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Category Archives: Beaches

Striking Gold in Ross

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 06, 2017

Ross is a historic gold town just south of Hokitika on the Glacier Highway.

Gold was first found in the area in the 1860s and thus the town of Ross was established. With a population of around 300 people it is hard to believe it was once more like 4000 in the height of the gold rush days.

Recently we had a couple of nights staying in Ross – at the Totara Bridge Station holiday park nestled at the end of Ross Beach Road.  What a location!  Literally right on the beach you’ll discover this almost hidden oasis.  With accommodation options suiting every budget – we were in our caravan, so there are powered and unpowered sites, dorm bunk rooms, double rooms or self catering units.  Now I say rooms and units but these are more like pods.  They are actually recycled shipping containers that have been converted and to say they are cool well that would be an under-statement, even down to the communal kitchen and ablution block – really tastefully done.

Ross is possibly more known of late as being either the finish or the start of the West Coast Wilderness Trail – part of the NZ Cycle Trial system around New Zealand.  The West Coast Wilderness Trail goes from Greymouth to Ross – some 139kms through some of the most stunning West Coast scenery on offer.  The Totara Bridge Station is a great accommodation option for people using the cycleway.

We weren’t here to do any biking (I know – what!) but with two days up our sleeves we had plenty of time to explore the offerings of Ross.  Compulsory would be a walk on the beach.  Predominately a sandy beach, from the Ross Beach road you can head off in either direction – literally for miles.  Nico and I didn’t venture too far but did enjoy just meandering with the sand between our toes and relaxing in the sunshine.  Stephen and Ziggy headed off to the south – out towards the point.  There is a seal colony out here so you often get seals anywhere along the beach lazing in the sunshine.

One thing I never get sick of are West Coast sunsets.  I know we live by the sea and get to see them all the time  but I just can’t help myself – they draw you in and each one is different and special in its own right – no matter what beach you are on.  I’m obviously not alone in my thinking as some of the locals came down both nights we were here, pulled up, watched the sunset and then headed back home for the night.

For us after we’d seen the sunset,  we headed into Ross for dinner at the Historic Empire Hotel.  Talk about your traditional Kiwi country pub.  This place rocked!  So much atmosphere and history – you could almost feel it oozing from the walls.  The bar was filled with locals and visitors alike.  Quite a few workmen in the area at the moment – for gold mining and tree planting apparently.  Everyone was friendly and eager with a smile.  Maria behind the bar and Christine out in the kitchen were all smiles and the bistro buffet was just what the doctor ordered.  After a cold beer or two by the roaring fire and with satiated tummies it was time to head back to base and hit the hay for the night.

My only regret during our stay was not getting out to take some night photos.  The star lit skies would have to have been some of the best I’ve seen for a very long time.  We get some awesome star lit skies at home but the two nights we had in Ross they were quite out of this world – and you’re just going to have to trust me on that.

Next day after another compulsory short walk on the beach, we headed into Ross to the Goldfields Museum and Information Centre.  While Stephen did a walk about town, I chatted with the lovely lady in the Information Centre who was super friendly and helpful.  Nico and I then went back to base to make a picnic lunch while Stephen and Ziggy headed off to check out the historic Gold Heritage Trail.

This is a lovely walk in the back of Ross, following the water race as it wound its way up the hillside.  There are lots of relics and information boards with a cool old miners hut at the top of the trail before the trail joins with the historic Ross cemetery.

It was here that Nico and I joined Stephen and Ziggy for our lunch.  Something about sitting in among the graves and headstones – we find it very peaceful and therapeutic.  Not bad views from up here either! Peek-a-boo I see you……

Now to give you an indication of how Ross was once a thriving metropolis (remember earlier I mentioned a population of 300 now v 4000 back in the late 1800s) well Ross has two historic cemeteries.  Knowing how we love cemeteries an investigation of the second cemetery was compulsory – aaahh I think we’re in heaven – excuse the pun.  What we did wonder is if perhaps one cemetery was Catholic and the other Protestant – they both certainly seemed of similar age historically.  The latter of our cemetery visits though is also the current use cemetery and again what a location – what a view.  Sitting atop a hill with views in all directions.  Think we’ve found our lunch stop when we next need a place to stop on route to – well anywhere…..

Our afternoon excursion saw us taking a drive further south from Ross (about 15kms or so), turning down Beach Road off SH6 just before the Waitaha River bridge, passing through the little settlement of Kakapotahi and coming out at the river mouth of the Waitaha River.  The beach was strewn with driftwood – as far as the eye could see.  It would be a driftwood sculpture’s idea of heaven – talk about untamed natural wilderness.  The boys and I were content to find a nice log and sit and relax and enjoy the views while Stephen took some (more tee hee) photographs.  Watching the surf pound in against the shoreline is rather mesmerizing to say the least.

Back to base to feed the boys and catch another stunning sunset.  Once again some of the locals turned up – like us they just sat and watched and then headed off again.  I could watch a sunset every night of the week and it was great to see I wasn’t alone in that thinking.  The sun setting into the sea should not be taken for granted, not every one is so lucky. This one set the sky on fire – so much so it made it look like the holiday park accommodation was on fire with the reflections in their windows.  Rest assured a call to the local fire brigade was not necessary.

With the boys tummies satiated – yep our turn and it was back to the Empire Hotel for a traditional country pub feed.  Something else I could do every night of the week – but then I’d be the size of a house so while watching a sunset whenever you like is allowable – and even advised, eating pub food too often is definitely not.  We enjoyed it while we could though and then back to check the boys and settle in for the night.

On a more heartbreaking note – we want to dedicate this blog posting to our beautiful boy Nico who recently passed away.  Our family chain has broken and our hearts are broken with it.  He was one super special dog – our big fella, our gentle giant, so full of love and joy.  So glad to have had this final road trip with him – he loved coming on our adventures, loved meeting new people and exploring new places.  Rest easy our beautiful boy – you will remain forever in our hearts. xo

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Together with their much-loved faithful companions Nico and Ziggy they enjoy getting out and exploring the region they’ve been lucky enough to call home – The Untamed Natural Wilderness West Coast.


Rarotonga – From one Island Paradise to Another

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 20, 2017

There is a recurring theme from many of our guests at Breakers Boutique Accommodation when I ask them how long is their holiday – three weeks, four weeks, even six weeks in NZ but finishing with a few days on a Pacific Island, predominately Rarotonga.  Well say no more – for us this is a no brainer, we have to check it out and make sure it is the right thing to do…… it’s a hard job but really someone had to do it……

Flying in we get an immediate sense this was the right thing to do.  You can see the whole island from the plane window at only 32 kilometres round and surrounded by crystal clear lagoon waters with the reef protecting it from the crashing waves from the sea.  Oh this is going to be bliss.

Now your trip to Raro can be as relaxing or active as you like.  Best thing is you don’t need to pack much.  Remember though it is an island with towering mountains in the middle so you can expect rain and in fact should expect rain at some stage.  You may not get any but I like to work with the rule of thumb – have a rain jacket and you won’t need it, don’t take one and it will rain.

This is our third visit to Rarotonga so we know our way around pretty well.  We like to be self-sufficient and book our accommodation through Rentraro.  They have properties all over the island that they manage and there is something for everyone and every budget.  This trip we chose a little one room bungalow – called Lyas on the South side of the island in Titikaveka and the sub-village of Tikioki.  This area has possible the best beach for swimming and is a renown snorkeling area – well just along the road anyway.  We made a point of lazing in the waters every morning and every evening.  A great way to start and finish our day.

One thing we have noticed during our visit to Raro is an increase in tourist population – this meaning an increase in vehicles on the road.  The first year we came it was predominately scooters – the favoured choice of transport for the locals and used to be for visitors too.  Unfortunately there are now numerous car hire options – can’t say I’m a fan and don’t think it is necessary.  Part of the appeal of the island is riding around on your scooter – with a speed limit of 30kms and 50kms you don’t really need a car to get anywhere.  That would be my main recommendation – hire a scooter, be like a local.  They are super cheap to rent and the price of petrol is bordering on ridiculous.  Think it cost us $5.00 to fill ours.

We also hire a mountain bike when we visit.  The roads are generally flat, if you head inland you might find a hill or two but the main outer road is flat the whole way round.  It pretty much follows the lagoon waters too so you get great views and can stop anywhere you like for a cooling dip in the waters.

There are plenty of eateries on the Island – again something for every budget but generally pretty inexpensive.  A popular item on most menus is a fish burger of some sort – think I’m in heaven.  We were lucky enough to be based right across the road from Charlies – a popular eatery with locals and visitors alike (you’ve seriously got to try their fish sandwich).  You can also hire paddle-boards and snorkeling gear here too.  There are other places dotted around the Island so options aplenty.

Another must do eating option would be the Muri night markets.  A great selection of local fare often complete with local entertainment.

We’re not big into fishing trips, pub crawls, diving, snorkeling, island nights or other tourist based activities.  That’s just us but there are plenty of those options for if you wish.  For us it just about a slow pedal around the island on our bikes or a walk along the beach – or a hike up the Needle.  Personally I think a hike up the Needle is a must do for everyone.  It is portrayed as strenuous but it isn’t really that bad.  Oh sure you will be huffing and puffing and probably taking lots of breaks on the way up but that’s ok, you’re on island time, there is no rush.  It may be super slippery after rain so do take good care – is very tree rooty, so much so in places it’s more like climbing a ladder…. I’m probably not selling it to you so far.  But we get to the top in less than 40 minutes – so take deep breaths and go for it.  The views are worth it – although in saying that follow the signs to head down the other side – but only for five minutes – literally to the top before you start the real descent.

You’ll know where I mean when you get there – there the views really open up for you.  You can carry on down to the waterfall if you want – it is was our plan this year but we’d recently had heavy rain making the ground super slippery and last thing we needed was a visit to the hospital so we played it safe and went back down the way we knew (town side).

So this isn’t our usual “this is what we’ve been up to” blog posting.  This is more an information based blog – hopefully helping you make an informed decision about what to see and do if you visit Rarotonga.  In summary:

The island is around 32kms round – split into West, North, East and South – easy eh!  West side is sunset side with coral based beaches.  We stayed this side first visit and while loved it for the sunsets didn’t find it the best for swimming as quite windy and a rocky shoreline. North is the more touristy side – home of Muri for all your water sports and main tourist based activities.  Huge amount of accommodation and eateries.  East side for the sunrise and possibly least windy side.  Renown side for snorkeling – the tourist trips all end up bringing their groups out to this side.  South side – possibly least rocky side of island, less touristy/busy but prettier for walking/biking as predominately following water line for duration and best side for swimming.

Accommodation:

Self booking/self catering check out Rentraro.  We’ve always dealt with Eddie and he is super informative and helpful.

Hotels:

West side – Edgewater Resort, Sunset Resort; North side – Club Raro (between town centre and Muri), Pacific Resort – right in the heart of Muri; nothing really more residential and holiday homes with exception Little Polynesian but super expensive – if you can afford it though I’d be going there for sure – what a spot!; South side – The Rarotongan.  If we were going to stay in a hotel style accommodation I’d be opting for The Rarotongan due to its location on the South side of the Island.

There are numerous other options, the above are just a small selection of the main hotels.

Transport:

Hire a scooter but if you have to hire a car…… hire a mini convertible – you might as well look cool!  We use Polynesian Bike Hire for both our scooter and mountain bike rental.

Hire a mountain bike.  We opted for the jumbo bikes – fat tyres and while you’re not doing any off-road as such the roads are in such poor condition for the most part the fat tyres give you more comfort.

Church – a must do when visiting Rarotonga is attending a Church service.  Aside from beautiful buildings these are wonderful to attend and listen to the locals singing – nothing short of heavenly (I know but it couldn’t be helped).

Finally.  Explore – take the inland route, especially round the south side of the island, so lush and green.  Take the little gravel back roads – they usually eventually end up back on the main outer route but you’ll get to see where all the fruit/veges come from, get away from the traffic and can even discover some seriously cool rock-pools ………..

or hidden hideaways to just sit in wonderment.

Most importantly – relax, it is the very reason you’ve come here.  Take off your watch, turn off your phone, unplug, get outside, immerse yourself in nature – you will be more connected than ever

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy sharing their experiences with their guests and helping ensure they make the most of the travels to this part of the world – no matter where the Island paradise…….


Point Elizabeth Track – A little bit of Untamed Wilderness

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 25, 2017

The Point Elizabeth track would have to be Greymouth’s premier walking track.  Running from the shores of North Beach… north of Cobden and finishing at Rapahoe Beach just off State Highway 6 at the gateway to the Great Coast Road.

The trail meanders along the cliff-tops through semi subtropical rain forest and often offers great coastal views.  The Cobden end has information boards for many of the trees and shrubs which we always find useful.  The DOC website describes the bush as one of the finest remaining tracts of mixed coastal forest in New Zealand.  Even I’ve learned something new today……

While it is Greymouth’s premier walking track it is probably the most under-rated.  We often recommend this trail to our guests and they come back blown away by its natural beauty.

The trail follows an old water race that gold miners used to sluice their gold claims so is a great trail of history but without any remaining relics to oooh and aahhh over.  That’s ok though the bush gives plenty of reason for that.

Approximately half way you have the “Point Elizabeth lookout” – a great viewpoint of the gorgeous coastline as it winds its way north.  If you could see below you’d know there is a seal colony below you.  With the sea slowly eroding the limestone cliffs though you can’t see below only out so you’ll just have to trust me on this.  A walk along the Rapahoe beach though and all would be revealed.  What you can often see are Dolphins playing in the surf out off the rock stacks – now that is a seriously cool sight indeed.  No luck on this walk though – more of a summer sight than during a winter walk.

The second half of the walk I would describe more as untamed wilderness.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still a formed track but the bush just seems a little more wild and unruly, the naughty kids sitting at the back of the classroom.

This weekend we had our good friends Bernie and Gerard visiting from Franz Josef – fellow b&b operators who own the beautiful Holly Homestead.  Always a good excuse to head out and showcase some of the local attractions.  The Point Elizabeth track can be walked in either direction if you arrange for a pick up at the other end or organise a car shuttle or alternatively you can walk in and out or just to the “point” and back out – whew, confused – basically there is something for everyone depending on your organisation and time.

Stephen and Bernie headed out for an early morning walk of the track – Cobden to Rapahoe.  A gorgeous way to start the day and with the views of the Great Coast Road and Rapahoe to end with, a nice way to end a meander through some natural untamed wilderness on the West Coast.

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 this region has to offer and sharing and showcasing to anyone interested.

 


The Winter Blues at Punakaik's Pancake Rocks

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 18, 2017

When we think of the winter blues we think down in the dumps, the moody blues but for the West Coast when we say the winter blues we mean blue skies and blue seas and some of the most fantastic lighting for photography.

A great place to visit to get that experience of the West Coast winter blues is Punakaiki and a walk around the Pancake Rock formations.  With views in all directions, it is a great place to showcase the blue skies and blue seas.

Punakaiki is an easy drive from Breakers - just 20 minutes further north on one of the most spectacular drives in New Zealand and according to Lonely Planet one of the top ten coastal drives in the world.  aaahhh sometimes it's hard work living here in paradise.....

The pancake rock walk is the jewel in the crown for Punakaiki.  A natural phenomena, they were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes.  Called pancake rocks because they look like staked up pancakes.  And there-in lies today's geology lesson.

It is an easy paved path around the rock formations giving great view points and helpful information boards explaining the geology, flora and fauna that can be found both on the trail and out at sea.

The walk is also renown for its blowholes at high-tide.  Personally I think too much is made of the blowholes as you need not only high tide but you need the right winds blowing and a good swell - often meaning a weather trade-off.  I think the walk is spectacular in its own right and a photographer's paradise.  If you happen to get a day for some blowhole action then just consider that a much added bonus.

Make sure you include the Pancake Rock walk at Punakaiki in your itinerary when visiting the West Coast - highly under-rated and great remedy for the winter blues.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring this beautiful region they're lucky enough to call home.

 


Motukiekie Beach and Rocks – Photography Heaven

Posted by Jan Roberts on April 21, 2017

Motukiekie Beach and Rocks seems to be becoming world-renowned.  It used to be a little secret only known by dedicated West Coasters and their friends – and maybe their family, and maybe some of their friends – and maybe some of their family…… you see where I’m heading with this.  Word is out!

Ziggy and Dean at Motukiekie beach

Stephen headed down recently with a photographer friend of ours.  Tides were perfect and Dean hadn’t been down on sunset before to see what all the fuss was about.

starfish on the rocks at Motukiekie beach

rocky shoreline and cliffs motukiekie beach

Well there is a lot of fuss.  The Motukiekie Beach has to be one of the premiere spots to catch the sunset.  Made famous internationally thanks to an award-winning photo in National Geographic, everyone and anyone now seems to want to head on down and chance their arm at getting that very same photo.  Personally I don’t understand the concept of wanting the same photo when there is so much opportunity to capture your own unique take on the scenery.  It’s not like the light is going to be exactly the same or the sun in exactly the same spot or the tide be out exactly the same distance – is it, or is that just me……

photographers at motukiekie beach on sunset

Anyway I digress as I often tend to do.  This latest excursion for Stephen was no exception regarding the number of people down on the beach.  Here on the West Coast we are more used to having either the beach to ourselves or just sharing with the odd couple.  Not Motukiekie though, not in the busy tourist season anyway.

photographers out on the rocks at sunset motukiekie beach

In all fairness it is nice to see people enjoying our beautiful West Coast scenery and wanting to capture it and not just take selfies – oh what’s with that phenomenon?!!

photographers photographing photographers mokukiekie beach on sunset

The majority of the visitors on the beach seemed to be from Asia and they were having a ball.  Most of all though I think they enjoyed watching Stephen and Dean.  They seemed to find what they were doing most fascinating.  Stephen got many a photo of them all taking their beach and sunset photos but also the odd photo or two of them taking photos of Stephen and Dean – very humorous.

motukiekie beach and rocks as the sun goes down

motukiekie beach on sunset

Once the sun went down the beach was soon deserted again.  Every one seems to know  the “golden hour”  of the sunset but the same can’t be said of the “blue hour” – the hour after the sun has actually gone down.  That can be when you can get your best photos and tonight was no exception.  It was worth staying on and waiting it out.  The boys were well rewarded – but then did have to make a run for it with the incoming tide.  All in all though a successful couple of hours at the Motukiekie beach for sunset.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  A paradise for photographers Breakers is a great place to spend a few days and make the most of the location.

 


Dreams Come True - Surfing Nine Mile, West Coast

Posted by Jan Roberts on March 22, 2017

Recently we had some guests stay – Bo and Harriett from South Carolina in the USA.  Bo’s dream had always been to surf in New Zealand.  Happy to say that on their recent stay with us that dream became a reality.

Bo and I had correspondence before their stay so he could find out the possibility of hiring a surfboard in Greymouth.  Living in a small town you are never really sure of the facilities but after a bit of investigation we were pleased to discover our little town of Greymouth could come to the party in the form of Westside Surf & Street – our local surf shop.  Hours of opening were perfect as Bo was able to pick up a board at 8am in the morning and not have to return it until late the following morning as they departed for their next destination.  This gave Bo the whole day to monitor the surf conditions and head out to catch a wave or two.

Catch a wave or two is exactly what he did.  It wasn’t the best surfing conditions but when you have a dream you have to take what you can get.  Bo made the most of the opportunity.

Best thing was seeing Bo when he came back up off the beach – with a grin from ear to ear.  His life-long dream to surf in New Zealand had become a reality.

Personally this would have to be a highlight for me too – so rewarding seeing the joy on our guests faces – usually that is just down to our beachfront location and sea views but in this instance it was seeing Bo and Harriett so happy spending a day watching and playing in the NZ surf.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Beachfront property affording uninterrupted sea views and of course plenty of West Coast hospitality.


Fat Biking Rapahoe Beach, Great Coast Road

Posted by Website Admin on September 02, 2016

There are lots of great mountain biking opportunities on the West Coast and with the right bike that includes mile after mile of pristine beaches.

What’s that song Freddy sings “fat bottom girls you make this rock’n world go round” – well in this case it is fat bikes!  Stephen and I both have fat bikes and we love them.  We take any excuse to go for a ride on them and they are ideal for exploring the numerous West Coast beaches.

 

 

 

Lucky for us is that many of the accessible beaches are really close to home – one being the Rapahoe beach just a little to the south.  With a quick ride down the main highway we’re soon pedaling along the water’s edge.  From the eight mile to Rapahoe is usually stony but once across the seven mile creek it’s a flat sandy beach into the corner of Point Elizabeth.

 

 

A beautiful winter’s day cries out for a fat bike ride on the beach and who are we not to oblige…….

 

 

Sun is shining and it feels more like a summer’s day than middle of winter.  The sea almost looking inviting enough to go for a swim – I did say almost.

 

 

There are some fun rocky outcrops to muck about on and I want to say test your skill but with the fat bike you just roll over everything….. well just about everything.  Nicely captured hubby!  Actually no human was hurt in the making of this blog – I had actually stopped already and my foot slipped out from under me and… the rock was wet with a coating of slippery sand………. it did – it was!!!!!

 

 


National Dog Day

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 30, 2016

So apparently today is National Dog Day.  Don’t know if just New Zealand but given saw posting on Facebook from Australia – perhaps it is the Southern Hemisphere.

No matter where you are though let’s give a shout out to all the dogs.

Here’s our boys – doing what they do best…… one in particular – the goof-ball…….

Happy Dog’s Day everyone!

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Together with their dogs Nico and Ziggy they enjoy getting out and about and exploring the region.  The boys especially love to run on the beach and explore the bush.


Nine Mile Valley's Hidden Coal History

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 30, 2016

 

There’s gold in them there hills – black gold!

 

 

Stephen had the pleasure of playing tour guide recently and taking a photographic artist into the hills behind Breakers to explore some of the fascinating coal mining history hidden away in the forest.

 

 

Chris Corson Scott is an artist based in Auckland and currently working on a project involving NZ history.  We met Chris and his partner Amanda on a recent walk up the 10 mile valley – turns out they found the 10 mile valley and its history thanks to our blog – now that puts a smile on my face.

 

 

There is much history in the Nine Mile Valley and loads of relics to photograph.  To top it off it would have to boast some of the most stunning West Coast native bush (yeah ok NZ native bush but we have the best here on the West….. no bias).

 

 

The sense of history oozes out from all the various relics and mine entrances – trying their best to tell their own story.

 

 

The Nine Mile valley is also a great example of nature reigning supreme with the bush slowly but surely reclaiming her space.

 

 

 

So love having the wonder of the Nine Mile Valley right at our doorstep – one minute we’re by the seaside with the pounding surf and the next we’re immersed in lush green forest and discovering some of the secrets of our heritage. That’s the West Coast for you.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring the region and sharing their discoveries for others to enjoy.