First impressions are everything

Our flight arrived into Auckland around lunchtime on Friday and the sun was already shining. We grabbed our bags and rekindled our love affair with uber (half the price of an airport transfer). After a half our drive and lots of chat from our driver, we arrived at our hostel – Verandahs. This was one of the nicest hostels we have stayed in so far, mainly due to it being a converted house and therefore high ceilings and large rooms. The rooms also had single beds rather than bunks which was unusual but meant we only had to share with 2 others. Our first after noon was relaxed as we were tired (due to a 3am wake up call) and we had 2 more days to explore the city. That evening we took a wander down Ponsonby Road, which is the hub for bars/restaurants, and came across a really cute Argentinian grill in a cluster of restaurants called Ponsonby Central. The portions were huge so we ordered a large plate meant for one person and shared it (it was more than enough for 2). Being a Friday night we had a chilled dinner with a glass of red and wandered home. 

We had agreed that our second day would be sightseeing, so we grabbed our trainers and mentally prepared ourselves for a day of walking. Turns out, a 2 hour walk was enough to walk the whole city in a loop and end up back at our hostel. The city is so tiny in comparison to London, which actually makes it really nice. We stopped to eat our lunch and have a beer by the harbour – a great place to yacht spot. We also walked over to Silo park which hosts summer festivals etc and is in a part of town which is being developed. Most people who go to Auckland end up spending a fortune on a trip up the sky tower – the city’s observation deck. We passed on this as it isn’t actually that high and, after going to the 360 bar in Sydney, Auckland doesn’t really have any iconic landmarks to spot – sorry Auckland. Even though two hours doesn’t seem that long, we were knackered after walking in the heat but managed to drag ourselves out of our fancy hostel to get dinner. Having tried burgers in most of the cities that we have visited, we thought it best to do the same here. This took us to Burger Burger (original right) which was very good. The curly fries were to die for! After a short break from eating, we hunted for gelato and found a place which makes your own flavours by taking a basic ice cream flavour and adding your choice of topping. I went for vanilla with brownie and flake – pretty much cookies and cream. The flavours were good and cheap so we were happy.  

On our third and last day, we took the ferry over to north Auckland to see the city from a different perspective. There are a number of islands just outside the harbour, but we didn’t really have time to explore hence the afternoon trip to Devonport. The small town had one off shops and was worth a visit, but the main attraction was Mt Victoria. The walk to the top was about 20 minutes and relatively easy – definitely worth it for the views over the city and other islands. Predictably, we ventured out for dinner again that evening with the addition of one of our roommates (a girl from Perth). We went to the international food court on Ponsonby Rd which was recommended by our hostel. It was more of a canteen but was great because you could pick which cuisine you fancied (from kebab to Indonesian food). I had a curry and Jack his pickings from a Chinese buffet – less than $30 for dinner, result! The food was also very good. 

Monday morning came as a shock when our alarm went off at 6am. Today was the day that we started on our tour of NZ – the Kiwi Experience. This is a hop on hop off bus which takes you to all the main spots in NZ and pretty much takes all the hassle out of planning. We were picked up at 7.10am, headed towards Paihia in the Bay of Islands and were handed clipboards throughout the journey to plan busses, activities and accommodation – easy and so worth it! We stopped at a small town en route for a food break and a waterfall for a photo op. As we were staying a few extra days than most people, I pre booked a hostel which was slightly cheaper than the one most others on the coach booked on the way. Another nice hostel, with a sea view from the balcony. We also managed an upgraded room because I booked the wrong dates a while back and added an extra night a few weeks before. The hostel was small, friendly and more chilled out which suited us. 

Paihia is a small town but has everything you need for a seaside vacay (including the weather 😉). It is also where we realised that it was fine to spend a few hours apart. On our first day, Jack was tired and wanted to take a nap, but I, being my usual fidgety self, wanted to get out and explore. That made for a happy Christy (getting some beach time) and Jack (enjoying our fluke of a room). Fish and chips is a big thing in NZ (not sure if its bigger here or in the U.K.) so we had our first one by the sea (well sausage and chips). I can’t post the picture as the sausage looked far too rude, but kept us giggling all night. 

Over the next few days, we kept ourselves busy by enjoying some of the local activities but also allowed ourselves time to relax. This will probably be the last time we can fully relax because the next three weeks are going to be full on with the tour being in full swing. If ever over this way, you have to take a day tour and get out amongst the islands. We took the cliffs and caves tour ($77 each- one of the cheaper options) which took us on a high speed boat exploring tiny rock islands, caves and the white sand beaches that the islands are known for. This tour was sold to us as you could either hike or chill on the beach at the end, obviously when we got there we realised you had to hike to get to the beach as the boat pick up place differed from the drop off place. During the hike I wanted to kill the coach driver for not telling us, but it was actually so worth it! The views were amazing and there was a cute cafe/ bar by the beach. 
We also took the ferry to Russell which is the other town in the bay of islands. Home to the oldest church in NZ, cafes and the Duke of Marlborough hotel (an old hotel dating back to 1800’s). We had a late lunch (best loaded wedges ever) and then a drink in the hotel bar with a view of the sea.
There are a few small islands which can be explored from Paihia. We hired a kayak for $45 in attempt to visit these and have a beach to ourselves. Worst idea ever! The sea looked so calm but as soon as we were 5m from shore, we nearly capsized and that set the tone. Jack accusing me of not paddling and me constantly getting a face full of salt water – this was not the best moment of the trip so far! We managed to make it to an island and decided to stay there for the duration of our hire period (minus the time taken to get back of course). It was nice to have the island to ourselves but I’m definitely not kayaking in the sea ever again. 

We had a great time and it felt like a mini holiday which was lovely, but we are both excited to get back on the coach and start our journey down to Christchurch (and to see some old family friends). 

My first impressions of NZ: nice people, way more relaxed than Oz, more solo travellers (and slightly older), still lots of Germans! 

Hope you are still enjoying the blog. 

Love as always xx

P.s. apologies for the lack of photos, McD’s wifi was is giving me grief! Check out my instagram for more 😘

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