Check out the Looking Glass Gardens in Te Puke and prepare to fall down the rabbit hole… I have been meaning to come here for years but for one reason or another had never made it (it also closed for a while). But guess what? Its back open and in mid September a friend messaged and said come on! So off we went! The blossoms were out, and although we missed the peak of the (~10,000!) daffodils that were planted (you must need to get here late August/early September for that) it was a magical and wonderful place! I can’t wait to go back!
The stairway to heaven (featured picture) is quite something, get prepared for some steep uphill! But the views! Wow, breath-taking (literally, as my kids would say!) Plus there is a swing in a tree at the top, if anyone needs a little coaxing!
About: The garden was originally created by Gael & Cedric Blaymire. This is one of those amazing stories of vision and bloody hard work or yakka as we say in NZ! This awesome couple worked tirelessly for over 30 years to create an enchanted 20 acre tree garden. Honestly, such inspiring people! Some of the places they planted up with daffodil bulbs are crazy steep! Gael’s sense of humor and quirkiness is reflected in the Alice in Wonderland theme that runs throughout the garden. The garden closed for a time as the Blaymire’s sold the property but thankfully the new owners have it opened up to the public again. What an awesome legacy, I highly recommend a visit!
Location: 558 Te Puke Quarry Rd, Te Puke (partly gravel road). Call 027 578 8307 for more info.
Open hours: 10am- 4 pm daily.
Cost: $5 per adult, $2.50 per child. Bring the correct amount of $ as it is an honesty box system, however you can pay by bank deposit if you forget this!
Toilets: Yes, I noticed 2. One in the amphitheater area, and the second by the owner’s house. There is a map at the gate so take a photo of it then.
Dogs: Not allowed
Buggy or wheel chair: Sorry, not suitable.
At the end of Whakamarama road, at the base of the Kaimai ranges is a little place locally known as “The Blade”. The driveway down there is a 900m gravel road to a car park (note: this is single lane so go slow, there are a couple of places to stop if you come across another car). Other tracks that can be accessed from this car park, are the Leyland O’Brien tramline track and the Ngamarama track. At the car park there is a great big open space for a picnic and rocks for the kids to climb and jump across.
The one signed track entrance from the car park is the Pa Kereru Loop ….. though we did not take this one, we set off down a path that has no signpost …. I know you are probably thinking “well that’s not smart” but actually there are many paths there that have no signage, it was going to be an adventure. After about 5 minutes of walking we came to a point where there were 3 viable paths, hmm… straight ahead right?
Note and Tip: All the tracks did have the standard public orange track triangles and before we continued, I took a photo pointing to which path we came from, just in case we needed to back track.
So after approximately 3 minutes of walking we arrive back at the Car Park! Hmm…that can’t have been the whole loop, let’s go back and take one of the other paths. The other paths led to more track junctions and again no signs? So taking more photos and paths, we came onto what seemed like an old tramway … this looks right I think.
Now the fun part, curious fantails, possum traps, trees hanging over the old tramway creating a tunnel feel, and mud glorious mud! The kids had a long discussion and worked together on which path to take that would equal the least amount of wet, dirty feet. What can also work is getting a friend with boots on (me, Anita, in this case) to be the pack-horse.
Finally a sign, 10 minutes to the car park. Now we can all breathe a sign of relief. The next 10 minutes turned into 30 as we strolled through magical bush which inspired the kids to make up stories of tiny fairy villages on moss-covered rocks.
Due to the lack of signage, figuring out the various tracks was confusing! I have since been back and most of the paths just lead in circles though if you follow the new Pa Kereru sign posts, you should be fine. I would only recommend this track to those with good bush navigational skills. I have also come across hunters with hunting dogs on this track, so that can be very nerve-racking with kiddies along.
Many of us have a complete love affair with Mauao/ Mt Maungauni, I know its a daily ritual for some to walk up or around it. I climbed up to the top recently one kids free afternoon joined by throngs of other people some running some walking, many huffing and puffing, family groups, #selfie peeps, rock climbers, tourists, the young and the old, people from all walks of life. And it got me to thinking does anyone know about Mauao’s love story?
Legend has it, that there were once three mountains that lived in the Hautere forest overlooking Tauranga moana. One was Otanewainuku a total spunk, he stills stands there being the total hottie. The second was Puwhenua a gorgeous girl bathed in the finest ferns and birds in her hair, the third was maunga pononga or the nameless mountain. The nameless one was desperately in love with Puwhenua but she only had eyes for Otanewainuku. Heartbroken the nameless one decided it was all too much and that he would drown himself in the Pacific ocean. He called upon the Patupaiarere (the people with magic powers) and asked them to plait him a magical rope and haul him down to the ocean. Chanting, they dragged the nameless one slowly down towards the sea, gouging out the current channel which flows past Tauranga city and the Waimapu river as they went. By the time they reached the ocean it was almost day break. This freaked the patupaiarere out because they were people of the night, so they fled before the sun rose, fixing the nameless one in place. Thankfully before they left they named the nameless one Mauao, which means “caught by the morning light”.
It’s true its quite a sad story but one I like to think has a happy ending. You see Mauao could never be lonely, not with all of the people in his life walking, running, climbing, playing, going up, down and around him, occasionally paragliding off him or playing in the waters that surround him. I like to imagine that this brings him joy.
So, the next time you head up or around the Mount/ Mauao how about you stop for just a minute, bend down and give the old boy a pat and tell him he is very loved.
Mary Poppins bag …..
It really doesn’t seem to matter whether I am taking the kids on a short or long walk, I tend to leave the house feeling like I have the kitchen sink packed! Below are some things I don’t leave the house without + some extras I’ve found useful or calming from time to time.
We’d love to know if you’ve found this helpful or what other things might work for you, leave us a comment or flick us an email.
Nga mihi, Anita 🥜
This is a sweet little ride to do with the family, especially if you are getting the younger ones used to riding a bit further, like I am here with my 5 year old! Its a flat, wide, easy trail with sea views of the estuary looking towards Athenree the whole way. We started at Waiiti Ave and rode to Bowentown and back ~30 minutes each way. There is a simple playground in Bowentown at the end of the trail, however there is a larger and in my opinion cooler playground in Tui Reserve which is off Bowentown Boulevard which adds on ~ 5 more minutes each way of riding.
*If you are looking for a longer ride you can start the trail opposite the Surf Shack cafe, off Emerton Rd. The trail is ~3km each way.
This is not the first time I have done this walk yet the stunning landscape still takes my breath away. It is however the first time I have brought my daughter on this walk and the first time walking in a large group, 6 amazing mamas and 7 cool kids.
Originally we had 10 kids coming but sickness, a sleepover and the last soccer game of the season meant we were down to 7. In hindsight this was good because it meant majority of the group had a 1:1 ratio, this made for less stress and a more enjoyable walk. A one adult to one child ratio is especially good when walking with younger children and first timers, as many games and distractions are needed, also parents tend to become pack horses for the bags and the children themselves, so be prepared.
This trip had been organised months in advanced, as getting a weekend where a large group is all free, is hard and rare. We chose the first weekend of spring hoping for good weather but being the rainy season, rain was forecast for the Sunday. We nearly called it off, but decided rain on the way out was doable. We estimated it would take us around 4 hours to do the walk, but decided to leave early as that meant no time pressure, giving us the whole day to get to the hut. After a last pack check and photo session, we set off at 10:45 am, not too bad.
The track follows a historic tram line and is pretty wide most of the way, there are a couple of narrow sections, where you end up walking quite close to the river and the rocks can be slippery, so please be aware and take care in these areas.
*Scroll to the bottom of the page for our time break down, from Franklin Rd car park to the hut.
After walking for about 1 and 3/4 hours we reached the second swing bridge, where we stopped for lunch and to rest our legs (and backs). The kids were more interested in throwing rocks into the water than they were with eating! Swing bridges are a great place to stop and take a look around, remnants of the tram line bridges litter the river bed, stunning andesitic rock escarpments frame parts of the valley and massive boulders in the middle of the river made the kids question …. what, how, why and who.
I feel that the 5th and final swing bridge is worth mentioning as once crossed there is a short path that leads down to a perfect little beach. We reached this bridge after about 3 hours and had a decent stop here, for more snacks, a rest while the kids had a play which consisted of skimming stones and dropping rocks off the bridge. We left here with only one of the seven children getting wet, which I feel was pretty good odds, this is a good reminder to pack those extra clothes, especially if not walking in the warmer months when things are easily dried.
It took a further 1 hour and 45 minutes for us to reach the hut from that last swing bridge, just under 5 hours in total from the car park. The last hour of walking the kids, as you can imagine, were getting pretty tired, but with a bit of distraction and turns at being the leader they did amazing! We took the river bypass as the flow was too full which added on a bit of extra time; but that was fine. Of course once we got to the hut, the kids got their second (or maybe third) wind and quickly set about: getting their beds ready (we dominated one of the two large bunk rooms), devouring crackers and cheese like a pack of ravenous piranhas and sculling hot chocolates so they could run outside to explore, play tag and practice gymnastics! The mamas were left to sort, prepare, cook and supervise before getting to put their feet up with a well deserved cuppa.
Dinner consisted of mainly pasta, rice and noodles, some supplejack foraged along the way made for a nice veggie garnish to the pasta. A nice relaxing wine out on the deck was a great treat once all the kiddies were sorted. Bedtime rolled around and even though they had walked for nearly 5 hours, some of the kids could not get to sleep, even with the season bonus of early darkness! Going to bed with the kids was really the only thing that worked and actually, in the morning we were better off for it! If you haven’t stayed in a hut before – don’t expect too much sleep, huts are noisy places even without kids (who is rustling that plastic bag/snoring/talking!) plus with no curtains you can bet your bottom dollar the kids will wake get up early!
Breakfasts consisted of porridge, left over pasta, noodles, coffee, tea and hot chocolates. After breakfast, the pack up and tidy up (all done by 8am), we set off. We were lucky that the rain did not start until about an hour into the trip out, rain coats, pack covers and wet weather gear were then all put into use; and when one raincoat couldn’t be found in the pack that can sometimes feel like Mary Poppins bottomless bag, a black rubbish bin bag was turned into a makeshift poncho. Also one boot started to lose its sole so kiwi ingenuity saw a sock being sacrificed to hold it together, note for next trip – bring gaffe tape (not really an essential but can be in those MacGyver moments).
We took just a one short snack stop on the way back due to the relentless rain, though constantly handing the kids snacks whilst walking the last 1.5 hours, helped get them to the end (4 hours in total straight back to the cars). We were all soaked, the track is pretty open and exposed and with 3 hours of constant rain even the best of gears were no match and could not keep us 100% dry.
It was nice to walk in such a big group, everyone had turns in different positions, being the leader or chilling at the back having some quieter time. All the mamas took turns encouraging the smaller ones and we even saw the kids pitching in to help get a pack on, singing a song of distraction or finding a walking stick to keep someone going.
Going on long hikes or tramps with children does take some patience and sometimes a lot of creative thinking; like turning a small cut into a game to identify which grasses are cutty grass, or getting the younger of the group to walk up front with an adult, giving them a head start, and telling them we will try to catch up, that way they keep up the pace because they don’t want to “get caught”. Roll with the punches and try to prepare your mind as not to get stressed or annoyed when the challenges arise and as always this is much easier when you have friends to do it with.
Here’s a quick break down of our times not including 30 minutes worth of stops:
Flick us a line in the comments below, we’d love to know your tips and tricks for tramping with kids.
Kiaora everyone, this upcoming week is Conservation week. There are all sorts of rad things happening around the country so click here to find a D.O.C event near you! As they say on the dinosaur train “get outdoors and get into nature!” #kidstv #catchyslogans #volunteersrule!
If you live in the Bay of Plenty region check out Virtually on Track who are running scavenger hunts in conjunction with the Department of Conservation to celebrate Conservation week. There are some great prizes up for grabs like a trip to White Island! I’m going to check out the McLaren Falls scavenger hunt with the kids 🙂
We’d love to know in the comments below what you get up to, to celebrate Conservation week.
Also stay tuned for part two of our epic Waitawheta hut trip coming up later in the week…
Also check out part two where we cover the highlights and challenges of tramping with 7 little people and 6 amazing mamas!
Late night, tired ratty kids, and maybe one too many wines at the BBQ the night before …. but it was winter and the sun was shining, I simply had to get out amongst it, breathe in the bush air and soak in some rays. My mum was visiting and she had told me about this great track with 360 degree views, and not too far of a drive (maybe the kids could rest on the drive). I didn’t manage to wrangle up a friend for the kids (5 & 7) at such late notice so it was just us and Oma (my mum).
We accessed the Otanewainuku car park from the Tauranga side, down Opopi road and then left onto Mountain road, which in parts is a gravel road. There was a shelter with information on the tracks of the area and further along the track a toilet. The track sign states 45 minutes to the trig in either a clockwise or anticlockwise direction, we gave this decision to the kids and clockwise was chosen, this as it turned out is the least steep direction to take, and it took us 50 minutes.
The kids, with their self-packed backpacks, took turns leading us down the track; The bush is stunning, the towering Kahikatea trees (New Zealands tallest forest tree), frame the sunlight and blue sky perfectly making you feel like you are amongst giants and their roots are huge and provide great pockets for the kids to hide and jump out to “scare” you (cause we never see them do this).
The first part of the clockwise track is reasonably gradual, the second half zigzags uphill with some big steps for little legs. A platform amongst the tree tops tells us that we are at the trig, up the narrow stairs and wow! The views are wicked, you can see White Island, Mount Te Aroha and if the weather had of been clearer on the central plataeu we would have been able to see Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. It was beautiful and an amazing lunch spot.
The kids unpack their bags on the platform and out comes: muffins, apples, water, soft toys, a transporter truck full of smaller cars and to top it all off, my son had carried up a large rock that his Aunty had painted for him; Not once did he complain of a heavy bag, I couldn’t contain my laughter, I was very surprised but also very impressed.
After the snack and play we start to head down the steeper track direction (which would be the anticlockwise track coming up). The kids took a keen interest in looking for the silver fern on the way down, their determination and perseverance was outstanding as every fern we passed was checked, and can I just say this track has an abundance of ferns. Many discoveries were made including the koru/spiral of a young fern and a curious robin that came to check us out, good spotting Nina. It took us another 50 minutes to come down, but that was with lots of exploring and many many stops.
I fully recommend this track, it’s stunning in so many ways and considering we all weren’t at our best that day it was one of my favourite walks I’ve done with the kids. There is another couple of walks that are accessed from the car park, which I’ll definitely be going back to check out.