- Death Valley – California, Nevada
- Yosemite – California
- Redwood – California
- Sequoia – California – Kinda passing by on the way from Yosemite to Death Valley. Probably won’t go again…
- Kings Canyon – California – Same area with Sequoia National Park
- Grand Canyon – Arizona
- Rocky Mountain – Colorado
- Great Smoky Mountains – North Carolina, Tennessee
- Denali – Alaska
- Kenai Fjords – Alaska
- Shenandoah – Virginia
|Gates of the Arctic – Alaska|
|Glacier Bay – Alaska|
|Katmal – Alaska|
|Kobuk Valley – Alaska|
|Lake Clarke – Alaska|
|Wrangeli – St. Elias – Alaska|
|American Samoa – American Samoa|
|Petrified Forest – Arizona|
|Saguaro – Arizona|
|Hot Springs – Arkansas|
|Channel Islands – California|
|Joshua Tree – California|
|Lassen Volcanic – California|
|Pinnacles – California|
|Black Canyon of the Gunnison – Colorado|
|Great Sand Dunes – Colorado|
|Mesa Verde – Colorado|
|Badlands – Dakota|
|Biscayne – Florida|
|Dry Tortugas – Florida|
|Everglades – Florida|
|Haleakala – Hawaii|
|Hawaii Volcanoes – Hawaii|
|Mammoth Cave – Kentucky|
|Acadia – Maine|
|Isle Royale – Michigan|
|Voyageurs – Minnesota|
|Glacier – Montana|
|Great Basin – Nevada|
|Carlsbad Caverns – New Mexico|
|Theodore Roosevelt – North Dakota|
|Cuyahoga Valley – Ohio|
|Crater Lake – Oregon|
|Congaree – South Carolina|
|Wind Cave – South Dakota|
|Big Bend – Texas|
|Guadalupe Mountains – Texas|
|Arches – Utah|
|Bryce Canyon – Utah|
|Canyonlands – Utah|
|Capitol Reef – Utah|
|Zion – Utah|
|Virgin Islands – U.S Virgin Islands|
|Mount Rainier – Washington|
|North Cascades – Washington|
|Olympic – Washington|
|Grand Teton – Wyoming|
|Yellowstone – Wyoming, Montana, Idaho|
1. South America
2. Safari in Africa
3. Cruise ship to Alaska
4. Europe roadtrip
6. All 52 states of the U.S.
7. All National parks in the U.S.
I’m in the last 8 hours of being in the Kiwi land. It has been a great adventure in the last 6 months. I and my partner have had so many memorable experiences:
While enjoying our lives here, we’ve also come to truly realize the importance of having a partner and having our dear friends in our lives. We were fortunate and lucky to have found one another who shares common interests and inspirations in life. Having a comrade with you really makes it feel like everything is possible. We also missed the fabulous time we shared with our dear friends in Singapore and thought we might have taken them for granted. We’ve also come to realize the ugly truth of our aging process and that reminds us to take better care of ourselves and live life truly to the fullest!
Looking back, we thank God that He have blessed us with this once in a lifetime opportunity and also have kept us safe and sound through this journey.
This is goodbye but definitely not the end. New Zealand, we’ll be back someday!
Christmas is surprisingly low-key in Auckland. People don’t seem to be interested in spending a ridiculous amount of money on decorations. CBD area is decorated very modestly and none of the houses at Titirangi village hang any colorful led lights outside. Though I am a little sad because of the lack of Christmas-feeling-in-the-air but I’m inclined to think positively that Christmas is not as commercialized here as in other big metropolitan cities. I do believe that Kiwi people do celebrate Christmas and regard it as the biggest holiday of the year since I’ve seen people buying Christmas trees and gifts like crazy. Probably they do it in an exclusive kind of way, within the family, and not in a showy way. That’s also what I generally feel about Kiwi people: shy, gentle and a little conservative.
To top it up, the weather decided to rain and be cloudy for the whole week leading to New Year. So we decided to stay home and have our Kiwi Christmas the mellow style…
We’re going to miss this relaxing and peaceful lifestyle very much when we are gone…
The last post in the North Island brings it back home to Auckland. Right in Auckland itself – the biggest city in New Zealand – there’s endless beauty for us to discover.
Auckland city is also called City of Sails since it has the world highest number of sails per capita.
It’s not hard to understand why water sports are the most popular in this country since it is surrounded by beautiful beaches. Every weekend, people flock to a nearby beach to enjoy sailing, surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddling, para-sailing or swimming. Besides the two most common names for a relaxing picnic on the beach: Devonport and Mission Bay, there are many more littering around Auckland.
Coromandel is only 55kms to the East of Auckland, so exploring Coromandel can be easily done in one weekend-get-away. It features numerous beautiful beaches, green rolling hills and fun walking tracks through temperate rain forest. The most famous attraction is Cathedral Cove and the most fun and bizarre one is Hot Water Beach.
The drive from Auckland, as usual, is very winding with many twists and turns. It offers awesome vantage points of the Peninsula.
Cathedral Cove can be viewed by foot or by kayak. The later would offer exclusive access to hard-to-reach areas of the Cove. Regrettably, the weather didn’t permit us to do this.
To view Cathedral Cove by foot, ask the GPS to bring you to the end of Grange road at Hahei on Peninsula. Turn left at the end of the road and keep driving a short distance till you reach a car park. This car park has very limited parking spaces so try to avoid popular hours. From the car park, it is a short and easy track of 45 minutes going down to Cathedral Cove.
It was gloomy when we got there which offers an unusual mysterious look of Cathedral Cove.
Leaving the peaceful Cathedral Cove, we headed to our next action packed destination – Hot Water Beach to dig up our personal hot pool on the beach!
Hot Water Beach is on Mercury bay. There are two hot springs running through a small stretch of the beach. Usually, the hot springs are covered by tide. But during low tide, these two fissures issuing water as hot as 64oC to the beach surface.
Steps to a personal spa pool and bizarre fun:
– It’s important to time your arrival to be within 2 hours on either side of a low tide (tide timing is here).
– Rent a spade at nearby coffee house at $5 and get a cold beer there as well.
– Feel with your feet to find a spot with warmer sand. It can get frustrated to see others already settle in their pools and you are not.
– Dig crazily. Be careful, the water can get scalping hot when you dig. Just mix it with cold sea water. Some seasoned goers bring their pails with them, borrow their pails.
– Enjoy your beer and natural spa. The thermal water is rich with minerals.
On the way back to Auckland, drive along Thames coast to enjoy its breath-taking scenes. Thames is a very cute little seaside town which is a great spot for lunch.
… to be continued…
The North Land
The North Land (north of Auckland) offers too many things to explore! We were too ambicious to squeeze everything into 1 weekend getaway. Consequently, we had to skip the most important highlight of the trip, the iconic Cape Reinga lighthouse, the Northern most point of New Zealand. Words can’t describe how regretful I am feeling right now. In all fairness, it would take at least 3 days to really explore everything that this region has to offer.
Suggested itinerary: The idea is to drive from Auckland to Whangarei following the east coast, visiting all the interesting little towns/cities along the way like Puhoi, Warkworth, Waipu… Spend a night in the exciting Whangarei before reaching Cape Reinga on the next day. From the lighthouse, turn back south, but this time, follow the West coast line… Spend another night at Ahipara and you’re ready for next day full of fun at 90-mile-beach. Indeed, this is called a Twin coast discovery route which would clock almost 1000 kms. Be ready for some seriously fun driving time.
One of our favorite little gem in this trip is Puhoi village. It’s one of the two ethnic historic villages in New Zealand. The village was settled in 1863 by immigrants from Bohemia, an area which is now the Czech Republic.
When you are in Puhoi, don’t forget to visit Puhoi Cottage, the oldest tea room in New Zealand that serves delicious home-made scones, cheesecakes and the world famous Devonsire cream teas. The recipes are handed down from owner to owner. They even have a website and a facebook page.
Another favorite is 90-mile beach. It is technically 55 mile (88km) long. The most interesting activity is not to swim in the clear water or dip your feet into its soft sand but to drive on this gorgeous beach with your car window down, head out, tounge out.
Besides driving and riding horses, catching seashells is so full of fun. The trick is to find seabirds! Where there’re seabirds, there’re seashells. There’s a limit of 50 pieces per person.
… to be continued…
People usually say South Island of New Zealand is more interesting compared to the North Island with more dramatic sceneries and a wide range of activities that could fill anyone’s Bucket list. That is true. But North Island is definitely not boring. During my 6 month stay in Auckland, I’ve got chances to explore some of North Island beauty gems which totally convince me that it is actually hard to find a place in New Zealand that is not picture worthy. OK, I exaggerate! But North Island really deserves more honorable mentions that it currently receives.
Here are some of the short trips that could be made during weekends from Auckland to explore the North Island.
Rotorua is 250 kms to the Southeast of Auckland. The city is known for its geothermal activity, geysers and hot mud pools. It took us more than 4 hours to drive from Auckland with stops for snapping along the way.
When we were almost reaching Rotorua, the air was filled with rotten eggs smell. At first, we suspected and looked at each other with disgusted glares. It almost broke our relationship!
But the smell lingered still and even got stronger as we got closer to Rotorua. Finally we figured it out it’s the natural smell of the city that is filled with volcano activities. It’s very interesting to see smoke coming out of people’s back-yards like the most natural thing on earth.
Of course, one of the Must-Do activities here is to visit of the geothermal activity park. We chose Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland.
The park also features an active geyser that is called the Lady Knox Geyser. It erupts at 10am sharp everyday. You may wonder how on earth it can operate so accurately. Yes, that’s right. It functions so with human’s help. Everyday at 10am, some guy will put a bag of chemical into the geyser to help it erupt. Hmmm, after seeing it, it kinda feel like being cheated a little bit.
Next to Waiotapu park, there’s a hidden spot for dipping yourself in natural hot spring. It’s called the Secret Spot (since not many know about it) or Hot n Cold since the water bath is actually where two streams (1 hot and 1 cold) meet.
Tired of bubbling mud and foul smell, we decided to explore other areas. We chanced upon the Redwoods (the Californian trees) walking track
and a natural Hamurana spring with water so clear
… to be continued…
Some of my friends are interested in visiting New Zealand after seeing our photos. Happy!!! They also ask how they can move around in the country. Here are some of the options for transportation to tour and see amazing New Zealand.
Listing in the order of the most to the least expensive
– Rental car: Obviously, it’s the most expensive option but it gives you peace of mind and the convenience of going everywhere you want and whenever. There are many many car rental companies to choose from. Jucy rental offers some very sexy camper vans.
– Coach/ public buses: New Zealand has an extensive network of public buses that cover every places of interest that you possibly want to reach. The two most popular ones are Intercity Coach line and Nakedbus. Nakedbus offers very cheap bus tickets with a promise of one seat of $1 in each bus going anywhere. However, the quality of their buses is questionable. On my recent trip to Tongariro, the buses got into troubles in both legs. The one going from Auckland had the baggage door dislodged, causing 30 minute delay. The coming back bus had a gear stuck at sixth gear, causing a 15 minute delay and a transfer to the rescue bus. One of the guys on this bus with us also said that his bus coming down from Auckland had a front door dislodged. Talk about bad luck!
– Van: Many backpackers buy a small van around NZD2000-NZD3000 for their trip in New Zealand. The van is usually equipped with mattress and cooking equipments so you actually save a lot of money on accommodations and food for an affordable amount of initial investment. After completing their trip, they would recoupe back some of their money by reselling the van to other backpackers. Van selling notices are often seen in backpackers’ lodges.
– Car sharing: If you don’t have a car or don’t know how to drive but still want the comfort and mobility of travelling in private cars and more importantly want to make new friends then car sharing is for you. Find people who drive to the same destination with you and ask if they would care for you to share part of their gas money. Usually, you can make arrangement by asking around people who stay at the same lodges with you.
– Bike/Bicycle: I’ve seen it many times. It’s possible! New Zealand is zealous about cycling. There are many scenic cycling tracks connecting beautiful places. Cyclists are Kings in Auckland. They ride along side with cars. They weave in and out of traffic. Once, I’ve seen a cyclist riding in the middle of two lanes, holding off traffic and yet nobody dared to honk, being afraid that would make him panic and fall.
– Hitch hiking: It’s popular and it’s FREE. It would be easier if you hold a sign telling your destination. That would increase your chance of being picked up.