New Zealand

New Zealand is somewhere that both Jill and I had been to several times (although separately). My first foray was in my early teens and in a former life I used to come here twice a year for work.

But all of this was before the website and the thought of capturing our experiences.

Needless to say that in our multiple visits (each) we had seen quite a bit of New Zealand and had (for the most part) enjoyed our forays thoroughly. Some of the highlights included:

Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, and venue hall renowned for being bicultural. THe five main displays represented include Art, History, Pacific, Māori, and the Natural Environment. 

No trip to NZ is complete without visiting the stinking mess that is Rotorua. The geothermal pools are interesting enough as are the cultural displays, you just have to abide the rotten egg gas that takes over the town.

And of course there was the stunning Mt Cook, the location of my first real (and most embarrassing) snow experience.

Waitomo is known for its underwater streams, lakes and caves covered by stalagmites and stalactites. But the star of the show is the lightshow provided by millions of glowworms (found exclusively in NZ) the only light in the cave.

And my personal favourite was Lake Taupo. This is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia (about the size of Singapore) and is the crater of one of the largest volcanic eruptions earth has seen in the last 5000 years.

In addition to the main sights of New Zealand the place is just generally stunning.

Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is an area in the Northeast of New Zealand that is famous for its natural beauty and as one of the most popular fishing, sailing and tourist destinations in the country. The Bay of Islands has 144 individual islands but our visit saw us tendering in from the cruise ship near the small town of Paihia. Paihia is a tiny town of under 2000 people but (as with most of NZ) is very pretty and a very civilised place to visit.

I guess the thing that threw us the most was the cost of things. On Early glances, the cost of living in New Zealand is considerably higher than that which we enjoy in Australia (even taking into account the exchange rate). Now it may have been that we were in a small tourist town, but the prices in the shops were considerably higher than we would pay for the same items back home.

The township itself was small but lovely. A launching point for further exploration of the Bay and the surrounding Islands it centres around the dock and a small one block of shops and restaurants. On the day we arrived the local market was set up, with all of the expected tourist trinkets on offer.

The main claim to fame of Paihia is that it is just down the road from the historic Treaty House at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

This is the location that marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation. On 6 February 1840 the British Crown and about 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs) signed the Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty is an agreement, in both Māori and English, where they agree to jointly found a nation state so that both parties would live together peacefully and develop New Zealand together in partnership.

Just west of Paihia is Haruru falls and a short boat ride away you will find the quaint township Russell which was the first seaport and permanent European settlement in New Zealand. While on a boat you can also get to the aptly named ‘hole in the rock’ at the tip of Cape Brett.

Being New Zealand and in a place named Bay of Islands, needless to say there is a ton of water based activity on offer. This includes cruising, sea kayak tours, scuba diving, fast jet boats, yachts, catamarans, fishing trips, and even tall ship sailing.

Bay of Plenty

The next morning we had moved on and found ourselves in the Bay of Plenty staring at Mount Maunganui and the town of Tauranga. Tauranga is a small beach town of about 130,000 with beaches, hot saltwater pools and an extinct volcano ringed by winding walking paths.

The bay is a large bight stretching 260 km and containing numerous islands. According to local Māori traditions, the Bay of Plenty was the landing point of several migration canoes that brought Māori settlers to New Zealand.

We hopped off the boat and circumnavigated the town taking in all there was to see (with the exception of walking to the top of Mount Maunganui). Tauranga is a narrow neck of land with the Mountain dominating one end. It is full of tourist accommodation and the associated cafes and restaurants that go with them.

The town is stunningly clean and very enjoyable and the natural beauty abounds. It was a bit too cool to venture near the water (although many were donning wetsuits and going in). It was a lovely little spot that reminded me a bit of the CQ town of Yeppoon (only colder).

The natural beauty of New Zealand can be found around every corner. The place is literally stunning. There is very little that can be found in New Zealand that is not postcard worthy. This was lost on me on my first ever trip (in my teens) but has not been lost on any of the subsequent trips.

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