Tag: Day Trip

Four Tips for Auckland Day Trips

So dear reader, you’re telling me that you’re having a grand old time in Auckland, New Zealand, but you’d like to venture outside of the city a little bit.

Do you have time to drive to NZ’s south island? It could be an 8-12 hour trip depending on where you go. No?

Well, luckily for you, I have some wonderful day-tripping options for you to choose from. Keep on reading, you intrepid traveler.

Things I recommend for day-trip travel:

  • A vehicle, preferably a car (if you’re looking for a place to rent a car, I recommend GO rentals)
  • A good sense of direction OR access to GPS navigation
  • PocWifi – so you can use wi-fi at any time, at a relatively affordable price
  • Cash, just in case
  • Snacks??? I mean, it’s up to you, I just very snacky when I roadtrip.

I’ve given you some one-way travel times from Auckland to all of the listed destinations below, but take these with a grain of salt. Traffic, road work, your own driving speed, etc. will all flex these times.

Hobbiton

Travel time from Auckland: About 2 hours

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or even if you aren’t, Hobbiton is beautiful venture in the countryside to the movie set where scenes from the Shire were filmed for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

During the tour, you’re able to walk through the actual set and take photos, while a guide tells you all sorts of movie trivia (a delight for any nerdy heart). If you’re lucky, the weather will be sunny and light up the green hills of the Shire, making you feel like you might ACTUALLY be a little hobbit. (Shoot for summer or maybe late spring.)

I recommend that you book your ticket online in advance, because the time slots can sell out and you can only visit the set if you’re on a tour. Also, since you book a time and they ask you to check in 15 minutes before your tour, you should give yourself enough time to get there. Even if you arrive early, they have a gift shop and a cafe where you can kill time.

Rotorua

Travel time from Auckland: About 3 hours

Rotorua is an excellent place to visit for nature and culture fans.

Whakarewarewa Forest

The Whakarewarewa Forest is only about 5 minutes from downtown Rotorua and is a great place to stroll, hike, bike and even ride on horseback. For travelers from the U.S., the huge trees that the forest is famous for might look a little familiar, and that’s because they’re actually California Redwoods!

Geothermal Activity

Rotorua is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone resulting in a ton of geothermal activity! We visited Hells Gate – both a geothermal park and spa. When you visit and find yourself encompassed by the warm steam and surrounded by volcanic rock, you’ll understand how it got its name. I recommend choosing the tour and spa package, so you can take a self-guided tour through the sulphur and mud pools that make the naturally-heated spa pools possible.

Lake Taupo

Speaking of Taupo, if you have a little more time in Rotorua, Lake Taupo is just about an hour’s drive away. It also has a lot to offer! Apart from a HUGE natural lake that you can take boat and kayak tours on, there’s also Huka Falls, known for its beautiful icy blue water. Huka Falls has a few different hike trails of its own – including the Spa Walk, which actually leads you to a natural hot spring.

Maori Villages

If you’re interested in learning more about Maori culture, there are a couple different Maori villages that you can visit in Rotorua. If you’re not sure which one you’d like to visit, ask the locals. Some of them are actual living Maori villages and others are a bit more… tourist-y. We had planned to visit the living village, but after freezing our buns off on a brisk Lake Taupo boat tour, we opted to warm ourselves up at a local pub.

Waitomo

Travel time from Auckland: About 2-and-a-half hours

One of the big attractions in Waitomo is their cave system. You can visit Ruakuri, Aranui or their Glowworm Caves – all of them offering a different experience. Feeling particularly adventurous? Try black water rafting or tubing through the caves (we were a little too chicken to try this – plus, it was already pretty chilly OUT of the water)!

However, if you’re finding yourself short on time like we were, I would make the Glowworm Caves your Waitomo stop. When you’re in the sitting in the darkness of the cave, only illuminated by the soft blue lights of the thousands of glowworms – you forget you’re in a cave. It’s almost like looking up at a bunch of little stars. It’s truly beautiful, and honestly, my words do do it justice. You can’t take photos in the cave because the glowworms are very sensitive to lights and sound, so it’s really something you have to see for yourself.

Tauranga

Travel time from Auckland: About 2-and-a-half hours

Tauranga is for lovers – beach lovers, that is. The Mt. Maunganui Main Beach has been voted New Zealand’s best, and I can totally see why. The long stretch of beach is a great place to stroll, relax on the soft sand and swim.

If you want to get a hike in, the beach is also conveniently located at the base of Mt.┬áMauao. If I recall, there were a couple main hiker trails – one that loops a bit more gently up the mountain and one that’s a shorter, but steeper climb up to the summit. We took the steeper climb, which was QUITE the haul, but we were rewarded with gorgeous views along the way and at the top.

If you can believe it, I cut this day trip round-up short for you, dear reader. There’s just SO much to do and see in New Zealand. That’s why I’m definitely going back in the near future and why I’m creating these helpful guides for travelers. If you’re looking for a place to start in Auckland, check out my budget traveler’s guide.

Happy travels to you!

xoxo,
Katie

Arizona Travel Log: Grand Canyon South Rim: Village and Drive

The Grand Canyon is the natural wonder that brings thousands of people a year to Arizona, and it’s often also a place that Arizona residents are ashamed to say that they have never seen. It isn’t a hard place to get to from Phoenix, and you can easily make a day trip of it if you are pressed for time or money (as long as you can stomach the 4 hours drive both ways). There are also two different campgrounds available, with the Mather Campground taking reservations outside of the winter. Whether you’re camping, hiking, or just going for a day of beautiful scenery, it’s a great place (and somewhere that all Arizonans should see at least once!).

The South rim provides access to several really wonderful trails (including Bright Angel) that are certainly worth a look if time provides, but for those just passing through, it is a great place to drive, take pictures, and walk the rim. Furthermore, the Grand Canyon Village offers food, a bank, as well as access to a few different locations with information and programs on the Canyon.

As far as my own experience with the place goes, I have been there several times (my latest visit being for my boyfriend and my anniversary ^ ^). For the most part, I do this trip when I am bringing first-time visitors to the Canyon. When I go, I usually take the route described below, and it’s just a very low stress way to see the Grand Canyon. I have also camped at the Mather Campground with the Student Conservation Association, and while the season wasn’t ideal for camping (cold and muddy), the campground is well taken care of, and close to the Grand Canyon Village. I think my only concern about the place would be space during really busy parts of the year, as we had issues parking our cars when we had the share the campground with just one boyscout troop.

Mindset is important when visiting as well. Some people can see it and leave describing it as a “hole in the ground,” but if you take the time, and find a quiet place to contemplate where you are, the Grand Canyon is not only an immensely beautiful place, but a spiritual one as well.

Distance from Phoenix: 223 mi (~4hrs)

Directions: From Phoenix, take the I-17 north to Flagstaff. Take a short drive through town, and follow signs to the 180 (which will pass by Snow Bowl). Stay on the 180 until you hit Valle, and then head north on the 64. The 64 will take you all the way up through Tusayan to the main park entrance.

Admittance Fee: The admission fee is for seven days on both the north and south rim. Vehicle Fee (includes everyone in the vehicle): $25, Individual Fee (for those on foot): $12

Camping: The Mather Campground (takes reservations- except during the winter; fee $18 per night), Desert View Campground (first-come, first-served)

Season/Hours: Open all year, 24 hours a day

Crowd Notes: This area of the Grand Canyon, especially in and around the Grand Canyon Village, can be extremely crowded, especially during the warmer months of the year. The western road (towards Bright Angel Trail) also tends to be more busy than the eastern side. Going during the winter, hiking down the trails further, and staying to the east can all help lessen the crowds somewhat.

Preferred Route/Notes: After having done this trip upwards of five times, I definitely have a preferred route. I usually get to the Canyon using the directions above, but I do not return to Flagstaff the way that I went. Generally, after a short drive to the end of the western section of the road, I head east down the 64- where there are generally less people, several trails, and tons of great spots for pictures. After leaving the park, one can also expect to get some really nice pictures of the Little Colorado, and you have the option of picking up some beautiful souvenirs from the road-side shops run by the Navajo of the area. Once you hit Cameron and the 89, head south towards Flagstaff, and then take the I-17 back to Phoenix as before. This route isn’t much longer than the way you took in, and you get to see some new scenery.
Links:
Grand Canyon National Park

“To stand upon the edge of this stupendous gorge, as it receives its earliest greeting from the god of day, is to enjoy in a moment compensation for long years of ordinary uneventful life.” -John Stoddard

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