Category Archives: Outdoor adventures

Four weeks of fun in the South Island

Left Auckland and drove to Wellington in one day ( not highly recommended but we didn’t want to waste time getting to the South Island. Stayed in a cabin at the Top Ten in Lower Hutt.

Day 1 – 3

Crossed over to the South Island on the 9am ferry. Arrived at midday and were riding our bikes in the Malbourough Sounds that afternoon – woohoo, the adventure has begun! Stayed the next two nights at Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park.

The next day my husband and I had planned to ride Dunn Mountain but then decided it would take too long and we would rather spend time with the kids so we rode a section of the Great Taste Trail and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then the kids and my husband went to XXX.

Day 4 – 6

The next day we were driving to Arthurs Pass and stopped to ride through the Spooner Tunnel ( another part of the Great Taste Trail – park at XXX and ride a gentle incline to experience the longest rideable tunnel in NZ )

We hadn’t booked anywhere to stay in Arthurs Pass but as we drove through heavy rain to get there we decided to stay at Jacksons Retreat Alpine Holiday Park where you can camp under a barn-style roof and we were glad we did as each afternoon it poured with rain. There is a great little walk to a waterfall at the back of the campground.

The next day we walked the Scotts track which is straight up the side of a mountain on a rocky trail at times scrambling up the hill. This trail intersects with Avalanche track

After staying another night at Jacksons we headed for Hampden by the Moeraki Boulders. Along the way we did a short walk to the Devils Punchbowl in Arthurs Pass Village. The drive through the Arthurs Pass to Canterbury is through stunning. We also stopped at Castle Hill where limestone rocks have eroded into more dramatic

We chose to stay at Hampden scenery. A great spot to explore along the way.

Day 7

because it was a Kiwi campgrounds but there was a campground in Moeraki.

After a quick set up we headed to Katiki Point for some hoihoi ( yellow eyed penguins ) and had the best experience in all of our hoihoi spotting attempts. We arrived just as the hoihoi came up the hill and were super close. There was also great seal spotting here. We then drove around Moeraki village and visited the Moeraki boulders. We certainly make the most of the extra daylight hours in the South Island.

Day 8 – 12

Next morning we headed to Dunedin stopping along the way at Shag Point XXXX, and scrambled down a hill to see more Moeraki style boulders that were slightly more eroded but very interesting none-the-less. This is also where the fossil XXX. Further down this road is more great seal spotting.

We also stopped in to Karitane for a picnic on a stunning beach.

We stayed at XXXX in Dunedin which is by St Clairs beach for 4 nights.

Activities we did in Dunedin;

  • Mountain biked at Signal Hill
  • Visited Orokonui Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Spent a day on the XXX Peninsula visiting the Albatross Centre and Sandy Mount walk
  • Visited Tunnel Beach
  • Went to the Dunedin Museum which has a cool kids science area which does vost to get in
  • Explored the centre of Dunedin

From Dunedin we headed for the Caitlins and stayed at Pounawea. On the way we stopped at Nugget Point where there is a short walk to a very picturesque lighthouse with great seal and bird spotting.

There lots to do in the Caitlins but its quite spread out. We intended to stay at Pounawea for 4 nights but then realised we should have stayed two and then two further into the Catilins.

From Pounewa we;

  • Went to the Lost Gypsy. An inventors paradise with amazing creative inventions. At the time we visited the Lost Gyspy is closed on a Wednesday.
  • Walked to McLean Falls.
  • Walked to Cathedral Caves ( dependent on low tide )
  • The Okawa visitor centre and small museum has lots of interesting information.
  • Visited Jacks Bay which has a blowhole at high tide. Some great sea lion spotting on the beach.
  • Walked along the beach at Surat beach.
  • Explored the estuary around the campground which has some great bird spotting.

We then realised that everything else we wanted to do was further into the Caitlins so we forfeited one night at the Pounewa campground ( a learning there was in the off season don’t pay all nights up front. Just pay as you go ) and moved to Curio Bay.

 

At Curio Bay we;

  • Walked along the beach and saw Hectors Dophins frolicking in the waves.
  • Went hoihoi spotting . A lot of people go to this spot and we never did see them come in.
  • The petrified forest is also by the hoihoi landing spot.

From here we head to Bluff visiting the Waipapa Point lighthouse and Fortrose along the way . In Bluff we mountain biked up Bluff Mountain for some awesome views of our destination tomorrow, Stewart Island.

Up bright and early to head to Stewart Island on the ferry. We stayed at the Stewart Island backpackers.  Once we arrived on Stewart Island we headed for Ulva Island, an amazing wildlife sanctuary. Later that night we sat on the rugby fields ( apparently the best place to spot kiwi but while we heard them we never saw them) Really enjoyed talking to the locals. The next day we did a walk and visited the museum.

And then back to the mainland where we headed for Te Anau. Stayed here two nights.

The next day we headed to Milford Sound and walked the Key Summit track which is one end of the Routeburn track. An awesome walk with stunning views. Quite a rugged track. Drove through the Spooner tunnel ( NZs longest tunnel ) to Milford Sound for a look. On the way back to Te Anau we walked to Marian Falls. Great kea interactions at Spooner tunnel.

From here we headed to Wanaka driving over the Crown range. Stay at the campground by the outlet from Lake Wanaka for 4 nights. Great location for biking and very spacious campsite.

In Wanaka we did lots of riding; Deans bank, Sticky forest and  . We also hung out in town and soaked up the Wanaka atmosphere.

We also walked the Rob Roy glacier track. Getting there was quite an adventure, about one hour one a very bouncy gravel road crossing 10 fords. Stunning walk.

From here we headed back to Hampden via Dunedin where we went on the Taieri Gorge railway. An awesome rail trip through some stunning landscapes.

Then Christchurch where we went to the pools ( because so flippin hot ) , went to the Margaret Mahy playground at 8pm night when it cooled and then went mountain biking at the Christchurch Adventure Park the next day.

Then we pretty much headed for home with another one night stop just out of Kaikoura. Then crossed back to the North Island and headed via for home via Napier where we have friends.

We have a Kiwi campground discount card so this is the first place we look for a campground. Lots of the campgrounds have discount cards so if you go away a lot its worth looking in to them.

Beginner mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa forest

The Whakarewarewa forest in Rotorua is one of our favourite places to ride, and it has so many happy memories including being the place that my kids well and truly took their training wheels off.

One of the things I get asked ALOT is what trails we like to ride, so I thought I good place to start would be beginner trails.

First up, lets discuss the different places there are to access the forest. This can be important if you are meeting friends there and want to make sure you are all heading for the same place. Also important to know where the trails I am talking about are best accessed from. There is;

🚵‍♀️ Redwoods visitor centre off Tarawera road on the way to Lake Tikitapu.

🚵‍♀️Black house, a carpark that is currently being developed further to include toilets  about 4km along the road to Lake Tikitapu and so named as there is an old house painted black opposite the carpark.

🚵‍♀️The main mountain bike carpark which is on Waipa State Mill Rd ( about 1km after the roundabout by Te Puia along SH5 on the road to Taupo). There are showers, toilets and a container café but there is development of a café complex and a spa complex. We call this Waipa carpark.

🚵‍♀️And finally, 8 mile gate carpark, about 2km further up Waipa State Mill road from the Waipa carpark and the best place to ride to the shuttle bus stop.

Now we can get to the rides…If you or your child dont have much experience riding, the Mokupuna loop is a lovely flat, wide, smooth 3km loop. Great for younger children. Accessed from the Redwoods visitor centre carpark area. The trail starts not far off the main road.

We started with our kids ( aged 4 and ½ and 8 with no experience of mountain biking ) on kids loop, Tahi and Dipper. These trails have more gradual slopes but still lovely wide, smooth trails. Accessed from the Waipa carpark.

While the trails are relatively well sign posted it does pay to have a map; you can take a photo of the map board, buy a map from the bike shop at Waipa carpark or download the Trailmapps app.

You could also check out my tips for riding with kids called Mud, Sweat and Tears.

Other things to do in Rotorua

 

The Tamaki Path on the shores of the Tamaki Estuary

Tamaki Drive is rightly famous, but if you want stunning water views without the crowds, look a little further afield and discover the Tamaki Path for your next family bike adventure

Completed in mid-2019, the Tamaki Path is a fabulous greenway that runs for about 4km along the western side of the Tamaki Estuary, from the Panmure Yacht and Boating Club to Point England Reserve, with a further northern section mooted in the near future that would make for a full 5km route all the way to Wai-o-Taiki Bay.

Not only is this a spacious, smooth and uncrowded pathway, it takes you through green spaces with very little traffic and few houses nearby, so at times it feels like you’re not in the city at all.

The path begins at the Panmure Yacht and Boating Club on Kings Rd, and runs northward to Kiano Place, off Taniwha Rd in Glen Innes. There’s also easy access near the middle of the path at the Point England Reserve, which is at the end of Point England Rd.

Heads-up: if your kids are the kind who see a playground and suddenly decide they don’t want to do anything else, be warned there is a great new playground at the Panmure end of the path (in the Mt Wellington Reserve), which handily has new toilets too. That said, you don’t ride directly past the playground, so with a bit of luck and some careful steering, you can work things out so they’ll only spot the playground on the way back.

There’s also a playground (and more toilets) at the Point England Reserve in the middle, if you need a handy carrot to motivate little riders.

The path is lovely and wide and flat the whole way – a great ride for little legs or big. Although it runs alongside the river, in most places there are metres of grass between the path and the estuary, so there’s no need to worry about little kids ending up taking an unplanned swim.

In the one section where the path is right alongside a steep drop to the estuary, a wooden barrier curb has been added to keep small wheels from veering of.

The path has stunning views of the Tamaki estuary, and you’re also rewarded with great views of Maungarei (Mt Wellington) along the way.

The estuary itself is mostly mudflats at low tide, and there are some steps down to the water in places. If you have older children, you might find they see a stream on the mudflats and scramble down the bank to explore, like mine did.

There is a lovely little white sand beach at the Point England Reserve..

Also around the Point England area are lots of picnic tables with views of the water. On one of the days we visited there was a chilly breeze, but with tables in such a variety of spots, you should be able to find at least one that’s sheltered from the wind.

Pack your picnic and BYO thermos of coffee, as this is an old school adventure and you wont find a café near this path. But you will find lovely green spaces, playgrounds, and wide open views of the water.

A bonus longer ride for more confident adventurers…

If you’re looking for a longer ride, you can join the Tamaki Path to the Pakuranga Rotary Shared Path and ride up and down both sides of the estuary. My husband and I have done this to train for riding the Heaphy Track.

Note: this involves a 1km on-road section in the middle, so use your judgement about what your children can handle if you’re thinking of doing this as a family.

Starting at the south end of the Tamaki Path, head out of Mt Wellington Reserve past the playground, and turn left onto Dunkirk Road, then right onto Kings Rd, left onto Riverview Rd, left again onto Queens Rd, then veer right onto Bridge Rd. This sounds complicated, but is straightforward in practice – you’re basically aiming to stay as close to the river as you can. These are relatively quiet streets.

This brings you to the Pakuranga Highway, where you ride across the famously skinny path on the north side of the Panmure Bridge. Watch for oncoming bike traffic! (Good to know: this will be much improved as part of the AMETI Eastern Busway project, which will add a proper cycleway to the highway, and a whole new bridge at this crossing).

Then once you’re on the eastern side of the estuary, look for signs for the Pakuranga Rotary Shared Path. Access via the boatyards close to the bridge is under construction at the time of writing (July 2019), so we continued to Kerswill Drive and joined the path that way.

The Pakuranga Rotary Shared Path is a wide, flat 9km long path that runs up the eastern side of the Tamaki Estuary and continues to Prince Regent Drive.

(If you’re feeling even more adventurous and are confident with riding on the road, you can continue onward to the ferry terminal at Half Moon Bay Marina, about 1.6km further on. Note: this involves on-road riding, so use your judgement.)

A nice bit of boardwalk along the Pakuranga Rotary Shared Path.

 

This blog was originally written for Bike Auckland – you can check out more of their great content and all things biking in Auckland here.

There is also a kids ride section.

 

Looking for Kiwi…and finding them

We had just been to the South Island and visited Stewart Island hoping to see Kiwi but while we heard them we weren’t lucky enough to see them.

However, on a camping trip to Tawharanui we were lucky enough to see two and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so I wanted to share some Kiwi spotting tips so everyone can experience the wonder of seeing New Zealand’s national bird in the wild.

Of course you will have to wait till its dark , darker than the image I have used above for this post , I just didnt have any night time shots to use.

 

 

Exploring a volcano in my own neighbourhood

I’ve always enjoyed the Auckland landscape with its stunning harbour and dormant volcanoes dotted across the horizon. Growing up in East Auckland my local volcano was Mt Wellington/Maungarei and seeing this mountain always connected me with coming home. I am now lucky enough to raise my family in a suburb that has views of that same volcano.

Maungarei is a 135m volcanic peak, and is one of Auckland’s many dormant volcanoes, formed by an eruption around 10,000 years ago.

Not only is Maungarei a dormant volcano with the largest scoria cone of any volcano in Auckland, it was also a significant pa in the Tamaki area and still has examples of early Maori life including terraces, middens and pits.

In March 2019, the pine trees that have grown for over 100 years on the mountain were removed and over 10,000 native trees are going to be planted over the next few years.

And all of this right in the heart of Auckland and in my neighbourhood. We have enjoyed many walks from our house up Maungarei, from the whole family training for Tongariro Crossing to my daughter and I training for Abel Tasman and when we just want an urban adventure. The summit of Maungarei is the perfect spot to enjoy the stunning views of Auckland city and the harbour.

In fact walking is the only way to enjoy this culturally and historically significant site in East Auckland as the road has recently been closed to vehicles.

Its nice to see an old favourite landmark getting the love and appreciation is deserves and I have a new appreciation for the mountain that links to my childhood.

Ways to enjoy Maungarei:

  • You can park at Mountain Rd, Mt Wellington and walk up the road which is now more of pedestrian path seeing as its closed to traffic.
  • The ‘road’ up the mountain is still open to cyclists and those with impaired mobility wanting to enjoy all that Maungarei has to offer can contact the Auckland Council to obtain a code for the gate at the bottom of the road.
  • Park near the Hollywood Bakery on Lunn Ave and walk along the Stonefields Heritage trail and up the mountain from there.
  • Park in Stonefields, near Papango St and Tihi St and walk up the Stonefields Heritage trail and then up the mountain.
  • Once you are at the top you can chose to enjoy the views or walk right around the crater which takes about half an hour

Other things to do in the area:

  • Enjoy the wetland area in Stonefields – you can walk there via the Stonefields Heritage Trail.
  • Check out some of the playgrounds in the Stonefields area
  • Explore the Stonefields Heritage trail which runs from Golan Rd ( close to the carpark at the bottom of Maungarei ) to Magma Crescent and goes passed cafes and restaurants in Lunn Ave.