This holiday is way too massive to squeeze into one post, so here’s a short summary, and there will be detailed posts to follow.
Our first stop was Butterfly Creek, because it was somewhere we had never been before. We enjoyed the butterfly house, but we did not enjoy the horrendous traffic trying to get out of Auckland airport and over the harbour bridge to our overnight stop at Orewa beach.
Our worst experience would have to be Whangarei, in general. Yes, there are some nice bush walks and a pretty waterfall, but given Mr5 refused to go for a drive out to the heads, two nights here was an absolute waste.
The hardest part of the trip was the fact that Mr5 didn’t want to sleep. Nor did he want to “rest quietly” in bed, instead playing up most nights. This was frustrating, and we handled it badly by not just going with the flow and instead trying to force things.
An unexpected highlight was actually walking the Redwoods Tree Walk. Last time we were in Rotorua, we did a walk on the ground, not justifying the cost of getting up into the trees (and also being unwilling to risk then-Mr3 refusing to walk all the way around). Now we all agree we HAVE to go back and do it at night at some point.
It turns out that there is an awesome Vintage Railway at Kawakawa. All our research about child-friendly things to do in Northland failed to warn us of this, and we only discovered it at all because there was a slip on the main highway and we had to detour into town, where the train runs down the middle of the main road.
We wish we had spent more time in Coopers Beach. Sure, I had the most horrendous nightmares I have ever had while staying in the holiday house we rented, but the area was just amazing. The beach was gorgeous and so peaceful (although that may have been largely due to the fact it was outside school holidays).
We splurged on two nights at a Glamping escape near Whakatane. The most expensive nights of our holiday, it was worth every cent – the tent was amazing, and we had a fantastic time, toasting marshmallows on the fire, cooking dinner on the BBQ, enjoying an outdoor bath (with infinity hot water!) and star gazing in absolutely clear conditions.
We saved money by dining in. Apart from a few café treats for afternoon tea, we only ate dinner out about 3 times and lunch once in just under 3 weeks. Despite being on the road every other day, changing locations, we managed to eat well and reasonably inexpensively.
We lived local and enjoyed a lot of playgrounds and beaches. One of our favourites was Karioirahi beach, just out of Pukekohe, which has incredible black sands and a long, shallow shelf. Playing here in the dusk as an extended family (with my brother and his daughter) was a great way to close out a day.
Our most abiding memory would have to be Paihia and Waitangi. The all-day boat trip out to the Hole in the Rock, seeing the dolphins, visiting Waitangi Treaty Grounds. An amazing part of the country, and we definitely want to come back at a similar time of year another year, and stay longer in the Bay of Islands – including maybe camping on one of the small islands.
Overall, we were thrilled with our trip. From seeing Tane Mahuta and visiting the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, to riding the luge at Rotorua and visiting Hot Water Beach, we got into a wide range of the experiences on offer in the Northland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty regions. Each area had its special memories, and recommended places, and will get its own write-up soon.