NEW ZEALAND RECAP: Beaches, Hikes and Incredible Views

For all of the adventurous trips we wanted to make outside Auckland, we booked tours for. Let me tell you, it was so worth it! Our first tur was to Piha beach and the Waitakere Ranges. This beach was at the top of my list. We booked a tour through Viator with Ezy driver. It was a private tour which picked us up at ur hotel and only cost $700 for up to 11 people. Our tour guides Stu and Joanne were amazing! They brought us on a hiking tour through the stunning Waitakere Ranges, stopping at all the perfect lookout points. The views were breathtaking. Once we finished our hike, they drove us to Piha Café to have lunch an, of course, coffee. We then took a short walk to Piha Beach. When you walk up to Piha Beach the first thing you see is Lion Rock, this giant rock to the right of the beach. The black sand beach is one of the most incredible things I’ve seen. The dry sand shimmers in the sun and the went sand becomes this smooth mirror once the tide goes out. If you go there in the summer, DO NOT take your shoes off. It’s apparently extremely hot, we went in their winter and the sand was really warm.

IMG_1295Piha beach with Mom

After Piha Beach we drove to another area where we took a hike to KiteKite Falls. (pronounced KityKity). We changed into our swimsuits when we got to the beginning of the track and then took a 30 minute hike to the falls. We dunked ourselves in the water, well… some of us did. I may have chickened out and only went in half way. The water was so cold it felt like taking the polar bear plunge! After stepping into the freezing water we hiked up to the top of the falls which was pretty amazing. This day trip is a MUST for anyone who enjoys hiking.

IMG_2640KiteKite Falls

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At the top of the trail, Waitakere Ranges

One of the first things we did when we got to Auckland was hike up Mount Eden. It was a 10 minute walk from our hotel and the total hike was only about an hour to the top and down. Once at the top, you have a 360 degree view of the city. Auckland is surrounded by a lot of volcanoes, like Mount Eden. Don’t worry, the last one to erupt was 600 years ago. Another cool spot just minutes from our hotel was Cornwall Park. Cornwall Park is a huge park with some of the most incredible trees. Olive Grove is an area of the park at the base of One Tree Hill. This is where you will find all the sheep. Yes, sheep! This park in the middle of the city is famous for the sheep that roam the park.

IMG_1926View of Rangitoto Island from Mt. Eden

If you have a chance, hop on the ferry and take a 10 minute ride to Devonport. This little island is filled with cute shops and cafés. While we were on the island we discovered this amazing fruit, Feijoas. There was a bag of free Feijoas hanging from the white picket fence of a local’s home. I had never seen these fruit before so when I got home I cut one in half and decided to scoop it out and eat it just like that. It is incredible! It tastes like passionfruit and kiwi combined. I later found out that the reason I’ve never seen them before is because they aren’t exported out of New Zealand. Their shelf life is extremely short, so they wouldn’t last a trip.

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Free Feijoa’s in Devonport

Our last day there we took the most anticipated day trip, to Hobbiton! I’m going to geek out for a second. I am a huge Lord Of The Rings fan. No, I have not read the books, but I have watched the movies at least a dozen times. Naturally, when I found out I was going to New Zealand the first thing I said was “we’re going to the Shire!”. The cheapest way to do this was to book a tour through Viator since it’s a 2 hour drive from Auckland (the cost of the tour included our Hobbiton tickets as well). When we arrived at Hobbiton we hopped on one of their tour buses and they drove us to the Shire. Our tour guide Liam was wonderful. He gave us so much background information on the set and how much detail and work went into it. Some areas took 2 years to build just so that you can see it for 3 seconds in the movie. There was a Hobbit hole that we were able to open up and take a picture in and we even got to take pictures infront of Frodo and Bilbo’s house. Even if you haven’t watched the movies or read the book, like my mom, the Shire is still a stunning area with incredible views. We took a walk through the entire set and ended at the Green Dragon Inn where we enjoyed a complimentary beer. This was the perfect end to an incredible trip.

IMG_1526Inside a Hobbit Hole

IMG_1571Having a beer at the Green Dragon Inn

There were some places we would have loved to visit if we had more time. Some of my mom’s teammates went to the places we would have loved to go and raved about them.

  • Rangitoto Island: this island looks the same from every angle which is pretty cool. It is the youngest volcano in the region. There are some beautiful hiking trails all through the island.
  • Rotorua: This town is about 2 hours from Auckland and is known for their hot springs, mud baths and night life. Don’t wear your favourite swimsuit for the mudbaths, the sulfur smell doesn’t come out.
  • Coromandel Peninsula: This area has stunning beaches.
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NEW ZEALAND RECAP: All things food and coffee

About a month ago, my mom and I took a 2.5 week trip to New Zealand. We went specifically for her to play soccer in the World Masters tournament (I know, she’s a superstar!). For those of you who don’t know what the World Masters is, it’s an international sports tournament set up like the Olympics but with age categories ranging all the way from 25+ to 100+. They have every sport you can imagine, from swimming to field hockey to orienteering. This trip turned out to be one of the best trips I’ve ever been on.

img_2013.jpgFlat white from Shaky Isles Coffee Co.

When we arrived in Auckland we stayed in Newmarket at the Quality Suites Alexander, it wasn’t that greatest hotel but the area was lovely. Of course, our first task when we arrived was to find the best coffee shops. Forget about being able to find your standard drip coffee, it’s not very common. Flat whites are New Zealand’s most popular caffeinated beverage, it’s similar to a latte. Our favourite coffee shop was Shaky Isles Coffee Co., downtown Auckland. They made the best flat white and their food was delicious. The café was really trendy too, the inside had exposed brick and a wall with a cool black & white drawing explaining the process of making coffee. There was plenty of seating inside as well.  If you venture out to Piha Beach, there’s a delicious café there too called Piha Café. I highly recommend ordering one of their omelettes.

Near Auckland’s harbour is this beautiful area called Britomart. It is a stone path with black shipping containers on either side. There are stores, restaurants and cafés in the containers and lots of flowers and greenery outside. They also have twinkle lights and bistro lights strung above the walkway. To add to that, there’s a large section of grass that is filled with bean bag chairs to lounge on. We definitely made multiple trips there.

IMG_1898Brunch in Britomart

Speaking of harbours, Auckland has one of the most gorgeous long harbours, there’s a reason they call them the city of sails. The North Warf has some delicious restaurants with a view of the water and there’s a lounge area beside a section of stairs where you can walk right down into the harbour water. It was a little too cool out for us to try that.

If you ever end up going to Auckland, you cannot leave without trying some ice cream from Giapo’s! Being an ice cream fanatic, I needed to grab a cone. This ice cream was unlike anything I’ve tried. The employees there are great at explaining the unconventional process. From the menu you select the ice cream you would like, which comes covered in toppings which Giapo has selected to accompany that specific flavour of ice cream. I went with the Afghan (named after the famous NZ cookie), It comes covered in cornflakes and caramel with an afghan cookie on top. You can then select your cone or cup, I chose a chocolate covered waffle cone with almonds in it. Rookie mistake, it was a lot of sugar! The result, this masterpiece:

IMG_2698Afghan Ice Cream from Giapo’s

On one of the last days my mom’s teammates discovered this area called Elliott Stables. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to go but they raved about it. It’s set up like a food court, tables in the middle with a bunch of high end restaurants surrounding them. You go to the restaurant and place your order, take a number for your table, sit wherever you like, and they bring you your food. Apparently the food was amazing, we’re pretty upset we missed out on that.

We couldn’t go to New Zealand without going on a wine tour. Waiheke Island, just a 30 minute ferry ride from Auckland, is where all the best vineyards are. We booked a tour with Fuller’s, but another way to visit the vineyards is the Hop On Hop Off tour which stops at 30 vineyards. You can get off the bus if that vineyard interests you or keep going to the next one. It’s cheap to book that tour, however, you have to pay for your samples. Our tour, Taste of Waiheke, included all our samples and stopped at a set list of 4 vineyards and 1 olive oil estate for a set period of time. It cost us $150 each which included the ferry ride, all the tastings and even lunch. Our first stop was at Stonyridge vineyard where we had a lovely lunch and tasted a red and white wine. We then went on to taste some delicious, award-winning olive oil and learnt the olive oil making process at Rangihoua Estate. After that we stopped at Casita Miro, a beautiful, Barcelona inspired vineyard. We were brought up to their patio made of stunning mosaic tile, where we were lucky to receive a tour from the owner herself. She had 4 wines for us to taste accompanied with tapas to have with each wine. It was an amazing experience. Our last stop was at Mudbrick Vineyard. We were taken to the top of the property where you get an incredible 360-degree view of the island. We ended up buying one of their Syrah’s because they only produce it for their restaurant and wedding clients. That day ended with a trip to Onetangi beach where we sat and took in the view of the ocean. For obvious reasons, this was one of my favourite days in New Zealand.IMG_2117Vineyards on Waiheke

IMG_2230Watching the sunset at Onetangi beach