Friday 30 October 2020

Virginia Lake


A beautiful place, well worth visiting, lies at the heart of Whanganui city.  It is the Virginia Lake Reserve, 18 hectares (45 acres) of lake, bush, gardens, walkways, sculptures and other pleasant Sunday-afternoon diversions.

Virginia Lake itself was originally known as Rotokawau, which refers to the native black shag that still visits here to feed (I believe it also breeds here). 

Maori believed the lake had been formed by the tears of angry gods and of the beautiful woman named Tainui, after her lover was strangled by a jealous suitor.

The Higginbottom Fountain is a floating copper and steel waterlily, and has been a feature here for the last fifty years.  It can be activated for 10 minutes by inserting a $1 coin into the machine (on shore, so you don’t have to wade out there!).

The Lake is home to numerous birds, especially ducks, geese, coots, and pukeko.  Their droppings were a bit of a problem though, and one had sometimes to be very careful where one placed one’s feet!

I enjoyed seeing the swans, both white and black, and was intrigued to see how the white swans treated the smaller black ones – they were quite bossy, and the black ones did their best to stay well out of the way.

Different sculptures and art works are scattered around the place, and this pleasant seat was sited near the Winter Gardens for those who just wanted to sit and contemplate for a while.

The indoor Winter Gardens were full of bold displays of vibrant colour.

Tucked into various corners there were different pieces of art work to be discovered.

There were also peaceful corners to be found in the Winter Gardens, which helped relieve the eye of all the bright colours.

And occasionally a lurking danger could be found to scare unwary children.

After dark, Higginbottom Fountain is illuminated by fifteen jets of amber, blue, green and red, giving an ever-changing display which lasts for forty minutes.

Our return visit to see the lights made for a very pretty way to end our day.

I hope you have enjoyed this wander around some of Virginia Lake Reserve.  It really is a beautiful place to visit.

Margaret 😊

NEWSFLASH (30 Oct 2020):  Whanganui has been awarded the title Most Beautiful Small City in New Zealand (Hamilton is the most beautiful large city!) in the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards 2020.  Congratulations Whanganui and Hamilton!

Thursday 29 October 2020

Wandering Around Whanganui

 It is Wanganui city and Whanganui river, right?

As a child I was taught to spell the name without the h, and as an adult I came to know the river as having the h.  Very confusing, so I have been doing some research.

Since the mid-1800s both spellings have been used interchangeably in the district, but in 2015 it was officially decided that the spelling would be Whanganui as it better suited public opinion and the local iwi (local Maori tribes).

The name was officially gazetted on 19 November 2017 so I will have to get used to using the new spelling!

This was Day Five of our trip and we spent our time in and around Whanganui.  There is a very pleasant boardwalk alongside the river in the centre of town.

The Whanganui River is tidal here, as it is close to the sea.  Rising from Mt Tongariro in the centre of the North Island, it is New Zealand’s third longest river.

Along the riverside we found some different art sculptures. 

This one is called Bearing, produced in 2011 by David McCracken to represent the winding path of the river as it makes it way to the sea.

This bronze kereru (native wood pigeon), created by Paul Dibble, won the People’s Choice Award in the 2010 Sculpture competition.

These stainless steel pencils were also made in 2010.  Their creator, Daniel Clifford, called his creation Balancing Act and said the pencils reflected the idea that Maori is traditionally an oral culture while European is traditionally a written culture.

This Mama Duck came over to see if anyone had any food to offer (we didn’t).  The little ones’ legs were going as fast as they could to try and keep up with her.

Our next stop was at Virginia Lake, which I will write about in my next post.

This was followed by a visit to nearby Castlecliff Beach, a black sand beach covered in driftwood.  Although we only saw a few people around, there was a Surf Life Saving Club based here so presumably this beach is used for swimming during the summertime.

In the distance we could see another tower but could not find it on our map, so we went searching and eventually found this at the top of a hill.

The Bastia Hill Water Tower was built in 1927 and holds 2000 tonnes of water in its top tank.  The tower is not open to public access as it is now home to a lot of telecommunications equipment, but it can be viewed from the road.

We had a good day wandering around.  Whanganui has a very restful peaceful atmosphere about it, at least in the parts we visited!

Have a happy day 😊


Wednesday 28 October 2020

Bulls And Bits


This was Day Four of our road trip.

We travelled across country this time, stopping briefly in Palmerston North (another place I would like to revisit at some stage, and have a closer look around).

Sanson was next.  It is a small settlement on a busy road junction.  They have a Sky Hawk Playground for restless children, inspired by the proximity of the Ohakea Air Force Base.

Our first big stop for the day was at Bulls, a town full of puns about its name.

Here I am, loitering in front of the cop shop with some of the const-a-bulls (painted on the shed door).

We even found a bit of toilet humour.

Arriving at Wanganui early afternoon, the day was too pleasant to waste and so we decided to visit the Durie Hill Elevator.

Accessed by a 213 metre long pedestrian tunnel, it is the only public underground elevator in New Zealand.  It was built in 1919 (and it shows!), and was operated by a friendly informative lady (and cost us $2 each person each way).

This photo shows the top part of the Elevator Tower.

From here, we obtained a lovely view out over Wanganui city and the Whanganui River that winds through it.

Nearby is a World War I Memorial Tower, built in 1925 from shellrock (cemented marine sandstone containing shell fragments).

There are 176 internal steps to reach the top (it is 104 metres high), but a sign at the bottom warning of earthquake-prone issues was enough to put me off attempting to climb any of them!

Have a great day everyone 😊


Monday 26 October 2020

Tirohana Estate


It is a long time since I was last given the opportunity to appreciate the pleasure of some fine dining, and Tirohana Estate was a perfect remedy. 

This Martinborough vineyard produces award-winning boutique wines, with their grapes being nourished by the special properties of alluvial terraces of an ancient dry riverbed.

We were collected from our motel by complimentary shuttle bus and welcomed at the door by our cheerful host, before being given a Sauvignon Squeeze (sauvignon blanc with pineapple juice and lemonade).  At our table we were served an Amuse Bouche, which in our case was a small sample of Roasted Carrot Soup with Olive Oil Drizzle.

We followed a $65 per person fixed-price menu, and had a choice of five items for an Entrée.  I chose Portobello Mushroom, stuffed with blue cheese and served with sun-dried tomato quinoa and the Estate’s own chutney.

Main Course choices were Beef Brisket, Lamb Shank, Pork Rack, Fish en Papillote, Stuffed Sweet Kumara, or a Vegan Filo dish, all served with seasonal vegetables.

I chose the Lamb Shank with feta sauce de viande.  It was melt-in-the-mouth delicious!

With our meal we had a 2018 Estate-produced Pinot Gris, which I forgot to photograph!  It was light and refreshing and very easy to drink.

After eating our Main Course we were encouraged to take a stroll outside, a perfect way to appreciate the mellow evening and allow our meal some time to settle before tackling the sweets course.

For dessert I chose Chocolate Torte with Strawberry Dust, served with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

Finally, our meal was rounded off with a small Chocolate Truffle.  Rich and smooth and a lovely taste to finish with.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable pleasant evening.  We felt spoilt by all the attention and the food and wine were perfect.

Well done, Tirohana Estate 😊



Just to make things clear, this review is a personal opinion and not made for advertising reasons.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Dozers On The Beach


Home again now and glad to be back to ultra-fast broadband!

We rose early on Day Three of our Road Trip, so that we could watch the sun rise behind the Castlepoint Lighthouse.  It was a wee bit chilly and very windy, but worth the effort to crawl out of my warm bed.

Our drive today was down to the bottom of the North Island to visit the Cape Palliser lighthouse. 

The roads down here are not main highways and hazards can be different, like this herd of cows we came across.

Some of the road was positively scary, like this “active slip” area we passed through.

Eventually we arrived at the small settlement of Ngawi, with its multitude of bulldozers and tractors sitting on the steep rocky beach.

They are used to launch (and retrieve) the fishing boats that go out from here to catch paua (abalone) and crayfish.

I never had the energy to climb the 253 steps up to the lighthouse (not recommended for anyone who dislikes heights or when conditions are very windy), but my three companions made the trip up and back down.

I was intrigued by this toilet in the carpark, tied down to prevent it blowing away in strong winds!

There are also a lot of seals along the coastline here.  I walked down onto one beach and wondered who was coughing – it was a seal sitting on a rock, warning me off.  I simply had not seen him as he blended in so well with his background.

This seal was up on the grass and easily spotted.

We had a lovely dinner this evening, but I will write about that tomorrow.

Margaret 😊

Wednesday 21 October 2020



Trying to log into motel internet spots is becoming a very frustrating exercise!  Photos won't upload, or do so very slowly, and one very antiquated place even told me I needed to update my browser because it wasn't compatible (I think it probably should have been the other way round).

So, my dear readers, I have now decided I am on holiday and don't need to have hassles like this - so no more blogging until after I get home.

Hugz to everyone.


Tuesday 20 October 2020

On The Way To A Lighthouse


Another great day today although it was rather cloudy and we did go through some rain at times.

I loved seeing some of the lovely old hotels, like this example at Cheltenham.

A stop at the Te Apiti Wind Farm was rather cool.  I was able to stand directly beneath one of the turbines and listen to its loud whooshing hum, something I have never done before.

Lunch was at the Pukaha National Wildlife Centre, a conservation place with a lot of wild birds.  Unfortunately it was too wet to see very much but the gift shop was interesting!

This multi-directional sign at Woodville points to all the other Woodvilles around the world.

Masterton was a lovely town and I would love to visit it again and explore it more.  It is hard to believe, but it was lightly raining when I photographed these lovely gardens.

Our final destination for the day was Castlepoint where we spent time exploring around the local lighthouse which was built in 1913 and is the tallest lighthouse in the North Island.

Once dark descended we were treated to a forty minute display of changing colours lighting up the lighthouse.  It was cold and windy outside but worth going out there to watch for a while.

We have very limited internet at this place and I had a lot of difficulty uploading photos.  Which is why I have arisen from my sleep and gone online now at this unearthly hour!

Cheers everyone,

Margaret 😊