Bee Hotels

After some research on ways to attract bees to the garden and vege patch, we decided that one fun idea was to build a bee hotel out in the backyard.

Bee hotels are designed to attract a variety of bee species into the garden by using a selection of wood and hole sizes.

Here is our masterpiece!


We currently have bees buzzing in the autunm blooms and hope to attract them all year around.

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Auckland – the City of Sails

Once again we passed beautiful countryside on our way to Auckland, NZ’s largest city.

This scene reminded us of our Tuscan adventure.

On the way we stopped in Cambridge to catchup with friends Lesley & Ian. Lesley is my lovely friend Jill’s sister and she has lived in NZ for about 35 years. The girls cousin Dayle was also visiting from WA.


Auckland has been a bit of a eye-opener for us. Perhaps it is the location we have chosen to stay in; right near the Sky Tower and Casino. Rubbish is littering the area and construction sites are untidy. The area also has a lot of homeless sleeping in the street, a social issue which is being addressed.

Having said that, we have been on a bus tour and the inner suburban areas are very classy and expensive, perhaps adding to their social problems.

Auckland is know as the “City of Sails” and reportedly has the highest boat ownership rates per head of capita in the world. It also has a huge traffic problem with the city also reportedly being up there as having a very high percentage of motor vehicles per head of capita.

We dined up on the 52nd floor of the Sky Tower in the revolving restaurant. WOW! The views and the food were equally fabulous.

The rain cleared this afternoon so we took the ferry over to Devenport on the opposite side of the harbour for a stroll along the gorgeous streets and the views back to Auckland from Mt Victoria were impressive in the sunshine. And of course, the food was great.

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Lake Taupo

Travelling from Napier to Taupo we crossed the Kaweka Mountain Range which is 1,724 m (5,656 ft) high and at times we seemed to be in the clouds. Along the way we stopped for morning tea at this lovely spot.

Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake; almost 200 km around its perimeter. Hugely popular year round with both New Zealenders and international visitors, the lake is pretty even on a cold cloudy day.

I have to say a visit to Lava Glass in Taupo was a highlight for me. I absolutely love handblown glass and their creations are amazingly beautiful and their style very different. No photos were allowed in the gallery but it was allowed in the garden where over 500 glass sculptures are set in a private setting. Lyndon Over and his team have tested their skills in many of the very large pieces. I hope you enjoy seeing just some of the photos I took.

Make sure you visit Lava Glass if you get to Lake Taupo to enjoy the beautiful garden.

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Hawkes Bay

The drive to the Hawkes Bay region across the mountains was again spectacular. Unfortunately it is impossible to stop on these mountainous roads to take photos so most of these were taken from the car window.

We are staying in the grounds of Mission Estate Winery in Taradale, near Napier.

The food at their restaurant was exceptional.

The Farmhouse is a lovely cottage, very well appointed, and since we arrived the weather has been great.

Napier is an Art Deco city and has some excellent buildings of the era. A large cruise ship was in port when we visited so the town was buzzing with tourists. The Esplanade is lined with flower gardens and colonnades.

If you are coming to the area we would certainly recommend the accommodation. Check them out at

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Bay of Plenty

We arrived in Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty in the afternoon as Cyclone Hola was dumping rain on the area. The one activity that everyone had recommended was the walk up Mount Maunganui to enjoy the view. This is what we could see on the way over to the mount and then the view as the clouds rolled in …. needless-to-say we did not get out of the car.

The cyclone passed overnight without effecting us and we were on the road the next day to Rotorua to visit the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal volcanic area. The walk took us past colourful springs, rising steam, hissing vents and craters and plopping mud – the wonders of nature!

The country side is very picturesque. Sheltered behind the tall hedges are acres of kiwifruit and avocado, corn fields are everywhere and the cattle and sheep are happily grazing high up on the green fields.

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The Coromandel Peninsula

Driving south through Auckland was crazy, even though it was a Saturday. The city looked beautiful as we passed by but the traffic was terrible, we were at a snails pace from Warkworth 58 km north of Auckland to Quarry Street exit 36 km to the south. Not sure what the problem was but it took us a couple of hours to cross the city.

Once we hit The Coromandel Peninsula the scenery changed completely. Following the coast north the narrow road is under repair from a high tide surge a few months ago which caused significant damage. Further along the drive takes you high up over part of the peninsula before coming back down to the coast.

Not sure if these power lines are ‘live’ but seems strange they were in the water along the coast.

We arrived at our lovely accommodation, Aotea Bed & Breakfast then dined at the delightful Pepper Tree Restaurant. The area is renowned for its seafood so we enjoyed Tuna Carpaccio followed by Local Fish with Prawn & Pea Risotto. Yummy!

Hot Water Beach is on the east of the Coromandel Peninsula is truely a hot water experience.  Beachgoers dig themselves down to the hot springs on the beach and then relax in the hot water source….we tested the heat in one of the holes and were surprised at just how hot the water was in some places.  Almost scalding in one area but relaxingly warm a few feet away.  Very popular pastime all year around. As the tide was coming in the stinging blue jellyfish were washing up just waiting for the unexpecting tourists.

Our final stop was at the lovely Rapaura Watergardens. Set in a 60 acre private estate the garden meanders through native bush, water lily ponds and a rainforest walk leading to a small waterfall. Relaxing way to finish our visit to the Coromandel Peninsula.

Cyclone update from WeatherWatch NZ:
“As of 8:30pm Sunday Hola still had sustained winds of near 100km/h and gusts to 130km/h. This makes it Category 2 strength. By midnight tonight winds are estimated to be around 80km/h with gusts to 100km/h. The centre should be a few hundred kilometres north of Northland by midnight tonight with the storm tracking from the north west to the south east.”

It looks like the worst of the cyclone will be just to the east of the North Island so think we will only get some strong winds and quite a lot of rain…fingers crossed!!

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NZ’s Bay of Islands

After overnighting in Auckland the drive north to the Bay of Islands in ever changing weather conditions was interesting!  One minute it was pouring down and the next it was quite pleasant. We did manage to get a couple of lovely scenic photos in-between showers.

We stayed two nights in the Bay of Islands but unfortunately didn’t get a chance to head out and see the best of the scenery. Nevertheless it was a lovely stay and we enjoyed a drive up to Mount Bledisloe Lookout and a ferry trip over to Russell on the other side of the bay.

From our accommodation we had a pleasant view across the bay.

The views from Mount Bledisloe gave us a glimpse of the beautiful coastline.

The historical township of Russell, on the opposite side of the inlet, is one of the oldest settlements in NZ.  Originally a whaling and major trading port it has many buildings pre-dating 1850.

Back down the coast in Whangarei the 26 metre high Whangarei Falls, on the Hatea River, cascade down and when we visited it was drizzling with rain but quite warm. The loop walk offered great views from either side of the waterfall and down at the lower level where mist cooled the area.

About 5 minutes away in the AH Reed Memorial Park 500-year-old Kauri forest trees are best seen from the canopy boardwalk through the forest. Here we also saw the Silver fern, a national symbol of NZ, and it was obviously a description for the underside of the leaves.

We are leaving here tomorrow and heading down to the south east of the North Island to the Coromandel Coast. Watching the weather we note that there is a cyclone coming toward the North Island which may arrive on Monday. Latest images from below show the current system and expected path of Cyclone Hola.  We will let you know what happens.

…………..Current set up as of Friday AM…………………..Latest tracking show NZ in path….

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A day to celebrate

Lunch today was fantastic. We celebrated Jim’s 65th birthday at Flutes Restaurant in the grounds of Brookland Valley Winery.


The gardens are lovely.

And the food and wine were very good with service to match.

Plenty of sunshine today so hopefully the weather is starting to turn and the warmer days are on their way.

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Fonty’s, Fruits, Truffles & more

We are now staying at Fonty’s Pool just out of Manjimup, a significant fruit growing region of Western Australia. Everywhere we drive orchards can be seen growing apples, pears, stone fruits, cherries and berries. The area around Manjimup and Pemberton has the largest avocado farm in the Southern Hemisphere, an enormous strawberry farm supplying 40 percent of Coles’ Australian market and the wine industry is proving the area has the perfect climatic requirements for growing grapes.

Fonty’s Pool was itself once an orchard. The farm was established by Archimedes (Archie) Fontanini, who migrated from Giangugnana in the Provence of Lucca, Italy, in the early 1900’s. Over the years Archie dammed the creek to create a swimming pool for this family and friends to enjoy over the summer months. Archie’s descendants still farm the land around the Pool, but today Fonty’s Pool is privately owned and run as a caravan park and swimming pool for locals to visit. The grounds are beautifully maintained and it is a very popular stopover for caravaners and campers.

Whilst we were in the area we decided we couldn’t go past a lunch at The Truffle and Wine Co. We both enjoyed the Mushroom and Mascarpone Black Truffle Risotto accompanied with freshly baked Baguette and Truffle Butter and a bottle of Fume Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. Very nice indeed. The farm is the largest truffière in the Southern Hemisphere and was established in 1997. Their first truffles were harvested in 2003 and today supply their Black Winter Truffles to distributors around the world.

A river cruise 12km down the Donnelly River to the Southern Ocean provided us with a look at how the area is recovering after the bush fire back in 2011. Many of the fallen trees are still visible along the banks but the regrowth recovery has bought back wildlife to the area – both on land and the water birds as well.

The region, known as the Southern Forests, is home to the giant Karri trees. The nearby Diamond Tree (52 metres), The Dave Evans Dicentennial Tree (75 metres) and the Gloucester Tree (52 Metres) are all climbable trees that over the years have been used a fire lookouts. Each has a platform in the upper canopy which was used by fire fighters to locate smoke and flames. Today they are open for visitors to climb – if you have a head for heights.

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Albany Highlights

We have been visiting Albany for a few days and are surprised at how much it has changed since our last visit about 10 years ago. From a tourists point of view it has changed for the better – with the ANZAC Centre showcasing the historical significance of Albany during WW1 and the amazing structural engineering of the platform at The Gap.

Albany has some interesting sights in and around the city. Here is just a quick look at our time here. The beautiful harbour, the lovely old buildings and gardens, Dog Rock and The Amity are all tourist highlights.

Old Strawberry Farm was established in 1827 and is thought to be the first farm established in Western Australia when Europeans arrived in Albany’s King George Sound. The main building and gardens have been beautifully maintained.

The Gap offers an amazing view of the Southern Ocean from the overhanging platform 40 metres above the surging ocean below. The structural engineering of the suspended platform means visitors can walk out over the ocean and feel the energy of the water below. The Natural Bridge is nearby and highlights the power of the surging seas in eroding the rocks to create the bridge.


The National ANZAC Centre was opened in 2014 to commemorate the departure of 41,000 men and women from the Albany harbour bound for Europe and the Great War. They centre has visual displays but is also offers state of the art technogy to guide you through the centre.

The views around King George Sound are very pretty.

It was nice to be back and the weather wasn’t too bad either.

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The Granite Skywalk

The Granite Skywalk in the Porongurup National Park, north of Albany, proved to be a pretty tough walk today. Although only 570 metres in elevation the walk is not for the faint hearted. The 2.2km walk is uphill all the way…climbing over rocks, through crevices, up a section that only has pegs/handles in the rocks to pull yourself up to scramble over the rocky formations and then up a ladder to finally get to the skywalk…it was hard work! Fortunately is was a lovely cool day but unfortunately the 360 degree views were a little hazy as you will see in the photo’s.

We passed karri, jarrah and red gum trees and the wildflowers were still flowering.

On the way home we stopped at Monderup Street Reserve in Mt Barker to see these lovely orchids and wildflowers.

It is a great time to be in the south of Western Australia.

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Bremer Bay

We are in Bremer Bay and I decided to go on a wildflower tour out at Tozer’s Bush Camp, a 700 acre property of natural beauty.

Wildflowers are one thing we always have a “stop the car” moment for. While I quickly rush out and take the photo, Jim patiently sits in the car gazing off into the horizon – again.

The tour is guided by Jeni, a botanist, who was very knowledgeable and such a delightful person.  We spent two hours in the morning, then had our lunch, followed by another two and a half hours enjoying the beauty of the Aussie bush.  We had to contend with intermittent showers and it was quite windy so taking photos was a challenge.

At this time of year the orchids are nearly done but we did manage to find some lovely specimens. Jeni had us out looking for any new sightings that could be added to their next tour.

The diversity of flowers was astounding. Here are just a few for you to see.

I would certainly recommend the tour to anyone in the area when the wildflowers are putting on their display.


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Lake Towerrinning

It has been a while since our last caravan trip (actually it was over to Melbourne for the Footy Grand Final at the end of September in 2015) so we were very pleased to be on the road again.

Although we only have 3 weeks to get out and enjoy our break from the garden we are making the most of the somewhat unpredictable weather at the moment.  We have packed our books, a couple of DVD’s we have had for a while but not yet watched and I have my sewing to be going on with.

Our first stop was Lake Towerrinning, a semi-freshwater lake north-west of Kojonup.  The first day was fine and 29 deg. C when we set up but the forecast is not great for the next couple of days.

The Lakeside Camping Ground is on the south side of the 256 hectare lake which is on a working farm.  It has powered and unpowered sites, toilets and showers but no drinking water for campers.   Is very popular with water skiing, kayaking and the sandy beaches make it a family friendly inland swimming destination.  It is school holidays here so it was quite busy with ski boats thundering past with kids on skis, tubes and knee boards, all screaming with excitement.  I would imagine it is a little quieter outside of holidays and weekends.

Next we are off to Bremer Bay for about 5 days.  Hopefully we get some reasonably good weather down there.

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Our First Produce

After months of waiting to pick some of our produce we have finally started to reap the rewards of growing our own veges.  There have been a few challenges along the way; the snails loved our new seedlings, the parrots will try anything and weevils are munching the leaves on our fruit trees.

But, we are now eating our carrots and potatoes and today we made our first batch of beetroot relish.


We are eagerly awaiting the snow peas, onions, garlic, blueberries, raspberries and tomatoes to grow and ripen.  The herb garden is also starting to show signs of growth as the days get a little warmer.

New shoots have started to appear on our small shrubs and some are even displaying their first flowers.

We have planted lawn runners and can’t wait for them to cover the ground – it will help keep the sand under control and give a nice contrast to the garden.

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Our new beginning

Blog posts have been few and far between over the past twelve months as we organised the next phase of our life. We have made the move from Margaret River to Cowaramup, 12km to the north, where we have built our new home, moved in, and are now organising the garden on our 2000 sqm block.

We have gone from this…

…to this over the past year.

Our aim is to grow as much fruit and veges as practical so getting this part of the garden organised has been a priority. So far we have planted lemon, lime, blood orange, olives, pomegranate, avocado, strawberry guava and fig trees and have started the vege patch.

It has been a very time consuming phase and apart from finishing off the garden we are pretty much organised and are looking forward to getting out and about again.

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Learn Italian in Bagni di Lucca

If you are looking for the experience of a lifetime and would love to go to Italy and the beautiful region of Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany to learn Italian, then this post by our friend Debra could be what you are looking for. If you need any information I would be very happy to help guide you in the right direction.

Bella Bagni di Lucca

Laura Poggi, from the gorgeous Casa Tolomei in Via Umberto I in La Villa, is starting a small language school. She and her family have many years of experience and Laura is keen to start a new venture in Bagni di Lucca.

In a previous post I wrote about the amazing transformation Laura and her husband Andy have achieved in the house where Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning spent a couple of summers in the 19th century.  They bought it 5 years ago and have brought the beautiful house back to life. See the posthere.

Work continues, but a couple of rooms are now available to rent and Laura can turn her attention to Italian lessons. This beautiful room will be for small groups. Larger groups will be in another part of the house.

It is possible to have one on one lessions with Laura, or to be part…

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Pizza Night

Every Friday evening the Colonial Brewery, just out of Margaret River, has a $10 Pizza Night. They are great value and very good pizza. If you are not a pizza lover you can order other delights from their regular menu.

The building housing the brewery is very impressive and takes advantage of their wonderful view. All their beers are made on the premises and are free of preservatives.

Taking in the view over the lake while you dine is lovely.

The seafood and vegetarian pizza were good.  We have tried other flavours but unfortunately they were eaten before I remembered to take a photo.

Their vege garden grows a lovely range of fresh produce for use in their kitchen.

It is a very popular venue for families and the kids playground is always a hive of activity with kids of all ages enjoying themselves.

It is a great evening out, with a DJ to set the mood, and sometimes they have a guest artist providing live entertainment.

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VW Club

The Volkswagon Club of WA attracted a good crowd today; happily displaying their ‘pride and joys’.

In Margaret River for their 5th Vee Bubs at Margaret River Camping and Cruise Weekend they had a Show & Shine in Reuther Park this morning.

Fortunately it wasn’t raining so windows and doors were opened for us to closer inspect the cars.

The Kombies were the most popular on show and many had been converted to campers. Others are still in the need of some TLC.

The Beetles were very specky.

As were the Squarebacks.

It makes our VW seem pretty boring really.

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The Orchids Are Late This Year

With the late arrival of the warmer days down here in the south west the orchids are now in full bloom.

Frieds suggested a couple of places to visit to take photos of the beautiful orchids and here is a look at just some of the ones we photographed. Thank you for showing me your secret orchid spot. Cowslips, Purple Enamel Orchids, Rattle Beaks, Reaching Spider Orchids, Fringed Lily, Trigger plants and others, I aren’t sure of the names of, were all out today.

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‘Wine for Dudes’

Today we become tourists in our own town and joined a wine tour to see what visitors get to enjoy when they come to Margaret River.

Our first stop was McHenry Hohnen Winery, a bio-dynamic vineyard established in 2004 by David Hohnen, who originally established Cape Mentelle in Margaret River and Cloudy Bay in New Zealand, which both became world renowned wineries and Murray McHenry a prominent WA wine merchant and hotelier.  Their winery uses ‘old world’ techniques and biological practices.  The vines are hand-picked and wild fermented giving their wines a unique flavour.  The also produce small goods in their butchers smokehouse on the farm.

It was then on to Olio Bello, a certified organic food producer and sustainable olive grove producing extra virgin olive oils.  They also produce a range of flavoured and infused oils and condiments, as well as beauty products.

The wine tasting at Hay Shed Hill, like most wineries in the region, was predominantly  Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, followed by a pizza and salad lunch at Rustico.

The next stop was well timed at Gabriel Chocolate where we tasted their hand produced chocolate and just had to test their icecream as well.  I can report both very very good.

House of Cards Winery is a single vineyard producer, with the young owners being very hands-on in all aspects of the vintage.  Making a good range of red and white wines it was another enjoyable visit.

Last winery of the day was Brygon Reserve Wines who opened in 2009 and are highly rated by James Halliday and Ray Jordan – leading Australian and Western Australian wine critics, respectively.

A refreshing ‘cleansing ale’ at Colonial Brewery finished the day off nicely.

Thanks John, we really enjoyed your Wines for Dudes tour.


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