Planning a trip can be really time consuming especially if you want to make the most out of being in a far flung place which took you 40 hours to get to having dragged two kids under the age of 2 with you.
The flight to New Zealand was Noah’s first at the age of 3.5 months and also the longest in the world (Dubai-Auckland was 17 hours after the 6 hours flight from Zurich to Dubai). Upon arrival in Auckland, we immediately drove north to Paihia. We hardly slept since leaving Basel and the drive really took a toll on Peter. We made a one hour stop so he could get some sleep at a gas station in Whangarei. (pronounced Fan-ga-ray; the northernmost city in NZ with 56’400 people)
The drive north was beautiful. We kept seeing the sea on our right and got stuck behind huge lorries and trucks on the one lane highway. The trees we saw were one of a kind, so beautiful and special, and they kept changing. There is something about the flora in New Zealand.
Paihia is the capital of the bay of islands. It is a quaint little seaside town where we chose to base ourselves for 5 nights and explore the area.
The first thing we did was go to Kerikeri to visit the weekly Packers Market which was the largest farmer’s market in the north island. There was a mini petting zoo, all kinds of food stalls, people selling handicrafts, clothes, furniture and more.
We then got some Japanese takeaway for lunch in town and headed to Stone House, New Zealand’s oldest stone building. It was such a lovely area where chickens ran wild. The river provided a beautiful backdrop for our lunch.
We checked out the nearby Parrot Farm after lunch and did a customary playground stop. I wouldn’t recommend visiting this place – it was very small and quite miserable.
Next stop was the Rainbow Waterfall and then a quick stop at Kawakawa to see Gabriel the famous steam engine.
Another day was spent walking around town and checking out different playgrounds including one on the beach front.
We then went to check out the Paihia waterfalls before going to Countdown to do some food shopping.
Why don’t we have such trolleys in Switzerland? It is incredibly convenient to be able to have both babies in there! Whilst doing grocery shopping, we witnessed what we read about Kiwis doing grocery shopping barefooted. I still find that very strange but cool.
We decided to do a tour of the bay of islands on another day and unfortunately as the weather was really bad, they wouldn’t go out to the Hole in the Rock and we did not sight a single dolphin.
My high school friend joined us on another day where we set off to look out for the Opua Kauri Forest and saw two kauri trees.
Then we drove across to the island of Russell where I had the single most delicious clam chowder for lunch – the island’s best it said. Russell was a fun day trip.
We drove up to the Flagship hill and was greeted with beautiful views of the bay of islands.
We drove around some more and saw other parts of the island including the 7 mile beach.
Sheepworld and Hamilton
Ilyas wasn’t a very good car passenger. The longest he’d be able to stay happy was about an hour and I was essentially panicking and kept wondering how we would make our way all the way down to Wellington from Paihia. We planned well. We decided to break up the journey to Hamilton with a stopover in Sheepworld. What a great plan and a brilliant stopover that was.
Sheepworld is just an hour north of Auckland and had all kinds of animals there. The sheep shearing show was incredibly fantastic. Peter even got to try sorting them. It wasn’t an easy job.
Ilyas saw and fed rabbits, goats, alpacas, calves, horses, etc.
Hamilton’s Gardens was an incredible afternoon spent. The Chai Bagh garden in particular left me speechless. The beauty of the gardens, how well planned, kept, structured they were made them undeniably the perfect candidate to have won the best international gardens of the year in the past. I highly recommend this to everyone.
The following day we went to Hobbiton.
In the afternoon we were in Rotorua and watched a Haka dance and saw the geothermal activity of the area.
Last stop for the day was Huka Falls before spending the night in Taupo.
We started the next morning at Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs which was an incredible treat for all four of us particularly Ilyas who had fun in the water playground. Unfortunately we forgot our phones/cameras, so no pictures of this amazing place but please google it!
We then went for a stroll on the shores of Lake Taupo, the country’s largest and fed some ducks and swans before checking out the Taupo Bungee. We then did a short drive inside the Botanical Gardens before having a relaxing afternoon in the pool.
It was more driving the following day through Tongariro National Park where we made a stop at the famous Chateau Tongariro for some scones and coffee.
We passed by Ohakune which is the carrot capital of New Zealand. Apparently you get free coffee there if you are a redhead. We spent the night in Palmerston North where we checked out one of the local malls and had our first burgers at Burger Fuel – this was Peter’s first burger EVER outside his own home as we have never come across a place that do gluten free buns!
We drove down to Wellington the next morning. First stop was the Botanical Gardens.
Then we walked along the waterfront and had lunch at Crab Shack. Of course there was the customary playground stop.
That afternoon we drove up to Mount Victoria for the viewpoint and was able to see the beauty of Wellington on a beautiful sunny day. Little did we know an earthquake was going to strike six hours later.
It took us ten days to do the above and thought it worked really well despite the amount of driving and traveling with two kids under two. Food wise and for convenience, we mostly called up restaurants and had food delivered to where we were. At the age of 22 months, Ilyas couldn’t stay put for too long to enjoy meals outside. What a great trip to the north island of New Zealand. We will definitely be back.