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 Māori 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 gauge 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.

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