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New Zealand

October/November 2017


This trip write-up covers a five week vacation which included time in New Zealand, The Cook Islands and Australia. Part of the New Zealand and Australia portions of the trip was with two other couples from Canada.

The first part of the New Zealand trip was a self-driving tour of the North Island encompassing the area immediately south of Auckland and everything north of Auckland. The tour (which included airport transportation, a rental van, hotels, some tours, maps and a detailed itinerary) was arranged through New Zealand Self Drive Tours and we were very happy with the tour and the service we got through this company. Auckland


Our hotel for the several nights we spent in Auckland was at the bottom of Hobson Street whichprovided easy walking access to the central business district and the Viaduct Harbour with all its wonderful restaurants. We did an Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise which provided a magnificent view of the city and an amazing sunset. We also did the on/off bus tour to get a feel for the various tourist sites around the city. Auckland photos

Whitianga via Coromandel

On the first day of our driving tour we went to Whitianga via Coromandel Township. It was a magnificent drive along the Firth of Thames and across the Coromandel Peninsula.  During our stay in Whitianga we did a day trip back to Coromandel to visit the Driving Creek Railway & Potteries. The Driving Creek Railway is a very small gauge train that climbs through a rain forest via spirals, tunnels and reversing points to the “eyefull tower” at the top of a (small – 167m) mountain. Coromandel photos

While in Whitianga I was able to meet up with a former Weatherford colleague of mine from my Singapore days. Craig and Trish treated all of us to a wonderful dinner and evening of wine and conveBag Endrsation.

After Whitianga we drove to Rotorua but stopped to visit Hobbiton Movie Set on the Alexander farm just outside of Matamata. Hobbiton is the movie set used for both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. Originally it was a temporary movie set started in 1999 for the filming of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It was rebuilt in 2009 with permanent structures for the filming of The Hobbit Trilogy. The village includes forty four Hobbit Holes, a watermill and bridge, the Green Dragon Inn – the complete Shire. Hobbiton Photos


Rotorua is one of the world’s most active volcanic regions with lots of natural hot springs, steaming geysers, mud pools and other geothermal activity.

We did an evening visit to Mitai Maori Village which included a Maori cultural performance consisting of  demonstrations of traditional dress, songs, warrior canoe (waka) history, carvings, weaponry, combat, poi dance and a haka, followed by a Hangi feast in which the meats and vegetables were cooked in a covered pit in the ground.  Following the Hangi we did a walk through the forest where we saw a sacred spring, some glow-worms, silver ferns and then a kiwi enclosure at Rainbow Springs.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley was created by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. The valley includes seven craters and is still a very active geothermal system and is the world’s youngest geothermal ecosystem. There are good hiking trails through the valley with self-guided tours and a shuttle bus to get you back up to the starting point. Rotorua photos

Following two nights in Rotorua we returned to Auckland with a stop along the way at the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The Waitomo Glow Worm caves tour includes a three level network of limestone caves that ends with a boat trip on a river which passes through a large glow worm grotto.

After a night in Auckland which included one more nice dinner at one of the many Viaduct Harbour restaurants we headed to Paihia, Bay of Islands.

PaihiaHole in the Rock

Paihia is the main tourist town in the Bay of Islands of the North Island of New Zealand. Nearby is the historic 19th-century whaling port of Russell and The Waitangi National Trust estate. The Bay of Islands has more than 140 subtropical islands including Piercy Island or "The Hole In The Rock”. The bay also has beaches, big game fishing, great restaurants and lots of other adventurous things to do.

The Waitangi National Trust estate - New Zealand's most historic site as the “Birthplace of the Nation” is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on the 6th of February 1840. The Treaty, between the local Maori and European settlers set out  the terms by whiTikich New Zealand would become a British colony. We took a tour of the Treaty Grounds and saw a Maori cultural performance which included singing, poi dance, a display of Maori weaponry and the haka.

We did a boat cruise in the Bay of Islands out as far as Piercy Island which is the “Hole in the Rock”. Paihia Photos

We took an all-day bus trip from Paihia to Cape Rienga (Te Rerenga  Wairua) which included a drive along part of the 90 Mile Beach, a visit to the Puketi Forest with its giant kauri trees, sand boarding at Te Paki Stream and a walk to the Cape Reinga Lighthouse where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet. Cape Rienga Photos

The Maori name of Te Rerenga literally translates to “the leaping off place of spirits”. The spirits of the dead follow the curve of ninety mile beach heading north to the cape where they leap from a pohutukawa branch.

After two nights in Paihia we returned to Auckland and the end of the self-driving tour.  We drove west from Paihia and the Pacific Ocean to Omapere which is on the Tasman Sea. We stopped at the Waipoua Forest which has some of the largest Kauri trees in New Zealand, including the largest which is named Tane Mahuta.

We also stopped at the Kauri Museum which is just outside of Matakohe. This is a wonderful museum which covers the history of the Kauri forest industry in early New Zealand. It includes a very large Kauri gum collection, a saw mill, pioneer buildings and paraphernalia and a display of Kauri furniture build by Victorian craftsmen.

Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay is a region on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Napier and Hastings are the two major cities in the area which is a leading producer of New Zealand wine; there are many orchards and farms in the surrounding hills and some glorious beaches.

Napier is on the coast of Hawke’s Bay. It is known for its many art deco buildings in the downtown area, its waterfront promenade and the Norfolk pines that line the Marine Parade. In 1931 an earthquake destroyed most of Napier and Hastings. Both were later rebuilt in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time. Photos of Hawke's Bay and NapierGannets

Cape Kidnappers and Gannet Colony

Cape Kidnappers is the world’s largest mainland nesting place for gannets. We did a tour which started near Te Awanga village north of Napier and passes through private farms to the end of Cape Kidnappers. Along the way there areas of pasture, forest, steep gullies and spectacular views of Hawkes’ Bay from the cliff tops along the coast. Photos

Flowers & Forest

New Zealand in the spring time is famous for flowers and it has ancient subtropical rain forests that are inspiring any time of the year. Photos 


I’m always on the lookout for interesting signs. Here are a few.