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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Camping Diaries – Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park

Just 2.5 hours north of Auckland you will find this hidden gem.  The Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park.  The park is set amongst lush native bush and a beautiful river that run’s along the boundary of the park.  We camped here over summer with a big group of friends which was so much fun.  The campsites are huge with plenty of space for your tents and gazebos too!

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After setting up the tents, we all decided to take an early evening dip in the river to cool off because it was pretty hot!  Anyway everyone slowly makes their way across some stones and off course the kids are in first.  The next thing I hear my daughter (the oldest) scream out really loud that something bit her!  I’m thinking we are in a river there are no sharks what’s the problem??  Well let me tell you it may not be sharks but there were lots of eels!!!  I was outta there like the superhero Flash, actually I could have been faster than him, and I left Adam and the girls behind….oops! The thing is, because people feed the eels, toes must look like nice juicy food for them.  This didn’t detour us too much people still swam, but we were just extra cautious.

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The campground had such great spaces, plenty of room for the kids to ride their bikes around the place.  We also set up a few games, like swing ball and badminton.

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There is also a big play area for the kids with two trampolines, a sandpit and swings.  It’s surrounded by lots of trees so there is plenty of shade for the kids.

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The facilities at this holiday park is brilliant and always clean.  There were two camp kitchens and free showers.  Plenty of seating areas to have your dinner, whether inside the dining area or outside.  We had a roster system with dinner’s where each family had a turn to cook dinner for everyone.  So during your whole stay you only cook dinner once! Loved that idea.  There are a lot of sand flies, so make sure you have insect repellent. For our girls I bought them insect repellant bands from Kathmandu, which they wore around their ankles the whole time and we never got bitten.  

Further along the park you will find a great swimming hole with a swing, and yes I was brave enough to do it, just wish someone caught that on camera…actually maybe it’s a good thing they didn’t.

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dsc_1406At night you can take your torches and explore the park where you will find lots of glow worms that light up the place.  It was so magical and the kids were in awe of them all.  The park is really peaceful and you can hear all the sounds from the surrounding bush.  The park managers are very strict on noise control as well, they patrol the park when it is close to the curfew, I know this because our group was told to quieten down, we were obviously laughing too loud. But it’s good to know they are vigilant.

The park is just a stone throw away from so many great places to visit.  Just 30km away you will find the Waipoua Forest where you can visit the legendary Tane Mahuta.  It’s a beautiful drive up to the forest and the walk is not too far if you have little kids with you.  dsc_1256

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If you want a great place to swim at then well you need to visit the Kai Iwi Lakes.  I cannot believe that this place is even in New Zealand, seriously you will think you’re at some tropical island!  The lake used to be bordered with Pine Trees however, a lot of these were cut down due to them being a hazard of falling onto the campsite I believe.  So if you are going to visit you will need to take some sort of gazebo or shade tent with you.  During summer there are also food trucks that are there were you can grab something to eat.

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If you want to drive further along then head to Omapere Bay. It has white sandy beaches and lovely grass areas to have a picnic.  There are giant sand dunes on the other side of the Hokianga harbour, which you can take a water taxi to get across.

 

 

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This was one of the best camping holidays that we have been on, and we look forward to returning to Northland.

Happy camping!

Ronell x 

Stepping out in Waihi Beach

Soaking up the sun and sand at Waihi Beach seems so long ago now, when we are stuck with rain and gloomy skies here in Auckland.  So it’s the perfect time to look back and reminisce on our time in Waihi Beach.  I love holidaying in new places each time, as it gives us the opportunity to explore another part of our beautiful country.

It was the first time that my family and I have visited Waihi Beach and I was completely blown away.  The array of shops and cafes, were endless, and really good variety.  The sun was out and holiday makers everywhere walking the main street stopping at shops and cafes and enjoying the sunshine.  I will take you through some of the lovely shop’s and cafes that we have visited whilst down there.

The first store we looked at was Shipshape it is a great boutique store in the heart of Waihi beach village.  They sell beautiful clothing and Balinese designer homeware’s.  I couldn’t get photos of inside the store purely because it was so busy with customers!  That’s a good sign right!

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To the side of this store you can make your way through to The Secret Garden, which is set amongst lush tropical plants, and they have beautiful authentic Balinese seating areas for you to relax in, enjoy a cup of coffee from The Pod, which serves amazing coffee’s and chai lattes and their food is top-notch, with healthy salads on offer and raw delights.  The Secret Garden also has live music playing which really gives the atmosphere something special.  You can still do a bit of shopping here too, there is a little pottery shop and art space where you can pick up some great original paintings.

It was a great to take some time out with the kids and sit back and relax for a bit, before we hit the shops again!

We stopped at Molly’s at the Beach next.  Again, another great store where you can find some pretty good pieces including swimwear.

Further along the road you will come across The French Shop or Au bord de la mer: The French Shop At The Seaside. Here you will find amazing french inspired homeware. I could have spent a long time in this shop just looking around but the kids were standing with their faces pressed to the window, not impressed how long I was taking!

Another great shop that we found which was tucked away in the back behind a lot of the shops was called Inside Out.  You had to walk along a driveway to get to it.  This shop was my kinda shop too, they had modern gifts and plants for inside and out!  If you know me well, you would know I love plants!

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Last but not least was another homeware store called Sunday.  It had some fabulous modern pieces in there, I was eyeing up a few things!  By this stage though the family had left me and started making their way to the car, that was a signal for me to hurry up!

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We are on to the good stuff now FOOD!!  You guys know I love food, from preparing it (most of the time) to eating it (all the time).  Food brings people together, and I love a place where you can get sit back relax and enjoy good food.  On the second night of our stay in Athenree, we knew the All Blacks rugby game against Australia was on, so we needed to find somewhere with a big screen TV and food.  The campground had a big TV but not a lot of room for everyone, and we didn’t really want to cook that night. So we headed to the Waihi Beach RSA, no better place, except everyone had the same idea as us!  The place was packed, and I have to say the food was really good too, we enjoyed our time there, great atmosphere and views looking out over Waihi Beach.

If you are looking for a great spot for lunch then look no further than the Flatwhite. The restaurant is situated right on the beach, it has the perfect location, where you can grab a bite to eat then head on down to the beach!  The kids meals were pretty decent sizes too which is great when you get value for money.   I had the smashed avocado, poached egg with rye toast and a side of bacon (which I must admit I found paying $5 for two pieces of bacon pretty expensive), Adam had the creamy mushrooms on toast.

A visit to the beach would not be complete without an ice cream, and what better place than to stop at the Waihi Beach Hotel.  The ice creams here are incredible, I had the coconut ice cream and Adam had the berry yoghurt scoop, he was not too keen on sharing a cone!

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Waihi Beach is by far one of my favourite town’s and we will definitely visit here often.  We absolutely loved our Labour Weekend camping trip, and this is what a great holiday is all about, good food, good company and good times.

Ronell x