Piha Beach With Oh Yeah! Tours – WFLNZ

Tours… They usually suck. Hop on/hop off bus tours suck. Tours with meals included suck. Tours run by cruise ship companies suck. You end up paying a highly inflated price for something locals usually do for very little money (or no money at all). I was hesitant to book any tours in New Zealand, but I was also hesitant to drive on the other side of the road. Enter Oh Yeah! Tours.

Kare Kare waterfall

Kare Kare waterfall

I had seen pictures of Piha Beach during my pre trip planning and I had to go there. The only problem was public transportation couldn’t get me there, a taxi would’ve been $$$$$$, and the whole driving on the left thing. I found Oh Yeah! Tours through a quick Google search. $55 NZD for a half day tour from Auckland’s Central Business District (CBD) to Piha and back with stops at Kare Kare waterfall, the north side of Piha Beach, optional drop off at the Kite Kite track to Kite Kite waterfall, then a few hours to explore Piha Beach on your own.

Kite Kite waterfall. A 30 minute hike on the Hillary Trail through a gorgeous forest. Totally worth the sweat.

Kite Kite waterfall. A 30 minute hike on the Hillary Trail through a gorgeous forest. Totally worth the sweat.

The day of my tour was rainy and windy. A couple of hours before my pickup time I received a text from Oh Yeah that advised me the weather in Piha was even worse than the weather in Auckland. They asked if I wanted to delay my tour until the next day which I did. WFLBC travel tip, unlock your smartphone and get a local SIM card when you travel. It makes life a lot easier abroad.

The black sands of Piha Beach

The black sands of Piha Beach

The next day Oh Yeah! picked me up on time in a spot that worked for me. They’ll pick you up at your hotel anywhere in the CBD. The bus was full that day so I was picked up by a guy in a Prius and there was no one else with us. A private tour? Nice! My guide was from Chile but had lived in New Zealand for 10 years. He was friendly, easy to talk to, very knowledgeable, a fantastic tour guide.

Taitomo Island from Tasman Lookout.

Taitomo Island from Tasman Lookout.

After seeing both waterfalls, checking out Tasman Lookout, Lion Rock, taking a ton of photos, dipping my toes in the Tasman Sea, and grabbing Lunch at Adey’s Place it was time to head back. My guide arrived on time in the place we had agreed upon. On the drive out we had chatted about beer and when I hopped in the car there was a cold Tui IPA waiting for me. Best tour ever? I know that my experience isn’t typical and most people won’t get the kind of personalised service I did. That being said Oh Yeah! went out of their way to make sure I was looked after following a weather cancellation. I can’t say enough good things about the service.

Crashing waves with Lion Rock in the distance

Crashing waves with Lion Rock in the distance

Oy Yeah! offers tours to some must see locations on the North Island as well as tours in Bali if you’re headed that way. I highly recommend Oy Yeah! Tours, so much so that I wrote my very first Tripadvisor review about them. Piha is a must see location and Oh Yeah! Tours is a great way to see it.

You can do Piha surfing tours too

You can do Piha surfing tours too

Twitter – @ohyeahtours

Instagram – ohyeahtours

Facebook – Oh Yeah Tours New Zealand

Web – ohyeahtours.co.nz

Scott.

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Where I Ate In Auckland – Part Three – WFLNZ

The third an final instalment of “Where I Ate In Auckland” will be as hipster as beard glitter. Actually it won’t but that beard glitter stuff is making me consider shaving. I’ve already told you about Dogmatic and Federal Delicatessen which might as well be wearing a denim vest with patches sewn on. Let’s find some more hipster hot spots.

Brothers Juke Joint BBQ

I didn’t expect to find real southern BBQ in New Zealand. Juke Joint is located in Auckland’s Mount Eden neighbourhood a few blocks from the actual Mount Eden. It’s also super close to the train station making it easy to get to from most places around the city. The pulled pork sandwich and tater tots could’ve been right out of South Carolina. The mustard based sauce was fantastic and the pork was on par with anything I’ve had back home. I also tried their other meats, brisket, chicken, ribs, mutton, all solid. The mutton was incredible. Add the fact that Juke Joint is attached to Brother’s Brewery and I’m surprised I ever left.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Best Ugly Bagels

Located in the City Works Depot in Auckland, Best Ugly Bagels is another spot operated by Al Brown (of Federal Delicatessen and Depot Eatery). Montreal style bagels and damn good coffee, that’s what Best Ugly does. I had the Yodi, pastrami, habanero mustard, grilled swiss, and a pickle. bagel perfection.

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The Yodi.

The Yodi.

Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar

Depot Eatery is known for oysters and wine so of course I went there for breakfast. A simple breakfast sandwich with eggs and bacon on a grilled bun and another outstanding cup of coffee.

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Mexico Food and Liquor

With 7 locations around Auckland and beyond I was expecting a chain restaurant feel at Mexico Food and Liquor. It didn’t turn out that way though. The Takapuna location, in North Shore City across Waitemata Harbour from downtown Auckland, felt like an independant Tex Mex place. It’s a tapas style spot with smaller share plates. I shared with myself. I had Mexican Fried Chicken, with Central American/Tex Mex spices in the seasoned batter. It was boneless but it was still good (fried chicken should have bones though…).

Mmmmmm chicken.

Mmmmmm chicken.

The Black Bean and Smokey Bacon dip came with plantain chips. I wish more places here did that, tortilla chips are boring. There was also some cumin, orange, and queso to and some flair. A solid recommendation from the staff.

Black Bean Dip

Black Bean Dip

Last was the daily taco special. A fish taco! Chimichuri stewed fish (Hoki I think?), muscles, bacon, lettuce, mayo, and pickled green tomatoes. A very nice fish taco, good enough for me to order another.

feesh!

feesh!

Auckland’s food scene has something for everyone, even hipsters. Just don’t order sushi, anywhere, ever. It’s absolutely terrible.

Scott.

 

 

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What Brought Me To Tears In Wellington, The Death Of Jonah Lomu – WFLNZ

To most Canadians rugby is a fringe sport. We are aware of it, we may watch a few games here and there. Chances are we know someone who plays rugby or maybe we played it ourselves. But to say it’s a popular sport in Canada would be a stretch. In the mid to late 90’s I watched a lot of rugby. My girlfriend at the time played for our high school team. In 1995 we watched quite a few World Cup matches together. That was the year the world discovered Jonah Lomu.

6’5″, 260 pounds, as fast as a sprinter, as strong as a bulldozer, nothing could stop him. The try he scored against England where he simply ran over Mike Catt is one of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen. He was just 19 years old when he made that team.

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At the end of 1995 Lomu was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a severe kidney disorder that eventually ended his career and led to a kidney transplant in 2004. Sadly on November 18th of 2015 Lomu passed away suddenly at only 40 years old.

I was travelling between Auckland and Wellington that day. I first heard the news as I was packing my bags to head to the airport. When I arrived in Wellington you could almost feel the sadness in the air. Imagine Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe passing away at 40. Canada would be devastated and this is how it felt in New Zealand.

Being in the country during something like this was surreal. As I walked around town everyone was talking about it. Flags were lowered to half mast, even New Zealand’s parliament took time to talk about it during question period.

The next day I wanted to pay my respects but there wasn’t any news on where I could do it. I found out New Zealand Rugby’s headquarters was within walking distance so that’s where I went. In a small office building hidden on the forth floor there was a memorial and a book to sign. It felt strange standing in line to write a message to someone I never met, someone bigger than life who had left us so young.

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While I was there a group of school children came in for a tour. New Zealand had just won the World Cup 2 weeks prior and they had the trophy in their display case. Without white gloves or guards they opened the case, took out the World Cup trophy and let a bunch of grade school kids hold it. It was awesome.

I wrote down some words, I cried, and I left. Jonah Lomu was a connection to a part of my life that is long gone. To lose that connection and be in New Zealand when he died is something that affected me more than I could’ve imagined.

Sky Sports dedicated one of their TV channels to Jonah Lomu for days after his death. They played highlights, full games, interviews, all day and all night with no ads. I watched it every night before I fell asleep. I saw the haka performed so many times I think I know the words now. When I hear it I get choked up.

I have never considered myself a serious rugby fan. I was always just a casual observer who, at one time, had a connection to the game. The way Jonah Lomu’s death moved an entire country to tears and made a Canadian visiting on holiday cry is a testament to what he meant to the game.

Rest in peace big man, you will be missed.

Scott.

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Where I Ate In Auckland – Part Two – WFLNZ

Pies, cheese, pizza, that stuff is good. Burgers and pub food? That’s my jam. Let’s dance.

The Fox Sporting Bar & Restaurant

A sports bar that streams any sporting event you can think of and they make their own beer? It’s true, and it’s Foxes in Auckland. Thier beer is good and they streamed the Canadian Mens World Cup qualifier for me. It’s also one of the few places in Auckland that has seats at the bar which I love. T-bone steak with eggs and chips was the only choice that I could make. I mean, New Zealand beef is good and then you throw a couple of sunny side up eggs on it? Go ahead, try and tell me this isn’t something you’d order. You would, I did, and it was fantastic.

Steak and eggs!

Steak and eggs!

Burger Burger

Burger Burger comes up on most searches for “best burger in Auckland.” I hopped on a bus in the pouring rain and headed for New Market to see for myself. Burger Burger uses local produce, free range meats, they have a good recycling program, and they’re a part of Conscious Consumer which incorporates the use of environmentally and socially responsible products and services. All of that is nice but if the burgers suck it’s pointless. Well, they don’t. In fact this is one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. So fresh and juicy, I added bacon and cheddar to mine. The bun was fresh and up to the task of holding everything together. The fries were pretty good too, they came with a side of mayo.

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The Albion Hotel and Restaurant

The Albion was in the hotel I was staying in. I only went once. It was a weird place that always seemed kind of empty. No seats at the bar, which is apparently common around the world but there was also no table service. That may be normal but in my opinion it sucks. As far as the hotel goes I was pretty happy. Clean enough, good location, and cheap. I had fish and chips on my one visit to the pub, they were good, not great.

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Adey’s Place

Adey’s Place (formerly Blair’s On The Beach) is a little beachside shack in Piha. Piha is on the west coast of the North Island but is technically still part of Auckland. My tour guide recommended the fish burger and said the chips won some sort of award. Sounded good to me, also there was really only one other place to eat. The award winning chips were good, definitely award worthy. The fish burger was good but two pieces of fish was overkill. I took one out to eat separately, it made the burger better. This may be the only time in my life a lobby for less meat.

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Stay tuned for part three where I go full hipster.

Scott.

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Where I Ate In Auckland – Part One – WFLNZ

The food in New Zealand surprised me. I had heard the beef and dairy were good but they were SO GOOD. I ate as often as possible in New Zealand because it rarely disappointed. Let’s start in Auckland and see where I ended up.

The Meat Pies…

They said they were good. I thought they were exaggerating. There is something magical about meat pies in New Zealand. From a cafe or a gas station, it doesn’t matter. I tried a bunch of meat pies. Mince, Steak, Steak and Cheese, Beef Potato Topped, the list is very long. You should, no you NEED, to try a meat pie in New Zealand.

MMMMM Pie.

MMMMM Pie.

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The Cheese…

Being a bit thrifty can lead you to some fantastic food discoveries abroad. I made a few trips to the grocery store to save a few bucks while in New Zealand. In Auckland I went to Countdown and New World to stock up on snacks and beer for my hotel room. The cheese, my god the cheese. Apparently the Mainland brand is just regular quality cheeses in New Zealand but it is so far above Canadian non specialty store cheese it’s ridiculous. I ate an unwise amount of cheese in New Zealand, totally worth it. That 24 month aged cheddar made me consider marriage. Hot travel tip, always travel with a multi-tool. The knife and the bottle opener are worth their weight in gold.

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Fried Chicken From A Convenience Store.

I didn’t pack a lot of clothes and planned on finding laundromats to make my small wardrobe last 2 weeks. In a serendipitous turn of events I found one of the best things I ate in New Zealand right beside Bubbles Laundromat in Auckland.  NZ Convenience Store didn’t look like much but their sign said “Sensational Fried Chicken.” The sign didn’t lie. Halal chicken, amazing seasoning, something called “chicken salt.” It was also priced right which is great as New Zealand can be expensive.

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Random Pizza.

Pizza is everywhere in Auckland. I was craving a slice or 2 so I Googled who had the best pizza near me. Sal’s Authentic New York Pizza was near the top of the list and 2 blocks away. Thin crust, foldable, greasy in the best way. Sal’s was way more authentic than I expected to find so far from New York.

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That’s Part 1! In part 2 we’ll talk about sushi, burgers, and pub food.

Scott.

 

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Dogmatic – WFLNZ Eats

Is there such a thing as New Zealand cuisine? That’s a loaded question around here, one that deserves its own post. The majority of restaurants, cafes, and bars in Auckland seem to be a fairly loose fusion of British, Australian, North American, and Asian cuisine. There are dedicated regional spots, sushi, Indian food, kebabs, Italian, etc. Dogmatic takes the humble hot dog and applies a bunch of world flavours to it.

Dogmatic

Dogmatic

Located right next to the Britomart Transport hub and the Auckland Waterfront, Dogmatic is hard to miss. It’s a small space but has a bit of outdoor seating. Obviously the main focus is hot dogs but they also offer burgers, fries with various toppings, and local organic soda.

 

The Brit

The Brit

I opted for “The Brit”, a beef bratwurst with horseradish mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy. The bratwurst itself was quite different to any bratwurst I’ve ever had. A little salty, but not overly so. Thin and long like a European wiener (this is getting weird…). It was the perfect size for the bun, which is always good.  The mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy make up the rest of the British connection. All together the flavours and textures happening here work well and it was less messy than I thought it would be.

The fries were pretty average, nothing to get excited about. The Phoenix Organic Cola was nice, but a hoppy IPA would’ve been much nicer.

Dogmatic has some pretty mixed reviews on your run of the mill food sites like Zomato and Trip Advisor. I think it’s better than advertised and somewhere you should check out when in Auckland.

Web – Nope

Twitter – Nope

Facebook – Nope

Instagram – Nope

Scott.

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Auckland War Memorial Museum – WFLNZ

It’s Remembrance Day in Canada and I’m half the world away. In New Zealand November 11th is called Armistice Day and it isn’t as big of a deal as it is elsewhere. Anzac Day, April 25th, is New Zealand and Australia’s equivalent to Remembrance day. They wear red poppies in memory of those killed at Gallipoli in during the First World War. Watch the movie “Gallipoli” if you get a chance, it’s very good and features a young Mel Gibson. In honour of Remembrance Day I paid a visit to Auckland’s War Memorial Museum.

Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The Museum is set upon a hill surrounded by Auckland Domain, Auckland’s oldest park. It’s 75 hectares are located on the Pukekawa Volcano with the museum sitting along the edge of its explosion crater. The original part of the building, seen above, was completed in 1929.

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The Museum is 3 levels of exhibits including an extensive Maori collection along with other pacific and asian collections. There are natural history exhibits focusing on the unique evolutionary history of New Zealand wildlife and plantlife from the time of the dinosaurs to the ancient giant birds known as Moa which are now extinct as well as many other one of a kind species found only here. New Zealand is a chain of volcanic islands and there is an excellent, if not a little too small, exhibit explaining how the islands were formed and how modern New Zealanders live with volcanic activity and earthquakes.

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The war memorial is housed on the entire top floor. There you can learn about New Zealand’s role in the World Wars as well as many wars in the South Pacific prior to WWI. The history of Maori wars and other pre-colonial wars is also on display. A Japanese Zero fighter plane and a British Supermarine Spitfire are displayed in fully restored condition in their own rooms along with several interactive displays and reconstructions from WWI/II. There is a great hall listing the names of All New Zealanders lost to war. There is a Holocaust memorial sharing the stories of survivors who relocated to New Zealand. The whole experience was very moving and it was difficult to keep my emotions in check while learning an entirely new to me history of wars I thought I knew a lot about.

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With the weight of this day and a scale of the loss on display this is an experience I will never forget.

A self guided, all access pass the the Auckland War Memorial Museum will cost you $25 nzd. There is something for everyone in this truly world class, beautiful museum.

Web – aucklandmuseum.com

Twitter – @aucklandmuseum

Instagram – @aucklandmuseum

Facebook – Auckland Museum

Scott.

 

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Federal Delicatessen – WFLNZ Eats

To say that Chef Al Brown has a thing for North America would be an understatement. New York/Montreal style deli’s and cafes, not things you would expect to find in New Zealand. Federal Delicatessen is a hip spot oozing with North American mid century style located on Federal Street in Downtown Auckland. Federal Street sits under the Sky Tower and is part of the Sky City casino complex.

The Fed.

The Fed.

The breakfast menu is made up of kosher deli favourites. I opted for the “Mish-Mash” ($17.50 nzd), pastrami hash with potatoes, peas, deli mustard, and a fried egg. The pastrami is thick cut, tender, and has a bit of a Montreal Smoked Meat vibe to it. The peas aren’t something you’d normally find in a hash but they worked. This is a simple dish elevated with quality ingredients. At almost $18 it seems a bit expensive but tax and gratuity are included. To be fair everything in New Zealand seems expensive to me…

Mish-Mash

Mish-Mash

Auckland, and the rest of New Zealand, is known for its coffee culture. You’d be hard pressed to find a Starbucks here, I’ve seen 2 in 4 days and I’ve walked a good portion of the Central Business District (CBD) and Waterfront. For The Fed to not have an espresso machine is an oddity. They offer “filter coffee” only which is bottomless ($4 nzd) and comes in Havana or Supreme varieties. It is good enough to satisfy the coffee nerd in all of us.

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Federal Delicatessen is worth a visit if you find yourself looking for a bite to eat in Auckland. Good food, friendly service, central location, that’s a winning combo.

Web – thefed.co.nz

Twitter – @AlBrownChef

Instagram – @albrownchef

Facebook – Federal Delicatessen 

Scott.

 

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30 days until I take off for New Zealand

The countdown officially begins today. WFLNZ starts in 1 month with a flight to San Francisco and a short layover before heading for Auckland. I’ve had some interesting responses from people regarding this trip. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of men have asked me how I’m able to go on a trip like this without my family. Well that’s an easy one to answer, it’s because we don’t control each other. There will be lots of trips with the family in years to come. Hayley and I travel around BC a bit now and the three of us have been away a few times. We’re thinking of going to Europe in the spring, who knows. Besides, Lyndsey’s been to Bali without me so I guess I’m due for an adventure of my own.

This is pretty much how I envision my trip,

This is pretty much how I envision my trip, except bigger beer glasses. 

I have switched up my camera gear a bit from the post I wrote about going mirrorless for travel. I traded my Fujifilm X-E1 for a Fujifilm X-T10 which is the latest X series camera and I am pretty darn happy about it. It’s fast, compact, produces fantastic images, and it looks pretty sexy. The rest of my set-up is the same, X-A1 body as a spare, kit lens, 35mm prime lens, and 50-230mm zoom, iPad Mini Retina, Samsung Chromebook, and an LG G4. Everything is small, light, and very handy for social media and blogging on the road.

Piha Beach. Photo credit - lastminute.com

Piha Beach. Photo credit – lastminute.com

I’ll be checking out the transit system in Auckland. The ATHop card looks similar to Translink’s Compass card system. Yes, you have to tap on AND off buses there too. I’m a little apprehensive about renting a car but I want to get out of the city a bit if I can. We’ll see how I feel about it when I get there. If I rent a car I can see things like Cathedral Cove and Piha Beach. I’m only in Wellington for 3 days so I’ll most likely be staying pretty central.

Cathedral Cove. Photo credit amazingplacesonearth.com

Cathedral Cove. Photo credit amazingplacesonearth.com

I have a busy little October to get to before I go though. A couple of Whitecaps games, Swinefest at The Hog Shack, Brett Taylor’s Koi 2.0 art show, Monster Ball for Surrey Hospital at Big Ridge Brewing, Hey Rosetta and Yukon Blonde at The Vogue the night before I leave… Not to mention soccer with Hayley, work, life etc. I’ll suffer through.

1 month, I can almost feel it.

Scott.

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Monster Ball For Surrey Memorial at Big Ridge Brewing

It’s time for a fundraiser! The Surrey Hospital and Outpatient Centre Foundation is building a kids mental health unit and they need our support. Join us at Big Ridge Brewing in Surrey on Thursday October 29th for a Halloween themed Monster Ball!

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There will be casks from Big Ridge, Central City Brewing, and Russell Brewing with proceeds going to the SH&OC Foundation. There will also be a 50/50 draw and a prize for best costume so break out your costume A-game. Casks will be tapped at 6pm sharp.

Surrey needs a kids mental health unit, and it needs it as soon as possible. Come out, have some tasty beers, build up some karma points, and make a difference.

Here’s a link to the Facebook event page, invite all of your friends!

Scott.

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