Experience NZ: Waiheke’s Stonyridge Winery

Last blog I went on to explain, in general, what there was to do on Waiheke aside from going to the winery but lets not kid around, wines are the main attraction. The tour we went on was Taste of Waiheke which was a REALLY amazing tour (and very expensive – but definitely worth it). We got a dedicated driver who was super awesome at her job and catered to our ever need and explained everything about the island (including the local gossip).

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The first stop was Stonyridge Winery where we were greeted promptly on decent from the bus with a glass of a cold white. Stonyridge isn’t known for its white wine so I’ll leave the name out.

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As usual the décor was fantastic and the views, stunning.

One of the girls (she was from Canada!) walked us through their olive trees which they initially grew for aesthetics and to give it a Mediterranean feel but over time started pressing their own olive oil to compliment their wines.

She then walked us over to the vines which were “caged” off to protect the berries from birds. Neglecting to net off their vines or even doing it too late could result in their entire harvest being picked off in a matter of weeks.

You will also notice that each row has a rose plant planted at the front. She explained that roses are very sensitive to disease and if the rose plant begins to show signs of deterioration they will have time to make the necessary precautions to protect their vines. Very smart stuff!

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Its not a wine tour if you don’t take the cliché wine on a barrel picture.

They let us try the red next, I believe it was the Larose which is their mid tier wine. It was a Bordeaux style red wine – Cab Sav dominant. It was quite a bold wine but very smooth. A glass of this will set you back 16 dollars, their most expensive vintage the Luna Negra goes for 18 a glass.

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This is where they served us our light lunch as well. I was too hungry to take any pictures so you’ll need to just accept that it was really delicious and move on.

We got to walk around the vineyard on our own. It was really quite amazing and facing a Stonyridge (go figure).

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That was it for this vineyard. It was beautiful as all of them are on the island. It was the start of our trip and we were excited to go on to the next stop which was an olive garden surprisingly. More on that next week!

What is the most beautiful winery you’ve been to? How does this stack up?

As usually, please remember to like the post if you liked it and comments, hate, love below!

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Experience NZ: Waiheke Vineyard Edition

Ok, your visual cue for the day: An Island of award winning vineyards.

Vineyards, Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf, near Auckland, New Zealand

Nicole and I recently went on a pretty amazing wine tour courtesy of Lucy Lu and Taz Yin. Shout Out. With that said we had already been on other wine tours and private adventures on Waiheke so I decided to make this into a series giving each vineyard the respect it deserved. We’ll get into those soon but first, a little about Waiheke.

Proximity

Locals have touted about being able to get that “Island Feel” with just a hop on and off a ferry. The ferry ride itself is only 40 minutes and will put you under about $36 return. The differences between the city and the island are vast.

So where is Waiheke exactly?

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Density

There are around 30 wineries scattered across the island ranging from your small quaint vineyards to your high distributing luxurious ones. Each have their own style and personalities. Luckily the tour Nicole and I went on took us to the smaller wineries which we haven’t been to.

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If vineyards don’t float your boat there are various nature walks, beaches, restaurants and bird watching opportunities to tickle everybody’s fancy.

Getting there and around

Like I said above, you can take a 40 min ferry ride over. Currently, only Fullers operates ferries to and from Waiheke. If you’re after Devonport, Fullers takes you there as well. If you are a tourist, make sure you buy your tickets ahead of time (at least hour before if possible) and make sure you line up at least 30-40 min before during high season or you’ll end up taking the later ferry.

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Be prepared like these two happy individuals.

If you have an AT Hop card you don’t need to buy a ticket just line up for the ferry and tag on with one of the machines. The attendant scanning tickets will show you where.

If you’re looking to drive around town you should book a car in advance. There are only a handful of venders so book early. We used this company before. They do require a credit card to put down a deposit on the car in case you wreck it. There are also scooter options and bicycles.

There is also public transportation available on the Island which take the AT Hop card. If you don’t have one of these cards they do take cash, bring spare change. Another option is doing the off and on buses but they aren’t worth it. They come just as frequently as the public busses and are so much pricier – they are good if you plan on hopping on and off quite a few times. I’ll leave you guys to do the math.

I’ll end things here to add to the anticipation of my upcoming entries. What I will leave you with are 3 things you need to do on Waiheke.

  1. Visit at least all the wineries
  2. Go on a hike around the coast and around the rolling hills at the “bottom end” of Waiheke
  3. Try Waiheke Oysters – You can try these at the Oyster Inn (Where we’re getting married!) or visit the actual Oyster Farm

Up next Stonyridge Winery!

Comments, likes Hate below!

Experience NZ: Pararaha Valley Tramp

Shout out to the Mauger Family for taking me on this epic tramp.

Imagine you’re back in time before the time of British settlers. You’re an indigenous person maneuvering past trees, foliage and marsh; following the stream in hopes it will lead you to your next adventure. You traverse the dangerous foothills and fallen logs, jump down mighty waterfalls and swing off of enormous ancient trees. As you venture deeper into the woods you notice mighty towers of stone flank you, fallen trees and logs laid across your path as if to mock your ability to pass.

You, of course, have come this far; you press on. The number and size of fallen trees seem to grow the higher and deeper you go. The stone walls seem to laugh at your futility as the sun beats down on your shoulders. You feel heavy but hopeful. You reach the top. As you look across you see a clearing… not of land but of water. Great meters of open water barred by stone ledges that you must climb. It seems endless…

Yea, the hike was just like that. Badass right? This tramp literally had every obstacle that nature could have thrown at us. Marsh, rivers, rocks, trees, climbing, enormous pools of water. It was insanity but oh so cool and all jam packed into one entire day of excitement.

Anna’s going to kill me for sharing this but as always here is a map of where we went:

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Piha is the region with the best hikes and tramps. It is also most likely the most scenic place in Auckland. In the summer time this place is packed with Aucklanders and tourists. But not everyone knows about Pararaha Valley. Lucky for us.

The hike was different than what I was expecting. Instead of hiking up a mountain or across land we started by descending into the marsh… but not before I captured the views

The signage was a bit confusing but we found our way to a little hut (it wasnt a hut) where we were meant to wait for Anna’s dad – he was our guide but he had to wait for another member. Needless to say no one knew where they were going. The views were stunning though.

When Anna’s dad showed up that’s when the fun really began. First thing he did was take us into the stream. We had to jump to either carefully jump across slippery rocks or just walk through the stream like a boss. I chose to be a boss.

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The beginning wasn’t too bad I just thought we were going to jump a couple of rocks maybe climb a few stone walls and swim across a pool of water. It was like that except so much more fun.img_3067

When we went it was quite cloudy and a little cold which made it quite difficult to swim through the great pools of water. But I can only imagine how glorious the pools of water would have been if it was really sunny. Here are some pictures of Anna and the gang sliding down the rock water slide.

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Unfortunately, I cant find the pic of me sliding down but if there was a picture you would have seen me slide a little to the left of where everyone else landed at the bottom and into a hole. It was like a child slipping through the middle of a toilet seat.

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Heres a video of gav “almost” falling into that same hole. Quality is a bit crappy. Apologies.

In addition to water slides the tramp also provided us cliff diving which all but Anna, her dad and his friend were too afraid to do. Heres the video (again very short and low quality – sorry)

As we progressed further through the pools of water we came across the abyss. A huge pool of water that you actually had to swim across and then trying to pull yourself out on the other side leveraging off a slippery rock ledge. Heres a picture of the gang waving by the smaller friendlier pool and a picture of us swimming across the abyss.

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Pretty epic eh? There was a larger waterfall that came afterwards that I couldn’t get a picture of but was pretty tall. There was also a ledge and a piece of climbing rope left on that tree that reached out across the other larger pool of water. It could have been 20m high. Clearly some maniacs used this to swing themselves into the pool of water. I didnt chance it. Cause I’m a chicken shit.

Heres a picture of us coming through the canyon and the fallen logs that had got stuck after the valley was drained.

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Something out of a novel. Huckleberry Fin got nothing on this.

Well there you have it folks. Pararaha Valley was probably the most action packed hike I’ve had in a while. The most epic part was when Anna’s dad had to rock climb over the largest pool of water then up a water fall. We found an easier way up on a narrow ridge above and watched as he got stuck. He had no footing to progress further and he positioned himself too far from the lower one to go back. Luckily he found a small rock on the side which he leveraged to rock himself back on the right path. It was pretty lucky. Shame I didnt get a picture of it. I also couldn’t capture when he dived INTO a waterfall. That man is a legend. Anna, if you’re reading this; when I grow up I want to be …your dad? Yeah, as I typed that it seemed wrong but I also laughed so I’m not editing that out. #writersbenefit

We spent nearly 8 hours in the valley. None of us were prepared to stay that long. I only brought a couple of cookies and there were some bananas that other people brought but needless to say we were all starving. I hit McDs shortly after. What did I order? Fillet O Fish and a 1/2 pounder of some fancy burger. Oh, and COMBO. #obesity

If you liked the post, remember to like the post (below). If you didn’t, send me a harshly worded statement below and I will cuss you out shortly.

Have you been anywhere cool? Seen a place that “had it all”? Interested to hear your thoughts. Comments below. I swear ill be nice.

Experience NZ: What’s so great about glamping?

So in my last blog I wrote about Hokianga and the awesome sand dunes of Opononi/Omapere. In this blog ill give you a glimpse into what the heck glamping is and why its pretty much camping for the pampered. I’ll also share with you our experience of Bayle’s/Rapiro Beach as well as the great Kauri forests.

noun: glamping
  1. a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.
    “glamping is likely to satisfy any city slicker seeking a little refuge in nature—without foregoing any of life’s luxuries”
So now that were all up to date on the terminology lets dig into where we went!

Highfield Forest Retreat on the Kauri Coast

We left Auckland for a 2.5 hr. journey to this magical glamping site that we were given paper directions to follow. No Google maps addy? Wha?! Nicole was driving and I needed a coffee. Yea, you saw that right. Its hard work navigating/supervising.

We stopped off for a bit in Dargaville which is the largest town in the region and is the kumera (sweet potato in Maori) capital of New Zealand. The city is pretty tiny and there’s not much to see aside from the kumera farms so we quickly left to find this secluded secretive glamping spot.

After several minutes of slow driving across gravel roads we finally found it. Our first experience glamping. Highfield Forest Retreat.

 The place had a “tent” above, a small kitchen/living room area, a shower, toilet and a outside tub where you can bath with Epsom salts at night surrounded by candle lights (and bugs). The place was surrounded by flatland and owned by a couple of farmers. It was secluded and very private.

 

The kitchen itself had an old school fridge that did not require electricity. All that was required was a huge block of ice that you put in the top compartment which circulates the cold air around the “unit”. It was a glorified cooler. Wish I took a photo of it.
Here are some more photos of the place and surrounding areas:

On the last night while we were snuggled in bed we heard a weird noise coming from outside the tent. It started quite but started getting louder and louder. Something was approaching our tent. The sound was quite terrifying as the noise crescendo-ed into a loud shriek until finally we heard a jump and a smothering of another animal then silence.

Time stood still for what seemed like eternity. The vibrant night sounds of the birds and animals ceased. The ruffling of the leaves and wind went quiet. We could feel our chests pumping with anxiety. What on earth was that?! Finally we heard the noise again, it was drifting farther and farther away from the tent. We sighed in relief and went to bed.

 

Later, when we were home, we tried to figure out what in the world that noise was. What creature could have made such a terrifying sound? What presence could silence an entire forest full of birds, animals and bugs?!?

 

 

 

 

The answer?

 

 

 

 

A mothef^%&ing kiwi. The most terrifying animal in NZ.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

So how much is this place going to set you back? We payed $260 per night for the luxury.
Can I charge my iphone? Listen, even though its glamping there’s still a bit camping involved. Everything in the house is powered by solar or battery and has no electrical sockets to charge anything (including my laptop *shakes fits*)
Where can I get more information? here for the same glamping site and here for the general glamping site.
What else was there to do around there? Well that’s a great question… Please see below.

Largest Kauri Trees in the Country

I mean when  I say massive trees it doesn’t invoke the same shock and awe as let’s say the Jurassic Park like feel of Milford Sound or the pristine waters near Queenstown, at least, that’s what I thought.

Waipua Forest is a 15 minute drive from Kaihu which was also on the way to the Hokianga Region where we did our sand dune surfing into the ocean.

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 Tane Mahuta is the largest Kauri tree in NZ , in the forest that Tane is located in are the “Four Sisters” as well as 2nd and seventh largest Kauri Tree in the country. I often wondered how and why anyone would take the time to rank trees by size and if they measured every single tree in the country. Could there be a larger tree that remains undiscovered? Who cares.
By virtue of our trip we ended up in the vicinity of the 2nd, 7th and 4 sisters Kauri trees first (Tane gets his own little entrance further along the trip). It was a nice brisk walk and each tree had its own little sign telling you where to go.
and after that brisk walk…

Its actually more impressive in real life… tried to get a shot beside the trees but it makes it look even smaller. I’m talking about the tree not my…

Here are some more trees:

Next up was Tane whom we had to drive another 5 min for. He got his own area surrounded by what I’m calling his tree like “bitches and hoes” and was by far the busiest of the two locations.

I actually thought Tane was a bit of a waste of time. Not only did you have to climb over a crap ton of tourists but you also had to clean your feet again (must be done at the beginning and end of all hikes to avoid Kauri Dieback disease affecting the mighty Kauri trees). I also thought Te Matua was larger by sheer height but I guess since Tane was thicker he gets to be number one (all about dat giiiirth).

Guise, that’s it for my glamping adventure. I post an entry about various topics each week on Weds and would like to know what you guys want to hear more about. If you liked the post or any of my posts please remember to push that like button below. THANKS GUISEEEEE! What enormous trees have you seen recently? Have you ever experienced glamping in the wild? What cool amenities did you get? More importantly how much was it? Have you ever heard a kiwi before?!

Comments, love hate, questions and likes below.

 

Experience NZ: New Zealand’s Best Kept Secret

I know what you’re thinking. Aaron…what kind of pathetic self enclosed hermit crab are you? Right up to this point you’ve focused on how to get a Working Holiday Visa and what has actually led you to New Zealand but nothing actually about New Zealand itself. What a newb!

Well, I’m about to rock your boat mes ami. I’m going to drop one of New Zealand best kept secrets and guess what? Its on the North Island.

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I know right? You look at any travel brochure about New Zealand and you get tons of enthusiasm about places like beautiful Milford Sound, Queenstown and the Bluffs in the South but not a peep about the North. Well I’m about to give the North some loving. Keep your pants on Kim Jong Un.

Hokianga – Opononi/Omapere

Just to give you a visual the place I’m talking about is here:

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Yeah, just a 3.21 hour drive no biggie. We were based in a little village called Kaihu where we stayed at a fancy “glamping” site called Highfield Forest Retreat. You can read about my glamping escapade here.

Opononi/Omapere are twin coastal cities that boasts one of New Zealand’s finest Sand Dunes, fishing sites, white sandy beaches and some pretty decent fish and chips this side of Auckland. In the surrounding areas you can find some perfectly rounded boulders at Koutu at low tide as well as a crap ton of oysters you can harvest. Remember to bring a chisel, hammer and a bucket! God knows the Chinese and locals do.

Let’s start with our trip! We were lucky enough to be going on a spectacular day. There are various marked vantage points along the way to stop your car and take pictures of the sand dunes and beaches of Opononi (be sure to keep a look out!). Here are a couple of my pictures.

Stunning. Even more so in person. Follow me on Instagram @thefrugalaccountant for more.

After stopping every 2 seconds for photographs we finally made it to Opononi with the intention of trying some sand dune body boarding. It sounds as cool as it actually is.

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There was a bit of a problem, however, the sand dunes were actually separated from the coast by a fairly large body of water and are actually quite secluded as there are no roads or paths that lead there, even on the northern side of the dunes.

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How do we get across?

Being the super organised adventurist I am (not really), I set out to find information at the local information centre. They said that a local company takes people across for $27 p.p round trip… which included the body board rental. Both my inner accountant and Chinese heritage started frothing at the gash.

The boat leaves every 30 min on the hour and we have to be at the docks 5 minutes before departure. They don’t wait so DONT BE LATE! They usually run from 10am – 3pm and is very weather/popularity dependent on that day so I’d advise checking with the information site first to see if they are running before running over to the docks to wait for them.

So there are a few payment options. You can be super prepared and buy your ticket in advance from the information centre like a good little accountant or you could be super irresponsible and make everyone wait for you while you make your payment by either EFTPOS (debit card) or cash while you board the boat.

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You can stay on the dunes as long as the last ferry ride (they will tell you when you ride over as its weather and popularity dependent). Having a really small bladder and possibly early stages of prostate cancer (self diagnosed), I always make sure I know where my washrooms are at at all times. Unfortunately, I was so elated at the prospect of sliding down copious amounts of sand I forgot to ask. Womp Womp… no washrooms on the sand dunes, as can be expected but there is a bit of foliage at the top of the hill? mountain of sand? for you to do your business, number 1 only of course. Girls… sorry.

When we arrived at the sand dunes the main hill was already quite busy with a crap ton of people. We like going to path less travelled so we started out trip upwards into the mountain of sand.

The sand was vast. Largest sand dunes I’ve ever seen (no I’ve never been to the middle east and yes I know its bigger – but this is New Zealand bitch).

I had a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) on the way up after watching how unbelievably awesome sliding down a huge hill of sand into the ocean was but I was a bit of a chicken shit, so I wanted to start small. I am reluctantly putting up a vid of Nicole and myself sliding down a small hill. Please don’t judge us.

I just realised that I cant upload videos on here cause I have a free subscription. So please click Nicole and Aaron to see our pansy ass video of both of us sliding down a baby hill via my make shift YouTube channel. I’ll put some music on to make the video more palatable.

God, look at that I even used my feet to slow myself down. Not even funky porno music could save my video, I’m pathetic. Anyways, here’s a couple more pictures of sand because you haven’t seen enough!

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We spent about an hour and a half on the dunes. You could honestly spend the entire day as we only covered a fraction of it. We wanted to make more time for the other activities we wanted to do like go to Bayly’s/Ripiro Beach which is the longest beach in New Zealand which I cover it in my next blog

I know what you’re about to ask …”Did your pansy ass ever make it to the big kid slope?”. The answer is yes I did haters! But we were in such a hurry that I only got to go once and then had to hurry on to the ferry as it had just arrived on shore. Unfortunately, Nicole wasn’t able to capture the epicness that ensued while I slid down that magical hill of sand and into the glistening blue ocean water but believe you me it was awesome. Here are some pictures of other people sliding down that magical hill while I scoot away on the boat, tears gushing down my face with arms flung out in desperation to cling on to that magical sandy hill of magic and delight.

 

Luckily, we got ice cream afterwards otherwise I would have been crying and moaning like a teething 2 year old with chicken pox. New mothers know where I’m at.fist-bump-it.pngAnyways, insert cheesy line about travelling and niceties about New Zealand here. Insert question to invoke discussion here and thanks for reading.

No but seriously tell me about experiences you’ve had in New Zealand or anywhere in this beautiful blue … green… yellow? planet of ours. Let’s compare notes.

The adventure ain’t over yet. My next blog will dive into the glamping portion of my trip as well as Bayly’s/Riporo Beach and the most protected and the largest Kauri trees in New Zealand.

PEACE.

 

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