Located in Waiatarua in the picturesque Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland sits the Waitakere Estate, with a long, concreted driveway which leads you through dense west Auckland bush and past a helipad, you will soon reach a white building with a number of over night rooms and a brick driveway winding up towards a car park with a gorgeous view.
I decided to treat my friend Olivia to lunch somewhere which wasn't the typical boring mall cafe'. After high tea crossed my mind I was on the internet looking for high tea locations in Auckland, the obvious restaurants in the city flashed up on my computer screen but I soon came across the Waitakere Estate and it looked better than perfect for a Sunday lunch date.
Luckily the weather held out for us and was a beautiful sunny day with barely a cloud in sight, the only downfall was the rate I was melting my make up off due to the heat. We got to Waitakere estate about 30 minutes before our high tea booking so we took a stroll around the garden and snapped any possible photo opportunities. The garden and views definitely did not disappoint, perfectly mowed and even green lawns, a fish pond with a water feature and white pillars draped with vines. We took a stroll further down the garden beyond the white pillars and witnessed a gorgeous view overlooking the Waitakere ranges out towards Auckland City with Rangitoto Island sitting on the horizon. There looked to be a small walking track at the end of the garden but neither Olivia or I had appropriate walking shoes or clothes so I thought I would give that path a miss this time.
The estates interior is slightly old fashioned and outdated but it only added to the character of Waitakere estate, there are private rooms with balcony views that face out towards the city, and a lounge just opposite reception with 6 chandeliers gracing the ceiling. 12pm rolled around and we were ushered from the lounge to our table in the dining room.
Waitakere Estate is perfect if you want to treat yourself and a loved one to a special lunch out, or whether you just want some cute pictures to grace your instagram.
Waitakere Estate allows bookings for high tea every weekend from midday to 4pm. If you're wanting to splash out a little more and make the most of the trip out west and enjoy the views a little longer, you can purchase a high tea weekend escape package; which includes high tea for two on arrival, a 3 course dinner, 1 nights accommodation and a cooked breakfast for two. Check out their package deals for prices on all 8 of their get away packages if this sounds a bit like you!
The venue is a pretty straight forward 15 minute drive from Titirangi, a GPS is handy though in order to pin point the exact location of the estate, as if you blink you might just miss the driveway.
I didn't get any good pictures of the high tea itself unfortunately, to be honest I was way too hungry and just wanted to dig in to the cute mini food and enjoy my cup of tea.
For those of you who haven't experienced a high tea lunch, or don't know that much about it, high tea is a British tradition that began in the 1700's as a meal usually served mid afternoon and originally for the working man, enjoyed standing up or sitting on tall stools, hence where the name 'high' tea originated. Eventually high tea transitioned into an event which would be marked on social calendars and attended by ladies and gentlemen of class, usually enjoyed before attending the theatre. High tea is usually served with small cakes, scones, sweet treats and various savouries, which is accompanied by a pot of tea or even a glass of champagne at some venues.
If you do have any allergies though, please remember to inform the staff when making your booking. Olivia is allergic to nuts, kiwifruit and raw egg so any food which contained those ingredients the chef put on my side of the high tea arrangement. Olivia and I both did get a little bit confused at one point though as to what contained deadly ingredients and what didn't, near the end of our lunch Olivia did just about ate a mini cupcake which contained hazelnut, but it's all right the crisis was adverted and I didn't end up killing my high tea date, thank goodness! Otherwise that definitely would have put a dampener on our afternoon...
We both left the estate surprisingly full, the small cakes and savouries are awfully deceptive so don't go eating a meal before-hand thinking that 3 small plates stack with mini cakes won't even curve your hunger for the afternoon.
I'm scared of heights, maybe not as bad as I use to be, but I still struggle with indoor rock climbing and planes, but I don't make a habit of letting my fears control me, even if my father is the one at the controls of the aircraft... for the first time ever.
Ardmore Aero Club is the place to go if you're interested in becoming a pilot and want to have a taste of the experience before you glide ever so gently into debt. For Christmas I gifted my Dad a flying experience where he got to be at the controls of a Cessna 4 seater aircraft for 20 minutes. There is a qualified flight instructor in the passenger seat during the flight who also has their own set of controls, so if you need to have a break due to a bit of air sickness or for whatever the reason may be they will take control of the plane. My Dad had control of the plane pretty much the whole time which was great and he didn't do a too bad job with take off either, I am still alive to tell the tale after all, The 20 minutes that you do up in the Cessna does also go towards your hours of flying time you need to do to be able to fly solo, and these times do not expire so if 30 years down the track you want to pursue becoming a pilot, you already have that 0.6 time to go towards it.
If being a passenger or pilot isn't quite your thing there is a cafe back at base, I haven't tried the food myself but I heard no complaints from Mum after our plane landed.
The Cessna is the smallest aircraft I have ever been in and I would be lying if I said my heart didn't jump into my mouth after take off from Ardmore, I wasn't quite prepared for the plane to lean as much as it did so quickly to either side, as being in a smaller aircraft all movements are a lot more noticeable compared to if you were sitting cattle class in an A380, I would consider myself a sardine in a tin in the case of being rear passenger in a Cessna.
For our flight Dad flew us out towards the back of Waiheke Island and over some beautiful farm land, I managed to get quite a few good pictures of the scenery even if it was through the windows of the plane. The flight was pretty smooth considering the size of the aircraft, Dad did a good job of being the pilot for 20 minutes; he successfully took off from the runway, flew us out towards some beautiful landscapes, and put the plane on some slight, but awesome angles, and flew us back towards Ardmore. If I can remember correctly I don't think he handed the control of the plane over to the instructor at all until it came to landing the plane. Turning a plane with the steering wheel is rather the different to driving a car; (without pointing out the obvious) my Dad was saying after the flight that a slight turn of the steering wheel caused the plane to take a large lean in comparison to the turn on the wheel. So if you ever get to experience this, don't turn the steering wheel so drastically as you might put the plane into a barrel roll and tragically crash into the picturesque hills of Ardmore, but then again you'll forever be remember as the idiot who treated the plane like a car.
Ardmore may not be a commercial airport but it is the busiest airport in New Zealand, with 7 major flight schools, including both planes and helicopters, and with charter operations Ardmore really does run like clock work. We waited for 6 other Cessnas' to land in a 5 minute time frame and for a DC3 to cross the runway before we had the chance to take off. Even before our plane hit the run way there were a couple of helicopters taking off and landing with people learning how to fly.
If you don't want to fly a plane but still want to check out the airport, Ardmore is a great place to go to just watch the planes and helicopters land; chuck together a picnic for a Sunday afternoon and sit on the grass near the end of the runway and watch all the different kind of planes circling the air space. Just as we were about to take off I spotted an older couple sitting in their picnic chairs next to their classic car watching the flights.
I bought the flight experience from Red Balloon which has a range of gift ideas and experiences perfect for everyone, it's easy enough as purchasing the experience and printing off the voucher at home. It's a New Zealand website with gift ideas ranging from affordable to wallet burning (in my case anyway).
All in all it was an awesome experience and I'm glad my Dad enjoyed the flight and my brother and I shared the experience in the air with him, after all it's not everyday you get to fly a plane!
Monster shakes are the current fad among Instagram enthusiasts, getting that perfectly filtered and angled photo of a milk shake that gives the impression of the contents spilling out over the rim would make any teen girl think their internet life is that bit more glamorous. I decided to see what all the excitement was about and visit Cereal Killa with my friend Amy, before visiting Casa Del Gelato later the same day...
Cereal Killa on Dominion Road is the most recent and one of the most popular monster shake cafe's to pop up. Unfortunately the cafe doesn't have a lot of seating so if you want to dine in you might just have to plan ahead and book a table. Since we couldn't get a seat inside anywhere we decided to grab our shakes to go, which is a mistake if you want the full affect of the monster! Obviously the contents were not spilling over the edge like it would in a mason jar, but it was still pretty damn nice!
We both indulged in the candy floss shake, which had a pink candy floss layer throughout the drink and topped with cream, marshmallows and some sort of sugary, caramel crumble on top.
My only word of advice is to ditch the paper straw, it may look cute but it deems itself useless after about 2 minutes of sipping the cold milkshake through, I had to resort to scooping out the marshmallows with my hand as the straw collapsed under pressure! But never the less Cereal Killa is worth the trip and is a necessity for any Instagram enthusiast.
Casa Del Gelato on Mt Eden Road was my next stop, this cafe also has limited seating but as it doesn't serve meals they aren't as over crowded with hungry patrons.
At Casa they have a variety of gelato flavours which you can pick to put in your shake, their choices range from; cookies n cream, mars, chilli chocolate, crunchy, tiramisu and plenty of fruity flavours! Their shakes are also topped with cream and various different cookies or sweets on top, from brownies and tiger sticks to pretzel squares, if you're ever craving the sweet/salty mix!
Casa Del Gelato also serves a hot Oreo monster shake! Perfect for those cold days where you want something sweet and hot but are craving something a bit out of the ordinary. Their food service doesn't just end at monster shakes though; tea/coffee, desserts, simple milkshakes and classic gelato in a waffle cone. Casa Del Gelato is sweet tooth heaven!
But don't fear, these monster shakes may look big but they won't stretch your stomach; the cream on top gives the impression of it being a fuller than life drink.
Needless to say since having a weekend filled with a more than the recommended dose of sugar, I have joined the gym and am steering clear of the sweets isle! Diabetes didn't quite make the list when I was planning my agenda for this lifetime.
Although that doesn't mean I won't be back to try the rest of the flavours at both of these beautiful places!
Hum and Falling Apple Charitable Trust work together to help promote art, music, education, culture, health and sustainability from within the community. The first stage of their project together was to restore the dilapidated 2 story villa located at 123 Grafton Road, on the corner of Grafton Road and Grafton Bridge. The restoration included over 250 volunteers and various New Zealand businesses. And in 2011 Hum Salon was born! With the classic wooden interior and velvet curtains gives an all welcome and homely feeling for anyone who enters, there are instruments free for use such as a guitar and classic piano, the walls exhibit art from local and international artists, and you can choose the music that plays on the speakers outside Hum via a laptop that sits on a table at the bottom of the stairs inside.
The building is facilitated by volunteers and is offered free to the community, this space can be used for anything from business meetings, as a study space and to patients and visitors from the hospital to forget their worries, or need a hug in times of dealing with shock. The community has donated and continue to donate items that occupy the house, and donated items are also given to those in need, from visitors at the hospital who are caught short in what they need, and also locals who have next to no money for clothes or food.
I was first unsure about walking straight in off the street, as there was a meeting happening in the front room and there wasn’t anyone outside but I soon realised the Hum Salon is ultimately a free for all in regards to chilling out, after another girl walked straight past me and into one of the rooms to greet her friends. There is no front desk, there is no booking required, only a small table to your right as you walk in the door with information on the villa, a donation box, guest book and kind notes praising the owners of the Hum Salon written by regulars which have been stapled to a chalk message board.
Surrounding the outside front of the villa is mismatched furniture covered in cushions, a tree swing and a coffee hut that is run by volunteers which is used to pay for utilities, although no one is pressured into purchasing anything. You are more than welcome to walk in off the street to order yourself a hot drink then find yourself a perfect spot to spend your day. You are more than welcome to wonder around the property and take pictures of the old villa, out the back of the Salon is a rather spacious backyard with a fire box and wooden seating, which sits beside railings that overlook the motorway that runs under the Grafton bridge. You are more than welcome to bring your own wood and set a fire and enjoy the heat while sitting under the stars and sharing stories or music.
While I was here I was greeted by a Boston Terrier with a tennis ball, and for about 30 minutes I was playing a fun game of fetch with her while her owner was sitting up on the deck relaxing with a hot drink. This is a great space if you want to hang out with other friendly souls, with such a welcoming vibe it was hard to leave!
Hum Salon is only a 5 minute walk from Auckland Hospital, so if you need to take a bit of a breather from the sterilised walls of the hospital then head to Hum and chill out on the outdoor furniture and enjoy the fresh air and friendly vibes.
Keep it humming by donating to the trust; as Hum Salon bases itself on "People before Profit" they need a hand being able to keep the villa up and running for everyone to enjoy. You can help our by visiting the Salon and purchasing a hot drink from the coffee hut, or you can click here and go straight to their donation page, every cent helps keep this beautiful community project going!
This place truly is wonderful for anyone who wants to escape their busy life style and chill out with other friendly souls, This is a home away from home for many who enjoy the villa.
The Hum Salon is open Wednesday to Friday 10am - 6pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am - 7pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Check out more about Hum by visiting their website www.fallingapple.org.nz
Hunua Falls are a great summers day destination if you aren't wanting to walk too far to get to the waterfall, but are also ideal if you are looking to go for a scenic bush walk.
The Hunua falls are about an hour from Auckland CBD. There is plenty of parking, but I would suggest heading to the falls early as you want the best possible chance of getting a park and a good spot to spend your day at the falls. Just after the car park there is usually a food truck which sells ice cream and hot dogs, so just incase you forget some or all of your food for the day you can always stop there for a bite to eat.
There is a short 20 minute walking track you can take which will lead you to a lookout, which has a great view of the falls, the track will also lead you back down to the carpark if you keep following the signs.
There is also a circuit walking track which has a round trip of about an hour and a half, I haven't walked that path yet but that could possible be the way to the top, but don't take my word for it!
It is possible to reach the top of the falls, but I was running short of time when I was there so I didn’t get a chance to find the track up to it. But if you do please leave a comment and/or picture of the view!
Interested in more waterfalls in Auckland? Check out my all time favourite Kitekite falls for a great walk and epic view.
If you are looking for somewhere a bit different and awesome to go for a swim then the old Warkworth cement works should be at the top of your to do list! These old ruins are what’s left of Mahurangi Cement Works which closed in 1929 – So they have been around for a while! Unfortunately the perimeter of the ruins have been fenced off, as it’s too dangerous to enter due to possible falling rocks and the building crumbling, but it's awesome to walk around the fence line and check out what's left!
The cement works are just over an hour out of Auckland (refer to map below). The start of the dirt track leading to the cement works is sign posted just off Pulham Road, so it shouldn't be too difficult for you to find.
I would suggest leaving early if you want to avoid any traffic and to get a good shaded spot around the waterhole.
The water gets very deep very quick, so if you aren’t a competent swimmer or are taking young children then I would suggest taking some sort of flotation device or life jackets for the young ones. You can jump straight from the grass and into the water without worrying about hitting the ground, but I suggest checking the water first just to ensure that there are no hidden logs or concrete blocks under the surface; leaving in an ambulance would not be the ideal way to end a day of swimming.
There isn't a current so you can easily lie on your lilo in the middle of the waterhole and not worry about floating off the some distant land
There are plenty of places to jump off and dive into the water; there's a bank on the other side of the waterhole that you can climb up and jump off, and there are a few overhanging trees with swing ropes.
I only spent about 3 hours here but it's a great place to just chill with mates and go for a swim, and since it's fresh water you don't get irritated eyes or dry skin like you would normally get at the beach. I would even go on my own if it wasn't an hours drive from where I live.
So grab your friends, take a picnic and enjoy and great day out at Warkworth!
Summer is here and I've got two weeks off work! Spontaneous trips to beautiful west Auckland locations are the epitome for summer time therapy and relaxation.
On Sunday my partner and I took the 40 minute drive to Kitekite falls at Piha to walk the 30 minute trek to get to the falls, and also did it again with two of our mates on Tuesday. This is such a popular spot for anyone who wants to escape the bustling city and suburbs to experience beautiful quiet nature and beautiful fresh swimming water of Kitkite.
Kitekite falls is a 4 levelled waterfall out at Piha; 3 of which you can see from the bottom, Swimming is possible at 2 of the levels as well as the large pool of water at the bottom of the falls. It's about a 40 minute drive from Blockhouse Bay, and please if you know you are a slower driver I beg of you to pull over if you have any cars behind you. The roads out that way aren't the safest to overtake on due to how windy it is, and being stuck behind someone going 50km on an open road is excruciatingly painful.
I made the mistake of wearing my brand new white NY hat to the top. I gave it to Cameron to hold while I took my first dip, and he accidentally dropped it on the rocks. Rookie mistake obviously... Don't wear white to a waterfall
If I were to make one suggestion though, it would be to wear boat shoes if you haven't got any other shoes to wear while walking over the rocks. The rocks won't/shouldn't cut your feet, it can just be a painful inconvenience. And it can also be very slippery! I slipped while trying to climb out of the rock pool, thankfully my foot jammed between two rocks to stop me slipping further and I didn't end up with any cuts or bruises... I just looked like a dick trying to climb of this rock pool with 3 other people standing around me.
This is a Mediterranean style restaurant with turkish inspired dishes on the menu. I'm not going to lie, it took me a while to pick a dish as they all had foreign names, and I wanted something small as I had already had a decent sized lunch in New Lynn.
I ended up picking the Lahmacun; it's Turkish flatbread, with beef mince, onion, rocket, tomato, lemon. Kind of resembled an extremely meaty pizza! The Lahmacun was quite spicy, but nothing I couldn't handle of course! It's the perfect choice if you are wanting something small and quick to eat, no cutlery needed!
I will definitely be coming back here sometime soon, I might just try out the breakfast menu next time.
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Whatipu beach is a decent 45 minute drive from central-west Auckland, and just like most of the roads that far out west; it is very windy, so take a puke bag if you don't do so well with motion.
Cameron quite often goes on about how nice Whatipu beach is, so he finally took me out there in the weekend. Needless to say it wasn't exactly what I expected; the beach is extremely flat, yet the surrounding land is built up of rather large rocks formations and hills, and the wind was blowing a force, I could barely hear what Cameron was saying to me and were walking side by side.
This beach definitely isn't a go-to summer swimming spot either; the water is way too rough that the waves were breaking a few hundred meters out from the shore. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it though, it was a great walk and interesting looking at broken bits of wood stuck in the sand down one end of the beach, looks like it might have been from some sort of wharf but got absolutely destroyed by the waves over time.
On the way back home we stopped in at the Huia store, I absolutely love coming to this place. It's a cute little cafe/corner store just before the park as you enter Huia. It has everything from ice cream to caramel slice and the best burgers ever, to dog treats, books and loafs of bread. Did I mention their food is larger than at your average cafe in town? The cookies I saw must have been the size of my hand! And the burger I had was absolutely beautiful; can't get anything better than camembert, chicken, lettuce and bacon squeezed between two buns. Did someone say diet?
We ended our day at Blockhouse Bay beach with a raspberry savoury twist. The ducks there are getting more and more "friendly", one strutted up to me and pretty much looked me up and down, staring at my bread, then attempted to peck at the grains of sand on my knee. Sorry Mr. Duck but I don't give in to bossy people!
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On Sunday my partner and I headed out to Karekare falls, summer is starting to show its face so I thought it would be a better chance than any to start making the most of it.
It's about a 30-45 minute drive from Blockhouse Bay, if you haven't been out Piha way before I'll just give you a cautionary warning that the roads are quite windy. But please dont go out there and travel at 40kms an hour, as it isn't the simplest road to overtake on.
The main road to Karekare falls and beach is rather tight fitting, so if you haven't been out there before I suggest to not taking your 40ft family bus haha. There have been a few slips out there in the past few weeks so take extra care as a bit of the road has fallen away, it's been cordoned off but this isn't the place you want to test the top speed in your car, or how many times it can roll down a cliff...
As you pass the main carpark to the beach, keep driving up the road a few meters and you will hopefully spot a small yellow directional sign to the left of the road, and that leads to the waterfall. The falls are about a 3 minute walk from the road side, you will pass a small rocky watery slope on your way there, which is quite cool to take some long expose pictures of. Young kids quite often climb up the slope or play in the running water, so don't be afraid to be a little adventurous yourself!
The water beneath the waterfall definitely isn't warm, but once you're in it's quite refreshing. The water is inhabited by eels so don't crap your pants if you feel something swipe past your feet; they only come out when it is quiet or at night anyway. And please DO NOT DIVE or jump in, that water is no where near deep enough, you can practically walk your way to the waterfall.
Getting right up close to the waterfall and looking up at it is pretty cool; the rocks are covered in a really soft, mossy/seaweed plant thing, I couldn't stop touching it because it felt like touching a cloud haha. Looking up the waterfall and seeing all the single water drops come falling down was awesome and would make an interesting picture; you would just want to use a waterproof camera obviously.
I'm not sure if you can get to the top of the waterfall, but there is a track just behind the picnic area that leads somewhere. I haven't been up there before so Cam and I decided to have a bit of a walk to see where it would take us. It's not too steep but you do need to have some sort of fitness in order to walk it, so sorry but your zimmer frame is not suitable for this terrain! We didn't actually get anywhere walking the track, as we turned around 10 minutes into it as Cams leg was giving him grief. The trail did give us some magnificent views though; being able to look out past the waterfall and right out to the beach without it at all being tainted by large skyscrapers or modern buildings was a truly beautiful sight.
Karekare is rather isolated when you compare it to any beach around the area. I'm not going to say you can happily skinny dip here without people noticing you, but you could probably get away with it after 4pm. I would watch out for the eels though if you do attempt it ;)
Karekare is just one of many waterfalls out west that you can swim at., I'm going to attempt to visit every West Auckland summer hotspot this season, because well... Life is too short to not find the treasures hidden beneath waterfalls!
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Michaela Loye is an 23 year old blogger and free lance photographer hailing from Auckland, New Zealand. She has a passion for adventure and locally sourced beauty products.
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