A Kiwi Roadtrip - Part 1

I cannot help but be head over heels in love with New Zealand. With so much to see and do, it's a wonder I saw as much as I did in 10 fun-filled, high-energy, activity packed days! I had the unique opportunity to see it with a home-grown kiwi girl herself, and she spoiled me with a great adventure! Below I'll delve into just the first 4 areas of the North Island we visited.

{ 1 } Auckland

+ Viaduct Harbour

Auckland is a great city with a really cool, young vibe. I especially liked walking the Viaduct - a pathway along a working harbour in downtown Auckland with lots of trendy restaurants and bars. There's also Silo Park near the harbour where old silos that used to hold cement that went toward building the city still stand. They've now become part of a group of art features that add a unique flare to the city and where special events, like an outdoor movie projected onto Silo 7, and markets take place during the summertime. It's neat to check out and grab a few snapshots, dinner and drinks. It's also a great opportunity to catch the famous Sky Tower and city skyline behind you with the harbour. 

|| Kiwi speak: Tip for going to a bar, when Kiwis say "lemonade" they're referring to the soda 7 Up –not quite what Americans would consider a traditional lemonade, like Minute-Maid, to be. They might also refer to 7 Up as "lemon-lime."

An interesting thing to remember when visiting NZ is the seasons are flipped according to what an Northern American would be accustomed. For example, summertime is from about late November to early April. I was there in November and I felt that it was more like spring-time weather, fluctuating between warm and chilly days, but the weather was generally starting to warm up.

Also, geographically we would consider northern areas to be colder and southern areas to be warmer -- in New Zealand it is the exact opposite! The North Island will have warmer temperatures year-round and the further south you travel, the colder the average temperature will become. Crazy, right?

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The Silos

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Harbour

+ Maungawhau (Mt. Eden)

Aliens? Asteroid? Volcano?

Mt Eden Crater
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New York

New York, 12,197 KM = 7,578.86 MI

If you guessed volcano, ding ding! It is, of course, currently dormant, but the best part is it's a free activity to drive up to see. Secondly, it offers really great views of the city. If you want a little more activity in the day, I also saw a lot of people walking/hiking up to it. There is also a really unique feature at the top of the summit of a giant wheel that will point you in the direction of different cities around the world and tell you the distance in km. 

|| Kiwi speak: Have you ever wondered where these long or complex names for places in NZ come from? They can be almost impossible to say, but New Zealanders all around will get a real tickle out of hearing you try to pronounce them.

New Zealand's indigenous population, the Maori, inhabited the island long before the arrival of the "white people" and their culture is still very present in modern day. If you've ever seen the infamous Haka -- a war dance the All Blacks perform before every rugby match -- you've then seen evidence of the strong presence of the Maori culture today. You'll even pass under a giant tiki arch in the airport as you exit the terminal (be sure to look for it!).

You'll see a lot of their symbology in shops, like tikis, masks and jewelry. It's worth getting yourself acquainted with the meaning of them. They even have Maori village experiences -- like the Tamaki village -- where you can have a traditional hangi meal, which is cooked underground, learn about wood carvings and face tattoos, and learn a poi dance or the Haka!

{ 2 } Waiheke Island

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You would be absolutely mad not to hop on a ferry to spend a day at Waiheke Island during your stay in Auckland. This experience is the sole reason my goal in life is to settle on an island, owning my own vineyard, making and drinking wine all day. The land here, the views, are just unreal. The vineyards sit on gorgeous acres of green hills and valleys. It is one of my favorite places I've ever been; it was a pocket of paradise.

HOW TO GET THERE | The ferry is a super easy option to hop on and off and it was only a short 40 min ride from port to port. Fullers and Sealink are the two major ferry companies that will take you from Auckland to Waiheke. A round-trip ferry will probably cost you ~$25 USD. Direct Ferries can also pull up a comparison rate between the two companies so you can select the best time and price. Don't forget to select that you'll be a "foot passenger" meaning you're traveling without a car. Note: there will be bathrooms and a little cafe for coffee and snacks on the ferry!

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    Waiheke Port 

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    Ferry

    WHERE TO GO | The girls and I opted to do a winery + lunch tour. However if you are into having a more active day, they have everything from zip lining to horseback riding and paddle boarding, etc. We visited the following wineries and one olive oil press: 

    This vineyard was surrounded by those epic New Zealand green hills and where we had the most amazing lunch!

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    stonyridge vineyard

    Where we sampled fresh pressed olive oil (yum) and learned the process behind how the oil was made.

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    oliveoilpress
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    A really relaxed winery where you can sit on the lawn amongst the beautiful vines and even practice your archery skills if you're up for it!

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    Last, but certainly not least...

    A hilly winery tour with amazing hilltop views of the water. There is also a restaurant I'd be keen to try. You. Can't. Miss. This.

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    || Kiwi speak: If you're going to take your own car around the island, kiwis will use the word "boot" to reference what Americans would call the trunk of the car. "We should put the wine in the boot, eh"

    "Eh" pronounced like "A" is also used fondly at the end of many sentences. 

    beach

    Coromandel

    { 3 } Coromandel Coast

    + Hot water Beach

    When trekking across the Coromandel coast, you must give your full due to Hot Water Beach. Even if it's just a quick hour or two stop in the morning, it's one of those unique places that even to experience it for a short while is once in a lifetime.

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    WHAT TO BRING | Your swimsuit, towels, and shovels! If you aren't staying in the area and will just be passing through, a change of clothes would also be a great idea (especially if you plan to sit in the wet sand like me). They also have shovels you can rent locally if you don't want to buy or bring any.

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    WHERE TO GO | The beach spreads for miles, but simply follow the signs to park and once you are actually on the beach, just look for all the people gathered in sand holes. It really isn't more complicated than that. And when they say hot water beach, they really mean HOT. This natural spring is BOILING which is why you will want your hole to have the proper mix of spring water and ocean waves to cool it to the perfect temperature.

    BEST TIME TO GO | You'll want to do your best to arrive within the 2 hrs before or after low tide. Luckily, there's an easy way to figure this out: thecoromandel.com has this handy dandy calendar than will tell you high and low tide times up to TWO years in advance! Magic or science? Well, it is New Zealand. So magic, duh.

    You can also check out the weather in the area through wunderground. Also managed by local wizardry folk.

    || Kiwi speak:  Shovels = Spades, Bikini/Bathing suit = Togs

    + Cathedral Cove

    I was not prepared for this "walk" to the cove. Kiwis call these "walking tracks" down to the cove, and I'm genuinely laughing aloud looking at the informational website that calls it an "easy walking track." Maybe I'm just the typical American that thinks they are in shape until they actually get out of the gym. Heck, it was up and down around winding, uneven trails, tripping over dirt, rocks, tree roots, steep stairs and my own two feet. But don't let this deter you! It was worth every effort. The trail and the views were gorgeous. I would do it again! But with different shoes.

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    "Easy" Walking Track

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    WHAT TO BRING | If you're going to walk, come prepared with decent shoes *cough* not flip flops. It takes maybe a little over an hour to walk it, depending on how aggressively you go at it. A picnic lunch is also a great idea to have with you. I was starving by the time we got down there! However you can also kayak to the cove or take a boat with a guide. Taking the boat route, there will be companies that offer snorkeling or diving in the cove too. Lots of ways to explore the area!

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    cathedral cove
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    BEST TIME TO GO | I'd say get started early and plan to spend the majority of your day here. There's lots to enjoy. 

    || Kiwi speak: Flip flops = Thongs. Because that makes sense! Also will use the term Jandals.

    { 5 } Matamata

    + The Journey to Middle Earth

    A journey sounds so fancy doesn't it? But as you are driving through the middle of nowhere past acres of farms on typical winding, hilly New Zealand roads, you'll understand why. If you are an LOTR fan, the Hobbiton Tour is a fantastical world of wonder. It's not overhyped. It really is awesome. Even if you aren't a super fan - I think you can still wildly enjoy it. A guide will walk you around the grounds giving you lots of fun movie set facts and you'll end your tour at the Green Dragon with an included cider or soda. Lots of opportunities to take pics in front of hobbit doors and feel really cool for the day.

    WHAT TO BRING | Your camera to make all your friends back home jealous and your giddy fan-girl/boy attitude. 

    || Kiwi speak: Sunglasses = Sunnies

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    THAT'S NOT ALL FOLKS ....

    I couldn't fit ALL THE FUN into one post, so stay tuned for Part 2. The Kiwi adventure continues where you'll see how we hiked mountains, zipped through the trees 220 meters (722 ft!) off the ground, tubed in pitch black glow worm caves, and more! :D 

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