Our ultimate 2017 trip was to New Zealand, both North and South Islands, bringing along 3 little (below 5) boys. Honestly, it was very tiring, especially with my 3 year old having bad eczema. So our adventure (or itinerary) for the 10 days covered Auckland City, Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton, Rotorua Maori Village, and the must-do South Island campervan experience that included Christchurch, Mount Cook, and Milford Sound. Here goes!
North Island, New Zealand
Day 1: 5th October 2017
Our 10am flight was from Gold Coast Coolangatta Airport to Auckland International Airport.
Arrived ahead 1day from the rest of the family who were travelling from Malaysia, purely a mistake during booking. Good news was, we had 1 extra day in Auckland City ;) We pre-booked our airport transfer online, this is a good tip as the van was ready when we arrived to take us straight to our accomodation. Link here.
Stayed at Bianco off Queen Serviced Apartments for this one extra night. Absolutely recommended as all the kids stayed free and the room was lovely for its rate.
Both Hasben and I were not feeling too well so we just rested for the rest of the day. Hasben walked to a nearby Asian Market to stock up some food while I ordered Domino's Pizza through their website to be delivered to the apartment. Since we did not have any transport yet, and Halal restaurants were not nearby, we ordered vegetarian pizza with gluten-free base. My son with the eczema, he is allergic to gluten, so we had quite little choice in food. The delivery costed about $10 I think, so yeah, not a bargain really.
Day 2: 6th October 2017
Checked-out from the hotel and left our luggages there to be picked-up later. Using the traditional paper map, walked our way to the city center for Auckland's Sky Tower. We had 2 strollers which are a necessity for all the walking we did. Our 5 year old was a champ, despite the occasional "Tired" whining, he did okay. On our way, stopped by the Central City Library for a toilet break.
Indian food for lunch at one of the malls along the way.
Enjoyed the city from above!
Walked back to our second apartment, Waldorf St Martin Apartment Hotel. The rest of our family landed around 4pm and picked-up our rented 12-seater van from the airport. Tomorrow, the road trip begins!
Day 3: 7th October 2017
Headed towards Waitomo to visit the glow worms. Made a few stop on the way, particularly Countdown (for groceries) and a halal butcher shop.
Toilet stop at Lake Ngaroto:
Arrived at Waitomo caves at 10am and joined the tour which was pre-booked online. All attractions in NZ can be purchased online, so we did not have to worry about all the entrance fees during the trip. This is highly recommended as some sessions were fully-booked when we arrived.
No strollers here as we will be riding a small boat through the caves. Prior to the boat ride, we had to walk for a bit in the dark cave while the guide provided some background information on the caves and glow worms. This part was a bit tricky as the kids got a bit bored and started making noises, which obviously was not welcomed by the guide or the rest of the visitors.
Lil Bro 1 with Lil Nephew 1 =)
Back on our van and headed for Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand!
Had some trouble with the accomodations, they were only expecting 2 people and was shocked to see 12 people instead! So, with Booking.com, we found a motel close by to accomodate us all. Truth be told, at this stage, I couldn't care less to remember the names of the motels we stayed in. It is a whole different experience when travelling with kids, you get tired easily, and this sort of made me forget to enjoy most things. I promised myself to try better next time! Anyway, once we have unloaded our luggages, it was already dark. The whole family went for a night stroll at the town center.
Waited for 12am to wake Hasben up and gave him his birthday present - North Face shoes that I successfully hid from him in my luggage (^u^) Happy 33rd birthday Babes!
Day 4: 8th October 2017
Mom cooked our breakfast in the motel, she was always worried that one of us was going to starve to death. After packing-up and checking-out, we had a bit of a stroll (again) around Lake Taupo Town Center and the stores nearby. It was mostly cloudy and rained a bit, so we couldn't really enjoy the view to the fullest.
Moving on, just a short drive later, we reached Huka Falls. We were not too adventurous to track the area, so the beautiful views are accessible with strollers. Love the emerald coloured waterfalls. Do be mindful of the children.
Back on the road, we headed for Rotorua for our Maori cultural experience. We did arrive a bit early and found ourselves a little Islamic Center to perform our prayers. We just needed to contact the person-in-charge (contact number displayed at the door of the center) for the passcode to enter the prayer hall.
Later, we visited Kuirau Park, New Zealand's only geothermal public park, meaning - it's free! So, if you do not have enough time or on a tight budget, this is a place to be to experience the bubbling geothermal activity (and its 'unique' smell) of North Island.
At 4pm, we reached the Tamaki Maori Village office, waited for the busses to arrive which brought us to the actual live village. It was a very good experience, to learn the Maori's culture and understand New Zealand better. There was a bit of walking throughout the tour and we found that small strollers were manageable.
After the show, we drove to Waikato and checked-in around 9pm.
Day 5: 9th October 2017
Woke up with a swollen eye and I blamed it on bed bugs! So here in Matamata, it can mean only one thing for us (especially Mom) - Hobbiton! We booked the 10am tour and arrived just in the nick of time, as the tour bus was about to depart to the movie set. We were praying hard that the rain would stop and thankfully, it did. However, a bit of sunshine would make the pictures more brilliant but, I'll take it! Definitely no strollers here and plenty of walking.
Our little ones did well, but near towards the end of the tour, Afi wanted to pee so you can imagine how Hasben felt as he had to rush straight to The Shire's Rest, interrupting his photo spree.
The toilet at the cafe was so adorable, a must visit LOL! (Ignore my deformed right eye):
End of our Hobbiton tour.
After the tour, it was straight back to Auckland as the next morning, we needed to catch our domestic flight to South Island. For lunch, we ate tandoori and naan at Tandoori Hutt, Mount Roskill, located very close to a mosque.
The boys also had a haircut with the Palestinian barber right next door.
We strolled around Auckland City after struggling to find a parking spot. Most of the shops were closed by then, so after a few pictures, checked-in to our accomodation near the airport.
That night, we celebrated Kimi's 6th birthday + Hasben's belated birthday + Akiff's and WinZie's advance birthdays. The birthday boy had a great time unwrapping his pressies. Love you baby!
Day 6: 10th October 2017
Checked-out from the apartment early morning. The ladies were dropped-off at the airport to proceed with flight check-in while the guys went to return the van at the rental office. The van hire company sent them back to the airport for free. Our flight was delayed so it was near noon that we actually took-off to Christchurch.
To be continued!