turangawaewae Marae; Ngaruawahia foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

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