GO HERE TO Start the ul­ti­mate North Is­land road­trip

Time Out (Melbourne) - - TRAVEL SPECIAL -

WITH ITS BUR­GEON­ING restau­rant and arts scenes, Auck­land is New Zealand’s up-and-com­ing cre­ative hub. But don’t let your North Is­land ad­ven­ture end there: con­sider the city as your launch­pad for a road­trip around the Coro­man­del

Penin­sula and the Bay of Plenty. If you only have one night to stay in the big smoke be­fore you hit the road, spend it at the Grand

Mer­cure Auck­land, lo­cated a skip away from the har­bour and the hip Brit­o­mart area. 8 Cus­toms St East, Auck­land, NZ. +64 9377 8920. www.mer­

No car? No prob­lem. Book a spot on an In­ter­city bus to take you across the Coro­man­del Penin­sula all the way to Tau­ranga in the Bay of Plenty, known for its ex­cel­lent beaches. If you’re driv­ing, fol­low the Pa­cific Coast High­way – a scenic route that will take you off the beaten path into Ha­hei, a coastal town pop­u­lar with

Auck­land hol­i­day­mak­ers.­ter­

If you only visit one beach in the Coro­man­del, make it the

Hot Wa­ter Beach, which boasts an un­der­ground river that flows up to the sur­face, car­ry­ing hot min­eral wa­ters. Bring a shovel at low tide and dig your­self a nat­u­ral spring bath while you look out to the Pa­cific Ocean. Book your­self into a kayak tour of Cathe­dral Cove, a beach vi­brant with pro­tected ma­rine wildlife and home to the most In­sta­grammed rock arch in the North Is­land. Head in­land to­wards the

Karanga­hake Gorge, part of the Hau­raki Rail Trail, where you can ex­pe­ri­ence the stun­ning Juras­sic

Park- like na­tive veg­e­ta­tion and the rem­nants of a gold min­ing site. Grab a meal at the Falls Re­treat, a cosy coun­try bistro set in the mid­dle of lush wood­land. Stay at the fully equipped ad­join­ing cot­tages for a bush get­away just min­utes away from the wa­ter­falls. 25 Waitawheta Rd, Waihi, NZ. +64 7863 8770. www.fall­sre­ Ex­pe­ri­ence a dif­fer­ent kind of nightlife in Tau­ranga on a glow­worm tour with Waira­marino Kayak Tours. The trip kicks off with some wine and cheese, then in­volves row­ing to­wards a nar­row canyon. When it’s dark, you’ll see the blue-green glim­mer of the glow­worms light up the bush. It’s a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, and when the stars come out, it’s dif­fi­cult to see when the bugs stop and the stars be­gin. 36 Tani­wha Pl, Tau­ranga, NZ. +64 7576 4233. www. glow­wormkayak­

Ki­wis love their hol­i­day homes, lo­cally known as ‘baches’. For a taste of the Kiwi bach life, the

Pa­pamoa Beach Re­sort is a great hol­i­day park with beach shacks at var­i­ous price points. 535 Pa­pamoa Beach Rd, Pa­pamoa, NZ. +64 7572 0816.­

Get there: Air New Zealand

flies daily to Auck­land from Mel­bourne, with some flights op­er­ated by wide­body Boe­ing 777 or 787 Dream­liner air­craft. Th­ese ser­vices fea­ture Busi­ness, Pre­mium Econ­omy and Econ­omy cab­ins. You won’t get bored, with hun­dreds of hours of en­ter­tain­ment avail­able on de­mand, in­clud­ing Short­land Street, rugby and of course, The

Lord of the Rings and The Hob­bit.

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