| A blog on my journey as a WORK AT HOME MOM and my WORK AT HOME BUSINESS |

22 December, 2005

North Island

Kia Ora!

We began our holiday at the North Island - Auckland, simply because that's the only direct flight destination by Malaysian Airlines. We have been warned by many of our friends that Auckland is just another city and we should not expect much from it.

Being adventurous travellers at heart, we decide that it's only fair to find out more about the city ourselves! Moreover, cityfolks like us do need some mix of city experiences and country travel in a 4-weeks holiday like this. This is especially so for me who looks forward to check out the shopping scene in Auckland and Wellington!

The regions we visited during the 12 days in North Island were:

  • Auckland
  • Paihia, Bay of Islands
  • Cape Reinga
  • The Coromandel Peninsular
  • Rotorua
  • Taupo
  • Wellington

We arrived at the Duxton Hotel on 12/10 morning and were greeted by a light drizzle. The weather in mid Spring is pleasant. Auckland city is a little disappointing at first glance. We noticed alot of Korean and Japanese eateries - it feels like a little Asia.

In terms of shopping, it's a far cry from Melboune, Australia. I find the shops in Ponsonby and Parnell have alot more character.

I like Ponsonby. There are a few nice shops and lots of cool restaurants. This is one suburb you must not miss!

The shop that attracted me most is this nice colourful shop called 'The Garden Party'. The shop has a large mural outside and it's hard to miss it when you are walking along Ponsonby Road. It stocks lots of cute and unusual finds. I would have stayed there for hours if Alex is not there with me.

Garden Party @ Ponsonby

Next is Parnell, a short drive from Auckland city. It is a nice place to spend your afternoon. It has a yuppie crowd with lots of nice restaurants and cafes too.

I noticed a few international advertising agencies in the area.

Parnell Village is a popular place among tourists. I was expecting more after looking at the pictures in some of the travel guides.

The Chocolate Shop is my favourite. Don't miss the Hoglund Art Glass Gallery if you like fine glass art. It does come with a high price tag too.

From Left: Hoglund Art Glass Gallery, Parnell Village Shops & The Chocolate Shop

Opposed to the comments we received on the North Island from many of our friends, we find that this region has its own beauty and characteristics which the South Island may not deliver.

Take the long flat stretch of Ninety Mile Beach for example, this is a must-see if you get a chance to visit the Bay of Islands and the Far North.

We booked a full day trip to Cape Reinga on a 4x4 wheeler (converted from a military truck!) and we must agree that this is the best of natural New Zealand.
Besides the Kauri Forests, the highlight of the trip is the Te Paki sand dunes.

The sand-boarding experience is one both Alex and myself enjoyed thoroughly. I must warn you that it is an aerobic activity!

From Left: Clayton and me with our 4x4 wheeler;
Alex, Clayton and our driver posing at 90mile beach;
The beautiful coastline in Bay of Islands;
Climbing up the top of the Te Paki sand dunes

I must tell you that this 12-hour full-day tour is not for the faint-hearted. And not recommended if you have little children.

Trust us, we are speaking from experience!

One word of caution: private cars are not allowed on 90mile beach.

Paihia in the Bay of Islands is one quaint seaside village that attracts lots of tourists and locals.
This is the hub for all tours/cruises in the region.

We spend two days here and it is nice just driving around enjoying the pristine beaches and clear blue waters.

Speaking of beaches, Coromandel has lots to offer. Compared to the Northland, the coastline in Coromandel is more rustic and remote, complemented with the rugged forests.

Due to time factor, we only managed to visit Hahei and Hot Water Beach.
If you are in this area, please don't miss the gorgeous Cathedral Cove. We could only catch a glimpse of it as it is challenging taking the full trail with Clayton on our backs!

Cathedral Cove is easily accessible by walkway from Hahei. Bring a bottle of water with you if you are doing the walk.
You do need few days to see and do more here in the Coromandel.

In my opinion, it is more local, less touristy, more

The Hot Water Beach is a natural hot water spa two hours either side of low tide. You can dig your own spot and soak yourself in the hot spring pool.

Check out the low tide times with the reception of your stay or any tourist information centre in the area. The Hot Wave Cafe, situated a few minutes walk to Hot Water Beach provides rental of spade and shovel.

Left: Alex soaking in the hot water pool;
Bottom: Looks like a party is going on at the pools!

On our way to Rotorua, we decided to stop at Mount Maunganui for a night.

Commonly known as The Mount, this small town resembles a little of Surfers Paradise at the Gold Coast, Australia, except that it is less crowded and not so commercialised.

The Mount is a popular place for joggers and climbers.

We did the full walk of 3.5km with Clayton in the pram. It is a easy and lovely climb. We stopped by a few times just to admire the sea views, at the same time, get some rest.

Go for the climb to the summit if you can. It takes about 2 hours to get up there and it is also a popular spot for hang-gliders and para-gliders.

Top: Alex, Clayton and myself taking a walk at The Mount

Right: A shot of Ocean Beach

We like this town. It is one place where the Mount meets the sea and it's so friendly and relaxing. It looks like a great place to retire.

The sidewalk cafes along Marine Parade are a favourite hangout for the locals. Unlike the Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast, you get more locals here than tourists. There are some really nice luxurious houses here along the Ocean beach. Properties in this area are very pricey.

Hold your noses! We are in Rotorua!

It is almost a crime not visiting Rotorua if you are visiting the North Island. This is one of the most visited place in this island.

You can smell Rotorua before entering the town. Every one on the street seems to be a tourist. It is quite touristy.

Having said that, this town is energetic. It is packed with lots of activities and accommodations to suit all kinds of budget.

I recommend that you visit the i-Site (see left photo) first if you are uncertain about what to do here. This is the most well-designed and impressive tourist information centre we have come across in this country.

It pays to chat with one of the consultants to find out more about the activities and adventures. You can also find lots of accommodation brochures here.

Apart from the sulphuric aroma, thermal spas and pools are common sights here. It's a great opportunity for pure indulgence. Soak those aches away!

Make sure you also check out the geothermal attractions here. To name a few:

Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Hidden Valley Orakei Korako Geyserland Resort
Hell's Gate

Among these, we pick WaiOtapu.

The highlight of this colourful thermal attraction is Lady Knox Geyser which performs at 10.15am daily.You will also see the spectacular Champagne Pool and the country's largest mud pool.

For free geothermal action, go to Kuirau Park. It is in town itself, off Pukuatua and Ranolf Street.

Alex booked an adventure with SledgeAbout the next day while I babysit Clayton. I will cover the activity in detail in the next posting.

Bottom: Alex in his gear with guide, Adam. All ready to sledge!

What better indulgence than to soak in the spa after a tiring and strenuous activity for Alex!

We booked ourselves for a family spa at the Polynesian Spa in the afternoon. This is real fun.

This is Clayton's first 'warm pool' experience and he absolutely enjoys it! Look at that smile! (see photo below)

That was a tiring day for us. We head for Lake Taupo after the spa experience.

On our way to Lake Taupo, we stop by at the Huka Falls. We were amazed at the speed on which the water move from the Waikato River to the drop!

It was raining during our two nights in Taupo. Well, what other things to do but to enjoy the comforts in our nice motel, Baycrest Lodge.

But then again, the poor weather didn't spoil our fun in Taupo either.

We pick the ground floor room. It has a private courtyard and private thermal tub. We can then fill to our requirements with 50 degree C thermal water extracted from the ground.

It is so relaxing soaking in the tub in the moonlight... yep! And you don't even have to bother about swim gear. It is so private. I'm sure you can star gaze on a clear night.

So glad Clayton slept early those two nights.

Lake Taupo is the biggest lake in New Zealand. We had a nice stroll along Lake Taupo. We notice that there are lots of accommodation choices facing the lake too.

This town seems less busy than Rotorua. I did some shopping for Clayton in Pumpkin Patch while Alex relaxed in one of the many local cafes with Clayton.

Clayton had his share of fun in the children's playground. He even found a friend, Liam (see left photo).

Taupo is serene and quiet during our time of travel but this lakeside town can get very busy during summer months.

Our final destination in the North Island is Wellington.

The city that can BLOW you away!

We enroute to Napier for a look-see and as a stopover as this is one of the longer drives in our trip.

It is a pity that we can't stay on for a night or two as this is a lovely little town. We had breakfast in a nice local cafe. You will read more of this cafe in my food posts.

We have been told about how windy Wellington is. But the truth is, it is more windy that we expected it!

At some point, I almost take this city out of our itinerary but sure glad I did not.

Wellington is sophisticated and artistic. In my opinion, the nicest city in North Island when it comes to architecture.

Many of the old historical buildings are restored and used for commercial purposes. You can find cafes, restaurants and retail shops housed in some of these buildings.

I find the shopping here alot nicer. Fashion seems a little trendier too compared to the other cities in this country.

One of my favourite shops is Living Nature which has a flagship store in Lambton Quay. This is a locally owned skin/body care company from Kerikeri. It is organic, natural and affordably priced.

Despite the cold winds and rain, we spent a day at the waterfront and the famous Te Papa museum. We got there after a few pit stops from the strong winds. Welcome to Wellington!

Wellington is a compact place and you can get around the city quite easily by foot. Most attractions can be seen via the excellent public transport.

If you can avoid using a car, do so. Driving can be a hassle in the city.

The restaurant, bar and cafe scenes here is amongst the liveliest in New Zealand. This city is so cosmopolitan. I particularly adore the elegance in the architecture. Old with character.

I must not forget to mention our trip to the Botanic Gardens that afternoon. It is so convenient getting there.

Hop up the Kelburn Cable car along Lambton Quay (next to McDonald's) and you will get there. Besides, the views is splendid on a cloudless day.

Our trip in this island ends as we cross over to the south via the Interislander - The Lynx.

We were very excited that morning. We were all ready to explore the South.

Ok... they say 'pictures speak a thousand words'. So I'll let the following pictures do the talking! The finale of the North and ushering into the South ...

From Top Left: Architectural beauty in wellington; View from the Botanic Gardens; In the Kelburn
Cable Car; Retail therapy in Lambton Quay;
Cable Car Lane at 280 Lambton Quay

Photos on left show our journey to Picton, entrance of the South Island via The Lynx

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