Winding through the Tapu-Coroglen road we found this little wonder – the Rapaura Water Gardens.
From the moment that you turn off SH25 everything feels a little different… The Tapu-Coroglen Road runs through a gorge – a winding, sometimes one lane road, flanked either side by walls of green and a gently running river coming down from the mountain. The houses scattered throughout the gorge spoke of the relaxed and laid back feel of the place. James Dad had once lived here and that certainly summed him up to a tee.
About 6km down the road we found the Rapaura Water Gardens.
Everything here feels like a brilliant discovery! When we first arrived we found an old truck – I’m going to call it art here because it was perfect in it’s tree grown, rusted state.
Before venturing anywhere we are presented with the rules. Normally I am not one for rules but in this case I adored them!
Over the other side was the lovely Koru cafe – nestled in the bush – and being almost about lunchtime (OK it was 11am) we decided to stay a while and have something to eat.
They have a mouth watering array of food and a decor and staff that makes you feel like you have stumbled into a nice living room somewhere so it’s certainly a great place to linger.
They don’t have a kids meal per se but with a selection of Pizza and sweet treats no one will be going hungry. James and I shared a Mushroom Bruschetta and the girls shared a Hawaiian pizza with the promise of afternoon tea if they all behaved.
Full and ready to go we paid our admission fee (just $33 for a family which was incredibly reasonable given we spent almost 5 hours there) and were shown where to start by helpful staff (yellow arrows for the garden tour – red to wind your way up to the falls and waterhole).
The gardens are magical – large in scale and even bigger in personality – there was something new around every turn.
James and our eldest daughter spent their time quizzing each other on native trees while the two youngest attempted to make friends with the ducks with their 50 cent bags of duck feed. I wandered around, taking it all in and reading all the inspirational signs scattered through the park.
I particularly loved the parks mantra – “the perfect garden is a well kept wilderness” and it certainly was.
Lili ponds, sculptures, art, native trees, flowers and ducks were abundant with so much to look at and do. For once my little family of hurriers were happy to stroll and reflect.
Finished the garden part of our exploration we started up to the waterfalls. The walk itself is an easy one (even carrying back a seven year old who cut her foot on the way back) with lots to look at along the way.
Once up there – the view is spectacular. It is just quiet enough that you can get changed in privacy into togs before the next group come through or if it is busy we made a great changing room up on a rock above.
In no time at all – the five of us were in the swimming hole. Fresh water is always cold and this was no exception – despite being the first day of February we got pins and needles when we first got in but once moving it was fine. Our youngest (7) found it a bit cold though and was back on the rock first.
We let them jump of small rocks into the deeper water but before we go giving out bad advice that gets someone hurt here is a bit of a disclaimer – James is a strong swimmer and diver and is a certified dive instructor (with all the first aid training that goes along with that). He is also very careful about the water so before the kids went in and certainly before they jumped he checked it all out, made sure the kids weren’t over their heads and we stayed very close by. It’s been a terrible summer in New Zealand for drownings so while waterholes are amazing fun it is always good to be wary of the danger and have a competent adult check it out first and remain close by at all times. There are some more tips here from NZ Water Safety about river safety.
Our youngest was having a real accident prone day so after getting too cold, cutting her toe and then tripping on a rock she was about ready to go (by this stage we had been here 4 hours so that’s pretty good going for 7) and we made our way back to Koru for the promised hot chocolates and sweet treats.
All up, it was a brilliant way to spend a summer day getting lost without spending a huge amount of money. Kids and grown ups alike had fun – it was active (walking and swimming) as well as enriching for the soul.
You can find out more about it here – but my advice – get out there and discover it for yourself. It is about 30 minutes out of Thames – heading up the coast to Coromandel and is well signposted.