Rarotonga – Visit to an Island Paradise

Rarotonga beach as sun goes down

Many of our guests at Breakers finish their NZ holiday with a few days at the Cook Islands.  I like to call this the holiday at the end of the holiday – time to slow down and relax before heading back home and back to the reality of everyday life.

beachfront accommodation

Well we thought it was time to check out this Island paradise and see what all the fuss was about so we headed to Rarotonga for a few nights R and D (it was!).

views up to mountains

The Cook Islands are made up of 15 islands in the heart of the Pacific Ocean with Rarotonga being the largest and the main island.  I say largest – it is still small at 32kms in circumference and surrounded by a crystal clear lagoon that meets the reef and beyond to the Pacific Ocean.  There is an inner ring road with off-shoots leading to dense green jungle and magnificent towering jagged mountains.

walk along the beach Rarotonga

We arrive during their winter – same as us in NZ but crossing the date line and going back one day.  Both our countries may be on winter hours but that is about where the similarities stop.  It is 4 o’clock in the afternoon when we arrive and a balmy 28 degrees.  Yep, definitely different to home where we left a frost and -3 degrees…….

along the beach rarotonga resort

There are numerous accommodation options available to suit all budgets from resorts to backpackers and plenty of rental accommdotion.  As we are quite independent we chose to rent a house.  Well it was a bungalow actually – beachfront, fully self-contained and just one other detached bungalow beside us so very private.  We chose the west side of the island, right on the beach and affording wonderful views and sunsets.  Sounding somewhat familiar!

enjoying the views Rarotongan beach

My guests when asking where we are going for our holiday would laugh when I said Rarotonga.  “You do realise you live on a beach” they’d say.  Well yes but I won’t have lawns to mow, windows to clean or any of those other things that are associated with living and owning a beachfront property – I have important R & D to do you know.

views to lagoon from bungaow

There were a few fundamental differences obviously, besides the air temperature, but the water temperature also – actually just the water full stop.  Being a lagoon it was pretty much safe to swim in the entire time, crystal clear and warm – did I mention oh so warm.  We swam (well for one of us it may have been more floated – same thing) each morning and again each evening – lovely way to start and finish the day.

relaxing at the Rarotonga bungalow

It’s more than that though – more than not having household chores to do as we still did our dishes, made our bed, swept our unit from the sand – I know aren’t we good :-)  No they call this island time and it really is. You immediately just feel more relaxed – even those household chores were relaxing.

roadside bus stop

With the island only being 32 kms in circumference it is pretty easy to get around with lovely restaurants/cafes dotted along the roadside and waterfront.  There is a public bus transport system but we choose to hire a scooter – probably the most common choice of transport for visitors and locals alike.

main street Rarotonga

The roads are perfect for the scooter, not much traffic and everything is so easy to find.  Makes parking a breeze too!  The seat lifts revealing a lockable compartment so great for doing a bit of shopping which lets face it is an integral part of any holiday – even if you just need new sunnies.

tours rarotonga to mountains

You can make your visit to Rarotonga as relaxing or busy as you like.  There are plenty of activities – snorkeling, diving, kite surfing, paddleboard – yep lots of water sport activities.  Also lagoon tours, cultural tours, 4WD tours – something for everyone.

locals of Rarotonga

original mission house Rarotonga

For us it was more about relaxing.  Hanging on the beach, people watching and just generally enjoying our surroundings.  We took lots of walks too – along the beaches and  around the villages.  There is so much colour in both the people we met and the buildings and architecture.

road side cafe

Rarotongan church

Church rarotonga

Of course any trip away for us wouldn’t be complete with getting on a bicycle so we hired a bike for a couple of afternoons and did some exploring.  It was a great way to see the island and the countryside.  We biked the entire circumference of the island on our first afternoon outing and for our next outing explored some of the inner ring road and the roads leading off it.

riding in rarotonga

It was a great way to get a better insight to island living and there is nothing quite like the path less traveled.  One thing we would definitely do next time is take our hiking boots as there are some great hiking trails but they take you deep into the jungle and up into the mountains so decent footwear is paramount.

Rarotonga sceen with mountains and plants

road side store Rarotonga

Considering the size of the island Rarotonga has some wonderful eateries.  We would usually have our main meal at lunch time to make the most of the sea views offered from many of the cafes/restaurants.  There are supermarkets and little roadside stores so you can easily get some supplies if you wish to be semi-self sufficient.  On the occasions we did eat out for dinner the meals were sublime!  Fantastic service, great ambience and fresh delicious food.

fun at the markets rarotonga

stall holder rarotonga market

A couple of must dos when visiting Rarotonga is the market on Saturday – filled with colour, music, festivities and of course treasures to buy.

leaving the church service Rarotonga

Church congregation Rarotonga

reverend Rarotonga church

The other – a church service on Sunday.  Visitors are welcomed with open arms and it is a wonderful cultural experience with singing that has to be heard to be believed.

Stary skies above Rarotongan bungalow

This is island living at island time on a little island paradise – it is all about relaxing and going with the flow.  For us we’d call it perfect and I for one can’t wait to go back again.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth – West Coast of the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

 

 

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Our Winter Paradise on Sunset

Beautiful days with stunning sunsets, that’s what our winters are all about here on the West Coast – well usually.  After a huge front hit late last week it was great to get our “normal” winter weather back.

nine mile creek glowing in the sunset

Talked Stephen into heading down to the beach for one more walk with the boys before dark.  Needless to say he came loaded with the camera gear – figured if has to follow “she who must be obeyed” might as well see if can get a photo or two.

Nine mile creek on sunset

Well get a photo or two he did.  While I continued on down the beach with the boys Stephen set up the tri-pod and headed up the creek to snap some shots…..

nine mile creek as the sun sets

Not too bad eh!

sunset views of Breakers

Back up the track to the house and all was looking pretty good from here too.

sunset views from Breakers

Home sweet home – hard to beat our winter paradise on sunset.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Beachfront property overlooking the Tasman Sea – fabulous sea views and fabulous sunsets.

 

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Tackling the Ted McGrath Memorial Walk on our Mountain Bikes

Rain, rain, rain – oh boy oh boy did we have some rain but thankfully finally we awoke to clear skies.

riding in the trees ted mcgrath track

Wanting to make the most the great weather we  set off with some trepidation to tackle the notorious Ted McGrath Memorial Walk track. A track that has had more victims than any other we know of.

biking ted mcgrath track

Packing some extra clothing and food just in case we run out of daylight we headed off to conquer this beast of a trail.

reflections in the puddle ted mcgrath track

The water holes, thanks to the recent rain were threatening to overflowing and looked to be of immeasurable depth.  As such we entered with caution.

sucking sand on ted mcgrath memorial walk

all smiles ted mcgrath track

As for the sand it was so thick and so deep it threatened to destroy our bikes and made any forward motion nearly impossible, sucking at our tyres and it took quite some effort to turn each pedal stroke…….

beach views ted mcgrath track

but we made it out and were rewarded for our efforts with the most magnificent views of the Tasman Sea.

beach sand sucking ted mcgrath track

Time to turn around before we lost daylight and head for home.

riding ted mcgrath track

Mission accomplished, we survived.

Please Note: Just having some fun with this one – this is a very short track on the outskirts of Greymouth, only about 100 metres long leading to the beach.  No mountain bikers or their bikes were harmed during this ride :-)

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the region that is the West Coast of the Southern Alps.

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West Coast Treetop Walkway – A Walk with the Giants

walking on the West Coast treetop walkway

Whenever we have my parents visit we always try to showcase something they haven’t seen before on their visits to the West Coast.

With clear skies and sunshine we headed south to check out the West Coast Treetop Walkway.

amongst the trees treetop walkway

Based at the edge of the beautiful Mahinapua Scenic Reserve the walkway meanders through native rain forest with towering Rimu and Kamahi trees.

canopy of trees amongst treetop walkway

Don’t think we could have picked a better day for photography, the lighting was near perfect and there was not a breath of wind.

views to tower treetop walkway

At one end of the walkway you have the option of climbing the tower putting you 40 metres above ground.  Some 107 steps later and maybe the odd deep breath you reach the top.

looking down on the walkway from tower Treetop walkway

walking down tower with views to lake mahinapua

It is worth the heavy breathing as it affords you some fantastic views in all directions – The snow-capped Southern Alps, out to the Tasman Sea – valleys inland and of course the gorgeous Lake Mahinapua that the reserve boarders.

treetop walkway to tower west coast

Together with your interpretation map you receive on entry there are “stopping” points along the walkway giving you various information regarding the region, bird life and the different species of trees.

assessing tree types treetop walkway

Digging deep into our memory banks Mum, Dad and I enjoy trying our best to figure out the various native trees.  It is amazing how different they can look when you are in their canopy versus what you are used to at ground level.  Some too are quite different in their juvenile form to that of their adult version so it is quite the learning experience.

mum coming onto cantilevering swingbridge

Our final stop is out onto the cantilevered swing-bridge.  This is a bit of a surreal experience – how can this thing possible stay upright.  There is a bit of movement – designed as such of course.

cantilevering swingbridge on treetop walkway

The views out over the lake and reserve do help to keep the brain occupied as it struggles with the concept of hanging in mid-air.

looking down on tree ferns

Mahinapua Scenic Reserve

I love when we go somewhere we’ve spent a lot of time previously (we often bike the Mahinapua walkway) yet learn something new.  This time it was some history regarding the reserve – named a reserve in 1907 – making it one of the oldest reserves in NZ.  A walk with nature and a history  lesson all in one.  The West Coast Treetop Walkway – a walk with the giants.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring as much of the region as possible.

 

 

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The Magic of Night Riding – Point Elizabeth Track

night riding point elizabeth

Hard to beat a hot shower after a cold night out on the bike.

enjoying the views point elizabeth night ride

We may have picked the coldest night of the year so far but it was totally worth it.

riding the trail point elizabeth

Stephen says there was definitely shrinkage – he started his ride on a 29er and finished on a 26er……

The things we do for a bit of fresh air.

views of sunset from point elizabeth lookout

But wow what a great sunset and nothing better really than being out with your best buddy.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the region that is the West Coast of the Southern Alps.

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Winter Reflections Lake Matheson, South Westland

crazy cloud reflections lake matheson

While I took some Mummy time with the boys Stephen headed off to Lake Matheson to make the most of the near perfect winter conditions.

perfect reflections lake matheson

Near perfect – hard to better it really with mirror like conditions that the lake is renowned for but hard to get the timing right on.  We call those mirror like reflections the “million dollar photo” or the elusive photo as it is so hard to get all the dots to line up to ensure that one shot that everyone longs for.

big cloud reflections lake matheson

Locals tip for you then – winter would have to be the best time for viewing.  Most times when we are in the glacier country we manage to strike the best conditions.  What are those conditions you ask – well no wind and minimal cloud coverage over the mountains.

Even better – not too many people to share the trail with either so getting those photos is a lot easier with the best access to the viewing platforms without jostling for position or having to get up at the crack of dawn – before the wind comes up in the busy summer season.

flora and fauna reflections lake matheson

While some people may think they want no cloud cover, some cloud cover makes for much more interesting photography.  Sure to have the mountain tops free from the clouds is ideal but for some clouds to be wispy in the skies is great and adds to the atmosphere and dramatics of the location.  Crikey now I sound like I’m trying to sell you something – think the photos speak for themselves really though eh :-)

matheson cafe and start of lake matheson walk

lake matheson bush walk

The Lake Matheson walk starts at the Matheson Cafe – giving a brief taster of the mountain views.  Then you have a native bush walk loop track right around the lake with two fantastic views points strategically placed for the best reflection photos.

mt tasman above the tree line lake matheson

Stephen pretty much had the lake to himself to start with so had the best vantage point to get some photos.  While Mt Cook was hiding herself Mt Tasman took advantage to be the main attraction – I’m sure she gets sick of playing second fiddle to Mt Cook so she was hamming it up for the camera – a great model indeed.  She must have known someone was there with their camera with cloud off to the left and the right but she was the shining star.  Yes I know sorry, getting a bit carried away there, but looking at the photos it really does look like she was at a photo shoot.

mt tasman reflecting lake matheson

I love this shot – had to throw it in to see if I could confuse you all – took me a minute to let my brain get it right.  How’s that for perfection reflection.

boardwalk through the forest lake matheson walk

The main reason people visit Lake Matheson is well for the lake of course but the nature walk is just as beautiful.  Well ok if you get those reflections maybe not “just” as beautiful but it is a gorgeous walk in its own right and well worth doing even if you don’t think you’ll get those reflection photos you are after.

boardwalk edge lake matheson

Much of the trail skirts the edge of the lake so it is a lovely contrast of the native forest and the lake.

mountain reflections lake matheson

lake matheson reflections with circle illusion

reflection forest at lake matheson

But not to skite or anything but this latest effort was all about the reflections so here’s a few more for you.  Hope you enjoy them :-)

 Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders that help make up the West Coast of the Southern Alps.

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10 Mile Valley – Coal Valley

10 mile valley walk in the sunshine

Home from holiday and in need of a leg stretch it’s hard to go past a walk up the 10 mile valley.

Coincidentally we were sent a link to some archive footage from the 1970s of the 10 mile – known then more locally as coal valley.  This gives a great insight into the coal mining days and shows just how nature always has her way and takes things back when we go up there now.  Just in case you’re interested here is the link to a short documentary – worth the watch as it is fascinating.

http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/coal-valley-1979

10 mile valley and historic coal relics

For us though we had the sun shining but it was cold – winter here now after all and had nothing to do with the fact we were just home from our Tropical Island holiday to Rarotonga and had got used to lovely warm temperatures…….

in search of the dogs 10 mile valley walk

There was something incredibly weird about this walk though…… no dogs.  They were still down with their Aunty and Uncle at Glacier Country.  So yes here we are walking up one of THEIR favourite valleys and they aren’t here with us – so quiet, very strange.  I looked for them – Stephen called them, just to make it seem more normal lol

coloured stones 10 mile creek

The valley was spectacular and welcomed us with open arms.  The creek was running crystal clear, birds were chirping and the vegetation was green, green, green.

bridge over 10 mile creek up the valley

Not that we ever forget how beautiful it is up here and it doesn’t matter the weather, rain or shine – she is home, she is all things that we love about the West Coast – nature beauty, natures playground.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Together with their two faithful friends Nico and Ziggy they enjoy getting out and about and exploring the West Coast of the Southern Alps.

 

 

 

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