Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls in a waterfall in the Waikato region.

Bridal Veil Falls

The waterfall is a 55 metre (180 feet) plunge waterfall that over time has caused a large pool to form at the bottom. The pool is five metres deep but there is a large boulder in the middle of the pool just below the surface.

The waterfall is located along the Pakoka River at the Wairēinga Scenic Reserve. Wairēinga means ‘water of the underworld’ in Māori.

Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls is located between the towns of Te Uku and Raglan. The waterfall is off Kawhia Road. Access is via Te Mata Road, which is off the Hamilton/Raglan Highway (SH23). The carpark is 4 km down Kawhia Road, from the Te Mata Road turn off. From the carpark it is a 10 minute bush walk to the top of the waterfalls.

There are four viewing platforms. There are two platforms at the top of the waterfall. It is 135 steps down to a midpoint platform and 261 steps to the viewing platform at the bottom.

Top viewing platform

Top viewing platform

2nd top viewing platform

2nd top viewing platform

Midway viewing platform

Midway Viewing Platform

Lower viewing platform

Lower viewing platform

Facilities wise there are public toilets (long drop) at the entrance and a picnic table in a clearing.

The track at the top of the waterfall is accessible for wheelchairs and children’s pushchairs but there is no access to the bottom of the falls other than the steep set of steps.

Swimming in the pool below the waterfall is not recommended as the water quality is not safe for swimming.

Balloons over Waikato

Balloons over Waikato is an annual hot air balloon festival that is held in Hamilton in early autumn.

Balloons Over Waikato

This free event, which is now in its 17th year is running from today Wednesday March 16th until Sunday March 20th.

This morning the festival kicked off with the Hamilton Mass Ascension, with a mass inflation of the balloons at Innes Common at Hamilton Lake. Unfortunately due to the fog the balloons did not take off.

There are four special shaped balloons in the festival this year – the Resene Ele-fantastic Pea-nut Elephant, Baby Dino, Race Car, and Princess Carriage. There are over 30 hot air balloons with pilots from USA, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand.

Baby Dino & The Resene Elefantastic Pea-nut Elephant

Baby Dino & The Resene Elefantastic Pea-nut Elephant

Race Car

Race Car

Princess Carriage

Princess Carriage

Balloons Over Waikato

Balloons Over Waikato

Balloons Over Waikato

Balloons Over Waikato

There are plenty of opportunities to see the balloons over the next four days. On Thursday there is the Wel Energy Trust Breakfast at Dawn at Innes Common at Hamilton Lake at 6:30am. A free breakfast is offered to the first 2,000 visitors as they watch the balloons inflate. The balloons will also be visiting several local schools on Thursday.

On Friday the balloons will take off again at 7:30am from Innes Common. In the evening the balloons will visit Tokoroa (Balloons Visit South Waikato, 6pm – 8pm, Tokoroa War Memorial Sports Ground) and Te Kuiti (Balloons Visit Te Kuiti, 6pm – 8pm, Te Kuiti Domain). On Friday night in Hamilton city there is the City Burn & Markets between 6pm and 8pm at Garden Place.

The Smartrak Cash Bullseye Competition, will be held on Saturday morning at Innes Common, where balloon pilots will attempt to throw a marker into a bullseye to win $1,000. Zulu Nightglow is held on Saturday evening, between 4pm and 9pm at the University of Waikato. This is the biggest event of the festival and includes food, live entertainment, carnival rides and games, and the Balloon Glow Show, which features the balloons lighting up to music. The night ends with a fireworks display.

The final morning will see the balloons take off for one last time from Innes Common at Hamilton Lake.

It is amazing sight to see these balloons, so if you miss the festival this year check out 2017, planning is already under way.

Huka Honey Hive

Huka Honey Hive located in the Wairakei Tourist Park is New Zealand’s largest showcase of honey products.

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Pohutukawa Honey on display at Huka Honey Hive

Huka Honey Hive is located 65 Karetoto Road (off Huka Falls Road and SH1). It is open daily from 9am to 5pm in the summer and 10am to 5pm in the winter.

On the left side of the store is an educational area with live bees in glass hives and a variety of displays on bees and the honey making process.

Glass hives

Glass hives

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Antique beeswax press

A large part of the space is taken up with very well presented displays of the various honey and bee related products they sell.

Undoubtedly the most popular attraction at the Honey Hive is the free tastings of honey, and mead wine and liqueurs. There is a limit to tastings but there is no pressure by staff to buy.

There is also an onsite lounge that serves honey flavoured ice cream and hot and cold beverages. I had a Lemon Drone for $7, which is a spider (Charlie’s Honest Fizz Lemonade poured over Kapiti Pohutukawa Honey Ice Cream). Single scoop ice cream is $4, double scoop $8, and ice cream sundaes are $7.50.

Free honey tasting

Free honey tasting

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Candles

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Buzzy bee toys

Bee soft toy display

Bee soft toy display

Taupo Volcanic Activity Centre

Taupo’s Volcanic Activity Centre is an interactive educational centre where visitors can learn about the earth’s volcanic forces and the Taupo Volcanic Zone located in Wairakei Tourist Park.

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Taupo’s Volcanic Activity Centre

The Taupo Volcanic Zone is an area 350 km long by 50 km wide from Tongariro National Park through to Rotorua and out to the Whakatane submarine volcano just past White Island.

Taupo’s Volcanic Activity Centre is located at 114 Karetoto Road (at the T intersection). It is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and weekends 10am to 4pm. The centre is closed Christmas Day, Good Friday and ANZAC Day morning. Children (5-15) are $7, adults $12 and seniors and students are $10.

There is parking outside the centre. Alternatively the Taupo Connector bus departs from Taupo I-SITE and Visitor Information Centre and arrives at the Volcanic Activity Centre.

Taupo Volcanic Activity Centre

Taupo Volcanic Activity Centre

When I visited few of the buttons on the interactive displays did not work, so some of the displays are in need to some maintenance but other than that it has interesting well presented informative displays.

There are models that show a live geyser and tornado. Visitors can control the tornado to make their own twister.

Visitors can also an earthquake equivalent to 6.3 quake on the Richter scale in the earthquake simulator. 6.3 was what Christchurch earthquake at 12:51pm on February 22nd, 2011 was on the Richter scale.

Earthquake stimulator

Earthquake stimulator

There is a also cinema, which is regularly running short films, such as footage from the Christchurch earthquake and Mt Ruapehu erupting.

There is also a gift shop, which sells a variety of books, DVDs, puzzles and posters. They also sell gems and rocks.

Spa Park to Huka Falls

Spa Park – Huka Falls Walkway is a two hour return walk that follows the Waikato River to the Huka Falls.

Spa Thermal Park Huka Falls Walkway

Spa Park – Huka Falls Walkway

The walk starts at Spa Thermal Park, which is at the end of County Ave (off Spa Road). Gates are locked between 8pm and 7am.  At 41 hectares the park is one of Taupo’s largest parks. There is an excellent children’s playground onsite.

It’s approximately a five minute walk across Spa Park to the start of the track.

Spa Thermal Park

Spa Thermal Park

It is a 2.6 km easy track that is approximately 50 minutes one way to Huka Falls. Cyclists are not permitted on the Spa Park to Huka Falls walkway. Cyclists are recommended to take the Rotary Ride track.

Near the start of the track is a bridge that crosses Otumuheke Stream, a natural hot stream that follows into the Waikato River. Residents and visitors visit to soak in the natural hot pool.

Otumere Stream follows into Waikato River creating natural hot pool

Otumuheke Stream follows into Waikato River creating natural hot pool

The walk follows the Waikato River offering views of Reid’s Farm Recreation Reserve and Huka Lodge. Two very different forms of accommodation – Reid’s Farm, a free camping site and Huka Lodge, a luxurious lodge that attracts royalty and movie stars.

The Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest river running 425 km through the North Island. It drains at the north eastern edge of Lake Taupo, later creating the Huka Falls and then flowing northeast across the Waikato plains and draining into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato.

Waikato River

Waikato River

View of Huka Lodge

View of Huka Lodge

The Huka Falls is formed when the Waikato River, which is normally up to 100 metres wide, narrows to just 15 metres causing a large volume of water to collide as it passes through a narrow gorge of hard volcanic rock. Approximately 220,000 litres of water passes per second creating an impressive waterfall.

The word Huka means foam in Māori – you can see where it got its name from when you see the falls.

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Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Riverside Park Taupo

Riverside Park is located within the Tongariro Domain on the banks of the Waikato River.

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Riverside Park 

Riverside Park officially opened in November 2007 on the site of the former Taupo Motor Camp, which closed in 2006 after the lease expired. Public opinion was divided when the camping ground closed, as it had been a popular camping site since the 1930s. Today Riverside Park is popular with locals and visitors.

The park has plenty of seating, tables and green space for picnicking and relaxing. There are a mature beech trees in the park that were donated from former mayor Clayton Stent’s own property.

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Riverside Park

There is a large boardwalk that runs alongside the Waikato River. The boardwalk turns into a concrete pathway, which makes for a nice short walk. Visitors can exit the park and cross the road by Control Gate Bridge and continue along the banks of the Waikato River to Spa Thermal Park or walk along Tongariro Street to the main shopping district.

Boardwalk, Riverside Park

Boardwalk, Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Riverside Park

In the park carved into three stones are words from the poems ‘Waikato River’, ‘A Preference for River’ and ‘My Poems’, from Rowley Habib’s poetry collection The Raw Men – Selected Poems 1954 – 2004. Habib’s mother was of Ngati Ruingarangi hapu, a sub tribe of local iwi Ngati Tuwharetoa and Habib grew up in Taupo and attended Taupo Public School.

Poetry from Rowley Habib

Poetry from Rowley Habib

The Unison Amphitheatre is grassed amphitheatre that provides seating for up to 15,000 people and is used for outdoor concerts and events during the summer months.

Also held every Saturday from 10am to 1pm is the Riverside Market, which has various stalls selling produce, breads, crafts, art, clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and more.

Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Ernest Kemp Cruises

Ernest Kemp Cruises offer two hour daily cruises on Lake Taupo to the Māori Rock Carvings.

Ernest Kemp

Ernest Kemp

The Ernest Kemp was built in 1980 and is a replica of a traditional steamboat. It 48 feet in length and can travel at speed of 9 knots. The vessel is named after the great grandson of early settlers and missionaries James and Charlotte Kemp.

The vessel is located at berth 2 at the Taupo Boat Harbour. Tickets can be purchased the Fish Cruise Taupo booking office or the Taupo I-SITE Visitor Information Centre.

The cruise departs 10:30am, 2pm and 5pm. The 5pm cruise is only offered October to April.

I am not sure the number of passengers Ernest Kemp can take but they definitely fill it to the brim during the summer months. It felt like sardines, which dampened the enjoyment of the experience a bit.

The skipper will provide live commentary pointing out interesting landmarks and make recommendations on activities to do in the area.

Out on the lake

Out on the lake

We passed the Barbary, a 1926 recently refurbished yacht that once belonged to actor Errol Flynn. Legend has it that Flynn won the yacht in a card game.

The highlight of the cruise is of course the Māori rock carvings at Okuta Bay (also known as Mine Bay), which can only be viewed from the water. Ernest Kemp Cruises claim to be the boat that gets you closest to the carvings. Although a kayak would probably be the best option for one wanting the closest experience to the carvings.

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Maori Rock Carvings

Māori Rock Carvings

Some visitors may be disappointed to learn that the carvings are not hundreds of years old. Work on the carvings began in 1978 by carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell as a gift to the people of Taupo.

The main cliff carving at 10 metres in height is of Ngatoroirangi, a Māori navigator who guided the tribes of Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa to Taupo over a thousand years ago.

Children are offered an opportunity to skipper the vessel and receive a certificate. They also offer complimentary tea, coffee or hot chocolate with a cookie. Complimentary beer, wine or soft drink is offered on the 5pm cruise.