Auckland > Whangarei Heads > Auckland > Waiheke Island > Christchurch
My first week in New Zealand has been so incredible, filled with beach ultimate, lots of new friends, and fun solo adventures. The very day I flew in I traveled up to Whangarei Heads to play in an ultimate frisbee tournament on Ocean Beach. It was absolutely beautiful there with tent camping, a surf shack as our home base, some short knoll hikes, and my team making it into the finals!
I returned back to Auckland and worked a few days while exploring the Ponsonby neighborhood where some new friends of mine live and let me stay in their AirBNB room. I then set off on my own to Waiheke Island, 35 minutes from downtown Auckland by ferry. Great views on the way and I was particularly drawn to the little Browns Island (Motukorea), which reminded me of a work of art—just a smattering of perfect, seemingly pruned trees on the coast, with a tree-less green slope leading up to a crater, and a cliffy edge on one side. Wikipedia says it’s one of the best preserved islands in the Auckland Volcanic Field, and describes it here:
Due to centuries of cultivation, little native bush remains except on the north-eastern cliffs, leaving the volcanic landforms easily visible. It exhibits the landforms from three styles of eruption. The island consists of one main scoria cone with a deep crater, a small remnant arc of the tuff ring forming the cliffs in the northeast, and the upper portions of lava flows.
On Waiheke, I stayed at Kina Backpackers on Onetangi Beach, but explored mainly around Oneroa, which was a little more happening than the sleepy stretch of Onetangi. Would recommend staying closer to Oneroa if you go! From the north end of Oneroa beach, I hiked the Headlands section of the Te Ara Hura track and it definitely makes the top 5 hikes of my lifetime. The terrain hugged the coastline on bluffs and winded down to remote beaches. I didn’t pass a single other soul hiking, save for a few beachgoers at Owhanake Bay.
Other highlights on Waiheke Island were the pies at the Waiheke Fruit & Vege market (ordered the minced beef and mozzarella), the stunning public library (free wifi), and the fishburger at The Local. Prepped with caramelized onion, beetroot, tomato, locally grown lettuce, mayo, and relish on a local Ringawera bun, The Local fishburger takes top honor among my meals so far. Enjoyed it with a draft Tiger beer after my Te Ara Hura hike, sitting outside on their ocean-view deck aaaaahhhhhhhh!
After 2 nights in Waiheke it was time to fly to Christchurch to visit my friends Hannah and Hudson—the big reason New Zealand fell on my travel radar. I had a couple hours in Auckland to kill so I dropped my bag at the ferry building and wandered over to the Volvo Ocean Race that just so happened to be staged on the waterfront while I was there (in town Feb 28–Mar 15). It was actually amazing to see the crews and shipbuilders working on the vessels and sails. I gawked around for a few hours at the spectacle: vendor booths and sponsored bars, a music stage, free sailings, and the crew quarters where the teams were working on little repair projects and such before the next leg to Brazil, the longest one of the voyage.
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