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,

Canberra’s Must-Do Food Tour


I recently ticked off another big-ticket item off my Canberra wish-list and that was to join the Eat Canberra Walking Food Tour.

Canberra was recently named by Lonely Planet as the third best city in the world to visit in 2018, which is a very impressive achievement for Australia's modest capital city.

I have no doubt the rising restaurant and hospitality scene has an important part to play in what makes Canberra so outstanding.

As many know, I love nothing more than to explore a new city's culinary delights and trying the very best it has to offer, and a walking food tour is a perfect way to do just that.

Read on to find out all about the fantastic foodie gems we visited and the unique and mouth-watering dishes we tried:


The ultimate foodie tour

Stop #1

Our group's meeting point and first place to visit was BentSpoke Brewery, a popular pub for a drink and meal alike in the heart of Braddon. 

Amelia, founder of Eat Canberra and our guide for the day met us outside and warmly greeted us. Our table was reserved upstairs and everyone introduced themselves.


Amelia introduced the food tour and told us a bit about herself and our first location. They brew their award-winning beers on site and do a modern twist on the classic pub menu.

First, we had a choice of two sampler drinks, either two kinds of beer or their apple cider and ginger beer. I opted for the latter but also tried the beers, all of which were distinctively delicious.

Our first eats for the day arrived and certainly ensured the tour started with a bang! 
We sampled their Smoked Mac 'n' Cheese Balls which were crumbed and served with roasted corn and chilli salsa jam, along with their Hop Potatoes, which were hop and malt dusted chips served with brewery-made sauces.


Their dishes incorporate hints of their own beer to compliment the flavours, making them extra tasty. The macaroni and cheese balls were absolutely fantastic and are one of my favourite things I tried that day, which is saying a lot. The accompanied chips were also very good and hard to resist reaching back for more when you know there's going to be a lot more food to come!

I will without a doubt be back to try more of their menu in the future.


Stops 2 & 3

After almost a full hour at the first stop enjoying the food and good company of fellow food-lovers we were next off to a nearby food hotspot The Hamlet.

The Hamlet is a paradise for foodies with a collection of food trucks offering street food from multiple cuisines. Here we got to sample from two different little eateries: 10" Custom Pizzeria and Mr Papa.


We began with the Pizzeria that has been accredited by the pizza association in Naples, which means you know it's going to be good.

We tried two kinds of their woodfired pizza: a vegetarian Haloumi and potato which is their most popular and Romana, a special with mozzarella, smoked pancetta, cherry tomatoes and red onions topped with shaved parmesan.
Both of them were heavenly and took me right back to Naples! It's definitely the best pizza I've had outside of Italy.


Second, we had two items from Mr Papa's menu, who do traditional Peruvian street food. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw a whole tray of Chanchitos coming towards us!

The sandwich is pork belly, sweet potato and salsa served on a crusty bun. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the flavour combinations were very delicious.


We also indulged in their Alitas chicken wings which were sticky and finger-licking good and we even got to try Chica Morada which is Peruvian purple corn juice - which I rather liked! 


It was great to try something new and out of the ordinary and I can't wait to go to Peru one day and try more local delights.


Stop #4

We were off to our next destination Tipsy Bull, a local gin bar with over 80 varieties of gin on offer who also do "Friendly fine-ish dining."


We were each presented with a beautiful Seasonal Gin Sour cocktail which was incredibly fruity and delightful. It tasted to me like peaches and cream and the entire group couldn't stop raving about how delicious it was!



It was accompanied by a tapas sharing plate of Betel Bites which was caramelised pork belly, cashew nuts, chilli and lime on a betel leaf. It was a sensational pop of flavour in your mouth and the perfect amount.


I was starting to feel the teensiest bit full prior so it was nice to switch things up a bit and enjoy a nice cocktail and small bite. The entire tour was very well paced and balanced.

As a side-note, I ended up coming back to the Tipsy Bull straight after the tour and enjoyed one of their G&T's!


Stop #5

Floating on a food cloud we were off to a Canberra favourite Akiba, an Asian-fusion restaurant with compelling food and cocktail menus. I loved their modernly designed interior and the atmosphere was noticeably great.

We got to pick a cocktail of our choice and try two different popular menu items. I ordered a passionfruit vodka that was refreshing and zingy.



To eat we enjoyed a moreish pulled beef bun with kimchi and peanut soy which was soft and exquisite, a very comforting food.


We also had their prawn and chicken dumplings with a ginger and black vinegar dressing.
They were light and delectable and the flavours shone through brilliantly.


It was a fantastic stop and I had some very enjoyable chats with the other members of the group.


Stop #6

Our final savoury stop of the day was at the delightful Sanya Bar, who specialises in authentic Beijing-fusion tapas and street food with an edge.

They also have an exciting cocktail menu of which we got to try Revolution. This was a delicious Beijing mule drink with vodka, peach liqueur, ginger beer, mint and lime with my favourite part - a pang of chilli.


Everyone really enjoyed the cocktail and the unique decor of the bar. Their artwork across the walls and even the ceiling was made up of tiny little tiles which is super cool.


On the menu for this stop, we got to try something we had all never tried before: Crispy Banana Chicken Wings. They were crunchy and tasty but it was quite strange to me having mashed banana with chicken; it was like it was both savoury and a dessert - so unusual!


Again, I really appreciated trying something I wouldn't normally pick off a menu and it's another little gem of a place that I will definitely come back to in the future.


Stop #7

Our final place to visit was the sweet and sensational Frugii Dessert Laboratory, the only non-chain dessert place in Canberra. Their products are made by them in-house and with all natural ingredients.

There is something to please everyone with ice cream, gelato and sorbet, chilled and frozen dessert, chocolate, drinks and caterings for any dietary requirements.

From the freezer, we got to try a selection of different flavours on the menu including Lemon Myrtle (probably my favourite one - absolute heaven!), Dark Chocolate, Black Currant, Vanilla Bean and Salted Caramel as well as some very interesting limited edition ones like Blue Cheese and even Bacon! We were also offered a Durian flavoured one but nobody was quite game enough.


They were all so creamy and delicious and the flavours really stood out. I'm pretty sure they are right up there with some of the best ice cream I have ever tried.

We also got to try the Hazelnut mousse choux accompanied with a squirt tube of Frangelico which was a-ma-zing.


This little dessert shop was the perfect place to finish and everyone was fantastically full and content after a brilliant afternoon eating our way around the highlights of Braddon.


The Details

The tour: Eat Canberra Braddon/City Walking Food Tour

Time: Starts at 1 PM and finishes around 5:30 PM

Price: $135 pp including all food and drink at 7+ stops

Reviews: 5/5 stars on Trip Advisor

Final Thoughts

I couldn't have imagined a better food tour, Eat Canberra ticked all the boxes and went above and beyond. We got to try such a great variety of incredible dishes and tastings and discovered a multitude of fantastic eateries. Each place visited was well thought out from start to finish, with prompt service and unique and exciting cuisine.

What made the tour all the more special was our amazing guide Amelia who is so talented and passionate about what she does.
She comes from a hospitality background, studied journalism and communications at University and has more than six years experience working in marketing, communications and events roles.
She combined her passions when she started Eat Canberra which she impressively runs all by herself while managing multiple side projects.

Her infectious enthusiasm and love for food shone through and she was a delightful host with a wealth of knowledge to share. At each place, Amelia interacted with each and every person and ensured everyone was having a great time.
All throughout the tour she stopped and pointed out recommended places along the way such as excellent Italian food, Indian, burgers and more. She also happily answered any questions we had about Canberra and the best places to eat.

As well as the Braddon Walking Food Tour, she also has a second Sweet Tooth Tour, especially for dessert-lovers! (I am so keen to join one day soon!).

Eat Canberra food tours are perfect for visitors and locals alike. It's a great way to be introduced to the city, for a special event or occasion, to discover more or show off what a fantastic place Canberra is for food-lovers.

I only wish I had done this tour sooner as I cannot wait to return to all of these foodie gems and hotspots again (and I sadly only have three weeks left here!).

Needless to say, I didn't even need to have dinner that night! The tour is excellent value for money with the diverse and generous servings included and all of the highest quality.
It was a fun and satisfying afternoon in great company and I highly recommend Eat Canberra to all.

Be sure to follow along on their Facebook and Instagram for the latest Canberra eatery news and events, drool-worthy pictures, tips, recipes, guides and major food inspiration.

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Pro tip: If you plan on doing one of Eat Canberra's tours (which you should), don't have breakfast and wear stretchy pants!

Happy Travels,

The Best Twelve Apostles and Great Ocean Road Tour


Last week I flew to Melbourne to tick off one of my big Bucket List goals here in Australia: to see the incredible Twelve Apostles and the scenic Great Ocean Road.

The Twelve Apostles were recently named in Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel as number 12 out of 500 of the top sights to see around the world - which is a pretty big deal!

Doing some research, I came across Go West Tours - who were voted this year as the number one Great Ocean Road tour and is Melbourne's most highly awarded tour operator.

They offered everything I was looking for on a memorable day trip with many top sights and stops along the way to the Twelve Apostles in an all-included day trip from Melbourne.

I had such a fantastic day on the tour and it lived up to my very high expectations! Read on to find out what we got up to on this remarkable 14-hour road trip.


All aboard & Torquay

I was warmly greeted and picked up bright and early at 7:20 am, right on time by the lovely tour guide Michelle. The mini-tour bus was already half full and we promptly whipped around town and picked up the rest of the passengers.
It was a full group that day but with the bus holding a maximum of 24 passengers, the group was relatively small and cosy.

Once all on board, Michelle gave us plenty of tour information and what to expect that day. She also entertained us with interesting facts about Melbourne as we drove out of the city centre.

About an hours drive away was our first stop at Torquay, a cute little surfy beach town at the very start of the Great Ocean Road. What's cool about Torquay is that it's the birthplace of the famous Australian surf brands Quicksilver and Rip Curl.


We spent half an hour there for morning tea. There were three types of yummy cake to choose from as well as tea, coffee and milo. We got to take our time and enjoy it on the beach watching the surfers which is something I love to do.



The Great Ocean Road

We were now on the Great Ocean Road, an Australian National Heritage that stretches 243 kilometres along the south-eastern coast of Australia.
Michelle told us about the history of the road and how it took 14 years to complete.
The 3000 men employed were ex-war servicemen from WW1, making it the longest war memorial.

We had a quick stop at Memorial Arch for a photo opportunity. It decided to bucket down with rain, only temporarily thank goodness.


We passed through some really cool beach towns such as Lorne, and amusingly Michelle played some Beach Boys tunes which put a smile on all of our faces!

The drive along the coastline was absolutely spectacular and it stretched on as far as the eye could see. Clear skies opened up for us and the water was a beautiful mixture of blues that literally sparkled. We had another quick stop for a photo at a stunning spot overlooking the water.




Lunch, Koalas and a Rainforest

It was now time for lunch and the chance for a bit of koala spotting! We stopped at Koala Kafe in Kennett River, where there are wild koalas that live in the area.
We got to pre-choose our lunch and a drink on the bus from a large selection of choices and when we arrived it was conveniently ready and waiting for us.


I opted for the fish burger and chips and it was very fresh, filling and tasty. We then had time to walk around and see one of Australia's most loved animals.
I managed to spot a couple of them sleeping at the tops of trees. There were also plenty of Australian native birds hanging out around the park.



We were treated to more beautiful coastal views stretching along the highway before making a quick pit stop at Apollo Bay. While the bus was being refuelled we got to look around the local information centre where I picked up a few souvenirs for the trip (I love to collect fridge magnets and postcards).

It was time to leave the Great Ocean Road for now and head more inland to our next stop.
We went for a lovely twenty-minute rainforest walk called Mait's Rest, located in the Great Otway National Park. It was a very cool contrast from the rest of the sights we were seeing that day.


It was so lush and green and also very nice to have a walk after that lunch! The native wildlife was beautiful, it reminded me of where I'm from in New Zealand.

Next, we got to sit back and relax as it was an hours drive to the next but most anticipated stop:


The Twelve Apostles

We were dropped off at the Twelve Apostles Visitor's Centre and eagerly followed the signed pathway leading to different lookout points and viewing platforms.



The iconic Twelve Apostles are magnificent limestone rock stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park. They tower 45 metres above the Southern Ocean on Victoria's dramatic coastline.



We got to spend a full forty-five minutes here so there was plenty of time to really soak in the surroundings and enjoy the incredible formations that have been there for 6000 years.
Since their discovery, only eight now remain due to erosion and the forces of nature. The most recent one collapsed in 2005.


It was extremely windy and being a very popular tourist attraction there were quite a lot of people around but that didn't spoil the atmosphere at all. There was still plenty of chances to get your photograph taken with no one else in the shot.

They are a truly wondrous sight and I absolutely loved seeing them in real life. Big bucket list tick!


Gibson's Steps & Loch Ard Gorge

Next up, we were dropped off at the nearby Gibson's Steps which led to a beautiful beach to see two of the apostles from ground level.


It was pretty special to see them from a different perspective.


Our final stop along the Great Ocean Road was Lock Ard Gorge, and Michelle told us this was her favourite of all the stops. She told us a historical story first about a famous shipwreck here in 1878.



The picturesque gorge is home to a beautiful bay with clear, blue water and it is absolutely breathtaking. There are three easy walks you can do to see the area's natural treasures and the gorge from different views, including walking down to the hidden beach.



It was incredible to see these natural rock formations and the power of nature up close.
There are detailed signs along the walks that share the fascinating stories about the area's history, geology and natural features.


I couldn't believe it was 5 pm already - the day went so fast, probably because it was so enjoyable! It was time to head back towards Melbourne, stopping for a bite to eat in a small country town along the way.

We got to witness a beautiful Victorian sunset out of the window and see the Melbourne city lights come to life before we were each dropped off home at the end of a long but very excellent day.


The Details

Tour: Great Ocean Road Day Tour

Times: Pickups are between 7 - 8 am, drop-offs are between 8:30 - 9:30 pm

Dates: The tour runs daily

Reviews: 4.5/5 stars from 1910 reviews and a certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor.

Price: $130 pp, including pick up, drop-off, morning tea and lunch.




Final Thoughts

I honestly couldn't have enjoyed the Great Ocean Road tour more. The entire day was very well organised, well thought out and executed.

What made the tour all the more special was our guide Michelle, who was an absolute star. She remembered every single person's name, which was very impressive and interacted with everyone all throughout the day. She was enthusiastic, approachable and demonstrated great safe driving.

Go West has been taking guests on tour since 2000 and are clearly leading experts in their field. I can imagine all of their guides, not just Michelle, are professional, warm and friendly, showcasing true blue Aussie hospitality.

There was a large range of people on board from all around the world, from couples, a family, friends to solo travellers like me. One couple from Brazil was even on their honeymoon!

Even though you do spend many hours sitting down travelling, there are plenty of opportunities well spaced out to walk and properly stretch your legs; it didn't even seem like we were stuck on a bus for that long!

Go West offer a number of fantastic tours from Melbourne and I would have loved to do them all if I had the time (especially their Yarra Valley food and wine tour).

Driving right alongside the scenic Great Ocean Road and seeing the Twelve Apostles and other natural wonders was a huge highlight of my time here in Australia and an unforgettable experience. I highly recommend Go West to everyone!

If you would like to see a bit more I made a short travel vlog from my day trip for YouTube:




Hands up who has now put the Twelve Apostles on their bucket list??

Happy Travels,
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Melbourne: Street Art and Graffiti Chronicles


The second most populous urban area in Australia, Melbourne is an incredibly cool cosmopolitan city. It is a melting pot of cultures, has a vibrant cafe and food scene, grand architecture of old and new and has a strong sporting, university and arts culture.

Melbourne is very well-known for its laneways full of impressive street art and graffiti. While some may not appreciate it as art, I think these artists are incredibly talented and many pieces tell a story or message.

I thoroughly enjoyed wandering the streets and stumbling upon alley after alleyway of colourful and interesting works of art.

Below is a collection of my favourites, found mostly around Hosier Lane, Acdc Lane, Market Lane, Stevenson Lane and Duckboard Place.




























































Do you like street art and do you know of any other cool cities around the world that also shares a passion for it?

Happy Travels,
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Incredible Canberra Winery Tour with Vines & Wines


Being based in Canberra - the capital of Australia this year, one of the things I was most excited to do in the area was indulge in the surrounding award-winning wineries.
The Canberra District Wine Region is home to 140 vineyards and over 30 cellar doors, creating distinct top quality Australian wines.

My husband and I wanted to jump on board a proper wine tour, one where we can learn all about and be expertly shown around some of the very best wineries Canberra has to offer, with transportation and a nice lunch included.

Vines & Wines is a leading Canberra Wine Tour group that was exactly what we were looking for in a perfect day out of wine-tasting.
They handpick their favourite wineries in the region to visit, all of which showcase fabulous wine and warm Australian hospitality.

Here is what we got up to on their Lake George Uncorked Tour:


Winery #1: Mount Majura Vineyard

We were warmly greeted on Saturday morning and picked up directly from our house at 9:45 am by Elouise, the lovely owner and our guide for the day.

There were three other local girls on the tour so it was a nice and small cosy group.
In the van, we were handed the day's itinerary with our schedule and information about each winery we were going to.

Elouise gave us an overview of the Canberra wine region as we drove to our first stop, which was less than ten minutes from where I lived.

Mount Majura Vineyard was one I had been meaning to visit all year! The outdoor area at the foot of the vineyard was beautiful, filled with seating that would be perfect for wine tasting on a warm day and enjoying one of their delicious cheese and regional tasting plates on offer.


We headed inside to the tasting room where there was a table already set up for us.
They have an impressive range to try, from sparkling wine and dry whites to reds and dessert wines. There was a sheet provided with tasting notes and we learned a lot about the differences between each kind.


We tried a total of 13 different wines! They particularly specialise in Spanish varieties such as Tempranillo. There was not a single wine I didn't like and my husband and I happily walked away with a couple of bottles to take home. I know we will certainly be back for more and to try their platters next time!



Winery #2: Contentious Character

Our next stop was about a twenty-minute drive away, out further in the countryside.
Elouise taught us a bit more about the region on the way, and how Canberra has a perfect cool climate for wine-making. This is because they have a much longer season (about six weeks) than other regions, due to having warm days but cooler nights, which leads to more developed flavours.

We arrived at Contentious Character Vineyard, which is set in the hills with a spectacular view. The stunning scenery can even be enjoyed from inside the large and open tasting room and restaurant.


Our group stood at the counter to sample 13 more delicious wines, from whites and rosé to reds. They were very different from the last vineyard; each winery has their own distinct characters and skills, along with different elemental properties and terroirs.

It was now lunch time which we were all very excited about. We got to pick our favourite wine we tasted to have a glass with our two-course lunch.
The main course was a selection of shared plates, which each and every one of was divine.
The artisanal bread, in particular, was seriously the best bread I have had in the southern hemisphere.


We also enjoyed fresh lamb ragu pasta, a smoked ham hock salad, a beetroot, feta and walnut risotto (incredible!) and a chicken and roasted vegetable dish. 
All incorporated gentle notes of their own wines which complimented and brought out the flavours.
I chose the 2015 Pinot Gris to go with my lunch and it was a stand-out meal for me during my time here in Australia. I was extremely impressed by the freshness, quality and flavours of every dish and I am already planning my next visit back!



To cap it all off we had a choice of two desserts and everyone in the group chose the brown sugar blondie with salted caramel ice cream. It was very sweet and decadent!


Contentious Character was probably my favourite vineyard of the day, the surroundings were gorgeous, the food and wine were fabulous and it had a great atmosphere, full of people enjoying a fun Saturday outing.



Winery #3: Summerhill Road Vineyard

We slipped into a bit of a food coma on the way to our next stop, Summerhill Road Vineyard. Owned by a couple following their dreams of buying a vineyard, we were lucky enough to be able to sample their wines outside amongst the vines which was a really cool experience.


I loved their story of the past owners giving them their tractor and dog to seal the deal, which is now a part of their label. The vineyard produces Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir which are all handpicked. My husband and I especially loved their 2017 Riesling.



Winery #4: Gundog Estate

Last but not least, Gundog Estate Cork Street Cellar was our final stop of the day in the small quaint town of Gundaroo. We sat on stools around the tasting station in the historic stables, turned boutique winery.


The girls indulged in a shared locally sourced cheese platter which looked amazing.
If I wasn't still so full from lunch I would have loved to try some too. Gundog Estate produces a large range of wines from Semillon, Riesling and Rosé to Shiraz.


I particularly loved their dessert wine NV Muscat which tasted like Christmas in a bottle!
As well as wine tastings and platters, they have a gourmet pantry selling local products that are perfect accompaniments for their wine.


Sadly, our tour had come to an end, and we were dropped off at home at around 4:30 pm after an excellent day out, our arms hugging a box of delicious local mementoes to fill our now, not so empty wine rack.


The Details

Tour: Vines & Wines Lake George Uncorked Tour (they also run a second tour called Murrembateman Uncorked).

Times: Pick up time can be between 8:30 - 10 am depending on where you live and drop off is between 4 - 5:30 pm.

Dates: Tours run every second Saturday or more, depending on demand.

Reviews: 5/5 stars on Trip Advisor.

Price: $165 per person, which includes all tastings, transportation, two-course lunch with a glass of wine and a friendly expert guide.




Final Thoughts

My husband and I both had a fantastic time on our tour and it was my favourite day I've had in Canberra this year. Elouise was the perfect host and guide, she was always happy to have a chat, answer any questions and share her knowledge.
She and her husband have been running Vines & Wines for three years and the passion for what they do really shone through.

The whole day was extremely well organised and each stop was highly enjoyable.
I loved how different all four wineries were from each other and they offered a good variety of tastings. As well as having a guaranteed good time it is also a great educational experience (if you want it to be!).

Vines & Wines Winery Tours are perfect for everyone from the wine novice to the serious connoisseur. It is ideal for all occasions from a couple new to the area wanting to explore the beautiful Canberra winery region (like us), to a fun outing with friends, be it a birthday or hen's party, or simply an enjoyable Saturday out, filled with top quality wines and a delectable lunch.

I couldn't recommend this tour more if you are passing by the capital of Australia, it's one not to be missed!

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Happy Travels,

A fun weekend in Sydney! Photo Diary


I had a splendid weekend with my partner in crime in Sydney catching a show, sightseeing and enjoying delicious food. I also got the chance to play with my new camera - the Sony RX 100 iv, so below is a mixture of photos from that and my S7 phone, as well as a little vlog I have already made for YouTube.
This was our third trip to Sydney already this year, except the last two times were just for specific things on that evening (a Puscifer and a Guns N Roses concert) and we didn't actually get to see much of the city.

This time we were going for Aladdin the musical on Broadway and we decided to stay for a couple of nights so this time we could actually enjoy some sights! (Hey that rhymed).
It had been five years since our first trip together to Sydney (and our very first overseas trip as a couple!) and I was determined to see again the magnificent Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, St Mary's Cathedral and explore the largest city in Australia some more.

Coming from Canberra, this time we decided to catch the bus, as the previous times we had driven and found it to be quite a nightmare. The traffic and driving around the city centre is rather terrible and as we were staying at an Airbnb, parking costs as well would have been through the roof. We went with Murrays Coachlines which was not badly priced and it was a pleasant enough journey (it still took four hours though because of the traffic).

Managed to catch a snippet of sunset from our Airbnb balcony
We arrived at around 6 pm on Friday evening and it was a 20-minute minute walk from the central train and bus station to Darlinghurst where we were staying.
After dropping our things at our Airbnb we ventured out for a much-needed beer or three in the Kings Cross area.


At around 9 pm we headed to Potts Point to Fratelli Paradiso which was an Italian restaurant recommended by our AirBnB host. It was very busy but after a short wait (another beer) they managed to squeeze us in. Highly recommended if you are in the area, the food was exquisite and not badly priced. I had the Tagliolini pasta dish and we shared a tiramisu for dessert.

Not the best picture - but I assure you it was delicious!
After good food and a bottle of red, we had one last nightcap at a bar before venturing back at around 1 am.

The El-Alamein Memorial Fountain
Despite a late night, we were up bright and early for a full day of adventuring ahead.
We had a most excellent brunch that kept us going for the rest of the day at a lovely little Italian cafe down the road Cafe & Cucina.



We had a big Italian-style breakfast each which was delicious (and needed). Their coffees were perfection and they also made fresh pasta dishes and their front cabinet was full of pastries, sandwiches and Italian treats - I would absolutely be there every weekend if I lived in the area!
Fueled, we headed towards the harbour, about a half hour walk away. We stopped briefly at St Mary's Cathedral for a peek inside which was at the halfway point.

The Westfield Tower




Next we powered on to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge which were just as impressive as ever. This time we actually went for a small look inside the Opera House where there is a gift shop and cafe. I would love to see a show in there and do a proper tour some day.










We then walked around to the other side of the harbour to The Rocks Market which is a great little market on every weekend. We browsed through the stalls before walking back towards the city centre.
After a stop in Dymocks and Topshop (where I fell in love with some shoes and have since purchased them) we headed back to our accommodation for a couple of hours rest.

Queen Victoria Building
Beautiful fountain in Hyde Park
Walking past St Mary's again
Once our legs had recovered we got ready to head out once more for the evening.
We enjoyed a couple of beers before finding a dinner spot before the show.

We passed the Capitol Theatre where the show is held along the way
We headed to Chinatown and stumbled upon this popular Korean BBQ restaurant Yang San Park. We ordered a mixed meat platter and a seafood pancake to share and it was so incredibly tasty. The service as well was great and by the time we left there was a long line to get in! Definitely a must-visit if you get the chance and you like Korean food.



At 8 pm it was show time! It was very musical - a lot of singing and dancing and the actors were very good. They turned it into more of a modern day comedy so it was quite entertaining.


We were both knackered after the show so we pretty much walked straight back and went to bed! On Sunday our bus home was departing at 12 pm so we were all packed up and headed out by 10 am.
We stopped for a nice breakfast at Basket Brothers where I indulged in French toast with dark chocolate, maple syrup and strawberries. Aside from being obviously very sweet - it was actually so very delicious! I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing.


That brings us to the end of our weekend adventure in Sydney. I hope you enjoyed the photos and little snippets of what we got up to.
I'm heading back again for the fourth time this year in April - so by the end of the year, I'm sure I will be more of an expert! Eventually, I will make a travel guide and top places to eat type of post once I collect more information and become more knowledgeable.

Here is the video I made for my YouTube channel if you would like to watch it:



Happy Travels,
Pin it! :)

Hotel & Wedding Destination Review: Pacific Resort Rarotonga


I can't believe it has already been three months since I got married in Rarotonga!
The time certainly has flown by, I can imagine it will be one year before I know it.

It was about time I wrote about the wonderful Pacific Resort, who made our wedding day and the months leading up to it such a breeze, as they took care of absolutely everything.
The communication, special touches and their experience all made them the perfect choice as a wedding venue (as well as a fabulous resort to stay at) and I couldn't recommend them more if you are looking at having a tropical destination wedding yourself.
It really was the ultimate dream wedding location and my now husband and I couldn't be happier that we chose to have it with them.

I have already written a post on How to plan a Destination Wedding: My Experience which goes into more detail about why we chose Rarotonga to get married in and Pacific Resort as a venue and all the details that go along with planning.

I'll begin with details of the hotel, and it is in my opinion probably one of the very best you can stay at on Muri Beach, before moving on to it as a wedding venue.


Pacific Resort: First Impressions

We arrived late in the evening and although there were five or so couples from the same flight as us checking in at the same time, it was a very quick and painless process.
The friendly porter took our bags for us and showed us to our room. The lush pathway was well lit with flaming torches and I already knew I was going to love the place.
It was 10:30 pm when we arrived at our room (which was huge and looked amazing) and we quickly realised there was no room service available which we were counting on. We hadn’t eaten on the plane as it wasn’t included and we were planning on having dinner once we arrived (as it was still 6:30 pm Australian time we were on).
But as it was a Sunday, there was absolutely nothing open on the island- no hot food to be found or even a packet of chips or peanuts around the hotel. So sadly we went to bed rather hungry, but they did have a drinks fridge in the lobby, so we had two beers each first- which I’m not sure helped or not! Never mind, we were very much looking forward to our breakfast the next day. It was completely our own fault for not realising how late we would be arriving and not travelling with snacks!

In the morning we woke up to the stunning views of crystal clear aqua waters from our room. After a delicious continental breakfast we checked out the pool area and walked around the gorgeous resort. The frangipani and palm trees and tropical vegetation gave it such a relaxing and luxurious feel. The beachfront and lagoon views were so incredible!
I couldn't get over the colour of the water. We were so ecstatic to be there.

The welcoming entrance
The muesli, yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast was the best!
Stand-up paddleboards and kayaks to use at your leisure
The beachfront Barefoot Bar
Tranquil sunset from the beachfront

The Room

As it was our wedding we splashed out and booked the Beachfront Suite which was an incredible room with a dream view. Located on the first floor right on the beach, it had all the facilities you could want for. To the right of the main door was a kitchenette with cooking facilities and the modern bathroom leading after that was kitted out with fresh flowers and complimentary toiletries.
Ahead was a wide open-plan space with a super king bed, a desk and chair, sofas and table. Our favourite feature of the suite was our own personal balcony, which had two chairs and a small table and comfortable bean bag sofas to relax on. That's where we spent most of our time when we were in the room because the views were so stunning- I wanted to soak it all in and enjoy it for as long as I could.
Also included in the room was air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a safe and a large wardrobe with fluffy bathrobes and slippers. The only thing it didn't have was free WIFI- and that's because you cannot find free WIFI anywhere on the whole island. (We purchased a local sim-card pre-loaded with data upon arrival at the airport).

Relaxing on the balcony!
Amazing balmy views
The Beachfront Suite room (picture by Pacific Resort as I forgot to take one myself!)

Beyond the Room

Pacific Resort offered many facilities and activities free of charge. At the Beach Club you can use snorkelling equipment, kayaks and stand up paddle boards as you please.
You can swim or kayak across the lagoon to the Motu (island) ahead and visit there.
On the beachfront you can find loungers, sun umbrellas and beanbags to relax and catch some rays.
They have a Kids Club that runs daily, a nice pool where you can find fresh clean drinking water. Their Sandals Restaurant and Barefoot Bar are both excellent and even visitors that are not guests of the resort come to eat and drink here because they have delicious food and a great reputation.
Located directly across the road is the Pacific Village Salon which offers hair, beauty and spa services (where I went on my wedding day and got my nails done prior too).
There is a convenience store two minutes walk up the road as well as the Muri Night Markets and other shops and places to eat; Pacific Resort is in an excellent location.
To get around the island you can hire a scooter at the resort or the local bus that goes around the island twice an hour stops directly at the resort as well.

Enjoying a spot of snorkelling and kayaking
Enjoying the tranquil views on the beachfront
The pool (photo again by Pacific Resort as I forgot to take one myself...)

Fantastic Staff

Every single member of staff we encountered was highly professional, warm and friendly and made our stay that little more special. Everyone you passed around the resort greeted you with a friendly smile and "Kia Orana."

There are a few special people in particular I would like to mention. Veronica- the Wedding & Events Sales Agent, was our first point of contact in the months leading up to the wedding and helped us to organise and plan everything. As well as the numerous emails back and forth, we had two skype calls with her and she always made us feel so at ease and took care of every request. She answered all of our questions and made the wedding planning process so smooth. We were constantly changing our minds about things in the lead-up and she didn't mind at all! She was wonderful to work with.

Leilani- the Operations Coordinator, was who we met with at Pacific Resort. We had a pre-wedding day consultation with her and she showed us around the property to the ceremony and reception locations and ran through the schedule. She also took us to the Justice office for the marriage licence, to the florist and to meet with our celebrant. 
Leilani was so lovely and made us feel very confident that our day was going to be amazing. She was even the one to come get me when the time had come and I was to walk down the aisle, and she was there for most of the reception as well, making sure everything was running without a hitch. We didn't even notice her there to be honest- she was like an angel in the background!

A couple of bartenders get a special mention too- Rupene who worked our wedding was incredibly friendly and I loved his smile. He also did very generous pours! Aside from that night, he was just as lovely during the rest of our stay too, always chatting to us.
Anal also went out of his way to make our stay extra great, as did the matrie d' who unfortunately I didn't get her name.

Other special touches from the staff included a lovely surprise gift the day after the wedding.
On our final night we asked the reception staff if we could have a late checkout the next day as we had a late night flight. It normally costs an extra $250 but they waived it for us- special treatment for the wedding couple I guess! We got to stay in our room until 6 pm and we were very grateful for that.

Our lovely gift included a sun hat, sarong, bottle of wine and flowers

Lead up to the wedding

I go into more detail about the planning process in my previous wedding post linked above in the first paragraph, and once we arrived in Rarotonga all of the extra things needed to be done were taken care of spread out over the space of a couple of days.
Meeting with the coordinator, being walked through the locations, sorting the marriage licence, choosing our flowers, going through and changing our vows with the celebrant- it was all simple and hassle-free.
I had made gift bags for the guests and we handed them and the seating plan over the day before the wedding to take care of. They set up, decorated and arranged everything themselves- it was all included in the package. It was such a weight off and so nice not having to worry about doing that myself!

Getting our marriage licence

On the big day

The day did go fast- I think that is unavoidable! But it was a very enjoyable one and certainly one of the best days of my life.
In the morning we had breakfast at the restaurant as usual and then went our separate ways. Luckily Gareth's dad was also staying at the resort so he met up with him and his best man there in his room and they went to lunch and got ready together in the afternoon.
My maid of honour joined me and we went together to the salon across the road. We started on our hair and makeup (with some obligatory champers!) and an hour later my two sisters and mum who were also getting their hair and makeup done there also joined us.


I was very pleased with my hair. It was simple, delicate and pretty, which was exactly what I wanted. However, to be honest I wasn't too impressed with my makeup.
I didn't get a trial done so it was my own fault really. I wanted a really natural, pretty and glowy look, but I didn't feel that after my makeup was done. I had to ask for my eyebrows to be washed off (as I felt I looked like Mr Bean with those eyebrows!). They were just too bold and dark for my liking- I wasn't used to it. She also went for a very strong smoky eye which was too dark and quite messy. I took most of it off back in my room. I also added some extra touches that I thought she would have done- such as mascara on my bottom lashes, white eyeliner and highlights. It was a bit disappointing because it did cost a lot of money and I even had to pay extra just for being the bride.
But I was very happy with my hair, I was able to fix my makeup and everyone else's hair and makeup looked really good on them, so I'm glad about that. I would still recommend them. The ladies that worked on us were very friendly and did try their best for what we wanted- I would just strongly suggest doing a trial first if you're the bride.

After the salon we had an hour or so to finish getting ready in my room. When we arrived our beautiful freshly-made bouquets were waiting for us.



After squeezing into my dress and walking in circles with my bestie, the time had come and Leilani came and fetched us! I was a bundle of nerves by then. (Not about getting married- it was more the other people there that would be staring at me- I'm not the centre of attention kinda gal).
Apart from thinking to myself "Don't trip" and "Suck in" I also noticed the path I was walking down was so beautiful and perfectly groomed. There were fresh flower petals scattered everywhere and flower posts leading my way up to the guests waiting at the beachfront location. It was so pretty!



I joined Gareth and the rest of the bridal party under the beautiful handmade floral archway and the rest of the ceremony was a blur! As soon as it ended we were immediately presented with a drink (which I needed and gladly took).


We had group photos taken on the beach before heading to the reception area. The string band was sitting just outside the marquee and they sounded so lovely- we are very glad to have chosen that as an extra. It really added to the tropical and laid back vibe we were hoping for.



The bar was open and platters of food were being served around. The tables were so wonderfully decorated. It far exceeded my expectations and I was so grateful they took care of everything themselves.

This was only half of the marquee area. To the left was the bar, DJ area and plenty of space for a dance floor


The enormous cake that we ordered through Pacific Resort's supplier was such a stunning centre piece! I accidentally chose the largest size and it was much bigger than I thought- but it did look very impressive (and tasted amazing too).



There was a large lawn area for the guests to hang around outside the marquee as well.
The whole reception area was very large and private from the rest of the resort which was just perfect.

Gareth and I were then whisked away to do some location shots with the photographer.
We were given a bucket of beer on ice and a platter of food to take with us which was so very thoughtful and welcome (as I hadn't eaten lunch except for a banana and it was about 5 pm by then).
Our photographer Melanie Cooper, also originally from New Zealand was so easy breezy and wonderful to work with. Highly recommended if you are in need of a photographer in Rarotonga. I'm still waiting for the wedding photos, but I'm sure I'll get them soon.

Then it was reception time! The string band had finished and our playlist we created had begun (starting with easy going music). I was immediately asked and given a drink of my choosing by Rupete, the lovely barman.

My seat and a much-needed mojito
We had our speeches and then it was time for dinner. We had selected the gourmet buffet option which was beautifully presented in a large canoe. The food was better than we could have hoped for- it was all so fresh and very delicious. They catered for all of the different requirements we asked for (some gluten and dairy free etc.) without a problem. Everyone told us they loved the food- and there was so much of it! The dessert as well was perfect and we were so happy and satisfied.
The bartender all night long was awesome and smiley- he had great customer service and made us whatever we wanted.
The rest of the night was party time where we cranked the music, danced and enjoyed the evening. I loved the fairy lights hanging off the sides of the marquee which made an excellent backdrop for photos.
Unfortunately the music had to stop by 10:30 pm which we found quite early. But to be frank a lot of people said it was a good thing because things could have gotten messy!
I suppose with an open bar since 4 pm there were a few merry people by that stage.
It had been such a wonderful day and Pacific Resort helped make it truly epic.


Tips

Do have skype calls and ask any questions you have in the lead up to arriving. They have the answer to everything and want your day to be as amazing and special as you do, and will try their very best to make it happen.

Don't bother with sky lanterns- it's usually windy and didn't work for us! We tried to finish the evening with them as a surprise but it was quite a fail.

I would highly recommend you don't book one of the drinks packages which are very expensive- just have an open bar. We literally saved thousands of dollars this way.

Get a trial makeup done prior to the day if you're the bride!

You have to try the Ika Mata (Rarotongan raw fish salad) at Pacific Resort- best I had on the island! For other recommendations of places to eat and food to try I have a post on: Best Places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga.

Make the most of the happy hours twice a day. The cocktails and local beer are delicious!



The Details

Hotel: Pacific Resort Rarotonga

Location: Muri Beach, Ngatangiia District, Cook Islands

Reviews: Certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor with 4.5/5 stars out of 1,044 reviews.

Price: Depends on the time of year but Standard Studio Rooms start at $200 NZD a night. For wedding packages and prices download their Wedding Pack.





Final Thoughts

I honestly can't thank Pacific Resort enough for everything they did to make our wedding day as incredible as we could have possibly imagined. Gareth and I couldn't stop gushing about how happy we were and that our guests had told us they really enjoyed it too, which was exactly what we wanted- especially as they had come all that way just for us.

We were so glad we chose to have a destination wedding, as it was only our closest friends and family that came which I think made it so much more enjoyable and special for us.
It was more personal, completely stress-free and quite simply- easy. I'm not the kind of girl to plan a wedding myself. I haven't been dreaming of it since I was a little girl. So having professionals take care of it all for me and all I had to do was chose where, when, what food and entertainment I wanted (okay it was a little more work than that, but you know what I mean)- it was just perfect.

Again, if you are looking at a destination wedding yourself- I couldn't recommend them warmly enough. Even if you aren't getting married and want to stay in a fantastic resort in Rarotonga, for a special occasion or just to treat yourself- your stay will be one you will never forget. Their genuine friendliness, hospitality, little extras as well as being in a stunning location all make for the perfect beach getaway.
Our time there was absolutely magical and if I had to go back and do it all again- without a doubt it would be at Pacific Resort. That's how you know you made the right decision!


If you would like to see more photos from my trip check out my travel diary post and I also made a video for YouTube from my incredible week there:



I hope you found this hotel and wedding destination review helpful.
Please get in touch or let me know in the comments if you have any questions at all about getting married in the Cook Islands.
Rarotonga is such a paradise and we were incredibly sad to leave. We absolutely cannot wait to return and stay again with the amazing Pacific Resort.

This post is not sponsored; it is as always my genuine thoughts and opinions.

Happy Travels,
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Rarotonga Travel Diary in pictures


Hey all,

Unfortunately with such a small window between the Cook Islands and my next trip to Vietnam (tomorrow morning), I just haven't had the time to write up my promised Rarotonga Travel Diary. 
I do however have many notes from my trip so I will be editing this post in the future into the proper intended travel diary, much like my last one from Bali. For now- here is my week in Rarotonga in pictures!
I have had time to write my previous post: Best Places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga and make my travel vlog for YouTube which you can watch here if you're interested:


I hope you enjoy the photos anyway and can get the gist of my time there-- which was incredible! I had the most amazing week and not just because I got to marry my favourite person in the world!
Rarotonga is such a beautiful island, the people are so friendly, the food, culture, the atmosphere, The Pacific Resort where we stayed and got married was the ultimate dream wedding location- everything was just fantastic and I really cannot wait for the day I get to return to the Cook Islands!

In order, here is my travel diary in pictures:

A warm welcome late on Sunday evening

Monday 21st November

The incredible view from our room at The Pacific Resort
Feeling relaxed!

The beautiful beach-front



Enjoying many a cocktail!


Tuesday 22nd November

We got to see a traditional serenade for the opening of an international boat race

Hopping aboard Koka Lagoon Cruises for my hens day!

My sister sorted me out with the usual get-ups!

Cool glass bottom boat

My maid of honour and I

My bestest friends

Fetching us some coconuts!

The whole girls group

Sister shot

...

Wednesday 23rd November

Gareth walking to his doom ;)

Beautiful nature in the Pacific Resort

A cool sign next to our lunch spot that day

Can't get over that blue lagoon!

My last cocktail as a spinster!

Thursday 24th November

The big day! I took some shots in the morning

The boys cufflinks :D

My jewellery

Getting ready with champers!

Loved my hair!

Where I walked through- so pretty!

The gorgeous hand-made archway for us

Mr & Mrs

Bouquet goals :D

Reception area

Amazing cake!

Really good string band

My seat and a much needed mojito after hours of photos!

Enjoying the night!

Friday 25th November

The nest day... burgers for breakfast!

A lovely wedding gift from The Pacific Resort

Enjoying the local brews!

We went to Highlands Paradise for a buffet dinner and cultural dance show

Shot with some of the talent

Saturday 26th November

Spot of canoeing

And snorkelling!

Unfortunately my camera died after this so I didn't get any fish shots!

Dinner at Sandals, this was the best Ika Mata (local dish of raw fish salad) I tried!

Sunday 27th November

Exploring the island

Loving the Nu! (Fresh baby coconut) 

Best fish sandwiches on the island at The Moorings

After lunch I bussed around the entire island enjoing the views (it only takes one hour).

Relaxed a little on the beach before having to pack our bags

One last dinner and dessert at the nearby Muri Night Market

A final beer and sunset on the beach before out late night flight home

I'm off next to Vietnam for two weeks so I will be away from here until then.
Stay tuned for my proper Rarotonga Travel Diary, my hotel and wedding destination review of The Pacific Resort and of course plenty of Vietnam blog posts!
I'm looking forward to jumping back into writing when I return, but for now- happy December and catch you next time!
Right... time to go pack!

Best Places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga



I'm back fresh from my week in Rarotonga and I couldn't wait to start writing. As well as a travel diary and hotel review - one thing I particularly wanted to write about was the food!
I am starting 'Food'/ 'Best Places to Eat' as a new category on my blog as I am such a big foodie and I always love reading other people's suggestions of where to eat too.

As I was so busy with wedding stuff most of the time I only ate around Muri which is the area I was staying in, but I was more than happy with that. Every single meal was so good it surprised me! Food is a big part of Cook Island culture and that was reflected everywhere by being readily available, fresh, tasty and lovingly prepared.

Muri is one of the top places to stay in Rarotonga - with a stunning crystal clear aqua lagoon hugging the white sandy beach, many great accommodation options, activities and of course a fantastic selection of restaurant and cafe choices!
Here are my top picks around Muri, Rarotonga for the best places to eat:


The Pacific Resort

I'll start with The Pacific Resort, where I was staying at as I ate there quite a lot.
I have to also quickly mention their cocktails which were so good and always beautifully presented, giving that ultra tropical holiday vibe.


'Barefoot Bar' is located right on the beach and you can enjoy a range of different drinks with a superb view.
They have two happy hours a day which is well worth using to cut down those costs.
They go from 4 - 5 pm and 8:30 - 9:30 pm. Certain cocktails go for $10 and beers come down to $5 (both almost half price).
I must also mention they did the best flat whites (coffee) we could find and had one there every day.

A mai tai and pineapple mojito at the Pacific Resort

'Sandals' is their restaurant and like the bar, you don't have to be a guest to eat there, but bookings are recommended.
My very first dinner there I ordered the 'Fish of the Day'- and I think that was the best fish I've ever had in my life! (I'm going to mention fish quite a lot in this post because it's their top local food and OH so good!).
It was Yellow Fin Tuna which I had grilled and it was per-fec-tion. It came with a nice fresh salad and you could choose any other side you wanted with it, I had the roasted vegetables. Everything was fantastic - I devoured it! For $28 NZD it was really great. (I didn't take a picture of it as I was eating with my family and forgot).
Sandals is an open-aired restaurant overlooking a stream, lit with candles and has a live musician every night which all made for a beautiful setting and a very pleasant evening.

Later in the week, we decided to have dinner there again as it was pouring with rain and we didn't want to venture too far. We hadn't booked and they were full up, but they let us eat at the bar which was fine as it was still a nice table but with a view overlooking the beach.
Three of us shared a main sized Ika Mata for our entree.
By then we had tried Ika Mata a few times before (Rarotongan raw fish salad) and loved it - but we discovered the Pacific Resort was the absolute master of it. It was so incredibly zingy, tasty and fresh - we were fighting over it at the end! It also came with a side of crispy taro chips - another local fave.

Ika Mata
As my main, I had the 'Chef's Special' which was a sizzling hot plate of fish and vegetables. Again, it was cooked so well and the coconuty sauce on top was so creamy and delicious.
The fish changes daily depending on their catch of the day - this one was Parrot Fish.
This was their most expensive dish at $35 NZD, and I was more than happy with it.

Chef's special
The Pacific Resort also catered for our wedding reception and everyone told us they loved the food.
We chose to have a gourmet buffet and selected from a range of food options which all were perfectly cooked, delicious and there was also a very large amount of it.
The staff at the Pacific Resort always went out of their way for any minor request, their service was impeccable and I have now written a glowing review of my stay and wedding there if you're interested. Their genuine friendliness and kindness made our week there all the more better.


Vili's Burgers

Just down the road from the Pacific Resort in the heart of Muri is Vili's!
We heard numerous times from locals that this place has the best burgers on the island and is "the McDonalds of Rarotonga"- quoted by my wedding coordinator!
I didn't get a chance to eat there until Friday, the day after the wedding and we went there for breakfast/brunch. (Gareth - now husband - ate there three days in a row).


There is a good range of burger choices available - I chose the 'Tamatoa' for $13 NZD which had a beef patty, bacon, egg, cheese, beetroot, tomato, lettuce and their special secret sauce.


It was absolutely massive! Definitely the biggest burger I've ever had (I've never been to America) and it was also the best! It was so juicy it was literally dripping down my arm (so attractive). I ate almost the whole thing and it certainly kept me full until dinner time - it was just incredible.
I had the same thing again the next day for lunch - except I went halves with my bestie cause I definitely couldn't eat a whole one again.
Highly recommended if you're in Muri and you like your burgers. They are open from 11:30 am - 9 pm every day except Mondays.

Tamatoa burger at Vili's

Muri Night Markets

The night markets in Muri originally started out on Thursday nights to cater for tourists and became so popular it has expanded to now every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evening.
They have a great selection of local food stalls with main dishes, snacks, desserts, drinks and there is something for everyone.


Gareth and I ate there twice, the first time we shared Ika Mata, a fish curry and crispy spring rolls.
The second time we shared a chicken rukau with rice (a local dish - leaves of taro - similar to spinach) and finished with a crunchie cheesecake. Everything was so good!
The portions tend to be enormous so I would recommend sharing if you can.
The markets are always brimming with people but there are plenty of tables and chairs in the centre under a shelter to sit down and for if and when it rains.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually quieter with fewer stalls, and Thursdays and Sundays offer a greater selection with live music playing to add to the great atmosphere.
The markets start from 5:30 pm so get in quick if you want something in particular - the most popular foods get sold out pretty quick!

Chicken rukau
Crunchie cheesecake
The Mooring

Another place we had heard from two different locals for the "best fish sandwiches on the island" was The Mooring Fish Cafe. We saw it was only a 15-minute walk from the Pacific Resort so we ventured there for lunch on our final day.
It's an outdoor cafe where you sit at picnic tables and enjoy the lagoon view. As it was a Sunday it was full of local people all dressed up in their Sunday-best, they had clearly just come for lunch after church.
The shop itself is within a converted shipping container and decorated and painted in vibrant colours.
There were some great choices on the menu - too many so we asked what they would recommend. The lady said the most popular was the 'FOB' or the Hot & Spicy if you liked spicy food - which we did, so we got one of each to share and also a fresh baby coconut.


Even though they were so busy our order came out super fast. The FOB sandwich was crumbed Mahi with lime mayo and the Hot & Spicy was seared tuna with pickle. Both came on delicious Turkish style bread and were enormous!
They were so fresh and tasty and I really enjoyed both - but I think my favourite was the FOB. The batter on the Mahi was so crispy and the lime mayo with it topped it all off.
We both left feeling very full and satisfied we had found the best fish sammies on the island. For $13 each, it was fantastic value as well. They also do salads, desserts and main fish dishes and are open every day for lunch except Saturdays.

Walking home with my coconut!

LBV Cafe

LBV Bakery & Cafe (Le Bon Vivant) offers freshly baked goods, deli pastas and salads, hot meals, coffee, wine and sweets.
We had lunch there on our first day - we both just felt like a sandwich and we saw a tomato and cheese baguette in their cabinet. We ordered one each and it came served to us cut in half with a nice bowl of chutney on the side. The sandwiches were huge and very fresh and tasty - which we were glad for at $9 each.
We sat to the side in their garden which was very pleasant. My friends and family also ate there regularly and always said their food was good.
I had also pre-arranged catering through them for my 'Hens Day' and they did a fantastic job for that. I ordered a cheese and deli platter, a bakery/sweets platter and a fresh fruit one. There was so much food that arrived (they delivered it free of charge) and it came in a small portable fridge for it to stay cold and fresh.
The bakery sweets were amazing, the cheese platter came with plenty of fresh bread and crackers, there were prawns wrapped in prosciutto - I totally over ordered for 11 people but everyone enjoyed as much as they could. (The photo below was only half the amount!).


There is also an LBV cafe in Avarua if you happen to be around town. Highly recommended for a bite to eat or for catering if you need it.
They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.


Sails

Sails Restaurant & Bar is located on Muri beach where you can enjoy excellent views of the lagoon. The first time I went there for lunch I didn't even bother looking at the menu - because right outside was a line of locals and tourists alike lining up for a spit roast pork roll. The roasted pig was right there with the guy carving for each person and rows and rows of hot dog sized rolls pre-filled with butter and coleslaw - I thought it was like a Rarotongan styled sausage sizzle!
They went for $10 each and had a decent amount of pork on top and came with gravy and apple sauce if you wanted it. It was the perfect lunch for me.
I knew Gareth would have loved it too (he was with his friends), so the next day we went back hoping for another one. I'm not sure if it was a Tuesday only or just a random thing because it wasn't there again.
No matter - I got to actually look at their menu this time and I ordered pulled pork soft tacos and Gareth got crispy calamari and a side of chips.


We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful sea view. My tacos came in two so we had one each and just shared everything like we normally do. They were very tasty and the calamari came with a really nice dipping sauce which we also dunked the chips in.
We saw they have regular live sports on their big screen TV and there was an All Blacks game playing the next morning - but we were a bit too busy to go.
The total was $38 including a soft drink each - so a bit pricey, but not too bad for $19 each for a good lunch. The service was great and the food too.

The sweet view from Sails

That brings us to the end of my best places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga! I hope you found this post helpful if you are heading there yourself in the near future.
I really enjoyed the food in Rarotonga - it was always fresh, delicious, decent prices and huge portions, and the people are so friendly which means great service.
Coming up next is my Travel Diary from my week there which I'll be posting before I'm off again to Vietnam which is in four days.

I also made a video for Youtube of the highlights from my week in Rarotonga:


Hope to catch you at my next post!
Thanks for reading,

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