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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Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve

Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve is located at the head of the Rangitoto Channel in the Hauraki Gulf.

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Fort Takapuna, was built between 1886 and 1889 as a military defence fort. It was designed by Major Tudor Boddam, a Royal Artillery Officer.

The fort originally housed two 6 inch disappearing guns and two quick firing Nordenfelt guns.

In 1926-27 the fort was converted into a storage for naval ammunition. The guns were removed and the gunpits roofed over to allow for extra storage. It was used for storage until 1936 when the new Naval Armament Depot was built at Kauri Point.

The brick building was were the soldiers lived. When it was first built there was a deep ditch around it. It has since been filled in and only the small part in front of the barracks remains.

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Behind the barracks there was a series of underground tunnels and magazines.

The three concrete shelters were built in 1942 during the Second World War. These were designed to protect the gun crews. The guns originally came from HMS New Zealand (a First World War battlecruiser). By 1941 there were six guns mounted here, for at this battery, known as Left Battery and two at Right Battery, which has since been demolished.

Two of the guns were sent to Tonga, two were given to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and the other two were scrapped.

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An Anti-Submarine Fixed Defence Station was also built to house the electronic equipment used to detect enemy ships approaching. The building was altered following the war with its bay window removed.

Fort Takapuna is located on Vauxhall Road, next to Narrow Neck Beach.

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Maungawhau (Mt Eden), Auckland

Maungawhau (Mt Eden) is a dormant volcano in Auckland city.

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Its Māori language name Maungawhau means ‘mountain of the whau tree’. William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand, named the mountain and surrounding suburb after George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland. 

The summit is 196 metres (643 feet) above sea level making it Auckland’s highest volcanic cone.

On a clear day the summit will provide views of the surrounding suburbs, Waitakere Ranges, the Sky Tower, Harbour Bridge and Rangitoto Island.

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Its Māori language name Maungawhau means ‘mountain of the whau tree’. William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand named the mountain and surrounding suburb after George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland.

The crater is 50 metres (160 feet) deep. The crater’s Māori name is Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho, which means Food Bowl of Mataaho. Mataaho was a deity that lived in the crater. The crater is sacred (tapu) so please be respectful and do not attempt to enter it.

In pre-European times Māori used the site as a pā (fortified settlement). You can still see remnants of the food storage pits.

Vehicle traffic to the summit is not permitted, except for people with limited mobility. It takes about 10 minutes to walk up from the carpark or bus stop. The climb is quite steep.

There is pedestrian access to the summit from Clive Road, Glenfell Place, Batger Road, Hillside Crescent, Rautangi Road and Owens Road.

The Mt Eden Road and Tahaki Drive entrances are open from 7am-8.30pm in summer and 7am to 7pm in winter. There is a lower carpark off Puhi Huia Road.

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Grand Millennium Auckland

Earlier this year I stayed at the Grand Millennium Auckland for a weekend.

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The hotel was built in 1989 as the Pan Pacific. It has changed its name many times over the years. I stayed here previously when it was the Rendezvous.

I booked a club room, which gives you exclusive access to the club lounge located on the 12th floor. The club rooms have the same the same features and decor as the standard rooms – the only difference is that the club rooms are located on a higher floor (my room was on the 11th floor).

The club lounge serves pre-dinner evening drinks and canapés between 5pm and 7pm. There is nothing spectacular spectacular about the food – there are a couple of hot and cold options, and the traditional cheese and cracker platter with dried fruits, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. The service is friendly and attentive.

Each night I had several non-alcoholic drinks (Pepsi, 7Up, orange juice, hot chocolate) and several plates of canapés and mini desserts. So there was no need to actually buy dinner.

They also serve breakfast in the Club Room – continental and A la Carte (preordering a breakfast dish the night before). Alternatively you can have the buffet breakfast in the Brassiere restaurant, which I did each morning.

Grand Millennium Auckland is located 71 Mayoral Drive (Cnr Mayoral Dr and Vincent St).

Fish out of Water

The Fish Out of Water Art Trail is an annual summer event in Rotorua. The decorated fibreglass fish are currently on display at Te Aka Mauri Rotorua Library.

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The art trail, which ran from 20 December 2018 until February 3rd 2019, featured 13 fish decorated by local Rotorua artists.

This is the 14th year that the art trail has been held. This summer there was an extra roving fish ‘Captain Peggy Wetbeard’ that was displayed at various locations.

The 13 fish and Captain Peggy Wetbeard will only be at the library for another couple of weeks before they are painted white ready for the 2019/20 summer trail.

01 Plastic Ocean Siobhan Foster

‘Plastic Ocean’ – Siobhan Foster

03 Forest Fairytale Jemma Pirrie

‘Forest Fairytale’ – Jemma Pirrie

06. Aqualung my friend John Skudder

‘Aqualung my friend’ – John Skudder

07 Nanabozho The Rainbow Trout Lori-Ann Herder

‘Nanabozho – The Rainbow Trout’ – Lori-Ann Herder

09 Plastic Fantastic St Chads Charitable Trust Artists

‘Plastic Fantastic’ – St Chads Charitable Trust Artists

12 Cheshire Cat Fish

‘Cheshire Cat Fish’ – Nicola Wright, Grace McQuoid & Lauren Stephens