New Zealand ...
the locals say Aotearoa, which translates as ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, Aussies reckon it’s their 7th State, but I call it ‘the country that just keeps giving!’ Everywhere you go, New Zealand presents you with so many things to see and do that, for a country this size, it defies belief! The weather can be changeable, but I have said numerous times that ‘even on a bad day, New Zealand just keeps giving!’ I have captured some of my favourite photos during some of the worst weather!
If you like awesome scenery, fantastic views, delectable food, local wines, friendly locals, adventure, road trips, culture, solitude, history, then you really need to visit New Zealand – it’s one of my favourite places on this planet. I first visited when I was 19 and I absolutely fell in love with it! Since then, I have jumped at any opportunity to ‘cross the dutch’ to visit this scenically-rich, awe-inspiring country.
And all you Lord of the Rings fans – you’ll get to see iconic locations like Mt Doom, Hobbiton, Gardens of Isengard, Rivendell, Osgiliath Wood, Paths of the Dead, and many more in the country that has become known as the ‘Home of Middle-Earth.’ Over 150 locations throughout New Zealand were used to film LOTR and The Hobbit movies.
Welcome to the first instalment in my New Zealand series where I will take you on a tour of Auckland, Devonport, Waiheke Island and the Bay of Islands.
This truly is a lovely, harbourside city. If you like water activities, you’re going to be spoiled for choice! Auckland offers everything from kayaking, diving, fishing and sailing to cruises, jet boating, windsurfing and kitesurfing. The water is used for commerce and for leisure; it’s a working port, a cruise destination, for some it’s their daily commute, while for others it’s the perfect place if you just want to get away from it all!
I saw it referred to as the ‘City of Sails’ somewhere and I can certainly see why. Get up early and take in a sunrise at Westport Marina. I wanted the needle of Sky Tower to be the focus of my photos, but I was hard pressed even finding it among the hundreds of masts in front of me. It was a beautiful, calm morning and it was a wonderful way to kick off yet another glorious day in New Zealand.
If you’re on the north side, go to Bayswater Marina and enjoy great views of Auckland and the harbour.
No visit to Auckland is complete without visiting Viaduct Harbour at least once. It’s where the city meets the ocean and is full of life by day and night and you are spoilt for choice with more than 30 restaurants, bars and cafes.
Take a drive out to Auckland’s west coast ‘black sand beaches’ (Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Bethells and Muriwai). At Muriwai you’ll see the famous cliff-top gannet colony. They are an absolute hoot – they are so graceful as they soar and swoop above the colony, but once they’re on terra-firma they clump around like they’re wearing huge shoes! Very ungainly, but it was entertaining to watch. But be warned, it stinks!
The lookouts are easily accessible from the carpark, but be prepared for stair climb to get there. Rather than carry my camera gear, I thought I’d go and scope it out first to see whether it was worth photographing. I got to the first lookout and realised I should have just brought it with me because I wasn’t going back down and up again! Phone shots would have to do!
Next time I visit Auckland, a couple of things I will try to squeeze in are a visit to the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium (I am fascinated with anything night sky) and Sky Tower at Skycity, to see the city from 220m above street level with 360° views, some as far as 80km away!
Be aware, if you have a car, check if your hotel has parking and book it! I had to park in a parking station and it cost me a small fortune. Or do like I plan on doing next time – stay outside the city and use public transport or taxis to get around – it will still end up being cheaper than the parking costs.
Devonport’s my personal choice – not only is it one of the loveliest places I’ve been, it’s just a short ferry ride across the harbour, and is on the ferry route to Waiheke! It has a rich naval history, and is an absolutely beautiful place to visit with Art-Deco and Victorian architecture throughout the town, and numerous cafes and restaurants to choose from. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
I was so taken with Devonport that I wrote a blog about it shortly after getting back from my trip. Click here to read.
Waiheke Island is one of my favourite places in New Zealand. We always make time to visit whenever we are in Auckland. It’s perfect for day trippers with ferries running regularly between Auckland and the island, but it is equally as good for a night or two away from the city with the beautiful, crystal clear waters surrounding the island and an abundance of restaurants, wineries and shops to cater to all five senses.
The local bus service can take you to many of the island's beaches if you want to explore the island further. I took the bus out to Onetangi Beach and while I was sitting enjoying a refreshing beverage, a couple of whales went swimming past! Sadly, I wasn't able to get a photo of them.
Unless something’s changed, bus tickets can only be purchased at the Matiatia ferry terminal ticket office.
Bay of Islands
After a lovely day on Waiheke, it was time to head to Paihia in the Bay of Islands. This is an absolutely lovely drive through more stunningly distracting countryside ... with not many places to stop for happy snaps sadly, so you'll just have to take my word for it (and get over here and see for yourself!!).
The birthplace of New Zealand and home of the famous Waitangi Treaty House, Paihia is the gateway to the Bay of Islands. A couple of cruise ships arrived shortly after I did so the town was a bustling, energetic hive of activity – there were street entertainers, market stalls, helicopter rides, adventure cruises, restaurants, bars and cafes all keeping them occupied or entertained while in port.
Two things I particularly wanted to do were a cruise around the Bay, and take in a sunset at Russell. Thanks to Fullers Great Sights Bay of Islands, I joined the ‘Cliffs & Caves Adventure’ which takes you to the wilder, seaward side of the Bay of Islands.
We stopped at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island (the largest island in the Bay). Some of us chose to climb to the summit of the island. It was somewhat challenging, but well worth it! Get to the top and you’re rewarded with 360° views – and a sense of achievement!
The skippers certainly know how to manoeuvre and control these boats as the waves roll around the rocky outcrops! I was holding my breath, believe me.
I’m disappointed I didn’t get to the Waitangi Treaty House, I simply ran out of time. I vaguely recall visiting it all those years ago on my first trip though. I will definitely put it on the list for next time.
I was looking for somewhere to get some nice sunset shots from while I was in the Bay of Islands. I looked online and Russell was the perfect place.
Today it’s a charming historic village of boutique shops and eateries, but was once a lawless trading port dubbed ‘the Hell Hole of the Pacific’. It has a very nautical feel to it, possibly as a consequence of being the base for the South Pacific whaling fleet in the 1830s.
I caught an evening ferry from Paihia to give me time to scope out suitable spots for the sunset. That done, I had over an hour to pass so decided to explore the waterfront and enjoy a refreshing beverage!
The town’s original street plan and names from 1843 are still intact and some of New Zealand’s oldest and most significant historic buildings call Russell home!
With the eventual drop-off in shipping the customs house was no longer required and the Police Department agreed to take it over. The huge Moreton Bay fig next to it was planted in the 1870’s.
And the sunset that day? One of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen! Set your browser to full screen and click to see this image in all its glory!