Like other countries populated by Westerners, it has a limited documented heritage only spanning a couple of centuries, but that does not make it devoid of history. It’s a mistake think this country is less than two hundred years old. It became a British colony in 1840, but it is as old as the rest of the world. The Maori history has relied on stories passed through generation, rather than the written word, however, and coupled with a relatively young European history, New Zealand has taken ownership of how it is perceived in another way – it has turned to outdoor pursuits as not only a tourist attraction, but a way of life.
We visited the islands in November, during spring. The days are getting warming, but I have a strong suspicion that “outdoor pursuits” might be code for “keeping active to keep out the cold”. I love sports, but there is no way I am getting in that sea until things properly heat up.
We started our journey in Auckland, which for a city is laidback and calm. That doesn’t mean you have to stand still however. If you want to take part in activities on dry land or on open water there is something for everyone. Given we were travelling with a six year old and a four year old, we opted for a ferry trip over to the sleepy town of Devonport. We wandered the streets and then climbed Mt Victoria, an extinct volcano that offers spectacular 360-degree views over Auckland.
The fashionable suburbs of Newmarket, Parnell and Ponsonby are all great if you fancy watching the world go by. Our girls were particularly taken by the Fairy Shop in Ponsonby, where they could dress up like princesses and drink “fluffies” - foamy milk with sprinkles.
Although a pleasant town, Auckland isn’t a great bustling city, and it’s not the main reason to visit New Zealand, so we headed to Coromandel for an introduction to the countryside.
The views are tremendous. From clear, blue waters to rocky islands, cliff archways and rich pastures, the coastline is stunning. We spent a fun hours digging around on Hot Water Beach, where natural hot springs surface on the beach – take a spade and you can create your own spa. The water is really hot enough to boil an egg in places so keep an eye on little ones.
A little further up the coast at Huhei is the Cathedral Cove, which is a lovely, easy walk (40 mins each way) through woodland and along the cliff top to a wonderful little beach, complete with natural cliff arch, waterfall and rocky outcrops. You could spend a good week discovering the peninsula.