Queen Charlotte Track – our 5 day walk

An early start to catch the 8am Cougar boat out of Picton, we head out across the sounds with a nice cup of tea towards Ships Cove.

Ships Cove, where Captain Cook first landed, is a beautiful cove. Once the boat had left us there all that was left was the beautiful waters, a Maori carving and a memorial to Cook.

A steep climb up out of Ships Cove and we were away through beautiful ancient forest, one of the best parts of forest of the whole walk.

We met our first Wekas shortly into the walk and thought it was very special, until we realised there are quite a few cheeky ones along the walk who were very interested in our lunches!

The forest was beautiful

With the occasional view popping out along the track

After some lunch

We continued on

And we got to our accommodation at Endeavour Inlet by 1.30.

Here we were met by the friendliest of friendly families. Steve & Pernille had taken their kids out of school for a ‘year out’ for the whole family and were renting part of their house. Within minutes of arriving they asked if we wanted to go out fishing with them. So after a drink and a dip, we set off blue cod fishing out in the bay.

A couple of hours and 4 blue cod ‘keepers’ later (two of which Tim caught) we headed back in.

And then they invited us to have dinner with them, to eat the fish we caught.

What a good nosh up – they even opened some bubbly. As well as the amazing food, it was brilliant for Evie as the kids happily played with her for hours.

Sad to leave the next morning (we took our time getting going), we set off again walking the next 15km around the coastline, to get to Punga Cove (which we could see from our 1st nights accommodation!).

The inside of a tree fern

Evie tries to get herself along the trail!

More beautiful forest and a few wekas later we sighted the bar at Punga Cove!

And we made it – to our little house in the trees.

The downside of our accommodation was there was nowhere to cook the food we were carrying. The upside was they did awesome pizza! And they had a great lawn for Evie to run around on looking out at a gorgeous backdrop.

The next day was a climb up up and up onto the Torrea Saddle. Thankfully we met Ian who was going to collect our bags on the way, as I had forgotten about his instructions to find his place and in my head we were walking a lot further than we actually did.

A walk mainly of forest, more undulating than you would expect for being on a saddle, there were a few points with spectacular views over the Sounds.

We descended very steeply to our accommodation, Ngahere Hou. Getting to the bottom we immediately commented how we really didn’t fancy climbing back up there in the heat of the morning. However it was worth the descent as the stay was another highlight of our walk!

Welcomed by Ian, we were shown to our ‘summerhouse’ room and the shared kitchen, compost loo and open air shower. He offered to take us down to the beach but we were too tired for that. So we stayed and relaxed in the hammocks instead.

Already there staying in the yurt were a lovely Danish family, and their oldest daughter doted on Evie, so she happily had a playmate for our stay.

Come the evening, Ian came and lit the wood fired hot tub, we watched a glorious sunset, then at 9.30 he came back and took us to see the glow worms on his land. Absolute magic, sitting in the pitch black by a little stream, surrounded by glow worms. An experience never to be forgotten.

Solving the problem of the climb back up and a day longer than we thought enjoyable, Ian kindly dropped us at Portage Bay and then we just had the up & down to Te Maria. A drink, swim, tea, Evie walk and bed, all pretty tired by now.

Day 5 to get to Anakiwa – a much flatter walk, some nice views, older forest again. Finding we had hours to spare, we stopped in a bay very close to the end and gave Evie a run and a snack, holding out for a well deserved cafe at the end.

The cafe turned out to be a small caravan that just did drinks and ice-cream – and it was closed!! We finished too early! A swim to cool off and then finally at 4pm the boat arrived. The end of our Queen Charlotte Track walk.

Our thoughts – not as interesting with regards views & landscapes as anticipated, you have to really love walking in forest, for hours, being deafened by the beating of circada wings. It was hillier than expected, which makes for hard work when carrying a bean. The views were few and far between and only in small gaps in the trees, as were the occasions when the track met the sea.

However, the forests were amazing and the views were spectacular. So maybe just one day shorter would have been about right!

Windy Wellington

We only had a very short time in Wellington whilst we waiter for the ferry. Long enough only to go and grab a coffee down near the waterfront.

So what little we saw we liked and it had been done in a fun way.

The was a dive bomb platform into the harbour waters below!

A funky bridge with seats on….

A swimming area

And lots of little eateries, stalls and shops in containers on the front.

Oh and it was super windy too – living up to its name!

Tongariro Crossing – a big day out

So here’s what we did do, and what we may have done differently with the advantage of hindsight!

To do the crossing you have to book a shuttle, as you can only park at the car park at the start of the walk for 4 hours. And they only like you to book the day before, so that the current forecast can be taken into consideration.

Given the current heatwave in New Zealand, we decided that the earlier we could get going the better. So with our alarms set for 5am, Evie decided that she wasn’t going to go to sleep without a drive in the car, nor give us a good nights sleep when she did finally give in!

Still, we were booked on the 6.30am shuttle, so despite our lack of sleep (and Evie clearly wondering why she had been rudely awoken at 5.30am) off we set. And it was the right thing to do.

Given as it was 17degrees that early in the morning, it meant we walked the first 1&1/2 hrs in shade. There was still some frost on the plants though! and the views spectacular And then of course the sun popped out from behind the volcano and we were in the heat of the morning for the ascent.

Lots of steps to prevent erosion both going up and down equals seriously hard work when carrying a Bean!

It was worth it though. Walking through a crater past the lava from the volcano that most recently erupted in 1975. And although it appears barren, the more you looked, the more colours you saw within the landscape.

A big push to the Red Crater summit before a careful descent down very loose scree to the lakes.

The lakes were beautiful colours but no swimming allowed as they are sacred. They were also in a very sulphuric smelling area!

From there one last final climb and then a long descent, which became a bit tedious, through steaming hillsides and finally some lovely New Zealand forest to shade us from the relentless sun.

In hindsight we would have parked for free at the 4 hr car park at the start of the crossing and walked to the lakes and back again, which we think we could have managed in the 4 hours. It was this side of the walk that was interesting and different with regards landscape.

A totally beautiful walk and very doable with a baby so long as you have the right equipment for all mountain weathers.

Auckland- the big smoke!

I don’t normally mention our accommodation, but we landed super lucky with an Air B&B in the Wellington suburb of Auckland, which was very close to an easy train journey straight to the centre, whilst being an oasis out of the centre within a city. It even had a pool and hot tub, and hosts that made us cake!!

Mt Wellington

So this mound was literally opposite our house so I popped up it one morning with Evie and we had a cracking view over the whole of Auckland

Auckland Wharf

Straight off the train in the central Britomart station, and we headed towards a very modern part of this city around the marina. Apart from boat spotting, there were many many bars and cafes….

…. but also nice chill out areas and a big paddling pool

Devonport Ferry

From the main ferry terminal, for not much money (it is a commuter ferry), a trip over to the older town of Devonport gives a really good view back to the city

Devonport itself was a charming historical town,

with an amazing massive tree!

And a good playground

Buskers Festival

We happened to land in Auckland when the 4 day buskers festival was on. Which were high quality street performers. We spent a bit of time watching them and their impressive tricks

I don’t know if it was part of the weekend, but within what I imagine to be an exhibition hall, it was set up full of different sports, chess etc and lots of people enjoying dancing salsa in the middle of the day, which was lovely to see.

The moving marina bridge

Not exactly a highlight, but it was quite cool to watch the marina bridge go up

One Tree Hill

Finishing our time in Auckland, we walked the short distance up One Tree Hill.

Topped by a monument important to the Maori

One Tree Hill also has superb views over the whole region

Descending back to the car, moving on again. There was definitely more we could have explored around Auckland and another couple of days could have been well filled.

Bay of Islands

Basing ourselves in Opua, with the nearest town being Paihia, our first day was spent locally chilling out, doing a little organising and heading to Paihia beach.

And enjoying some scrumptious pizza!

Paihia

A popular beach fronting a touristy town that sees regular cruise ship visitors, although busy it definitely wasn’t our favourite of beaches. It had fun toilets though!

The next day was an early start to get me into Paihia to go diving whilst Evie and Tim had a daddy & daughter day breakfasting out and hanging out at the park. It allowed me to see a bit of the Bay of Islands by boat as well, something we didn’t plan on doing as a family.

Doing a Bean swap, we hung out in the evening and Evie had a fun outdoor bath and walked up the road from the house, whilst Tim played at the local golf club.

It was then Tims turn for a day of fun as he was excited to be able to go and play at the exclusive Kauri Cliffs golf club.

Biking – The Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Evie and me got the bike out and set off from Opua through mangroves and farmland, past a crazy toilet mobile!

cycling along a short section of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail (apparently a 4 day trail).

We however just followed the old railway track to Kawakawa, along which the Bay of Islands vintage train runs, had a picnic and played at the playground, before heading back and retreating to the ranch from the sweltering heat for another outdoor bath!

Oke Bay

We finally found a little bit of paradise in the Bay of Islands. Getting the car ferry across from Opua to Okiato we stopped for a drink at Russell.

A more up market cruise ship tourist town based around a marina, with a much more inviting beach than Paihia.

However we were moving on for our swim as the ferry guy recommended Oke Bay.

A half hour drive away, partly on gravel road, it was worth the drive! The view from the top of the steps were what we had been expecting from the Bay of Islands.

Some lovely swimming, even Evie had a proper dip. And she enjoyed lots of paddling and walking along the beach.

Sadly time to leave this beautiful bay and head back across the tiny stretch of water on the ferry.

Haruru Falls

Packing up to leave, we finished our time here with a walk from the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi to Haruru Falls. Took about 1&1/2 hours each way with a little picnic at the falls.

Through beautiful forest again, the only trouble being fitting through the bike prevention gates at each end of the walk with a child carrier!

Getting there was exciting as the high tide was so high that shoes off was required through the mangrove swamps

The falls were nice to see, shame no jumping in allowed!

Seeing some nice birds nesting and sunning themselves on the return

Back through the now emptier mangroves

Having had a good walk it really was time to leave. In truth a little underwhelmed with the Bay of Islands (would advise the Coromandel if you had to pick between them) we head off to Auckland.

Cape Reigna

Staying at our lovely yellow house in Waipapakauri, this was a great base to explore Cape Reigna from.

Arriving mid afternoon, we lucked out with a low tide (make sure you check the tide times before you drive on the beach) and were able to go for a safe drive along the 55 mile long aptly named ‘Ninety Mile Beach’. A strange haze was around so you couldn’t actually see for miles, but it was something a bit different to do for a while.

After that we went for a dip in the local Lake Rotokawau before heading home.

Setting out the next day the tide was in, so we had to go up Highway 1 to Cape Reinga. For some reason we expected a flat straight road….. rather than the very undulating and winding road that is.

Stopping of at the Te Paki sand dunes to have a go at sand boarding, we hired a board and had a go. Having Evie with us and it being another baking hot day, we didn’t feel like we could go into the big dune proper.

Instead we stayed close to the bottom so Evie could play in the stream.

A few goes later, wet, completely full of sand everywhere and with a bit of whiplash to add, we decided we had had our fill of sand boarding.

We made the presumption we would soon be jumping in the sea to clean off – wrong (which meant having sand in every crack and crevice until the evening!).

Cape Reigna itself was beautiful.

The colours and bizarre wave action where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific are stunning to see.

But it is high up and it would be quite a trek down to the sea. So we had our picnic, enjoyed the view and left the most accessible northerly point.

But not before the Volvo helped another car out. Having lived to see another day, we jump-started another car back into action. The Cape is not somewhere you would want to wait for hours.

After stopping for a real fruit ice cream (why does that make it sound healthier??!)we turned off Highway 1 onto a gravel road and headed back to Ninety Mile Beach at the Hukatere Hill entry point. Now low tide, we finished our Cape Reigna trip by driving 20km south along the beach exiting again at the Waipapakauri Ramp. If the tide is right this is much quicker than the main road – and much more fun!

Wandering around Whangarei

After limping into Whangarei 6 days ago, we have explored it in depth due to the car being in intensive care!!

Mt Manaia

Asking the car of one final journey (garages shut on a Sunday), we made our way to Whangarei Heads and walked up Mt Manaia. And from the bottom to the top it was uphill all the way – carrying Evie was definitely my workout for the day!

What a LOT of steps!

After enjoying the view from the top we headed back down.

Was an absolutely beautiful forest.

To protect it you had to clean and disinfect your shoes on the way in & out of the forest .

For a refresh we headed to nearby Taurikura Bay was beach for a picnic and a swim.

A shallow bay, the water was so warm that Evie walked straight in and kept walking! So her first proper dip in the sea.

It then started to rain – heavy tropical rain! So we packed up and went back to the ranch having got the best from the day.

Hatea Loop

Being without a car, we probably did this 4.2 km loop 7 times or more! It seems that in 2006 onwards Whangarei decided to get its town fit! With outdoor fitness stations

toilets, water fountains, information boards, sculptures,

playgrounds,

a BMX pump track, small bouldering area, dog walkers dog fun areas, this loop has it all! And it was busy from early morning to late a night (we experienced most times of the day on this loop!). It also passes through the marina,

so you can look at all the expensive boats, and the Town Basin.

Evie asked for us to have a go on the pump track. Two loops around there and then 3 spokes broke on my back wheel. The bike had to go to bike hospital to.

The Town Basin

The tourist area of Whangarei, this a pretty collection of decorative shops, cafes, restaurants, an art gallery, theatre and the Clock Museum. It sits within the marina, is very pleasant, and nothing like the rest of Whangarei, which is an otherwise functional town.

Claphams National Clock Museum

Having some time to spare, Evie chimed up that she would like to go to the Clock Museum to see the cookoos sing!

Get a drink in the cafe opposite, keep the receipt and you then get into the Clock Museum for half price!

And this very modern building , with a huge sundial outside is full of very old clocks and two enthusiastic ladies who work there.

From novelty clocks to grandfather clocks and everything in between! With a bit of nice history to Mr Claphams Clock collection and clocks in general.

Hatea River Walk to Whangarei Falls

The information suggested that Whangarei Falls were 2&1/2 hours away by foot, we did it in about 1hr 45mins (you can drive to them). Once out of Whangarei you again find yourself in beautiful forest. So ancient that you never know what you may see…!!

You do have to keep your eyes peeled for the little posts, but it is a popular route with walkers and runners alike.

The falls themselves are beautiful and the pool was nice to swim in.

The walk itself is mildly undulating.

Hatea track bike ride

The Hatea track continues in the other direction (towards Whangarei Heads) which is great for bikes and feels very safe off the road. It then winds along a red hard sand track through some woods. And then it finishes. In fairness it finishes at a play park and some toilets.

So still with no car, and with my bike fixed (with fingers crossed), Tim hires a bike and the 3 of us set out for the day. We packed our swim stuff, for for Evie and off we went.

With a definite thirst and some hunger, we decided to keep going beyond the end of the track and search for a cafe. Given as we were biking through residential areas you would think this would be easy. However, as we kept moving and our water bottles got lower and lower, we eventually realised that there were no cafes to be had. So we found a caravan park to fill our water bottles and turned around.

The water here didn’t look too inviting so the swim stuff could have stayed back at the ranch.

25 miles round trip to our failed cafe stop, we got back to Whangarei for some well deserved refreshments!

Whangarei leisure centre pool

We went here twice in our stay at Whangarei. It is a fantastic pool – there is a baby area, a toddler splash area, a fun pool with a wave machine, slides, an outdoor diving pool, a spa, a hydrotherapy rehab pool and an indoor laned pool. So basically something for everyone. All accessible for a mere $6 per adult, which we thought was a bargain!

Evie loves the opportunity to play with other kids and we enjoyed the slides and the swimming pool!

It had a good cafe to with awesome shakes to!

Glow in the dark mini-golf

Mini golf with a difference, this small 18 hole course was hand made and unique! And if you wear the right clothes you to can glow in the dark as you are playing.

It did take Evie a minute to get used to – she screamed when she first entered the course. But was crawling around it within minutes.

The Volvo is fixed!

On day 6 the Volvo is finally fixed! So we feel we made the most of Whangarei, we did one last evening stroll of the Hatea Loop, packed our bags and time to move on.