Karioitahi Beach

Feels like it’s going to be another amazing summer in NZ. Out at a wicked black sand west coast beach today. Stunning

TCC – Labour Weekend Race Meeting – Round 1 IRC Summer Series of Racing

Sitting up on the bank at Taupo’s Motorsport park with amazing views of the back and pit straights there is nowhere I’d rather be. The weather is holding out, the racing is fast paced and the photography opportunities are awesome. I’m surprised at the number of people here, especially as this event is competing for Taupo’s attention with the Dressage Championship, Erupt Lake Taupo’s Graffiato festival and Kinloch’s Market.

Kids cruise down behind the pit garages on retro scooters and skateboards. The Steaming Bean coffee cart has a huge line and everywhere I look I see motor sport fans enjoying themselves as that unique mix, the smell of petrol fumes and hot rubber fills the air.

This weekend features a variety of classes including the Porsche Racing NZ Championship, Vortex Racewear Formula First Championship, Super Mini Challenge and the Pre 65 Racing Saloons. I’ve got to admit I love watching the Formula First Championship. It’s a really tight class with rookie drivers fighting it out on track for a chance at a career in motor sport. This is where it all starts out.

It’s not just about Labour Weekend though. Taupo Motorsport Park hosts a variety of events including Powercruise and the BNT V8 Supertourers, they have days dedicated to drifting and MotoTT events as well as public and private track hire.

For more information check out: www.tauporacetrack.co.nzImage

Free things – Napier/Hastings/Havelock North

I’m going to jump right into this one:

  1. Art Deco Weekend – usually in February, this event has so many free ‘must do’s’ I don’t even know where to start
  2. Marine Parade 
  3. You can’t beat Te Mata Peak on a fine days for views over the Hawkes Bay
  4. Hastings Farmers Market is held every Sunday and is simply amazing. 
  5. Visit the Tom Parker Fountain (on the Marine Parade) after dark.

    Balls Clearing – Patoka – Pack a picnic, drive out into the countryside and enjoy this podocarp forest

  7. Botanical gardens
  8. Bluff hill look out has awesome views try to be here for sunrise or sunset
  9. Bluff hill cemetery – possibly a little morbid but a brilliant historical cemetery  
  10. Ahuriri Estuary – a brilliant walk for bird watching. Recommend going at low tide so you can take in the southern side of the estuary too
  11. On the Marine Parade you also have the Sound Shell, the Sunken Gardens and the clock tower as well as the paved path to walk along the beach
  12. Napier has an Urban Street Market on Saturdays
  13. Both Napier and Hastings have a large number of Art Deco and Art Nouveaux style buildings (You can buy a map of these from the I-site on the Marine Parade or with a little research plan your own route for free) 

Bonus: Drive out to Puketitiri and into the Kaweka Ranges and enjoy a soak in the Mohaka hot springs (*technically not within my definitions but as Napier is the closest town I’m breaking the rules)

I feel like I’ve left out something important. Any suggestions, feel free to comment…

Free things – Taupo

On a roll from yesterday’s travel tips – exploring a new city – post (here:https://jgardnerblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/travel-tips-exploring-a-new-city/) I’m going ahead and jotting down free things to see and do in Taupo, New Zealand. Hopefully there will be many more of these to follow…

Definitions: Quickly refining the rules. In my head free is no entry fee… Things like fuel and supplies are dismissed into the maelstrom because if I have to think about them I’ll have to start admitting to just how much of my money gets sucked into my travelling and adventure experiences. Also, Taupo includes activities within a 100km radius. Just because I can.

Here we go:

  1. Huka Falls – the biggest waterfall in NZ https://jgardnerblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/above-the-falls/
  2. Lake Taupo – take a half day and drive around the lake
  3. Tongariro National Park – the three volcanoes at the far end of Lake Taupo. Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngaruahoe.
  4. Watch the Aratiatia Dam open and fill the narrow rocky gorge below Lake Aratiatia
  5. Taupo’s Botanical Gardens include  85 acres of native trees and plants
  6. Walk through the rose garden and down to the old armed constabulary site on the edge of the Waikato River
  7. Scented Garden for the blind – this small garden sits on the edge of the town centre and provides a refreshing break
  8. The historic site at Opepe (15min drive from Taupo’s town centre) is a good way to get some fresh air and an insight into the lives of Taupo’s early settlers.
  9. Spa Park Hot Springs – a river of warm water perfect for a good soak
  10. Kerosene Creek – 45 minutes from Taupo but another great place to find a free hot water swim
  11. Butchers Pool – on Butchers farmland (nothing scary) this pool has wooden seating around the edges and facilities for changing
  12. There is another little known hot spring on the road to Taupo. A concrete pool catches water from a hot water spring near the Tarawera Tavern on the Napier Taupo Road.
  13. Lions Walk – from Taupo’s town centre to Wharewaka Point follow the lake and soak up the views on this paved track
  14. Climb Mt Tauhara – a stunning trek through native bush with amazing views from the top
  15. Visit the Pureora National Park for a great range of bush walks from under an hour to full day hikes
  16. Huka Falls/Aratiatia Walk – from Spa Park via the Huka Falls to Lake Aratiatia and the rapids
  17. W2K mountain bike track – brilliant MTB track from Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch
  18. Spa Park Pump Track – short sharp pump track at Spa Park
  19. Taupo’s Skatepark – pro designed outdoor facility
  20. Taupo Honey Hive – free NZ honey and fruit liquor tastings with a great play area for children
  21. Swim – chill out in Lake Taupo or warm up in one of the small geothermal creeks that run into the lake
  22. Galleries – spend a half day checking out our local galleries – highly recommend Wildwood Gallery, Larte, Lava Glass
  23. Taupo market – Saturdays from 10am to 1pm with a car boot sale the first Saturday of the month
  24. Art in the Park – Also on Saturdays this market features work from local artists
  25. Top 10 Mountain Bike tracks from http://www.greatlaketaupo.com/new-zealand/Bike_trails/
    1. Craters of the Moon

    2. Great Lake Trail

    3. Waikato River Trails

    4. The Timber Trail

    5. 42nd Traverse

    6. Tree Trunk Gorge

    7. Tongariro River Trail

    8. Te Iringa

    9. Rotary Ride – Aratiatia / Huka Falls Trail

    10. The Great Lake Walkway / Lion’s Walk

I can definitely see myself updating this as more ideas come to hand. I’ve also got a few good ideas for an “Under $20pp” list so stay posted…

Travel Tips – Exploring a new City

I was passionate about promoting Taupo. You could ask me anything about things to see and do, places to eat, exciting places to explore or adrenaline adventures and I’d have an answer for you. Having just moved, I’m missing my awesome fount of knowledge while trying to learn as much about my new home town as possible.

Exploring is an important part of life. As well as getting me out of my comfort zone (re: commuting into Auckland City for work at minimum two hours driving in peak traffic), it’s helping me settle in faster as I get used to my new town and face the awesome advantages of living in a new area. Exploring also helps us meet new people, grow, learn new things, try new foods and experiment with other cultures and beliefs.

1. Start at the beginning. Here are some basics that you should definitely have covered:

  • Get a map. Before you go if you can. Do a bit of research and mark down at least 5 things you consider “Must Do’s” and another 5 you can fit in if time and budget don’t run out. Mark your base (hotel, camping ground, friends place). If you’re staying at a hotel/motel/camp ground grab their card and stash it in your pocket. If it comes to the worst you can get a taxi home (although this not advisable in some places, especially if you’re travelling alone, this has helped me out more than I can remember).
  • If your room is up high, or if you can get to the top of your building, try and find a landmark. Then, when you go wandering through the city/town/village it’ll help you get a sense of direction.
  • Watch the locals. If the women are dressed conservatively and your girlfriend is heading out in a singlet and shorties you may end up getting in trouble. Or some really dirty looks. Also, the locals know the easiest way to cross the road and where, and they know where the best food is.
  • Prepare yourself mentally for things to be different from at home. Embrace it! The best people travel because they want to get to know the world. You won’t find interesting places to explore if you never step foot outside the resort.

2. Get going!

  • Walk! Pack a really good pair of sneakers and hit the city on foot. It’s amazing what you can cover in a day (my best is approx 20km in Paris!) and you get a real ‘feel’ for the city.
  • Find an alternative mode of transportation. I had a lot of fun cycling through Hoi An in Vietnam and through the country side in the Netherlands. I might get on a bike once a year at home, if the bike is lucky. Being overseas and getting out into the countryside on a bike is such a fun experience I barely even notice I’m getting my exercise for the week. Kayaking, sailboat, four wheel drive and horseback are all ideas that instantly come to mind as well as camel and hot air balloon.
  • Find a quiet space in a busy place and observe the world going on around you.
  • Choose an event that will force you to explore. Doing a marathon in New York and visiting all of the suburbs in such an awesome environment? Cycling the Otago Rail Trail where you get to see remote New Zealand, Or really open your mind at Burning Man, Nevada.
  • Get lost. This is definitely best for smaller places (hello, Venice, anyone?). Forget the map, pretend you can’t access google for a couple of hours and go for a good wander.

3. Explore your own back yard. I believe your don’t have to travel around the world to explore a new city. After reading Alastair Humphreys’ blog http://www.alastairhumphreys.com I’m more convinced of this than ever.

  • Maybe the most important city for you to see through a new lens is the one you grew up in. Particularly if this isn’t where you’re living now. Go back and see what has changed and what hasn’t.
  • Where do you live now? How well do you know it? Could you write down 50 things to see and do within 1 hours drive of your current home?
  • See your home town through the eyes of a tourist. Living in Taupo, an absolute tourist mecca, and working in the accommodation industry brought this one into reality for me. People travel millions of miles to see the Huka Falls or the beautiful local geothermal areas. What brings people to your area (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ if you’re not sure or http://www.tripadvisor.com – just type in the name of your town)?
  • Choose a challenge. Find something that scares you a little (or a lot, but be safe about it!) and do it! Lived in the country all of your life? Hit a big city for a weekend. Never seen a sheep before? Find a farm stay and get involved.

4. If you’re going overseas, try looking at your holiday from a different perspective. I’ve found the best, life changing experiences when I’ve looked at what I’m doing and where I’m going from a different angle:

  • Volunteer – Give back.
  • Travel green. Whether this is making your trip carbon zero or basing your travel around environmentally responsible accommodation and tours, take another look at how you travel.
  • Accept invitations from locals. For example, when we were in Vanuatu we received numerous requests from friendly locals to join them at church or in their village for celebrations. We would’ve missed out on seeing so much more of the local culture if we hadn’t have accepted these.
  • Learn more about a countries/cities unique cuisine and take a cooking class. Go on a wine tour or try street food, visit boutique breweries and artisan food producers. You can find out so much more about a culture by sitting down and having a meal with a local.

5. In the end…

  • Take notes. Keep a journal/blog/diary/photo diary or even just collect postcards of the places you have visited. They may not come in handy right away, but there will be a point in your life when these mementos remind you of some of the best days of your life. Or, of that really horrible hotel that you never want to stay at again in your life.

I hope these have helped inspire you to explore. You never know what you’ll find.


ImageIt was one of those days. The weather couldn’t work out what it was doing, the market was boring and there wasn’t anything I wanted to buy. We ended up eating donuts for breakfast and feeling sorry for ourselves.

The dog was supposed to come on our next road trip, but he got left at home. The man of the house was supposed to be putting a race car back together but decided he needed some time out. I was sick of being stuck in the house (having got back Tuesday afternoon). Oh no! Four days without putting kms on the car!

First world problems abounding, we decided to go exploring. The joys of moving to a new place! Rather than head into the city, we decided to try and find a beach and or some wilderness.

It was surprisingly easy. Head south from Auckland on State Highway One and turn left between Papakura and Pokeno and you’ll end up in the right area. Farmland abounds. A quick decision was made to pay a visit to Hunua Falls.

About an hour drive from Auckland, the Hunua Falls are one of the more accessible attractions in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park. Although the water here contains a lot of sediment and has quite a dirty colour the falls are stunning. There is a good viewing area about 20 minutes return walk from the car park and a three hour trek through native bush. This is a pretty place to stop for lunch and picnic tables and clean facilities are available on site.


We cruised through to Clevedon, a cute little rural community, then onto the Clevedon Kawakawa Road. It’s here that we first saw the coast. It’s not been that long since I’ve been at the beach (2 months, maximum) but seeing the farmland turn swampy, to clean bays and then the Hauraki Gulf opening up like that in front of us, was just lovely. Looking out over the Coromandel Peninsula, it’s easy to forget how beautiful New Zealand is.

Although this spring isn’t lovely and warm and welcoming summer like it should be, there were still a lot of campervans, caravans and 5th wheelers parked up at the freedom camping spots along the coast as we headed down towards Miranda. With the wind whipping up and the sun making a solid effort to burst through the dark clouds the beach looked appealing and a few families were out and about, fishing from the shore and having picnics.


With time running out we headed back inland before we reached Miranda and the hot pools. Winding through the countryside before quickly reaching State Highway 2. Being on the road and exploring again was brilliant and it’s amazing what you can discover just a short drive from Auckland.

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