Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour

Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour is a luxury 5 star hotel located overlooking the Viaduct Harbour in downtown Auckland.

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This trip to Auckland was to catch up with a friend and see Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the ASB Waterfront Theatre.

In June I booked our tickets and a room at the Sofitel, as it was only 400 metres from the ASB Waterfront Theatre.

I was unsure if the production would go ahead after Auckland had a community outbreak of Covid-19 in August, which saw the city move to level 3 lockdown status.

Although Auckland had moved down to level 2 in September Auckland Theatre Company made the decision to cancel the production. It was not financially viable for them to put on the production with social distancing requirements.

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Although for a long time it was possible that I would not be staying at the Sofitel anyway as in July the hotel went into liquidation.

The hotel was promoted as reopening in Spring, but it wasn’t until early October that it was announced that it was reopening October 19th, after a makeover.

When I lived and worked in downtown Auckland I use to often walk around the waterfront and Viaduct Harbour and would see the Sofitel with its water features and lions at the entrance.

My room was a suite on the 4th floor, which provided views on the Marina. The room was 52sqm and had a King Size Bed, 48″ LED TV with Freeview , Sky Digital and free in house movies.

The marble bathroom had a deep soaking bath and separate shower.

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The room included access to the executive lounge – Club Millésime, which is is on the 2nd floor (street level). They serve afternoon tea between 2pm and 4pm and in the evening they serve hor d’oeuvres, wines and cocktails.

My friend and I had afternoon tea but were out during evening drinks. To finish the evening we had a non-alcoholic cocktail at the Sabrage Champagne Bar, which is open from 3pm till late.

The next morning I had breakfast at La Marée by Marc de Passorio. I had the sweet crepes.

The breakfast was included with Club Millésime access.

There is also French Press Cafe, a French style dockside cafe but I did not eat there.

Also there is heated 20 metre lap pool and small gym, and a communal library in the lobby.

The staff at the Sofitel Viaduct provide efficient service while being warm and welcoming. My experience from other upmarket hotels is that service can often be efficient but cold.  It is the little details that make the experience – the welcome drink in reception, the macrons and cake left by the guest manager in my room, the evening turndown service.

Sofitel is at 21 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, Auckland Central.

Waipahihi Botanical Reserve

Waipahihi Botanical Reserve is a 35 hectare botanical reserve in Taupo.

It is also known as the Waipahihi Botanical Gardens and sometimes referred to as the Taupo Botanical Gardens.

It is managed by volunteers. Volunteer begun work on the Waipahihi Reserve on October 1st 1966.

The gardens provide views on the Lake Taupo and Mt. Tauhara.

The garden is opened daily until dusk. Entry is free but donations are appreciated.

Waipahihi Reserve is located at the top of Shepherd Road, Taupo.

Rotokare Scenic Reserve

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

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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.

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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.

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Eltham, Taranaki

Eltham is a small town in South Taranaki.

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Eltham in named after an English village in Greenwich, England. European settlement began in Eltham in the 1870s. The settlement become a town district in 1884.

Similar to much of Taranaki, Eltham has its roots in dairy.  The first pound of butter was made at Eltham in New Zealand’s first commercial butter factory, which opened in 1887. Today cheese is probably the town’s claim to fame.

Eltham is also known for its Victorian and Edwardian architecture. There is a heritage walking trail with information panels dotted around the township explaining the town’s heritage.

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Also in 2009 the town was the location for a film adaptation of Ronald Hugh Morrieson’s 1975 novel Predicament. Many of the building frontages were renovated and repainted at the time.

The are numerous cafes and shops with antiques, arts and crafts, and vintage and retro clothing. Although when I visited on a Friday many of these businesses were closed, a result of COVID possibly.

There was a small market on, the Friday Eltham Market, which is held nine till noon in the TouchPoint carpark (High Street), weather permitting.

Eltham is approximately 50 kilometres south of New Plymouth. State Highway 3 runs through the town.

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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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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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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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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

Rotorua GLO Festival NYE

The 2018 Rotorua GLO Festival was a family-friendly New Year’s Eve event held at Rotorua’s lakefront Village Green.

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The evening line up included live music on stage from 4.30pm, a screening of the 2007 Disney Pixar computer-animated fantasy film Coco at 6pm, and then live music continuing as the sun set.

As well as the live music there were food trucks and Mahons Amusements hosted a carnival with carnival games, fairground food and rides including a Grand Carousel, Dodgem Cars, Fun Factory, Graviton, Round Up and the Pirate Ship.

A fireworks display on the lakefront concluded the night at 9.30 pm.

The decision this year to not have a midnight fireworks drew criticism from some members of the community. Despite this the Council reports 12,000 people attended the festival in its entirety and 15,000 people watched the 9.30pm fireworks.

Happy New Year!

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