We visited Tawhiti Museum on New Year’s Day 2021 after spending NYE at nearby secluded spot; Ohawe Beach.
The hot summer days we’d had leading up to New Year’s Eve had been beautiful but it was also a nice relief to have a slightly overcast New Year’s Day – a more comfortable, less sticky day with a slight breeze – perhaps it was just me but I felt it gave a calming start to the New Year on a day when a few people probably needed to just kick back and recover!
We did a few errands in the town of Hawera, a lot of the larger stores were open and we were able to pick up some bits and pieces for the van. This was our first major trip away in this campervan and we were still figuring out what we needed or wanted to put into it. And then there are simply things that you forgot! So we picked up things like solar lights, citronella candles, a bluetooth speaker, gas BBQ lighter and some handy dandy double-sided velcro tape that we stapled to the inside of cupboards and use to keep our glass bottles in place. The velcro also works great as a curtain tie-back on the full-length curtain separator we put up behind the front seat. I’ll have to get some more interior photos for a future post about little jobs we’ve done in the van.
Anyway…. we had read about a super little museum on the outskirts of Hawera so we popped along for a quick visit while we were in the area. The little visit turned into a full afternoon! Tawhiti Museum is a tardis of a place with something to appeal to all tastes and between the hubbie and I we were happy to meander around slowly discovering the various exhibits – the only problem was we kept find *another* building, or we’d walk around a corner and find the little shed we entered had morphed into a huge hall!
I’m not complaining here – just pointing out that you might want to ensure you leave enough time for a good look around!
We paid the full entrance fee for the museum, including tickets for the bush railway and Traders & Whalers – a boat-based attraction within the museum grounds.
The museum is made up of several groups of buildings, all quite rustic and in keeping with the relaxed feel and character of the place. But before you think this is one of those dusty old shed museums with things just piled up or random old junk put on shelves… think again. Tawhiti Museum has an amazing and very well-presented array of interesting heritage items – from farm machinery to shipping to vintage toys, and wartime memorabilia to kitchen paraphanalia.
One of the things that helps bring the exhibits to life is the attention to detail and realistic figures used to set up various scenes. All the figurines, from the life-size right down to tiny scale models used in dioramas, are made on site in the ‘Body Shop’ which you can view as part of your visit.
The man behind the museum is ex-art teacher Nigel Ogle. Back in 1975 Nigel and his wife Teresa bought the 70-year-old Tawhiti Cheese Factory. Nigel started his small private collection as a hobby but it soon became the focus of public attention and the focus of an impressive visual history of South Taranaki. The museum is now an award-winning visitor attraction and a valued education facility.
We began our visit with a little trip on the Tawhiti Bush Railway, a 2’6″ gauge railway representing the logging railways that used to operate in Taranaki. The track has native planting and a range of buildings alongside the line, with life size figures highlighting how life used to be lived. The end of the track has a reconstructed sawmill set up with a range of historic displays explaining the old sawmilling and timber transportation days.
Traders & Whalers is set within Tawhiti Museum but does require an additional ticket to be purchased. The attraction is an innovative and historical representation of the Taranaki Coast in the 1820-1840 period. Visitors are whisked away in a boat to learn more about life in this time period as the boatman glides you past and through realistic life size scenes and sounds of the sailors and locals working, trading and battling. Photography isn’t permitted in the attraction but take at look at the video below which features the attraction.
The museum grounds also house a retail shop and a cafe, with plenty of parking and a dedicated area for campervans 🙂
I’ll leave you with this official video from Tawhiti Museum – and a recommend that you make time (plenty of time!) to visit one day!
Ohawe is a small settlement on the South Taranaki coast, just 8km west of Hawera, and was the perfect, peaceful place for us to see out the year with a coastal sunset and great views of the rugged and stunning coastline.
Ohawe is one of New Zealand’s earliest settled places. The first people hunted moa and other birds here about 1300. It was later founded as a military settlement with two redoubts built, one either side of the river mouth. Many of the British and colonial troops who died in later battles are buried in Ohawe Military Cemetery.
Ohawe Beach is very popular with locals and visitors for its rock pools, swimming, surfing and fishing. However, the cliffs that run along the scenic beach are known to be very unstable with frequent rock slides and collapses so caution is needed at all times.
We enjoyed a peaceful and relaxing walk on the black sands at low tide. The shallow waters around the numerous rock pools were clear and warm – providing great areas for paddling and watching the numerous hermit crabs and other small sea creatures.
We had parked up for the evening at the local campsite. Ohawe Beach Camp is administered by the Rangatapu Pa Trustees with all income reinvested into maintaining the campsite and Rangatapu Pa. The site charges a very reasonable small fee per person to cover powered and non-powered sites and use of the facilities which while basic and ‘no frills’ were perfectly functional and clean and included toilets, showers, laundry and a camp kitchen with dining area and small lounge.
It’s a classic kiwi campground from days of old. And we loved it! No playgrounds or jumping pillows. No shop. No cellphone or internet signal. Just a pleasant grassed area on a slight slope with views out to sea and plenty of space for a game of cricket, frisbee or whatever non-digital game takes your fancy!
It was nice to have a range of fellow campers around us, from families in caravans and tents to other couples in campervans and some groups of friends who camped up together so they could have a merry old time bringing in the New Year together!
And when the sun started to set, a number of campers migrated from the site on the short stroll to the nearby clifftop vantage point to watch the sunset. We ambled over with our drinks in hand to farewell the last day of the year. And what a year 2020 was! After such times of angst, worry and uncertainty it was wonderfully calming to just stand and watch the final sunset of the year with others nearby raising a celebratory glass, or enjoying an evening picnic in the last glows of the day.
It was a perfectly peaceful
Midnight saw us tucked up in our bed watching the full moon light up the bay, listening to revellers in the village cheer in the New Year and then a few fireworks from the beach – feeling full of gratitude for this pretty and peaceful New Year’s Eve in this quiet scenic spot…. and…. having our lovely campervan to be able to come away to places like this!
If you’re ever in New Plymouth around Christmas/New Year time then you MUST, absolutely must, visit the Festival of Lights.
We have been to the F.O.L. (TSB Festival of Lights) on several occasions. Held in the extensive grounds of Pukekura Park in New Plymouth the annual festival runs for around six weeks every December/January.
It’s completely free of charge to look around the fun and lively light installations that turn on every night from 8.30pm – 11pm. Plus the organisers put on a whole array of other entertainment throughout the festival, with musical performances, kids activities, an outdoor cinema, roller skating, food vans, and of course the popular row boats on the lake.
We discovered it several years ago and since then have made the trip back to New Plymouth JUST to see the lights and come home the next day! Now of course we have a campervan again it gives much more flexibility on taking a Taranaki trip 🙂
We had been parked up at the popular Lake Rotomanu but decided that was a little too far away from the CBD and Pukekura Park so we drove into New Plymouth to park up elsewhere. As members of the NZMCA (strongly recommend this) we discovered they had one of their wonderful Members’ Parks in New Plymouth so we headed over there to see if there was a space for our van.
The NZMCA Parks have a range of basic facilities, most do not have toilets etc as they are intended for self-contained campers, so you might find they just have fresh water and rubbish bins – which for the grand price of $3 pppn is an absolute bargain! We signed in and found a suitable spot amongst the other campers. We’d considered going straight to Pukekura Park in the camper and THEN going to try and find a campsite space but didn’t want to risk being left high and dry with no space at the inn once we left the festival later in the evening. What we hadn’t really considered, but will be taking action to prepare for now, is that once members have paid and secured a space at an NZMCA Park, you can then reserve your space and go back out in your vehicle – Excellent scheme!! There are a few rules and conditions around this including leaving a RESERVED sign and registering in the site book, so we will be sure to be set up and ready with our signs and traffic cones in the van for future use!
As it is, it was a fine evening and the site wasn’t *too* far from the Park so we decided to walk. It may also have been to help walk off some of these Christmas calories as we’d bought a few leftovers and goodies with us!
Here are a few pics from the Festival – I didn’t get one of each light installation but hopefully enough to whet your appetite!
Those interested in a bit of history might like to learn that the Festival of Lights came about in the main due to Queen Elizabeth II.
A fountain was installed in the park’s Fountain Lake in 1953 to commemorate the Queen”s coronation. Lights were also installed on Poet’s Bridge and around the Main Lake. Lights were added to the fountain two years later when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited New Plymouth.
Fast forward to 1970 and music and entertainment become a feature of the annual lights event and in 1993 it was officially named the Festival of Lights.
Coming up next.. ..our trip continues around South Taranaki and beyond.
Our first overnight stay on our Summer Holiday was just over a two-hour drive from our Waikato home.
A small coastal settlement in North Taranaki. It’s situated at the mouth of the Tongaporutu River and is probably best known for the nearby ‘Three Sisters’ rock formations. Once you’ve turned off the main state highway there is a small lane running parallel to the river, towards the sea, lined with an assortment of baches (cribs/holiday homes). It’s obviously a popular place with locals and holiday-makers who must come back year after year to chill out in their riverside homes, plenty of which were surrounded by boats and/or fishing rods, plus plenty of other beach paraphernalia.
We’ve driven past on every single trip we’ve done to New Plymouth, sometimes we stopover there for a rest break, toilet break, stretch your legs (or all the dog legs) break etc. We knew that there was an area where self contained campers were permitted to stay so it seemed like a good location enroute to New Plymouth and then southern Taranaki beaches, which I wanted to explore.
I think we were so excited to simply park up for our first night’s holiday in the van, crack open a drink and sit down and be pleased with ourselves, that I forgot for some time that the other big reason to go to this scenic spot was to go and see the Three Sisters. I quickly Googled the tide times as you are only supposed to walk around to the rock formations within a 1hr window either side of a low tide – and as luck would have it we’d just had a low tide when I checked the time. So newly poured drinks were quickly put aside (aka quickly downed) and we locked up the van and set off towards the river mouth/beach at a fairly brisk pace in case I’d got the times wrong! (There’s nothing quite like potentially being stranded overnight in a very damp place to make you walk quickly and with purpose!).
I really wish I had studied geology as rocks can sometimes be SO amazing and look full of history and interesting ‘stuff’! Along the side of the river were some pretty amazing cliffs, boulders, and rocky pavements.
After following the rocky side of the river we came to the beach and kept left to go around the headland. If we’d had more time I would love to have also explored the other side of the beach as the north side of the rivermouth looked super cool and interesting too.
The first view of the Three Sister rock formations is quite stunning. Even at a distance it looks like you’ve stumbled across Narnia or some other such scene from a movie (as can actually quite often happen in New Zealand as lots of movies were filmed here!).
Here’s where I will refer to some interesting facts that I’ve read about the Three Sisters. The towering rocks ‘sisters’ have actually varied in number over the years – the Tasman Sea constantly errodes the rock and some of the towers shrink then disappear – however at the same time the rough tides are also making new formations from the cliffs. The original third sister was lost back in 2003, and the aptly named Elephant Rock which stood close by looking regal, rocky and elephant-y, lost its “trunk’ in 2016 and now no longer resembles a large grey mammal at all! You can see a photo of the original Three Sisters and the Elephant Rock here.
The scenes simply take your breath away. Nature in all its forceful wonders. There to touch (carefully!), walk around (and sometimes through) and just stare goggle-eyed at.. or maybe that’s just me!
The wind was super brisk as was our walking pace still as the tide crept ever closer. We didn’t hang around on the beach too long – although I imagine a sunset shot here on the west coast would be absolutely stunning – and made our way back to camp. The narrowest parts of the walk are where I think you could actually get stranded, on the side of the river, rather than actually on the beach – but we weren’t going to hang around to see if I was correct!
I absolutely recommend this walk to anyone. It was about 30/40 mins each way – and good footwear is recommended for the rocky shores.
We returned to the camper and may have poured another drink to celebrate our mini-adventure and the wonders we had seen.
Since we came to live in New Zealand, and probably even before, I heard so much about the Bay of Islands that it obviously had to go onto our Must-See list (and my personal bucket list).
So on our first trip ever up to Northland and the Far North (is that the opposite of the Deep South?!) I was eagerly anticipating our arrival in the Bay of Islands.
It did not disappoint.
Just sharing my view from bed this morning…..
I’ve been out of phone signal lately ( yesterday we went up Cape Reinga at the Northern point of NZ) so I’ll have to do full blog posts when I get home.
Last night the Kiwi Blog Bus freedom camped at Horeke, Hokianga Harbour.
We are next to the Horeke Tavern which has been serving beer since 1826 ( that’s like real old in New Zealand terms!) and I recommend you all should visit this utterly charming place.
I’ve had such a peaceful night with just birds waking me this morning to a stunning view.
I have lots more pics to download when we get home but I’ll leave you with these:
Next on our plans…. We’re actually heading back to the Bay of Islands.
We haven’t been over to Russell yet but an invitation was kindly extended to us from Angela & Don of Russell – Orongo Bay Holiday Park to come and stay there.
We met them at the motorhome show in Hamilton last year and it’s taken us this long to get up here!
The 14 acre holiday park sounds amazing and i’m looking forward to checking out all the facilities. I’m so pleased we can go with our canine friends on board too!
I’m excited to get over there (on the ferry) and explore historic Russell and its beautiful surroundings.
So we’ve skipped to night 4 at Paihia, Bay of Islands.
(Night 3 was beachside at Pataua, Whangarei Heads, when a blissful day playing in the water was followed by a noisy rain squall rudely interrupting our sleep at 5am).
The day got off to a wet start and we travelled up to The Bay of Islands with low cloud, no views and my disappointment looming.
However Read More…
Free park over in Whangerai town centre down near the river
Lovely historic town basin, nicely renovated with lots of international boats moored up
Great, and very handy, playground for the ten-year-old!
Dinner – an excellent veg curry, spot on if I do say so myself
Weather – just cooling off this evening, has been very humid all day with the threat of rain but nothing arriving
Mood – just fine and dandy
Just a brief post as we’re almost ready to set off on our New Year trip.
The Kiwi Blog Bus is stocked up and groaning under the weight of all the Christmas leftovers.
The togs, towels & jandals are loaded. The body boards are strapped to the roof.
We’ve purchased a Read More…