Monday, February 24, 2020

HIKING AND BIKING IN NEW ZEALAND, Part 2: Guest Post by Cathy Mayone

New Zealand, Waiheke Island, view from Man O'War Vineyards
Over the Christmas holidays, my niece and her husband, Cathy and Mike Mayone, spent two weeks in New Zealand, driving, biking and hiking on both the North and South Island, enjoying the southern hemisphere summer and New Zealand's unique landscape. I thank Cathy for sharing their trip with The Intrepid Tourist. You can read more about their biking experiences at her blog


Part 2:  New Zealand’s North Island Beaches and Lakes

Auckland’s Waiheke’s Island

We opted to spend our only Auckland full day taking a 40-minute ferry over to Waiheke Island, renting a car, and touring the Island’s wineries.  As scary as the narrow, twisty roads were for my jet-lagged husband to navigate and test his left-side driving skills, it felt safer than renting an e-bike or moped, more pleasant than being stuffed into a wine touring van, and more flexible than the public bus.  Plus, we would be driving the next two weeks so it was good practice!

After a quick 20-minute walk through the small town of Oneroa, we arrived just in time for the morning start at Kennedy Point Winery, a small, organic winery with its beautiful ocean views and enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc, Red Trumpet Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend, and olive oils.  Next stop was the famous Mudbricks Restaurant and Vineyard where I had made lunch reservations.  Our vegetarian/seafood lunch did not disappoint on this perfect weather day, sitting on the patio overlooking the distant water.

We decided to venture to the other side of the Island for our afternoon.  The paved roads turned to gravel and by the time we arrived to Man O’ War Vineyards, we were ready for an afternoon nap so we opted to sit on the porch with a view of the beautiful blue bay and consume coffee rather than wine.  With the jet lag catching up, we headed back to the ferry so we could rest up before our evening dinner with our new Kiwi friends.
Ohope beach
North Island East Coast Beaches

We knew we wanted some beach time early in the trip, and the North Island beaches are much warmer than the South Island beaches, although still not “warm” in early summer just like our U.S. northern East Coast beaches.  This was the first trip planning dilemma – do we go North of Auckland, spend time in the Coromandel Peninsula east of Auckland, or drive south down along the East coast?  We opted for the latter, figuring we could see multiple spots along the way and then go inland to the heart of Maori culture and lakes.
Mount Maunganui
Our Kiwi friends had recommended we stop in Mount Maunganui for lunch and hike up “the Mount.” For a popular beach town, we were surprised at how expansive and unpopulated the beach was.  The hike up the Mount provided spectacular views at every turn and a nice one hour hike to work off lunch.
White Island, view from Moto Dunes
We continued on to Ohope, a quiet beach town where we spent the next three nights, including Christmas day.  Ohope neighbors the larger town of Whakatāne, which had tragically made global news two weeks before when the White Island volcano erupted, at last count killing 20 and injuring 27 guides and tourists.  The day before the eruption, I had been researching what to do while in Ohope, and I had prioritized other activities, primarily a bike ride on the Motu Dunes Trail, which is one of New Zealand’s 22 “great rides” established by New Zealand’s Cycle Trail organization, an idea that was born in 2009 at a government ‘jobs summit’.  We spent a half day riding the trails that follow the coastline and then enjoyed lunch back in the town of Opotiki where we had rented the bicycles.

North Island Lakes

I had debated if we should stay in popular Rotorua or Taupo, and decided on Taupo after finding an AirBandB with stunning lake views and determining we could stop in Rotorua on our way to Taupo.  There are a number of Maori cultural attractions in Rotorua.  I would have liked to visit the Rotorua Museum, but it is currently closed for earthquake renovations.  The Maori dinner shows sounded like a Hawaiian luau, which was fun to experience once, but we felt like “we had been there, done that” so we passed.  After lunch, we did stop in the Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest ten minutes from town.  This is well worth a walk in the woods, with multiple walking and hiking trails and a fun-looking treetop walk, which we considered, but it was overrun with kids.  We decided to take the free admission low road, which provided a beautiful walk in the woods amongst the giant redwoods and ferns.
Our Air BandB at Taupo
Once we arrived in Taupo, I was glad to call this our home for two nights.  Lake Taupo, the size of Singapore, is New Zealand’s largest lake and the town is livelier than Rotorua, but not too much.  Just like the beaches, none of the lakes are overly populated with people and boats.  Our AirBandB lived up to its pictures and reviews and really was a slice of heaven, with large windows, patio and deck providing 180 degree views of the blue water and distant mountains.
Huka Falls
We spent a day biking the trail that goes part way around the lake, and then after lunch, headed up on mountain bike trails along the river to Huka Falls.  The next morning, we arose early so we could hike the 2.8 km up Mount Tauhara before our domestic flight.  Comparing it to Mount Maunganui, we figured we could do it in 90 minutes round trip.  But the terrain proved to be much more challenging so it took 2h 15min and ate up our airport arrival “contingency time”.  We arrived at the airport in a hurry only to discover an extremely tiny airport in which we didn’t even have to go through security!  So, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and then boarded our Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, where we changed planes to Queenstown for our next week on the South Island.
Mount Tauhara hike
Part 3: New Zealand's South Island to post next week.

For more information about New Zealand’s amazing Great Rides cycling initiative and an in depth look at all of our New Zealand biking adventures, visit my “Great Riding” articles on my Swim Bike Run Survive blog.

Our North Island accommodations included:

Taupo – 2 nights in a bach (cottage) with stunning lake views

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