Our adventures in New Zealand with two under 4s │Week 3

We’re now in 2019, and I’m finally writing up Week 3 of our trip to New Zealand with two under 4’s back in March 2018. On New Years Eve my husband and I were chatting about where we might like to travel in the future, and how he is looking to take his annual leave over 2019. That conversation, coupled with the fact my parents were en-route to my brother’s new farm in Rotorua, reminded me that I hadn’t yet written Week 3. Life has a bit of a tendency to get in the way, doesn’t it?

If you need to jog your memory (I did, and I went on the trip!) you can find Week 1 here, and Week 2 here, but in short, I left you in Whitianga.

Journey to Auckland via the 309 Road
After Whitianga we were heading to Auckland. We’d seen a leaflet in our motel about The 309 Road (going between Whitianga and Coromandel), so decided it might be worth a drive along there before joining Route Highway 25 and heading to Auckland. There are at least 8 potential stops along the road, and you really could make a whole day of it, but we chose just a couple. 

The 309 Road

Our first stop was to see the Kauri trees at Kauri Grove. The looped walk we took was reasonably short, but perfect as a little break from the car, and we saw plenty of examples of Kauri trees. The sheer size of these trees is just incredible. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it before.

Kauri Trees
We then went to see Waiau Falls. This was a lovely walk through the trees, and it was a nice chance for us to all stretch our legs.

Waiau Falls
I personally had high hopes that we’d see Stuart and his peacocks and over 100 wild pigs towards the end of our drive, but alas, it wasn’t to be. In fact, driving past his land I’m not sure we even saw one animal!
 
There were some incredibly beautiful view points along the drive from The 309 Road and onto Auckland, and my photos really don’t do it justice, but I would definitely recommend it if you get the opportunity.

View along 309 Road


Staying in Auckland
Our hotel was in Parnell, right across the road from Parnell Rose Garden (also known as Dove Myer Robinson Park) on Gladstone Road. We arrived, checked in, decided to hunt down some food, and have an explore of the park. We weren’t sure where to go for food so the hotel pointed us in the right direction for the main street through Parnell. The road he sent us down was very steep for the kids (Cleveland Road, leading onto Garfield Street - I found them straight away on Google Maps when refreshing my memory as there is a coffee shop at the end of the street called Winona Forever which amused me!) so we avoided that route for the next few days, and took the less direct but more pleasant, flatter, walk down St Stephens Avenue and turning left onto Gladstone Road. There are plenty of cafes, shops and restaurants along Parnell Road, so if you’re staying that way I’m sure you’d find something to suit your needs. We just popped into a cafe and quickly grabbed something before heading back to the park. There are some great view into Auckland from the park, and the kids managed to climb all the trees in sight!

Auckland view from Dove Myer Robinson Park

The next day it was wet, but we had planned to go up the Sky Tower that morning so walked into Auckland. It was maybe a 40 minute walk from Parnell to the Sky Tower (a bit longer if you need to allow for little legs). 

Sky Tower Auckland sky line

By the time we arrived the sky had cleared a little so we decided to still go up. The kids were completely fearless - pressing their faces up against the window and glass floors to see the view. That can’t be said for all the children (or adults) we encountered on our visit but our two were not phased. We popped to the cafe in the tower for coffees and ice cream, which was nice, and headed back down.

Sky Tower New Zealand view
I have to be honest, we really didn’t know what else there was to do in the city, so we decide to take it easy, stroll around and just see what there was. I’d been looking for a New Zealand book for my daughter so whilst we were in a city I popped into Unity Books and found what we wanted - I’ve written more about our experience here if you’re interested - but we managed to find a lovely book and were gifted a couple by the store too!

After Unity Books we stumbled across a square with this feature (see picture below) in. We took a pit stop to coat ourselves in sun cream, the children had a little snack and played with the installation for ages - at least half an hour.

Auckland city centre
We wanted to head back towards Parnell to grab some food, but as it was a lot hotter by this point and we knew the children were tired we knew it might take a while. We took the long route back though the Auckland Domain and past Auckland War Memorial Museum. We had a very lazy late afternoon having a quick drink in a pub in Parnell, and then having a bit of food.


Paihia
Our last stop of the holiday was Paihia up in the Bay of Islands. And what a great way to round off such an incredible trip. It took about 3 hours to drive up to Paihia, so by the time we’d had breakfast, checked out of the hotel in Auckland, driven up there, and filled up with petrol, there wasn’t much of the day left. We did manage to get our bearings a little, find where our boat trip was going from the following day, have a walk on the beach and have some food.

We booked a boat trip in advance for our first full day in Paihia. We went for early on in the day, just in case the weather was bad and we needed to reschedule. As it turns out we were fine, the trip went ahead, but it was bumpy. If you are prone to seasickness this probably isn’t one for you. My daughter was sick towards the end of the journey and ended up having a little nap on me, and there were quite a few green adults too. The crew on the boat were excellent though, regularly walking up and down the boat to check everyone was ok, warning us when it was going to get rough, and dishing out sick bags where required!

Paihia boat trip
However, for me, the boat trip was an absolute highlight of this trip, and indeed any trip I’ve ever taken. The aim of the trip was to head out to the Hole in the Rock going past lots of different islands throughout the journey. There was potential to see wildlife as we went, but it certainly wasn’t a dead cert. We were very lucky and saw dolphins not long into our journey. Shortly after that we were extremely lucky to see a pod of Orca. The captain pointed out that the pod were with a calf, who was just a couple of days old, so thought they were lingering near-ish to the shore for a little while, until the calf was strong enough to swim longer distances, in deeper water. There are strict rules about how close the boat is able to get to the pod, and the boat is only allowed to go near them once, after that it has to avoid them.

The Hole in the Rock was really impressive, but unfortunately I didn’t get a very good look as most of the passengers were standing to get photos, and I was seated looking after my daughter. However, if you click here this shows you what we saw, and if I tell you that the waves crashing through almost filled the hole completely, that gives you an idea of how choppy the waters were on the day we were there. The captain did say that on calm days they can take the boat through the hole, but that definitely wasn’t an option for us.

On the return journey we were able to hop off the boat at Russell  rather than Paihia, and although we really wanted to, we gave it a miss so we could get the girl onto dry land and let her tummy settle. She perked up very quickly after getting off the boat, so we had a slow stroll along the beach before heading for some chips and drinks in a bar. That’s the reality of travelling with children - your plans just have to be flexible, and you need to accept that you just can’t cram in as much as you might have done on your own.

Paihia, New Zealand North Island
We’d left the final day in Paihia, and indeed the final day of our holiday, completely clear just in case our boat trip had been cancelled the previous day and we needed to reschedule. As that didn’t happen, we had a clear diary!

We had a a leisurely start to the day and thought we’d have a stroll in the opposite direction to what we’d been taking the rest of our stay. (We had been walking from our motel towards Paihia Harbour and beyond). There wasn’t a huge amount to see up this way, a bit more beach and a small play park which the children spent a little while in.

In the afternoon we took a short drive over to Haruru Falls. The car park was inexplicably filled with chickens running around, which bemused us, but the kids thought it was hilarious. I personally thought Haruru Falls was a little disappointing after the falls of Tongariro, and Huka Falls, but it was nice enough, and very easy to access from the car park. We did have to hang around a little while just to get a quick photo as there was a man spending a long time trying to get his perfect shot - much to the despair of his bored family who were waiting for him. There is a walking track nearby, but we didn’t venture down it so I’m afraid I can’t comment on it’s condition.

Haruru Falls
To round off our trip we had a final meal out on Paihia sea front, had one last play on the beach, and watched the helicopter take off from the harbour over to the Hole in the Rock for what felt like the hundredth time in just a couple of days.

Then it was time to go home. We set off reasonably early in the day as it was around a 3 hour drive, back to the airport and our flight was at 2:50pm. Our flight home was ok, but more drama filled than our flights out to New Zealand. My daughter was throwing up for much of the first 12 hour leg (big thanks need to go to my husband who was sat next to her for that stint) and on the second leg my son was a bit grouchy. I realised why when I noticed he had some chicken pox spots somewhere over China. Despite all that, the flying experiences were fine. You can read about it here if you like. 

Auckland airport Lord of the Rings statue

***

I guess we now need to get planning our next big trip! I think 2019 will be a year of staycations and day trips, unless we manage to get a good deal for a week away somewhere (in school holidays, yeah right!), but we are hoping to get away somewhere in 2020. How do you plan your travel? Save up and go somewhere every few years or lots of little cheap trips instead? Where is top of your “to visit” list? Inspire me!

Want to read more of my travel related blogs? Here’s some suggestions:

Auckland and Bay of Islands with under 4s



Comments

  1. Oh no I hadn't thought about being sick on the plane. We are travelling this summer and my son who hasn't flown gets car sick regularly!!! I would love to visit New Zealand it's on my list

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    1. My 2 have never suffered with travel sickness, and had flown before with no problems, but what we didn’t know was my daughter was coming down with chicken pox on the way out (spots came out about day 3 of our trip) and I noticed my son had spots on the flight home. Lots of baby wipes and a couple of changes of clothes (and carrier bags!) and you’ll be fine 😊

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  2. Looks like an amazing trip we've never been to New Zealand but have friends who keep inviting us over so maybe one day

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    1. If you get the opportunity, I’d certainly recommend it. Hopefully we’ll get back out again to see my brother in the not too distant future. Maybe we’d get chance to see the South Island then too!

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  3. Would love to do this, looks like you had a fab time!

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    1. It really was a wonderful trip. We probably wouldn’t have gone with the children that young had my brother not been living there, but so glad we did.

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  4. What a fabulous trip, and amazing pictures! I'm not sure I'd be as brave as your children at the top of the Sky Tower!

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    1. I was certainly a lot less brave than them!!! I’m not the biggest fan of heights.

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  5. This looks epic! New Zealand is one place I've always dreamed of going, but I doubt I ever will, so I have to live it through blogs like yours!

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    1. It really was incredible! And never say never. You never know where life might take you 😊

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  6. This looks like an amazing holiday. I'd love to visit New Zealand one day.

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    1. It really was. If my brother wasn’t living out there I’m not sure we’d have braved the flight with the kids, but I’m so glad we did.

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