The Winterless North?
I kept hearing through patients that the far north of beautiful Aotearoa was winterless so in a bid to check out the truth of this statement, we each packed 5kg and headed that way for the winter school holidays. We flew out of nelson as the sun rose.
We landed in Auckland and picked up our car from YESAWAY. They provided a courtesy bus to and from the Airport when picking up and dropping off the car. It was an awesome AWD 7 seater Toyota Highlander. When travelling any distance I find it essential that the car is big enough so that the children do not touch each other. This was perfect and made such a change from driving The Magic Bus!
We drove up via Whangarei and made a rest stop at Whangarei Falls. Here we enjoyed a short circular walk which took you down one side of the falls to the base and back up the other side. John scrambled over some rocks and was disappointed to see a shopping trolley buried at the bottom. Man, those shopping trolleys get everywhere!
I did get a bit nervous near the edge, even though there is a very secure viewing platform, I couldn't look down!
From here we headed straight to Paihia. We stayed at YHA Bay of Islands - Paihia for three nights. The lovely owner Andy was called away on family business whilst we were there but happily left us all the necessary keys to continue our stay. We ended up being the only guests in the whole place and had free run. Close to the beach and town. Great facilities.
Whilst we were there, we experienced a bit of a weather event!! Strong winds and heavy rain. We did not let this put us off though and headed to Ngawha Springs. A couple of the pools were so hot, we couldn't get in. Absolute bliss though. They did react with our silver jewellery and Edie and I got out with black necklaces.
These springs have recently been refurbished and the $ entry has rocketed for tourists. You can still get in at the subsidised rate of $5 only if you are local and can prove it. It was $90 for a family or four and Walker got in free as under 5.
We had one day that really was torrential. We got out a grand total of three hours. To eat and visit Haruru Falls. Haruru meaning Big Noise and boy they were noisy after that rain. If it had been better weather we would have loved to have completed the walk from Waitangi. Just toooo wet. Even for us hard core trampers.
This bar just around the corner from the Hostel was great fun with great food!
The weather did clear though and we got to see Paihia - entrance to The Bay of Islands in all its splendor. Just gorgeous!
We really enjoyed Paihia, it definitely has the holiday destination vibe going on and we will return. We've still got the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to visit after all.
We travelled up via Manginangina Reserve - Puketi Forest and Kauri Walk on the east coast. It had been my intention to visit Tane Mahuta - God of the Forest on the west coast but again, timings and distance negated this. We will save that special tree for our next visit. Fortunately a lovely patient highlighted this Kauri walk for us. A little smaller than Tane but boy - what EPIC trees. The energy of the trees, the birdsong and the serenity of the walkway equals one very magical place. So glad I got to hug my tree.
We stayed the next three nights at Pukenui Holiday Park. Fabulous place. Great amenities. Awesome hot showers! The children absolutely loved all the animals roaming around the place, especially the ponies which Lily liked to walk out in the mornings and put to bed at night.
Here we were blessed with amazing weather. No coats necessary. We went in search of a beach. Jo the owner of the campsite gave us some good pointers. She gave us directions to an entrance of a local beach a little off the beaten track. We were not disappointed with Rarawa Beach. Fifteen minutes away by car. Stunning.
With pure white silica sands, stunning wildlife and sand dunes (which are protected as endangered ground nesting birds are present), John took his first NZ winter swim! Brave Boy.
Horse Riding on Ninety Mile Beach - Apihara.
The same day, we travelled 50 minutes south again to get our Horse Riding adventure in. We went with Apihara Horse Treks. I had initially asked for a morning trek but they were very busy and advised that they could only fit us in for an hour at 4.45pm. OMG. The. Most. Fabulous. Sunset ride on 90 Mile Beach. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Apihara Horse Treks.
The next day we headed to the most northern point - Cape Reinga. A truly spiritual, peaceful, blessed place. I would have loved to stay here the day and explore further but unfortunately we were not kitted out for longer tramps.
From here we headed to the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes at the northern end of 90 Mile Beach. About 15 minutes by car from Cape Reinga. You can hire boards for $15 each at the dunes where they give you instruction and a safety drill. Seriously steep and seriously fun. Good exercise going up and down them - the landscape is mind boggling.
Whangarei and The Kauri Museum.
For our last night we headed back to Whangarei. We stayed at Regent Residential Villa. The folks there were great. We had full use of all amenities. I caught up on some washing - they even had a drier, bliss as we don't have one at home.
The others went out and I got to finish a good book that would have taken me over the weight limit for carry on luggage going home.
We saw TWO trains - the first that we have seen here in NZ and we have been here well over a year.
I also managed to wash my hair which still smelled of the hot pools. The smell of those pools still lingers on our swim suits even though they have been washed twice.
The unexpected bonus as we travelled back to the airport was The Kauri Museum. My goodness - what an absolute GEM. Easily one of the best museums we have ever visited - and we have visited a few.
And we are very happy to say that we can concur. The Far North truly is Winterless. Evidenced by the tropical flowers that bloomed everywhere.
Heading home. Off with the sunset. Very fitting. What an amazing holiday!
Our flight was delayed a short while due to weather events occurring throughout both Islands. We learned that Nelson was cut off in all directions due to localised flooding closing the bridges and roads and our heart goes out to folks on the West Coast who were evacuated and unable to return home.
As I sit and write this up two days later, I am grateful to see the return of the sunshine and wish a speedy recovery to all those who were and still are affected by the recent floods.