Overlooking the charming area and suburbs of Devonport it Mt Victoria. Set up as a battalion base in the wars it now serves as one of the best, unadulterated views of Auckland.
The Signalman’s House is on the way up and truly breath taking. For it’s colonial style, it’s obvious connection to yesterday and it’s current purpose of offering writers a retreat. Being a writer I am totally in-love with the idea of a haven. A place to write whilst being frivolous and overlooking the harbour.
You can’t drive all the way to the summit any more but you can walk, hike or stroll. Ie foot is the only way. Up the top you will be greeted by sweeping views to the east, north and west. To the south you have iconic views of Auckland although you need to veer past a few trees.
You can have a picnic on the old forts, while watching the clouds jump and jive overhead.
Or you can share a chit chat with an old mate reminencising over times of old … waxing lyrically about childhood while your feet dangle over the edge of the old fortress.
Exploring is lot of fun which is what makes this the perfect afternoon trip for a family or lovers or solo travellers.
2. Visit the Devonport library
Well blow me down, I have visited many libraries around the world but this library is amazing.
Aside from being an architectural designer master piece it offers peace.
Peace and an open air outlook over one of the most amazing bays in the world.
It’s inspiring and has all the literature greats at your finger tips… all for free… waiting to be indulged.
I whittle away a few lustful moments reading the local rag and absorbing the view.
Whilst not a “tourist” attraction I sincerely hope you visit this space. Especially if you have never been to a library before!
3. Walk along the foreshore
This is one of the oldest, loveliest foreshore walks in New Zealand.
Beautiful trees, spaces, play grounds, picnic areas and Elizabeth House, make this a beautiful lazy afternoon walk.
Grab a photo with your family – a real keep-stakes as the back ground of the azure waters of the harbour and the sky line of Auckland subside away. Truly beautiful.
4. Lunch at the Esplanade Hotel
The Esplanade Hotel is such an iconic landmark. Built in 1857 the interior is everything you would expect from a timeless building.
We rock up on a Sunday and have the bowl of mussels done in white wine garlic and cream. Yes you guessed it! Something I will travel back for again and again and again. Especially at the end of the pier if the ferry from Auckland. It the perfect romantic escape and boys… it has a fire side!
5.Visit an art gallery
Despite everyone assuming art is for the rich or eccentric art is an expression. There are many art galleries in davenport and all worth a Casual wander through. There are too many to name and in my personal (artist) opinion, sometimes it is better to waltz through art galleries than it is to visit one. See where your heart takes you.
It’s a typical Auckland winter’s spring day – cold, wind, rain, sun!
All the seasons every hour.
We head off to explore west of Auckland and the local wineries.
There is a lot to see and some really good wines, some lovely experiences, including the historic The Riverhead and the west coast of NZ.
The Riverhead is a restaurant location dating back to the 1850s.
Beautifully preserved it buildings and location offer a warm vibe.
The pub is great for a NZ wine, craft beer and game of pool. A fire side welcomes everyone, the staff are friendly and their is plenty of space and low noise so you can chat. You can sit outside with their warm heaters in winter so many options.
The restaurant has a very good reputation but we felt it feel a little short of it’s price and reputation. The staff weren’t the best and the food whilst restaurant standard wasn’t abundant. We gave it a 4/5.
I lovely little winery near Kumea. Worth a stop over and as the lady says their “chardonnay is the stilettos of wines”.
Hunting Lodge winery
I really like this winery – open, classy and two price levels of wines. Really good food and friendly staff. I highly rate Hunting Lodge.
The wines are great and there are two eating options – casual (perfect for families and kids) or the five star restaurant.
This is an absolute must. Only 45 minutes from Auckland the coastline is radically different to the east coast.
Wild and rough and some how exhilarating. The sand is speculedwith dark ebony sand and cobalt blue. I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else in the world. It’s an artists haven.
Follow the beach around the cliff and you will discover something really amazing. It is a gull colony and it truly breath taking. While watching birds navigate their landings, I felt like I was in a David Attenborough show. Amazing.
Perched about 20 minutes via car from the ferry at Waiheke is Stonyridge Vineyard. It is a magnificent looking vineyard and in summer boasts a vine wrapping all around the main building. It reminds me of a vineyard I once visited in Corsica.
I have been here before so going back was for the wine and ambiance.
What we discovered is that most vineyards on Waiheke charge (what I would call, a small fortune) to do a taste sampling. Some charge $10 for 3, others $15 for 3 premium. Guard your wallet because whilst they are guarding their cellar door so you don’t drink down their vats for free, you will be paying quite a lot more for the privilege of drinking a Waiheke grown wine.
On this day we are very fortunate to have Nathan as our bar tasting man. Entertaining and a whizz at wines we learn a lot about the local wines as well as New Zealand wines.
The wines here, like everywhere else on Waiheke, are expensive. But you have to expect it… don’t be surprised.
After sampling some wines we settle on a nice crisp Riesling and venture into the restaurant for lunch. In summer the outdoor area pumps. It’s referred to as the yoga deck which is kinda suitable as it has views spanning over the vineyard and to be honest I don’t know if they do yoga there or not, but it would be a perfect venue.
The restaurant is fine. Vineyard style, with a good menu but rich prices. We chose to share two entrees and a main.
Our entrees prawns and fish cerviche are good and our main is rib eye fillet, with mashed and jus.
We love our food so don’t want to put it down but it feel short somehow. As I type I feel bad writing. It was OK – to great but just not spectacular.
Obviously it is better than cafe food and a pub meal but when you pay $44 for steak I think one should expect 6 star.
I would give the experience this time 3.5/5. The food 4/10, the wine tasting with Nathan 5/5 but the service unfortunately only 3/5.
Coming back from the airport and eager to eat we stop into the very popular and funky suburb of Auckland called Ponsoby.
Right on the fringe of the CBD this food and inner city precinct has a great vibe.
There are many restaurants, cafes and designer shops to explore. It is late at night and city traffic is hectic so we go straight to the Collective. Here you will find many styles and types of eateries.
Discovery is the key to great adventures and unveiling the best restaurant, vineyard or bay on the island!
It’s a Friday night in Waiheke and after a fabulous happy hour at the chirpy and happy Arcadia in Palm Beach we were looking for a fun vibe and great food.
Arcadia is a cool little establishment in Palm Beach that offers breakfast, lunch, happy hour and nibbles and dinner.
Rebecca and Daniel took over from the last owners a year ago and gave the old fish and chip take away place a face lift. The food is good, the location amazing and the staff very friendly.
On this afternoon it is raining outside and we’re after a chill and some tunes.
Happy hour is 3-6pm and we venture in to check things out.
The champagne is awesome and so much cheaper than anywhere else on Waiheke that you feel like it is home.
With no rush to leave we play Jenga and Uno while people stream in and stream out. The owners are awesome and happy to chat and shoot the breeze. I would highly recommend even if you are not staying in Palm Beach just to get away from the mainstream of Waiheke.
After this we pop home and taxi to Oneroa. A previous favourite of mine, Aperitivo bar is wonderful on a Friday and Saturday nights.
Cosy and warm, you’ll find a guy playing some great tunes and a real buzz. The wines are sensational and on this night we are served by Chris who is very friendly and explains the wine list and nibbles. We settle on a pre-dinner of citrus olives and the Obesidan red. It was a winery that we didn’t make during the day but one we wanted to go to.
After our yummy pre-dinners we head in search of dinner.
There are many choices in town but it’s getting on for 9pm and many of the trendy places like Thai and Oyster Bar have a low key vibe.
Great red wines (we chose an Argentinian wine) and great vibe. People are chatting and the staff are European world-class.
Matt from Belgium, our waiter helps us decide as the menu is tantalising and exciting.
We choose Canadain scallops and cauliflower mash, and with a side of potato gratin.
OMG – the food is amazing. The price is perfect and the food dazzling.
I’m giving this restaurant 4.9/5 for food, service and location. The only reason, the only reason it drops a 0.1 is because the views are not over the ocean. But truly you don’t need to look outward, if the company is good, then they will take care of the rest.
Rotorua is an absolute must if you are visiting the north island of New Zealand. It’s a 3 hour drive from Auckland and offers many natural things to see, as well as adventures to part-take in.
You can spend a stack of money and try to do it all, or you can be selective and do many things for free.
This is what we got up to but is in no means exhaustive.
Visit the mud pools
On the way to Wai-O-Tea the thermogeographic springs are two sites that are free and definitely worth visiting. You can go into the tourist park for $32 per adult and walk around and see the colourful springs and geothermal marvels.
On the way to the tourist centre is a geyser (where Mother Nature lets of some steam in a long vertical “spit”). Called Lady Knox Geyser, this one sprays at 10.15am every day. But only once a day.
Another marvel is the mud pools on the way in. It’s barely a detour and worth getting out and witnessing mother earth as she let’s off some steam. The clay mud is used in beauty treatments and facial masks/moisturisers and of course for anti-ageing. You can purchase most of these at all the tourist shops but don’t be surprised to fork out a lot of dough in exchange for a dollop of mud!
Visit the Polynesian Spa
We arrive into town late from Auckland and are very happy to discover that the Polynesian Spa is open until 11pm.
With multiple hot tubs (more like pools) littered throughout the grounds and idealytically located on the rim of Lake Rotorua, it is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
The hot springs are straight from the earth subterran and are steaming hot and very smelly.
Bob around the various pools to find your temperature and don’t be spa rookies like us and find the “hottest” corner and nearly pass out from over heating.
You can take your own supplies in, so make the most of it.
There is another spa near Wai O Tea which is cheaper and apparently nicer according to a local, but I really like being able to sit on the rim of the lake.
There’s a bit to do here and a great place to defrag from life.
You can catch a shuttle to the top and ride a mountain bike through one of it’s many trails, or you can walk along the forest floor without paying an admission fee.
If you would like to experience the trees at a higher height, you can purchase a pass along the sky walk, or after hours you can walk through the forest top to an illuminated light show. It is actually very pretty and worth the visit.
Visit the thermal springs in town
If you are after something a little closer to town, or don’t have wheels, check out the Kuirau Park right in town. It is a large park with many geo active ponds and steaming creeks to give you an idea of the uniqueness of the area.
On Saturday mornings there is a modest food market and is nice to stroll around.
Visit Kerosene Creek
Out side of town is Kerosene Creek. It is definitely worth the effort and will take about 20 minutes to get there from the centre of town.
A slippery path weaves along side the warm creek and offers many places for you to enter and bath in the warm waters of the creek. It is only warm and can get quite busy but we venture all the way to the end of the trail and discover an absolute treat. A private part of the creek where there are no people and the creek bed is steamy hot. Relaxing in the waters in the middle of nature is truly amazing.
Unfortunately the down side is the human foot print – beware of broken glass and bottles that people have left behind and thieves working the car park!
There really are many things to do and the skyline is also a must. On the sky line hill there are activities such as mountain biking, luge,
A minimum 2 night stay if you are going to Rotorua.
At one end you have dorm style back packer and
at the higher end you have some boutique resorts.
Finding something in between is a challenge and
weekends are particularly challenging (and a bit pricey). If you have the
option plan ahead or do what we did and stay a little bit out of town.
The VR Rotorua Lake Resort is a family friendly hotel about 15 minutes outside of Rotorua on it’s own lake. Lake
The friendly staff are really helpful and the
facilities whilst a little older are just fine!
Our room has quite a romantic feel with a spa
tub that opens onto the main room. The main room opens on the grassed area
infront of the lake giving us direct access to the jetty and vast lawns. It is
a really tranquil and beautiful spot.
We arrive late so head straight for a hot tub
and sauna. Both are delightful. The pool is a 28 degrees.
In the morning we get to use the kayaks free of
charge and have a quick paddle on the lake. The lake is actually a series of
locked lakes that cover a wide part of the country side.
We don’t eat at the resort but the restaurant
serves until late and breakfast can be purchased additional to the room. There
are tennis courts for those keen for a hit. All in all, we decide we will be
back and might even bring the kids.