After a long day of thermal pools, hobbits, and weary roads, we arrived in the small town of Thames at the western base of the Coromandel Peninsula. We first settled into our charming Airbnb that was once a garden shed turned guest house (way cooler than it sounds) and met our equally charming hosts. They highly recommended Nakontong Thai Restaurant but unfortunately the owners were out of town. Thankfully, all of Thames' restaurants and stores are on one primary street so it was easy to find the delicious Kebab Express for massive portions of turkish delicatessen. Our meal finished just in time to enjoy one of the gorgeous sunsets that the Coromandel is known for. Definitely make sure you plan accordingly.
Unfortunately, our plans for exploring the rest of the peninsula were thwarted thanks to an indignant MacBook that died overnight. While the small-town nature of Thames added to its charm, it also meant that we needed to travel to Auckland earlier than expected to get the computer fixed at an Apple dealer before heading to SE Asia. However, there is plenty to explore here when we return as the Coromandel is renowned for its rugged mountains that come crashing into idyllic beaches. A few of the spots we hope to hit next time (yes, there will be a next time) are the magnificent Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach to dig our own hot spring, and catch some surf at Whangamata Beach.
Once we had our MacBook brought back to life by the miraculous hands of a Kiwi Apple technician, we went for a celebratory lunch at The White Rabbit in downtown Auckland. This super hip bistro came by recommendation from friends Caitlin Kellagher & Natalie Franke Hayes (who we had met up with in Queenstown) and we're so glad they shared this gem! The meals were edgy and creative with fine dining flavors but served in a casual, warehouse-chic setting. We loved every single bite!
Our Auckland Airbnb was a just outside of the city center in a quiet little neighborhood. The home was perched on one of the many hills that surround downtown and gave incredible perspective of the sprawling suburbs. For an even better view, our hosts recommended the nearby Mt Eden - an extinct volcano with a stunning overlook of the city that can be driven to the peak. Make sure to grab some tasty woodfired pizza to-go from Al Volo at the base of the hill to take advantage of this ideal picnic spot.
Our host had also confirmed that we were lucky enough to still be within the ideal season for a visit to Muriwai Beach's gannet colony just 40 minutes west of the city. From August to March, these beautiful sea birds mate and nest on the angular outcroppings of Muriwai's cliffed shores. We were mesmerized as we sat on the edge of the rocks for hours watching swarms of gannets dart to and from the water to feed their little ones. The birds were pretty generous with their spot choice as the sun sets directly behind their acrobatics and makes for some pretty epic picture taking.
We also made this itty bitty video of the amazing bird colony. Such a sweet sunset experience!!
Note: we were lucky enough (sarcasm) to experience our first NZ police check-point on the way back to the city from Muriwai. The country has taken very serious steps to curb the amount of drunk driving accidents and strictly uphold their 0.05 BAC limit. Thankfully we are overly cautious about this sort of thing as they were giving compulsory breathalyzer tests to everyone that drove by. Apparently, this is a pretty common deal.
We were definitely sad to be leaving the beautiful land of the Kiwis as we caught our early morning flight out of Auckland but were ready to take on the chaos of SE Asia. Peace out, NZ! It's been grand. Next up, Bali!