Wednesday Wanderlust: 3 crazy beautiful places still on my NZ bucket list

Where are you going this year? Got any travel plans?

I get asked this a lot at work, and no surprise really – it’s been close to 2 years since my last real trip. Japan in 2015 was amazing but we’re doubling down on homemaking right now and for the immediate future! Any upcoming travel is probably gonna be domestic; luckily I’ve still got a few places to tick off.


Mt Maunganui

It’s one of our more famous beaches, and there’s a wee volcano to climb. Plus: hot salt water pools! Prime for a weekend trip, just a couple hours from Auckland.



By: lwtt93

Abel Tasman

It’s a secret shame that I’ve never made to the Nelson or Marlborough regions at the top of the South Island. I won’t be hiking the whole Abel Tasman track – that’s for sure – but I’m dying to explore parts of this coastal national park, on foot and kayak.


Lake Pukaki

And the Mackenzie region in general. I can’t wait to see Mt Cook and Lake Pukaki in the flesh. Every single photo I’ve seen is out of this world and almost too good to believe!


13 thoughts on “Wednesday Wanderlust: 3 crazy beautiful places still on my NZ bucket list

  • Reply The Luxe Strategist June 7, 2017 at 08:01

    I’m going to the South Island in December and Abel Tasman and Lake Pukaki are on my list! The scenery seems INSANE. We are also landing in Auckland, so I’ve been looking for something to do that’s close by. Mt Maungani hasn’t come up in my research so I’ll check it out. I was also interested in Tongariro National Park, but it seems a bit far from Auckland to really be a day trip. I sent my Kiwi coworker my itinerary and he recommended that park. What do you think?

    • Reply Sense June 7, 2017 at 08:52

      Awesome that you are coming to NZ!

      Mt Maunganui is nice and cute but not worth a stop if you are coming internationally for a short trip to hit the highlights of NZ. You can see plenty of similar little volcanoes (climb Mt Eden for great city/harbour views for sure!) and beaches in Auckland if you’re interested in that kind of thing, and you’ll come across a lot of little towns even cuter than the Mount on the S Island. And there are hot pools almost everywhere. So…I wouldn’t waste my time trying to get there.

      Tongariro is definitely not a day trip. It takes about 4.5 hours to get to the north end of the park!

      The main thing to do in the park is hike the Tongariro Crossing. It is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand and is WELL worth it for the big volcanoes, alpine lakes, and epic scenery. Esp if you are a Lord of the Rings fan. 🙂 You have to start the hike in the early am, so you’d need to arrive the night before and have accommodation for the night of your hike. Depends on how fit you are and how many of the side summit tracks you explore, but it is over 19 km (12 miles) and can easily take all day.

      For a more do-able day trip from Aucks, you could go to Rotorua–there you’d get the geysers and geothermal experience. 🙂 There are tour companies that pick you up from your hotel in Auckland, do all the driving and showing off, and take you back at the end of the day.

      Good luck!

      • Reply Sense June 7, 2017 at 08:54

        I did not add that LOTR link in there…no idea where that came from. Sorry!

        • Reply The Luxe Strategist June 12, 2017 at 07:18

          Get that affiliate link out of here! Just kidding.

          Thank you for such a thoughtful and helpful comment. Noted on Mount Maungani. Maybe an option is to drive to Tongariro from Auckland, and then drive to Wellington and fly to the South Island. We have a lot of energy travel-wise, and I don’t mind driving.

          I did take a look at Rotorua before, but it seemed a bit out of the way. I’ll have to prioritize our top picks for the South Island and see if we have time for any side trips on the North Island.

    • Reply eemusings June 7, 2017 at 13:01

      How long have you got in Auckland – a few hours, a day, couple of days? Beyond the central city… You could pop over to Waiheke Island on the ferry, head up Mt Eden, explore Ponsonby, venture out to the west coast beaches (this would require a car most likely). There are tours that go to Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton etc as well from Auckland.

      Tongariro is definitely not a day trip, I can’t think how that would even be possible from Auckland, certainly not if you want to walk the crossing. (Did that a couple of years ago over a long weekend: https://nzmuse.com/2015/05/how-not-to-do-the-tongariro-crossing/) Highly recommend! Weather is finicky there, very unpredictable, probably scorching and crowded in December but then again, it can turn in an instant. But needs to be carefully incorporated into an itinerary rather than just tacked on. Hopefully you can squeeze it in but if not, maybe next time!

      • Reply The Luxe Strategist June 12, 2017 at 07:25

        We don’t have a set schedule yet, but altogether we’ll probably have about 11 full days since we’ll lose days for travel. I’m a Type-A traveler and love to get in as many sights as I can. We’ll rent a car, no doubt. Waiheke is definitely an option and looks pretty close by. My coworker recommended Coromandel, as well.

        I just looked at your Tongariro post and now I NEED to go there. What if we drove there from Auckland and then drove to the Wellington airport to get to the South Island?

        Thanks for the suggestions!

        • Reply eemusings June 12, 2017 at 12:30

          Ah cool! Coromandel is lovely but if you’re not used to our roads (narrow, winding) this may be a bit of a challenging drive so be sure to leave yourself lots of time! Cathedral Cove is one of my fave spots ever. https://nzmuse.com/2015/01/day-trip-cathedral-cove/

          Waiheke is very close (and you wouldn’t need a car for it). Ferry is kinda $$$ though. (But hey, what isn’t, in NZ?)

          If you drove down to Tongariro, stayed the night, hiked the next day, stayed the night, and then continued on down to Wellington, that could be doable. If you do, the Desert Rd (State Highway 1, between Turangi and Waiouru) is an amazing drive – out-of-this-world stark landscapes.

          • The Luxe Strategist June 13, 2017 at 08:38

            Ha, I’m fully expecting sticker shock!

            My first driving challenge will be driving on the other side of the road, for sure. We’ve driven some crazy, winding, one-lane roads in Hawaii so I’d expect something similar, or even more difficult. Thanks for those links to the driving info! I definitely don’t like to underestimate safety.

            Cathedral Cove looks lovely and seems much more manageable as a day trip. And Desert Rd looks amazing!

            So many gorgeous sights in NZ, so little time…

  • Reply Sense June 7, 2017 at 08:33

    Ooh, those are great picks.

    There are a ton of Abel Tasman tours that drop you off by boat at the most beautiful part of the track, allow you to wend your way through gorgeous beaches and scenery on foot, and then pick you up again at a pre-determined point. Easy, fun way to do the hike. High recommend!

    The Mount is one of my fave places, too. The salt pools are good as long as you don’t go on a crowded long weekend. Get some ice cream!

    I once drove my friend an extra hour and a half just to show her Pukaki. It is exactly like the pictures.

    My next trip domestically will be a ski trip to Ruapehu for my birthday, and then the Coromandel as soon as humanly possible. “Cyclone” Cook put an end to my plans to thoroughly explore it over Easter break.

  • Reply Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions June 7, 2017 at 09:46

    WOW – those are amazing pictures. I know very little about New Zealand. I actually looked it up and it’s a 24 hour plane ride! Maybe someday!

  • Reply Mrs. ETT June 7, 2017 at 23:02

    So, so much to see and do in New Zealand. I’ll have to add these to our list for next time.

  • Reply Ten Bucks a Week June 9, 2017 at 16:13

    Thanks for the locations, we planned a trip for January for 10 days and I haven’t chosen anywhere yet.

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