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Local Tourists - Northland Gems for Summer Fun

It's been a while since my last blog post but time definitely flies when you're having summer fun! I sit here on another extremely warm Northland day, ice cold water at hand and doors swung open but there's barely a breath of wind. I've switched on a large newly purchased fan and the breeze it creates, while not aircon-cold is an absolute triumph!

I thought we'd be in the swing of the seasons here by now, it's our third summer but this one has been unlike the others. We haven't had rain since late November from memory and in the last few weeks the usual mountain top wind has even been scarce making for day after day of hot and dry. Deep cracks have formed in the ground, flowers sulk, trees look limp under the sun's rays and the dog's favourite snack without doubt, is a couple of ice cubes to crunch and slurp.

It's now that I'm aware this is the fifth drought in Northland in seven years! They say the generous rainfall always comes at some point in the four season cycle and thinking back to late last Winter, 'generous' was a bit of an understatement, so it's swings and roundabouts alright. The holiday season has been busy in the Orchard Cottage again, it generally means for us that this is not a time to plan a getaway. We stick around and we're definitely cool with that, there's plenty of worse places to spend your Summer 😏.

Each year end, looking ahead at the school break to come, it always seems like such a vast amount of time. Almost two months to switch off from the normal routine, but every year it goes so quickly and before you know it, it's all over and we're knee deep in a new year again. This time I was determined that we would get out and about a bit though, become 'local tourists' and uncover a few more gorgeous little spots not far from home. On reflection, I may have over estimated the number of things we would tick off the list, but I figure there's still plenty of weekends and summery days left for more adventures and the places we did explore are definitely worth sharing, so starting with these two...

Otamure Bay, Whananaki - 30km North of Whangarei

With guests settled in the Cottage over New Year's Eve, it was the perfect opportunity to accept a generous invitation from friends of friends, to join them for a night at their little piece of Northland goodness a bit further up the Island. This is where we discovered a truly special little bay called Otamure. It was fleeting, but it was just enough time to soak up the real kiwi summer vibe of this place and I know it's somewhere we'd love to visit again and discover more of.

A short drive on from Whananaki North the coast drops down into these lovely bays, and on the afternoon we arrived, we wasted no time pitching our little tent and setting off to the beach. Otamure Bay itself has a conservation campsite right on the beachfront (which looks fantastic!) and is not somewhere we could let our pooch Ben roam, so it was actually just over the hill to another gorgeous spot, Moureeses Bay that we enjoyed stunning crystal blue water, rolling waves and sweet sunshine.
Later on the evening was filled with wonderful hospitality, amazing food and it was great to have a couple of generations celebrating together and welcoming in the new year. Our hosts seem to truly embody that fantastic New Zealand trait of creating long lasting memories, by simply opening their door, sharing their space and company over a good meal and a good time.

After a languid start to the new day, swapping more stories and laughs we couldn't resist a stop at the vintage Air Stream caravan that parks up daily opposite Otamure Bay, for a real fruit ice cream on our way home. This simply left the sweetest taste to finish our mini getaway. This hipster couple with their little business called Melt, do coffee and ice cream. Their focus is on a great product made with love and it certainly shows. Queues of punters regularly form along the grass verge, like us, people are happy to wait, chatting in the sunshine and embracing a slower holiday pace. We could have easily stayed on for days and we'll head back for sure, to meander further along this northern coastline and see what other treasures await. It got two thumbs up from us and we'll be recommending to others for sure.

Piroa Falls, Waipu - 35km South of Whangarei

It was one of those crystal clear mornings, Joe had returned to work and Holly and I had nothing pressing on the agenda. I hit up www.whangareinz.com for suggestions of short drives or day trips we could do and came across the lovely looking Piroa Falls. A 30 minute drive south to the base of the Brynderwyn Hills and quite close to Waipu. So we packed up the car and the dog, turned on one of our favourite road trip playlists and hit the track.

Holly had only driven through Waipu before so we took a little detour, out towards the coast and the very popular Waipu Cove. It's a pretty awesome sparkling white sand beach that seems to go on forever. We were tempted by the rolling waves but decided to just enjoy the view and head back into Waipu town for some lunch.
It was on to McLeod's Pizza Barn and Brewery which has a pretty good reputation in the North. We arrived a little before midday and this worked in our favour as seats filled quickly around us. They're well known for generous helpings, no skimping on their pizza toppings and great locally brewed beer. No beer for us on this day but I reckon the photo pretty much says it all about the pizza 😋

So with full bellies we headed back out to SH1 from the charming Waipu township (worth a visit itself for it's history and a bit of vintage shopping), and a little further south to Waipu Gorge Road. It's an unsealed 7kms to the beginning of the walkway to Piroa Falls, but I think this just makes you slow down and enjoy the journey. From the car park it's a super easy walk down well-maintained steps, through beautiful bush. The website describes "a small waterfall that is big on beauty" and I could agree more!
There were just a couple of other people enjoying this natural sanctuary when we arrived but being the height of summer and a beautiful day, it wasn't long before we were joined by lots more waterfall seekers. I chose to stay with Ben, who thought he had stumbled across paradise as a group of dog-loving kids were happy to throw a stick over and over as he fetched, pouncing and splashing with delight in the lower pool. Holly meanwhile, ventured into the swimming holes further up and watched on as other braver souls jumped from rocky platforms and explored on top and underneath the stunning cascade.
The smiles were wide on our faces as we headed home, singing along to playlist favourites, windows down and wind in our hair. Another brilliant little spot discovered and a place I know we'll get back to. The kiwi summer is alive and kicking in these parts and our local tourist passport got a bit more exposure.

In the next post I want to share a couple more places that are super close to our place here at the Orchard Cottage, so stay tuned!