Bonsai exhibition at Hamilton Gardens

The annual bonsai exhibition at Hamilton Gardens showcases high quality bonsai trees and a demonstration on the art of creating bonsai.

Blue Castle - bonsai display

The Hamilton Bonsai Club will hold the largest bonsai exhibition in New Zealand on October 10-11, 2015. High quality bonsai trees will be displayed at the Hamilton Gardens Pavilion off Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton East.

Bonsai Club members will also conduct an informal demonstration on how to create bonsai, allowing you to have the opportunity to create your own bonsai.

During the event, you will get to vote for your most preferred bonsai on display. Raffles, sales, and eftpos will also be available. Entry fee to the exhibition is $5.00 for adults, while children 12 years old and under are free of charge.

What is bonsai?

Literally translated from the Japanese language which means “planted in a container”, bonsai is an ancient art of collecting and cultivating miniature trees.

Bonsai is kept miniature by combining different techniques, including:

  • regular pruning to keep the tree in determined shape and form, and
  • wiring so that the tree can be easily bent to achieve the determined shape

Blue Castle - bonsai tree with man

Bonsai is not a genetically-dwarfed plant at all, as some people think it is. Likewise, contrary to what many believe, bonsai art did not originate in Japan. Rather, it was first practiced in China some 2,000 years ago.  Then about a thousand years later, the Japanese copied and adapted this Chinese art, incorporating it into their local circumstances.

Traditionally, bonsai are styled to depict common natural situations, such as:

  • informal upright
  • formal upright
  • windswept
  • slanting
  • cascade
  • semi cascade
  • multiple trunk
  • forest
  • literati

Club affiliation

If you are a bonsai enthusiast and haven’t been affiliated with any club yet, it’s greatly recommended that you should to help you progress in your hobby. There is so much to learn about bonsai art.  In New Zealand, there are about 20 bonsai clubs and organizations, most of which are members of the New Zealand Bonsai Association (NZBA).

Visit this year’s bonsai exhibition at Hamilton Gardens and learn more about the many species of the miniature trees.

Varied accommodation in Christchurch

Whatever your taste and budget, you will surely find a good and homey accommodation in Christchurch.

Blue Castle - hotel room

For your convenience, we prepare a list of accommodation in Christchurch that you might want to consider staying in when you visit the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Le Petit Hotel. This private bed and breakfast French-style hotel is strategically located in the premier seaside suburb of Summer, Christchurch. It may be small in size, but huge on quality service and hospitality. Its room rates are competitive, too.

Blue Castle - Jailhouse Accommodation

Sudima Hotel Christchurch Airport. Conveniently located along Memorial Avenue, which is only 500 metres away from the airport, Sudima Hotel is a good option especially if you have a very late night flight. It provides a shuttle bus between the hotel and the airport.

Peppers Clearwater Resort. Set within well-kept grounds that overlook Lake Kaikainui, Peppers Clearwater Resort offers one-bedroom premium lakeside rooms, three-bedroom lakeside villas, and two-bedroom terrace apartments. The resort is located at Clearwater Avenue, just seven minutes away from Christchurch airport.

Classique Lodge Motel. This motel is located along Blenheim Road, Upper Riccarton, Christchurch. It has nine spacious, self-contained accommodation.

Heritage Christchurch. Located along Cathedral Square, Heritage Christchurch is suitable for family travellers. It offers two-bedroom self-contained apartment suites in the beautiful Historic Old Government building.

Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch. With 171 modern guest rooms and suites, Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch is ideal for both business and leisure trips. It’s located just a block away from Cathedral Square.

Jailhouse Accommodation. The former Addington Prison has been transformed into a backpacker hostel in 2006. Jailhouse Accommodation caters to guests of all ages. It’s located on Lincoln Road, Addington.

Commodore Airport Hotel. The family-owned hotel features 157 guest rooms, and conference and meeting facilities. Commodore Airport Hotel is just a three-minute drive from the airport and ten minutes from central Christchurch.

For further information and booking in any of these accommodation in Christchurch, you may contact the property of your choice directly or talk with your travel agent.

The penguins of Otago Peninsula

It’s our responsibility to protect and preserve the endangered penguins of Otago Peninsula. They are like sentinels of the ocean, sounding the alarm when environmental threats loom.

Striving to know better the penguins of Otago Peninsula will greatly help the conservation programme of the Department of Conservation a success.

The Otago Peninsula in Dunedin is known as the wildlife capital of New Zealand for it is the habitat of many endangered and threatened wildlife in the world. Among the species whose number are now on a critical level include the yellow-eyed penguins and the little blue penguins.

Penguins are very sensitive to changes in the ocean. They are like sentinels that automatically sound the alarm when they feel there is a threat to the environment.

Yellow-Eyed Penguins. Its scientific name is Megadyptes antipodes, which means “a big diver from the southern lands”. In Māori, it is called hoiho, which means noise shouter, because of the shrill they make.

Blue Castle - yellow-eyed penguin 1

Native to New Zealand, yellow-eyed penguins inhabit the coastal forests, scrub or dense flax of the Otago Peninsula, South Island, Stewart Island, and other islands in the same region. These birds are not migratory, preferring to stay within the region where they build their nest in secluded sites away from their neighbours. Because they are the least social among all penguins, the yellow-eyed birds keep their nests and roosting sites up to a kilometre inland. They only leave the island to forage for food on New Zealand coasts and on their respective island habitat.

From 1988 to 1994, the status of yellow-eyed penguins was placed under the ‘vulnerable’ category. And then by 2000, they were classified under the ‘endangered’ species. Today, their number is estimated at around 6,000 to 7,000. The decline in their population is attributed to these factors:

  • their coastal habitat has been cleared for pasture
  • sheep and cattle tread on their nests
  • stoats, ferrets, and wild cats eat their eggs and chicks
  • dogs attack adult penguins

Blue Castle - little blue penguins

Little Blue Penguins. Also known as Little Penguins, or korora, the little blue penguins are the smallest of all penguin species in the world. They can be easily distinguished by its height of just a little more than 25 centimetres and a weight of around 1 kilogram, and a slate-blue with a bright while belly plumage.

The little blue penguins inhabit the coastal Otago area and have their breeding site in Otago Peninsula. They feed on squid, small fish, and crustaceans. Spending much of their time at sea, little blue penguins venture as far as 25 kilometres offshore and 70 kilometres away from their colony to forage for food.

The little blue penguins are flightless birds but they can ‘swoop down’ underwater at speeds of up to 6 kilometres per hour using their strong paddle-like flippers. Their population has dwindled in areas where they are unprotected from predators – wild cats, dogs, ferrets, and stoats. Also, many little blue penguins are killed by cars when crossing coastal roads, by boats when at sea, and by set nets.

Little blue penguins are protected by the Wildlife Act. Let’s all take part in the conservation programme to make the penguins of Otago Peninsula thrive. Contact your local Department of Conservation office and inquire how you may be of help.

Accommodation in Wellington

New Zealand’s capital city is ever ready to serve international visitors. No matter how much your budget may be or how you prefer your room to be, there is always an accommodation in Wellington for you.

Wellington is one of the most preferred New Zealand destinations among international visitors. Because of this, the tourism and hospitality industry is quick to upgrade its services, including places to stay. There is now a wide array of accommodation in Wellington that caters to different budget range and room type.

Blue Castle - Mercure Hotel
Mercure Wellington

Mercure Wellington. Strategically located just a short distance from the business district of The Terrace and local attractions, Mercure Wellington is ideal for both leisure stay and corporate gatherings. It has 111 spacious guest rooms, 7 conference rooms that can accommodate up to 200 people, and an adequate off-street car parking space for guests.

Blue Castle - Rydges Wellington
Rydges Wellington

Rydges Wellington is a 4-star plus hotel with 280 guest rooms, and 19 apartment style accommodation for long-staying guests. Centrally located along Featherston Street, the hotel is suitable for both business and leisure trips with the family. It’s also close to Westpac Stadium and Lambton Quay.

West Plaza Hotel
West Plaza Hotel

West Plaza Hotel. This 4-star hotel sits on a prime location in New Zealand’s capital, making it the ideal place for business and pleasure trips. It’s just a walking distance to major government offices, commercial centres, as well as event and conference venues. Also, the hotel is close to Cuba Street, Te Papa Museum, Lambton Quay, and other local tourist destinations.

Nomads Capital
Nomads Capital

Nomads Capital. If your budget is limited and yet want to get the best in your Wellington visit, you can stay at Nomads Capital. It’s a 5-star Qualmark rated hostel in Wellington’s bohemian quarter along Wakefield Street.  Its rooms range from ensuite doubles and twins, small ensuite dorm rooms, and larger dorm share. It’s also the only hostel accommodation in Wellington that offers free pancakes for breakfast, evening meal, and tea and coffee throughout your stay.

Base Wellington
Base Wellington

Base Wellington. If you are someone who love the nightlife, Base Wellington is right for you. Ideal for solo guests and groups, the hostel offers private with ensuite rooms, and 4-bed to 6-bed dorms. The property is also a walking distance to Te Papa National Museum, cafes, the waterfront, and to public transport.

These are but few of the many accommodation in Wellington. You may check with your travel agents for more choices.

Explore the enchanting sites of Eastland

Referred to as the ‘far east’ of New Zealand, Eastland is a coastal region in the northeastern part of the country’s North Island. It’s the first land that greets the morning sun each day.

Blue Castle - Eastland sunrise

The laid back and tucked-away Eastland is nicknamed Te Tai Rāwhiti in Māori, which means Coast of the Sunrise, for obvious reason. Despite modern developments and existence of cars, the region still uses horses and barefeet for transport. It enjoys a warm and dry climate, allowing its visitors a relaxed coastal lifestyle.

The region is known for its vineyards, citrus, world-class beaches, spectacular trees, and wild rivers that winds up into the ocean. But most of all, Eastland is where Māori population is high. And this is evident everywhere you go. Try driving along the Pacific Coast and you’ll see its culture in every settlement, like the elaborately-painted churches and carved meeting houses. You’ll also hear the Te Rao language spoken. Māori people can even trace their ancestry as far as 24 generations back.

Eastland may be less explored and little known, but it’s well worth visiting. Here’s why.

Surfing. Eastland is known for its clean and reliable surf. If you are the adventurous type, you’ll surely enjoy surfing or body surfing. There are local guides around who can take you where the perfect breaks are found. You may even want to dive with sharks and feed the stingrays. Huh!… Don’t worry about being slaughtered by sharks; there’s a purposely-built cage for you to stay safe in.

Biking. Take on the Motu Adventure Trails and discover a liberating experience. You’ll feast on impressive vistas through the hill country farmland and rugged mountain ranges. The Motu Trails are among the 21 Great Rides under the Nga Haerenga.

Blue Castle -Mount Hikurangi

Hiking. Enjoy a good walk by the stunning Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera, North Island’s largest native forest wilderness. The lake itself is the centre of many activities in the park.

Visit Rere Falls and Rockslide. Be mesmerized by the serenity of nature at the Rere Falls. The Falls transforms the slow-moving Wharekopae River into an amazing cascade that drops 10 metres down at 20 metres wide.  

The river continues to race down against a massive 60-metre long slab of moss-covered sandstone into a naturally-created freshwater pool. People call it the Rere Rock Slide.

If you hadn’t been to Eastland yet, it’s time that you give it a try. It’s all worth the journey.

Experience Auckland

You’ve got to experience Auckland for yourself to understand why it is named the third most liveable city in the world.

Blue Castle - wineries

Auckland is a vibrant melting pot of cultures considering that it is the largest Polynesian city in the world. And this is obviously manifested in its food, festivals, music, and art among many other aspects.

The city also boasts of a lot of local attractions – from regional parks to beaches and wildlife, to its rich cultural heritage. It is able to preserve its naturally awesome landscapes against the constant development to keep up with modern living and standards.

Blue Castle - cycle with maori

And the locals? Ask the immigrants who choose to make Auckland their home. They would unanimously say Kiwis are friendly, hospitable, and free-spirited. The locals have high regard for human rights and equality regardless of where you come from.

Auckland’s population is composed of

  • 11% Māori
  • 56% are of European descent
  • 13% have Pacific Island descent
  • 12% Asians

This just goes to show how diverse the culture of Auckland is. Perhaps, these are among the factors that the global Mercer Quality of Life Survey looks into when proclaiming Auckland as the third most liveable city in the world.

But hearing the accounts of those who have come to the region or reading this post is not enough. You’ve got to come to experience Auckland for yourself. You can visit here anytime because the region has a warm coastal climate with no extreme weather. Besides, there are always a handful of events that keep the city buzzing anytime of the year.

And you need not worry about accommodation either. Depending on your preference and budget, you can find a place to stay throughout the entire Auckland region, from the central business district to the islands. You may choose to stay in luxurious resorts, 5-star international hotel chains, bed and breakfast, or backpacker homes.

And another thing to experience Auckland is to try its fantastic variety of cuisine from all over the world. Thousands of cafes, restaurants, wineries, and bars are available everywhere.

Accommodation in Hamilton

Accommodation in Hamilton continually improves its facilities and amenities due to the increasing competition.  Each year, the city receives a significant number of international tourists visiting the city’s local attractions. 

Blue Castle - Argent Motor Lodge

Due to the increasing demand for places to stay, many types of accommodation have emerged over the past few decades in Hamilton. From high-end hotels to the simple and budget-friendly hostels, you are presented with an array of choices. And, so each facility has to continually improve their standard to stay in competition.

Of the many accommodation in Hamilton, here are a few places I recommend:

Argent Motor Lodge. It’s one of the most popular among many visitors because of its perfect location in the city.  It’s also clean and exudes a homey atmosphere. Argent is close to Hamilton central business district, many cafes and restaurant outlets, and other places of interest. Price range is from $135 to $360.

Astra Motor Lodge. Astra is ideal for solo guests, family, and business travellers. It has studios and deluxe executive one-bedroom types of accommodation.

Novotel Hamilton Tainui. This four-star hotel accommodation is located along Alma Street, and just a few minutes away from some important tourist destinations and attractions, such as:

  • beach and water sports
  • other sports activity, like archery
  • 18-hole golf course
  • cinemas and entertainment centres
  • the famous Hamilton Gardens
  • Hamilton zoo
  • Lake Rotoroa
  • Westpactrust Cricket Stadium
  • Waikato Rugby Stadium
  • Porritt Stadium

Blue Castle - Ambassador Hotel

The Ambassador Hotel. Located along Ulster Street, Whitiora, the Ambassador Hotel offers luxury studio apartments, hotel rooms, or group and family self-contained units.

The hotel is just a walking distance to Waikato Stadium, Founders Theatre, Claudelands Events Centre, and Seddon Park.

Kingston Hotel Hamilton. This is the ideal place to stay for business travellers, individual holidaymakers, and families because of its proximity to the Te Rapa Racecourse, out-of-town points of interest, and the waterfront. Located along Garnett Avenue, Te Rapa, Kingston Hotel offers 147 spacious guest rooms and 5 suites.

You may also visit the TripAdvisor for more choices of accommodation in Hamilton.

Backpackers’ accommodation in Christchurch and Canterbury

There are several backpackers’ accommodation in Christchurch and Canterbury, depending on your budget and preference. You may opt to stay right in the city centre itself or a bit farther from the noise and traffic.

Blue Castle - YMCA
YMCA Christchurch

Because of its perfect location on the edge of the Canterbury Plains, Christchurch offers many natural attractions to its visitors.  In fact, many of the visitors here are repeaters. They keep coming back because they can’t get enough of the majestic beauty of Christchurch.

And of course, with these tourist destinations, Christchurch’s tourism industry must also keep up with the demands for accommodation.

While many hotels may have been brought down by the 2011 earthquake, several other types of accommodations are made available to receive both local and international guests.  Some of these comfortable and less expensive facilities are the backpackers’ hostels.

Here are at least five of the many backpackers’ accommodation in Christchurch and Canterbury that I highly recommend.

The Old Countryhouse Backpackers. This is one of the favourite hostels among backpackers in Christchurch. Located along Gloucester Street, Linwood Christchurch Canterbury, it’s only around 15-20 minutes walk from the central city. Local bus stops are just in front of the hostel.  Room rates per adult guest per night range from:

  • High season: $33 – $144
  • Low season: $29 – $138

Around the World Backpackers. Located along Barbadoes Street, City Centre Christchurch Canterbury, this hostel is just about a short 10-minute walk away from The Restart Mall.  Part of its amenities include free unlimited calls to national and New Zealand mobile phones; free coffee, tea, sugar, and any spices left by other guests.  Room rates per adult per night are as follows:

  • High season: $31 – $80
  • Low season: $30 – $74
Blue Castle - YHA Mt Cook
YHA Mt Cook

YHA Kaikoura.  Located in Kaikoura, Canterbury, the YHA Kaikoura gives you a majestic view of the Kaikoura mountain ranges across the South Pacific Ocean. Rooms are available in twins, doubles, and small multi-share, with rates ranging from $30 to $110 per adult per night.

YMCA Christchurch. This is located at Hereford Street in the heart of the Christchurch’ central city, right next to the Arts Centre & Botanical Gardens. Its room rates range from $30 to $220 per adult per night.

YHA Mt Cook. Located in Aoraki Mount Cook, this comfortable hostel charges between $31 and $183 per adult guest per night. Price includes community levy to assist with village development.

For booking and more information about the backpackers’ accommodation in Christchurch and Canterbury, please visit the Christchurch & Canterbury web page.

Take a surfing holiday at St. Clair Beach, Dunedin

Dunedin is home to some of the best beaches in New Zealand, most of which are only a few minutes drive from the central city. Of these, St. Clair Beach is the most popular because of its excellent surfing location and scenic view of the ocean.

St. Clair Beach is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a consistent surf break. And it’s only a ten-minute drive from the city centre. Besides surfing, you can also enjoy walking by the seaside or just go dining in its cafe-lined promenade, and watch the surfers ride the waves of the Southern Ocean.

Blue Castle - St Clair Beach

At the southern end of the beach there’s a heated St. Clair Hot Salt Water Pool. It’s an ideal swimming area for those who don’t want to venture into the ocean waters with huge swells.


Depending on your taste and budget, there are plenty of accommodation facilities close to St. Clair Beach. Among which include:

Lisburn Avenue Cottage. The standalone modernized character red brick cottage costs from $100 per night, and can accommodate a maximum of 6 people.

Mosgiel Charmer. Its room rate starts from $130 per night, and can accommodate up to 5 people.

Stunning Panoramic Views Surf to City – St. Clair.  Room rate starts from $130 per night, and can accommodate up to 9 people. The place is a 3-minute drive to St. Clair Beach.

St. Clair Gem Holiday House.  Its room rate starts from $145 per night.

Fabulous Beach House at St. Clair. Located 1.5 kilometres away from St. Clair Golf Club, and 5 kilometres from Dunedin City Centre, this beach house can accommodate a maximum of 4 people.  Its room rates cost between $150 and $400 per night.

Blue Castle - Hydro

Wains Hotel Dunedin. Although it’s 3.6 kilometres away from St. Clair Beach, the hotel offers very good facilities.

Best Western 555 Bayview. It’s 1.9 kilometres from St. Clair, and a 5-minute walk from St. Kilda Beach.

Hotel St. Clair. This boutique beachfront hotel is just 0.5 kilometres away from St. Clair Beach.

Apartments at St. Clair is located just 50 metres away from St. Clair Beach, and just a five-minute walk from the St. Clair Salt Water Pool.

The Hydro Esplanade Apartments is located right in front of St. Clair Beach, or just a short 0.3 kilometres from the beach front.  It’s also just a minute walk from the St. Clair Salt Water Pool.

Or, you may want to seek the advice of your travel agent to get better room rates. They might also have special holiday packages to St. Clair Beach.

Why you should stay in Wellington

Booming city, rich in diversity, abundant job opportunities, and leading centre of arts and culture: these are but few of the numerous good reasons to work and stay in Wellington.

city landmark 1

Wellington is one of the best cities to live in New Zealand. And here’s why:

Proximity to major areas. With a span of only two kilometres in diameter, the central business district of Wellington can be easily navigated around on foot. In other words, you can get to your destination quickly. And if you choose to commute, the city has the most well-used public transport systems with the least vehicular traffic congestion compared with other cities in New Zealand.

Accommodation.  Wellington’s house prices are way below the national median.

  • Rent.  The cheapest way to rent is to share a flat with other people. The cost depends on the size of the house, the number of occupants, and location. But if you wish to rent an entire flat with your family, you can get a cheaper unit in the city fringes or outer suburbs.
  • Hotel. Depending on your taste and budget, you may choose from the different accommodation types in Wellington – from central hotels, serviced apartments, hostels, to backpackers.
  • Buy. The New Zealand property market is enjoying a sustained growth, and so does its economy within a low interest rate environment.  So, you can expect mortgage rates to be competitive.  Wellington offers many options to the house buyer. Financial institutions and lending banks offer flexibility on rates and terms.

Safety. Wellington has an efficient police force. There’s a strong coordination between government agencies and varied sectors to ensure that anti-social behaviour is curbed.

Activities. Situated within a scenic harbour, and being rich in history, Wellington never runs out of exciting activities you can indulge in anytime.

Blue Castle - food markets

  • Visual and performing arts. The city is home to Te Papa, the country’s national museum; National Art Gallery; the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and; the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
  • Recreation. Wellington offers a wide range of activities, depending on your preferences. You can go explore the city by walking or biking through scenic landscapes, stroll around the harbour, or enjoy the beach.  If you are more of the adventurous one, you can go to the greater regional areas and enjoy the sights of the lush vineyards, play at the golf courses, go for bush walks, or visit the bird sanctuaries.
  • Shopping. Wellington is home to a wide shopping complexes. If you can’t find it in Wellington, that only means you don’t need it.

Food. Again, depending on your budget and taste, Wellington offers you several places to dine and eat out.  But, if you prefer to cook your own meals, there are also many places to buy fresh and good quality foods.

These are but few of the many reasons why you should stay in Wellington. Not to mention the great career opportunities in this booming city.