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Published: March 20th 2016
C: We headed north from Auckland on Saturday morning. Our first stop was Puhoi where we had been recommended a cheese factory and shop/cafe to visit. It was a beautiful setting and there was some great cheese which seduced Roger into buying an overly expensive platter for brunch! Oh well. The cheese was good and the cheese was nice.
After having gorged ourselves on cheese we drove to the coast and the strangely named Goat Island marine reserve. It's supposed to be a great place for snorkelling but the chilly wind and overcrowded black sand beach put us off a bit. We headed on and found a stunning stretch of white sandy beach at Pakiri, we were soon to realise this was the first of many, and were glad we did. After the obligatory British paddling we drove on to Mangawhai and another beautiful beach surrounded by impressive cliffs. I enjoyed the beach while Rog did a cliff top walk with some great views.
Our stop for the night was the similarly named Whangarei, the biggest town of the northland and apparently the clock-making capital of NZ. They call it a city although it's about the size of Abingdon!
It's located on a pretty inlet and in the evening we found an amazing Thai restaurant which is a food highlight of NZ so far. The next morning was Sunday so I found a little Anglican church which was lovely and it was nice to go to a service (I realised I hadn't been since Christmas Day as I hadn't ventured to a Spanish service.) Their idea of coffee after church was definitely a step up from the UK, full morning tea with masses of cakes, sandwiches and even quiche. Maybe churches at home would be fuller if we did this! Roger missed out on the cake eating but made up for it by getting an eggs benedict bagel in McDonalds of all places, yuck.
After this we drove on to the Ngunguru coastline, more lovely beaches including Tutukaka and the absolutely stunning Matapouri where we enjoyed more paddling and just generally soaking up the beauty of the surroundings. As we headed on Roger was keen to stop at Kawakawa to go to the toilet. Now I know this seems a strange thing to mention but these toilets were special. Designed by the modern German artist Hundertwasser, who is
now a NZ resident, they were definitely the quirkiest toilets we've ever visited. Apparently he made lots of requests to design things in Kawakawa where he lives and finally got his chance with the toilets! Anyway, look at the pictures and see what you think! (R: Having lived in Darmstadt, Germany for a year, I was more than familiar with his "unique" style as he designed a large block of flats with no straight edges and mosaic tiles just north of town. It was also a bit odd taking photos of public toilets. But there you go. I waited for everyone to leave first, of course!)
A few miles up the road is Pahia, the gateway town of the Bay of Islands. It's a very pretty bay and home to the Waitangi treaty grounds, a significant place in NZ history. It's where the British immigrants signed a treaty in 1840 with some of the Maori chiefs to share the land of NZ and to confirm British governance. The Maori definitely did less well out of the treaty than the Brits but in comparison with native inhabitants of other countries they did fairly well. It is evident throughout NZ how
much the Maori people and traditions are respected. The Waitangi site is run by Maori people and we got to experience their music and dance as well as the Haka in a beautiful meeting house opened in 1940 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the treaty. We endured a guided tour for about an hour with one of the weirdest tour guides we have ever met.
After this we headed to our accommodation - a gypsy caravan at a glamping site just outside a small town called Kerikeri. This was our compromise on camping and we both really enjoyed it. The caravan overlooked a little creek and was very peaceful. Best night's sleep in a while.
The next morning we went back to Pahia to explore the Bay. We had booked a sailing trip as you can only really see it by boat and we were very glad we did. The 60 foot yacht was fab and it was a great way to spend the day. We had the chance to swim or kayak off the boat to a small island (Robertson island) where we snorkelled, swam and walked to a great viewpoint. The highlight of the
day was when about 10 dolphins decided to swim up to and alongside our boat. The skipper told us that they like humming noises, an easy way to make a whole load of tourists hum madly(!!) but it worked. They swam right up and enjoyed performing jumps and dives for us while we whooped and hummed at them! Magical. We also saw a couple of tiny penguins swimming in the bay. Very cute. We were very lucky with the weather too. All in all a fantastic day finished off with a pint in a proper pub, wine and fish and chips outside our caravan. (R: Though the bitter was a bit hoppy for my liking).
R: The next day we headed north, instead of south. We were due in Rotorua at 8pm, but instead of heading straight for it, we took a recommendation to go to Matauri bay, which again, was stunning, and also deserted. Afterwards we headed to Ng Aer bay which again was lovely. And Whangaroa. All stunning. But by this point our fuel was running dangerously low and the car was beeping at us. We decided that more pretty bays would have to wait, and we
headed south for Whangerei. We briefly trotted around Whangerei falls before heading straight into the Auckland rush hour as we had to pass through to get south. Having barely seen another car every 10 minutes in Northland,mwe found where all the traffic is! McDonalds sell pies here. I add this as a Butter chicken pie from "Maccas" was all that kept us going until we finally arrived in Rotarua at 8:30pm, after our motel was closed...
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