Christmas snapshots………………..groan

Hello Poncentricsters. Welcome to my 2014.

No these aren’t the holiday snaps where you’ll wade through a whole lot of photos – boring. But they are snapshots of where we went over the holiday period with a few eating highlights.

We were in Auckland for Christmas and headed to Whangamata on January 4th but had a number of VOPs in between.

For the last 3 years we’ve had Christmas day brunch at two Auckland hotels. It’s the only time we can get the whole family together and it’s a great way to start the big day. First year it was at the Hilton Hotel on Princes Wharf which was a wonderful setting. For the last two years we’ve been to the Langham Hotel which has a much more Christmasy feel and has the wonderful “Eight” restaurant. Well worth a thought if you’re looking to have a break from cooking on Christmas day.

We had friends (Ian & Gill) arrive from the UK on December 28th for 10 days on their honeymoon – Ian’s 66 and first marriage!! We’d gone to their wedding in Scotland last August.  Caught the ferry to Waiheke for the day to show our friends from the UK one of our top “tourist destinations”. We opted for the Fuller’s Waiheke Explorer Tour package which was great value at $52 each return (ferry only $36) that included ferry travel to Waiheke Island, a 1½ hour scenic tour of the island, plus unlimited bus travel for the rest of the day. It’s a great way to make the most of a day trip to Waiheke and see all the best sights.

We had lunch at the wonderful Oyster Inn. I love the setting and décor and the staff are always friendly and attentive. Our friends hadn’t had oysters before so that was a bit of a treat for them. Well Ian liked them, Gill tried one!! They are a bit of an acquired taste. I had the tempura oysters which were fabulous but more about the food in my review of Oyster Inn.

First time oyster eater

First time oyster eater

Guess who had fish n chips

Guess who had fish n chips

Couldn't not have the pav!

Couldn’t not have the pav!

Hard to resist the lemon tart

Hard to resist the lemon tart

Headed up north for New Year’s Eve with the UK visitors. Hadn’t been to Paihia for many years so we were excited about checking the area out. Stayed at the Copthorne Hotel at Waitangi which is in a great location and a moment of serendipity had us upgraded to the Hobson Suite. The view from the deck of the suite reminded me very much of Fiji.

Could have been in Fiji

Could have been in Fiji

But don’t eat there – enough said. Lots to do around the area and interestingly there was a high proportion of visitors were from overseas.

Found a great little café in Paihia called The Upper Deck (upstairs The Mall, 76 Marsden Rd). We had breakfast there both days – the coffee was great, food was excellent, staff friendly and the view from the deck was fantastic. No better way to start the day.

Great view over the beach front

Great view over the beach front

Guess who had the big brekky!

Guess who had the big brekky!

Deb had the healthy option

Deb had the healthy option

Had dinner at 35 Degrees South restaurant in Paihia. Lovely setting over the water and the food was very nice. Caught the ferry over to Russell for the obligatory wander around but found a lovely café that does great seafood chowder.

Seafood chowder for 4!

Seafood chowder for 4!

And there’s a great bush walk (Paihia View Point 1.5 km – 1 hour return) which is a very pleasant ramble through regenerating native forest to a view point overlooking the bay. The entrance is off School Road, 700m from the Paihia shops. It’s all uphill to get there but so worth the effort. From the viewpoint you can see the Bay from Opua to Waitangi and over the Russell peninsula to Urupukapuka Island and Cape Brett in the distance. Gorgeous. The walk back is downhill – such a relief.

Awesome views

Awesome views

So we really enjoyed both being in Auckland for Christmas day (you should try it) and re-discovering the wonderful Bay of Islands with a side of Waiheke Island.

Standby for the next set of snapshots as we VOP to the Coromandel.

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