Nestled an hour outside of Auckland, New Zealand this is the perfect place to relax and experience New Zealand living. I spent about a month with my sister who recently moved here.
EAT AND DRINK AT LITTLE AND LOCAL
RUN DOWN: It’s no secret that Kiwis love their coffee shops and this one is perfection. The shop is owned by a local family that welcomes you in with their rustic decor and comfy seating. I’ve been to L&L about two dozen times and have always ordered different foods from their case which is always changing.
MY FAVORITE: I love getting their iced coffee which sounds really basic but they add in the perfect amount of cream and sugar in.
WHAT I DISCOVERED: This is where I learned that Kiwis do not bake their cheesecake instead they use gelatin to set it which I thought was weird but it still tasted yummy!
A DAY AWAY AT THE WAIWERA BATHS
RUN DOWN: This is one of the touristy things that I did. The Baths are large naturally fed pools. There’s a mix of adult and kid pools so it’s perfect for a day activity. You can bring in food and even rent a BBQ actually. It’s all pretty warm so even if the day isn’t super nice you’ll still be cozy.
MY FAVORITE: There’s an adult only pool that they keep right around body temp so you can sit there and really relax because your sense of feeling on your body is pretty much gone. I soaked there for about an hour just feeling totally at peace.
WHAT I DISCOVERED: You’ll spend more time here then you thought. We planned on spending two hours and actually decided to cut out another activity so we could spend the whole day. God thing we packed snacks!
WALKABOUT MATHESON BAY
RUN DOWN: The bay itself is really nice with a little sandy beach but across the parking lot from it is a grass field. If you walk through the field and follow the river you will find a walking path. The path is uneven with some roots that you’ll have to pass over and under some low hanging trees but the majority off the path has been built up with wood. We did the whole thing with the baby in the pack and it wasn’t a problem. I liked this walk a lot because it takes you through the native bush along the river. Midway through there is also a nice little swimming hole.
MY FAVORITE: There was several young Kauri Trees and this was my first encounter with them. They grow really straight, have beautiful red wood under their bark and was surprised to see that their leaves were pine like. I thought it was interesting to learn that they were prone to disease and you have to clean your shoes before entering a none area.
WHAT I DISCOVERED: I had no idea up until this point that there are eels in all freshwater rivers in New Zealand. You can see them swimming.
The water at the time was pretty murky because it had been raining a lot but the jungle was so lush and wonderful.
LAZY DAY IN MATAKANA
RUN DOWN: Close to Snells Beach is a town called Matakana. If you’re feeling kind of lazy but still want to go out and do something I suggest going to the theater and seeing a movie. It’s a cute little place that only plays a couple movies at a time so check what’s playing before you go. After the movie you can wander around the shops, get some coffee and pick up some groceries at Nosh, the local specialty food shop. On Friday and Saturday nights you can also get some good Vietnamese food from a food cart down the road.
MY FAVORITE: As soon as I entered the theater I noticed that there are thousands of tiny fake roses covering the ceiling. I couldn’t believe that someone would take the time to put something so wonderful into a place that is dark more the 75% of the time but they did and it’s lovely.
WHAT I DISCOVERED: Kiwis don’t mind people hanging around. In Matakana the Lobby of the movie area is actually a little social space where people just have a cup of coffee and wait for their kids to finish at the movies. There’s wifi, comfy couches and no one cares if you bought anything or not.
FLORA AND FAUNA AT THE WORKWORTH AND WHANGAREI MUSEUMS
RUN DOWN: I couldn’t pick just one so I thought I’d tell you about the Kauri trees at the Workworth museum and the Kiwi birds at the Whangarei museum. If you go into Workworth there is a funny little museum that tells the history of the town, which is kind of meh but outside there is a 300 year old Kauri tree. It’s ginormous so don’t worry, you’ll find it. Next to the tree is also a nice 15 minute walk where you will see more Kauri trees and other native bush. On a rainy day where you don’t have much else planned take a dive up to the Whangarei and check out their museum. The museum itself is also pretty meh but they help support a Kiwi breeding program where they house at least two Kiwis at a time.
MY FAVORITE: The gal at the Whangarei Museum told me that they work as a dating service for Kiwis. They raise and bond two Kiwis together and then release them into the wild when they are ready to mate.
WHAT I DISCOVERED: Kauri trees are prone to disease and so you have to stay on the marked path and have clean shoes. Also the Kiwis live in a self sustaining ecosystem that simulates conditions that they would have into wild. This is probably one of the best ways to see a Kiwi.
The walking trail at the Workworth Museum is all level boards with a few steps.
WHAT I MISSED ON MY TRIP: We were not able to go to the Hot Water Beach in Coromandel because we weren’t able to book a bach (holiday house) but I really wish that we could have made it.
WORDS OF WARNING ABOUT TE HANA: If you want to learn about the Maori culture I suggest going to the Te Hana Maori village. I definitely learned a lot but I suggest going during the Summer School Holidays or with a large group. I was disappointed to learn that they would not be performing the Haka dance for the two of us that showed up on a rainy day for a tour. Call in advance to find out when you can see it.