New Zealand

New Zealand

Wellington - Napier (B) - Hobbiton (C) - Whitianga (D) - Auckland (E)- Paihia (Ecocruz) - Auckland

Wellington (Jan 5 & 6, 2017)

We flew from Sydney to Wellington and picked up a rental car before heading to Upper Hutt, the home of our friends Trevor and Karen, who we met on our last trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2009. Trevor was originally from the UK and Karen was originally from Canada.

By the time we arrived in Wellington, it was time for dinner, so we stayed in the first evening.

Next day, we went for a look around Wellington.  It was bright and sunny but chilly and windy. It must be windy here most of the time - even the statues (this one called "Solace in the Wind") are leaning into the wind.

"Solace in the Wind" by Max Patte 

Wellington's downtown area - you can see the sculpture in the left hand corner

We visited "Te Papa" which is the National Museum  of New Zealand. We had visited before and didn't really have time to see any of the exhibits. Still it was nice to get out of the wind.

"Te Papa Tongarewa" the National Museum of New Zealand

This photo of Karen and Kris illustrates the kind of day (windy and chilly) that it was

After leaving the downtown area, we took a drive along the wild and rocky coastline.

The drive was quite "interesting" as Trevor's car kept cutting out and we would drift silently to a stop. After a few minutes, it would restart and would continue on our way. Although never in any danger, we did wonder if we would get home - at least in his car, but in the end, we did.

Napier (Jan 7 and 8)

We didn't want to outstay our welcome and we had only limited time in New Zealand, so the next day, we headed north to Napier, another town we had visited before and famous for it's many Art Deco buildings. But first we found our Airbnb accommodation, the shed at the bottom of the garden.

The shed at the bottom of the garden

It was quite cozy inside, with a small bathroom and kitchen, so quite adequate, but still a little strange !

And it did come with a private hot tub, which was also an Airbnb first and a welcome addition. We did use it ! Very pleasant at night

The next day, there was a bike race around the city, so some of the roads were closed. We watched the leaders racing through the center.

Professional riders race around the center

Napier is a very pleasant town, with interesting art deco buildings.

The central shopping district

Craft shops along the waterfront

A waterfront park with very unusual sculpture - not quite sure what it is!

The waterfront fountain on the Marine Parade

The beaches are dark volcanic sand - more like gravel than sand really

The view from the pier

The clouds were spectacular

One of the grander art deco buildings 

Some are just pretty

And a final stop at the Elephant Hill Winery to try (and buy) a few of their wines. Very nice, but then we both needed a nap.

The Elephant Hill Winery

Hobbiton and Whitianga, Coromandel (Jan 9 & 10)

We headed towards Coromandel but along the way, we stopped to tour the Hobbiton film set where Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed.

The tour leaves from the visitors center and then it's a walking tour around the set, which is quite large.

Part of the Hobbiton set

There are lots of Hobbit holes

This is Bag End, which was Bilbo's Hobbit hole

Bag End 

The sign on the gate from the party which is pivotal to both movies

There are big hobbit holes. to make regular actors look smaller:

And small hobbit holes, to make regular actors look bigger:

Every hobbit hole is "themed" in some way - this is the cheesemakers hobbit hole.

The entire property is maintained by a team of gardeners.

The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn, which is a real working pub. Everyone gets a free drink!

The Green Dragon Inn. It was almost warm enough to sit outside

But we stayed inside

The Hobbit Hole theme carries over into the Green Dragon Inn.

Heavily themed, to say the least.  Well done, though.

Across from the Inn is the old mill, which burns down in The Lord of the RIngs.

The old mill, Hobbiton

Leaving Hobbiton, we drove north to the town of Whitianga, in the Coromandel area of New Zealand. The next day, we drove around the Coromandel, which is famous for it's beaches and one in particular, Hot Water Beach.

First stop was a view of Cathedral Cove from above. You are supposed to walk down to the beach to see this large natural hole in the rock, but we were too lazy, so we just looked from above.

Cathedral Cove

We visited Hahei Beach nearby and we could have taken a water taxi to Cathedral Cove, but we didn't !

Water taxi from Hahei Beach. Although people are in swimsuits, it wasn't all that warm.

So then we drove to Hot Water Beach, where natural hot springs bubble to the surface at the beach. For two hours each side of low tide, people dig holes to collect the hot water and sit in their own spa.

Hot Water Beach. The beach itself is quite large, but the hot water is in a small area, so it gets very crowded.

The "hot" section of Hot Water Beach

As the tide comes and goes out, the sections which are "hot" can change, so people have to keep moving !

We didn't participate ourselves, but it was something quite unusual and it was a great place for people watching.

Paihia and the Ecocruz (Jan 12 - 16)

We drove from Whitianga to Takapuna Beach, which is just north of Auckland. Although it was a pretty drive, we did have fog going over the mountains and the rest of the drive was unexceptional, so we don't have any pictures.

We then drove further north, stopping along the way to sightsee and for lunch in Whangarei.

Mangawhai Heads

Mangawhai Heads - on the way up to Whangarei

The town basin at Whangarei - a nice place for lunch

Whangarei - first (and last) major port in New Zealand for sailboats crossing the Pacific

The largest (and heaviest )sundial in the Southern Hemisphere - outside a clock shop.

Then on to Paihia, which we had visited on our last trip. The hotel (The Averill Court Motel) was a little tight for space, but we only stayed there one night and they let us leave our car while we were on our cruise, so it was OK.

The Averill Court Motel, Paihia

The Ovation of the Seas was anchored in Paihia Bay when we arrived. Ironically, we had seen the same same ship moored in Sydney Harbour. Although not the biggest cruise ship in the world, it was the biggest to ever call at Paihia, so the locals were fascinated and came out to watch it leave.

The Ovation of the Seas anchored in Paihia Bay.

Next day, we joined our Ecocruz.

The Manawanui, waiting at anchor as we approached to board

We spent three full days and two nights on board. The ship had seen better days, but it was comfortable enough and we only had four passengers, instead of the usual ten, so we had lots of space. 

The upper deck and pilothouse

The dining room. One of the other guests is about to climb up to the pilothouse

The three crew members in the galley

John the Captain and owner (not my picture). We didn't have mussels as shown here, but DID have fresh fish that one of the crew and the two girls had caught.

One of the highlights was on the second day when we came across a huge pod of dolphins - maybe as many as 200. 

Common dolphins swimming alongside the boat

We visited a deserted beach but you can tell from our clothing that perhaps it wasn't the day for swimming or sitting on a beach.

Max helps Kris and the two Austrian girls get out of the boat

It really was a deserted beach. Max and the two girls climbed up a nearby hill for the view - we walked along the beach as far as you can see in this picture.

At another stop, the others went snorkeling (with wetsuits) but Kris and I climbed to the top of the hill to see the view.

The view from the top - that's our sailboat on the left

Looking out into the Pacific

Just to prove we did make it to the top

Then one last night in a sheltered bay, before heading back to Paihia

That was really the end of our Australia and New Zealand trip. We spent a night in Paihia after the cruise was over and another night at a hotel at Auckland airport, before flying out to Los Angeles the next morning.