North Island Part 1
17.10.2014 - 22.10.2014 22 °C
After a ten day chill in Fiji, we boarded the short flight to Auckland. How lucky Aussies and Kiwis are; not only do they have their own amazing countries, their ‘short flight’ holiday destinations are Bali, Fiji and the Cook Islands!! When we said this to said Oz travellers we met they returned knowing smiles and started to share their top tips for places to check while we’re there which we were super grateful for. Anyway, on to NZ….
We started on the North Island, we will try to explain how good it is, but the photos again might say more so we’ve uploaded lots.
We'd had a tipoff that within Auckland, Ponsonby was a nice place to stay so with hire car collected we drove straight there and checked in to the Great Ponsonby Art Hotel (B&B). If you’re headed to Auckland this place is worth a look as its filled with artwork and stories collected by the owners who are extremely seasoned travellers, which made for Attenborough worthy history/geography/anthropology lessons with breakfast. Ponsonby itself was a super-stylish foodie heaven and a great base to see Auckland from.
In central Auckland we loved the art gallery which coincidentally had a lego event on, result. Auckland is really small so you can bus or walk most places which was handy to avoid downtown traffic. At Ollie’s request we stopped off at the city’s bowling alley, some home comfort activities thrown into the travel-mix seem to keep the balance right for him. After he thrashed Scott and me we headed to Real Groovy, Auckland’s biggest independent record store. Scott in arcadia, Ollie and me amused ourselves with the Star Wars backpack selection, something for everyone!
With the Spring weather (read lots of rain showers) in full force, we took a drive out to Mission Bay which is a small seaside town in the greater Auckland area. Lush and leafy with more great food on offer, it was a bit San Francisco-esque with a nice atmosphere despite the rain.
After three nights we said goodbye to Auckland and drove to the Coromandel peninsula. We were really looking forward to seeing this coastline and thankfully the weather turned for the better. We were able to do our first short hike (called tramping in NZ) over a coastal rockery and saddle to the otherwise inaccessible New Chums Beach. We have no idea why it has such an odd name, but we do know why it’s in the Lonely Planet top 20 beaches in the world; it’s pretty beautiful, more bracing than desert island, more Wales than Fiji!
The Coromandel coast is full of numerous beaches and towns, typically harping back to the goldmine era, surrounded by lush forests and of course the South Pacific ocean which made for a constantly changing visual feast. A highlight on this leg of the trip was 'Hot Water Beach' on the east coast of the peninsular - arrive within 2 hours of low tide, grab yourself a spade and go dig your own natural hot water pool in the sand.…awesome! Anna, Ollie and I, all with spades (of respective size) began to dig our own spa-hole along with numerous other folk. Before long we all joined forces and dug a very large communal bath - this was really good fun and made for a strange sense of camaraderie with a group of strangers from across the globe, all working towards the same thermal bathing goal!
Before long we struck gold…someone hit a thermal spring and everyone else constructed walls to contain the water and stoped to enjoy the thermals. Water can be as hot as 64 °C here...so buckets of cold sea water were thrown in to adjust the temperature until perfect....a great way to spend a Wednesday morning!
Leaving the Coromandel, we spent the next couple of days driving South to Lake Taupo, with an overnight stop at Papamoa Beach. Half coastal drive, half panoramic mountain inland route, this was our first big taste of the reason NZ is brilliant driving tour territory!! You almost get complacent about the scenery as it's endless.
Our first six nights in New Zealand had been fab, and we'd definitely dropped another gear in pace and are in full travelling flow now. Possibly the reason for such a gap in blog posts?!...to be continued...