Taranaki Falls

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Taranaki Falls

The trail to Taranaki Falls is a beautiful trail inside the Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. This is the hike we decided to do while we were there. I was looking for something scenic, beautiful, unusual, and a waterfall was an absolute must. Taranaki Falls fit that description.

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

The start of the trail with a view of Mount Ngauruhoe

The start of the trail is located right behind the Chateau Tongariro in Whakakapapa Village (this is the hotel we stayed at while we were in Tongariro National Park and I’ll do a separate post soon) and because the trail is a loop, you will find two entrances. We took the first one.

On the way to the waterfalls, you will be able to see Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom for Lord of the Rings fans), and Mount Ruapehu. Amazing sight for sure. The trail can get muddy so wear appropriate footwear! I was wearing super these super comfortable boots I found at Nordstrom Rack for $27. They were leather and super comfortable! It just might be my “stylish” boots for hiking.

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

Tussocks everywhere

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

And more Tussocks

The hike will take you through a field of tussocks. I couldn’t stop taking photos of them as they were so beautiful and vibrant in color. Although it was winter in New Zealand, the colors of the landscape reminded me of autumn, one of my favorite seasons ever (followed by spring).

This part of the hike is exposed so if you do this during the day, make sure to put sunscreen!

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

The stream along the trail

 Soon after, you will walk through a forest and walk alongside a stream. It was mostly shaded during this part of the trail.

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

Beautiful plants and the bridge before the waterfall

Finally, you will cross a bridge and will see lava rocks on one side of you (depending on where you start as I mentioned that there were two entrances). This trail is a loop so you may see it on your right side or the left. Since we came from the first entrance, the lava rocks were on the right side.

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls

Absolutely stunning am I right? I have seen many waterfalls all over but Taranaki Falls could be one of my favorite waterfalls at the moment. Maybe it’s being in a different place, so faraway from home that made it so special.

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

At the falls

As we started this hike pretty late, we couldn’t spend too much time at the falls as I would have liked to. My mother already left after a few minutes at the waterfall and she walked back the same way instead of completing the loop. My brother and I just followed after her.

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

Golden hour

Because of the time we started the hike, I was able to look back while on the trail and see this beautiful sight. Golden hour is one on my favorite times to shoot and hiking the trail during golden hour was beautiful. Do keep in mind that it’s best to complete the hike before the sun goes down. It can get really cold during winter (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter) and it’s absolutely dark at night.

Wander Hour - Taranaki Falls

Chateau Tongariro from the trail

As you are walking back towards the hotel, you will be able to see Chateau Tongariro in the distance. This is the hotel we stayed at during our time at the Tongariro National Park. The hike is about 3.7 miles round trip. I’m sure that’s the length of the loop and I’m not sure how far we hiked as we went back the same way. I heard the waterfall is exactly half way so we may have completed the 3.7 miles!

I wish we had more time to spend at Tongariro National Park! If you head up Mount Ruapehu, you can ski up there and there’s cafe at the top that we didn’t get to chance to visit! Definitely want to head back here when I do go back to New Zealand!

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Around Auckland

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Around Auckland

Auckland is one of the largest cities in New Zealand. Despite it being the most populous city in the country, it’s quite small compared to other metropolis all over the world such as Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or even Seattle. You can quickly walk up and down and all over and tackle most of the Central Business District (CBD) in one day if you choose to do so.

Mojo Coffee

Wander Hour - Mojo Coffee

Interior and mochaccino

Before our long, four-hour drive to Tongariro National Park, my family stopped at Mojo Coffee on Durham St. to grab a mochaccino before our drive. This is my second time at Mojo as my brother and I visited their location in the Auckland Art Gallery. I love it as much as I love Starbucks (but what does that say about me? Haha). Mojo is somewhat of a chain in New Zealand and there are various Mojos in Auckland. This particular one was right be our hotel (Barclay Suites).

Wintergarden at the Auckland Domain

Wander Hour - Auckland Domain

You might have remembered my joy and excitement when I first visited the Wintergarden back in May. That joy may have subsided on my recent visit as the garden wasn’t as “dreamy” as it was in May. Still, it was beautiful to browse through their new “collection” of flowers I suppose.

Scarecrow

Wander Hour - Scarecrow

Beautiful blooms at Scarecrow and gorgeous anemones

Although the Wintergarden was a lackluster in the winter, the flowers at Scarecrow were just as beautiful as I remembered. One of the flowers that stood out to me from the rest was the beautiful white anemones. It was dark, eerie, and screamed autumn in every possible way.

Although New Zealand is known for it’s thrill-seeking activities (Zorbing, hiking, skiing, and what not), if you’re into the city like me, I highly recommend staying in Auckland for a few nights just to get a feel of the city and try the various restaurants there (Miss Moonshine’s, Giapo, Brothers Beer, Oaken, and Ortolana to name a few). Until then, looking forward to my next trip back to this beautiful country!

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Sky Tower

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Sky Tower

Victoria St W & Federal St

Auckland 1010

New Zealand

I am one to never say no to a view from an observation deck. I thrive in cities and seeing views from above is always a favorite activity wherever I go whether it be Top of the Rock in New York, Tokyo City View in Tokyo, or Skydeck in Chicago, I am always in awe of city views. Sky Tower in Auckland is no exception.

It was a beautiful and sunny winter day in Auckland when my family and I went up the Sky Tower. Although I had previously went the last time I was in New Zealand, it was absolutely beautiful the second time around. When the lift (elevator) operator noted to us that the sky was clear and visibility is as far out as the eyes can see (and all the way out to the Coromandel Peninsula), my eyes were in for a treat.

Wander Hour - Sky Tower

Looking over the central business district

I have not seen such a clear day such as this day. The details, the color, and the contrast were so visually stunning, I could not stop taking photos.

In fact, it was such a beautiful day, people were jumping off Sky Tower. If you’re looking for adrenaline-inducing activity, you can jump off the Sky Tower. I haven’t tried as my fear of heights always keeps me from doing such activities. But you can see them jump off and it’s pretty cool to see.

Wander Hour - Sky Tower

Panoramic view of the waterfront

There were two levels you can view from at the Sky Tower. The first level is wear you can see the people jump. This level also has small glass floors throughout the floor. Very reminiscent of Skydeck in Chicago! The second level is where you find the view from above: floor to ceiling windows, a favorite of mine.

What I particularly enjoyed about my time in Sky Tower was the emptiness. When I was there in May (it was autumn at the time), there were so many people. Not exactly crowded, but compared to my recent trip, there were a lot. This time, I was able to take this photo and many more for a long period of time.

Sky Tower is definitely an attraction to visit if you’re ever in New Zealand. Is it as grandeur as other observation decks around the world? Probably not. But I love the humbleness of Sky Tower (and New Zealand in general) I’d go back again and again.

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Hamilton Gardens

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Hamilton Gardens

Hungerford Crescent

Hamilton 3216

New Zealand

I’m always drawn to gardens and parks when I travel. In fact, I have so many I want to visit throughout the world (from Kyoto to Paris to Miami). Hamilton Gardens was a spur in the moment decision. While driving South to Tongariro National Park, I took note of the many cherry blossom trees I saw in bloom. Seeing cherry blossoms is always a treat. Although there are cherry blossoms in California, I’ve always wanted to experience the magic of cherry blossoms in Japan (or sakura as it is called there) which is currently in the works but seeing them in New Zealand will do for now.

Went off tangent for a bit but after seeing the cherry blossoms on our road trip to Tongariro, I researched where I can find cherry blossoms in New Zealand. After going through the results, I ended up finding Hamilton Gardens and learning that they had a tree in bloom. So on our way back from Tongariro to Auckland, we made a quick stop to view the blooms as spring approaches New Zealand.

Cherry Blossoms

Wander Hour - Hamilton Gardens

Wander Hour - Hamilton Gardens

At the Governor’s Lawn, a cherry blossom tree was in bloom. It took me several tries to get this shot as the first round of shots, it was a bit overcast. The sun finally came out and I was able to capture the cherry blossoms at it’s best. How gorgeous are they?

Camellia Garden

Wander Hour - Hamilton Gardens

Camellias are one of the newer flowers to have popped up on social media. It doesn’t have the popularity like peonies does but eventually, I predict it’ll be popular. They have a whole garden full of camellias and they were beautiful!

Hamilton Gardens Cafe

Wander Hour - Hamilton Gardens

Tamarillo toast and mochaccino

Traveling is always an eye-opening experience in more ways than one. Culinary-wise, it has opened my eyes to new flavors and presentation. Hamilton Gardens Cafe is a cute cafe located inside the gardens next to a lake. I ordered a ginger toast with a tamarillo (it’s so unfamiliar, it actually has an autocorrect!). There were no pictures and nothing for me to figure what tamarillo is so I ordered it and I was in for a surprised.

When I received my plate, I noted the edible flowers that seems to be so prominent all over New Zealand. The tamarillo looked like a pepper! To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I liked the dish or not. The flavor of the tamarillo did not catch my attention and the toast wasn’t moist as I imagined it to be. The mochaccino (which is what I ordered constantly in New Zealand) were lovely though.

Despite the less than stellar brunch (but very tasty mochaccino), I enjoyed dining out on the patio with family on a beautiful day in Hamilton by the lake.

Gardens

Wander Hour - Hamilton Gardens

Wander Hour - Hamilton Gardens

There are several gardens throughout Hamilton Gardens but we only touched on the Camellia garden, the Tropical Garden, and the Victorian Flower Garden. I wish we had spend more time exploring the various gardens on the property as they seemed to be beautiful!

Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand is a beautiful “attraction” to visit while on the North Island if you love gardens and flowers as much as I do. We arrived during the tail end of winter so I assume the gardens would be amazing in the next coming months for spring! Highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area!

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Miss Moonshine’s

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Wander Hour - Miss Moonshine's

Interior of Miss Moonshine’s

Miss Moonshine’s

Lot 3, 130 Ponsonby Rd

Ponsonby

Auckland 1010

New Zealand

During my last trip to New Zealand in May, I had scratched the surface on Ponsonby, a little neighborhood in Auckland. Reminiscent of Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles, Ponsonby was right up my alley with cute cafes and boutiques from clothing to home decor. It was imperative that I spend some time not only shopping and browsing but also dining at of one of their many restaurants. I have spent some time researching various restaurants and cafes to visit but settled on Miss Moonshine’s.

Miss Moonshine’s is a bit hard to find as it’s not exactly on Ponsonby Road. I would explain it in great detail but I’m not quite familiar with the directions in New Zealand. Just know that when you follow the map and turn into one of the streets, you’ll then have to turn into a little alleyway where you’ll find the entrance of Miss Moonshine’s.

I should take a moment to comment on how beautiful the interior was inside Miss Moonshine’s. Everything that I want in a future home can be found in most restaurants in New Zealand. I’m loving the loft-y feel of Miss Moonshine’s and the hardwood floors.

Cocktails and Appetizers

Wander Hour - Miss Moonshine's

K Road & Beach Bunny

To start off with drinks, my family and I had a few cocktails. The K Road and Beach Bunny were definitely on the sweeter side so if you’re into that, I highly suggested trying these! The K road was mine and I wanted something with passion fruit. This drink had passion fruit moonshine but the watermelon overpowered the passion fruit in my honest opinion. It really tasted like candy though!

Wander Hour - Miss Moonshine's

Old Fashioned & cauliflower cheese with crumbs

More cocktails and some starters. My mother likes vegetables so she opted to have the cauliflower cheese with crumbs.

Wander Hour - Miss Moonshine's

Free-range popcorn fried chicken, creole butter, chipotle mayo, and crispy sage

The popcorn fried chicken was my starter. I had something totally different in mind when I ordered popcorn chicken (you know, like the ones you get at boba joints) but I literally got popcorn and chicken. I’m always a little wary with trying anything with chipotle flavor as growing up in Southern California allowed me to be a bit of “snob” with those ingredients. I was quite surprised that I enjoyed the flavor! The chipotle mayo was delicious and the chicken was yum.

Wander Hour - Miss Moonshine's

Mac N’ cheese balls, streaky bacon, and truffle mayo

Mac N’ cheese balls if you’re into that kind of thing. I was too full from my popcorn chicken appetizer to try this (as I was saving for the main courses)

Entrees and Dessert

Wander Hour - Miss Moonshine's

Beef brisket with collard greens 

I ordered the beef brisket with collard greens as an entree to share. The flavor though was unexpected though and reminds me of the barbecue from Phil’s BBQ in San Diego: tangy. The meat was delicious though sans the flavor. I know that a lot of people find Phil’s BBQ delicious so if you love Phil’s, I’m sure you’ll love Miss Moonshine’s

Wander Hour - Miss Moonshine's

Beef short ribs and dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate foam, raspberry sorbet, and almond chocolate soil

My brother ordered the short ribs. You may have seen in my Instagram stories how easy the meat from the short ribs fell off the bone. It was a melt-in-your-mouth kind of entree. As with the beef brisket, the flavor is a bit too tangy for my liking though.

For dessert, we ordered the dark chocolate mousse with white chocolate foam, raspberry sorbet, and chocolate soil. This was a perfect and refreshing dessert after all the food we ate.

Overall, I enjoyed the dining experience at Miss Moonshine’s. We had lovely service as well and would probably go back to try other dishes! If you’re in Auckland and in Ponsonby, I’d give it a try.

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