Spending a day at Scandrett

Amazing scenery and deep calm waters, combined with a bit of history and some great stories make Sandrett a brilliant day trip just over an hour from Auckland.

Our journey to spending a day at Scandrett went a little like this…

Krystal and I wanted to take James somewhere special for Valentines Day.  With astronomical vet bills over the last month it also had to be free.  We wanted to go somewhere within an hour of home that had amazing swimming and good places for picnics and after so much travel to the south of Auckland we wanted to head north.  That’s about as specific as we had got when we started searching Auckland Council’s guide to regional parks.

A long time fan of Gone With the Wind I think it was the name that captured me first – you know, Scarlett and Rhett – OK, maybe that was just me.

I couldn’t find a lot about Scandrett outside of this – a brilliant sign that it was going to be a fantastic place to get lost!

And it was…

We arrived right on high tide (this is important – Scandrett is very tidal and about 3 hours after high tide it is muddy and shallow – still looks amazing but not great for swimming) and I fell in love that instant.

Old red farm buildings (some dating back to the 1800’s) dotted the shoreline and the impossibly blue water lapped at the grass.

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With just 20 cars in the car park the land to visitor ratio was superb and in no time we had found a grassy spot to set up our picnic.

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It wasn’t long before we needed to cool off so the three of us jumped in the ocean.  In just a few steps we were out to our necks in lovely warm water.  It was so clear that even this deep we could still see our feet.

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It was bliss and we stayed in for a good long swim before hanging our togs up on the good old Kiwi washing line to dry for the next swim.

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After cooling down it was time for some serious exploring….

Scandrett was bought by the Auckland Regional Council in 2004 and instead of demolishing the existing buildings they restored them – a brilliant glimpse into the past lives of the Scandretts as they grew up here.

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Farm buildings at Scandrett
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The original homestead at Scandrett – open to the public

And what a place it would have been to grow up!  The signs around the park spoke of parties in the old barn, leisurely trips to Kauwau Island, laid back living and of huge amounts of fun!  What’s more, the Scandrett’s seemed like the type of people that everyone wanted to be around and stay with – which of course was exactly what happened.

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You can slip back into time for a very modest fee yourself by renting one of the 1950’s batches on the shoreline of Scandrett from the Auckland Council.

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View from one of the bach’s at Scandrett

After exploring all the history of Scandrett we made our way around the Mullet track – offering spectacular views out over the many islands scattered around the peninsula.

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There are a few hills which didn’t impress Krystal (who is 8) so it pays to have an incentive like another swim) to get the kids around the farm without too many complaints.

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Mullet Track
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Racing down the last leg of the Mullet Track for that swim

After 5 hours at Scandrett it was finally time to go home  – we packed up our chilly bin and wandered for the last time through the historic buildings and headed back to a life far more ordinary.

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Credit for this photo goes to Krystal

 

 

The Road Less Travelled

The destination was Taupo, but we took the road less travelled and that, as Robert Frost would say, made all the difference.

My Waitangi weekend started with a note inviting me to a child free weekend away with James.  Bliss!

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Instead of heading down State Highway One (the most direct route to Taupo) we got off State Highway One at Glen Murray Road and wound our way leisurely through Otorohanga and Te Kuiti.

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As we drove James kept sending me directions to my phone.  The funny thing was that he was driving and knew where he was going and I was not driving and was hopeless with directions so it really was more the thought of a treasure hunt rather than me doing any actual real navigation.

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What I loved about this most was seeing places and things that I had never seen before.  And it wasn’t just the big things that stood out it was the little things we found on our way.  From the amazing houses…

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To the deserted houses high on hills on roads that no one seemed to drive through….

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To the birth place of Colin & Stan Meads….

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To the endless countryside filled with sheep & monumental dams that sprung from seemingly nowhere…

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It was a magic drive and I was somewhat disappointed when James said that we have arrived at our destination – Taupo – I could have happily kept driving along untravelled roads all day.

We did the same on the way back up the island too…

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We stopped in at Wai-O-Tapu just in time to see the geyser erupt at 10.15 on the dot – we didn’t go into the geothermal area having already filled our geothermal quota the day prior.  An amazing experience – if nothing else for the fact that there is an amphitheatre filled with people waiting to see soap tipped down a geyser to make it erupt.

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We stopped in at Rotorua for brunch at the lovely Picnic Cafe – perfect for a yummy brunch if you are passing through…

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Travelling up past Rotorua, we stopped at my favourite piece of road in all of the country – Fitzgerald Glade…

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When I was a little girl I went here with my Grandma and got a little toy white lamb (called rather imaginatively Baa Baa Black Sheep) so, feeling some serious parental guilt by now we decided to have a look and see if they had anything for our girls.

They did and we got this – my youngest has called hers MJ Funny Looking (much better than my name I think) and so the tradition continues.

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The shop there is a cute little place to stop and break up the trip (they have pigs for the kids to look at too) and the new owners seemed super helpful and the store well stocked.

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Coming out of Te Aroha we saw the impressive Wairere Falls.  We stopped for a photo but didn’t have time to hike up there but that is definitely on the list of places to explore this year.

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So there you have it – two alternative routes from Taupo to Auckland to take the road less travelled – I would thoroughly recommend them both!

3 things you have to do in Taupo

If we could only do 3 things in Taupo (that wouldn’t break the bank because lets face it if we won Lotto the list may include Huka Lodge, floating behind a boat like the guy I captured in the picture above and this floating plane that James couldn’t stop ogling over the whole time we were down there)…

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So the achievable for most budgets, awesome, amazing top 3 things you have to do in Taupo are..

#1 – The Bistro

A week later I am still blown away by how amazing this place is!  Working in Advertising for 17 years I have had my share of amazing lunches and dinners at the best restaurants this country has to offer but this one is right up there with the best (in fact I’m still trying to think of a better meal I’ve had).

Unsurprisingly they come in top on Trip Adviser but to walk past it your may almost miss it.  On the front window their slogan is simple but nice.  I get it, the decor is simple but the food – so much more than nice – its incredible, amazing, delicious, scrumptious – all of those and more.

We had an amuse bouche courtesy of the kitchen, an entree to share, two mains (James pork belly he couldn’t even finish), desert to share and two drinks each and when the bill came to just $125 I almost fell over and added a bit more on as a tip for the fantastic waitresses because surely food this amazing can’t be this cheap (although if you head over to their website you will see that’s their mission – to make amazing food affordable for the average kiwi family).  Tick!

If you have read my blog you will know we don’t rave about every restaurant we go to (in fact we have a policy to only comment on the ones we like) but this one is truly sensational.

I wish I had more photos but to be honest we were too busy eating!

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You can check them out here – but really, just go there.  From anywhere.

#2 – The Ernest Kemp Cocktail Cruise

We came across the Ernest Kemp on a google search to find a boat over to the Maori Rock Carvings and liked the look of the boat (who wouldn’t) and it ended up being a most inspired choice because the boat was all it promised and more.

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We were fortunate enough to have a beautiful sunny day to head out on the lake so we sat out the back (best seats in the house I reckon) and quickly got chatting to the people around us – a couple from England, best friends from Germany and a couple from Wellington.  I love that in the tourist spots meeting people from all around the globe and they usually have amazing places that they have discovered here too!

Now here’s where selecting the 5pm cocktail cruise becomes important – the wine flowed, the pizza seemed never ending and when it did finally end it was replaced by an antipasto platter.  We were so full that there was no way we could fit in dinner after this.  The staff matched the boat perfectly – friendly, relaxed and up for a bit of fun.

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Despite it being the reason for the trip, by the time we got there I was not too fussed about the Maori Rock Carvings – although they are spectacular as you can see below – I had become much more interested in our amazing early evening boat ride.

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Our skipper kept us up to date with all the local and historical information over the duration of our 2 hour cruise.  Out on Lake Taupo is really where you see a different side of Taupo and I could really see why so many people holiday here.

There is a kind of a decadence combined with easy charm – from the groups of teens perched like sea birds on cliffs, waiting to swoop down on the blue waters below, to the lavish yachts filled with beautiful people, to the speedboats racing past at impossible speeds.

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The Ernest Kemp was a brilliant experience and at $40 pp was superb value.

You can find out more about them here.

#3 – Reids Farm

Just off Huka Falls Road this idyllic spot offers free camping and picturesque spots for picnicing and swimming (be careful here as leading down to the Huka Falls there is quite a current).

Waitangi Weekend 2016-9937Despite it being a hot, sunny Waitangi Weekend we were still able to find a spot where no one else was – make an awesome sandwich from our left over pork belly from The Bistro, have a swing in the hammock and go for a swim.

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There are no filters in these photos – it really was that blue and green – amazing, and completely FREE!

Waitangi Weekend 2016-9914So that is our top 3 things you have to do in Taupo.  If you are looking for a place to stay while you are down there we can thoroughly recommend Chantilly’s Motor Lodge as a place to stay – it was close to town, comfortable, affordable, had friendly staff and looked great – what more can you ask for.

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And for Breakfast – you can’t go past the $9 breakfast at Lake House (that’s James $9 brekkie on the right – I went for the slightly more expensive Eggs Benedict on the left).  Located right on the lake front it gives you great access to all the goings on in the lake and is where I snapped the cover photo for this piece.

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Huka Prawn Park

We love prawns so not surprisingly the first place we stopped when we arrived in Taupo was the Huka Prawn Park.

I last went there 16 years ago (really – was it that long ago!) and it was fair to say it had changed a bit.

We went in and immediately saw a huge sign promising that we could eat all the prawns we could catch for a mere $28 each – they would even cook them for us for free.  James is a pretty good fisherman and we fancied our chances and we were in faster than you can shell a prawn.

Turns out prawn fishing is not quite as easy as one might think.  Especially when fishing with bamboo rods and tiny hooks (I know, a good cook never blames the oven).

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The pond we were fishing in boasted over 27,000 prawns but sadly none of them ended up on our plate.

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But while it would have been nice to catch our own prawns it kind of didn’t matter.  We sat for around an hour fishing for prawns and watching the world go by.  The only thing that would have made it more perfect was a nice cold beer…

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After that we ventured around the track to explore the rest of the park.  We found tons of cool activities that our children would have loved (sorry guys – next time eh) and we had a fair amount of fun playing too…

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And then we discovered a sign brilliantly written to throw children off the scent – I think every great place should have a sign proclaiming a peaceful adult bush walk!  And it was very peaceful and absolutely stunning views!

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Further around we found the mineral foot baths – perfect for a cold day, not so much in February but we put our feet in them none the less.

We then wound our way around to the restaurant where the prawns were practically calling our names.  While they would have tasted better free (what doesn’t) they were still delicious and we made short work of them.

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All up, we loved the Huka Prawn Park.  It was good value at $56 for two adults and would be sensational value at $69 for a family and we will certainly be taking the children there when we go down next – surely there is a prawn fisherman somewhere in the family!

Our tip if you are planning on visiting – don’t rush it – plan to take at least 3 hours fishing, exploring, playing and eating.

You can find out more about them here.

Orakei Korako – The Hidden Valley

With a name like The Hidden Valley there was never a chance that we weren’t going to visit Orakei Korako on our recent trip to Taupo.

Winding through pleasant country roads you will come to a large (artificial I’m told) lake and find Orakei Korako – which is home to New Zealand’s largest geyser field.

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A short boat trip across the lake and you are suddenly transported into a land of steam and bubbling mud that seems like something out of a movie.

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Unlike other geo thermal parks which can feel barren and frankly, just hot, the thermal attractions here were flanked by lush forests with shady paths providing relief from the sun and a contrast to the raw energy of the earth spewing out so visibly.

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And there were visible eruptions everywhere – from the soda fountain that steams and fills and empties at will…

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To the constantly bubbling mud, like a witches cauldron…

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My favourite space however was the Ruatapu Cave.  The cave goes down 35 metres to a hot pool at the bottom called Waiwhakaata (Pool of Mirrors) and is one of the two known caves in the world located in a geothermal field.

Aside from the beauty of it all – from the moment you walk in there is a sense of overwhelming calm and peace there.  It feels like the type of place that you could write for hours in or just sit and reflect.  While access to the pool is prohibited, a zoom on your camera (or they helpfully have a replica on the viewing platform) reveals a poignant memorial to two brothers lost in the war, one of whom the plaque reads “spirit hovers in this lovely cave where as a lad he guided and delighted visitors with his manly bearing”.  I get a sense from this cave that 22 year old Atama Mikaere was indeed a special man if his spirit is what gives this cave the sense of peace it processes.

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There are many tracks to wander down and you could spend hours here but in the heat of summer after and hour or two you will be ready for a quick dip somewhere (we recommend Reids Farm).

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You can find out more about Orakei Korako here – I would thoroughly recommend it!

Getting Lost with The Black Box

We, like the 120,000 other fans on Facebook, have been eagerly awaiting the day we would get selected to receive a Black Box.  If you are not already signed up, this is something you should definitely sign up for.  Essentially Black Box is a sample company, working with companies to sample products and get feedback.  For consumers it    is a great way to sample products for FREE and get yourself heard when you feedback to companies about what you thought of these products.

In a particularly serendipitous moment our Black Box arrived packed full of goodies the night before we set of on our surprise weekend away.

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Having no idea where I was going I decided to add in an extra challenge – let’s try and use every item in the box while we were away.  Here’s the thing – everything was so awesome that it wasn’t actually hard but it was awesome finding the perfect locations to use everything in the Black Box.

We headed out from Auckland and after winding our way through the back of Huntly and Otorohanga we found ourselves on State Highway 30.  A beautiful stretch of highway with barely a soul on it, despite it being Waitangi Weekend.  About half way down this road (and in the middle of precisely no where) we decided to stop and crack open the black box.

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We made sliders out of the ham and salami in the chilli bin and our Natures Fresh Sliders and sat on the side of the road and ate them.  They weren’t to be the best sliders we made that weekend but they still tasted pretty good on the side of the road here.

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Back to the adventure and I still had no idea where I was going until we pulled into Taupo and James revealed that this was our final destination.  We stayed at Chantilly’s in an amazing suite right on the corner.  An ideal location to crack open the Black Box again for a celebratory drink of Brown Brothers Prosecco before heading off to dinner at The Bistro (seriously – if you are ever in Taupo you have to try this place).

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Waking feeling particularly fresh the next morning thanks to our Dettol body wash in the Black Box we started to have a bit of a hunt around for what to do and where we could take the Black Box to next.  James theory of asking the locals wasn’t working so well for us – turns out that Google and the hotel guide knew a bit more so we started planning out our day..

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We decided on Orakei Korako (also known as the Hidden Valley – right up our alley for Getting Lost).  Rugged, hot and unpredictable we wound our way up to the top where there seemed nothing more appropriate to drink than an Old Mout Hard Cider (I would highly recommend it to all after a long summer walk!)

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After all of that walking around on a hot summers day around in a steaming geothermal wonderland we needed to cool off a bit so headed to Reids Farm.  I’ve never been there before (James has) but basically it is a free campground with the most amazing river (that heads on down to the Huka Falls so currents can be strong so be careful to swim to your limits & remember drinking and swimming don’t mix).  We had a quick dip while our Heinekin Light sat in the river chilling to the perfect condition and then turned to the more pressing issues – lunch & a nice cool beer.

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We had left over pork belly from our amazing dinner at The Bistro the night before and that went just perfectly with the remainder of our sliders.

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And after lunch we had our now chilled to perfection Heineken Light which was just perfect in lower alcohol given we still had to drive back to the hotel.

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Back at the hotel for a quick freshen up and jumping in the amazing spa bath to shave my legs with the Shick Hydro Silk from the Black Box.

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All freshened up it was time to sit out on the deck with a glass of wine and our Arnotts Shapes (also thanks to the Black Box – see how this is working out so very well…)

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After a few too many drinks on the Ernest Kemp (best boat cruise ever!) James and I woke up a little tender the next morning.  Thankfully all the wine, beer and cider in the Black Box had been drunken and we had the Barker Halls and Co Cranberry and Blackcurrant left to have over ice as we worked through our hangovers.Waitangi Weekend 2016-7048

In a rather cruel twist of fate James and I both quit drinking coffee in the week before the Black Box arrived so with our lovely L’OR Expresso (the last item to try in the box) so the only option we had was to smell it – it smelt divine – ahh coffee, how I miss you…

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So that was getting lost with our Black Box – a brilliant little extra to an amazing weekend and hope you all got inspired to sign up yourselves here or try some of the amazing products that we did.

What not to do when picking blackberries

The way I had pictured this post going was a series of idyllic photos as we skipped off happily – a model blended family that proved all those sceptics wrong – to find the blackberry bushes, returning triumphant an hour later with bags bulging with ripe, succulent fruit.

The reality was an hour of screams & crying which resulted in a small bowl of berries and a very stressed out mother.  You dear reader, no not have to suffer the same fate as us by simply learning from our mistakes of what not to do when picking blackberries (trust me – we have proof already from the successful blackberry mission the next day by James and Bella).  So here’s where we went wrong..

1. Know where you are going

Now when we are talking about picking blackberries here we are talking about the free variety that grow wild around New Zealand so there is a little more skill required in finding these than there is in driving up to a pick your own.

Aunty Cheryl had spotted some people coming out laden with berries down the road from the beach we were staying at the previous Christmas so her and Granny knew where to go.

Unfortunately they didn’t come with us but did send us with instructions – head past the toilets, jump the fence and then follow the path.

Easy – except there were two fences – one barbed wire, the other not.  We jumped the not barbed wire fence….  Which turned out to be private property….  So we jumped back pretty quick.

We sent the youngest up the hill to clarify the fence (barbed wire it is) and off we went – finding the path in no time.

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2.  Look out for dead things

We sent the youngest two in first – possibly not the best idea.  Not that they weren’t keen and brave – they certainly were – but the path got non existent pretty quickly and then we heard a scream from the youngest of our adventurers (who is 7) “Mummy, I’ve stepped in a dead thing!”

Turns out the dead thing was a decomposing possum.

These things change the mood somewhat…

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3.  Bees like blackberry bushes

Our middle child is really afraid of bees (and is moderately allergic to them) so while she was delighted to find the blackberry bush, she wasn’t so thrilled to find the bees.

She did pick them regardless but it was with a few squeals along the way.  I’m not sure what the answer is here apart from a bee keepers suit or prior warning…

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4.  Dress appropriately

Summer frocks look brilliant in photos but bare arms and legs don’t go well with the prickles from blackberry bushes – and there are a lot of them.

I would recommend long pants and top and probably gumboots too (not ideal for the midday sun so try to do your picking morning or night) – which leads me to my next point….

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5.  Bring something to lean on

The best blackberries are in the middle of the bush – jealously guarded by a plethora of thorns.  A thick blanket or piece of drift wood to lean against would do the trick here.

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6.  Plan to stop and take it all in

Our trip was cut short by bees, prickles and a lack of planning.  If I was to do it again I would bring a blanket and plan a little picnic out by the wild blackberry bushes under a shady tree.

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And was it worth it – absolutely!  Despite complaining a bit at the time the girls loved being able to provide the blackberries for dessert for everyone that night (it’s not every 7, 8 and 9 year old that gets to hunt up a meal for they family) and it didn’t stop Bella and James going back again the next day.

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As for where to find them – we found ours at Waitete Bay, but if that’s not in your neck of the woods ask anyone you know living on or around a farm – or better still if you know of a good spot post it over on our Facebook page and let us all know!

Rapaura Water Gardens

Winding through the Tapu-Coroglen road we found this little wonder – the Rapaura Water Gardens.

From the moment that you turn off SH25 everything feels a little different…  The Tapu-Coroglen Road runs through a gorge – a winding, sometimes one lane road, flanked either side by walls of green and a gently running river coming down from the mountain. The houses scattered throughout the gorge spoke of the relaxed and laid back feel of the place.  James Dad had once lived here and that certainly summed him up to a tee.

About 6km down the road we found the Rapaura Water Gardens.

Everything here feels like a brilliant discovery!  When we first arrived we found an old truck – I’m going to call it art here because it was perfect in it’s tree grown, rusted state.

Before venturing anywhere we are presented with the rules.  Normally I am not one for rules but in this case I adored them!

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Over the other side was the lovely Koru cafe – nestled in the bush – and being almost about lunchtime (OK it was 11am) we decided to stay a while and have something to eat.

They have a mouth watering array of food and a decor and staff that makes you feel like you have stumbled into a nice living room somewhere so it’s certainly a great place to linger.

They don’t have a kids meal per se but with a selection of Pizza and sweet treats no one will be going hungry.  James and I shared a Mushroom Bruschetta and the girls shared a Hawaiian pizza with the promise of afternoon tea if they all behaved.

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Full and ready to go we paid our admission fee (just $33 for a family which was incredibly reasonable given we spent almost 5 hours there) and were shown where to start by helpful staff (yellow arrows for the garden tour – red to wind your way up to the falls and waterhole).

The gardens are magical – large in scale and even bigger in personality – there was something new around every turn.

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James and our eldest daughter spent their time quizzing each other on native trees while the two youngest attempted to make friends with the ducks with their 50 cent bags of duck feed.  I wandered around, taking it all in and reading all the inspirational signs scattered through the park.

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I particularly loved the parks mantra – “the perfect garden is a well kept wilderness” and it certainly was.

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Lili ponds, sculptures, art, native trees, flowers and ducks were abundant with so much to look at and do.  For once my little family of hurriers were happy to stroll and reflect.

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Finished the garden part of our exploration we started up to the waterfalls.  The walk itself is an easy one (even carrying back a seven year old who cut her foot on the way back) with lots to look at along the way.

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Once up there – the view is spectacular.  It is just quiet enough that you can get changed in privacy into togs before the next group come through or if it is busy we made a great changing room up on a rock above.

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In no time at all – the five of us were in the swimming hole.  Fresh water is always cold and this was no exception – despite being the first day of February we got pins and needles when we first got in but once moving it was fine.  Our youngest (7) found it a bit cold though and was back on the rock first.

We let them jump of small rocks into the deeper water but before we go giving out bad advice that gets someone hurt here is a bit of a disclaimer – James is a strong swimmer and diver and is a certified dive instructor (with all the first aid training that goes along with that).  He is also very careful about the water so before the kids went in and certainly before they jumped he checked it all out, made sure the kids weren’t over their heads and we stayed very close by.  It’s been a terrible summer in New Zealand for drownings so while waterholes are amazing fun it is always good to be wary of the danger and have a competent adult check it out first and remain close by at all times.  There are some more tips here from NZ Water Safety about river safety.

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Our youngest was having a real accident prone day so after getting too cold, cutting her toe and then tripping on a rock she was about ready to go (by this stage we had been here 4 hours so that’s pretty good going for 7) and we made our way back to Koru for the promised hot chocolates and sweet treats.

All up, it was a brilliant way to spend a summer day getting lost without spending a huge amount of money.  Kids and grown ups alike had fun – it was active (walking and swimming) as well as enriching for the soul.

You can find out more about it here – but my advice – get out there and discover it for yourself.  It is about 30 minutes out of Thames – heading up the coast to Coromandel and is well signposted.

 

Clevedon Animal Farm

Picking up Miss K (8) from her 2 week holiday down in Thames we decided to once again combined work with a bit of getting lost…

I had been hired to shoot a 2 year old’s birthday party at the wonderful Clevedon Animal Farm so decided to book James and Miss K in for a walk around the park and a pony ride while I was working.

It worked brilliantly – not only did they have a fantastic time but we got to get a bit lost on the way there and the way home, winding our way through the Pohutukawa Coast – stopping a fair few times along the way for photos (follow our instagram feed to see a few more of these) and to have a Mr Whippy ice-cream at Maraetai Wharf.

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Miss K setting out on Maraetai Wharf

But back on to Clevedon Animal Farm – I’ve been to a fair few animal farms over the past 10 years and Clevedon Animal Farm stacked up well.  It had all the standard fare – donkeys, ponies, horses, geese, sheep, chickens and a very friendly dog.

But Clevedon Animal Farm had a little something else too – a cheeky sense of humour combined with a touch of whimsy.

Alongside the green fields were thoughtfully placed flowers and I was particularly enamoured with the pink bougainvillea that graced the entrance to the arena and grew all over the party area – meaning that even if you bought no party decorations you would be perfectly decorated.

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As for the sense of humour, Miss K loved going around and spotting the 5 little piggies (particularly the one that went wee wee wee all the way home)…

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And throughout the park there were quirky, fun touches everywhere which showed that they don’t take themselves too seriously.

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The staff (made up on the day I visited of two of the owners grandchildren and two locals) were knowledgable, safety focussed and friendly and most importantly looked out for the animals as they got clamoured on by various kids.

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Clevedon Animal Farms are perfect for horse mad kids (which Miss K certainly is) although she was hoping to be let off the lead for a little bit more riding which was not part of what they offered.  In my experience I would put the perfect age for children visiting here at 3 – 6 years of age – but children either side (and adults) will love it too.

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It has a superb party area where you can bring your own decorations or just go with what nature has so amply provided.  Although it hasn’t been used as a wedding venue yet I think that Clevedon Animal Farms would make a great quirky venue for an intimate wedding with lots of spaces throughout the property and beautiful backdrops for photos.

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There is no shortage of great spots for photos but you will struggle with shadows if you are visiting in the midday sun so look for dense shade if you are wanting great shadow free photos – I found the best spots were down by the farm yard with the donkeys and goats (watch out for the goat photo bombing – it makes for some hilarious photos) and under shelter in the party area.

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The photo bomber

Bookings are by appointment so you will need to call first – all the details on how to contact them etc are here…

http://www.clevedonanimalfarm.co.nz/index.html

There is no cafe on site but just a 5 minute drive away you will find Clevedon town with a variety of places to eat on offer – we didn’t have a huge amount of time to shop around so went to The Corner Kitchen and Bar which provided a nice meal at a reasonable price (including just eggs on toast for James and Miss K which weren’t on the menu).

Allow at least a couple of hours for getting lost on the way home (either side of Clevedon the coast is just stunning) – take your togs because there are loads of great places to swim with nice shallow, calm beaches for the kids (high tide is better because it can be quite a walk out otherwise).

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Date night in Piha

It’s not every day that your work takes you to a location as lovely as this but on Tuesday night I was photographing a lovely young family out at Piha at sunset and finding ourselves childless for 2 whole weeks over school holidays (don’t hate us other Mums and Dads) we decided to combine work with date night.

We set out from the city just before 6 and within an hour we were out at Piha.  I’m a fan for the road less travelled and seeing cars going down to North Beach we decided to head in the opposite direction.  There we found Philly’s Kitchen.

 

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We walked in and ordered our burgers to takeaway and then sat out on the beach to have a drink (ginger beer – never a good look to be breathing wine fumes on a client but a wine would definitely have gone down well here).

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The deck at Philly’s – perfect for a relaxing drink

Mid drink we were all asked over the loud speaker to stand for the ode (for those of you who don’t know it I have put it just below) and observe a minute silence – apparently this is something that the RSA in Piha have happily never given up.  It was very moving but James left his hat on so we got a few looks which we just didn’t know how to interpret but we did ask afterwards – funny how culture has moved so much that we don’t think of how offensive that can be now.  So tip to anyone going in – take your hat off – it’s just good manners.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Burgers in hand (and with vinegar to pour on them – I love that!!) we headed off to the beach to wait for the family I was photographing to arrive and eat our yummy burgers (well worth ordering!)

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Burgers from Philly’s just the way burgers should be

After dinner is when our stories split…  I went down to the beach to run around with a 3 year old and her Mum and Dad for an hour and try to capture a few shots between excited digging in the sand while James grabbed his book and climbed to the top of Lion Rock for a quiet read and to laugh at me chasing a 3 year old for photos down below…

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Lion Rock

We’re undecided as to who had the most fun there – it certainly was a good work out for both of us and a great way to spend a Tuesday night!

I love Piha – it’s so wild and unpredictable.  I got wet countless times standing in spots with my camera where I thought I would stay dry and there are just so many beautiful places to take amazing family photos – two of my favourite locations if you are thinking of going out there for a family shoot are the estuary and the paths down to the beach.  If you are lucky you will find a great piece of driftwood for a photo on the beach too.

Time to go home we stopped to take a photo and look at the view at the top of the hill…

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Looking down on Piha

And then we stopped a few more times to take a few more photos – never travel with a photographer I tell you!

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On the way home from Piha

So date night in Piha on a weeknight?  Absolutely – it’s the perfect place to get lost.  It’s close, the food is great and affordable, it’s absolutely stunning at sunset and its only an hour from Auckland city.

 

 

 

Lets find some beautiful place to get lost