There are few places in this world that are talked about with such positivity. No matter the city, there have always been at least a small amount of mixed reviews from people who have visited; “Rome is beautiful but it’s too dirty.” “Sydney has great beaches but their public transport is a nightmare.” “Berlin has a great nightlife but it’s such an intimidating city.” I haven’t always agreed with the comments, but they’ve always been there. That is, until I started talking about New Zealand.
New Zealand often gets overshadowed by its big brother, Australia. Australia, with picturesque beaches and international superstars. Australia, with the vast open landscapes and dangerous animals. With that being said, unless you ask the Australians, everyone who has ever been to New Zealand or thought of going to New Zealand has only positive comments. And now that I’ve been, I understand why.
It’s at this point that I tell any of my Australian friends to kindly stop reading and go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you landed on this article because what I am going to say next will only upset you. I loved New Zealand – like… really loved it. I loved it so much that if you offered me a plane ticket to either Australia or New Zealand, I’d have a hard time choosing!
New Zealand offers such an interesting range of landscape and climate, being split into two islands; the North Island and the South Island. Generally, the South Island is considered the more beautiful of the two, with its mountains and fjords, albeit cooler temperatures. The North Island is known for its geothermal spots and spectacular bays. The North Island is also home to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, as well as the biggest city, Auckland.
The country has an underrated beauty, one that I was not expecting to take me by such awe. We only travelled the North Island, which is typically the less popular choice by tourists, but I’m glad we did. Although we did spend some time in Auckland, I’m not going to talk about the city, which feels like a less ‘happening’ version of Sydney. The true enjoyment of New Zealand takes place outside of the big city; beginning at Piha Beach.
Piha Beach is about 40km from Auckland and is a beach well known for its long stretch of black iron sand and wild surf. It was a cooler day when we ended up at Piha, although it didn’t stop us from enjoying the waves or climbing up the famous ‘Lion Rock’. Lion Rock sits in the middle of Piha and makes for the most incredible views of the North and South beach.
Image of Piha Beach atop Lion Rock.
With Piha as a great starting point for New Zealand, it was time to tick off some more kilometres on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula. It was a part of New Zealand I’d never heard of before and by happenchance, I met a Kiwi who suggested it as a great place to visit. She was right. The landscape was impressively dynamic.
Hanging out in the Coromandel Peninsula.
We decided to take the long road around to our three-day retreat at Cooks Beach, which followed along the coast. Rocky shoreline turned to green rolling hills with a backdrop of turquoise waters. Before long we were in the trees, driving along winding mountainous roads that you wouldn’t dare take at high speeds. The evening brought us to Hahei beach, which easily became one of my favourite beaches I’ve ever been to.
The waves were powerful and chased us up the soft sandy shore. We walked along the edge of the water, capturing photos of the rocky islands protruding from the ocean. The evening sky hung vibrant colours overhead, kissing the horizon with hues of lavender and pink. It was a quiet evening and the beach was deserted. The romanticism of the way the waves crashed on the shore and the fresh sea air filled my lungs made it seem as though we lived in a painting of perfection.
Every day in New Zealand offered a relaxing feel of adventure that I wasn’t used to in my travels. People say the Aussies are relaxed but there is no comparison to the Kiwi way of life. Time only mattered for the two tours we booked; one at Hobbiton and one to the Glow-worm caves, and even then, we had the easiest going time.
I had booked Hobbiton, simply out of the pressure of being the best tourist I could be, but after just a few minutes on tour I was already having a blast. The humour of our guide mixed with the nostalgia of the set made for a delightful afternoon. The Kiwi hospitality and humour continued during our glow-worm cave tour, although, it’s no surprise. How could you not enjoy floating through pitch-black caves dressed in skin-tight wet suits, surrounded by bioluminescent “worms”, aka maggots? I know it may not sound like the ideal afternoon, but I can assure you, there are few better sites than watching your husband fall out of an inflatable tube into the deep black cave water and splash around for a few minutes while the guides panic mildly.
Ten days wasn’t enough. Ten weeks couldn’t even have done it. New Zealand has a magic that welcomes you and allures you. The laid back style of the Kiwis and dynamic landscape that challenges you and fascinates you and keeps you in awe every moment is just the most incredible experience. If you find yourself in search of a place offering you a holiday somewhere between relaxation and adventure, book that ticket. I promise you won’t regret it.
Emily Meyer is still relatively new to the wonderful city of Medicine Hat, having moved here in May 2016. She was born and raised in Ontario and lived in Australia for a year and a half. Emily has visited 33 countries and will share some of her experiences and advice for globetrotters of all ages.