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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Werribee Park and Mansion, Australia

Werribee Park Mansion is an Italianate style mansion in Werribee, south-west of Melbourne.

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Werribee Park Mansion was built between 1874 and 1877 by Scottish brothers Thomas and Andrew Chirnside. Thomas committed suicide in 1887. Andrew died three years later and the property was divided between his four sons.

In 1923, it was brought by the Catholic Church, who added additional wings, and it became Corpus Christi College, a Catholic seminary.

Currently it is owned by the Victorian Government. A separate wing housing the Mansion Hotel and Spa was later built.

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It is free to explore the Werribee Park Mansion gardens and grounds, but entry to the Mansion is by admission.

One of the features of the 10 hectare grounds is an ornamental lake. A grotto is located on a man-made island in the middle of the lake. The grotto was built in 1877 and decorated by the Chirnside family. The ceiling is lined with shells from their holiday home at Point Cooke.

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Werribee Park and Mansion is located at Gate 2, K Road, Werribee.

Healesville Sanctuary, Australia

Healesville Sanctuary is a zoo specialising in native Australian animals.

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Dr Colin McKenzie set up the Institute of Anatomical Research in 1920 on 78 acres (32 hectares of land. The reserve was passed to the Healesville Council in 1927 and was named the Sir Colin McKenzie Sanctuary in 1934 (McKenzie was knighted in 1929).

Today the sanctuary is part of Zoos Victoria, which includes Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo. It is well known for its work saving endangered Australian species.

The zoo is set in a natural bushland environment with over 200 species of Australian animals. The zoo is split up into a series of different areas / tracks to explore.

The main track is home to reptiles, amphibians, birds of prey, parrots, and emus. There are also several sites of Aboriginal cultural significance to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. There is also the Flight Arena, where there is a daily bird show and the Australian Wildlife Centre, that treats more than 1500 sick and injured native animals a year.

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Spirts of Sky – Bird Show

The woodlands track includes emu, wallaby, barn owl, Australian pelicans, kookaburra, Tasmanian Devil. Also here is Animals of the Night, a facility that houses nocturnal animals, such as possums, bilbies, bandicoots and gliders.

The wetlands track is home to native wetland birds and frogs, such as the black swan, which originated from the Southern Hemisphere.

There is also Dingo County, Kangaroo County (Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, Red Kangaroos and Wombats), Koala Forest (Southern Koala and short-beaked echidna), and the Platypus Track.

Healesville Sanctuary is approximately one hour from Melbourne. The address is Badger Creek Road, Healesville, Victoria.

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Kangaroo County

Puffing Billy Railway, Australia

The Puffing Billy Railway is a heritage steam railway in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, Australia.

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The steam train runs on the historic 24 kilometre (15 miles) track between Belgrave and Gembrook through the Dandenong Ranges. This is one of four narrow gauge lines that opened in the 1900s to provide transport and access to remote parts of Victoria.

In 1954 the line closed due operating costs. The Puffing Billy Preservation Society was formed and reopened the line between Belgrave and Menzies Creek in 1962. Later the line was reopened to Emerald in 1965, Lakeside in 1975, and Gembrook in 1998.

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Majority of passengers will start their journey at Belgrave, but it is also possible to start at Lakeside. Usually there a four departures a day from Belgrave.

From Belgrave it is 30 minutes one-way to Menzies Creek, 50 minutes to Emerald, 60 minutes to Lakeside, 1 hour and 50 minutes to Gembrook. A return journey from Belgrave to Gembrooke is approximately 5 hours. Please visit their website for more information on journey timings.

The carriages are open-sided providing views of mountain ash trees, forests and fern gullies as it travels through the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

The service operates everyday except Christmas Day. Belgrave Station is located at 1 Old Monbulk Road, Belgrave, Victoria. Please visit the website for information on parking.

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Grants Picnic Ground, Dandenongs, Australia

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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