Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple 

This morning we visited the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple (North Island – NZ) in Flatbush.

Looking at it from the outside you don’t quite grasp the size of it until you enter. The temple occupies an area of 4 hectares. The temple was officially opened in 2007.

The courtyard was designed to look similar to farming fields and the grounds around the temple are just immaculate.

There is also a wishing bell that you can make a wish and say a little prayer then ring the bell.

Along the courtyard are trees where from their branches hang ribbons which you can purchase from the temple and write your wish/prayer on then hang them on the tree.

Also dotted around the zen gardens are these cute Buddha statues.

The Bell and the Drum are important Buddhist instruments. The bell is made of cast iron and weighs 3000kg, the Drum weighs 300kg. Both instruments are used daily to signify the start and the end of each day.

Next we visited the Pagoda.  The Pagoda at Fo Guang Shan is built like a memorial garden. This place is not only a place where loved ones are laid to rest but also a place where you can offer respect and remembrance. There is a big water feature at the entrance of this as water is the source of life.

After this we went and visited the art galleries within the temple. There was a great gallery especially for kids where they get to see how the Buddha grew up. It was really pretty and colourful.

In the photo above you will see little coloured papers pinned to the wall which kids have written their wishes on.

After all of that it was time for something to eat so we headed to the Water Drop Vegetable cafe. The cafe has beautiful rustic wooden furniture. Adam and I ordered the curried roti snack! It was delicious.

There are a few options for kids too. Miss K had some plain hot chips, Miss C had a muffin. There is also an array of tea available.

The temple is free to enter, there are a few donation boxes around the place where you can make a donation.

The only thing I would say is that if you are taking kids they need to be respectful of the temple and what it stands for. I have seen a few kids this morning that were running around and climbing on the statues and being extremely loud. It is not a playground, and there were people praying at the different shrines throughout the day.  So be mindful.

It was a great family outing today and we got a lot out of it.

Hope you visit it soon.

Ronell x


Art Like No Other

A couple of years back we visited Gibbs farm.  Gibbs Farm is privately owned and is located near the Kaipara Harbour, the biggest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere.  It is here at Gibb’s farm that a few artists get to showcase their sculptures on the 1000 acre farm.

The farm is only open monthly to the public by prior appointment, where you get to walk around and view each sculpture. There is no fee to enter the farm. They offer a few dates where they take bookings but be quick!  Spaces book out so you  need to book in advance.  We visited in Spring, and there was a lot of rain!!  The walk around the farm takes a good 3-4 hours, and trust me it is long, not sure how, but our girls managed to walk the whole way without complaining.  Until that time when Miss C needed to do a wee and there were no toilets near us, so we had to find a tree pretty quick smart!


You can take younger children but the roads are a bit rough so not that great for strollers unless you have one of those heavy-duty 4×4 prams that can go off roading.  Even though the weather was pretty shit, it didn’t stop people visiting.  The only time the farm is closed is during the winter months.  There are plenty of animals about too, Ostrich, zebras, giraffes you name it.  The cool thing is you can get up close and personal with the giraffes and feed them.



In summer it would be even more amazing, as you can pack a picnic and sit down anywhere really and soak it all in.  If you are going in wet weather, definitely pack a spare set of clothes to change into once you have finished your visit.


Both our girls loved the freedom of exploring, and the sheer size of the sculptures where breath-taking!



We had a great time visiting and it wore out the kids too…hooray!  If you would like more information on Gibbs Farm, click here.

To make a booking to visit, click here for the reservations form.



Ronell x

Secret Swimming Hole No More!

There isn’t a New Zealander that I know who doesn’t like a bit of adventure and anything that involves swimming.  So I thought I would share with you one of the “secret swimming holes” as listed on The Urban List many times that we frequently visit over summer.

Travel just 45 minutes north from Auckland towards Warkworth and you will come across the The Mahurangi Cement Works aka “Old Cement Works”.  But first, a little history lesson about the place.


The founder of New Zealand’s cement industry, Nathaniel Wilson (1836-1919), emigrated from Glasgow with his family when he was 6 years old. Nathaniel initially trained as a shoemaker, but in 1864 he purchased a small piece of land adjacent to his parents block south of Warkworth village.

Close by, John Southgate had been making lime since 1851 by burning local limestone in a kiln. With limestone deposits on his land Nathaniel decided to give it a go too, building his own lime kiln in 1866. With this he started manufacturing Roche lime, used in plaster and mortar.  After many experiments, by 1885 Nathaniel and his brothers, John and James, began trading as J Wilson and Company. Theirs was the first enterprise to commercially manufacture Portland cement in the Southern Hemisphere.

However, early production was challenging because of the variability of the local limestone. This was eventually overcome, with advice from Mr Pond, by adding pipi shells from the Mahurangi River, and later from Clevedon, to increase the lime content.

Although Wilson’s invested heavily in new machinery and processes, by 1918 the company was voluntarily wound up and amalgamated with the New Zealand Portland Cement Company, whose works were at Limestone Island. It was there that most of the cement was then produced, while the Mahurangi works focused on hydrated lime. By 1926 the closure of the works was imminent and machinery was transferred to Portland (near Whangarei) before the Mahurangi works were closed in 1929.  Source:  Google


There you go,  now history is not for everyone but places like this I love researching into what it was before and then looking at what’s left behind.

The swimming hole is filled naturally with fresh water. The surrounding edges of the swimming hole are lime stone so you will need to be careful as it is slippery.  It gets very deep very quickly, so if you are not a confident swimmer I would suggest taking a flotation device.


The water is pretty cold but perfect on a hot summer’s day.  At first it does look like something you would find in a horror movie, like something is lurking under the water (hope I didn’t scare you) but just jump in, I did!  The place does fill up with lots of other families so it pays to go a little early.  After enjoying a swim, walk around the grounds and have a look at the ruins of the cement works.  Some areas of the ruins are fenced off due to it being dangerous with falling rocks.   There are toilets on site and plenty of car parking space.



Hopefully you will visit this amazing place soon, and even if you don’t swim head on down and go for a wander around the grounds.


Ronell x

Camping Diaries – Shelly Beach Top 10 Holiday Park

This year we returned to the Shelly Beach Holiday Park, reason is, last summer we had booked to camp here however the Coromandel were hit with some freak storms and a lot of the campsite especially tent sites were damaged and bogged down.  So we were put up in the Homestead which was a very old house on the grounds, and it was beautiful.


We returned this year to camp in our tent.  It’s a 2.5hr drive from Auckland so it doesn’t take too long to get there, but being the Coromandel there are lots windy roads along the coast and mountains which seems to stretch out the journey a bit.  We were very lucky when we arrived with the weather, it was a bit overcast so putting up the tent wasn’t too bad as it was not stinking hot.  However it took us about 2.5 hours in itself just putting up the tent and fully setting up the place.  We were wrecked!

Our girl’s don’t sleep in sleeping bags as they find it a bit restrictive (actually neither do we) so instead I got them these single bed comforter sets from The Warehouse which are perfect.  Once camping is done they get washed and put back in their bags for the next trip away.  The following day our friends arrived so that was pretty exciting, it’s always great going away with company.  We helped them set up and then it was time to relax.  As you can see from the photo below, yes we do have matching tents!  These are the Kathmandu Retreat 360 tents and its so spacious you never feel cramped.


When we arrived the campground was fairly empty but it didn’t take long for it to fill up! There were loads of caravans and campervans that checked in and a whole heap of tents.  I loved going around and checking out everyone’s set up.  The campers around the place were also so friendly to each it was great.



I found the campground to be really clean including the facilities like the shower blocks and kitchens.  They were always clean and are really big and spacious.  There is a laundry on site as well.



The campground doesn’t have a massive playground, just a small climbing frame with a slide, but they do have this amazing jumping pillow which is huge.  We never saw the kids all day, after breakfast they would all head off towards the playground and we would only see them when it was meal times!  They made friends with the other kids from the playground as well, and that’s the great thing about camping, you get to form this amazing community and connect with other people.  We also took our swing ball set which provided some entertainment for them as well.


When the tide has gone out and the sun is starting to set, it’s the best time to take the kids to the beach and look for crabs and pipi’s. The kids had loads of fun looking for all sorts of treasure on the beach.


It’s the first holiday that we actually got so much time to sit back and relax.  We didn’t do too much, just drove around to a few places to have a look at the beaches, we had lunch at The Mussel Kitchen which is an absolute must if you are heading down to Coromandel.  I even managed to read so much during this trip something that I was never able to do at previous holidays, so that just goes to show how much time we had to chill!

The only glitch to the trip this time was….


My husband is notorious for snoring, this time though he was joined by my friends husband too!  Due to the close proximity of our tents, you can imagine the volume!  It seems like they had a bit of a duet going all night long.  So after two nights of getting no sleep at all, literally nothing, that at 5:30am one morning I was walking on the beach and by 6am showered and ready for the day!  Anyway I should explain that I am an extremely light sleeper and I think over the years it has gotten worse, which makes sleeping for me a bit of a problem.  So the only way for me to get any sleep was to sleep in the car!  That’s right, for the remaining nights of the holiday I slept in the back seat of our car.  I had makeshift curtains with some towels and put the seats back and I was set.  Even though my body ached at least I got some sleep!

Besides this glitch, we had an amazing holiday and wish it was for longer!  The next trip certainly will be, I just need to sort my sleeping out (any tips welcome)!

Happy camping!

Ronell x


Exploring the Coromandel Peninsula

Our annual summer camping trip this year took us back to Coromandel.  We camped at the Western side of the peninsula at Shelly Beach. The great thing about Coromandel no matter which side you’re on it is so picturesque and there are lots of places to see and discover.

This blog post is going to be more of a photo feature post, showing you some of the beautiful scenery that we came across along the way.

Shelly Beach



High tide at Shelly Beach was usually around midday to late afternoon so perfect time for the kids to swim, however the wind was a bit cold and they didn’t get to do much swimming.  When the tide went out it was a great time to look for crabs and watch the sun setting.




Wyuna Bay

This bay is just a short drive from Coromandel town, we were on the road searching for a beach that the kids could swim at and came across this bay which was just stunning.  The water was the most beautiful colour.



Oamaru Bay

This bay is just around the corner from Shelly Beach and slightly deeper so if you’re looking to have a good swim where it’s not too shallow then this is the bay to head to.



Waitete Bay

We stumbled across this bay on our way to Coleville.  To access the beach you will need to drive down a dirt road, then park the car.  Once that is done follow the pathway down towards the beach.




Colville Town

This little town lies 27km north of Coromandel.  It’s very small and has a general store/ petrol station, a couple of cafes where you will find an abundance of homemade preserves, and home-baked cakes.  There is a post office which there girls were very fascinated by it. There is a shop where you will find buddhist and indian products, things like clothing and trinkets.




The next time you are in Coromandel jump in the car and start exploring!  There is so much to see and discover in this beautiful part of New Zealand.

Happy travelling!

Ronell x


A Trip Down the Puhoi River

Now that the weather is starting to finally feel like summer here in Auckland, it was time for us to make the most of it.  Kayaking down the Puhoi River is something that we have always wanted to do and now that the girls are a bit older we decided it’s the perfect time.

We booked 2 double kayaks and the cost for that was $200, we booked the early morning session for a couple of reasons, mainly with kayaking you have a short window based on tides.  Also our girls are early risers so it made sense booking the first slot.  Travelling up North in the holidays there is always traffic so going first thing means we didn’t get stuck in any traffic and stress about not making our allocated time.

Because both girls have not kayaked before they got a lesson from one of the owners so that was really good.  We all then got fitted with life jackets and then we were shown the route on a map that we will be kayaking along.  The route runs from the Puhoi River all the way down to Wenderholm Regional Park.  You can only go one way, you can’t sort of turn around and go back to the start.  I bet you are wondering well how the heck do you get back? Have no fear, there is a shuttle bus that is waiting at Wenderholm to pick you up and take you back to Puhoi where your car is parked.

The distance of the kayak trip is 8km long and takes two hours to get to the end.  The kayaks we used had rudders in them so we had a bit of help when we needed to steer the kayak.  Now with taking children along the ride, our girls are 10 and almost 6 so they were not too little, however, Chloe who is almost 6 did ask a couple of times how much longer till we get to the end!!!  They did really well and actually did paddle most of the way.  If your child can’t handle sitting in a confined space for that amount of time I would suggest get a babysitter and just the parents give it a go.

Also it’s hard to paddle once you get closer to the end as the estuary is very big and open so the currents and wind makes it a bit more challenging and also makes your muscles scream out just that little bit more.  I honestly thought that the day after I wasn’t going to be able to use my arms, but surprisingly it was my calf muscles that had enough!  Oh the pain, probably from controlling the rudders the whole way.

Make sure you are prepared, plenty of sunblock and water bottles.  You are allowed to take a bag onto the kayak so you can pack some essentials in there.  We didn’t get too wet but having some dry warm clothes in the car wouldn’t hurt.  Don’t forget the snacks, because after kayaking for that long, everyone is hungry!

It’s great fun and at times we just didn’t paddle at all and relaxed and talked for a bit. The water and scenery were beautiful.

So go on and get cruising down that river!


Ronell x

Whoa totally Whoa!!!

Whoa studios is the new family entertainment place to be in Auckland.  You can find the studio’s in Henderson.

They put on amazing shows for the kids. So if you are heading to the studios, there is no entry fee to go into the grounds.  If the kids just want to play on the playground then you only buy a pass for that, or if you are seeing a show then you pay to the see the show. The general admission cost is $25 for the show, child ticket holders also receive complimentary pass to the playground.  If you don’t want to watch a show then you can pay $10 for a child over 3 for an all day access to the park.  Under 3’s are free with a paying sibling. Then you sit back and buy a coffee and relax.

The park is great and our girls loved the Whoa Web, which is New Zealand’s only crocheted play net.  We tried to convince them to go check out other parts of the playground but nope they didn’t want to!

So whilst the kids are playing you can grab a coffee from The Grounds Restaurant/Cafe. The Grounds Restaurant is owned and run by Executive Chef Ben Bailey, and it was great to see him in action in the kitchen.  I love that you can see all the way through the kitchen, and it was busy, lot’s of hands on deck.  The reason for this is because everything is made in house fresh everyday, including the array of ice creams which include vegan ice creams as well.

The idea behind the restaurant is based around family eating so you order a few dishes and share, now don’t be mistaken in thinking that because it says “family” you will find chicken nuggets and chips on the menu…oh no!  There is no trace of that sort of meals anywhere, which I was rather pleased about.  You can order kids bolognese, cheese toasties, chicken tenders, etc.  It’s homemade wholesome food.

There is also a lovely little toy store in there, where you can buy merchandise and other toys and great seating areas inside to relax in.

It’s a wonderful place and we will certainly be back again!

Ronell x