Friday, December 17, 2010

The Seabird Coast

Next stop Miranda. Along the Seabird Coast in New Zealand, Miranda is a wintering ground for Arctic birds. The Miranda Shorebird Centre, owned by the Miranda Naturalists’ Trust is a volunteer non-profit organization located about an hour south of Auckland near the mouth of the Firth of Thames. Each year, wading birds arrive down the East Asia Australia Flyway from their breeding grounds in eastern Siberia and Alaska. Not with a cocktail and a movie in a pressurized jet, either. And you thought you were the first one to come up with the idea of a winter in New Zealand?

The Things People Do with Scraps
of Wood Lying Under the House
Photo By: Sandy Austin

We’re still going to the Coromandel, just taking the long way around through Clevedon and Kaiaua, a small coastal town famous for its fish and chips.

Fish & Chips
Photo By: Sandy Austin

Dropping south from Auckland, there are a couple of ways to hook into the Pacific Coast Highway– the Seabird Coast is along the northern part of this highway. We’ll turn off the motorway just south of
Manukau City. I mentioned the Top 10 Holiday Park at Manukau City before. It’s a convenient place to stay if you’re RVing or traveling by auto and want to rent a clean, inexpensive room. This park is close to downtown Auckland, a mall, and Rainbow’s End Adventure Park. If you’re driving and don’t want to tangle with traffic in a strange city while new to driving on the wrong side of the road, city buses stop right outside the park. Remember to bring that KOA card for a 10% discount at any Top 10 Park.

View to the Coromandel Ranges from
The Seabird Sanctuary Information Centre
Photo By: Sandy Austin

The Miranda Shorebird Centre has three bunk rooms plus two self-contained flats. We’ve stayed overnight at the Centre in our movan. If you like birds and have time to linger longer, why not join the Miranda Banders and get out there in the mud? Actually, it’s done at high tide with a cannon-net. If your New Zealand trip is in the future, help out the birds by joining this group. The quarterly Miranda News which members receive is well worth the small fee. Or, help with repairs at the Centre then head up the road to the Miranda Holiday Park and soak in the mineral pool. You’ll find motels rooms, backpacker rooms and RV and tent sites. Take some time to soak in the largest hot springs in the southern hemisphere. If you soak and
shrivel long enough, you might see the moon rise behind the Coromandels, that range of mountains marching down the center of the Coromandel Peninsula– our next stop.

Most of the photos in this blog are by Kiwi photographers. Three in this post are by Sandy Austin. I’ve used several by Sandy in the past. If you’d like to see more of her work, click through on a link and spend a little time on a picture tour of New Zealand. Plan to spend more than a little time.  Sandy has 4,803 pictures posted.

Lyn Harris

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Hauraki Gulf Islands

Before we leave Auckland and head for the Coromandel, you’ll have one last chance to get out on the water and explore one or two islands in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf.  From the Ferry Berth at Quay and Hobson Streets in Auckland, you can look east to the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland has more boats per person than any city in the world. If you’ve watched America’s Cup sailing in New Zealand, those yachts were in the Hauraki Gulf. The Hauraki Gulf has 47 or 50 islands– depending on who’s counting. Many are reserves for day trips. Some offer snorkeling and diving sites. The inner islands are easy to reach and you can picnic, camp, or just poke around. The outer islands are mainly closed nature reserves for endangered bird species.

Little Barrier Island
From Shakespear Regional Park
Photo By: Kush Images

Great Barrier Island, 90 km northeast of Auckland is the largest island in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. This partly forested island on the edge of the park has a population of 1100 in settlements around the coast. Residents provide their own power with generators. On Great Barrier Island you’ll find walks on good tracks, rare birds, long white surf beaches, fishing, and diving– there are two wreck dives. Port Abercrombie, Port FitzRoy, and Whangaparapara are sheltered anchorages. If you want to stay a while, there are holiday lodges, motels, camp grounds and Department of Conservation (DOC) huts. Ferries depart for the island several times weekly. You can cruise the coastline or take a bus trip on a metal road from Port FitzRoy to Tryphena. You can also fly to Great Barrier Island.

Kayaks in the Gulf
Photo By: Schist Happens

Only 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, Waiheke, the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf has a population of 7000. Waiheke means cascading waters. There are waterfalls in the Whakanewha Regional Park near Rocky Bay. From the “Stony Batter” where a maze of tunnels and concrete gun emplacements were built for defense by the army during World War II, you have a view of the southern end of the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheka has 22 vineyards, swimming beaches, and restaurants. You’ll also find sea kayaking, golf, diving, a large sea cave on Gannet Rock, a museum and a Forest and Bird reserve at Onetangi. If you’re staying over, you’ll find a variety of accommodations from resorts to backpackers lodging.

Oyster Catcher
Photo By: Kush Images

Rangitoto, a circular island visible from most parts of the mainland, appeared around 700 years ago during a series of volcanic eruptions.Connected to Motutapu Island by a causeway, Rangitoto has many species of plants and trees including the largest pohutukawa forest in the world. There are no overnight accommodations on Rangitoto. Adjoining Motutapu is a farmed reserve in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park.

If you’re looking for more salt water or wildlife, turn right off SH1 at Silverdale about 30 km’s north of Auckland, then head out to Shakespear Regional Park at the end of Whangaparoa Peninsula. Tiritiri Matangi Island, off the tip of the peninsula, has the oldest lighthouse in the Gulf. A bird sanctuary with five walking tracks, the public can visit free. Ferry service runs from Gulf Harbour on the peninsula– the ferry also runs from Auckland. The island has steep cliffs and one sandy beach. Tiritiri Matangi means wind tossing about, so dress wisely.

Copper Mine Chimney
Photo By: Dunk the Funk

If you’re not in hurry, travel a little farther north and spend a day on Kawau Island– catch a small boat from Sandspit Wharf. The Maori lived on Kawau at one time. In the 1840’s a manganese mine was established. Later copper was discovered and the partial ruins of the old copper mine are still on the island.

In 1862 Sir George Grey, one of New Zealand’s first governors, bought the island and turned the mine manager’s home into a mansion He also imported many plants and animals– including five species of wallabies. The wallabies still roam the island damaging the native vegetation. Ten percent of the island, including the Mansion House, are owned by the Department of Conservation (DOC). There are many native birds including wekas, bellbirds and Kiwis. If you’d like to spend a quiet night, bachs, holiday flats and bed and breakfast accommodations are available. Most are located on the water. The majority of the island has no roads. Book ahead in the summer season as this is a popular tourist area.

Mansion House of Kawau
Photo By: Dunk the Funk

If you charter a sailboat in Auckland, you’ll probably visit the Kawau Island Yacht Club. Although not necessarily travel on the cheap, the cost of chartering drops if you share cost with others, do your own cooking, and either you or a friend has the skills to captain. The two best places to charter and cruise in New Zealand are the Hauraki Gulf and the smaller Bay of Islands in Northland. The Moorings has been in business many years and has a great reputation. I’ve chartered from them several times and always liked their service. Hauraki Gulf sailing is more open and challenging than the Bay of Islands. The Moorings doesn’t want you or their expensive yacht on a reef or at the bottom of the Gulf. They’ll check out your skills before turning you loose from their dock.

Yachts at Kawau Island
Photo By: Uweduesing

 There are many more islands north of Kawau Island and south off the Coromandel. Close to Auckland, they’re easy to visit if you have only a short time in New Zealand and want to dive, fish, sample a little Kiwi history, or just poke around on a lonely beach.

Lyn Harris

RVin NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sightseeing Around Auckland

The best part about traveling by car or RVing in New Zealand– you can eat when you’re hungry, rest when you’re tired, see what you want to see, and never have to worry about the tour bus pulling out while you’re in the bathroom. And by the way, it’s not a bathroom in New Zealand. You better check the Kiwi Dictionary on that one.
Winter Garden
Photo By: peter kurdulija

While you’re in Auckland, you’ll want to visit the Auckland Museum. In the Auckland Domain near Parnell, you’ll find the Winter Garden and the Museum, which was combined with a war memorial in 1929. The Auckland Museum has guided tours and a Maori Cultural Performance most days as well as special events. Through April 10, their special exhibit Wonderland: The Magic of the Rose, will tell you everything you wanted to know about this popular flower. If you like music, the NZTrio has a concert series in the museum’s auditorium. To find out what’s happening at the museum while you’re in Auckland, try the Auckland Museum’s Event”s Calendar.

Photo By: kiwi love usa

If you’re interested in Blues, Pop, Heavy Metal, or anything else that has a melody or makes a noise, the Concert & Gig Guide will help you find it. For loud noise and plenty of action, catch a New Zealand Warriors game. New Zealand’s rugby team has a few home games in the coming months.

Wade McKinnon
New Zealand Warriors
Photo By: paddy napper

A little more dignified than a rugby game, Auckland’s Cup Week is at Ellerslie March 6-13. Said to be New Zealand’s richest and biggest thorough bred racing event, this three day party has fancy horses and fancy ladies. Kiwis always like a party and their Birdcage Bash is big– and exclusive. To get in, you have to be at least 18 years old– New Zealand’s legal age to drink, and you have to dress snazzy. This event is known for its fashion and glamour. Don’t expect to show up in a pair of shorts and jandals.

The Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat) has a little of everything from trams to an aviation collection covering over 100 years of New Zealand transportation. On the Great North Road, next to Western Springs Park, Motat’s aviation collection is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. It includes the only Solvent Mark IV Flying Boat in the world and also one of the few remaining WW2 Avro Lancaster Bombers. Restored steam trains are also a popular part of Motat. For operating days, see Motat. A collection of operating tram cars covers 120 years of steam, cable, and electrical tram traction.
Number 248 runs from Motat’s Great South Road site past the zoo to Motat’s Motion Road site
Melbourne Tram at Motat
Photo By: AA654

If you enjoy speedway racing, or just want to get a little mud in your face, catch the Midget World Series or the Spring Car Classic at Western Springs Speedway. A circle track, six classes race here including midgets, springs and motorcycles. Most Saturday nights between November and March, you can find US and Kiwi drivers competing for the chance to tear up their car or tear up their body in the chase for the trophy. A natural amphitheater, the Western Springs Stadium holds 30,000 for sports events and 50,000 for large music concerts.
Crash at Western Springs
Photo By: westernferret

While I’m not a fan of organized tours, I like to take a tour of any new city just to get a feel for the city and figure out what’s out there that I might want to visit. The Auckland Explorer Bus, a hop on, hop off sightseeing bus tour runs all day and offers free hotel/motel pickup. Leaving the Ferry Building at the end of Queen Street, the Auckland Explorer Bus stops at fourteen Auckland attractions including: Kelly Tarlton’s, the Auckland Museum, Mt. Eden, Auckland Zoo, and Motat. Western Springs Speedway is on nearby Stadium Road.

Plan your New Zealand trip your way. If you travel by car or RV in New Zealand, spend time exploring those spots you’d like to visit. Sometimes the things you remember most are the unexpected surprises or unique people you meet in another country. Auckland has many unexpected surprises.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Auckland: Water, Water, Everywhere

If you’re RVing through New Zealand in a campervan, renting a car and staying in hotels, or just poking around Auckland, you’ll find water everywhere. Surrounded by water, Auckland, the City of Sails, has much to offer if you like boats, maritime history, or just plain sea life.

Sky Tower
Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Photo by: Beejayge

Near the Ferry Berth on Quay and Hobson Streets, the New Zealand Maritime Museum covers Kiwi maritime history from the Maori migration to modern day cup sailing. You can check out the boats, life-sized exhibits, or collection of models and artifacts on a guided tour or poke around on your own with an Audio Guide. If you'd like to get out on the water, the museum's Ted Ashby sails Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. The SS Puke and Breeze sail most weekends.
Auckland Waterfront
Photo by: Beejaygee

The waterfront itself is a good place to spend an afternoon. Ferries come and go as well as other interesting boats. My first trip to New Zealand in 1985, I wandered the docks and visited with one of the crew of the damaged Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, which was lashed to the dock. The Rainbow Warrior had been ripped by two bombs killing one crew member, Fernando Pereira. The French government had ordered the bombing. The Rainbow Warrior crew have since scattered around the world. Today, the Rainbow Warrior is a living reef off the Cavalli Islands in Northland.
Penguins at Kelly Tarlton's
Photo by: Beejayge

Probably the only place you'll find snow and ice in Auckland is Kelly Tarlton's Under Water World. South of Central Auckland on Tamaki Drive, you can time travel back to visit a life-size replica hut of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the South Pole explorer. Then, visit a penguin colony in an antarctic snow cat. In Underwater World, you can view the sea life while traveling through a clear tunnel on a moving walkway. If you want a closer view of the sharks, you can get nose to nose with one. A professional dive instructor will help you meet the sharks. You'll get a lot wetter than you would on a ride through the tunnel, so bring a towel.

Maybe you don’t want to rub noses with a fish, but you’d still like to get a little sand in your shorts and meet new friends. November to March each year, Auckland’s Stroke & Stride Series invites locals and visitors to enter one or all of eight swim/run events. Swim in Waitemata Harbour Bay then run along Auckland’s waterfront dripping salt water– and maybe win a prize.
Good Morning Auckland
Photo by: Beejayge

You’re never far from water in Auckland, so dig into New Zealand maritime history, take a boat trip, or at least take off your shoes and get your feet wet.
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All photos are by Bryan Goddard who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Bryan has more than 1,000 photos uploaded on flickr. Click back on his links and you’ll find a slideshow of  his many New Zealand photos. On BeeJayGe, his website, you can find more photos of his New Zealand travels and a link to his blog.

Lyn Harris

RVin NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kauri Country to Auckland

Leaving New Zealand’s kauri country and following Hwy12 south to Dargaville and Matakohe, we’re on our way back to Auckland. Both towns have museums with history of the Hokianga including early day use of kauri timber and kauri gum. The Dargaville Maritime Museum also has a large display of maritime relics. Hwy12 cuts into Hwy1– the route we took north from Auckland– at Brynderwyn. This time, we’ll cut around Kaipara Harbour and get back to Auckland by a less traveled route– a route Dave and I took north our first year when we got lost and figured sooner or later we’d end up where we wanted to go.

Ka Iwi Lakes
Photo by: beejayge

Before we get too far out of kauri country, we’ll stop by the Kai Iwi Lakes about 34 kms north of Dargaville. These three fresh water lakes with their white sandy beaches and sheltered bays are a good place to swim, fish or camp. Turn off Hwy12 at Omamar Road to these dune lakes filled by rainwater– they have no natural inlets or outlets. Although they’re close to the Tasman Sea, pines have been planted in some areas. You’ll find sheltered camp and picnic sites. Camp sites are at Promenade Point and Pine Beach. Every once in a while, the New Zealand Water Ski Championships are held here. The local ski club has a ski jump and slalom course on Lake Waikere. Only 5 small ski boats are allowed at a time. These are not large lakes. A gum digger’s hut once located on Lake Kai Iwi was moved to Dargaville Maritime Museum. If you want to explore around Kai Iwi Lakes, there are several walking tracks. You’ll find walking access to Ripiro Beach on the Tasman Sea. Vehicle access to the beach is at Omamari about 8 kms south.

Kaipara Harbour
Photo by: nicki-g

Ripiro Beach is New Zealand’s longest driveable beach, stretching 100 kms from Mauganui Bluff north of Kai Iwi Lakes to Pouto Point at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour. If you have the time and energy, rent a 4WD and explore the beach or drive your own vehicle to Pouto Point and take a tour of the old lighthouse which overlooks the entrance to the harbour and the sites of around 150 shipwrecks. We won’t be going that way. We’re staying on Hwy12 to Dargaville then swinging inland to Matakohe.

Woodturners Gallery
Photo by: kauri4u

At one time, Dargaville on the northern end of the Wairoa River was a busy kauri timber and gum trading port. The Wairoa was used to transport logs downstream to ship builders. Today, this small town surrounded by dairy farms is best known for the Dargaville Maritime Museum overlooking the town. In addition to information, photographs and artifacts from kauri logging and gum digging days, the museum has the largest pre-European Maori canoe exhibit in New Zealand, relics from several shipwrecks, and masts from the Rainbow Warrior. You’ll also find that gum digger’s hut moved from the shores of Lake Kai Iwi. About a half hour drive beyond Dargaville, the Kauri Museum in Matakohe has the largest collection of kauri gum in the world and antique kauri furniture, as well as information about the early pioneers who settled around Kaipara Harbour. If you want to dig deeper into the early kauri logging history, Kauri Country Safaris will pick you up at the museum for a guided eco-tour into the forest where you can learn to hitch up a team of bullocks– not oxen as used in early day logging in the Cascade Mountains, neutered bulls.

Kauri gum
Photo by: vidiot

A short distance from Matakohe, Hwy12 links into Hwy1. We’ll follow Hwy1 south to Wellsford then cut off on Hwy16 since we’ve covered things to see and do including a hike around Dome Forest on our way north. Hwy16 follows along the southern part of Kaipara Harbour through small towns, deer farms, vineyards, and orchards to Helensville. Only about an hour’s drive north of Auckland, expect more people, more traffic, more stress. Nearby Parakai has an Aquatic Park with thermal mineral springs and a campground with tent and caravan sites. If you’re tired of sand in your shorts and ready for a little city life pampering, Mineral Park Motel has private mineral pools. Or, if you want to spend the night in Auckland, stay at Shore Motels and Holiday Park on Northcote Road.

Deer Farm
Photo by: svanur sig

It only took two years, but I got you back to Auckland– not close enough to the airport if you have to catch an early morning flight and return a rental car or RV. You’re still on the north side of that Nippon Clipon. If you don’t want to fight early morning traffic, spend the night at Manukau City, find a motel in the low rent district where we started, or have a fling in a fancy downtown hotel. If you missed a few sights your first time in Auckland, stay at Manukau City and catch the bus or try a downtown hotel.

We’ve traveled the twin coasts of Northland and Far North from the Hibiscus Coast to the Kauri Coast. Next, we’ll be catching up on things to do around Auckland then heading for the Coromandel.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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