Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 3: Cable Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay, Pukenui

Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 3: Cable Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay, Pukenui

Day 3: Cable Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay, drive to Pukenui.

See Day 1 of our road trip here and Day 2 here.

We left Kerikeri, stopping at the supermarket for picnic lunch food, heading up to our accommodation in Pukenui.  We stopped briefly at Cable Bay to stretch our legs.  I would have been happy to sit all day at this beach with it’s beautiful golden sand and rockpools to explore.


We continued on our way turning right onto the Karikari Peninsula, driving all the way to the end of the peninsula arriving at Matai Bay.  This is a lovely calm beach with very gentle waves and beautiful crystal clear water, just perfect for swimming .  There are rock pools to explore too. You will need to bring your own food as there’s nowhere to purchase anything.  We took a picnic lunch.
There are public toilets and showers to rinse off the salt water next to the DoC camping ground.

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We arrived at our motel in Pukenui (Pukenui Lodge Motel) around 5pm and made use of the lovely pool before popping across the road to the well stocked 4 Square supermarket to buy ingredients for dinner (steak and salad making use of the impeccably clean bbq available at the motel).  The motel is basic but had everything we needed and was very clean.  The rates are very reasonable and the hosts are friendly and helpful.  The motel has a fabulous view over the Houhora Harbour.


Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 2: Matauri Bay, Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 2:  Matauri Bay, Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Day 2.  Matauri Bay, Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Read Day 1 of our Northland and Bay of Islands Roadtrip here.
On Day 2 we drove around 30 minutes through remote farmland from Kerikeri to Matauri Bay for the morning.  The main road up North heads through the middle of the Island and to get to the beaches you need to take winding roads through farmland which finally turn to gravel roads through bush which open out to the most stunning beaches.


Matauri Bay has great surf for body surfing and boogie boarding and we kept our eyes pealed for dolphins as some had been spotted there the day before but didn’t see any.  Our kids had hours of fun boogie boarding and splashing in the waves.


The climb to the Rainbow Warrior memorial on top of one of the headland hills by the bay (camping  ground end) is well worth it for stunning views of beautiful bays, beaches and islands in every direction.


Later in the afternoon we drove the 20 minutes from Kerikeri to Paihia in the Bay of Islands where we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.  Entry costs $25 per adult and kids under 18 are free.  The entry cost includes a guided tour, entrance to the museum and a cultural performance.
We really enjoyed the guided tour but unfortunately arrived too late in the day to take both the tour and view the cultural performance.  We had just enough time to go through the museum and take the tour before closing time at 6pm.


On our way back to Kerikeri we stopped in Paihia for Movenpick icecream and sushi.




Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 1: Drive to Kerikeri

Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 1: Drive to Kerikeri

Drive from Auckland Airport to Kerikeri

Many New Zealanders take their summer vacation (or holiday as we say in New Zealand) over the Christmas and New Year period and start back at work in the second week of January.  This is the peak holiday time in New Zealand so travelling later in January will avoid this peak holiday rush.
School doesn’t go back until the end of January or early February so a lot of families will still be away on holiday throughout the month of January.  The weather remains warm throughout February and into March.

Our family (my husband Kris and I with four of our children aged 7, 10, 13 and 14) decided we’d take a Road Trip around Northland and the Bay of Islands, a region only Kris has been to before (many years ago), together with Kris’s sister and her family in the second week of January.

Day 1: We began our road trip to Northland and the Bay of Islands in Auckland.
We flew into Auckland airport around 3pm and Kris’s sister and her family were there to meet us (with a vehicle for us) so we loaded up the car and set off by 3.30pm.

The drive to Kerikeri from Auckland airport takes around 3 hours.


There are several small towns you can stop at along the way but as with the rest of Northland I was surprised at how sparsely populated the area is so the majority of time is spent driving through farmland (once you leave Auckland city that is).


We stopped in Waipu for dinner. The restaurant my sister-in-law wanted to take us to was absolutely packed (on a Monday night!) so we ended up getting Fish and Chips for everyone except me.  I popped across the road and ordered a yummy Indian Biryani since I am gluten free.


We pulled in for another brief stop in Kawakawa to have a look at the famous Hundertwasser public toilets.  It is hard to see but there is actually a tree growing up through the roof (notice the tree trunk in the photo below?) so you can see the top  of the tree over the roof which is planted in grasses.


There were some neat mosaic murals and art works along the street including this neat New Zealand native birds couch in Kawakawa.


In Kerikeri we stayed with my Brother-in-law’s family.  All the kids slept in tents while the adults slept in the house.  It was so hot and humid at night, I think the kids may have slept better outside since it was a bit cooler than inside!


Kerikeri has a very sub-tropical feel to it, both in temperature, humidity and the variety of plants growing such as banana palms!  Everything was so lush and green.  This was my first time north of Auckland so it was a real eye-opener to see how tropical it is.
Our trip took place during the second week of January so was mid-summer and temperatures were around 29 degrees celcius each day, dropping to around 19 degrees overnight.



Mona Vale Homestead and Gardens

Mona Vale Homestead and Gardens

img_3972The Mona Vale gardens and historic homestead are a beautiful place to visit for tourists visiting Christchurch and local Cantabrians alike.
Accessed by foot from Fendalton Rd, or by car from Mona Vale Avenue (free carparking on site), these stunning gardens are situated on the banks of the Avon River near Hagley Park.

The gardens comprise of Rose Gardens, an historic Fernery dating from 1907, Lily Pond, Iris Gardens and significant plantings of European and English trees with well established woodland style plantings.  The daffodil gardens are a must-see in spring.

The historical Mona Vale Homestead was built in 1899-1900 and has been restored following the Christchurch Earthquakes in 2011.  Other historical buildings on the site include the Gate House and Bath House.


Prior to the earthquakes the Homestead was a popular wedding venue and cafe.  Following repairs after damage sustained in the earthquakes, the cafe has reopened as The Homestead Pantry and I would highly recommend a visit.  We recently enjoyed a lovely brunch but they also serve breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon tea and indulgent Boutique High Teas (including gluten free).

We have been visiting Mona Vale Gardens since we moved to Christchurch in 2002 and have many happy memories wandering through the gardens with our children and in fact our eldest daughter who was married this year had her wedding photos taken at Mona Vale!





COGranger_568_of_784All wedding photos taken at Mona Vale in the gardens and in the Homestead
are by the very talented Agnes, of Agnes Grace Photography

img_3973-1The land on which Mona Vale Homestead stands was once owned by the Deans brothers whose own homestead was Riccarton House.  Frederick and Alice Waymouth purchased 4 acres of land and commissioned architect Joseph Clarkson Maddison to design their homestead now known as Mona Vale which was originally named Karewa by Waymouth.


In summer there are often Shakespeare plays held on the lawn which forms a perfect outdoor theatre with performers on one gently sloped lawn and the audience reclining on fold-up chairs and picnic blankets on the other side.

Take your time wandering through the gardens, following pathways and exploring this gorgeous historic homestead.  The weir built in the Avon river in the 19th century, which became the Mona Vale Mill Pond still exists today.  This was built by William Derisley Wood and the Riccarton Flour Mill was situation on the site that is now Christchurch Girls’ High School.

Looking through and archway to the Rose Gardens with the Fernery in the background.

img_4009-1Lush green Rose Garden in spring with peonies in the foreground.


img_3994-1Looking through the open gates to the historic Fernery which was reassembled on this site following it’s display at the New Zealand International Exhibition held in Hagley Park in 1907.  The owner of Mona Vale at that time, Annie Quayle Townend, purchased the Fernery complete with it’s plants and had it reassembled here.  Annie renamed the homestead Mona Vale, after her mother’s house in Tasmania, when she purchased it in 1905.

img_3997A towering fern inside the Fernery which also has a pond with stepping stones.

img_4001Cool and shaded, the Fernery is like a secret garden, begging to be explored.  I love these cast iron window grates through which you can look out into the Rose Garden.

img_4003-1The underside of a silver fern in the Fernery.

If you’ve never been to Mona Vale I would highly recommend you pack a picnic and spend an afternoon relaxing on the lawn and exploring the grounds.  A visit to the cafe The Mona Vale Pantry is also highly recommended (review post coming soon!)

Quick trip to Queenstown 

Quick trip to Queenstown 

One can never get enough of the beauty ,South Otago region offers. When my cousin visited New Zealand with his friends, we decided to tag along on their two day trip .

First stop was Lake Tekapo. About three hours drive from Christchurch, the deep turquoise waters against the backdrop of the rugged brown Southern Alps is just breathtaking.lake tekapoOn the banks of the lake adding charm to the scenery ,stands the Church of the Good Shepherd .Apparently a favourite spot for wedding photographers.DSC_0499.JPGEnroute to Queenstown, stopping at various Scenic Outlooks to admire the magnificent beauty of the landscapes meant our supposedly six hour drive from Christchurch to Queenstown ,was stretched by a couple more hours. DSC_0542.JPGHence we reached Queenstown late at night  .

Ready to crash ,The Scenic Suites hotel where we stayed, with its spacious bed and clean self contained utilities ,offered just the cozy comfort we needed. DSC_0570.JPGThe stunning views of the lake and town were an added bonus.DSC_0551.JPGOh ,the breakfast of eggs benedict  with english muffins and bacon we had at the hotel restaurant was large , filling and scrumptious.

Of all the adventure sports that Queenstown offers, DSC_0645

DSC_0681.JPGDSC_0660.JPGmy favourite past time at Queenstown is people watching , canva-photo-editor-6having a juicy burger at Fergburger , IMG_0784

(one  of the best tip we received and found immensely helpful to avoid the serpentine queue ,was to order beforehand on phone and then go get the burger . )

Or grab an ice cream at Patagonia. Not only do they have a wider variety to choose from but you can also create your own cone , add things you like . So fun and so so yummy !IMG_7102

or walk on the side path gawking at all the sights and sounds enjoying the touristy vibe of the town.

Looking at the pictures  just makes me want to go back there.

Day trip: Akaroa

Akaroa, which means Long harbour, is an hour and a half  drive from Christchurch. We might have taken a little longer than that as we stopped in a couple of places.IMG_0967


A little stop at the picnic area on the way at  Lake Ellesmere to admire the Swans glide gracefully on the lake…

 the next stop was at Little River where a for a little dose of history awaits at the railway station now converted into a little craft storeIMG_4031


with all  the antique memorabilia on display…Lanterns,ticket collecting booth are a sure attraction for adults and children alike
There is also a cafe to get coffee or grab an ice-cream at the diary nearby.

With stunning scenic views to greet you on the hilltop , it is a delightful drive up to Akaroa

This picturesque town is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll around , stopping by the Museum to get an understanding of the historical heritage of the erstwhile French ColonyDSC_1351The French street names and the antique buildings bear witness to the  bygone eraDSC_1270 A French bakery, Cooking school and loads of souvenir stores  in the town centre are a sure giveaway for the  French flavour that is still very much prevalent in the town.

Other than the idyllic old world charm of the town, a walk down the beachfront IMG_2111IMG_4048DSC_1318IMG_8405IMG_2139IMG_2131IMG_2109 lounging and eating fish and chips  while sitting on the pier, listening to the sound of the water and the sea gulls is extremely relaxing.IMG_8410Then a visit to the spectacular Giant’s House, another heritage house, is a must do.DSC_1236.JPG  The Mosaic art and original art work  vibrant and amazing, are truly a treat to the eyes, that need to be experienced first handIMG_1045IMG_1083IMG_1103The drive to the lighthouse also offers magnificent views of the peninsula and the boats docked in the harbour.DSC_1406

Preserved Cafe | Review

Nestled in amidst the stunning scenery of the Diamond Harbour village sits a quaint little cafe called Preserved offering locally produced , sustainable food.img_0205.jpg

Taking the ferry ride from Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour Village and visiting the Preserved Cafe to grab a bite were the two top things  on our to-do list for the day.

After the walk to the jetty in Lyttelton, the 10 minute ferry ride , the stroll up the hill to the Diamond harbour Village and peeking in and around the historic Stoddart Cottage, we were so ready to have lunch .

The interior of the cafe has a heartwarming rustic charm with burlap and lace buntings, fairy lights and distressed wood industrial type seating. Carrying on the rustic theme, there is a lovely child friendly outdoor seating area on a deck, overlooking the lush green fields, hills and tall eucalyptus trees. 
They had a variety of cabinet food and beverages with a fair amount of gluten free offerings to try . We decided to order three dishes from their to share menu when some of our choice dishes were not available. It was understandable considering their menu is tailored around locally produced seasonal ingredients.

We ordered the Parmesan Polenta Fries which came with inhouse made aioli sauce, the Pork Bites encrusted with seasame seeds came with a vegetable purée and were sprinkled with white snow drop flowers as a garnish and Mussels cooked with chilli and garlic which came with a lemon slice garnish.

The polenta fries were as crispy and cheesy as the name suggested and were lip smacking paired with aoli dipping sauce.The pork bites were soft and succulent with a nice crunch from the  roasted sesame seeds. The vegetable puree was a nice touch and was yummy and the flower garnish was so pretty.
img_3031.jpg The mussels were done just right ! Juicy, tender, fresh mussels with the chilli, garlic and lemon giving the dish a nice kick and tangy zest. This was my favourite dish.

Prices are nominal and the atmosphere relaxing and friendly . The attentive staff dropped by our table twice to check if we were enjoying our dishes. The verdict between the two of us: we both loved the polenta chips and the mussels. I’m not a big pork fan and after the flavourful mussels I couldn’t appreciate the pork bites much.  Louise, however, loved them and if you’re a fan of pork recommends you definitely try them.

All three dishes were gluten free.

We both would have liked a little more vegetable or salad  garnish to go with the dishes.

If you are looking for a cozy ,out of the way fun place, Preserved Cafe provides the perfect spot.