Globetrotting Glynis - Chapter 2: The Land of the Long White Cloud
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Our trans Pacific flight from Los Angeles was long but interesting. An interesting flight? Well on this one you lose a day on your way over the International Date Line, and at our Silver Age we can ill afford to lose a day! A tip to save time, we missed out on a stopover in Fiji - I would advise this or any of the Pacific Islands. After 10 days travelling through , a rest on a South Pacific Island is a must, to recharge your batteries for the next part of your adventure.
We arrived in Auckland, our first New Zealand stop and got a taxi to our next hotel the Langham. This hotel was recommended by Trailfinders and was very good. Lovely rooms and a good restaurant that served a buffet every evening. The hotel is convenient for walking to the top of Queen Street, the main shopping area of Auckland but also ran a courtesy bus service frequently to the Harbour area and return. This is a bonus and maybe a walk down but definitely the bus back!
The City of Sails did not disappoint. We got the obligatory Red Bus to see as many sights as possible and viewed the lovely city that is sprawling and diverse.
The Auckland Museum is a must with many rooms designated to the Maori culture and traditions. The Maori "haka" dance is performed daily so check the times and enjoy the performance. If you miss the Earth Quake Room, ask someone, it is quite an experience.
A trip to the Island Wahiki is also a very pleasant way to spend your day. Take a tourist bus and let them show you the lovely villages and an excellent view looking back at Auckland. We stayed in Auckland for 3 nights and then hired our car to start our tour of North Island. Our plan was to go North to the Bay of Island passing Whangarei. Be warned this is a long journey, with a very English feel but with much quieter roads!!!. The journey took about 3 hours, but allow more time if you want to make more stops.
Auckland evening out - A tip
Take the bus to Mission Bay and treat yourself to excellent Fish and Chips, or some other fish dish at the famous restaurant The Chip Shop in the centre of this charming bay. Ask anyone for the best fish and chip shop and they will point you in the right direction. The selection is good and cheaper if you are a "senior" but I am sure they think older people eat less than the young, so don't go for the senior meal if you are hungry.
We stayed at the Decks of Paihia which we found and had been recommended by the Lonely Planet. The accommodation was lovely with a good breakfast, a congenial host and a welcome swimming pool after a long journey or a day out around the Islands. A car is recommended for this accommodation as a walk to the Centre is about 10 minutes down a hill and 20 minutes coming back!! Paihia is a tourist area, a small town with excellent restaurants. The trip to Russell by boat is a must, we went on the speed boat and it was great. You can drive to Russell and take the Car/Passenger transporter to the Island, and it is a lovely place when you get there.
Our itinerary only allowed us to stay 2 nights in the Bay of Islands area, but if you have longer it would be good to see the 90 mile beach, but we had to press on. We headed South to the Coramandel Peninsula and stayed at the Coastal Motor Lodge a really good place to explore the Peninsula, but on the outskirts of a very small town called Thames that was "asleep" to tourists with only one good restaurant. The Peninsula is wonderful and the town of Coramandel has a charm of its own.
We had 2 nights in this area then headed to Rotorua - Smell what smell!! Yes, just a little or it just depends on your sense of smell, it was alright and did not stop our enjoyment and amazement of the area. The town is commercial and full of hotels and we stayed at the Millennium. This is a good hotel and overlooks the Lake at the edge of Rotarua. Obviously the reason to go to Rotarua is to see the Geysers and the multi- coloured steaming sulphur lakes of the area, it is amazing and not a place to miss. A night out at the Maori Village is also well worth the visit, not your "Spanish drink all you can evening" A totally interesting evening, full of respect for the Maori Culture, old and young alike cannot fail to be impressed by the customs and culture of the world of the Maori people and excellent food that is cooked underground. This is a Hangi meal and watching my husband do the Haka was a good and amusing end to a lovely evening.
Taupo was our next stop, and the sight of the Lake and Mountains in the distance will stay with me for ever. Another commercial town, busy, lively and geared for sports minded people of all ages. We stayed at another Millennium Hotel, also very good and at the end of the Lake so that it was quiet and private, with good rooms and excellent food. Taupo is a lovely place and one I should like to visit again. A tip here is to get a room overlooking the lake for the wonderful views.
Napier was our next stop, the "Art Deco" city. It is an interesting city surrounded by vine yards, It is the centre of the Hawks Bay wine growing area and a visit is a must. The Centre of the town is visited by the Cruise Ships and the shops are geared up for the hordes of people and the prices of goods reflect that. We visited a local park, just before Christmas and the townspeople were out in full with children and parents all enjoying the Summer evening in shorts and t shirts, singing Christmas carols and waiting for Father Christmas - who arrived on a crane! The most exciting event of the evening was the sky, yes the sky at night would have had Patrick Moore the astronomer waxing lyrically about the formation of the clouds that were 'painted' the most amazing red and gold, what a sight!
A tip: the above two hotels did not have a swimming pool or a good rest area. This is a must on these long trips, when you have been sightseeing, it is a joy to be sat by a lovely pool with your cup of tea or a gin and tonic!
"Windy Wellington" yes, it is and that is what the locals call Wellington. Many people forget to tell you the "bad and uncomfortable" bits of their holidays, but mark my words Wellington is windy.
We stayed at the wonderful Museum Hotel right by the bay. The hotel is a Museum itself, with fine art, paintings and sculptures - even a motor bike in the lobby, amazing. The Museum Hotel is across the road from the Wellington Museum and is well worth a visit. Most Museums in New Zealand are free to everyone and encourages people to see how their culture has grown and is still growing.
The Red Bus is a must as this is a big city and it is worth the money to go to places to be dropped on and off the bus. One drop is the Iconic Funicular Railway that goes from the street below to the top of the town and back, with amazing views of Wellington and surrounding areas. From the top you can walk down through the wonderful Botanical gardens with its famous rose garden and for rose growers everywhere this is a lovely place to be.
We arrived in Wellington at the weekend and Sunday evening is not a time to try to find a good restaurant near the hotel, the food is expensive as in any big city so be prepared.
The next part of our adventure started on the ferry from Wellington going to South Island.
For more information, visit New Zealand Sky.
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