After a tear-filled goodbye (me) with dad and Eileen at Arthur’s Pass, Cal and I board a bus to Christchurch where we will fly to Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island to meet our friends.

Dramas with our car rental aside, we eventually connect with Cal’s work friend, Jimmy, and my friends, Other Brooke and Katie, at a crappy motel for the night. We are all really excited to see each other, but mostly excited for the fun few days ahead of us as we road trip to Gisborne for Rhythm and Vines, a New Year’s festival set in a vineyard.

All the details: Rhythm & Vines

Cost: $400NZD for a 3-day festival and camping ticket, which can be booked online several months in advance.

Getting there: Rhythm & Vines takes place in Gisborne, which is just a short flight from Auckland or a 6.5 hour drive SE. There’s plenty of free parking at the event, and driving is certainly the easiest way to get in and get out— plus, you can spend the mornings at the beach!

Where to stay: Camp at the festival for added fun; we enjoyed Treble Camp!

The three days fly by as we camp amongst the vines and listen to great music. Save for a near-death experience on New Year’s Eve, we have a wonderful time and meet a lot of cool Kiwis.

Cal and I decide to drive around the North Island for a few more days before we have to drive down to Wellington to get on the car ferry back to the South Island. We see a lot of impressive scenery, but nothing that WOWs us quite like the South Island, with the possible exception of Huka Falls in Lake Taupo.

The water rushing out of the Waikato River towards the Lake is the most insane colour of blue. Not unlike the stunning Lake Tekapo in the south, but perhaps even more amazing because it’s all frothy and foamy from pouring down the falls. It’s the colour of blue cotton candy or Cool Blue Gatorade, and I am absolutely dying to hop right in despite the chilly breeze.

Of all the stops we make on the North Island, this is by far our favourite.

Read more about our travels through NZ:

GREETINGS FROM NEW ZEALAND’S LAKE TEKAPO

MUELLER HUT: THE MOST STUNNING SPOT IN NEW ZEALAND

THE WORLD’S LARGEST SWING, NEVIS SWING IN QUEENSTOWN

BUNGY JUMPING OFF THE WORLD’S FIRST BUNGY SITE IN QUEENSTOWN

NEW ZEALAND’S ADVENTURE CAPITAL, QUEENSTOWN

BACK AT IT ON THE ROUTEBURN TRACK

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM OKARITO, NZ (POPULATION 35)

SURVIVING AVALANCHE PEAK

KAYAKING THE ABEL TASMAN TRACK

KAIKOURA & OHAU POINT SEAL COLONY

PHOTO JOURNAL: HIGHLIGHTS FROM ROADTRIPPING NZ