North Island :

In December 2008 we left Auckland in damp cool weather in our son's 1970's VW Camper Van - otherwise known as the Bus - to explore the north coast of the North Island. We stopped in the wild and impressive Whangarei Heads and enjoyed golf at the Pines Golf Club.

The next day we visited the Scottish Heritage town of Waipu which is associated with the Rev Norman McLeod, the Presbyterain Minister who led his people from the Highlands of Scotland to New Zealand via Pictou and St. Ann's in Nova Scotia and Australia. Five shiploads containing over 800 settlers arrived at Waipu in the 1850s and these included the ancestors of our daughter-in-law Lucy, who lives in Auckland. We spent time chatting to very friendly people in the museum. On to Paihia which is an ideal place from which to explore the Bay of Islands. Our next stop was at Waitangi where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. We explored the Treaty House and grounds, the museum , the traditional Maori meeting house and the Maori war canoe.

Further north we found Russell and Kerikeri and then went north west to Kaitaira at the base of the Aupouri Peninsula. Although this area has an oceanic subtropical climate our visit was marred by torrential rain and so we left Ninety Mile Beach to explore another time and made our way south to Warkworth passing through impressive Kowhai forests - again too wet to explore. Warkworth, only 45 kilometers north of Auckland is known as the heart of the Kowhai Coast has many attractions for visitors. An so returned to Auckland.

After Christmas we went with our family to spend the New Year in a bach in Simpson's Beach which is located on the east coast of the Coromandel. The Bay's spectacular coastline is dotted with islands and its relatively sheltered waters are perfect for all water sports. There are a large range of activities to enjoy, especially the Hot Water beach. The hot springs on the beach are caused when a volcano develops huge underground reservoirs of superheated water and over time, this water will escape to the surface — cooling on the way. Much fun is had at low tide when families enjoy digging in the sand to discover the hot spring waters where they can sit. We enjoyed clif top walks and a visit to the spectacular Cathedral Cove. Almost every day one is treated to a mind blowing sunrise that is quite simply second to none.

The bustling city of Hamilton was next on our tour and we enjoyed golf in the nearby Cambridge Golf Club . Continuing south east we arrived at the friendly campsite of Urenui which has a 9 hole golf course attached. Many of the family campers we spoke to came from New Plymouth to regularly enjoy the swimming, to bring their boats or to play golf like us. The busy city of New Plymouth has also coastal walks and is famous for artwork known as the Wind Wand, and views of Mount Taranaki/Egmont. And so on to Wellington, which we have explored in an earlier visit, and the Ferry to Pickton.

South Island

The Interislander’s Cook Strait Ferries travel between Wellington and Picton . Our journey took place on a calm, clear, sunny day and allowed us to enjoy the 92km voyage which takes 3 hours and has been described as "one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world". Picton is in the Marlborough Sounds which are renowned for the safe opportunity they provide for outdoor activities. Fishing, walking, tramping, kayaking and cycling are popular with overseas tourists and locals. We travelled by a perilous coastal road which twisted, turned and climbed - not very suitable for an ancient VW bus - until we arrived at Tahuna Heach Holiday Park near Nelson . Nelson is well provided with sporting activities for tourists of all ages but we settled for a round of golf at Nelson Park Golf Club.

On our way to Westport we passed many vineyards, we observed seal colonies and walked around the famous Pancake Rocks and spectacular blowholes. A brief stop in Greymouth which is an old gold mining town gave us the opportunity to admire the river and the quayside. That night we stayed in Hokitiko Holiday Park and played golf in the local golf club. The next destinations were the Franz Josef Glacier which is currently 12 km long and terminates 19 km from the Tasman Sea and the Fox Glacer. Guided walks are available on the glaciers and helicopter tours also deposit their tourists on the glacier to explore in a more spectacular way. As a contrast a lagoon and river boat trip at Okarito provided a peaceful time to observe the wading bird paradise although we were sometimes distracted by passing kayaks.

We left the deeply gorged rivers of the forested west coast by the Arthur Pass. Most people arrive in Arthur's Pass National Park by road - a spectacular piece of extreme civil engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes. We stopped briefly to enjoy the spectactar scenery and then continued on to Christchurch . The city of Christchurch we found very attractive. We stayed in a central camp site and spent a few days exploring the city and used its traditional tram car. We admired the cathedral and the parks. An organised day trip took us by punt down the river, and up the hill by cable car, then off by coach to Lyttleton to admire its splendid harbour and the place where many immigrants from Scotland landed in the 19th century. We did not manage to explore Banks Peninsula nor to journed any further south, but we hope to do so on another visit.

We turned north and spent our next night at Kaikoura Holiday Camp. We enjoyed some golf and spent some quiet time observing the seals. Next was Blenheim and after that back to Picton. Our ferry arrived back in Wellington but again we did not stop there but continued to Dannevirke where we stayed in a wonderful woodland campsite.

Next came Hastings and nearby Napier known as the 'fruit bowl' of New Zealand and is well known for orchards, wineries and beautifully parks and gardens. We admired its Art Deco and Spanish Mission style buildings. Gisborne at the north of Paverty Bay. Gisborne boasts being the first city in the world to greet the sun each day. There are wonderful surf beaches close to the city. Waioeka Gorge Scenic Reserve is a 1800 hectare area of native forest and regenerating farmland. Although it is a wonderful places to enjoy the great outdoors, for camping, walks and amazing views, we drove through the george alongs the state highway of 50 kilometers without stopping. We camped next in Opoteike a town in the eastern Bay of Plenty, and then Ohope famous for Ohope Beach.

Rotorua is a truly unique destination with many different experiences to suit every kind of traveler on any kind of budget. The city is known for its geothermal activity, and features geysers – notably the Pohutu Geyser at Whakarewarewa – and hot mud pools. This thermal activity is sourced to the Rotorua caldera, on which the city lies. On a previous holiday we visited the geysersbut not on this occasion. Also previously we had visited the Maoritraditional Arts and Crafts centre but this time we concentrated on the beach and town centre attractions. A visit to Cambridge and another chance to play golf in the Cambridge Golf club came next . Then back to Auckland.

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