Our Tramping Essentials in New Zealand

Tramping is one of the many activities that we love doing especially during summer. New Zealand is dotted with lush parks and reserves that makes it one of the best places on Earth to explore by foot. And during our travels, we always make sure to bring the following essentials to make our tramping trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

1. SUN PROTECTION; The works; including sunscreen, UV protection clothing, head-wear , and sunglasses.

Wherever you are in the world, sun protection should be a priority. And its importance is particularly magnified when you are exposing yourself under the harsh New Zealand sun.

2. A good pair of FOOTWEAR.

While tramping, don’t ever forget to wear a comfortable pair of shoes. Regardless of the difficulty level of the track/s, do not take your feet for granted. Tough but comfortable footwear can mean the difference between being able to go out and do it all over again the next day, or being stuck at the hotel/camp nursing bruised and blistered feet. Our choice of footwear during summer, particularly when we visited Tutukaka Coast, are the Keen Clearwater CNX Sandals. These footwear are very versatile, lightweight, and comfortable; they allowed us to explore the dry tracks and mountain trails straight from the beaches and streams, without that slippery feeling of wet shoes.

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3. Towels and Spare Clothing

Towels and extra clothes are very handy for a number of different situations; whether you wish to avoid feeling cold after a quick dip in the water, feel refreshed after getting sticky with sweat from all that walking, or (depending on your location) when you decide to go directly to the cafe or the restaurant for a quick meal after a day of exploring.

4. Water/ Coconut Water

Keeping hydrated while hiking is really a no-brainer, your body needs fluids for it to be able to function normally. Always remember to bring enough fluids to keep you hydrated all throughout the trip, keep in mind that it is very easy to get dehydrated without even realizing it, specially during hot days. We try to avoid sugary energy drinks and opt for plain old water or coconut juice instead. We love the taste of cold coconut water, and it also has the added benefit of replenishing the electrolytes that your body loses through sweat.

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5.FOOD!

Do not ever forget to bring some snacks because you are about to embark on a physical activity that can quickly deplete your energy stores. And it is when you’re tired and hungry that you are most prone to making silly mistakes that can cut your trip short. We always pack plenty of fruits, sandwiches, chips, and chocolates (just for that extra boost of energy 😉 ).

6. A Reliable Backpack

Because we only hike for two to three hours at a time, we usually carry one reasonably sized backpack each. Our criteria when we chose our bag, which is the Under Armour VX2-T Backpack, are the padded straps (because comfort is everything!), its water repellent finish and water resistant zippers (which means that we can explore rain or shine), and its ability to accommodate all of our essentials without being too big or bulky.

7. Camera

We use three different cameras when travelling, two for taking photos and one dedicated camera for taking videos. We use the GoPro Hero 4 for videos because it is handy, straightforward, and can come in a variety of cases to fit whatever setting/weather you want to use it in. But because it has that fisheye effect, we still use different cameras to take still shots. The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, which is a mobile phone, and the Olympus PEN E-PL1 are very handy for taking photos when you are outdoors; they are not too bulky nor too heavy to include in your backpack. They also take good quality photos (refer to all the photos in the blogs, although some have already been edited in Photoshop).

Wherever you are and whatever your tramping plans are, always keep in mind to pack and bring all the essentials; because sore feet, a dehydrated body, and badly sunburned skin are all easily avoidable inconveniences that have no place in your holiday.

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“Surfing Weekend” at Sandy Bay, Tutukaka Coast

During the  Auckland Anniversary weekend we traveled up north to visit Tutukaka Coast . One of the many activities that we were fortunate enough to try (because the weather was just perfect) was surfing. A few weeks before traveling, we were able to find a company offering surfing lessons in Sandy Bay, named Tutukaka Surf. We opted to sign up with them because of the good reviews and its close proximity to Sandy Bay Retreat.

We have been communicating with Simon for the booking for our surfing lessons and the instructor who greeted us on the day was Shane. The wet suits, sunblock, and soft boards were all provided, and it was about a two-hour session. We had so much fun, despite the nosedives and the flipping boards, that we decided to go back once we get another chance.

As the Easter weekend started to roll in, we discussed about the possibility of going back to the Tutukaka Coast, particularly at Sandy Bay to try and catch more waves.

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Planning the trip became quite tricky when Sandy Bay Retreat and most of the other holiday homes close to the beach (that suited our needs) were already booked for the long Easter weekend. We blame it to the fact that it was quite late when we started looking for an accommodation. However, we continued to scour the internet and we found a holiday park offering ensuite cabins. Grant, who was the contact person, replied efficiently to our query and we ended up booking an ensuite cabin at the Tutukaka Holiday Park. It also turned out that it was actually the perfect option because of its location which was close to the shops and was just a 6-minute drive to Sandy Bay.

As for the activities, because we were so focused on surfing, we emailed Simon again from Tutukaka Surf to enquire about the rental options for the Platino soft boards, which were perfect for beginners like us. After receiving his usual accommodating emails, we were able to reach an agreement as to where and what time we can pick the boards up.

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After two full days of lounging under the sun, of fighting our fear of drowning, and of riding and falling off our boards, we still couldn’t get enough of the excitement that one experiences on top of a wave and the slow surf towards the shore. The hours we spent on the beach haven’t really improved our surfing skills, but it has indeed taught us a few lessons which are good enough for our next surfing adventure.

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If you are visiting Sandy Bay and would like to try your knack at surfing, you can reach Simon of Tutukaka Surf at simon@tutukakasurf.co.nz. And if you are looking for a good accommodation, you can contact Grant or Colleen of Tutukaka Holiday Park at tutukakaholidaypark@gmail.com.

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Tutukaka Coast: Bays and Pools

Tutukaka Coast is one of the many places in New Zealand that every traveler shouldn’t miss. If you love the sea, sun, and sand, this is paradise; if you don’t, the coast might change your mind. This is one of the best locations that we have visited since living in NZ.

The second day, of our four-day holiday, was set for exploring the beaches and the ever-famous Mermaid Pools.

If you cruise along Matapouri Road towards Marina Road from Sandy Bay Retreat, you’ll drive past some great spots including Sandy Bay, Woolley’s Bay, Whale Bay, and Matapouri Bay. We decided to park at the Whale Bay entrance and then figure out where the path towards the Mermaid Pools is located.

At the entrance, there was a map explaining the different routes leading to Matapouri Bay. However, there was no mention of Mermaid Pools. Upon consulting with Google, many bloggers have posted some information about the “possible” location which was somewhere around the Matapouri Bay area. So, we made the decision of following the trail until we locate the Mermaid Pools.

The first stop was Whale Bay. We could lounge here all day! The water was calm, clear, clean, refreshing, and most importantly “shallow” (haha!). It’s a great place to snorkel, we got to see the occasional schools of white bait swimming close to the shore and some goby wandering amongst the rocks, not as many fish species as Poor Knights Islands but it was still a beautiful sight.

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As we continued to follow the track, we saw the most amazing sight! (The photo does not justify the actual view) The Whale Bay Lookout gives you a great view of the bays and the islands in the area. It is a really steep area without any railings though, so make sure you take extra care when taking those selfies.

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Before finally arriving in Matapouri Bay, we made a quick stop at Pebble Bay. As the name entails, rather than seeing white/ brown sand similar to Whale Bay, you’ll instead be welcomed by a nice carpet of tiny, smooth stones. It’s a nice and quiet spot, great for people hoping for a bit of privacy. Although, be warned that the sea can be rough around this area especially during high tide.

Pebbly Beach

The end of the track led to Matapouri Bay. After re-reading the information on one of the blogs, we realized that it was a bit of a mission to continue to the Mermaid Pools while the tide was still high. So we just spent the rest of the time lounging and taking a quick nap before heading back to the Whale Bay car park.

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Safe Travels!

Kay & Gelo

Hidden Treasures of the North Part 2: Sandy Bay Retreat

To complete our trip, we booked a cabin in a place called Sandy Bay Retreat. It was one of the highlights of our itinerary. After contacting Coastal Holiday Homes and finalizing the reservations, we were sent a rather long list stating the things that we need to bring (including bed linens, rubbish bags, etc.), the directions to the cabin and how to enter the property, and the garbage disposal instructions (which involves driving to the waste disposal area). We had to read thru the email a million times just to make sure that we didn’t miss anything.

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Sandy Bay Retreat is very suitable for travelers who are after “peace and quiet”. It is also a place to “disconnect”. Network coverage is very limited (which means you have to climb a hill to get network access), DVDs are your best friend, you only see your neighbor if you bring some type of telescope, and the background music is of birds chirping, some ducks quacking, and insects trying to carry a tune.

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Staying at this place clearly outlines what holidays should be about: bonding with loved ones, appreciating nature, relaxing and breathing in fresh, clean air, and simply disconnecting from all stressors.

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Breakfast is served!

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Pros:
It is a very peaceful location. The cabin and some of the other amenities are well maintained. You get value for your money. Although the retreat has 2 other cabins and a camp ground, no other people will be booked in if a person, couple, or a group has already made a reservation, thus, you get your much deserved privacy.

Cons (which aren’t really a biggie):
We weren’t able to use the outdoor tub because it hasn’t been cleaned for quite some time. It is located quite a while away from the shops; so if you are planning to cook, it is better to purchase all your supplies before heading to the retreat.

Safe Travels!

Kay & Gelo

 

Hidden Treasures of the North Part 1: Poor Knights Islands

Work hard, party harder! These are often the posts we see on Facebook when friends get the chance to enjoy a night out or a weekend away after a long work week. Indeed, every person deserves a break once in a while. Our chance to enjoy a good holiday was during the Auckland Anniversary long weekend wherein we took the opportunity to explore the Tutukaka Coast (including Poor Knights Island, Matapouri Bay, Whale Bay, Sandy Bay, and Mermaid Pools) in Whangarei.

From Auckland, it usually takes around 2.5 hours to travel by car. But due to the rush hour traffic at 7:30 in the morning and road works everywhere, it took us more than 3 hours to reach the Dive! Tutukaka office at Marina Road where we had to register for the the Perfect Day cruise (and where the cruise fees {$169/adult} are paid). We arrived at 10:45 am and the vessel left the dock at 11:00 am.

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On-board the perfect day.

The first stop for our long weekend adventure is Poor Knights Islands. It is a group of islands which have been categorized as a marine reserve; which meant that you are only allowed to bring home photos and memories. Fishing, docking, and even tramping are not possible. Regardless of the aforementioned information, exploring the surrounding structures while on board the vessel, snorkeling, and kayaking was still a remarkable experience.

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One of the archways. (Pardon our inability to remember the name.)

The trip duration was roughly five hours. This included the travel time to and from the marina, lunch (sandwiches, soup, and hot drinks), activities like snorkeling and kayaking (all the gear was provided), and sightseeing.

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Double and single kayaks. (Life jackets are also provided if required)

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The overall experience was incredible. It was indeed the “perfect” start to our holiday!

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Spotted a school of Trevally while cruising back to the marina.

 

The Poor Knights Islands and A Perfect Day cruise is the perfect combination when you visit the Tutukaka Coast.

Safe Travels!

Kay & Gelo