Thermal Explorers

Our last week in New Zealand was a crazy tour from small town to small town, making our way from Lake Taupo back to Auckland. We stayed in a farm, in a cottage by the beach, in the rolling hills of the Waitakere Ranges… and a lot of time in New Zealand’s fancy McCafes in between. Whoever thought up the idea of the McDonald PlayPlace is an actual genius.

In Lake Taupo we soaked in the views of black swans floating on the pristine water with snow capped peaks in the backdrop. But what we loved most about this place was the farm we stayed on with a family who have 8 children and many ducks, chickens, rabbits, lambs and ponies.

Yes, that’s right I said 8 kids. They just kept appearing and Sami and I kept trying to keep track of who was who. The oldest was 14 and the youngest was 13 months. Honestly, Deborah the mum seemed to have it figured out though. Literally every child was given tasks for the day and all seemed busy, happy and seriously well behaved.

Nu thought the animals were very cool – especially Sid, the big floppy bunny. He also provided a good deal of entertainment for the chickens, who he would speak to through the kitchen window and pretend to feed through the glass. I left the door open one afternoon and a chicken just waltzed right in looking for him!

To get to our next destination on the Bay of Plenty coast we drove along the fascinating Thermal Explorer highway. We stopped to see one of the geothermal fields with hot geysers and bubbling mud and were awed by the bright colours.

When we reached Whanagamata we knew right away it was going to be a chilled out beach town. The streets were packed with tweens on summer holiday gossiping with friends and eating ice cream, and cottages were bustling with the long weekend vibe.


We loved the amazing beach here where we could walk nearly a kilometer out into the ocean. In fact, we loved the beach so much that we may have over done it and were literally burnt to a crisp. Because we couldn’t spend anymore time in the sun we had to retreat to less popular activities in Whangamata, like hanging out in the pharmacy where they had a kid’s play area. We reasoned that this was acceptable because we bought shampoo there.

From Whangamata we made our way to a suburb of Auckland called Oratia. Sami’s favourite part of this town was the cheap Indian food, which by New Zealand standards seemed like a giveaway. I loved our Airbnb and especially Nigel, the pet pig. We were allowed to feed him our food scraps and Nu would sometimes share some of his cereal mix – only the Cheerios, not the Rice Krispies. Nu’s favourite thing here was the amazing playground that seemed to be modeled after an old gold mining town. He took his gold mining activities very seriously and got straight to panning. I have to admit, it was a super creative and fun place.

He also really appreciated the fact that this apartment was equipped with Netflix. His first molar has just come through and it’s been a little rough going for the past week. There’s nothing like a little Elmo and apple juice to cheer you up.

We finished our time in New Zealand with a beautiful drive to the west coast beaches near Piha and had a magnificent view of the ocean to both the East and West at the peak of the Waitakere Ranges.