Today was a road tripper day–one of our favorite kind of days when traveling overseas. Tim thinks it’s the best way to discover a country: hop in a car and just drive. So that’s exactly what we did.
First stop of the morning was to pay a parking ticket (oops!) and check out a small craft fair on the village green in Paihia. Then it was time to head back to Auckland.
Tim had considered diving while we were in New Zealand, but last night he decided he’d rather enjoy a leisurely day today than hurry to the dive spot before going on to Auckland. But fortunately for us, we had already mapped out what we could do if he went diving and had discovered a lovely beach nearby. With the dive canceled, we decided to still head in the direction of the lovely beach and extend our journey back to Auckland a bit by hugging the coastline instead of taking the central and more direct route. We were open to stopping at any point along the way.
Our first stop was close to Paihia: Hururu Falls. Not much to write home about, but something to see I suppose.
After morning coffee, a bathroom break was needed. And we knew just the place to stop: Kawakawa, the site of our bus break-down and the location of the famous Hundertwasser’s toilets. Seriously. People travel to Kawakawa just to visit this public bathroom.
We continued on along winding roads toward Matapouri (pronounced Mat-a-poo-dee). A couple hours journey and we turned a corner that almost ran into a beach. Shelter Bay was the perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch and a few minutes watching surfers catch waves.
We didn’t have far to go to get to Matapouri, and wow oh wow!!! Matapouri Bay and Whale Bay aren’t called the best beaches in New Zealand without reason. Had Tim gone diving, we would have spent an entire day here, and I decided that would not have been a bad thing. What a feeling on this beach! I can’t begin to tell you the general joy we all felt walking down the shore. The water was pretty chilly, but the further we walked, the nicer it felt on our feet. This is one place I would like to revisit–a couple days parked with this view would be perfect! It reminded us of Drake Bay in Costa Rica.
There’s not much else happening in Matapouri, but if you’re like we are, a beautiful beach is enough. A convenience store nearby could provide snacks and the all-important ice cream for any day in the sun. If you’re headed to New Zealand, and this place is not on your list, add it. NOW.
With lingering backward glances and a desire to stay but a need to go on, we left Matapouri’s beauty and continued south toward Whangarei (pronounced Fang-a-ray… weird, right?) and Whangarei Falls. Tim was eager to see these falls after some research: they are the most photographed falls on the north island, so it was a can’t-miss for him.
At the falls, friendly volunteers pointed out the best overlooks and the 30-minute circular track that brought us down to the base of the falls. It was a pleasant trip and we were rewarded with a nice view or two.
After Whangarei, we left the coastal route and headed back inland toward Auckland. Our hotel in Auckland is situated downtown, just a five minute walk to the waterfront. The views are spectacular!
We walked over toward the waterfront for dinner and ended up eating at Monsoon Poon. Hilarious name, but amazing food!
I close this blog enjoying the views of Auckland from the balcony, and looking forward to our day trip to the wineries on Waiheke Island tomorrow!