Whether you travel for a living like I do, you've met someone special that doesn't quite live in the same city or country as you or you have jobs that send one another overseas, long distance relationships are pretty common in this day and age.
I get asked all the time, "How do you do it?" Followed by, "I couldn't do it," and there's one simple answer. If you love that person enough - you make it work. There also has to be certain characteristics and values that both of you share, such as trust and understanding.
Of course, long distance relationship problems exist, but if two people are committed to making it work the outlook isn’t bleak.
The first time my partner and I experienced long distance was in 2015 when I studied in Germany and travelled around Europe for 7 months. His job allowed him to visit after one month apart, which meant we then went an entire 6 months without seeing each other.
The ultimate test for couples? In many cases, it can be but for us, it wasn't even a test. We just knew it would work, it was never a problem for us. With his line of work, he himself was used to doing many long periods overseas away from family and friends and so he was very understanding. It was my first time experiencing living overseas by myself and travelling solo but we both saw it as a great experience for me and we knew it was only temporary.
We constantly messaged each other and made sure that we video called every day. What made it easy for us was that we were both extremely busy - him with his job and me with my study and then planning exciting excursions to nearby countries.
Last year we spent four months apart when I galivanted around Southeast Asia with a short break in between, where he met up with me in Vietnam for 10 days.
Earlier this year I was away for a month travelling the States and Canada. Even one month apart is still hard, I'm not saying it gets any easier being apart. He is my other half and I feel like a piece of me is missing when he is gone. But being on your own and independent once in a while helps you to grow and ultimately makes you stronger as a couple.
My partner is away for 6 months now, and we are currently one-third of the way through it. The first two weeks were tough for me because this time I was the one sitting at home with not much to distract me. Even though I had piles of work to do, I felt unmotivated to do any of it and it felt like time was standing still.
What got me out of that funk? Doing what I love to do - travelling. I started planning small trips not too far away from home, but places that I had never been. (I couldn't leave for too long because we have a cat that demands food and attention).
And somehow, the last several weeks have flown by and it's already next month that I'm off again on my next big trip. I'm going to Europe for six weeks and meeting my partner for 12 of those days for his halfway break. (Cat is sadly for her, off to the cattery).
Planning my trip to Europe has also been a great distraction and meeting up in Paris is an exciting prospect we are both looking forward to.
By the time I get back from Europe, it will only be a couple more months before he will be home again, and we are going to plan another little trip at the end of it.
We are lucky to have a strong relationship where we build each other up and are supportive of each other's careers. This is how we make our long distance stints work and you can too if you have the determination. Here are some top tips to help get you through:
Long Distance Tips
Greet each other “good morning” and “good night” every day and keep each other updated on your life and its happenings, however mundane some of the things may seem. Send funny pictures and video clips. By putting in this kind of effort, you make the other person feel loved and attended to.
Video Call Often
Make the time to video call whenever possible, even if you only have ten minutes to spare. Seeing the other person's face and hearing their voice can make everything feel okay again.
To yourself when you're first apart. It's hard at first but it does get easier. Spend those first few days on the couch binge-watching Netflix and then pick yourself up. Treat yourself to those little things that make you happy.
Carry on as normal and keep those routines. If you're the one sitting at home missing the other person constantly, use that spare time and turn it into something positive. Take up a new hobby or class or go on short trips. Keeping your mind occupied helps make the time go faster.
Learn to embrace the situation. Do those things you wanted to do like decorating the house all girly (sorry Gareth). You get to eat whatever you want for dinner and choose what you want to watch on TV every night. Enjoy it while it lasts.
You may be feeling incredibly lonely but don't forget about all those friends and family you have. Make the time to plan meet-ups and go visit them. Ask your neighbour if they want to go for a walk. Haven't called a family member lately? Start now.
Send each other care packages and old-fashioned hand-written letters. Surprising one another and being thoughtful is a lost art that holds a lot of meaning.
To help break up the time apart, plan visits or an exciting getaway for when you or your partner gets home. Even if it's a short, relaxing few days somewhere nearby, having something to look forward to at the end of it makes the reunion even sweeter and gives you something to organise together in the meantime.
If you need to, ask for help. If you don't want to lean on friends or feel like you don't have anybody, seek help online. There are so many people in your situation and there are support groups with people that understand and want to help. Don't suffer alone, there are people out there who care.
Pin it! :)
At the end of the day, remember being apart is only temporary, and you have someone out there who is missing you as much as you miss them.
Let me know in the comments if you've experienced long distance and if you have any tips of your own to add, I'd love to read them!
New Zealand is an absolutely incredible country to travel with so much to offer. From pristine beaches, snowy mountains and magical fjords, to desert landscapes, glaciers, lush rainforests, geysers and everything in between - it's a travellers paradise on so many people's bucket lists for a reason.
With four seasons and different climates depending if you're up north or right down south, it's important to be prepared for all kinds of weather if you're travelling around New Zealand, no matter what time of the year.
This is my ultimate packing list for New Zealand travel, for someone who might have a one-year working holiday visa or travelling all over the country for a few months.
It covers the essentials for what to bring and can be adjusted accordingly if you're only coming for summer/winter.
NEW ZEALAND PACKING LIST
First things first,
LUGGAGE - SUITCASE OR BACKPACK?
Choosing whether to bring a suitcase or a large backpack is totally a matter of preference. Most younger travellers tend to opt for a backpack but you can easily travel the country with either.
Nowadays, I prefer to use a suitcase as my shoulders can no longer handle the weight of a backpack! I travel with my trusty lightweight Luna-Air.
Whatever you choose, a day backpack is essential. Use it as your carry-on and store your laptop, camera and other valuables in it. Then it can double as the perfect daypack for hiking/sightseeing.
The Muzmm Little Garden Backpack is my perfect carry-on/daypack bag (featured in the header image). Use my code 'krysti' for 20% off your own!
Beginning with mentioning the main essentials that of course, you'll need to pack, like your Passport, Visa (if needed), Mobile Phone, Money (with some local currency), Travel Insurance, Sunglasses, any Medication etc.
Tip: Keep printed or online copies of your important travel documents and bookings.
Layering is key - pack layers with both city and outdoor adventures in mind and for weather that can often change quite quickly.
2-3 long pants - jeans, trousers etc.
1 pair shorts
1 dress/skirt - for females or extra shorts for males or preference
3-4 long sleeve tops/sweaters
Rain & wind-proof jacket
Underwear and socks for 7 days
Swimwear - even if it's too cold for the beach, New Zealand is full of natural hot springs and pools.
If travelling in winter:
A warm jacket - is a must
Extra merino/thermal layers
Tip: Roll your clothes instead of folding them. It will save space and avoid wrinkles.
1 pair sneakers/trainers - Comfortable shoes for everyday wear/running in.
1 pair jandals/flipflops - Embrace the national footwear! Perfect for summer or those hostel showers...
1 pair hiking boots/sandals (optional) - If you're into doing some of the most spectacular walks in the world - hiking boots or sandals are a good idea.
1 pair smarter shoes/boots (optional)
1 pair sandals/flats (optional) - If you're around during the summer, having footwear other than jandals is a good idea for smarter occasions.
Tip: Wear your bulkiest items on the flight to save room in your luggage.
It's entirely up to you what you bring but these are my electronic travel essentials:
Laptop Camera Mini tripod Headphones GoPro SD cards Portable charger Spare camera battery Travel adaptor (you can easily buy one in New Zealand)
Tip: To see more products I specifically use and recommend check out my shop.
Pack travel-sized toiletries and bring the absolute minimum as you can easily buy everything you need in New Zealand, unless you use a specific brand that is hard to come by.
Everyone's toiletries are different but this is what you can find in my toiletry bag:
Very basic makeup - as pictured
Mini shampoo & conditioner Mini facewash & moisturiser Toothbrush, small paste & floss Roll-on deodorant Small soap & travel wipes Mini cleansing water & cotton rounds Razor & small comb Panadol, plasters, antibacterial cream Hand sanitizer Sunblock - important year-round Insect repellent - essential in summer
Tip: Place into a large ziplock bag first to avoid leakage.
The extras that I usually always travel with that will be handy for New Zealand travel include:
Canvas bag - for shopping/groceries/beach
Ziplock bags - for storing toiletries, dirty laundry etc.
Small padlock Earplugs and eyemask - handy for hostels/camping/flights Seasickness bands Notebook and pen Small umbrella Small tin with USB stick, mini sewing kit, safety pins, bottle opener Washing powder Reusable water bottle Quick-dry towel Books, music - usually pre-loaded on my phone
Aaand don't forget to pack your sense of adventure!
I've been on a mission or a while now, to find the perfect suitcase to meet my frequent travel needs. One that I could 100% rely on, that would last me a number of years and that I ultimately enjoy travelling with.
When I discovered Explorer Luna-Air - an affordable designer New Zealand luggage range, designed by Kiwis for the way we travel - I was more than excited to try out their popular range.
I chose the Explorer Luna-Air 56cm & 75cm Hardside Luggage Set in the colour teal. I'm normally a person that would always go for black but that beautiful colour was too enticing.
I love that luggage.co.nz offer free shipping and 100-day returns so you can be sure your suitcase is a perfect fit.
I was more than impressed that my order arrived the very next day. Inside the cardboard box, they were neatly packaged together; the little one inside the larger one which was safely wrapped in a white dust bag.
I instantly knew I was going to love my new cases. They are extremely well-made with good quality materials, durable and very lightweight. Their beautiful pop of colour and attractive, sleek design is the icing on the cake.
Both suitcases have the same great features, with four 360 direction wheels, a built-in TSA friendly code lock, interior zip and mesh pockets, and a telescopic handle system. I couldn’t wait to take them on their first adventure.
I’ve had my Explorer Luna-Airs for almost four months now, and I’ve used them with great pleasure for all kinds of travel.
From a big three-week road trip all around the South Island (including across the Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island), to a tropical island getaway in Bali, weekend adventures in Wellington and soon it will be a big two-month trip to Europe.
They are without a doubt the best suitcases I have ever owned – no more dragging your suitcase around; they glide along next to you like a dream and are the perfect travel companion.
Packing is a breeze with the elasticated cross ribbons and divider panels inside, ensuring everything stays in place exactly as you packed it.
You can fit so much more into them than you would expect and as a bonus, they're so easy to spot coming towards you on the conveyor belt!
The Explorer Luna-Air Hardside Spinner range comes in three different sizes to choose from: a Carry-On 56cm, a medium Checked-In 65cm and a large Checked-In 75cm.
They are available in six attractive colours: Black, White, Grey, Pink, Teal and Seafoam.
The range is exclusive to luggage.co.nz and come with a 5 Year Manufacturers Warranty.
When you travel as much as I do, your suitcase really does become your travel companion and it's so important to have one that you love and enjoy using. I am so thrilled to have found that with the Explorer Luna-Air range.
Every trip brings a fresh wave of excitement when I start packing in one of my beautiful teal cases.
I absolutely love how lightweight, functional, and strikingly good-looking they are. The collection is of the highest quality, making it fantastic value for money.
I highly recommend Explorer Luna-Air to anyone and everyone. No matter your daggy airport outfit, you will always look stylish standing next to your Luna-Air.
Explorer Luggage has got your back with free shipping New Zealand wide, easy 100 day returns and a five-year manufacturers warranty. What are you waiting for? Luna-Air is ready for your next adventure as much as you are.
From sand to snow, beaches, mountains, rainforests, desert, glaciers and geysers - you name it, we have it. New Zealand is an absolute dream to travel and I am forever grateful and proud to call this beautiful country my home.
I've teamed up with eight awesome female travel bloggers from around the world to reveal our favourite places in New Zealand, and why they should totally be on your travel itinerary when coming here too.
MOUNT COOK/AORAKI South Island
Mount Cook/Aoraki is stunning and is easily my favourite place in Kiwiland. My husband and I visited there hoping to hike up to the Mueller hut, but when we arrived the mountains were hiding behind clouds. We decided to give it a go anyway, and luckily the clouds parted at just the right moment to reward us with spectacular scenery of the surrounding glaciers and mountains. The thunder-like sound of glaciers breaking and cascading down the cliffs was also awe-inspiring! It must be truly epic to stay in that hut above the clouds!
We loved the area so much that we woke up at 5:30 am(!) to hike around the popular (and easy) Hooker Valley Track, as well as a few other mini-walks. Even if you’re not a big hiker, this was a fantastic place to explore. Our time there was just so perfect! I really hope we can go back.
Despite the beautiful scenery of New Zealand's South Island, nothing quite compares to Wellington for me. Living there lead me to truly fall in love with the coolest little capital in the world, which provides the perfect city break destination.
You can find all of your favourite tourist activities such as the Te Papa museum and the Cable Car but it's the lifestyle that really makes a difference. Cute, quirky streets lined with cafes, bars and restaurants fill the city, with something new at every turn. A mecca for coffee lovers, Wellington is home to several independent producers as well as countless craft breweries and local produce stores.
If that doesn't sound quite "New Zealandy" enough for you, take a hike up Mount Victoria (or any of the numerous other mountains) for great views of the harbour, or, if you prefer something a little flatter, go on a seal hunt down by Red Rocks. It's the perfect mix of city life and outdoor adventure. What more could you want?!
On the south-west coast on the South Island of New Zealand lies the gorgeous gem known as Milford Sound. Not only is it the eighth wonder of the world, but also part of a World Heritage Site (Fiordland National Park), and rightfully so! Cruising through the Milford Sound is like floating through a sliver of heaven. Impressive and endless waterfalls pound down to the waters with all their power, snow-capped mountains adorn the horizon, and deep, lush rainforests align the beautiful blue waters. In the mornings, the foggy scenes can make one feel like they are floating through a scene from Avatar.
One of the best ways to experience and fully appreciate the Milford Sound is through an overnight cruise. Many cruises include activities such as kayaking, hiking through the Milford Track, and offer some of the best opportunities to see wildlife. There are many claims that the Milford Track is the world's most beautiful hike. The track weaves through Milford Sound in-between the dense trees and rare, ancient fauna. In fact, there are over 700 different species of plants specific to Fiordland!
The Milford Sound is also home to a spectacular range of wildlife. There are many species of dolphins including bottlenose, dusky, and hectors. Seals may even be spotted taking in some sun on the rocks on an early morning. If you are lucky, you may have a chance of seeing Fiordland crested penguins or little blue penguins!
From the moment that I first landed in the Queenstown airport, I knew that it would become one of my favourite places in New Zealand. There are few airports in the world with such a stunning view, welcoming you upon landing.
Another reason I fell in love with this city is because of their spirit of adventure. In the summer you’ll find paragliders descending from the mountains around you, in the winter you can swap them for skiers and snowboarders. All seasons host bungy jumping, as well as some tamer activities like zip lining, various off-road expeditions, and a mountainside luge track.
Queenstown is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, perfect for when you’re ready to unwind. The city lies on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, and there are mountains literally everywhere you look. In the winter it is easy to find a fireplace to sit next to so you can take in the views, and in the summer there are plenty of outdoor spaces to do the same.
If you’re ready to delve deeper into the scenery around you, Queenstown is a great host for day trips to Doubtful Sound, Mt. Aspiring National Park and some Middle Earth landscapes for the Lord of the Rings fans out there. There’s something for everyone in this exciting city, and you will never run out of things to do.
The town of Taupo in New Zealand is one of the most exciting and diverse locations in the North Island. This area is an adventure traveller's wonderland! For those who love to spend time near the water, Lake Taupo is the biggest lake in New Zealand. In fact, it is almost the size of Singapore, and many people come to the lake to enjoy kayaking and sailing. You can even take a kayak or boat out to go see the famous Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay. It is also a very popular fishing lake.
Surrounding the lake, travellers can find prime rock climbing, hiking and excellent mountain biking trails. A short distance away from Lake Taupo one can find beautiful waterfalls, including the famous Huka Falls, and even hot springs.
You are also a short drive to the popular Alpine Crossing Trek in Tongariro. However you decide to enjoy your time at Taupo, you are bound to find an adventure and fall in love with all that it has to offer. So make sure to put Taupo on your New Zealand North Island Itinerary, it’s a town you aren’t soon to forget!
Out of the many places we explored in New Zealand, a small island in the Bay of Islands captured my heart. Motuarohia, meaning 'Beloved Island', is a very small piece of Northland but has some very interesting history. In 1769, Captain Cook anchored the Endeavour off the island and had a small conflict with the Maori people living there.
Today, the island offers a short but steep hiking trail up to a spectacular view, a natural swimming pool, and a snorkel trail. The island is a national park and has one house for the caretakers that live on the island. The trail runs up to a viewing platform that offers a panoramic view over Motuarohia and the neighbouring islands.
At night you can search the underbrush for kiwi birds, or on a clear night enjoy a stunning view of the Milky Way. There are several boats that provide day trips out to Motuarohia, or you can charter a sailboat out of Opua to get there yourself. It's definitely one of the most beautiful stops we made in New Zealand.
We hit the winding dirt road into the Moke Lake campsite just as the sky was turning dark. After an almost 12 hour day of driving through New Zealand’s South Island, my husband, Joe, and I were exhausted. In fact, we almost didn’t make it here, but gave up and stopped instead in nearby Queenstown. However, Moke Lake was one place we had been told not to miss on our road trip. So we carefully traced the narrow road through farms, along another lake, and watched as it spit us out into the campsite.
The site was tucked into the side of Moke Lake, surrounded on all sides by mountains that opened up into the night sky above us. It was breathtaking. Only a few other campers had made the trip, although we watched, amused, as a movie was shot on the other side. It was hard to feel disturbed by it, the place was a real-life movie set. As night fell in its entirety, the stars emerged in the way that they only can when there is absolutely no light around.
We slept soundly and emerged from our camper to watch the sun light up the mountains in the early morning. It was not only one of our favourite stops in New Zealand, but the most beautiful campsite we’ve ever stayed at in the world.
I loved the Poor Knights Islands. We started with a scenic boat ride along the beautiful cliffs to reach Riko Riko Cave, the largest sea cave in the world. The cave hosts many sponges that clean the water and offer excellent visibility for snorkellers and scuba divers.
I was particularly fascinated by the beautiful kelp forest, and the colours on the wall were mesmerising. We then went to the Northern Arch on the other side, an area listed in Jacques Cousteau's favourite dive site. He's the one who invented scuba diving, and he explored crazy places in the world. No need to explain further why it had been on my bucket list for a while and why you should add it to yours.
Mount Maunganui is my hometown and though I haven't lived there for ten years, it's a place I still love to visit. I've seen it boom from a fairly quiet holiday town to one of the most popular beach destinations in all of New Zealand.
Mount Maunganui/Mauao is a beautiful mountain half on land half on water, which you can take leisurely picturesque walks around or hike right to the top for impressive views over the Bay of Plenty. Where else can you spot sheep and seals at the same place? It's pretty unique!
The beautiful white-sand beach stretches as far as the eye can see and in summer, it's full of people enjoying the sun, sea and plenty of watersports. The roaring surf makes it a popular surfing destination as well.
'Downtown the Mount' itself is full of trendy brunch cafes, bars and boutique shops. My top tip is after a day at the beach or a walk around/up the Mount - treat yourself to a Copenhagen Cone. It's a famous ice cream shop that's now so popular the lines can be all the way down the street (totally worth the wait!).
A big thank you to all the lovely ladies that contributed to this piece.
It was definitely hard for me to choose one favourite. Other favourite places of mine include Fiordland, Lake Pukaki, Hobbiton, Glenorchy, Whakapapa (also Mount Cook, Wellington and Queenstown).
Have you visited New Zealand and have a different favourite place of your own? Let me know it in the comments!
If you're looking for a fun way to travel New Zealand with total flexibility over your daily itinerary, be shown extraordinary places and meet great people - read all about my recent travels with Stray. They are an award-winning Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour company and I had the best time travelling the South Island with them for three weeks. Check their website out here.
On my latest trip to Bali, I spent two incredible nights at Goya Boutique Resort, nestled in the heart of Ubud. They are a luxurious tropical hideaway, offering modern private villas set in a lush and tranquil environment.
I had such a blissful and relaxing time, I only wish I had stayed for longer!
Goya Boutique Resort is in a good location (not far from the Monkey Forest) and easy to find. I was warmly welcomed and had my luggage taken for me as I walked up the steps into the large and modernly designed reception area.
The check-in process was seamless and I was informed of all of the onsite facilities and daily activities. Because I had arrived slightly early I was taken to Senja Bar, a gorgeous area in front of the infinity pool to wait for my room to be ready.
I was extremely impressed by the eloquent surroundings, and the pool overlooking the rainforest was mesmerising! I couldn't wait to join the other guests lounging around and enjoying the warm sunshine.
I was presented with a refreshing drink and a lovely fruit platter while I waited. Included was also a welcome 10-minute foot or shoulder massage and I opted for the latter which was most relaxing.
Not long after, my room was ready and I was shown to my incredible Private Pool Villa.
It was my first time having my very own private pool and it blew my mind! As I was shown around the features of the room I couldn't stop saying, "Oh my God" and "Wow!"
Through the door was a beautiful outdoor area surrounded by lush greenery. The pool was most inviting with its own comfortable double lounger set in front of it.
The outdoor entrance was modernly furnished with a large sofa, table and chairs, to fully maximise the experience of being outside, which I loved.
Through the front door, the large four-poster bed was an impressive central feature. The entire room was tastefully decorated with wooden furniture and decorative art.
On the bed was the loveliest welcome with hand-written leaf notes, beautifully displayed flower petals and towel art.
The room was well-equipped with everything you could want for including a flat-screen TV with cable channels, and underneath, a refrigerator and minibar with a kettle, and tea and coffee making facilities.
In a corner sat a wooden desk and chair with complimentary mineral water and a jar of cookies.
Through the sliding doors was a stylishly decorated bathroom with a double vanity. A double wardrobe was located at one end with a safety deposit box, robes, slippers and a pool bag to use.
I loved the round mirrors above the sinks and the luxurious Bvlgari toiletries provided, all of the highest quality.
To the right was another lovely surprise, a beautiful white ceramic bath filled with fresh petals - I couldn't wait to have my first flower bath! It was set with a view of the pool if you chose to have the blinds up, to make it an ultimate relaxing experience.
The large rain shower at the end was also a delight to use. Other features of the room included excellent Wifi and air conditioning, room service, daily housekeeping, laundry service available, unlimited free bottled water and a nightly turndown service.
I especially loved how secluded and private the villa felt, and how spacious, artfully decorated and cosy the room was. The bed was extremely comfortable and the sleep quality was excellent.
Other types of rooms available include two-bedroom private pool villas and deluxe suites with balcony and views overlooking the rainforest.
Beyond the Room
Goya is a resort that has it all; so you don't ever have to leave if you don't want to. There is an incredible infinity pool overlooking the lush rainforest below, surrounded by plenty of loungers to relax on.
At each ends of the pool are luxurious cabanas with a table and comfortable seating to enjoy the surrounding tranquil views.
Onsite, Goya Spa offers a sanctuary of solitude and an enriching spa experience. From a traditional Balinese massage to hot stone, aromatherapy and acupressure, there is something to suit everyone's needs and wants. There are a range of luxurious spa packages to indulge in.
There are also complimentary wellness activities including Yoga available at certain times.
The 24-hour front desk can assist with vehicle rentals and airport or hotel transfers. Free bicycles are also available onsite to use. You can also book through them a Balinese Cooking Class and a local Ubud ricefield experience. They are happy to help arrange any other tour you might like to do. Furthermore, there is the lovely onsite Senja Bar & Resto where you can enjoy lunch, dinner and a cocktail, beer or wine in an elegant setting. This is also where breakfast is served each day.
A daily à la carte breakfast is included in the room and offers an impressive selection on the menu. You can choose anything you like including made-to-order barista coffee, teas, juices, and a range of hot and cold breakfast options.
Savoury waffles, tasty omelettes, fresh fruit, fluffy pancakes and acai bowls; breakfast every day at Goya was absolute #goals.
The lunch and dinner menu offered a good mixture of European and local specialities. I highly enjoy eating Indonesian food and I particularly loved their Beef Rendang.
There is a daily complimentary afternoon tea at Senja Bar from 3-5 PM, which is a thoughtful touch. Each day they have a range of delicious Balinese cakes and treats to enjoy, as well as hot, fresh coffee.
My stay at Goya was absolute perfection and I cannot wait for the day when I return again.
I absolutely loved my stay at Goya Boutique Resort and wished I didn't ever have to leave! It was such a memorable experience staying in a private pool villa and enjoying the delightful facilities of the resort.
The staff are all incredibly warm, generous and friendly. Any minor request was taken care of straight away; the service was impeccable.
As it is quite a secluded resort, this is a wonderful retreat to refresh, rejuvenate and relax. It is the perfect place for couples, families and friends for a special occasion or luxurious getaway.
If you do wish to leave the sanctuary of your villa, there are a number of nearby attractions such as the Monkey Forest, Ubud Palace and plenty of shopping and eatery spots.
Goya is without a doubt, my favourite place I've ever stayed at in Bali and it was a highlight of my recent two-weeks there.
I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Ubud, it was a real treat to stay there and one not to be missed!
I recently experienced the most epic road trip in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand with Stray.
I travelled the South Island for three weeks, exploring so many new places off the beaten path, doing Kiwi-typical adrenalin pumping activities and making new Straymates from all over the world - I had the best time!
I returned to New Zealand recently after living overseas for a few years and wished to travel the South Island properly as I hadn't done so since I was young.
Researching, I came across Stray - New Zealand's award-winning, guided hop-on-hop-off bus network for adventurous travellers.
This sounded right up my alley as I enjoy group tours, and they take you further off the beaten track to so many incredible lesser-known places, as well as hitting the most popular attractions and highlights. They have hand-picked the best road trip routes, unique accommodation places and memorable activities to do.
All I had to do was sit back, relax and enjoy the journey!
Which Bus Pass to take?
Stray's hop-on, hop-off bus route runs in a loop showcasing the best of both islands.
They offer many different types of bus passes, depending on where you wish to travel to in New Zealand and how much time you have. The passes are flexible and you can hop-on and hop-off wherever you like.
On your bus, you will have a super friendly Driver Guide full of local knowledge who can help you book accommodation and activities as you go.
The ultimate Stray pass is the Maximus Pass - covering both islands in full so you'll get to see it all!
The Ron Pass - the one I did
Because I wanted to concentrate on the South Island, I chose The Ron Pass, which includes their full South Island travel network.
I was thrilled to explore so many places, including the Deep South where I had never been. I had never even met a single person that had been to Stewart Island before!
It was a real adventure.
Day 1: Christchurch - Kaikoura
My road trip began bright and early in Christchurch and headed to the coastal town of Kaikoura. One of the top activities to do here is Whale Watching, and we were lucky to see two Sperm whales, a few Dusky dolphins and plenty of seals. We finished the day having fish and chips and drinking L&P - Kiwi as!
Day 2: Kaikoura - Picton
Today we drove to Picton at the very top of the South Island, passing beautiful rolling green hills dotted with sheep along the way. We had the afternoon free to wander around and watch the ferries come in. Once it started to rain we took refuge in a local pub!
Day 3: Picton - Abel Tasman
We picked up more Strayers that had come over that morning on the ferry from Wellington and continued our roadie. We stopped at a Hobbit filming location, at the river where The Company hides in barrels!
That evening we had a social dinner and our awesome driver Bobby cooked us all a mean burger feast at our accommodation at Abel Tasman - which was located right on the very edge of the National Park.
Day 4: Abel Tasman
Today we had a full free day to explore the area. A popular activity to do here is kayaking but due to bad weather, the tours had been cancelled. Doing a day hike is equally as impressive, even in the rain. I had a wonderful time walking along the coastal track of one of New Zealand's Great Walks, nestled in native rainforest, with waterfalls, bubbling creeks and local birds and wildlife. It was great to spend a few hours out solely in beautiful nature.
Day 5: Abel Tasman - Westport
This morning, after a stunning pink sunrise we headed to our next destination, Westport. After a few hours on the bus, we arrived on the West Coast, known for its wild and untamed beauty. We were dropped off at Tauranga Bay where we got to stretch our legs for a nice one-hour hike along the scenic coastline. We passed by a local seal colony and ended at the Cape Foulwind Lighthouse.
Today we headed further down the coast and it was a perfect blue-sky day. The views as we were driving along the coast were insane! We stopped at the famous Punakaiki 'Pancake' Rocks - unique limestone rock formations and blowholes that began forming 30 million years ago.
We had another stop in Greymouth where we picked up some more Strayers before ending in Franz Josef. Those of us opting for the Glacier Heli-Hike (me, me, me!) got all booked in at the base for the next morning. That evening at our awesome accommodation we had a fun pizza night with all you can eat woodfired pizza and a house drink for only $20 - choice!
Day 7 - 8: Franz Josef
For the next two days in a row, my Heli-Hike tour was cancelled! The weather is super unpredictable and it was too windy at the top of the mountain for the helicopters to fly. I spent my time doing some picturesque hikes in the area, eating nice food at the local cafes and catching up on work.
Day 9 - 10: Franz Josef
The third time was the charm - doing a Glacier Heli-Hike was a huuuge bucket list tick for me and it was totally worth the wait! After an exhilarating helicopter ride, we got to spend a full three hours on the glacier. The beautiful blue ice, unique formations and mountain scenery were incredibly breath-taking. It's one of those top travel highlights that will stay with me forever.
Today was a big travel day heading further south but there were heaps of exciting stops along the way to break it up, beginning with Lake Matheson. This is known as a spectacular mirror lake but it was foggy and raining so hard that we couldn't see it! We also stopped at a beautiful waterfall and Lake Hawea viewing points.
Arriving in Wanaka, the first thing I did was take a photo (or twenty) of #thatwanakatree - the most Instagrammed tree in the world. Wanaka is an absolutely stunning town, next time I would definitely stay for longer and do the Roy's Peak hike.
Day 12: Wanaka - Queenstown
That morning a few of us did a one-hour return hike up Mount Iron which had beautiful mountain and lake views from the top. On the road again, we stopped at a Cromwell fruit shop before arriving at a super exciting destination - the Kawarau Bridge Bungy.
I was the only person on the bus that wanted to do it, so I stepped up and showed them what us Kiwis like to do for fun! It was my third bungy jump and it was just as thrilling as the first. Finishing up in Queenstown, the first thing I did was have a Fergburger - the best burgers in New Zealand and an absolute must-have.
Over the next two days, I had a blast in Queenstown, walking around the cute tourist town, riding up the gondola for the best views (I was a bit guttered the luge was temporarily closed), going to the Ice Bar and doing a bit of a pub crawl with my fellow Strayers.
I also did a day-trip to Glenorchy (45 minutes away) and did a Funyak tour which included a high-speed jet boat ride followed by floating down the Dart River in inflatable kayaks.
I was amongst literal Lord of the Rings filming locations so as you can imagine, it was incredibly scenic!
Today was one of my absolute favourite Straydays! We left bright and early and headed to Fiordland. The entire drive to Milford Sound was picture-perfect and we had a few scenic photo stops at mirror lakes and Te Anau along the way. Then it was time for our cruise in the 8th Wonder of the World which was mesmerisingly beautiful.
That evening our accommodation was off the grid at historic Gunn's Camp. We had no wifi or signal and the electricity generator shut off at 10 pm. I really enjoyed being offline for once and everyone hung out together and just chatted like the old days! Later on, we went out to search for glowworms and gaze at the stars - I had never seen the Milky Way so clear and bright before in my life!
Day 16: Fiordland - Stewart Island
We had another early start and began with a sunrise hike up Routeburn Track. If it was a clear morning we would have had great views of the nearby alpine peaks and valleys but it was a rainy and foggy one (still a great way to start the day). We headed further south to Invercargill and on to Bluff. Here, most of us caught the ferry over to Stewart Island for the night.
We had dinner and a couple of pints at the one and only pub. Some friendly locals gave us some temporary tattoos that said 'I love Stewart Island' which we gladly sported. Later on, we went out to try and spot some kiwis. We were unsuccessful but apparently, it is one of the best places to see them in the wild.
Day 17: Stewart Island - Queenstown
Today we had the best part of a full day to explore Stewart Island. Most of us split into groups and hired cars, which was a great way to see as much of the island as we could in a short time. We saw so many pristine beaches, beautiful coves, went for little hikes in lush rainforests and played on rope swings.
Stewart Island blew me away and wasn't at all what I expected. It was like stepping back in time and a total paradise - I loved it! We caught the ferry back at 3 pm and drove back to Queenstown for the night.
Day 18: Queenstown - Mount Cook
Our road trip continued to another exciting destination - Mount Cook - New Zealand's highest mountain. We first stopped at Lake Pukaki which had the most incredible turquoise water I had ever seen, I couldn't believe my eyes!
At Mount Cook, most of us did the Hooker Valley track - one of the best day-walks to do there. It's a three-hour return hike amongst the beautiful landscape of the Southern Alps, across swing bridges, milky-blue alpine streams and ending with views of Mueller Glacier. On a clear day, you can see Mount Cook but it was clouded over for us. It was still probably the best hike I've ever done in my life.
Day 19: Mount Cook - Christchurch
Very sadly, it was my last Strayday! After a group photo, we arrived in Lake Tekapo where we had some free time. A few people braved the very chilly morning and walked up to the Mt John Observatory for the views, while the rest of us who claimed sore legs from the day before took refuge in Tekapo Springs, which had hot pools, an ice skating rink and a nice cafe attached.
We had one last photo stop by the lake and the Church of the Good Shepherd before expressing it to Christchurch. I hopped off the Stray bus for the final time and made my way to the airport, sad to say goodbye to my new friends, but full of new experiences, incredible memories and about a thousand photos on my camera!
How much does it cost?
Stray is a super affordable way to travel around New Zealand.
The Ron Pass which I had is only $895 NZD which covers the entire South Island travel network and is valid for a whole year. Check out their page here to see their different passes and prices.
Hostels in New Zealand typically cost between $27 - $35 a night. You have the flexibility to choose what suits your budget and pay as you go. You can book your accommodation daily via your Driver, often at a discounted price.
Food costs will depend on the person. New Zealand is known for being a bit pricey but you can eat quite cheaply if you cook your own meals. The Stray bus regularly stops at local supermarkets so you can get your own fresh supplies at a lower cost.
Activities can range from $60 - $400+ depending on what it is so it's definitely worth preplanning and budgeting for the ones you really wish to do. Stray also offers many of these activities at a discounted price which is awesome!
All of your Stray transport is included on their private and comfortable buses.
Driver Guides are your bus driver and tour guide all in one, each of them are super friendly, helpful and great sources of local knowledge.
Reserved accommodation is available for you even in the busiest summer months - you are always guaranteed a bed!
The Stray Bus
I loved kicking back and relaxing on the Stray bus, you get to enjoy the best views! All of the vehicles I hopped on were clean and comfy and the larger buses have USB ports to charge your phone. The Driver Guides have microphones so you can easily hear them talking and music is played regularly on the journeys.
I was generally very impressed by the places we stayed at. Each hostel was clean and always in the perfect location, only a short walk away from grocery stores and nearby attractions. My favourites were located at Franz Josef (which had a spa pool!), Gunns Camp and Mount Cook.
Who travels with Stray?
Stray is open to any adventurous traveller aged 18 years or older; there is no age limit. On my bus, our group was typically aged between early twenties to early thirties.
I met so many awesome people from all over the world including Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Sweden, Wales, The Netherlands, USA, even Egypt.
So many people, like myself, were travelling solo, so it's such a fantastic way to make new friends. Strayers will soon become your Straymates, there's no doubt about that!
When to travel?
New Zealand is an awesome country to travel year-round! Summer is our peak-tourist season and the busiest time of year but if you like swimming and going to the beach, that might be the right time for you.
To avoid most of the crowds, travel in spring, autumn and even winter! The South Island, in particular, is insanely beautiful in the winter as it snows in many places - but you're right in thinking it will be very cold!
I had such a fantastic experience with Stray from start to finish. We went to so many unique and beautiful places and I was very impressed by how organised and seamless my tour was run, even with multiple people hopping on and off at different places all the time.
Longer travel days are always broken up with well-thought-out stops, including countless photo opportunities, places where you can go for little hikes, have lunch or do a grocery shop.
The drivers I had were all hilarious, super friendly and easygoing, and had a wealth of knowledge to share.
The ever-changing landscape of New Zealand is just incredible; even if you drive for half a day it is never boring because the views out of the windows are stunning. Multiple shades of green, snow-peaked mountains, rolling hills - it all looks straight out of a movie.
If you are thinking about doing Stray, 100% go for it! It's the ultimate road trip where you don't have to worry about planning routes, researching where to go, where to stay and what to do. It's all taken care of for you and all you have to do is turn up with a heart of adventure. It is a truly enjoyable way to travel the South Island and it will be just the same for the North.
I have never done so many beautiful hikes or super fun activities in my life, all packed into three weeks. I can't wait to use my pass again in summer!
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Stray Australia and Stray Asia
Did you know Stray is Asia Pacific's largest hop-on hop-off adventure travel operator? With the same flexible and off the beaten track bus routes in Australia and Asia - your adventure doesn't have to stop in New Zealand!
From Sydney to Cairns, Stray Australia offers various passes running north and south along their spectacular East Coast.
Stray Asia's guided network spans Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, offering access into remote and interesting parts of Asia that are otherwise hard to access.
If you're looking for a fun way to travel with total flexibility over your day-to-day itinerary, be shown extraordinary places and meet great people, then Stray is the best choice!
I visited Franz Josef recently while travelling with Stray - an adventurous New Zealand travel company with flexible Hop-On Hop-Off guided bus routes, and it was one of the top highlights of my time in the South Island.
Due to the exciting must-do activity I just had to do and unpredictable weather, I ended up spending five nights there and it didn't take long for the cosy town to begin feeling like a second home.
Franz Josef is a destination that should be on everyone's South Island road trip and this guide shares my recommendations and top tips for visitors, including that incredible South Island activity I stuck around for that was totally worth it!
ABOUT FRANZ JOSEF
Franz Josef is a true gem on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island and worth staying for a couple of nights at least, at any time of the year.
Known for its stunning scenic surroundings where glaciers meet the rainforest, it's an incredibly picturesque place to visit and a nature-lovers dream, to say the least.
There are many beautiful hikes from short to long and Kiwi-typical adrenalin-pumping activities on offer to make your time in Franz Josef especially memorable.
The Franz Josef Glacier is the biggest drawcard and doing a Glacier Heli-Hike is the number one activity to do there.
WHERE TO STAY
Rainforest Retreat is the perfect place to stay in Franz Josef. It's located just off the main village street, making it secluded but in close walking distance to every local activity, including the Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hikes which is literally one minute away.
At the feet of the Southern Alps, the property has magnificent mountain views and is nestled amongst native bush, making it the ultimate base to unwind and explore from.
For backpackers, travelling families, flashpackers and campervanners - they have cheap and cheerful Dorm Rooms, Motel Park accommodation, a Holiday Camp Site and even Deluxe Tree Huts and Lodges to suit everyone's needs and budget.
Onsite, they have a fantastic restaurant and bar Monsoon with daily Happy Hour specials, a great menu, fireplace and pool table, as well as a large outdoor spa pool, shared kitchen and laundry facilities and any tour information you might need.
The staff are incredibly friendly and happy to help with any local tips or information you might need to make your stay a great experience.
WHAT TO DO
As mentioned, the top activity to do in Franz Josef is the Glacier Heli-Hike and trust me, it is worth every single cent! It's the steepest and fastest moving glacier in New Zealand and it's truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an #NZMustDo.
Beginning at the Franz Josef Village glacier base, you will be briefed with all the tour information you need and get geared up with everything provided for you, including jacket, pants, gloves, boots, socks, crampons etc.
Then you get to experience a fun helicopter ride with the most amazing scenery that lands on the glacier itself.
Once all set with your crampons on, you are then guided on an incredible three-hour hike on the glacier by your professional and friendly guide.
They show you through the best and most beautiful parts of the glacier and tell you a lot of interesting facts and history about it as well.
Of course, there is plenty of time to take some Insta-worthy shots and soak in the magnificent surroundings around you.
I found the hike to be not too challenging, it is quite easy-going as you move at a fairly slow pace to be safe. The three hours spent on the ice went by so quickly - probably because I was having such a great time!
I was so glad to have stayed behind in Franz Josef to do it. My tour was cancelled due to high winds three days in a row, but on the fourth day, it was perfect conditions!
The weather is very hard to predict so I would advise being flexible with your dates if the Glacier Heli-Hike is something you really wish to do.
Glacier Thermal Hot Pools
If you do the Heli-Hike the entrance to the Glacier Thermal Hot Pools at the base is included in the cost, otherwise, you can pay separately.
Surrounded by rainforest, it's the perfect way to relax and rejuvenate after an exciting day of adventuring. There are three natural hot pools with different temperatures to suit any preferences.
They also have private spas, showers, lockers and even massage facilities onsite to make it an ultra experience.
Scenic hikes & walks
Franz Josef is spoiled for beautiful hikes and walks. If you may not be able to afford the Heli-Hike you can still hike pretty close to the glacier to get a good view of it.
The start of the hike carpark is 5 kilometres from the village centre. To save your legs until the real hiking begins, there is a shuttle bus service that will pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation for $12.50 both ways.
The hike to the glacier is 1.5 hours return plus there is a beautiful mirror lake walk that is 20 minutes return. You can also do a guided tour if you choose which you can book through Franz Josef Glacier Guides. You will learn a lot more about the area, walk through lush rainforests, get close to the glacier and get taken to a hidden waterfall.
Spot some local wildlife - the native Kea is protected on the West Coast
Those are the main activities that I enjoyed myself but there are so many other great ones on offer too including:
There are a few little bars and eateries around the township for you to take your pick, but one that I especially enjoyed eating at was Rainforest's own on-site restaurant and bar Monsoon.
From 7-9 pm they have happy hour specials with $5 beers, house wines and cocktails which you can enjoy on their deck for sunset or in front of the cosy fireplace.
They also have an excellent dinner menu where they specialise in gourmet woodfire pizzas, and their burger was one of the biggest and best of my life!
Another great option that I frequented for lunch is The Landing (a popular spot for a drink also). Our Stray bus driver recommended it to us and they do great food there and coffee and cake. I had their soup of the day and eggs benedict (at different times), both dee-lish.
Summer is peak tourist season in New Zealand and the Heli-Hike is extremely popular and busy. If you're around during the shoulder months, why not go then? There is just as much chance of flying in winter as there is in summer and it's not too cold at all, especially when the sun is shining. I went in early June and it was a warm 13 degrees up there.
As mentioned earlier, I would recommend staying in Franz Josef for at least two nights if you are wanting to do the Glacier Heli-Hike. The weather at the top of a mountain is super unpredictable and tours can often be cancelled at the last minute.
If doing the Heli-Hike make sure to wear a pair of pants/trousers that aren't jeans. Jeans aren't allowed on the ice, nor are selfie/GoPro sticks. Wear your own thermal layers underneath and bring your sunglasses, everything else is provided.
If it's a wet day (as it often can be on the West Coast), grab an umbrella and browse the cute souvenir shops in town or bunk up in the local cinema to kill a few hours.
I was travelling the South Island with Stray's Ron Pass - a 2-3 week route that explores the best parts of the South Island, including Stewart Island!
More information about my incredible time travelling with Stray is coming very soon on the blog, stay tuned!
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Is hiking a glacier on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below!
It's been some time since I've written anything personal here and updated you on my latest wanderings. I've been super busy for the last 6 weeks, travelling New Zealand's South Island with Stray and I've just returned from a relaxing holiday in Bali.
There are a bunch of new blog posts coming your way very soon from what I've been up to, but for now, I wanted to share some of my favourite photos from my most recent trip.
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As most of you probably know, I absolutely love Bali and ever since my first trip in 2015, I've consistently gone back every year (this latest trip was my fourth time).
Every time I go back it has grown more and more in tourism, but what I love most about Bali is that the people and their beautiful culture remain the same.
As mentioned, this trip was more of a holiday for my partner and I, to spend some time together in our favourite place, as he is going away for six months very soon for work.
As we've been so many times we have already done many of the main temples and waterfalls etc. some more than once, in case you may be wondering why we didn't do them this time.
We enjoyed some well-deserved relaxing and soaked up the warm sunshine, being mid-winter back at home.
For the first four nights, we stayed in Ubud and then spent one week in Seminyak, where we also did a day trip and hopped over to Nusa Penida, the island next door to explore.
When people get asked what their happy place is, many usually answer with the beach or some form of water. Mine is sitting at the very top of Whakapapa Ski Field, looking down at the best playground Mother Nature ever built. During winter, this is my second home. I am lucky to have a mother who skis and she passed this awesome sport on to all of her children. At the age of five, I began shredding fresh tracks on Whakapapa, and by fourteen, I levelled up to snowboarding.
Being overseas, I missed my favourite ski field for several years but I'm back now living in New Zealand with a fresh season pass.
How to get to Whakapapa ski field
Whakapapa is New Zealand’s largest ski field, encompassing 550 hectares of terrain on Mount Ruapehu, a breathing, active volcano.
Located in the middle of the North Island, it is easily accessible from any of the major cities. You can take a great Kiwi road trip from either Auckland or Wellington and be there in just over four hours.
The scenic approach to the mountain will take you through Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage site. You will pass through ancient native forests and desert landscapes nestled between three impressive volcanoes; Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.
Whakapapa trails and Happy Valley
For anyone who hasn’t been to the snow, it doesn’t get more epic that standing, sliding, skiing or boarding on a huge volcano.
Whakapapa offers amazing trails for all ability levels with wide open fields, steep drops, chutes and snow-filled basins, all available by lift access.
It is home to Happy Valley, New Zealand's largest beginner ski and snow play area, with superb facilities to learn skiing and snowboarding.
Private or group lessons are available from qualified instructors who come from all over the world. They are some of the friendliest and most easy-going people you will meet. They teach not only the basics but can upskill you all the way to Jedi-Master level.
Once you have conquered Happy Valley, you can work your way up to the lower and upper mountain where a wide range of intermediate and advanced runs and terrains lovingly await you.
There is nothing quite like catching a chairlift all the way to the top of Whakapapa, with the incredible postcard views. The view of the dominating Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom for Lord of the Rings fans) is unbeatable.
Where to stay near Whakapapa ski field
There are many great accommodation options available nearby, whether you stay one night or settle in for longer. From budget-friendly hostels to the more upmarket hotels, there is something to suit everyone’s wallet.
The closest points to stay at are National Park (20 minutes’ drive away) and Turangi (40 minutes’ drive away). Taupo is another popular option to overnight in. As the largest nearby city, there is a wider range of accommodation choices and only a one-hour and 15-minute drive to Whakapapa.
There are also regular shuttle and bus services to Whakapapa available from Taupo, Turangi and National Park if you choose not to drive.
Whakapapa weather and ski season dates
World-class snowmaking facilities meant Happy Valley opened for business this winter on the 2nd of June. The lower and upper mountain opened June 29th.
Whakapapa boasts New Zealand's longest ski season and is usually open until the end of October for the best spring skiing and riding in the country. The mountain is open daily from 9 to 4, weather dependent.
Whakapapa ski gear
A good snow bunny’s uniform includes waterproof ski pants, a warm, waterproof jacket, warm layers underneath of thermals, merino, woollens etc, a warm hat, waterproof gloves and polarised sunglasses/ski goggles.
Don’t forget to bring sunblock; the sun can be extra harsh from the reflection of the snow.
You can hire any gear you need from the well-equipped rental outlet at Whakapapa. This includes skis, snowboards, boots, helmets, warm and waterproof outerwear, all correctly fitted to your needs.
For those who use a dislike of the cold as an excuse to stay away from the snow, did you know it can be so warm on a sunny day that you can peel your layers off down to a t-shirt?
The weather is unpredictable, however, and can often change quite quickly. It's wise to be prepared, even for those forecasted sunny days.
As a tip, if you can get there during the weekdays it's a lot less crowded than going on a weekend. Better to avoid the school holidays too, unless of course, you're bringing your own little ones.
On family excursions, we brought our own food from home to save money. In our daypacks, we each carried a thermos of hot soup, egg sandwiches and some chocolate to snack on. Nowadays I savour a mid-morning barista coffee from one of their three great cafes that offer unbeatable views.
Knoll Ridge Cafe, in particular, is New Zealand's highest cafe and a must-do. The award-winning cafe has a wide range of food options with picture-perfect views and warm hospitality. It makes breaking for lunch an experience in itself.
The feeling of sitting on top of the world is a freeing experience you can’t put a price on. The pure joy of skiing and snowboarding on Whakapapa’s fresh powder amongst such stunning scenery is truly remarkable.
It is worth the cost, it is worth getting up in the dark for the long drive, it is worth sore legs the next day. It is the best feeling!
If you are heading to New Zealand this winter or are one of the many Kiwis who still haven’t been to the snow, make 2018 the year to come. It is an experience you will never forget and one that will almost certainly hook you into coming back again and again.
Hit the slopes at Whakapapa this year and come ride an epic volcano!
Have you been to Whakapapa or are you planning to go this year? Let me know in the comments below. Might see you there!
I recently did one of the most incredible tours from Queenstown with Dart River Adventures. Based in Glenorchy, I went on their Funyak tour (inflatable kayaks/canoes) which was so much fun and incredibly scenic, floating down Dart River in literal Lord of the Rings locations.
Read on to find out all about this unmissable experience and why you should totally do it too when you're next in Queenstown - the adventure capital of New Zealand.
This tour was complimentary in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are as always my own.
The day began bright and early with a pick-up time of 7:45 am at the central Queenstown Information Centre. Alternatively, if staying closer to Glenorchy, you can meet them there yourself at 8:30 am.
In a large comfortable bus, the 45-minute ride went very quickly with beautiful scenery all the way there. We checked into the Dart River Adventures building and were given all the information we needed and a run-down of the clothing and gear we were about to suit up in.
For the Funyak tour, they provide fleece tops for warmth, a wetsuit, booties, spray jackets, life jackets and dry bags for your belongings. Being winter, we were also given warm beanies if needed and a snood/mouth scarf.
There were male and female changing rooms for us to get ready in with lockers for anything we wished to leave behind, before one more short bus ride to the first part of our adventure.
We hopped into a speedboat for an exhilarating 40-minute ride up the Dart River, with fun twists and 360 turns similar to the famous Shotover Jet.
It was a very crisp morning but the weather was absolutely perfect - you couldn't have asked for a better day and the gear provided did a great job at keeping you warm.
We travelled at high-speed up the Dart River deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park. The surroundings were picture-perfect and we had several stops to take photos and soak it all in.
Once we arrived at our stunning Funyak location we were given a cup of hot chocolate which was very welcome. We met our lovely guides for the day Ed and Amber who told us everything we needed to know about how to use our inflatable kayaks.
We split into twos or threes and because I was flying solo I got to ride with the professional Ed - lucky me!
We gently floated down the Dart River the way we came, using our oars to easily control our Funyaks. The colour of the pristine water was such a beautiful blue, and apparently, winter is the best time to see it like that.
After our exciting beginning, this part was incredibly tranquil and relaxing, with the most magnificent New Zealand scenery around us.
Next, we reached our delightful lunch location which had been set up wonderfully by Gareth. We had a full buffet spread with fresh bread, salads, meats, cheeses, fruit, sweet slices, hot soup and a choice of hot and cold drinks.
Everything was super tasty and it was a very enjoyable lunch break in the wilderness.
An absolute highlight of the day, we then explored up a nearby side stream through dramatic chasms and rock pools with eye-poppingly green water.
I had never seen anything like it before - it was such an amazing experience!
Back on the Dart River, we drifted some more on to our end location where we were picked up by a four-wheel drive bus to take us back to Glenorchy.
During the 30-minute ride, we were told about the famous movies filmed in these very locations such as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Wolverine and many more.
At the Dart River Adventures building, we changed back into our clothes and had the option of buying some professional photos taken throughout the day.
Then it was a quick ride back to Queenstown on the bus after an excellent day amongst some of the most incredible nature I've ever laid my eyes on.
Price: $369 NZD per adult, $269 per child (seasonal)
Reviews: 4.5/5 stars and a Certificate of Excellence from 2,043 reviews on Trip Advisor
What to bring:
Warm outer layer
Warm underwear or swimwear
Change of underwear
Camera carried at own risk
I had such a fantastic time on this tour, even though I come from New Zealand - the truly stunning locations absolutely blew me away! From the fun speedboat ride to the gentle Funyaks, a delicious lunch and picturesque scenery, this tour is an absolute must-do for all visitors and locals alike.
Our guides were super friendly, professional and safety conscious as needed. The whole day ran super smoothly and every single person on our tour highly enjoyed it.
A great activity year-round, I would recommend doing it especially in winter as I did, as the water was such an amazing colour and it gets a whole lot busier in the peak summer months.
This Funyak tour would suit any type of traveller from families (not younger than 5 years old, however), to couples, friends and solo travellers like me.
It's a great adventure and one of those memorable days that is an absolute travel highlight.
If you would like to see a bit more I made a short video of my Funyak experience for YouTube:
Is Funyaking along the Dart River now on your Bucket List?
Thank you Dart River Adventures and Ngāi Tahu Tourism for having me.