How to Dive Into NZ (Without Diving Into Your Purse)

One of the things I loved about New Zealand was never being far from water. Firstly, the width of New Zealand is relatively thin so you’re never more than a 2-3 hours drive away from the coast. In fact, when living on Auckland’s North shore, in Devonport, it took me 10 minutes to walk from the peninsula’s east to west coast.

Furthermore, the sea has seeped its way in at every opportunity forming many cracks and creases on New Zealand’s map and whopping great glaciers which have retreated over the years have left great trails of water in its course and in turn, impressive marks on the country. Therefore, when you’re not near the coast, you will, without question, be a footstep away from a lake or river.

We all know NZ is an expensive country, without having to pay for it’s brilliant choice of adventure sports. So, without further ado, here are my favourite ways to dip, swim, slide and ride the Southern Hemisphere’s giant water-park at a little to no cost!

Auckland’s North-Shore- Beach Hopping

The best way to see Auckland City? To get out of it. Take a ten minute ferry over the Hauraki gulf from the harbour at downtown Auckland to arrive at Devonport, where the sun actually shines brighter. Several times during my stay here I could see the rain falling over the city whilst I was still wearing my sunglasses. Climb up either North head or Mount Victoria to enjoy a google-map view of Auckland city and the North Shore, then take a plunge into the Harbour at Torpedo Bay Wharf.

The entire peninsula is one beach after the other, Cheltnam, Narrowneck and Takapuna all offer spectacular views of Volcano reserve Island, Rangitoto which looks so close you’d swear you could swim to it (don’t try, you won’t get there). So rent a bike- there’s a rental place called Cycle Auckland on Devonport Wharf- and spend the day gradually working your way up the peninsula. Narrowneck, Waiake Beach, Long Bay (book in advance) and Little Shoal Bay have bbqs, so stop off at the supermarket for some sausages en route and enjoy a kiwi barbie at the beach.

Bike Hire: 35 NZD

Ferry Crossing: 11 NZD Round Trip

Sausages: 6 NZD at Devonport New World

Wharf Jumping on Torpedo Bay- Devonport

A Paraglider over Cheltenham Beach, Devonport

View of Auckland City and North Shore from Mount Victoria, Devonport

View of Rangitoto Island from Takapuna Beach

BBQ on Waiake Beach

Rolling around in Rotorua- Zorbing

Zorb at the very place ‘Globe-riding’ was invented 17 years ago. If you’re not a massive thrill-seeker but want to check out some of NZ’s tamer adventure sports then definitely give Zorbing a go.

I did the Zydro- three of us scurried into one giant ball, with some water and with one big push we rolled down a fairly steep hill, which felt like a giant water slide, plenty of swishing, toing, frowing, bumping, screaming and splashing occured until we ended up, at the bottom, in a pile, completely soaking wet.

Note: bring spare clothes, this includes underwear. I forgot the latter and spent the remainder of the day soaking the car seats. Also check out GrabOne for offers and your car/campervan’s rental company. We got 2 rides for the price of one through Jucy Rentals and we NEEDED that second go.

One Zydro Ride for One Person: 45 NZD (two if you find a BOGOF voucher).

Rolling with The Homies- Me and Two friends about to set off

Thermal Stream- Kerosene Creek

Enjoy a hot bath, without having to run the taps. There are plenty of thermal baths to visit in Rotorua, such as Waikite Thermal Valley Pools, they are basically sets of small pools heated by the local geothermal activity at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Reserve. But, of course, you have to pay for them. Although we found a cultural Maori experience which also gave us free entry to the baths. The actual pools reminded me of the paddling pools at my local council’s baths in England, packed with screaming kids. Of course I wasn’t being unappreciative of its magnificent pre-historic jungle looking surroundings, but if I knew this creek was lying round the bend, I don’t think I’d have bothered.

Kerosene Creek is a warm narrow river surrounded by bush and a local’s summer day haunt, free of charge, and a chance to get closer to Rotorua’s Geothermal nature. Find a rock to perch on, get a good back massage from a waterfall and get those tired feet seen to after a hard-day’s walk. Don’t relax too much or you might get drifted off by the current.

To be honest, I don’t know how we got here (thankfully, I didn’t do the driving)…I do know we arrived here somewhere in between Rotorua and Taupo with the help of our Lonely Planet (which I no longer have). But I have found some very good directions on the web (the exact location doesn’t appear on Google Maps) :

Heading south from Rotorua on the road to Taupo (about 30km), pass the turn off to Murupara on your left, pass a lake on your right, then take the next left turn, just past a small bridge (only about 1/2 km from the Murupara turnoff). Trip your odometre at the start of this forestry road. Stop exactly 2.2km down the road and pull over to the grass verge on the right. Follow the path down a couple of hundred metres beside the stream to the pool itself. Enjoy. [Rowena Yalland, New Zealand]

Entry to Waikite Pools: 14 NZD per person

Entry to Kerosene Creek: FREE! 

Kerosene Creek- Bathing in the Bush

Wild-Wild-West Wildlife

Venture to the farthest north of the South Island and start exploring the rugged beaches of the Wild-West. Here the land coincidentally takes the shape of the Kiwi, reach the nose at Farewell Spit and see the South Island curve off into the distance as it diminishes into the Tasman Sea and then explore the rest of the Kiwi’s profile at Whararaki Beach. Both require at least a half hour trek to reach the beaches from the car park, passing through farmlands dotted with sheep and cows followed by a half-walk half- crawl as you clamber over great sand dunes made from sand finer than flour.

Whararaki Beach is where you’ll experience close encounters with young furry seals. Once you’ve waded through immeasurably deep sand you’ll reach a large rock pool surrounded by an unobtrusive amount of tourists who are completely outnumbered by seals splashing about, or waddling along the pool’s small sand banks. As you stand or kneel by, one will surely poke its nose out of the waters or clamber towards you to check out it’s new observer. Make sure you arrive before the tide pulls in.

Price: Unless you opt to take a Lighthouse Tour (which takes you to the Northern most tip of the South Island at Farewell Spit) all of this is completely…FREE.

Farewell Spit

Whararaki Beach- A Baby Seal staring at its admirer

Whararaki Beach- Seals Playing with Tourist

Whararaki Beach- Seals enjoying a swim


Cycling Lake Wanaka

Beautiful windy Wanaka. Often overshadowed by its neighbour, Queenstown or sometimes suggested as an alternative, whatever you’ve read, take my advice, and do both. They may both include a huge lake and breath-taking mountains but Wanaka provides the peacefulness and serenity whereas Queenstown offers a place to wind-down in a different manner (read below).

We enjoyed seeing the lake by circuiting it on bike. The cheapest hire in Wanaka is from Campsite Mount Aspiring as mentioned on the list of campsites in my post Camping In-Outdoors they will also provide you with a cycle map.

Cycle as far out of town as you can, bring a packed-lunch and enjoy a picnic isolated along this far-stretching lake and the awe-aspiring mountains. You’ll find plenty of baron spots. We found a few rope swings en route and as it was Autumn the cycle path was covered with a blanket of golden maple leaves. It felt like riding through cornflakes.

Along the lake at the centre of town, pavement slabs form a timeline which covers 2000 years of World-Wide and NZ history each contributed by a different community member.

Bike Hire: 15 NZD for 5 hours

Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka- A Baron Lunchspot

Lake Wanaka- Autumn Leaves

Hang-out your Hangover- Queenstown 

If you’ve spent your whole NZ trip driving, getting up early to make sunrise, trekking, cooking and generally finding out that travelling can actually be hard-work, you’ll find Queenstown is a perfect place to let your hair down at the many watering holes it has on offer. There are a few backpacker bar crawls to join from hostels such as  The Base but you can quite as easily tag along later on in the night, or make your own bar crawl by testing out EVERY bar in Queenstown, like we did.

The next morning resulted in me trying a number of hangover remedies: a high-carb breakfast; napping (didn’t happen as my room was filled with irritating girls) cups of tea; a walk in the fresh air and the worst of my ideas… a ginger shot. The last was advised by a kiwi in a juice bar, the shot set my brain on fire, unsettled my stomach, and left me with fiery breath for the rest of the day. Never. Do it. The one thing that eventually cured me was dragging my dreadful looking self to the green on Beach Street adjacent to the lake and lying like a star-fish on the grass. A few others looked in the same condition as myself, maybe this is an unspoken hangover haunt, I thought. Everyone was lying down, relaxing in the sun, lazily listening to live music, there was a great care-free bohemian atmosphere and any worries I had disappeared…along with the hangover.

The rest of the day I wondered around Queenstown Gardens watching Frisby gulf and trying but struggling to get my head around it. And, to test I’d truly recuperated I tried out some Slack-lining, also on Beach Street. This is basically like tight-roping, but on an elasticised line. Probably the last thing I would have imagined doing earlier on in the day. Professionals jump, swing and twiddle their feet whilst never losing balance. Quite impressive stuff.

The next day I viewed Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables by taking The Skyline up into the mountains. Up here light snow started forming, whilst it was still Autumn in town. Furthermore, the first day we arrived it was actually a hot summer’s day. Therefore, I can confidently say I experienced 3 seasons during my 5 days in Queenstown, not bad.

Skyline: 26 NZD per person

A hangover cure on Beach Street: FREE

Price of Alcohol: Can’t Remember

Skyline: Bird’s Eye view of Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown Beach- Lake Wakatipu

Slack Lining on Beach Street


6 thoughts on “How to Dive Into NZ (Without Diving Into Your Purse)

  1. This is a great reminder that there are many beautiful places in New Zealand that are completely free to visit, in national parks conservation reserves and other areas. There’s no need to pay through the nose for awe-inspiring and breathtaking experiences. One I really like in Wellington is walking around to Red Rocks to see the seals. An hour from suburbia and it’s totally wild!

  2. Fantastic list! I’ve lived here for over 28 years and I haven’t done most of the things on that list! You’ve done very well. In summer, sometimes we head to the beach after work to cool off. It never feels like a work day when you’re in the water.

    • Such a lovely way to finish off the day! In England you get back to your warm house ASAP, sit in front of the tea with a cuppa, and don’t leaven the house until the next morning. And thank you! Are there places that I haven’t listed that you would recommend?

  3. Pingback: How to Dive Into NZ (Without Diving Into Your Purse) | Small World BIG Mouth | Theelectriccane's Blog

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