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Day trips in New Zealand’s North Island – Upper regions

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With Christmas upon us and having spent a couple of days boating and spearfishing in the Bahamas, I’m feeling a little home sick! Don’t get me wrong, these experiences and sights are amazing, but there is no place like home, which just happens to be – New Zealand!

So, I have some advice for you and our German friends who are heading to the land down under and are keen for some day trips in New Zealand’s north island during their first ever summer Christmas.

First of all – New Zealand’s pohutakawa tree is sometimes referred to as our Christmas tree because it blossoms in December! We are very proud to be called Kiwi’s (New Zealanders), plus we are also proud of how clean and green New Zealand is. So please, while you are there, help us out by not littering!

Upper_North_Island

Image from Google Maps of NZ’s Upper North Island

Favourite adventure activities in New Zealand’s North Island

I am a born and bred Auckland girl, where as Moss and Cole’s parents live in Whangamata. Therefore, most of our weekend day trips and quick weekend getaways involve destinations around Auckland and the Coromandel. Using photos from our past adventures together, I have created a quick summary of our favourite places in the upper regions of New Zealand’s North Island. These destinations are all reachable via car, kayak or ferry! You can find car rental locations here.

Auckland Day trips

Sunset at Bethells beach (We climbed a tree for this view!)

Sunset at Bethells beach (We climbed a tree for this view!)

Large cave at left end of Bethells beach

Large cave at the left end of Bethells beach

Bethells beach is located on the West Coast and is one of our favourite beaches to explore without a boat. While standing on the beach and looking at the water, there is a large cave to the left of the bay and a large number of tunnel caves at the other end (make sure you take a torch!). Also, as you first approach the flat road in Bethells, keep an eye out for cars parked after the bridge – as there are massive sand dunes hidden down a short walking track to the left!

Goat Island Marine Reserve in Leigh

Goat Island Marine Reserve in Leigh

Goat Island Marine Reserve is located in Leigh and offers a great opportunity to swim with large Snapper and other fish that you are unlikely to see outside of the reserve. Even though Moss and I have done a lot of boating around New Zealand, we had never swam this close to a snapper this size before!

Lower Nihotupu Reservoir in the Waitakere Ranges

Lower Nihotupu Reservoir in the Waitakere Ranges

Wading up Pararaha Stream in the Waitakere Ranges

Wading up Pararaha Stream in the Waitakere Ranges

Waitakere Ranges offer a large number of walks, rivers, sand dunes and waterfalls. We recommend visiting the Karamatura Falls and on the drive to the walking track, keep an eye out for the Reservoir as there is a neat bridge which allows you to walk above the overflow hole (as shown in the picture above). If you are up for more of a challenge, my favourite walk in the Waitakere Ranges is up the Pararaha Valley Track. It was more of a wade than a walk, and required a bit of climbing and swimming! Unfortunately it is difficult to Google, so we recommend searching ’92 Lone Kauri Road’ on Google Maps.

Sunset from Rangitoto Island

Sunset from Rangitoto Island in Auckland’s Gulf Harbour

The Bay of Islands region

Hole in the Rock, Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands

Hole in the Rock at Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is an awesome summer destination with tonnes of islands, dolphins and sea life. The hole in the rock at Cape Brett is the most accessible to see due to the number of tourist boats that go out to it, and of course if it is calm enough – the boats go through the hole! Unfortunately when we went in our jetski is was far too rough!

Haruru Falls in Paihia

Haruru Falls in Paihia

Paihia is a popular destination for people wishing to visit Waitangi (where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed) and also for people wishing to explore the Bay of Islands. The Haruru Falls are located near town and are more of a quick photo opportunity than an adventure. There is no bush walk required for this one!

Destinations south of Auckland

Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel

Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel

Cycling the Karangahake Gorge in the Coromandel

Cycling the Karangahake Gorge in the Coromandel

Karangahake Gorge in the Coromandel offers old railways and narrow paths along the river which are great for cycling or walking. Keep an eye out for Owharoa Waterfalls as they are worth a photo!

Whangamata

Whangamata in the Coromandel

Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty

Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan

Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan

Raglan is located on the West Coast of New Zealand and is popular for it’s surfing, plus it has pancake rocks which can be accessed with kayak’s. We also recommend visiting Bridal veil Falls which are located 30 minutes in land from Raglan.

Since May 2014, Rebecca has been wearing out her jandals. She loves anything that involves the ocean whether it be scuba diving, wakeboarding, jet skiing or more recently - sailing! Consider following her via RSS Feed, Twitter and Facebook.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Selma

    February 8, 2015 at 3:47 PM

    New Zealand is such a dreamy place … I think I will be headed that way by next year … can’t wait!

  2. Aaron

    March 29, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Stunning photos, NZ has such beautiful landscapes.

  3. Matthew

    January 18, 2016 at 10:41 AM

    Some really nice tips for travelling around in New Zealand. Thanks for this.
    Have been to the giant sand dune near Bethels beach, my absolute favorite. Totally agree with you on Paihia, it’s a great place to be.
    Also heard that Russel, just a couple of k away from Paihia, should be nice to see…?

    Was wondering if you could do the trip outlined in your screenshot, could be done by car in a week?

    Thank you
    Matthew

    • Rebecca Barlow

      January 31, 2016 at 4:01 AM

      Hi Matthew,

      Yes Russell is great! It can be accessed by car ferry from the outskirts of Paihia. Yes, you could probably do all these attractions in one week, but as you probably assume, it will be an action packed week with a fair bit of driving!

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Adventure Travel

Your Top Destinations For No-Contact Water Sports

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While it can be hard to stay cooped up inside throughout a beautiful summer, there are plenty of other places you head to for some fun in the sun before colder temperatures set in. The best news? If you’re an American, you don’t have to leave the continental US or mess with self-quarantining.

Lake Tahoe, California

A classic vacation spot, Lake Tahoe has it all for visitors. Great climate, little rain, a background of mountains, and one of the largest, most serene lakes in the US. This makes Tahoe not just a great place for spring break partying, but also for some amount of isolation, or at least a bit of peace and quiet. You can find yourself reflected on the water and reflect upon the world around you while out on the lake. Because of the still waters there, it is also a wonderful place for paddle boarding. In case you are looking for quality gear for water sports, you can look into Gili Sports.

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are another classic vacation destination, especially for anyone who loves water sports. The weather remains mild in North Carolina all year round (with the notable exception of hurricane season), so it makes for an outstanding destination through any season. Kitty Hawk, famous for the Wright Brothers first flight, is an outstanding destination, as well as smaller towns like Currituck. You will find slightly rougher currents out in the Atlantic Ocean. However, paddle boarding is also popular here, as is windsurfing.

New Braunfels, Texas

The city of New Braunfels has a river entirely within its limits, the Comal River. This allows for many water sports activities, with tubing as one of the most popular choices. In these times, tubing is a popular choice, as it is a great activity for families that doesn’t involve a lot of contact with strangers. New Braunfels has a huge German influence, with its largest water park named the Schlitterbahn.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Although there is a city in Florida named Venice, the city of Fort Lauderdale is often referred to confusingly as the “Venice of Florida.” This nickname was won because Fort Lauderdale has nearly as many canals as its famous Italian counterpart. Fort Lauderdale boasts 23 miles of beach coastline, but if you add in all the city’s canals and lakes, that puts it at 300 miles of coastline. Fort Lauderdale is also a magnet for yachts, so you can paddle board or kayak past boats in the harbor you’ve only dreamed of. Summers in South Florida can swelter, but there’s also a reason that old folks go down in the winter.

Seattle, Washington

Although it is a huge metropolis, Seattle also offers some of the most pristine coastline in the country. Although it gets colder in the PNW than it might get anywhere in the southeast, the climate in Seattle stays relatively mild. One advantage of Seattle over more southern spots is its glacial lakes, which offer a beauty that few islands can replicate.

Even as the summer wanes, there are so many places in the continental US that you can get out and enjoy the water.

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Adventure Travel

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated and they are cities on our list to visit again once the Coronavirus allows. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy and we want to change that after Coronavirus. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them to learn about while stuck at home due to Coronavirus:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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