Tuesday 7 November 2017

North Island Vegan Road Trip

Nick and I started our New Zealand road trip in the North Island and the first thing on our agenda was picking up our rental car from Hitch Car Rentals. This was a super straightforward process and we were whizzing all over the place in our Budget Hitch in no time. New Zealand is definitely a destination where you'll want your own wheels, even major cities like Auckland are challenging to navigate on public transport and they're sprawling so not everywhere you want to visit will be walkable. A prime example of this is Tart Bakery which was our very first road trip destination. I wrote a whole blog post about them here because they're really that good so check it out. Our second stop was Moustache a super hipster cookie shop located on K Road. I was a little dubious about their vegan options as two of the three are gluten free but I bravely forged ahead and ordered one of each flavour.

These cookies seriously exceeded my admittedly low expectations and reminded me that I need to step up my XGFX baking game. I've eaten some epic gluten free baked goods in the past but I've also eaten a whole bunch of awful gf "treats" that would put people off of veganism altogether. 

These were up there with the best I've ever had, think London's Cookies & Scream or Portland's Back to Eden, and if I hadn't known they were gluten free I wouldn't have guessed. The Oreo cookie was your classic soft sugary cookie whilst the PB Choc and Double Choc reminded me of Ben's Cookies (do any other UK vegans remember eating those before going vegan? They were the best!) which is the highest compliment. They were soft on the outside and gooey on the inside and I loved them. If I had to pick a fave' I'd go double chocolate but really you should just get all three.

After spending a few days in and around Auckland mainly eating baked goods, recovering from a hectic month in Australia, poring over maps, planning our road trip (shout out to Alys from vegan travel blog The Wild Life who happened to be staying in our hostel and who gave us an amazing map and a bunch of NZ tips), and taking little adventures to check out waterfalls and to climb hills, we were off south in our little car who we named Addy after a dog we cared for at a shelter in Japan - the car was white and Japanese just like her so it made perfect sense!

New Zealand is awash with forests, waterfalls, and truly tremendous views so it's the perfect country for a road trip. We were there in Spring which was weird because I'm not used to Spring being in September, I'd even forgotten that I'd need to be taking allergy medicine and spent a few days sneezing and itching all over before my meds kicked in.

One of our first stops on our road trip was Hot Water Beach on The Coromandel because one thing New Zealand has in spades is geothermal activity and we wanted to get involved with some hot pool action asap! Hot Water Beach is literally a beach where you rock up, dig a hole, and create your own hot spring. You can visit two hours each side of low tide and most accommodations in the area will have the tide times posted somewhere. Our hostel even loaned us spades! On the day we were there low tide was after dark and we got to lie in our hot pool looking up at the stars. Digging the hole was surprisingly confusing as we weren't sure exactly where to dig and some areas were so hot that you couldn't even dip a toe into the water that was coming up through the sand. Luckily some locals helped us pick a spot and it was a delightful evening. Be warned though, after dark the walk back to the car is really cold!

Our next road trip destination was Rotorua for more thermal activity and to take a ride through the forest on zip lines. First we visited Tikitere, aka Hells Gate, which is one of NZ's most active geothermal zones and let me tell you this place is pretty wild! There are bubbling geothermal lakes everywhere, it was so cool to see.

Our next stop was a guided forest canopy tour with Rotorua Canopy Tours which threw up the first of many vegan problems in New Zealand. When we booked the tour we read on the website that as well as being a place to go zip lining they also help to conserve the forest. Now being a Brit I assumed that that meant that they planted some trees but about halfway through the tour it became clear that what this actually means is that they run a program that eradicates the forest of "pests" aka stoats, rats, and possums, to help wild birds thrive. Now I'm not a conservation expert by any stretch but as an animal activist I don't believe in killing any animals for any reason. It sucks that New Zealand doesn't have many native birds left but that's because European settlers decided to introduce possums, stoats etc and I don't think that it's okay to try to go back on that by killing a bunch of wild animals. I really enjoyed zip lining, the people running the tour were kind and calmed everyone's nerves, and zip lining is so fun! I never thought it would be the kind of thing I'd be into - I'm usually more of a books and tea person than an adventure sports person but I really loved the actual zip lining part of the tour.

I really didn't love the part where we were shown pictures of dead animals and told how our cash was contributing to their deaths. It was super graphic and quite upsetting. This is an issue all over New Zealand though, it definitely isn't just something that this business is doing, almost any activity you want to do in NZ will contribute to the deaths of wild animals. Towards the end of the trip Nick and I even had a running joke that everything you do in NZ murders a possum. Even some cider companies (UK peeps have seen the Old Mount ad's right?) donate money from every bottle sold to a program that kills possums and stoats! The NZ government has laid out a plan to rid the country of non native wildlife by 2025 and seemingly everyone is involved. We saw traps in forests that were sponsored by primary schools! Ultimately what you do in New Zealand and where you draw your lines is up to you but I'm writing about it so that you can make an informed decision, I didn't know about any of this before taking the canopy tour and I was definitely a little blindsided.

Our final stop in Rotorua was the Polynesian Spa where we had our first official outdoor hot springs experience. We'd already hit up hot water beach and we once stayed at an amazing hot springs hotel in Taiwan but this place was on another level. There were so many pools to choose from and we loved bathing in the hot water whilst looking out over Lake Rotorua. I didn't love the weird man who told me he was going to take a photo of me, I politely told him to get lost but why? Why do men have to do this creepy shit? Just leave women alone.

One cool free spot to visit, and the next stop on our road trip, is Tongariro National Park. There's an amazing hike you can do here through the Tongariro Alpine Crossing but unfortunately it was still too snowy to attempt it when we were there. If you visit in summer or autumn it's an absolute must-do if you're into hiking. We just went on a few shorter hikes and drove as high up as we could get without needing to get Addy any snow chains. One of our walks was so snowy and so beautiful that if you don't mind the cold, or if you're into winter sports, I would definitely recommend visiting in Spring or even Winter. It was stunning.

The Waitomo Glow Worm Caves are another must-visit on the north island. There are other places to see glow worms around NZ but none are as spectacular as this, I checked! We took the boat tour through the caves and it was one of the most stunning things I've ever seen. You can't use your camera but if you Google it you'll see some official pictures that'll knock your socks off!

New Plymouth was somewhere we ended up for a couple of nights of maximum relaxation. There was a Loving Hut where we could load up on buffet foods and we stayed at a gorgeous boutique hotel with a kitchen where I whipped up some of our favourite noochy buttery garlicky pasta. Perfection.

Buffets are often challenging for me as there are hidden allergens all over the place but the staff at this Loving Hut really tried to help. On my second visit they let me know that they're putting together an allergy and ingredients guide for every item on the buffet so that there will be less confusion next time someone comes in with an unusual allergy. More of this please vegan businesses! The only disappointment was that all of their desserts were raw but thankfully they make an excellent hot chocolate which hit the spot for me.

Our final stop was Wellington which was a city that we both really enjoyed, it has a really laid back vibe and there are some great vegan businesses there. More on that next time though!

We ended our North Island adventure with a ferry trip across the Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton in the South Island, I don't love boats but we sailed on a calm day and the views on the way through the Marlborough and Queen Charlotte Sounds made it well worth it, until next time...

This post was sponsored by Hitch Car Rentals and Rotorua Canopy Tours. As always all words and opinions are my own. Posts like these help me to keep bringing you travel posts from around the globe.


  1. Gorgeous photos! Wonderful time to boot! I'm jealous of your trips (but in a good way!)

  2. So much beauty! But disturbing about all the possum killing. :(

    1. I know! it's a gorgeous country but the wildlife stuff definitely got me down.

  3. I looooooved reading this! The cookies looked amazing - YES TO BEN'S COOKIES! - and I so wanted to jump into your blog and end up at Hot Water Beach. Sounded magical!

    1. It really was magical! Such a cool spot. I'm glad someone else remembers the amazingness of Ben's. I need to veganise those recipes myself when I get back!

  4. Looks like a gorgeous trip. Apart from the possum killing and the creepy dude. No, just no.

    1. I know right? What is with men? And the possum situation is just sad, it's a government sponsored initiative that it seems like the majority of NZ's population is on board with so it doesn't seem like there's much that can be done. It really was a gorgeous adventure though, it's a beautiful country.


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