Fabulous Fudge

I’ve tried lots of fudge recipes over the years and this is the best ( and most reliable ) one I have found.


2 x 400g cans sweetened condensed milk

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

250g butter

100ml liquid glucose syrup ( available in the baking section of the supermarket)

3 Tablespoons golden syrup

400gm dark or white chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla essence


Line a 20 x 30cm that’s at least 4 cm deep. I use a 24 x 35 cm.

Place all the ingredients except the chocolate and vanilla in a large heavy-based saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

Bring to the boil and boil gently until the mixture becomes very thick and changes colour to a dark caramel shade – about 6 minutes ( soft ball stage on a sugar thermometer ). Stir continually with a spatula or wooden spoon to prevent it catching on the bottom.

Remove from the heat and wait for bubbles to subside. Stir in the chocolate and vanilla until smooth and melted.

Pour into the tin and smooth the surface. Cool to room temperature ( about 3 hours ), then refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares.


I weigh all the ingredients in to the pot.

I find it best to make this about a week in advance of when I need it so it has time to set fully in the fridge.

On a hot day you may need to cut the fudge in small batches as it can get a bit soft being out of the fridge.

A day trip into Abel Tasman National Park

I imagined that the start of our 3 week South Island camping trip was going to be a relatively relaxing 5 night stay at Kaiteriteri lying on the gorgeous beach before the summer hoards arrived – how wrong could I be. There is so much to do in the area that there is no time for relaxing on the beach.

Kaiteriteri is the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and home to one of New Zealand’s great walks. While we weren’t quite up for a multi-day hike we did want to explore the Abel Tasman so booked a water taxi ( more like a small ferry ) to take us to Anchorage. You can get dropped off at a multitude of spots and spend the day or the night exploring with the added bonus that the trip on the ferry gives you a chance to see the Abel Tasman National Park from the sea. You can also kayak but your children need to be aged 12 and above and of course its weather dependent.

So after a day’s relaxing and regrouping after our 2 day drive down from Auckland, we were up bright and early and packing a day’s worth of snacks ( there are no shops in Abel Tasman) and boarding the water taxi straight off the beach at Kaiterteri. I always love being out on the water and the trip included a bit of commentary as we passed Split Apple Rock. Marahau, Apple Tree Bay, Adele Island, Watering Bay, Te Pukatea Bay, Pitt Head and Torrent Bay. There is lots to see so it was an enjoyable 45 minute trip to Anchorage where again we got off the water taxi straight on to the beach.

Its pretty amazing to be on a beach all by yourself, well just you and the people who got off the water taxi with you or stayed the night in the hut. As we were there before peak season it was still pretty deserted. We decided to walk the Pitt Head loop over to Te Pukatea Bay which was an easy 45 min hike. Once we got there we were officially on a deserted beach where we were treated to a pod of dolphins passing by.

We then walked about 2 hours in the opposite direction to get to Cleopatras pool, a cascade of water on Torrent River that comes over a waterfall and then down a natural rock shute. Although the day was hot the water was chilly and most of us didn’t get in the water. My son wanted to come down the water chute but needed someone to show him how it was down and it turned out that someone was me. The chute is quite slimy and where the water comes over the waterfall it has worn out the start of the chute into quite a deep pool so you cant put your feet down and basically have to launch yourself into the chilly water. It was fun but slightly rough on your bum and a once only experience for me. I obviously didn’t make it look like that much fun as my son never did give it a go.

We enjoyed the shade of the trees and watching everyone come and go for about an hour before we headed back to Anchorage to meet the last ferry back. The trail to Cleopatras pool has a high and low tide route and the low tide can save you a few kilometres of walking so check the tide before you set out.

We didn’t find it that easy to find the start to the low tide trail and when we did find it (or what we thought was it ) the tide wasn’t quite far enough out so children were piggy backed.

We made it back to Anchorage in plenty of time for the ferry so had time for a quick swim before we jumped on the ferry.

A great way to experience the Abel Tasman National Park if you are short on time or energy.

P.S. All times given for walking are how long it took us with a 7 and 11 year old. For actual times have a look at Department of Conservation.

Or talk to any of the people at the water taxi companies – they are super knowledgeable about the area.

Our other adventures in the area:

Takaka Adventure

Our South Island itinerary

The Tasman region


Napier to Tolaga Bay

After five fabulous days in Napier exploring the Hawkes Bay region we were sad to leave but it wasn’t the end of our adventures as we were heading to Tolaga Bay.

Along the way we were excited to be able to see the Shine Falls, Hawkes Bay highest waterfall. The turn off to  Shine Falls is about 45 km north of Napier on SH2. The Falls aren’t that well signposted so keep a look out for Tutira and then turn left into Matahorua Rd, then left on to Pohokura Road. After 11km turn left into Heays Access Rd. Follow this road for 6.5 km until you reach a DOC car park. The drive there is actually part of the adventure as its through stunning countryside.

Shine Falls is part of a mainland island which took me a while to get my head around but its basically a reserve to attempt to regenerate native birds and bush and its seemed to be doing a pretty good job as the bush and bird life was amazing but I have got ahead of myself.

The first half hour the walk is through paddocks with some towering cliffs, a landscape that reminded me of something you might see in the Swiss Alps. We then entered the mainland island and walked for about another half an hour to reach the waterfall along a relatively easy track. The waterfall was indeed amazing. I have always loved waterfall and find the watching the water plunging from a great height mesmerising. After lots of photos and videos and then a few more photos we headed back to the car.

From here we were heading to Tolaga Bay and were hoping to find a lunch spot with a view of the Mohaka viaduct but unfortunately we didn’t find one. And then it was a lot of driving – turns out it’s a long way from Napier to Tolaga Bay and we arrived as it was getting dark to discover that the campground was on limited power and we haven’t packed our off the grid lighting. Thankfully we had power at our site and managed to get the camper up before the sun went down.

I woke in time the next morning for a gorgeous sunrise over the historic Tolaga Bay wharf and ventured down to the beach for the best view where I discovered that the beach had been hard hit by the recent storm and many a storm over the years by the looks of the piles of branches and logs strewn along the beach. It really wasn’t what I was expecting at all especially as from the campground a small sand dune blocked the view of the debris.

We had a relaxing start to the day having breakfast at the beach before we headed off on the Cooks Cove walk which we could access from our campground. Cooks Cove is where Captain Cook stopped in 1769 as part of his circumnavigation of New Zealand. Its an easy 6km return walk through farmland and bush. Of course the walk would have been a little easier if it hadn’t just rained so heavily and the first paddock wasn’t like a swamp where my son managed to immerse his feet in mud to the ankles within the first few hundred metres. Just for the record he walked in in muddy shoes and out in bare feet.

The trail has lots of information boards with the history of the area along with stunning views back over Tolaga Bay & the historic walk and views to Cooks Cove. We spent some time exploring the Cove which is very small, those sailors must have been amazing at manoeuvring the ship.

We were also delighted to find a hole in the rock ( my husband had probably read up on the walk so knew it was there but I always like to leave something to be surprised by ) We clambered up some rocks to enjoy more views over Tolaga Bay before heading back along the trail to the campground.

Later that afternoon we walked out the historic Tolaga Bay wharf which is an amazing 660 metres long. I almost started to feel a little seasick at the end of the wharf as the waves rolled in, or maybe that was watching the kids peer over the side of the wharf when falling in would have meant a long swim back to shore.

With more time we would have liked to have gone right round the East Cape but we would have to save that adventure for another time. For now we headed for Rotorua ( of course we couldn’t go passed a mountain bike in the Redwood forest) the following morning via Rere Falls and the Rere Rock Slide.

To check out the Rere Falls and Rock Slide, drive approximately 50km north-west from Gisborne on the Wharekopae Road and you will reach the small community of Rere. The Rere Falls are just a little further on and you don’t even have to get out of the car to view them. If you do get out of the car and there hasn’t just been a storm apparently you can walk behind the Falls but of course given the recent storm when we were there, there was too much water to safely walk behind the cascading water.

And then on to Rere Rock Slide. Bless my husband he had packed our wetsuits and boogie boards so we could enjoy the Rock Slide but it was about 12 degrees when we got there and the recent storm had turned the area quite swampy. I stayed warm and watched the other teenagers whizzing down the rock slide. It looked like a bumpy ride and some inflatable items didn’t live to see another day.

From here you could return to Gisborne but we decided to head for Rotorua on the back road which turned out to be an adventure in itself with logging trucks and flocks of sheep sharing the narrow gravel road with us.

If you are in the area check out the blog on exploring the Hawkes Bay.


Matakana Shared Path to Point Wells and Omaha

We had wanted to explore the Matakana cycleway (or walkway depending on who you talk to, which website you are looking at and which sign post you are reading) for a while so an Abel Tasman training walk while we were staying in Matakana seemed the perfect opportunity.

We got off to a false start on our first day when we thought we would just walk the first part of it from Matakana and after setting off over the new-ish pedestrian ( and cyclist ) bridge and along the Matakana Community Group Walkway we arrived at a road with no directions and no sign of a path. Long story short the next 3-4 kms of the path is on the road so we decided to regroup and start the trail along Tongue Farm Rd the following day.

After setting off the following day and parking at the Tongue Farm Rd entrance we set off on a relatively easy 7km walk to Point Wells through farmland, with one small section walking on the road. If you are directionally challenged like me be aware that there is little signage so may be print the map to take with you.

If you do the trail in summer try to arrive at Point Wells at high tide as jumping off the jetties there is lots of fun.

I think walking or cycling to Omaha would be longer, however I couldn’t find any accurate distances online and as I said I am directionally challenged.

Yes its also a cycle path, mostly off road and predominately flat with just one steep section up to Takatu Road and down the other side. The trail is quite chunky gravel so probably wouldn’t suit road bikes or less confident riders.

For more information on the Matakana Trail and more information on walks in the area.



Adventuring in the South Waikato

The Waikato River Trails are such a hidden gem and we had such a great time riding ( and walking some of them ) and exploring the Waikato River by kayak at dusk and seeing the most glow worms I have ever seen.


Kayak Glow Worm Tours from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

The Glow-worm kayaking tour was fun for young and old. The team at Lake District Adventures had everything you need to keep you warm and dry. After a full briefing including paddling instruction we set off.

The Waikato River was calm and the kayaks were very stable ( even with excitable children in them) so it was a relatively easy paddle upstream and then up a side stream through a gorge. We then got to stretch our legs and learn some fun facts about native flora and fauna as we waited for the sun to set.

Once it was completely dark we drifted back down through the gorge to view the glow-worms. At first I thought I was seeing stars in the sky but it was actually the most spectacular glow-worm display I have ever seen. The moon light filtering through the trees added to the magical experience as we drifted through the gorge as the glow-worms tinkled above us.


Waikato River Trail – Arapuni to Little Waipa from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

While it wasn’t quite the day we planned due to persistent rain, we still had a great time walking from Arapuni Power Station and swing bridge to the Arapuni Dam. An easy 4km return walk ( mostly in the bush so we didn’t get too wet ).

Then we cycled from Arapuni to Little Waipa. A relatively easy 12km return ride beside the river on a gravel path and through the Huihuitaha Wetland on a boardwalk. While there were a few steep hills and the trail does have some steep banks towards the river, this section is a great trail for beginners and children. All in all a great day exploring Arapuni in the rain.

Sally from Lake District Adventures can help you out with all the details on cycling in the area and has bikes, baby bike seats, tag-a-longs and bike trailers for hire along with shuttles and you can even hire a support vehicle for the day.


Waikato River Trails – Atiamuri to Mangakino from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

We hadn’t heard much about the Waikato River Trails so we weren’t sure what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed by the trails ever-changing scenery & terrain; stunning river views, vibrant native bush, iconic farmland, boardwalks through wetland, rugged cliffs, impressive dams and more lakes than I knew existed on the Waikato River, not to mention a great lunch at the pub in Whakamaru.

We rode the two southern sections, approx. 36km from Atiamuri to Mangakino. Even though there had recently been heavy rain and its been a wet winter, the trail was in great condition. The trail was a relatively easy grade and we rode with our two kids and my Uncle who is only new to mountain biking.

The one thing that sets this trail apart from other cycle trails we have done is the easy accessibility from the road. This means you can do the stages that suit your ability and stop and start in many places. The team at Lake District Adventures can work with you to tailor a ride to suit you and even provide a support vehicle should members of your group decide not to ride one section or want to get to the pub faster.

P.S. and if like me you are wondering about the name ‘Lake District’ based around the Waikato River – the river has lots of lakes created by the dams, hence the name Lake Districts.


Sharing family fun & adventures from the kitchen to the great outdoors