New Zealand is geographically around the same side as the United Kingdom without the 65 million people. We left the South Island and its 1.5 million people to the crowded North Island of 2.5 million. The Cook Strait crossing is a lovely boat trip on a nice day with some lovely scenery coming out of Picton. Next stop was Wellington one of my favourite cities in the world and where I lived for a decade. The harbour is brilliant for just walking around and Te Papa the best museum in New Zealand is located on the seafront. In addition, the best restaurants in NZ are in Wellington. The only downside is all the politicians living in Wellington as parliament is located here. I booked a house in Ngaio the suburb I used to live for our time in Wellington. It is ideally located for getting the train in to central Wellington. I like Ngaio as it has great birdlife and a good café scene. Talking of bird life I love birds and below are some of the birds we saw on our travel. If you want to see some birds in Wellington the place to go is the Karori Sanctuary or Zealandia in Wellington, the website address is:
Things to do in Wellington
Walk around the city. Take the cable car up for a great view or walk up to Mt Victoria which overlooks Wellington. The bushwalk up to the summit also was used for some of the filming of Lord of the Rings, alas no hobbits seen the day we went up. You can go into parliament and see the politicians lie to each other when it is in session and where King John rules. The parliament was refurbished a few years ago and an interesting building where you can see how the building was made earthquake proof. I would recommend exploring Cuba Street, see the Beehive where the Prime Minister allegedly works, go and see the Karori Sanctuary for birdlife. Enjoy the restaurants and visit the Weka studio where Peter Jackson created the Lord of the Rings. One bit of advice is if you have the time to climb Mt Kau Kau from Ngaio. It takes around a hour and on a fine day it has spectacular views of the harbour, city and on a good day you can see the South Island.
We had a wonderful week in Wellington catching up with friends and seeing the sights.
Then drove to Rotorua via Lake Taupo. We spent a couple of days there exploring the hot pools, mud and Maori culture. Unhappily we were not able to do any tramping due to time constraints. I am hoping in February 2015 to do the Tongariro Crossing with my wife and camp up on the Plateau or near the crater as I used to do.
After Rotorua we went up to Auckland and stayed with my brother Neil and his wife Yvonne. I grew up in Manurewa and knew the city before it became a traffic nightmare and over developed due to the corruption of all the councils. Cheap, tacky housing built in central Auckland is evident to see and urban sprawl is like a cancer ever spreading. There are some nice places in Auckland though and it has two wonderful harbours. It also was good to catch up with my niece Courtney and nephew Sean.
My brother took my in-laws and wife on a trip to see a secret Kauri tree near Auckland which they really enjoyed. In 2015 I plan to spend a bit more time in Auckland and show my wife Rangitoto the dormant volcano in the harbour and a few other sights around Auckland. After my in-laws departed for Canada we hired a car and drove slowly up to the Bay of Islands stopping at the giant Kauri’s in Northland.
We spent several days at the lovely Copthorne Hotel Resort at Paihia. My review is below:
My wife fulfilled her dream of swimming with dolphins in the Bay of Islands. We also enjoyed some delicious fish meals including some lovely groper and oysters. We explored historic Russell which is opposite Paihia and a short ferry ride away. It was also nice to visit Waitangi, see the meeting house and grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. On our return to Auckland, Neil and Yvonne took us to Raglan for a brilliant weekend of staying in a Teepee and exploring the area. Alas no hobbits were seen on the entire trip, next time perhaps.