During my semester break from university, I jumped across the pond to visit my boyfriend, who lives in Auckland. Being in a long-distance relationship is a challenge like no other but the time you spend together makes everything worth it. And it doesn’t hurt that the North Island of New Zealand is a gorgeous place to visit.
Anyone who’s watched half a scene from The Lord of the Rings knows that New Zealand is full of breathtaking scenery, but being up close and personal with rolling green hills and winding roads is just something else. And, yeah, there are a whole bunch of sheep.
While my boyfriend finished off his own uni classes in the city, I spent my days doing yoga on the front deck when it was sunny and watching TV with Ozzie, a very charismatic Staffordshire bull terrier, when it was overcast and raining. Did I say “watching”? I meant Ozzie kept interrupting me from binge-watching TV shows. So rude.
There’s only one thing you need to know about the weather in New Zealand: prepare for anything and everything. In one day it can go from being overcast to pouring with rain to hot and sunny. These abrupt weather changes were actually really refreshing because I could start my day snuggled up with a hot cup of tea and then go for a swim in the afternoon.
I often ventured out for a run around one of Auckland’s many bays, which are a 10-minute drive from my boyfriend’s house in the suburb of Albany. The bays are usually packed with friendly locals walking their dogs, swimming in the clear blue ocean, going for their own run or munching on a delicious serve of fish and chips.
If you’re planning a trip to the land of the long white cloud anytime soon, the seafood is a much try, as well as meat pies and anything dairy. I don’t know what New Zealand does that’s different to Australia but all the dairy is super creamy and mouth-wateringly tasty!
Once he was finished with uni, my boyfriend and I travelled to Mangawhai Heads, 90 minutes north of Auckland. It’s the perfect place to slow down, relax and enjoy the beauty this region has to offer. On the drive in, there’s a turn-off and a narrow road that leads to the base of a lookout. The stairs spiral upwards and at the top is a stunning view of the beach, residential houses, and a lush green golf course.
We set up camp at the Mangawhai Heads holiday park with the gorgeous white sandy beach at our doorstep. We camped for a night, tucking in to fish and chips for dinner (of course) and stargazed for hours before crawling, half-asleep, into our second-hand tent, where we let the sound of the waves lull us to sleep.
On my last weekend in New Zealand, we road-tripped down to Lake Taupo for my boyfriend’s family reunion. When I tell people that Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia, I don’t think they quite understand what that means. It’s about the size of Singapore.
During our time there, we decided to chill out and treat ourselves to one (OK, a few) of my boyfriend’s mum’s homemade fetta and bacon scones. We ate them fresh out of the oven, smeared with a generous amount of avocado. Sooo gooood.
There was an intense rib-off between my boyfriend and his sister’s partner which ended in a tie (depending on who you ask) washed down with one too many Tuis (Kiwi beer).
Once we emerged from our food comas, we checked out some of Lake Taupo’s many tourist attractions. You can go tramping to Huka Falls, or check out Rangatira Point and Whakamoenga Point in Acacia Bay, relax at the hot pools, or take a float down the river on a sunny day (just remember to load up on the sunscreen!). Looking for something more extreme? Speed around the Waikato River on the rapid jets, bungy jump from above, or go parasailing on the lake front.
As the days ticked by, I knew I didn’t want to leave. Once again, I’d fallen in love with the beaches, lakes, forests and national parks. I was captivated and spent most of the flight home staring out the window towards the place I was leaving behind. Thankfully, it’s only a few short hours away by plane. I’ll be back there the first chance I get.