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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.

Westmere lake 1Westmre lake 2

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.

Westmere lake 9

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

Westmere lake 7

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.

Westmere lake 6

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.

Westmere lake 8

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

Lake-Westmere-1200x413

image credit

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: Westmere Walkway

westmere walkway totsintawhero

The Westmere Walkway is unhelpfully, NOT in Westmere, so don’t confuse this walk with Westmere Lake.  The entrance to the Westmere Walkway is by the Savemart car park in Kelvin Street, Aramoho.  I know a few people who haven’t been able to find the place, but if you see these gates you’re in the right place.

entrance to westmere walkway

The walkway opened last year thanks to a local farmer who granted access to his farmland, and Rotary Whanganui.  You can find a brochure about this walk and others around Whanganui here.  The blurb said it included hill climbing (I need all the practice I can get for Tongariro in December…), went through farmland, and included ‘rewarding views of the city’.  The walk supposedly takes 1hr 30mins.

My husband D had kindly offered to watch the kids while I went out walking, so I headed off on my own.  First mistake.

The walk started off pleasantly.

toi toi tots in tawhero

totsintawhero westmere walkway

style westmere walkway tots in tawhero

But then I was greeted with this:

Oh hi, you want to get past us?

Oh hi, you want to get past us?

I was not daunted by the slips along the track (there are many).  I was initially undaunted by the herd of cows in the first field that the track meanders through.  I have been around cows before and they don’t bother me.  Until now.

As I got near them, some got skittish and ran away.  The field spread out to the right, and there was a sharp drop off a cliff to the left.  The ground was extremely wet and boggy, because a) it’s September and b) it’s rained a lot lately.  The remaining cows got in a line between me and the open field.  One looked particularly ornery, and it gave a little bellow and charged.

Did I mention that I was on my own, feet sinking in the mud, right next to a sharp drop?  It was a tad terrifying.

I gave my best Xena, Warrior Princess yell which stopped the cow (I’m calling her Mad Martha) in her tracks.  Thank God, because I reckon getting charged over a cliff by a cow would hurt.  I high-tailed it outta there along the track as fast as my legs could carry me.  Phew.

The walk gives the promised lovely views of Whanganui early on into the walk, not too far past Mad Martha and her cronies.

Looking towards Bastia Hill

Looking towards Bastia Hill…

and looking towards Durie Hill

and looking towards Durie Hill

An awa runs through my life (the Whanganui River)

An awa runs through my life (the Whanganui River)

The track is well marked, and aside from detours over or around slips created after the last flooding, it is in good condition.  There was no warning about the slips posted on the sign at the entrance and I feel there should be, as some of the slips are quite significant.

A recent slip along the track

A recent slip along the track

Marker poles along the track

Marker poles along the track

City views and mad cows aside, I was rather underwhelmed by this track.  The description is correct – it does cut through farmland.  And that’s it.

I enjoyed being in the great outdoors, but there are much more beautiful walks to be had.  I’ve been around this sort of farmland most of my life so it wasn’t particularly exciting.  There are a couple of pretty spots along the way:

westmere walkway view tots in tawhero

But mostly it’s this:

farmland tots in tawhero

and this:

The cows o' doom are coming for you

The cows o’ doom are coming for you

Eeek!

The walk took me two hours to complete, due to cow detours, slip detours, and mud.  Lots of glorious mud.

muddy boots tots in tawhero

I am moderately fit and found the track pretty easy, although there are lots of steep hills to climb.  But as I said, that’s what I was there for.

Unfortunately it is a loop track so I had to go past Mad Martha and the Gang again.  And again, I was charged at.  Mad Martha was clearly having a very, very bad day.

After scrambling down part of the cliff to avoid her, I made it home alive.

All in all I would NOT recommend this track to families, unless you are dairy farmers who know how to keep stroppy cows in line.  Except for the great views of the city, the track has little to recommend it.  See you around Mad Martha.