Road trip to the northern tip of New Zealand. At least it was the initial objective, but a fire at cape Reinga prevents us to reach the lighthouse and we have to stop a few kilometres before our objective.
Still, that did not prevent us to do a lot of things on the way, such as a swim at Whale bay near Matapouri, a stop at Paihia and Russel, and some sand dune climbing. One the way back we stopped at Opononi and drove through Waipoua forest to admire the giant Kauris.
What is the perfect destination for a cold, wet and humid winter weekend? Rotorua comes to mind, with some well-deserved soaking in the hot pools. But slow cooking in hot water aside, there is always time for some other activities. On Saturday, we walk in the Rotorua’s redwood forest. It is difficult to imagine that the trees were only planted at the beginning of the 20th century. Looking at their impressive size, it gives the impression that they’ve been there for centuries!
On Sunday, we drive a few km south to the thermal park of Wai-O-Tapu. Nice colours and thermal activity, although the some sun would probably have added a bit more contrast to the bright palette of colours. There is a nice walk in the park that takes us past different pools of fuming water, bubbling mud, or small lakes with water of a colour that hints at the fact that it is probably not so safe to drink.
1-week road trip to Tongariro national park and Taranaki with some hiking… Quite a bit of hiking to be fair. We start easy with a visit to Waitomo caves and some of the other curiosities around, such as Marokopa falls. We then head to Tongariro national park and start with a gentle hike to Taranaki Falls, before heading for the ‘classic’ Tongariro crossing the next day with near-perfect weather!
Then, we head to Mt Urchin. It’s a steep climb, but the view on Mt. Ruapehu, Mt. Ngauruhoe, and Mt. Tongariro is well worth the effort.
We then drive through the Forgotten World Highway to Stratford for a first hike on Mt. Taranaki to Dawson falls. We stay a few days in New Plymouth and visit the festival of lights, and have time for a last hike to Pouakai. Again quite a steep climb, but perfect view on the plateau and the sea, and of course on Mt. Taranaki!
3-week visit from my parents, just in time before the pandemic. We had time to visit a few spots around Auckland, starting with Devonport, right after they stepped out of the plane. This was followed by a day trip to Brick bay and its sculpture trail.
We also made a few trips to the West coast. We went to Muriwai to see (and smell) the gannet colony and for a walk along the Goldie bush walk to Mokoroa falls. We also went to Piha and the Kitekite falls, as well as Bethell beach and the walk in the river to lake Wainamu.
We also took the time to enjoy the city (Wynyard quarter, Mount Eden, One tree hill), and its wide choice of dinner experiences from all around the world, but also enjoyed a few delicious BBQ on the deck (after all, isn’t it summer?).
Finally, we took a short trip to Great Barrier Island to enjoy the empty beaches and the view from Hirakimata (Mt Hobson).
A few days out of Auckland… We start with a flight to Wellington, and are welcomed by a freezing weather. Typical Christmas temperature… Except that it is summer here! Well, we’ll stick to indoor activities. This includes a visit to Te Papa museum, and then to Weta studios. The next day, 24 December, we catch the 6.30 ferry to Picton.
The weather is not much better than yesterday, but a ray of sun hits a cruise ship moored in Wellington Harbour. The weather improves on the way to Picton, and ends up being nice and sunny once we arrive.
As the weather is nice, we walk along Snout track, which provides excellent view on Queen Charlotte Sound.
We then drive to Blenheim, where we spend the night. Christmas day ends up being quite a challenge, as everything is closed. Our AirBnB host recommends a trail in the Wairau Lagoons and a visit to the nearby beach. The weather is a bit cloudy and windy, and it is therefore not possible to swim at the beach, but the view is nonetheless beautiful and well worth the trip.
On 26 December, we wake up early and drive back to Picton to catch a boat that drops us at camp bay for a bit of hiking along Queen Charlotte Track.
The track climbs to Eatwell lookout, where we are rewarded by a breathtaking view on Queen Charlotte sound.
We wait for the boat at Punga resort, and have time to drink a nice and cold ale, and for a quick dip. The water is not very warm, but the scenery is priceless. Once the boat brings us back to Picton, we drive to our next stop: Nelson. This turns out to be longer than expected, for even though the two towns are quite close on a map, the road goes around the mountains. The next day is already the last of this short trip. We have breakfast at Kaiteriteri, and then a quick dip at the beach, followed by a short visit to split apple rock and the nice beach nearby.
We finish this trip by some wine tasting at Rimu Grove’s cellar door, followed by lunch at Mapua wharf, and it’s already time to drive back to the airport.
Why we suddenly decided to go spend a weekend in (or around) Hamilton is part of a mystery that has been going on for more than a year and will be explained at a later date… Hamilton being apparently New Zealand’s most boring city, that may seem to be a strange weekend destination, but anyway…
Our first stop is at Raglan, a well-known surfer spot. The beach is indeed beautiful, and it’s only too bad that the it is already a bit too late in the season for a swim. We should definitely come back…
On the way back to Hamilton, we stop at the Bridal Veil falls, which is well-worth the detour. A short walk leads us to the top of the waterfall, and from there, an infinite staircase leads to the bottom of the falls. It’s easy to go down, a bit less to climb back up 🙂
We spend the night in Hamilton after a short stroll in the Hamilton Lake domain. The next day, the city is stuck in a very deep fog that doesn’t seem to want to go away and prevents us form doing what we really came to Hamilton for… Instead, we visit the Hamilton Gardens. It is my first autumnal visit to the gardens (having previously visited in spring and summer), but no matter the season, it is always very nice to walk amongst the different parts of the park.
The year starts with the visit of Auckland art gallery and the Yayoi Kusama Obliteration Room. Great, we get to stick coloured dots everywhere, including on ourselves 🙂
Let’s take advantage of Waitangi day for a day trip to the West coast. A short hike along the cliff followed by a swim at Bethells Beach.
Seun Araromi takes the opportunity of a conference in Brisbane to make a short trip in Auckland. During the weekend, day trip to the black sand dunes at Bethells beach. Walk in the river and around the lake Kawaupaka, with copious amounts of mud.
June 2018, we take the opportunity of a sunny day for a short walk in Shakespear (note the absence of e) regional park.
Fast forward a few months (we stayed inside in winter, and travelled to Europe), and spring is finally coming, announced by the blooming of the cherry blossoms in Cornwall park, and the hundreds of people rushing to see them. We were clever enough to park in one of the side streets…
In October, we drive to Manukau heads and its lighthouse. Auckland’s skyline seems so close, but what a trip to reach the tip of the peninsula! In front of us, we see Whatipu beach, where Josh fell in the water a few months ago…
In May 2018, most of the hiking tracks in the Waitakere ranges have closed due to the spread of the Kauri dieback. We need to find other places to go hiking, and we decide to try the Hunua ranges, south of Auckland. Our first attempt is a failure because the park is closed due to the use of poison to kill rats and other pests, but a few weeks later, we come back for a hike in the forest.
On our way to the French market in Parnell, we walk through the domain. There was a memorial to the New Zealand soldiers who fell during the war, such as the infamous battle of Gallipoli in 1915.
Still in November, we visit NZ sculpture OnShore in Devonport, an open air sculpture exhibition on the grounds of an old war fortress .
With the nice weather coming back, it’s the perfect opportunity for a visit to the west coast. Today we drive to Karekare and its waterfall. Looking for tunnels of an old tramway line, we mistakenly take a path that climbs up the hill, but are rewarded by a very nice view of the beach
To end 2018, we take the boat (with the captain Ben and his deck hand Junior) to Motuihe island for some hiking and swimming. The day seems to have been exhausting…
So what do you find in Wellington, New Zealand capital city?
There is Kelburn and the botanical garden, at the top of a hill that we reach with the iconicred cable car.
And of course, in a capital city, one expects to find the government… Wellington is famous for the architecture of the Beehive, which appears to be quite divisive, between the “Hey, but that’s quite original” and the “I hope the architect has been shot”. It has appeared once on a list as the world’s third ugliest building, but I think it is mild in comparison with the Boston City Hall….
We visited the parliament, and it was quite interesting to learn a few things about the political system of my adoption country. However, we didn’t get to meet the Queen Bee as part of our visit of the Beehive…
The visit of Te Papa museum gives the opportunity to learn more about New Zealand, such as the Gallipoli campaign during WWI, during which 2779 New Zealander gave their life, and which is remembered yearly during ANZAC day. On a lighter note, the Department of Conservation is trying to save a flightless parrot named kākāpō from extinction. Everything is attempted to increase the number of chicks. The museum’s humorous movie, mission kākāpō copulation, has been posted on Youtube (but sound is bad)…