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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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).