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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Enjoy!

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.

History

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Enjoy

Ronell x

Epic Auckland Beaches

We have had two cracker Auckland long weekends with brilliant weather, finally!  So it was time to hit the beach, it’s what we Kiwi’s do best!  Pack the chilly bin, grab your beach umbrella and togs, and you’re set.

Orewa Beach

A drive up North led us to Orewa Beach.  This beach is part of the Hibiscus Coast and is only 20km north of the Auckland Harbour bridge.  We headed to the Arundel Reserve end where there is a bit of an inlet into a small river.  This area was perfect for the kids to paddle and even better for much younger children, because of the depth of the water.

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Cheltenham Beach

Cheltenham Beach is a beautiful beach located in Devonport.  It is 1.5km away from the ferry and you can walk to beach soaking in the sites and admiring many of the Victorian Villas.

There are plenty of grassy areas where you can set up your picnic and relax for the day.  At one end of the beach there are stairs which lead up to North Head.  From the top you can take in the spectacular views of the beach and Rangitoto Island.

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Maraetai Beach

This beach is just beautiful.  Situated on what is called the Pohutukawa Coast in East Auckland.  It is a safe swimming beach for kids.  The sand is not as fine, it does have a bit more shell around.  Here you will find plenty of grass areas to set up your picnic under the great pohutukawa trees which provide plenty of shade. Also in the area are great little cafes where you can pick up a coffee or an ice cream, and if you were not keen on packing food,  well then you can dine in them too.

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There are a few beautiful beaches in this area.  Before getting to Maraetai you will pass Omana Regional Park, which you can also swim at.  Also don’t forget to head out to Beachlands there are a few smaller beaches there too.

Back Beach, Castor Bay

Well to access this beach you will need to encounter the famous Kennedy Park Stairs. There is plenty parking at the Kennedy Park Reserve, which is home to some gun emplacements and tunnels from the Second World War.  The tunnels open every second Sunday of each month between 11am – 2pm for guided walks by volunteers.  You will also find a big playground at the reserve which will serve hours of entertainment for the kids.

We decided to head down to the beach, via the stairs of doom.  Boy oh boy what where we thinking!!  My legs felt like lead on the way back up all these stairs.  Loads of people were training by running up and down these stairs.  I was just dying watching them.

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Hope you get to visit some of these epic beaches at some stage, and enjoy them as much as we did, except the stairs I didn’t like it much!

Ronell x

Whoa Studios..is 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

Soaking up some Sunshine

On Friday Auckland really turned the weather on, it was a perfect summers day. I got on my exercise gear and instead of doing my usual neighbourhood walk I headed to Milford Beach. I’ve always wanted to do the Milford Beach to Takapuna Beach walk so here I am. 


The walk runs along the shore line and over lots of rocks and narrow pathways. Some of the rocks can be slippery as well so good walking shoes is required. Also make sure you walk this when it’s low tide and definitely not when it’s hide tide or during storms (obviously). 


There are moments when I found myself getting a little wet but not too bad! There are lots of dogs around at both beaches before 10am and after 6pm during daylight savings. They are leash free as well. So I power walked whenever I was near any wet dogs!!! Except one very big dog decided to run up to me, to which I almost jumped into the water for an ocean swim!! Luckily he was called away. 


As I mentioned there are bits that are very narrow so you need good footing. This walk is definitely not suited for young children, prams etc I had my headphones on but never actually listened to my music, it was so good just taking in the sights. 


During parts of the walk you do go over private property so you need to be a bit mindful and respectful of this. I think it’s great that the owners allow it. The houses along the coast line were amazing. 


There were a few clouds threatening rain but they held off thank goodness. I found myself looking at my watch a couple of times and thinking about everything I had to do at home. But then I just said to myself screw it, it can all wait. It’s so important during this crazy holiday season that we don’t get caught up in the mad rush and instead take time out to destress and just do something that’s good for the soul. 


I walked all the way to Takapuna Beach Cafe and Store, grabbed a coffee and sat down for a little bit before heading back to Milford Beach. 


Definitely put this on your list of walks to do and make the most of this amazing weather. 

Enjoy

Ronell x

Crystal Mountain!

I have lived in New Zealand for a while now but I have never visited Crystal Mountain!  Since my oldest daughter is into collecting crystals and it was the end of the school holidays, it was time to head on over to this attraction.

Now I had my reservations about this place (maybe I still do) only because of what I have heard.  It is pretty old and run down a bit so hence I was a bit apprehensive.  We got there in the morning so it wasn’t too busy.  The cost to enter was a little expensive, $35 for the ultimate pass which includes the roller coaster, the cost is the same for both adults and children, and it is unlimited rides on everything.  Adam and I chose not to do the roller coaster and pony rides (for obvious reasons)!  So we paid $15 each. First up they sprinted towards the roller coaster.

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That’s our girls hand’s in the air and all!  They loved it, the roller coaster went around 4 times.  They couldn’t get enough of it.

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You can catch the train which takes you around the place for a bit of a tour and you get to see some of the farm animals.  They have a section where there are some big dinosaur’s.  The thing that I thought of as we were going around, was it all looks so empty, but they are doing the best they can with what they have.  I also wondered what this place could become with the right monetary backing!

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Part of your entry fee, is you get a bag of food, well it was more like just hay to feed the animals as you walk around. I tried feeding some of the goats but they were pretty full from being fed by everyone.

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The girls loved the pony rides, you have to wait for a while, especially when it gets busy as there was only one girl taking the  kids around.

There are lots for the kids to do here and it is spread out so you don’t feel too crowded in which is good, and by 11am this place got pretty crowded.  Miss 10 was not impressed because she had to sit in the back of the yellow car and didn’t get a turn to drive (this was her 2nd time there really).

By this stage, they have been on the roller coaster twice so about 8 times round the course and by now I was getting pretty hungry, and surprisingly they were so busy with everything around them they never asked us for food, until we said it was lunch time.  That has got to be a good thing.

I was so impressed with the cafe, I ordered the smoked salmon toastie, Adam had the BLT stack and all the kids meals were $8 each.  The other foods were your average cafe prices mostly over $10 unless you were having cakes etc.  But I was eyeing out all the food coming out of that kitchen and they all looked amazing.

It was time for us to head to the crystal shop (my favourite part).  Seriously there were so many crystals I didn’t know which one to get.  I’ve read people’s stories of how crystals choose them and I was walking around thinking which one is going to choose me, I was confused as hell!  I was looking for signs or something, or maybe I was just loosing my mind, but nothing chose me! The girls loved it, Kiara was in her element going around and explaining each one to us and what they mean etc it was great to see her so enthusiastic about it all.

We then got the lift down to the Crystal Museum which was very fascinating and great to see all the crystals and the countries which some of them were from.

It was a fantastic family outing and what it taught me was from an adults outlook based on just visually how the placed looked, I didn’t have high hopes, but the girls have shown me that from a child’s outlook, it was the best place ever!  Like the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder!”

 

If you would like more information on Crystal Mountain you can click here.

Hope you decide to visit it someday too!

Ronell x