Feeling sad about leaving the Gold Coast beaches behind but excited to be seeing a new country, we arrived in Auckland airport and had the longest, slowest exit so far, it took around 2 hours to get out with most of that time queuing to get through customs.

We had a car hired for the two weeks we would be here and divided our time between a place in the Bay of Plenty and one in the Bay of Islands.

They were both booked through Air BnB and both were great houses we had to ourselves.

Bay of Plenty

We stayed in a cottage on a farm in Tauranga, that had a stream nearby with a small waterfall that you could hear from the cottage. It was really peaceful and we used it as a base to head to Rotorua and Opotiki.

Rotorua

In Rotorua we visited Hells Gate where we walked around their geothermal park and saw a mud volcano and hot pools that reached temperatures of 110 degrees celsius and a hot waterfall that was an inviting 40 degrees but unfortunately it was a look but don’t touch site.

After this we booked a private mud bath which wasn’t as gross as it sounds  it was a warm bath which had a container of soft, warm mud in it that we smeared on ourselves. We had fun using the mud as finger paints before we washed it all off under a warm shower and then headed to a sulphur pool.

We had two pool options, one was a little cooler than the other and both had mini waterfalls with a little ledge that was nice to sit on while the waterfall soothed my back. The pools were shallow so Ethan was able to roam independently while we relaxed.

Hells Gate was a little pricey considering there are free thermal pools dotted around New Zealand but it was nice to see the different things in the Geothermal park and to have the privacy we had in the mud baths. We also made use of their hire swimwear rather than get our own things dirty and smelly, washing sulphur out of swimwear is a chore!

Opotkiki

A friend of mine moved here with her husband and four year old son a few months ago, we thought it would be nice to visit them and I’m really glad we did. They have carved out a piece of paradise for themselves with a house overlooking a bay and a beautiful beach walking distance away. Ethan had a great time playing with their son and his toys, in fact we all enjoyed it so much, it was hard to leave.

Bay of Islands

We were excited about heading to the Bay of Islands as I’d booked a spacious house with a hot tub! The house didn’t disappoint, Ethan had a room with a bunk bed so was super excited, we had a utility room with a washing machine and dryer, and a full size kitchen with an oven! All luxuries for us lol

As an added bonus, the house had Netflix on two TVs so we were able to have plenty of down time and enjoy some family time relaxing and watching movies.

We had a few activities booked while we were here too:

Bay of Islands Skydive

I’ve wanted to do a skydive for the longest time and had booked one in Dubai in 2013 but found out I was pregnant so couldn’t do it. New Zealand offer dives from some of the highest altitudes so we booked to do the 16,000 feet tandem.

The skydive centre was small with a very friendly team, Lee and I were able to take turns to do our skydives while Ethan played and looked out for the parachutes.

The skydive itself was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced, floating above the clouds and getting a bird’s eye view of everything down below was incredible. I’m keen to head back to Dubai and do the skydive over the Palm as soon as possible.

Explore Discover the Bay boat tour

We were hoping to go whale watching on this trip so I had spent a lot of time researching and booked a tour with a privately owned boat before leaving London. Unfortunately they had to cancel the tour a couple of weeks beforehand, so I booked us onto a tour with Explore group to see different parts of the bay and a promise to see some dolphins.

The tour itself was a little long and boring for us, but it was fun being out on a boat and on our return back to the harbour we spotted a big pod of dolphins which came to the boat and swam around us for ages. It was great to see them up close in the open and made Ethan more inquisitive about them. We put some dolphin documentaries on Netflix that evening for him to learn more about them – we have a mini Attenborough fan, which suits us well!

Kawiti Glow worms cave

This was another trip I had booked before leaving London, but on the day of the trip, I realised I had actually booked us into some caves near the Bay of Plenty – 5 hours from our present location, ooops!! Thankfully they gave us a refund and I found somewhere 30 minutes away.

The caves were privately owned by a family and considered spiritual so we weren’t allowed to take photos inside which was a shame because it was magical, like having stars within reach.

Waitingi Treaty Grounds

We couldn’t leave New Zealand without seeing the Haka so we headed to the place that the Māori signed a treaty with Britain.

It was a great day out where we learned about Maori history, saw the biggest war canoe and watched some cultural performances.

These started with a Powhiri, a welcome ceremony where they ascertain the purpose of your visit. I volunteered Lee to be our Chief and he was able to take part in the ceremony, receiving a leaf symbolising peace, did a hongi (traditional greeting by touching noses) and we got front row seats to the performance, which ended with a Haka.

We’ve had a restful time in New Zealand, I’ve been able to catch up with writing my blogs and feel ready for a more active pace in Fiji.

We fly tomorrow and head straight of an island for a week followed by a week at the mainland.

Our return to home is looming closer and I have mixed feelings about it but feel excited to see friends and family and keen to explore the city we live in more.

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