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Day trips from Whanganui: King Edward Park, Hawera

When a suitable day arises, most folks in my town, Whanganui, like to head over Palmerston North to shop (hello, K Mart) and make use of the great facilities that bigger cities have.  Me, I like to head in the opposite direction.

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There’s loads to do in South Taranaki; you’ll only need a few minutes on Google to find something that will float your boat.  I am easily pleased.  I love parks, the beach, museums, libraries and art galleries, and a good cafe or two.  My kids are following in my footsteps as going to a museum is their idea of a good time, but long road trips are not.  However, they can be placated by the promise of a great playground along the way, and that’s what brought us to King Edward Park in Hawera, this time around.

We passed through Hawera on our way to New Plymouth, but Hawera itself is definitely worthy of a day trip.  Along with King Edward Park, you could check out the incredible Tawhiti Museum (although it has the most frustrating opening times, check their website before you go) or stick with nature at Goodson Dell and Naumai Park. 

But I digress, back to the park!

King Edward Park has something for everyone.  Cool play equipment, a duck pond, manicured lawns and flower gardens, free BBQs, plenty of picnic tables, and tennis courts.  We spent a good couple of hours here and I’ll definitely go back with my family in summer.

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Entrance to the beautiful Chinese garden

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Thanks Hawera!

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Things to do in Whanganui with kids: Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia

Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia is located on Rapanui Road, five minutes drive from the centre of Whanganui.

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Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia is a wonderful place to take your tots, particularly if they are mobile and need to run off some steam in a pretty safe environment.  The track is mostly flat and would take an average adult 30 minutes to walk around it.

Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia is surrounded by 20ha of native New Zealand bush and farmland, and is a wildlife refuge.  On any given day tuis, piwakwaka and kereru are evident.

The first part of the track is buggy-accessible.

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A few minutes walk leads to an isthmus, with a small clearing and a picnic table.

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After the picnic area, the track becomes less buggy-friendly.  The track can be narrow and sloping in places and has a few hilly spots (the hills are pretty small).  It is possible to lug a buggy around the whole way, but baby-wearing is a more sensible option.

On this visit, my two spent 40 minutes jumping off logs.

Playing hide-and-seek was popular too.

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You could definitely spend the better part of an afternoon exploring all there is to see at the lake.

My one criticism of this glorious place is that there are only a few spots where you can view the lake, as it is (naturally) surrounded by reeds and other tall foliage.  But there are tantalising glimpses most of the way around, and some scenic outlooks once you get to the hillier part of the track.

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Here’s a much better shot of the lake (not taken by me) on a sunnier day:

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Get out into it folks.

Note: Do not confuse Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia with the Westmere Walkway, which is located in Aramoho.  

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Things to do in Whanganui with kids: Paloma Gardens

25 minutes out of Whanganui lies a not-so-wee gem that is perfect to explore with your kids for a day: Paloma Gardens.

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A private garden that has been a labour of love for Clive and Nicki Higgie – who are sort of like rock stars in the botanical world – Paloma Gardens boasts a staggering collection of plants and trees from all over the world, and countless fine examples of New Zealand flora.  Paloma Gardens can be found on Pohutukawa Lane, just past Fordell.

There is an entrance fee – $10 for adults, and children under 15 are free.  Compared with similar gardens I have visited overseas, I think this price is a bargain.  You really could explore this place at your leisure all day, it’s that big.

There are wonderful sculptures all around the garden, such as this:

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And this:

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And there is even a sculpture walk:

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(This bit is probably not the best for rambunctious toddlers who want to touch the precious sculptures, but there is plenty of garden left to explore.)

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The garden beckons

Paloma Gardens has many parts to it: the Desert House, the Palm Garden, the Garden of Death, a wedding lawn (they host many weddings here), a labyrinth, a lake and much, much more.  The plants and trees are incredible, and there are delightfully quirky touches all over the gardens.  It’s obvious that the owners have an irreverent sense of humour.

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I loved it.

My tots had a brilliant time exploring the wonders of the garden:

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We inadvertently took a wrong turn on our way to the lake and ended up taking a rather long hike.  The climb back up the hill from the lake is very steep, just FYI.  My two were knackered from all the hill climbing and exploring, so we didn’t get to see all the gardens before they needed to head home for a nap.  Parts of the gardens are buggy accessible, but if you have a wee one you’d be better off with a front/back pack.  Due to the gardens being situated on a very hilly site, only parts of Paloma Gardens are wheelchair accessible.

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We’re already planning our next visit.

Thanks Clive and Nicki!

 

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October Family Month: How I did

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that just prior to turning 40 I decided to ‘take stock’ and set myself twelve monthly challenges to complete in different areas of my life.

August was an absolute dismal failure, September was a bit meh, but October?

I absolutely nailed it.

My challenges aren’t ridiculously hard, makeover-my-entire-life sort of stuff.  I choose three or four things to do in the area of my life that I am focusing on.  I make them specific, I write them down, and I DIARISE them so they actually happen.

October was Family month.  This month I decided to focus on my immediate family and my side of our extended family (not that I don’t love my husband’s side, it’s just they are a bit more scattered than mine).  My goals were:

  • Have a ‘day of fun’ with my husband and tots
  • Spend an afternoon hanging out with my brother
  • Have a family meal with my extended family
  • Complete some tasks I set myself for marriage month in August.  See here for why this month bombed.

Early in October D and I took the kids to Dannevirke to visit their Fantasy Cave.  Dannevirke is about a 1&1/2hr drive from our home town, and has all the makings of a great family day out.

The Fantasy Cave is simply wonderful.  It doesn’t take more than an hour to go through it though, so I would recommend tagging something else onto a trip there, like we did.  We first had a picnic lunch at the Dannevirke Domain on Christian Street (about 1 min away from the city centre).  Dannevirke gets its name from the Danish settlers who developed the area in the 1870s.  The town has capitalised on its heritage, and has a Viking theme all over it.  The domain has a great playground, complete with its own Viking ship.

Vikings ahoy!

Vikings ahoy!

This part is more for older kids, and as you can see, there is plenty for them to climb on.

The toddler area is fabulous – and, most importantly – it has shade!!!  (Very lacking at Whanganui playgrounds.)

Shadecloth. Brilliant.

Shadecloth. Brilliant.

Chip and Sausage having fun at the toddler's area

Chip and Sausage having fun at the toddler’s area

There are plenty of picnic tables, rubbish bins and trees nearby.  On the other side of the domain are beautiful gardens and a fountain.

But, back to the Fantasy Cave.  The photos below aren’t mine as you aren’t allowed to take photos while inside, but these are from accredited websites.

The Cave was created by locals about 20 years ago, originally as somewhere the children could visit Santa.  But it blossomed into so much more.  The cave meanders over several levels of a large building, and has displays of well-known nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  There are a lot of animatronics, and huge amounts of detail in every vista, so you could spend quite some time looking at each one.

If you have a kid who just has to touch something, this is not the place for you.  My almost-three year-old surprised me by sticking to my command of ‘look with your eyes, not your hands’.  She was so delighted with the place, exclaiming each time she spotted something that caught her eye.

Chip really enjoyed it too, although restraining him from touching things was much trickier.  You can’t take buggys into the cave, so D had to carry Chip around.  Just as well he’s so strong and manly, eh?  Now Chip is even more mobile, I can’t see myself taking him there again until I know he can keep his hands to himself.  Sausage is still asking to go back six weeks later, so I think we’ll have to go on a special Mummy-Daughter road trip.

My brother has had an incredibly tough time in the past year, and I don’t often get to spend time with just him.  With D’s help, I took him out for an afternoon of fun.  He had no idea what we were doing, but went along with his hare-brained sister nonetheless.  We saw Bridge of Spies, which was absolutely fantastic.  I have no idea how closely it resembles what actually happened (it is based on a true story), but it remains the best movie I have seen this year.  My brother and I found it gripping, and the cast is superb.  We followed it up with a slap-up lunch and a good, long chat.

My parents, brother and my family have been having dinner together every Friday night, which has been lovely.  I get a kick out of the loving relationships my tots have with my folks, and I’m sure all the love and attention has helped them develop into the friendly extroverts that both my kids are.

D finally managed to get away for a couple of days on a retreat.  He didn’t do much but sleep, eat and read, but came back refreshed from his time away.  D is an introvert so time by himself to rest and re-energise is important, but incredibly hard to get at our stage in life.  Juggling both kids by myself was tiring, but being able to give D a break was priceless.  I believe that giving each other permission to practice good self-care is a key ingredient to a good marriage.