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


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.




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.



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.




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.



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

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

Berry Picking Season

It’s the 1st of December which means it’s officially Summer!  One of the things I love about summer is all the stone fruit and berries available. My kids devour them every time and we go through a lot of fruit.

Something we always wanted to do with the girls is find a strawberry farm where we can pick our own berries and teach them how it all works.  Most of the pick your own (PYO) fields only open on Boxing day.  Now its tradition that a lot of people hit the shops for the big Boxing Day sales, why would anyone do that after just spending the month before at the shops buying stuff for Xmas, go figure! Right back to picking fruit! So why not try something a bit different this Boxing Day and hit the orchards instead.


Last year we headed to Sweet Red orchard to pick our very own strawberries, however we kinda got the timing wrong and went in October!  But we still had a look at all the fields, and bought a few punnet’s of amazing strawberries and off course fresh strawberry ice cream. Even though we went when you couldn’t pick the fruit it was pretty busy.

img_0560I think it’s such a cool thing to do with kids, getting them outside in the fresh air, looking for fruit and seeing where it comes from.  We took this one step further and planted our own strawberries at home and it was super easy to do.  The girls loved watching them grow and then running out and picking them when they were ready.  Organic as it comes.  We bought a couple of the big tubs from Bunning’s Warehouse and drilled a few holes around the bottom.  You can get a bag of Tui Strawberry Mix soil from most garden shops. Once the strawberry plants were planted we added some pea straw and you’re done.


Below is a list of links for Strawberry farms that you can visit and pick your own.  There is one listed for the Hamilton region as well.  I’ve had a look for some Blueberry farms but there isn’t much in the Auckland region at all.

Phil Greig Strawberry Gardens

The Strawberry Farm  (Hamilton)

Sweet Red

Blueberry Country

Mona Vale Blueberries

So I hope you will grab the kids and find a field where you can pick your own berries for summer, and create amazing memories.

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!


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.


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.


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.


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.

dsc_1356dsc_1357There was lots of fun had by all swinging into that!  If you were after something a bit more relaxing, then you could always float down the river on rubber tubes, which a lot of people got into.

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


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.





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 

Cheese Heaven

Now that the weather is somewhat getting warmer, I thought it would be fitting to share with you a place which we visited a couple of months ago.  It was much cooler when we went, but in summer it will be amazing, so make a note to visit the Puhoi Valley Cafe & Cheese Shop

Spoilt for choice!

What we loved about visiting Puhoi Valley is the great playground they have for the kids, which is fully enclosed, so there will be no escaping kids!  Besides the playground the grounds are huge so plenty of room to run around and picnic too.

There are two sides to the grounds either side of the little river

The cafe is fantastic, the kids loved looking at all the cheeses in the cellar (you can’t go in though, you can only look through the glass).  My favourite part was tasting all the samples they had out, my favourite being the Matakana Blue Cheese…mmm.  At lunch time it gets pretty busy, and your orders might take a little while, but it’s worth the wait.

Adam and I ordered the Seafood Chowder and the kids got mousetraps, with bacon and oh so much cheese! You would expect a pretty good amount of cheese coming from a cheese place.

It’s somewhere we would definitely visit again, when it is summer time. But if you are ever heading up North from Auckland, I would recommend making a detour to this little gem.