Kia ora! (That's how kiwis say hey!)
New Zealand is world-famous as middle earth in Lord of The Rings movies, but there is SO much more to it! The air is damp and fresh, with lush scenery and ocean breezes scenting the air. When you go through customs, any type of fruit or vegetable is forbidden due to their delicate ecosystem. You'll also see how Maōri culture is integrated into town names and road signs, a symbol of comradery since the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and about 540 Maōri rangatira (chiefs) in 1840.
I believe that food is the heart of any culture, so naturally, I ate my way through the northern half of this majestic, humble and gracious utopia. I also visited about 12 beaches, and I rounded up my favorites for you below!
Kiwis are passionate about their hand pies! Steak & cheese, mince & mushroom, chicken pot pie & mixed veggie are a few popular picks. Patrick’s Pies Cafe & Bakery was my favorite (or favourite, as they spell it). They won a bunch of awards and are in Tauranga, about 3.5 hours south of Auckland.
Fish & Chips
Next to pies, fish & chips are another kiwi favorite. There's so many places! My pick: Mangonui Fish Shop, about 4 hours north of Auckland. It's perched right on the water, so you can actually see the next fresh catch coming in from the ocean. Yum!
My Top 10 Beaches
Hot Water Beach, Mercury Bay
Situated above lava springs, you dig a hole in the sand and the water is hot! Bam! Homemade hot tub. Especially fun in the rain, so you don’t get too hot. Try to go on a weekday or early during the low tide so you can beat the crowd!
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel
Although it's about an hour walk from the parking lot, the walk has cliff views as you descend through rolling hills, through jungle brush and onto the beach. Cathedral Cove is a gorgeous formation of a walkway under a cathedral-shaped rock. This has a wildlife reserve, so if you venture into the rocks and tide pools, you’ll see crabs and shellfish!
Stingray Bay, Coromandel
Stingray Bay is off the same footpath as Cathedral Cove, so you can see both in one day. SB is tucked-away & not as touristy, too! It features dramatic cliffs and ideal snorkeling shores. This was personally my favorite beach, as you can see from my mermaid pose.
This beach is laden with Pohutukawa trees, which are a long-standing symbol of Māori culture. The crimson blossoms of these sacred trees give them a unique burst of color. Some of the trees are so large that only the local Māori tribes know how old they are.
Waihi Beach, Bay of Plenty
Waihi Beach is conveniently by a takeaway fish and chip shop, so you can much on fried fish and fries (they call them chips) wrapped in newspaper while you sit on the sand. It's also a popular spot for catching waves, so it's humbling to watch the skilled surfers doing their thing.
Te Henga (Bethell’s Beach), Auckland Central
This beach is so vast that it looks like it goes on forever. It’s a black sand beach too, which so wild to see in person! The sand sparkles in the sun because of the high iron content. However, there are incredibly strong riptides at this beach, so keep an eye on the conditions before you go too far in the water.
Mount Maunganui Main Beach, Tauranga
This beach is uniquely perched by a dormant volcano, Mount Maunganui, which is covered in lush trees, ferns, bushes and grass, with sheep peacefully munching on the greens. Did I mention there’s a lot of sheep in NZ?
Mermaid Pool of Matapouri Beach, Tutukaka Coast
The mermaid pools are especially pretty because you need to hike up a mountain and through a jungle to get there. Once you arrive, the jagged rocks are hard to manage, but the pools look heavenly. They’re quiet little pools isolated from the rough ocean, but just as refreshing.
Mission Bay, Auckland
If you only have time to stay in Auckland, then Mission Bay is your best bet! It's across the street from many restaurants, from burgers to pizza to oysters. It's also more crowded than other beaches. It also looks at Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano. Waiheke Island is in the same Hauraki Gulf and they have a bunch of lovely vineyards, so you should fully have a look at them too.
Karioitahi Beach, Waiuku
Did you know that the west coast of New Zealand is all black sand beaches? This is one to remember! This massive beach seems like it goes on forever, and it's also considered a road, so you'll see jeeps cruising up and down the shore. Wherever you go in Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, pick up a piece of trash and take it with you. That's something I learned, because kiwis really respect their land. Cheers!