Kaiate Falls

Kaiate Falls

Hello, everyone – I’m back! Firstly, thank you to all the readers who messaged me over the Christmas break. It means a lot – not only that some people enjoy my writing, but that they actually find it helpful! Yay!

I suppose I should have expected the sudden rush of views, what with people googling where to visit over Christmas. I certainly found myself googling new places to visit, which is how I found the beautiful Kaiate Falls.

My partner and I were staying with my parents in Tauranga, in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty. Tauranga is a fantastic place for a holiday. My 10 Free Things to Do around Tauranga happens to be one of the articles contributing to the sudden rush of views, and now I think I should make Kaiate Falls number eleven. Just look at the pictures I got!

Kaiate Falls

Kaiate Falls

Kaiate Falls

The walk around Kaiate Falls isn’t terribly long, but it does get quite steep. Despite the heat of the day, I was glad not to be visiting the falls in winter. I had the feeling that the paths would become uncomfortably muddy and slippery in wet weather. There were many people swimming in the falls, despite the sign at the top advising against it. I suppose as long as you don’t have any open wounds, and don’t swallow any of the water… It really is a pity about New Zealand’s waterways.

Kaiate Falls

But they’re lovely to look at. Check out The North Island’s 10 Best Waterfalls – although I’d probably replace Hunua Falls with Kaiate Falls now!

Kaiate Falls

After going to the falls, we went to the nearby Papamoa Beach. There’s nothing particularly special about Papamoa Beach, but the Bluebiyou Restaurant, which overlooks it, has wonderful food. Every mouthful of my mushroom risotto tasted divine, but I wanted to order everything on the menu! I’m looking forward to going back next time I’m in Tauranga.

Although I don’t think Papamoa Beach is particularly special, it’s still a very popular beach. And, I suppose, if it was the first New Zealand beach you’d ever seen, you’d be impressed. It’s not as crowded as Mount Maunganui’s main beach, being further along the coast from the Mount, and you can still bodyboard there.

Kaiate Falls

So… Kaiate Falls: if your visit to the Bay of Plenty is fleeting, don’t bother with the falls, as there are lots of other things you should see first, BUT if you’re going to be there a while, the falls are a great place to go. And here’s a bonus: if you have a self-contained campervan rental, you can stay at Kaiate Falls for up to three nights for FREE, and you don’t even have to book. For more New Zealand campervan hire holiday advice, check out my tips for travelling New Zealand in a motorhome.

Hope you’re all still having a wonderful summer. (Or winter!) See you next week.

How I Adopted My Kiwi Identity and Never Looked Back – A Guest Post by Matt Hetherington

In September 1995, at the mere age of 5 years old, I left my country of birth, England. A country I would to this day never set eyes on again. My parents had decided it was time for a fresh start, we left our life and our family behind and ventured to what seemed like the end of the world.

Before long my accent was gone, I began school and I started my life in New Zealand. Memories of the UK fell into the distant past and I quickly began to discover that New Zealand wasn’t a bad place at all.

Probably most fortunate of all was where my parents decided to settle. After a year in Auckland and it’s traffic and average weather, we relocated to Tauranga.

To this day Tauranga has remained to be one of my favourite places. It’s just incredibly peaceful and pleasant. There are around 2400 hours of sunshine in a year and enough sand and surf for any keen beachgoer. Summer in Tauranga made me quickly adopt the city as my home, and despite not having lived there for some time now, I still see it as my favourite place in New Zealand. I enjoyed walking on the beach in the summer and hiking up The Mount, especially when I had friends from other cities and places with me.

MattHetheringtonMountMaunganuiView

View from Mount Maunganui / Matt Hetherington

So What Is It I Love About New Zealand?

Geographic Diversity

It’s really a unique place. It seems like a small country but the terrain is forever changing. In 2012 when I moved for 6 months from Hamilton (North Island) to Christchurch (South Island), I almost felt like I had moved countries again. Within one small pair of islands there is a horizon full of bush/forests, snowy alps, volcanoes on land, volcanoes at sea, hills, surf beaches, peaceful bays, glaciers and more.

I think one of the nicest things is that everywhere is so close to the sea or a large body of water. Sometimes surf and bays can be separated by a small spit of land like in Bowentown, Waihi Beach or Mount Maunganui. We used to spend the early afternoon swimming in the bay in the calm water and then after lunch head over to the surf beach with the camping ground square in the middle of both. It was perfect.

FOOD!

Foodstore DessertIt is as diverse as it’s population. Now on my trips home I usually reside in Auckland, one thing I enjoy there is the food. Now spending so much time in the USA I can say that the food culture in New Zealand is amazing. The large Asian population in Auckland city provides a really good standard of Asian cuisine, actually I would rate the Dim Sum in Auckland among some of the best I have ever had. The cafe culture here is just awesome, I think what I really like is the quality of the food. Even our fast food seems to have much better standards than other places.

The agriculture in New Zealand means that fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and seafood are all really great quality and that makes the food outstanding!

The People

Native KiwiGenerally speaking I have enjoyed growing up with the people in this country and have, for a long time, identified as one of them, a kiwi. I became a NZ Citizen very late, in 2008 in fact, a long time after moving to New Zealand. I think New Zealanders have a sense of ‘chill’, they are laid back to the point of probably being seen as lazy by foreigners. The lifestyle is easy going, they are creative and fun people.

New Zealand was more than a home to me, it really is a beautiful country. Although I have spread my wings again and am basing myself in the USA very soon, I will be visiting home frequently (probably in the summer). I think one of the only disadvantages for travellers is that it is so far away and can cost a lot to travel to, but for me it’s coming home so it’s a necessary expense!

The more I heard about the UK and how it was changing the less compelled I felt to make a trip home, my family went on numerous occasions but I never took the opportunity to go with them. Perhaps someday soon I will make the trip but I don’t think it will change the fact that I’m a kiwi at heart 🙂

kiwi-309620_640Matt Hetherington is a 25-year-old travelling professional table tennis athlete from New Zealand. Born in the UK and now residing in the United States he operates two blogs, www.mhtabletennis.com for his table tennis fans and a new blog about his travel experiences, www.pongventure.com. He identifies as a kiwi and has represented New Zealand for his entire playing and coaching career.

Classic Flyers – Somewhere to Go if You’re in the Bay of Plenty

Something you might not know about the Tauranga/Mount Maunganui area is it has a rather good aviation museum. It’s called Classic Flyers and you can find it at Tauranga Airport. Now I’m not really interested in planes, but, unfortunately for me, my dad is, which is why I found myself there a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly diverted.

RedPlane

I’d been to Tauranga Airport a few times, picking up my visiting grandfather and attending the Tauranga Airshow, but I’d never been to the museum. It has a surprisingly nice café that’s wonderfully decorated, and the gift shop is a haven for modelling nerds. It’s a very small museum – the size of a hangar, basically, but we managed to spend quite a bit of time there.

It cost $15 each to get in and there was a kid’s birthday party going on when we arrived. I was jealous of them climbing into the gunner tower – what is that thing? Is it called a gunner tower? I obviously wasn’t paying much attention. I was too distracted by the Star Wars music going through my head. You know, this bit:

My dad’s been to Classic Flyers heaps. He was taking flying lessons. You can do that there, and book one-of flights in classic planes. Dad learned how to fly a glider because that was cheapest. I’m sure he’d rather have flown a Spitfire. There’s a Spitfire in the museum, or at least a full-scale replica. I’m sure it’s great if you love old planes. There’s this biggish one you can go in. I hit my head.

There was an awesome temporary exhibit on about the experiences of the local ANZACS – the Australians and New Zealanders sent off to fight in World War I. 2015 is the centenary of the Gallipoli tragedy, so there’s been special emphasis put on ANZAC commemorations this year. The exhibit was beautifully done and worth the ticket price alone.

Uh, what else to say about it? Planes. If you’re travelling around New Zealand and/or looking for something to do in Tauranga/Mount Maunganui, and if you’ve got kids, or you’re especially interested in aviation history… or if you’re looking for a nice café, I suppose… drop in on Classic Flyers.

AreYouMyMummy

P.S. I found this in the ANZAC exhibit and simply couldn’t resist… Any Doctor Who fans in? All together now: “Are you my mummy?”

Why Living in Tauranga Ruins You for Life

I live in Tauranga, New Zealand. But not for much longer. The time has come to fly the nest.

To Hamilton.

Laugh all you want. Hamilton’s a nice place. (I’ve written about it here – fingers crossed I won’t have to eat my words!) But it’s not as nice as Tauranga.

Living in Tauranga has ruined me for anywhere else.

Just yesterday, we visited our local beach and took a few pictures.

Mount Beach 2Tauranga Rocks 4Pilot Bay

Yes, that’s our local beach. That’s Mount Maunganui, known locally as the Mount. Well, actually, as the Mount is situated at the end of a very narrow peninsula that has a beach on either side, that’s two of our many local beaches. And if you walk around the base of the Mount, you’ll find many more miniature beaches and so be able to claim your own private beach. God, I love living in Tauranga.

Mount Bench 2

Tauranga is the perfect place for a holiday. In fact, my family came here for a holiday about ten years ago. I never imagined we’d end up living here.

Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday ParkThere’s a holiday park right at the foot of the Mount. (That’s it in the photograph.) If you ever hire a campervan in New Zealand, you should totally take it there.

There are hot pools right next-door. Locals get a discount, (you just have to take in a bill or something to prove you live in Tauranga,) but so do patrons of the holiday park.

Also, just across the road is a very nice ice cream parlour called Copenhagen Cones. This place even does baby cones for $1 – why, oh why can’t ALL ice cream parlours do this?

Proud TuiYesterday, we took advantage of the glorious spring weather to walk around the base of the Mount. The sun was really hot, but the Mount base track is partly shaded and you get a cooling breeze off the sea. The pohutukawa trees on both sides of the track were teeming with tuis showing off to attract mates. In summer, the track is resplendent with the Christmas-red blooms of the pohutukawa.

I found a wonderful place for a picnic.

Mount Bench

And I observed a native Kiwi in its natural habitat.

Native Kiwi

It was a good day.

Mount Base Track

 

Shopping in Downtown Tauranga

Red Square, Tauranga

Tauranga is the Bournemouth of New Zealand. Affectionately known as God’s Waiting Room, it’s the place where old white people go to die. Before they shuffle off, though, they can play lawn bowls, tend their gardens and relax upon the abundance of nearby beaches, enjoying the most hours of sunshine in New Zealand. (A distinction Tauranga hotly contests with Nelson.)

Young people complain that there’s nothing for them to do in Tauranga, but that’s rubbish. I love Tauranga. My favourite thing to do is go shopping in the city centre – well, town centre, really; Tauranga’s a tiny city.

sculptureIt’s a great place to shop – far better than the centre of Auckland in my opinion, unless you’re looking for teenage/twenty-something clothing; there isn’t much of that, admittedly, when compared with the range of clothing available for middle-aged women, though I’ve never had a problem finding what I want. It’s the non-clothes shops I like: the knickknack shops, the bookshops and the gift shops. They’re simply more unique than the equivalent shops in Auckland, and they’re all located in one convenient little area.

It’s true that there aren’t as nearly many bookshops as there used to be, (and I lament their loss in a previous post, Killing the Thing We Love: The Demise of New Zealand’s Bookshops,) but more knickknack shops are popping up all the time. And only some of them are twee to point of being sickening.

Shopping in downtown Tauranga is fun and extremely pleasant – for women, at least. The streets are all good-looking and there are cafes galore.

I would like to make special mention of the Chantilly Cream Vintage Tea Shop, though. It’s lovely, all decked out like your posh grandmother’s living room for high tea and scones. For all its traditional charm, the range of different teas it has encourages you to try something new, such as a chocolate-flavoured tea, or perhaps vanilla and citrus. The teas come in beautiful cups, and each teapot has its own unique cosy. It has a sense of ceremony about its tea that other cafes just don’t, and its food is very good too. The menu is limited, but each item on it is scrumptious and arrives in a timely fashion. The staff are nice, the atmosphere is friendly, and there are tins of tea available for you to buy as gifts. Well worth a visit.

Downtown Tauranga 031But downtown Tauranga isn’t all tea and trinkets. There’s a free-to-enter art gallery, two cinemas, a theatre, a library, and a whole array of fashionable bars and restaurants. These are located along one long seafront street called the Strand.

Walking along the Strand on a sunny day is brilliant. There are fountains, gardens and a wonderful playground, all overlooking the Tauranga Harbour. You can go on cruises around the harbour, including ones that take you out to see dolphins.

As it happens, my two favourite Tauranga restaurants aren’t actually on the Strand. The sumptuously decorated Collar and Thai lies above the shops on Devonport Road, next to the Rialto cinema. Every dish there is just exquisite and the staff are delightful. The Café Versailles is on the neighbouring Grey Street, and is quite simply the best French restaurant I’ve come across in my life. (Admittedly I haven’t yet been to France.) If you want a heart-warming atmosphere and mind-blowing food, this is the place.

Seriously, if you’re travelling around New Zealand, don’t just pass through Tauranga on your way to Mount Maunganui. Spend a day sampling the delights of Tauranga’s CBD.

Tip for campervanners: NZ campervan rentals can camp for FREE right in the centre of Tauranga. Head for Memorial Park, Marine Park, Fergusson Park or Greerton Park. (Memorial Park has a pool, crazy golf, an awesome playground and a miniature train you can ride on!)

For more places to go in Tauranga, see my Top 10 Things to Do in Tauranga list.

Downtown Tauranga 022

The Mount

Like Mount Fujiyama and the River Avon, New Zealand’s Mount Maunganui has a tautological name: it literally means Mount Big Mountain. Officially, it’s supposed to be called Mauao, but no one can say that, so everyone just calls it The Mount.

the mount 002

It’s not much of a mountain really, more a big hill. It’s quite pretty, sitting there at the end of the peninsula, overlooking Tauranga harbour on one side and the Bay of Plenty on the other. You can be up and down it in less than two hours, and there are different tracks for different levels of fitness. There’s even a track that goes around the base, which makes for a very nice walk indeed, as the waves crashing into the boulders are fascinating.

Mount 3

There are sheep roaming over the Mount, and lots of birds darting through the trees on either side of the paths, but what you go up (and around) it for are the views. On a sunny day, when the pohutukawa are in bloom, you get the green slopes, the red trees, the multicoloured rocks, the golden sand and the crystal-blue sea, not to mention the city stretching along the sandbank.

Mount 6

Two things you must have when walking up the Mount are a hat and a bottle of water. The track can get fairly dusty in summer. Oh, and a camera – the sight of Matakana Island from the top is something you’ll definitely want to take a picture of.

Dolphin 5Mount Maunganui is also the name of the settlement at the foot of the Mount, adjacent to the city of Tauranga. It’s a rather posh place, full of penthouses. It’s pretty much the premiere beach resort of New Zealand. There’s some nice shopping to be done there, and nice eating, and there’s lots of adventurous activities you can book, such as paragliding, jet skiing, kayaking and swimming with dolphins.

What makes Mount Maunganui special is it’s two different types of beaches in one. The Mount is connected to Tauranga by a long, narrow piece of land. On one side is Pilot Bay, the entrance to Tauranga Harbour, where the water is calm and lake-like. It’s great to swim in with small children, or to kayak around in peace. On the other side is a surfing beach. That’s also great to swim in, but you do have to be careful. It’s a lot more lively on the surfing side. Come summer, it’s got heaps of sunbathing locals and tourists. At the base of the Mount, the two beaches are about a minutes’ walk apart from one another.

Mount 2

What’s great is there’s a holiday park right at the bottom of the Mount, with toilets, showers, laundries, kitchens and barbecues. You have book because it’s so popular. I know a family that lives in Tauranga and takes their secondhand campervan to the Mount every year, as if they didn’t live close enough already!

Right next to the campervan park is a collection of salt water hot pools. They’re the only sea water pools in New Zealand, naturally heated. I love going there with my mum. You can get massages there, but we never have. We get massaged enough by the huge jets in the middle pool, and by ‘massaged’ I mean ‘pummelled’. Good for the shoulders, apparently. It’s so nice in the warm water I never want to get out.

Before my family moved to Tauranga, we came on a holiday to Mount Maunganui, but we didn’t get to climb it. It was on fire. Still, we had a good time standing on the beach watching the helicopters scoop up gallons of sea water to throw on the flames.

Mount 8

Beached As, Bro

Nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders live within five kilometres of a beach.

And they’re pretty gorgeous beaches. Even the average ones are far more picturesque than the likes of Skegness and Cleethorpes, which were my nearest beaches growing up in Britain – and they were each a long train ride away, as opposed to at the bottom of the road.

In fact, looking back, both Skegness and Cleethorpes are extremely depressing in comparison to what I have now. I remember weary stretches of grey punctuated by flaking piers and consolatory donkey rides.

You don’t seem to get donkey rides at New Zealand beaches, or those creaky, old-fashioned fairgrounds. What you do get is nature at its most glorious; views that outshine even the dramatic shores of Cornwall and Wales.

Beach 1

A view from a friend’s beach house in the Coromandel

Still, New Zealand beaches aren’t what I thought they’d be when I was first told we were moving here. The ten-year-old me thought they’d be all sparkling, white sands, crystal-blue waters, and coconut palms providing shade and convenient snacks. Imagine my amazement, therefore, when we arrived in Waiuku and my dad drove us the ten minutes (the closest beach was ten minutes’ walk) to Kariotahi: rugged cliffs, wild waves and black sand.

Seriously – BLACK sand.

It’s volcanic, also called ironsand, and is mined on the West Coast of New Zealand to make steel, yet it’s the softest thing I’ve ever felt. When my tender, British feet stepped onto it for the first time, I actually gasped. I felt like I was walking on velvet – and silky, high-quality velvet at that.

There are only two problems with black sand: it gets way hotter than normal sand and can burn your feet, and it’s very difficult to rid yourself of. But totally worth it!

The black sand beach at my boyfriend's parents' house

The black sand beach at my boyfriend’s parents’ house

Two of the first things my parents bought me upon arriving in New Zealand were a wetsuit and a bodyboard. Bodyboarding – or “Boogieboarding” – is basically surfing for wusses. I loved riding the waves at Kariotahi, but it sometimes got too dangerous and we had to stop. Lots of New Zealand beaches, including Kariotahi, have Surf Life Saving Clubs operating at them. They put a pair of flags out to mark where it’s safe to surf, and watch for people in trouble. I’ve never had to be saved, but I have experienced being dragged a scarily large distance by a rip and battling to get back between the flags.

West Coast beaches may be more dangerous to surf at, but the soft sand means you don’t scrape your knees when you get beached!

A black sand beach next to my boyfriend's parents' house

The next beach over from the one above

It’s impossible to holiday in New Zealand without hitting a beach. Most of them have places to camp nearby, and many of these have barbecue facilities. A barbecue on the beach is a very New Zealand thing to do – it’s sometimes said that’s what the Kiwi Christmas dinner is – but the most traditional beach food is, as it is in Britain, fish and chips. Or “fush and chups” in the New Zealand accent.

And ice-cream, of course.

Beach 4

Beaches aren’t a special treat in New Zealand, they are a fact of life, and, as such, are often taken for granted. As a teenager, I was guilty of grumpily refusing to go to the beach – I would never have turned down an opportunity to go to the beach in England! Then again I was a little kid in England. Still, I recently told myself off for taking the Mount Maunganui beach (where I lived with my parents before moving away for university) for granted – a quick reminisce of Skeggy got me appreciating where I was once more.

Mount Maunganui is the perfect beach for sunbathing on. You can also surf, swim, fish, kayak, jet ski, paraglide, climb the Mount, cruise the harbour… But I’ll write a proper article about it another time. It’s very different from the beach at, say, White Island…

Beach 6

You probably wouldn’t want to sunbath on that.

Beach 5

There is, however, a volcanic beach where it’s absolute bliss to sunbath. At Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel, you can actually dig your own spa pool! You see, hot springs filter up through the sand, so at low tide it’s really warm. I must confess that I haven’t actually been there, but I’d love to go. Maybe next time we hire a campervan, we can stay a night around there. Hope so. It’s supposed to be one of the best beaches in the world.

No surprise it’s in New Zealand.