Tutukaka – Auckland, NZ – Anchorage, AK: Travel Day

We let the kids play on the beach in their jammies this morning. They made castles, found beautiful shells, and played with a girl camping next to us. Ty and I finished packing and just enjoyed waking up at the beach for our final day.

We finally packed up and started the long drive to Auckland. Taking a brief break to check out one final waterfall, of course.

These kids have been such good travelers!!

We had to make a stop at Giapo, in Auckland. We read about it, and heard from a few people that their ice cream is amazing. So we tracked it down. They make really incredible sculptures cones. Like a giant octopus, seriously check out the link! But we knew we couldn’t eat that much so we went with the reasonable sized cups. It was SO yummy by SO rich!! I couldn’t even finish mine. Definitely worth checking out!

We had a bit of a scramble at the RV return. Just because I was unloading everything while Ty was trying to get a massive discount from them for all the issues we had. In the end, we got the discount and managed to catch the very last shuttle to the airport!

Security was a breeze. I’m bummed I didn’t take any pictures of the lounge we went to prior to our flight. It was maybe the nicest one yet! Nice and large so we don’t feel like we’re on top of other people. Good food, not just snacks. Wonderful drinks for grown ups and kids. It was a perfect recharge prior to starting our long journey home.

We made it on the plane and get settled into our Sky Couch!

The Sky Couch is perfect if you’re traveling with kids. But just know, if you can’t sleep sitting up right you’re probably not going to sleep. πŸ˜• There’s definitely not enough room for three to lay down. But hey, I’m used to being up for several days when we travel. πŸ€ͺ

Waiting to board in Seattle and Linc just couldn’t quite make it.

All in all, it was a very long journey home. But uneventful, which is how we like them. So very thankful we had another amazing adventure with my kiddos. They truly are the best travelers!

Tutukaka, NZ – Adventure Day

We had connected with a dive company yesterday. They agreed to take Ty diving, while the kids and I could snorkel and kayak. We met them at the marina at 8:15am. We packed our own lunch, and lots of extra clothes. Ty took his Dramamine and we hoped for the best. Unfortunately for him and R, though the seas were quite choppy. The sky was blue but the ride out was 50 minutes of being slammed about. R had her nausea bands on her wrists, which I think helped. However, Ty was in the back of the boat with a bucket. By the time we got to the dive site he was so pale and sickly looking.

I got R and L suited up. We’d brought their shorty wetsuits but they’re not very thick. So the dive company loaned us extra suits to put on top of theirs. As extra insulation against the cold water. But the moment L jumped in he was screaming from the cold. He especially had just two shortie wetsuits so his arms and legs were exposed. While us adults were provided with extra thick suits and even a head cap! So back he got on the boat after maybe 5 minutes in the water. πŸ™„ I got him dressed and entertained with some crafts I had brought just for this possibility. R, I finally convinced to go back in the water, for five more minutes. I also gave her my neoprene cap. Ty was finally able to get ready for diving now. R and I paddled around a bit but she didn’t want to put her face in the water. ☹️ She finally did and we were able to see Ty scuba diving below us. About 5 minutes and she was ready for the boat as well. So I got her dressed, warmed up, and with her craft before I could head out and snorkel by myself. Thankfully the captain said he’d watch the kiddos.

The fish were beautiful. I enjoyed watching entire schools move as one. The best we’re the jellyfish. Sometimes there were so many I could feel then across my face. Others looked like they were electric, with rainbow colors flashing. I lasted as long as I could, hanging out over top of Ty diving below me. But it got extremely cold so I warmed back up on the boat.

We toured a neat cave before heading to our next site.

It was a beautiful cove with fur seals at the beach. It was much harder to put that cold wetsuit back on. However, it was worth it! The kelp was flowing beautifully in the current. Colorful fish were everywhere and schools of baby fish were gathered all around the boat near the surface. I snorkeled until I was shivering nonstop.

Ty came up from his first dive feeling weak and miserable. He threw up a few times, had some snacks, then rallied enough to snorkel. But he wasn’t able to scuba again. We’d hoped to kayak with the kids but ran out of time. The crew showed us a few neat arches before heading back to the marina. We quickly spied a few dolphins, unfortunately they didn’t hang out long. Ty and R started feeling miserable on the return trip but both managed to hold out.

We ate at the Marina Pizza, while playing a dinosaur match game and Uno. The kids weren’t overly thrilled at New Zealand’s idea of pepperoni.

The kids built sandcastles till it got dark, while Ty and I started packing up. It’s just after 6pm and we’re putting the kids to bed. Everyone is totally exhausted, so an early night for us all. Tomorrow we drive to Auckland, return the camper, and our flight leaves at 7:30pm.

Paihai – Tutukaka, NZ: Adventure Day

Like usual we took our time over breakfast. We had hope to dive/snorkel in Paihai by they had no one else interested yesterday or today. So we decided to head to Tutukaka since they dive 7 days a week. We stopped in Kawakawa so the kids could play at a playground and Ty could empty to necessaries. It was a wonderful sunny day and no rain clouds in sight.

We then headed for Abbey Caves, in Parva Bay. These caves are very rough, enter at your own risk caves! But if you can make it, you’re rewarded with more glowworms. However, with all the rain NZ has had lately, these caves were not only very tricky to get into, they were extremely muddy, and the water level was too high for exploring. So we didn’t see much, got quite muddy, but enjoyed our somewhat adventure.

We drove an hour and half to Tutukaka, and found our free campsite on the beach. It’s still quite chilly, the waters around 64 degrees Fahrenheit. But we brought the kids shortie wetsuits and they ran right in! Lots of shells to collect and some neat outrigger kayakers to watch. We’re trying to eat up the food in the RV so dinner in again. It was lovely hearing the sound of the waves as we all went to sleep.

Paihai, NZ – Adventure Day 2

I think the key feature of our last week has been ‘lazy mornings’. We let the kids do some school apps on the electronics while Ty and I read. Ty then took off for a long run while the kids and I continued to laze and then slowly got ready for the day. Then L wanted to go running with me, so he and I ran to the playground. Ty and R walked to meet us, then I went off on my own, much shorter exploratory run.

The sun was shining. We were all wearing T-shirt’s and shorts. It felt wonderful! About two minutes after I returned to the playground, the clouds rolled in and it started to rain. We had only brought our raincoats. So we gave those to the kids and walked as quick as we could into town.

We wandered through their handful of gift shops before finding a little cafe for lunch. The rain continued off and on so Ty ran back to get the camper while the kiddos and I shopped a bit more.

We drove up to Huka Falls and then to Rainbow Falls. Both were only 5 minute walks but we wanted to get out of the camper. On the way down to Rainbow Falls L wiped out on the trail, and skinned his knee and his nose. Normally he’s a pretty tough kid but seeing the blood seemed to completely freak him out. You’d think he was mortally wounded the way he was carrying on. So we headed aback to the campsite.

Everyone needed a shower so we used the campground facilities. They must have thought we were beating L with the way he was screaming about his wounds. πŸ™„ Everyone survived and no one came to check on us. 😁 L had to be restrained to put a bandaid on his scraps then things finally began to settle down.

We cooked some dinner in the camper, wrote some postcards to friends, and the kids were asleep by 7pm. Ty and I watched some shows and that was a very relaxing day of vacation!

Matakohe – Paihai, NZ: Adventure Day

Another relaxing morning in the rain. The kids were up at 7am like usual. So we gave them some school work on the iPad and phone while Ty and I read in bed. Vacation luxuries! Ty did some chores on the RV before we left camp. (The grey water was starting to flood our bathroom floor. 🀒) So all things gross got dumped. Then we were on our way to see the big Kauri trees in person!

We stopped in Dargaville for a snack and a ship playground, Ty had read about. The wood was really slick and of course L cracked himself a few times.

We drove another hour or so to the site of the Four Sisters and Te Matua Ngahere (The Father of the Forest) The Four Sisters is a grouping of 4 large Kauri trees. The Father of the Forest is one of the widest base Kauri at 53ft 10in in girth! It’s incredible and doesn’t come across in the photos.

We then stopped at Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest), which is over 2,000 years old. Trunk girth is 45ft 3in and a total height of 169 ft.

Had to include the last one even though it’s blurry! It was such a privilege to be able to witness these amazing trees. Even as we were walking these jungle paths in the rain. I hope my kids remember these moments.

We plugged them into another audiobook, (The Fancy Nancy 4 hour collection!) and headed off down the road for Paihai. We arrived late afternoon at a cheap but great RV site with unlimited WiFi. After talking with a few five companies, the loose plan is to go out on a boat on Thursday. Ty will scuba. The kids and I will hopefully snorkel.

We walked down to the beach. The kids collected innumerable precious shells. Played on yet another playground. Before we headed back to the RV at sunset to make dinner.

We like this spot and have a few free days in our schedule. So we may actually stay put for a few days. We shall see…

Waiwera – Matakohe, NZ: Adventure Day

The rain was pouring down again last night, and off and on this morning. We couldn’t really do any of the hikes in the rain so we had another leisurely morning. We didn’t leave the site till after ten.

Ty had read about a neat walk along a river with some suspension bridges. So we attempted to go for that, but ended up at some old gold mining site thanks to faulty GPS. It was raining hard but we dressed the kids up in their rain gear and crocs. However, Ty and I had only our very lightweight rain coats. But we were determined to get outside! R was miserable immediately however, L loved it! Stomping in every puddle he could. We walked up the trail past the old mining equipment to the museum and a promise of a cafe, with hopefully hot cocoa. Instead we found a closed building. We opened the one door since we saw cars there but the employee didn’t seem to want to let us in. So he directed us up the hill to see the old kilns. Which we dutifully did. It wasn’t of much interest to any of us though. So we slogged back to the RV. Drove five minutes further down the road and saw Ty’s original hiking trail. πŸ™„ We decided we probably wouldn’t get the kids back into their wet gear though, so we drove on.

We plugged the kids into an audiobook and hit the road.

We stopped in Maungaturoto at a little cafe for lunch, and a bubble blowing break.

Then we continued on to the Kauri Museum in Matakohe. This place was recommended to us by two separate people back home. Now we understand why! Only 4% of these ancient trees remain. The oldest of these remaining trees is 3,000 years old! Hear trees were severely harvested for their sap (gum) and for their wood quality. It’s depressing to think on how these trees were decimated by man in the 1800’s. The remaining trees are now being threatened by the Kauri dieback disease.

This photo blows me away, the large rings are the diameters of the largest of the Kauri trees. So immense!

Ty standing next to a slice from a small tree.

After trying to take as much time as the kids would allow in this extensive museum, we decided to call it an early day and camped at an RV park literally up the road from the museum. Instead of driving hours and arriving after dark like we have for the past few night.

We were the only ones in the RV park. She hadn’t had any guests in days. The kids loved the play area, even in the rain.

We were able to do some laundry finally. Little boys are so hard on clothes! We spent the evening in the kitchen lounge area. It was pouring outside but we set the kids up with the iPad, while Ty and I caught up on HGTV. πŸ˜„ We cooked a pizza and a meat pie in the oven, along with some popcorn. It was nice to get out of the RV for a bit.

Mt. Maunganui – Auckland – Waiwera, NZ: Adventure Day

During the nights the floodgates opened. It was raining sheets and sheets. I knew we had parked by a lake and felt silly asking Ty but wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to flood. We just don’t get rain like this in Alaska! By the morning it was hit and miss, fine for 10 minutes, then downpour for 5. So the big hike we had planned for Mt. Maunganui, we scrapped. We decided to drive north and go through Auckland. There weren’t any good RV places near the big city.

We also started the day with cake and singing for breakfast. We ran out of time the night before on R’s actual birthday.

Basing our decision off a penguin brochure one of the kids had grabbed at the airport, we decided to try Kelly Tarlton’s SeaLife in Auckland. Looking for some indoor entertainment due to the poor weather. It was PACKED! Everyone else must have had the same plan. It was quite expensive too! Almost $150 for all four of us. It was neat and there were some good exhibits, but I cant say it’s worth the price. The penguin display was fun to see and L loved the sea turtle rescue area. He’s obsessed with sea turtles.

From there we drove to the nearest Countdown supermarket for groceries. Picked up some ok Chinese food right next door. Then we hightailed it north of Auckland. We made it to the Wenderholm CSC parking area to camp. This is just outside Waiwera. The gates close this parking area, locking you in or out at 7pm. Thankfully we made it by 6:30. We found a stretch of grass to park, in the pitch dark and settled in for the night with celebratory popsicles.

Rotorua-Matamata-Mt.Whanganui NZ – Adventure Day

It’s R’s birthday today! She’s 7! We decorated the RV last night after she went to sleep, with banners and balloons. Laying out her presents on the table. She was surprised by the extra little gifts. Then we lit the candle on her muffin and sang Happy Birthday to her.

We packed up then, and headed to Hells Gate Spa. It’s a Maori owned site for geothermal bathing. We first went into the mud bath for 20 minutes. Slathering ourselves with the magical healing mud. πŸ˜‰

They had us shower off and then we soaked in a sulfur pool as long as we liked. It was nice and warm and you got used to the smell after a bit. Not sure about all the health properties they claim but it was fun to try.

After we drove to Blue Springs. A walkway recommended to us by friends. It’s outside Putaruru, and not well signed. So we were surprised by the number of other visitors there. It was a walkway along side a beautiful river. Some rare ecosystem had created these incredible grasses and clear river water. That along with a few Redwoods made quite the walk. It goes for 12 kilometers, however Hobbiton was calling my name so we didn’t walk as long as we would have liked.

Hobbiton is about 45 minutes outside Rotorua. It is a total tourist trap, busing in people from the surrounding towns. But as a fan of the movies I had to go! You have to sign up for tour times when you get tickets. Apparently it’s smart to do this in advance. Thankfully we were able to get on one of the times for the day. You go in groups of approximately 40 on a bus. They drove us about 1.5k onto the game where the film company spent about $500 million creating Hobbiton across 12 acres. The buses drop you off with a tour guide and then they guide you around for an hour and a half. They allow 30 minutes at the end of the tour to enjoy a hard cider, a stout, or a ginger beer at the Green Dragon Inn. It felt a bit like being in a cattle herd at times. But totally worth it. The details put into each hobbit hole were beautiful. The effort put into creating this set is mind blowing. They even had the New Zealand army involved building the road through the farm. Ty’s now convinced he can build us a hobbit home out at the lake. I’d love it!

Here’s how Ty feels about tourists and large tour groups. πŸ˜†

It was about 4:30 when we finished the tour. There are really no towns nearby and R had requested Indian for her birthday dinner. So we decided to press on about 45 minutes to our next destination, Mt. Maunganui. Another location recommendation. We finally spotted an Indian restaurant about 6pm. The dinner took a long time but at least the food was excellent! It was a trying meal with tired hungry children. Trying to keep them occupied without disrupting others. As parents we’ve all had those meals. We ate as quickly as we could and hurried off to our RV campground. Knowing we were pulling in late all the free campsites would be full. The RV site we tried was closed, so we had to intercom staff to be let in. We finally get a spot and it was already full! There were so many campers it was crazy! So we decided to leave there and try a smaller RV park, more outside the city. We finally found another RV park, and got their very last spot. Right next to a tent full of karaoke singers! πŸ™„

It was after 8pm by this point. L had fallen asleep in his car seat.

With no real WiFi and a long day behind us we all fell asleep by 10pm. On vacation, no shame! πŸ˜„

Rotorua NZ – Adventures Day 2

Ty called the RV company early in the morning. They we actually helpful this time and sent a mobile mechanic to us! He was able to give us a new secondary battery and fixed our broken headlight. Finally something was going right!

I had read about a cafe where they have cats you can pet. So that’s where we went first thing in the morning. Fancy Meow Cat Cafe is New Zealand’s first pure bread cat cafe. πŸ˜† The cats were super snuggly like you’d hope. L spilled his hot cocoa on the floor in our first ten minutes there. So it wasn’t the greatest start. But after a bit R and L found some cars to play with and we got our fill of pets in. It made us all miss having a cat at home.

On our way back to the RV we let the kids play at a playground and had a picnic lunch for an hour or so.

R was again trying to entice the birds. 😁

We knew we needed to go shopping for presents for R. Her birthday is he next day and we wanted to make it special. Our plan was to find a mall and Ty would keep her busy and L and I shopped. However, we couldn’t find it, and ended up at Kmart. This turned out to be exactly what we needed! We got decorations for the RV. L picked out a necklace, headbands, and sticker earrings. Then as R was looking at their off brand “American Girl” dolls, Ty realized they were quite cheap. So we let her pick one out for her big present. She is so excited, and her doll has an explorer theme so we like that.

After our big Kmart splurges we drove to the Redwoods in Whakarewarewa Forrest. It was incredible! The trees are magnificent. The trails were wonderfully maintained. Separated between hikers, bikers, and horse trails.

After the Redwoods we went back to the big RV campsite. The kids played on the playground, bounce pillow, and tether ball set. I cooked some dinner and Ty went for a run. He took these awesome photos while we was out. It was a wonderful evening.

Rotorua NZ – Adventure Day 1

We tried to enjoy the playground at the RV Park in the morning but everything was wet. So we packed up and headed to Huka Honey Hive I’d heard it was an interactive bee exhibit. But it turned out to just be a honey gift shop with small bee keeping outfits the kids could try on, and the Bee Movie playing off to the side. Not quite what I was thinking. πŸ˜•

We also went back to Lava Glass. The glass blowers were making vases already. It was a great set up. We sat on benches and got to observe every step of the process. They’d answer questions when they could and there were informative videos playing as well. We stayed and watched the whole process. It was about 45 minutes. The kids were really into it as well since we’d just studied the glass sculpture in Sea-Tac.

Then we left Taupo and drove about an hour to Rotorua. This seems to be a big tourist adventure town. So we joined right in! We went straight to Skyline Rotorua and signed up for a gondola ride and three luge rides. The kids sat in our laps as we zipped down the hills. We rode a chairlift back up and did it again! It was a total blast and the view of the city from the top was beautiful.

The other activity we really wanted to do in New Zealand was to Zorb. Basically throwing yourself down a hill, in a giant inflatable ball! So we went straight to the original source, ZORB. Unfortunately, due to new standards you have to be six years old to ride. So L was out of luck. Cue to tears, since we’d been taking this up. But all was quickly resolved with a cheap ice cream cone, thank goodness! Ty, R, and I changed into suits and jumped in one as quick as we could. They filled it with warm water to help the swishing capabilities. Then we barreled down the hill on the straight track! You definitely need to be ok, with constant water in your face. (Not my favorite) Other than that it was super bouncy and a lot of fun! They have a hot tub set up so you can warm up after your roll. L got to join us in there, while Ty and R decided, they wanted more Zorb. They signed up for the curvy course this time. So back up the hill they went. That one bounced them all over the ball so the inside zipper was a bit rough R said. Ty had a blast, but R said it wasn’t as fun. Definitely one for the bucket list, which we will have to do again when L is old enough!

We drove to the free camp spots in town. It’s literally just a parking lot right by the sulphur springs. It stunk! We left the RV and walked to a playground. Let the kiddos run around for a while before we walked into town to find dinner. Thankfully we can across the Rotorua Night Market. This only happens every Thursday. We were able to try sushi, Korean food, steamed dumplings, pad Thai, chicken skewers, cronuts, chocolate cake, and baklava! It was all so yummy!

We walked back to the RV in the dark and cold. Tried to set the heat and realized our secondary battery was dead. Again no heat! Ty was PO’d! The RV company got a very terse phone call that night and had another one coming in the morning. We packed up and drove straight to an RV site so we could plug in for the night. L passed out on he way there. Both kiddos were so tired from a very fun and full day!