16.12.2016 - 19.12.2016
Located on the North Island's eastern coast, New Zealand's oldest wine-growing region boasts a superb Mediterranean climate and golden sand beaches. In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake leveled Napier. The town rebuilt itself, and today Napier is hailed as the "Art Deco City" for its superb collection of Deco, Spanish Mission and Classical Revival buildings.
We love our wildlife so today we enjoyed a scenic drive along the coast as we made our way to Te Awanga and Cape Kidnappers Station. The story of how Cape Kidnappers got its name is as dramatic as the landscape itself. Named by the famous English explorer Captain Cook, the area was the site of a crime committed aboard his ship, the HMS Endeavour.
We arrived at Cape Kidnappers Station, a privately owned country farm, and were driven over the rich farmland to within a few feet of the gannet sanctuary at Cape Kidnappers. As we traversed river beds, broad rolling pastures, steep gullies and breath-taking inclines, our guide provided us with a full commentary about the area and life on this 4,500 acre farm which stocks over 8,000 sheep and breeding cattle, as well as encompassing an 18-hole international golf course.
Cape Kidnappers itself is a dramatic promontory at the southern end of the sweep of Hawke's Bay and is the largest and most accessible mainland nesting place of gannets in the world. The 15,000 gannets who make their home here are members of the Booby family, with distinctive black eye markings and a pale gold crown. We had the opportunity to view the gannets in their natural habitat, swooping and diving as they bring back fish from the sea, or in pairs preening and performing the "dance of the gannets" recognition ritual.
One of the nesting places is remote a point.
As the gannets came into sight we were in awe as we were to get so close to them.
We were able to see their babies of all sizes. Some has hardly any other feathers and others were fluffy big white things.
We watched them fly off and land very gracefully.
We also saw them conduct their mating ritual.
We also enjoyed a spectacular view of the rugged coastline from Hawke's Bay all the way north to Mahia Peninsula, from the brink of a cliff that rises 328 feet above the beach.
After returning to base and a lovely coffee and snack we headed back to Napier. We had a drive through Napier so we could get a glimpse of some of the Art Deco buildings.
There were lovely touches around town such as the sculpture of the little boy climbing a pole and his mother and pet dog in the mall watching him.
New Zealand's natural bounty is always on display at the Bay of Plenty. It was Captain James Cook who in 1769 aptly named this bay, thanks to the prosperous Maori villages of the region. Tauranga, the chief city, is a bustling port, an agricultural and timber center and a popular seaside resort. Tauranga is also the gateway to Rotorua - a geothermal wonderland that is the heart of Maori culture. A 90-minute drive from Tauranga, Rotorua is New Zealand's primary tourist attraction.
Our ship docked near the foot of Mt. Maunganui, which rises 761 feet above the bay.
Wai-O-Tapu, Maori for "Sacred Waters", is an active geothermal area found in New Zealand's Taupo volcanic zone, so this is where we decided to go for the day. After an hour and a half drive we arrive at Wai-O-Tapu, where we enjoy a mile and a half walk to the heart of the 'thermal wonderland'. We had two awe-inspiring hours, where we viewed the mud pools, mineral terraces and steaming volcanic lakes. There was the smell of hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere, a natural byproduct of this geothermal region, but we were used to this after our visit to Iceland. We enjoyed the striking colors of the hot and cold pools, and the unique landscape.
The champagne pool was the best part and the colours were amazing. Very different from the thermal sights we had seen in Iceland.
After a brief 30 minute drive to Rotorua we had a look around the Government Gardens. The museum is in a beautiful building.
There were also sculptures in the park.
We then went to Lake Rotorua where we boarded the Lakeland Queen for a delicious buffet lunch cruise on Lake Rotorua. The Lakeland Queen is a locally built, shallow draft, stern driven vessel - similar to a Mississippi River Boat and ideal for Lake Rotorua's shallow waters. During the cruise we enjoyed a performance from a Maori cultural group. Shane got up to learn the Haka (the Maori war dance).
We then headed to Rainbow Springs. There we saw more than 135 varieties of native trees and ferns that surround the pools, which are teeming with trout.
There are incredible 60-foot tall trees and lots of endangered birds and lizards that you can see.
We visited the nocturnal Kiwi House, where we met New Zealand's adorable national emblem, the endangered kiwi bird. Rainbow Springs is the home to New Zealand’s largest and most successful kiwi conservation centre. Since 1995 they have released over 1,000 kiwi into the wild.
We then travelled an hour and a half back to port through magnificent scenery including the sparkling Rotorua lakefront to board the ship once again.
Straddling a narrow isthmus created by 60 different volcanoes, New Zealand's former capital boasts scenic beauty, historical interest and a cosmopolitan collection of shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and gardens. Rangitoto, Auckland's largest and youngest volcano, sits in majestic splendor just offshore. Mt. Eden and One Tree Hill, once home to Maori earthworks, overlook the city. Auckland served as New Zealand's capital from 1841 until 1865, when the seat of government moved to Wellington. When we awoke, and looked out our window the city was right there. It was amazing how close the ship had docked to the city.
We decided to go on the hop on hop off bus for the day. We stayed on the bus and did a lap around the city.
At Bastion Point they were flying big kites.
We then changed buses to do the other line so we could climb Mt Eden. It is one of Auckland’s most famous natural landmarks. As the highest volcano on the Auckland isthmus it provided stunning views over the city and harbour.
We got off the bus a few stops early and walked down Queen Street to get back to the ship. They had their Christmas decorations up and this one reminded me of Adelaide except they have reindeer as well as a big father christmas.
We got back to the ship around 1400 hours.
We had a late lunch and later in the afternoon we went to a special show “Haka the Legend”. They talked about the Maori history and did lots of songs and dances including the Haka.
We went out onto the deck for the sail away from Auckland. Only one more stop before heading back to Sydney.
The Bay of Islands is the birthplace of modern New Zealand. Here the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, establishing British rule and granting the native inhabitants equal status. Rich in legend and mystery, the Bay of Islands has age-old ties to the Maori and to whalers, missionaries and New Zealand's early settlers.
The Bay of Islands has lured explorers for countless centuries. The Maori say that Kupe, the great Polynesian adventurer, came here in the 10th century. Captain Cook anchored offshore in 1769, followed by assorted brigands, traders, colonists and missionaries.
The ship anchored off shore and we had a tender ride to shore. We arrived at Waitangi Wharf and made our way to Paihia. It was only a half hour walk so we walked instead of taking the shuttle. The New Zealand Christmas bush is in flower and was stunning.
We had arranged a short trip just to get a snapshot of the area.
Our first stop was to get a view of the bay.
We also stopped at a little waterfall called Haruru Falls.
Shane was really impressed with the carvings on this entrance.
It was a lovely day but we decided to head back to the ship around 1300. We decided to have our last bottle of wine and cheese and biscuits for lunch. At 1500 there was a happy hour so we went and had some cocktails. At 1600 we set sail for Sydney. So hopefully the weather across the Tasman will be in our favour.
Well that's all for this trip.