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This small motel is situated right across from the lake and in a central position in the town. We had a second floor unit right at the front and the noise was abated by the double glazed door onto the small verandah. There was a large spa bath in the room and a small kitchenette. We received a free paper each morning but not on Sunday. The room was cleaned and replenished with tea, coffee, bath linen and toiletries daily. This was a great spot to watch the activities not only on the water but along the pathways along the lake. We based ourselves here for 3 nights. On day one we spent over 4hours driving straight from the Auckland airport direct to the accommodation on state highway 1 and arrived about 8.30pm.
This drive only takes about and hour or so, each way, depending on where you stop. This is a scenic drive out through the lovely green hills of Tarawera, the forests and finally sighting Hawkes Bay from the hills. Napier is renown for it's Art Deco buildings (the town had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in that era) and has the largest amount in one place in the world. I found the beach area and bay in Napier a bit of a let down as it is pebbly and has no real atmosphere once you walk out through the gardens. The shopping street was naturally a drawcard and a few bargains were found to take home.
Being the last day here, the time was spent driving south along the lake, taking photos.
The intention was to drive some of the Volcanic Loop which circles the mountains but as it was wet, windy and cold the decision was made to return to town, have lunch and then look around the town. The marina is across from the highway which turns north at the lakefront and there is a Lyons Park just near it. Taupo has a reasonably nice shopping area and restaurants along the front. People were out fishing and sailing whatever the weather.
The motel type accommodation that we booked, is well out of the sulphur smelling area of town, which is good.
As we were only staying one night here we opted for a studio unit with a kitchenette.
I found that the room was rather big but the furnishings were a bit dated. Perhaps other one bedroom or family units rated better. It was across the road from the Skyline Skyrides and not far from Rainbow Springs. We had spent most of the day on the road to this accommodation from Taupo seeing part of the lake in Taupo, Waikato River near Huka Falls, Craters of the Moon and Wai-o-tapu Thermal areas. A word of advise, if going into Wai-o-tapu and you also want to see Lady Knox geyser blow at 10.15am, drop one person at the front door to buy the entry tickets, as you will need to drive in the opposite direction to get to the Lady Knox Geyser and then come back through the building to see the main thermal area. There are plenty of sights around Rotorua, including the Buried Village which is about 25 km out and back from town, Maori Concerts etc. Depending on what is needed to be included in the itiniery, another day could be added here.
This self contained one bedroom unit was probably the most expensive on our trip. We booked for 3 nights via wotif on the net.
These are privately owned units. There was no view to either Pilot Bay or the beach and had a small side view to the mountain. However it was at the very end of the road and right under Mt Maunganui. The unit itself was compact but with good facilities including a washing machine and dryer. There is a lift to the floor and a walk along the verandah to the unit. While we were there, next door a multi-storey building was being erected. This didn't bother us as it was the weekend and quiet but then the view was of plastic sheeting flapping in the breeze. We did have undercover parking which was great and could have had complimentary spa entry across the road if we desired.
We spent the day driving from Rotorua, via Whakatane, it's beach 6km away, Ohope and then along the Bay of Plenty, taking in the sights and arrived in time to book in.
Driving the Coromandel Peninsular would probably take more than a day to see everything and partake in some of the cruises or walks, but this outing took most part of the day as the roads are very winding and the speed drops considerably. Katikati, via Tauranga our first place of call was early before the shops had opened. This really suited, as this is a town of murals and it was nice to amble along the street taking photos and admiring the artwork. Waihi has an opencut gold mine right in the middle of the small town. It is possible to walk up and around a part of it and take photos. There is also an prominent building sited as you drive in to town, this is the cornish pumphouse C1904 which housed steam driven pumping machinery needed to dewater the mine. It was moved from it's original site as it was leaning badly.
Whangamata has a reasonably nice beach and is mainly a surfing area. Tairua is a nice small town with it's twin, Pauanui across the Tairua Harbour. From this area the Slipper Islands can be sighted. There is a ferry that runs between the two towns.
After Tairua, there is a turn off to the Hot Water Beach which is a drive in and out.
Whitianga is a really popular beach town as we found out on arrival on a long weekend. We bought food to take away and sat at the picnic table on the sweeping beach front. Instead of going around the top of the peninsular to the town Coromandel, we cut across to Tapu a small settlement on the Firth of Thames. It was wet, windy and cold by then and a lone fisherman was braving it on the beach.
Thames is the main town of this area and we drove straight on through in the drizzling rain. Paeroa has a large soda bottle on the footpath. The nationally known drink Lemon and Paeroa (L & P) was made here. From this town it was back through Waihi and Tauranga to Mt Maunganui.
After the very long winding drive along the Coromandel, the decision was made to rest up around the area, do a spot of shopping and climb the Mount. A leisurely day was needed as the drive to the bay of Islands the next day would take about 5 hours or so. Mt Maunganui does have a pleasant beach and the shopping area is quite nice.
Tauranga is only about 15 mins drive away.
This drive took us past the first glimpse we had of Auckland city but we had a long drive and decided to call into Orewa Beach on the way north. A refreshment stop.
We then made our way to Whangarei where we had lunch and rang ahead to the agent to meet us at our accommodaton Spacious Totara Garden Unit. This accommodation was booked through Daysinbay website. The property is now up for sale and so I am not sure if it will still stay listed.
This drive took us the best part of the day and we settled in to the accommodation, which was secluded but close to town and the wharf and probably the best value for money on our trip. Paihia is a tourist town and rightly so, as it is central to drives, north, south, west and even across to Russell and other small islands of the Bay of Islands by ferry. It is situated on the bay and is a five minute drive to Waitangi, where the treaty house is situated. It is possible to go on cruises around the bay, dolphin watching etc. but as we had already done that a couple of times we decided to go on short drives up into the hills around the area.
After stopping in Kerikeri to look around the town and having coffee, heading north at first the scenery was not as picturesque but then forests came into view and small cribs or cottages dotted the hills. Taipa has a nice beach and Cable Bay is pretty from the hill. Mangonui has a historic walk around the town and then we looked for the Famous Fish and Chips Shop. It is housed in a building which sits out over the water. The weather was cold and it drizzled rain, but there we sat fish and chips unwrapped under an overhead umbrella, while the water lapped back and forth through the floorboards below. They are great fish and chips, that's for sure. I was surprised at how nice this more remote area was and apparently is well known to the North Islanders who were around in droves on this long weekend.
After looking through the very small shopping area of Paihia, buying an ice cream and sitting on the waterfront, watching the boats coming and going from the wharf, I bought a ticket to Russell (about $10 return and bought in the info centre on the wharf). This was an old ferry and took about 20 minutes to get across the Bay. The small village is heritage listed as this was once the capital in the 1800's. It has a very colourful history which can be shown by visiting the museum and also the Christ Church (oldest church in NZ) in the next street in from the waterfront. See my review. The first Europeans settled in the Bay in 1814. They were missionaries and the Sea Captain's family that brought them from Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia. Four of the first families of King and Hansen family are buried in the Church cemetery. There are some nice restaurants along the waterfront where I sat enjoying a special of the day, huge garlic scallops and salad and a NZ white wine...so enjoyable and tasty. Russell is best visited from Paihia, as it is on a peninsular and if based there, then there is an extra drive in and out.
Cutting across the island to the west coast we arrived at the magnificent Hokianga Harbour and what a scenic area. With it's huge sandhills near the entrance this is a photographer's paradise. Once again we decided on fish and chips and sat watching another lone fisherman on the jetty. We drove through the small settlements of Opononi and Omapere and up Signal Station Road to the lookout and stopped and took Panoramic photos of the harbour, beach and Tasman Sea. The first beautiful sunny day of our trip. From there we made our way down to the Waipouri Forest where after a short walk in, there is the King of the Forest, a kauri tree which is over 1500 years old and has a girth of 13.77 metres. The west coast is very similiar to that of the south island as it is more rugged than the east and small cribs and settlements are far and few between. We drove straight through Dargaville and before we reached Ruawai we followed the very wide Kaihu River which runs into Kaipara Harbour. Our next stop was the Kauri Museum in Matakohe which is before Paparoa.This is very interesting and also has a rather good gift shop. Across the road is a cafe. We joined highway 1 and headed to Orewa, deciding to stay the night in a motel of which the name escapes me and probably because it was about the same price as our unit in Paihia and nowhere near as good. We were tired as we had a full day of sight seeing and practically fell into bed, with the noise of the waves rolling to shore outside. Orewa does have a nice long beach and the shopping centre is just across the road. So a quick brisk walk on the beach in the morning after breakfast refreshed us.
We decided to drive direct to Buckland Beach area as we were getting the car ferry across to Waiheke Island for a couple of days to unwind before we went home. I had added a couple of motels to our itiniery but did not book, leaving two days free with one being spent in Orewa. We bypassed Auckland city and drove to Buckland Beach which is just around from Half Moon Bay Marina where we needed to take the car ferry. I had previously booked and paid for the return trip which is about $200 on the net before leaving home. To orientate ourselves, we went to the Sealink site at the marina first and collected our tickets. This meant we only had to queue up the following morning.
We stayed at Buckland Beach Waterfront Motel for the night. We did have to come back at 11am to see if they had the only studio unit left availabe. This is a popular motel probably as it is close to the ferry and it is also a quiet suburban area on the water. See my review of the motel. It is also possible to get a ferry from the marina area to Auckland City which makes for a nice ride with harbour views and pulls in at Viaduct Harbour.
We arrived at Kennedy Wharf, where we drove via Ostend, which had it's Saturday morning market on. This includes some breads, cakes, pizzas, wraps, fresh fruit and vegetables stalls plus small art and craft stalls etc. The island also has a Woolworths Shop where you can pick up supplies if self catering as we were. We arrived at Villa Pacifica our one bedroom unit on a reasonable large property situated on a hill with views over Rocky Bay, out to Half Moon Bay and across to suburbs of Auckland. See my review on this accommodation. We spent both days driving around taking in the scenery...many photos, some shopping and at times got lost in the maze of switchback streets hidden by bushland up some of the hillsides. The island also has many wineries, which also have restaurants. The eastern side of the island is privately owned and has rolling hills, sheep and cattle. In this area is stony batter which was a defence complex and has tunnels which can be explored by flashlight. There are also views from here across to the Coromandel peninsular. It is possible to go over as a foot passenger and hire a car over there. Some people only go over for the day as it is only 45 mins by the car ferry and even less time by the passenger ferry which also leaves from Auckland City. Drive the loop is a one day car hire and tour map. As we had a full day almost to put in after we left the island we kept our hire car, even though the accommodation we stayed at had a car included in the tariff.
Last day and one to sit around and take in the scenery at the unit. The scenery at night is of the lights across the bays of the outer Auckland suburbs. This is a pleasantly quiet place to stay and located in bushland area with hardly any neighbours. A day to unwind after the 2 weeks spent here.
Once we arrived back at Half Moon Bay we decided to just drive around the areas of the south side and went to the nearest shopping area near the International airport and had lunch. Traffic was not so bad once you were away from the city, especially around peak hour. All in all we had a pleasant stay, but for the rain and drizzle which followed us most of the way...but then you can't win all the time.
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