Sunday, March 19, 2023

Full Disclosure: A Report from NZ's North island

Before we get into it, here's me with a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone, happy en general, but also a wee bit frustrated.


John Lennon famously sang "life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans" and for us this rings especially true. Geography review: NZ is made up of two main islands, north and south. This being our fourth visit, you'd expect us to have a favorite, and we do.

The South Island it is, with the spine of the alps, Aoraki/Mt Cook, and many many other treasured spots. The North Island? So much to love and we've seen a lot of it, though this time sadly many roads in the eastern cape have been decimated by the recent cyclone, putting it out of reach.

People move from North Island (Wellington) to South (Picton) across the Cook Strait via ferry, either Interislander or Bluebridge. You can also fly, but obviously not with a vehicle or freight. And here's where our story gains some drama. On March 14 we innocently logged onto the ferry website to book a crossing one week away, plenty of time to drive to Wellington. We quickly discovered there were no slots available until April 17.

Historically, we've been able to book within a few days. We now find ourselves kicking around the North Island for an extra month. We had to delay pick-up of the caravan, the nice people on the South Island saying they fully understood, had people living in caravans because they couldn't get a ferry back north and couldn't get accommodation in the overloaded town of Picton. Some had to leave their cars at the airport and fly back north for work.

In late February, the ferry fleet was reduced from six to one. Read more here. One of the Interislander ferries broke down at sea in mid-February, drifted toward rocks, and put out a mayday call, leading to what one person on board called "the scariest 12 minutes of his life." More on that here. And extra engineering issues here.

I'm honestly finding it difficult to collate all the mishaps the ferries have endured, with stories of people--and freight--stuck on both ends. Right now we're feeling grateful to have the April 17 crossing.

So how 'bout some mini-golf?

With weeks to forge fresh plans on the North Island--and still jet lagged--we booked into a hotel in Rotorua that had an array of outdoor activities. Art's clearly been holding out on me regarding his mini golf skills.

Five under par


The next morning, with nowhere to be but a second hotel in Rotorua, I attempted to regain my dignity with a near-hole-in-one ("If there were a minor earthquake right now that would have gone in").


Our new hotel is right on the water with walking access everywhere in town.

The dramatic waterfront redevelopment in Rotorua gets high marks. Check out the boardwalk, new plantings, and truly the best play park for kiddos, who were out with parents yesterday, a Sunday.

It was a dramatic day, overcast and warm in the low 70s.

 The park even has a zipline...

 Brighter this morning

We have plenty of time to get organized. Today we walked to AA (NZ's version of AAA) and reinstated our membership.

Also space to regain our sense of time and to read, eat, and ponder our next move.

We found a bookshop and I finally got the new Eleanor Catton, Birnam Wood, which the woman at check-out said was received variably by her book group. I'm hopeful, though, since I devoured her Booker Prize winning The Luminaries.

Steak and vegetables for first meal.

A few days ago we walked to Atlantis Books, a used shop.

Yesterday, Sunday brunch why not. What does body language tell us about the couple at Table 46?

Everywhere in Rotorua, Maori culture and geothermal activity.

Rotorua has the nickname Sulphur City, because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions, which gives Rotorua a “rotten eggs” smell...It is known for its geothermal activity, and features geysers – notably the Pohutu Geyser at Whakarewarewa – and hot mud pools. This thermal activity is sourced to the Rotorua caldera, on which the town lies...37.5% of the population are Maori, compared to 14.9% in New Zealand as a whole.

Walk on, friends. We'll keep you posted.


  1. Thanks, again, for this. Are we supposed to feel sorry about your situation? You poor little things having a glorious vacation thrust upon you! What a place to be stuck. You know how to turn a sow’s ear into a luxurious time. Great blog taking us away to NZ. Enjoying it. George & Sean

  2. Despite being "stuck" in the North still looks wonderful. One question: How did you cook veg and steak when you are staying in a hotel?

  3. There's an auction in Akaroa on March 30th that you might want to look in to while you're "stuck". : ) Short notice I know, but it comes with a car that Art might be interested in -

  4. ha--yes we expect lots of sympathy, S&G. All is well. We're just itching to get to a caravan and some wild camping places. Kay: see previous post about renting hotel rooms with kitchens. Bruce--sounds interesting, but...wrong island!