TUTUKAKA, New Zealand’s Hidden Treasure

My lovely partner James and I decided to do a little bit of exploring up at Tutukaka last week and it’s like the middle of summer up there! The weather was INCREDIBLE. It was like we had gone away to a small island or something. I love getting out of Auckland because I tend to forget just how beautiful New Zealand is. When we arrived we were greeted by the amazing small team at Choice Hotels’ Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka and straight away the whole place had a strong family-vibe. I love it when people really love their jobs and strive to make their guests experience the best it can be, it’s so much better than someone who just wants to collect a paycheck and go home at the end of the day and it really does make a difference. A couple of the team live in the building too, so if there is an emergency it’s great to know they aren’t too far away. The pool is so cool and has a large wall of wildlife and beautiful native trees right up against the pool which is so beautiful in the morning!

With a little bit of time to kill before dinner, we decided to do the small hike to the lighthouse! NOTE: please make sure you check with the locals or your hotel what time the tides are high because you will get stuck on the other lighthouse side all day (or worse all night). The tides were against us and we only got half way, but there is a perfect bench where James and I enjoyed the sunset together.

It wasn’t long before our stomachs were rumbling after the drive in from Auckland, so we walked to a couple of metres down the road to Schnappa Rock Restaurant & Bar. For an incredibly small town, it was going off. The place was so packed we were put on the wait-list to grab a table, so James and I grabbed a sneaky table outside and had some flash cocktails off their drinks menu. It was so warm outside for a winter night that I took my jacket off and turned my LED sneakers on for fun.

In the morning it was pouring sunshine into our room – which did I mention was the honeymoon suite (aka it’s amazing) – and was the ultimate day for diving! Excited and ready to go, we ran downstairs ready for breakfast. We both had delicious scramble eggs with bacon on ciabatta bread and it was simply glorious. (Check out my food porn in the gallery above.)

After breakfast, we walked to Dive! Tutukaka which is literally a one minute walk away and straight away we were pumped and ready to hit the water. Our boat was called “The Perfect Day” and shortly after we left shore, we were accompanied by about six or seven dolphins which was INCREDIBLE. I mean I have never experienced anything like it before, expect at Seaworld were they are trained, but these were free beautiful creatures jumping freely in and out of the water and everyone (including me) was running around the boat with iPhones trying to capture the perfect moment. I was so giggly that I couldn’t any good photos because I was just enjoying the moment so much. However, James managed to get this little gem of them alongside the boat…

Darren was our skipper for the day, he was hilarious and kept everyone upbeat and ready to go. From his safety instructions to his general fun facts about each island, he was definitely a highlight of our Dive! Tutukaka experience. He also assured us that in an emergency, the captain does not in fact go down with his ship. Well, not this captain anyway…

https://www.instagram.com/p/BFZ5fR5vEC8/

When we arrived at the first location to start, we slowly crept into the shade of this tall island and the water turned black. I was cold and thought how am I going to see in the dark? I had never gone snorkeling before and already I wasn’t looking forward to the cold water. James reassured me I would be fine, but in my head I thought “It’s winter, the water will be cold – guaranteed,” and I slowly moved to the edge of the boat whilst flopping these giant flippers. James jumped right into it and I followed soon after. THE WATER WAS WARM?! What is going on?! Isn’t it winter? Obviously, Tutukaka didn’t get the memo. I lightly dipped my face into the water and got the fright of my life. It was extremely beautiful. Dreamy, clear blue water with beautiful sea life everywhere. I was overwhelmed and immediately grew a giant grin ear to ear. I was so excited I started giggling to myself, which quickly lead to me choking on water. James popped his head up and started laughing at me.

Terrified of the unknown ocean (and potential death by sharks) behind me and excited to explore, I snorkeled along squeezing James’ hand. I felt so cheesy like I was in one of those tourism ads, but it was a great way of communicating underwater. After I had explored the whole area, I still had heaps of time left and decided to have a go at paddle boarding and it’s a lot harder than it looks. I didn’t seem to get the hang of it, meanwhile James was off doing ridiculous yoga poses on the paddle board._MG_8464

When everyone was back on board we had a extra few stops on the way to our next diving spot. Darren was very knew a lot of fun facts about the area and even managed to squeeze the boat into the world’s largest sea cave. During the ride, Darren talked about how each island had several possibilities to how they got their name, but no one knows for sure. We continued further into the Poor Knights Islands were we found our next diving location The Blue Mau Mau Arch. This was the place where you would either see tens of thousands of fish… or none. We were lucky, there were thousands. This time we were in full sun and the water was as clear as day. I jumped in to be instantly confronted by thousands of fish. I lay still on the surface looking down and the fish came up to me, then James came splashing by and they all ran away. After a while I was boiling in my wetsuit and decided to strip off and grab a kayak. James took off his wetsuit too and made friends with some of the divers down below and they blew air rings up to him and he swam through them. However, from the boat it looked like he was drowning…

I started to kayak towards the boat and Darren offered to take some of us on sneaky tour on the dingy while the divers were still under water. It was simply amazing. We got up close and personal with the cliff faces and because we were in the dingy we could get into smaller caves too! When we returned we were greeted by a delicious meaty sandwich for lunch with a little chocolate bar, banana and an apple.

On the way back to shore, you could see our hotel’s new glowing paint job from pretty far away. It looks amazing, especially with all the boats in front of it. The whole building is currently getting a makeover on the outside being converted from a traditional cream Spanish villa vibe to a bright modernist X Rio de Janeiro colourful buildings. (Note: good angle for Instagram.)

For dinner James and I both got the Chef’s special which was Lamb Stew and the giant table of people next to us got food envy and began to fight over the who would have the last Lamb Stew. In the morning we both checked out the local shops and bought some locally made soaps and candles. Which are hella nice.

We had an amazing time up at Tutukaka and now with the weather settling in Auckland for Winter, I definitely want to go back soon! Maybe Queen’s Birthday Weekend? Huge thanks to the awesome Choice Hotels for making this trip possible!