Friday, December 8, 2023

Travel Guides NZ: Rusha Paenga Takes Capsule On A Tour Around Her Must-Visit Spots

Considered the TripAdvisor of television, the Travel Guides franchise has put a relatable, entertaining and downright hilarious spin on the very glam travel shows that normally fill up our screens. Sure, Joanna Lumley may love a location but what about a family of five from Australia? Well, now there’s an Aotearoa spin on it with Travel Guides New Zealand, where five groups of Kiwi travellers tootle around our fine country and explore all the must-have bucket list adventures that many of us have neglected to do for so long. One of these groups is the whānau team of Rusha, Cara and Nan from Opotiki. Rusha Paenga has definitely earned her travel stripes – not only has she travelled solo through Europe and lived in Spain and Berlin, now that she’s back home in NZ she’s set up a female travel club called Global Girl Community, which connects like-minded women through meet-ups, retreats and group adventures throughout Aotearoa. She shares her favourite local places with Capsule and her must-have activities in each location.

Rusha (right) with Cara and Nan, her Travel Guides New Zealand group

Top 5 Places I Visited In New Zealand

After traveling to countries like Australia, Bali, Germany and other parts of Europe, there definitely was an urge in me to head back home and finally explore my own backyard.

I mean, New Zealand was always what every European would talk about. When I would tell the Germans that I’m from New Zealand, they’d ask me, with a puzzled look on their face, “Why the hell are you in Germany?! New Zealand is beautiful!” I guess that’s one way of complimenting our country!

Now having explored much more of New Zealand due to the show Travel Guides New Zealand, by #vanlife or with my female travel club Global Girl Community, I understand what the hype is all about.

Paddleboarding at Urupukapuka in the Bay of Islands

Paihia, Bay of Islands
A warm subtropical spot in New Zealand that is a MUST explore!

I honestly didn’t know anything about the Bay of Islands until I went here with Travel Guides New Zealand, but I ended up loving it so much I even went back after the show with some friends.

I loved the different variety in activities around the area. There is something for everyone: enjoy evening cruises, cultural tours, island hops, adrenalin activities, snorkeling and much more!

Activities I recommend:

If you’re a #vanlifer who likes to surf, this place could very well become one of your favourite spots!

Ohope is one of my favourite places to stay, not only is it one of the best beaches in New Zealand, but the local community vibe is somewhat on the ‘chill’ side. You can grab yourself a bite from one of the local pop-up shops, head to the beach to check some waves and park your van up for two nights of freedom camping! Not to mention, after those 2 nights are up, there are even more available spots just down the road or over the hill in Whakatāne.

Besides from being one of the best spots for beginner surfers, there’s so many other activities you can do here. Many locals enjoy hikes around the area like the Otarawairere track, yoga on the beach, fishing from the shore or even mussel gathering from the rocks!

Activities I recommend:

  • Surfing: If you don’t have your own board you can hire from Ollie at the Salt Spray Surf School at Westend car park.
  • Ōtarawairere track: It leads to the best secret beach!


Grabbing a matcha at Tsujiri in Auckland

Although I’m a coast girl at heart, I don’t shy away from the big city.

Auckland has really surprised me. Having lived in New Zealand til my teenage years, Auckland amongst my family was normally mentioned in a negative light. But, having spent a bit of time here in Auckland exploring and wandering the city streets, I’ve found the positive light it brings to many New Zealanders who live here.

First of all, Auckland is big in geographic sense. It’s not just a concrete jungle with lights and shops conveniently lined up down Queen street. It has an extraordinary skyline view.

I love Auckland for its variety. It’s a place with options and convenience. For example, I’m staying in the CBD, I live about 100m from the gym, 300m from the supermarket and on the way to both spots I pass at least 10 different restaurants, 20 different shopping stores and a few tucked-away parks where you could easily go to chill with some friends, read a book or even do some exercise.

If you’re not feeling that, no worries, there’s loads of different activities in and around Auckland to do like hiking, heading to the beach for the day, going indoor snowboarding or seeing Auckland from the Sky tower. In a big city like Auckland, there’s never a dull day!

Activities I recommend:

  • Go to Minniehaha beach also known as Thorne Bay Beach
  • Go exploring down Queen Street and window-shop at all the different places.
  • Stay at the Cordis for the weekend.
  • Explore Piha Beach
Tubing down Tongariro River


Tūrangi is known for its trout fishing, but that’s not why I love it.

It’s also a place where outdoor education takes place. There are loads of things to do around the area where you can challenge yourself in abseiling, hiking, skiing and many other adrenalin driven activities.

Tūrangi also is a geothermal activity area, which has a cultural history of how the Māori used the geothermal activity back in their days to cook food, to bathe in water from geysers and more! When I visited Tūrangi, my friends took me to Tokaanu and taught me about how they would come to these man-made baths that were created by their grandfather. The baths would fill up with hot water from the geyser and just down a metre down you could fetch yourself some cold water with a bucket to then make the baths a more bathable temperature.

Also later on that day we steamed food over the geyser, jumped off a tree they refer to as the ‘V’ tree and we tubed down the Tongariro rapids.

It was one of my best trips I’ve had, I never knew this place existed and I would easily go back every summer!

Activities I recommend:

  • Visiting the geothermal area in Tokaanu
  • Bathing in the Tokaanu baths
  • Steaming food over the geysers (it’s called a Puia)
  • Jumping off the ‘V’ tree
  • Tubing down the rapids in the Tongariro river
Wilmot Pass in the Doubtful Sounds

Doubtful Sounds, Fiordland

On a misty, light rain day, Doubtful Sounds is your serene dream get-away!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I visited this place. And I just wished I could have stayed out there a little longer.

Even the trip over is a beautiful journey, starting from Pearl Harbour wharf in Manapouri we caught a boat over the lake to West Arm and then traveled by coach over the Wilmet pass to deep cove. On the way glimpsing at mountains, waterfalls and pristine landscapes.

But the best part of the trip was definitely experiencing Doubtful Sounds on the overnight cruise.

Once your boat is parked up for the day, you can head out on a kayak and explore the shoreline, hopefully spotting some wildlife on your journey. My favourite moment of this trip was being able to sit in silence, lights out, listening to the rain and taking in the stunning views of the Doubtful Sounds.

Exploring the second largest fiord in Fiordland National Park is a get-away to remember.

Activities I recommend:

  • The overnight cruise
  • Kayak and explore the shoreline
  • Experiencing the Doubtful Sounds in the rain and mist

New episodes of Travel Guides New Zealand drop every Thursday night on TVNZ2 and TVNZ OnDemand, for more information visit here

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