Before we embarked on our next chapter (which was unfortunately cut short due to this pandemic shit show going on), we thought it was only right to see a little more of our beautiful country, Aotearoa NZ. So that’s exactly what we did!
Being recently unemployed at the time or as I liked to call us, retired – it was the most bizarre feeling not having anywhere to be, not having to check in with the hotel to make sure it’s not burning down, not having to inhale your breakfast and run out the door and it took a very long time to stop checking our emails every 15 or so minutes. So, needless to say as retired/unemployed hippies we did what only good hippies do: find epic beaches, drink cheap wine and soak up the moment.
We thought this was a fitting time to share our recommendations as we go through this unfamiliar and UNPRECEDENTED (thanks Jacinda) time with Covid19. For us Kiwis’ NZ being the easiest/ONLY place to travel right now, these places need our support and tourism now more than ever, so get out there, get exploring and get appreciating our beautiful country and what it has to offer.
24 hours in Raglan.
Raglan is one of those places you arrive and instantly feel relaxed. It is the most chilled out and funky coastal region on the west coast of the North Island where you are literally overdressed if you’re wearing shoes in the supermarket. We had no idea it was as cool as it was and would love to share our recommendations.
We started our day bright and early with a Raglan Roast Coffee. Keeping it simple they operate out of a small hole in the wall down a rustic alleyway, their locally roasted beans are the bomb!
We then popped into Ruapuke Artisan Bread Shop and grabbed some fresh bread for lunch later on. Super cute shop tucked off the main road but make sure you get there early as they sell out fast.
The Main street of Raglan is super cool. From qwerky jewelry shops to funky collective shops and amazing natural organic local produce and skincare. You name it, the Raglan locals make it. My recommendations you cannot miss are:
- WOK: Whaingaroa Organic Kai
- Jet Collective
- The Herbal Dispensary
- Tony Sly Pottery
We spent the morning exploring Bridal Veil Falls from every angle and viewing spot. The walk-in through the most amazing track was worth it in itself – although watching the 55m waterfall plummet from the bottom viewing area was spectacular, the 261 steps back up however were not so spectacular.
We toasted our delicious Ruapuke artisan bread using the bbq on the side of the road overlooking Ngarunui Beach, our ideal picnic spot. Amazing views!
We decided to head along the coast further and came across Solscape, the most amazing eco-retreat which caters to everything from tranquil accommodation, a delicious restaurant, yoga, and surf school. We sat and had a smoothie while taking in the most incredible views. They even have their own sustainable vege gardens that they grow, prepare, and cook for their restaurant.
We carried on further along the coast to check out the amazing surf spots Manu Bay and Whale Bay. They were packed with surfers however being from Taranaki, we’re quite used to epic surf and the rugged West Coast beaches.
No good Kiwi town is explored until you have tried out the local Fish & Chips, so that is exactly what we did. Headed down to the Raglan Wharf and got amongst. What a spot!
On our way out of Raglan (On the left-hand side) a must do is to stop at the Raglan Roast Office or also known as the Te Uku Roast Office. The quaintest coffee shop operating on the side of the road out of the old post office originally built in 1924. If you blink you will miss it, so keep an eye out.
They even have their own cups with their very own emblem – how cool is that!
We had such a lovely couple of nights in Raglan and would definitely recommend this wee place to everyone. Such a cool vibe and we felt right at home. Some spots we didn’t get to that looked really epic were:
- The shack: Delicious brunch
- La La Land: Amazing French waffles
- Rock it Kitchen: Yummy lunch spot
- Raglan Roast Food dept: Best gelato
24 hours in Tutukaka/Matapouri
Making a beeline for Northland we stopped off in Tutukaka for 2 nights. Staying with an Israeli family through Airbnb on the coastal village of Nungaru was one of our highlights and right on the beach made it easy to explore.
Our Airbnb had kayaks and paddleboards available to use which was a bonus, so we headed over the Nungaru Estuary and upstream to the sandspit at our host’s recommendation. Parking our boards up on the sandspit followed by a small walk through the sand dunes we came out onto a huge white sandy beach we had all to ourselves, it was unreal and the best way to start the day.
We stayed here for a few hours until we remembered the tide was on its way out.
After lunch, we headed up the coast to Matapouri for another swim in the most turquoise water with golden sand. After chilling on the beach for a few hours we had worked up quite the appetite for yet another ice cream.
As the sun was going down, we headed out on a sunset mission and went for our 5th swim of the day, the best one of the day as you simply cannot beat a golden hour swim. We found an awesome spot at Whangamaumu Beach – so bloody lucky!
The next morning on our way to our next stop we headed up the coast back to Matapouri to do the loop walk to Whale Bay (approx. 1-hour round trip). We couldn’t wait for a swim when we arrived in the bay as the sun was super hot and the track was quite exposed. Make sure you take lots of water!
We loved our time on the Tutukaka coast and met some lovely people who have made us excited to visit Israel one day (not happening any time soon #covid). Another good walk that we will do next time is the Tutukaka Light House Loop walk, the best time apparently is 1 hour either side of low tide.
1 night stopover at Whangaruru/Oakura Bay
Following the rugged coast up through Whananaki, Helena Bay, and Oakura Bay we found our next stop at the Whangaruru Beachfront Camp for 1 night. This pit stop was purely so we could take our time along the coast and explore all the little spots you would usually miss driving along the main highway. It was a spectacular drive and definitely no shortage of dirt roads and one-way bridges!
Our afternoon at the beach camp was super relaxing and included catching up on some life admin and Luke’s so-called 3-hour “nap” which was apparently “essential”. Was so nice to chill out under the tree, enjoy some cheese and crackers, and some wine followed by a BBQ dinner on our balcony and a sunset walk.
30 minutes from Whangaruru was Oke Bay, Rawhiti – our absolute favourite beach! We left Whangaruru bright and early and came across the most amazing beach on the way, all to ourselves. Was the best way to start the day. We ended up chilling here for an hour getting some epic drone footage as we couldn’t resist.
Oke Bay literally took our breath away, it was unbelievable. We stayed here for hours, swimming every 10 minutes as it was scorching hot. Such a fun day!
Whangaruru is definitely one of those places off the beaten track a little but surrounded by absolute hidden gems and amazing camp spots – so worth the visit.
A week in Kerikeri
We used Kerikeri as a bit of a base for our time in Northland as we are exceptionally lucky to have some family up there. In particular, my lovely Great Aunty Barb who looked after us very well – such special memories.
We took a trip down memory lane being chauffeured around Kerikeri and showed all the local sights, attractions, and hearing all about the Nock family history. In particular, the Stone Store being the oldest surviving stone building in New Zealand.
Visited Haruru Falls and Rainbow Falls and with some impeccable timing at Haruru Falls we managed to see a local tribe practicing for Waitangi Day at the bottom of the falls on the Waitangi River.
The Kerikeri Farmers Market on every Saturday is Northland’s biggest market and was awesome. So much fresh produce, delicious coffee, and yummy treats.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds are definitely worth a visit. Incredibly displayed New Zealand history and Maori culture. We spent a couple of hours wandering around, watching in on a cultural performance that was excellent, and learning about our NZ heritage and history. (Kiwi’s get a local discount, so make sure you have NZ ID).
A day trip to Matauri Bay was one of our highlights. My beautiful Northland family spend their summer here every year and have done so for the past 30+ years. I have such fond memories from when we were little, so it was pretty special to be able to get back here. We spent the morning out on the boat fishing, which was so much fun, unfortunately, Luke & I were pretty bad luck with only bringing home x2 snapper, but the crew that afternoon managed to reel in x30 snapper (it was all legal, of course). We basically had fresh fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for days after.
The day before my uncle went diving for crayfish and scallops, fair to say they have a pretty decent diving spot and we had the most amazing seafood feast for dinner. Absolutely incredible and we definitely ate our body weight in scallops!
We had an amazing time in Kerikeri and was so special to spend time with some family we often don’t get the chance to see very often.
A couple of days at the very top – Karikari Peninsular & Cape Reinga
A trip to the far North is definitely not complete without getting to the very tip-top of NZ – Cape Reinga. The first stop along the way was Puketi Forrest to see some of the incredible Kauri trees – some of these beauties are over 1000 years old!
Being in no hurry (very unlike me) we took the scenic coastal route via Matauri Bay and Whangaroa stopping along the way.
To make the most of hidden gems like this one.
We decided to stay in an Airbnb Karikari Peninsular – 1.45 hrs. south of Cape Reinga. This happened to be one of our favourite beaches we came across – with golden sand, deep blue water, and a gentle sea breeze, what more can ya ask for.
We set off super early for our drive north to Cape Reinga which paid off as when we got there, there was next to no-one there (including the tour groups who also hadn’t arrived, thankfully). The 15-minute walk down to the lighthouse was stunning and we spent a good hour exploring before making our way back up to the carpark.
The Te Paki sand dunes went down an absolute treat and we finally got to use the boogie boards we had traipsed 2000km up the country, don’t get Luke started… I had heard these sand dunes were epic but I didn’t realise they were that epic, you literally feel like you are in the Sahara desert (not that I know what that’s like, but looks epic).
The next stop on the way back down was of course 90-mile beach and then Rawawa Beach which is like New Zealand’s very own Whitehaven Beach with pure white silica sand – was incredible.
An epic few days in Paihia
Paihia is super close to Kerikeri but has some epic beaches and lots of water activities on offer. We did a couple of boat trips from here which we would totally recommend. The first one was a day trip with Barefoot Sailing Adventures to Moturoa Island. The boat was a large catamaran and small group on board making things a little less touristy and a little more comfortable. Equipped with a good coffee, delicious homemade lunch, and a good sailing breeze made for an epic day. (We even saw dolphins, from afar)
The second boat trip was with Explore NZ where we blitzed our way at 40 knots p/h (80kmph) to the famous Hole in The Rock.
We then spent the rest of the day at Urupukapuka Island exploring different beaches on the island.
It was a bonus to see my cousin who is in the NZ Navy and was docked in Opua – what bloody good timing that was. We got a tour of the ship (including the engine room) which was epic and something you don’t often get the opportunity to do – super lucky!
We loved our time in Paihia and loved being able to get out on the water a couple of times. There’s so much happening during that time of year and had such a cool vibe to the beachy town.
48 hours in Russell
Being New Zealand’s first capital city and home to the early settlers on NZ, Russel is now a charming little town full of history, good food, and beautiful golden sand beaches. Our first stop was of course for a wine or 2 at New Zealand’s oldest pub, The Duke of Marlborough Hotel which sits perfectly along the waterfront promenade. What a spot!
We stayed in a cute bell tent at the Top 10 Holiday Park, which was a great location and had everything you needed.
We spent most of our afternoon sitting outside under a tree amongst the dappled light catching up on life admin while eating cheese & crackers and drinking shitty wine – it was perfect!
The next morning, we went for a beautiful walk up Flag Staff Hill which is 100m above sea level and gives beautiful 360-degree views of Russel and the Bay of Islands.
Then, visited the Christ Church which is New Zealand’s oldest surviving church built in 1835 and one of NZ oldest buildings still used for its original purpose.
We then went back to Oke bay for the afternoon, took a picnic lunch, and relaxed on the beach.
Of course, in true Allie & Luke style finished our beautiful day off watching the sun go down, on yet another fabulous day in such a special part of NZ.
Next stop was 3 days on Waiheke Island
Officially leaving the far north and beginning the journey home, missing Waiheke wasn’t an option. We had big plans of some serious winery hopping however the budget was becoming limited and we actually ended up using the 3 days to just chill out and relax. Went for a couple of amazing big hikes around the island which were nothing short of spectacular.
A few picnics, of course.
A few more swims, of course.
We felt refreshed and re-energized after our time on Waiheke, could definitely get used to island life.
1 night in Auckland City
We jumped on the ferry back to Auckland just in time to check into our city accommodation and headed to the Elton John concert, which unfortunately finished early with Elton losing his voice with what was probably Covid19 (at the time diagnosed walking pneumonia). We were super disappointed as we missed a few bangers that were yet to be played but oh well, wasn’t meant to be. We were hopeful there would be another time to see him live (thought this might have been in London but that also wasn’t meant to be, but let’s not go there…).
Was still absolutely incredible to see him live despite the circumstances and fingers crossed we can see him again.
A few days in Cooks Beach, Coromandel
Making a detour to the Coromandel also wasn’t an option to miss out on either. 3 nights in our Airbnb right on Cooks Beach was perfect and gave us enough time to do a bit of everything. Amazing walks, great beaches, and friendly locals made this coastal town home away from home.
Taking the ferry across to Whitianga for some lunch.
We managed to catch up with some friends and spent the day at Cathedral Cove, which despite the bloody hike in and out, is always a pleasure.
Then a lovely picnic BBQ dinner at the beach was the perfect way to end the day.
Of course, lots more swims – making the most of the warm water and weather.
We absolutely loved our time in Cooks Beach – our Airbnb hosts were lovely, the location of our place was perfect, and we loved the feel of this wee coastal town in paradise.
1 night of Luxury in Whangamata
Our final stop before heading home was a stunning glamping spot on Wharekawa Farm, just north of Whangamata. We booked this through Canopy Camping – our accommodation came equipped with a beautiful view, an outside bath, and such an amazing secluded cabin with everything you need.
We spent the afternoon relaxing, reading, playing backgammon, and reflecting on the last 4 weeks and our amazing trip.
The next morning included a slow start, coffee, and of course pancakes!
This was such an amazing spot – would definitely recommend it.
Last but not least, a long weekend in our happy place – Kuratau, Lake Taupo
Of course, a stop in our slice of paradise was definitely on the cards and the weather turned it on for us!
There’s something so special about being on the water, it really is the most amazing feeling.
We then spent the night with our biggest fans – my Nana & Pops. We had a lovely dinner at an English Pup (very fitting at the time), played cards, went for a few walks, and gave the oldies a run for their money on the mini-putt course.
It was such a special couple of days with them, we had such fun, lots of laughs and feel so lucky to have such amazing & loving grandparents who are so fit, able, and positive.
Reflecting back on this over the last few weeks/months (this blog post has taken longer than I thought to finish) really drills in on how bloody lucky we really are to call this place home. I know we all know deep down but sometimes it really is easy to forget and wish we were here or there, but we honestly cannot imagine being anywhere else right now nor do we want to be.
We can look back in hindsight all we like and wish we did a few things differently timing-wise but that’s the thing about hindsight – you can’t bloody change it! We cannot change what has unfolded over the last 6 months as much as we want to and as disappointed as we are about the way our OE has turned out, that’s life and sometimes shit happens – apparently, it’s how you deal with it.
So, we’re trying to remain positive, optimistic, and roll with the punches. We’re back working full time with a few things on the go and using the time now to re-evaluate our life, save back the thousands we spent on a week in London, explore more places in our beautiful country and just embrace the journey we are now on (WITHOUT a plan, and if you know me, you’ll know how much I love a good plan).
What will be, will be and we are excited to see where this takes us and what’s next!
So, keep safe, keep healthy, keep positive, and F**K COVID!
Love L & A