Hey, have you checked out Lake Taupo?

Our first experience with Taupo (pronounced Tow-Paw in Maori) was when we were driving back from Wellington to Auckland. On the 8 hour drive home, we drove by the lake and pulled over to admire how scenic it was.

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Can you tell we were getting tiered of the driving?

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go back to lake Taupo with Chads Parents. Normally we are huge beach people, and we weren’t expecting the lake to be as awesome as it was.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls are a set of waterfalls that drain lake Taupo. This is one of the prettiest sights in New Zealand. The water is a spectacular aqua color. If you wanna kick it up a notch, you can do the Huka Falls Jet and whip around on the water.

Maori Rock Carvings

Another big attraction in this area is the Maori Rock Carvings. These carvings are the remains of an ancient Maori village and they are only accessible by water. We did a 5pm pizza and beer cruise with Sail Barbary. We highly recommend it. The sail was very tranquil and the mountains in the backdrop created a wonder ambiance.

After the sail we picked up some dinner and watched the sunset. Can you think of a better day? I can’t. Spending time on the water with family, this is my idea of a perfect day.

 

Thermal Springs (Otumuheke Stream)

We drove out to the Spa Park and took a short walk to the stream. There we saw an abundance of people relaxing in the water and steam rising from a few areas. One of the most unique things about New Zealand is the thermal activity. There are many man made pools throughout the island that are naturally heated by the earth and a few nature made springs which have thermal activity. This was one of them. The temperature and levels of water vary according on rainfall, but trust me, it gets H O T!

 

Recommendations:

  • Don’t miss out on Taupo.
  • Huka Falls is absolutely beautiful, worth seeing.
  • Thermal springs, also worth seeing.
  • The Maori rock carvings were really neat, but we enjoyed the Sail itself the most. We would recommend Sail Barbary a hundred times over.

 

Thanks for tuning in to check out our latest adventure!

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The city of Wellington

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Wellington was on the top of our list of places we wanted to visit. We have read such wonderful things about this little city from a fellow blogger, the Young Adventurous.

A little bit of background on Wellington:

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Wellington is the capitol of New Zealand. It is located on the most southern end of the north island. It is located in the Cook Strait which causes strong winds to funnel through the city and give it the nickname “Windy Welly.”

Our first visit to Windy Welly:

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Our first trip to Wellington was a couple of days after Christmas. Wellington is about an 8 hour drive from our home here in Auckland. The weather was  UNREAL. We got really lucky and got a couple of days that were beautiful, sunny, and not windy at all (apparently this is very atypical).

We made it a point to explore as many of the Young Adventurous’s recommendations as possible. Click here to check out her blog post.

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Coffee at Fidel’s Cafe. Note that is coffee I am drinking from that bowl.

 

Fidel’s Cafe: Best coffee in New Zealand. I had a bowl of coffee. Yes. A small bowl. I’m really going to miss all this yummy coffee so easily available in NZ.

Chow: If you are in Wellington and don’t check out Chow, shame on you. This restaurant serves fresh asian cuisine. We stepped out of our comfort zone and ordered: Mussaman Curry, Red duck curry, Vietnamese Pho, & an array of appetizers. May I add that all this food was over two separate visits, although Chad probably could have eaten it all in one sitting. When we found out we were going to get another chance to visit Wellington, we were most excited to go back to Chow.

Havana bar: This bar/restaurant has a really awesome environment. They serve tapa’s style food, which was very  delicious but a little on the pricey side.

Basque bar: If you are in the mood for some unique sangria on the rooftop deck, make sure to check out this bar.

The Library bar: a bar modeled after a library. Books everywhere. May I add that they have two for one deserts (on Tuesdays). Defiantly worth checking out.

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Dirty little secret: This bar is slightly difficult to find, but totally worth the search. This rooftop bar has such a great view of the city. 

DreamWorks exhibition at Te Papa Museum

I don’t know if I have ever had so much fun at a museum. Being a lover of all things animated, this was so up my alley. I blended right in with all the little kids.Classics such as Shrek,MadagascarKung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon became an exhibition. Need I say more? We had a blast spending the morning in the museum.

 

Up next: The Famous Cable Car

When in Wellington…. you must ride the cable car. It’s the iconic thing to do. It was originally created to serve as a connection between the Lambton Quay (the main shopping streat) and a suburb in the hills called Kelburn. When the cable car drops you off at the top, there is a nice long windy trail that one can hike back down to the bottom. There is also a botanical garden and an observatory. We didn’t end up doing the hike, we just relaxed and enjoyed the views.

 

Our second visit to Wellington:

Chad got the opportunity to work in the Wellington office of his company for a few days at the beginning of February. So back to Wellington we went! Without any complaints.

While Chad was at work, I took a ferry across the harbor to Days Bay. I rented a bike and found a beautiful trail that was right along the coast line. On my adventure I saw some sweet little billy goats, and then it terminated at a lovely little lighthouse. It was a really awesome way to spend a Wednesday.

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Extra pictures:

Nelson: Abel Tasman

 

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Last week we had the privilege of being able to explore the lovely little town on Nelson, NZ. This was our first time to the south island of NZ and we were very excited. The rumors are true: the south island really is majestic.

Our flight landed a little after noon on Saturday. We rented a car, checked into our hotel, and did a little bit of cruising around before dinner. We stopped by Tahuna Beach Reserve and took a little walk on the beach. So romantic 😉

Abel Tasman

Sunday we booked a kayak tour to explore the Abel Tasman National Park. There was a ton (at least ten) companies that offered kayak tours, I’m sure they were all very similar, but we loved Sea Kayak (just in case you were looking for a recommendation).  The Abel Tasman is know for its beautiful secluded golden beaches, world famous coastal hiking trail, and granite cliffs. The hiking trails range from a couple of hours to a couple of days (I like hiking, but no way would I even be interested in a couple day hike.) To check out the trails offered click  H E R E.

Our tour started with a three hour sea kayaking adventure through small little caves, and around Adele island (aka Seal Island in Olga’s mind). Our go pro was acting up and we couldn’t get close enough to the seals to get a good picture of them. We saw a few little seal’s bathing in the sun, and a little family with four little baby seals. It was so sweet. Can you tell I like seals?

After the kayaking portion of the tour, we docked our kayak at the Watering Cove to have lunch (included in the tour we purchased). After lunch we went for a swim and lounged on the lovely little beach. After we were done bathing in the wicked New Zealand sun, we started on our 3.5 hour hike back to Marahau. The weather this day couldn’t have been anymore perfect, a little on the hot and humid side. The hike through the brush offered some shade from the sun and a nice little breeze to cool us off. Of course we ran out of water half way through our hike and felt like a cartoon character stranded in the dessert. We had plans to meet with some friends for dinner, but right at the end of the trek was a perfectly positioned wood fire pizza place (talk about a perfect marketing strategy). Needless to say, we apologized to our friends for bailing on them while we stuffed our faces with the most delicious pizza known to man.

Blenheim/ Marlborough

Day three we spent exploring the Marlborough wine region. I’m sure those of you following our blog are starting to think that we have an obsession with wine. Yeah, we kinda do. New Zealand is a very new wine growing region, but their wines are to die for! Marlborough is the top wine producing region in NZ, soooooooo we had to do a few tastings.

The vineyards we visited:

  • Allan Scott Family Winemakers: The property is very homey and Spanish inspired.
  • Fromm Winery: The whites were all very tasty, reds were not too impressive.
  • Seresin Estate: Every single wine was unreal. Favorite: Chardonay
  • Te Whare Ra: A married couple of winemakers own and operate this vineyard. Loved every single wine. They are very talented & you can taste that in their unique wines.
  • Nautilus Estate : First time trying the “Albarino” grape. Super tasty.
  • No 1 Family Estate: All champagnes/sparkling wine. They were very good, I’m just not a fan of sparkling wine.

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After our wine tastings we head to a bar to watch part of the Super bowl. Both teams were so awesome it was hard to pick a side. Congrats to the Denver Bronco’s.

From here we head to Picton and caught the ferry to Wellington. More to come on those adventures 😉

 

 

 

Bay of Islands

A little background:

The Bay of Islands is an enclave located on the North East coast of the north island of New Zealand (that’s a mouthful). This enclave encompasses more than 140 subtropical islands. This area is know for its warm climate, beautiful undeveloped beaches, fishing, and diving.

We stayed in a beautiful bach (short from Bachelor Pad aka holiday home) in the little town of Russel. Once known as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific” and the first capital of New Zealand, Russel is now a beautiful small town with a population of about 800 residents. We loved the character of the town and the locals were very sweet.

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The view from our bach (Kanuka Loft)

Our adventures:

We had a little bit of a black cloud following us on this day. We arrived to the bach early Friday. The weather was hot and humid with pouring rain. We drove into town, picked up some Thai food, and head back to take shelter from the rain. There was not much to do, so we resorted to a good old fashion game of scrabble, and we had a blast!

The next day we had much better luck. With the weather on our side (only a little gloomy), we booked a sail around the islands. After much research, we found Dave and “She’s a Lady.” Dave was an excellent skipper, very informative, and a great guy. We made some wonderful friends, one of them being Captain Lexi. All the girls onboard commandeered the boat and were very keen on sailing. We docked at Stingray Bay. Here we were able to do some kayaking, hiking, and swimming.

This day there was a sailboat race. We did not participate in the race, but we did participate in the afterparty. After we came back from the sail, we head home to shower and to the local Yacht club for the celebration. After they declared the winners, it was dinner time. Dinner was a traditional Hāngi. A Hāngi is a traditional Maori meal which is cooked in the ground.

Multiple times we had heard that the Bay of Islands is THE place to go diving. Obviously that put it on the top of our “To Do” list. I wish we had more footage from our dive, but to be honest, I was a little nervous. I did not have the multitasking skills to focus on learning to breathe underwater while focusing on recording. Sorry guys, you will just have to take my word for it.

The dive was i n c r e d i b l e. We did a P.A.D.I dive, which is the worlds largest recreational diving membership. The courses range from minimal entry level to advanced. We did the discover scuba diving under the direct supervision of a qualified instructor. This allows you to dive a maximum of 12 meters with an instructor. For our first time diving, this was plenty deep.

I was slightly nervous until we actually went underwater. An extreme calm immediately took over. Being surrounded by the surreal quiet, the reflection of the suns rays, and the multitude of friendly fish. We got to the ocean floor, knelt down, and the fish swarmed us from left and right. The fish were so friendly that they would let us pet them. This was the first time I’ve ever gotten the opportunity to pet fish! Should I repeat my self, I pet a fish, like you would pet a dog. How cool?! We were also able to break open sea urchins and feed the fish. We loved this experience.

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We had the most amazing trip with Mr. Don & Mrs. Denise and we wouldn’t have done anything differently!

Recommendations:

  • Bay of Islands is a MUST DO!
  • Sailing: Defiantly recommend “She’s a Lady” with Dave. Call him!
  • Go diving. You will regret it if you don’t. We went with Paihia Dive, two thumbs up for them.
  • Russel vs. Paihia? We liked Russel. Paihia was cool too but in our opinion Russel had more character.
  • Don’t be afraid of a Hāngi. Its a really cool way to experience the Maori culture.

 

Extra pictures:

Hot Water Beach and Coromandel.

How we first found out about Coromandel:

When we first decided we were moving to New Zealand, I didn’t know what to make of it. I wasn’t sure if it was going to resemble the Caribbean, or Hawaii, or Australia. So what did I do? I went to google! I typed “N E W  Z E A L A N D” into my google search bar and clicked on google images. This was the image that caught my attention:

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Photo credit: Google (obviously)

My initial reaction was “WOW!” We’re moving there? I can’t wait to go there!

Our first visit to Coromandel:

The first time we went to Cathedral Cove was when Chad’s parents came to visit. I was so excited to take them there and show them how magical New Zealand really is. When we arrived to the location, we all quickly realized that it was a 45 minute hike to actually get to Cathedral cove. At the time, Chad’s dad was recovering from a knee injury, so we didn’t want to aggravate his injury by forcing him to make the trek.

 

Our second trip to Coromandel:

This past weekend we head back to this beautiful place, ready to make the hike. The hike was a bit of a trek. We hiked down the hill, then back up a hill, then back down a hill, then down a ton of steps! Once we got to the beach we were ready to go for a swim.

Cathedral cove was just as majestic as I had imagined. This was a surreal moment for me. I stood at the base of the cove, sweaty and hot, and thought to myself “Wow, we really made it. We made it to New Zealand.” WE MADE IT TO NARNIA! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this!) Accept, there were a lot more people there than in that clip. Cathedral Cove is a tourist attraction, so obviously there is going to be more people there than we see in the photos. What we’ve learned is that even the touristy things in New Zealand, aren’t as crowded as touristy places in the U.S. (accept Hot Water Beach… but more on that later.)

Recommendations:

  • Bring a pair of sneakers & a water bottle for the short hike. Flip flops will do as well.
  • There is an area here for snorkeling, so bring your gear!
  • We found out that you can do a boat tour to see Cathedral Cove if you can’t make the hike.

Hot Water Beach:

We heard great things about Hot Water Beach. A beach where you can dig a hole in the sand, which then self fills with hot water, and you can relax in this self made spa. Sounds great, right? Well, it wasn’t exactly like that.

The hot water is produced by cracks in the earth that remain after volcanic activity that occurred there. Even though volcanic activity is no longer prevalent, the cracks below the surface still exist. To access the area where these cracks are, you have to come two hours either side of low tide. If you can find one of these two cracks (don’t worry, there will be a ton of tourist marking the spot), then you have to find an area to dig. The only area we found that actually produced hot water was so close to the ocean that the waves kept breaking onto it. Another con was that there were SO MANY people digging holes, that it was hard to find a spot. Most of the holes didn’t produce hot water either.

Therefore, Hot Water Beach was somewhat of a letdown. It was way to crowded for our liking. It was pretty neat to feel the warm water, but that was enough for us. We found a little nook under the mangroves further down on the beach where we planted ourselves and had a nice picnic.

Although the hot springs portion of the beach was slightly lame, the beach itself is absolutely breath taking. Also, the current at this beach is very strong and dangerous to swim/surf in. Just an FYI if your planning on visiting

Recommendations:

  • It’s not the most compelling thing to see in NZ. If you don’t get to see it, oh well.
  • Bring a shovel!
  • One of the cracks on the beach is located directly in front of the big rock in the water. (You will know it when you see it)
  • GO DURING LOW TIDE! When is low tide? Click here to find out!

More on our New Zealand adventures to come…..

The beginning of 3 weeks of travel

First Stop: Hawkes Bay

We spent our first hot Christmas indoors watching Arthurs Christmas (which is our NEW favorite Christmas movie), making Christmas cookies, and drinking hot chocolate.

We began the three week trip the day after Christmas. First thing on Boxing Day, we packed our tiny Yaris to the brim and set our sights on Hawkes Bay. Before even moving to New Zealand, Hawkes bay was on the top of our list of things to do. We both love wine, therefore we had to taste some of the world famous New Zealand wine.

 

After driving approximately 5hours, the first thing we did was to head straight to dinner for some green tip mussels. Even if you don’t like mussels, trust  me, you will like these mussels. After dinner we wandered around the quiet deserted little town. I’m sure this little town is crawling with people on an every day basis BUT on boxing day it was a ghost town.

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After dinner we drove up to Bluff Hill to watch the sunset. The view was absolutely lovely. On top of the hill there were an abundance of flowers and there was no shortage of views.

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The beautiful view of Napier!

 

Wine Tasting:

The next morning we woke up early and head straight to “On Yer Bike.” Hawkes Bay is unique in the sense that it has bike trails constructed by the city that connect all the vineyards. The bike trails are separate from the road so they are safe and the trails are in excellent condition.

We picked up our bikes and hit the road!

The vineyards:

Sileni Estates– In 1997, Graeme Avery established Sileni as an export oriented producer, committed to crafting world-class fine wines. This was our favorite vineyard, we really enjoyed all of the wines here.

Favorite Wine: Merlot & Gewurztraminer

Favorite feature: Gift Shop

Abbey Cellars– Established in 2002 (woah! Doesn’t it feel like that was just yesterday?), Abbey focuses on making rich reds with smooth tannins in a middleweight style that is barrelled in 100 percent oak. This property is also a brewery. We sampled the beers here as well as the wines, which were also delicious.

Favorite wine: Riesling

Favorite feature: Outdoor area & live music

Alpha Domus– Established in 1991, “Alpha Domus winery produces world-class wines from a wide range of varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, Chardonnay, Viognier and Syrah.”

Favorite Wine: Viognier

Favorite feature: The quantity of wines available for sample.

Ngatarawa– In the union of two families, this vineyard was established in 1981. This vineyard makes a large variety of wines varying from reserves to softer every day wines.

Favorite Wine: Pinot Noir

Favorite feature: The barn like cellar room and the entire estate.

Te Awa– This vineyard has three sub-brands: Leftfield, Te Awa, and Kidnapper Cliffs. This was our second favorite vineyard, and a close tie with Sileni. All the wines here were exquisite, and the artwork on the labels was beautiful.

Favorite wine: Rose and Merlot/Cabernet blend

Favorite feature: The staff

Ash Ridge– The youngest vineyard we’ve ever been to, Ash Ridge was established in 2008. Not even a decade ago! Even thought the vineyard is fairly young, they just won New Zealand’s Young Winemaker of the Year award! Congrats!

Favorite wine: Premium estate Chardonnay

Favorite Feature: Outdoor restaurant area

 

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Recommendations:

Out of the 8 vineyards on the trail, we toured 6 of them! With over 100 vineyards and 70 wineries, there is plenty to explore. We are certain that the best way to go wine tasting is to do it via bike. You would be missing out if you came to Hastings and did not go on a vineyard bike tour. Thank you to the awesome Kiwi’s that gave us this recommendation!

If your looking for a company to use, we would recommend “On Yer Bike.” Their website is awesome, and the service couldn’t have been any better.

Also, don’t forget that this is only one of four tasting trails. If you don’t like wine, there are also other waterfront and scenic trails available. If your interested in exploring all the bike trails Hawke’s Bay has to offer, click here! 

Last recommendations: don’t forget to make some super cool friends & have fun!

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Our friends from Holland: Miranda & Menno

 

 

A few extra pictures:

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Surf trip to Raglan

Raglan has been on our to do list for EVER!

We are so thankful that we got the opportunity to go down to Raglan for the weekend. Raglan is a beautiful little surf town on the west coast of the north island of New Zealand. Raglan is world know for three surf spots: Ngarunui Beach, Manu Bay, and Whale Bay. Although the surf was a little bit on the small side when we went, my surfer boy had to get his toes wet regardless.

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Photo credit: Google

The town itself was a little strip of surf stores, art galleries, coffee shops, an ice cream hut, and a few little restaurants. Every time we drove into town, it was always populated.

The first thing that caught your eye when you walked onto the beach was the sunlight glittering off of the sand.  It was beyond majestic.  The whole west coast of New Zealand has black sand beaches and we are enjoying the opportunity to explore as many of them as possible.

Whale Bay

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We started our trip by finding the campground we were staying in, checking in, and immediately heading down the road to check out the surf. The first place we went was Whale Bay. We walked down the steep hill and onto the charcoal rocks. The surf wasn’t to impressive at the moment, so we just wandered around the rocks and explored the shoreline. Out of nowhere, wandered over this old dog. He was well traversed in the  landscape and showed us the way around the rocks. He followed us around, and at times took the lead and showed us where to go. We named him “Melvin the mooch.” For a minute, we were concerned he might not have a home until he followed us to the end of the rocks and then said goodbye! There was no doubt that he was a very loved local dog.

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Ngarunui Beach

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We then head to the biggest sandy swimming beach in the area, Ngarunui Beach. The waves here were a little bit better, so Chad grabbed his board and I grabbed the beach chair. Once again, to get to the beach we needed to hike down the massive incline. The hills are always worth it though.

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After a little surfing, a little sunshine, and a little grub… we head back to the campsite to shower and get ready for dinner.

One of the local restaurants was having a Christmas party that night, so we head there for dinner. This was our meal at Rock-it Kitchen:

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I was a little taken aback when this guy came out, but it was so delicious that I got over the fact that my flounder was looking back at me. After dinner, we head back to the campsite and head straight to bed.

Manu Bay

The next morning we were awoken by the extremely load snoring  of our neighbor. We got a nice early start to the day, made some eggs for breakfast, packed up our tent, and head into town. We did a little shopping at the adorable surf shops, and picked up a cappuccino. Once we were caffeinated, we head to Manu Bay. The tide was receding, so we just hung out at the top of the hill and absorbed as much vitamin D we possibly could. Once the waves picked up a little bit, my man friend jumped at the opportunity to surf at a world famous spot.

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Post surf, we packed up our towels and cooler then head back into town for some ice cream and fresh cold water. Shortly after, we embarked on our two hour journey home up the famous windy New Zealand roads.

 

As always, below are the bonus pictures:

 

Cheers!