Tips for having an amazing New Zealand Holiday

New Zealand is a country I LOVE – and it’s one of those planes I tell people time and time again that ‘they have to visit’. There’s nowhere quite like it. In the same way that New York is overwhelming and feels like a movie set – New Zealand does too. But instead of skyscrapers, there are mountains and lakes.

I didn’t believe how beautiful it would be until I went for myself – and then within minutes of touching down on Kiwi tarmac I was totally sold and utterly convinced it was the most beautiful place on earth.
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There’s so much to see in New Zealand, it’s hard to make a definitive list. We lived there for 6 months – and there are things I didn’t get to see or do. Saying that though, here’s a list of some incredible things you MUST see or do, to make sure your holiday is amazing.

Visit Queenstown

Please don’t visit NZ and miss out this beautiful town. It is breathtaking, stunning, beautiful, magnificent – I can’t think of enough words to describe the perfection of this place. Say close to the town centre, so you’re within walking distance of everything – and (if you can afford it) try and get a room with a view. Queenstown is such a visual place – don’t waste your time there with a view of a brick wall. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the view of mountains.

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Hire a car 

New Zealand is beautiful from the sky – but the best way to get around has to be by car. Hiring a car is so cheap (and really easy) so there’s no excuse not to have the ultimate road trip. We used Budget Car Hire when we were there. Last time we were there, we did some small road trips, but Pad and I are planning an epic NZ road trip for our honeymoon later this year, and I’m so excited. You really see parts of the countryside and landscapes by car that aren’t really accessible by any other method of transport. You notice beautiful little details, amazing vistas, cool little picnic spots – it’s the perfect way to explore.

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Don’t get hung-up on your jet lag

My next suggestion may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but I wanted to include it. When me and Pad landed in Auckland (after 30 hours of flights) we checked into the Sky City Casino Hotel. Now, this particular hotel was great for two reasons. One – it had the comfiest bed ever, and really good black out curtains, which meant you can sleep at any hour. Two – It had a casino and bar that was open round the clock, which meant that even if jet lag was keeping us up past 3am, we weren’t wasting time, and could still have some fun. Obviously, even if you weren’t stopping in a casino hotel, if you have some free time you can try to win real money by playing online slots at casino.com from your mobile. But I always prefer the real thing – Pad and I have spent many a hilarious night around a roulette table.

Be Spontaneous 

New Zealand isn’t the kind of place where you need to plan and plan and plan. The beauty of NZ is that you can spontaneous, and explore at your own pace. Of course, during peak times it’s always best to book accommodation ahead of time, but for day trips and excursions – it’s always best to just play it by ear. Especially as the weather in NZ can be so unpredictable. Don’t book yourself up too much, leave yourself with free time, so you can sign up to tours spontaneously, or last minute. It also means, if you fall in love with a place, you can stay there longer!

Save money for spending! 

New Zealand isn’t cheap – in fact it’s pretty expensive (food, drink, tours and excursions) – so make sure you’ve saved enough spending money. I know a lot of people who went to NZ thinking it’d be back-packer prices, and were unpleasantly surprised. The day trips, activities, and food make up some of the most fun bits of NZ, and some of the parts you’ll remember the most – so don’t let yourself miss out. Even if it means delaying your trip so you can save more for spending… you’ll be thankful for it.

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Don’t be scared of hostels! 

In parts of Europe and Asia, hostels have a really bad reputation. You hear horror stories of bed bugs and used sheets, and gross toilets. But in New Zealand, the majority of hostels are more like B&Bs, and are a really good standard. We always used Hostel World when booking ours – as they had reviews. I never once stopped in a ‘bad’ hostel in NZ, in fact some of the best places we stayed in were hostels and cost us next to nothing. The standard is definitely higher – so don’t be scared of booking a hostel bed if it’s all you can afford.

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Don’t forget suncream! 

One quick tip as my last tip! Don’t forget to wear suncream! The ozone layer is thinner (or something like that) in this part of the world – so you catch the sun so much quicker. Slather it on – burning isn’t any fun!

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Tips for visiting New Zealand’s iconic movie locations

 

We all know that big American cities like New York and Los Angeles have provided us with some seriously iconic movie locations. But the nation of New Zealand has also delivered some stunning scenery for some massive blockbusters in the past couple of decades.

New Zealand is actually one of my favourite place in the world – and somewhere I’m mega excited to visit again later this year! When Pad and I lived there we literally lived in one of the country’s most famous movie locations, but I thought it would be interesting to check out the best way of seeing some of these other epic vistas that have inspired the massive films.

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New Zealand has  definitely become a lot more recognisable thanks to the famous movie director Peter Jackson. The Wellington native used the wild terrain of the country to great effect in movies like King Kong and the Lord of the Rings series. And with a movie museum planned for Wellington, it’s evident that New Zealand is showing an increased appetite to display its cinematic legacy.

If you’re keen to check out the real-life locations of the Lord of the Rings movies, then where better to start than by heading to Matamata in the North Island to take a tour of Hobbiton.

Given the sheer scope of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, there’s no shortage of Lord of the Rings locations to visit, whether you want to stroll in Fangorn Forest on the South Island or prefer to see the site of the epic battle between the Rohan and an orc army in Mackenzie County.

We lived in Queenstown, which is actually where a lot of the case lived whilst filming, and the surrounding mountains were used a lot in shots and panoramas in the LOTR movies.

There are plenty of online resources that can help pinpoint these filming locations as many more tourists head to New Zealand thanks to the way that Lord of the Rings has become an endlessly appealing merchandising opportunity.

Tolkien’s legacy has not only been sustained by DVD sales of course, as a series of games for next-gen consoles and even a sorely-missed LotR slots game at Lucky Nugget Casino has meant that we have all enjoyed gaming like a Hobbit.

The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has also had a hand in establishing the Weta Workshop that has pioneered many of the cutting-edge design aesthetics of many modern movies. This can be seen courtesy of a visit to the famous Weta Workshop museum that showcases how the Wellington company has managed to create eye-opening special effects for movies as far-ranging as Mad Max: Fury Road and Thunderbirds Are Go.

So as well as the far-reaching effects of Lord of the Rings reaching mobile casino sites, it looks like New Zealand’s cinematic influence will soon many more movies hitting our cinema screens soon.

 

Making the Most out of a Road Trip

As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of flying, trains journeys and road trips are still a very big part of the grown-up traveler lifestyle for me. Making a trip in a car is always more fun for me, as it means I can avoid the stress and anxiety of air travel. It also means I get a chance to see more of the country I’m visiting, which is such a huge bonus – especially when you love photography and love capturing scneery along the way. There are of course, a few road trip do’s and don’ts – a few of which I’ll talk about below.

Here’s how to make the most out of your roadtrip:

It’s Not Just About the Destination, It’s About the Journey

Regarding getting from Queenstown to Christchurch in New Zealand, I found that out of all of the ways to tackle this journey, driving was the most satisfying. There is so much to experience, and beautiful scenery to see along the way, that you would just miss out on if you chose to fly instead.

In general, New Zealand and Australia are countries that are greatly enhanced when experienced by road trips. As long as you plan out a good route with plenty to see along the way, and are sharing the trip with a really good co-pilot (make sure this person is fun, a good DJ, and can see you at your worst), then the journey itself can be just as wonderful of an experience as the destination. So, don’t just disregard the road trip approach and jump on a plane, or you will miss out on a lot of things in between.

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Making the Best Experience Should Include Planning for the Worst

Of course just jumping in a car with a map and starting out on the open road isn’t a practical approach to road trips. Unlike the romantic “show up at the airport and pick a destination and just go” approach, a road trip requires some less romantic but very essential prep work. This means changing the oil and filter, refilling the windshield fluid and checking the tire pressure! Filling up your tires with air can not only help save you on the petrol costs, but can be essential in keeping you on the road and reaching your destination.

Remember to also keep other spare parts and essentials packed in the car at all times. There are even many great websites to pick up bits and pieces from if you never have the time to shop in person. Mister Auto are a good place to start, as they have items for safety, security, comfort, gosh… even wheel bearings can be picked up (provided you or someone else knows how to fit them). Take a look here if you need to pick up something specific or just want to browse before your trip. In any case, it’s a good idea to include a spare tire and jack, jumper cables, first aid kit, torch, as well as water bottles and muesli bars, quite literally anything you might need in case of emergency. Also, check to make sure the vehicle’s manual is there to consult if any unusual engine lights come on. Perhaps most importantly, a sat-nav is more or less a lifesaver for any driver! Be sure you have some kind of plan B and road side assistance to call if you do break down and need to call for a tow.

Embrace the Freedom

Part of why you are making a road trip to begin with instead of flying or taking a bus, is because you want to take advantage of the freedom. So while being prepared for anything is good practice, as far as your actual plans go for where you are stopping, eating, and sleeping… leave this open to chance and intrigue! Be open to improvising. You can obviously plan a few steps along the way that you thought of beforehand, but don’t research everything and create a rigid, impossible schedule with no room for flexibility. Sometimes the detours will be the most rewarding and memorable parts!

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Get out of the car!

Don’t forget to actually get out of the car and explore. Find a good place to pull over and enjoy actually getting out and stretching your legs. Roadtrips shouldn’t just be about getting from point A to point B, they should be about relaxing into it, stopping if you see something amazing, and using the car to explore places that would otherwise be out of your reach.

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10 Unmissable Things to do in Wellington, NZ

I fell a little bit in love with Wellington when we visited. It’s one of those cities that is the perfect mix between between scenic and quirky – always my favourite kind of place and exactly what you’d expect from the capital of New Zealand. There are so many things to do in Welling, for every kind of person – so I figured I’d put together a list of my top picks.
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As with all of New Zealand, the city is surrounded by lush green parks and nature, and the sea is crystal clear and picture perfect. In one place you have bustling city streets with coffee shops and lively bars – and then on the other there are palm tree lined beaches, spectacular vistas and beautiful city parks.
It’s a city to explore and enjoy, and we enjoyed it far more than we expected to. Aside from Queenstown (which I think is classed as a city) it’s definitely my second favourite city in New Zealand (I much prefer it over Auckland and Christchurch). It has character, it’s quirky, it’s fun and there is tonnes to do and explore.
If you’re planning a stay, here are my recommended things to do in Wellington…

Wellington Cable Car
www.wellingtoncablecar.co.nz

For over 100 years, the Wellington Cable Car has offered residents and tourists the chance to enjoy scenic views on its short journey from Lambton Quay to the Botanic Garden, from where a number of other attractions, including the Carter Observatory, can be easily reached. At selected times of the year, visitors are also treated to an impressive light show as the cable cars pass through two 100m long tunnels.

Services run every 10 minutes throughout the day, with adult tickets costing $4 and $7.50 for single and return journeys respectively ($2 and $3.50 for children). I can’t remember queuing for very long when we visited – I think it was about a 15-20 minute wait.

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The photo below is the view from the top of the cable cars!
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Zealandia
www.visitzealandia.com

Located 10 minutes from the centre of Wellington, Zealandia is an unmissable nature reserve covering 225 hectares which is sure to delight visitors of all ages with its extensive collection of rare birds, insects and reptiles living freely in their natural habitat. Guided tours (including a night tour), wildlife feeding and an interactive exhibition provide wildlife lovers with a chance to learn about the rich variety of species as well as 80 million years of natural history. I have a massive soft-spot for nature stuff and zoological gardens – so if you’re like me you’ll love it.

Entry costs $17.50 for adults and $9 for children; under-5s go free.

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Wellington Botanical Gardens
wellington.govt.nz

Officially classed as a garden of national significance, the Wellington Botanic Garden is a haven of tranquillity and has some of the best views in the city! I spent about 20 minutes just snapping photos before we had even headed into the park. It’s seriously gorgeous, and once you arrive at the top of the cable car (mentioned earlier in the article) you can walk down through the gardens and it’s a pretty leisurely stroll (all downhill… yay!).

Entry is free.
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Wellington Zoo
www.wellingtonzoo.com

Another zoo for my list! Branding itself ‘the best little zoo in the world’, Wellington Zoo is such a winner. With approximately 500 animals, including critically endangered species such as the Cotton Top Tamarin and Sumatran Tiger, the collection also features some native animals that cannot be viewed elsewhere. You can also learn more about the different species or the conservation work of the zoo through the regular animal feedings and zookeeper talks. My favourite part of the zoo was that certain animals (ducks for example) were just walking around freely, and it was adorable interacting with them and their babies.

Entry to Wellington Zoo costs $21 for adults and $10.50 for over-3s. Concessions are available.

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Museum of New Zealand
www.tepapa.govt.nz

The Museum of New Zealand, known locally as Te Papa Tongarewa (which translates as ‘container of treasures’), features six floors of exhibits and displays covering a wide range of the country’s cultural, art and natural history. Using state-of-the-art 3D animation and conventional story telling techniques, visitors can enjoy an interactive and innovative peek into New Zealand’s past, come face-to-face with a giant squid or experience the fear of an earthquake! Pad and I went here one rainy afternoon and at the time it really was one of the best things to do in wellington for that kind of weather. We spent a couple of hours walking around the exhibitions and had loads of fun.

Entry to the museum is free; admission charges to special exhibitions may apply.

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City Gallery
http://citygallery.org.nz

I didn’t make it to the gallery during my visit, but this is one of New Zealand’s leading art galleries. The City Gallery in Wellington is host to a variety of national and international artists and is renowned for its innovative exhibitions of contemporary art, design and architecture. Visitors can engage with art through workshops, lectures and talks while temporary exhibitions have featured the work of prominent artists including Tracey Emin (one of my favourites) and Frida Kahlo, making the City Gallery unmissable for anyone with an appreciation of artistic culture.

Free admission.

Carter Observatory
www.carterobservatory.org

Worth scheduling this on the same day that you visit the Botanical Gardens and do the cable cars too, as it’s all in one place. The Carter Observatory is ideal for young and old to come face-to-face with the universe, and you can literally do that in their sky room where you sit on reclining seats and listen to the expo. We loved that part of the tour – but (unluckily) were in the same group as a school trip – who were a bit rowdy at times! For night owls, the observatory opens late on selected nights for telescope viewing, giving you a first-class view of the solar system in its unobscured glory.

Adult admission costs $18.50; child admission is $8. Under-4s enter free. Concessions available.

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Weta Cave
http://wetaworkshop.com

New Zealand has long been associated with international movie making and avid fans are sure to revel in the Weta Cave, a small museum run by the company which brought to life ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’. It’s a real wild-card activity and it’s super fun to see all the props from the movies and know that these people actually had a hand in making the films. If you’re a bit of a LOTR geek like Pad and I, you’ll love this.

Admission for over-12s $24, 6-12 years $12.

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Wellington Waterfront
http://wellington.govt.nz/

For a relaxing day at your own pace, Wellington Waterfront is an ideal destination, where you can pass the time exploring one of the heritage trails, take a paddleboat or kayak ride to the harbour or simply watch the world go by from an outdoor table of one of the many restaurants and cafes. It’s a perfect place for people-watching and in the sunshine – there’s no nicer place to be in the city.

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Eat at one of the many restaurants and cafes 
There are a ton of restaurants and cafes in the city (apparently more than NYC!? Someone told me that, I don’t know if it’s true!) and the few that we ate at during our time there were awesome. My favourite was the Flying Burrito Brothers (best breaded Jalepenos EVER).
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Daydreaming about our Honeymoon!

The next big holiday Pad and I take will probably be our honeymoon… For two reasons mainly. Firstly, this year we’re going to be pretty busy attending other people’s weddings – which can get pretty pricey and means most of our summer weekends are taken up with hen / stag do’s and the weddings themselves. Secondly, we’re saving up for a wedding – which of course means that the holidays have to be trimmed down a bit, in order to save up for wedding stuff.

So, know that our next big trip together will be our honeymoon, I’m spending at least an hour a day daydreaming about it and the kinds of places we could go. At the moment, we’re planning a mini-moon straight after the wedding, and then a bigger honeymoon (for a month – maybe up to 6 weeks) later in the year.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking for the mini-moon:

Ibiza 

I love the idea of renting a luxury villa in Europe for 5-7 nights and just having some sunshine and an amazing view and a pool (there has to be a pool… extra points for infinity pools!). I know Ibiza has a reputation for being a party island but I’ve had so many friends and family recommend the island to us now for a more relaxing kind of getaway – that I want to see what all the fuss it about. The areas of Ibiza further away from the party towns look gorgeous, and would be the perfect luxury getaway for a few days straight after the wedding, plus it’s only a few hours by plane (so no jet-lag – yay!). I love how close to the sea we can be, the views we’d have are amazing. I’ve seen some lovely ones and I’m pretty sure I could find our dream holiday villa in Ibiza somewhere.

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The Caribbean

My other choice for the mini-moon is the Caribbean. Pad and I went for the first time last year (for our friend’s wedding!), and loved every second of it. The clear blue sea, the white sandy beaches, the all-inclusive resorts…. we just loved it. You can get direct flights there from here in London, and the packages are really reasonable – so this would be ideal too. It’s a little further away, but the all-inclusive deals make things so effortless, that I don’t think it’d matter to us too much. I’ve been looking at holidays to the Grenadines (which is part of the Caribbean we haven’t yet explored) and the beaches and sunshine send me right into a daydream.

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Here’s what I’ve been thinking for the longer honeymoon….

AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND! 

OK, so this bit, we’ve already kind of decided. Pad and I have a love affair with Australia and New Zealand, and ever since we came back 2 years ago we’ve literally been scheming about how we can get back there, and when. It turns out, our honeymoon is the perfect opportunity.

I think we’ll head over to Sydney first (maybe stopping on the West Coast of the USA on the way) and spend a week or so in Sydney – a city which we both fell in love with back in the day. We’ll maybe even try and squeeze in a weekend trip to Hamilton Island too (on the Whitsundays) and do a little reef tour.

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After that, it’s onto Queenstown, a small town in New Zealand’s South Island, where we both lived together a couple of years ago. It’s our ‘special place’ so it’ll be awesome to go back and just enjoy the town again. I don’t think we’ll do much more than that – Queenstown is the place we’re really excited to get back to, so we’ll probably just spend our time there doing all the things we loved. Like eating at our favourite restaurants, taking walks to our favourite places and just standing in awe at the view!

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In a dream world….

We’d love to go to Bora Bora for a week or two – but right now that is way way out of our budget. Maybe for our ten year anniversary!? 😉

What it’s like to be a New Zealand expat

New Zealand is one of the best places I’ve ever lived (and I’ve lived in a fair few places). When living in New Zealand, we lived in Queenstown – a town in the South Island mainly known for it’s mountains, lakes and um, tourists.

All I can say is, if you’re contemplating whether or not to make the move over to New Zealand, just do it. It’s one of the best decisions my partner and I ever made and it’s a country we miss every single day now we’re back living in London.

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But let me go into a little more depth… here’s what to expect when moving to New Zealand as an expat…

There are some good things, some bad things on this list – but for me it all balanced out. Queenstown is the most beautiful place I have EVER lived – and that was definitely worth paying a bit extra for my weekly shopping.

1. It’s safe (like no big deal to walk home at 2am, kinda safe) 

I can only speak for my own personal experiences here, but I never felt unsafe in Queenstown. Not once. Not ever. I like to think of myself as pretty street-smart (oh cringe!) so it does take a lot to spook me, and as a general rule I’m always on my guard. New Zealand is one of the only places that made me drop that guard, because I never felt at risk, I never felt threatened and I never felt intimidated.

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Now, I know the story may be different in some of the country’s cities – but I did visit most of New Zealand whilst living there, and this feeling of safety was a constant wherever we went. New Zealand is the kind of place I’d want to raise my children, because it’s somewhere I know they could grow up exploring, playing and having fun – without worrying about all the things I’d fret about in London or a UK city.

For me, Queenstown had that sense of community which ushers in a sense of safety too. It’s a lovely place to be 🙂

2. The people will welcome you with open arms

It didn’t matter who we met, whether they were locals, other New Zealand expats or tourists – everyone was just lovely and always welcoming. Our landlord in New Zealand remains the nicest landlord we’ve ever had, and it was a refreshing change to deal with a landlord who was a real genuine guy – and not a scary property shark with a contract.

3. It’s not just a new version of the UK (and don’t move there expecting it to be)

I think a lot of British people move to New Zealand in the hopes it will be a new and improved version of the UK. I didn’t find this to be true. I didn’t actually draw many comparisons between UK culture and New Zealand culture. This country has it’s own identity and it is it’s own entity.

Don’t move there if all you want is Manchester with mountains. Or London with lakes.

If anything I found the culture more similar to that of the USA. The streets are usually set out in blocks, the postal service is a bit like the US, and the traditions are more similar to the US than they are the UK. BUT even saying those things, NZ is completely its own. It has it’s own history, it’s story and that what makes it so magical and such a wonderful place to live. It’s not just Eastenders with an extra dash of Milford Sound.

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4. It’s more expensive than you expect (and I’m a Londoner who know about high prices!) 

Of all the amazing things, I have to say this – NZ is expensive and having been a New Zealand Expat, this was one of our hardest realisations. In London (and bear in mind – London is about as expensive as the UK gets) we would pay about £70 for a weekly shop for two people (this doesn’t include alcohol). In New Zealand a comfortable shop, with the same items, would cost us the equivalent of £120-£150.

This would go up big time if we wanted any luxuries like alcohol, etc.

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It is expensive – so make sure you’re ready for that! Why is it expensive? I think it’s because nearly everything is imported. Oh – and don’t even dream of buying anything off the ‘special imports’ shelves…. £10 for a bottle of Robinson’s Squash? No thanks!

Which brings me onto my next point…

5. THEY DON’T HAVE NORMAL SQUASH

During an average week in London I go through about 2 bottles of fruit squash. You know, the no added sugar, Robinson’s kinda goodness. In New Zealand (and this is random and weird) but they just don’t sell it (except from on the expensive import shelf). They don’t have any local / less expensive alternative.

They have this weird powered stuff, but it confused me and freaked me out a bit (“juice from powder?! I don’t understand!”) and they had sugar-loaded Ribena / syrup drinks – but no low-sugar cordial. Anyway, rant over.

6. Medical care might not always be accessible

During my time in NZ I was luck not to become seriously ill, or injured – except this one time when I nearly severed off my fingers whilst zip-lining. I was hastily rushed off to the ‘medical centre’ (basically a big doctors surgery) and told I had very nearly severed the tendon of my two fingers.

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The photo on the left was taken just seconds before the ‘incident’. Look how ignorant and happy I am…!

Luckily – I hadn’t. But if I had (and I came very close) I would have had to be helicoptered to the nearest hospital to get myself into surgery. THAT’S A LOT OF INSURANCE MONEY – or normal money if you don’t got no insurance. It was then I realised that we were quite literally living in the middle of nowhere, and should something serious happen, the medical care might not have been that easy to get hold of or access.

7. It’s remote. And a bit isolated. 

This kind of leads on from the previous point, but I’m talking on a larger scale. If you’re moving from the UK, NZ does feel very far away. It can be hard to get hold of family and friends (because you’re always either 11 or 12 hours apart). Basically the only times you can talk to home is early morning or late at night – which works fine, until you realise you like having lie-ins! 😉

Keep it in mind, that you may struggle at times with the time difference. It does make you feel a long way from home.

8. Internet is slower (I know you don’t think this is a big deal right now – but just wait until your buffering the next episode of Breaking Bad). 

The internet is slow. Saying that though, as we were leaving NZ, there were improvements being put in (our whole street was being dug up to make room for faster cables) so maybe it’s getting better. It is slow though.

HOWEVER you’ll have way better things to be doing than being on the internet anyway. You know, like climbing those mountains right outside your front door.

9. Rent is expensive 

I’m not sure how this fares around the rest of the New Zealand – but rent in Queenstown was a lot of money. I guess this is inline with the sheer demand there is on properties there though. We splashed out and lived somewhere incredible, because we’d saved so hard beforehand – but not everyone has that advantage. So remember to do your research before landing.

Also keep in mind it’s calculated by week (not per month – which is the norm in the UK).

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10. I forgot to put this above – but eating out is affordable (even is grocery shopping isn’t) 

Eating out in NZ is actually (surprisingly) affordable. More so than cooking at home at times. You have the cheap prices of the USA – but without the obligation to leave a 20% tip. We usually left between 10-15% tip but I think some people wouldn’t have even left that (we are self confessed generous tippers having both worked in hospitality when we were younger).

On a side note – Queenstown has some of the best restaurants EVER. It’s crazy that so many amazing food places exist in such a small town.

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11. There are so many amazing places to see and so many things to to do

New Zealand isn’t just mountains and lakes, there are beautiful beachesincredible coastlines and quirky, fun cities too. There are so many places to go and see – and I didn’t realise quite how varied the country was until I arrived there and started exploring. It really is a beautiful country. You could spend years exploring and still not scratch the surface.

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Are you a New Zealand expat? What things have you learnt about life there so far?

It’s so easy to fall in love with New Zealand

I recently read a blog post by the wonderful Geraldine from The Everywhereist about a trip she had taken to Bushman’s Kloof in South Africa (you can read her post here). In the post, Geraldine talks about her attachment to this beautiful place, and how when she and her husband Rand visit, it’s like being where they belong.

It’s their favourite place. It the place that brings out the best in them.

It really hit a chord for me. When I was reading it, I was mentally agreeing with everything she wrote. Except my Bushman’s Kloof, is Queenstown in New Zealand.

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I really miss it there, and it took reading Geraldine’s perfectly beautiful description of her own ‘happy place’ to make it sink in. Queenstown is the place where Pad and I adore, it’s the only place I’ve ever called perfect. It’s the most magical, beautiful, breathtaking place, that I can’t even believe exists in real life.

That’s where we’d belong if the world wasn’t so big, flights weren’t so expensive and jet lag didn’t exist.

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In our London apartment I surround myself with photographic reminders of Queenstown (we lived there for 6 months, so it’s not like I have a shortage of photos to choose from). I have a canvas in the living room, I have magnets on the fridge and I have countless frames in the bedroom.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – London is amazing and we’re beyond happy here too – but the muddy brown Thames doesn’t quite match up to the crystal clear waters of Lake Wakatipu. And I’ve yet to find anything in London that captures my imagination in the same way The Remarkables do.

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So I guess that’s all this blog post is about. I miss New Zealand. Quite a lot actually.

But, I guess it’s justified. I mean who wouldn’t miss a place this beautiful?

JUST LOOK AT IT. IT’S LIKE SOMEONE DREAMED IT UP. 

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Where is your happy place?

Things to do in Paihia, Bay of islands, NZ

It may not be one of New Zealand’s main tourist hotspots – but this little town at the very top of the North Island is jam-packed with amazing things to see and do.

We visited in November and stayed for 7 days (and 2 of these days were spent on the Rock The Boat Cruise – which I’ll talk about below). I’d say that this is more than enough time to spend in Paihia, in fact I reckon you could get away with spending 2/3 days on dry land exploring the area, and then another 2 days doing the boat cruise which we did, because that was my absolute highlight, and something you won’t want to miss!

So… Here are my recommendations for how to spend your time in Paihia. Enjoy!

Enjoy the view

The beaches in the town are lovely and the views are pretty gorgeous (even in the rain). Take a stroll along the beaches and just take it all in. Beware of sand flies though… I got bitten so much from a quick walk on the beach, and there’s nothing more annoying than sandfly bites on your feet!

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Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

This was a truly eye-opening experience and something so special. The treaty grounds are a huge part of New Zealand history and as you walk around it becomes evident how much this place is treasured by the locals. It’s not only a beautiful park (the treehouse style walk way is so beautiful you won’t want to leave), there are also demonstrations, traditional dances, museums and all sorts of others things to explore too.

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Take a drive over to Haruru Falls

A short drive out of the town, Haruru Falls is a lovely waterfall definitely worth seeing. There’s even a hotel at the bottom of it you can visit for lunch or dinner afterwards.

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Walk around the coastline

This is more for the view than anything else – because it’s truly beautiful. As you can probably tell from my photos, we didn’t have the best weather the first few days we were there – but even in the rainy, overcast weather the beauty of the place can still be appreciated.

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Take the ferry across to Russell Island

If you fancy taking a little trip across to another island, then Russell Island is a great choice. The ferry only takes about 20 minutes and you’ll get some incredible views along the way. Russell doesn’t have a huge amount on offer, but there are some nice cafes, restaurants and gift shops, and the island has some beautiful traditional houses too which are lovely to look at.

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Eat at Shippey’s Fish and Chips

If you’re after something nice to eat in the evening, then Shippey’s is an awesome choice – and you won’t be disappointed. They serve up home-style fish and chips and have loads of seating too. Also… WHO DOESN’T WANT TO EAT ON A SHIP!? It’s awesome!


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Look out for interesting boats and bits of history

Taking a walk around the marina area and beaches (especially the beaches a little further out of town) and you’re bound to find amazing little boats and stuff – like the one pictured below. I love that photo!

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Go dolphin spotting

There are a few dolphin tours in the town you can choose from, and although it’s not guaranteed you’ll spot them – there are so many dolphins in the sea around Paihia, that you’re bound too – and they have a full-refund policy if you don’t get a glimpse of any. It’s kind of fun to sail around as the skipper radios with other boats in the area to see if any have been spotted. And then when the moment comes and you finally see them – it’s just breathtaking. By far one of the most beautiful moments you could experience.

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Visit some of the smaller islands in the bay 

Don’t forget there are loads of islands to explore. You never know what gorgeous hidden spots you might discover! The island below had nothing more on it than a cafe and a toilet block. Random, but fun!

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Do the Rock The Boat Cruise 

This was my absolute highlight from our time in Paihia, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s jam packed full of activities and fun – and the staff are encouraging, friendly and legends in their own right. It’s everything a little adventure-cruise should be. We booked the boat’s only double room (lucky us!) but there are also dorm room and twin rooms available for larger groups too.

The cruise last two days (one night) and is worth every penny. I really can’t recommend this enough – if you’re going to Paihia, don’t miss out o this, you’ll regret it!

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Have you been to Paihia? What are your favourite things to do there?

The Restaurant list: Best Places to Eat in Queenstown

You’d never imagine that a small, tiny, alpine village in the remote country of New Zealand would be such an AWESOME place for food. Seriously.

Queenstown is the best place for food in the entire world. I lived there for 6 months – and in that time experienced the following things:

The best burger I’ve ever tasted, the best ribs I’ve ever tasted, the best sushi I’ve ever tasted, the best Chinese take-out I’ve ever ordered… the list goes on. If you’re visiting Queenstown make sure you save money for dining out – because you’re going to need it. There are so many incredible choices.

Here are my favourites….

Flame: www. flamegrill.co.nz

Hands down, the best ribs I have ever had. With no exceptions. Flame have nailed it.

I would pay a huge amount of money to get some shipped over to the UK right now. Wouldn’t that be something.

I don’t care if you don’t like ribs. If you go to Flame you should get them. Try them. And then eat your words as well as your meat. It will blow your mind. They also do amazing cocktails – because obviously you need something to wash down all the ribs and steak you’ve ordered. The portion sizes here are huge – but the quality isn’t compromised by the size, which make it all the more enjoyable. If you do anything whilst you’re in Queenstown – make it Flame.

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flame ribs queesntown

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FergBurger: www.fergburger.com

If you’re heading to Queenstown you’ve probably already heard of Fergburger. It’s like this urban myth. Travellers talk of a huge burger so juicy and so delicious you’d eat there every day if you could. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.

It’s basically a take-out burger place (if you do manage to grab a seat – you’re very lucky, as there aren’t many) so it’s perfect for a sunny day, when you can grab a  burger and go sit by the lake. The portions are also huge here – so unless you haven’t eaten in weeks all you need to order is the burger… no chips necessary! My favourite was the CockadoodleOink – but in all truth you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Except maybe the vegetarian options…. because then WHY!?

fergburger review queenstown restaurant

fergburger review queenstown restaurant

fergburger review queenstown restaurant

Palace on the Lake: www.lakesidepalaceatqueenstown.com

Chinese food is one of my favourite kinds – so I really wanted to track down a decent Chinese place in the first couple of weeks of living in QT. This is a great choice for dining in or dining out. Try the lemon chicken. YUM.

FAT BADGERS: www.fatbadgerspizza.com

I’m pretty sure one of the first things you do when you move to a new place is order pizza take-out, right? So we were pretty chuffed when we stumbled upon Fat Badgers. Don’t go to any other pizza place in town – because I’ve tried the rest and they don’t even come close to Fat Badgers.

Fat Badgers is amazing. No, scrap that, IT’S THE BEST PIZZA YOU’LL EVER HAVE IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE – so much good pizza yummyness. Get the Smokey Badger (personal favourite) and make sure you’re hungry because these pizzzas are HUUUGGGGGEEEE.

fat badgers pizza Queenstown

fat badgers pizza Queenstown

Patagonia: http://www.patagoniachocolates.co.nz/

This place is great for those with a sweet tooth or a coffee habit – because you’d be beyond satisfied here. The do this amazing ice-cream (every flavour ever in the world) and also incredible sorbet too, the have the biggest range of home-made chocolate I’ve ever seen, and they also do good coffee. Oh, and there is free-wifi and it’s right by the lake so the views are great.

The Sushi place on the Mall Highstreet

I went here at least 4 times a week when we lived there (probably more…) and it was awesome. If you like sushi you’ll love it here. It’s a tiny place, tucked somewhere in the middle of the high street. Get there around midday for the best selection, because once it’s out it sells out fast. Why? Because it’s delicious and cheap. Perfect for a quick lunch.

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Johnny Barr’s Sandwiches: www.johnnybarrs.com

Another great choice for a quick lunch – this place does the best sandwiches in town. My favourite was the pulled pork with coleslaw (I could’ve eaten those every day). Chow down inside the deli, or grab yours to go and eat it on the beach. Either way, don’t give this place a miss – it’s scrummy.

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Could I look any happier about that sandwich??

johnny barrs queenstown review

johnny barrs queenstown review

The Remarkables Sweet Shop: www.remarkablesweetshop.co.nz

Got a sweet tooth? Go and grab some amazing sweets or homemade fudge from The Remarkables Sweet Shop. Top tip? If you head in and look curiously towards the fudge fridge, they’ll let you try the fudge FOR FREE. So much yummyness, so little time.

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Cookie Time: www.cookietime.co.nz

Another choice for those with a sweet tooth… head over to Cookie Time for cookie happy hour (buy one get one free!). Such a treat, and full of loads of flavours and choices. Always warm and chewy, and there are cold crunchy ones too for those who prefer them. I try not to think too much about Cookie Time now I’m back in the UK. It just makes me sad. And hungry.

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A few other places worth noting…. 

– Winnies (good pizza, and a great lively atmosphere and bar in the evenings)

– Moto (a solid choice for breakfast!)

– Vudu (another solid choice for breakfast!)

Where are your favourite places to eat in Queenstown?

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

Exploring Christchurch – New Zealand

Our last couple of days in New Zealand were spent in Christchurch, as that’s where our flight to Australia left from. There’s quite a lot I want to say about Christchurch, and I meant to write this post a few months ago, put had trouble fitting it all in. So here goes again.

I had never visited Christchurch before the earthquake 2 years ago, so I had no prior expectations for this city. Pad had visited a few years ago though and had seen the city at it’s best – before the earthquake had hit it. He had told me of this gorgeous little city, with a river running through it and old English-Style colonial buildings, and a great cafe-culture. We had both talked about whether we would go there during our time in NZ, as Pad was worried seeing it after the damage would be a bit sad, seen as he’d seen the city beforehand and loved it so much. But as our friend Hannah lives there – who we really wanted to visit – Christchurch became somewhere we did indeed finally get round to seeing.

Like I said, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the earthquake had been a big one – but I’ve never visited somewhere after a natural disaster, so I wasn’t sure what the city would be like and what kind of state it would be in. Pad had painted this picture of this gorgeous little city – so in a way I was expecting some reflection of that. Maybe there would be a few buildings knocked down, maybe some parts of town would still be in recovery – but I expected some essence of the original city to still be there.

I was wrong.

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From what I can tell, and from Pad’s reaction as we looked around the city, the entire city has completely changed. I personally couldn’t believe the state of repair the city was still in and how restricted our access to it was. There are parts of the city completely blocked off to the public, I think they were referred to as red zones – where there was still extreme danger.

Buildings were abandoned left right and centre, with entire streets just closed off, empty and left behind. It was upsetting to tell the truth – even for me, someone who has personal connection to the city. I can’t image how difficult it must be for those who have grown up in Christchurch, to see this beautiful city they loved fall down to ruins.

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However the city is undergoing restoration – however slow it may be – and there are parts of the city that are now re-open to the public and provide some uplifting relief from the damage. The pop-up container mall is an example of this, and the bright colours and quirky nature of this, really make it something special. We actually sat down whilst here and got talking to a local security guard who said how much he still adores Christchurch, despite all the damage and loss of business. His optimism was really inspiring, as was Hannah’s – our friend who we stayed with. Instead of dwelling on what’s been lost, it seems the city is excited for what they can now become. Which is refreshing.

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But it’s not just the city centre that was affected by the earthquake, the suburbs of the city were affected too. Hannah drove us around the local beaches nearby, all of which were absolutely stunning – but many of the surrounding houses and towns empty and abandoned. The beautiful houses below positioned in a prime location above the beach, might look perfect from the outside – but most of them are now empty as they are unsafe to live in.

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My favourite part of visiting Christchurch was actually getting out of the city and seeing all the beaches and beautiful views that New Zealand is so famous for, because it really didn’t disappoint. But saying that, I can’t wait to visit the city again in 20 years time and see just how much it has changed and how much it has grown. It’ll no doubt be a long recovery process but the city will be even more amazing once it’s done, Christchurch was clearly a great place to live before the earthquake – so they’re building on strong foundations and I imagine the city will be even more beautiful once it’s all finished once more.

Now for a few uplifting photos… Here is what you can find just a 20 minute drive from the city. Pretty gorgeous, I think you’ll agree!

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That Night We Slept in Jail.

Not a real Jail. 

So if you came here looking for some hilarious travel story about me getting arrested – sorry to disappoint. This was the night we spent in Christchurch (NZ). We had to quickly snap up somewhere to sleep for the night very last minute – and our friend Hannah managed to grab us a room at the Jailhouse Accommodation – which is a hostel converted from a big jail building.

It’s pretty impressive, and even with the (very un-romantic) twin beds, it was a hilarious and very amusing way to spend the night.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

The rooms have huge metal doors (we think they were the original prison doors) that were super heavy and add to the whole authentic feel of the place. Although saying that, everything else in the room is new. New bed, flooring, and all of that – and nice curtains and blankets to make it seem a little less prison-ish. Saying that though – when you’re lying in the bunk beds during the night and you hear people walking up and down the corridors outside, it’s a whole different story! The hostel even provide you with fitting attire… if you fancy it.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The hostel has a lovely little sun lounge at the front with board games, books and magazines, etc. They even do coffee and have a movie and pool (as in snooker, not swimming) room upstairs.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

It took all our self-restraint to not push this button. WHAT IS THE CELL ALARM!? I kind of regret not giving it a try now.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

The above photo is one of the un-converted original cells. It’s only there to show you what once was (you don’t have to sleep in that one – thank goodness!) but it’s awesome to see what the place once was like. Not keen on the ensuite though… bit awkward.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

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Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Overall we actually really loved staying here. It was something different, and a great experience and we can now say we’ve slept in a jail! It’s an awesome choice if you’re in Christchurch and you want somewhere fun and central to stay in, that is a little more unusual and unique than the average YHA. I think they do offer double rooms as well as twins (we had to opt for the twin because we were booking so last minute) so it might be a good option for couples too if you can grab one of the doubles up.

Here’s the website! Jail.co.nz

 

A few words about this beautiful place. Queenstown.

When Pad and I first started talking about New Zealand – we were also talking about moving to New York. New York is my ultimate destination – the city I’m probably most in love with – and Queenstown was Pad’s equivalent of that.

Moving to New York seemed a stretch for us at the time (all I need to say is Green Cards and you’ll get the picture) but New Zealand seemed much more in reach – so that’s the destination where our plans settled.

And I’m so glad they did. 

Queenstown has completely won me over, and I didn’t think I’d be this sad leaving it behind. 

Queenstown is this phenomenally beautiful (devastatingly so – someone tweeted me yesterday) town.

It has these incredible sweeping vistas that surprise you at every corner you turn. I’ve never woken up and not been amazed at our view. There has never been a day when I haven’t been stopped or taken aback by it’s beauty, even on foggy days when all I can see is whiteness – I can feel the mountain air on my face and that’s enough. When somewhere is this overwhelming it demands your attention and you give it willingly, in whatever way you can.

I love the way the clouds cling to mountains and cut off the pinnacles on stormy days, tricking you into thinking there are no mountains there at all. I love it when the sun is so bright you have to shade your eyes and the sunset casts such long deep shows on even the smallest pebbles. I love the colour of the lake and how it’s the bluest water and cleanest water I’ve ever seen. I love it in the distance on windy days, when it looks like dolphins are jumping from the waves. I loved the snow and waking up to a white mountain top, that was green and brown only hours before. And falling asleep on the balcony with thunder and lightening happening right around me.

I cannot count the times when Pad has caught me just staring out of our living room windows. Sometimes if a TV show is boring – I’ll just stare out of the window instead – because the view is forever changing and much more interesting. There is a spot on the window with my hand prints where I just stand and look. No where has ever quietened me like Queenstown before.

Queenstown has this purity about it, and there is this peacefulness and beauty that swallows you up just being here. 

But saying that – the adventure and adrenaline that Queenstown serves up is something special too. Whilst it’s views and landscapes may stun you into silences – it doesn’t require you stay that way. Scream, and do it loudly. You’ll have no other option as you throw yourself from a plane, or down a zipline, or across a canyon. You’re spoilt for choice here and everyone knows it. There is no other place in the world that so magnificently caters to everyone.

Hopefully a few of these photos and this video can do it justice….

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Queenstown in Video

So over the last 6 months I’ve been filming a few bits here and there, on and off. And this is the end result. I hope it does Queenstown justice, as the gorgeous place it is!

I’m actually hoping to make more of these little videos once we set off travelling next week, and I’m planning on making a mommoth one of the whole trip at the end of it all, so keep an eye out for them 🙂

Here it is….

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Welcome to Queenstown, New Zealand! from Elle-Rose Williams on Vimeo.

ZipTrek Eco Tours – Queenstown

 

Yesterday we went up the Gondola again (yay!) for an afternoon of ZipTrekking through the Queenstown forest! We were really lucky to have been given some complimentary tickets, so it was a great chance to enjoy one of Queenstown’s lesser known activities.

The ZipTrek tour is found at the top of the Gondola in Queenstown (where you’ll find some incredible views, an amazing restaurant and also the luge) and it’s a quick 2 minute walk from the Gondola to the left of the building. So easy to get to, and it was an awesome way to spend the afternoon – especially as a group of 4. We were in a tour group of about 8/9 (I can’t remember) who were all lovely. There was a variety of ages in our group, and everyone had a good bit of banter and chat along the way which was lovely – some of the older people in the group were actually the first to try spinning upside down! So kudos to them!

The tour starts with dressing up – in harnesses. Surprisingly – the harnesses were actually really comfy to wear and easy to get on. But don’t worry about this too much – the two tour guides who take you round will take care of getting you strapped in. Once you’ve got it on, you barely remember it’s there. So don’t worry about uncomfortable wedgies or anything…!

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

It’s a short walk along the amazing tree-houses to the first zip-line, and they definitely ease you in. Once you’ve done the later ones – the first one seems relatively tame in comparison  We were the first ones off this Zip-Line and it was great. I’m no adrenaline junkie – and was pretty nervous about the whole thing – but actually it was great. You feel really safe when you’re attached, and the tour guides who take you round will put you at ease and encourage you if you’re a bit slow off the edge. Which I was a few times!

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

Just in general, the tour is fantastic for sightseeing a bit of the nature surrounding Queenstown – and catching some gorgeous views. The tree-houses are so scenic, and reminded me of being a kid again. I mean – how much would the ten year old you have loved this treehouse?! Some of the views along the way were just magical, as you can see above. There’s about a 20 minute walk towards the end of the tour, downhill through the forest – and you can take the time to enjoy the views during that time – incase you missed them whilst zooming through the trees earlier.

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

After your first try on the zip-wire, the tour guides (ours were TJ and Rich) will teach you some tricks along the way. If you’re brave enough, you can swivel upside down along the way (props to Paddy for doing it!) and at one point you can also do a leap of faith – type thing off one of the platforms. Definitely a bit scary – but really cool. This was Paddy’s favourite part of the tour – which doesn’t surprise me as he loves jumping out of planes and stuff.

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

If you’re a bit of a fraidy-cat (like me) the nerves do wear off as you go along – and you become more confident. I don’t look nervous at all above – which I think was our 4th zip-line. I enjoyed the 4th and 5th zip-line’s the most as they were a little longer, which meant you had more time to enjoy the views along the way.

Another thing I’d recommend (if you’re a traveller experiencing this solo, which a few people in our group were) is to swap cameras with someone. That way you can each take photos of each other on the zip-lines.

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

This was one of my favourite views of the entire tour. It was great watching people zooming through the gap in the trees – and how photogenic is the view? This was one of the longer zip-lines, and one of the most enjoyable too. You had some great views of the lake as you went across – a paraglider even floated past as I was on it- which was bizarre!

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

The last treehouse of the tour is above, which is one of the steeper zip-lines and takes you down the last leg of the mountain! And of course – special mention to TJ and Rich who were our tour guides for the afternoon, who were awesome! And Jada who we met when the tour finished! 🙂

ZipTrek Eco Tours Queenstown

If you’d like to book yourself a place on one of ZipTrek’s tours you can do so here, on their website. We’d all recommend it as a fun afternoon in Queenstown – and they run all year round which is great too. So you can either do the tour during ski season – or during summertime. As I mentioned before – it’s something that is relatively hidden – but super easy to get to and a great thing to combine with the Skyline restaurant and Gondola beforehand.

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Cheap Thrills on the Thunder Jet, Queenstown

We managed to score some super cheap tickets on the Thunder Jet in Queenstown today (from the BookMe.co.nz website) so that was the morning activities taken care of. Up early (well earlier than usual) and by 10am we were zooming at 85 KM/Hour along Lake Wakatipu. Definitely a good way to start the day and get you up and awake.

Thunder Jet Queenstown

We are the annoying rowdy ones in the back.

The Thunder Jet is the cheap version of the Shotover Jet that leaves from the centre of town, but there is such a huge price difference. Shotover Jet is about $129 for 30 minutes, whereas Thunder Jet costs around $90 for a whole hour (and that’s without a discount – our tickets actually cost £65). If you’re on a budget – the Thunder Jet is an awesome alternative – and you get more time in the water anyway – and you see some gorgeous sights as you’re whizzing round The Remarkables, so it’s worth every penny.

I decided to do something a bit different this time, with the photos – as we took a few clips of video too. So I’ve compiled it all together into a little movie below. Enjoy!

(It’s best to watch it in the small sized screen here – any bigger and the quality suffers a bit) 

 

Swimming in the Lake: Queenstown

You can’t visit Queenstown in the summer without getting in the lake. Lake Wakatipu is huge, and there are loads of places you can go for a day of swimming by the lake. We headed to Kelvin Heights Golf Course and set up a little picnic by the big jetty. It’s only $10-ish return on the water taxi (which leaves from the centre of Queenstown every hour) and it feels a million miles away from the busy town centre.

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The first time jumping in the lake was COLD. I mean really cold. But it’s so worth it. It’s so nice swimming in the lake, because it’s not salty and you can open your eyes under the water – and not have to worry about swallowing horrible salty water unexpectedly. Which makes it pretty awesome – even thought it’s freaking cold.

The second, third and forth times we jumped in though – it got much more bearable. Maybe our skin was just going numb though and we weren’t noticing the cold as much as before…

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Make sure you have some towels handy for when you get out – because you’ll need them!

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Your transport for the day will be the water taxi. It’s a little tricky to board it from such a high jetty – but it’s all good fun and I guess if you fall in the lake whilst doing so – it’ll be something to tell the grandkids. The water taxi is actually a pretty awesome way to see the lake from the water too on your way over – it’s cheap and cheerful, so it’s a pretty cool experience in itself.

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Summer road-tripping in New Zealand

New Zealand is STUNNING in the summertime. So we’ve been making the most of it. I love the south island and it’s epic landscapes, and beautiful mountains so any excuse to get out and explore them sounds good to me. I would advise anyone wanting to explore the south island (especially Otago and the Queenstown area) to rent a car – even if it’s just for a day or two. You can see so much in the car, and you often stumble across hidden gems that you’d never have seen if you’d been in a coach or airplane.

Anyway here are some photos!

These (above) were taken near Pisa Mountain, on the drive from Queenstown to Wanaka. The view from up there is beautiful, you can see the valley stretch right in front of you all the way to Lake Wakatipu. If you’re cruising along the mountain roads, it’s pretty easy to stop off at little view points like these, and it’s definitely worth getting out for a view like this!

Of course, as with all roadtrips, before you head out make sure you’ve got the number of a local repair firm, tyre shop or engineer – especially in NZ where it’s so sparse and isolated in places. You don’t want to get stuck!

We also stopped off in the tiny town of Arrow Town, which was originally a gold miners settlement – in the gold rush that populated the Otago area around 150 years ago. To be honest, there isn’t much there, but it’s worth a coffee and an ice-cream and a quick walk around. It actually reminded me of a little western cowboy town you might see in an old movie, it felt a little out of place so close to Queenstown!

We then ventured over to Wanaka – somewhere which (before we’d visited) we heard many times likened to Queenstown. In all honesty, I don’t really see the similarity, sure they both have big lakes and mountain views – but the atmosphere and vibe of the two places are hugely different. I don’t know if it’s my overwhelming love of Queenstown that makes me biast – but I don’t think Wanaka compares to Queenstown in the slightest. If you were weighing the two up against each other unsure of which to stay in – I’d go for Queenstown every time. Queenstown is magical.

The weird photos above were taken at Puzzling World in Wanaka. It’s about (NZ) $18 per person to enter, and it’s a fun way to spend the afternoon. In particular there is this balance room (pictured above) where you literally just find it impossible to balance or walk around. Pad and I both nearly feel head over toes multiple times. It’ll completely mess with your mind! At one point, Pad and I were near the exit, and this Chinese tourist entered at the top, poked his head round the wall, and just said “help me” and all three of us burst out laughing. It’s definitely an experience, and unlike any room you’ve ever been in before.

The rest of the photos were taken around Queenstown at various points from the last two weeks. Queenstown is surprisingly big, and we’ve really tried to explore as much of it as possible recently. One of our favourite spots is Kelvin Heights, on the small beaches near the golf course. You feel a million world’s away from the bustling town centre, and yet it’s pretty easy to get to. Don’t bother going by taxi or bus though (that’ll take 25+ minutes, as it’s right around the lake) instead, go in the water taxi.

 This one was taken from the beach in Kelvin heights. I think it’s one of my favourite photos so far, because it just sums up how gorgeous the place is completely. Pad and I actually walk right across the the hill you can see in the background (and further) with very little water on a very hot day. After I got the the brink of dehydration we gave up, and headed to the road to catch the bus home! It’s a much longer walk than it looks, especially in 30 degree heat!

And of course, no summer in New Zealand would be complete without a boat trip…. So we went on one.

And last but not least, some more random but lovely photos I took… The sunset ones from our balcony might be my favourite, I think I’ll get them framed when we’re back in London. Even now as I’m typing there is a stunning sunset outside, so much so you feel bad for watching TV – because the view outside almost rivals it for entertainment. I’ve never known anywhere to be so vivid at sunset than here.

Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown

Yesterday we rented a car, so decided to drive up to the Onsen Hot Pools in the evening. It was Pad’s birthday – so we wanted to something a bit special and a bit different – and this was certainly that. The pools are located in Arthurs Point, about a 15/20 minute drive north of Queenstown (it’s pretty easy to get to) which is remote enough to feel secluded – but close enough to town for it to be an easy drive. It’d probably be about $25 in a taxi I reckon – so not too bad if you have someone to split the cost with.

The Onsen Hot Pool is probably the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done – not to mention one of the most romantic too. I’d definitely recommend it to basically anyone – if you’re a group of friends travelling then it’s a great place to hang out and relax for an hour or so, but if you’re a couple it’s a lovely romantic way to spend a couple of hours together.

Basically, the hot pools are fresh-water private hot-tubs (although you can turn the jets off if you want) which are located in their own little private room, which has a re-tractable roof. It’s pretty perfect really – you have this incredible view, and massive hot-tub all to yourself, and even candles and aromatherapy if you specify when booking. You’re not overlooked either – in fact the only thing overlooking you is a big mountain range and the Shotover river.

Our booking was at 9pm, so when we arrived it was just starting to go dark (as you can see above). By the time we left if was completely dark – so it was nice to see the pool in both settings. There are changing rooms just outside in the corridor  and you can borrow lovely fluffy towels from reception too – there’s even a shower in your hot tub room – incase you want to cool off and then jump back in (which we did a few times).

We had the roof retracted the entire time, because that’s what makes it so unique I think, and it was lovely being in the hot water, but having a cool breeze from the mountains at the same time. The pools are huge too – there was only 2 of us in there – but I think you could easily fit 4/5. They’re so much deeper than the average hot-tubs too, and length wise I could stretch out and just about touch the edges (and I’m 5ft2 ish).

For anyone thinking of booking I’d probably recommend having a similar time-spot to us, it was lovely watching the sun go down, and having about 30 minutes of pure darkness outside too. As you can see – the room looks absolutely magical in the darkness and the candles are so romantic too! For any guys out there wanting to impress a special lady – this is without a doubt one of the most romantic things you could in the whole of New Zealand. It’s not too expensive either – we were pleasantly surprised at the price – considering how luxurious the entire experience feels.

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Queenstown LUGE!!

New Zealand is Beautiful – especially in the summertime. And by far, some of the most fun I’ve had since living here was our day spent on the Queenstown Luge. WE LOVE THE LUGE! It’s basically an awesome go-cart track (but more awesome) with big slopes and scary bumps and (obviously) a gorgeous view too.

It’s hard not to get excited. Let’s face it. There are even free rides on the ski lift too (even if you’re not riding the Luge). And the helmets come in 4 colours. Amazing.

The restaurant at the top of the Gondola, is by far the best view in the whole of Queenstown. Maybe even New Zealand? Big claim – but I think it stands. It’s not too pricy either (considering how spectacular it actually is up there) and the buffet is yummy. If you don’t quite have the budget for the restaurant though, there are some super cute picnic tables outside (pictured!) where you can set up your own little al fresco dining experience. Two pretty good options, I think you’d agree?

I mean, even if you aren’t going to ride the Luge…. going up there for these incredible views is worth it. You can parachute down the hill back to town too – something I’m super excited to do sometime before we leave. I’m terrified of jumping from a plane (way too high for my liking) but the idea of jumping off the side of a hill doesn’t seem so drastic and scary. After living in QT a while, you actually get used to seeing the parachutes in the sky, and it becomes almost normal to see 3/4 flying above you as you have a coffee or walk round the shops.

 

Skateboards and Hitch Hikers

There are two things in life, which I (being totally honest here) thought only existed in American movies. These two things are: Skateboarders and Hitch Hikers. Sure, I knew that both of these things were actually things (and not made up, like say – Unicorns) but growing up in the UK, you only ever get skateboarders in skate parks, and you only ever get hitch hikers – if they’re doing some charitable event across Europe.

In NZ (and Australia I noticed) though – people use skateboards as a legitimate mode of transport. They actually use it to get from Point A to Point B. Not just for fun, or for doing fancy tricks in the park, or even to fill some teenage angst stereotype – people skateboard here because it is a fast, and nifty way to travel. It’s a weird thing to get used to really – at first it used to scare the bejesus out of me every time one of them went past.

Why?

Because skateboards are loud! Not like Tony Hawk would have you believe on his video games. When people are using them to scoot at 40 miles an hour down the road – they sound like cracks of thunder, and you look and there is nothing there – just some barefoot hipster (yes, barefoot – those danger dabbling ruffians) making his way to work – zooming down the street 10 ft ahead of you.

The other thing, as the title suggests, is hitch hiking.

Now, I know that hitch hiking is a thing. That people do. But if I’m being honest – I thought it was something that people only do in two of the following situations:

1) Raising money for charity, so you can say you’ve hitch hiked across Europe or to Morocco. Or something like that.

2) In horror movies as a sure fire way to “get dead”.

These are the only two situations of hitch hiking I have ever come across. EVER. Oh, and that episode of Friends where Joey and Pheobe drive back from Vegas and pick up the random guy. But even in that occurance the first thing she asks him is “Are you a murderer?”

In New Zealand though, hitch hiking is pretty common, and it’s (apparently) perfectly acceptable and safe. Not that this would ever convince me to do it, but I’m always surprised by how common it is here. Pad and I walk to the gym most days in the town, and on numerous occasions now I’ve spotted people standing on the main road with their thumbs stuck out. It’s so cliched I want to laugh – but it’s real and they’re actually doing it.

When my family came to stay in November, they drove to Glenorchy, and on the way back told me they picked up a random girl who had been planning to walk back to Queenstown. First of all – this girl is mental, because that’s like a 5 hour walk – but also they didn’t really think it was a big deal. But if the same had happened in London – I’d be like “YOU PICKED SOMEONE UP OFF THE STREET!?”

But in Queenstown, I think it’s a bit different. Maybe it’s because of the travellers lifestyle here in NZ and the common goal that most people seem to have. Who knows.

Have you ever hitch hiked? 

 

A Queenstown Christmas

Just a note to say, Merry Christmas to everyone, have a fantastic day! We’re 12 hours ahead of you all – so we’ve already had our Christmas day – and are now slobbing out on the sofa, so very full of Christmas food and sweets and chocolate.

Here are some photos from our day – enjoy!

Christmas Carols in Queenstown town centre on Christmas Eve evening. Swiftly followed by drinks on the beach.

A very busy Queenstown beach. Such a great atmosphere!

Gorgeous, right!?

We did all the traditional things – like cooking a huge Christmas Dinner, with all the trimmings (even Yorkshire Puddings!!) and opening present, drinking and then falling asleep infront of a film. When we woke up from the film though – we headed down to the beach in 26 degree heat, to enjoy some sunshine and ice-cream. Pretty sweet, huh?

Here’s some photos of our amazing dinner:

And of course…. CAKESSSS!!

“IT’S CHRISTMAS!” (read that like Slade sings it)

CHRISTMAS IS HERE!

Which is awesome. And the world didn’t end like those Mayan people thought it would, which means…. We actually get to open our presents! Oh isn’t life good. Anyway, here are some photos of our Christmas in New Zealand, it’s been quite a strange experience so far if I’m being honest especially with the sunshine and summery weather going against anything any British person would be used to during December. I’m used to wearing 3/4 jumpers, 2 pairs of socks, sitting stupidly close to the fire and being snowed in. But, saying that, we have done our best to make it still seem festive and seem christmassy, even though the weather is telling us something completely to the contrary. These efforts have included:

– Me making an awesome Spotify playlist (which features mainly Michael Buble) and singing along to it at least 1 hour of each day. This time schedule is only rough – sometimes it is 3 hours. My favourite this year is “Christmas (Baby please come home)” I think I have played that song to it’s death the past few days and I’m sure Pad would agree. I’m still not tired of it though (Pad would likely disagree), and have to try my hardest not to dance around like Matilda on the table (skip about halfway through this clip and you’ll know what I mean) whenever it comes on.

– Our amazing Christmas tree is looking better now that it did when I put it up in November (Yes November. I really like Christmas) and I added some red baubles because the silver and white made it seem a bit “show-homey”. I know no one cares that I added red baubles – but I do and I think they look really pretty. Said she, the Christmas loser.

 

– PRESENTS!! I wasn’t too sure we’d have that many presents under the tree this year because you can hardly expect people to send them to you when you lives miles and miles across the other side of the world. But actually we have a nice little stack under there, and every time I see it it makes me feel like a kid again. We have some awesome family and friends who have sent us cards and presents and they’ve been arriving in a steady stream since the start of December. It’s really made us feel both loved and special. That’s super corny, but it’s also super true.

– My lovely Nanny actually brought some of her ‘hand-made’ christmas decorations over to NZ with her when she visited us, which was really special and made me feel like a proper grown-up. Which would sound weird and completely bizarre to anyone outside of the family… So let me explain. Basically, my Nanny has always knitted all the grandchildren in the family their own Christmas stocking, and it’s somewhat a tradition to open all the stockings together every year when all the family (which includes, aunties, uncles, cousins…) get together. But whilst each grandchild has their own stocking – the adults have their own decorations, so my Mum (come christmas) would always take out the decorations that Nanny had knitted for her. Anyway, this year, Nanny brought Paddy and I a stocking each and our own set of Christmas decorations too.

– We’ve majorly stocked up on sweets and chocolate too – because (let’s face it) it’s not christmas without copious amounts of sugar and unhealthy things. I’ve actually had to wrap my Christmas candy up and put it under the tree – because I lack so much self restraint. If it wasn’t wrapped up and under there, I definitely would’ve eaten it by now.

– New Zealand has been pretty good so far with Christmas movies, they’ve already aired Love Actually and Home Alone (so that was a very promising start) so we’re hoping that over Christmas we’ll still get the classic Christmas movies on TV just like we would in the UK. BUT – if all else fails, we went to the DVD rental store today and majorly stocked up on films and boxsets to keep us going. Because, you know, just in case. If you were thinking “they don’t look very festive” well we did go in with a festive list of movies, but they were all sold out. So we opted for “entertainment factor” instead.

– Last but not least, we have bought loads of food. I did take a picture of the fridge looking all full and amazing – but then Pad pointed out that actually, all the Christmas food was in the freezer. Fail on my part. I did take a photo of our dessert plans though, cupcakes with these fancy little Christmas tree decorations I found. I know my little sister will be overly impressed by the icing sugar for the cupcakes – seen as she basically lived off that when she was a kid.

If Carlsberg did boats…. Rock The Boat, NZ.

The second half of our trip to Bay of Islands was to be spent on the Rock Cruise. I’d been looking forward to this since we first booked our flight to New Zealand like 7 months ago. Pad went three years ago when he first visited the country and I’d already heard loads about it (all good) so the expectations were definitely high.

I can well and truly say, every expectation was met. This tour is absolutely one of the must-do things in New Zealand, without a doubt. Bay of Islands is about a 3.5 hours drive from Auckland, which can seem a bit heavy – but in all honesty – it’s worth every second of that drive to go on this tour.

Anyway, I took so many photos during the 2 days on board – I’ll let them do most of the talking.

We were booked into the double cabin on board – which was a super cute little wooden room with a little double bed. It had a gorgeous sliding door window which looked out onto the water (kind of obvious – because it’s a boat) but waterviews always make me swoon. This was a view that would take some beating, especially as it changed every time we set sail and cruised somewhere else in the area.

There’s plenty of room in the cabin, not that you spend much time in there – you’re too busy doing all the awesome activities they have planned for you! I think we had the only double cabin on board- and I’m pretty sure the other rooms are quads and dorm-style. Still – they all looked roomy and pretty similar to ours in design. You’re only on there for one night anyway – so whichever room you have would be fine.

The best bit?

One of the biggest selling points for this boat-tour (and probably what sets it miles apart from others in NZ) is the incredible staff and how informal they make the whole experience. In the past I’ve felt a bit like sheep being loaded onto a boat – being told to do this and look here, etc. The Rock Cruise is nothing like this though – there are scheduled activities and a clear itinerary – but actually, if you’re not feeling any of it, or you’d rather just chill out at the cute little bar on board, that’s fine. There’s no pressure.

The staff are awesome too – friendly and helpful and hilarious from the moment you step on board. They’re all young (which we loved, being a young couple, as they were all a similar age) but I’m guessing if you’re in an older crowd the staff inject a bit of youthfulness and excitement into the whole experience too.  Big kudos to Dan who was on his first cruise, and was made to drink some weird concoction of fish grossness (which you can see above). Also to Ryan and James who definitely deserve some kind of medal for continued enthusiasm and all-round lovelyness. And also Johnny, Steph, Chelsea, Ben and Jake! Keep up the good work guys, I think you’ve built the best team of staff this side of the hemisphere!

Evening activities?

As the evening rolled in, we’d cruised over to a gorgeous little bay, to set up anchor for the night. The bay we were in was pretty stunning (the amount of photos I took testaments to that). Within a few minutes of settling in the bay, the crew had the fishing rods out – and I was so eager. I’ve never fished properly before – and had a funny feeling I’d be awesome at it.

I wasn’t as good as I might have hoped (not a single fish was caught by myself) but it was still extremely fun! I had a few nibbles, and my bait kept going missing but alas I didn’t catch anything. Except some coral. Which was exciting for about 3 minutes whilst I reeled it in thinking it was a fish. Error!

Catch of the day. Obviously.

It’s hard to concentrate on fishing though, when this is the view. That’s my excuse.

After fishing, it was tea-time (yay!) and the crew got the BBQ going. Tea consisted of Steak and Sausage and a variety of salad, bread and other yummy stuff. I was pretty impressed by the food actually, there was a big choice of stuff and it filled us both up for the kayaking later on. Tea is a great time to get chatting to the other guests onboard too, as you all sit on a huge long table. We were lucky to sit near the guy who caught a big Snapper fish – so got a sneaky taste!

Night Kayaking anyone? 

This was my highlight of the entire trip. There are a few things that made this little part of the trip so good though; not only was it a first for me (I’ve never kayaked at night time before!) but the surroundings were just beautiful. The stars in the sky were so clear and stunning – probably the most clear sky I’ve ever seen in my life, only being topped by Abersoch in Wales. This night sky topped that 100% though, with so little light pollution, you really can see every tiny star. The other thing that makes this kind of magic is the plancton in the water (did I spell that right?) which glows whenever you move it. It means that whenever you move through the water it glows around you. It’s something incredibly beautiful and something I’ve never seen before – which made it that bit special.

Day 2

Next morning, we were up to the following views – which was definitely enough to wake us up! We slept pretty well actually – although there was a phantom snorer on board – who was never named and shamed. His (Well, I’m guessing it was a he) snoring was literally shaking the boat at one point!

Breakfast was at 8am, which surprisingly we made in time and consisted of porridge (yum) and fruits and cereal. The morning then consisted of some diving in the nearby reef, and a trip over to a little bay / beach which was just stunning.

The island we headed over to was probably the most lovely, remote beach I’ve yet to visit. Part of the trip over there though, did consist of a (very hardcore) walk up a hill, so you could really take in the views from up top. Whilst the views were definitely worth it…. I have never been one for hills (especially walking up them) – so I was a bit of a wimp here. OK a lot of a wimp, I swore several times while trying to keep my cool getting up the “mountain”.

Those views I was telling you about.

I could’ve happily just stayed on this beach all week.

So yeah. That’s about it! After we headed back to the boat, we had some lovely lunch (beef sandwiches) and then cruised back over to Paihia in the sunshine. I don’t know what else I can do to convince you to do the Rock Cruise, if you’re not convinced by now there is no hope. For you. Ever. Because you’ll be really missing out.

Oh, here is the blog post from the first half of our Bay of Islands trip. In case you want more reading!

Bay of Rain. I mean, Islands.

So, Pad and I were feeling pretty smug after Wellington. We managed to plan our 4 day trip to coinside with the most gorgeous spell of weather, like ever.

This week we headed to Bay of Islands. And had no such luck.

This is the weather that greeted us when we arrived.

Just so you know, The Bay of Islands is known in New Zealand for basically being heaven on earth. It’s got all these amazing little beaches, dolphins and whales in the bay, lots of islands for cruising around and glorious sunshine. How then, was it even possible that we timed our trip for (what can only be described as) a tropical storm. We’re on day 3/6 now (as I’m writing this) and the weather has managed to brighten up a tiny bit finally, but by that I mean we’ve seen the sun today. For maybe 15 minutes? Was pretty sweet though.

Days 1 and 2 were a different story though – I’m talking RAIN. WIND. And surprisingly… HUMIDITY. It did not feel like much of a beach holiday (except for the humidity bit – that was incredibly similar to Thailand). But I guess you don’t win every time. We still had ice-cream, paddled in the sea and saw Dolphins. So it’s not all bad. Tomorrow we’re doing the awesome Rock Cruise, which is an overnight boat tour – and (having checked several websites) it looks like we might, finally, get lucky with weather that isn’t wet.

Paihia is a pretty small (OK, tiny) town. It’s basically made up of one shopping street, a waterside street, and big car park and lots of palm trees and beaches. Which, I should imagine, when the weather is nice – is pretty awesome. It meant that Pad and I had to get inventive about things to do though. Which wasn’t so much a bad thing – if anything it stopped us lounging around on the beach, and forced us to go and explore a little bit more.

Here’s what we found: 

The Marina

The marina area is super small, it consists of a gift shop, a little information centre a restaurant (called 35’ where we had breakfast and were very impressed) and then a little jetty where all the boat tours park and load from.

In the summer I bet it’s gorgeous to sit and relax near the waterside  but because of the weather it was a bit wet and windy so we didn’t stick around for long.

Dolphin tours

This has probably been the highlight of the first half of the trip. There are two companies that do these Dolphin discovery tours in the bay and we decided on the Eco friendly one (I know, we’re so good) and headed off to board the boat. When we arrived though, we were surrounded by school kids, and it didn’t take long to realise – that these kids were going to be joining us on the tour. It then occurred to us that the school trip (about 25 kids!?) were the ONLY people on the boat except us. And suddenly the boat seemed a lot smaller.

Now, I’ve helped out on school trips before (my Mum’s a head teacher) and it’s super fun for about 5 minutes and then you just what to escape from all the noise and screaming. I don’t think a 5 hour dolphin tour with 25+ kids was going to be the relaxing experience we’d hoped for. They weren’t even the “good age” of like 4-8 where they’re still relatively well behaved. These kids were like 11 – 13 years old. PRIME ANNOYING AGE.

We hadn’t even boarded the boat and there was this kid doing dolphin noises. SO HELP ME GOD I WILL PUSH YOU OFF THIS JETTY CHILD. SO BE QUIET.

It was at this point when I realised I had to do something. Anything. So I put on a sad face and looked really disappointed, and the nice man transferred us over to his competitor who was leaving at the same time. I think he felt our pain (after all, he was going to be driving them round for 5 hours).

The new boat only had two kids on (yes!) and the rest of the people (only 9 of them) were couples like us. Which meant we were back on track for a nice afternoon again. Minus the 25+ school children.

It took us about 2 hours to finally track the dolphins down, it was pretty rough at sea, so I think the must have been harder to trace. Anyway, we finally tracked them down and it was gorgeous. We all got out onto the front of the boat and the dolphins (who were completely wild) were just swimming right along side us, about an arms length away. It was so beautiful, definitely something we’ll try and do again when we’re in Australia.

After they’d found us and shown us the dolphins (we spent about an hour or so watching them) we headed off the this tiny remote island for tea and pie. New Zealand makes the best pie – so there definitely weren’t any complain here!

Haruru Falls

We kind of stumbled upon this place by accident, but it was pretty gorgeous so I’m glad we found it. I think we actually drove the long way round, through this little dirt track  and farm land (much to Pad’s pleasure – who was driving). But we realised the next day we could have actually got there on a mina road, much quicker. Oops.

It’s just a waterfall so you wouldn’t really spend more than 10 minutes here – but still gorgeous all the same. Glad we stumbled upon it.

Gorgeous view we found on the way to Haruru falls.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The treaty grounds are where the English original signed a peace treaty with the New Zealand tribes, the Maori. The Maori culture is really treasured in New Zealand – it’s a big part of the country’s heritage and it was really nice to go and see some more of that side of things, and also walk around the protected area too. It’s situated on a little island just off the main town of Paihia – actually the same island our hotel was on.

Whilst I really enjoyed seeing all the cultural and historical things they had on display – I was super impressed with the little jungle trail they had – which was this elevated pathway through the jungle area.

 

Places to Fill Your Belly in Welly.

We ate in some pretty super fantastic places in Wellington (New Zealand) so here are our two big recommendations. The first was a southern style restaurant called Sweet Mothers Kitchen – based on southern american cuisine. It was a local style place, and was busy from the moment we arrived to the moment we left – which was a pretty sure sign that this place is a big favourite amongst the locals.

The food was really home-made and lovely – with loads of fun options I’ve never tried or even heard of before. My favourite thing by far that we had here was the Swamp Dip – a cheesy dip mixed with Spinach  (you can see it above left in the image). It was seriously yummy – and I’m kind of sad I didn’t get the recipe from them because I’d love to try and make it myself. I would fail of course – but I could try! The Swamp Dip came with some toasted baguette pieces too for dipping. Oh man I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

For mains, I had southern fried chicken – which was really nice – but didn’t quite live up to my expectation after the amazing Swamp dip starters! Pad had BBQ chicken which looked equally as good. Pictures below!

The best bit about Sweet Mother’s Kitchen in Wellington, was actually probably (besides the amazing swamp dip) the decor. The place was done out like a little busy bustling neighbourhood restaurant and had all those little tidbits and toys and memo’s – you might find in a real kitchen. If you’re the kind of person who loves having things to look at whilst they eat (you know who I mean – the kind of person who reads the cereal box as they eat breakfast) then this place wouldn’t disappoint. You could spend hours looking through all the stuff they’ve collected here.

 The other place we visited which really blew us away was The Flying Burrito Brothers on Cuba Street. We are massive Mexican fans, so would never pass up the chance of trying out a new mexican place. I’d read a few reviews for The Flying Burrito Brothers online before we flew out to Wellington, so I knew it was somewhere we had to find! It completely blew us away! Here is was we tried whilst there:

– Cheesy Breaded Jalepenos (These were AMAZING)

– Pork Scratchings with Salsa Dip

– Cheesy Fondue with Nachos for dipping (again – the fondue was beyond amazing)

– Beef Fajitas (full of awesome)

– Chicken Burrito (full of awesome also)

Pad was also a big fan of the range of chilli sauce offered. Brave boy. 

Also. Can anyone help us with this?? I thought it was a mexican frying an egg – but I don’t think that’s right. HELP. It’s been frustrating me all week. 

Wellington: More Hipster than Shoreditch

This week I turned 23.

Not that I act it.

23 whole years. That’s old. Not as old as 27 (Pad) but still pretty old.

To offset my age (and take my mind off the incoming side-effects of old age) we headed over to Wellington for the week. Neither of us had ever been to Wellington before – and had no idea what to expect – so it was all very exciting. I was expecting the city to be a little like Auckland to be honest, so thought I might be a bit under-whelmed (as I was with Auckland) but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

My main concern with Auckland was it’s lack of identity. Whilst it’s a great city and I enjoyed spending time there – I didn’t feel the city had much character and usually, when I visit somewhere it’s the character and the personality of a place that makes me fall head over heels for it. I love the history of London, I love the variety of Brighton, I love the beauty of Queenstown and I love (more than any other city) the charm, festivity and epicness of New York. Auckland felt like, to me anyway – that it lacked any one defining quality.

Wellington though – was full of character and were we not living in the beautiful Queenstown – I felt I could have more than happily lived there.

Wellington Skyline at Night

And Again.

Aside from the fact that the city has a gorgeous waterfront and marina area (always top of my list for ‘whether I’m going to like a place or not’) it also has a great vibe to it. I found that the sheer variety of people in Wellington, and the variety of neighbourhoods and places – was really appealing. It actually reminded me a little of an american city – Pad likened it to Seattle several times. I’ve never been to Seattle so can’t vouch for this – but Wellington did give off a very american vibe – in a really endearing way.

The city centre is packed full of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars – we read somewhere that Wellington actually has more eateries per-capita than NYC. I found that ridiculous at first and made a “ho ho tour book – you are so wrong” face – but actually I think it might be right. There are more cafes and restaurants and bars you can shake a stick at here. Speaking of which – we sampled a few – but more about that later.

Gorgeous waterside cafe (with bean bags!!)

Anyway, going back to what I was saying about defining features – Wellington’s character is definitely it’s quirkiness and ‘hipsterness’. Any of our friends from London will know what I mean by Hipster, if you don’t – it’s the kind of of person who is so damn trendy that fashion and quirkiness just poors out of their ears. This is not me. But – saying that – I really really loved Wellington. Because even though it is super Hipster – it is Hipster in a “come join us in our hipsterness” kind of way. Not in a “you’re not cool enough to be here” kind of way. Does that make sense?

Probably not. Never mind.

The jist of my point is – Wellington is super nice. You should go there. 

From the really quirky Cuba Street, with all the lovely independent restaurants and bars, to the night-time markets and live music – to the bean bags near the water front and random art installations on bridges this city is just gorgeous and so full of loveliness.

I think (besides Cuba Street) one of my favourite places we visited in Wellington was the Botanical Gardens. To get up to the Botanical Gardens (just above the city) you can either walk – it’s a long walk all uphill – or you can get the Wellington Cable Car. We did the latter. The cable car is $6 return (oh hello, bargain) and it whizzes you up to the top of the hill and drops you off. From there you can either have a stroll around and then get the cable car back down, or you can walk down to the city back through the gardens.

The view from the Botanical Gardens are amazing…. I think one of my favourite sights I’ve seen since coming to New Zealand. Aside from our balcony view back home in Queenstown of course. You can see the whole city from up here and it’s just beautiful – we couldn’t have got luckier with weather either, it was blue skies all the way.

Stunning view from the top of the Botanical Gardens

The incredible view!

My next favourite thing we did in Wellington was the zoo. It’s a little bus ride out of the city (number 23 – good memory points for me) and it’s just lovely! Kinda small (especially if you’re comparing it to zoo’s like Singapore or Australia) but it’s very cute and it has baby monkeys and also baby ducks. So if you like baby animals – you will love it here.

Oh, they also have real animals too. Like Giraffes and Lions and Tigers. And Bears. 

Oh – and on one last note, we stayed in a cute little double room in the YHA in the city centre. As far as hostels go – it was awesome. Great staff, great atmosphere and awesome facilities too. I even got a birthday poster….

Birthday Poster!

Also. I have tried to align these photos for the past hour. But Crazy Stupid Love is on Sky Movies and quite frankly I’m distrasted. I call it the Gosling effect. They will never be aligned. Sorry for this. Never mind.

Another Also: Here are some photos from the Wellington plane flight – some of the most gorgeous views I ever saw.

Sky High Views Are The Best Kind.

When we first flew into Queenstown (when we first moved here) I didn’t have a window seat. Which is always rubbish. Especially when you are flying over New Zealand.

When we flew out to Wellington this week though (more on that here)… I DID HAVE A WINDOW SEAT! Which means I spent the entire flight blocking the window with my big head and my camera.

I also played Temple Run for several minutes (the official Disney version incase you’re curious) and beat my high score TWICE. 

So all in all, it was a good flight.

Mainly because of all the high-score ass-kicking I did. But also because of these beautiful photos I took: