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Days 216-217 Thursday-Friday November 22-23, 2007 – Whangerei & Ahipara, New Zealand
I awoke on Thursday morning with a bit of nervousness about driving on the left side of the road. We had scheduled the rental car shuttle to pick us up at the hostel at 10am, but it never showed up. Finally at 10:30, we headed back inside to call and they informed us that the shuttle was delayed until 11. Needless to say we weren’t happy. but there wasn’t much we could do but wait. Eventually the shuttle did come and by 11:30 I had signed all of the paperwork and we had a car locked up for the next thirty two days.
Since we booked the car online via a special, I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be a stick or automatic. As we approached the car, I peaked through the windows and was relieved to see that it was an automatic. While I can drive a stick, there was no need to add more complication to the task of driving. In fact, as I started the engine, butterflies awoke and began swarming through my stomach. I was nervous, but given that the rental car building was right next to the freeway entrance, I was thrust into busy freeway traffic as soon as I pulled out. It took a bit, but I slowly started to adjust.
Our plan for Thursday wasn’t incredibly ambitious. We wanted to slowly make our way up into the Northland region, but didn’t know how far we would go before settling in for the night. After driving for a couple of hours marveling at the scenery, we decided to stop in the decent sized town of Whangerei. In Whangerei, we pulled into the I-site visitor’s center and enlisted there help in booking a cabin at the local holiday park (campground) for the night. The holiday park’s owner informed us that she had room, but the only cabin available was quite small. Since we didn’t have anything else booked, we agreed to stay in the cramped but spotless room.
After checking into the cabin, we headed over to the grocery store to pick up some food to cook for dinner. Without even realizing what day it was, we bought a rotisserie chicken with stuffing, salad and mashed potatoes. We didn’t realize until later that night that it was American Thanksgiving and I suppose the meal acted as an ok substitute, but couldn’t replace a good Thanksgiving dinner back home.
With our bellies full, we headed over to Whangerei Falls after dinner. The impressive waterfall sits right next to the campground, abour a five minute walk away. The path circled the falls starting on the top left, before going down to the bottom and back to the top on the other side. At the top, we took a couple of minutes to stare at the beauty before climbing through the bush towards the bottom. As we emerged from the bush to the sound of roaring water, the sight was once again incredible. After taking a couple of photos, we sat around for a few minutes before climbing back through the bush to the top. Just as we were about to leave, I discovered a trail that crossed over the rocks just above the falls, so I walked as close to the edge of the falls as I could, trying to get the perfect picture.
I hate to say on Friday we didn’t have much of a plan either. We decided to pay a visit to the main tourist destination of the area, Bay of Islands. The major draw in Bay of Islands are cruises to see a “hole in the rock” and possibly dolphins. When we arrived, the prices for these cruises seemed very high and they didn’t invoke much interest anyway. Also the area screams tourist trap, which never sits well with me, so we got out of there pretty quickly.
Before leaving the area, we visited another waterfall. The Haruru Falls are a short five minute drive from the tourist trap and not as impressive as Whangerei Falls. During the five or so minutes we stayed there, we took some pictures and explored the area a bit. Upon leaving, we drove two hours north to Ahipara, our stop for the night.
In town, we picked up some groceries and booked a cabin at the local holiday park. We also decided to book a bus tour of the area for the next day. The tour included visits to many of the area landmarks, including the infamous 90 Mile Beach. The 90 Mile Beach and surrounding areas were the main reason we ventured this far north and through our research we determined the bus tour was the easiest way to see what we wanted. Since the tour did cost some money, we had high hopes that it would be great!
Before packing it in for the night on Friday, we took a walk on the stunning beach in Ahipara. While weaving our way through the tide pools and sand bars we marveled at the beauty of the area. The scenery throughout the Northland region has been incredible. In fact, more than any particular sight, the road side views have been the main draw so far. After our time on the beach we headed back to the cabin to settle in for the night. We had to wake up bright and early for the bus tour the next morning.
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