May 4th, 2017

Kerikeri Farmers market – Makana Chocolate – Boutique Winery

Kerikeri Farmers Market

Kerikeri Farmers market – Makana Chocolate – Boutique Winery. We started our art and foodie explore by visiting the Kerikeri Farmers Market held every Saturday. There’s no better place to mingle with the locals, than at a Farmers Market.

Kerikeri Farmers market – Makana Chocolate – Boutique Winery

Today, the whole town seemed to be here and it was such a great vibe. Exotic plants, craft liquors, crafts and artwork all took pride of place. I loved these unique Maori flax bags.

And surely these unusual hats would brighten any cloudy day.

Makana Chocolate Factory & Cafe

The Farmers Market is just across the road from the Makana Chocolate Factory and cafe. How convenient is that! Pop across and have a coffee and something to eat.  I personally recommend the Gluten-free chocolate Truffle mousse cake. We took it home for dessert that night and it was divine!

Not everyone likes chocolate (but how could you not?) so ice-cream of every conceivable flavour is also on offer. It’s all here folks, seriously.

It’s a one-stop shopping experience. Of course there’s more to do from than Kerikeri Farmers market – Makana Chocolate – Boutique Winery. But there’s only so much you can fit into just the one day.

 

View Bay of Island accommodation and tour options

Ake Ake Vineyard & Restaurant

In New Zealand, we have a lot of smaller boutique wineries that are producing top quality wines. The owners are very much hands-on and you’ll more than likely meet them face-to-face in the tasting room.  Ake Ake produces organic wines and was recently featured in the Lonely Planet 2017. They produce grape varietals, perfect for the Far North’s climate and terroir.

Michael chose a bottle of Port and I chose a delicious Chardonnay. Somehow, meeting the man himself, enhanced the experience. The owner, John Clarke, was such a nice guy. It’s taken John and his partner years of hard graft to produce their award-winning wines. We’re inspired by these people we meet on our travels.

 

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April 27th, 2017

Kerikeri Bay of Islands Tropical gardens Waterfall walk

Tropical Garden

 

Its been a heck of a long drive today. We’re here to explore Kerikeri Bay of Islands Tropical gardens Waterfall walk plus history. We arrived exhausted at 88 Lodge B & B and walked straight into 7000 sqm of tropical garden. It reminded me parts of northern Queensland. We’re staying in the spacious Majestic suite overlooking a garden paradise. Its bliss.

 

Over 26 variety of birds are found in this garden. And one of the reasons has to be the beautiful pops of colour on display.

88 Lodge B & B Kerikeri

88 Lodge B & B Kerikeri

 

Rainbow falls Walk

We’re about to discover Kerikeri Bay of Islands Tropical gardens Waterfall walk. The Rainbow Falls walk is suitable for most ages and fitness levels.  We started from the historic Stone Store and Mission House in the Kerikeri Basin. We followed the banks of the Kerikeri River up to the Wharepuke and Rainbow Falls.

Wharepuke Falls

Wharepuke Falls

 

Native birds such as tui and fantails flitted around us as we hiked through native bush. We even saw a couple of very plump Kereru (native wood pigeon) There are viewing platforms built at different levels at the top of the falls. At certain times of the day a mist surrounds the waterfall to create a rainbow.

Rainbow Falls Kerikeri

Rainbow Falls Kerikeri

 

We were so intent on getting to the falls that we probably didn’t notice the details. But coming back, we relaxed more and noticed this rather unusual tree.  Michael was convinced he could see the head of a dog.  I have yet to be convinced.

After the walk, we had a coffee at the Honeybee Cafe in the historical Kerikeri Basin.

 

Later that evening we had a special wedding anniversary dinner at Food at Wharepuke restaurant. We had a great table surrounded by a tropical garden.  The food was full of taste and delicious. It was a memorable evening made special by caring staff.

Food at Wharepuke Kerikeri

Food at Wharepuke Kerikeri

 

What a pleasant end to the day! Back to our tropical garden. Sleep will come easy tonight.

Happy Travelling

 

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April 26th, 2017

Otorohanga North Island – Kawhia Hot Water Beach

Otorohanga North Island – Kawhia Hot Water Beach and the list goes on. The Waikato Region has to be the greenest I’ve ever seen it. We’re here to experience a piece of New Zealand heartland.

Cottage Stay near Otorohanga

We all have ways of measuring luxury. Cottage stays with gorgeous views is one of ours. Its the peace and tranquility and knowing you are the only guests. The hosting at Kamahi Cottage is exceptional. You’ll very quickly discover Liz’s culinary skills at breakfast time. After a long drive, kicking back in this beautiful hammock is such a pleasure.

Kamahi Cottage has a rustic exterior. Even in Autumn, the flowers are still on display. The lavender attracts the gentle honeybees and all is well in my world.

With views like this, the hours pass by without you being aware of it.

Otorohanga North Island – Kawhia Hot Water Beach

The township of Otorohanga is real Kiwiana. There’s no pretension here. However, there is one attraction that Otorohanga is world famous for. Haddad’s Menswear and Womensware shop looks like a scruffy old warehouse. But Karam and John Haddad sell the highest quality Swanndris at ridiculously low prices. Be warned, you won’t be able to leave this shop without buying something. Karam and John were born to sell and there’s no point in resisting them.

Beautiful Kawhia Beach has arguably the best hot water beach found anywhere in New Zealand. And because it is off the beaten track, you won’t be fighting for space.  From Waitomo, the drive takes about 1 hour. This is a beautiful scenic drive on winding roads.  Make sure you visit at least 2 hours before high tide and no more than 2 hours after. That way, you’ll be able to dig your own hot water spa.

Waitomo Caves and Ruakuri Bush walk

Now that we’re in the Waitomo Caves area, we have to do the Ruakuri Bush walk.  This walk incorporates some really beautiful natural features.

The bush is lush with plenty of soft moss growing on the rock face. You can’t resist reaching out to touch.

Be sure to have a torch at the ready if you venture inside the caves. Along the walk, you’ll see the Waitomo Blackwater Company at play.  We’ve done this fun activity and its suitable for all age groups. Wet suits are provided and they take good care of you.

So much to see and do. Time to move on out. Onwards to the next adventure.

Happy travelling

 

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April 23rd, 2017

Hairy Feet Hobbit film location Waitomo

Today we travelled just 45 mins from the famous Waitomo Caves to Piopio. The Hairy Feet Hobbit film location Waitomo is no longer a hidden secret. We’re not that keen on the mass market. So we love that there are only 9 people in the group at any one time. View accommodation in the Waitomo region.

 

Our guide, Suzie Denize is rather special. She actually owns all this land. A full 22 minutes of the first Hobbit film was filmed on her property. And she was on-site as the filming took place. Here’s me with Suzie.

 

Hairy Feet Hobbit film location Waitomo – role playing

You don’t have to be a hobbit fan to enjoy this tour. I guarantee the scenery alone will blow your mind! Our tour started from the moment Suzie greeted us at her modern reception area. This is a predictable photo I know, but at 6ft.2in, Michael wouldn’t make a very good Hobbit.

You can understand why Peter Jackson and his crew quickly fell in love with this place. The ancient rock formations are perfect for ‘Middle Earth’

 

Hairy Feet Hobbit film – scenic beauty

After a quick drive up a hill in a modern van you can start following in the footsteps of the hobbits.

How could anyone not be inspired by this magnificent scenery. You will be surrounded on all sides by views lush green hills.  The Hairy Feet Hobbit film location Waitomo is a half day tour. So this is great news if you want to do the Waitomo Caves on the same day.

Hairy Feet Hobbit film – recreating the scene

There isn’t too much walking and there are plenty of stops on the way. At each stop Suzie holds up a still shot from a particular scene. The photo would match the area we’d be standing in at the time.

She invited each of us to recreate the same shot for ourselves. I tried to look like a worried Bilbo. I’m so pleased we captured the bird house in the background.

Tom, Bert and William are such innocuous names for the revolting trolls from the Hobbit films. This was the very spot poor Bilbo almost got cooked for dinner!

A tour like this is only as good and its guide. Suzie’s personal connection to the film really inspires you to see the film again. That has to be a measure of how successful this tour really is.  We also have to mention Suzie’s husband, Warwick. A local artist was commissioned to recreate Warwick’s likeness as a hobbit. We think he did rather well.

Happy travelling!

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April 19th, 2017

Drive along Whanganui River to Pipiriki

If you love ‘off the beaten track’ driving, away from the usual tourist routes, then consider the drive along Whanganui River to Pipiriki. I just did this today leaving south (Whanganui city) to north (heading towards the Tongariro National Park).

 

Whanganui River Road map

Whanganui River Road map

 

Important to know before starting Whanganui to Pipiriki Road

  • The road is windy and narrow in places. So, if you suffer from car sickness, this is not your kind of country.
  • This road is popular with cyclists as part of the national cycle network in NZ. So, drive carefully around those sharp corners
  • The road is prone to landslides during heavy rain, so only drive it in good weather conditions.
  • The drive takes 1.5 hours along the road. So from Whanganui to Ohakune, calculate on at least 2.5 hours.
  • I would not recommend this journey with a larger motorhome (for reasons mentioned above)
  • Ah, by the way, no cell phone reception in this part of the world!

 

 

The Whanganui River is rich in local history

From the beginning of your journey at the SH4 intersection, you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a different world. The road is sealed and is in pretty good condition, though mostly narrow.

 

 

Once you enter into the Whanganui National Park area, the bush becomes dense. Today, the river water was the colour of milk chocolate. The latest heavy rain most likely helped to create this illusion.

 

Drive along Whanganui River to Pipiriki

Drive along Whanganui River to Pipiriki

 

Once in a while you’ll see local housing and even a cafe & gallery!

 

Jerusalem in New Zealand – on the Whanganui River

 

Yes, there is a Jerusalem in NZ as well – read more here.

 

 

While you’re travelling the area. you might want to schedule a jetboat trip to the “Bridge of Nowhere”. Again, local history – this time the Pakeka story with road building a large part of it. Read more here. I did the trip a few years back and loved it!

 

During the drive this afternoon I must have stopped at least 15 times to enjoy the view over the bush and the Whanganui River. As this journey ends in the central North Island – with its Tongariro National Park – the time has just flown. It’s been a great detour from the busy highways into key ‘heartland’ of New Zealand’s North Island.

 

 

Happy travelling!

 

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