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All around Oahu: Hiking Diamond Head

I’m taking a little break from my A-Z Challenge.

I still have R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z to do… And I have some cool ideas for those posts!

But I’m far too excited about our recent trip to Hawaii so that’s what I’m going to cover first.

Views from parking lot at Diamond Head in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii via

Earlier this week James and I wrapped up a 10-day trip to the island of Oahu.

One thing we did during our vacation was hike Diamond Head, the volcano that makes up the iconic background setting of Waikiki Beach.

We first took a city bus to the base of the hike, which is really more of an incline walk.

Diamond Head in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii via

The walk itself was nice. Lots of families with young children were able to do it so it’s not impossible with little ones.

The bus dropped us off just around the corner from the driveway entrance, which took about 15 minutes to walk through to finally get to the park entrance.

James’ Kiwi-ness paid off in helping us gain entrance because we were without cash — it costs $1 per person or $5 for a car.

James mid-hike at Diamond Head in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii via

The kindness of the people working at the park was incredible. A woman working the food/drink truck gave us two free bottles of water because it was too dangerous to be walking up without hydration.

It was so hot out! Well over 30 degrees celsius (close to 90 degrees fahrenheit).

Lesson learned: Bring CASH to Diamond Head!

Views from Diamond Head in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii via

As for views, you won’t see many until you reach the top but MAN is it worth it!!

After climbing some rather intense stairs, you ascend to the summit where you’ll find a stunning lookout over Waikiki Beach and the Diamond Head lighthouse.

The color of the water is breathtaking. See for yourself…

Views from Diamond Head in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii via

Overall: It’s a great thing to do if you’re wanting to stay active and if you’ve got a couple hours to see Honolulu from a beautiful birds-eye perspective.

It took us about an hour and a half round-trip. We took some time relaxing and appreciating the scenery once we reached the top.

We both highly recommend Diamond Head!

Views from Diamond Head in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii via

Alexa Rae & James at Diamond Head in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii via

A-Z Challenge: QUESTIONS (& answers) about my life here in New Zealand

James and Alexa Rae at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comMy boyfriend James is a big fan of Reddit, a site known for their AMA “Ask Me Anything” interviews.

I thought that a Q&A would be a fun way to post about the letter Q in my seemingly never-ending alphabet blogging challenge.

So… on Facebook I asked my friends and family to send me their quandaries. Scroll down to see my responses.


How many hours difference are you from San Diego?

Well, it depends on the time of year actually. Right now, we in New Zealand are nineteen hours ahead of San Diego (or I like to think of it as five hours behind but a day ahead haha).

That will change when each of us (NZ & California) goes through Daylight Savings. It will change to 20 hours ahead and then 21 hours ahead.


How does working there compare to here?

Let’s see…

Here in New Zealand there is a 90-day trial for every employee. Before you hit 90 days at your place of employment you can basically be let go without reason.

Our salaries are a bit higher (but our dollar is weaker and cost of living fairly expensive) so it ends up being somewhat similar.


What are the benefits like?

In New Zealand we get many more days of paid annual leave (the minimum for everyone is four weeks but some businesses offer even more).

We also have PAID parental (yes, BOTH parents) leave (which will move from 16 weeks to 18 weeks next year), as opposed to the US – which federally speaking has zero paid leave and only 12 weeks unpaid leave… California does now offer six weeks at 55% of your salary.

And if you’re wondering why I know so much about parental leave? I wrote an article on it a few weeks ago.


When’s the wedding and am I invited?

Ha! Not anytime SOON – we are not even engaged!


What are your work colleagues like, and are their accents the coolest ever?

Yes, Heath. Your accent is awesome. haha And you, along with all of my co-workers, are pretty darn great! I feel very fortunate to work with such a dynamic group of people. There’s a fantastic energy in our office.


View on the kiwi foodie scene?

The amount of health food restaurants and stores is incredibly impressive for its size!

One of the things that stands out most about the food here is how fresh it is. It just tastes more real and fresh off the vine if that makes sense.


And what would you recommend to those travelling to NZ?

In terms of food? If you’re in Auckland I really love Mexico, ironically. I didn’t even like Mexican food when I lived minutes from the Mexican border. But Mexico is a really fantastic restaurant with a few different locations around AKL.

In terms of just regular travel? In summer I absolutely LOVED spending a few days on the island of Waiheke just off the coast of Auckland.

I would also definitely recommend the Coromandel Peninsula and Cathedral Cove as well as the Glow Worm caves down in Waitomo and hiking Duder Regional Park in Maraetai.

But honestly… this country is the most beautiful and diverse place I’ve ever been to. Everywhere you turn it is absolutely stunning. There truly are endless opportunities for adventure here.


Are you an All Blacks fan?

Sure am! I even have an All Blacks jersey! But I’m still figuring out how rugby works…


Do you say mate yet?

I don’t say mate and I don’t think I ever will. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t come naturally like some other kiwi words do.


Other than missing family & friends, what’s been the most difficult thing to adjust to and how do you deal with it?

Driving and the weather.

I have managed to conquer driving on the left – with the steering wheel on the right. Well, for the most part.

The weather? Still a daily struggle for me. It’s not the arctic or anything but WOW. It really FEELS like it.

I’ve had to go out and buy new clothes – including merino wool tops, wool socks, more tights/leggings, more thick sweaters, more boots, etc.

I also have had to purchase an electric blanket which has made a massive difference in the evenings!

I now use a room heater in the bathroom for when I get out of the shower and I wear a robe, and slippers or house socks pretty much constantly when I’m home.


What is the main differences in food compared to the U.S.? In terms of what people eat, the taste, fruits, etc.

Food in New Zealand is generally a bit healthier — less processed, smaller portions and so on. Supermarkets don’t look that different really but people appear to eat somewaht less fast food and more homecooked meals, and you can tell the differences in sizes at the movies for example.

There’s a lot of pumpkin/kumara served here which makes me a very happy camper! And definitely a British influence in the food – the commonality of things like savoury pies, fish and chips, etc.


How different are the road rules other than driving on the other side of the road?

I’m still getting a hang of that.

The first thing that comes to mind… ROUNDABOUTS! And I actually LOVE them. They scared me for the first couple months but now I can’t imagine life without them. They’re so much more functional than sitting at red lights for forever.

In more rural New Zealand there are one-way bridges where one side yields until there are no more cars coming, which I’ve never seen in the US.

The speed limits in the US are a bit higher and I think I still drive at US speeds – oops! But I haven’t been caught yet. Only by James.


How did your perception of kiwis change after you moved here (if it changed at all)?

Hmm… I think I just learn every day how friendly kiwis are. I personally find them very welcoming and warm, more so than the average Los Angeles resident.

They have a wee bit (see what I did there?) of that formality that Americans associate with the UK. Sort of a sophistication. Well. Some kiwis. 😛


What do you wish the US had that NZ does and what do you wish NZ had that the US does?

I wish NZ had Target! And quark. And less-expensive shopping. And warmer weather. And currency as strong as the USD. And my family. I really miss them.

Hmm… I wish the US had the lifestyle that NZ has. And the amazing level of healthcare that NZ has. And the far lower crime rates. Children walk home from school here without the fear that they’ll be kidnapped. Police in NZ don’t carry guns or even tazers. It’s very safe and you can feel that.


What’s the main differences in lifestyle from the U.S. To NZ?

New Zealanders have a healthier work-life balance. Americans live to work, where in NZ it’s more about working to live. The focus here is on enjoying life – BBQs with friends on the weekend, an emphasis on O.E. (Overseas Experience) for young adults, etc.

People here just seem more ALIVE, instead of simply going through the motions. I never noticed that the US is like that until I spent more time here and realized how much people


If you have any other questions for me ask them in a comment below and I will add them to the post!

A-Z Challenge: Pulling up poissons in the Hauraki Gulf

Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comTwo weekends ago James and his buddies took me fishing in the Hauraki Gulf.

We woke up before the sun to head down to the boat dock at 6 in the morning.

Being that I’m Southern California born and raised I still struggle to dress appropriately for the chilly weather.

Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via

For our ocean excursion I wore a pair of Lululemon leggings, a pair of sweatpants from my university days, a tank top, a long-sleeve shirt, a running jumper, my New Zealand sweatshirt and my beloved Marmot puffer jacket. Oh, and a beanie and my runners.

Overkill? Probably. The guys asked me if I thought we were going skiing.

Oh well, I was warm. And I caught the most fish out of everyone.

So I was doing something right. 😉

Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via

Upon pulling out of the Half Moon Bay harbor, we headed north, straight towards Rakino Island.

The sun joined us over the horizon just as I caught the first fish of the day, a too-small snapper.

With some help from the guys we got the hook out of his lip, and I gave him a quick little kiss before sending him back to grown in to a 20 pounder.

Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via

Grabbing the knife, I cut up some bait – mostly squid and pilchard – and dressed my line for the next fateful reel-in.

But first, I had to learn what a “boil up” is, which is when the fish are chased up to the surface of the water by a larger predator and the birds are used as a signal by fishermen to determine a good spot to cast a lure.

Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via

Before I knew it I was pulling up a decent-sized snapper pretty much every 15 minutes. A bit in part to the tools I was using.

After awhile I offered to switch poles with James so he could have a shot at catching some and he had better luck. So I can’t take ALL the credit.

Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comFishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via

We eventually decided to begin heading south, passing by Waiheke Island and shedding layers as the day warmed up.

Once we were back we met up to clean the boat (or in my case, watch) and count/divvy up the fish we had kept. I can’t quite remember how many there were, at least 15 and at least 75% of the lot was caught by yours truly.

Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via

When we got home James filleted the fish and prepped them for dinner.

Then, we cooked it beer-battered style and served it up with kumara fries! YUM!!!

Fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand via Fresh snapper from the Hauraki Gulf via

In the meantime, a photo I shared to Facebook of my first wee little fish was shared to an account called Girls Who Fish NZ.

It truly was a great morning and now I’m itching to head out on the sea again.

A-Z Challenge: Oob Organic Berry Farm & Ice Cream Stand in New Zealand

More than two months in and I’m very ready to have this A-Z Challenge done with. So I can start blogging exciting things like… my upcoming trip to Hawaii!

But, in the meantime, what better way to pass the time than to tell you about one of my OTHER favorite ice cream spots in New Zealand!

It’s an ice cream kind of month, apparently. All months should be ice cream months, don’t you think?

I visited the OOB Organic Berry Orchard Shop over the summer, when I was staying in Omaha Beach.

The farm is located in Omaha Flats, which is about an hour’s drive north of Auckland.

OOB Omaha Organic Berries Orchard Shop in Omaha, New Zealand via

On the way back south I asked James if we could stop here to get a snack before our drive, as I’d heard so much about it from his family.

Johnny, his best friend, supported my request for ice cream so off we went.

OOB Omaha Organic Berries Orchard Shop in Omaha, New Zealand via

After leaving the beach, passing smaller farms with clusters of grazing furry sheep, we eventually turned down a gravel road.

A couple turns later, the car bumping along the rough drive way, we eventually reached our destination.

With rows of blueberry plants on our right, we finally spotted the cafe building just past an area of covered tables and chairs.

Ice cream from OOB Omaha Organic Berries Orchard Shop in Omaha, New Zealand via

After parking up we walked inside, immediately identifying the smell of fresh cream and berries.

Upon checking out our options, I chose a blend of frozen yogurt and mixed berries while James and Johnny went for ice cream and mixed berries.

The girl behind the counter went to work, scooping out berries and combining them in a big metal machine.

Ice cream from OOB Omaha Organic Berries Orchard Shop in Omaha, New Zealand via

OOB is known for their blueberries but also offers strawberries in their cold creations as well.

I waited in anticipation for my waffle cone-filled deliciousness.

Flecks of the fresh fruit could be seen mixed in, giving the creamy concoctions a pale pink/purple color and a subtle berry flavor.

After paying, James, myself and our third wheel (just kidding J-honny!) walked out to the covered patio to lap up our melting sweet treats.

Ice cream from OOB Omaha Organic Berries Orchard Shop in Omaha, New Zealand via Ice cream from OOB Omaha Organic Berries Orchard Shop in Omaha, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comIce cream from OOB Omaha Organic Berries Orchard Shop in Omaha, New Zealand via

If you’re craving these like I am now… you’ll be happy to know that OOB ice creams can be purchased in grocery stores (including Countdown and New World) but fresh right out off the farm is my favorite way to enjoy them!

The orchard shop – at 89 Jones Road, Omaha – will re-open in summer 2016.

I think I can speak for all three of us when I say we can’t wait to go back.

A-Z Challenge: Nom nom nom! Giapo Haute Ice Cream in Auckland, New Zealand

Giapo haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via

If you read my blog regularly than you know I love ice cream.

And you could also assume that I’m on a hunt to find the best ice cream in Auckland.

Well, Giapo is definitely a contender.

Giapo haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via

I’ll admit that Giapo isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s so rich (for both the taste buds AND the wallet) that I honestly don’t think I can justify going more than a couple times a year.

James and I absolutely LOVED our concoctions, but were left clenching our stomachs after consuming them. The sweetness was just so powerful!

Nevertheless, visiting this shop is a unique and worthy ice cream experience.

Giapo haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via

Giapo was created by Giapo Grazioli in 2008.

On his website Grazioli – an ice cream genius – lays out his passion and theory: “I am committed to changing the way people experience, see, feel and eat ice cream. My approach comes down to transforming the most popular dessert in the world into something fashionable and artistic by paying attention to the smallest of details: textures, flavours, smells, and by applying highly laborious techniques and methods used in haute cuisine and in artistic set ups.

He adds: “Through my creations I aspire to get the world down to New Zealand so they can experience this beautiful country that I have the privilege to be living in.

Giapo haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via

Giapo haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comWhen ordering here, customers are not able to see the flavors in their case, because as the staff told us, they do not want everyone to order based on sight.

Every ice cream is treated like art, with various toppings added, so the final product is always different than what the base begins like.

After sampling 3-4 each, James went for the triple chocolate (I originally did also but changed my mind as to be able to eat some of his as well as mine too!).

His ice cream, a chocolate lovers’ heaven, had chocolate pieces and raspberry bits all adorned with a large chocolate half-moon.

Giapo haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via

I opted for the Giapo Buono – which doesn’t appear to be available anymore.

Their flavors are constantly changing based on season and the latest creative spark they have in the kitchen.

My ice cream was decorated with a thickly packed layer of very fine cookie crumble dust, marshmallow topping which was toasted with a torch, and a handful of glimmering gold-dipped hazelnuts. Can you say WHOA?!

Giapo Buono haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comGiapo Buono haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via

It was great ice cream. There’s no denying it. It was beautiful and it tasted wonderful.

But it was SO SWEET. My stomach began aching before even digging in, and it aches now just thinking about that day.

But it was worth it. Oh, how it was worth it.

Giapo haute ice cream in Auckland, New Zealand via

A-Z Challenge: Meet Ruby, my new car!

RubyCar at Eastern Beach in Auckland, New Zealand via

My one-month blogging challenge has turned into a three-month blogging challenge.

But you know what… priorities.

I managed to land an incredible job with an amazing company, which I’ll tell you about in an upcoming post.

Work and paying the bills will always take precedence. Because adulthood, yo.

But on with the post. I’m pretty damn proud of myself to be honest, for ALL the things I’ve accomplished since I arrived in New Zealand more than two months ago.

One of these things is buying a car – the second one I’ve ever had in my name.

RubyCar at dealership in Otahuhu in Auckland, New Zealand via

She’s not brand new, but she’s beautiful.

We’ve named her Ruby, for her stunning deep red paint job.

James’ son, who turns three this month, calls her RubyCar. It’s SO cute!

I found RubyCar on TradeMe, a Craigslist-type website of sorts.

She was the first car I test drove and after considering others I just kept coming back to her.

And a couple days later, after getting a pre-purchase examination and (sort of) working out bank issues, I picked her up from the dealership in Otahuhu.

RubyCar at Eastern Beach in Auckland, New Zealand via

I chose RubyCar for a variety of reasons.

1.) I never would’ve chosen a red car before now but because I’m in a new country, which drives on the opposite side than what I’ve been used to for 24 years, I figure it’s good to stand out on the road so other drivers see me!

2.) I have always preferred SUVs. My previous cars have been a bright yellow Jeep Wrangler, a pearly white Ford Explorer, a silver gray Ford Escape and now this ruby red Subaru Forester. I simply feel safer in a larger car.

3.) She drives smoothly. She has relatively low miles for her age. She simply has nothing against her. She’s like a perfectly-aged red wine. My very own Central Otago Pinot Noir with wheels! haha

4.) I can say I drive a Japanese import. Sounds so exotic, right? Her previous owners were in Japan and so to RubyCar we say Konnichi wa. Just kidding, we don’t say that…

RubyCar at Bucklands Beach in Auckland, New Zealand via

Since buying my newest transportation at the end of April I have put on approximately 1,000 kms, mostly driving to and from work, which is about 42 km roundtrip!

When I first began driving I was absolutely terrified. It took about 6 weeks (of being mostly a passenger) for me to really get used to the concept of cars being on the left and which lanes turned where, etc.

My first drive to work was at 5:00am on a very very rainy morning in the dark. I survived and since then have been very confident with my driving here.


Sort of forcing myself into driving on the motor way, in the dark, in the rain, was a blessing in disguise because now I can get anywhere no problem!

But as much as I love RubyCar, I still love our odd mornings, with crisp air and seabird sounds, when James and I can sit side-by-side gazing at the Rangitoto volcanic island just off the coast as we take the ferry in to work together.

What a beautiful and lucky life I lead.

A-Z Challenge: Lest We Forget… ANZAC Day in Howick

With my Jamesy, who was the Old Collegian pipes and drum band major at the Howick Anzac Parade via

I started my new job on Monday!! So I’ve been a bit busy…

And, well, ANZAC day was weeks ago.

But let’s do this anyway k?

James in drum major uniform & kilt on Anzac Day morning via James in drum major uniform & kilt on Anzac Day morning via

I’m gonna just throw you right in… Get ready.

ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps.

In short, ANZAC used to be the combined military created in 1914, which existed during the First World War.

For New Zealanders ANZAC day – on April 25 – is very special, as they celebrate and commemorate their past and present military members.

They show appreciation for their service, in a way that isn’t done in the States. At least not on such a big scale, despite the smaller size of their country! It’s amazing.

Wearing a red poppy on Anzac Day via

Howick on Anzac Day morning via

April 25 was chosen because it was when the ANZACs – fighting for the British Empire – landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey in 1915.

Sadly, about 1/5 of the NZ men that landed in Gallipoli lost their lives in the brutal battles.

Still though, the events of that day were very symbolic for New Zealand, as it established them as a distinct nation.Howick on Anzac Day morning via Howick on Anzac Day morning via

Now, parades and ceremonies are held all over New Zealand (and Australia too!) to honor the military.

The events I observed in Howick were so special!

James was asked to lead the Old Collegian pipes and drums band which was very cool! He even got to wear his old traditional Scottish kilt, which I got a massive kick out of!

I, along with everyone else, wore a red poppy pin which symbolizes rememberance.

There were plane fly overs, speeches from leaders, songs by local talent, and everyone lined up to clap for the elderly – and not so elderly – members of the various military services. It was honestly incredibly emotional.

Planes flying over Howick on Anzac Day morning via Planes flying over Howick on Anzac Day morning via

Communities here feel so much more tight-knit and that connection is something that makes a deep impression on me.

I am so grateful I could experience this side of New Zealand culture.

In the words of their national anthem… God Defend New Zealand!James as drum major in Howick parade wearing his uniform & kilt on Anzac Day morning via Old Collegian pipes and drum band in the Howick parade on Anzac Day morning via Old Collegian pipes and drum band in the Howick parade on Anzac Day morning via

Lest we forget…

A-Z Challenge: Kiwi Birthday

Blowing out the candles on my 24th birthday via

I turned 24 on Sunday.

And days in which we celebrate our arrival into the world should always be special. This year was no different, so I feel it deserves a post.

After all, it was my first birthday spent in New Zealand – heck my first birthday spent in another country!

Blowing out the candles on my 24th birthday via

In the morning, before I even had a chance to have breakfast, I woke to beautiful roses from my ridiculously romantic boyfriend James.

The spoiling didn’t stop there. Many of my Kiwi friends came over before noon for tea and cupcakes.

James’ mom Sami baked delicious frosting-covered mini cakes, which displayed 24 (WOW time flies) long metallic candles.

FlashtyPants made sure to offer his assistance in blowing out the glimmering sparklers, climbing up on a chair beside me with a cheeky grin, a similar one that graced his face hours before when he opened up my birthday pressies.The roses James gave me for my 24th birthday via

The rest of the day involved watching the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with the result of THAT. But it was still fun to cheer Pac Man on!

In the evening we migrated back to the couch to watch Full Metal Jacket and in between I day-dreamed of what I could create with my new Nutri Ninja 2-in-1 blender/food processor!

One thing is for sure… 24 is already one for the books. And I’m just getting started!

A-Z Challenge: Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, New Zealand

Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comWell I somehow managed to skip over H, so here we go!

One the most beautiful parts of New Zealand’s North Island is on the eastern coast, a region known as the Coromandel.

And one of the highlights of the Coromandel is a special borderline-magical place called Hot Water Beach, approximately 12 km southeast of Whitianga.

At this beach, just a 5-minute drive from Hahei and the Cathedral Cove, is an incredible volcanic phenomenon.

Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, New Zealand via

Within two hours either side of low tide, beach-goers (an estimated 700,000 per year) can dig around to find the natural steamy hot mineral water that sits just below the surface of the sand-covered ground.

Families come from far and wide to experience nature’s glorious spa, delivered from deep within the Earth, as they relax in hot holes overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

It should be mentioned however, that while the activity is popular with visitors of all ages, it is important to use caution, especially with young children, because the water can be so hot it can burn skin (and boil eggs too)!

The temperature of the water has been recorded up to 64 degrees Celsius/147 degrees Fahrenheit!

And it is also important to take caution when swimming at the beach, which is known to have rip currents and fairly large waves.

Digging a hole at Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, New Zealand via

But back to building your super cool beachside bath!

First off, you’ll need a spade (otherwise known as a shovel if you’re of the American influence).

These can be brought with you – many hotels and hired bachs keep them in stock – or they may be rented for a small price nearby.

I personally suggest borrowing from a friendly face.

Or if you’re feeling extra cheeky, invite yourself into another digger’s handmade pool after all the handwork is finished!

Happy Birthday message for my dad at Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, New Zealand via


I say this because, as you see in the photos above, many people are standing around.


The location of the hot water can be difficult to find. Don’t just stick your spade in the ground and expect to find it (like we naively did).


It’s probably best to wait and see who manages to discover the sweet spot, and then do your best to capitalize!

Another tip: We went to during the middle of Southern Hemisphere summer. It’s probably quite a bit less crowded in the off-season.

Happy Birthday message for my dad at Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, New Zealand via

On a more personal note, this particularly day happened to be my dad’s birthday.

James – who has the most amazing penmanship – offered to help me write a message in the sand to send to him.

Hot Water Beach proved the perfect background for the photo.

Playing Monopoly with James in the Coromandel, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comAfter our coastal exploration, we went back to The Church accommodation in Hahei, where we broke out our brand new Auckland-themed Monopoly.

The overcast weather created the perfect environment for a lazy afternoon with board games.

Needless to say, James cleaned up when I landed on the ridiculously expensive Sky Tower tile!

Overall: We both enjoyed Hot Water Beach and highly recommend it to those passing through the Coromandel!


A-Z Challenge: Jaunt to Cockle Bay Beach

Cockle Bay Beach in New Zealand via

Cockle Bay is a community near the Auckland suburb of Howick.

It is the place I currently call home.

And one of the things I love most about it is it’s beautiful beach – appropriately named Cockle Bay Beach.Cockle Bay Beach in New Zealand via

With a population of less than 5,000 people, Cockle Bay is never a crowded place.

This beautiful East Auckland neighborhood was once the home base for a native Maori people known as Ngai Tai.

The village, previously known as Tuwakamana, also has a historical connection to World War II.

Numerous bunkers – used to defend against Japanese forces – still hide in the shadows of massive pohutukawa trees that line the shore.Cockle seashells on Cockle Bay Beach in New Zealand via

Locals and visitors can visit the beach via a hiking trail, known as the Awaroa Walkway.

The walk is relaxing and beautiful, as it extends in either direction towards Howick Beach or the Shelly Park Sandpit.

As you walk along Cockle Bay Beach you won’t be able miss the millions of cockle shells that heavily cover the ground.

There’s no confusion behind the name of this stunning locale. There are simply cockle shells everywhere you look!
Cockle Bay Beach in New Zealand via

The beach is a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Auckland, taking in a romantic or solo stroll.

It is also very family-friendly with a large children’s playground and plenty of climbable trees.

Bring a picnic to enjoy on the grassy lawn that overlooks the local ducks – but just don’t feed them!

James’ mom Sami is a bit of a bird expert, having worked at the Wild Bird Care Charitable Trust, and she has explained to me why it’s important to not throw pieces of food (usually bread) at the precious animals.

Cockle Bay Beach in New Zealand via

Visitors, while being well-intentioned in feeding the creatures, likely don’t realize that doing so can cause damage to the environment.

Birds can become reliant on human food sources and young birds can grow not learning the important skills used to forage their own food.

It can also cause them to become unafraid of people, and sadly can become vulnerable to abuse.

Not to mention the spreading of disease, bird-to-bird to bird-to-human, some of which are highly contagious and even lethal.

The boys at Cockle Bay Beach in New Zealand via

Bread, specifically, has poor nutritional value. Calcium deficiency, a common occurrence in pond birds, can cause badly deformed legs and wings as well as the softening of egg shells.

Also, bread that settles in the bottom of the waterways can rot and bacteria can easily contaminate the water.

Feeding also attracts larger species, deterring smaller species, and maintaining that natural balance is incredibly important.

Ducks at Cockle Bay Beach in New Zealand via

So let this serve as a friendly reminder. :)

It’s highly important to respect the environment you’re in, whether it’s you’re own hometown or someone else’s. And this includes the ducks.

I hope you’re able to come visit Cockle Bay Beach sometime, and that you enjoy it as much as I do!