As sad as we were to leave the mountains of the South Island, we were also excited to explore what the North Island of New Zealand had to offer. If the kids were a bit older, we may have chosen to drive from one end of the South Island to the top of the North Island, taking in the majestic scenery all along the way. We aren’t quite at a point where we enjoy long road trips, so rather than drive on this visit, we opted to fly from Queenstown up North. Our first stop was in the town of Kerikeri, way up in the Northland.
After two weeks living in temps in the low 40’s, we thoroughly enjoyed the warmer 60 degree days we found in the Northland. While they don’t have the rocky style mountains of the south, the area has its own stunning scenery with rolling hills and bluffs that look out to the coast. The highlight of our time in the area was our visit to the stunning Kauri Cliffs, a Robertson Lodge, where we celebrated Angela VI’s birthday.
The Kauri Cliffs property is set on thousands of acres. Upon arrival, we took a couple of golf carts and took a short drive through the golf course down to the resorts Pink Sand shell beach. The few storm clouds off on the horizon and the late afternoon sun provided some amazing views. The girls of course were excited to get their feet in the water. It felt ok at first, but after taking a couple steps in and feeling the chill, they decided to stay out for the time being. When it was time to go so we could get back to the lodge before sunset, we had a hard time prying Emily off the beach. It ends up she was working on a dot art design in the shells. Fun to watch her apply what she learned from the Aboriginal people in Australia here in New Zealand.
We enjoyed a fabulous six-course dinner that evening, Angela VI was a champ working her way through the various courses. In the end, we were surprised with a birthday cake and a plate of truffles, which somehow she still found a little room for. The following day, after breakfast, we took a nice 4WD tour of much of the property with one of the Guest relations managers. He led us through more secluded beaches, showed the site where Captain Cook made first contact with one of the Maori fishing villages, and brought us to one of the giant old Kauri trees.
The property is stunning, we were lucky to visit just before they shut down for a month or two in order to do their yearly maintenance. We’ll be sure to return again one day, hopefully next time in warmer weather.
For the remainder of our time on the Northland, we explored Kerikeri and the surrounding towns. The area is steeped in history and hold some of the first settled towns of New Zealand. We walked trails to find waterfalls, rode the ferry across the bay to the town of Russell, and spent time wandering, enjoying the simple laid back pace of life. As we drove the winding country roads, we passed several unmanned produce stands, sitting on the side of the road with fruits displayed in baskets beside a board with a price tag and honor box on the table. The apartment we rented was owned by a couple who also own a local micro brewery. They too left an honor box inside the house and a wide range of their tasty microbrews in the fridge for us to sample.
While we weren’t overworked before arriving in Kerikeri, we departed feeling extra rested and relaxed. Our next stop was about a five hour drive south down to the town of Cambridge.
After we left Arrowtown, we flew to the North Island and stayed in another hotel that was really big and really fancy. The food there was really good. They even had an indoor heated pool that we didn’t want to leave. Angela and I had our own bedroom with separate beds. On our tour, we saw a giant tree. Our guide told us there were even bigger ones in New Zealand, but the one we saw was huge. I really loved the hotel.
I got to spend my birthday in the coolest hotel in the history of hotels. When we got there, they took us to a nice seat in front of the fire for lunch. Then, we got to go see our room that had a big bath, separate beds for Emily and me, and two bathrooms. After we saw our room, we went golf carting down to the pink beach sign. That night we had a six-course dinner, finishing with Birthday cake and profiteroles. We finished the night playing duck duck goose in our room.
We’ve arranged for most of our family touring in New Zealand through Southern World. We like exploring new destinations by all methods of travel – cruising, touring, or on our own. The thing we like best about private custom tours is that we can collaborate with and design our experience exactly the way we want, under the expert guidance of a trusted local operator.
Southern World has contacts all over both islands of New Zealand. Under their knowlegable guidance we’ve coordinated several day tours as well as chosen cities to serve as our home base while we explore the amazing country.
There are several options for cruising around the perimeter of New Zealand – Large ship, small ship, expedition. The cruises are a great way to see the sections of the country you may like to return to at a later date. With as long as it takes to get to New Zealand from the States, we recommend also organizing some pre-or post touring to experience the local towns and villages while participating in some of the fun adventure activities available.
Taking a tour with a small group provides the opportunity to experience the sites of New Zealand with other like-minded travelers on popular pre-designed itineraries.