New Zealand’s Best Places for Jet Boating

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

I love jet boating. You get all the thrill of a rollercoaster ride, but you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery. Plus it’s a great way to cool off.

Jet boating is kind of a big thing in New Zealand. It was invented here, after all. I’ve been jet boating all over the country, so where’s the best place for it?

Well here’s my list of the

Top 5 Places to Go Jet Boating in New Zealand

– let the countdown begin!

5) Rotorua

My first ever New Zealand jet boating experience was on Lake Rotorua. It was tame in comparison to other experiences on this list, but still fun. It was a great way to see the lake and learn about Rotorua’s history – a sort of half thrill ride, half informative tour. Check out the Kawarau Jet website if you’re interested.

4) Auckland

Taking a cruise around Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf is a…

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My Top 10 Favourite Places in New Zealand

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

Since moving to New Zealand, I’ve seen so many wonderful places. The country’s full of them; beauty spots beyond counting. But some of them have stayed with me more than others. Some places are just so wonderful, so beautiful…

This is a personal list. You might not agree, but I think these ten places are amongst the best places to visit in New Zealand:

10) Te Puna Quarry Park

Like a fairytale

I love this place. It makes me feel like a kid exploring Wonderland. I mean there’s a dragon and everything! The first time I went, I just knew I’d be back again and again. Te Puna Quarry Park is really close to Tauranga – click the link to see my blog about it.

9) Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove 1cropped

The name of what I think is New Zealand’s most beautiful beach certainly does it justice. Cathedral Cove is on the Coromandel Peninsula. You can…

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Lake Wainamu


Lake Wainamu is a place not many people know about. Out at Bethells Beach, on Auckland’s west coast, it’s a peaceful spot of understated beauty, surrounded by low hills. You get to it either by trudging across sand dunes for about ten minutes, or by walking along a shallow river. The river way takes longer, but is less strenuous. Besides, it’s usually too hot to walk across the sand dunes barefoot; walking through the river is nice and soothing.


Lake Wainamu is great for swimming in, being so calm. It gets very deep very quickly, however, so I wouldn’t recommend going in unless you actually know how to swim. Swimming isn’t the only activity on offer at the lake, though. The sand dunes slope down to the river pretty sharply, making them the perfect place to try sand surfing. Definitely take a boogie board with you and slide on down!


You can also walk around the lake; there’s a proper track that does a full circuit. It takes an hour or two, but it’s worth it because hidden away behind the lake is a rather pretty swimming hole with a waterfall. Be warned, though – it’s bloody freezing! At some point around the lake track, close to the main beach, there’s a tree that leans out over the water. Local kids like to use it as a diving board.


I’d recommend wearing old clothes and shoes when you visit the lake, because everything gets full of black sand. Black sand is notoriously clingy! I’m still scraping it off my scalp from two days ago and, yes, I have washed my hair! It is luxuriously soft, though. And the silvery dunes are starkly beautiful.


Countless films, music videos, TV series and adverts have been filmed on the dunes. You can well imagine Xena having an epic duel across them, and we passed yet another film crew when we were there two days ago. They wouldn’t tell us what they were filming, but there were two guys in suits with guns. I didn’t envy the suited-up actors – the sun was blazing! I’d resorted to using my umbrella as a parasol:


My boyfriend, being a tough Kiwi, was less prepared. Even though our group was planning on walking to the lake over the dunes, and not through the river, he didn’t bring shoes. He thought about bringing shoes, but then did the usual Kiwi thing of thinking ‘she’ll be ’right’ and left them behind. Sure enough, the sand was far too hot to walk on, but – lo! – Kiwi ingenuity to the rescue! He fashioned shoes out of towels and walked to the lake thusly:


So… Lake Wainamu. It’s ‘becoming far too popular with non-locals’ and it’s easy to see why. If you’re visiting Bethells Beach, give yourself some time to walk to the lake as well. It’s completely free and there are lots of things to explore. Here’s how to find it.


Across the Sea: A Brief History of Immigration to New Zealand


When I was eleven, my class studied a topic I’ll never forget. At least I’ll never forget the image of a dead baby being thrown overboard wrapped in a Union Jack. The topic dealt with the history of immigration to New Zealand.

Each member of my class had to write a pretend diary from the perspective of an English immigrant making the long and perilous voyage to New Zealand in the nineteenth century. As I was an English immigrant whose family had moved to New Zealand only a year previously, I found the topic particularly affecting.

Of course, my family had not come to New Zealand by ship, but by plane. And it had taken us twenty-four hours of travelling, not six months. And none of us had died on the way. Still, I understood the heartbreaking enormity of leaving your home for a strange country on the other side of the world.

Maori Chief with Facial Tattoo from the 18th Century

An 18th-century Maori chief

Well any history of immigration to New Zealand – however brief – should begin with the Maori. The ancestors of the Maori came to New Zealand from Hawaiki, a Polynesian homeland that has passed into legend. They came in canoes, guided by the stars. No one knows exactly when they first arrived, but archaeological evidence seems to suggest that it was during the thirteenth century. To put this in perspective, at around the same time as the Magna Carta was being signed, as European knights were crusading their way across the Middle East, and as Braveheart was yelling “FREEEEEEDOM!” in a totally non-anachronistic way, New Zealand was only just being settled.

Europeans didn’t discover New Zealand until the seventeenth century. The first, that we know of, was Abel Tasman in 1642. Tasman’s first meeting with the Maori did not go well. He anchored in what is now Golden Bay in New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Park, and sent some of his crew to find water, but they were immediately attacked by a group of Maori in a waka, or canoe. This led Tasman to sail away rather quickly, and to name his place of anchorage Murderers’ Bay. (But Golden Bay sounds much better to tourists.)

A drawing one of Tasman's crew did of "Murderers' Bay"

Murderers’ Bay, as depicted by Tasman’s ship’s artist

Golden Bay Abel Tasman National Park New Zealand

Golden Bay today

European immigration to New Zealand didn’t begin until the nineteenth century, although trade between Europeans and Maori had been gradually increasing throughout the eighteenth century. During that time, New Zealand had become very popular with European and American whalers, (and escaped Australian convicts.) Their favourite port of call was Kororareka, a settlement which would become known as Russell – and the hellhole of the Pacific. This wretched hive of scum and villainy had been commended by James Cook as a “most noble anchorage” and, since his 1769-70 voyage around New Zealand, had become a haven for entrepreneurial Maori. European goods such as muskets were traded for Maori goods such as women. Needless to say, this behaviour shocked arriving missionaries.


Some random colonial men

British immigration to New Zealand began in earnest with the formation of the New Zealand Company, whose main mission was to acquire as much land from the Maori as possible – fairly or otherwise. The British government stepped in to regulate this, and other “lawless” behaviours by the immigrants, in 1839. This led to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which gave the Maori the same rights as British citizens – in exchange for ceding their sovereignty to the British Crown. At least that’s what the English version says. The Maori translation of the treaty isn’t perfect, so it’s possible that many of the Maori chieftains didn’t have a full understanding of what they were signing. Besides, even if the Maori and the British were on the same page, it’s not like every Maori chieftain in country signed it. The document remains in dispute to this day.

Irish immigrants

Irish immigrants

Other Europeans continued to arrive, but the bulk of immigrants were British and Irish. Maori chiefs in the Waikato became alarmed at the rate at which their land was being taken over, and came together to resist further land acquisitions by the government. This led to the New Zealand Wars, which ended in the early 1870s with the victorious government confiscating huge areas of Maori-held land.

In the 1860s, New Zealand experienced its own Gold Rush, resulting in the arrival of many more immigrants, including a significant population of Chinese prospectors. The government attempted to limit the number of Asian immigrants and, in 1881, imposed a poll tax on all incoming Chinese citizens. It wasn’t repealed until the Second World War. The war, of course, brought a few thousand European refugees to New Zealand.

Captain James Cook

Captain James Cook claimed New Zealand on behalf of Great Britain in 1769

Following the Second World War, skilled immigrants from the British Isles and Northern Europe were encouraged to come and settle in New Zealand. Many Dutch people arrived at this time, including one of my family’s greatest friends when we first arrived. I remember being fascinated by his story of coming by ship in 1950s – a journey that took five weeks.

From the 1960s, large numbers of Pacific Islanders began to arrive in New Zealand. In 1987, the government stopped choosing migrants based on race, opting instead to assess individual skills.

The last twenty years have seen a huge increase in the number of Asian immigrants, but the influx of British immigrants remains high. A few years ago, there was concern over the number of New Zealanders leaving to live in Australia, seeking higher wages, but the rush seems to be slowing. In 2006, 23% of New Zealand’s total population were people born overseas, and the number of incomers continues to rise. Though there’s a lot more frustrating paperwork these days, moving to New Zealand is a lot easier now than it was in the nineteenth century.

An immigrant ship

An immigrant ship

The New Zealand Maritime Museum on Auckland’s harbour front has a fantastic exhibition detailing the experiences of those early European immigrants. As a kid, I was particularly affected by it. It has a reproduction of an 1840s steerage cabin, so you can get an idea of the frightful conditions that people had to endure for months to reach New Zealand. Many of the immigrants kept diaries, which, I suppose, was the inspiration for the school project I did. Here’s an example of one. It’s by someone called Hannah Butler, who sailed to New Zealand in 1840. At least seven children died during her voyage.

I remember being bewildered, when I was a kid, as to why so many immigrants would take the risk. Surely a new life in New Zealand wasn’t worth at least one of your children dying on the way? But then, I suppose, it wasn’t unusual for large numbers of children to die back then anyway.

Cook's ship, HMS Endeavour

Cook’s ship, HMS Endeavour

I’m very glad my family came by plane.

A Wander through Waikato Museum


I’ve been meaning to visit our local museum for ages. I’ve walked past it so many times, on Hamilton’s main street, overlooking the Waikato River. It’s free to enter, except for a couple of children’s exhibitions, and doesn’t take that long to go round. It’s also in quite a nice building, at least from the back, the side facing the river. Well today I finally checked it out.

Waikato Museum

Part of the back of the museum

By far the best exhibition was entitled ‘For us They Fell’, all about the people of Waikato’s involvement in the First World War, but I also enjoyed ‘Passing People’, and exhibition showcasing the art of John Badcock.

Each of his paintings seemed ultra-realistic – not photorealistic, but more than that. It was like you could see the lives of the people; imagine their stories. Each person was unique and amazing. I almost expected them to start talking, which is not a feeling I’ve ever had before when looking at a painting.

Waikato Museum

More of the back of the museum

There were other art exhibitions in the museum, but they didn’t really capture me. The place actually seemed more of an art gallery than a museum, but there was a small exhibition about the Freemasons, and another exhibition displaying a giant penguin fossil found in Kawhia in 2006.

The most beautiful exhibition was about the Maori King movement, an integral part of the history of Waikato – and I wished they’d gone into more detail! The centrepiece was a (restored) 200-year-old canoe, or waka, called Te Winika. You weren’t allowed to take photographs in the exhibition, but here’s a picture of Te Whare Waka o Te Winika from the outside:

Waikato Museum Te Whare Waka o Te Winika

And this is something I almost missed entirely, a piece of art you have to look out of one of the museum’s windows to see, suspended between the trees, over the river:


Cool, eh?

I’m a history geek, so I like visiting museums. Here’s a link to a thing I made about some of the best museums in New Zealand:

10 Quite Cool Museums to Visit in New Zealand

A Walk around Hamilton Lake

Pukeko at Hamilton Lake

So I finally got around to going to Lake Rotoroa, or Hamilton Lake. It’s inexcusable. I’ve lived in Hamilton since January! (Well, okay, I did visit the lake once, but that was before I lived here and before the awesome playground was built. Anyway.)

Hamilton Lake

The Hamilton Lake Domain is a five or ten-minute walk from the Hamilton city centre. The lake isn’t massive, but it still takes nearly an hour to walk around. It’s not staggeringly pretty or anything, but it’s great to have such a nice walk in the middle of a city. The paths are well-maintained and there are plenty of places to sit down as you go.

New Zealand Pukeko

There’s a lot of birdlife around the lake. I’ve never seen so many pukekos at once! They were really friendly too. People obviously feed them, because one came practically running up to me as soon as I arrived. There were quite a few coots as well, along with the expected pigeons and ducks.

Hamilton Lake TrainI didn’t go to the lakeside café, but it looked decent. It was in an interesting building, at least. Tucked away behind it, rather surprisingly, was an old train. I didn’t spot any signs explaining its presence, but then again I wasn’t particularly looking.

The best thing about the Hamilton Lake Domain is it’s got a very impressive playground. I would have loved it as a kid. It was only built this year and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s huge, overlooking the lake, and it’s got a few fascinating water-sculpture-type-things. I recognised one as an Archimedes screw.

Hamilton Lake Playground

There’s also a rose garden, which, unfortunately, looks a bit lame at the moment. Wrong time of year, I suppose. I quite liked the sculpture next to it, though.

Koru Sculpture Hamilton Lake

I don’t know how anyone can say Hamilton is an awful place to live when it’s got places like this. Even the nearby water tower is the prettiest water tower I’ve ever encountered, adorned with columns to give it the suggestion of classical architecture. (Well, okay, it’s not pretty, but at least it’s ugly in an interesting way. Anyway.)

Water Tower Hamilton Lake

For more about life in the New Zealand city of Hamilton, see:

Exploring Hamilton’s Parks

The Best Place to Go in Hamilton

Hamilton Lake

New Zealand: A Land Fit for Fantasy

The Wizard's Vale

You know when you were a kid, when you were lonely or sad or scared and you just… imagined you were somewhere else? Where did you imagine? What fantastic landscapes did you get lost in?

Emerald valleys beribboned with sapphire rivers? Mysterious lakes mirroring snow-capped mountains? Ancient forests with hidden waterfalls? Waves crashing upon black rocks beneath stormy skies? How about bubbling, blue-grey pools surrounded by steam vents, lava flows and powdery, yellow rocks?

Fantasy Image from

You know.

Growing up in England, I thought New Zealand was some sort of fantasyland. But that didn’t mean I wanted to leave my home and my friends and everything behind to go there. When my parents told me we were moving to New Zealand, I’d never been more lonely or sad or scared!

I did feel slightly better, however, when my dad informed me they were filming The Lord of the Rings there. If I was going to be forced to live somewhere, it was good that it was somewhere magical.


Bridal Veil Falls, Waikato, New Zealand

I was disappointed to find, upon arrival, that New Zealand was just like everywhere else. I mean there were a few things I found strange, but on the whole it was just like England. Of course, I’d only seen the airport, the motorway and our new town at that point. The more I saw of New Zealand’s countryside, the more magical it seemed.


Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

No wonder so many fantasy epics get filmed here! Apart from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, there was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Legend of the Seeker, Xena, Hercules, 10,000 BC, The Water Horse, Bridge to Terabithia and others I’ve forgotten. They’re doing Terry Brooks’ Shannara as we speak. (Or as I write. Whatever.)

A ridiculous amount of filming is done at Bethells Beach, for example. My boyfriend, Tim, grew up there, with a view over the valley, the silver-black sand dunes and the sea, so I’ve been a fair bit. It is beautiful, but not only that. It’s got a sort of… mystical quality. It’s not just a beach. If I believed in such things, I’d say it was a weak point in reality… a gateway to the Otherworld… You have to go when the light’s just right, I suppose.

Bethells Beach

Bethells Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

A lot of filming is also done around Queenstown. That’s where the mysterious lakes mirroring snow-capped mountains are at. My family went there on our South Island campervan tour and it’s almost overwhelming being in the midst of so much natural beauty.

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki, Canterbury, New Zealand

Other places in the world are beautiful. What makes New Zealand special is simply that it has so MANY beautiful landscapes, and such a RANGE of beautiful landscapes, all within one small country. Scottish actor Graham McTavish put it well when he spoke at the 2015 Hamilton Armageddon: New Zealand is like Neverland, he said – a child’s drawing of a fantasy island with everything you could possibly want on it, in terms of natural scenery and adventure.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel, New Zealand

In terms of culture, well that’s improving all the time. Auckland’s getting a full-scale replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre this summer! Pity it’s only going to be a temporary ‘pop-up’ building, but still – pretty cool, eh?

Lake McLaren

Lake McLaren, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand


Locations from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

What Hobbiton’s Like

The Magic of Waitomo Caves

The Magical Creatures of New Zealand