Written by Red Mezz on 08 Jul, 2009
Though I realize Matamata and the home of the famous 'Hobbiton' Shire isn't in Auckland, and is in fact several hours drive away - it was the last little travel excursion I made in my year long stay in New Zealand, and in many ways…Read More
Though I realize Matamata and the home of the famous 'Hobbiton' Shire isn't in Auckland, and is in fact several hours drive away - it was the last little travel excursion I made in my year long stay in New Zealand, and in many ways was the perfect and fitting goodbye to the country. And even though it's not in Auckland itself - it was such a fitting and pleasant day trip out of the city that I thought it warranted being included here. Like many other travellers to New Zealand, one of the destinations first on my list, and the one making me feel the most childlike in my travels was the need to visit the set of Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings. Set in the hilly farm country of Matamata, the set is mostly been removed, though it was more the feel of the place and the idea of having a wander about that interested me anyway. It was something that was planned every time we were on the North Island - and yet somehow it never seemed to work in our favour. Some times it was the weather, sometimes it was a change in travel plans. One time we couldn't get a car rental. It always seemed to be just out of reach. The week we were finally leaving New Zealand I was determined not to miss it. We flew to Auckland a few days earlier than we had intended to allow for extra time, we had booked ourselves on the tour - and even booked the car three months ahead. We were all set. When the day came the weather was perfect. Cool and very sunny - the first sunny weather we had ever seen in Auckland, in fact. It finally all seemed to be going our way. The tour - before we came to New Zealand - had seemed pricey at $58 pp, but after realizing what the average price for events and tours was, it did sound a lot more reasonable. Even including the car rental to get there, petrol, and a night's stay at a local B&B. We spent most of the afternoon making our way down from Auckland at a leisurely pace - hoping to arrive in time for the last tour and our last touring experience in New Zealand. We arrived in the little town of Matamata just as the sun was beginning to lower, and the last tour was about to go out. We wandered around the little town with its odd and seemingly misplaced touristy signs about Hobbits. And suddenly - the whole thing seemed to have the wrong idea. Just about that time the bus pulled up, driven by a bedraggled looking driver in a somewhat ratty bus, and dozens and dozens of camera wielding tourists piled out. And even though I had known to expect this, I instantly felt my heart sink. I didn't want yet another New Zealand touristy, half-done trip. I wanted the magic of the Shire, the grandeur of Lord of the Rings...some hint of the wonder of it all and some feel of the soul of the story so many hold dear. We made our decision instantly to head back to Auckland that night and forget about the tour entirely. It may be great for some; it might even be a fantastic tour. But for us - it wasn't what we were after. Instead, we drove back to Auckland the back way, and went through the back hills of Shire country right at dusk. We stopped the car along the side of the road and watched the sun set on the surrounding hills, where Hobbits may well have been hiding around any corner. It was there we found a touch of the magic, and a little of the story did exist. All we were missing on that hillside was Gandalf's pipe. Close
Written by midtownmjd on 19 Dec, 2007
New Zealand was abuzz with stories of Matakana when I arrived. The wine-producing village an hour north of Auckland was the cover story in Air New Zealand’s in-flight magazine, and I kept hearing about the village’s initiatives to become the country’s first Cittaslow, or slow…Read More
New Zealand was abuzz with stories of Matakana when I arrived. The wine-producing village an hour north of Auckland was the cover story in Air New Zealand’s in-flight magazine, and I kept hearing about the village’s initiatives to become the country’s first Cittaslow, or slow town.By the time I was in a car heading over Auckland’s Harbour Bridge toward Matakana, I felt like I knew what to expect, but seeing, smelling, and tasting the town’s delicious yields—food and wine—was even more enjoyable than I’d expected. The coast’s vineyard-dotted hills hide a foodie haven (and heaven).Our first stop was the Matakana Farmers’ Market, open every Saturday morning and full of visiting Aucklanders. More importantly, it’s full of delicious food, with stalls selling local and organic garlic, blueberries, terrines and pâtés, jams and chutneys, rice-paper rolls, coffee, vinegar, roses, baked goods, chocolates, cheeses, mussel fritters, and more. Locally brewed and canned Leigh Sawmill Beer has a stand, as does the Matakana Bag Lady. While I wandered the perfectly designed grounds with my coffee, I enjoyed live music from a three-piece band in the center. Shopping here is completely guilt-free (save the chocolate)—not only is everything you’re buying grown or made locally, but the market has a zero-waste policy. And the food craftspeople behind the counters are uniformly delightful.After shopping the market, and the small flea market next door, we were ready for some sit-down food, so we headed to the outdoor restaurant Cosi at Morris and James (48 Tongue Farm Rd.). The setting is gorgeous but laid-back—exactly what I’d come to expect from New Zealand’s best eateries. We ordered food at the counter that was served at our table, and the owner’s son came over for a chat when he heard we were from the US. My NZ$13 fish burrito was delicious, as was my blueberry scone. An extra treat are the bathrooms—they’re part outdoors, part indoors, harmonious, and gorgeous. And for more shopping, the adjacent Morris and James Tileworks store sells beautiful, handmade pottery. Lest we go for more than 10 minutes without sampling Matakana’s culinary delights, we headed to Heron’s Flight Vineyard and Café for their NZ$10 wine-tasting menu. They explained that 2005 was possibly the best summer for growing wine grapes in 20 years, and the Sangiovese and Dolcetto we tasted were indeed delicious. They also served equally wonderful grape juice made from Sangiovese grapes. Heron, which has the distinction of being the only winery in New Zealand that grows purely Italian grapes, offers Matakana Wine 101 classes on weekends at 11am—we were too late to attend, but they sound like a lot of fun. They also serve dinner Thursday through Saturday and breakfast and lunch daily.If you’re in Auckland, go to Matakana...and stay in Matakana! I didn’t get to spend the night there, but it was hard to leave after just a day. The lodgings in the area, without exception, appear to be gorgeous. One in particular stood out, though: Takatu Lodge & Vineyard, renowned across New Zealand for its hospitality (and wine). The owners, Heather and John, worked with the environmentally-minded architect Steve McCracken and adhered to rules of feng shui for their rooms, and the result is spectacular. For example, outside lights are installed below knee-level because, they say, you’re in Matakana to see the stars. I was salivating over all four of their suites, and when I return to New Zealand’s Pacific-hugging wine country, I plan to spend part of my trip in one of Takatu’s giant, open-air bathtubs. It’s the only way Matakana can get any better.Close
Written by auskiwi on 27 Jul, 2006
Are you into the one of the latest sports out--kite boarding? Well, Auckland is a great place to pursue this pastime. There are plenty of bays and beaches, with varying types of water conditions to select from, so long as the wind conditions are right.…Read More
Are you into the one of the latest sports out--kite boarding? Well, Auckland is a great place to pursue this pastime. There are plenty of bays and beaches, with varying types of water conditions to select from, so long as the wind conditions are right. There are many small bays with flat, calm waters or slightly choppy waters with small white-water crests. Then there are surf beaches with varying sized waves. The choice is yours.Dale’s nephew, Colin, has given him a kite so he can bring it back to Australia to give the sport a go--and he is as keen as. While we were in Auckland, Dale joined Colin at one of the many northern suburbs bays on the Saturday before we flew out, so he could give him a few pointers. The day was pretty gusty, with the occasional drop of wind, and the bay waters were a little bit choppy with small white-water crests. It wasn’t a good day to be doing tricks and jumps, but good enough to show Dale the ropes.I didn’t go for the trip, but I have seen the photos and video Dale took, and although it was a coolish day, it appears that a good time was had by all.Close
Written by UK Flower Girl on 10 Jun, 2006
Devonport, one of Auckland’s oldest suburbs, was founded in 1840 by European Settlers. It sits on the North Shore on the end of a peninsula that juts out into the Waitemata Harbour. A regular ferry service runs from the CBD (Central Business District) of Auckland…Read More
Devonport, one of Auckland’s oldest suburbs, was founded in 1840 by European Settlers. It sits on the North Shore on the end of a peninsula that juts out into the Waitemata Harbour. A regular ferry service runs from the CBD (Central Business District) of Auckland to Devonport taking only about 15 minutes. A Naval Station is located here in Devonport and is one of the oldest tenants.This little town is a wonderful place to just wander. Grand houses, a tree-lined waterfront, abundant restaurants, antique shops and book stores will fill your day before you know it. With plenty of shopping and green space to balance it out, Devonport is a must-see part of a visit to Auckland.Our day actually started out in Dunedin and after a flight back to Auckland we picked up our rental car at Auckland’s Airport and decided to drive straight out to Devonport. It was our last day in New Zealand and it was a bright sunny day, Devonport seemed like a great end to our holiday.There were plenty of spaces available along the busy streets. We found a space and parked for a couple of hours while we had a look around and grabbed lunch.Lunch was a place called Manuka. It was recommended to me by a friend. Although the food was excellent, I have never had such horrible service anywhere. The waitresses couldn’t manage a smile or any friendly pleasantries. When one waitress brought new cutlery to the table between courses she didn’t even speak to us or make eye contact. We sat outside at the awning-covered tables like most other patrons. They weren’t all that comfortable and you had to watch out for the little nuisance sparrows flying around and landing on the chairs and by your feet and you also had to take notice of the large sea birds flying above your heads…I think that is why they have the awning, just don’t sit too close to the edge. I had coconut crusted prawns that were out of this world, but the service was a real downer. I would recommend the restaurant for the food, but be forewarned that we had incredibly poor service. For the price you pay for your meal, you would expect much better than we got.After lunch we wandered up Victoria Road to a used book shop called "Hard to Find (But Worth the Effort)" where we spent a considerable amount of time just browsing through thousands of book on every available topic. We even ended up buying a few books to take home with us. Visit them on www.hardtofind.co.nz.Just across the road from Manuka is Jackson’s Muzeum, you can’t miss it, British and New Zealand telephone boxes sit atop and in front of this large white building. This has become an institution in Devonport. Not so much a museum as a repository of everything and anything collectible accumulated by Bryan Jackson. The museum has fought with the council and it has been open and closed and open again. Whilst we were there it appeared to be open, although we didn’t plan on going in. It also appeared to be for sale. There were large signs describing items within the museum and how much they are worth on their own, but that all of these items were to be sold as part of this collection as they really needed to be kept together.Whilst in Devonport you have to take the steep walk up Mount Victoria to get the best views of Auckland. This hill was once the site of a Maori pa and fortified village.Stop at the tourist office and pick up your copy of "The Old Devonport Walk" to guide you through the city with a map and descriptions of buildings, churches, streets, museums and other things along the way. The Tourist office is located at 3 Victoria Road. Close
Written by nmagann on 16 Oct, 2000
Two hikes at parks costing $5 and $7 respectively were Waitopo and Waimunga. I spent a little over an hour at each place. The geothermal parks were fascinating with colors of purple, green, orange and more. Signs indicated the mineral each color…Read More
Two hikes at parks costing $5 and $7 respectively were Waitopo and Waimunga. I spent a little over an hour at each place. The geothermal parks were fascinating with colors of purple, green, orange and more. Signs indicated the mineral each color was. Some, like devils hole had no water but instead was a completely yellow tunnel with steam venting.Champagne pool, on the other hand, was deep green in the center and orange near the edges.
There were boiling mud pools and large steam vents. One particulary large one shot straight up in air quite high on nearly and hourly basis.
The city of Rotura has steam coming up from the drains in the gutters and a large park in the middle of town with huge rocks, a pool and steam coming up from lots of nooks and crannies.Close
Written by stomps on 05 Apr, 2006
Since we only had a limited time in New Zealand before moving on to Australia for our study abroad orientation, we had pre-booked all accommodation, major transportation and activities before making it to the country. This was good in that we knew exactly what was…Read More
Since we only had a limited time in New Zealand before moving on to Australia for our study abroad orientation, we had pre-booked all accommodation, major transportation and activities before making it to the country. This was good in that we knew exactly what was going to happen, and when we were going to make it to where—or so we thought.Turns out, when we got to the Auckland airport, our flight to Wellington couldn't take off because the city was fogged out. Apparently this happens once or twice a month, so watch out—it's because the runway is only long enough for a 747 to land, and absolutely no longer—so if you overshoot the runway, you end up floating in the bay.Unfortunately, at least a day's worth of frustrated travellers were already at the Auckland airport, and we couldn't get a flight into Welly before our ferry was supposed to leave at 2:30pm the next afternoon. We looked up train and bus schedules, but all of those were full of angry people for at least the next day as well. As we were all just under 21, we couldn't find any place that would rent us a car.When we were just about to give up the rest of our travel plans, we met a nice guy, whose girlfriend's mother just happened to be in Auckland and had a rental car. My friend begged him to let us go with him, and somehow the three of us managed to squeeze in, along with our backpacks, his 3 months of luggage from a summer trip, his kiteboard, and him and his girlfriend's mother into a budget hatchback car. It was rather amusing when, 20 minutes into the ride, we offered to introduce ourselves and the mother said, "You don't KNOW these people?!"It was a great experience though, and one that I wouldn't have had happen any other way—rather than skipping the entire north island on our way to Wellington, Karen tried to show us the main sights, including thermal pockets, Huka Falls (near Taupo), the view across Taupo itself (although it was too foggy to see anything), and she showed us the wonder that is L&P (a drink that is "world famous in New Zealand") and pineapple lumps (chocolate covered pineapple flavored goo). Not only that, but we had a real New Zealand dinner of fish & chips & pineapple fritters. Although it was a bit of a squish in the car, it was worth the 8 hours and definitely inspired me to make my next trip to New Zealand to further explore the North Island!Close
Written by Kiwi RFC on 02 Nov, 2004
I arrived in Auckland on February 14, 2003. It was 10:30pm, and I was so tired from the flight over that all I wanted to do was get a hotel. I didn’t book one ahead of time because I wasn't suppose to be in Auckland…Read More
I arrived in Auckland on February 14, 2003. It was 10:30pm, and I was so tired from the flight over that all I wanted to do was get a hotel. I didn’t book one ahead of time because I wasn't suppose to be in Auckland for that long. It was very easy to find a hotel. There is a place where they have a huge board with hotels all over it and phones to call them. I was so surprised to find great deal after great deal. I ended up going with a hotel for NZ$50 a night. They had a shuttle service that would come and pick me up at the airport. Most of the hotels on the board all have shuttle services.
I went to the hotel and checked into my room. The hotel I was at had a pool and hot tub. I had a single room with a queen-size bed. It was very spacious. The bathroom had a stand-up shower and a bath tub.
In the morning I went to the front desk to see what was going on. When I arrived, the clerk took me into the small restaurant/bar they had in the lobby. To my surprise, they gave me a free breakfast because I was an international traveler.
After breakfast I took the shuttle back to the airport and grabbed a bus downtown. I walked around the downtown area for the afternoon and went in a few shops. They have a lot of traditional New Zealand/Maori shops everywhere.
Well, when I was downtown, I went to a bar called The Float. They film the TV show "The Hyundai Sports Café" there. It is a show that is host by a group of people that were formerly involved in sports in New Zealand. Mark Ellis is one. They were selling tickets for the taping the show for the next night, so I had to stay. To my disappointment, all the tickets were sold out for the show, so I was telling my waitress how bad I wanted to see the show, and that I probably wouldn't be able to see it again being from Canada. She went and talked to the owner, and he gave me a VIP ticket. I couldn't believe it.
I headed back to the hotel around 6pm and spent the night there watching TV. The next day I went and got another free breakfast, headed back downtown for a bit more shopping, went back to the hotel, dropped of the stuff I had bought, and then headed for The Float to see the show.
The show was great. While I was there, I met an English man who was on his way to Levin to play rugby. It was kind of funny because that was what I was there to do as well. We spent the night out in Auckland. The people there were so friendly. The next day I met the Englishman at the bus station, and we headed down to Levin.
All in all, Auckland was a great time. It is a place I would like to spent more time in
Written by Happy Cappy on 22 Mar, 2004
The little town of Russell is often mistaken for an island, but in reality it is positioned on the tip of a peninsula connected to the mainland. It is much easier and quicker to access Russell by Ferry from either Paihia or Opua. From Paihia…Read More
The little town of Russell is often mistaken for an island, but in reality it is positioned on the tip of a peninsula connected to the mainland. It is much easier and quicker to access Russell by Ferry from either Paihia or Opua. From Paihia you can catch a blue, red or white ferry that ply the bay every few minutes; they cost $5-8 one way per person. Most evenings, Paihians hop on a ferry to dine at one of the restaurants along the Russell foreshore.
Alternatively you can take your car across by catching the vehicular ferry from Opua (10 minutes south of Paihia). The ferry runs every 15 minutes and costs $18 return for the car, driver and one passenger. The ferry runs every 15 minutes until 9:30pm, and 10:30pm on weekends.
It is very easy to drive around Russell and explore the pretty bays. The township itself is quaint and easy to walk around. There is a grocery store, stationers, museum, fabulous restaurants and lots of heritage buildings of interest. Russell is a nice place to while away a sunny afternoon – and if it’s a bit windy you can find a nice sheltered little cove for a refreshing swim.
Written by Janeight on 16 Oct, 2002
This entry isn't so much a travel diary, but more of a guide on getting started in Auckland, as it occured to me that some people reading this may be thinking of doing the same as me - using Auckland as a base to travel…Read More
This entry isn't so much a travel diary, but more of a guide on getting started in Auckland, as it occured to me that some people reading this may be thinking of doing the same as me - using Auckland as a base to travel from. So, here's some of the things I found out about getting settled in Auckland.
First off, jobs. I know that on a Working Holiday Visa, you don't really want to think of work, but if you're like me, you'll need finances before seeing New Zealand. So, grab yourself a phone book, and start by introducing yourself to as many agencies as possible. Agencies are your best bet for work, as a lot of firms are reluctant in taking on people on visas, even if you say you'll be here for a year. If you want to try for a one year contract, The Herald comes out daily, and has a big employment section, but the best days for jobs are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. When working, you also need an IRD number. You can download the forms from the Inland Revenue website here, fill them in, and fax them off (mark them "urgent" and they get through quicker!). You can work without an IRD number, but then you go onto emergency tax code (bad move!). If you do use an emergency code, you can try claiming back any excess you have paid before you leave.
Accomodation - there are loads of hostels to choose from, which are the cheapest option, and, while you're getting yourself sorted, it's often worth asking around for jobs at the hostels - you won't get cold, hard cash, but a lot of hostels do offer free accomodation in exchange for work, such as cleaning, reception, kitchen work, etc. So, if money's tight, at least you don't have to worry about paying rent for a while.
As far as permanent accomodation goes, it is often tough finding somewhere in Auckland. There are plenty of flat-shares and accomodations out there, but also loads of people looking. Again, The Herald has property sections everyday, although Saturday is the really big day for it - be prepared to get up early, though, as a lot of property goes straight away (sometimes even by 10am!).
Any equipment you need, household, camping, or other, can be found quite easily if you buy Trade and Exchange, which comes out on Thursdays and Saturdays (Thursdays are the best), or you could try Cash Convertors - there are a few stores, all listed in the phone book. Both places are also good for getting rid of stuff when it's time to go home.
If you need transportation, there's a couple of options - backpackers often sell their cars through notices in hostels, look out for those. Or, the Trade and Exchange has a motor section, but my preferred way was at a car fair - there's one at Ellerslie Racecourse every Sunday, and it has an AA van there who will do free checks on vehicles before you buy them. You don't legally require insurance for your vehicle here, although it is advised to as you are liable for any damages you cause - shop around, and take proof of no-claims with you to get the best deals.
Anyway, then, with all of that done, you are free to start a new life, and have a complete adventure - enjoy!!
Written by Uncle Travelling Matt on 17 May, 2003
In the many months I stayed in Auckland, I stayed in several hostels, most of which were pretty dire. A couple, however, were great, so don’t think that if you go to Auckland you'll end up living in the gutter!
Rather than use a separate…Read More
In the many months I stayed in Auckland, I stayed in several hostels, most of which were pretty dire. A couple, however, were great, so don’t think that if you go to Auckland you'll end up living in the gutter!
Rather than use a separate 'Accommodation Recommendation' for each hostel, it is probably more prudent to list them all together here. I shall start with the first one I stayed at and finish with the last:
Central City Backpackers
26 Lorne Street, Auckland Central,
Ph: (09) 358 5685
Slap bang in the centre of the city, just off Queen Street, this hostel is perfect for those wanting a central stay. It is reasonably priced - dorms start at $18 per night - and the reception is open 24 hours a day. The hostel is broken into 3 levels, each a mini-hostel in itself, with a television and lounge room on each floor. There are also kitchens located on levels two and three, and a small dining area attached to each. The dorm rooms are quite small, most of them housing only 4 people. However the way the hostel is split into levels makes it very impersonal and quite a lonely place. Add in the fact that the upper levels are quite noisy at night, due to the activity coming in from Queen Street, and the fact that all the levels are freezing - there wasn't a heater to be seen anywhere when I stayed there! - and the appeal of the hostel fades. Staff are reasonably helpful and reasonably friendly, however at times it feels like they just can't be bothered.
Auckland International YHA
5 Turner Street, Auckland Central
Ph: (09) 302 8200
Large, clean, modern, well-equipped, well stocked and - like all YHA's - extremely expensive and completely sterile. If you want a clean, comfortable stay then this is the place for you. But for me it was just a little too clean and neat, like living in an army barracks. Everything was in its place, everything was clean, and everything was spotless. And because of this, it was an uncomfortable place to stay in. The lounge area felt more like a doctor's waiting room than a communal area, the kitchen felt more like an art gallery, and the bedrooms felt like the bunkhouse for the RAF. Although there is an excellent area downstairs giving information on work, this is not the place to be if you want to meet people and, at $24 per night with a YHA card, the dorms are extremely expensive. Good for the short term, but if you want a 'hostel feel', go elsewhere.
Queen Street Backpackers
4 Fort Street, Auckland Central
Ph: (09) 373 3471
Shocking. Quite simply one of the worst hostels I have ever stayed in. The rooms were dirty, the kitchens were filthy and the whole place was crawling with bugs. On my first night there I tried to make a pot of soup and spent the entire time stirring the contents of the pot with a spoon in one hand, and swiping away the cockroaches crawling over the top of the hob - and up the side of the pot - with a cloth in my other hand. The reception was dark and cold, and the laundry left rust stains on my clothes. If I hadn't paid for several nights in advance (at $18 per night for a dorm), I would have walked out altogether after only a few hours. Dreadful.
60 St George's Bay Road, Parnell
Ph: (09) 373 4546
Lantana Lodge is something of an enigma. It is situated in a really pretty suburb of Auckland, is well serviced by the bus routes, and is small enough to be really personal and extremely comfortable. Yet it isn't, and the reason why it isn't is entirely due to the owners - it is run by a mad old witch and her lab-assistant husband. Lantana Lodge could be great, if it weren't for them! There are 2 dorm rooms, each housing 7 people, 5 double/ twin rooms, one family room housing 5, and one triple room, housing 3. Dorm prices are normally $20 per night - standard for a hostel in Parnell. The kitchen is always spotlessly clean, there is a comfortable TV room with a radio, and the porch area has awnings to protect you from the wind and rain. So what do the owners do to make it so bad? They're just insane, stubborn, unfriendly and evil! They treat every guest like a piece of sh*t, they don’t give a damn about you once you've handed over your money, the hostel is freezing all the time because they only allow the heaters to be turned on for 3 hours a night (and actually padlock them shut for the rest of the day!), the bedclothes are dirty and are rarely washed, the electric wiring is unsafe and haphazard, and you're not allowed to use the public telephone for more than 5 mins at a time without getting a tap on the shoulder and told to hang up. In every sense of the word, I hated my stay there. If you take one piece of advice from me, let it be this - never, ever stay at Lantana Lodge.
22 View Road, Mt Eden
Ph: (09) 623 4267
This place was great. Really comfortable, friendly, well situated, well thought out and fun to live at. With enough rooms to suit any need - from a single bed in a dorm to an entire 8 person mini-house separate from the hostel proper - this is the place to stay. Situated in Mt Eden, in clear view of the volcanic summit, the hostel is directly opposite the bus stop servicing the 10 minute ride to the city. Inside, the communal area is large and comfortable, with a huge TV and a great selection of videos. The kitchen is a little small, but it is clean. The staff are always helpful and friendly, and there is a swimming pool out the back. Dorms start at $18 per night, and are well worth the money - particularly the ones upstairs, which come with a door onto a large, sun-lit balcony. Well worth staying outside the city for.