Rotokare Scenic Reserve

Rotokare Scenic Reserve is a bush and lake reserve in South Taranaki.


Rotokare Scenic Reserve is a 230 hectare forested hill-country with extensive wetlands, native bush and a 17.8 hectare lake. It is managed by the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust.

The Lake Rotokare Walkway is a 4 km walking track that circles the lake. The first 600 metres feature boardwalks around the wetlands, which include a boardwalk out to a floating viewing pontoon.



The boardwalk up until the pontoon is wheelchair accessible, and many visitors only walk as far as the pontoon and then return. The track after this can be muddy in winter. It should take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the loop walk.

The reserve is protected by a 8.2 km pest-proof fence. Entry is through a double set of gates. The gate has to close behind before you can open the next gate.

Entry is free but donations to the trust are appreciated.

Rotokare Scenic Reserve is at Sangster Road, 12 km from Eltham, South Taranaki.





Opepe Bush Historic Reserve

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


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.









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.





Grants Picnic Ground, Dandenongs, Australia

Grants Picnic Ground is located in the Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.


Grants Picnic Ground is known for its picnic grounds, bush walks, and bird feeding (due to cease February 2020).

Grants on Sherbrooke is a locally-owned and run tearooms and souvenir shop located in the grounds. You can purchase tokens here to access the bird feeding area.


The fenced bird feeding area is the only spot currently in the Dandenong Ranges were hand feeding native birds is permitted. Bird feeding at Grants Picnic Ground is due to be discontinued in February 2020.

In the past there was the opportunity to feed colourful lorikeets and king parrots. The sulphur-crested cockatoo has in recent years pushed the smaller birds out.




Nearby is the Margaret Lester Forest Walk. This short 500 metre, 15 minute loop track has been designed with a hardsurfaced track to allow those with prams or limited mobility enjoy the forest.

The sealed track was constructed in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons. It was first of its kind in Victoria. Margaret Lester was a paraplegic and architecture graduate advised in its design.



There is also the Hardy Gully Nature Walk (700 m | 45 min loop) and the Eastern Sherbrooke Forest Walk (7.1 km | 2 hour loop), which both start from the Picnic Grounds.

Facilities wise there are several picnic tables and electric BBQs dotted around the reserve, including a covered pavilion with four picnic tables.

Grants Picnic Ground and Grants on Sherbrooke are located at 70 Monbulk Road, Kallist, Victoria.





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.


Birkenhead is a suburb of Auckland, located on the north shore of the Waitemata Harbour.

To travel to Birkenhead, I took the 9:10am service, which is the first weekend morning service departing Downtown. The ferry service is operated by Fullers and departs from Pier 1. Adults are $5.50 one way, $10.10 return. Child $3.30 one way, $5.20 return. Discount fares are available for AT Hop cardholders.

Fullers' ferry boarding at Pier 1, Downtown Ferry Terminal

Fullers’ ferry boarding at Pier 1, Downtown Ferry Terminal

It is approximately a 15 minute ferry ride to Birkenhead Wharf via Bayswater and Northcote Point.

The ferry travels underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge to reach Northcote Point and Birkenhead. The Harbour Bridge is 1,020 metres long, rising 43.27 metres above high water level. I had never travelled under the harbour bridge before, which was one of the reasons for choosing ferry travel.

The ferry travels underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge

The ferry travels underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge

The ferry docks at Birkenhead Wharf at the bottom of Hinemoa Street. The original entry point to Birkenhead Village was via ferry, making Hinemoa Street one of the oldest streets in Birkenhead. It is just under a 2km walk past many historic buildings from the Wharf to Birkenhead Village.

Birkenhead Wharf

Birkenhead Wharf

A few notable points on this heritage walk:

On the corner of Hinemoa St and Rugby St stands the Marinovic Building (94 – 98 Hinemoa St). This two storey masonry building is in Edwardian style, and was constructed in 1912. The old Hellaby butcher’s occupied this site until 1911 when it moved to the rear of the building. The old butcher’s shop is now Ravenhill café. I tried the raspberry and frangipani slab ($4.50) from their cabinet.

Ravenhill cafe, a former butchery. Building constructed 1912

Ravenhill cafe, a former butchery. Building constructed 1912

At 128-130 Hinemoa St is Gumdiggers Restaurant, which is open for dinner from 6:30pm Tuesday to Saturday. The building that was built in 1910 was originally a drapers shop.

Gumdiggers Restaurant, originally a drapers shop. Building built 1910

Gumdiggers Restaurant, originally a drapers shop. Built 1910

Next to each other at 243 and 245 Hinemoa St are the Royal Thai Restaurant and Bambina (a baby clothing and toy store).  243 Hinemoa Street was the Samuel Roberts General Store established in 1910 and 245 Hinemoa St was Henry Hawkins Grocer established in 1927.

At Highbury Corner stands the Oborn Buildings, which was originally named Payne’s Building, and was constructed between 1927 and 1928 for local businessman and council member W. H. Payne.

Oborn Building, formerly Payne Buildings, built 1927-8

Oborn Building, formerly Payne Buildings, built 1927-8

On the corner of Hinemoa Street and Rawene Road is Nell Fisher Reserve.  Situated in the reserve is the Birkenhead War Memorial monument, which was unveiled in 1927 to remember the soldiers killed in WWI.

Birkenhead War Memorial, Nell Fisher Reserve

Birkenhead War Memorial, Nell Fisher Reserve

Located behind the War Memorial is the Birkenhead Public Library. It is worth going up to the mezzanine floor for a moments rest and to admire the views.

Views of Auckland city from mezzanine floor, Birkenhead Public Library

Views of Auckland city from mezzanine floor, Birkenhead Public Library

It is here that the Sugar Workers Walk begins. Click here to download a map.

After visiting the library and Nell Fisher Reserve make your way along Rawene Road. There are several residential houses here with historical significance. At number 51 is the former home of Bert Stanley, who was the mayor of Birkenhead from 1968-77.


51 Rawene Rd. Former home of Bert Stanley, Birkenhead mayor, 1968-77

There are several sugar workers cottages on Rawene Road. 35 cottages were built in the 1880s in an area at the bottom of Colonial Road. In 1905 these cottages were sold for 5 pounds each and relocated to sunnier sites. 44 Rawene Road is an example of one of these original cottages.

44 Rawene Road, early sugar workers cottage

44 Rawene Rd, early sugar workers cottage

At the end of Rawene Road is an entrance to Chelsea Estate Heritage Park. Follow the track down and where the track forks turn to the right and follow the track across the dam to the Sugar Refinery grounds.

This pink and blue Victorian factory was built from 1883-84 using one million handmade bricks made from clay from the surrounding hills.

Chelsea Sugar Refinery

Chelsea Sugar Refinery

Take a moment to watch the ducks frolic in the large duck pond before crossing the bridge and heading up the hill to four historic Worker’s cottages. These two storied brick cottages were constructed in 1910 and are now private residences.

Four historic Workers' cottages. Constructed 1910

Four historic Workers’ cottages. Constructed 1910

In the large grassy area stands the ‘Ships Grab’ sculpture, which was donated by New Zealand Sugar Company when it sold 37 hectares of its property to the Council in 2008. This property became the Chelsea Estate Heritage Park.

'Ships Grab' sculpture

‘Ships Grab’ sculpture

This area is where the original 35 cottages were located. Opposite the Ships Grab sculpture is a walking track that leads up to Huka Road. Huka is the Māori word for sugar. Alternatively you can walk up past the four historic Worker’s cottages and walk up Colonial Road, just watch out for the sugar trucks.

If you walk up Huka Road, like Rawene Road, there are many cottages of historical significance to the sugar refinery. Number 44 is two sugar workers cottages, which have been joined together. Numbers 22 and 25 are Victorian bay villas and numbers 29 and 33 are Edwardian style houses. These five properties are more examples of the homes that sugar factory workers would have lived in.

45 Huka Road, two sugar workers cottages joined together

45 Huka Road, two sugar workers cottages joined together

Both Huka Road and Colonial Road come out at Mokoia Road. Turn right and walk along Mokoia. There are many cafés located along this strip. At 14-24 Mokoia Road is Highbury Buildings. This retail building was constructed in 1934.

Next I walked back down Hinemoa St and entered Le Roys bush walk. I walked this native bush walk through kauri, nikau palms, totara, past mangroves and out to Little Shoal Bay for more views of the city. I returned from Little Shoal Bay to the exit on Onewa Road (between 210 and 12 Onewa Road).


Le Roys bush walk

Le Roys Bush walk

Little Shoal Bay

Little Shoal Bay

At the corner of Birkenhead Ave and Onewa Road is Zion Hill Church. It was first church to be built in Birkenhead in 1880. This church was replaced by a new church building around 1886.

Birkenhead Transport has bus services from Onewa Road into and from the city. There are also over 900 free carparks located throughout Birkenhead Village so it is an easy place to visit.

Waitomo – Day 3

Welcome to the last blog post from my 3-day weekend to Waitomo.

Monday morning I awoke to the sound of rain on the corrugated iron roof of my chalet. I had planned that morning to walk the Waitomo Walkway to Ruakuri Scenic Reserve. After two days of beautiful blue skies and sun I had not planned on the rain.


Waitomo Walkway

After waiting for the rain to clear I headed to the entrance for the Waitomo Walkway, which starts in the Waitomo Domain, opposite the Waitomo Discovery Centre (i-Site). The walk takes approximately 1 hr 15 min one way, or 2 hr 30 min return.

From Waitomo Village to the Waitomo Caves carpark it is a 15 minute walk through native bush. There is a 25 minute detour to a lookout point, which gives views of the rolling hills and the Waitomo Caves Hotel on the hill above the township. I had walked up to the lookout on Saturday so I continued on.

Johnson Family Memorial Grove

Johnson Family Memorial Grove

Next to the Waitomo Caves Visitor Centre the path picks up and it is a 5 minute bush walk to a clearing by the main road. An entrance to the path is framed by a sign for The Johnson Memorial Grove. This memorial honours the Johnson’s, a pioneer family who arrived in Waitomo in 1907.

Follow the orange markers across private farmland

Follow the orange markers across private farmland

A large part of the Waitomo Walkway crosses private farmland. Just follow the orange triangle markers as you make you away across the farmland. There are several stiles to cross and there are some electric fences to be aware of.

Suspension bridge

Suspension bridge

The track follows the Waitomo Stream and one point there is a suspension bridge to cross the stream.

The rain was not the only obstacle, as I approached a sign warning of wasp nests and advising to ‘proceed promptly and quietly’. I was wearing a rain jacket so I put up the hood and high tailed it – almost running when I sensed something fly past me – probably a harmless fly.

Warning wasps!

Warning wasps!

The Waitomo Walkway comes out at the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve carpark. There are toilet and picnic facilities at Ruakuri Scenic Reserve. From here I walked The Ruakuri Bushwalk, which is a 30 minute loop track. Every local I meet in Waitomo recommended doing this walk. This walk takes you inside the Ruakuri natural tunnel. Although I walked this during the day this is also a popular walk at night as you can see the glowworms.

Ruakuri Bushwalk

Ruakuri Bushwalk

After completing the Ruakuri Bushwalk I returned to Waitomo Village back via the way I came. After lunch I took the path from village up to Waitomo Caves Hotel, a historic hotel built in Victorian style in 1908, which had an Art deco style wing added in 1928. From here I had views over the township.

Waitomo Caves Hotel

Waitomo Caves Hotel

In the afternoon I took the one hour Footwhistle Glowworm Cave Tour offered by Cave World. The tour cost $49 for adults and $24 for children.

Te Anaroa Cave (Footwhistle Glowworm Cave)

Te Anaroa Cave (Footwhistle Glowworm Cave)

The cave is known to Māori as Te Anaroa Cave but the name footwhistle comes from a formation in the cave that looks like a foot with a whistle at the bottom. The cave has a glowworms and all formations that you would expect to find. One opportunity Caveworld offers that other companies don’t is to see the Te Anaroa cathedral (highest point in a cave) lit up by a magnesium torch, a traditional lighting method.

I caught the 5:30pm service to Hamilton provided by Naked Bus and then switched to the Auckland bus at Hamilton.

I had three fantastic days in Waitomo exploring six caves in the area and completing the Waitomo Walkway and Ruakuri bushwalk. If you are more adventurous than me and don’t mind getting wet there are black water rafting cave tours and adventure tours that involve abseiling into caves.