Ultimate New Zealand Packing List


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!


TRAVEL ESSENTIALS


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.


CLOTHING

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

3-4 T-shirts/singlets

Rain & wind-proof jacket

Hat/cap

Underwear and socks for 7 days

Sleepwear

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

Beany/woollen hat

Gloves

Scarf

Extra merino/thermal layers

Tip: Roll your clothes instead of folding them. It will save space and avoid wrinkles.




FOOTWEAR

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.


ELECTRONICS


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.


TOILETRIES


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.


OTHER


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!




For more information on New Zealand, check out my New Zealand Travel Guide for an overview, tips on where to go and what to do.

If you're looking for an easy, flexible and fun way to travel New Zealand, check out Stray Travel - an award-winning guided Hop-On Hop-Off bus company for adventurous travellers.

Pin it! :)

That's my ultimate New Zealand packing list for year-round travel. Let me know in the comments if you're planning on coming to NZ or if you have any other essentials you would add to this list.

New Zealand is an awesome country to travel - you're gonna love it!

Happy Travels,

Travel Bloggers reveal their favourite places in New Zealand


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.

By Josy of A Walk and a Lark
Check out her Travel Blog and Instagram.


WELLINGTON
North Island


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?!

By Katie of Real World Runaway
Check out her Travel Blog and Instagram.


MILFORD SOUND
South Island


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!

By Nadia of Travarela
Check out her Travel Blog and Instagram.


QUEENSTOWN
South Island


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.

By Ashley of Dashin' Ash
Check out her Travel Blog and Instagram.


TAUPO
North Island


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!

By Allison of She Dreams of Alpine
Check out her Travel Blog and Instagram.


 MOTUAROHIA
North Island


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.

By Amy of Out Chasing Stars
Check out her Travel Blog and Instagram.


MOKE LAKE
South Island


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.

By Alicia of Miles Less Travelled
Check out her Travel Blog and Instagram.


POOR KNIGHTS ISLANDS
North Island


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.

By Eloise of My Favourite Escapes
Check out her Travel Blog and Instagram.


MOUNT MAUNGANUI
North Island


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!).

By Krysti of Krysti Jaims
Check out my Instagram.

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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.

Happy Travels,

Ultimate New Zealand South Island Road Trip with Stray


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!

Check out my video to see a snippet of my trip:



Who are Stray & why did I choose them?

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.



Day 6: Westport - Franz Josef

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.




Read More: Franz Josef Travel Guide

Day 11: Franz Josef - Wanaka

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.



The Southern Swine Fergburger

Day 13 - 14: Queenstown

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!




Day 15: Queenstown - Fiordland

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!



What's included?

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.



The Accommodation

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.

Gunn's Camp

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!



Final Thoughts

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!

Pin it! :)

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!

Happy travels,

Franz Josef, New Zealand Travel Guide


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

Glacier Heli-Hike

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

Other activities

Those are the main activities that I enjoyed myself but there are so many other great ones on offer too including:



WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

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.



TOP TIPS

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!

Pin it! :)

Is hiking a glacier on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Travels,

Everything you need to know about Whakapapa Ski Field, NZ


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.


My recommendations

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!

Happy Travels,
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Incredible Must-Do Tour from Queenstown, New Zealand


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.


Funyak Adventure

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.



Details

The tour: Dart River Adventure Funyaks

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: 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Sun hat 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Warm outer layer 
  • Warm underwear or swimwear 
  • Change of underwear 
  • Towel 
  • Insect repellant 
  • Camera carried at own risk


Final Thoughts

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?

Happy Travels,

Thank you Dart River Adventures and Ngāi Tahu Tourism for having me.

New Zealand Travel Guide


Being a Kiwi, it was about time to write a bit about my own country - New Zealand!
I am planning on writing plenty of in-depth travel guides on the top cities to visit, such as Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown, as well as a Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth post - being such a huge fan myself it's inevitable.

This travel guide is an introduction and a brief overview for fellow travellers wanting to head to New Zealand for the first time.
For best things to do check out my post on 20 Must-do's in New Zealand.

Let's begin by clearing one thing up first: 
It's not the same as Australia!


Yes, people get us confused all the time and many think that we are a part of Australia (we're not). Many also can't tell the difference between a Kiwi and Aussie accent (there's a big difference!). Our countries overall are very different.

New Zealand's North Island is mostly pretty warm with nice beaches (sadly not as warm as Australia), while the scenery in the South Island more resembles Ireland (thanks to lashings of rain) or Canada in the Alpine regions.

Australia... is more than 28 times bigger than New Zealand! And you might hear about Australians a lot more - that's because there's 24 million of them, whereas there are only 4 million Kiwis.

70% of Australia is classed as a desert, so though there can be some small similarities between our countries' landscapes in certain places, the differences are a lot more.

Those are just the beginnings of the many contrasts between our countries, but just know it's comparable to calling America and Canada the same, or China and Japan.


My little spin on little New Zealand

We may be at the bottom of the world but New Zealand is a wonderful country to visit and definitely worth travelling that far for.
After exploring the world so far away for the first time - I came back and saw my country with whole new eyes.

I grew up here, so I always thought New Zealand was - well, boring. There's nothing old and historical here and it's so far from everywhere else. Not that I didn't appreciate the stunning beauty of it - Queenstown when I saw it for the first time especially took my breath away.

I just mean, this is where I grew up and camping, bushwalks, going to the snow, road trips, beaches - were all a part of everyday life and I thought that was normal.
Image result for im a kiwiLittle did I realise our small country was such a gem, because it had all these things - packed into one.

Everywhere you go in New Zealand you're not far from stunning and picturesque landscapes. Our country really is a natural beauty with everything ranging from snow-capped mountains to white sandy beaches, native bush and forests, fresh springs and mud pools.

From any point in New Zealand, you are no further than 130 kilometres from the sea. It's no wonder why I am so attracted to water and I simply can't imagine those who have to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles to even see water.

I now know, since embarking on my travels and as amazing as this world is, there is nowhere quite like New Zealand and I am really appreciative and proud to be a Kiwi.



Travelling New Zealand 

Perhaps when you think of New Zealand a few images may spring to mind - the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the All Blacks (our excellent rugby team), Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (our biggest selling white wine) and lots and lots of sheep.
These are all quite fair images but there's a whole lot more to our country than just that!

Firstly, many people may wonder: which is better to travel to - the North or the South Island? I would absolutely say both because they are so different to each other and you can't really get a full 'New Zealand' experience doing just one.
If you have the time I would recommend starting from the top of the North and work your way down South. 

How?
The best way to travel New Zealand is by vehicle, whether a car, bus or campervan, as nature and beauty surrounds you everywhere. The varying landscapes are so different and interesting to see all throughout the country and travelling by land is the best way to see this.

You can easily hire a car or campervan, or an affordable bus line that I've used many times is Intercity CoachlinesThere are many different tour companies offering Hop on Hop off style bus tours such a Stray Travel, Kiwi Experience and package tours like Wild Kiwi, Contiki and Intrepid.

If you're from North America, New Zealand Vacations are a leading company with excellent customised vacation packages. They are New Zealand travel experts who can help you create your own dream self-driving itineraries. They offer constant support, experience and the best prices with local tourism operators.

You can also pick up internal flights relatively cheap enough if you book in advance.
Our two main flight carriers are Air New Zealand and Jet Star.

Image credit: rankers.co.nz

Accommodation?
There are plenty of campgrounds in most places which is an affordable way to travel in New Zealand. You can book your own cabin, pitch a tent, park a camper van or even your car and use the facilities.

My family travelled around New Zealand this way when we were growing up. Every couple of years in the summer holidays we would either go down south or right up north.
Campgrounds are safe, usually in very good locations (on the lake, near the beach or city centre), basic but have everything you need - a big communal kitchen you can use, toilets and showers and often games and playgrounds for children.

There is, of course, Airbnb, plenty of budget hostels, motels and hotels - it all depends on your preferred style of travel and your budget.

When?
New Zealand is great year round but the very best time to visit is during summer. This way you can enjoy swimming, camping, better weather and warm temperatures.
Our warmest months are December, January and February. Any time between October and April is also great.
Travelling in winter, if you don't mind the cold, is also very beautiful. The mountains are covered in snow and you can enjoy our awesome ski fields in both the North and South Island.

Where?
The biggest decision to make is deciding where to go! If you have the time I would say, go to as many places as you can.
For the top places and attractions to visit here is my small overview of our two main islands - the North and the South, and the main highlights of each:


North Island

The North Island is a great place to start, with Auckland being our biggest international airport. In the north, it is a lot warmer, with nicer beaches, more unique geothermal characteristics and Maori culture.

Auckland

If you're a city dweller then you will love Auckland. It is New Zealand's largest and most populous city with over one-third of the population living there (over 1 million people). Auckland is based around two large harbours and is known as 'the City of Sails'.

Centred in the middle is the iconic Sky Tower - our countries' tallest structure that you can go up for stunning panoramic views of the city or even bungy jump off.
You can visit Waiheke Island - famous for its vineyards and wine-tasting.
Auckland is dotted with many beaches and large parks and is home to plenty of great food, art, culture and museums.

Auckland city
Coromandel

The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the most popular areas for Kiwis and tourists alike to visit during summer. The golden coastline with white sandy beaches, native forests and a laid-back vibe make Coromandel one of the best-loved holiday destinations in New Zealand.

The towns are small and quiet making it a great place to get away and unwind at the beach. There are plenty of great bush walks, glow worm caves and even a Hot Water Beach where you can dig your own hot pool at low tide.
Make sure to see Cathedral Cove while you're there too, a famous picturesque cave.

Enjoying kumara chips at the beach in Coromandel

Matamata (Hobbiton!)

I thought I should mention at least one hotspot for Lord of the Rings fans out there! Matamata is a small country town that you can take as a day-trip from Auckland or Tauranga and Rotorua - it is less than a couple of hours away from each of those places.

Hobbiton is simply spectacular and a must-do if you're a fan, and even if you're not - my partner, for example, was surprised at how much he enjoyed the trip when I made him go with me.

You get taken around the whole area which is surprisingly large and immaculately maintained, and you finish off in The Green Dragon pub for a complimentary 'Hobbity' ale or cider. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours and I highly recommend it.
Check out my Guide to visiting Hobbiton for more info.


Tauranga & Rotorua

Tauranga and Mount Maunganui is a great place to visit especially in the summer. There is a beautiful beach, large harbour and mountain (Mount Maunganui) that is half on land, half in water that you can walk around or climb to the top for stunning views.
I grew up in Tauranga and though there isn't that much to do activities-wise, it is a great destination because of the large white sandy beach and it's a popular spot for surfers.

Rotorua is one of New Zealand's most popular places for tourists to visit. Only a 50-minute drive from Tauranga, Rotorua offers plenty of fun activities such as luging, zorbing, cultural Maori village experiences and shows, wildlife parks, hot pools, geothermal attractions such as Wai-O-Tapu and many more.

Mount Beach
Rotorua Luge track

Taupo

Taupo for New Zealanders is usually a stop-over place as you drive through, whether you're going North from there to Auckland or South from there to Wellington for example.
It does offer some nice tourist attractions though and can be a good place to stop for a night or two.

It's home to the great Lake Taupo - Australasia's largest lake, plenty of geothermal activity walks, bungy jumping, the beautiful Huka Falls waterfall, great cafes and more.

#LoveTaupo sign on the lakefront

Tongariro National Park

Less than one and a half hours drive south from Taupo is Tongariro National Park - New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage site.
Here, nestled between ancient native forests and desert landscapes are three impressive volcanoes; Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.

Mount Ruapehu is the North's only place to ski and offers two excellent ski fields on the active volcano, Whakapapa and Turoa.
Treking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the world's greatest hikes and a must-do if you have the time.

Above the clouds on Whakapapa ski field
Emerland Lakes, Tongariro. Image credit: backpackerguide.nz

Wellington

Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and is commonly known as 'the smallest capital in the world.' Many people wonder why Wellington is the capital when it is home to around only 200,000 people, whereas Auckland has over a million. That's just where our parliament is centred and I think it's a pretty cool capital in my opinion.

I lived in Wellington for 4 years before jetting off overseas and I enjoyed living there (it's a lot more exciting that Tauranga and way less busy than Auckland).
The one thing I didn't like so much was the weather. 'Windy Wellington' it is also commonly known as - was recently proved to be the windiest city in the world!

Nevertheless, it is a really cool place to visit and it's a compact city bursting with creative talent, art and culture, cool cafes, great coffee and craft beer, and my favourite thing about it - it's our little 'Wellywood.'

Home to Sir Peter Jackson, this is the base where The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed and there are plenty of attractions around Wellington where you can visit and see locations such as the Weta Cave.
(Stay tuned for a more in-depth post about LOTR tourism in NZ coming soon!).

Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street, Wellington

South Island

The South Island is home to only one-quarter of the population in New Zealand - so as you can imagine, it's a lot more quiet and peaceful. There is a different sense to this island, there are wide open spaces with the enormous mountainous spine running through the middle of it (the Southern Alps). It's a great opportunity to get away from it all.

Nelson

Nelson is the sunniest region in New Zealand, located at the top of the South Island. If you are travelling by car and have crossed the Cook Strait by ferry, it's a great place to stop over. It's known for its local arts and crafts stores and art galleries.
It's also a popular base for nearby caving sights, vineyards and Abel Tasman National Park - a famous protected area with stunning coastal hiking trails and great kayaking spots.
Nelson has it all with golden sandy beaches, untouched forests, rugged mountains and a great summery holiday feeling about the town.

Image result for nelson new zealand vineyard
Image credit: from winenelson.co.nz
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a small but scenic town located on the East Coast of the South Island.
It is hugged by beautiful snow-capped mountains and its special attraction is mammal encounters - whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters.
Whale watching trips leave the town several times a day with a great sighting success rate, you can swim with the dolphins and the local seal colony is always entertaining.
Kaikoura is a great place to stop if you are driving from Blenheim to Christchurch or vice versa.

Image result for kaikoura
Kaikoura. Image credit: rankers.co.nz

Christchurch

Guest paragraph: Juliette from Snorkels to Snow has kindly offered to write a piece for Christchurch. Her blog is amazing and you should definitely check it out.

[Side Note: If you didn't know - on 22/02/11 Christchurch was badly damaged by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. It tragically killed 185 people, injured thousands and destroyed much of the CBD.]

Christchurch is still “home” to me - despite the tragedy which struck in 2011. It’s taken a long time for the city to get back up on its feet - but the rebuild has made way for some great new concepts. 
The Re:Start Mall in the central city is a fun, vibrant shopping area with a great cafe scene. The best bit - all the shops are made out of colourful shipping containers! 
It breathed new life into the city after such a tragic event and has continued to be a hot spot for locals and tourists alike. There are a number of lively bars which have opened up since the earthquake including Engineers Bar, the city’s only rooftop bar - a great spot to spend a balmy Canterbury evening. 

Walking through the Christchurch CBD, you will still see many empty lots where buildings once stood, the ruins of the damaged Christchurch Cathedral and memorial sites such as at the former CTV building, which had the highest loss of life. It’s sobering seeing this first hand but it is also an important reminder of why this city needs tourism to help get it back on its feet. 

Further out of Christchurch city you can explore all of Banks Peninsula - catch a ferry from Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour and enjoy the beautiful walks and hikes in the area while listening to native birdsong. For a taste of France, head to Akaroa - the tiny French settlement on the peninsula about 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch. 
Rebuilding a city takes time, but there’s still plenty to see and do in Christchurch - and it needs tourist dollars to help it grow into a stronger, colourful city of the future.

Image result for christchurch restart mall
The colourful Re:Start Mall. Image credit: australiandesignreview.com
West Coast

The West Coast is one of the more remote and sparsely populated areas - it seems like a million miles from civilisation, but it offers some of New Zealand's most wild and natural beauty and landscapes.
There are countless opportunities for hiking and mountaineering in the South Island, and the West Coast is a great base for that. Close by you have Mount Aspiring National Park, Mount Cook, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. 

Some great little towns to stay on the West Coast include Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport. There are many activities on offer such as glacier walks, jet boating, kayaking, old mining towns and of course the rugged beaches and stretch of coastline.

Image result for fox glacier new zealand
Fox Glacier. Image credit: thousandwonders.net
Queenstown

When people ask me where to go in New Zealand I say you have to go to Queenstown!
It is my favourite place in New Zealand and it is absolutely magical. It reminds me of a slice of Switzerland. For much of the year, the surrounding Alps are snow-capped and the lake is a stunning mixture of blues.

Queenstown is known as the 'adventure capital of New Zealand.' It is home to bungy jumping, jet boating, paragliding, white water rafting, luging, you name it. You can find these activities all throughout the country but everything is here compacted into one small town.

The scenery is simply incredible. In winter the whole town turns into a winter wonderland, the streets are filled with snow, the ski fields are the best in New Zealand, it's like a ski resort town in Canada.

From Queenstown, you can take many day-trips or overnighters to other great nearby places such as Wanaka, Te Anau, Glenorchy, Fiordland National Park where you can cruise through the Milford Sound and many more.

View from the top of the Gondolas overlooking Lake Wakatipu
A boat cruise through Milford Sounds
Shotover Jet- one of Queenstown's top adrenaline attractions
As well as Bungy jumping! I jumped off this ledge!
Beautiful snow-capped Southern Alps (and this was in November!)
The incredible view from Roy's Peak overlooking Lake Wanaka is what dreams are made of.
Image credit: riverrun.co.nz

Of course, there is so much more to New Zealand that just what I've mentioned, I have merely given quite a brief overview of many of the top places to visit. 
There are plenty of other lovely places I haven't mentioned such as Russel and Bay of Islands, Waitomo Caves, Napier, Hamner Springs, Dunedin, Invercargill and so on.
There certainly is a lot to see and do packed into one small country.

I put together a rough map of the places I have mentioned so you can see where they are located on each island.


I hope that I've given you some insight into my lovely home country. Feel free to leave me a comment if you want to add anything or ask any questions.

For more ideas on what to do head to my post on 20 Must-Do's in New Zealand and stay tuned for plenty more New Zealand posts heading your way soon.

Follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with all my latest travels and wanderings.

Happy travels,
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* Please note this guide was originally created two years ago and has since been updated and republished.

A Guide to Visiting Hobbiton (A Must-Do in New Zealand)


It was my birthday on the weekend and I couldn't think of a better way to spend it than at my favourite place in New Zealand: Hobbiton! This was my second visit to the famous movie set, the first time being over five years ago, and I tell you - it was just as magical as the first time around!

I know Hobbiton is on many people's Bucket Lists when visiting New Zealand (as it rightly should be!) so here is a quick guide of what to expect and everything you need to know when visiting, accompanied by some wanderlust-inspiring photos of the set.



WHAT:

As you will find out on the tour, the Hobbiton Movie Set was first created for the Lord of the Rings trilogy way back when filming first started in 1999. Back then it was only temporary and created out of flimsy materials such as polystyrene. It was mostly all torn down afterwards and only the shells of the hobbit holes remained.
Fast forward ten years and Peter Jackson was back to film The Hobbit movies and decided this time around to rebuild the set out of permanent materials so that fans could continue enjoying the magic of The Shire long after the films were released.


On the tour, you will be told exclusive facts and fun stories, such as filming tricks, on-set accidents (like when Bilbo’s 111th birthday cake caught on fire), and how 200,000 fake leaves were imported and hand-sewn onto the giant oak tree sitting atop Bag End.


You will be shown by your expert guide around the 12-acre set; past the many Hobbit holes - all uniquely hobbit-themed with their own immaculate gardens, stopping at each one for the countless great photo opportunities, past the Party Tree, the Mill and into the world-famous Green Dragon Inn, where you can sample a complimentary and specially brewed beverage to conclude your own Middle Earth adventure.


There are different options of tours on offer, including private tours, tours in Chinese, tours with a meal included and evening banquet tours. For the standard Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, they run for approximately two hours and costs $79 NZD ($58 USD) per person.


WHERE:

Hobbiton is located in a small rural area called Matamata, which is in the Waikato region in the North Island of New Zealand. 


It is located only a two-hour drive from Auckland (the largest city in New Zealand or a one hour drive from Rotorua (a tourism hot-spot).
Daily bus tours and transfers are available from Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Rotorua. Check their site here for more info.


To get there from Matamata you have two options of where to be picked up for your tour - from the Matamata I-Site (information centre) in the town, or from the Shire's Rest - about a twenty-minute drive into the countryside and very close to the set. Both sites have free parking and it is the same price to be picked up from either place.


I personally prefer to be picked up from the I-Site, as you are the first to be on the comfortable coach and you can sit back and relax while listening to the bus driver's commentary, and then watch the exclusive videos played on board with greetings by Peter Jackson himself. 


You learn all about the history of the set and how it came to still be there today. The bus stops at the Shire's Rest and picks up more passengers along the way for the tour.


WHEN:

Tours depart daily from 9 am - 3 pm, rain or shine. 

(If it does rain - like it did for most of my recent visit, large umbrellas are provided for you to use).

During the summer months which tends to be peak season, additional tours are put on:

4 pm & 4.30 pm operate 01 Sep to 30 April and
5 pm & 5.30 pm operate 27 Dec to 28 Feb.


WHO:

All ages are welcome from every corner of the globe!
I honestly believe every visitor to New Zealand would enjoy this tour. My partner is not a fan of the books or movies at all and was surprised at how much he enjoyed it. He even willingly offered to come with me the second time!



WHY:

Hobbiton is one of those places that doesn't seem real. It has been painted straight from a fantasy book and come to life before your very eyes. 


The surroundings are absolutely mesmerising; multiple shades of rolling green hills as far as the eye can see, walking around amongst the Hobbit holes where the same actors once stood, where the movies were created, it is so well done and purely enchanting to be amongst it. 


I am one of the biggest Lord of the Rings fans you will ever meet and it still blows me away that this is here in my country, and actually only a 40-minute drive from where I grew up. 
I'm so very proud to be a Kiwi and I highly recommend visiting even if you aren't a fan - the location and scenery are astounding.


Tips:

፨ Try to stick to the front of your tour group to be able to hear all of the fascinating facts and stories and be first in to get that shot!


፨ If you're feeling peckish at The Green Dragon you won't be disappointed by ordering something off the menu - I had the Pork Pie and it was delicious!


፨ Wear sensible walking shoes as you do go for a decent walk up and down hills.


፨ On a similar note - wear sunblock if you go during the warmer months - I still remember getting burnt the first time I went! (New Zealand sun is harsh).



፨ You get 15 whole minutes allocated at the end of your tour to spend in the Hobbit Store - bring some extra pennies if you wish to take home some exclusive memorabilia.
(I couldn't resist buying my own "No admittance except on party business" sign and a special The Green Dragon mug.



That is my little guide to visiting Hobbiton in New Zealand aka Middle Earth! Let me know if you have any questions below and if it's on your Bucket List!

Keep scrolling to see more photos below and a little video I made.


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Video:


2018 New Zealand Travel Goals


Welcome to my first post of the year!

I intended this post to be all of my 2018 travel goals, but as I began writing about New Zealand it was already so long that it turned into its very own post.

This year I am back in New Zealand after living away for three years. Since I started my travel blog while I was away, I am thrilled to now explore more of my own backyard and go to those places I've always wanted to go to.

New Zealand is such a desired travellers destination for so many reasons and I would love to focus on writing great content for visitors, taking amazing photos and soaking up all that is special about my country.

Places I would love to visit in 2018 include:

[North Island]

Tongariro Alpine Crossing


I can't believe that I have visited Tongariro National Park dozens of times (it's where I go skiing and snowboarding) and I have not yet done the famous crater lake hike.
The pictures look insanely beautiful and I am now living only a couple of hours drive away so I'm making it a top priority this year.

Castlepoint


Castlepoint is a small picturesque beachside town on the Wairarapa coast of the Wellington Region. The farthest down on the east-coast of the North Island I have been to is Napier, so I would love to venture further down to Castlepoint which is again only a two hour drive away. It's home to a lighthouse which stands near the top of the northern end of a reef.

Hobbiton



Yes, I have already been to Hobbiton - but that was five years ago now! It's been far too long in my opinion and I would love to go back and take new photos (with my better quality camera). I am keen to finally write up some Lord of the Rings in New Zealand hotspot posts this year - stay tuned!

Taranaki


Taranaki is a coastal and mountainous region on the western side of the North Island.
I would love to see what the city New Plymouth is like and see the beautiful volcano Mount Taranaki up close.
Taranaki is one of two regions left that I am yet to visit in the North Island. The other one is Gisborne but I think unless I have a reason to visit, I'll leave that one for another year.


[South Island]

There is so much I would love to do in the South Island but I will try to narrow my goals down to be semi-achievable for this year:

Hamner Springs


Hanmer Springs is a gorgeous resort town in the Canterbury region of the South Island. Best known for their natural mineral Thermal Pools and Spa and the beautiful surrounding mountains, it would be the ultimate winter getaway destination.

Akaroa


Also in Canterbury, Akaroa is a town on the Banks Peninsula, southeast of Christchurch. Akaroa Beach is where rare Hector’s dolphins swim and the town has French colonial history and beautiful heritage buildings I would love to see. 

Kaikoura


Kaikoura is an east-coast town in the South Island known for its wildlife and sperm whale population. There are beautiful walks to see clifftop views of the stunning surrounding mountains and the sea below. I have stopped by there briefly once before but this time I would love to do a whale watching tour and a hike.

Fox/Franz Josef Glacier


I'm not fussy on which one - but I would love to see a glacier up close! Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are New Zealand's most accessible glaciers and would be the ultimate adventure activity. Our country really does have it all.

Roy's Peak


Roy's Peak is a mountain standing between Wanaka and Glendhu Bay. It offers a full-day walk, with breathtaking panoramic views across Lake Wanaka and up to the peak of Mount Aspiring. Getting a picture here is a huuuge bucket list item for me!

Invercargill & Bluff


Last but not least, I would love to visit two of the southernmost places in New Zealand (apart from Stewart Island), Invercargill and down to Bluff. I've been right to the very top (Cape Reinga) so I would love to now go to the bottom-most point.


I'm so pumped for the new year and all the new travel adventures that come with it!
Aside from a booked trip to the United States and Canada in March/April, I can't wait to get cracking on my New Zealand goals.

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Have you ever visited any of these places? Let me know in the comments if you have any tips or if you're like me and would love to visit too! (If anyone wants to join me - hit me up).

Happy Travels,

*This post contains images that are not my own.

Goodbye Australia. Hello again, New Zealand


Seasons Greetings to all!

If you didn't know already, last week I left Australia and jumped back across the ditch to good ol' New Zealand.
I've been living away for three years so coming back home after such a long time away is always a nice feeling.

I had a great time in Australia and abroad and there are definitely things I will miss and some things I won't.
I've compiled together a few lists for Australia and New Zealand stating these certain things (you will notice the majority of it is food-related)... Without further ado:

Things I will miss about Australia:
  • Awesome cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast (big, iconic and such cool city vibes)
  • The better weather (hot summers and milder winters)
  • Zing shop (epic geek store and basically where I spent all of my money)
  • Golden Gaytime ice cream in a tub (genius idea and yum as flavour)
  • The beautiful wildlife (kangaroos, koalas, platypus, wombats etc.)

The friendliest of locals

  • Mostly nicer roads with 110 km speed limit
  • Larger range of concerts and events on
  • Schnitz and Grill'd burgers (both sooo good)
  • The abundance of year-round cheap tropical fruit (watermelon, mangoes, pineapple etc.)
  • More and cheaper flights


Things I won't miss:
  • Snakes and spiders
  • Annoying flies that don't bugger off
  • The expensive price of beer and spirits
  • The accents (lol no offence)
  • The loud and noisy birds
  • Certain bureaucracy making things more difficult than they need to be


Things I'm looking forward to in NZ:
  • Seeing my friends and family
  • Going on awesome summer road trips (beautiful surroundings in all directions)
  • Homegrown Music Festival (an epic day out with the best New Zealand bands across five different stages)
  • Tip Top hokey pokey ice cream (the best ice cream in the world)
  • Doing some scenic hiking

2018 goals: Hike Mount Ruapehu's Crater Lake

  • Kiwi friendliness
  • The snow season (I have my first ever Mount Ruapehu season pass for next year woohoo!)
  • Having a big pot of NZ green mussels
  • Listening to the Rock FM radio station (I haven't listened to the radio for 3 years because Aussie stations suck)
  • FEJOAS (A delicious seasonal fruit that is uncommon elsewhere)
  • Kiwi onion dip and Bluebird chips (best combo ever!)
A Kiwi cupboard staple

  • Cookie Times, Squiggles, RJ's Licorice Choc Logs, Whittakers, Tuimato sauce, L&P (all the NZ things)
  • Being able to buy beer and wine from the supermarket (so much more convenient)
  • Burger Fuel (delicious gourmet burgers) 
  • Being back in the land of Middle Earth with LOTR spots and memories all over the country
Hobbiton, Matamata

Things I'm not looking forward to:
  • Colder summers and the wind
  • Earthquakes (eeek I'm terrified of them)
  • The narrow and windier roads
  • Being even further away from the rest of the world


Those are just some reflections, all in good fun. I have been back now for almost a week and I can confirm I have already gone crazy for many of my favourite foods that I had missed!
I can also say that I left Australia on a piping hot 34॰C day and I'm currently sitting writing this in jeans, socks and a sweatshirt... no place like home!

This will probably be my last post before Christmas so I wish everyone a safe and very Merry Christmas. I will definitely have at least one post up before the New Year so I'll hopefully catch you then. Happy Holidays!

Happy Travels,

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