Kia Ora! First week of New Zealand Travels
This is my first post of our travels in New Zealand, it will be a journey that will last 365 days and one we had been eagerly waiting to start the past few months! Rather than have it become a personal online diary of our lives here (which will only be of interest to few friends and family members), I plan to make it a travelogue packed with practical and useful information on our travels around New Zealand and the surrounding islands in Oceania, in particular how we do it with children, how we do it on a tight budget, and also useful information on visiting off the beaten path places.
Warning – we will be showcasing lots of beautiful images which will create severe wanderlust and make you want to travel here 🙂
We arrived March 22nd, bit dishevelled from our 3 weeks travels in Thailand and 24 hours in Sydney. We had already received our first visitors (thanks to Cricket World cup Semifinals), close family members visiting from Dubai. We all stayed in Takapuna first 3 days in Auckland.
Takapuna located in Auckland’s North Shore had lovely beaches, a very bustling town centre, and the beautiful lake Pupuke. It also known for its great shopping and bustling Sunday Markets (which we didn’t get to experience this time.) We checked into our Motel – Park Lane Motor Inn – only thing really good about the place was how close it was to the sea – 2 minute walk to the beach. The Motel owner was friendly, the rooms were ok, pool was very cold (or so it seemed to us after the warm waters in Thailand!) but it was quite expensive ($150 per night), especially when we compared to the serviced apartment we stayed in next. Lovely walk through the long beach and parallel to that the road with many restaurants to choose from. We went with Turkish, just to have a change from all the Asian meals we had been having the past 3 weeks in Thailand!
Next day we took the bus to Devon Port and then the ferry to Rangitoto Island. Our family visiting had already booked a Rangitoto Volcanic Explorer Tour for all of us, costs $60 for adults and $30 for kids, this includes the ferry to the island, and a guided tour around the entire island on a 4WD road-train. Normally we stay away from package or group tours, and we would just hike around the island rather than be driven around, but because we had just arrived the day before, we went along with the pre arranged plans. It worked out great, our disoriented jet lagged brains couldn’t really get into gear for planning anything day after we arrived and it was nice to have a relaxed tour around this beautiful island and hear all about its fascinating natural history and successful pest eradication stories. You do a short hike up to the summit along a wooden boardwalk and the views from here are just stunning. Pictures don’t do the views justice – plus I left my camera at home so had to borrow my cousins pictures. I definitely plan to be back here the next one year and do a proper hike through different parts of the island. Kids loved the volcanic rocks and exploring through the trails. We loved seeing all these new birds (which we can’t identify yet but hopefully will soon!)
Cricket Semi Finals at Eden Park
Our 3rd day here could not have been more exciting! We had tickets for the Semi Finals between New Zealand and South Africa. It was such an exciting game, till the last 2 balls, you just didn’t know who was going to win. Just being part of the cheering crowds, watching the cricket live, being part of the home team, it was an amazing experience. And we won too 🙂
Our fourth day we checked out of our Motel and were homeless for 5 hours until we could check into our service apartment in Botany Downs. Ashique went to his new work, family visiting left for Australia and the kids and I just took it easy and made our way to Auckland city centre on the Bus. People are just so friendly here, the bus drivers are definitely the nicest I have seen anywhere in the world! Super helpful and friendly, they just seemed to have all the time in the world to give us directions to where we wanted to go. The journey itself is great as you pass through water bodies the whole time (I simply love seeing blue, it has always been my dream to live in by the sea)
We walked around a little bit through downtown Auckland, checked out a few shops but mostly just absorbed being here in our new home base for the next one year 🙂 I didn’t take too many pictures, just enjoyed being in the sun and exploring the city.
We made our way to St Helier, one of the most popular and beautiful suburbs of Auckland the same day, visited the kids new school and saw where we will be living for the year starting April 9th. The day could not have been sunnier, our moods could not have been happier 🙂 Pictures are of the beach opposite our house, also of the walk from school 🙂 According to Shama, the water has England in it, it was quite cold. I see myself swimming and running here plenty over the next one year. Not much to say about St Heliers at this point. Am sure will be describing it plenty in posts to come!
Day 4 to 6 has been spent in Botany Downs and the first thing that struck me is how it feels like the suburbs in USA in this part of town. Huge Retail Stores, all the American food and other shops I knew when I lived in the northeast for 7 years – Dunking Donuts, Target, Kmart and more. The Town House we stayed in is exactly like ones I had lived in Lancaster. The one redeeming factor in the Botany Downs Centre was the wonderful (even though it’s a huge retail chain) book store we found here – Whitcoulls. We spent hours here everyday, soaking up all the books, both the kids and I love reading and what was different here was all the Maori history and other books based on New Zealand – fiction, facts and Photography books. We all read several children’s story books full of Maori folktales, it was all very new to us, quite fascinating. We LOVED going grocery shopping! All the produce is local, such a huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to try, and the fish…names I hadn’t heard of before, the green lipped mussels looked gorgeous, can’t wait to try it all! We had delicious pies everyday, the food here is so good 🙂
Near the end of our 1st week, we went to Mount Eden which is one of the most prominent volcanic cones remaining in the Auckland region. We hiked to the top, the highest natural point in Auckland. You get stunning panoramic views of the city from all sides. Great place to spend the day, have a picnic, walk through 5.5 acre garden with its colourful plant collections.
The Mt Eden suburb is quite vibrant and cool, some great boutique and artisan shops, and wonderful restaurants. Lot of options for vegan and vegetarian food here. We had a lovely meal here at Frasers, definitely plan to be back to try out few other restaurants here.
And that’s the recap of Week 1 in Auckland 🙂 We have now booked our first trip to Northlands region, going over Easter holiday for four days. Watch this space for next week’s travels in Whangarei, Cape Reinga, 90 Miles beach and more!