Living in New Zealand and travelling the world, expat Rhonda Albom takes you on a vicarious adventure as she captures the essence of travel through photography, stories, tips, and humour. Rhonda is the owner, primary author and chief travel photographer at the award winning expat blog Albom Adventures.
The northern edge of New Zealand welcomes visitors with endless coastlines, deep blue seas, giant sand dunes, ancient Kauri forests, white sand beaches, and some of the best fish and chips in the country. It’s a New Zealand road trip filled with unusual natural history and cultural folklore. This flexible New Zealand itinerary from Auckland to Cape Reinga can range from a slow adventure to a 2-day whirlwind of excitement. We have found 4-5 days to be optimal for this North Island road trip.
Top of New Zealand, photo taken from the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, thought of as the northern tip of the North Island.
Auckland to Bay of Island Drive
Regardless of the length your 4-7 day adventure, plan to spend the first night in Paihia in the Bay of Islands. It is an easy three-and-a-half hour drive from Auckland. If you are on a tight schedule, go directly there and spend the first day exploring the Bay of Islands.
If you have an extra day, make it a leisurely drive from Auckland to Paihia and stop at a few interesting sights along the way. Our favourites are Sheep World, Whangarei Falls, Piroa Falls (to find Piroa Falls look for 80 Waipu Gorge Rd on Google Maps), and Waipu Caves.
Top 10 Things to do in the Bay of Islands
(In the order you will come to them driving north from Auckland):
You will want to spend at least one night in the Bay of Islands. Locals (and many tourists) often spend a week. Paihia is centrally located, Russell requires a ferry passage and is both more relaxed and more expensive, and Kerikeri is ideal if you are going to see it all on the first day. Just be ready to head out again on Day 2.
The Karikari Peninsula (this is a different spot than the city Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands) will not take you to the top of New Zealand. It is a stunning peninsula before the road to Cape Reinga (top of New Zealand).
Stop at Haruru Falls, if you have extra time, hike on the trails in the surrounding forest.
Visit the Kerikeri Mission Station, the Old Stone Store, and Kemp House, two of the oldest buildings in New Zealand. The Old Stone Store was built in 1832.
If you have extra time, stop at any of the lovely beaches along the north coast.
Depending on your chosen itinerary you might skip the Karikari Peninsula. If not, stop for a relaxing glass of wine, coffee, or dessert at Karikari Estate Winery, or head straight to the gentle waters of the picturesque Matai Bay Beach. We were told that there are occasional little blue penguins at the beach in Whatuwhiwhi, but we didn’t see any.
Old Stone Store in Kerikeri (NZ’z oldest stone building).
Mangonui Fish Shop.
Spend the night on KariKari Peninsula, in Coopers Beach or Cable Bay, unless you are doing a condensed or budget version, in which case you will want to continue on and spend the night in Pukenui. The campground at Pukenui also has bunk rooms and shared kitchens.
The final stretch of your Auckland to Cape Reinga road trip will be travelling up and back 90 minutes each way on the same road. The order presented here heads north, but you can save half of the stops for the way back down.
Ninety-Mile Beach: With 4WD you can drive on this beach, but read the warning signs and know the tides.
Kaitaia to Auckland along the Hokianga Coast (West Coast)
Take the Hokianga car ferry across from 4 km past Kokukohu to Rawene. Check the Hokianga Ferry schedule to be sure you don’t miss the last ferry of the day.
Have lunch in the quaint Opononi Village.
Be sure to see New Zealand’s largest kauri trees in the Waipoua Kauri Forest. You will want to make two stops here. Heading south, you will see the signposts for the five-minute walking path leading to the 2000-year-old Tane Mahuta, ‘Lord of the Forest’. It is New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree. You may also want to take the easy 20 minute (one way) walk to see The ‘Four Sisters’ and ‘Te Matua Ngahere, ‘Father of the Forest’ (the second largest tree). It is a short drive between the two trailhead markers.
The Kauri Museum in Matakohe is a favourite museum of many of our guests. If you try to do the trip from Kaitaia in one day, you probably won’t get to the museum in time to enjoy it before it closes.
Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest – for perspective, notice the girl in an orange shirt in the bush at the base of the tree.
Maori designs in Greenstone
Auckland to Cape Reinga 3-Day Guided Tour
Officially called a 3-day Bay of Islands tour from Auckland, it hits the highlights and goes all the way to Cape Reinga. If you are visiting New Zealand without a vehicle, or if you prefer the commentary and knowledge of a local tour guide, this is the tour of Northland we recommend. It starts and ends in Auckland and does it all in just three days.
It is possible to travel from Auckland to Cape Reinga and back in just two days. The total drive time in one direction can be as short as six hours. However, there are a few places you would want to stop and see along the way. If your time is extremely limited and Cape Reinga is a must see, I would recommend driving first to Paihia in the Bay of Islands, exploring the area and spending the night. On day two I would take an 11-hour waverider coach adventure that returns to Paihia, then make the 3.5-hour drive back to Auckland. This is not optimal, but possible.
The bus allows you to see the sights while someone else drives, to safely drive along 90-mile beach, and to stop and explore at Cape Reinga, walk along the boardwalk in the ancient Puketi Forest (1000-year-old Kauri trees), and sandboard down the giant Te Paki Sand Dunes.
New Zealand is beautiful, but expensive to visit. Auckland is my home, and I love it here. Visitors flock in daily and are greeted with seemingly unlimited luxurious options at a premium price. There is no doubt that many of these will create lifelong memories. However, for the animal lovers, there is an alternative: House Sitting New Zealand style.
House sitting involves staying in another person’s home and caring for pets, plants, or just the house. It all depends upon what you agree. Pet owners love it as it allows them to leave their furry friend in the care of a verified sitter who will love and care for them, rather than a kennel. As no money changes hands, the homeowner saves in pet care costs, and the traveller has a free place to stay. That’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Imagine having this little cutie to curl up with in the evenings while you travel.
Advantages of becoming a pet sitter, plant sitter, or house sitter:
Free accommodation in return for pet or plant care.
Lower food costs as you can prepare your own food.
Cat or dog sitters have a furry companion while they are away from home.
Live in a neighbourhood rather than a hotel, allowing travellers to absorb the culture.
Enjoy the benefits of a cosy home environment.
You don’t need to be a professional house sitter, but if you use TrustedHousesitters, you will need to be verified (this protects everyone).
Beach houses to luxury house sitting jobs, you can look at the options before you apply.
House Sitting New Zealand and International House Sitting
And it’s not just house sitting in New Zealand; there are thousands of opportunities for house sitting abroad (regardless of where you live now). In fact, TrustedHousesitters is the world’s #1 house and pet sitting website with registered homeowners in over 150 countries needing care for a variety of animals. Timing ranges from a weekend to long-term house sitting opportunities.
It’s not just dog and cat sitting that is available. Some people look for house sitters to care for horses, reptiles, fish, chickens and other farm animals, birds, or other small pets like bunnies and rats.
Finding House Sitting Vacancies
Are you wondering how to become a house sitter? It’s as easy as filling out an application. You will be verified and approved. Then you search for the destination you want to visit, filtering on the types of animals you want to look after. Contact the homeowner and begin conversations. The terms of the deal are worked out by the individuals involved. While we haven’t done a house sit, we have done multiple home exchanges. By the time we were ready to travel, we felt that we knew our partners well and were comfortable living in their home and having them live in ours.
Ten reasons why a date with a pet is better than a date with a human this Valentine’s Day:
Cuddling a puppy is a special opportunity.
A pet won’t stand you up
Pets don’t order the lobster
A pet is not embarrassed by a public display of affection
A pet won’t grumble about the film you choose on Netflix
Pets won’t veto your romantic songs playlist
A pet won’t text its ex on your special evening
A pet won’t moan you scrimped on champagne
You can bet you’ll get more likes for your Valentine’s pet-date selfie than the human equivalent
With a pet, it’s always clear who’s paying
A pet will suspend all judgement because they just want to be with you
(List provided by TrustedHousesitters. Used with permission.)
Cats like human sitters also.
This Jack Russell loves to curl up in people’s lap.
If you love the idea of staying in a private home but don’t want to be a pet sitter, you might want to look into these two options:
1. Home Exchange
In a home exchange, you swap houses with someone else for a prescribed period of time. We have successfully used Homeexchange.com three times, twice in Spain and once in the USA. Like house and pet sitting, we had a free stay, as did the people who stayed in our home. Living in a neighbourhood, we met the locals, participated in local activities, and got a better understanding of customs and cultures.
Located near parliament and not much farther from the rest of the action, these affordable apartment-style rooms offer a classy stay in New Zealand's capital. With a kitchenette in each room, it allows for home-cooked meals and a more affordable way of travel.
Melbourne street art is amongst the best in the world. An ever-changing, dynamic and colourful collection of Melbourne graffiti laneways, the street graffiti found here is, in fact, works of art. The street artists are talented professionals, some already famous, others on their way. It’s one of my favourite cities for a getaway, so much so that this is our second visit in the last 15-months.
Melbourne Australia is a diverse, modern, and fun city. We visit for relaxation, drinking coffee in laneway cafes, walking the neighbourhoods, shopping, and exploring the Melbourne street art. Australia’s second largest city is internationally known for its colourful and eclectic street art found on “approved outdoor locations” throughout the city.
In truth, finding Melbourne street art is often as easy as turning your head as you pass an alleyway or laneway. However, finding the best Melbourne street art requires a bit of guidance. If you are like us, stop by any information booth and ask for a Melbourne street art map, or download your own from the city’s website and enjoy a self-guided journey. However, if you prefer to learn more about the history, the artists, and not miss a thing, you might want to take a tour. Check out these three Melbourne street art tours:
Melbourne Street Art on Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane
No question about it, if you only have the time or inclination to visit one of the Melbourne graffiti lanes, Hosier Lane is it. And as you walk about halfway down the street, you can’t miss Rutledge Lane, a Melbourne graffiti alley intersecting Hosier Lane. Ever changing, and overwhelming, Rutledge Lane was painted over in solid blue in 2013 by street artist Adrian Doyle. Funded by the council, it was an attempt to breathe new life into the graffiti-laden area.
Rutledge Lane – a graffiti alley (2018)
On Rutledge Lane, even the rubbish bins are covered in graffiti. (2018)
Corner of Hosier Lane and Rutledge (2016)
Hosier Lane also had a string of shoes overhead. (2016)
This romantic gesture on Hosier Lane in 2016 was completely covered over in 2018. Too bad, this one made me smile.
Melbourne Street Artists
If you know where to look, you can find the art of some of the world’s best street art artists like Rone, Phibs, Alexis Diaz, Ghost Patrol, Lush, Askew One, Sofles, and others. Possibly the most famous are the nine stencil street art creations by British street artist Bansky, who made during a secret trip to the city in 2003. Unfortunately, three were destroyed during construction in 2016 on AC/DC Lane, another two ruined in 2014 (also on AC/DC Lane), and two others in Fitzroy painted over in 2013. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there is a push to preserve the remaining two.
While we didn’t see any of the famous artists mentioned above, we did see a few people creating their own street art illusions.
A street artist drawing a golden line pattern piece in Hosier Lane. (2018)
Street artist uses the window bars to reach up high on Hosier Lane (2016)
Political Street Art
Street art is also a platform used for political commentary.
I was surprised to see this anti-Donald Trump expression in Australia. You can finish the sentence yourself, although this one says something about a small button. (2018)
More of the Best Melbourne Street Art
A tribute to Prince on AC/DC Lane shot only months after three Bansky’s previously on the street were destroyed. (2016)
Street Art on Duckboard Place around the corner from AC/DC Lane.
With over 1,000 ceramic tile pieces on display, Drewery Lane is a different example of Melbourne laneway art. Organized and taught by Sanker Nadeson, the ceramics are for Legacy House, an organization committed to caring for families of those who lost their life or health to defend the nation.
Some of the over 1000 community made ceramics themed for Legacy House. (2018)
This three-headed dog at the far end of Drewery Lane shot in 2016 is almost unrecognisable in 2018. (2016)
Sniders Lane (off of Drewery Lane)
Sniders Lane is a side alley off Drewery Lane, and a quick reminder to always turn your head and look down every laneway and alleyway, as you never know what you will find.
This nearly three-storey tall snake looks the same in 2018 as it did in 2016.
Amazing street art on Sniders Lane, directly across from the snake (2018)
And then there was the famous topless selfie of Kim Kardashian and Em Ratajkowski on Instagram reproduced larger than life by Australian street artist Lushsux at the end of Sniders Lane. (2018)
3D street art on Union Lane (2016).
Coverlid Place / Croft Alley
Labelled on the official map of Melbourne street art as Croft Alley, the sign at the street is Coverlid Place.
Coverlid Place is labelled as Croft Alley on the map. (2016)
What do you think, Melbourne Graffiti or Art?
Hosier Lane (2018)
Practical Information on Melbourne Street Art:
Lonely Planet included Melbourne street art on its list of the top cities to enjoy this modern artistic expression. And, of course, Melbourne Australia is prominently featured amongst the 42 countries in Lonely Planet’s new guide to global Street Art book.
Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane are considered to have the best street art in Melbourne, as well as the most comprehensive.
Bring a camera.
Remember to turn and look up and down alleyways and laneways, otherwise, you might miss something special.
Take the shot when you see it, Melbourne graffiti laneways are continually changing, and the same graffiti art may not be there the next day.
If you want to add your own cool street art, be sure to check out the current laws surrounding it first, as it is only legal in specific areas, with plenty of restrictions.
There’s More Melbourne than Laneways and Street Art
This is our third visit to Melbourne, and the first time we brought our teen/adult children. We drank coffee, ate some fabulous meals, visited a few landmarks like the State Library of Melbourne, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Queen Victoria Market (more on these three coming soon). And of course, shopping, lots of shopping. There is nowhere better within four hours of our home in Auckland, New Zealand.
Whether you’re headed out on a weekend road trip or a year-long around the world adventure, you need to start the planning process somewhere. Over the years we have found many travel planning resources that simplify and clarify the process, saving us both time and money. Some questions are determined by events or work holiday schedules: Where will you go? How long will you travel? Who will travel with you? Travel planning resources come into play when answering the question: How can I save money without hampering my style? There is no big secret to how to plan a trip, and the tools below will make it easier.
Full disclosure: We receive a small commission from most links on this page. There is no extra cost to you. In fact, in many cases, we are offering special deals or coupon codes so you can save money. I have used, and plan to use again in the future all travel planning resources listed here.
Sahara Desert, Morocco
For this page, I have assumed that you already have selected your destination and dates of travel.
Travel Planning Resources: Airfare
If you can be flexible with your dates, you can often save money on airfare. While you can go to each airline individually to look for the best fare, we have found sites like Skyscanner or Agoda simplify the process. These travel fare aggregator websites offer options across carriers, making the search quick and painless.
Travel Planning Resources: Accommodations
Finding Hotel Deals:
For short stays and last minute bookings, we tend to stay in hotels, as long as we can get a reasonable rate. We know many travellers who find the best price by walking up on the day they need the room. While we have tried this in the past (off-season travel only), we had two failures, both in Europe. The first time was in Seville Spain, where it took us over three hours to find an affordable last-minute option. The second time was Beziers France, where we arrived during a festival and discovered 100s of other travellers who were also looking for accommodations. While many of them resorted to sleeping on the street, we opted for a late night drive back to our home exchange house that was only three hours away. Now we always include accommodation bookings on our travel itinerary. Our favourite sites include booking.com, Hotels Combined, and Agoda:
PRO TIP: We make reservations with no penalty cancellation policies. Starting two weeks before our stay, we check the booking site to see if the room rate has dropped. Often, it will if the hotel is not close to capacity. We rebook at the lower price and cancel the original booking.
The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, California, USA
Stay in Someone’s Home:
Cultural immersion is the number one reason we like staying in private homes, and major cost savings is a huge benefit. There are two basic ways to do this. You can stay in a home with or without the owners. To stay with the owners, we look for BNBs on the same sites we use for hotels: Booking.com, Hotels Combined, and Agoda.
More often we stay in a house and get our immersion from living in a neighbourhood. We can either rent an apartment (from TripAdvisor Rentals) or barter for the house with either a home exchange or a house sit. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Personally, we love home exchange. We stay in someone else’s home, and they stay in ours. Obviously, you would need to have a home to do this. The four biggest advantages are that the house has everything we need, no money changes hands, we can include cars in the exchange, and our home is not left sitting empty.
Similarly, when housesitting you also live in someone’s home, but rather than trading your house, you are offering your services, usually either watching pets or taking care of plants. The advantages are similar, although the downside is the inherent limitations created by caring for animals.
This is the street we lived on during a home exchange in Spain.
Travel Planning Resources: Tours
I’ll be honest; we do most of our travel independently. But even in saying that, there are plenty of tours that we love. Afterall, they come in all shapes and sizes. We like city walking tours, culinary tours, specific location tours (castles), and tours involving the need to spot wild animals. In contrast, my dad prefers coach tours, while my neighbour prefers to have her entire travel itinerary planned, organised, and run by a tour company.
We have found Viator, a TripAdvisor company, has a comprehensive list of cities and options. Ranging from single attractions to week-long adventures (or even longer), they also have private tours, allowing you to hire a guide and make an itinerary.
Get Your Guide is a newer player in the market who is making a great name for themselves. Their tours look exciting, affordable, and most are rated quite well.
PRO TIP: We also like Viator for cruise excursions as they offer a worry-free guarantee on most of their cruise port tours (always check for the excursion you select). This allows us to have a similar experience as offered by the cruise ship, for substantially less money and with a smaller group.
Norway’s Stalheim Valley
Wellington, New Zealand
Travel Planning Resources: Travel Insurance
Personally, I wouldn’t leave New Zealand (where we live) without travel insurance. You never know what can go wrong. Even things at home can cause a delay or change. And when travelling, there are new foods, animals, adventures, and lots of mystery. While we tend to follow the same safety rules for ourselves overseas that we do at home, we have landed in hospitals in Germany, Bonaire, USA, Australia, and Samoa. We have used World Nomads.
Surfing New Zealand at Little Piha beach.
7 things you should know about travel insurance from WorldNomads.com
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Flexibility when you need it most
Had a change of plans? You can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you’re already travelling.
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We want to make sure you get the most from WorldNomads.com. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
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Travel Planning Resources: Travel Guides and Books
I start on the internet when I do my research. There are thousands of travel bloggers and I have several favourite bloggers who travel the way I do. These are people whose recommendations I trust and respect. You can see my list of favourite travel bloggers on my Blogroll. I also belong to several travel groups on Facebook and can get information there as well.
When I am travelling, I don’t always have internet, and then I turn to guidebooks. Some I purchase electronically, but other times I like a physical copy. It depends on our destination. We are big fans of Lonely Planet, as they call it like it is, and we believe their authors have been to the locations. We tend to get the books direct from the Lonely Planet, as they frequently have specials. However, if I am ordering other supplies from the states, I might include a book in my Amazon order.
Pink Beach is a remote destination on the east side of Shakespear Park, my favourite Auckland New Zealand regional park. The park offers hours of hiking trails and has three popular beaches with nearby carparks. In contrast to the others, Pink Beach requires a hike along the Tiritiri Track, is accessible only at low tide via a steep flight of stairs, and is one of the lesser known destinations in the Park. In fact, our New Year’s day family hike was the first time we saw other people on this beach. It’s also the first time we saw seagull chicks.
Towards the upper right hand corner you can see a bit of the stair rail from where we came down to Pink Beach.
Why is it called Pink Beach?
After looking at the beach, you are probably wondering exactly what we were wondering: why is it called Pink Beach? In truth, the New Zealand Shakespear family named most of the paddocks, fields, and beaches. While many of the names don’t make sense to us today, some, like Pink Beach actually have a scientific explanation.
When I wrote about Pink Beach in the past, geologist Bruce Hayward suggested that sand colour is often affected by broken shell bits and barnacles, erosion, and anything else making up the composition of the sand. In Bruce’s latest book, Out of the Ocean, Into the Fire, he also states, “If the shells are dominantly broken barnacle plates, the beach appears pink.”
In the comments section below, he offers a plausable explanation for my non-pink photos. “Maybe when you visited there was more terrigeneous yellow/buff sand washed up on the beach than at other times when the shell dominates on the surface.”
(Quotes used with written permission from the author.)
He also shares this image from nearby Omaha Beach, also a “pink beach”.
From Pink Beach we had two options, to climb back up the steps and return to the Tiritiri track or to walk along the coast back to Te Haruhi Bay and the campground. Again, this is a low tide option only. We love coastal hikes, and were pleased to find some incredible rock formations along the way.
A cave and an interesting cliffside, plus a Powhuatkawa tree peeking in on the side. It is often referred to as a Kiwi Christmas tree as it blooms red this time of year.
Fisherman walking back from the water’s edge
Practical Information on Visiting Pink Beach
Shakespear Park is located at the end of Whangaparaoa Peninsula, about an hours drive from Auckland city centre. It is free to enter, with limited vehicle access after dusk.
Do not bring dogs or other animals if you are entering the open sanctuary that covers the vast majority of the park. Pink Beach and all access to it is within this area.
The entrance to Pink Beach is off of the Tiritiri Track about a kilometre hike from the trail entrance at the back of Shakespear Regional Park camping ground.
This is the sign you will see from the Tiritiri Track.
Vehicle access to the car park is only available for those who have booked a campsite. The closest car parking would be at the campground end of Bruce Harvey Drive, facing Te Haruhi Beach.
It takes about an hour to hike the foreshore from the beach to the campground. It is safest if started on the outgoing tide. There is one point that is difficult to pass, except on the low tide. On our last hike, we had camera gear and didn’t want to walk through ankle-deep water. A 30-minute wait until the lowest tide of the day avoided this problem.
Bring binoculars to better enjoy bird life.
If you want a more intensive New Zealand bird life experience, visit Tiritiri Matangi Island (visible from Pink Beach).
Overlooking Pink Beach, we can see Tiritiri Matangi in the distance.
There is a ferry that goes out to Tiritiri Matangi Island daily, and optional tours are available. I always take a tour as the volunteer guides are experts at spotting and identifying the birds.
New Zealand knows how to throw a party, and that was clear yesterday at the opening of the weekend-long Latin Festival Auckland. The schedule of events at this Auckland summer fiesta weekend is varied. With two sound stages, there seemed to always be multiple options of things to do. The main dance floor alternates between a performance stage, a home for dance lessons, and an open public dance floor. And, of course, there is food.
Samba Parade the Highlight of my Auckland Summer
For me, the Samba Parade was a drawing card, and it did not disappoint. All eyes turned to the stage as the Brazilian dancers approached. Adorned with brightly coloured feathers, glitter, and high heels, the dancer’s samba costumes were mesmerising. Their movements were smooth and exciting at the same time. Once they finished their performance, the Samba Parade began, and the crowd joined in, before returning to the floor for open salsa dancing.
Samba dancers pose for a photo before their performance.
I love the bright and colourful Samba costumes, although I am pretty sure I am too old wear one.
At some point, the men came out and joined the Samba dance.
Samba is a Brazilian dance possibly made most famous by the Samba Parades of Carnival.
The finale was a samba parade, lead by these beautiful dancers and followed by the crowd.
South American Food at the Auckland Latin Festival
Tempting me even before I was hungry, the aroma of Brazilain barbeque and Argentinian Asado filled the air. There were not a lot of food carts, but they seemed to cover all the favourites. If you are headed there this weekend, go hungry, as there are almost too many great choices. And I now have a new favourite food. They’re called alfajores, and if you have tried it before, you know why I loved it.
TIP: There is a water cooler next to the beer stand.
A row of food carts offered several South American favourites including barbecue meats, empanadas, alfajores, churros, and more.
I know there is a secret to South American barbecue that makes it so good. This Brazilian Barbecue was so tempting, but I opted for a delicious empanada at the next food cart.
Sarah’s face lit up when she saw alfajores. They are one of her favourite sweets from her year as an exchange student in Argentina. We tried the three different flavours. Naturally, the dark chocolate was my favourite. Filled with dulce de leche, it is a treat not to be missed. (Photo shot on an iPhone.)
More Festival Entertainment
After countless songs played and the crowd danced, the floor was cleared once again for performances in capoeira, Latin music, salsa dancing, and more samba.
Capoeira is so graceful to watch. It is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that incorporates dance, acrobatics, and music. The “dancers” and the musicians are all part of the group.
A second stage also featured live shows. Auckland does these events so well.
An animated and fun salsa dance. One of the things I really like about Auckland events like this is that spectators just sit down around the stage and watch.
Salsa with a Pacific Island twist.
Dancing the Night Away at the Festival
As darkness descended, this giant block party seemed to grow. We stayed, danced, ate, danced more, and finally went home before the festival ended at 11.30 pm.
Even Jeff and I joined in the dancing. (Photo shot on an iPhone.)
Like a giant block party, Aucklanders seemed to come out after dark.
Practical Information on the Latin Festival Auckland
The Latin Festival is part of the Auckland Live Summer in the Square series and is free to enter.
This year’s Latin fiesta began yesterday and runs through tomorrow, Jan 14, 2018. The schedule for this 2018 Auckland summer event can be found here.
Located in Aotea Square, the event has dancing lessons, open dancing, games and activities for children, lounge chairs for relaxing, shaded areas, sunny areas, two sound stages, food carts, and plenty of fun.
Whether a local or visitor, if you are in Auckland this weekend, I recommend a visit to the Latin Festival in Aotea Square.
If you are looking for other things to do in the city, don’t miss this list of over 75 free and nearly free things to in Auckland. Or if you prefer a tour, we recommend Viator, a TripAdvisor company. Click on any of the images below for a detailed description of focused and traditional Auckland city tours.
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Will you visit the Latin Festival Auckland for Brazilian dancing, Argentinian food, dance lessons, to enjoy the music, or just to people watch?
Rising above the city, a ride on the Christchurch Gondola offers picturesque aerial views of the Banks Peninsula, Lyttleton Harbour, the Southern Alps (on a clear day), and the Canterbury Plains. Once at the top of Mount Cavendish there is more to do than we had realised when we began our ascent. Often called cable cars, the Christchurch gondola ride itself is only a part of the adventure. While the ever-changing views are dramatic in their own right, there is no question that the real magic happens at the top. Here, we enjoyed both indoor and outdoor 360-degree panoramic views, learned a bit of the region’s history, hiked, shopped, and finally relaxed with what is close to the best coffee in Christchurch.
It takes about 10 minutes to travel the distance of nearly a kilometre from the base to the Summit Station on the crater rim of Lyttleton Volcano on Mount Cavendish in the Port Hills. Through the 360° windows of the fully enclosed cable car, we enjoyed sweeping views of the landscape below. Some of the side windows open, allowing for better photos. There are 19 cars that each seat four people (although we saw one car with additional smaller children).
The view while looking up at the cable car in front of ours.
Looking back towards the gondola base while on our way up to the top.
It looks like a rock slip caused this damage on the road (seen as we neared the top).
Views from Mount Cavendish
The Summit Station offers both indoor and outdoor viewing platforms on multiple levels of the building. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words:
This side of the summit station overlooks the Heathcote Valley.
The short trail on this side leads to views overlooking the Avon Heathcote Estuary and New Brighton.
Low clouds over the hills.
Hiking on the Crater Rim
Just outside the door, we can truly enjoy nature. Our mistake was going up towards the end of the day, as we planned to take the cable car in both directions. We chose the time for better photos due to sun position (this part was successful). If I were to go again, I would head up earlier in the day to allow myself more time at the top. Always remember, the last Gondola heads up at 5 pm.
Before heading out on a longer hike, check the Port Hills track information provided by the city council. The main hiking trails are nearly all part of the full Crater Rim Trail and include:
Bridal Path (1 hour easy, but steep track from the Summit Station back to the Base)
Here are a few images from our abridged Crater Rim trail walk. Most look out towards the Banks Peninsula.
The start of our walk.
Overlooking Littleton Harbour and the Banks Peninsula.
A rare photo of me taken by Jeff (on his phone) as we began our hike. Can you see me on the trail? Quail Island is in the background.
Pioneer Women’s Memorial along the Mt. Cavendish Bluffs Track
Looking down at Crater Rim Walkway leading to Cavendish Bluff Lookout.
Everywhere we looked was beautiful.
More of Littleton Harbour and the Banks Peninsula.
Travel Through the Time Tunnel
This seven-minute automated ride takes you on a journey to explore the region’s natural and human history. The amusement park-style cars, while very gentle, seem to be a big thrill for children. The ride through the Time Tunnel is included with your gondola ticket.
Being on a continuously moving ride in a dark environment accounts for the poor quality of this image.
Relax at the Red Rock Cafe
Undoubtedly the best view in Christchurch, the Red Rock Cafe is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy a coffee, snack, or even a light meal.
The floor to ceiling windows inside the Red Rock Cafe makes it an ideal spot for lunch or a snack.
Two Additional Things to do at the Top
Souvenir shop at the top.
There is also a Tramway Restaurant that was closed when we were there.
Practical Information: Christchurch Gondola
The gondola opens daily at 10 am with the final cable car heading up at 5 pm, although it stays open later in parts of summer. Check their official website for details.
The base (entrance) is at 10 Bridle Path Rd in the Heathcote Valley, an easy 15-minute drive from central Christchurch. We stayed in town at the centrally located, luxurious, and newly renovated Crowne Plaza. While it is was an ideal location for many city activities and street art spotting, it was a 15-minute drive to the Gondola.
Did you enjoy the views from the Christchurch gondola? Would you hike the crater rim trail?
Disclaimer: We receive a small commission from a few of the links on this page. You pay the same, or sometimes less. Also, we worked with the local tourism board who arranged for our Christchurch Gondola experience to assist in the writing of this review. The opinions expressed here are strictly our own.
Christchurch Street Art is a colourful distraction from the vacant lots and surviving earthquake damaged buildings that seem to plague much of the downtown area. It’s as though New Zealand’s third largest city is a blank canvas to be painted. NZ street artists have flocked here to take on the challenge of revitalising and brightening this historic destination. We stayed in town and went on a self-guided city street art walk.
Here is what we consider to be the best of Christchurch street art. I have identified the artists where I knew them:
If you look closely, the words on the middle cow read “Love all, Trust a few, Do wrong to no one.”
Cookie Monster always makes me smile. Doesn’t he look great on the wall in the empty lot on Hereford Street?
I can’t find the name of this artwork by Melbourne artist Rone, commissioned in 2014.
Created by contemporary street artist Sofles.
This work is based on the painting: No! a 1971 oil on canvas by Tony Fomison.
This piece of colourful art by Leeya and Yikes is brightening up an empty lot.
A piece by Wongi “Freak” Wilson, an artist well known in Christchurch for graffiti and street art murals. This piece is a good example highlighting the transformation of the graffiti letterforms into the animal. (However, it is the little blue Smurf sitting on his tail that caught my attention.)
Inspired by Scribe and P Money’s Sunshine, this mural is by street artists Holly Ross and Olivia Laita and was created for the “From the Ground Up Street Art Festival” in 2013
Maori and Pacific mythology and narratives are the inspiration behind this mural by artist Berst, painted in 2015/16.
Like much of the street art, this happy fellow is on the back wall of a car park. I spotted him between two vehicles.
Another of Wongi’s murals.
Graffiti street art, the piece in black a commissioned work from 2017.
The Brockworth Street Art Gallery is a series of murals that alongside a footpath paralleling the railway line from Riccarton Road and goes to Brockworth Street.
Another mural from the Brockworth Street Art Gallery.
The question we pondered as we put together this collection of graffiti and street art: What is street art? Like many subjective questions, there are multiple answers.
Most definitions suggest the essential elements are that it is artwork created in a public space, and typically without official permission, although lately many cities have commissioned both local and famous street artists to create original street art.
However, Wikipedia adds, “Common forms and media include spray paint graffiti, stencil graffiti, wheatpasted poster art, sticker art, street installations, and sculpture.“
Last year, we went on a street art tour in Auckland during Art Week (New Zealand’s largest city). It included sculptures. With that in mind, I add the following street art images:
Chalice by Neil Dawson, unveiled and lit for the first time Sept 10, 2001, to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and Canterbury and the new millennium. It’s an icon of the city.
A self-portrait, of sorts, Quasi is the “giant” hand of the artist Ronnie van Hout. It stands on the roof of the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.
These three life-sized Corgi bronze statues were displayed to mark Queen Elizabeth’s golden jubilee. (She is the Queen of England, as well as New Zealand). One was stolen after the earthquake in February 2011, and ultimately remade. They are on High Street outside the eclectic coffee shop, C1 Espresso cafe.
What about this public art?
Do you consider this Glass Pavilion or the seemingly random giant set of living room (or library) furniture to be street art?
The Glass Pavilion 2017 by Auckland artist Gregor Kregar. Built from handmade bricks, recycled wood and repurposed neon. It pays homage to the fortitude and resilience of the Christchurch communities, highlights repurposing, and encourages creativity.
The Green Reading Room is a public artwork of giant furniture on Gloucester Street. It’s a Christchurch City Council initiative adjacent to the 2013 proposed new central library site.
Practical information on Christchurch, street art, and city tours:
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Christchurch City, which is walking distance to most of the artworks on this page. The spacious rooms are modern and the food outstanding.
Check out this interactive street map highlighting the art. If you have a smartphone or tablet, it’s an easy way to create your own self-guided tour. This is what we did.
If you prefer an organized tour, cycling seems to be the only option that specifically mentions street art while you tour the city’s rebuild. Viator offers both group cycling tours and private tours. Each is about 2 hours and are a perfect introduction to this city.
If you want to enjoy more of the city, the Christchurch sightseeing pass may be your best option. The pass is good for multiple days. It includes 17-stop hop-on-hop-off tour aboard the Christchurch Tram, punting on the Avon River (read our review here), an open-top caterpillar bus tour of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and a gondola ride.
The longer I live in Auckland, the more natural the New Zealand language feels. They call it English, but the Kiwi slang creates a variant that is often amusing. Four years ago I wrote about it and won an expat contest for my entry. I re-read it this morning and discovered it is still on target. New Zealand slang is light and fun while most of the Kiwi phrases are easy to remember. Today, I reshare my entry as a courtesy to those who will visit New Zealand, and for anyone who needs a laugh.
By the way, “Kiwi” is a slang term for a New Zealander.
Here is my award-winning entry, with a few photos added for colour:
Top 10 Funny New Zealand Language Blunders – Expats Beware!
Recently a mate suggested that I am not just an American expat, I am Kiwi now. Living in New Zealand has changed me. I drink piss and eat tea. I wear togs and jandals in the summer, woollies and jumpers in the winter. Now I ring with the phone and call in person. I holiday at a bach, and if I am awake early enough, I enjoy a sparrow-fart. Basically, life is good as gold, and I am happy as Larry.
Who is Larry? I have no idea, nor do I know why he is happy. I do know that my inability to speak the language started immediately upon disembarking in New Zealand. As an American expat, I made the all too common assumption that I would easily understand Kiwi English. Ten years later certain New Zealand words and colloquialisms continue to make me laugh.
In America I park my car in the parking lot, walk on the sidewalk and ride in an elevator; now I use a carpark, a footpath and a lift. In New Zealand, kids use a rubber to erase their mistakes, and a baby sleeps in a cot. If “I am shattered,” Kiwi’s hear tired. And should I be angry and announce, “I am pissed,” well, no one will pay attention to the ramblings of a drunk. In New Zealand piss is beer, pissed is drunk, a piss-up is a party with alcohol, piss around is to waste time, pissing down refers to a rainstorm, piss off implies go away and finally pissed off is angry – for an adult. Angry kids don’t get pissed off or have tantrums, but rather throw a wobbly.
I dropped two words from my vocabulary: fanny (trust me, don’t say it) and root (to have sex). On the bright side I can now say “blow me down” (expression of surprise), I know bugger all (not much) or rattle your dags (hurry up).
Kiwi speak includes many Maori phrases and sayings. In the language of the indigenous people, the letter combination “WH” makes the sound “F.” No problem for words like Whānau (extended family), however, I still laugh at the popular Whakarewarewa Forest and the New Zealand ski field called “Whakapapa” (fuk-a-papa).
Maori Warrior at the Waitangi Treaty House
Here’s an interesting tidbit; Whakapapa is on Mt. Ruapehu, an active volcano. Kiwis ski here anyway. Thousands of them every year without worry, which brings me to the next oddity:
“She’ll be right mate.”
In this case, it’s not the words themselves, but rather the cultural phenomena that goes with it. Sometimes I see it as a wonderfully relaxed way to go through life. Things have a way of working themselves out. “No worries. She’ll be right mate.” At other times I roll my eyes in wonder. Question someone who is skiing on a volcano, climbing an unstable tree, jumping on a trampoline on the driveway without safety nets, the answer will probably be, “No worries. She’ll be right mate.”
Then there is food, or more specifically, tea. If I invite someone for tea, they expect dinner. Morning tea is coffee. Afternoon tea is a snack. If I just want a cup of tea, it’s a cuppa. Although, sometimes morning tea is a snack and a cuppa is a coffee, usually served with a bickie, which I used to call a cookie. When I am asked to “bring a plate,” it is assumed there will be food on it to share, and if that food is to be “pudding,” well then any dessert will do. However, if it is the American style pudding they want, they would have asked me to bring a mousse.
Confused? If not completely baffled yet, simply try and order that cup of coffee. I had thought Starbucks was difficult before I became an expat. Now if I want black coffee, I can either get filter coffee (as in the type made with a Mr Coffee look-alike), an espresso, or a “long black” which is an espresso served with a side of boiling water. Personally, I prefer milk, so my options are macchiato, flat white, cappuccino, café latte, mochaccino, or a latte macchiato. And should I accidentally defer to my Americanisms and ask for cream rather than milk, I will get a strange look, followed by a dollop of whipped cream. Before adding it to my coffee, I add sugar, as New Zealand “cream” is simply whipped, no sugar added.
Good luck finding plain “sugar” on a typical grocery shelf. Just from New Zealand’s largest sugar company, Chelsea, I found: raw sugar, white sugar, caster sugar, icing sugar, soft brown sugar, coffee crystals, demerara sugar, organic sugar and dark cane sugar. What’s the difference? I used to wonder until I learned; caster sugar is closest to American sugar, icing sugar mirrors powdered sugar and brown sugar seems to translate across cultures.
Unwritten Food Rules
It’s not always complicated. Just don’t violate the unwritten food rules:
Sandwiches have a required layer of fat – mayonnaise, butter or margarine. Therefore, a peanut butter sandwich has butter, not jelly. (Jelly is American jello and often served with ice cream.)
Baked beans can be served cold and eaten with a fork straight from the tin, or if heated, they go on toast with a fried egg on top.
At a sausage sizzle, you will get a sausage on one slice of buttered white bread, folded over like a bun.
Hamburgers don’t come with pickles, but rather a slice of beetroot. (by including “beet” this becomes a family friendly use of the word root).
There is even some kind of sauce, cheese and beetroot on these tiny burgers.
And don’t even get me started on that vile spread Kiwis call Marmite.
Tips for Speaking in Kiwi Slang
Just in case you are still confused, here are my tips to avoid the top 10 common funny New Zealand language blunders:
When told to bring a plate to an event, be sure it has food on it to share.
If you are angry, remember to say you are “pissed off” (not just pissed).
Remember to cheer for your favourite team, not root for them.
If it’s pissing down, bring an umbrella.
Don’t go to the shops looking for woollies (like I did). When they tell you to put your woollies on, it refers to any warm layers.
If your mate tells you about someone pushing up the daisies, look sad; they are talking about someone who is dead and buried.
Don’t worry about what you will do with a box of fluffy ducks. It’s just a happy expression and completely bird-free.
That guy walking down the street wearing tiny shorts that are too tight – that’s a New Zealand fashion called stubbies.
A sparrow fart is just an early morning sunrise.
If you give a kiwi kid a choice of two foods, their polite answer will undoubtedly be “I don’t mind.” Just accept it and make your own choice.
No worries mate, you’ll be right now that it’s all sorted. Good on you for giving it a go!
Celebrate the spirit of giving and enjoy Christmas night lights at MOTAT. Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology has once again used thousands of fairy lights to create a magical wonderland that should be on everyone’s list of things to do before Christmas. To include everyone, the MOTAT entry fee is only $2 for the event, and all proceeds go to Auckland Women’s Refuge and Auckland City Mission. If you are in New Zealand, there is still time to join the fun as this year’s event continues nightly until Christmas Eve. Seeing the MOTAT Christmas lights is one of the best things to do in Auckland for kids this holiday season.
MOTAT Christmas Lights
The Christmas illumination is everywhere.
The giant Christmas tree and the cascade of light flowing over the Pumphouse can also be seen from the MOTAT tram (running during the event).
Visitors make paper snowflakes inside this giant snowball.
Each night a different group sings Christmas carols. Auckland has many talented singers.
Adults and children enjoy the open air cinema. Auckland generally has great weather for this in December.
I am not sure how they managed to get him, but I am fairly sure that this is not just an Auckland Santa, but rather the real Santa Claus. Photos with Santa are taken for free and available to download from Facebook.
Visitors can operate the jigger (handcar), travelling a small distance on the track. This is one of many things to do at MOTAT that isn’t available during regular daytime visits.
The MOTAT Cafe is open, along with several food carts around the venue, including the Lolly Man’s old-fashioned treats and an opportunity to decorate your own gingerbread man.
Light up hula-hoops (blue) and poi (red) make for fun pictures when captured with a tripod and long exposure. These were also available to use at MOTAT’s Matariki celebration.
Photos from Prior MOTAT Christmas Lights
It was a treat to listen to the Christmas carolling outside the lit up old church in the MOTAT village.
I think my favourite lights are this steam train. UPDATE: The steam train is not currently on display.
We opted not to wait in the queue for the horse carriage ride. UPDATE: This year there was no horse carriage ride. However, the jigger (see above photos) is a new addition and its queue moved much quicker.
There are little surprises everywhere, like this giant snowman built from Christmas lights.
The entire MOTAT village is decorated with Christmas lights.
The generous and charitable spirit of New Zealanders is one of the things I love about living here. It’s the people that make this country so wonderful. In saying that, it’s also the people that come out in mass to support the children and see the lights. The downside is the resulting queues for tram rides, Santa photos, jigger rides, and decorating gingerbread men. The mischievous elves that seemed to dance around the park kept children entertained.
In past years we arrived at the start time to a fairly long entry queue. This year we arrived at 9.20 pm, and there was almost no wait at all.
Practical Information on attending MOTAT Christmas Lights:
The Christmas Lights event runs from 8 pm to 11 pm until 24 December 2017.
Entry to this event is on Stadium Road. MOTAT parking is free for this event at the Western Springs field.
The remaining movies to be shown this year include Elf (Dec 21), Muppets Christmas Carol (Dec 22), White Christmas (Dec 23) and Polar Express (Dec 24) at the outdoor cinema. Auckland has other outdoor movie venues including many free movies this summer.