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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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Free things to do in Whanganui: Titoki Wetland (local content)

Just on the Tawhero/Castlecliff border lies a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by gaggle of tiny explorers: Titoki Wetland.  I don’t know why this place isn’t to be found in any ‘what to do in Whanganui‘ blurb because these wetlands are a great place to take your kids as soon as they can walk.

Titoki Wetlands entrance on Titoki St, Tawhero/Castlecliff

Titoki Wetlands entrance on Titoki St, Tawhero/Castlecliff

The entrance to Titoki Wetland is located on Titoki St, and was developed into an area for all to enjoy by the residents of Titoki Street and the Whanganui District Council.  I had no idea this place existed until we drove past it a few weeks ago when I accompanied some friends who were looking to buy a house in that area.  I filed it away as a ‘thing to possibly do with my toddler’, et voila!  Today was the day.

The wetland is not huge, about the size of a couple of generous paddocks.  Sausage and I had loads of fun and I’m sure we will come back many, many times as she gets older to look at the different foliage, bugs and to stomp on the boardwalk like the Billy Goats Gruff.

Here we go stomping, stomping, stomping...

Here we go stomping, stomping, stomping…

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The boardwalk goes off in a loop around the wetlands and is in definite need of repair.  It looks like a giant stomped a little too hard on several boards as they are very broken.  However, Sausage is fairly deft on her feet so the broken boards weren’t a hindrance to her fun (I must ring the Council though…).

Because of its small size the wetland is perfect to take very young children to.  There’s no chance they will get tired or lost walking around.  I’m sure it gets boggy in Winter, but at other times the boardwalk isn’t necessary.  You don’t have to worry about your tot falling off the edge into water because the boardwalk is almost entirely surrounded by grass.  We went ‘off piste’ and had no trouble at all.

Look Mum, no boardwalk!

Look Mum, no boardwalk! 

The wetland is teeming with wildlife and filled with all the interesting plants that just love swampy ground.  Sausage spent ages touching the ‘spiky’ flax and bracken, and went home clutching an array of flowers in her little fist.DSCN9591

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There is a pond (although hard for little ones to see over the foliage) which had several water birds taking a dip.

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And when you’re done exploring, there’s even a picnic table to rest on and recover.

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Pros: 

  • Quiet and peaceful
  • A really different environment for kids to explore in all seasons
  • Reasonably safe for those new to walking
  • Should keep toddlers and primary school aged kids quite happy

Cons:

  • Broken boards are a bit of a hazard
  • Probably not exciting enough for 10 years +

 

 

Tots in Tawhero rating: 9/10