Category: adventure

You Found Your New League Sport – Axe Throwing!

Looking for a new way to spend a Saturday afternoon with friends? Tired of the same old haunts, drowning beers to the pitiful selection of the bar’s jukebox? Sick of visiting the same pool hall or bowling alley over and over again? Then it’s nigh time to try a new sport – axe throwing!

We had the opportunity to try axe throwing for the first time this past weekend as a joint birthday celebration, and I’m glad we did. From start to finish, axe throwing was a new experience through and through – one that fosters friendly competition in a blood pumping environment.


Our crew at Blade and Timber after some Axe Throwing!

We visited the newly opened Blade and Timber in Kakaako. The sport of axe throwing is growing in popularity across the country, and we’re glad that even though we are in the tropics, someone decided to open an axe throwing hall!

Reservations were recommended, so we booked a private lane for 6 people, costing $144, so $24/person. The lane reservation was an hour and a half an included a safety briefing by an axe throwing coach. He taught us the correct technique for throwing overhead, using our body weight, at a wooden target some 15-20 feet ahead of us.

After our safety briefing, we were left to our own devices to figure things out. I might mention that these are not hatchets, but full size axes. At first my heart was racing and my palms were sweaty, but after a while, our crew got the hang of it, and we even started getting “bulls eyes!”

Bull’s eye!

The staff taught us a fun game where the object is to score 50 points on the board. The first person to 50 points wins, but if you go over 50, you get bumped down to 40 points and have to keep trying to get a perfect 50.

Throughout our game, the instructor came over to teach us new axe throwing techniques like one-handed, underhanded and even throwing two axes at once! I opted out of the last option, but the boys had a fun time sampling the hardest-to-master technique.

After all, Ehren won with a perfect score of 50. We had a great time with our friends in their selfie booth afterwards. I would recommend this safe and fun sport to anyone looking to try something new with a group of friends.

Happy birthday Ehren!

5 spots to try out in Australia for first time visitors

Australia is one of the world’s most fascinating countries, and is a must for any travelers looking for new destinations to explore for the first time. In this guide we have selected five of the best spots and attractions for any first time traveler to visit whilst in this great country.

Sydney Opera House

Probably Australia’s most iconic building, this performing arts center majestically overlooks the waterfront at Sydney Harbour, which is itself an impressive sight. The distinctive peaked roof is the work of Danish architect Jørn Utzon and was formally opened in 1973.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the venue hosts not only opera but also a wide range of other cultural events and has hosted artists and speakers as diverse as Paul Robeson, Thin Lizzy, Nelson Mandela, Michael Bublé and Pope John Paul II.

To find out what’s on there during your visit, or to discover more about this historic building, visit their website here.

Uluru

Also sometimes known as Ayers Rock, this impressive sandstone monolith lies in remote central Australia, but visitors will find its magnificent stature worth the journey. At 348m tall and with a total circumference of 9.4km, this giant rock formation is thought to have been formed by a build-up of sand deposits approximately more than 500 million years ago.

The rock is of great spiritual importance to many of the local Aboriginal communities who live around it, and features as a central part of many Aboriginal myths and legends. Visitors will also notice that the rock changes color throughout the day, glowing red at dawn and sunset.

Great Ocean Road

Australia is a huge country and to get around and see the sights, it is often necessary to take a road trip. Whilst long drives can sometimes be arduous, there is one in Australia which promises to be a great experience. The Great Ocean Road is a listed 243km highway running from Torquay to Allansford in the state of Victoria. The route has become so famous because it takes in some of the country’s most stunning scenery. Sights available on this beautiful route include the imposing London Arch and Twelve Apostles rock formations, as well as the rugged cliff formations of the Victoria coast.

Travelling by car is not the only way to experience this breathtaking route. The Great Ocean Road Marathon takes place each year in May as part of the Great Ocean Road Running Festival, and keen cyclists may be interested in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race which runs in January between Geelong and Torquay.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, and is comprised of nearly three thousand individual reefs. Located in the Coral Sea off the Queensland coast, the reef can be seen from space and is often held as one of the greatest natural wonders in the world.

The reef, itself a living creature, is home to a vast array of wildlife, from sea turtles to clownfish, sea snakes to starfish. Because of the clear water conditions, it is very popular with scuba divers as visitors can get right up close to some of the most amazing wildlife on the planet.

Gold Coast
If you love to surf, then the Gold Coast is the place for you. Home to sumptuous golden beaches and a luxury high-rise skyline, this resort on Australia’s East coast offers something for everyone, which is why it hosts around 10 million tourists each year. Originally made popular by its prime surfing conditions, the area is now also known for its nightlife, theme parks and much, much more.

Staying Safe
Australia is a big country, and whilst it is a must-see for any would-be traveller, it is also important to stay safe and well informed whilst visiting. For more guides, as well as travel advice and other useful information, head over to 1Cover to find out more.

This post was published in collaboration with 1Cover.

A first timer’s guide to Tahiti

Tahiti is a place that is synonymous with desktop backgrounds and bucket lists. When my partner and I were deciding where to take a trip last fall, we settled on Tahiti and its islands for its exotic nature and proximity to Hawaii. Plus, who WOULDN’T want to travel to a remote island chain in the South Pacific? We were ready to go!

Just one of Tahiti’s gorgeous waterfalls.

Our trip spanned 7 days, and we split our time between Tahiti (the largest island in French Polynesia), and Moorea, a less-inhabited, more unspoiled island just a ferry ride away from Tahiti.

French Polynesia is breathtakingly beautiful and worthy of all those desktop backgrounds you’ve ever lusted over. When you first land in this far-away island chain, you’ll certainly feel like you’ve landed in another world. The air is warm and dank. The smell is sweet and fragrant. And upon landing at Papeete airport, you’ll be greeted by a live Tahitian band playing island music in a foreign tongue, dressed vibrantly, welcoming you to the vacation you’ve always dreamed about and certainly deserve.

Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia and the main business district. It’s worth mentioning that Tahiti is just one island, and French Polynesia is made up of 118 islands and atolls. Some of the most famous islands in French Polynesia include Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa.

Since the first leg of our trip was spent on Tahiti, let me recount the best things to do in Tahiti:

Rent a car
Renting a car is essential during your trip to Tahiti. It’s the preferred way to get around if you want to explore. Rental cars are much cheaper if you rent a manual transmission. If you do rent an automatic, be sure to get one ahead of time and double and triple check your reservation. We witnessed one poor couple ordering an automatic car at the car rental agency at the airport and they had to pay hundreds more for their last minute rental.

Stock up on some local island goodies
The night we landed, we went straight to our Airbnb in Papeete. We worried about not having an exact address to follow, and most directions in Tahiti are given by landmark or cross street. Luckily, we found our apartment and our host was gracious enough to put some local beer in the fridge. Score!

Our view of Papeete from our Airbnb.

The next morning, Sunday, famished, we headed into town looking for a bite to eat. It’s critical to understand that in Tahiti things close sometimes all day or for several hours during the afternoon. Trying to find somewhere to eat on a Sunday morning was difficult. We resigned to McDonald’s, which was reliable and filled us up before embarking on our road trip. The staff spoke English and the price was right! After that, we stopped at the gas station for some famous baguette, cheese and charcuterie for the road.

Visit Point Venus
There’s a lot of speculation about whether or not it’s beast to traverse the island going east or west from Papeete. We opted to head east, and one of our first stops was Point Venus, a beach park where Captain Cook landed in 1769 and established an observatory.

Today, Venus Point is a black sand beach park home to picnic tables, concessions and an overall chill vibe. We enjoyed sprawling out on the black sand beach and watching beach-goers swim and soak up the sun.
(Click image for full size)

Explore side-of-the-road waterfalls
Living in Hawaii, we see our fair share of waterfalls, but getting to them involves a forest hike of a mile or two. The best thing about Tahiti is that many of the waterfalls are either at or just near the side of the road. There’s no arduous hike, just payoff views all the way.

Rounding our way around Tahiti Iti (the upper portion of Tahiti island), we were spoiled with gorgeous twin falls. We saw a local family there praying, and after they left, we had the area to ourselves!

Twin Falls was one of several we enjoyed in Tahiti.

Enjoy the most famous surf break in Tahiti
One of the most famous surf breaks in the world is called Teahupo’o located in Tahiti Nui on Tahiti’s southeastern shore. Unlike Hawaii, the wave breaks far off-shore, around a 15 minute paddle out, or a boat ride away for spectators.

Surfers have been flocking to Tahiti to surf this giant wave, which can reach upwards of 25 feet, and call it the “heaviest wave in the world.” In fact, Teahupo’o translates to “to sever the head” or “place of skulls” in English. It’s one of the world’s most dangerous waves, and it’s certainly on every surfer’s to do list!

Ehren and I enjoyed spectating from the shore. The beach park has a lazy, chill vibe, and there’s plenty of gorgeous foliage to enjoy in between watching the waves break.
(Click image for full size)

Dine water side
One of our guidebooks recommended we eat at a restaurant called La Plage de Maui (Maui’s Beach). This was one of the highlights of our stay in Tahiti! It’s about 40 minutes south of Papeete, but dining next to a crystal clear Lagoon makes this worth the trip!

Enter a French-speaking, true toes-in-the-sand experience. Our table was right next to the water where we observed coral reef, fish and even some snorkelers! Our table was decked out with tropical flowers and handmade table numbers on rocks. The thatched roof rustled above our head as we took in the sights and smells of our oceanside table.

In Tahiti, it’s common to feed food scraps to the sea life. In fact, we observed the chef coming out from the kitchen to throw diners’ leftovers to the fish more than once! I suppose it keeps the fish coming around and the diners happy. We even saw a giant eel swim up to our table during our stay, which we took as a good omen, as Ehren’s aumakua (Hawaiian family god) is an eel.

An eel came for a visit!
The view from our toes-in-sand table
A delicious meal indeed of Tahitian Shrimp in a coconut curry sauce.

Visit ancient Marae
A marae is an ancient Polynesian temple or meeting place, and Marae Arahurahu on Tahiti is the only one that has been completely restored in all of Polynesia.

Stone pens near the entrance used to house pigs that would later be sacrificed to the gods. The celebrated tiki statue is apparent, as well as a rectangular marae with various stones and a raised altar. This site was host to many gatherings, ceremonies, weddings and other special occasions. According to legend, the Marae even changed names after a battle between warriors!

Raised altar at Marae Arahurahu.

Go pearl shopping at Papeete Market
Walk into Papeete Market and your senses go wild with the sprawling bazaar offering everything from fresh fruits and veggies, to woven baskets, sarongs and made-to-order food. During our visit, we were treated to live Tahitian dancing.

Papeete Market is a place you can literally run your fingers through a dish of black pearls to take home. Prices range from a few bucks for the ugly/nicked pearls to several thousands for the gorgeous, perfect pearls, mostly found in the shops upstairs. I scored my first pair of real black pearl Tahitian earrings and a gorgeous Tahitian Pearl ring! (The ring was a steal at $20…I wish I had bought more!)
(Click image for full size)

Grab lunch from one of the stalls or from somewhere else downtown. If you go on Sunday, be sure to get there between 3 a.m.-9 a.m., otherwise it will be closed.

Tahitian dancing at the Papeete Market

Tahiti is worthy of any vacationer’s bucket list. Treat yourself to a true taste of the exotic life with a trip to French Polynesia!

Exploring Kaka’ako Murals on Biki Bikes

Ever since Biki made their debut in Honolulu, Ehren and I can’t get enough of it! Biki is a bikeshare company that has over 130 stations around Honolulu. For $3.50, you jump on a Biki bike and ride around for a half hour, returning your bike to any station. We love exploring our city this way!

Kaka’ako is the perfect district to check out on bike. Pow!Wow! Hawaii, a huge art festival where artists from around the world paint new murals, came through town meaning there are new murals at every corner and in between! Biking is a better way to explore the art in the area because you may tire out on foot or miss something in the car.

We jumped on our bikes around the Ward area and biked through Kaka’ako, making stops along the way to view our favorite pieces. Below, enjoy some snapshots from our adventure:

13
Is there a better way to spend a Saturday evening for $3.50?

6

12
Ehren and a beautiful sea life mural.

2
This is what I hear when I listen to music, too.

IMG_5381
Howzit braddah?

C5E3A20F-AA7E-4DDD-BE81-947179AB02D7
Bird of paradise, Ehren’s favorite mural.

10

5
Thanks for a fun day exploring, Biki!

Discovering Oahu’s Dole Plantation

Are you planning a trip to Hawaii? If you’re anything like me, you’re enthralled with Hawaiian pineapple. If so, a visit to Dole Plantation in the north-central region of Oahu is a must!

IMG_0726

A rare coolish day in Hawaii was the perfect time to put on my hat, boots, and take a nice car ride up to the almost-north shore of Oahu to Dole Plantation for the day. Located in Wahiawa, Dole Plantation started as a fruit stand in 1950, selling fresh, Hawaiian-grown pineapple, and has since evolved into a pineapple-lover’s theme park of sorts.

IMG_0719
Picture yourself in a pineapple! One of Dole Plantation’s photo opps.

Visitors are able to enjoy an array of activities, from touring their lush botanical and agriculture garden, to getting lost, then found again, in the pineapple maze. Our favorite attraction, of course, was riding the Pineapple Express!

IMG_0738
All aboard!

A roughly 20-minute train ride through the farmland was a chance to see firsthand the pineapple crops growing in the field. The red volcanic soil and elevation are the perfect combination for pineapple growing.

IMG_0790
The author and her boyfriend Ehren aboard the Pineapple Express.

Not only does Dole Plantation grow pineapple, but also, Cacao (chocolate), avocado, bananas, and a variety of other plants and fruits.

 

IMG_0723
Do you see the baby pineapple sprouting from the crown? It takes around 18 months for a pineapple to grow until it’s ready to harvest.

IMG_0753

After taking the train ride, you can enjoy some pineapple soft serve at the gift shop, or enjoy other fun photo opps from around the property.

IMG_0733 (1)
Lots of gorgeous rainbow eucalyptus trees are around the property.

IMG_0724 (1)
A fun place to grab a picture, especially if you’ve ever been to any of these places.

A trip to Dole Plantation is a peaceful and fun respite from the hustle and bustle of the city and is worth the drive to learn something new about Hawaiian agriculture while having fun while doing so!

IMG_0730

Exploring Rotoura’s Geothermal Wonderland

IMG_8384
The author braving herself to cross a boardwalk full of stinky, hot, sulfurous steam.

Traveling to New Zealand provided ample opportunity to enjoy ethereal landscapes. Part of my draw to visiting the North Island was the geothermal activity present there. After living on Big Island and in Yellowstone National Park, I guess you could say I’m drawn to places with active volcanoes!

New Zealand’s north island is brimming with active volcanic activity! Once we set foot in Rotoura, roughly 3 hours south of Auckland, that old, familiar smell infiltrated our noses: sulfur. Sulfur smells like rotten eggs, and is part of the gasses given off by the volcanic activity in the region.

We decided to visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotoura to get up close and personal with some otherworldly geothermal landscapes. It was a rainy day indeed, but it didn’t stop us from marveling at the region’s clouds of steam, rock formations, waterfalls, and lakes the park is known for.

Here are some photo highlights of the diverse volcanic area:

IMG_7995
One of well over a dozen volcanic craters on the property. Craters can be up to 20 meters deep.

IMG_7993
Sulfur vents and bubbling pools are typical in this park.

IMG_8012
A bubbling mud pool.

IMG_8025
 A steaming pond. The water is so hot, it could burn the skin right off you.

IMG_8062
Ehren marveling at steam emitting from a geothermal pool.

IMG_8370
We were surprised to witness steam coming out of the ground!

IMG_8031
The park’s famous Artist’s Palette. The orange color is due to trace mineral deposits which are distributed by the direction of the wind. Orange is Atimony/Arsenic.

IMG_8034
A lookout provided a nice view of the surrounding area.

IMG_8374
Our payoff view after hiking nearly 2 miles in the pouring rain. We loved the waterfall and the color of the pool. This blueish hue is Alkalai-chloride.

IMG_8067
One of the last otherworldly geothermal pools. The green/yellow is said to be Sulphur/Arsenic.

We were happy to experience the Geothermal Wonderful of Wai-O-Tapu. Next time, we’ll be sure to come back to witness the famous Lady Knox Geyser, whose eruption can reach up to 20 meters!

Camping on Oahu’s North Shore

22459337_10104919778466619_1334695169821576821_o
The author and her beau enjoyed luscious shoreline views during a recent camping trip.

A weekend getaway is much-needed when you live and work somewhere like “town.” Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and largest city bustles day in and day out with traffic and congestion, making a chance to get out to the country feel like a staycation.

Recently, my boyfriend and I had the chance to get away, for one night only, to go camping on Oahu’s north east shore in Kuhuku. We chose a private campground, Malaekahana, for its serenity, privacy, and safety. We had to book early, and spots are usually taken.

We chose a tent site near the end of the park so as to enjoy a little peace and quiet. We were lucky to make camp next to gentle, kind, and, considerate families looking for some similar rest and relaxation from their everyday grind.

22459407_10104919778052449_1272527106515027234_o
Our lovely home for the evening.

After setting up our tent, which we borrowed from a generous friend, we were able to sit back, relax, and listen to the sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the shore underneath the palms.

Before making dinner, we opted for a walk on the beach. On the far end, the beach was deserted and we enjoyed some private time with beautiful shoreline views.

22538712_10104919778296959_116557515351934702_o
Loving our time away from the city.

Before long, the sun began hanging low in the sky. We fired up our camping grill, which had a hard time staying lit due to the high winds. After sheltering the grill from the direct wind, we were able to prepare a delicious dinner of homemade hamburgers, fire-roasted hot dogs, grilled veggies, and potato salad.

The best part of the evening was building a campfire from kiawe wood that we picked up at nearby Ace Hardware. Making bonfires on beaches in Hawaii is illegal, but Malaekahana allows for campfires in contained fire pits. We burned a fire for a few hours, talking story, watching the stars, and of course, roasting marshmallows for ‘Smores.

22467702_10104919778860829_745595849451498789_o

22519832_10104919778930689_6941571926815233369_o
The author enjoying her freshly roasted marshmallow.

An evening in the tent was a windy and noisy affair. I was happy to have brought along earplugs and a sleeping mask. My companion didn’t fare as well, but was finally able to catch some rest on our luxurious inflatable mattress. I guess you could say we went “glamping!”

Sunrise woke me around 7 a.m. I was treated to an epic sunrise and enjoyed a solo sunrise walk on the beach. It felt like heaven on earth, and it was surely a welcome moment of solitude.

22538930_10104919779035479_7533890661964763784_o
I enjoyed waking up to this view.

Happily, checkout wasn’t until noon, so we had plenty of time to build a yummy hot breakfast of potatoes, Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs and fresh fruit before packing up and heading back to life in the big city.

72 Hours in Auckland, New Zealand

 

by julia owensAuckland is the most populous city in New Zealand, with nearly 1.5 million people in the metropolitan area. This versatile city lends itself well to various interests: In a short period of time, one can peruse museums, discover world-class shopping and dining, and even explore Auckland’s rugged west coast beaches. Three days in Auckland is a great jumping off point to realize New Zealand’s awesome potential as a stylish and adventurous getaway.

Day 1
After landing at Auckland International Airport, make sure you hire a vehicle – Auckland and its surrounding areas is best explored by car. This will maximize the time you’re able to spend in the area.

Morning:
Breakfast is at Queenie’s, a relaxed neighborhood cafe in the Freeman’s Bay district, whose confines are brimming with creativity – from the Pixies playing over the speakers, to the beautiful Aotearoa (New Zealand in Maori) mural on the wall. Order the Prawn Omelet and Turkish Eggs – a flavorful and exotic way to start your morning.

19961477_10104633621447579_131486169925290721_n
Breakfast at Queenie’s included Turkish Eggs and a Prawn Omelette.

A brisk walk through Victoria Park gives you the chance to digest and watch the local rugby match happening on the grassy knolls.

Afternoon:
Spend the afternoon at Auckland War Memorial Museum, a great start to familiarizing yourself with the kiwi way of life. Here you’ll be able to walk into a wharenui, or Maori meeting house, that is intricately carved with Maori faces and inscriptions. You can explore native flora and fauna, including New Zealand’s famous and nocturnal Kiwi bird, art, war canoes, and New Zealand’s military history.

Katie's Salon Party
Clockwise from top left: Maori war canoe, ancient Polynesian sailing vessel, a wharenui being restored, the nation’s symbol, the Kiwi Bird.

Evening:
Because gambling is legal in New Zealand, take an Uber to SkyCity Casino. This casino has many of the typical offerings of a casino, from Blackjack and Roulette, but also offers some fun electronic slots and even a high rollers area upstairs. Dining options abound, but the buffet was fully booked when we arrived. Plan ahead.

Across from SkyCity Casino is Federal Delicatessen, a kiwi rendition of the NYC Jewish diner. Americans will quickly recognize the employees’ uniforms as uniquely American – from their soda-jerk like shirts, to the paper deli hats. The name of the game here is Pastrami, which is home made and house smoked. Order their seafood chowder which has pastrami and mussels. I enjoyed a really fabulous glass of Marlborough County Sauvignon Blanc at $14/glass.

19958897_10104633627485479_8019328250855772335_n
There’s nothing like a fabulous glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Day 1 Tips:

  • Drivers in New Zealand drive on the left side of the road. Obey all traffic lays, and go slow in those tricky, and surprisingly efficient,  roundabouts!
  • New Zealand restaurants do not deliver your bill to your table. Simple go to the front register to pay. Tipping is not customary. If service is exemplary, a 10% tip is sufficient, left in the tip jar near the register.
  • Before entering the wharenui, please remove your shoes and show respect while inside.
  • Ditch the car for inner-city excursions. Parking is extremely expensive, and Ubers are cheap and efficient.

Day 2
Start your day early, because outdoor adventure awaits exploring the Waitakere National Ranges. Located just 30 minutes from the Central Business District (CBD) in Auckland, the Waitakere Ranges has endless hiking trails, and a host of world-class beaches.

Morning:
Begin by a stop at the Arataki Visitor’s Center. Stunning views surround the center and are the payoff for the long, winding, road up. Inside the center, you’ll learn more about native birds and creatures, find a small, well-equipped gift shop, and encounter staff who can point you in the right direction of your next stop.

19990199_10104637773451929_5635580048237710727_n
Arataki Visitor’s Center – your journey in the Waitakere Ranges begins here.

A  theater downstairs shows a 10-minute film of the Waitakere Ranges and impresses upon you the awesomeness of this reserve.

Afternoon:
We chose to hike the Mercer Bay Loop coastal hike, about 20 minutes west of the Arataki Visitor’s Center. Park in the lot off Log Race Road and take the loop, 1.4 kilometers, or about 1 mile. Allow for roughly 2 hours to finish the loop (the recommended time is 1 hour, but we took lots of photos along the stunning, sunny coast).

IMG_7622
A coastal view along the Mercer Bay Loop trek.

After the hike, drive about 2 more kilometers west to Piha for a late lunch. We opted for the Piha RSA, a members-only club (ask politely to dine in as a guest, and the cheerful bartender will find someone nearby to sponsor you) with a fabulous outdoor deck overlooking Piha Beach to enjoy your fish and chips.

IMG_7633
Your lunchtime view. Lion Rock, located in the distance, separates North and South Piha Beaches.

Drive just around the bend and park to explore the wild and moody Piha beach. This long stretch of beach features, most famously, Lion Rock, of which the brave can hike and the spectators can marvel. This black sand beach extending into the Tasman Sea was the setting for several family pickup games of rugby and happy off-leash dogs.

IMG_7685
The author marveling at Piha Beach. South Piha beach is to the left of Lion Rock, and North Piha beach is to the right.

 

Evening:
After driving back to Auckland from Piha, a roughly 50 minute drive, take a breather, then head to Burger Burger in Ponsonby. Located within an alley chock-full of trendy restaurants and bars (many of the patios staying open even during the throws of winter), Burger Burger excels at one thing: burgers! We ordered the classic with all the fixin’s including a house-made tomato jam.

20031878_10104641960356339_8575075584546871053_n
The author’s boyfriend Ehren enjoying the funky interior decor at Burger Burger.

Day 2 Tips:

  • Be careful driving around the Waitakere Ranges – the roads run one way each direction and twist and turn wildly through mountainous terrain.
  • Bring plenty of water for your hike. Another recommended hike is the Kitekite Falls.
  • If using GPS, bring your USB phone charger. The roughly 50 minute drive back to Auckland (on top of a day of navigating) nearly zapped all of our remaining cell phone power.

Day 3
Your third day in Auckland is well-spent in Devonport, a harbor-side suburb of Auckland. While many opt to take the ferry over to this northeastern surburb, a short 15-minute drive over the bridge gives you freedom to explore both ends of the peninsula and everything in between.

Morning:
Your fist stop in Devonport is Takarunga, or Mt. Victoria, the highest volcano on Auckland’s North Shore. Here you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor and the surrounding Hauraki Gulf. Bring your camera – the views do not disappoint!

IMG_7755
The author and her boyfriend enjoying 360-degree views of Auckland from atop Mt. Victoria.

Devonport’s shops are best explored by foot and offer a variety that will keep you busy through the afternoon – from antique shops, to funky bookstores (Paradox Books is highly recommended – the eclectic selection by the bohemian husband/wife proprietors is extraordinary), make sure to spend some time ducking in and out of the boutique shops.

Afternoon:
On a recommendation of the bare-footed, bohemian-spirited, extra-friendly proprietor of Paradox Books, lunch is at Corelli’s, an upscale cafe whose food is divine. The standout dish was the seafood chowder – a rich chowder full of scallops, prawns, salmon, calamari, and more. The lamb bangers and mash was also delicious, especially with a glass of New Zealand Cabernet. Save room for their raspberry cheesecake!

Katie's Salon Party (1)
A divine lunch at Corelli’s!

Evening:
Before heading back to Auckland, take the short drive from the shops to Maungauika, or North Head, at the other end of Devonport (Mt. Victoria its counterpart). Here you’ll discover even more sweeping views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. You can sit on a bench and watch the world slowly go by admiring the sunset, the few passing boats, and views of Rangitoto Island.

IMG_7737
The view from North Head, with Rangitoto Island in the background, right.

Day 3 Tips:

  • Parking in the shopping district of Devonport is limited to 1 hour. For more flexibility, simply drive a street or two up into the residential neighborhood and park there. We found a 120-minute time allowance.
  • Traffic may be a little heavy returning into Auckland after sundown. Do not let it deter you: sunset from North Head is not to be missed.

Auckland is a great getaway at any time of year. There’s always something to see, do, and discover. Do yourself a favor: book the ticket, and take the trip.

What to pack for a trip to New Zealand in the winter

ESSENTIAL PACKING GUIDE

A trip to New Zealand has been on my bucket list ever since I began traveling internationally in 2012. I dreamed of visiting this Pacific Island nation and looked forward to exploring its gorgeous landscapes and learning more about the people and culture.

Finally, my dreams came true. My boyfriend Ehren and I were able to plan a trip to New Zealand during our summer: July. Things became a bit tricky upon learning July is New Zealand’s winter. Luckily, the north island’s winter is more temperate and rarely sees snow. The best comparison I could think of is Portland in January, maybe a bit warmer.

This is a packing list for the North Island of New Zealand during winter. Our trip was 9 nights, 10 days, and would feature a variety of activities:

  • Museums, shopping
  • Hiking, exploring
  • Dining out
  • Chilling, casual

The weather ranged from sunny to windy and rainy. Weather in New Zealand can change dramatically day by day. The average temperature was mid 50s. 50s and sunny felt different than 50 and rainy, so my best advice is to pack warm clothing and options for layering.

Here’s a list of what I packed (asterisk items are what I call “life-savers!”)
_____________________________________

TOPS:

(1) Light cargo jacket

20031680_10104641959063929_5018862387639128842_n
My cargo jacket was perfect over some layers. And the brown boots were lifesavers!

(1) Rain jacket* (Recommendation: don’t go cheap here! Thicker is better, something with a hood, and something that will cover the top of your legs as well if possible)
(1) Zip up fleece* (Great for layering and extra warmth)
(4) Knit sweaters (One included for sleeping/lying around the house in the evenings)
(1) Turtleneck
(1) Cardigan
(1) Jean jacket* (Perfect for casual chic, boutique shopping, museums)

20106267_10104645627557239_8750500681672828791_n
Loving the versatility of my jean jacket, cargo pants and satchel purse.

(2) Tank top blouses
(7) T-shirts* (great for layering!)
(3) T-shirts for sleeping
(1) sleep shorts
(1) Dress

BOTTOMS:

(1) pair of black cargo pants
(1) pair of jeans
(2) pairs of leggings* (One thick one for cold weather. These were lifesavers!)
(1) pair of black pants (Good for dressier days out)
(1) pair of black tights

SHOES/SOCKS:

(1) pair of flats (good for plane, but sadly, nothing else)
(1) pair of ankle boots* (Waterproof is key if you can!)
(1) pair of gym shoes (Something you can use hiking/walking)
(2) pairs of warm socks* (These are essential to keeping your feet warm. The more you pack, the better!)
Miscellaneous other socks
Undergarments

OTHER ACCESSORIES:

(1) Belt (for cinching the dress)
(2) hats (One a Britxon safari hat, one a knit beanie*)

20106377_10104645627247859_3510073837313325893_n
The Brixton hat is the perfect travel companion.

(2) Scarves (One for keeping warm*, one for fashion)
(1) Pair of gloves*

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Makeup
  • Jewelry
  • Hair straightener
  • (3) books to read
  • Journal
  • Earplugs* (Perfect for planes and for noisy mornings in the city)
  • Headphones
  • Pens
  • Passport
  • IDs/Credit Cards/Cash
  • Copies of all bookings/travel documents, credit cards
  • Phone charger
  • International adapter
  • Bluetooth speaker (fully charged, as it was not compliant with New Zealand outlets)
  • Toiletries
  • Digital camera
  • Columbia backpack* (Great carry on and wonderful for hiking/outdoor adventuring)

19989462_1595231610507944_383261278155234160_n
A backpack was essential for this trip.

  • Satchel purse

ITEMS NOT NEEDED:

  • Hair straightener (New Zealand is a casual country and high fashion didn’t seem important)
  • (2) books – one was enough
  • Dress – I wore it one night out to dinner with the tights, but could have done without it
  • Digital camera – I just used my iPhone the whole time
  • Belt

ITEMS I NEEDED BUT DIDN’T BRING:

  • Sweatpants (Luckily, my boyfriend packed an extra pair and I was able to use them the entire trip for sleeping/relaxing around the house)

Overall, I felt very well prepared and knew that if I forgot anything that I would be able to purchase it abroad.

Have you ever been to the north island of New Zealand in winter? If so, do you have any must have items?

I hope you find this list useful. My number one piece of advice is layers, layers, layers, followed by: bring a pair of sweat pants or two!