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Auckland

    Recent Adventures in New Zealand

    There is nothing more precious than time. When I’m home in New Zealand, my main focus is spending quality time with my family and friends, but they are sweet enough to indulge my insatiable curiosity about our nation and we end up exploring in between coffees.

    A trip home with family in New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My home country is astonishingly beautiful, exceedingly friendly, full of easy-going locals and, unfortunately, literally on the other side of the world from my adopted home, so every moment, every peal of laughter seems even more precious.

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    9 New Zealand Secrets To Visit | Sponsored by Flight Centre

    In all these years of blogging, I’ve left one massive hole in my travel secret sharing. An insiders view of my very own home country – the beautiful shores of Aoteoroa, land of the ‘Long White Cloud’. New Zealand is an incredible place to explore – it’s beautiful, friendly and the brunches are world class – and I never really discovered that until I moved to the other side of the world.

    Piha Black Sand Beach Auckland Secrets of New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I’ve written tasters here and there, snippets of fun that we’ve had between visiting family, celebrating weddings and snuggling with new nephews, but I’ve never actually put them all together in one place. I usually just patch together emails to friends and readers who have asked for recommendations as they have travelled – and who have probably seen more of my home then I have. So, when Flight Centre contacted me to about writing a bit of an insiders guide to New Zealand Holidays, I dusted off this post and filled it with a bit of home wonder.

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    Orbit 360° Dining – Restaurant Review – SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand

    “You spin me right round, baby right round” Ahem, sorry.

    In my experience over the years, restaurants with amazing views have more often than not have low quality food. There have been a few exceptions; Hutong at the Shard, Duck and Waffle brunches and Peninsula Restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel. It seems as though the restauranteurs know they can get away with this because the view is so beautiful and restaurant goers are usually tourists who have money to burn and won’t go back any time anyway.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand

    Sorry, grouch over. The Auckland Sky Tower is totally different (and that’s not just national pride kicking in). I’d been there a long while ago for their sumptuous buffet, but my sister visited a couple of years ago and pronounced that it hadn’t lost any of the quality.

    So, when arranging to meet up wth Ngaire @ KiwiFootprints (she moved back to New Zealand from London a while ago, much to my dismay) we bandied about a meal overlooking the beautiful Auckland skyline, and booked into the rotating Sky City Orbit 360° Dining in the Sky Tower with gluttonous glee.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Truth be told my sister and I ran a little late – there was the slight problem of being stuck at the base of Rangitoto Island (a dormant volcano) that we had surprised ourselves by hiking, so a little later than planned and just as the sun began to set we sped across Auckland Harbour.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The Sky Tower used to be the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere at 328 metres (1,076 ft) tall, as measured from ground level to the top of the mast, making it the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere and the 23rd tallest tower in the world

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    (Sorry, I’ve learnt over the years that I’m not very good at writing straight up restaurant reviews – my experience is so coloured and brought alive by the company I keep and the reason that we are there, so not recording those details would be like a song without any music aka a dude thumping into a drum and shouting ‘nice food!!’. This conjures images of George Dawes.)

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I met Ngaire (or Na-gar-eeee as she usually gets called – her name is a beautiful Maori name pronounced ‘Ny-ree’ and means silver fern in the original Hawaiian) back in London, when we were both expats struggling to meet nice people. And thanks to a little stalking over the internet we became friends and got up to all kinds of fun before she booked in an epic journey back to New Zealand to be nearer her family.

    Oh right, yes, dinner. Having quickly changed our shoes, applied a little face paint and put our glad rags, we met her at the base of the Sky Tower.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our meal was delicious. From my starter of Duck liver parfait, smoked duck ham, duck confit roll and doris plum chutney, to Ngaire and Alice’s chicken to beef and right through again to my duck breast, each dish was executed with delicacy and panache.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My dessert of Cheesecake with a twist, served with orchard apricot and lime fruits, cheesecake cream, oat crumb was ridiculously good…

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …and Ngaire demonstrated the delicious deconstructed Jaffa cake – a chocolate sphere filled with orange and chocolate.
    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    By the time we left, satiated and content, the sun had completely disappeared and the Southern Lights were sparkling above our heads. The lighting inside was subdued to make the most of gorgeous 360 views, so apologies for the image quality. I just had to share this.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We stopped to look over the lit up harbour, and stopped for a quick selfie.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A perfect night.

    What is your experience of restaurants with a view?

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    That time we went out for brunch and accidentally hiked the Rangitoto volcano crater

    Nothing seems to surprise my husband anymore. I must come out with ridiculous scenarios so regularly now, he doesn’t even lift an eyebrow. Case in point, when I video called him from New Zealand. (He knew I was in NZ by the way, my whereabouts haven’t become that surprising. Yet.)

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    “How was your day?” ‘Good thanks, we went out for brunch with Ginni and Alice, and then hiked up a volcano crater.’ “That’s nice dear. It rained in London today” (sic)

    Not only does my bestie/bridesmaid/co-mischief legend Ginni lives a good 8 hour drive away from Auckland where I happened to be hanging with my sister for a couple of days, but for me to then tell him that after bunching and sending Ginni back to her Auckland office, my sister and I decided to hop on the Rangitoto ferry in Auckland harbour and explore a dormant volcano only made him laugh.

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We began the day with hugs and a breakfast array at Federal & Wolfe Cafe in the viaduct (and it was scrumptious). Us Kiwis are rather obsessed with brunch (no surprises there for readers) and we hoovered up pretty well every crumb from our plates.

    Escorting Ginni to her nearby office, my sister and I then both looked at each other and shrugged about what we would do that day. I had my laptop in bag for an afternoon of freelance work, and we kinda tossed the idea around of going to a museum. Somehow (see the first paragraph) we found ourselves boarding the ferry for the colonial town of Devonport.

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Only a 12-minute ferry ride away from the central business district of Auckland, “tthe picturesque historic village boasts stunning views of Auckland city unseen from any other location and a number unique attractions.” We simply wandered through the misty, sleepy streets before settling in for a wharf side coffee.

    So far, so normal.

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    An hour or two later we boarded our ferry connection to Rangitoto Island.

    The 5.5 km wide island is an iconic and widely visible landmark of Auckland with its distinctive symmetrical shield volcano cone rising 260 metres (850 ft) high over the Hauraki Gulf. Rangitoto is the most recent and the largest (2311 hectares) of the approximately 50 volcanoes of the Auckland volcanic field. Created by a cluster of several small volcanoes around 6,000 years ago, the most recent Rangitoto eruption is thought to have occurred around 550 years ago – and considered dormant for the most part.

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Rangitoto is Māori for ‘Bloody Sky’, with the name coming from the full phrase Ngā Rangi-i-totongia-a Tama-te-kapua (‘The days of the bleeding of Tama-te-kapua’). Tama-te-kapua was the captain of the Arawa waka (canoe) and was badly wounded on the island, at a (lost) battle with the Tainui iwi (tribe) at Islington Bay.

    Hopping onto the island ‘train’, a tractor with padded seating, we were spared the hours of trekking through the pathways and taken around a fair amount of the island to a spot where we could start to climb the boarded walkways to the crater.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Stopping to admire the view, sip on our bottles of water (kindly advised to buy before we got to Rangitoto by the Devonport ticket guy) and admire the breathtaking views, we probably took around 20 minutes of trudging up the well kept stairs wrapping around the summit of Ngā Pona-toru-a-Peretū Scenic Reserve.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Best decision we’ve ever made.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A number of Māori myths exist surrounding the island, including that of a ‘tupua‘ couple, children of the Fire Gods. After quarreling and cursing Mahuika, the fire-goddess, they lost their home on the mainland because it was destroyed by Mataoho, god of earthquakes and eruptions, on Mahuika’s behalf. Lake Pupuke on the North Shore was created in the destruction, while Rangitoto rose from the sea. The mists surrounding Rangitoto at certain times are called the tears of the tupua for their former home.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mr Kiwi and I often jokingly bicker about which the best place in the world is, but I know the truth in my heart.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Pausing to drink in the incredibles views back over Auckland and around the Hauraki Gulf, we slowly made our way back to the train. Wearing polkadot flats and hauling around my laptop wasn’t the best hiking gear, so we couldn’t take in the beautiful tracks around the island and wander through the lava tunnels and caves.

    Instead we just sat back and clutched our seatbelt as the train jerkily drove over tracks and pathways created through the lava rocks. We listened in as our guide told us all about the island and soaked up the sunshine.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My country is amazing.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Unfortunately our return ferry ran a fairly late, but one of the day trekkers waiting on the pier with us who had cellphone reception just called Fullers who apologised and came to pick us up.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Top Tips:

    • This is definitely do-able as a day trip from central Auckland – just make sure you time your walk to the ferries. No-one is allowed to stay on the island overnight.
    • Take water, snacks, suncream and wear sensible shoes. Polka dot flats are ok for what we did, but it limits where you can explore.
    • Keep your eyes peeled and enjoy the moment.
    • Chat with the ticket people at Fullers, they are really helpful.

    {{Pin Me For Later}}

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

    We drifted silently through a pitch black cave on a boat we hadn’t seen except for swift flashes of a torch. One by one as the luminescent cave dwellers winked on, the ceiling began to resemble a galaxy of twinkling stars. Still sat with arms clutched tightly and our necks craned as we tried to absorb the moment, floating along a 30 million year old subterranean limestone grotto. 

    Daytrips from Auckland Waitomo Glowworm Caves New Zealand

    Our escort hand pulled us along the cave river, feeling her way along with a guide line mounted just above head level, calling out softly at one point laughingly to a fellow guide who decided to take a strange shortcut.

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