Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Auckland......So much more than the Sky Tower

Hello again from sunny and dry Auckland! Yes its been a fantastic summer so far for people who love the beach, not so for the farmers - everything is quite dry due to the acute lack of rain. 

Today I thought I would highlight the fact that Auckland has THE most beautiful beaches, a fact not really advertised by our tourist information providers, due to the fact going to the beach doesn't earn much revenue for the city, whereas going to the "sights" e.g. the Sky Tower, to name one, does. That is because going to the beach is free to do! I'm not saying that going to the Sky Tower is not something to do - it is - and you get some lovely views up there and can jump off if you are that way inclined, and please by all means put it on your list of things to do whilst here.

But the beaches here are really some of the best in the country. If you don't like one or there are too many people you can just travel a short distance to another. All our beaches are clean and tidy, usually with a playground for the kiddies and toilets and change rooms.

This week I am going to highlight four beaches in our neck of the woods that don't take long to travel to if your are staying at Haven Homestay.

Cheltenham Beach

Narrow Neck Beach

Cheltenham Beach is a long, sandy, family friendly beach situated in the suburb of Devonport. The beach is quite sheltered and is shallow at high tide making it safe for the littlies. Anchored a little way out is a floating pontoon for the "big" kids to play on and if its a windy day you can watch the kite surfers playing. There is a grassy area too with trees if you require shelter from the sun. Parking in nearby streets doesn't seem to be a problem. Just a little further North is Narrow Neck beach, with much the same facilities but with the addition of a sailing club makes it a little busier, a lot more to watch!

Travelling North again, about 10 minutes at the most, you arrive at Takapuna Beach. This is a much larger beach than the two previous with a multitude of things happening on any given day.
Boat ramp at Takapuna

Go down any day of the week to Takapuna Beach and you can see, boats being launched, jet skiers, paddleboarders, yachting and surf lifesaving training - gee it is a busy place, but as its such a big beach there is plenty of space for all this activity and certainly makes interesting viewing if you are a "people" watcher.

At the top end of Takapuna Beach is the amazingly popular Takapuna Beach Cafe. Yesterday I was down at the beach at 10am and the place was full!  I believe their food is just splendid and their award winning ice cream is to die for.

Yummies on offer!
many varieties of ice cream!

Finally a short walk along the coastal pathway (which is a blog all of its own) you arrive at the secluded Thorne Bay, surrounded by luxury properties it is a little gem of a place.

Thorne Bay

Thorne Bay is a safe, quiet beach, almost private. As there is no vehicle access close by I think its much more of a "locals" beach but very lovely just the same. Its a good place to stop for a rest and paddle if you are out on the Milford-Takapuna coastal walk.

Well as you can see I have covered just a handful of our local beaches. Beach lovers could in fact go to a different beach every day without having to travel long distances, and see a diverse range of activities each day.

I have many more to write about as the beaches just keep on going all the way up the East Coast of the North Shore and all within easy driving distance of Haven Homestay-we can even loan you beach towels!

I'd better get the battery charged up for the next big day of photographing our lovely beaches.......... which one to pick next!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bohemian Rhapsody-Puhoi

Mural inside the ladies restroom!

Hello again, this week my lovely husband and I set off up the Northern motorway to visit the lovely settlement of Puhoi-just a 30 minute drive.

Puhoi is the place to go to get away from it all for a short while, it is situated off the main highway north in a secluded valley that runs along side the Puhoi River. In 1863 a group of settlers came from Bohemia, which is an area of the Czech republic near Prague. After an arduous journey they arrived at Puhoi and began settling onto their allotted land. There is a lovely museum to visit that details all their trials and tribulations at the entrance to the village.

The Puhoi Pub!
Puhoi is famous for three things - the cheese - the canoeing - and most importantly the 
PUB! The Puhoi pub is well over a hundred years old and is a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike. Most weekends groups of motorcyclists venture out for a days driving and usually end up here at the pub, they create a great atmosphere and there is much admiration of their bikes by all around. You can get a good pub meal here at lunch and dinner time.

Inside the pub the walls are completely covered with memorabilia from around the world.  You can spend quite a long time browsing through the notes and articles while having a refreshing drink, its all very interesting. In the winter time they also have a cosy fire to sit beside, if you can get close enough!

 Puhoi Valley Cheese Cafe

Well enough of drinking, what about the cheese you say. Just a little further up the road is the home of the Puhoi Valley cheese factory. Recent refurbishments means you can now watch the cheese being made whilst sampling their very tasty cheeses. You can also buy the cheese at a good price.
Outside are lovely grounds to stroll around or just sit and enjoy the view while enjoying lunch.

 On to the canoeing for those who are more energetic or just want to work off all that cheese and beer! At Puhoi River Canoe Hire you can hire a canoe or kayak for a leisurely 8km paddle to Wenderholm Regional Park. Don't worry about having to paddle back though as their service includes a courtesy coach return to the village. It looks like a fun thing to do, maybe we should have a go lovely husband!!!!

Also worthy of a mention are a couple of gift shops, a mustard makers, a ceramic gallery and a lovely cafe that reputedly sells the best scones in the district (according to my sister-in-law). There is also a good 3 hour bush walk and a beautiful wooden church, that is well worth a view.

On your way back to Auckland a side trip to the Waiwera Hot pools is quite the experience. There you can have a relax in hot, mineral pools and have a spa treatment if you so choose, or even go down the water slide! So make sure you pack your swimsuit and a towel.

Well what a day that was. We are informed, fed, watered, exercised and also relaxed after a full day out to Puhoi Valley. 

Now to think about next weeks trip.............