From Taupo we travelled north through Auckland to a number of beaches just a short drive from the city. New motorways make this trip a quick one, don`t forget to pay the toll at the roadside booths before you travel through the tunnel, an engineering feat!!!!!
One of our favourite stops along the way is at Matakana, coincide your trip on a Saturday and stop at the local farmers market and a stop at Ascension vineyard is a must do as well. http://www.ascensionwine.co.nz/home A stop at Morris ansd James pottery and tileworks is another must do. http://www.morrisandjames.co.nz/ Their hand made pots are just beautiful and if you have the time join their free tour which runs Monday to Friday at 11.30.
Our favourite beach is Buckleton Beach, this quiet bay provides great fishing, boating, swimming and awesome rock pools for the kids to explore. Close by is Sandspit and Omaha which are also worth a visit. Goat Island is a marine reserve close by and is a great place to visit for a snorkel, swim and to explore the rock pools. The glass bottom boat tour is great to see these protected fish up close.
From Wellington there are choices as to which way to head north, there are more vineyards through the Martinborough District or follow the coast line up through the middle of the North Island, we chose this way and then had to choose if we were going to visit Mt Raupaehu (maybe snow) and then onto the glow worms at Waitomo caves or head straight through to Auckland stopping at Taupo for the night. If you have time, stop at Foxton and see the windmill or Tirau – this little place was just buzzing as we drove through, there are cafes and craft shops lining the main street. Giant sheep dogs and sheep made out of corrugated iron put this place on the map. Great parks for the kids to have a stop and stretch their legs or enjoy a leisurely lunch or coffee. http://tirauinfo.homestead.com/tirau.html for more information about thus quaint little place.
The Waitomo Caves are amazing and a sight to behold and the black water rafting is an adventure. Check out http://www.waitomo.com/ for more information.
We drove up to the desert region and were not disappointed with the sights that we beheld, snow capped Mt Raupaehu was a awesome sight.
From the snow capped mountains the road leads to the lakes of the Taupo region. We follow the edge of the lake for about 40 kilometres into Taupo. Stunning scenery as you can almost reach out and touch the lake. Arriving into Taupo we stayed at DeBretts http://www.taupodebretts.com/ another great camp ground attached to mineral pools. The park also had lake views and clean amenties with park facilities for the children. The pool complex contained a range of mineral pools at differing temperatures, fresh water pools, water slides for the children, private bathing rooms and a massage centre. Staying at the park also gives you a discount on entry and they are open 7.30 till 9.30 every day. A great way to finish the day.
A beautiful place to explore with a prestigious golf course here as well as a gannet colony. There is another van park, Clifton Motor Camp which is also situated right on the beach, has a boat ramp and is within walking distance to the gannets http://cliftoncamphawkesbay.co.nz/ A must visit is the local cafe situated in Cape Kidnappers, a beautiful spot for brunch and coffee with the biggest coffee cups in New Zealand.
Headed off to Paraparaumu (north of Wellington on the beach) via the Tararua Ranges. This too is a stunning drive with the ranges in sight all the way with their wind turbines sitting on the top of the range and then through the gorge with its deep valleys, stunning scenery and railway tunnels.
Lots of fresh fruit and vegie stalls along the road and also many farms allow you to buy direct from the farm, so great to stock up with the essentials. Stop at Otaki for a great range of shopping before heading to Paraparaumu – which is the main town on the Kapiti Coast and is a popular holiday destination for Wellingtonians. It is well serviced with a range of shops, boat ramp, golf club and a range of holiday activities. Check out http://www.jasons.com/New-Zealand/Paraparaumu/ for what they recommend.