Musket Holes in New Zealand’s Oldest Church

Musket holes in the side of Christ Church, New Zealand's Oldest Church located in Russell

The laid-back tourist town of Russell is home to New Zealand’s oldest church, and quite a bit of sordid history. Russell, called Kororareka in the 1830’s, was nicknamed the Hell Hole of the Pacific as it was a wild town populated by drunken men and loose women. The missionaries intending to bring religion to this […]

Which is the Best Season for North Island Waterfalls?

Whangarei Falls during the Winter in Whangarei New Zealand

There are four stunning North Island waterfalls that we recently took our AFS students to see. It was winter in New Zealand, but we got lucky and had mostly sunny days.  Our prior visit up north was in the summer before our youngest daughter left on her AFS exchange to Argentina. The winter rains made quite […]

KeriKeri Mission Station: Home of New Zealand’s Oldest Buildings

Stone Store in Kerikeri. New Zealand's oldest surviving stone building

Established in 1819, the Kerikeri Mission Station is home to two of New Zealand’s oldest buildings and offers an interesting bit of the country’s history. It was built 22 years before the Treaty of Waitangi established the relationship between Britain and the indigenous Māori people. Europeans were arriving in increasing numbers, and there was tribal fighting […]

Waka Taua (War Canoes) at Waitangi Treaty Grounds in New Zealand

Maori waka taua at Waitangi Treaty Grounds in New Zealand

Walking towards the waka house, we listened as our guide brilliantly narrated New Zealand’s history.  While many say it was discovered by Dutchman Abel Tasman in 1642, the reality is that the Maori people had arrived 650 years earlier. With only 1000 years of history, New Zealand is one of the world’s youngest nations. Our guide told a version of the story I […]

Why Kiwis and Tourists Should Visit Waitangi Treaty Grounds

A hongi shared at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in New Zealand.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds is probably the most historic and significant site in New Zealand. Only three hours north of Auckland, it should be a required visit for anyone who wants to understand this great nation. Once you arrive, take the tour and experience the cultural show. This was my third visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds since we […]

Vibrant Bay of Islands Sunset Fades to Misty New Zealand Morning

Bay of Islands sunset as seen from Russell New Zealand

The deep golden colors of the Bay of Islands sunset are nearly warm enough to allow us forget it is winter in New Zealand. As we waited for the ferry from Russell, New Zealand’s first permanent European settlement and the country’s first colonial capital, we looked out across the water to the west. This is the Bay of Islands sunset that captivated […]

Waterfall – #AtoZ Postcards of New Zealand

Waterfall in KeriKeri, New Zealand

W is for waterfall . . .  or wow. Practical Information:  Haruru Falls is a block waterfall located on the Waitangi River. Haruru means “big noise” and you know it is named correctly as you hear it long before you see it. According to Māori legend, a taniwha (water monster) lives in the lagoon below this waterfall. […]

Ninety Mile Beach – #AtoZ Postcards of New Zealand

Sunset on 90 mile beach in New Zealand

N is for Ninety Mile Beach . . .  or nice sunset. Practical Information:  Possibly the most famous beach in the country, Ninety Mile Beach is actually only about 60 miles long. Ninety Mile Beach is a road and therefore all road rules apply. (And yes, people do frequently get stuck if they don’t watch the […]

Inlet – #AtoZ Postcards of New Zealand

An inlet along the northern coast of New Zealand

I is for inlet. Practical Information:  There is over 14,000km of coastline in New Zealand. This inlet is one of 1000’s of beautiful and peaceful spots. I captured this shot through an open window at Mangonui Fish Shop in Northland, a popular spots for fish and chips on the North Coast. The shot was taken looking out towards Doubtless […]

Dunes – #AtoZ Postcards of New Zealand

Giant Sand Dunes at Te Paki, Northland, New Zealand

D is for dunes . . .  or daredevil. Practical Information:  Great for sand surfing, which is free if you have your own board. If not, don’t worry, you can hire one there for only $15. The giant sand dunes at Te Paki are located on the western side of the narrow peninsula, about 17 km […]

Aupouri Peninsula – #AtoZ Postcards of New Zealand

Aupouri Peninsula at the Northern tip of New Zealand

A is for Aupouri Peninsula . . .  or awe-inspiring. Practical Information:  Aupouri Peninsula is the narrow strip of land running approximately 100 km to the north at the upper (northern) end of the North Island of New Zealand. It ranges from 10 – 30 km in width. It shares its name with the local Maori […]

Itinerary Options: Driving to the Top of New Zealand

Top of New Zealand, the northern tip of the North Island.

The top of New Zealand is too often overlooked by tourists, as there are so many amazing places to visit in this country. However, it is a paradise, filled with amazing natural history and cultural folklore. We have made the journey a few times. The trip to the top of New Zealand can be done is 3-days if you […]

Cape Reinga: Stunning and Spiritual Top of New Zealand

Walking path to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, the top of the North Island in New Zealand

Cape Reinga is a crown jewel, the spiritual and stunning northern tip of New Zealand. For Maori, Cape Reinga is where a person’s spirit comes after death and departs for their eternal home. For visitors, it also offers spectacular ocean views including the impressive coming together of two major bodies of water. Practical Information:  While thought of as the most […]

Enjoy These Far North Restaurants in New Zealand

Mangonui Fish Shop is a landmark amongst the Far North restaurants in New Zealand.

Traveling to the top of New Zealand’s North Island means going rural, but if you know where to look, there are plenty of great Far North restaurants. From fast food to fine dining, we covered the full gambit of options on our recent road trip.  Here are our top three favourite Far North restaurants in order from east […]

Gumdiggers Park: A New Zealand Wonder Worth Visiting

Ancient kauri log estimated to be 100k-150K old at Gumdiggers Park in Northland New Zealand

Gumdiggers Park is an authentic piece of New Zealand history. It takes about an hour to explore and is a worthwhile stop if heading to the top of the North Island. It is home to the oldest non-fossilized wood found on earth. I’ll be honest, when we first saw Gumdiggers Park on the map, we worried it would […]

Ninety-Mile Beach at Sunset – Northland, New Zealand

Sunset at Ninety-Mile Beach on the Aupouri Peninsula in New Zealand

Ninety-Mile Beach runs along the western side of the Aupouri Peninsula, the strip of land leading to the Northern Tip of New Zealand. It’s one of the more famous beaches in the country. Its name is a bit of a misnomer as the beach is only 60 miles (96 km) long. Officially, it runs from Shipwreck Bay to Cape […]

Four Stunning Waterfalls: Auckland to KeriKeri, New Zealand

Waterfalls on the North Island of New Zealand

Driving north from Auckland, it took only minor detours to see incredible waterfalls. It didn’t take long to remind us that New Zealand landscape is some of the most vibrant and dramatic in the world. It’s not just the South Island that one must visit for the natural beauty one expects to see in New Zealand. We took our time as we headed to […]

White Silica Sand of Rarawa Beach in Northland, New Zealand

White silica sand at Rarawa Beach on the Aupouri Peninsula New Zealand

Rarawa Beach takes your breath away. I know it’s cliche, but what else can I say about pure white sand, gentle waves, and a quiet that seems out of place, disrupted only by the gentle waves and the occasional squawk of a nesting bird. We stopped at Rarawa Beach as a side trip on the way to the northern tip […]

Sandboarding on the Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, New Zealand

Sandboarding on the Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, Northland, New Zealand

What can I say about sandboarding? I would have said I am too old, but then I learned about the 89 year old who gave it a try (and loved it). It’s an adrenaline junky activity at the top of the North Island of New Zealand. My girls and their friend had a blast riding down. Hubby […]

A Visit to Bennetts Chocolates of Mangawhai

A heart full of chocolate at Bennetts Chocolate of Mangawhai, New Zealand

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I couldn’t resist sharing these romantic chocolate heart photos.  We took a worthwhile, 20 minute detour on the way home from camping last week and stopped at the upscale chocolate factory, Bennetts of Manguawhai. The photos are all shot through the viewing glass: Bennetts is located in Mangawhai […]

Weekend Travel Inspiration: Beach at Waipu Cove

The beach at Waipu Cove in Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand

Two hours north of Auckland is Waipu Cove, a stunning beach town that I didn’t know existed until a few weeks ago when our friends invited us to join them on their family camping trip. In this case, it was our friends who were our weekend travel inspiration. The water color changes with the weather, […]

The Meeting of the Seas: Cape Reinga, the Top of the North Island

the meeting of the seas

At Cape Reinga, the top of  New Zealand’s North Island is the meeting of the seas.  The Pacific flows down from the northeast, while the Tasman sea flows in from the northwest.  It’s very close to New Zealand’s most northern point and a stunning place to stand. Cape Reinga is considered to be the most […]

Photos: A Maori Cultural Show at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

maori warrior

We enjoyed the new Maori Cultural Show at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.  Shared today as it is Waitangi Day in New Zealand, a holiday commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. First a traditional greeting and welcome to the Marae, the meeting house and centre of daily life: Then we entered the marae for […]