Northernmost New Zealand


My wife, Carole, and I took a 2-week trip to New Zealand in March ’06. We spent most of our time north of Auckland, especially in the Doubtless Bay area. This area received its name from Captain Cook, who when he passed by wrote in his ship’s log, “Doubtless there is a bay.”

Our main stay was at the Beach Lodge (Box 190, Mangonui, Far North 0557, North Island, N.Z.; phone/fax 64-9-406 0068 or visit www.beachlodge.co.nz), operated by Margaret Morrison, who moved to the area 16 years ago. She has six deluxe units right on the beach. Ours had a full kitchen and two bedrooms and was priced at NZ$200 (near US$128). We recommend this lodge.

From here we could easily travel to the north end of New Zealand’s North Island.

One place to be sure to visit is Matthew’s Vintage Collection (State Highway 10, Taipa 557, N.Z.; phone 09 406 0203), five kilometers north of Taipa as well as of Beach Lodge in Mangonui. If you like old cars, tractors, stationary engines and farming memorabilia, you’ll spend hours here. There’s a small entrance fee.

A little south is Whangarei, the largest city north of Auckland. It has a number of walking trails plus access to numerous beaches. Here we recommend Lodge Bordeaux (361 Western Hills Dr., State Highway 1, Whangarei, N.Z.; phone 09 438 0404 or visit www.lodge bordeaux.co.nz), right on the main highway and within walking distance of downtown and the waterfront with its many fine eating establishments.

Only 18 months old, this lodge was beautiful. Our suite was excellently decorated and had a modern full kitchen. The price started at NZ$150 (US$96). Owners Peter and Alison Fitzgerald went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable.

A short, one-hour drive from Whangarei is the Kauri Museum (Church Road, Matakohe, Northland, N.Z.; phone +64 9 431 7417 or visit www.kauri-museum.com), one of the finest museums in New Zealand. Whoever designed it knew what people would like to see. Almost a dozen tour buses were there when we arrived, but they soon left. We felt sorry for those on the buses, since their visit was very short. Entry cost NZ$7 (US$4.50) each.

Our final three days in New Zealand were spent in Auckland. We stayed at the new Hilton (Princes Wharf, 147 Quay St., Auckland;, N.Z. phone + [0] 64-9-9782000 [0], fax 9782001 or visit www.hilton.com) on the waterfront, in the center of the downtown action.

Each room has a balcony, and if you have a room on the south side you can watch all the island ferries come and go. It is quite a sight, since many people commute by ferry. Our room cost US$170 per night and included a buffet breakfast each morning.

We made reservations through www.wotif.com. We first tried Hilton’s website, but they wanted nearly NZ$400 (US$300) a night. Then Alison Fitzgerald at the Lodge Bordeaux recommended the “wotif” website, and we booked through them at almost half the Hilton quote. It’s a New Zealand website, but there’s a limited selection of hotels around the world that you can book.

Just steps from the Hilton is the Wildfire Restaurant (Princes Wharf, Quay St., Auckland; phone 09 353 7595 or visit www.wildfire restaurant.co.nz), which advertises “Discover Brazil in Auckland.” It’s a must if you like barbecued meats. Our meal for two, with wine, cost NZ$83 (US$52); we did not have the full course.

Just a couple of blocks from the Hilton you can catch the Explorer Bus, a “hop on, hop off” bus system with 14 stops. That’s the way to see Auckland. The fee was NZ$60 (US$38) for two. We paid that price and the second day was free.

This was our third trip to New Zealand. It is an easy country to visit. One drawback is driving on the “wrong” side of the highway, which can cause some anxious moments. My wife goes on automatic when we have to turn, telling me, “Stay left!”

A plus is the exchange rate. Our best was NZ$308 for US$200.

PATRICK GRAHAM
Colville, WA