New Zealand Week 1: Auckland, Bay of Islands, Coromandel Peninsula

Kia Ora Friends! We have been having a great time here in New Zealand for the last week. It hasn’t all been super fun though as we are still adjusting to driving on the left and dealing with being generally allergic to the countryside (I have sneezed twice while writing this sentence). But we have still managed to get the most of out each place we have visited so far. Our first week has been pretty jam packed with activities. We spent a few days exploring Auckland and Waiheke island, drove to Bay of Islands and did a boat tour, and then completed a quick driving tour of the Coromandel peninsula.


Waiheke Island

Our first day in Auckland we took a ferry ride out to Waiheke island. It’s known for beautiful beaches and its many vineyards. They have a hop-on/hop-off bus for the main section of the island, so we used that to explore once we got off of the ferry.

Our first stop was a hiking trail that went down to some little waterfalls called the Cascades. It was a bit more grueling than I had planned for (i.e. my jeans weren’t cutting it) but it was nice being out in nature for a little while. After the hike, we went to a winery that boasted great views of the island and we weren’t disappointed.

We also headed to Onetangi beach for some fish & chips and a nice beach walk. It was a beautiful day and I regret not bringing my swimsuit, but we still enjoyed a stroll. After our beach combing, we headed to Tantalus winery and tasted/purchased some delicious Sauvignon blanc and Rosé wines.

Waiheke is a really nice place to relax and unwind — if we lived in Auckland, we would be out there all of the time!

City of Auckland and Mt Eden

Our next full day in Auckland was spent exploring the city. We had seen the waterfront area when we went to the ferry harbor the day before, so we decided to head into the neighborhood of Mt. Eden and head up the large hill there to take in the views.

Auckland is built on a volcanic field, with something like 50 or so volcanoes within the metropolitan area. You can see caldera hills dotted around if you get a good view of the city. Mt Eden is one of the largest ones you can explore and get great views of downtown and the surrounding area. The track up there was pretty easy, only steep in one section. Once at the top, the views were incredible and the caldera itself was also pretty impressive.

After taking in the views, we went for lunch in the neighborhood nearby before heading back to the central business district where we were staying. Due to a strike by the bus drivers, we received free bus rides the rest of day which was pretty nice. On the way back, we stopped at a great ice cream place called Giapo. They have the most #instagramable ice cream I have ever seen. Luckily for me, almost half of their amazing flavors were non-dairy!

For dinner and drinks, we explored the Ponsonby area of the city. It was definitely a much younger crowd and was a bustling place to be on Friday night. We had dinner at the best Asian food place I have ever been called Mekong Baby. Then we got another free bus ride back to our airbnb. Auckland was a pretty fun city and maybe we could have used one more day to explore, but I think we covered a good amount of the highlights for the 48 hours we were there.

Piha Beach

Our way back from Bay of Islands, we wanted to break up the four hour drive, so we stopped into the Waiketere ranges and went to Piha beach. I know this isn’t really part of the auckland part of the trip, but it was only 30 minutes from there, so it could be a nice day trip if you had time in Auckland to venture more out of the city. Piha was a quiet beach town and had the beach mostly to ourselves since we were lucky to be visiting at the beginning of the season. It was a beautiful place to walk around and get some cool photos (and not be in the car). Oh and if you’re lucky like we were, you can see the filming of the reality tv show in NZ about lifeguards on Piha Beach!

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands was our next stop after Auckland and it was a moderately long 3.5 hour drive from the city. The airbnb was really nice, as the view was great and the host provided everything we needed for breakfast for our two mornings there. Our first evening was spent wandering the beach, eating Indian food, and watching our favorite cheesy Netflix Christmas movies.

The second day we were booked in for a boat tour with snorkeling and SUP. There are 144 islands in the Bay of Islands and we only toured through a small number of them. It was a bit of a dreary day but the boat tour was nice with great guides. We stopped at an island for a quick hike to a viewpoint and some tea/coffee. Then we were taken to a more secluded beach for snorkeling and SUP. Snorkeling in the cold water wasn’t amazing and there wasn’t a whole lot to see in the bay we were in and the SUP was fine until you caught the wind and were almost blown out of the bay. We did get to eat some super fresh sea urchin roe (uni) right of an urchin and it wasn’t that bad actually.

Coromandel Peninsula

We headed to the Coromandel peninsula with a layover in Thames after Bay of Islands. Thames is cute little town and was good starting point for exploring the Coromandel area. We went and saw the cafe where they filmed one of our favorite Netflix movies, Falling Inn Love. But we were only there for about 12 hours, as we needed to head out early the next morning for the Cook Beach area.

Our first part of the tour was getting to area where Hot Water Beach is located. Google maps routed us onto a sometimes sketchy gravel road through the mountains (thanks Matt for getting us there in one piece). We booked a one hour boat tour since we wanted to see all of the sights in a small amount of time and we did just that. It was a pretty windy day and I almost killed my DLSR camera by taking on the Zodiac boat we went out in (saltwater and electronics are not the best idea).

After the boat ride, we headed to Cook’s Beach for a picnic lunch and then headed to Hot Water Beach. We had luck on side with timing because it was exactly low tide when we got there. The reason that’s important is because the main attraction at this beach is that there are hot springs underneath it that are only accessible during low tide. You bring a spade down there and dig a shallow hole that fills up with REALLY hot water to make yourself a jacuzzi. We didn’t have enough time to dig holes ourselves, but we were able to get into one a nice family had made and was hilariously effective at being a jacuzzi. The water was way too hot to stay in for long periods, but if you add some cold sea water into it, it would have been perfect. Unfortunately we had to leave to make our travel clinic appointment in Hamilton, but if we come back, we will definitely spend more time in that area.

Week one exploring the north island was really nice. Week two is just as packed with activities as we explore the rest of the north island before spending our last week in the South Island. Thanks to those who checked in on us after the White Island eruption to make sure we weren’t there — people here are still reeling from the events. Speaking of natural disasters, there have been a ton of flooding and landslides on the South Island and we actually had to cancel/reroute our South Island trip because one of our destinations is cut off due to blocked roads. Let’s see if we can still get to the glaciers by that point in our trip…stay tuned!


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