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.

Beautiful Insights into Hawai’i’s Past

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Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i.

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The historical park preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or puʻuhonua.

This is a marvelous, respectful view of Hawaii’s past and how its culture worked. Now that it is a national site, the displays & information available have been expanded in greater detail.

This “Place of Refuge” is located about a 45 minute drive from down town Kailua Kona on Hwy 160. On our way from the Volcano National Park to Kailua Kona we stopped here at the park. It is a free attraction, however you will be charged $5 to park if you use their paved parking lot.

We loved this little slice of history. The beach is breathtaking – we spent about an hour exploring the lava rock tide pools and saw lots of fish.  The self-guided walk around the park didn’t take much time – maybe an hour. We spent about 1.5 or so hours wandering around the grounds, learning about the historical information around the site. It was very scenic as well, the tall palm trees, the sand, the black lava rock, the ocean, all blending into some picturesque views. The setting, at the edge of the ocean, is just gorgeous. Since it is a religious site, you can’t swim or snorkel at the park, but there is a swim and snorkel spot right next to it and you can see colourful fish in the tide pools.

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The park has many beautiful palm trees, white sand all around and there are various beautiful ancient houses to visit where you can see the tools and canoes that ancient Hawaiians used when they lived here. You can also see several beautifully crafted “totems” around the park.

The exhibits and artifacts area of the park is small and easy to walk around. With numbered markers and some reconstructed structures, you can download an app, or use the brochure you get at the gate, to learn of the various purposes and significance of each. If you happen to be there when a Park ranger is giving a guided tour, then you will most likely get more out of it. There also is a wall of murals, with a recorded audio history that is rather simplistic.

If you want to make more of a day out of it, there is a beach picnic area a hundred yards from the parking lot to the south with tables with charcoal grills and port-a-potties.  There is no food or beverages available at the visitor centre, so plan accordingly. The visitor centre is open 8:30am – 4:30pm. It has restrooms, a water bottle filling station, a very small gift shop, and amphitheatre.

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We are glad we stopped.  I would recommend it, especially for anyone wanting to know more about Hawaiian history and culture.

 

Wonderful Variety of Foods, Flowers, and Crafts – Hilo Farmers Markets.

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One of the charms of a small town is its local weekly markets

Wherever I am in the world, I always love to visit the local markets. I have a  wonderful feeling while I mingle and chat with the locals from the area. I enjoy an experience and an awareness of the local area that I don’t usually pick up by just visiting the touristy areas.

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While in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii we made time to visit the Hilo Farmers Markets. These condensed and lively markets located in the heart of Hilo offer  a huge range of locally grown Island fruits and vegetables, fresh produce, tropical flowers, locally made products, baked goods, crafts and beautiful gifts made with Aloha.

 

These markets, with over 200 local farmers and artisan stalls, are open Wednesday and Saturday from 6am – 4pm.  However on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday you will find a smaller version of the markets with over 30 farmers and crafters open from 7am – 4pm. The markets are open all year round.

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Waterfront across from the Farmers Markets

Row upon row of vendors crowd the two large tents on the Hilo waterfront. It is small and easy to navigate. The sellers are local and very friendly.  We thoroughly enjoyed the market and we were able to find a parking place quite close to the markets.

 

There appeared to be three different section.  One area has the foods, vegetables, cheeses, fruits, dips, honey, and lots of Big Island food products.   The other two sections have handmade items, including jewellery, clothes, handbags and purses, leis and flower arrangements

 

We stopped to chat with Sita of “ From Hawaii with Love” who produces and sells Ayurveda spices, herbs, natural blends, body lotions, and superfoods that promote good health. Sita was a wealth of knowledge and so passionate about her products that she creates from scratch. We bought some of Sita’s turmeric base products. I actually could have talked with her for much longer but felt we needed to let other folks learn about her wonderful products.

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Sita

Sita was just one small example of many great little experiences we had chatting with the locals on that day.

For visitors and locals alike, the farmers market in Hilo provides a visual and taste bud delight of wonderful tropical fruits and vegetables and Big Island food products, many of which are quite unique to Hawaii, and all at really affordable prices.

If you have the time when in Hilo,  pop in and have a wander,  I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

Shopping Heaven – Ala Moana

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For me, no visit to Honolulu would be complete without a shopping expedition to this centre. I always arrive in Honolulu with my list of “must do’s” while I am there and close to the top of this list is, Ala Moana Shopping Centre. Ala Moana is much more than a shopping centre, it offers me a great day out

 

Ala Moana Centre, commonly known just as Ala Moana, is the largest shopping mall in Hawaii. It has over 350 stores over 4 floors and is usually open from 9.30am to 9.00pm most days. It is easily accessed by bus from Waikiki or the Waikiki trolley pink line which only costs $2 or in fact you can walk it, depending on what part of Waikiki you are staying in.

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Just across the road from Ala Moana Beach Park

Every visit for us to this mall includes stopping for lunch at the restaurant in Nordstrom. Ruscello serves up chic, contemporary Mediterranean and Italian meals. We always arrive early as this popular restaurant fills up quickly for lunch and before long there is a line of folks waiting for tables. After our lunch often we visit the gelato bar just outside Nordstrom for a locally made gelato or sorbet.

 

This mall is enormous. The stores include Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s as the major department stores. There are high end designer stores, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Dior, etc as well as the regular mall stores and specialty Hawaiian stores. There is a Long’s Drugs, Foodland grocery store, several food courts and dozens of restaurants.

 

On centre stage, each day there are hula shows and live entertainment offering plenty of seating to stop and enjoy the local dance and Hawaiian music.

 

Ala Moana was much smaller when I lived in Hawaii. Over the years, it kept growing. There are shops for anything and everything–just wear comfortable shoes. It is a long walk to cover the length of this shopping centre. With over 350 shops, it can be overwhelming.

 

A visit to Ala Moana is a great experience. Go for the shopping, the restaurants, the entertainment or just to wander around and enjoy this massive beautiful complex. There are lots of places to stop and rest, people watch and there are beautiful ponds with koi fish and many water features. The plants, landscape and flowers are stunning and found everywhere around the complex.

 

Stay an hour or several or spend days here. Young or old, male or female, there is something for everyone.

And, if you are a shopaholic, it will be a heavenly experience.