Whangarei was a spur-in-the-moment kind of decision. My brother and I ended up in New Zealand during some unpleasant weather (but nothing to complain about, it was beautiful nonetheless) and I had plans to head down South towards Waitomo for some hiking and glowworms BUT it was raining on that side of the island so I researched the night before on places with much pleasant weather. Turns out, up north is where the sun was shining so we left early in the morning (after stopping by their local grocery store, Countdown) and headed up North on the winding roads through green hills and pampas grass that extended as far as the eyes can see. Anyway, here are some shots from the day we went up to Whangarei.
I’d be lying if I said this waterfall was inaccessible! Not even kidding, to the left of this waterfall was the parking lot. You have to go down stairs to reach the waterfalls but it shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes max if you’re in decent shape. The waterfall was beautiful! If you’re ever in Whangarei, I highly suggest visiting the falls.
While heading towards the falls, I saw a sign for a cave. I kept the cave in mind and googled the caves after the visit at the waterfalls. It was on the way back to Auckland and I read through reviews that there were glowworms! Before coming to New Zealand, I have been dreaming of the glowworm cave in Waitomo. Because of time constraints and the weather, we couldn’t make it there so when I found out this cave had it, I knew we had to go. Note: I won’t be disclosing the cave’s name only because it’s an “Enter at your own risk” kind of cave. You know, liabilities issues haha.
Here’s the story: there’s a road that leads to the cave off the main highway. The road was narrow, there were lush hills and acres upon acres of farms on both sides of the road. Cows and sheep dotted the landscapes (by the way, there are more sheep than people in New Zealand). It was a sight to see for sure! The road narrowed then turned into gravel with sheer drops off the side of the road. My heart stopped a few times during the 7 mile (or was it kilometer?) stretch of gravel roads. It’s comparable to Maui’s Road to Hana in my opinion. When we finally made it to the caves, there were several cars there. The vibes were unreal. I felt like I was in a different world, time, and space. The caves were in front of us and we decided to head in. As soon as we were in the cave, I fell and ate it. Because of how dark the cave was, my brother and I retreated back out of of the cave and searched for a new entrance to the cave while coming up with a new plan. We finally decided to use our phones as a flashlight until we were deep into the cave. We met with a group who told us to keep going. We then crossed a stream and we looked up. We saw little tiny glowworms glowing across the ceiling. It wasn’t nearly as awesome as the Waitomo cave but it was cool nonetheless.
The road to Whangarei wasn’t as bad as I imagined it to be. My anxiety was high coupled with the fact that my brother opted for a manual car but that subsided only because of the back roads we had to take were not nearly as bad as the main highway. Those back roads were no joke; especially the roads to the caves (refer to the image above).
- If you plan on driving in New Zealand, you may already know that it’s different than in the US. The steering wheel is on the right side and they drive on the opposite side of the road. What we also didn’t know was the blinkers and the windshield wipers were switched. There’s a lot of roundabouts but the driving isn’t too crazy. My brother opted to drive stick and I’m not sure if any of my readers drive stick but he was able to pick it up well (after a few hiccups with the blinkers and wipers being switched).
- Be prepared for delays. Heading up North, there’s not too many roads to get there. On our way back, there was an accident on the road we were on and we had to take a detour. That detour took about an hour so prepare yourself for delays.
- I highly recommend getting a GPS with your car rental! Beforehand, we were planning on using the internet from our pocket wifi to access maps but since our internet wasn’t unlimited, the GPS saved us from using up our data.
Whangarei was an absolutely beautiful coastal town. I enjoyed our time there and wished we were there longer to explore (especially to eat). I’d also like to hike there the next time I’m in Whangarei! Happy First Day of Summer friends! Enjoy the week.
Shed 3D, City Works Depot
90 Wellesley St West
Auckland CBD, 1010
The day after my brother and I arrived in Auckland, we decided to stay in Central Business District to get to know Auckland better. From Ortolana to checking out the Auckland Art Gallery (more on that on another post), Auckland had a lot to offer! We ended up taking breaks in between so we didn’t burn ourselves out (which happens more than I would like to admit). After taking a nap in the hotel room, I found Brothers Beer through Yelp and decided that we would head out there for lunch.
Just a short walk from our hotel room, we ended up at Brothers Beer which is located in an area that was reminiscent of The Lab or The Camp in Costa Mesa. Brothers Beer is located in the City Works Depot, an industrial space in Auckland full of restaurants, a salon, and shops. Highly recommend a stop at City Works Depot if you enjoy The Lab and if you’re in Auckland.
If you love beer, you’ll love Brothers Beer. They have beers (both on tap and in bottles) stocked from all over the world. I’m not too big on beers (actually I detest beer) so I drank wine. My brother had beer and we also ordered pizza and buffalo wings. The pizza was yummy but if you like it saucy (as Charles would have), this might not be for you. The buffalo wings was coated in a dry rub instead of the ones I’m familiar with. If I had to pick, I would go pizza all the way.
And can we talk about the interior?! I mean, Auckland has been killing it with their interior game. I have been so impressed (I mean, check out Ortolana and Oaken if you have the time). My inspiration for my future home will be all things Auckland.
Overall, I would go back to Brothers Beer with Charles so he can enjoy some beers and relax. Afterwards, I want to take the time to stroll the entire City Works Depot. Hope you guys are enjoying your week so far!
130 Quay St
Oaken is another one of Britomart’s restaurants with amazing decor and aesthetically pleasing dishes. The wooden-paneled walls, wood furniture, and large windows with natural light peeking through makes this restaurant a sight to see (and one to photograph for sure). My brother and I dined here for breakfast on our last day of Auckland and a great light breakfast so we can eat more throughout the day!
Feijoia & Pear Juice
One of my friends who moved to Auckland told me to try feijoia describing it as almost like a guava but not really. I’m one to try new things (especially when it comes to fruit; minus durian though) so I decided to try this feijoa and pear juice. I loved my juice. I can’t quite explain the flavor of feijoa but it’s almost creamy and tarty in taste for me. It’s definitely delicious though!
63.5 Degree Eggs, Bacon, Rock Melon Water, Mustard Oil, and Nasturtium
My brother ordered this dish. I overhead the waiter explain the diners next to us that the 63.5 eggs is cooked less than poached eggs and therefore softer. My brother enjoyed his dish but again, the portion was too small just like Ortolana. The bacon was really yummy (but when is it not?).
Coddled Egg, Wagyu Bresaola, Celery, Parsley Stalk, and Chives
This is the dish that I ordered. Although the coddled egg was something I wasn’t expecting I enjoyed the wagyu bresaola so much. My brother and I both agreed that it tasted like cheese but in a good way! Just like Ortolana, the egg yolk was deep orange color.
I would definitely take Charles here when we’re both in Auckland. The service was great and the prices were fairly reasonable. I might want to try a dinner menu the next time around! Happy Monday friends!
31 Tyler St
Ortolana was our first taste of Auckland and certainly set up the mood for the rest of trip. Prior to the trip, I have been researching places to eat in Auckland and came across Ortolana in Britomart. First of all, Britomart is probably one of my favorite places in Auckland. I loved the ambiance, the decor, and just the overall vibes from Ortolana. Secondly, who knew Auckland had such an amazing food scene? I didn’t so I was pleasantly surprised!
My brother and I opted to sit outside on a brisk and chilly autumn morning. They had heaters and supplied blankets if you choose to sit outside. How cute is that? They seem to change their menus often but this is what we ordered:
- For my drink, I ordered the hot chocolate and it was super delicious. I’ve noticed how almost all of Auckland offers a piece of sweets with a hot drink. I’ve also noticed that a few places use tumblers instead of a mug for the hot drinks.
- For my breakfast, I ordered the gnocchi, romesco, mozzarella, and poached egg. A delicious and very light breakfast. The gnocchi was cooked well. You can definitely taste the romesco. Didn’t get much of the mozzarella but the poached egg was yummy. I’ve never seen a yolk as orange as the ones that I’ve had in Auckland!
- My brother ordered the piadina, air dried pork, and stracciatella. Although I didn’t get to try it, he said it was good although not as fulfilling as he had hoped but that wasn’t a big issue at all.
- You can order desserts from Milse while dining at Ortolana. They are right next door where you can the case full of desserts if you’re not sure what you want (and also if you are visual person like me!). Because we had planned to eat a lot throughout the day, we decided to grab a few macarons for dessert.
Overall, I would visit Ortolana again! Food was delicious, the ambiance was amazing, and the service was great.
Hobbiton Movie Set
501 Buckland Rd
For my Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans, this one is for you! Hobbiton in Matamata in regarded as one of New Zealand’s must-dos. Because it was me and my brother’s first time in New Zealand, we knew we had to visit. Keep in mind that the drive is about two hours away from Auckland so if you are staying in Auckland, you would have to drive back another two hours. It would be best to stay in Matamata or any of the surrounding cities in case you plan on heading back south again while in New Zealand (and trust me, the entire North Island is worthy of a visit; every single inch of it).
But anyway, my brother and I drove to Matamata to buy our tickets. Since the next shuttle wasn’t until 40 minutes after we bought our ticket, we headed to eat. urban foodstuffs around the corner (post here). When our shuttle came, we boarded the bus and headed through the countryside and saw sheep everywhere. As they say, there are more sheep than people in New Zealand.
The tour took a total of three hours but it went by fast. There are no self-guided tours but I appreciated having a tour guide. Our tour guide, Jordyn, was informative and wonderful! I’ve learned so much from the tour because of her. She took us to the Hobbit holes and we concluded our tour at the pub for some beer or cider. I opted for the cider because I’m not much of a beer fan.
Overall, if you’re a huge fan, I highly recommend a visit! The landscape and scenery is dreamy and unlike anything that I’ve seen. Plus, you get the learn about the movie set which is pretty awesome!