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.
Piha 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.
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.
View 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.
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.
Inside a Hobbit Hole
Having 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.