Auckland

Sunday 19 February 2015

Another beautiful sunrise, another beautiful day.  Sadly we have to say bye bye to the Beach Bach and return to the mainland.

George come by in the morning to take us back to the ferry.  Our plan is to stop at Oneroa for lunch before catching the ferry.  After searching up and down the main street we eventually find the Tourist Office (what’s the point of having a tourist office if no-one can find it – even the locals?), but their system is not what I would call secure (we were going to leave our bags for a few hours) so abandon that plan and head for the ferry back to Auckland.

Bye Bye

Bye Bye

Waiheke  Island

Waiheke Island

Until we meet again

Until we meet again

I’ve got a mystery deal and we are pleasantly surprised by The Langham Hotel at the top of the city.  We check in and drop off our bags and head out straight away for a late lunch.

There’s only one place to go – our fav – Ponsonby!

Last time we where here we had booked to go to the Blue Breeze Inn but cancelled when I got sick.  As it was highly recommended we decide to check it out.  Excellent choice.  It got this Hawaiian / South Pacific vibe about it but the food is modern asian. And pretty god damn tasty too.  A few drinks, laid back atmosphere, scrumptious food – that Sunday afternoon taken care of.

Afterwards we do a bit of shopping and then head back to the hotel for a nap.  Too lazy to go out again we stay in order room service and watch a movie or two.

Tomorrow we head home 🙁

ANZAC Day

Friday 25 April 2014

Howard has decided to get up early this morning and head up to Parnell to the War Memorial and watch the morning service.  As he heads over I have a lazy day morning in bed catching up with emails etc.

The highlight was the flyover of some old World War II fighters including a Spitfire and a Hurricane.  When he returns to collect me, we catch the City Link bus back to Parnell for lunch.  We actually end up at a pizza place called Archie’s Restaurant in Newmarket.

We have a big dinner planned tonight so we decide to walk back to the hotel skirting the Domain and then straight down Queen Street past the amassed collection of Asian restaurants of Queen Street.  Note to self “must explore this area more next trip”.

Tonight we are visiting two of our very favourite places in Auckland, in Ponsonby actually.  Tin Soldier for oysters and pre dinner drinks and then on to Ponsonby Road Bistro for dinner.

Tin Soldier is a hip little bar/restaurant that we found on our last trip to Auckland, a few beverages later we  take the short stroll to Ponsonby Road Bistro.  Its Friday night and packed.  We are seated at a little table, next to us is a couple sitting side by side on the padded bench seat (inches from me) in the throws of a passionate embrace.  They seperate briefly when their food comes but quickly return to each others arms as they try to perform oral tonsillectomies on each other.  Jeeze get a room!

Later in the night (they are still at it, clothes may be removed soon) as the room starts to clear the hostess delicately moves us to another table “where we might be more comfortable”.

Our meal is spectacular, as always.  The highlight of the meal is the desert cocktail “The Last Miaow” a delightful combination of Gontier Calvados, Alvear Pedro Ximenez, dark chocolate, cream and Valrhona Pearls.

The Last Miaow

The Last Miaow

Auckland

Thursday 24 April 2014

Today we head back down the coast to Auckland.  Its an uneventful, and dull drive.  Looks like our lovely weather has finished.

Back in Auckland we drop off the hire car at an out of the way place on the outskirts of the city. We then grab a taxi to the Stamford Plaza in Auckland.   We ditch our bags and head down to the Viaduct – its the end of the Bluff Oyster season and we are on a mission.  Its mid afternoon and pretty quiet, we end up at Mecca, one of the few restaurants with Bluff Oysters still in stock.

Ooh yeah!  Nom nom nom.

Bluff Oysters

Bluff Oysters

We have decided on a healthy dinner and are going for Japanese.  But first we need to check out a few of the local bars.  We end up in a swinging Japanese place on a side street between Queen St and Albert St called Kushi.  The food is great and the sake is even better!

So much for a healthy dinner – it was mostly liquid.

 

 

Karikari Penisula

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Umm what to do today.  Its a beautiful, clear day – lets go to the beach!  So after breakfast we head out – H grabs a couple of towels from reception and asks where the best local beach is.  We are directed to Matai Beach on the Karikari Penisula – only a short drive away – up the high and turn left.  We pass through farmland, beach batches, a small town, vineyards and even a fancy golf course and resort.  We end up in a car park overlooking sand dunes and a beautiful long white beach.

Karikari Track

Karikari Track

Looking north from the car park

Looking north from the car park

Looking south from the car park

Looking south from the car park

I have since worked out that we were at Karikari Moana.  On the beach there is barely a sole in sight, which is amazing as it is the Easter Holidays. We drop our things and wade through the shallows along the beach – the water is cold and impossibly clear.

Karikari Moana

Karikari Moana

Wading the beach

Wading the beach

On the beach itself is an incredibly large number and variety of shells and coral – most in pristine form.  We are fascinated with the kelp washed up on the beach fastened to rocks , shells and hunks of coral, the colours are amazing.  I have dozens of “creative” photos of the seaweed, trying to recreate the beautiful colour and movement.  But I won’t bore you with them all :).

Kelp

Kelp

After our walk we are content to sit on the beach for hours just enjoying the beautiful surroundings and serenity.  Karikari Moana has made it to my list as one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

Relaxing on the beach

Relaxing on the beach

We head back up over the sand dunes to the car to see what else the Penisula has to offer.  We head down to the caravan park and find Matai Bay – its a lovely circular bay that is very popular with families.  And although it is far from crowded H & I both prefer the untamed Moana.

Matai Bay

Matai Bay

For lunch we head up to the winery we passed earlier Karikari Estate.  The Estate is well positioned on a hill looking out over the beautiful peninsular.  The food is ridiculously expensive so we just settle on a Lamb Pie for H and a Mushroom Soup for me.

View from Karkari Estate

View from Karkari Estate

Mushroom Soup and Lamb Pie

Mushroom Soup and Lamb Pie

Good choice Janet!  When the soup eventually arrives it looks like something out of “Attack of the Swamp Creatures”,  but boy is it packed with delicious flavour!

Back to our room for an afternoon nap and then down to our local, the Mangonui Hotel, for a few drinks before dinner. The world famous Mangonui Fish Shop.  Someone, somewhere, at sometime mentioned mentioned this place as the best fish n chip shop in NZ, and they have  been promoting themselves as the best ever since.  It was very popular with the locals who were diving into their paper wrapped bundles.  We must have ordered the wrong thing ’cause we were definitely not impressed with the offering – flavourless fish and soggy chips.  Oh well, can’t get it right all the time.  

The World Famous Mangonui Fish Shop

The World Famous Mangonui Fish Shop

Doubtless Bay

Tuesday 22 May 2014

This morning we pack up and say goodbye to Lorraine and Peter our hosts at the lovely Bellrock Lodge and head further north to Doubtless Bay.  Named by Captain Cook while they were exploring the coast of New Zealand when one of his crew remarked the it was “doubtless a bay” (he must have been struggling with original names by that stage).

On route I have a planned a pit stop. Lunch and a bit of sightseeing .  Destination Kerikeri.  Well the Kerikeri Basin on the KeriKeri inlet to be precise.  The true purpose of our visit here is to dine at The Pear Tree which is recommended as the best restaurant in Northland.  But before we can eat we need to burn up a couple of calories.

We visit the Stone Store which is NZ’s oldest stone building – built in 1832 as a storehouse but has been reincarnated as a trading store, library, barracks, boys school and is now a small tourist store and museum.

The Stone Store

The Stone Store

There is also Kemp House  which has NZ’s oldest door!

Kemp House

Kemp House

And I had not better forget this little gem …

The oldest fruit tree in NZ

The oldest fruit tree in NZ

We wander around across the pedestrian bridge and back again just enjoying the serenity.

Howard the Giant

Love this photo – Howard is a giant

The old crossing

The old crossing – with The Pear Tree to the left

Its now time for lunch at The Pear Tree – yes named after the aforementioned tree, has tables outside overlooking the inlet.  We grab a table and settle in with a glass of wine and wait for out meals to arrive.

View of the Stone Store from our table

Which do before too long.

Parmesan & Herb Gnocchi

Parmesan & Herb Gnocchi

Trio of Sliders

Trio of Sliders

The food is delicious.  Its so yummy that H forgets to remove a toothpick from his mini burger and jabs himself in the face.

Jumping back into the car we head north to Doubtless Bay – it’s a lovely drive with hardly any traffic on the road.  We find our lodgings for the next three nights and quickly settle in.  The Doubtless Bay Villas have fabulous views looking out over the Bay. Our room is on the ground floor and we can step straight out onto the grassy knoll on which the villas sit.

Doubtless Bay Villas

Doubtless Bay Villas

Our room at Doubtless Bay Villas

Our room at Doubtless Bay Villas

View from our room at Doubtless Bay Villas

View from our room at Doubtless Bay Villas

That afternoon we go and check out the beach at the bottom of the hill before we head toward the closest town – Mangonui.

Mangonui Harbour

Mangonui Harbour

We stop off at the pub for a pre-dinner drink – it’s one of those original rough and tumble pubs that is packed with locals every night of the week.  We chat with a man who tells us that his is “almost a local”, he’s been coming here for the fishing for 20 years and he has a little batch on the Karikari peninsula (not to be confused with KeriKeri where we were earlier today).  But he is still not a true local.

We must have accidentally sat on on the the “locals” “table”,  before too long we are joined by about 10 people who obviously know each other.  I delicately extradite ourselves and head next door to the fish and chip shop for dinner.

Fish & chip shop, Mangonui Hotel

Fish & chip shop, Mangonui Hotel

 

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Easter Monday 21 April 2014

Across the bay is the town of  Piahia.  Most people visit Piahia and do a day-trip across the bay to Russell.  But we are rebels … we are doing a day trip to Piahia.  So after breakfast we head down the hill to the wharf.  The little wooden ferry is waiting for us.  It is a brisk, chilly morning and the ferry driver is unsuitably dressed in a t-shirt, shorts and thongs – must be a local.  It is a beautiful day – clear blue sky with small fluffy clouds and a gentle breeze.

Ferry ride to  Piahia

Ferry ride to Piahia – leading Russell

Piahia is bustling when we get there after the 20 minute ferry ride, Howard is once again seeking a bakery in search of the elusive perfect meat pie.  We find a bakery, but alas the pies are far, far from perfect.  No matter, its out there, somewhere and one day we will find it.

We head out walking the 2.5 km trek to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.  Here, in 1840 the Māori chiefs first signed their accord with the British Crown – the Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document.  From this point on the English pretty much tried to screw the Maori’s over at every opportunity (as they have all across the world).

It is a lovely walk along the coast line, over a small headland, past beaches, parks and playgrounds.  Its a public holiday (Easter Monday) so there are heaps of families at the beach enjoying the last of the seasons sunshine.

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds feature the historic Treaty House,  the  British representative, James Busby’s home built in 1833.

Treaty House

Treaty House

There is a magnificently carved meeting house, where they hold traditional Maori dance performances.

Te Whare Rūnanga - Carved Meeting House

Te Whare Rūnanga – Carved Meeting House

Te Whare Rūnanga, interior

Te Whare Rūnanga, interior

Carved pole

Carved pole

Not to be missed is a 35-metre-long canoe which requires a minimum of 76 paddlers to handle it safely on the water. It weighs 6 tonnes when dry and 12 tonnes when saturated. It is also the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe.

The world's largest ceremonial war canoe

The world’s largest ceremonial war canoe

The grounds are extensive and lovely with panoramic views of the Bay of Islands, rainforest walks and lots of room to enjoy a family day out.  Or just a quick nap.

The Flagstaff and Treaty House

The Flagstaff and Treaty House

No ... he's only resting

No … he’s only resting

There is more to see but my ankle is starting to ache so we head off for the return walk back to Piahia.  But the time we get there we are starving for lunch, but decide to wait and hit the Duke of Marlborough Hotel  back in home territory at Russell.

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel on The Strand

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel on The Strand

For lunch I indulge in another of the gastronomical musts of NZ – a big bowl of steamed green lip mussels (this one is in fennel and white wine) – fabulous with a pint or two of cider.

Howard gets stuck into a pulled pork sandwich, which as you can see he thoroughly enjoys.

Howie loves pulled pork

Howie loves pulled pork

Before we head back into to our room we take in a few of the town’s historic sites.  Russell was originally knows as Karorareka and also was infamous as “the hellhole of the pacific” when it was “a miserable, stinking whaling town” in the 1800’s.  It certainly is very pleasant these days.

Russell has the oldest hotel in NZ’s (the for mentioned Duke of Marlborough) although it has burnt down about 4 times and NZ’s oldest church.

Christ Church, Russell

Christ Church, Russell

Our lovely hostess Lorraine has invited us upstairs to the guest lounge for oysters, nibbles and a drinks tonight.  After our big walk today I’m quite happy to not go out tonight.

Lorraine and her husband Peter have prepared a veritable feast for us.  There was to be 2 other couples join us but the have both cancelled so its us to us to finish off as much of the oysters and antipasti as possible.  One drink turns into many and we spend several hours chatting with them.

They tell us the story of how they moved to NZ from South Africa and ended up in the Bay of Islands.  They are selling their Bellrock Lodge and planning on moving to another part of NZ.  Ummm maybe we should buy it.  The Lodge only operates for about 7 months of the year – we could spend the rest of the year travelling!  Thats something to think about … maybe next year?

Steam trains and sail boats

Sunday 20 April 2014

After an incredibly peaceful night we wake to a beautiful morning and breakfast on our spacious balcony looking out over the Bay of Islands.  While Howard ventures down the hill (in search of a sausage roll), I stay in bed (resting my sore foot) and ponder what we should do today.  After browsing the copious amounts of leaflets and flyers in our room  I settle on two things that are sure to keep my man happy.  A ride on a steam train and a sail on an old wooden yacht.

At Kawakawa (love the name) there is an old steam train that is lovingly maintained and managed  by a group of volunteer enthusiasts.  We head off from Russell to Kawakawa (via another dirt road) and navigate the lovely countryside in the drizzling rain.  We find the little train station without any trouble, all we have to do is follow the train tracks that run right down the middle of the main road through town.  The main road also happens to be the main highway, so all traffic comes to a halt 8 times a day while “Gabriel the Steam Train” or  “Fredrick the Diesel Train” make their scheduled journeys.

Today we are catching Gabriel for the short journey to the river crossing which is currently undergoing renovations.  When its finished we are told the train will run all the way to Piahia and back.

Bay of Islands Vintage Railway, Kawakawa

Bay of Islands Vintage Railway, Kawakawa

Waiting impatiently for departure

Waiting impatiently for departure

Gabriel choo chewing through town

Gabriel choo chooing through town

Our lady conductor is full of enthusiasm for her job and eagerly tells us the history of the railroad, the trains and local stories as we chug through town and into the country.

This is fun!

This is fun!

Full steam ahead

Full steam ahead

Along the way we see a very rare and amazing tree.

The Lava Tree

The Lava Tree

Alas before too long our little jaunt is over and we disembark and head downtown in search of lunch.  Along the way we stop and check out the famous Hundertwasser toilet designed and built by the Austrian artist.

The Hundertwasser Toilets

The Hundertwasser Toilets

After an amazing pulled pork sandwich we head back to Russell for our afternoon sail on the R Tucker Thompson sail boat.

Luckily the heavy rain shower passes and the sun comes out as we head out into the Bay in the late afternoon.  The Bay is calm and serene … to calm and serene, there is barely enough wind to move the boat.

Captain Howie

Captain Howie

But the lack of wind doesn’t stop us from having a wonderful time, especially when dolphins are spotted and we head towards them.

Up the rat lines

Up the rat lines

Murphy’s law kicks in and my camera battery dies just as the dolphins come in sight.  Luckily my iPhone camera is working just fine and I get lots and lots of photos of splashes where the dolphins had been (I managed to get one reasonable shot).

Dolphins - Bay of Islands

Dolphins – Bay of Islands

There are pods of dolphins in every direction – jumping, splashing, swimming in the bow waves and zigzaging under the boat.

As we head back to the dock at Russell we feast on the lashings of nibbles provided and enjoy the beautiful sun set.

Sailing home as the sun slowly sets

Sailing home as the sun slowly sets

What a wonderful day.

Bay of Islands

Saturday 19 April 2014

After a relatively peaceful night we pack up and head down town for breakfast, H has already been out to stretch his legs (while I watch a movie) and scoped the best spots – Chocolate Brown here we come.  Half chocolate shop / half cafe, we order a super healthy cereal, which is delish before we hit the chocolate shop …. it is Easter after all!

Umm a great selection, but I can’t resist the chilly chocolate bars.

We hit the road and once we are away from Warkworth there is hardly any traffic as we head north.  We are heading towards Russell on the Bay of Islands.  There are two ways to get to Russell the short way – utilising the ferry at Opua and the long way – along a windy, narrow, long back road.  I of course decide to go the long way, after all we are in no rush and I want to see some of the lovely NZ countryside.  I did not however factor in the torrential storm that we drove through while navigating a treacherous mountain road, or taking the wrong road along the coast (about a 30 km detour), or the 10 km we have to drive along a dirt road with multiple blind corners through a rainforest.

Somewhere along the coast

Somewhere along the coast

Elliot Bay or Taupiri Bay - not sure which

Elliot Bay or Taupiri Bay – not sure which

Dirt road, not sure where

Dirt road, not sure where

But its all good we did indeed see some beautiful countryside and even more beautiful coastline.

A little bit tired from our adventurous drive we make to Russell and head straight for the Duke of Marlborough Hotel on The Strand, New Zealand’s oldest hotel.  We settle into a table on the balcony for a 1/2 pint of cider for me, a pint of beer for Howard and a dozen delicious oysters to share.

Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell

Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell

It is a glorious afternoon looking out over the water.

Russell Wharf

Russell Wharf

We eventually  drag ourselves away and head up the hill to the Bellrock Lodge.  We are greeted by the bubbly Lorraine, who checks us in and shows us our lovely  room which has a fabulous view over the bay.  The room is wonderful, with all the comforts of home. Lovely comfy bed, tv chairs and complementary Tim Tams! Which were replenished as fast as Janet could eat them!

Bellrock Lodge, Russell

Bellrock Lodge, Russell

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

We head back down to the harbour as it gets dark and hunt around for a restaurant for dinner.

Russell jetty at sunset

Russell jetty at sunset

We settle on Sally’s Restaurant, grab a table outside and start the night sipping on a NZ pinot noir.

Tintin pops in for a pinot

Tintin pops in for a pinot

We are told that this is the last weekend of the “season”.  By Monday afternoon Russell will be deserted.  As there is barely anyone around now, it must get very quiet indeed.  The night is pleasantly mild, which is a unexpected bonus for us.  After our dinner of lamb shanks and fish and chips we finish the night off with a couple of ice creams from the 7-11 and trudge up the very steep hill to the lodge.

Back across the ditch

Easter Friday 18 April 2014

Up bright and early for our 7:25 flight to Auckland. Apart from my hobbling around on my newly injured ankle (I went for a run on Thursday morning and had a mishap resulting in a sprained ankle) everything goes according to plan, although there seems to be a very long delay getting off the ground in Brisbane. Seated next to me is a lovely lady in co-ordinated bright purple – we chat for a while until we all settle in to watch a movie. It takes an hour between disembarking from the plane to clearing customs, only to be faced with a huge line at the Thrifty Car Rental booth (another 40 minute wait).

My foot is throbbing so H takes the helm and we are soon speeding along the freeway heading north – its a dismal cold day but our high spirits are keeping us warm.
Uh oh is that a line of traffic ahead? Yep, the fantastic freeway and all the associated holiday traffic (Easter long weekend) is now converging into a single lane through a tunnel and onto a winding road. Luckily we don’t have much further to go today. I have booked us in to the Bridgehouse Lodge at Warkworth, we take a cruise of the two main streets and find out hotel without any problem.

Our room, # 1 of course, is in pristine 70’s condition, the bed is bouncy, and every time the toilet flushes it sounds like a jet plane taking off, but is it on the ground floor right next to reception which given my swollen “kankle” is perfect. We head out for a short walk, in search of H’s first NZ sausage roll/meat pie (we have very fond memories from previous trips), only to find all the bakeries in town already closed … as is everything. So after a very lovely hobble along the river and a snack stop at the Indian take away where we had a tandoori chicken kebab (I had my doubts but it was pretty tasty) it’s back to the lodge to chill before dinner.

The lodge has a great bar and restaurant so we don’t have far to go – about 20m actually. After we find out they have some local oysters available our minds are made up not to venture any further. Umm the dozen delicious creamy oysters work a treat. Next is my Hoteo Hog Baby Back Ribs. OMG not only is it a massive serve, but it they are so tender and the BBQ sauce irresistible. Howard is equally impressed with his dinner.

Bridgehouse Lodge

Bridgehouse Lodge

Get Lucky Food Truck

Saturday 26 April 2014

Not much to say about today – we are flying home and have a few hours to kill before we have to head off to the airport.

We catch the City Link bus back to Ponsonby to check out the shops that were closed last night.

We see a food truck setting up and go and check it out.  Lucky for us the couple running Get Lucky Food Truck have just finished setting up and we are their first customers of the day.  The tacos are excellent – one prawn, one pulled pork and one fish.  Nom nom nom.

H getting Lucky

H getting Lucky

Coincidently when we get home the latest edition of Cuisine is waiting for us in the mail and there is an article in it about this food truck.  Our food radar has still got it!