We had just been to the South Island and visited Stewart Island hoping to see Kiwi but while we heard them we weren’t lucky enough to see them.
However, on a camping trip to Tawharanui we were lucky enough to see two and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so I wanted to share some Kiwi spotting tips so everyone can experience the wonder of seeing New Zealand’s national bird in the wild.
Of course you will have to wait till its dark , darker than the image I have used above for this post , I just didnt have any night time shots to use.
I’ve always enjoyed the Auckland landscape with its stunning harbour and dormant volcanoes dotted across the horizon. Growing up in East Auckland my local volcano was Mt Wellington/Maungarei and seeing this mountain always connected me with coming home. I am now lucky enough to raise my family in a suburb that has views of that same volcano.
Maungarei is a 135m volcanic peak, and is one of Auckland’s many dormant volcanoes, formed by an eruption around 10,000 years ago.
Not only is Maungarei a dormant volcano with the largest scoria cone of any volcano in Auckland, it was also a significant pa in the Tamaki area and still has examples of early Maori life including terraces, middens and pits.
In March 2019, the pine trees that have grown for over 100 years on the mountain were removed and over 10,000 native trees are going to be planted over the next few years.
And all of this right in the heart of Auckland and in my neighbourhood. We have enjoyed many walks from our house up Maungarei, from the whole family training for Tongariro Crossing to my daughter and I training for Abel Tasman and when we just want an urban adventure. The summit of Maungarei is the perfect spot to enjoy the stunning views of Auckland city and the harbour.
In fact walking is the only way to enjoy this culturally and historically significant site in East Auckland as the road has recently been closed to vehicles.
Its nice to see an old favourite landmark getting the love and appreciation is deserves and I have a new appreciation for the mountain that links to my childhood.
Ways to enjoy Maungarei:
You can park at Mountain Rd, Mt Wellington and walk up the road which is now more of pedestrian path seeing as its closed to traffic.
The ‘road’ up the mountain is still open to cyclists and those with impaired mobility wanting to enjoy all that Maungarei has to offer can contact the Auckland Council to obtain a code for the gate at the bottom of the road.
Park near the Hollywood Bakery on Lunn Ave and walk along the Stonefields Heritage trail and up the mountain from there.
Park in Stonefields, near Papango St and Tihi St and walk up the Stonefields Heritage trail and then up the mountain.
Once you are at the top you can chose to enjoy the views or walk right around the crater which takes about half an hour
Other things to do in the area:
Enjoy the wetland area in Stonefields – you can walk there via the Stonefields Heritage Trail.
Check out some of the playgrounds in the Stonefields area
Explore the Stonefields Heritage trail which runs from Golan Rd ( close to the carpark at the bottom of Maungarei ) to Magma Crescent and goes passed cafes and restaurants in Lunn Ave.
Tiri Tiri Matangi is such an awesome spot for bird watching and located so close to Auckland, just a picturesque 1 ¼ hour ferry trip across the Hauraki Gulf from central Auckland.
You can visit for the day or stay the night in the Department of Conservation hut.
When you visit I have put together some handy hints to maximise your bird watching experience;
paying for a guided walk is well worth it ( you book this when you book your ferry ticket ) and all the money goes straight to the sanctuary society
look up and you will be surprised at what you see. Our visit to Tiri Tiri Matangi was the the best bird spotting we have experienced and we all came home with sore necks from looking up #birdspottinginjury
while there is an awesome visitor centre on the island there are no shops selling food so make sure you take enough supplies.
most of the trails would be pushchair friendly although a little steep – going at a slower pace would be great for bird watching though.
the penguin nesting boxes are easier to view when you put your phone on camera and use the phone screen to view
there is a ute and trailer that can take your gear up the top of the hill to the visitor centre ( and if you are staying the night they take your gear up the hill too )
if you want to stay the night in the hut, plan to book early as its very popular and such a great way toe experience the island after the day trippers go home
and the other thing I learned is that the kokako ( featured in the image above) is actually rarer than the kiwi so we were super lucky to have one put on quite a show for us on our last visit
To book your ferry go to the Fullers website, hut bookings for overnight stay are on the Department of Conservation website.
We’ve spent a bit of money on transporting our bikes over the years so to save you the money I thought I would take you on our bike rack journey and rate each one.
When we went from 2 bikes to 4, 2 of the 4 were kids bikes and fitted on to our existing bike rack which was just a two prong tow bar one. We got away with that for quite a few years, it took a while to strap them all on and the bikes were pretty jammed on so there was lots of making sure they didn’t rub together and we also couldn’t get into the boot of the car when we had the bike rack on.
When the kids upgraded to adult sized bikes we purchased a 4 bike two prong one. After a while wrangling 4 adult size bikes on to the two prong tow bar bike rack and wondering about the weight dangling off the bike rack and tow bar, we moved on to the channel bike rack. This seemed like a game changer as it was so much easier to put the bikes on; they all had their own channel so no chance of bikes rubbing together and quicker to strap on but we still couldn’t get in to the boot of the car.
Along with not being able to get into the boot we also couldn’t tow our camper when we had the bike rack on the tow bar.
Cue the next change in transporting our bikes – yes, we finally bit the bullet and spent the money on roof racks to transport the bikes. My husband got some roof racks off Trademe but it did still cost more than the other two bike racks combined. The ease of putting the bikes on the car and being able to get into the boot is a game changer. It’s a little tricky getting them up on top of the car but once up its very quick to secure them. Not to mention we can now tow our camper and take our bikes away too.
Given our time over we would bite the bullet and go straight for the roof racks.
As its my husband who puts the bikes on the car most of the time I have also asked for his input on the grading system used below.
On the roof
Ease of putting bikes on
Fairly quick but need to arrange bikes so no rubbing.
Fairly quick but need to arrange bikes so no rubbing.
Fast. Strength and balance required to lift bikes onto roof.
Can open boot
Can use tow bar
I ( Charmaine ) can load bikes on rack by myself
Another thing to consider is going up and down steep driveways when the racks that go on the tow bar can get in the way.
There is also the Thule Bike rack that is two ball mounted and swings out of the way giving you the ease of putting bikes on at easily accessible height and access to the boot but not that ability to tow anything.
After our Far North holiday the previous year we were very keen to explore more of Northland so based ourselves at Pataua at the Treasure Island campground. Pataua is divided by an estuary that only has a pedestrian access footbridge between them so when you are driving there make sure you know if you are going to Pataua North or South.
Pataua is a stunning spot with great surf beaches and a fun estuary. The kids had a great time at the campground but we found it a little noisy after dark but I guess that’s what you get at the peak period.
When we weren’t enjoying the beaches at Pataua we were exploring the nearby area. Just down the road from Pataua is one of New Zealand’s best short walks as rated by the Department of Conservation; Mt Mania. It might be short but it’s pretty much a vertical track with lots of steps – its worth it though for spectacular views out over Whangarei harbour. Allow a bit of time at the top as there are lots of views to be had and rocky outcrops to explore.
On the way back around the harbour we spotted a wee jetty in Taurikura Bay, created by a lava flow, so of course we had to get out and have a look. Quite amazing what nature can create.
Then after a day spent relaxing at the campground we set off for Tutukaka over quite a windy back road to spend the day at the Poor Knights marine reserve. I had heard rave reviews about the trip out to the Poor Knights with Dive Tutukaka LINK but when I looked into it before we headed away I wasn’t sure my husband would be so keen on the $500 price tag. As it turns out he thought it was a great idea and it was our family Xmas present.
I love boats and being out on the ocean. It was a stunning day for a boat trip along with an informative commentary from the captain. Once we arrived at the marine reserve it was all go with all snorkels, wetsuits, flippers, kayaks and paddle boards provided.
My kids have never snorkelled before but they took to it like the little fish they are. What a delight it is to swim with so many fish ( I can just never figure out how the fish know it’s a reserve and safe to hang out there ). The water was crystal clear and the visibility was amazing. Once we had snorkelled, paddle boarded and kayaked to our hearts content it was back on board for some lunch and hot soup. Even on a sunny day those crystal clear waters can be chilly after a while.
Then we upped anchor and the captain drove the very large boat into the world’s biggest sea cave and around the island giving us stunning views along with a very interesting commentary.
And then it was time to head for home which ended up being fun in itself as the sea had got up and we were treated to waves splashing over the bow. It was only after I was fully drenched that I noticed everyone else had moved inside.
My son rates this as one of the best days of his life which could be partly because the crew gave him so much one on one attention but mostly because we are truly blessed to live in such a stunning country.
Overall, the stay in Pataua was a great mix of relaxing and adventuring.