travel

Twenty things that happened during my twenty months in New Zealand…

Summing up my New Zealand experience in one post is near impossible, it was quite simply incredible, but I’m going to try with my favourite of all things, a list. And where better to start than with how I spent far too many of my days…

Partied like I’d never partied before. Seriously I drank myself stupid several times over. I had some pretty crazy nights at uni, some epic house parties in Canada, my family knows how to throw a damn good shindig, and I’ve lived in London where the clubs are world class. But trust me there aint no party like a Slalom party.

Aaaaand consequently….

Had some of the worst hangovers of all time and amazingly realised quite how well I’m able to function on very little sleep a killer headaches and a constant feeling of needing to vomit. Thank god for the wonderful chefs I worked with who provided me with an insane amount of hangover curing food which got me through many a bad hangover day, just about!

Realised I love running a bar. On the days when I wasn’t suffering the mother of all hangovers then I really loved my job. Stationed at the Schuss Haus, or as it’s fondly known the Corona Bar, halfway up the mountain we never knew what was going to hit us but even the packed days when we ran out of everything were fun as fuck. We ramped the music up, popped open corona after corona at lightning speed, called on all the other departments for help and when it was all done collapsed in the cupboard and stuffed ourselves with leftover tacos. And I loved every hair tearing, problem solving, manic minute. There might be a high possibility I’ve answered the what the fuck are you going to do with your life question!

Became a better skier. I was an ok skier before I arrived but Mount Ruapehu gave my skiing a new lease of life, especially the first season. I took every opportunity to get myself out on the snow and attempt to throw myself down trickier runs, and I will forever be grateful to my wonderful ski instructor friend who took me out for a lesson and within just a couple of hours improved my skiing infinitely.

Got a whole new confidence level. I felt so comfortable in this country, I was completely myself and I made a heap of friends and had a ton of fun, and realised that I don’t need to be someone else because whilst yes there are always things I could do better, being me is pretty damn great.

Dyed my hair green, because post boy breaking my heart and with a Coachella themed party to attend, this seemed like the logical thing to do, and you know what it looked damn good.

Learnt how to change a tyre, and jump start a car. I loved my little red car a whole heap and it showed me all the sights but boy was it a bit shit. I’ve never jump started a car before in my life and whilst in New Zealand I’ve done it more times than I can count to varying degrees of effect. Add to that a few tyre disasters, and I’ll always be grateful to my shitty red car for teaching me some important life skills.

Lived in a car and loved it. Speaking of my shitty car it was also my home for about six months and it was incredible. Yes it was cramped for two of us and a pain in the arse to shift the bags to the front each night and back the next day whenever we wanted to drive somewhere. And yes when it rained it was pretty shitty trying to cook under a makeshift tarpaulin cover. But waking up in the middle of nowhere, cooking dinner on the beach and having the freedom to take off wherever we fancied was THE best way to travel the country no question.

Swam with dolphins. Way up near the top of my bucket list for many a year and this beautiful country finally gave me the chance to and it was insane. Fully qualified as a Best Day Ever!

Jumped out of a mother freaking aeroplane. Something I have ummed and aaahed about for years but despite my sheer terror was firmly on my New Zealand bucket list and I finally got the guts up to do it and it was unlike any feeling ever. Yes it was incredible and no I will not stop going on about it and yes you all should do it.

Ate the very best fries I’ve ever eaten in my life. The blind finch in Ohakune serves up the most delicious selection of fries and burgers and the Cesar fries will be in my dreams for a long time to come. If there’s no other reason to come back to New Zealand I’ll come back just to eat those again.

Fell head over heels for an Australian boy. He had a dry sarcastic sense of humour and complained about being miserable most of the time. But he was the person I wanted to spend my time with, he was nice and he made me giddy happy and he made me laugh and he also made me cry, a lot. It was a love story full of maybe not broken but pretty damn cracked hearts. And even though I currently want to kick him in the balls and scream bitch you broke my heart at him, I wouldn’t trade a second of all the chaos, because when it was good it was really good and my trip would have been a little less full if I hadn’t met him.

Had an actual adult conversation about feelings. Ok yes I had to have a little dutch courage first, but I told someone how I felt about them. I told them when I liked them and I told them when they hurt me. I am about as British as they get and talking about my feelings absolutely terrifies me, in my past romances my complete inability to tell anyone how I felt or what I wanted is probably my biggest regret, and at least this time I got to say my part, even if it didn’t turn out that great for me, there’s a lot less regret than usual.

Thought I was dying. Legitimately thought I was dying. Not to go into details but if you’ve ever woken up surrounded by an insane amount of blood, then you’ll know the fear and panic it induces. If not trust me it’s pretty fucking terrifying and was more than enough to get me over my fear of doctors. Although it didn’t give me any life altering world views it did give me a kick up the ass to take better care of myself. Seriously guys, health is important.

Found a home from home. Slalom Lodge and all its inhabitants both seasons I lived there became a secondary home and family to me. And now that I’m back in England it is that run down, ever messy lodge and the bunch of crazy people who I’m desperately homesick for.

Saw places that took my breath away. Driving through New Zealand, every corner you turn there’s another beautiful sight to see, I’ve been lucky enough to do a couple of roadies around both islands and I never failed to be impressed by the stunning beauty day after day.

Lost my skinny dipping virginity. My first night away from the mountain after my first ski season and silly drunk on a campsite in Raglan with some of the best friends I’ll ever make it seemed like the time to tick this off my bucket list. It was absolutely freezing and we comically got ourselves locked out of the campsite and had to scramble back over the fence but it was the perfect start to an epic summer road trip.

Saw the stars like never before. The stars in the southern hemisphere are so different from the ones I grew up with, and the lack of light pollution in New Zealand, especially where I lived made the stars shine like I’ve never seen.

Made the best of friends. One of the most wonderful things about travelling is getting to meet amazing people from all over the world and I’ve been lucky enough I believe to meet some of the best. Whilst it’s inevitable living this lifestyle that friends come and go I am so so grateful for being able to have all these people in my life even for a little while. And yes I may never see some again, but you best believe there’s a few that I am not letting go of and intend to be friends with for life whether they want it or not.

Experienced complete blissful happiness. Playing in the carrot park in Ohakune with my first slalom family, riding the chairlift up first thing with gorgeous sunshine and empty slopes below, staring at the unbelievable stars drunk on beer, waking up to the sound of the waves and running into the sea for a “bath”, dancing on the arm of a sofa dressed in a toga surrounded by giddy party people… these are just a handful of the moments where I remember thinking I fucking love my life. This adventure threw me so many incredible life moments and I am so eternally grateful that I lost my head for a minute followed by heart and booked a one way flight to New Zealand.

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The final South Island Stops… Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo

The final items on my South Island bucket list were Mount Cook National Park and Lake Tekapo, both of which I missed out on when I was here three years ago and both of which I was desperate to see. So with a flight booked out of Auckland and a car full of crap to be deposited back in National Park ready for the ski season, I finished work a few days earlier than planned to fit these final stops in on my long journey north.

Despite it being icy cold overnight camping in the shadows of the snow capped mountains, and despite the Hooker Valley track being closed to storm damage, The two days I spend in this area were magical. Everything from the drive, to the stars, to the frosty morning to the over swarmed tourist spots just took my breath away. I can’t really put into words the beauty of these mountains and lakes, so I think for once I’ll just shut up and let the pictures do the talking.

Let me just say this though, New Zealand completely and utterly stole my heart. From the first drive to this long last one in the six months of road tripping around the islands, it has been a truly magical and extraordinary adventure!

(Mount Cook from Kea point)

(White Horse Campground at sun down nestled amongst the mountains)

(Looking across towards Mount Sefton from Mueller Lake lookout)

(Looking across Lake Pukaki towards Mount Cook)

(The Church of the Good Shepherd on the edge of Lake Tekapo)

travel

Two Days in Dunedin…

To my surprise Dunedin turned out to be the place in the South Island I felt most at home, a university city that despite its size feels surprisingly small and inviting. The centre is full of gorgeous old buildings, dangerously pretty vintage shops, my favourite of all buildings theatres and so many cute coffee shops I was shaking from all the caffeine by the time I left. It only took 24 hours but I fell in love.

My visit was a flying one on my two days off, and I debated whether to go or not several times over with myself, but in the end I woke up early on my first day off to gorgeous weather and decided to get on the road and pack as much into the two days as I could. And boy am I glad I did.

My first stop were the beaches, and there are some damn good ones here. Although the wind made it far too cold for swimming St Clair’s beach was still a great place for a wander along the golden sand and a risky dip of my toes in the icy water. St Clair’s is the classic long stretch of gold sand and blue blue sea and skies that are all you ever want from a beach.

(Pretty, pretty, pretty!)

Tunnel beach is a little further out of the city and is about a 20 minute walk down (and a gruelling climb back up) to the large tunnel rock formation that gives the beach its name. When the tide is out there’s a set of stairs down through a tunnel carved into the cliff side that brings you out onto the beach. A sheltered little cove full of large boulders, not quite so classic, but definitely the coolest beach.

(And of course perfect for a photo opportunity in my new hat!)

With the sun starting to set I headed to my camp for the night, a car park next to the railway station, not very glamorous but hey free and within easy walking distance of the city centre. The Octagon is in the middle of the city, as it’s name suggests, a pretty octagonal plaza surrounded by old buildings and bars, all of which, despite being Monday, were gently buzzing.

Wandering down a few more streets I found the buildings and walls covered with some awesome graffiti. You can apparently follow a street art trail and discover all the works, some of which are done by famous street artists, I wouldn’t know about that but they did look cool, pretty much like the vibe of this whole city!

(The closest I got to penguins this trip.)

I also discovered a whole heap of vintage and coffee shops which I eagerly returned to the next morning, and whilst I almost completely managed to restrain myself in the vintage shops I can’t say the same about the coffee shops and I may have sampled a fair few over the course of the morning. Believe me I was buzzing!

Finally dragging myself away from the city centre I made my way to one of Dunedin’s most popular attractions, Baldwin Street, or as it’s more commonly known the world’s steepest street. And after a brisk walk up I can confirm that yep it’s bloody steep! And of course it is swarmed with tourists trying to take the best Instagram picture of the seemingly sinking houses or their climbing attempts, me of course being one of them!

(Just has to have a quick sit down in the road once I managed to reach the top!)

With the sun still beaming down I headed out to the Otago Peninsula, yet another of this country’s beautiful drives and towards Lanarch Castle. Of course it’s not really a castle, not by British standards more of a stately home and gardens perched up on the hillside. But it is pretty.

(Umm yep I’ll move in!)

And when New Zealand does castles it apparently fills the grounds with (slightly creepy) Alice in Wonderland statues, allegedly including a Cheshire Cat which I could not for the life of me find!

(I’m sorry but that Alice has got some issues!)

Right out on the tip of the peninsula is the Royal Albatross Centre. Here there is a penguin colony on one of the beaches but you do have to book a tour and go at dusk to catch a sight of them, neither of which I did. There are also, surprise surprise, Albatross. The centre has a pretty interesting little exhibition about the birds and does also offer tours, however there is really no need to join them. If you walk down to the cliff side viewing area you are more than likely to see them gliding on the wind around the cliff top, and bloody hell are they massive! It really made for the perfect end to this whirlwind trip stood on the cliff side in the gorgeous sunshine watching these majestic birds soaring overhead, plus it had the added bonus of making my sister extremely jealous, she has a long held obsession with albatross, and has yet to see one herself (haaaa)!

Dunedin really surprised me with how much I loved it, and I really wish I’d been able to spend more time there, as it completely captured my heart, and there are way too many things I didn’t get the chance to see. Although a little further south than most people venture, I’d definitely recommend to try and take the time to pay this city a visit, you may just fall in love.

travel

Queenstown, Queen of Towns…

I fell in love with this town the minute I stepped foot in it three years ago and it is a love, that like my love for Prince Harry has lasted. So it was with a excited hysteria that I finally arrived back into the town on a sunny Sunday evening. Flying high from having successfully scaled Roy’s peak, overexcited about not sleeping in a car for a couple of nights and giddy from the first wine had in ages I was ecstatic to be back. And through a few twists of fate those few days turned into eight glorious weeks of calling this place my home.

Yes, as you’ve probably been told, it is touristy and man is it expensive but it is also awesome. So as I haven’t done a list for a little while and I’m getting withdrawal symptoms here’s one for ya, all the reasons you can fall in love with Queenstown.

1. The Views. Sitting on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by seriously dramatic mountains Queenstown is beautiful. I’ve been living and working on the edges in Frankton and when I get to wake up and come home to this view everyday you really can’t complain, even if I am still sleeping in the car!

(Never getting over this view right on my doorstop)

2. It is adrenaline headquarters. People come here for the thrills and they get them. You have your pick of the bungee jumps here and if you’re not quite as up for it then the canyon swings are also pretty terrifying. For me I absolutely hate the whole upside down thing, it’s really a chore to get me on a rollercoaster. So we opted for the Nevis Swing, although the morning of it I was seriously questioning why. Just the drive up the dusty road on the edge of a cliff got me sweating let alone the bridge across the canyon out to the jump point or the swing itself. But the heart stopping fear of dangling over a canyon and suddenly being dropped down into it is what makes it all the more exhilarating.

(That’s us just freefalling in to the canyon and not screaming at all!)

3. The lake. As mentioned in point number one it is stunning but it’s also great to get out on to. A lake cruise makes for a pretty gorgeous afternoon, especially if the weather is good, because as I also mentioned in point one the views!!! Or for a little more adrenaline the jet boats down the Shotover river are the most fun way to see the scenery, whizzing down the river at 80km an hour, doing 360 spins and getting so many knots in my hair it took me a whole 45 minutes in the shower to get them all out, is my new favourite way to sightsee.

(Fun fact I won this K Jet trip in a pub quiz way back when I first arrived in Auckland and drank solidly for several days straight, worth it though!)

4. It is a great base for day trips. Although it makes for a very long day with an eight hour round drive, Queenstown is the perfect place for a trip to the beautiful Milford Sound. Top of my list as last time I was in the country I was done in by travel sickness and couldn’t face yet another long coach journey, a decision I regretted so badly afterwards, BUT it turned out great, because the day we went it was magical. With my aunt and cousin in town for a couple of days the beautiful sunny weather gave in and torrential rain hit the south, turns out though when it rains Milford is at its best with hundreds of waterfalls pouring down the mountain sides. Driving in was without doubt the most spectacular drive of the South Island (which trust me is saying something). Ok so the rain did almost threaten the boat ride with cancellation and turned the normally blue waters dark and choppy as anything, but I can’t even begin to describe quite how spectacular it was.

(Milford is a seriously, seriously magical place)

5. Arrowtown. This little town is only 30 minutes down the road and it is so so pretty. It is a little trip into the past with the remnants of an early Chinese gold miners settlement and super quaint high street. And a sunny day wandering around the town is a perfect day off.

(How could you not get a crush looking at this cute little high street?)

6. The food! Namely Fergburger, incredibly hyped and always always with a queue but man is it a good burger. And don’t just go for the classic, the cock a doodle oink is an insanely good chicken burger and for breakfast (or any time of the day really) the morning glory gives breakfast burgers world over a run for their money. Aside from Fergburger the town is teeming with restaurants, most of which my broke ass tried not to sample, but Red Rock with it’s $10 full breakfast and Fat Badger with its supersized pizzas needed to be sampled, and I have no regrets!

(Yes baby a beautiful dinner with a beautiful view!)

7. The Luge. Another top Queenstown activity is to take the gondala up the hill and go for a few runs on the stupidly fun luge track. Racing down the hillside on little carts was a great way to indulge my inner kid, although my ten year old cousin kicked my ass good and proper. And it goes without saying really but the views are spectacular.

8. The nightlife. Queenstown is a good party. There are a whole heap of bars and clubs, some of which are surprisingly cheap, like 1876 with the cheapest beer in town. And as we were there for my friends birthday we definitely indulged. I’m not going to go into details but safe to say there were a lot of regrets the next day, and a complete refusal to move from our beds except to fetch a McDonald’s!

(Cowboys bar has beers as big as your face for $15 as well as a mechanical bull you can attempt to ride very very badly!)

So yes this place is going to sap you of money and probably energy, but it’s also exciting as hell and every day here I thanked all the stars that I got to live and play in this queen of towns!

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A whole lot of National Parks and Hikes…

The South of New Zealand is one glorious National Park after another and if you’re on a backpacker budget the best way to see all the beautiful NZ scenery is by hiking, lots and lots of hiking!

I should, having climbed Kilimanjaro (did I ever mention that before?!) be able to take on a hike or two reasonably easily but apparently I cannot and whilst every walk we did was worth it, I still seem to be the same unfit person I have always been. After the cruisey coastal walks in Abel Tasman and Kaikoura and a day or two wandering around Christchurch we headed off cross country to Arthur’s Pass and the hiking commenced.

The drive cross country through the pass is another of New Zealand’s idyllic routes (she just keeps chucking them at us)! And from here on it out it really got wild, showers of any kind were a thing of the past, my painted nails abandoned and for most of the west coast, phone signal is not a thing and WiFi hard to find. We were truly disconnected and at some points quite literally in the wilderness. Our first campsite at Arthur’s Pass was 6km down a gravel track in the middle of nowhere, there were perhaps 4 other campers there and a toilet shack that looked like something from a horror film. For a night there, I really thought we might be murdered!

(Creepy as hell but you can’t beat a bed with a sunset view)

But who cares about being murdered (!) because Arthur’s Pass is beautiful and full of hikes of all lengths. Whilst we didn’t take on the hardest we spent the day (after spending our first day in the car hiding from the rain) trekking our way through the pass to see great waterfalls and of course stunning views!

(And to be those cliche instagramming travellers who take this bloody travel photo!)

Once we hit the west coast Franz Josef was our first stop. And if you can’t quite splash out on the helicopter rides up onto the glacier you can take a 45 minute walk up to the face, or if you fancy a five hour hike up to Roberts Point for an even closer view. The sign heading into the hike warns that it is for experienced hikers only (which I’m not so sure I can be classed as) and I ended up taking this one on solo.

(This sign’s not daunting at all)

It was without a doubt the most fun of all the hikes. Crossing huge swing bridges and rivers, scrambling up rocks and taking on a narrow wooden staircase hanging on the side of a cliff is all part of the fun. And yes I was a little terrified that I was going to slip and smash all my bones but did I love every second of it? Hell yes I did! The walk ends at a platform which gives you a fantastic view of the glacier and you can eat lunch watching all the helicopters landing and taking off from the glacier as the slightly richer tourists go play on it. Absolutely killer and my legs paid the price, but absolutely recommend!

(So many fun swing bridges and rickety stairways)

As we made our way down the West Coast there were so many places to stop and take on a little hike. First up was Lake Matheson where you can walk around the lake and if you’re lucky get a perfect mirrored reflection of Mount Cook (we were not) but we did get some pretty good views of the mountain and the Fox Glacier. From there we made our way down the coast stopping at a few stunning beach walks along the way.

(I definitely recommend Ship Creek, just look how pretty it is)

Then we were heading through the Haast Pass which is waterfall paradise. Every few minutes we were stopping and making our way along little trails to view waterfalls and probably the bluest river I have ever seen!

(Seriously the most insanely blue, although a little freezing, water ever seen)

We took a little detour further down to Cromwell for a couple of days and found ourselves some more hills to climb, and a particular favourite stop of mine Bendigo ghost town. An abandoned gold mining town up the hairiest steep, winding dust track of a road that gave me a minor heart attack, but nearly deserted by all but us and a group of nudists we stumbled upon (New Zealand is just one fun story after another)! There are heaps of walking tracks up here and walking around this ghostly town was a great afternoon adventure not to mention the of course great views.

(Just hanging around on top of a hill as per usual)

Then we hit up Wanaka and with it Roy’s Peak which was the big one. It is at the top of the list of hikes to hit in New Zealand and you can see why. The highest peak in the area you can literally see for miles and miles, but it is HARD. A constant uphill slog and it was hot hot hot! Too in love with our sleep to try and a climb for sunrise and miss the heat of the day we started climbing mid morning and boy did we sweat! We took four litres of water each along with a speaker pounding out the motivational tunes, and I am so very glad we did, because we needed it. Reaching the top though I probably felt the most accomplished I had in the whole time I’d been in New Zealand! And that combined with the very welcome breeze and the killer views put it at the top of my list of recommendations.

(New Zealand just chucking them stunner views at us)

And thus ended our weeks of walking as we headed for Queenstown and all the thrills, food and alcohol it offers (seriously we deserve it)!

(Our happy hands atop Roy’s Peak for no more hikes)

Till next time xxx

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Welcome to the South Island… Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman to Kaikoura

Gloriously sun drenched. Is exactly how I would describe my first couple of weeks in the South. My tan has been well and truly topped up, my hair has been bleached by the sun and sea water, my shower has been either a lake or the sea and everything is covered in sand. Welcome to the sunniest place in New Zealand!

(Just look how awesome my bath is!)

Granted when we first drove off the ferry the sky was looking a bit cloudy and we spent our first night in a campsite getting poured on and our first morning dodging the rain in the centre of Nelson. It wasn’t looking promising. But then as we pulled up in our camp, which was in fact a car park (welcome to freedom camping) the sun did a beautiful thing and came out. Then, not to be cheesy but, it just didn’t stop shining.

(Car parks = Freedom Camping at its finest)

From the car park we headed slightly inland to Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park, home to the most picturesque jetty for all your instagram needs! Fair warning however underneath the pretty jetty several rather large eels reside. So after dramatically and photogenically jumping into it some fast swimming is required to swim as far away from the eels as physically possible.

(I may have jumped in a few times to get the perfect shot. There was a lot of fast swimming away from eels)

We camped out here a night in one of the doc sites and it was so incredibly nice to be out of a packed car park and surrounded by nature. Not so incredibly nice though was our introduction to sand flies! These little bastards turn out to be everywhere during the New Zealand summer, and they bite like crazy. I now have some very scarred up ankles and feet to go along with my tanned beach life look. Life on the road turns out has its down sides.

Long drop toilets are another of the less appealing sides to the New Zealand roadie. And we got our first South Island one at our next campsite. But holding your breath whilst going for a pee was worth it because for a mere $5 a night we got a bed on the beach!

(Look at that view with my morning cup of coffee)

Just outside Abel Tasman National Park we found this cute little campsite owned by the loveliest of ladies and from here we spent our days venturing off into the National Park. Abel Tasman is all about the yellow sand beaches and the blue blue sea and oh my goodness did I fall in love with it, you can see easily see why the place is swarming with tourists.

Most of the National Park is accessible only by boat and from Kaiteriteri we took the water taxi to trek some of the coastal walk. Away from the township the crowds thinned out and it was idyllic walking the leafy track passing little near empty beaches along the way and getting some pretty cracking views of the National Park. We were living the dream people. Living the Dream!

(D.R.E.A.M.Y)

Heading off from Abel Tasman we took perhaps the longer and less economic, but so worth it route, of cris crossing across the country and drove ourselves over to stop number three Kaikoura on the east coast. This place was number one on my hit list because Dolphins!

They say Kaikoura is a haven for sea life and guys it really really is. As we drove along the coast line towards the town I may have done a little squealing as I spotted the seal colony living along the rocky shore. A whole stretch of rocks dotted with furry seals and their babies swimming, playing and mostly sleeping. Seals can also be spotted at the Kaikoura Peninsula, which you can walk around in a couple of hours, spy the seals, see some great views out across the ocean and spot heaps of native birds which for the life of me I can’t remember the name of. But it’s definitely a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Although the seals were cute and exciting, and the albatross sightings thrilling news for my sister who has some obsession with them, the real (and very expensive) reason we were here was for the dolphins! So on a bright sunny morning we took to the sea geared up in wetsuits, flippers and snorkels to swim alongside the dolphins. And when I say dolphins I mean first there was one, then five, then twenty, then hundreds! At one point I was looking down through the snorkel at the two swimming in circles underneath me, glanced up and was surrounded by fins. We were lucky enough to be swimming alongside a pod of up to 400 dolphins and I have never seen anything like it. Back on the boat we were supplied with cuppa soup and ginger biscuits, and could watch the dolphins swimming and flipping about all around us. It without doubt classifies as a best day ever.

Despite the mild sea sickness and the fact I lost my sunglasses (the third pair of those exact ones) it was worth every penny. And staying in a car park for free kind of made up the money lost (or so we told ourselves).

The other thing about Kaikoura was that it was hot. We quite literally melted on some days and the stony beaches (alas no more yellow sandy beaches of Abel Tasman) were like walking on fire to get to the refreshing sea. Turns out the best place to take refuge was in the pubs where a nice cold beer or even a pint of icy coke helped us to cool down. The strawberry tree was a particular favourite, a crooked old fashioned pub with a really delicious beer that goes by the same name.

Besides frequenting the pubs, some serious day drinking, befriending the local sea life and melting in the sunshine, Importantly this was the place I learnt how to successfully jump start my car. Having burnt the battery out charging our phones I awkwardly asked some, very young looking, German boys for a hand jump starting it and rapidly googled the instructions so I wouldn’t look quite so clueless! Nevertheless I did it and to celebrate my successful adulting headed out to take some photos of myself creeping at the nearby lavender farm.

(Tried to take the perfect insta pic just turned creepy)

With these three fantastic first stops South Island was well and truly off to a truly beautiful start and I could only imagine the good times to keep on coming. Stay tuned for more updates. I bloody love this country!

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New Zealand… Best of the North

In the last few months we have driven up and down and round and round and zig zagged our way across the entire North Island and I think we can say that we have well and truly seen it.

As we embark on our tour of the South I figured I’d look back and make a little (or very long) list of the best of the North.

1) The Northlands. People tend to miss this as they head south out of Auckland but it really is a stunning part of the country.

(Think that proves my point!)

Paihia makes for a great base in the Bay of Islands. From here you can take the ferry over to pretty Russell, New Zealand’s first capital, and lounge on the beautiful beaches, go for a morning parasail, visit Waitangi, the site of the signing of the Waitangi Treaty, take a walk up the Opua forest lookout track or take a drive to Keri Keri where you can find New Zealand’s oldest building and then wander along the river to Rainbow Falls. Paihia is full of countless fun activities and at the weekend a couple of fun bars as well. It was here I made one of my best friends for the season when we bonded over heavy drinking in the backpackers Pipi Patch bar!

The northern most point of New Zealand is Cape Reinga. A lighthouse stands at the tip, from which you can view the place where two seas merge, and also see quite how far you are from home!

Although it’s a long journey all the way up north it’s also a fun one. The designated state highway from Cape Reinga along the top part of the west coast is Ninety mile beach, though you will need a four wheel drive for it, as my friends found out when they tried to drive down it in a dodgy Honda Odyssey and ended up getting towed off the beach by a tractor! There are also some impressive sand dunes to stop at on the way which armed with a boogie board I sandboarded down at a slightly alarming speed! Super hard work to climb up but super fun to come down.

Heading back towards Auckland we made a kind of accidental stop near Matakana for a few days, and despite it being an off plan stay I would definitely recommend a visit. This area is home to a fair amount of wineries, which we of course sampled but most importantly here you can find the best cinnamon bun I have ever tasted, at The Farmer’s Daughter!

(Seriously I still dream about this tasty bit of deliciousness)

2) Auckland is my least favourite of places, every time I wound up there I ended up getting drunk and getting sick. But if you do end up spending time there Waiheke Island is the place to be. This is the island of beaches and wineries. If you get yourself a hop on hop off bus pass you can crawl your way from one winery to the next, tasting some awesome New Zealand wines in the sunshine and then go and drunkenly flop onto a beach. My idea of a perfect day.

3) Coromandel. Everyone says to go there, and there is good reason! My god it is Pretty! And of course full of tourists. Hot Water Beach which at low tide is packed with people as everyone tries to find the best spot to dig a hole and relax in the warm water, and Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous tucked away beach, that was used for filming one of the Narnia films, are as touristy as it gets but still need to be paid a visit. My favourite part of the Coromandel though, is the drive along the coast from Thames up to the Coromandel Peninsula, it is the most beautiful drive I have so far done in New Zealand, and trust me I’ve done a lot of beautiful drives. In the afternoon sunshine with the windows down and a little bit of Oasis on the stereo, it is a dream road trip. And just make sure you arrive up there in time for sunset!

(I do love a good sunset me)

4) Coming down the east coast you reach the port city of Tauranga where the main attraction is a quick yet painful climb up Mount Maunganui. It’s worth the pain though for the stunning views and once down there’s a beauty of a beach to go for a cooling off swim!

Driving down the coast is pretty spectacular as you follow the seafront along. There’s a fair few camping spots here practically on the beach, which in good weather, would make for a pretty sweet stop off, we however just spent our night on the coast sheltering from non-stop rain under a makeshift tarpaulin shelter cooking soup and cheese toasties on our trusty camp stove!

Further down is Gisborne, which proudly proclaims itself the first place in the world to see the sun rise. Again in good weather it is a sight to be seen, we unfortunately missed out with rain, rain and more rain! In the shitty weather, Sunshine Brewery is a great place to spend the arvo, and ‘In There Like Swimwear’ is to date the best beer I’ve drunk in New Zealand. Gisborne’s other claim to fame is as the landing place of Captain Cook and there’s plenty of landmarks and statues to show you where to walk in their footsteps.

Another few hours south and you hit Napier. Perhaps my favourite spot of the North Island trip, it is the Art Deco city and I could quite happily spend hours wandering around looking at all the pretty buildings and playing Art Deco dress up in the free museum.

(Anyone else thinking Gatsby?!)

We spent a while near Napier as we were working on a farm for a few weeks and as one of the sunniest parts of New Zealand it offers up plenty of nearby beaches, harbour side bars and cycle routes along the sea front.

5) Heading in land and Rotorua is top of the list. Full of geothermal activity, the town smells like rotten eggs from all the sulphur and every so often you get a very potent whiff. I have returned to Rotorua a few times and still couldn’t get bored. The main draw of course are the thermal parks with their bubbling mud, multi coloured hot springs and dramatic geysers.

(And eeery mesmerising rivers)

The geothermal activity in the area was a draw for many Maori tribes, as they use the hot springs for bathing, heating and cooking, and there are several Maori villages here that have become tourist attractions. We went to Whakarewarewa (try saying that five times fast, in fact try saying it at all) and although not the most popular, definitely the most authentic as a village still very much in use.

(No she’s not fishing just cooking some corn)

Rotorua is also home to a whole host of other attractions. There’s the Thursday night street market and Eat Street for food and drink and we also occupied ourselves paying a visit to the cat cafe for coffee and cuddles. There’s Rotorua lake and the green lake and the blue lake and the Redwoods is a great place to undertake our favourite of all activities and go for a wander.

If you were made of money there’s a whole heap to do here and as long as you don’t mind the smell you could quite happily fill your days in this interesting city.

6) I’m a little biased but Tongariro National Park is amazing. This is where I lived and worked for five months on the ski field and although occasionally cabin fever would set in I just couldn’t tire of it. In the winter Whakapapa Ski Field is where it’s at and I could wax lyrical about how to fill a winter in the area, but I think I’ve already done that (A Ski Season in New Zealand’s North Island…) In summertime though it’s just as good, and the best way to see the beauty is to undertake the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Not short at 19.4km long with a devil of a climb but the pretty pretty view more than makes up for the pain.

It may be a little middle of nowhere but I love this place, and the fact I was basically living in Mordor (many scenes were filmed on Mount Ruapehu) and driving past Mount Doom every day (Mount Ngaruhoe was used as Mount Doom) was my thirteen year old self’s dream come true! I unashamedly have and always will be a huge Lord of the Rings fan!

(See still loving the sunset)

7) Speaking of Lord of the Rings, any fan cannot go to New Zealand without a visit to Hobbiton! Yes it is touristy and a little expensive but it is magical, I may have even gotten a little misty eyed as the bus drove us across to the set with music from the film playing us in. It’s cute and whimsy and the whole damn reason I ever wanted to come to New Zealand!

8) On the west coast of the island sits Raglan, the Byron Bay of New Zealand. I have a soft spot for this surf town, it was the first stop of our road trip after we left the ski field and the place where I celebrated my 28th birthday with a bloody good bunch of friends. (Yes I’m that old now.) Raglan is the place to surf, if that’s what takes your fancy. Or you can, if you’re me, accept that your surfing skills have peaked at standing up once, and instead just go along, watch all the more accomplished surfers, laugh as your friend falls fully clothed into the sea and horrendously sunburn your face and arms. There are other water sports on offer as well, we took to the estuary with our kayaks and despite a little rain had a jolly good time of it so we did! On land we hired bikes and cycled our way down to the wharf where Raglan Fish does some really excellent freshly caught “fush ‘n chips”! And then ditched the bikes and drove our lazy asses to Bridal Veil Falls. Where you can dick around and take photos like this.

I don’t know if I’m looking at Raglan through rose tinted glasses because of the great company and the many laughs and the fact this is the place I lost my skinny dipping virginity. But I really do love this hippy surf town and it’s black sand beaches and it’s grungy bar where bad drunken decisions are made in dark corners!

(And another sunset)

9) Last but not least is Wellington!

I love this little city a whole lot and if I could stay and work I probably would. It’s a quirky capital with plenty of vintage shops, dreamy houses and fun bars. It was here we let our drunkenness loose, celebrated Christmas with several shots and a horrific hangover and bar crawled our way into 2019. When we did let our livers rest we wandered around leisurely exploring the city. For a capital it’s quite compact and you can easily walk your way around it. The waterfront is the obvious place to start, heading from the city centre down to Oriental Parade is a great stroll in the sunshine and the little beaches along the front are always popular. There’s also a jumping platform where the crazy people can jump into the docks and the not so crazy just chill and watch. This is the home of Te Papa and if you go to one museum in New Zealand, make it this one, completely free and full of interesting exhibitions, for me it was the first place to hit. The cable car is iconic in Wellington and a mere $5 we took a ride up to Kelburn, from here we browsed around the cable car museum (it really is an icon of the city) and then made our way back down to the city through the botanical gardens.

As well as wandering our way around we also took the car a little further afield, and let me tell you fellow Lord of the Rings fans, you will love this place! All around Wellington are places used for filming, just North in Upper Hutt is Rivendell, we practically camped on the site of the Battle of Helms Deep and of course there is the Weta Workshop where most of the props were made and where you can make friends with some lovely trolls at the entrance.

This friendly city makes a great home for a couple of weeks and an ideal last stop in the North Island. And really, watching the sun set over the city from Mount Victoria could not have been a more perfect last evening in the North.

(I told you I really do love a sunset)

And there you have it in a (very big) nutshell, New Zealand’s North Island. There are of course countless other places and sights that I could ramble on about, and of course plenty of places I haven’t had the fortune to see but then we could be here all year and I’ve got a whole other island to be seeing! So I’ll be seeing ya on the other side folks xxx