The author clearly likes to be outside, isn't afraid to explore, and delights in places that aren't crowded. I've always found that the places I enjoy most on trips aren't the first-tier tourist attractions that everyone visits, but rather the off-the-beaten-track discoveries. One of the more charming features of the book is that each location is labelled with an "Obscure-O-Meter" rating. I'm sure my delight in that is somewhat influenced by my mom's bad habit in my youth of picking the faintest little gray roads on the map to follow just to see where they went.
On any given day all we needed to do was pick the most interesting nearby destination. As you have already seen, that worked well :) One could also probably get by just by following the little brown signs indicating Department of Conservation sites and hiking the tracks at those locations -- these are all over the place, and the trails are clearly carefully engineered.
Some neat spots we found not mentioned in previous posts:
Mangawhai Cliffs -- an absolutely delightful walk along a beach and the bluff above it. We headed to the coast and did this on the first morning off the plane because the weather was spectacularly nice for winter.
Aroha Island -- a kiwi preserve that we stayed at for a few nights. We were able to stumble around the preserve's trails in the dark looking for kiwi (more on that in a later post), but it was also a good place to explore in the daylight.
Akeake Historic Reserve -- the site of an old Maori pa, or defensive site. This one wasn't in the book; the nice folks running Aroha Island recommended it to us. Gorgeous views of the Bay of Islands, and a rocky beach near Opito Point on which to play.
(don't miss me clambering on the rocks near the point above)
Various and sundry waterfalls -- these are all over the place!
Innocent-looking rock outcrops...
that are chock-full of giant fossilized oysters.
Imported California Redwoods...
A side spring where water wells up and make the sand dance.
Waiorongomai Valley -- an abandoned 1880's-era gold rush site.
What? you didn't know about the New Zealand Gold Rush?? Neither did we, until reading the many interpretive panels. It didn't last long or produce much, as the first lines of the c. 1890 "Lament to Waiorongomai" attest:
O Wrong are you, O Wrong am I,
O Wrong all of us.
We are all sold. There is no gold.
The claim's not worth a cuss.
Still interesting to see the remains, especially for those of us who periodically run across relics of the California version. Many of the trails here follow the old tram lines up and across the hillside, and there are old mining tunnels and bits of aging equipment scattered about, as well as nice views.
Needless to say, we quite enjoyed hiking the island -- and we only had time to scratch the surface!