The Bucket List – North Island Edition

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called The Bucket List, my 5 top New Zealand experience I want to have. After writing it, I realised that every item on that list was in the South Island. Correction, I mean the South Island and Stewart Island.

What I am getting at is that there were no North Island experiences on my list, and it’s the Island I live on. Shame on me!

Te Ika a Maui, aka, The North Island, has some stunning beaches, natural hot springs and some interesting Geo thermal areas. It is certainly a place worth exploring.

So, without furthur ado, here is my top 5 North Island Bucker List items:

Staying a night at Wharekauhau Lodge

This one has been on the bucket list for 11.5 years! An Edwardian style lodge, set up on a hill, it looks out towards stunning views of Palliser Bay and farm land in the Wairarapa. I first came here in 2009. It is where Daniel and I got engaged and has always held a special place in my heart. We visited again late last year, again just for lunch. When Daniel proposed, he had looked into staying a night, but at over $3000 a night, it was off the cards. A bucket list item for sure, but perhaps more of a dream.

Not anymore. In September we are making this dream a reality. I managed to grab a bargain when they were offering a ‘Back your backyard – NZ residents special’. It was too good to pass up.

Wharekauhau is luxury at it’s finest. The food is exceptional, the location stunning and the staff are so warm and welcoming. To say I am excited about staying here is an understatement.

Tongariro Crossing

I actually had plans to do this walk in March with my sister-in-law. The trip was all booked and then Covid-19 happened. The first weekend we spent in lockdown was the weekend we were meant to be hiking this trail.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is in the Tongariro National Park, located in central North Island in the Manawatu-Wanganui region. The walk is just under 20km and is often described as being NZ’s best day walk. The walk is said to be challenging but incredibly rewarding. The trail takes you past craters, lakes and landscapes like no other.

I am yet to rebook this one but will need to do some fitness prepping first. I will confess that I didn’t do much exercise during lockdown and took up the hobby of baking. Needless to say, I have put on a bit of lockdown weight.

Northern Explorer

One of New Zealand’s great train rides. This journey goes between Auckland and Wellington, stopping at some great locations along the way. The journey takes around 10 hours, but I would take the opportunity to get off at some stops along the way to further explore.

Fancy staying in a Chateau or visiting Hobbiton? Black water rafting at Waitomo or a trip to Kapiti Island? These are all locations that are accessible from the stops it makes along the way.

The Northern Explorer is not currently operating, I am waiting for that email it’s back up and running and then (if I haven’t already spent all my money on other trips) I will make a booking.

Camping with the pups

I have wanted to do this for a while now, what’s stopping me I hear you ask? Well the main thing, I don’t own a tent. An essential piece of equipment for this adventure.

I have always loved camping but haven’t done it in ages. I would love to take Frankie and Eddie camping with me too. There are a few campgrounds around that allow dogs.

The other issue stopping me is that Frankie and Eddie, AKA The FrEddies, although small and cute, are very vocal. The love to alert us of people arriving, birds on the porch and neighbors turning on their lights. We would need to trial the camping somewhere close, like Wainuiomata, so if The FrEddies felt the need to alert us to everything going on at the camp site and we needed to make a quick exit in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t need to drive too far.

First thing I need to do is locate a tent I can borrow. I don’t want to invest in one if it’s going to be a disastrous family outing.

Wanganui River Kayak

I have a thing for kayaking, I am certainly no pro and I don’t do it very often, but given the chance I love to jump in a kayak and go exploring.

This Wanganui River tour is a multi day tour, I think actually in canoes, rather than kayaks. I haven’t done too much research into this, so I don’t have a tour company picked out, yet.

This would be a tour with stunning scenery and informative local history in a area that I am not too familiar with.

What’s on your bucket list?

The Bucket List

2020 started over 5 months ago, but in someways it feels like it is just beginning. As with all new starts, its time to start dreaming (and planning) those adventures that will leave you with lifetime memories.

Not sure where to start? I thought I would share my top 5 New Zealand bucket list items. (In no particular order)

Doubtful Sounds Overnight Cruise

I have been fortunate enough to have done an overnight cruise in Milford Sounds. To this day, it remains one of the most magical and memorable travel experiences I have ever had.

There is something about the fiords that makes you marvel at creation. They make you feel so small, in a good way, where you are reminded of just how awesome mother nature is. Combine that with the stillness and silence of the place and your are in for a real treat.

Doubtful Sounds is less visited by tourists, much larger and very quiet. I want to kayak next to huge fiords again, count shooting stars at night and watch the sun rise in the sounds.

Who could imagine anything better?

Star Gazing in a Dark Sky Reserve

I have always had a fascination with stars. They are so mysterious and magical. We live in a world with so much light pollution that our night sky is very different to what our ancestors would have looked upon. Fortunately there are still areas in the world where the magic of the milky way and shooting stars that make you gasp can be seen.

New Zealand has 2 official dark sky reserves, including the world’s biggest – the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in Canterbury. At Lake Tekapo you will find Mt. John Observatory where you can partake in a variety of star gazing experiences (currently closed due to Covid-19).

The star gazing experience that’s on my bucket list though is Lake Tekapo’s Soak in the Stars experience at Tekapo Springs. Imagine floating in a natural hot pool, gazing up at the milky way. I am sure it would leave me breathless.

Stewart Island

Following on from my fascination with stars and the night sky, I would love to see the Aurora Polaris. I am sure many of you have heard of the Northern lights, but you don’t have to head all the way to Alaska or Scandinavia. The Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights, can be seen from parts of New Zealand, including Stewart Island. I don’t know about you, but for me, all those colours dancing about in the sky and witnessing this natural phenomena is most definitely a bucket list item.

Stewart Island is 80% national park, making it an excellent place for bush walks and seeing some of our native wildlife including the kiwi. I can’t wait for the opportunity to explore this place.

Swim with Dolphins

This experience has been on my bucket list for the last few years. I have made 2 attempts at this so far. The first one I had lined up was in Tauranga but I had to cancel that last minute as my husband had a small motorbike accident a week before we were due to depart. I then made a second attempt earlier in the year on our south island trip, you can read about that here and here.

As with any wild animal encounter, there is always an element of chance and luck. This is part of what makes the occurrence so special. On this trip, we didn’t get to swim with dolphins, but we did get to observe the little, rare Hector’s dolphin in it’s natural habitat which was pretty special.

I am not sure when, but I will definitely be making another stop at E-Ko Tours in Picton for another chance at swimming with dolphins. I really love the care and commitment this company has for protecting our environment.

Multi Day Able Tasman Kayak

In 2000 I tramped Able Tasman on a school trip. I then went straight onto a family holiday in Rarotonga. I remember thinking that the beaches at Able Tasman were more amazing. And that’s saying something because the beaches in Raro are beautiful.

In 2012, I did a half day Able Tasman Kayak with my husband. Clear water, blue sunny skies and stunning beaches. I can’t get enough. I have my eye on this 5 day kayak trip with Able Tasman Kayaks. Bring it on!

What’s on your bucket list?