Cathedral Cove from Hahei Beach

All the tranquillity and drama of the Coromandel in one arching swoop

The Coromandel encapsulates the New Zealand ideal of natural beauty, and places like Cathedral Cove have both the sense of peace and the visual drama to communicate this in a single glance.  

Takapuna Beach Cafe and Store

Boasting spectacular views and multi-award winning gelato

As a North Shore local for twenty years, Takapuna Beach is a very special place to me. Takapuna represents the heart of where I consider home, and is the part of New Zealand that I miss when I’m elsewhere. Although Takapuna Beach is a beautiful stretch of land in its own right, it is Takapuna Beach Café that I think makes it such an unbeatable destination

The Routeburn Walking Track

Advice for new Empty Nesters: get out of the nest and into the bush

It’s funny how long it can take to do something you’ve always thought about – for me, it was hiking the Routeburn Track.  Though hiking around New Zealand is one of my great pleasures, life and circumstance had, until recently, limited my time in the Great Outdoors. The allure of overseas travel, the drama of children, and the busyness of daily life had delayed this particular adventure for decades.  However, on becoming newbies in the Empty Nester game, my wife and I suddenly had a strange amount of freedom, and a long-awaited “walk in the woods” seemed the perfect thing. 

Cathedral Caves, The Catlins

Expect to get wet

After our early morning sunset watching at Surat Bay, Wanda and I drove to see the Cathedral Caves near Papatowai. Though this is one of the few outdoor sights in the Catlins that entails a fee ($5 for adults, $1 for children) the women at the Owaka Information Centre nodded so enthusiastically when we asked if it was a Catlins Necessity that we were convinced.

Five of our favourite things to do while visiting Auckland

Thinking about visiting Auckland?

Here's five of our favourite things to do while visiting Auckland New Zealand.

Wanaka Apple Drive

Wanaka heroes save local apples from life of misery and rot

The Wanaka apple drive appealed to me as it was a chance to meet some people and save some apples from a sad life of unwantedness and disintegration. The aim was to make a load of chutney and apple juice, and everything was provided by the community – apples, knives, recycled jars and bottles, knowledge – and hosted at the beautiful Rippon Vineyard which donated its kitchen and hall for the occasion. Community, sustainability, local food, cooking – what’s not to like?

Surat Bay at sunrise, the Catlins

Sea lions, stilts and mugs of Earl Grey

It was 7am on a Sunday, and Wanda and I were out the door of our cabin in Newhaven holiday park with mugs of hot Earl Grey tea. Surat Bay was just a few minutes' walk away, through the tussock and sand dunes where sea lions sleep, and we marched on to arrive by 7.14am - the time that Google told us would mark the sunrise. We were cursing ourselves for not bringing scarves and gloves, and I was having trouble keeping my tea inside it's mug. But soon we reached the sandy bay, wiped clean overnight. Our only company was the black-winged stilts and some sea lions hidden and asleep up on the dunes. We watched the sunrise and took photos for half an hour, before rushing back to our cabin for marmalade toast and to empty the sand from our shoes. Here are our photographic spoils, as the sun rose. 

How to make 2000 new friends in one day

For those of you in Auckland and Wellington this past weekend you may have heard of (or attended) The Big Dog Walk With Lots of Dogs.

This event was one of a kind and started with the simple idea of getting a massive group of people and dogs together at the same time. And it worked perfectly! Both owners and their subservient quadrupeds seemed to love the day! Check out our photo blog covering the event.

Kayaking on Lake Wanaka one Saturday

I was nervous about kayaking on Lake Wanaka. In fact, I was slightly hoping that it would rain so I would have an excuse not to go. It’s something I haven’t done in ten years, and that one time I did it was in an indoor swimming pool for school ‘camp’. (I think that was a result of some institutional fear of the great outdoors).

Not trusting my upper-body strength, I decided that a two-person kayak would be the best way to go, and that the other person involved should be as close to Arnold Schwarzenegger as possible.

To my surprise, it was not at all scary. In fact, it was very calming, pulling yourself across the water, taking in the views all around.

We rented our kayak from Wanaka Kayaks, which has a trailer of one and two-person kayaks set up on the beach.

Kayaking on Lake Wanaka is a wonderful way to explore the area and appreciate both the water and the mountains all around. We went exploring for an hour, paddling out to Eely Point, but you can also go to the Wanaka tree – possibly the most photographed tree in existence – or Waterfall Creek. If you hire a kayak for two hours, you can paddle out to Ruby Island and have a picnic lunch on the secluded little beach.

The only problem arose when we went into the lake for the second time, without the rudder in place – which lets you control the direction of the kayak with pedals. When we were pushed out into the water that second time, the woman we hired the kayak from said something about us going in without the rudder, but all I thought was “Shhh, I’m trying to focus on how to take a photo of my legs in the kayak, without dropping the camera into the lake”. Anyway, we both panicked a little bit. For a moment I forgot we were on a lake, and worried that we would be washed out to sea. Luckily, while I was panicking and taking some photos, my co-pilot decided to be sensible and use all of that upper-body strength to get us back ashore.

As I calmed down and we safely reached the shore, it came to me that two-person kayaking could be a good form of couples’ counselling. You’re stuck together, you have to cooperate, and you’re in a beautiful and relaxing environment. Also, you’re far enough apart that things can’t get too ugly – unless one of you hits the other with their paddle.

To find more cool stuff and get involved with Gratia, click the App or Play Store link below!

 

Photography by Melanie Tollemache

Download the Gratia App

Gratia's is now available! You can download it on iOS and Android using the links below.

Download Gratia on iOSDownload Gratia on Android