On leaving Auckand, rather than going straight to Rotorua, I took a smaller bus around the Coromandel area. It's not where loads of Backpackers go, it's more of a holiday spot for resident kiwis.
So on the first day we stopped off at the hot water beach. If the tides are right you should be able to dig your own hole in the sand and it should fill with hot water because the geothermal activity is so close underground it heats up the water. Unfortunately it wasn't low tide for another 6 hours so we had to settle with just a beach - it's a hard life!
Next stop was Cathedral Cove, there is a nice walk down to the cove - traffic can only get so close so we walked for 45 mins to get there. The beach is beautiful and really secluded. There were still quite a few people there because it was a sunny day. A great day for a swim in the sea anyway!
We then stayed the night in Coromandel town. Famous for it's oyster and mussel farms. Shame I'm not that fussed on shellfish really! The hostel had a spa so we relaxed in that for the evening. The next day most people jumped on a bus to take them back towards Rotorua. I stayed another day, the hostel were giving out free bike hire so I borrowed a bike and went for a ride. Either I chose a really bad route and went up and down loads of hills or all roads around there are ridiculously hilly. By the time I found a decent beach I was shattered! It was an amazing beach, there was me and one other family there so I had about half of it to myself. Cooled down in the ocean and then took the only road back which was just as knackering the second time round.
Then it was into Rotorua for a day before heading out towards the east cape.
The east cape tour was another smaller bus. In fact there were only 4 of us in the bus for the 3 days. It was a fair bit of driving the first day, we stopped off at a waterfall where you could fill up your water bottles with fresh water. There were a couple of nice walks on the drive down so we went on a couple of those.
Soon enough we'd arrived in Gisborne and after a quick stop at the beach we were at our hostel. The four of us had gone for the wine tasting where a bloke from a local vineyard came to the hostel and gave us a taste of 7 different wines. He also left the remainder of the bottles behind for us to drink which we just about struggled through! As we were at the most eastern part of the country we also woke up at the crack of dawn to see the first sunrise in the world which isn't something you see everyday!
Went back to bed after sunrise as I wasn't doing anything until 10 so I woke up again and headed down to the dive centre that was linked to the hostel. They took you out and let you feed wild stingrays. Technically they're wild as they're free to go where they like in the ocean but given the fact that there's guaranteed food in the same place every morning it makes them slightly domesticated. Still we got to feed the stingrays and eagle rays. You just put some fish in your hand and held your hand on the underside of the ray whilst they whip the food out of your hand. They're happy for you to touch the fish which was really cool. The biggest ray was about 2m wide and pregnant so it was a pretty massive lump!
From Gisborne we headed up the east coast, stopping off at the lighthouse out on the eastern tip of the country. Some stunning views of the coastline from up there.
The last stop as part of this trip was a remote hostel about 4 hours north of Gisborne. There was nothing around, a few farmhouses and that was it! We went for a short drive to a nearby beach before dinner and the whole beach was covered in driftwood. Someone must've previously lit a fire as I could smell smoke so being me I managed to rekindle it and start another fire. We ended up chucking a few hefty logs on top and going back to the hostel for dinner. Afterwards we took the remainder of the wine from last night and some apple pie back to the beach, got the fire going again and spent until about 10pm under the stars! A really random but cool night :-)
Back to Rotorua again for one more night and then on to Taupo!