A Natural Wonder that Dominates the area of New Plymouth, NZ.

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This mountain sneaks up on you. Driving in towards New Plymouth, suddenly we saw a beautiful snow capped wonder ahead. Viewed from a distance this spectacular volcano dominates and provides a spectacular back-drop. The summit was often covered in cloud but then when the clouds cleared the snow-covered “peak” (cone rim) was revealed and its true majesty could be seen. During the week that we were staying in New Plymouth I became mesmerised by this spectacular sight and found myself taking many photos of it from almost everywhere I was in the area.

 

 

It sounds like the locals mostly refer to this mountain as Mount Egmont, however, I was introduced to it as Mount Taranaki. I could see immediately why this beautiful mountain with its resemblance to Mount Fuji, provided the backdrop to the movie; The Last Samurai

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On the day we visited Mount Taranaki and the Egmont National Park we stopped for a coffee at Inglewood on the way up.  The weather was very cold which prompted a couple of folks in our group to purchase gloves and beanies. However, when we did arrive at the mount late morning the day had warmed up and the weather was glorious.

Upon arrival we were met by a local volunteer guide who specialises in bush walks in Egmont national park. John took us for a nature bush walk close to the visitors’ centre where he pointed out many of the trees and plant species, plus explained to us the need for so so many possum traps. In New Zealand the possums are a huge problem and unlike here in Australia they are not protected, in fact they are hunted/trapped and killed for different purposes. Possum fur is a  big industry in NZ.

 

 

 

After about an hour of exploring many of the walks through the bush we then stopped by the cafe at the visitors centre for lunch and to buy some local gifts.  The visitors centre has plenty of parking, information, including a model of the mountain and surrounds, and toilets. There is a water bottle filling station in front of information centre.

 

 

After lunch we made our way up towards the summit from the visitors centre.  There were great walking tracks and beautiful views even without climbing all the way to the summit. We weren’t up for the summit hike so we opted instead for some of the shorter walks around the visitors centre. The walk ways are well laid out which makes the walking so easy and pleasant.

 

 

First up was the Nature walk with the viewing platform on the way. This was a lovely quick 15 minutes walk through gorgeous forest and with great views looking up the mountain and also down towards the coast.  This walk was glorious in the sunshine. We loved the views, the birds and the flora diversity. There is trailhead signage indicating both distance and anticipated time durations. The mountain offers spectacular views, the more you give it, the more you will get in return. But don’t push yourself too hard, the mountain can be very tricky and treacherous.  The locals will tell you many people died because they underestimated it.

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The clouds came, the clouds went – Taranaki was stunning.

 

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Simply Special and Beautiful – Tauranga Waterfont

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Now days when I travel I prefer to spend extended periods of time in the places that I am visiting. The joys of staying for days or even weeks are numerous but my favourite is that I can “live like a local”while I am there, albeit for a short time.

This is exactly what I did on my trip to the Bay of Plenty, NZ where I stayed in Tauranga for a week. We enjoyed day trips every day, some small trips and some big ones including our trip to Hobbiton.

While staying in Tauranga we visited the waterfront both in the day and one evening when we went to the Harbourside Restaurant for dinner.

 

 

This stunning waterfront plays a vital role in the city of Tauranga. And this is where I was introduced to Hairy Maclary and Friends. I had not read any of Lynley Dodd’s books, in fact I had not heard of Hairy Maclary nor the author prior to my trip to Tauranga. What an absolute treat. While the book about Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy was being read to me as I was sitting at the statues I felt like a child again. This is such a fun serious of books.

 

These larger-than-life public art display of sculptures allow kids of all ages to get up close to Hairy Maclary and his friends in this beautiful setting on the waterfront. There is a well-written information board explaining the history of Hairy McClary and friends which is relatively easy to read.

 

I have seen many bronze statues, where people do not spend much time near them, whether in a park or museum, however, here people actually lingered, touched, petted, sat and wandered around the scene enjoying it from all angles. Young and old were all enchanted by the bronzes.

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Just a little way along the waterfront is this piece of interactive art, “Wings to Fly”, mural on the Strand.

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Are they a pair of angel wings? Or the wings of a hawk? Could they be wings of a tattooed vulture? I just stepped into the middle of the wings and became an Angel for a moment.

If you have the time when you are visiting the Bay of Plenty pop in to visit the Waterfront with its surrounding beautiful backdrop where there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops at the adjacent road.

 

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The waterfront is truly a delightful place to stroll, relax, people watch and just take in the picturesque surroundings.

A Disused Quarry To A Paradise – Te Puna

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Well what a lovely surprise Te Puna Quarry Park was. The transformation of this disused quarry to spectacular gardens and walking tracks was commenced in 1997 and all work and maintenance was carried out solely by volunteers. Now there is something for everyone to enjoy: picnic lawns, panoramic view, sculptures, bush walks, a butterfly house, specialized gardens and much more.

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This park is a credit to the dedicated volunteers who have created a very special attraction for the community and visitors to the area. There is plenty of parking including overnight for self contained vehicles and caravans.

If you are a lover of gardens, nature and art I highly recommend Te Puna. There are ponds, tree ferns, cymbidium orchids by the thousand, native tree plantings and exotics such as vireya rhododendrons – a wild garden rich in spectacular contrasts. Special garden areas include irises, cacti and succulents, an Australian area, a native Arboretum, a Bonsai corner, a South African area and a Palm Grove. There is a butterfly garden where monarch butterflies happily fly free.

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Monarch Butterfly

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The track was steep in places so I was pleased that I was wearing sneakers/walking shoes. Definitely worth making the time to visit Te Puna with it’s wonderful panoramic views, from the gentle walk on the formed pathways taking one through all sorts of flora suitably grouped into their botanical origins and backgrounds which includes areas specifically devoted to orchids, fuchsias, herbs and much more.

The many fascinating sculptures crafted out of stone, wood, metal and ceramics situated throughout the gardens make for an interesting cultural touch as one meanders round the different pathways and comes across these works of art or man-made surprises.

The quarry park also has divine views of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. We soaked in the great views at many places but they were best as we climbed higher.

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This is where I saw my first “Silver Fern”growing.

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The park is dog friendly too, but only on a leash. There are plenty of benches and grass areas to rest throughout the park; there are also a few drinking fountains and toilets.

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It is free to enter this lovely spot, but worth while leaving a donation when you leave. Take a picnic and make a day of it.

From ponds to panoramic views, from gardens to butterflies, this old Quarry has become a magical place of distinctive beauty. You will love this place. I did.

A Stroll through the Beautiful Shire

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Lyn, the Happy Hobbit

I went to Hobbiton. Although I have not read any of the books nor seen the movies, when I had the opportunity to visit, I was excited. And, I was not the slightest bit disappointed. It was 3 hours of awesomeness.

We drove from Rotorua through lush countryside to Hobbiton in Matamata which took about an hour.

We arrived with enough time before our booked tour to enjoy a simple but delightful lunch at the Shire’s Rest cafe. After lunch we lined up to wait for our bus which swept us off to the Shire. On the way to the site, we watched a feature presentation on the television in the bus.

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We drove through beautiful sheep grazing countryside of the Alexander farms to the location of the set. It is virtually impossible to see the set from the road as it takes several minutes drive in to Hobbiton after passing through security gates.

We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the place.

 

 

 

 

The sets are beautiful, and the amount of detail that was put in to them is mind boggling. If you’re a photographer, there are an infinite number of great shots waiting for you here. Our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. She had a great sense of awareness of when to share her information and when to set the group free to explore an area on their own. She was happy to take photos for us. She told us the details of building the set, how Peter Jackson came to find it and stories about the filming.

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Hobbiton itself is magical and it makes you appreciate what a genius Peter Jackson is. The attention to detail is incredible and it doesn’t feel like a film set in any way. It really felt like we had fallen into middle earth. It was a fantastic trip through the world of J.R.R. Tolkien and you don’t need to be an extreme fan to enjoy this.

During this guided captivating 2 hours tour, we felt transported to the Middle Ages amongst Frodo, Sam, Gandolff and Bilbo Baggins in Bags End Shire and the Green Dragon.

The mill and the Lake look so picturesque and the views are stunning

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Hobbiton is simply stunning – beautiful gardens, gorgeous flowers, huge trees (one of them is fake) and the fascinating hobbit holes which feel so real and authentic that you could easily believe people are still living there and that it is a real community.

 

An absolute must do, the set is amazing. The whole place makes you feel like you are part of the movie. Meandering up & down seeing all the hobbit holes all the way to the Green Dragon Inn where we were treated to a choice of either a cup of ale, cider or non alcoholic ginger beer or in my case a dark alcoholic ale.

 

 

We loved every second of the tour. It truly was magical; like stepping into a different world. We strolled around the shire like happy little Hobbits for an afternoon. And, if you are not already a fan, you just might become one.

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Modern Harbourside Vibe – Auckland Waterfront.

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From Brisbane we flew in to Auckland where we spent a few wonderful days. During this time we visited the Auckland waterfront, known as Viaduct Harbour and also visited the Wynyard quarter. We were blessed with magical weather.

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Along with many others we enjoyed walking and exploring this very popular area. There were folks on bikes, pushing strollers, walking their doggies and just enjoying this lovely spot where there is also a huge variety of cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from.

 

This vibrant community of Viaduct Harbour where Auckland city meets the ocean was formerly a rundown commercial harbour but now is a very upscale development with good looking residential apartments. They have done an amazing job with great water views from almost anywhere along this area.

Strolling along past the Viaduct Harbor and across the Wynyard Crossing Bridge we stumbled upon the Wynyard Quarter. With its many luxurious yachts, this area captivates visitors even more. It is definitely a place where locals enjoy as well as visitors. This is the exact type of place that reflects Auckland – a contemporary, multi-cultural, outdoor fun place that incorporates the harbour.

 

The Wynyard Quarter is a reclaimed piece of land on the harbour at the western edge of the Auckland waterfront. While Wynyard Quarter started out as an area of restaurants and cafes, it has become much more than this and is a pivotal area to walk through connecting the city to the new walkways passing adjacent to Westhaven Marina. Possessing awesome views on a sunny day, it has great atmosphere, and there are plenty of spots to just amble through and take in the sights.

We stopped to watch the opening of the Wynyard crossing bridge which is a pedestrian and cycle bridge. The spans are raised to allow big boats to pass under the bridge. The raising of the bridge depends on the request from the boat owners, so there is no fixed schedule when the span will be risen. We felt lucky, to see it.

 

Almost to the end of the wharf, we climbed up this raised viewing platform to see over the harbour and towards the harbour bridge. Another magnificent view.

 

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The posing Sky tower on the Auckland skyline could be seen from almost every spot we stopped at along the waterfront and became a regular sight in many of my photos.

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We wandered past water features, play areas for children, playgrounds, and basketball courts all alongside the wide walking paths, making this an attractive destination for all ages.

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It is an impressive place to walk, take in the sights and have a coffee or a bite to eat. Watch all the ferry’s coming and going – so very peaceful and pretty.

Sun. Surf. Sand. Beautiful Beach in Coffs Harbour

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Just a couple of kilometres north from Coffs central is the iconic Big Banana, a banana-themed water park. It is at this water park where you turn right and head down to the coast and you will end up at Diggers Beach.

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The ever popular Diggers Beach is perfectly located and is a favourite among the locals for surfing, fishing and swimming and hosts several big surfing events throughout the year.

Diggers beach is a sandy horse shoe shaped beach with headlands at each end and good surfing, especially at the southern end where the headland track leads to the main beach at Coffs Harbour. At the southern end there is a track taking you over the headland and down to the main beach. At the northern end it leads onto a grassy area behind which sits the Aanuka resort in a tropical setting. There is a large car park at the southern end with covered picnic shed.

It is great for surfers, they love it, however it can be dangerous if you don’t swim well. Diggers is a patrolled by lifeguards beach usually during summer and holiday times. Be sure to only ever swim between the flags. Actually swimming between the flags is very important on all Aussie beaches. If you get in to trouble, you have more chance to be noticed quickly by the lifeguards if you are in fact in between the flags.

Diggers beach is part of the Solitary Islands Coastal Walk and is probably about half way between Sawtell and Red Rock.

At very low tides it is possible to walk through to Little Diggers Beach but be aware that it has a reputation as a nudist beach. They definitely have no inhibitions so go there with an open mind.

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On the rear of the beach on the southern end there is a shelter and fresh water showers for after you have been in the sea. Also next to the car park is a small grassed area with picnic tables and B.B.Q’s. and a very nice clean toilet block

Diggers is a must see on a Coffs visit. The water, the beach … it’s just beautiful. It is not overdeveloped and there are no big buildings.

Spectacular Coastal Walk – Australia

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About half way between Brisbane and Sydney, positioned on the East Coast of Australia in NSW is the area known as the Mid North Coast. The part of this area that I visit regularly is the Coffs coast, Coffs Harbour.

Over the years, I have walked parts of the Solitary Islands coastal walk many times including Sawtell, Jetty, Park Beach, Macauleys Headland, Diggers, Charlesworth Bay, Korora, Sapphire and Moonee.

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The Solitary Islands coastal walk is a 60km stretch between Sawtell in the south to Red Rock in the northern beaches, linking a string of long golden beaches, rocky headlands and lush rainforest along the Coffs Coast. It is certainly one of the most beautiful walks on the east coast of Australia.

Solitary Islands and Muttonbird Island are picturesque and make for perfect bird watching, so bring your binoculars. Little terns and white bellied eagles are often seen along the shores. Dolphins surf the waves of these beaches all year round and the headlands are ideal for whale watching throughout the winter months.

The tracks are well set out with the walks to various grassy headlands. While some of the tracks are steep in places, they are well maintained and always provide interesting sea and mountain views.

 

There are kangaroos among the rocks on the beach as well as on the grass on the headland. Along the way there are surfing beaches where you can take amazing pictures of surfers. It is a magical experience.

 

This Coastal Walk is superb and can be done in stages. It is amazingly diverse – with long gorgeous beaches, steep stairs in suburbs, headlands, wildlife & estuaries along the way. Resting after walking at a pristine beach makes it even better

 

There is plenty of coast line to see with not a lot of bush restricting views. You are also able to get easy access to all the beaches and can then take a swim or just saunter along the sand.

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These are some of the prettiest beach coves along the northern NSW coastline, with plenty of lovely coffee spots or picnic locations en route. You can visit lookouts and headlands and join the walk in many different places.

 

The total distance of the walk is 60 km but you can choose to do as much or as little as you like.

Overall it is a fabulous experience, mostly clearly signposted and comfortable walking. I would definitely recommend it.

Japanese Garden by the Waterfront – Just a Beautiful Place

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Situated in the heart of Hilo town, on Banyan Drive, on the island of Hawai’i is the Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens. This beautiful park with Japanese Gardens, sits on a 24 acre park on Hilo Bay. These Edo-style Japanese gardens are said to be the largest such gardens outside Japan. The gardens contain Waihonu Pond as well as bridges, ponds, pagoda, statues, torii and a Japanese teahouse.

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These traditional Japanese gardens are extensive, simple, peaceful and a place to walk, reflect and enjoy.

The park itself is beautiful with winding pathways that take you through the peaceful Japanese garden with many different foot bridges and several huge banyan trees.

Queen Liliʻuokalani Park and Japanese Gardens is such a beautiful tranquil place to have a picnic, stroll, or just relax on the beautiful landscapes.

With pagodas, bridges and flora and fauna that is perfectly landscaped, you are almost mythically transported to a magical place. Located along the shores of Hilo Bay, you can enjoy the bay as well.

As you wind your way through the park, over the arched bridges and past numerous Japanese statues, you begin to truly feel a sense of calm, which is pretty much what the park was designed to do in following traditional Japanese gardening techniques. Definitely worth a stroll through – and would certainly be a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch from the Farmer’s Market

We saw a Nene here, which was also a treat for us. It certainly is a great place for photographs. Anywhere you point your camera will give you a lovely photo.

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Take the time to stroll through the garden and experience the peace and beauty of Hawaii. If you like to walk peaceful gardens or just take a quick walk, this is the place.

A Great Night out at Eat Street Markets – Brisbane.

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It is 4 years since I last visited the Eat Street Markets. I said that I would be back, but I had no idea that it would take me so long to return. I don’t even know why it took me so long because the markets are extraordinary.

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This time we arrived by city cat. City Cat is the Brisbane river transport system with terminals stretching from The University of Queensland at St Lucia to Northshore Hamilton. It was then only a short walk from the Northshore ferry terminal to the markets.

Travelling on the City Cat anywhere on the Brisbane river is an absolute delight, both in the daytime and very special at night when you see the abundance of lights along the river banks and illuminating the many bridges.

The first time I went to Eat Street Markets, although we arrived quite early, parking was difficult. However, this time, we arrived about 6pm and there were still hundreds of free parking stalls. But, when we left around 9, there were long lines of cars waiting to come in with traffic controllers directing the traffic. The first visit to Eat Street Markets.

The Eat Street Markets have moved location since the last time I visited and it was definitely for the better. They were originally near Portside where the cruise liner terminal is, and now they are further down the river in Northshore Hamilton.

 

There is nothing like Eat Street Northshore anywhere in the world. It is a special one of a kind experience. Priceless city & river views saturate & surround the 180 dining and entertainment shipping containers that add a blazing coloured landmark to Brisbane.

At soon as you walk through the gates in to the area you are hit with the exciting vibe of the place, with its millions of lights, beautiful stalls, people having fun and amazing aromas coming from the many food stalls.

 

There were so many choices of places to eat it was hard to decide. We initially walked around the entire area making mental note of what we thought we wanted to try. We stopped at one of the bars by the river and enjoyed a glass of wine and thought about what we would have for dinner. Then it was deciding time which was hard. But we did decide and we enjoyed the dinner. We each chose differently, my choice was Japanese however we all agreed on the same for dessert. Gelato.

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With over 70 vendors creating delicious dishes from all over the world you are sure to find something absolutely scrumptious.

Live entertainment fills the markets; Solo performers and bands are positioned throughout Eat Street so you’re never far from music. After dinner we stopped by several of the entertainment areas and sat in comfy chairs to watch the performances.

 

Eat Street Markets is open every weekend of the year. Fri and Sat 4pm to 10pm and
Sunday 12 noon to 8pm. Entry fee is $2.50 – 12 years and older.

If you live in Brisbane or visiting at any time, stop by for a visit, you won’t be disappointed.