Gumdiggers Park near Awanui

I’ve always been curious about gum digging and wondered what the gum was used for. I could have gone to Google but there is no better place to learn about the industry than the Gumdiggers Park near Awanui.

The park is set on an original gum field and preserves the history of the gum digging era. You’ll see the tools and equipment used in gum digging as well as what a typical gumdiggers village would have looked like – sack huts with chimneys that caught fire.

Gumdiggers hut - note the gumboots

Gumdiggers hut – note the gumboots

There are also big holes where the diggers … Read the rest

Karikari Estate – New Zealand’s Northernmost Vineyard & Winery

If it’s a sunny, still day on the Karikari Peninsula near the top of the North Island then it’s a good day to visit Karikari Estate Vineyard. Sitting up high on a hill with flowers spilling down its slopes, Karikari Estate is a beautiful spot for a glass of wine. The Karikari wines on the list included two chardonnays, a rose, and two blended reds – Toa Iti and Hell Hole, all $10 a glass.

Stunning view from Karikari Estate

Stunning view from Karikari Estate

Platters are always our choice at wineries and there are two – Artisan ($35) and Antipasti ($65). Seafood dishes, a … Read the rest

Merry Christmas in lights from Franklin Road, Ponsonby

Every year on 1 December the Christmas lights are switched on in Franklin Road in Ponsonby, Auckland. These photos were taken in December 2015 but the road will look similar this year.

Franklin Road Christmas Lights

Franklin Road Christmas Lights

The lights are popular and this can lead to traffic queues. Our tip is to catch an InnerLink bus to Ponsonby, exiting near Franklin Road. Walk down one side of Franklin Road and up the other, you see much more this way and are also part of the festive atmosphere. When you’re done, catch the bus back to your starting point, happily dazzled. Thanks … Read the rest

Photos over Cathedral Square in Christchurch – 2014 & 2016

On 22 February 2011 a large earthquake and aftershocks caused significant damage in Christchurch and tragically took the lives of 185 people and left thousands injured. The city centre and eastern suburbs of Christchurch sustained the most damage, and five years on the city is still rebuilding.

In November 2014 I took photos over Cathedral Square from our room on the 11th floor of the Novotel Hotel. Two years on, I took photos of the same areas to show how the rebuild is progressing.

November 2014 - Demolition and rebuilding in progress, Camelot Hotel on Cathedral Square still closed

November 2014 – Demolition and rebuilding in progress, Camelot Hotel on Cathedral Square still closed

The … Read the rest

What’s New & Curious in Christchurch – November 2016

Pet friendly Fino Hotel & Suites, 87 Kilmore Street
The newly refurbished Fino Hotel & Suites has two dedicated pet friendly suites for house trained pets under 50kg. They supply a bed, water bowl, and for those taking man’s best friend, a map of local dog parks. See Pet Friendly Suites for more information. (PS. Scenic Hotel Te Pania in Napier is dog friendly too).

Fino Hotel & Suites, Christchurch

Fino Hotel & Suites, Christchurch

Play Pong at the intersection of Lichfield & Colombo Streets (outside the Bus Exchange)
Local company SmartCross are responsible for the devices with touchscreens that are attached to the traffic … Read the rest

Surcharges and an unexpected travel booking fee

Monday 24 October is Labour Day and for some cafes and restaurants that means adding between 15-25% to a diner’s bill to cover extra wage costs incurred by opening on a public holiday. New Zealanders are used to public holiday surcharges but they will probably come as a surprise to visitors from overseas. NZ Public Holidays list all the dates that surcharges may apply so it’s a useful reference for visitors.

Fortunately, for every cafe that has a small sign inside saying a public holiday surcharge applies, there’s likely to be a cafe nearby with a big sign outside saying … Read the rest

Blooming Rotorua – Tulip Fest

The Government Gardens in Rotorua are beautiful at any time of the year, but especially when the tulips are blooming during the annual Tulip Fest. Te Runanga Tearooms in the gardens is Tulip Fest HQ and it’s the meeting place for a lot of the events held from 1 – 9 October 2016.

Tulip Fest - Government Gardens, Rotorua

Tulip Fest – Government Gardens, Rotorua

I went to hear Maree from Galaxy Travel talk about Avalon River Cruises, one of the cruises includes a visit to Keukenhof Gardens in Holland. I’ve always associated tulips with Holland, but I learned from Maree that tulips were imported … Read the rest

High Tea at Zealong Tea Estate

If the sun’s shining at Zealong Tea Estate near Hamilton it’s nice to sit outside under an umbrella overlooking rows of lush tea plants. Zealong is New Zealand’s only tea plantation and the five flavours of tea produced are certified organic.

Oolong tea leaves can be used up to 8 times

Oolong tea leaves can be used up to 8 times

Tea is the star of the show at Zealong, but lunch and high tea are also served. A Signature High Tea and a Classic High Tea were on the menu for us. Tea is infused in a lot of the small dishes that make up the high tea, including … Read the rest

Detour to Tonga

We recently returned from a week in Tonga and have updated our Tonga Guide. It was our third visit to the island nation and we spent our time on the main island of Tongatapu and took day trips to ‘Atata and Pangaimotu Islands.

Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa

Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa

If you’re looking for a good value destination Tonga is a good choice, although flying to the outer islands will make a stay more  expensive. We paid NZ$125 per night for accommodation and breakfast at Little Italy Hotel in Nuku’alofa and thought it was good value for money. More Tonga Accommodation.… Read the rest