But most importantly, please remember that the locals are not on vacation and are quite often in a hurry to get somewhere. So if someone is pressuring you from behind, just pull over and allow them to pass.
You will enjoy the driving much much more and the locals will in turn be much much more friendlier when you do eventually cruise to your destination at your own pace! There are places to pull over and take photos all along of this dramatic coastline. There are plenty of whacky contraptions to entertain the young and young at heart. There is swimming in the river and free onsite BBQs - bring your own sausages.
This stop is excellent, giving you a real taste for the New Zealand bush without much effort. The bush walk is an easy 10 minute stroll on a level path to year old kauri trees. These trees are magnificent, with native bush wonderfully lush and cool and peaceful.
They are the largest trees in the world if calculating volume of usable timber. No wonder they call them the giants of the forest and were almost wiped out by the colonials for their timber. The cutting down of a Kauri is now banned as they are protected, so thankfully now we are seeing a comeback of these giants to our forests.
You have the choice of continuing over the hill on the unsealed road or returning to SH25 to visit Coromandel Town , another 5kms north. Follow the beach to where the ferry departs from. It is a lovely beach, but more importantly hot water rises to the surface here from a geothermal reservoir under the seabed. Check the tides, as you need to dig a hole below the high water mark, 2 hours either side of the low tide is your time limit.
I recommend it after low tide, so you may then get to use an abandoned hole instead of having to dig one for yourself! You can dig a hole on the northern end of the beach, then sit back and soak in your very own private spa.
Look for the sulphur bubbling to the surface of the sand. There are 4 ways of reaching it: The views are excellent and it will take you about 1 hour to reach the cove itself.
A 3 hour truly kiwi experience, includes top quality kayaks and gear, tuition and even a coffee brewed for you on the beach while you take a swim. You can order which ever style — Cappuccino, Mochachino, even an L Baccino long black. Sea kayaking is a "must do" in New Zealand, and this is one of the most beautiful places to try it. Day 10 Hahei - Whakatane kms Today there is a long drive to Whakatane.
Actual driving time is 4 hours without suggested stops. One mistake visitors to New Zealand make is under estimating how long it takes to drive — kms in New Zealand is not the same as driving kms on motorways in Europe!
Our roads are not straight, as you have probably already noticed. It is OK to do the excellent 9am kayak tour before hitting the road. Immediately on your left you will notice some vines, they are kiwifruit. You will see many orchards and vineyards today as you travel through what is known as the fruit-bowl of New Zealand.
Keep following the road, at the marina go up Paku Drive, then follow signs to Paku Summit. A short walk will take you the rest of the way, for awesome views over Tairua Harbour and Pauanui Beach.
Return to Tairua and continue south, direction Whangamata and Waihi. The lookout is truly impressive and the Golden Legacy Centre is worth a visit to learn more about the mine. Return to town and follow signs to Tauranga. This option is for those that left Hahei early this morning. Otherwise continue straight at the roundabout, direction Mount Maunganui. The Mount is now a congested suburb of Tauranga, with the beach becoming a popular holiday destination for the wealthy and the not so wealthy surfing crowd alike with plenty of cafes to choose from.
You can also hike around the base or to the summit of the hill. The SH2 turns right 34kms later but you need to continue straight towards Whakatane, your destination for this evening.
Day 11 Whakatane - Rotorua 90kms The highlight in Whakatane is without doubt a visit to White Island, an active volcano 50kms offshore. For me the tour scored a 10 out of 10 for awesomeness. Covered shoes are also a requirement. Alternatively, there are helicopter tours, with one hour on the island, or fixed wing flight-seeing over the island. You can combine these flights with a trip over Mt Tarawera, an impressive volcano which blew in , that not only split the mountain rather dramatically, but also buried the famous Pink and White terraces, together with three villages and the loss of lives.
While in town take a short drive west to the harbour entrance to see the beautiful statue of Wairaka, a Maori heroin who went against Maori laws to save the drifting waka canoe.
She proclaimed "Ka Whakatane au I amu" which means "to act like a man", so the city was named after her heroic acts. Departing from the waterfront return to the shops and continue along The Strand, go left at the second roundabout Commerce Street then right at the McDonalds Domain Road following the signs to Rotorua and Tauranga.
Continue straight for 3kms, you then need to go right at the third roundabout. As you come into Rotorua, follow the city centre signs around the lake. The city lies on a beautiful crater lake - the surrounding hills are the remains of the rim of the giant volcano. An eruption took place here as recently as January 26th when mud, steam and debris were thrown m into the air. Springs regularly just appear, resulting in families being forced to move and the land having to be given back to nature.
Wander around the original Maori settlement at Ohinemutu. The church is worth a look at, as is the Marae Maori meeting house across the courtyard. Wander the tiny streets where everyone has their own private hot-water bore to fill their bath in the out-shed…. If you have time, soak in the reputedly therapeutic thermal pools at the Polynesian Spa, a delightful but busy public pool. If you wait until tomorrow morning the spa is less crowded - it is a wonderful way to start the day - relaxing with serene views across the lake.
Pickups from your accommodation in a waka war canoe cleverly disguised as a bus, followed by a fun evening superbly hosted and entertained by local Maori. The excitement junkies can take the Gondola up Mount Ngongotaha for awesome views, interspersed with hair raising rides on a luge 3 levels available, so suitable for children. Day 12 Rotorua - Hobbiton - Rotorua kms ead north on SH5 which takes you past the Skyline Gondola and then left at the big roundabout direction Auckland.
The town has a bit of a love affair with corrugated iron, there are quite a few other imaginative signs right the way along the main road. Just after the Tirau shops, change to SH27 and drive north another 10 kilometres.
The tour also offers a wonderful insight into the logistics involved in creating a movie and building various film-sets with all the supporting personnel required to go with it, from vets to cooks to gardeners and even road builders! The set is located on a real farm with restricted access. The Alexander family has lived on the acre approx hectares property since The land supports a thriving sheep and beef cattle business.
In the morning the spa is less crowded and it is a wonderful way to start the day - relaxing with serene views across the lake. The track is uneven at times so you need walking shoes. From the unique vantage point on the jet boat you have the best water level view of the falls. Follow the river from the falls upriver and this will bring you back to the main road — just before the turnoff there is an excellent lookout over Lake Taupo.
Turn left and head down into the centre of Taupo. The ash cloud floated all over the world - ice samples from as far apart as Antarctica and Alaska have determined the explosion to have occurred in AD. The effects of the ash were even recorded in China and Rome.
You can gather your own free volcanic souvenir from the shoreline in the form of very light pumice stones great for cleaning off rough skin which were spewed out in that eruption. Continue to the lake front of Taupo and drive south for approximately 2kms then turn left onto SH5 to Napier.
A sunny climate, combined with excellent growing conditions has led to many of the wineries earning gold medals at international competitions.
This was formed from the ash from the great Taupo eruption of AD. Day 14 Napier Today I can recommend a drive to the south of the city to visit a few wineries! So how about brunch under the vines at one of the vineyard cafes! Please note that tastings at wineries are usually free and although not compulsory - purchasing is expected to help offset the costs of paying the knowledgeable and helpful staff.
Some wineries do charge a little, which is then deducted from any purchases. Purchases can usually be sent overseas. The best way to sample is accompanied with a great meal at a table under the vines! Open from 10am for coffee, wine or brunch under the vines. Follow this pretty valley until the bridge. Tandem paragliding is a favourite past time from this spot. Day 15 Napier - Wellington kms There are quite a few kilometers to be driven today, the earlier you depart the more you will be able to see in Wellington.
The factory shop is open 7 days a week. On the banks of the Mangatainoka.