Hey, Whangarei

We’d more or less planned our entire trip from behind a computer in Canada. Typical stuff: what does Lonely Planet have to say? Okay – we’ll do that, that and that.

Now cross check Trip Advisor. Yep, they also say it’s good. Finally, triangulate our position with an independent blog entry. Awesome. Reviews line up. Trip is sorted.

For the most part, this works. You get the shape of the trip, and the greatest hits you want to see. But then we talked to someone who actually visited New Zealand, and we tossed our plan out the window.

The first thing to go was our plan to only travel south of Auckland on the North Island. According to what we mainly understood online, all the action was underneath the city, not so much above.

Basically, we were wrong.

Whangarei (FON – GAH – RAY) is a 2.5 hr drive north of Auckland, best defined by its forests and marine life. It never crossed our radar when planning our trip, but people we met here, kept suggesting we go.

So, why disappoint?

First, we toured this old forest with huge trees called Kauris:

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All while walking on a path covered in these palm ferns that look like umbrellas:

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Not to be outdone, however, by horses on the side of a pathway, just off a running stream:

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All of which culminated in these falls, that were so incredible it was hard to believe they were real.

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In short, the place was a National Geographic wonderland. Completely unbelievable.

Next, we headed out to the ocean just off the coast to a place called Poor Knights – a marine sanctuary, which we understood had some of the best cold-water diving in the world. Were the views there equally ridiculous?

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Sadly, only above water. Visibility wasn’t as clear as it normally was thanks to that cyclone that stirred up the bottom. Still managed to see some big snapper, urchins and tons of bull kelp.  in many ways, it felt like British Columbia.

More than just a diving tour, the boat also took us under these huge natural arches, into the biggest marine cave in the world where apparently musicians and artists have performed.

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By day’s end, we both felt pretty tired out by the prep and work involved in cold water diving. It was definitely not the easy, throw it on your back and fall off the boat warm-water tropical stuff we were both used to – nevertheless, it was an awesome day and nice to be on the water.

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We’re moving down the island now, next stop the promised land.

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