When my daughter, Prue, received an invitation last year to a friend’s wedding in Auckland in July 2011, her 12 year old daughter, Meg, and I suggested that we should go with her and plan a holiday around it. We had heard from so many people how beautiful NZ was, how easy it was to travel around and how friendly the locals were. The value of the Australian dollar was an added bonus.
We decided to focus on the North Island since we had only 2 weeks break and wanted to stay at least 2 nights in each destination to allow time for worthwhile sightseeing. I contacted Wyndham Travel Club with our proposed itinerary and the rest was easy. Our consultant, Sophie, was helpful, efficient and understanding. She arranged flights, accommodation and car hire at a very reasonable cost. We headed off in early July to Wellington, then on to Taupo, Rotorua, Auckland and finally to the Bay of Islands where we stayed in Paihia at the very beautiful Edgewater Palms, a Wyndham associate resort, for 3 nights. The 2 bedroom apartment we booked was lovely; our hosts, Nicki and Rex friendly and helpful in providing advice on what to do, where to shop and where to eat.
On their advice, we took two tours to explore this stunning part of NZ – the first a Dolphin Cruise out to the ‘Hole in the Rock’, a significant location for Maori and European history. Despite the best attempts of the crew to locate them, the dolphins were MIA that day but, as we searched, we saw many of the 144 islands in the Bay and disembarked at Urupukapuka Island, for a tour with our Maori guide, John. Thank goodness he used his Pakeha name because his Maori one is about 3 pages long and impossible to remember. We learnt about the Maori history of that area and some more of the Maori culture. We then headed on the cruise to pretty Russell where we wandered through the now charming and quiet village that used to be known as the ‘hellhole of the Pacific’ in its whaling days. The next day we headed off to Cape Reinga which is one of the most northerly points in NZ and where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. Again, it was a destination that held significance for both Maori and European cultures. It was a memorable experience although a wet and windy day – we saw a magnificent Kauri forest, drove through quicksand, went sand boarding down steep sand dunes, walked in very blustery winds to the Lighthouse at Cape Reinga, drove along 90 Mile Beach, saw lots of lovely green rolling hills (and sheep).
We can personally confirm that the North Island of NZ is beautiful, is easy to get around by car and the locals are incredibly friendly. We also highly recommend using the Wyndham Travel Club to arrange these kind of trips and we especially recommend the Bay of Islands as a destination and the Edgewater Palms as a base for exploring the most northerly parts of NZ.