NZ Days 7-8: Ninety Mile Beach, Waitangi National Reserve

On our 7th day, we loaded into 2 cars and headed for the far north, to Ninety Mile Beach and the dunes there. After some car sickness, lunch, and a stop at the famous Hundertwasser Toilets, we arrived.

Ninety Mile Beach is actually 55 miles (88 km) long. The sand is hard & stable enough that you can drive on it from an hour or two  efore low tide to an hour or two after. And, according to our host, there’s no speed limit. She, Melanie, drove us north along the beach to the dunes, hitting 180something kmh (111 mph) where the kids tried sand sliding. Never in my life have I wished more for snow sleds, but they made do (due?) with boogie boards and tried cardboard (it doesn’t work well). 
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Then Ky drove back down the beach to our starting point, first hitting 208 kmh (~129 mph) then hitting 223 kmh (~138 mph). The car had enough sand on it after that for the kids to do this:


And yes, Mel’s license plate is deliciously contradictory.

We wlaked around on the beach for a bit, relaoded the cars, caved to the kids and got McDonald’s instead of eating at a restaurant, and took dinner back to the beach to watch the sunset, which was lovely.


Then we loaded up and headed for Paihia, almost 2 hours away, where we stayed for the night. Having not seen any of Bay of Islands in the dark, this morning was a pleasant surprise. We got breakfast at Alfresco’s Restaurant and Bar; I had hot cakes with rhubarb compote and vanilla marscapone and bananas and I could have eaten another order of it – it was delicious. Also, one thing I haven’t mentioned is that all coffee here is espresso based, not brewed american style. I’ve been having long blacks, which are 2 shots of espresso. It was just nice to have it in an espresso cup in a cafe this morning; I felt like I was back in France. 

Right after breakfast, we headed to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, first participating in the traditional welcome ceremony and cultural performance and then taking a really informative 1 hour tour about the history of NZ and the treaties between the Maori tribes and the UK. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to get a good look at the museum, so we’ll have to come back this way again some day. The Bay of Islands is beautiful and I’d love to come back and spend 4-5 days there exploring.

Tomorrow we’ll start the new year off with a tour of Hobbiton and then (I think) a short drive to Rotoroa where we’ll be staying the night and taking in the hot springs (I think). 

Happy New Year! 

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NZ Day 6: Auckland Botanic Gardens & Melanie’s Other Garden

I’ve seen so many flowers today I think I have flower fatigue. (I know I have people fatigue – I’m snappy – and need some quiet time with my BFFs: me, myself, and I.) I tried to keep the pictures interesting and hope you enjoy them. I have my favorites but will leave you to pick your own. 

Auckland Botanic Garden

Melanie’s Other Garden

NZ Day 5: J Chillin

My oldest son & his girlfriend arrived today and we planned, shopped for, and prepared a big American-style BBQ, so I stayed back to help with some of that. The other group went for dim sum and then to One Tree Hill, and a beach. Taking advantage of this time, late in the afternoon after I made cole slaw, my contribution to dinner, I wandered around Melanie’s garden and took these pictures. The iPhone 7’s experimental portrait mode (with depth effect) isn’t just for human subjects. 

NZ Days 3 & 4: The Boat

We left Auckland Harbour and headed out for an island with property owned by our hosts Bill’s friend, who was also with us along with his wife. So on the boat we the four of us (Ky & I, Ethan, Henry), Bill, Bobby & Regan & Ronald (Bill & Melanie’s sons), 4 of Bobby’s friends, Bill’s friend & his wife.

Left to right: Bill’s legs, his friend’s wife, his friend, Ky
Ethan and Henry and their devices
Downtown Auckland from the Harbour
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
I don’t know what this building is, but it looked pretty neat. Perhaps a customs house?
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
A sea plane and Auckland Harbour Bridge
Port crane stuff (I don’t know what to call them, clearly, but I like taking pics of the practical/not-so-pretty side of things)
A nice big ship!
A sail boat in Auckland Harbor
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Our wake after passing through the channel between these islands; I think the one we stayed on was part of a ring of islands
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Near where we anchored to fish
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Near where we anchored to fish
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Near where we anchored to fish
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Ky & Ronald fishing
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
A keyhole cave (at least that’s what it looks like to me) in the rock near where we fished.
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Near where we anchored to fish – the big rock on the right is the one with the keyhole in it
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
I didn’t notice this until the chips were nearly finished, but there are too many fowl on this bag for me to really trust any of them – chicken, penguin, bluebird. For the record, the chips taste like chicken, but maybe bluebird and penguin do too.
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Rounding the corner into the cove where we anchored; I liked the gnarled tree trunks
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
A small island as seen from where we docked for the night
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
The same island, after the shadow of our island crept up on it and made it stand out. What’s so fascinating about tiny islands? I want to explore them and pitch a tent for a night. Visit one instead of a church. Set a story there.
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
The other side of the cove from where we docked
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
The boat
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Looking out of the cove where we docked; the tree on the right has a rope swing on it and boards nailed onto the trunk to use for swinging into the water at high tide.
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Can you spot the stingray?
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Stingray from the dock. Notice the, uh, algae growing on it; makes me wonder if they clean them at Sea World & aquariums.
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Then another stingray appeared – I’ll always think of these two as an old married couple
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
The house on the island where we docked
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Lavender blossom
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Lily bud
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Some kind of lily; there were lots
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Hydrangea Bud
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Hydrangeas with the house & an anchor in the background – possibly the best picture I’ve taken on this vacation
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Fuchsia
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
Rusty anchor
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
The living room/lounge in the house
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
View of the cove from inside the house; notice the cut-out detail around the top of the porch – so pretty
NZ Day 3-4: The Boat
A flying fish. We caught 2 with a net around midnight from the boat, which has underwater lights. Bill also spotted a baby squid, which made him wonder if any bigger squid were around, so he switched out the lure on one of the fishing poles. A few minutes later, he caught an adult squid, which hissed & inked all over the place as he reeled it in. I think we’re eating these guys as part of dinner tonight or tomorrow.

I only have these pictures from the 1st day of fishing (day 4 of our trip) because I tried to keep pace drinking wine with Bill and his friend over dinner. I’m not supposed to drink on the medicine that I take, so the next day didn’t go well for me at all. I spent most of the day between the bed and the toilet on the boat (3 bedrooms, 2 toilets, a small kitchen-table-lounge area, then the upstairs with the controls & a lounge area). I do know that at one point Ky caught a small shark and someone has a picture of him with it, but other than that the fishing wasn’t that great. When we headed back to Auckland, the seas got really rough. So rough that I could no longer lay on the bed without worrying about hitting it hard enough to feel the platform beneath it. I dragged myself to the table, had some toast, and tried to keep it together for the 2 hour trip back to Auckland. Today, the day after, I still kind of feel like I’m on a rocking boat when I close my eyes. Lesson learned: don’t drink too much when you’re out on a boat with no other way back to land.

NZ Day 3: Merry Sandmass!

We opened presents and then headed out for a picnic on a Murawai Beach, a black sand beach on the west coast of Auckland. This trip is our collective family Christmas present, the gift we’re unwrapping every day with each new adventure instead of having gifts under the tree. The best part is being with family, the gift that keeps on giving. Love and peace to you & yours! ☃️🦑☃️🎄🌴🎄❤️

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NZ Day 2

I don’t have a lot of time this morning before we go to Hot Water Beach & our net connection is slow so forgive me. 

  • Drove south, east, then north from Aukland.
  • Lunch in Tairua.
  • Never seen so many cows/so much cattle in one day; cattle farm (meat cows, not dairy) every 2ish miles with 50-100+ head.
  • Saw some sheep, horses, alpaca, beehives too.
  • Hydrangea are in bloom + a ton of other flowers, including Queen Anne’s Lace.
  • Yes, one can get car sick 2x in one day – poor kiddo (our host’s son Ronald).
  • Walked/hiked all of Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve (Gemstone Bay, Stingray Bay, Cathedral Cove).

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NZ Day 1

NZ day 1: Customs let us into the country! And we stayed awake *all day* despite jet lag & a crappy night of sleep sitting up in a plane. 

I’m jet lagged and basically cribbing this post from a Facebook update. If you’re not into words, scroll down for today’s meager pics.

Our generous hosts have been incredibly welcoming. Melanie made sure we kept busy & caffeinated all day, and made made a version of pho for lunch (I ate lots of mushrooms!) and a cantonese-style feast mostly from the sea for dinner with fresh sashimi (can’t remember the fish), lobster, & sea cucumber Bill caught the other day. (I ate pork intestine/tripe & I liked it!) 

We also went for a short walk in the neighborhood, H & E went swimming/hot tubbing, and Ky, E and I went with Bill & Robert to the marina (through downtown Aukland) to get the boat ready to take out, which was interesting because fueling a boat is new to us. 

The boys have 5 new-acquaintance cousins (I need a family relations chart to say what variety), 1 they already knew, 2 new aunts, and 2 new uncles. 

Tomorrow & the next day: Coromandel Peninsula & Hot Water Beach. 🙂

Farmcove Reserve, Pakuranga (I think – this was on our short walk)
Also Farmcove Reserve, Pakuranga or close to it … maybe looking toward Halfmoon Bay?
My husband looking thoughtful on the boat as we tooted along from the fuel place back to the dock
Mount Wellington from Farmcove Reserve, Pakuranga on our short walk
My favorite boat in the harbor wasn’t the shiny multimillion dollar yacht; it was this old barge looking thing that Ethan said looked like it hauled garbage
Auckland from & including Waitemata Harbour