Adventures Down Under: Exploring Aotearoa with Arcadia and Solo Escapes

Calissa McNutt University of Auckland


May 29, 2024

For this entry, it seemed high time to give a little overview of some fun things you can get up to while here in Aotearoa. I am excited to share with you all the many activities I have participated in through Arcadia and the recent solo trip to Queenstown for the mid-semester break. 

Rollerblading and Mission Bay Day Trip

What better way to travel on footpaths to your next destination? The group went down near Mission Bay to hire rollerblades. Many of us dared to try rollerblading out for the first time. Those of which did a splendid job of braving the treacherous pavement. I can barely keep my balance without the help of wheels beneath my feet. Consequently, to keep my knees and ego as bruiseless as possible, I sat the event out. Despite not actually rollerblading myself, it was quite a spectacle to witness others do it. I was quite surprised at how well many of them did. We had a few close calls, but for the most part, everyone was doing well enough to get somewhere.

Raglan Weekend Getaway

This trip was by far the longest that we have done since orientation. Packing a duffel bag and tote for this with warmer clothes than the general ones for orientation was key. Raglan was colder than Auckland and a bit shorter than the trip to Rotorua. The town is quite small, with one main street down to the harbour. The bakery sells decent sandwiches for a good price, especially considering the conversion rate. We went for a brief walk to Bridal Veil Falls the day after we arrived. I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone taking that walk take their time when they go back up/return. The pathway goes down to see the falls from the bottom and goes back up quite steeply with a narrow set of stairs. It can get quite easy to get overheated and worn out with the number of stairs at the end of a walk compared to the beginning. 

After almost passing out on the stairway up from the falls, we went to the beach for a surfing lesson. If you have a stuffy nose, it will definitely be improved by the number of times you swallow and get slightly waterboarded by the waves while you attempt to surf. It was quite difficult to get onto the board. I only succeeded once. The amount of energy and endurance needed to sustain yourself while surfing for an hour or more is no joke. Definitely bring snacks and eat a protein-filled breakfast to last you through the surf lesson because it is more than likely that the exercise will wipe you out. 

And finally, to top off the weekend, we stopped by Hobbiton for a tour of the Shire on our way back from Raglan. The weather was almost perfect for our tour as the sun was out and shining, which meant there was little shade. There were multiple opportunities to refill water bottles. Hobbiton is filled with things to look at and experience. It was amazing to see how much effort and time went into setting it all up, including one of the fake trees. The best part and my favourite aspect of the tour was going inside a Hobbit hole. Hobbits like their stuff, and seeing all their trinkets and livelihoods in each room was fascinating. 

Pavlova Making Day Trip

A few weekends ago, Kate hosted the group to teach us how to make the Kiwi classic Pavlova. We ended up taking the bus and walking to her house through a massive downpour. Suffice it to say, Auckland weather can shift in only a moment from raining torrents to blue skies in seconds. When we arrived at Kate’s door, we were soaked to the bone and probably resembled drowned rats. Thankfully, we got dry while learning how to bake Pavlova. Afternoon tea comprised of lamingtons, L & P, and sausage rolls. We were separated into three teams to compete in decorating our own Pavlova. It was a great time to see the rest of the Arcadia members after having been on our own trips over break and come together to decorate and compete against other teams.

Rangitoto Day Trip

On your walk please do watch out for roots, overhead branches, and loose sediment. The weather was quite nice when we were there, it started out a bit chilly on the dock and warmed up significantly with exercise and direct sunlight. The ferry ride was quite short, and we could see a rainbow over the city as we departed from the dock. Rangitoto itself was a nice place to spend the day walking around. The group ended up making it near the summit a lot faster than expected, so we took a detour to the lava caves and around the crater trail. Rangitoto is beautiful and peaceful, and you can walk around it. Unlike in other parts of New Zealand, you can hear birds, like in the city, where sounds mainly come from cars, buses, and the cicadas. 

Solo Trip

Over the course of the two-week-long mid-semester break, I mainly prepared for the next semester and hung out with those who stayed. I went to Queenstown on a last-minute solo trip and missed two lectures the week after break officially ended. It was my first completely solo trip somewhere I’ve never been, and I planned it all by myself. The flight down South was most similar to my own flights from Denver to John Wayne back in the States, which took about an hour and a half. Similarly to John Wayne, the Auckland domestic section and Queenstown airport are quite small and have few food options once you pass security. 

When I arrived in Queenstown at 10 am, check-in was at 3 pm. I spent my time walking around and checking out shops. I would definitely recommend staying at Lylo Queenstown, the capsule hotel. It is directly in town, and you can store your stuff while waiting for check-in. I ended up deciding to return to my childhood passion of horseback riding. I signed up for a three-day all-inclusive horse trek around Lake Ohau through Adventure Horse Trekking. The drive was around 3 hours each way. Going on such a horse trek was an expensive investment, but it was a lot of fun and a great, unique experience of the backcountry of the South Island on horseback. On our last horse ride, we were stuck in rather gloomy weather for a good portion of it, but the downpour led to a nice rainbow on our way back to the cabin.

Overall, it was a great experience to go out on my own and do something unique that I wanted to do, planning it all myself and executing it. For all of y’all who are also in a similar boat, I recommend trying out a solo trip somewhere in New Zealand over the mid-semester break. It creeps up on you pretty quickly. Consequently, it is important to start researching before you even get here to have some ideas at the very least. My trip was incredibly last minute, which added to the price of flight tickets and overall stress levels. To combat such a thing, the sooner you plan a solo or group trip, the better.