Opepe Bush Historic Reserve

The Opepe Bush Historic Reserve, which is a short drive from Taupō, has scenic bush walks to explore.

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The Opepe Bush Historic Reserve bisects the Napier Taupō Highway (SH5). There are carparks on both sides of the road.

The southern walking track is a 3 km loop walk. I did the northern walking track, which is a 30 minute, 1.5 km loop bush walk. The walk leads through mature podocarp forest, which are rare in the Taupō region because these forests were destroyed by the Taupō eruption, fires and milling.

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Opepe is most noted as a site of an attack in the 1869 New Zealand Land Wars. On June 7th 1869 members of Te Kooti’s party attacked the Bay of Plenty Cavalry, who were camped there. 5 of the 14 members of the cavalry escaped. The nine soldiers that were killed are buried here. Later residents of Opepe and the Armed Constabulary are also buried here. It is a 10 minute return walk to the cemetery.

Opepe Bush Historic Reserve is located on the Napier Taupō Highway (SH5), 17 km from Taupō.

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The Quadrant Hotel & Suites Auckland

Last weekend I was in Auckland to see the musical Book of Mormon at The Civic. I stayed the night at the Quadrant Hotel & Suites.

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The Quadrant is less than a 10 minute walk from The Civic, so it is conveniently located for the CBD. Although there is a hill to climb from the CBD – good for those wanting to increase their steps.

The hotel has 277 rooms across 23 floors. I booked a Deluxe Queen but was upgraded to a one bedroom classic apartment on the 13th floor. They also have one bedroom premier apartments and two bedroom apartments (executive, premium) and a penthouse apartment.

Recently it has had mixed (leaning more towards poor) reviews on TripAdvisor, so I went in with very low expectations. The room was clean and comfortable, but was starting to look a bit worn. It is a perfectly adequate place to rest your head.

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Onsite there is the Quad Kitchen & Bar – a bit of design flaw as you have to walk through the bar / dining area from the lobby to get to the lifts. This put me off eating there.

There is a fitness centre with a gym, dry sauna and spa pool. I did not use these facilities though.

The Quadrant Hotel & Suites is located at 10 Waterloo Quadrant.

P.S. The Book of Mormon is amazing – I cried tears of laughter.

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Kemp House and Stone Store – Kerikeri

Kemp House and the Stone Store, located in the Kerikeri River Basin, are two of New Zealand’s oldest buildings.

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The two buildings were built as part of the Church Missionary Society’s second Anglican mission to New Zealand.

Kemp House is the oldest surviving European building in New Zealand and was built by Reverend John Gare Butler in 1821-22 as a mission house. The house was occupied by missionary George Clarke from 1824 to 1831. In 1832 blacksmith and missionary James Kemp and his family took residence.

After the mission closed in 1848 the Kemp family stayed on eventually buying the house from the Church Missionary Society. Descendants of the Kemp family lived at the property until 1974 when Ernest Kemp gifted the house to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

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The Stone Store, which is the country’s oldest surviving stone building, was built between 1832 and 1836 as a storehouse for the mission. After the mission’s closure it became a general store. The Historic Places Trust purchased it from the Kemp Estate in 1976.

Today the ground floor is a gift shop. There are museum displays on the top floor.

Entry to Kemp House is via guided tour only.

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Christmas at Prince’s Gate Hotel

I celebrated a Christmas Day with a buffet lunch with my parents at the historic Prince’s Gate Hotel in Rotorua.

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The hotel was originally built in Waihi in 1897. In the 1900s the booming gold-mining town of Waihi was the third largest town in New Zealand.

The hotel played a significant part in early New Zealand. It housed extra police officers deployed to the area during the Waihi gold miners’ strike and was used as hospital following an influenza epidemic.

In 1917, it was decided to relocate the building to Rotorua. The hotel was dismantled and transported by horse-drawn wagon to Waihi Railway Station where it was taken by rail to Rotorua.

It was reassembled on the corner of Arawa and Hinemaru Streets directly opposite the gates to the Government Gardens. The Prince’s Gate, also known as the Prince’s Arch and Gateway, was built for the 1901 Royal Visit by the Duke and Duchess of York.

The hotel reopened in 1921 as the Prince’s Gate Hotel.

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The lunch was $95 a head and included a carvery / hot station with manuka smoked champagne ham, turkey breast, roast angus beef sirlon, salmon, steamed and roast vegetables.

On the opposite table there was a cauliflower soup, antipasto platter, penne & tuna salad, Caesar salad, and Greek salad.

The dessert station included pavlova, mini cheesecake, brandy snaps, creme burlee tarts, and Christmas pudding with custard.

Breads and tips were served at the table.

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Christmas Village, New Plymouth

The Christmas Village is a beautiful Christmas shop in New Plymouth.

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The shop has a seven beautifully decorated areas that are each stylised around its own theme. They also have a marquee attached to the main building with more beautiful Christmas items.

Santa’s sleigh is also parked outside the village. Although Santa was not home when I visited.

The village is traditionally open every Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10am to 4pm. From October it is open 7 days a week.

The Christmas Village will close on 23rd December and reopen for 2020 in April. It is located at 63 Egmont Road, RD 2, New Plymouth.

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Mangonui, Northland

Mangonui is a small historic tourist town in the Far North.

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Mangonui which was originally founded as a whaling settlement and trading town is one of New Zealand’s oldest European settlements. As a result there are many heritage buildings dotted around the township.

There is the Mangonui Heritage Trail, a 3 kilometre walk around 18 heritage buildings. It takes approximately one and a half hours to complete the trail. Key historic buildings include the Post Office (built 1904), the General Store (built 1907), and the Court House (built 1892).

The historic kauri court house operated as a court until 1948 and then as a police station until 1968. It become a historic reserve in 1980 and today it is home to Exhibit A Gallery, which displays local arts and crafts.

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There is also the historic Mangonui Hotel, which was built in 1905 by John Bray. It promotes itself as ‘New Zealand’s most northern hotel’.

Another highlight is the Mangonui Fish Shop, located right over the water.

The township is 36 kilometres northeast of Kaitaia.

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Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga is the most northern point of the North Island open to the public.  It is where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet.

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Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) is also the point where Māori spirits return to Hawaiki, their ancestral homeland. For this reason, eating is not permitted at Cape Reinga.

A sealed walkway heads from the carpark to the iconic lighthouse and yellow direction signpost. The walkway is suitable both prams and wheelchairs. There are panels along the walkway providing history on the area.

The lighthouse was constructed in 1941 and was the last manned lighthouse to be built in New Zealand. It was manned by a person until 1987. It now fully automated and operated remotely from Wellington.

Cape Reinga is 1 hour and 30 minutes drive north of Kaitaia.

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Werribee Park and Mansion, Australia

Werribee Park Mansion is an Italianate style mansion in Werribee, south-west of Melbourne.

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Werribee Park Mansion was built between 1874 and 1877 by Scottish brothers Thomas and Andrew Chirnside. Thomas committed suicide in 1887. Andrew died three years later and the property was divided between his four sons.

In 1923, it was brought by the Catholic Church, who added additional wings, and it became Corpus Christi College, a Catholic seminary.

Currently it is owned by the Victorian Government. A separate wing housing the Mansion Hotel and Spa was later built.

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It is free to explore the Werribee Park Mansion gardens and grounds, but entry to the Mansion is by admission.

One of the features of the 10 hectare grounds is an ornamental lake. A grotto is located on a man-made island in the middle of the lake. The grotto was built in 1877 and decorated by the Chirnside family. The ceiling is lined with shells from their holiday home at Point Cooke.

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Werribee Park and Mansion is located at Gate 2, K Road, Werribee.

Werribee Open Range Zoo, Australia

Werribee Open Range Zoo is a zoo in Werribee, Victoria, about 32 kilometres south-west of Melbourne.

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The highlight of Werribee Open Range Zoo is the Safari bus. This 40 minute tour with live commentary travels through open savannah grasslands where antelope, bison, camel, giraffe, Mongolian wild horse, ostrich, rhino, scimitar-horned oryx, and zebra roam.

I recommend starting the day with the Safari bus, and then exploring the rest of the zoo’s foot trails. The last tour boards at 3.30pm.

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There are two main trails to explore by foot – the African trail and the Australian trail. There is also the Werribee River Trail, which provides views of the Werribee River.

The African trail is home to African wild dogs, cheetahs, gorillas, hippos, meerkats and lions.

The Australian trail has native animals and birds, such as brolga, eastern barred bandicoot, emu, kangaroo, koala, and tamar wallaby.

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Werribee is a great day trip from Melbourne. It is easily accessible by public transport – simply take the train to Werribee Station and then catch Bus 439 Weribee South to the Zoo.

Werribee Open Range Zoo is at K Road, Werribee South and is open from 9am to 5pm (last entry at 3.30pm).

Healesville Sanctuary, Australia

Healesville Sanctuary is a zoo specialising in native Australian animals.

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Dr Colin McKenzie set up the Institute of Anatomical Research in 1920 on 78 acres (32 hectares of land. The reserve was passed to the Healesville Council in 1927 and was named the Sir Colin McKenzie Sanctuary in 1934 (McKenzie was knighted in 1929).

Today the sanctuary is part of Zoos Victoria, which includes Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo. It is well known for its work saving endangered Australian species.

The zoo is set in a natural bushland environment with over 200 species of Australian animals. The zoo is split up into a series of different areas / tracks to explore.

The main track is home to reptiles, amphibians, birds of prey, parrots, and emus. There are also several sites of Aboriginal cultural significance to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. There is also the Flight Arena, where there is a daily bird show and the Australian Wildlife Centre, that treats more than 1500 sick and injured native animals a year.

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Spirts of Sky – Bird Show

The woodlands track includes emu, wallaby, barn owl, Australian pelicans, kookaburra, Tasmanian Devil. Also here is Animals of the Night, a facility that houses nocturnal animals, such as possums, bilbies, bandicoots and gliders.

The wetlands track is home to native wetland birds and frogs, such as the black swan, which originated from the Southern Hemisphere.

There is also Dingo County, Kangaroo County (Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, Red Kangaroos and Wombats), Koala Forest (Southern Koala and short-beaked echidna), and the Platypus Track.

Healesville Sanctuary is approximately one hour from Melbourne. The address is Badger Creek Road, Healesville, Victoria.

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Kangaroo County