Where to start with New Zealand - if you haven't checked a map for awhile, there are two islands - the North and the South, if you're going all the way there from the UK, make sure you take time to visit both. Also, consider when you're visiting - I've been in Summer and Autumn, and the Autumn trip had interesting weather, winter came early so hindered some elements of the trip.
You can either start at the top of the North Island in Auckland, or the bottom of the South Island. This blog is focused on the North Island as there's so much to see and do, the South Island will be following shortly, so keep checking back.
We started the trip in Auckland to see friends, and had a lovely Thai at a restaurant called Monsoon Poon, on Hobson Street (it may have changed hands since then). We were in Auckland for Anzac day, which meant they put a 15% surcharge on everything in restaurants.
While in Auckland, it's worth heading over to Waiheke island (you can either fly over on helicopter, take the car or passenger ferry). It's a beautiful island that you could spend a few days on, we only had the day (and the weather as you can see wasn't kind!). We did meet a friendly dog Leo on our wanders though and returned him to his owner as he'd gone walkabout - the dog, not the owner!
From Auckland, we drove up to the Bay of Islands - and this is where we discovered in the off-peak season, places shut early. At 6.30, the town was buzzing, when we popped back out at 8.30 for dinner, things were not, so finding dinner was a challenge.
The weather still wasn't playing ball but being British, and used to the delights of the rain, we headed out on a cruise around the islands. And we were lucky enough to see some bottle nosed dolphins, and learned a bit more about these graceful creatures - apparently, babies have to feed every 3 mins in their first year, but can feed from any female, who knew!
Stunning scenery in and around the Bay of Islands, even with the dramatic clouds, and I'm convinced there's a hint of blue sky in there somewhere.
While in the Bay of Islands, you can see where they signed both the Treaty of Waitangi and the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand in Waitangi, a really interesting location to learn about the history of New Zealand.
From here, it's a 5 hour trek to Coromandel (and when we say trek we mean drive in this instance) but oh so worth it for the best tasting mussels ever at Pepper Tree restaurant, so good, we went back twice for dinner - we should have taken pictures, but they were the local green lipped mussels so do order them if you go.
When you're in Coromandel, you have to go to Cathedral Cove - it's a beautiful walk down to the beach, and just stunning when you get there, and the best bit, the sun came out to play. We had wedges and wine for dinner at The Top Pub also known as the Coromandel Hotel (name is due to location but the wedges were good, and the drunk postie kept us entertained all night). Cathedral Cove is one of the beautiful coastal destinations, which inspired our luxury scented Summer Haze candles.
From here, we headed down to Rotorua - now you can literally smell this place a mile off...and definitely not a scent we're planning on using in our candles any time soon, you'll be relieved to hear!
When you're in a location like this, you have to make the most of what nature has provided with a trip to the Polynesian Spa for their hot mineral pools and a geothermal mud body wrap - pure bliss, just don't wear your favourite costume.
After all that relaxation, a trip to the Amazing Thai was in order, good food, and good value.
We drove down to Taupo after this for some more geothermic pools, geysers, lakes and waterfalls, this simple sentence doesn't do it justice! More stunning scenery in the North Island we think you'll agree.
We stopped in at Ohakune on our way down to Wellington, just to do some hikes, and make the most of the outdoors on the North Island.
It was starting to get chilly now as we were almost the middle of May - so we warmed up at the Powderkeg restaurant, which in ski season, is the place to be. The roaring fires, and good food did the trick.
After a quick hike in the mountains, we packed up and drove on down to Wellington, we only had a couple of days in Wellington, but it was a sweet little city and we found a lovely Italian, Nicolinis.
There's still so much more that can be seen on the North Island, but these are a few places that have to be seen, and we'll look forward to heading to the South Island in another blog...