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After a few days in Wellington, it was time for my final journey through New Zealand on the bus ride to Auckland. Thanks to booking early on Intercity, the ticket cost only $1 NZD.
Following the 20 minute walk from my hotel, I arrived at the bus station in Wellington about 35 minutes early, and although the bus was already there, there were only a couple of people on.
I’d been accustomed to the bus services in New Zealand being very tour-like, but in this case, there was little narration. This is what I would have expected on a normal bus, but following my nice long rides on buses on New Zealand’s South Island, it was a bit of a let-down.
The first stop wasn’t for two hours, which is typical, though it was a bit more of an inconvenience since this bus had less legroom than the other buses I had been on. Since I’d be on the bus for 11 hours, this wasn’t a good thing. Our first stop was in Poirira, where the half-full bus then became filled.
The drive between Wellington & Auckland follows the west coast of the North Island for a while. Despite the fact that the journey is between the two largest cities in the country, it’s surprising that there isn’t much of a highway system in between.
There were a couple of more stops in Foxton, then in Bulls, where a lot of people got off and on. I was surprised that not many people would end up doing the whole journey between Wellington & Auckland.
Finally, in Flat Hills, we had a long stop at a cafe where we could have lunch. I had a cheese scone & a dessert.
The stop had a maze, a farmyard, a garden, and some old rusting farm equipment. It’s interesting how places like this have sprung up in spots where it’s nice for bus stops and breaks. I took a quick walk around the garden, then made a new goat friend over at the farm.
After Taihape, we then began to travel through one of the more desolate areas of the North Island. Tongariro National Park includes Mt. Doom of Mordor from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. The actual name is Mount Ngauruhoe, and next to it is the larger, snowier Ruapehu. You could see for miles around from the road., which traverses the outskirts of the national park. To fit the mood of the set, the skies grew darker & more cloudy as we approached. The power lines resembled the Eye of Sauron.
The stark dramatic landscape was a perfect setting for the films. This area has seen recent volcanic eruptions, and recent alerts remind visitors that this land is still dangerous.
At Turangi, about halfway through our journey, we had a restroom break where some people got off. I switched to the other side of the bus so I could get my own row, and also some more legroom. It’s interesting how between the views, the sun, and the differences in legroom, there are some choices to make as far as finding the perfect seat.
The next leg of our journey passed Lake Taupo. The lake is inside a giant crater, so for the first part of the drive, you can’t see much due to the slight rise of the crater. Eventually, the road opens up as you descend into it. The lake resembles Lake Tahoe in California/Nevada.
Taupo was our second long stop of the day. It was scheduled for about 30 minutes, but it would end up being much longer than that. At Taupo, we had 21 people leaving the bus, but 26 people joining, so the bus was still going to be packed. I left to go take a walk around the lake & surrounding parks for a bit. It was New Year’s Eve, so there were a lot of people out enjoying the nice weather.
I got back to the bus only to find that we were going to have to keep waiting for a connecting bus. We ended up leaving Taupo almost 40 minutes late, which was frustrating not only because of the delay, but because everyone already on the bus couldn’t even go anywhere during that delay. I’d timed my walk for 30 minutes, only to find that we had much longer to wait.
Given how crowded the bus was, it’s unsurprising that I ended up with someone sitting next to me. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but in this case I ended up with the chattiest ginger kid in the world sitting next to me. He wasn’t traveling alone, but he was separated from his family, and he saw this as a chance to latch on to me for conversation, despite the fact that I was exhausted & wearing headphones. I did manage to listen to Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”, which was an unofficial anthem of the ride thanks to its travel & Lord of The Rings themes, but otherwise I had to keep popping my earbuds out so as not to completely ignore the kid.
Sitting next to this kid was like sitting next to a miniature coke addict. He was bouncing around the seat the entire time, making it the longest leg of the journey for me. Because I’m American, he had to ask me about the TV show “Friends”. He tried to remember all the characters, but he started with Ross, and then forgot two of the others. If you’re going to forget about a character from “Friends”, Ross is the first one you should be forgetting about, because he is the worst.
In Tirau, we saw these interesting buildings which had been constructed in the shape of a sheep and a dog.
Finally, just before Hamilton, we were on a decent highway that looked brand new. In Hamilton, lots of people got off the bus, including the kid, who had clearly been mainlining sugar before he had boarded.
Despite our delays, the bus driver did a great job of making up time after Hamilton. We had been 45 minutes behind at one point, but thanks to a shorter stop there and a lack of traffic, we ended up arriving in Auckland on time. That said, despite the entire bus ride costing only $1 NZD, I can’t recommend it. While the area of the North Island near Tongariro National Park was gorgeous, most of the rest of the journey was not all that special. I wished that I had spent a bit more to have taken a flight between Wellington & Auckland, which would have given me more free time, rather then arriving in Auckland fairly late on New Year’s Eve.
Read below for all of my posts about my trip around the Pacific Rim!
A trip around the Pacific Rim – Introduction
OneWorld Business Lounge Los Angeles LAX review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Boeing 777-300ER Los Angeles LAX to Hong Kong HKG review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Airbus A330 Hong Kong HKG to Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral review
A layover in Kuala Lumpur – Street markets & Petronas Towers
Cathay Pacific Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL satellite review
Plaza Premium Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL satellite review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Airbus A330-300 Kuala Lumpur KUL to Auckland AKL review
Air New Zealand Economy Class Airbus A320 Auckland AKL to Queenstown ZQN review
Queenstown Motel Apartments – Queenstown, New Zealand review
Queenstown, New Zealand – A Lord of the Rings tour
Day trip from Queenstown, New Zealand – Milford Sound
Queenstown, New Zealand – Skyline Queenstown
Craft beer in Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown to Franz Josef, New Zealand by bus
Hiking to Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Franz Josef to Nelson, New Zealand by bus
Fellworth House – Nelson, New Zealand review
A beer & wine tour through Nelson, New Zealand
The best craft beer in Nelson, New Zealand
Nelson to Wellington, New Zealand by bus and ferry via Picton
A nerdy day at Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand
Exploring the museums & parks of Wellington, New Zealand
The best craft beer in Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington to Auckland, New Zealand by bus
New Year’s Eve in Auckland, New Zealand
A rainy New Year’s Day at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
A rainy day at the Auckland Art Gallery & New Zealand Maritime Museum
The best craft beer in Auckland, New Zealand
Emperor Lounge Auckland AKL review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Airbus A330-300 Auckland AKL to Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur review
A layover in Kuala Lumpur – Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia & Jalan Alor
Malaysia Airlines Golden Regional Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Boeing 737-800 Kuala Lumpur KUL to Hong Kong HKG review
A visit to Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong for dim sum
A rainy day in Hong Kong – Science Museum & Kau Kee noodles
Hong Kong – Victoria Peak & more great food
More dim sum in Hong Kong – Din Tai Fung & Dim Sum Square
A day trip to Macau from Hong Kong
Grand City Hotel Hong Kong review
The best craft beer in Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific The Cabin Business Class Lounge Hong Kong review
Cathay Pacific The Bridge Business Class Lounge Hong Kong review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong HKG to Osaka KIX via Taipei review
A layover in Osaka – Ramen, sushi, & exploring the city
JAL Sakura Lounge Osaka KIX review
JAL Business Class Boeing 787 Osaka KIX to Los Angeles LAX review
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