Bay of islands
Choosing a boat trip from the many different ways on offer to experience the Bay of Islands, the day started making our way through the passages between the islands. It wasn’t long before we caught up with some bottle nose dolphins, quite a large pod in travel mode, coming to the surface now and again before diving back under. At the same time, we were greeted by 3 little blue penguins, I was so excited when they popped up as I’d been hoping to see some ever since I arrived in New Zealand. They didn’t stick around for long as they are quite shy creatures so our encounter was very special. We followed the dolphins for a while before moving on. The Bay of Islands has 7 main islands, most have names starting with motu which means island in Maori. We travelled to the hole in the rock, literally a hole in a rock eroded from the oceans battering. We went through the hole which seemed a little sketchy with the swell around the rock and the narrow entrance! We made it through and powered on to Urupukapka island where we had an hour to explore. Walking up the island hills gave impressive views of the bay. The trip finished with a stop off at Russell before returning to Paiphia.
I found Auckland to be a great city. Down the side streets of the main shopping centres you can find independent shops and cafes. The newly improved britamart has a smart design and some great places to eat as well as designer retailers. Sitting right on the harbour, the water gives the city a feeling of space and tranquility. You won’t be short of things to do here, once you’ve taken on the shopping you can catch a ferry over to Devonport or any of the nearby islands or follow a mapped out walk around the harbourside and into the suburbs and if that isn’t enough you can always jump off the sky tower!
Driving along the coastal road following the Coromandel peninsular was my first taste of the pure beauty New Zealand had to offer. As the road twisted and turned around the cliff face, the rocks below me meet the ocean which was gleaming in the evening light. It was a peaceful drive, hardly meeting anyone along the way. As the road started to climb up the rolling hills I pulled over and looked behind to see the sun setting into the rocky islands beyond the headland, a layer of cloud was sitting right above the islands, giving a dark shadow to the otherwise bright yellow sky. It was an amazing sight.
I arrived at hot water beach at just the wrong time, high tide. At low tide, you can dig into the sand and find hot water making yourself a hot pool to lay in on the beach. The art gallery across the road made the trip worthwhile with amazing sculptures, jewellery, and great NZ gifts.
Cathedral Cove takes about 45 minutes from the car park but is well worth the walk. A huge archway in the rock face has been formed by the harsh elements which you can walk through to what would have been a secret beach with no other access from land.
The luge in Rotorua stands true to its marketing ‘once is never enough’. With 3 different routes to take, the longest being 2km it is easy to spend too much time on the hillside. Flying down the twisting tracks in a small black tray whilst racing your friends and dodging the slow elderlies in front of you is amazing fun.
Being in New Zealand, the homeland of extreme fun I felt it necessary to scare myself a little bit, there was no chance in hell you’d get me bungy jumping so I opted for the sky swing. After being strapped into a metal ball I was winched up far too high for my liking and then released to swing across the hill tops of Rotorua, reaching speeds of up to 150 km per hour I was petrified, the video of the whole ordeal is pretty funny though!
Wai-o-tapu, a thermal wonderland, is a great place to discover volcanic and thermal shows put on by Mother Nature herself. The lady Knox geyser is a highlight, erupting at 10.15am every day with the help of a little soap powder.
Lake Taupo & Hobbiton
A great day out I had with my uncle included Lake Taupo and Hobbiton in one trip. We arrived at the lake at lunchtime and had a lovely calamari salad with views of Mt Ruapehu across pure blue skies blending into the lake. Travelling towards Matamata, the home of Hobbiton we stopped off at Huka falls, an amazing rush of pure light blue and white water charging down a narrow river before dropping off into a wider mouth. The power of the water was immense. Our tour of Hobbiton, the film set of The Lord of The Rings films and The Hobbit itself started in a tour bus rolling over the perfect fields with sheep grazing in the afternoon sun. Arriving at a small entrance in the hedge the rest of our tour was on foot taking us door to door to each of the hobbit houses. The attention to detail was amazing, each house having its own fire wood stacked up, washing lines with clothes hanging, gardening tools and wheelbarrows propped up and they all had a working chimney. It’s a wonderful tour and it really does feel like Hobbiton is a real place! The day ends in the Green Dragon where you can have your choice of ale or cider and sit in the sun looking across the little hobbit village.