A Day Trip To The Isle Of Skye From Loch Ness

The Isle of Skye is one of Scotlands top destinations to visit and after visiting I can clearly see why! Isle of Skye is connected to Scotland’s northwest coast by a bridge, and is 50 miles long and the largest of the Inner Hebrides archipelago. This island has so much to offer its visitors from its rugged landscapes, quaint fishing villages, medieval castles and lots of wildlife such as eagles, seals, otters, dolphins, whales and deer to name a few!

We visited the Isle of Skye in just one day, however you could spend days and days roaming this island especially if you are into hiking trails. If you come in the summer there are lots of whale watching tours and wildlife kayaking tours available to book. We started off our day early as it took approximately 2 hours to drive to the Isle of Skye from where we were staying by Loch Ness.

There is so much to see and do on the Isle of a Skye I really wish we had more time there as there was still plenty to see. Even if your short on time on your highlands trip be sure to keep one day spare for a visit to the Isle of Skye.

Sights & Activities

Broadford

Our first stop on the Isle of Skye was in Broadford and we visited the cute and quirky Market Square there, it’s a few small units which sell lots of antiques, souvenirs, crystals and trinkets as well as serving hot drinks. We had a look around and grabbed a hot chocolate before venturing off to explore the rest of the island. Broadford is the first stop after the bridge onto the island, and a popular stopping point for many tourists.

Broadford Isle Of Skye

Duntulm Castle

In the northeast of the island there is lots to see we drove upto Duntulm Castle which is just fragments and ruins left of the castle, but it provides beautiful views over the coastline and the landscape behind. We stopped there briefly and also wandered down to the rock pools below.

Duntulm Castle Isle Of SkyeDuntulm Castle Isle Of Skye

Dunvegan Castle

Entrance Fee: £14

As the day was coming to an end we decided to make one last stop before heading back to the mainland, and we drove over to Dunvegan which is on the west coast of the island and famous for Dunvegan castle. The castle is stunning and has been well preserved, and is the only Hebridean castle to be continuously occupied by the same family for 800 years – the Macleod Clan.

The gardens and grounds of the castle were created in the 1800s, and are an oasis compared to the barren moor lands that surround the castle. As we came late in the day we didn’t have long before the castle closed so we walked in and around the castle, and only went through some of the gardens. Dunvegan Castle is an absolute must visit when on the Isle of Skye as it is an important and typically Scottish landmark on the island.

Dunvegan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

As we reached the mainland after being on the Isle of Skye we made a quick stop at Eilean Donan Castle to see it lit up at dusk, the 13th century castle is perched on top of a small tidal island where 3 sea lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. It’s about half a mile from the village of Dornie. The castle is open to visitors too, and has been featured on several films and tv series and is one of the most photographed castles in all of Scotland.

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Fairy Glen

Fairy Glen is an area covered in small grassy hills with lochans (ponds) in between which makes this place look like a scene from a fairytale.

Fairy Glen Isle Of Skye

Highland Cows

Most visitors that visit the Isle Of Skye expect to spot lots of highland cows everywhere, but they aren’t as common as your may think. While driving around we saw one heard of highland cows so pulled over to get some photos, we only saw these ones and didn’t see anymore after that. I would suggest if you want to get a photo of this famous highland animal to grab your chance as and when you do see some!

Highland Cows Isle Of SkyeHighland Cows Isle Of Skye

Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls

In the Trotternish Peninsula there is Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls which both can be viewed from the same viewing point. Kilt Rock is 90 meters of sheer cliff drops. It gets its name as it resembles a pleated kilt. The Mealt waterfall plummets over Kilt Rock from the top of the cliffs to the rocky coast below and is fed by Mealt Loch.

Kilt Rock Isle Of SkyeMealt Falls Isle Of Skye

Old Man Of Storr

One of the Isle Of Skyes top walking routes is up to the Old Man Of Storr, which is situated on a large rocky hill, and is a large rock formation that stands tall. We visited the Old Man Of Storr but from a distance as the walk up to it can take over an hour. Just as we got there it started to rain and the clouds started coming in. So we walked a little bit up to get a better view but then came down before we got soaked.

Old Man of Storr Isle Of Skye

Portree

The day started to go by so quickly and before we knew it, it was mid afternoon so we headed to get some lunch in Portree which is the islands capital and largest village. Portree looks like a postcard with its pretty pastel coloured buildings over looking the natural harbour. There are a few boutiques, a visitor information centre and some restaurants all serving up fresh seafood. We grabbed a quick bite to eat there from one of the chippys and strolled around some of the shops.

Portree Isle Of Skye

Skye Musuem Of Island Life

Entrance Fee: £3 per person (cash only)

North of the island is the Trotternish Peninsula where the Skye Musuem Of Island Life is located which is an original highland village, and gives visitors a chance to see what island life was like 100 years ago. The museum has lots of information, artefacts from days gone by and was really interesting to see what the villages would have looked like.

Skye Musuem Of Island Life Isle Of Skye

Other Sights…

If you have longer on the Isle Of Skye then why not check out some of these sights too;

1 Day Itinerary

    Broadford
    Old Man Of Storr
    Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls
    Duntulm Castle
    Skye Musuem Of Island Life
    Fairy Glen
    Portree (Wander around and grab a late lunch)
    Dunvegan Castle
    Eilean Donan Castle (When getting back to the mainland stop at the castle at dusk to see it lit up)

Top Tips

My top tips for visiting the Isle Of Skye is to pack for the weather make sure you pack plenty of warm and waterproof clothes and hiking boots with you. As much as I hate hiking boots as I think they are the ugliest invention known to mankind, they are highly functional on the Isle Of Skye.

One other tip is to research before you go and maybe download maps.me and pin out where you want to visit, as when we went to the Isle of Skye we went without a plan and ended up driving back on ourselves as we realised we had missed one of the major sights. If your time constraint then planning out an itinerary will mean you make the very most of your trip too.

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful, if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

A Day Trip To The Isle Of Skye From Loch Ness - Pinterest Pin

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What To See & Do In The Scottish Highlands In 5 Days - Pinterest Pin

What To See & Do In The Scottish Highlands In 5 Days

The Highlands of Scotland are located in the north west of the country and spreads out to the many islands off the coast. The Highlands offers the ultimate wilderness break, and if solitude is what your after, then look no further! These areas are sparsely populated and full of so much natural beauty it’s the perfect relaxation getaway and great for a digital detox too.

Scotland’s natural playground really does have something to offer everyone from vast empty coastlines, mountains, lochs, historical castles and monuments and so much more, the landscapes are truly breathtaking!

My husband, myself and our two friends managed to get some cheap flights up to Inverness, hired a car and booked a glamping geodome for all four of us to stay in. We did so much in 5 days however there is so much more to see, and if you go in the summer months then there are lots of wildlife tours you can book onto too. We visited the first weekend of October so unfortunately many of the wildlife boat tours had stopped running.

We honestly had such an amazing trip and were so surprised that a domestic trip could be so good. Normally I am the worst for jetting off to exotic far flung countries, but after our break in the Highlands I definitely want to make a more conscious effort to explore more of the UK!

Sights & Activities

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK, situated in the north west Highlands and part of the Grampian mountain range. It is close by to the town of Fort William, and attracts many tourists and hikers from all over. We checked the weather before going and worked out which was the best day for us to hike up it, we only made it half way up as the weather conditions changed. It became very windy, so we made it to a lake which is about half way up the mountain and stopped there for a bit and started to head back down.

The walk up is amazing and you get the most incredible views of the mountains and the natural beauty that the Highlands have to offer. To hike to the very top of Ben Nevis would on average take between 4-5 hours, however this is fitness and weather dependent. Make sure when you visit you wear walking/hiking gear, and take plenty of water and snacks with you as once you start the hike there isn’t anywhere to stop and buy anything. However the water from the streams is so clean you can drink straight from them. If you plan on hiking up to the top be sure to allow for a full day to get up and get back down again.

Ben Nevis ScotlandBen Nevis ScotlandBen Nevis ScotlandBen Nevis ScotlandBen Nevis ScotlandBen Nevis Scotland

Bridge Of Oich

The River Oich is part of the Great Glen and has a suspension bridge designed by a brewer turned engineer. The 46 metre Bridge of Oich was built in 1854, a few years after floods swept through the Great Glen and destroyed the original stone bridge.

Bridge Of Oich Scotland

Cairngorms

The Cairngorms is the UKs largest national park and has so much to see and do from mountains, forests, lochs, waterfalls, villages, distilleries and plenty of wildlife. The Cairngorms is also the most popular ski resort in the UK, and attracts many visitors who are interested in snow sports, rock climbing and mountain biking.

We visited the Cairngorms and started off our day in Aviemore which is like the gateway to the national park and is popular with visitors. We had lunch there and a wander around many of its shops before heading off on a road trip driving around the Cairngorms and stopping off to admire the views. You could easily spend your whole holiday in the Cairngorms as there is so much to see and lots of hikes and trails to follow. As we were short on time we just spent a full day there, but I would love to go back and explore some more!

Cairngorms ScotlandCairngorms ScotlandCairngorms Scotland

Commando Memorial

The Commando Memorial is close to Spean Bridge and was created in 1952 to commemorate the British Commando Forces which were put together in World War 2. The monument is a large bronze statue of 3 commando soldiers which overlooks the training grounds of the Commando Training Depot which was established in 1942. It provides amazing views over Ben Nevis and Aonach Mòr too.

Eilean Donan Castle

As we reached the mainland after being on the Isle of Skye we made a quick stop at Eilean Donan Castle to see it lit up at dusk, the 13th century castle is perched on top of a small tidal island where 3 sea lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. It’s about half a mile from the village of Dornie. The castle is open to visitors too, and has been featured on several films and tv series and is one of the most photographed castles in all of Scotland.

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Fort William

Fort William is a town in the western Scottish Highlands, on the shores of Loch Linnhe. Fort William is great base to explore Ben Nevis. The town has a cute little high street filled with pubs, cafes, restaurants and lots of souvenir shops. We came into town after visiting Ben Nevis for some lunch and a look around the shops.

Isle Of Skye

The Isle of Skye is one of Scotlands top destinations to visit and after visiting I can clearly see why! Isle of Skye is connected to Scotland’s northwest coast by a bridge, and is 50 miles long and the largest of the Inner Hebrides archipelago. This island has so much to offer its visitors from its rugged landscapes, quaint fishing villages, medieval castles and lots of wildlife such as eagles, seals, otters, dolphins, whales and deer to name a few!

We visited the Isle of Skye in just one day, however you could spend days and days roaming this island especially if you are into hiking trails. If you come in the summer there are lots of whale watching tours and wildlife kayaking tours available to book. We started off our day early as it took approximately 2 hours to drive to the Isle of Skye from where we were staying by Loch Ness. Some of the main places to visit on the Isle of Skye are;

We started to head back to the mainland before it got dark, there is so much to see and do on the Isle of a Skye I really wish we had more time there. Even if your short on time on your Highlands trip be sure to keep one day spare for a visit to the Isle of Skye.

Read more about the Isle Of Skye: A Day Trip To The Isle Of Skye From Loch Ness

Isle Of SkyeIsle Of SkyeIsle Of SkyeIsle Of Skye

Loch Ness & Fort Augustus

Loch Ness is the most famous loch in Scotland and is surrounded by mystery with tales of sightings of a Loch Ness monster living deep beneath this freshwater lake. Loch Ness contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales put together. Loch Ness is about 23 miles in length and offers plenty of natural beauty, with lots of hikes and trails all around the legendary loch. Just behind our Geodome was a gorgeous trail with stunning views over the Loch, my husband and I were even lucky enough to see 2 deer dash out in front of us and into the trees.

There are plenty of cruises and boat tours available on Loch Ness, however we opted to walk along it, and visited Fort Augustus to admire its views over Loch Ness. Fort Augustus is nestled on the most southern tip of Loch Ness and lying on the 60 mile long Caledonian Canal. Fort Augustus is a tourist hotspot and there you can watch boats steering through the large locks. There are lots of shops, restaurants, cafes, tours and cruises of Loch Ness in Fort Augustus too.

Loch NessFort AugustusLoch Ness

Mallaig, Morar & Arisaig

Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig are all seaside villages/towns located on the west cost of the highlands. We came to these on our last day and drove along the coast and stopped at their harbours and beaches. Mallaig is a fishing port town and is also extremely popular with Harry Potter fans as the Jacobite steam train which runs from Fort William to Mallaig and was featured in the Harry Potter films.

We came to Mallaig first and stopped there for lunch and a saunter around the shops and port, after that we then drove along the series of beaches known as the Silver Sands which dot the coastline from Morar to Arisaig. We stopped at lots of these beautiful beaches and coves and had them all to ourselves, they were so peaceful and rural.

Our last stop before having to head back to Inverness to catch our flight home was Arisaig which is a small village which leads on from Morar and is situated on an inlet in the Morar peninsula surrounded by the blue sea, rocky coves and powdery white sand. I absolutely fell in love with the west coast of Scotland the beaches were absolutely gorgeous and so clean they were hard to believe they were in the UK.

Mallaig ScotlandMallaig ScotlandMallaig ScotlandMorar ScotlandMorar ScotlandMorar ScotlandArisaig ScotlandArisaig Scotland

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle is situated on Loch Ness and is one of the Highlands most famous castles. With a 1000 years of history the castle ruins gives visitors a taste into medieval times. As we were driving back to our Geodome from the Cairngorms we saw the castle so quickly pulled over to view it, the castle was stunning and we caught sunset just in time.

Urquhart Castle

Food & Drink

Chlachain Inn

Chlachain Inn is located in Mallaig, there isn’t a huge choice of places to choose from in this little port, but this looked nice from the outside and had a warm fire going inside, we stopped in here lunch and the food was great. I opted for the halloumi burger and it came with the most delicious relish!

Chlachain Inn Scotland

The Bothy

The Bothy is a traditional pub and restaurant next to the Caledonian canal in Fort Augustus. It has lots of traditional Scottish food on offer and the portions are huge! So make sure to go hungry, I had the mushroom pie which was was so delicious and just what I needed on a cold day. The Bothy is also a great place to visit for a drink too, as it’s set in a gorgeous 200 year old cottage and it has a friendly atmosphere.

The Bothy Scotland

The Cluanie Inn

On the way back from Isle of Skye we stopped off in Glenmoriston at the The Cluanie Inn. The great thing about Scotland is that it is full of cosy pubs and inns. We all weren’t massively hungry so stopped in there for a drink and a small dinner. The place was really popular with tourists and had a good range of food and drinks on offer.

The Cluanie Inn Scotland

The Grog & Gruel

The Grog and Gruel is on Fort Williams high street, and is a small alehouse and restaurant. There is a variety of dishes available and lots of American and Mexican food available to order. I decided on the vegetarian haggis which was really tasty. They pride themselves on offering a big choice of local and regional brewed ales and craft lagers and hearty comfort food.

The Grog & Gruel Scotland

The Wildcat

The Wildcat on Fort William high street is a vegan and zero waste cafe, which also has a refill shop at the back of the cafe and sells organic and ethical every day products. We stopped in here for a slice of cake and a chai latte, which was honestly one of the best chais I’ve ever had. The cafe has a very hipster look and feel to it and is a really great place to stop for a pick me up.

The Wildcat Scotland

The Winking Owl

The Winking Owl is a chalet restaurant in the town of Aviemore in the Cairngorms. It cooks up Scottish and international dishes with amazing views over the mountains. We came in here for lunch before exploring the rest of the Cairngorms. There is also a lunch menu available and we ordered the brie wedges to share to start with and they were amazing!

The Winking Owl ScotlandThe Winking Owl ScotlandThe Winking Owl Scotland

Accommodation

Inver Coille Camping & Glamping

When we were originally looking into where we wanted to stay, we knew we wanted something quirky and cosy. We came across Inver Coillie Camping and Glamping which offers several glamping options such as Geodomes, bell tents and pods. As there was 4 of us we opted to book one of their geodomes, and we were definitely not disappointed!

The campsite is nestled in a beautiful wooded area along Loch Ness, and only a 10 minute drive into Fort Augustus, it’s a great location for exploring the Highlands. Everything has been well thought out at the campsite, all the glamping pods are all well spaced out, bathrooms are immaculately clean and heated! When you book a Geodome you are provided with your own allocated bathroom which is code locked, which is great as you can leave all your toiletries in there. There is also a picnic area with fire pit and recycling bins. Just by the bathrooms there is also a communal area of sinks for washing up etc.

The dome we were allocated was gorgeous and we had the woods directly behind and a beautiful stream running just outside the dome. Inside the dome there is a double bed and a day bed which converts into a double. There’s a table and chairs and small kitchen unit which has a hob, and all the kitchen utensils and crockery you need along with a kettle. The dome comes with a starter pack of tea, coffee, sugar and biscuits. They also supply you with a bag of logs on arrival for the log burner, after that you can then buy extra at the reception. The log burner was amazing and made the Geodome so warm and toasty.

There was no WiFi or signal at Inver Coille but actually it was really nice to be able to fully switch off from the world. There was some solar run lights in the Geodome and some battery operated fairy lights but no electricity, however they supply you with a battery pack so you can charge your electricals, and you can leave gadgets charging in their reception.

If your looking for something a little bit different from your average guest house or hotel, and want a truely unique experience then I would definitely recommend glamping in the Highlands and get the chance to experience the outdoors a little more.

Inver Coille Camping & Glamping ScotlandInver Coille Camping & Glamping Scotland

Transport & Getting Around

As the Highlands covers a huge area I would recommend hiring a car, we picked up a car as soon as we landed at Inverness airport and dropped it off before we flew home. Having the flexibility of a car is great and means you can pull over at beautiful spots and find places you didn’t know existed along the way.

With Scotland’s rapid weather changes it’s also good to have a car to escape the rain. The roads are pretty quiet in the Highlands, just be prepared to drive along a lot of country roads, and the weather can take a turn for the worse at any moment.

Hiring a car was pretty inexpensive, just make sure to book in advance to get a good deal. Make sure to check out driving laws in Scotland as well, as there are a few variations compared to other areas in the UK.

5 Day Itinerary

  1. After arriving into the Highlands spend some time exploring Loch Ness and Fort Augustus and grab some pub grub at The Bothy.
  2. Get up early and start the climb up Ben Nevis, if you have any energy left after grab some food and have a wander in Fort William, and make some quick pit stops at the Commando Memorial and Bridge Of Oich.
  3. Set off early and have a full day exploring the Isle of Skye, and when coming back to the mainland at the end of the day stop at Eilean Donan Castle to see it lit up at dusk.
  4. Spend a full day exploring Aviemore and the Cairngorms.
  5. Drive to Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig and spend the day exploring each of these small villages that are all close together.

Top Tips

My top tips for visiting the Highlands is to pack for the weather make sure you pack plenty of warm and waterproof clothes and hiking boots with you. As much as I hate hiking boots as I think they are the ugliest invention known to mankind, they are highly functional in the Highlands.

One other tip is to research before you go and maybe download maps.me and pin out where you want to visit, as when we went to the Isle of Skye we went without a plan and ended up driving back on ourselves as we realised we had missed one of the major sights. If your time constraint then planning out an itinerary will mean you make the very most of your trip too.

Important Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful, if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

What To See & Do In The Scottish Highlands In 5 Days - Pinterest Pin

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A Day Trip To The Isle Of Skye From Loch Ness - Pinterest Pin

The Great Ocean Road Travel Guide

My husband and I travelled along the Great Ocean Road a few years back, as my brother in law lives in Adelaide. We decided to fly out to Melbourne to meet him there and spend a few nights there then all drive along the Great Ocean Road together back to Adelaide. We spent a few days in Adelaide and also visited Kangaroo Island too then spent a few more days back in Adelaide before flying home.

The Great Ocean Road is a 150 mile stretch of heritage listed road along the south eastern coast of Australia. The Great Ocean Road makes an excellent choice for an epic road trip. There is so much to see and do along this iconic road from seaside towns, coves and bays, lighthouses and lots of wildlife.

The good thing about the Great Ocean Road is that you can make the trip as long as you like, most people tend to drive along the Great Ocean Road over 3-4 days. We drove the Great Ocean Road over 5 days as we drove on further to Adelaide. I would really recommend the Great Ocean Road to anyone as it has something for everyone and could easily be done over 3 days if your strapped for time.

Torquay

Torquay is either at the very start or very end of the Great Ocean Road depending which way you come from. We started our Great Ocean Road adventure in Torquay. Torquay used to be a sleepy seaside town but now Torquay is world famous as Australia’s Surf Capital.

Torquay is also home to Ripcurl and Quicksilver which are two huge iconic surf brands which originally started out as wetsuit makers. Torquay was one of my favourite stops along the Great Ocean Road, from getting to visit the world famous Bells Beach and the surf museum, there is so much to Torquay than meets the eye.

Sights & Activities

Australian National Surfing Museum

No trip to Torquay would be complete without a visit to the Australian National Surfing Museum. There is a huge array of Australian surfing memorabilia, the surf hall of fame and lots of information, videos and displays on surfing culture. This small but interesting museum is a must and is reasonably priced at just AUD$12 per person.

We all really enjoyed visiting the museum and learnt so much about surfing culture and the history behind it. We spent a few hours wandering around the museum and reading all of the information.Bells Beach

Bells Beach is world famous and also home to Rip Curls Pro Bells Beach Surf Competition which is the world’s longest continuously running surfing competition. There are viewing platforms located above Bells Beach where you can take in breathtaking views of the world famous beach and the waves as well as the sandstone cliffs surrounding the beach. Bells Beach shouldn’t be missed when cruising along the Great Ocean Road.Surf City

Surf City is a shopping complex in Torquay which sells all kinds of surf essentials from wetsuits and surf boards to lots of iconic surf brands selling clothing. We stopped here and did a spot of shopping when we first arrived in Torquay. If your into your surf brands you need to check this place out as all the major surf brands from Billabong, Quicksilver, Ripcurl and many more are all in one area.Food & Beverage

Fishos

Fishos is located along the shore front in Torquay, and serves up fresh, delicious and non fuss fish and chips. We chose the Bells Share Platter which serves 4 people for AUD$72 which worked out slightly cheaper than ordering individual meals and came with fish, calamari, chips and sweet potato cakes it was really filling and tasty.Accommodation

The View on Grossmans

The View on Grossmans is a great location and located just 2 minutes drive from Torquay Beach. This small family run bed and breakfast has everything you need and also includes a pool and tennis courts as well as a bbq area. The rooms are clean, comfortable and modern and affordable.

Anglesea

After leaving Torquay in the morning, we made our way to Anglesea which is approximately a 20 minute drive from Torquay. We made a quick stop for breakfast and had a walk along the Anglesea River which meets the ocean and is the most gorgeous bright blue colour.

Food & Beverage

Four Kings

Four Kings Cafe is located right on the Great Ocean Road and overlooks the seafront. It serves up breakfast, brunch and lunch and a selection of drinks. It also has a good selection of vegan and vegetarian food. All the food is simple, fresh and healthy. If your leaving Torquay in the morning stop here for breakfast.

Aireys Inlet

Aireys Inlet is midway between Anglesea and Lorne. Aireys Inlet has some beautiful stretches of coast, beaches and creeks.

Split Point Lighthouse

Split Point Lighthouse was built in 1891 and is still operational today. It was also used for filming for the popular children’s TV series ‘Around the Twist’. It is only accessible by booking a tour, however you can walk up to the lighthouse and have a wander round and get some great views of the coast without booking and paying for the tour.

Lorne

Lorne is a major tourist attraction in itself, this quaint little seaside town attracts lots of tourists and day trippers during the summer months and has a great selection of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. The beach is great for families as it has a beachside swimming pool, trampolines and skatepark.

If sitting in a beachside cafe isn’t your thing then there are lots of bushwalking tracks nearby too. We stopped in Lorne for an afternoon and wandered around the shops and grabbed and ice cream.

Food & Beverage

Stone Cold

Stone Cold is an ice cream parlour situated along the beachfront and serves up a large variety of ice cream flavours as well as smoothies, juices and salads. We stopped here for some ice cream and sat outside watching the world go by.

Separation Creek

After about 20 minutes of driving out of Lorne we drove through the gorgeous Separation Creek, which is a small costal Village. There isn’t much to see and do here but there is some gorgeous views of the coast. There is also a 250 meter long beach which you can visit here too. We didn’t stop however if you have time and want a quiet beach, this is the place to stop.

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is situated about an hour drive from Lorne and is one of the Great Ocean Roads larger towns. Apollo Bay is also a great place to base yourself to explore Cape Otway. When we drove along the Great Ocean Road we stayed in Cape Otway which was great, however in hindsight we would have been better staying in Apollo Bay as we had to drive back to Apollo Bay when we realised there was nowhere to get something to eat or drink in Cape Otway.

Apollo Bay has a great selection of restaurants and bars to choose from and a gorgeous white sand stretch of beach. We stopped along here for the beach and came back here in the evenings for dinner as it’s only about 25-30 minutes drive to Cape Otway where we were staying.

Food & Beverage

Cafe 153

Cafe 153 is located along the Great Ocean Road in Apollo Bay, it is a laid back cafe which serves a selection of wine and alcohol and modern Australian cuisine with fresh, local and organic ingredients. It’s more of a breakfast and lunch type place, however we came here late afternoon for an early dinner before they closed. It’s a family run business and has a warm and welcoming intimate atmosphere.

Great Ocean Road Brewhouse

Another evening we visited the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse in Apollo Bay which serves up hearty pub grub and a huge array of craft beers. It’s a large family friendly Brewhouse and whether it’s food or just a drink you want this place is a great spot. It was reasonably priced and delicious food, I had the chicken schnitzel which was really tasty and filling. After dinner we sat by the fire and had a few drinks, which was a lovely way to wind down after a day of road tripping . There is also a beer garden too which is great for warmer days.

Cape Otway

Cape Otway has a beautiful and rugged coast line to explore as well as lots of nature, wildlife and rainforests. Cape Otway is the second most southerly point of mainland Australia. Most of Cape Otway is within the Great Otway National Park.

We spent 2 nights in Cape Otway as we love exploring nature and enjoy seeing wildlife. In Cape Otway you can also see an abundance of koalas and kangaroos living in the wild, we pulled over several times to watch Koalas in the trees above and even had one koala walk past our car and down the road which was amazing. We were also lucky enough to see an Echidna too.Sights & Activities

Artillery Rocks

Artillery Rocks was a real highlight for us, these rugged rock formations slope out into the ocean with a backdrop of rainforest hills behind. We came on a bit of wet, grey and rainy day but it didn’t stop us taking a stroll along these rocks, in fact it worked out well as we had the area to ourselves.

While here we had planned on having a picnic and bought lots of snacks and nibbles, and because of the bad weather ended up having a picnic in the car. While having our picnic I spotted a koala strolling past on the road behind our car so we all got out and followed it a few meters behind to see where it was going, it was amazing to see a koala in the wild. It eventually climbed up a tree and my brother in law managed to feed it some leaves.

Cape Otway Lightstation

Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest lighthouse on mainland Australia that is still standing. There is more to see here than just the lighthouse from aboriginal cultural sites to world war 2 bunkers within the grounds. The lighthouse was built in 1848, it was also known as the Beacon of Hope. Hundreds of people were lost along this shipwreck coast which led to the building of the Lightstation on the cliffs edge.

Visiting the Lightstation is a great day out with lots to see and do and great value for money general admission was AUS$20 per person and includes entrance into the lighthouse, history talks, world war 2 bunker, whale interpretation site, aboriginal culture bush talk and entrance into the light keepers quarter and much more.

There is also a cute light keepers cafe which is in a gorgeous old sandstone building and serves home made cakes and pies which are delicious as well as some hot drinks which were perfect for us on the chilly windy day we visited.

The Redwoods

The Redwoods Forest is great to stroll around, the Californian redwood trees were planted along the river back in 1939. The forest has some pathways through the trees, we visited the redwood forest just before leaving Cape Otway you only need about 30 minutes to wander through the walkways stay longer if you bring a picnic, it’s the perfect spot for lunch.

Accommodation

Bimbi Park

Bimbi Park is located not too far from the Cape Otway Lightstation and has a whole range of accommodation to suit all budgets from camping powered and unpowered sites, caravans, bunk rooms and cabins. When we stayed at Bimbi Park we booked a standard cabin without an ensuite.

The cabins have everything you need with small kitchen and sitting area, and a bedroom. It was clean, comfortable and affordable at only AUS$65 per night. We really enjoyed staying here it was quirky and had lots of wildlife around the park from koalas, kangaroos and lots of native birds.

Even though we really enjoyed our stay here I would recommend staying in Apollo Bay if you want more to do in the evenings, or if you are staying at Bimbi Park take food and drink supplies, as there aren’t many amenities near by and the reception only has snacks on sale.

Port Campbell & The Twelve Apostles

The Twelve Apostles are probably the most iconic image of the Great Ocean Road. These stacked limestone towers scattered off shore near to the cliff edges in the Port Campbell National Park are a natural masterpiece, however now only 8 apostles can be seen from the viewing platforms. No trip to the Great Ocean Road would be complete without a visit to the rugged coastline to view the apostles. The road through Port Campbell is stunning with lots of sheer cliffs and beaches.

Warrnambool

Warrnambool is the end of the Great Ocean Road, and used to be a whaling and sealing station now times have changed, and it is now a bustling hub with historical buildings and a whale watching centre. We stopped off here on our final stop along the Great Ocean Road, and went to a whale viewing point. Unfortunately we didn’t see any whales when we went but certain times of the year whales can be seen swimming in the distance.

Mount Gambier

We drove the whole of the Great Ocean Road, and continued on through Mount Gambier, Beachport, Robe and Meningie which aren’t part of the Great Ocean Road but thought I’d include them on this blog incase you decide to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide.

Mount Gambier is a major town on the limestone coast and lies beneath on the flatlands below an extinct volcano. What makes Mount Gambier a great stop is it’s stunning turquoise blue crater lake and caves. It takes just over 2 hours to reach Mount Gambier from Warrnambool.

We stopped in Mount Gambier for a drink and to go and visit the Famous Blue Lake, which changes colour depending on the season, and lies in a volcanic crater.

Beachport

Beachport is a small coastal town along the limestone coast, with quant stone buildings this quiet town isn’t the most buzzing town, however if you want relaxing and quiet this is the place for you. Beachport also has a famously long jetty which is nice to walk along, although we went on a cold windy day and got very windswept.

Robe

The small fishing port of Robe doesn’t look much when you first drive into it, however I was pleasantly surprised by Robe. It has a lovely little high street with a good choice of great eateries and shops. Robe has become a popular holiday destination for holiday makers from both Adelaide and Melbourne. If your planning on visiting Robe over the Christmas or Easter period make sure to book accommodation in advance as it does get booked up way in advance.

Sights & Activities

Guichen Bay & The Obelisk

The Obelisk was built on Cape Dombey in 1852, which was created to help navigate the entrance into Guichen Bay and also to store rocket lifesaving equipment. The Obelisk is a landmark of Robe and has gorgeous rugged views over the Guichen Bay. This is one of the top sites to go and see in Robe, I loved watching the crashing waves here.

Food & Beverage

Caledonian Inn

If your looking for a traditional pub in Robe look no further than the Caledonian Inn, this pub is on the high street and is set in a gorgeous old stone building and has a great atmosphere and a good selection of wines. The pub has a very English feel to it and is a traditional pub and has been in Robe so long that it is now seen as a landmark itself. We stopped in here for a few drinks after dinner.

Vic Street Pizza Project

Vic Street Pizza Project is a casual restaurant but with delicious food and fresh jugs of pimms. The Vic Pizza Project offers more than just Pizza and pasta it also has a specials board which is updated daily, when we were there they had tacos on offer. One thing I love about Australian restaurants is how fresh the food is and also that you go up and order your food and pay for it at the start. It saves time with the bill at the end. If your in Robe check this place out as it’s right on the high street.

Accommodation

Lakeview Motel & Apartments

Lakeview Motel is set on the shores of the Lake Fellmongery, it is a great location in Robe and is close proximity to all amenities within the town. The motels and apartments have a variety of rooms and rates on offer. We booked the standard rooms which are equipped with kitchen, bathroom and a small sitting area, which was great value for money we paid about £75 for the night and were really impressed with the size of the room.

Meningie

Meningie is a small town on the south of Lake Albert in South Australia. This was the last place we stopped at to stretch our legs on our road trip before continuing on to Adelaide. It has some gorgeous views over the lake and some native birds. If your are driving all the way to Adelaide this is a convenient place to stop to have a walk and some fresh air.

Important Information

 

 

 

New Zealand’s South Island Ultimate Guide

New Zealand was somewhere my husband and I had always dreamed of travelling to. We both managed to get 2 months off work, and decided to go to New Zealand for 5 weeks, and added on the Cook Islands, Hong Kong and Macao towards the end of our trip.

My husband had always wanted to go on a campervan holiday, and New Zealand is best explored by campervan as it caters so well for campers.

We had always wanted to venture to New Zealand but always said we would only go if we could spend at least 3-4 weeks there, as it’s so far away to travel to. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do everything that we wanted to do in just 2 weeks alone. Even though we managed to do all the main sites in 5 weeks, we would both love to travel back and spend some more time there.

When you travel to New Zealand it’s clear to see why it’s a prime location for film and TV sets. New Zealand is unlike anywhere else I have traveled to before. The landscape is so diverse and goes from so many extremes.

The North and South Islands are completely different from one another. The North Island is much more populated than the South Island, although all of New Zealand only has a total population of 4.5 million people. The North Island is home to 3 quarters of the total population and is home to the largest city in New Zealand – Auckland.

The South Island is known for its mountains, lakes, glaciers, the southern alps and a cooler climate. When travelling to New Zealand I would always advise to try and travel to both islands as they are so different from one another.

In this blog I am going to write about the places that we visited in the South Island, and what I would recommend and some helpful tips.

Picton

Picton will be the first Town you come across on the South Island when coming in on the ferry from the North Island. Picton is located in the north of the South Island, and is located within a sound. It is the main Traveller port and is busy in the summer months.

There isn’t a great lot to do in Picton, however there are several museums, and the lovely harbour area. There are also some great restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques. We spent our first night on the South Island in Picton as we arrived late at night on the ferry. We also spent a few hours walking around Picton when we came back prior to catching the ferry back up to the North Island.

Sights & Activities

Blenheim

Blenheim is a small agricultural town about 15 miles or so from Picton, it’s not the most exciting town however if you have some time to kill before getting the ferry back it’s worth having a wander around.

Pelorus Bridge

As we drove from Nelson to Picton we stopped at Pelorus Bridge it is one of the filming set locations for the film The Hobbit. The Bridge crosses over the Pelorus River and there is a scenic reserve. The river is crystal clear and there are forest glades, waterfalls and rock pools to explore nearby as well as several walks and hikes.

Picton Waterfront

The waterfront area near Picton’s town centre is lovely to walk around on a sunny day, there’s a small beach area, a war monument and some lovely views of the surrounding sound.

Food & Beverage

Cafe Cortado

Cafe Cortado has a prime location on Picton’s Waterfront and has a South American themed menu, and offers a selection of tapas, seafood and pizzas. We didn’t eat here but stopped here for a drink prior to getting the ferry as it has a really good atmosphere here and some outside seating.

Accommodation

Waikawa Bay Kiwi Holiday Park

Waikawa Bay Kiwi Holiday Park is only 5 minutes drive from Pictons ferry terminal, we stopped here for our first night on the South Island and if arriving late it is a great place to stop for the night.

The park offers a range of accommodation options ranging from cabins, self contained units, motel, tent and campervan sites.

The campsite is clean with lots of facilities such as a swimming pool and volleyball court etc. The campsite also offers great views of the bay.

Kaikoura

So the award for my favourite place in the whole of New Zealand goes to Kaikoura! I know it’s a big statement but I completely fell in love with Kaikoura, and it’s breath taking scenery and wildlife, and it’s cute and quirky little high street and the friendly welcoming locals.

We travelled to Kaikoura after arriving in Picton and stopping there for the night. Originally we were only going to stop for a night and ended up staying 3 nights.

Kaikoura is an absolute must when travelling to New Zealand. I also had one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life getting to swim with wild dolphins in the ocean, which is honestly one of the best things I have ever experienced.

Here you can also book on whale watching tours which we did but unfortunately due to bad weather the tour was cancelled.

Sights & Activities

Fyffe House

Fyffe House is Kaikoura’s oldest building which has survived since 1844, by colonial settlers using whale bones as foundations. It’s a small two storey cottage with gardens. It is steeped in history and used to be a whaling station. We didn’t go into look around the museum, we just went to have a look at the outside of it, as it is positioned on Kaikoura’s peninsular.

Dolphin Encounter

Kairkoura’s Dolphin Encounter was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. I had always wanted to swim with dolphins but never would have swam with them in captivity, as I don’t agree with it morally. So when I found out you could swim with wild dolphins in New Zealand I knew we had to book on!

The tours have been awarded certificates of conservation, and invest money back into wildlife conservation and research. When we arrived at the centre we got suited and booted into our wetsuits, and were given a safety and information briefing, the video explained that sometimes the dolphins aren’t interested in coming up to humans and that if they did we were really lucky, and it also explained how we were the dolphins entertainment not the other way around.

After the briefing the tour then buses you over to the boats, there are only 3 tours that run a day each with approximately 25 people on which are split between 2 boats, so it doesn’t feel crowded and overly touristy. Once on the boats you get some great views of Kaikoura’s coast and drive out about 30 minutes to find the dolphins. When we found them there was literally thousands of dusky dolphins jumping in and out the water.

The tour company doesn’t feed the dolphins or anything to tempt them over so everything feels very natural, we got into the water and within seconds we had dolphins swimming around us to come and investigate what we were, the tour also advised to make noises as the dolphins are intrigued by new sounds.

This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life getting up close to wild dolphins they are so intelligent and to hear them squeaking and communicating with each other under the water really is a once in a lifetime experience. We also had one dolphin in particular that kept circling us and coming up close to our faces to have a look through our masks. They are truly stunning. We spent a good hour in the water and then moved onto another spot for some more dolphin encounters.

This tour was such good value for money it was approximately NZ$85 which is so worth it, I also think because the tour company down played that it is the dolphins choice to come up to you, I wasn’t expecting too much and the fact the dolphins were so interested it was amazing.

One tip I would suggest is taking sea sickness tablets prior to the trip as both my husband and myself were both sick on the boat along with a few others, other than that this tour is great and is a must when in Kaikoura, try to book in advance to avoid disappointment, as the tours do get booked up quickly, however you can put your name down for any cancellations which is what we did and managed to get on one of the tours luckily.

The same company which offers the dolphin encounter also offers tours such as a seal encounter and an albatross tour. If you have time it would be worth booking onto one of these too, as there is so much wildlife to see in Kaikoura.

Kaikoura High Street

Kaikoura’s small high street is full of quirky charm and is so cute. It has lots of great little places to eat and some great boutiques and gift shops. While staying in Kaikoura make sure to park up and have a wander up and down, and chat to the friendly locals.

Kaikoura Musuem

The Kaikoura Museum is newly refurbed and opened just after the earthquake in 2016, it used to be in a small building just outside of the town, now it is in the town centre in a brand new purpose built building and has tons of information about Kaikoura, it’s history and it’s residence.

The museum has tons of artefacts and memorabilia covering a variety of topics from nature, Maori and colonial, Kaikoura’s history and other quirky artefacts. You can easily spend an hour or so visiting this museum and it is run by some friendly locals who can tell you lots more information about the area.

Point Kean Seal Colony

The Seal Colony in Kaikoura is a must, it’s free and great to see the seals in their natural habitat. There are some amazing views of the coast here and a few small walks to do near by. You can also see tons of sea birds too. Just make sure to wrap up warm, when we went it was a particularly windy day! We also managed to stumble into a seagull nesting ground and nearly got savaged by protective parents so take care!

Southern Paua & Pacific Jewels

Southern Paua and Pacific Jewels is a large shop at the end of the high street which sells Paua Shells and a variety of jewellery. If you are looking for some souvenirs to take home, this shop is great and just next door is a really cute and quirky gift shop and retro hair dressers, they also have surf boards and surf wear for sale and hire. While wandering up the high street go and check it out, there is also parking right outside too.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Whale Watch Kaikoura is meant to be amazing we heard so many good reviews about this tour. We booked onto the tour however unfortunately due to bad weather the tours got cancelled that day and it was our last day in Kaikoura, we were so disappointed that we didn’t get chance to go, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you visit Kaikoura be sure to add this to your to do list.

Food & Beverage

Bean Me Up

If your like my husband and need constant coffee pick me ups this quirky little coffee stall along the high street is great and serves up a selection of drinks and snacks and has a small seating area too.

Kaikoura Bakery

This cute little bakery in Kaikoura has a huge range of pastries, cakes, sandwiches, pies and much much more. If you want a little snack for on the go or a quick and easy breakfast or lunch snack then this place is a great find. It’s cheap and cheerful and fuss free. I really recommend the pies on a cold day to warm you up.

Kaikoura Seafood BBQ

This has to be one of the best food stalls I have visited, the location is lovely and overlooks the sea, the food is fresh and delicious. It’s no frills but that adds to the charm of this little place and it’s great value for money for what you get and great if your on a budget.

The Craypot

The Craypot is a restaurant and pub with a great selection of food and drinks. We didn’t stop here for food but did stop in here for a few drinks as it had a lovely little sofa area complete with crochet throws to kick back and relax on after a day out at sea.

Tiki Takeaways

Tiki Takeaways is towards the end of the high street and serves up tasty fish and chips as well as some other fast food options. This has to be one of the cheapest places we ate at in New Zealand for 2 portions of fish and chips it came to approximately £7. It was one of the best fish and chips we had ever had and if your in New Zealand for a while food costs can start to add up a bit so it’s great to find little cheap places to eat that deliver great food.

Accommodation

Kaikoura Alpine Pacific Kiwi Holiday Park

We stayed in Kaikoura Alpine Pacific Kiwi Holiday Park for 3 nights, like all other Kiwi parks it has excellent facilities and a good location. We signed up to the Kiwi card here which gave us discount on the dolphin encounter which was well worth it. While sleeping 1 night here we did experience a small earthquake tremor which can be expected, as Kaikoura is still experiencing a few aftershock tremors from its 2016 earthquake.

Christchurch

Christchurch wasn’t my favourite city in New Zealand that we visited. However I loved all the street art around everywhere, and just walking around the city there is so much colourful art to see. I didn’t feel there was tons of things to see here so we only spent half a day in Christchurch.

Christchurch is still undergoing lots of rebuilding work from the damage of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. While we were there it was great to see it bouncing back and tons being invested back into the city. There is so many repurposed shipping containers and lots of new modern buildings, you can’t come to the South Island without making a stop in Christchurch.

Sights & Activities

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square is located in Christchurch’s city centre, and it has the remains of the Christchurch Cathedral which was brought down by the 2011 earthquakes, which destroyed its stain glass windows and 63meter high spire. Many of the heritage buildings which were also set around the square were also badly damaged.

There is still much debate going on with what to do with the ruins of the Christchurch cathedral some want it rebuilt, while others want it adapted and others want it removed completely. At the moment you can still go and see the ruins.

A modern sculpture which survived the earthquakes was the Chalice which was created in 2001 to commemorate the new millennium.

Christchurch City Centre

Christchurch city centre is a great place to walk around it’s so colourful considering all the damage that the earthquakes caused. Christchurch has an amazing street art scene, it’s a great city to with lots of artwork to take in. In the city centre you can see the old fashioned trams still running too.

Christchurch still has lots of building work continuing and you can still see lots of damage from the 2011 earthquakes.

Re:Start Mall

Re:Start Mall is really quirky and was created after the 2011 earthquakes. It’s made out of lots of repurposed shipping containers. It has a variety of little boutiques and shops ranging from fashion and big brands to gift shops and local arts and crafts.

Food & Beverage

Re:Start Mall

The Re:Start Mall also has a selection of street food stalls selling everything you can think of from Italian, greek, middle eastern, Mexican and Asian cuisine along with many others. While we were here we tried out J-Bings which offer Chinese street food wraps, they are absolutely delicious and have crunchy wonton crisps inside.

Twizel

Twizel is a great town to base yourself for all of the natural scenes just outside of the town. I have to admit Twizel wasn’t my most favoured of places we stayed in. I found the town to be a bit dull, and a little bit dated, however don’t let that put you off as it’s a great base to explore other areas around it, as it is really central to everything to see around this part of New Zealand, as well as having a few little restaurants and bars to keep you occupied in the evenings.

Sights & Activities

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki is the largest of 3 almost parallel alpine lakes running along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin. Lake Pukaki is a glacial lake that lies beneath Mount Cook. Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo are roughly 30 minutes drive apart and driving between them you can take in breath taking views of the mountain ranges. As well as a gorgeous viewing point at Lake Pukaki there is also lots of tramping tracks around this area to explore.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is also located in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island and lays at the base of the southern alps. The lake is absolutely stunning with snow peaked mountains and the turquoise blue waters of the Lake. The lake is also a hydro lake producing electricity for New Zealand’s main grid.

Tekapo is part of the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world, meaning the night’s sky is unbelievably clear to see stars, and sometimes even the Southern Lights. There are several stargazing tours you can book onto. Lake Tekapo is the second largest of 3 lakes running north to south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin, the others are Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau.

At the southern end of Lake Tekapo township, is the stone Church of the Good Shepherd, which is a popular tourist attraction.

Lindis Pass

Lindis Pass is a Road that links up the Mackenzie Basin to central Otago. The Road runs through stunning valleys and at certain times of the year you can see snow peaked mountains. There are some of the best views here, the landscape is vast and unspoilt, it makes you really realise how small we are in comparison.

Driving along Lindis Pass is a must, this is one of the reasons we loved our road trip around New Zealand because of the empty roads like this, with the most stunning landscapes that you can enjoy while driving along on the open road, with lots of places to pull over and admire the surroundings.

Mount Cook

Mount Cook is a 700 square kilometre mountain range and national park, it is part of a world heritage area. A large area of the park has snow covered mountains all year round. Mount Cook itself is New Zealand’s largest mountain.

When visiting Mount Cook pay a visit to the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre located in the Mount Cook Village, there is a whole range of information and displays in there as well as information and advice on weather, tracks and helpful tips etc. There is also a gift shop and booking agent there too.

Unfortunately when we went up there the weather took a turn, and was raining and really misty so we didn’t walk along on any of the bush walks as visibility was not good. Instead we drove along the Mountain ranges. We were really disappointed and this is somewhere we would love to go back to and visit.

New Zealand Alpine Lavender Farm

New Zealand Alpine Lavender Farm is another great place to stop off at on the way to Mount Cook. It’s got a large beautiful field filled with lavender, and a small farm shop selling lots of lavender products from soaps, toiletries, bath salts and other souvenirs. It’s free to enter and to take some great photos, it’s also got some seating to relax in and enjoy the lovely smell of lavender.

Lupin Fields

Lupin fields are located as your driving into Twizel and the surrounding areas. Lupins are gorgeous bright coloured purple, pink and blue flowers which bloom between November – December. It’s lovely to see fields and fields of beautiful bright flowers in bloom, it’s also a great photograph opportunity.

Food & Beverage

Jasmine Thai Restaurant

If your a big Thai food fan like myself then go Jasmine Thai restaurant for your Thai food fix, they have a large selection of Thai food on their menu it’s simple and non fussy and well priced. It’s also located in the centre of Twizel town.

Ministry of Works Bar & Eatery

Ministry of Works Bar and Restaurant is a must go to if your craving comfort food. It’s menu ranges from pizzas, chicken wings to burgers etc. It’s portions are a good size so you definitely won’t leave feeling hungry. It’s also a great place to go for a drink after a long day of exploring the wilderness and nature beyond Twizel.

Accommodation

Twizel Holiday Park

Twizel Holiday Park is a small holiday park which also offers a selection of cabins. The grassed site was really nice and we parked up in a lovely spot underneath a tree. The shower and kitchen facilities were also clean and well equipped too. Twizel Town centre is just a few minutes up the road.

Wanaka

When visiting Queenstown and Wanaka a lot of people compare them. However I found even though they have a lot of similarities with both of them sitting on a beautiful lake setting, and gorgeous mountain range overlooking the towns. Both towns have quite a different astmoshere and draw different crowds, Wanaka is also cheaper in comparison to Queenstown.

My husband absolutely fell in love with Wanaka it was his favourite place in New Zealand after Milford Sound. The town has quite a laid back atmosphere with lots of sophisticated bars and restaurants.

Sights & Activities

Bradrona

Bradrona is a quirky tourist attraction, we drove past it as we were leaving Wanaka. It’s a long fence covered with hanging bras to raise money for breast cancer. It started out as just a few random bras that just appeared there, and over time more and more kept getting added. In 2015 they rebranded it Bradrona and placed donation boxes to raise money. Pull over and make a donation and get a great photo op here.

Lake Wanaka

On a hot day Lake Wanaka is just the perfect area to relax. The views of the lake and mountains are just breathtaking, and the lake is so clear and clean it’s perfect to go for a dip or take a swim to cool off. There is a rocky beach to sunbathe on and have a picnic too.

As well as lots of rest and relaxing on Lake Wanaka, if you do like a bit more action there are water sports readily available, such as paddle boarding and kayaking etc. There are lots of hiking and tramping trails around Lake Wanaka, if you don’t like sitting still for to long.

When we visited it was a lovely hot day and we spent all day lounging around and swimming in the lake, and made a picnic which we enjoyed with the most incredible views. If you do have time I would recommend just spending a full day relaxing and enjoying the lake as it really is beautiful.

That Wanaka Tree

Just around from the main rocky beach there is a small car park where you can go see the famous Wanaka Tree also known as the Lone Tree, it is one of the most photographed areas in Wanaka.

Wanaka Artesian Farmers Market

Every Thursday between 3pm – 6pm Wanaka hosts an Artesian Farmers Market. Which is held on the green just in front of the Lake, there is a selection of stalls selling arts and crafts as well as farmers selling fresh produce and artesian foods. It’s got an excellent atmosphere so if you are in Wanaka on a Thursday go and take a wander over to it.

Food & Beverage

Amigos Mexican Grill

If like us you love Mexican food go to Amigos. They have a huge selection and variety of tacos which were delicious, as well as cocktails. There is also a good choice of sides which were only NZ$5 each.

Big Fig

Big Fig restaurant is a very hipster restaurant but we loved it in there. It serves up fresh organic food which is quick and delicious. You choose the size bowl you want and then choose what you want to fill it with from the counter. It was well decorated and casual inside it was a little pricey for what was basically a posh cafe but the food was so tasty. You can eat in or take away.

Speights Ale House

Speights Ale House is a chain around New Zealand it’s similar to Wetherspoons like we have here in the UK. The drinks are affordable and they have a variety of beers and other drinks on offer. In Wanaka the Speights there has an excellent location, right in the town centre overlooking the lake, and has an outside seating area which is always good on a hot day. The staff here were also really friendly and welcoming.

Accommodation

Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park

Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park is located 5 minutes drive away from the centre of Wanaka town. Its location is ideal and has lovely green pitches and lots of trees. Again as it is a Kiwi holiday park all facilities were to an excellent standard, which we found at all Kiwi parks we stayed at.

Te Anau

We stayed in Te Anau over Christmas as it’s a great location for visiting Milford Sound, as the Milford Sound area only has one DOC campsite which has no shower facilities. So most people tend to use Te Anau as a base as it is the gateway to Fiordland.

The town sits on Lake Te Anau which is New Zealand’s second largest lake. The lake was gauged out by a glacier and the lake itself is extremely deep.

Te Anau is a pretty sleepy town but it does have a reasonably good selection of bars and restaurants as well as a high street with a selection of little shops.

Sights & Activities

Lake Te Anau

Lake Te Anau is stunning like most of New Zealand’s lakes it has a beautiful backdrop of forested mountains. There isn’t much going on in or around the lake, but it’s lovely to take a stroll along and we also grabbed some chai lattes from a nearby cafe and went and sat on one of the benches down by the lake admiring the view and watching the world go by.

Punanga Manu O Te Anau

Punanga Manu O Te Anau is a free bird sanctuary with large aviaries set by the lake. It gives visitors the chance to see some of New Zealand’s rarest birds which normally would be difficult to spot in the wild. There is an information board and donation box by the entrance which provides information on the work they do here. It’s not very large and you could spend an hour or so here.

Milford Sound

A trip to New Zealand isn’t complete without a visit to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is stunning and you will probably find you haven’t been anywhere quite like it in the world. With huge mountains rising out of the waters, cliffs covered in forests and cascading waterfalls. Milford Sound is unique as it has freshwater sitting on top of warmer seawater and attracts a variety of marine life.

We stayed in Te Anau on Christmas Day and booked a kayaking tour for Milford Sound for Boxing Day, it was an early start but so worth it. There isn’t really anywhere to stay in or around Milford Sound, so most people tend to stay in Te Anau or Queenstown and normally day trip there.

We decided to book the Milford Cruiser Tour with Roscos Milford Kayaks which started at 8.30am, so we left Te Anau early as it takes about 2 hours to get there and wanted to allow abit of extra time to make sure we found it ok. We didn’t fancy the packed tourist boats and really wanted to be as close to the water as possible. My top tip would be to book onto an early tour so you beat the busy bus loads of people coming into Milford Sound.

The tandem Kayaks were excellent as my husband did most the paddling while I sat and chilled and took lots of photos. Roscos take you out in small groups with approximately 8-10 people at a time and they give you a full safety briefing before hand, as well as kitting you out with thermals and waterproofs and everything you will need out on the water.

I cannot recommend Roscos enough this to us was the best way to see Milford Sound in all its glory, it really does make you feel so small in comparison. We were also lucky enough to see some dolphins right by our kayaks. The guide explained that sometimes Dolphins come right into the sound to clean themselves of any parasites in the freshwater. Seeing dolphins that close to our Kayaks was the cherry on top for me.

Mirror Lakes

Mirror Lakes is a good place to stop off on your way to or way back from Milford Sound. These small lakes provide amazing reflective views of the Earl Mountains. This is an easy walk suited to all ages and only 5 minutes walk from the car park. There are some wooden viewing platforms along the lakes and on a calm and sunny day the reflections are really clear.

The Chasm Walk

The Chasm Walk is another great place to stop at while visiting Milford Sound. There are 2 foot bridges over the Cleddau River which offer great views of a series of powerful waterfalls, which also allow you to see into the large gorge. Over 1000s of years of swirling water the rocks have been sculpted into various shapes. The sheer power of the water gives you an idea of how much rainfall there is in the Milford Sound area.

The walk is only a 20 minute loop on a path through a forested area. I really enjoyed stopping off at all these places on the way back from Milford Sound there is just so much to see in this area.

The Milford Road

The Milford Road was one of the most impressive and stunning roads we drove along in New Zealand with huge Mountains, plunging waterfalls and temperate forests there is so many places to pull over at to admire the pure beauty and wilderness of the area.

On clear days watch out for Keas which are New Zealand parrots. These parrots are very confident and land on your car and try to get in hoping to get some food. We had 2 land on our campervan and even attempt to get in our open window, they definitely aren’t shy and are used to tourists feeding them.

Food & Beverage

Miles Better Pies

Miles Better Pies is located right in the town centre of Te Anau. It has a huge selection of pies available both savoury and sweet. When we visited there didn’t appear to be any vegetarian savoury pies available so I had a blueberry and apple pie, however if your a meat eater there was a wide selection of pies available including lamb and venison. The pies are cheap and cheerful and make a great on the go lunch or snack, there is a few seats inside and outside of the cafe, however taking it down to eat by the lake is much nicer.

Olive Tree Cafe

Olive Tree Cafe is located along the high street in the town centre and is a lovely cafe/restaurant. It has a small courtyard out the back which is great on a sunny day. They have a large menu offering a wide variety of dishes, I had the vegetarian stack which was full of flavour. All the food was beautifully prepared and delicious and the staff were warm and friendly.

Accommodation

Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park

We stayed at the Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is a small park but with great facilities like all other Top 10. It has a great location right opposite Lake Te Anau. The best part about this holiday park were the hot tubs which face out to the lake. As a treat we booked a hot tub on Christmas Eve, and sat in it with some beer and wine. The hot tubs were great and so affordable at a mere NZ$15 each, and as we were the last customers of the day the receptionist said we could have it for as long as we wanted and no rush, which was a great way to finish our Christmas Eve.

Queenstown

Queenstown really does have it all, it’s a small town with a big attitude. Queenstown is a tourist hotspot in New Zealand, and when you come here you will soon see why it attracts so many tourists from all around the world.

Queenstown is an adrenaline junkies ultimate fix with tons of extreme activities on offer ranging from bungee jumps to skydiving. Queenstown also has a stunning location set on Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by gorgeous mountains it looks like a picture postcard.

There is so much to do in Queenstown from exploring its natural beauty and coves, extreme sports, bars and restaurants and lively nightlife and there is so much to see and do in and around Queenstown and the outskirts including vineyards and golf courses. Queenstown really does have something to offer everyone and expect crowds all year round.

Queenstown is also very popular amongst Brits this was one area in New Zealand where we come across so many familiar accents. If your looking for a working holiday Queenstown definitely has lots of jobs going as most shops, bars and restaurants we went in we seemed to be served by British people over on a working visa.

To complete your epic trip to New Zealand make sure Queenstown is firmly on your itinerary.

Sights & Activities

Arrowtown

Arrowtown is located about a 20 minute drive from Queenstown and many day trippers tend to visit Arrowtown. Arrowtown started to become populated in the 1860s when gold was discovered in the Arrow River.

Arrowtown still has 60 of its original gold rush buildings lining the street. Arrowtown today is more of a tourist hot spot and has a great selection of shops and restaurants on offer. The Chinese settlement here is also very interesting to go and see, and has lots of information on the history of the area and migrants that worked there all those years ago.

When staying in Queenstown take a trip out to Arrowtown as it really does take you back in time and is a great little place to spend a morning or afternoon.

Arthur’s Point

Arthur’s Point is a rural area just 5 minutes away from Queenstown centre. A lot of people base themselves here as it’s close to Queenstown centre but without the price tag. There is also several things to do here such as the Jetover Jet Boat, which we watched speeding down the water under the large bridge in Arthur’s Point.

Blue Pools

The Blue Pools can be reached from either Queenstown or Wanaka. We visited Blue Pools after we left Queenstown as we headed up towards the west coast. The Blue Pools are deep river pools that are located where the Blue River joins the Makarora River.

The walk to the pools is about 15 minutes each way from the main entrance point. There is also a suspension bridge across them which can only hold a certain amount of people at each time.

There are also several walking tracks around the Blue Pools. When we visited we just went to see the pools and to walk around them, the pools are beautiful and the colour of blue is insane the pools are the brightest shade of blue.

Fantail Falls

Fantail Falls are not far from the Blue Pools, so you can easily do both on the same day. Fantail Falls can also be reached from Queenstown or Wanaka, we visited these Falls after leaving Queenstown, and went to the Falls after visiting the Blue Pools.

The Fantail Falls is a fan shaped waterfall that is fed by Fantail Creek from the Haast River. The Falls only take 5 minutes to reach from the car park. The Falls are good place to stop at but you don’t need to spend long here, it’s great to see the Falls and the dozens and dozens of stacked up rocks that people have piled up all around the area.

Frankton

Frankton is a small suburb and town on the outskirts of Queenstown, and also home to Queenstown airport. There may not be much going on in Frankton itself, however around Frankton and the surrounding areas there are so many beautiful views of the mountains. Coming into Queenstown we pulled up on so many occasions to admire the views.

Glenorchy

Glenorchy is only about 45 minutes drive from Queenstown and the drive is known as the drive to paradise. It’s a small town with beautiful surrounding and mountains and sits on the north end of Lake Wakatipu.

Some of the scenes from Lord of the Rings were shot around Glenorchy and if your a big fan you will probably recognise some of areas around Glenorchy. You really get the sense your in middle earth when visiting here the mountain views are breathtaking.

Glenorchy has lots of walks and tramping options to explore. You can download a free walking brochure from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. We decided on one of the easier walks which was the Glenorchy Walk Way which took about 1 hour. This walk way was amazing as we saw so many great views of the lake, mountains, lagoon and some of Glenorchys swamps. Around the swamps there are some boardwalks and seating areas.

There is also a small Red boat house set on the lake in Glenorchy which is one of the most photographed in this area and is iconic to Glenorchy.

Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown sits on Lake Wakatipu, the lake was one of the best lakes I’ve visited the crystal clear waters are beautiful. Lake Wakatipu is huge and has 212km of shoreline and tons of stoney coves to explore. Not only is the lake huge it’s also extremely deep and has 5 rivers flowing into the lake.

Lake Wakatipu is also the second most purest lake in the world after Blue Lake in New Zealand. Scientists have tested the water and it’s almost 100% pure. It’s so clean that you can drink the water straight from the lake, the water is also extremely cold.

While in Queenstown take a 5 minute drive around to Sunshine Bay there’s a quiet rocky beach. While your there you can also walk a small trail along the Sunshine Bay walk which provides you with more excellent views over Lake Wakatipu.

Queenstown Centre

Queenstown has so much to offer from lots of brand shops to quirky boutiques, high end restaurants to cheap eats and of course one of its main draws is it’s good selection of bars and pubs which seems to be the large draw for the many brits working here. Just walking around the centre of Queenstown is great and you can easily spend hours exploring this great buzzing town.

Queenstown Gardens

Queenstown Gardens is set right on its own little peninsular at the front of Queenstown Bay, and was created back in 1876 by the victorians. The beautiful gardens are really well kept and maintained.

There are some beautiful rose gardens, and this garden is great to walk through on a hot day. There’s lots going on in these gardens from bowls, tennis, frisbee golf etc. The park attracts a whole range of different people who come to enjoy the pretty garden settings for picnics, afternoon lazing and catching up with friends. The park also has several memorials too.

Skyline Gondola

The Skyline Gondola is a must do when in Queenstown it’s one of the top attractions. The Skyline Gondola gives some great views over Queenstown on the way up and on the way back down, there is a whole complex at the top with a cafe, restaurant, souvenir shop, observation deck, luge, bungy and ledge swing. The Gondola is the steepest in the Southern Hemisphere and takes you over 450 meters over Queenstown.

We booked the Gondola pass which included a ride on the luge as wasn’t much more expensive. We paid approximately NZ$40 each we saved a few dollars on top of this as we prebooked our tickets at the campsite we stayed at. A lot of accommodation providers offer discounts to top attractions so it’s always worth asking at your accommodation front desk.

The luge is a must and is great fun, while up there you can buy tickets which allows you several go’s on it, however we were happy with just going on the once.

The Bead Shop

If your a girly girl like me and love accessories and jewellery The Bead Shop is the place for you. I dragged my husband in here for like a good hour why I browsed through all the beads and made my own bracelets for a few friends back home, and of course for myself. It’s really reasonably priced and so much choice and great that you can make your own jewellery how you want it. Even if your not into jewellery but know someone back home who is, it’s the place to pick up a gift and even make one for someone.

Underwater Observatory

The Underwater Observatory is a reverse aquarium where the people are behind the glass and it’s a chance to see what lives in Lake Wakatipu. The observatory is located right in the heart of Queenstown on the bay. It’s only NZ$10 each and was really quiet when we went, we were the only ones in there.

We saw so many fish in the lake from trouts, eels and lots of diving ducks. There’s a food release box which is coin operated where you can feed the fish. I really enjoyed the observatory as I love wildlife and was great to see what lies beneath the lakes water.

Food & Beverage

Fergburger

The hype around Fergburger is insane, with a minimum 45 minute queue outside just to order and people returning and saying it was the best burger they have ever had. We had to see what all the fuss was about. Time and time again you will see Fergburger appearing in guidebooks, one of the must places to eat in Queenstown and so many recommendations. Even though we weren’t impressed with the wait I really wanted to try it.

My husband and myself ordered Bun Laden Burger (Veggie Burger for me), Ferg Deluxe Burger, fries and onion rings. We enjoyed the meal when we eventually got it after waiting for it. You have to queue literally for about 45 minutes just to order the food they then give you a ticket with your order number on. We went and sat in a bar as they have an online tracker to tell you when it’s ready so you don’t have to wait there. In total we waited about an hour and half for the food. There isn’t much seating in Fergburger so we perched up on a wall outside to eat it. They were good burgers but are they really worth the wait?! My husband and myself both didn’t think so and we couldn’t quite understand all the hype around Fergburger?!

Yes they were tasty but not really worth all the effort of queuing up for and then waiting longer with your order number. Apparently a lot of locals say that Devil Burger is just as good as Fergburger and less busy.

I would recommend Fergburger if it was quieter and if you can get there before the busy rush then give it ago, however I wouldn’t go back to it again. Worth trying for yourself and see what you think and if it’s worth all the hype. You can also call and place your order over the phone if you really don’t want to queue, wish we had done this and saved the time.

If you want to experience some of the Ferg hype, without all the waiting why not try Fergbaker and Mrs Fergs next door for tons of baked treats, pies and gelato.

Mrs Fergs

After Fergburger we went into Mrs Fergs next door which is less crowded and doesn’t have the crazy queues! We treated ourselves to some of their yummy gelato for our dessert.

1876

1876 is a bar and restaurant in Queenstown’s old stone courthouse and serves up a selection of pub grub, beers and drinks. 1876 has a great atmosphere and has a outside seating area. This pub also offers an excellent happy hour too and is great for pre dinner drinks. If your on a budget and don’t want to spend a fortune on a few drinks then head to this place, even if your not there in time for happy hour, the drinks are reasonable and there are normally offers on.

Accommodation

Creeksyde Queenstown Holiday Park

Creeksyde has an excellent location in Queenstown and is really central. It’s only about a 5-10 minute walk from the centre of Queenstown. The campsite has a garden setting with quirky reception and shared amenities building. The price per night was slightly more than what we had paid at other campsites, and we might have been able to get a campsite slightly cheaper out of town, however it was nice we could walk everywhere and just leave the campervan there all day.

The facilities were really clean here and the staff at reception were really helpful. If your looking to book any Queenstown attractions ask the reception as on some of the main attractions they have special offers and discounts for guests staying at the campsite.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier was great to go and see as some people tend to choose between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, and I’m so glad we decided to do both. I would really recommend that if you have time to try and see both glaciers.

Fox Glacier is a small and quiet town with not much going on, other than a few shops and restaurants to cater for the tourists visiting the glacier. Fox Glacier town feels smaller and has a little less going on than that of Franz Josef in comparison.

Sights & Activities

Fox Glacier Lookout

There are all types of different options to go and see Fox Glacier from glacier hiking tours, walk ways and helicopter tours etc. We decided we just wanted to go to the look out as the tours can be quite pricey, and we wanted to spend a bit more time in Franz Josef. The look out is one of the best view points from land to see the glacier, however with the retreat of Fox Glacier you can just see a small part of it.

The walk to the Glacier from the car park is about 1 hour return but is a leisurely walk through a valley and you get some amazing views.

Food & Beverage

Bigfoot Bar & Restaurant

I wasn’t a massive fan of the campsite, however the restaurant and bar was actually alright. They serve up typical pub grub comfort food in a casual atmosphere. Bigfoot Restaurant serves up a good selection of beer and cocktails, and their food menu has a good choice ranging from pizza, fish and chips and some various meat options such as wings, ribs etc.

Cafe Neve

The cafe is located right in the town centre and serves up a good selection of drinks and cakes and other sweet treats as well as offering a savoury food menu including pizza. We stopped in here to get a chai latte before heading to the glacier.

This cafe isn’t anything overly exciting however in such a small town where there isn’t a lot of choice this is definitely a good place to grab a bite to eat or drink on the go.

Accommodation

Bigfoot Bar & Restaurant

The Bigfoot Bar & Restaurant was probably the worst campsite we stayed in and I’ll use the word campsite loosely, it was just their car park you park up and camp in. The facilities were ok but a little run down and tired looking. We left the accommodation to last minute and the campsites we did want to stay in were fully booked so we ended up here.

I would recommend avoiding staying here if possible unless your desperate, or you have a real urge to stay in a carpark and be stumbling distance back to your camper from the bar!

Franz Josef

Franz Josef is a must I really enjoyed our stay here, it has a bit more going on than Fox Glacier but i would recommend if you have time to try and see both glaciers as they both offer a stunning natural walk up to the glaciers and I enjoyed seeing both. There are some great little restaurants and bars in Franz Josef as well as the west coast wildlife centre which was great.

Sights & Activities

Ka Roimata O Hine Hukatere Track

Ka Roimata O Hine Hukatere Track is a really great and easy way to see the glacier. The walk is suitable for everyone and follows a rocky riverbed path, as you walk along you can also take in some waterfalls too. The walk takes approximately 1 and half hour return back to the car park.

We both really enjoyed this walk and the view of the Glacier was great even though the glacier has retreated it was still amazing to see the size of it.

Peters Pool

While visiting the Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint after returning back to the car park you can do a small walk to Peters Pool. It’s a small walk that goes through the temperate rainforest to a small kettle lake. The walk only takes 20 minutes return and is really worth seeing after you visit the glacier.

West Coast Wildlife Centre

The West Coast Wildlife Centre is a small and unique wildlife centre in Franz Josef, it’s a small centre but with a big purpose of trying to breed 2 of the world’s rarest kiwi birds. There is also several other native wildlife exhibits. Once you have paid admission which is about NZ$40 each you can come and go to the centre as many times as you like within 24 hours.

There is a bush walk through enclosure which has Kiwi birds living inside just make sure to be really quiet and turn off your flash light as the centre are trying to make their habitat as close to the one they have in the wild, and eventually these kiwis will be released when they are old enough.

My husband and I decided to pay a little extra and get the backstage pass, where you get a tour of the incubation and hatching rooms and get to see the hand reared baby kiwis. Tours are limited to 8 people so try and book in advance so you can get the time slot you would prefer.

We went back several times to see the kiwis in the enclosure. It’s a great little centre with tons of information on offer and the fact you can go back as many times as you like so if you have no luck seeing the kiwis the first time it’s good to know you can try again within that 24 hour period.

Food & Beverage

The Copper Pot

The Copper Pot is along the main little street in Franz Josef. It’s honestly one of the best curries I’ve ever had, it doesn’t quite fit with the Franz Josef scene however it was quite bleak and chilly when we visited Franz Josef, so what better way to get warmed up than with a curry. The staff were warm and friendly and the food was delicious and reasonably priced too.

Snakebite Brewery

Snakebite Brewery is right in the centre of Franz Josef and offers craft bars along with Asian street food. We didn’t eat here but stopped here for a drink and there’s an outside seating area which is nice to chill in after an afternoon of walking.

Accommodation

Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park

Like all other Top 10 Holiday Parks you always know your going to get a clean and comfortable campsite with excellent facilities and a good location. We mainly stayed at Kiwi holiday parks as we had the membership card but from time to time we stayed in a Top 10. The Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park was clean and the showers were great!

Greymouth

Greymouth is the west coasts largest town. We spent New Year’s Eve here and it was a particularly grey and miserable rainy day. So we weren’t blown away with greymouth to say the least. There isn’t a much to do here, however there are tons of diversions close by and interesting attractions nearby.

Greymouth is also the start or end depending which way you go of Arthur’s Pass. Greymouth is a great place to base yourself for Arthur’s Pass and the many attractions near by.

Sights & Activities

Greymouth to Punakaiki

The drive between Greymouth and Punakaiki is stunning, the highway offers the most beautiful views of the coast, with lots of coves and rocky bays on one side of the road and on the other steep bushy hills.

Pancake Rocks

Pancake Rocks has an easy 15 minute walk looping around it, we loved the Pancake Rocks we have never seen anything quite like it. Located in Punakaiki these rocks have been through a weathering process which has carved the limestone into what looks like piles of pancakes which gives it the name. Try to make it for high tide, and witness the swills in the caverns and blowholes. It really makes you realise just how powerful the ocean is.

Food & Beverage

The Gap Cafe

The Gap Cafe is located in the centre of Greymouth and offers a great selection of cakes and scones. As well as hot lunches and vegetarian options. It has a homely feel to it and staff are friendly.

Accommodation

Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park

We stayed at Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park over New Years and it was clean and quiet like all Top 10 and Kiwi holiday parks they are always a high standard of cleanliness and facilities available.

Unfortunately the weather was miserable on New Years and there didn’t seem to be much going on in Greymouth so we decided to go wild (being sarcastic) and order a Dominoes delivery to our camper van and watched a film on the tablet. It was actually a great way to see in the new year as naff as it sounds, just being in New Zealand in our camper van which I came to love, and with my husband chilling, it was just perfect, and it helped that the holiday park had everything we needed.

We even managed to get a good space near to the showers so when it was raining I was able to make a dash to the toilet from the camper van.

Nelson

Nelson is a tourist hotspot attracting both Kiwis and international tourists. It offers a great climate and excellent beaches. Nelson has quite a big art scene and offers a number of galleries and a number of craft boutiques. Nelson has a bustling town centre with lots to keep you busy and occupied.

Sights & Activities

Nelson Town Centre

If like me you like browsing around boutiques and quirky shops head into Nelsons town centre for an afternoon, on one of the days we were there the weather wasn’t ideal so we decided to have a walk around the town centre and grab some lunch. There is an array of great little boutiques and quirky shops and gift shops here. There are also some lovely cafes to grab a hot drink and a slice of cake.

Tahuna Beach

Tahuna Beach is a huge sandy beach in Nelson and backed by dunes. It also has lots on offer for families such as playgrounds, roller skating rink, bumper boats and much more. In the summer months it is very busy and attracts lots of families. We really enjoyed Tahuna Beach and loved walking along it in the evenings when it had quietened down.

Westport

Westport is the capital of the northern West coast, we didn’t stop in the town however we drove along Westports coast which is stunning and has lots of places to stop and take in the views of the coast.

Food & Beverage

Farmers Market

The Farmers Market in Nelson is definitely a must visit if your a foodie, its held every Wednesday come rain or shine. It sells lots of fruit and vegetables which was great for us to stock up on some delicious strawberries and bits for our camper van. The market doesn’t just sell fruits and vegetables but also sells lots of delicious treats and has a selection of food stalls, we tried the Nepalese Momos which were yummy and a great pre lunch snack.

Maru Korean & Japanese Restaurant

Maru Restaurant was a great little find in Nelson, it’s nothing fancy but offers delicious Korean and Japanese food. It caters well for vegetarians and was really well priced, aswell the service was great. This place is perfect for lunch, if like us your a big fan of Asian cuisine give this place a go when in Nelson.

Sweet As Cafe

This cute cafe in the centre of Nelson is a great place to stop for a pick me up. It has a huge selection of cakes and sweet treats. It also serves up savoury dishes and lunch snacks too.

Yello Cafe

Yello Cafe is a simple cafe and no surprise it is painted bright yellow. It offers a selection of hot drinks and snacks. We came here for breakfast one morning which is pretty busy time so service was a little slow however when it did arrive it was tasty and worth the wait.

Accommodation

Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park

Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park was the largest campsite we stayed at by far. It reminded me of Glastonbury it was that large, it attracts mainly kiwi families that come to Nelson on holiday. The families that stay here come fully prepared for camping with lots of bbqs, gazebos, pools and some even come with pop up wardrobes and beds!

Even though this was a very busy and popular campsite it sat right on Tahuna Beach which was great as every evening we would go for a walk along the beach, we also had a lovely view of the beach from our camper van.

As this was a Kiwi campsite it had great facilities that were clean and well maintained. There was lots to do for families such as playgrounds and bbq areas.

Transport & Getting Around

Campervan

The only way I would recommend getting around New Zealand in general is by camper van. You will see so many camper vans driving around because honestly it’s the best way to see New Zealand. You can pull over at all the breathtaking view points and make random pit stops and just enjoy the stunning scenery.

Plus all of the camp sites dotted around New Zealand are so well equipped and clean. The showers in the camp sites were some of the best showers I’ve ever had, they were more powerful than my shower at home! The kitchens are also really well equipped.

If you are going to drive around New Zealand, download the app called Campermate it shows you all the campsites in the location your looking at and you can read write ups and reviews to help you make the best decision for you.

We booked our campervan through Happy Campers as they worked out to be the cheapest and as we needed one for 31 nights in total they can work out quite pricey, but when you think about it, it’s your accommodation and your mode of transport all in one.

When driving around you will see tons of camper vans and RVs. We booked a basic campervan with a bed in, as we stayed at campsites every night, we didn’t need a toilet and shower as we used the campsite facilities. We had a small camping stove in the back and storage under and behind the bed.

I actually slept really well in the campervan and found it really cozy and was quite sad when we had to hand it back in.

Ferry

There are several ferry companies linking North Island and South Island which go between Wellington and Picton. Make sure to book in advance as sometimes the ferries can become very busy, the ferry takes approximately 3 hours and you can either go on as a walk on or drive on, once you have parked your car or camper van you can then go upstairs where there is plenty of seating, a restaurant and WiFi.

If you go during a clear day you can get the most amazing views of both North and South Islands. The main ferry companies are Interiander and Blue Bridge.

Plane

If your on a tight schedule and don’t have a lot of time, New Zealand offers lots of domestic flights between the main cities and towns, however this can work out quite expensive but worth it if your limited on time. Have a look at Air New Zealand if this is the case.

Bus

Buses tend to be much cheaper than air travel, and New Zealand’s bus service is frequent and reliable. Have a look at Intercity which is New Zealand’s National bus company. There are also a whole range of tours you can book onto through companies like STA, Kiwi Experience and New Zealand Coach Tours etc.

Train

New Zealand’s Trains are not cheap or fast to use, however they are regular and reliable. We didn’t use any public transport while in New Zealand so cant advise much on this other than from what I have heard.

Hitchhiking & Biking

Believe it or not you wouldn’t believe the amount of people we saw hitchhiking and biking around New Zealand. So many people with a tent and camping equipment attached to their bag or bike making their way around. However both of these are time consuming so would only be achievable if you have no time limit or you have a good couple of months in New Zealand.

Top Tips

My biggest tip if your camping around New Zealand would be to invest in either a Top 10 Holiday Park Card or a Kiwi Holiday Park Card.

These campsites tend to be of a really high quality with regards to their amenities, and by signing up and paying for membership you receive discount on your nights stay, discounts on favourite nearby attractions and entrance fees etc, and receive discounts at some restaurants too.

We saved quite a lot of money by signing up to the Kiwi Holiday Park Card, maybe have a look at which parks your more likely to stay at and sign up to one or the other rather than both.

I-Site is New Zealand’s official tourism information and you will see plenty of I-Site offices these are really helpful when getting ideas of what’s around the local area your in, and provide a wealth of tourist information on attractions and places to stay, and the staff are always really knowledgable and helpful.

The Department of Conservation also known as DoC are New Zealand’s agency for conservation. They ensure that New Zealand’s natural beauty and wildlife is preserved and looked after and will last for many years to come, while ensuring it’s enjoyable and accessible for locals and visitors.

DoC also provide lots of tracks and trails all over New Zealand as well as campsites. However the campsites don’t have facilities as such other than toilets so we didn’t stay at any of the DoC campsites as we needed showers and more facilities as or camper only had a bed, and I’m a girly girl and didn’t want to rough it too much.

While in New Zealand the plan was to do lots of cooking in the camper van and at the campsites to save money on food, however my husband and myself don’t particularly enjoy cooking at the best of times and especially while we are on holiday.

We did end up eating out in the evenings, my tips for self catering on the road would be to keep meals simple just think the more cooking the more food, herbs and spices you need to purchase and the more washing up!! We kept breakfast simple and healthy and ate fruit in the mornings and cereal or cereal bars. Then for lunches we tended to buy picnic type items so we had salads, olives, crisps, gherkins, tomatoes, cheese and breads etc and tended to have mini spreads for lunch.

If you purchase jars of olives, beetroots, gherkins, mini peppers etc they keep well and tended to last us a few days to go with our lunches and keeps the costs down.

Prior to going to New Zealand I bought some boxes of cereal bars, mug shots and hot chocolate to take with us as food shopping in the UK is much cheaper, and having a few snack type items for on the go was really helpful.

Itinerary

We covered a huge 3750 Miles of New Zealand, below is a map of our road trip itinerary, and all the places we stayed at and places we stopped off at to visit. I did loose track of how many times we actually pulled over to admire views and off the beaten track wonders of natural beauty. This was what my husband put together prior to our road trip.

Important Information

 

New Zealand’s North Island Ultimate Guide

New Zealand was somewhere my husband and I had always dreamed of travelling to. We both managed to get 2 months off work, and decided to go to New Zealand for 5 weeks, and added on the Cook Islands, Hong Kong and Macao towards the end of our trip.

My husband had always wanted to go on a campervan holiday, and New Zealand is best explored by campervan as it caters so well for campers.

We had always wanted to venture to New Zealand but always said we would only go if we could spend at least 3-4 weeks there, as it’s so far away to travel to. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do everything that we wanted to do in just 2 weeks alone. Even though we managed to do all the main sites in 5 weeks, we would both love to travel back and spend some more time there.

When you travel to New Zealand it’s clear to see why it’s a prime location for film and TV sets. New Zealand is unlike anywhere else I have traveled to before. The landscape is so diverse and goes from so many extremes.

The North and South Islands are completely different from one another. The North Island is much more populated than the South Island, although all of New Zealand only has a total population of 4.5 million people. The North Island is home to 3 quarters of the total population and is home to the largest city in New Zealand – Auckland.

The North Island is known for its Maori culture, volcanic activity, geysers, hot springs, and a much warmer climate. When travelling to New Zealand I would always advise to try and travel to both islands as they are so different from one another.

In this blog I am going to write about the places that we visited in the North Island, and what I would recommend and some helpful tips.

Auckland

Auckland is a quirky and hipster kind of city. It has tons of amazing places to eat and drink, and you will be welcomed everywhere with a smile, Aucklander’s are a super warm and friendly bunch.

The city has a really nice feel to it, it feels intimate and not too large and overwhelming. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city but it doesn’t feel over crowded and hectic, it’s got a great laid back charm to it.

You can easily see all the main sights of Auckland’s city centre within a day or 2, however if you have longer I would suggest venturing out of Auckland to see some of the beaches etc.

Sights & Activities

Albert Park

Albert Park is a Victorian formal garden located in the city centre, and used to be part of the Albert Barracks. On a sunny day it’s lovely to walk around and maybe take a picnic. The Park is lovely to have a wander around and it’s great to see some of the old Victorian buildings and fountain still in tact. There are also some commemorative statues of UK royals dotted around the park.

Aotea Square

Aotea Square is a large paved area located in Auckland’s city centre. The square hosts concerts, parades, festivals and markets throughout the year. While we were there we witnessed several events and stalls occurring.

Auckland Town Hall

Auckland Town Hall is located just by Aotea Square, although it won’t be the most impressive building you will ever see it’s worth going to have a look at it, as it’s really central and you will more than likely walk by it at some point while walking around the city.

Britomart, Viaduct Harbour & Silo Park

Britomart is made up of historic buildings and new developments, it is home to some of Auckland’s best bars and restaurants and houses some of Auckland’s top fashion designer boutiques.

The Viaduct Harbour is located just by Britomart, and used to be a busy port then in the early 2000s was given a major makeover. The Viaduct is now an upmarket dining and boozing area in the city. It’s a great place to sit in the sun with a drink and people watch and admire the yachts.

Silo Park is just by the Viaduct Harbour, and is a public park which is a former industrial site which has been repurposed for festivals, outdoor cinemas and markets etc.

Karangahape Road (K-Road)

The K-Road was our favourite area in Auckland, we also stayed on the K-Road as it’s a great central location. It has a great selection of bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as a ton of cool, quirky and inexpensive vintage shops and boutiques.

We found there to be a great selection of affordable places to eat, and it shows off Auckland’s diverse culture through its many cuisines on offer. If you stay in Auckland try and stay in or around the K-Road as there is so much variety.

We ended up walking up and down the K-Road on most days whilst in Auckland, and each time we would find something different that we hadn’t noticed before, such as a cool street food place or hipster cafe or shop to look around.

Ponsonby

Ponsonby is a suburb and Auckland’s busiest restaurant and bar strip. Ponsonby is one of the hippest areas in Auckland and is home to up market boutiques and cafes. If your a foodie this is defiantly a must visit on your Auckland itinerary.

Queen Street

Queen Street is the main commercial hub in Auckland, here is where you will find high street brands and chains. There is also a variety of pubs, bars and restaurants. This street was definitely the busiest street we came across while in Auckland.

Sky Tower

The Sky Tower is the Southern Hemispheres tallest structure, and it can’t be missed when coming into Auckland, and also walking around the city. There is also a sky bar and lounge at the top of the tower, we never went up the tower, as there are so many bars to choose from in Auckland, however if we ever return to Auckland this is something I would like to do.

St Kevin’s Arcade & Myers Park

St Kevin’s Arcade Links the K-Road and Myers park. The arcade is a gorgeous historical building, with lots of character. It has some charming boutiques and places to eat. It’s worth having a look around and going down to Myers Park which is a small quiet park worth having a walk along.

Food & Beverage

Best Ugly Bagels

Best Ugly Bagels are all made fresh on site and offer a wide range of delicious fillings. This place is great for breakfast, brunch and lunch or just if you love bagels. It has 2 locations in Auckland and 1 in Wellington . We visited the one in the City Works Depot in Auckland. The site is industrial and quirky and worth a check out.

City Works Depot

City Works Depot used to be council workshops that have now been converted into commercial leases. The building has an industrial chic look and is home to a range of food places such as Best Ugly Bagel, &Sushi and Beer Brothers to name a few. As well as food places on offer there is also a selection of small shops.

Cocos Cantina

Cocos Cantina is opposite Haka Lodge on the K-Road where we stayed in Auckland. When we first arrived in Auckland we were starving and drawn to Cocos by its shabby hipster presence. It’s quirky and a little bit hippie inside which adds to its charm. If your a foodie you will fall in love with this place. The menu is homestyle italian cooking with a seasonal and rustic twist. While we were there I had the Arancini which was fresh and delicious. Try to book a table in advance as the evenings can become very busy.

Eight Thirty

If your abit of a coffee addict like my husband you need to check out one of the Eight Thirty cafes. They are renowned to have the inner cities best coffee. There are several locations dotted around Auckland, we visited the one on the K-Road. The cafe is decorated in bright white industrial decor, which adds to its hip vibe.

Gypsy Caravan

If like me your a girly girl and love somewhere flamboyant head to Gypsy Caravan. The decor is amazing I was in heaven, it offers a quirky selection of cocktails and a small and simple dining menu. We stopped here for a coffee while wandering around Ponsonby late afternoon and would love to go back here for an evening.

Holm

Holm is a minimalist coffee house which offer a selection of coffees and offer some delicious brunch options. Again this is also set along the famous K-Road.

Krung Thep Thai Street Food

If you love Thai food as much as I do, check out Krung Thep Thai Street Food, it’s got a wide selection of Thai food available at affordable prices. This no nonsense establishment is along the K-Road and offers up delicious food which you order from the counter.

Little Easy

Little Easy is a laid back pub which is in Ponsonby. It’s menu is great for home comforts such as a selection of burgers, wings and sharing foods at affordable prices. If you go between 3pm-7pm all burgers are only NZ$10. It’s great value and good quality food and beer.

Ponsonby Central

Ponsonby Central is a strip lined with gourmet food vendors, chic cafes and bars. There is also a selection of shops offering local produce and crafts. There is a wide range of food available from burgers, pizzas, crepes, kebabs, sushi and lots more on offer.

Queen Street

If your on a budget and looking for cheap eats, and a wide variety of food choice then cross over the street from Aotea Square and Auckland Town Hall onto Queen Street. Set along this road are lots of small take away and fast food places such as pizzas, kebabs, churros and Asian food etc.

Rasoi

Rasoi is situated along the K-Road and is a non fussy order at the counter eatery. This is a great value vegetarian Indian place to eat. If your on a budget and want a full belly this place is great. They also offer a wide range of colourful Indian sweets and desserts.

Accommodation

Haka Lodge

Haka Lodge is in a great location along the K-Road, it used to be an old run down pub and is now one of Auckland’s best hostels. They offer a range of dorms and private rooms. Haka Lodge is one of the more up market hostels I have stayed in. We booked a private room with a shared bathroom, and everything is really well thought out.

The rooms are really clean and comfortable and well decorated. The bathrooms are immaculate, and the kitchen is well equipped.

The hostel offers free unlimited WiFi, and has a range of facilities on offer such as a laundry room, cinema room and social area. The hostel also offer a range of tours and sightseeing packages. The hostel is really well suited for flash packers on a budget. If I went back to Auckland I would stay here again and would always recommend Haka Lodge for anyone needing accommodation in Auckland.

Hot Water Beach

After spending a few nights in Auckland, we picked up our camper van from Happy Campers, and after going to the supermarket and stocking up on food and drink and camping chairs etc, we headed straight to Hot Water Beach, we didn’t spend the night here this was just a stop on our route to Rotorua.

Sights & Activities

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach is a stunning long beach which got its name from its geothermal activity beneath the sand. Approximately 2 hours either side of low tide you can hire a spade, and dig your own hot bath out of the sand. Unfortunately we arrived at the wrong time, so didn’t get to experience digging out a hot bath, so when travelling do time it right, and check the tide times.

Even though we didn’t get to witness digging down to bubbling hot water, we did have a nice stroll along the beach which was lush on a sunny day.

Food & Beverage

Hotties Cafe

Before having a stroll along the beach, we stopped at Hotties Cafe and got some lunch. Hotties is the only place to eat directly on the beach, they offer up fresh dishes using local produce.

They offer take away or they have seating both inside and outside with great views over Hot Water Beach. If you go try the Fish Tacos they are delicious! However you get 2 quite large ones so we shared them and just ordered some chips and salad to go with them, works out a little cheaper and was plenty of food.

Rotorua

Rotorua is a must when visiting the North Island, there is so much to see and do here from stunning lakes, traditional Maori culture, geysers and so much more. On our road trip Rotorua was the first place we stopped at for a few nights in our camper. We drove from Auckland, had a brief stop at Hot Water Beach, then continued on to Rotorua.

Rotorua has something for everyone and seemed to attract a wide range of travellers from backpackers, campers, tour groups and many more.

Sights & Activities

Lake Roturua

Rotorua is a city surrounded by lakes, Lake Rotorua is probably the most well known, and is the second largest lake on the North Island. Lake Rotorua is worth having a walk around and has some boarded path ways. Just by the lake you can also view the Government Gardens with hot steaming pools dotted around.

Lake Okareka & Lake Tarawera

Both these lakes are just outside of Rotorua and are both lovely to drive around, there is also Green Lake and Blue Lake just by these too, which are also worth visiting. Tuhourangi is a small lay-by near Lake Tarawera, which gives the most amazing view over the lakes and its surroundings, plus there is also a tall monument.

Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest

Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest is a man made forest which was created back in 1899 to see which tree species could be grown. The Californian Redwoods give this forest its grandeur. There are several walks to take around the forest ranging from a 30 minute wander through to a full days trek.

Whakarewarewa Village

This was a real highlight while in Rotorua, there is tons to see at Whakarewarewa Cultural Village. The village is set on thermal hot springs and had bubbling pools of water and mud dotted around. The residents that live here show you around and provide lots of information on the Maori way of life and what it was like and how it is today.

There are also daily shows which show traditional Maori dances and the Haka. There is also a selection of shops selling local arts and crafts. You can also purchase a buttery corn on the cobb which is pulled straight out of a hot mineral pool and makes a good snack.

It’s easy to spend a good few hours here as there is so much to see from the natural hot pools, Maori meeting houses and the show etc.

Food & Beverage

Air Stream Cafe

While driving around the lakes make a pit stop at the Air Stream Cafe which is situated on Blue Lake, it serves up a selection of drinks, snacks and lunch options.

Mitai Maori Village

While in New Zealand I would recommend booking a dinner at a Maori show, it’s really interesting and you learn a lot about Maori culture. We chose the Mitai Maori Village as its family owned and included a glow worm bushwalk.

It’s approximately 3 hours in the evening and included pick up from our campsite. The cost when we went was NZ$116 per person and includes a show and a traditional Hangi feast, then after dinner a glow worm bushwalk which was a really nice way to end the evening.

Accommodation

The Backyard Inn

The first campsite we stayed at was the Backyard Inn, it’s a little run down and you feel like your stepping back in time. However they had everything that you need such as hot showers, cafe and restaurant, kitchen area and a small pool.

Taupo

Taupo is most well known for its lake, Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake. This area is very similar to Rotorua with volcanic activity and geothermal hot springs, the geology in and around Taupo is stunning. It is very much a family tourist hot spot with plenty of activities and resorts available.

Taupo is another must on your New Zealand North Island itinerary. We drove to Taupo from Rotorua which took just about over an hour.

Sights & Activities

Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon is a geothermal park with a loop walkway around it where you can take in views of the steaming craters, and bubbling mud from the ground beneath.

The walk takes approximately 45 minutes and you get great views of the surrounding mountains. There’s a kiosk at the entrance with information and entrance is only NZ$8 per adult. I really enjoyed our trip here, it’s a nice easy and relaxing walk.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls are part of New Zealand’s longest river – The Waikato River. The falls mark a narrowing which causes the dramatic drop into a gushing pool.

There’s a footbridge overlooking the falls where you can witness the full force of the river. There is also a look out where you can get great photo opportunities.

We drove to Huka Falls and parked up, there is a kiosk by the car park too which has some useful information. However you can also walk the Huka Falls Walkway from town which takes about an hour.

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake, it’s so large the it looks like an ocean. Taupo is set on the north eastern shores of the lake. There are tons of activities to do in and around the lake such as fishing, water sports and hiking etc.

If your happy just walking along the lake front you can take in some picture postcard views of the snowy peaks of the Tongariro National Park on a clear day.

When we visited the Lake it was a lovely sunny day and we sat by it and had a picnic and admired its beauty.

Wairakei Terraces Thermal Health Spa

After a day of sightseeing we decided to visit the Wairakei Terraces Thermal Spa to relax in. Mineral waters from the geothermal steam grounds nearby cascade over silica Terraces creating hot pools.

We visited on a particularly hot day so didn’t spend too long here as we did find we were getting uncomfortably hot, however there are different pools with different temperatures to choose from, so you can find one that is best suited to you.

The entrance was NZ$25 per person when we visited. There is also a range of treatments at the spa that are extra.

Accommodation

Wairakei Thermal Valley Holiday Park

The Wairakei Thermal Valley Holiday Park is really cute and quirky, it’s basic but has everything you need with hot showers, kitchen and an onsite cafe.

If your an animal lover like myself you will love this place, tons of chickens, peacocks, cats, sheep and alpacas running around. There’s also some hutches with rabbits too, this campsite was really peaceful and relaxing and the owner had a good sense of humour too. If your on a budget this place was great value for money and a great location.

They also offer a geothermal walk onsite, and their onsite cafe offers Devonshire cream teas.

Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital, it’s only a small city, smaller than Auckland in fact. Even though Welly is a small city it has a ton of character, it’s a stunning city with gorgeous views overlooking the harbour. It has lots of old quirky Victorian buildings, funky boutiques and a huge array of amazing restaurants to eat at.

Welly is known for being a Windy City, however when we visited we had the most gorgeous sunny weather. When we visited we stayed with one of my husbands friends that lives there. His flat was set into the hillside with a steep uphill walk, and it had the most gorgeous views over the city and harbour. We spent a day and night here prior to getting the ferry down to the South Island, then stopped here again for another night when we got the return ferry back to the North Island.

The city has a very hipster vibe to it, and I would really recommend visiting and spending a few days here especially if the weather is nice and if your planning on taking the ferry down to the South Island.

Sights & Activities

Cuba Street

Cuba Street is wellingtons eccentric Bohemia Street, it is a creative and culinary melting pot of buskers, galleries, graffiti-filled alleyways, cafes, top named restaurants and exhibition spaces.

There are also tons of second hand vintage shops and boutiques, the street is pedestrianised so it’s great to walk up and down, each time spotting something new and different.

Cuba Street has also been registered a historic area due to its Victorian buildings and heritage. No trip to Welly would be complete without visiting Cuba Street. Food & Beverage

Beach Babylon

Beach Babylon is a gorgeous little beach side cafe, its decor is retro and cool and the food is delicious. I think I actually had one of the best brunches in my life here. They have an amazing brunch menu on offer, I recommend the creamy garlic and thyme wild mushrooms on toast.

The cafe can become busy we were lucky and managed to get one of the last tables outside, so we did see people having to wait for a table, which just goes to show how popular this place is.

Capital International Market

If you want quick cheap eats and a variety of choice head to Capital International Market which hosts an array of street food vendors.

Husk

Husk is a bar and brewery and coffee roastery and also serves up food and small plates. If your into your beer you can also get a beer taster. We stopped here for a drink while having a wander around and it’s not far from Cuba Street.

Olive

My husbands friends housemate that we stayed with in Wellington worked at Olive, so we decided to go there for dinner. It was so good that when we returned to Welly we went there for brunch too.

Olive serves up seasonal and rustic dishes, and has the most gorgeous little cozy courtyard outback, if you do visit try and get a table outback.

The Arborist Roof To Bar

The Arborist is located in Welly’s city centre, it’s up 7 stories high and is an oasis and has stunning views over the city. On a sunny day it’s easy to sit here and drink sangria and enjoy the weather, this bar has a great vibe and worth a visit on a nice day.

New Plymouth

New Plymouth is situated on New Zealand’s west coast and its main draw is Mt Taranaki and the surrounding farmlands around New Plymouth. It is a port town with an artsy scene with art galleries and lots of quirky cafes. The town also has lots of surf beaches and attracts many surfers from all over.

We drove to New Plymouth after we had arrived back in Wellington, it’s quite a long drive there but was on our way back to the North of the North Island.

Unfortunately while we were in New Plymouth the weather wasn’t great and we couldn’t see Mt Taranaki as it was overcast and grey and kept raining. We did have a walk around the town and went to visit the Puke Ariki museum which is a must when in New Plymouth.

Sights & Activities

Puke Ariki

Puke Ariki is a free museum and library which translates into ‘Hill of Chiefs’. There are lots of Maori artefacts, colonial antiques, geology and wildlife exhibits. The museum literally has everything you need to know about New Zealand and it’s history and wildlife.

When we visited there was a whole exhibit on beach wear through the ages which was quite cool to see, and fits in well with New Plymouth’s beach town vibes.

There is also a cafe and restaurant on site too so you can have some breakfast or lunch before or after visiting.

Urenui Beach

Urenui Beach isn’t in many guidebooks, however it is a great find and place to stop when passing. It’s approximately 30 Minutes north of New Plymouth.

I personally have never been on a beach like it, Urenui Beach has pure black sand and when we went on a drizzly day looked a bit gloomy. However I thought the Beach was so different we are all so used to seeing pure white sand beaches why not black sand beaches?!

We stopped here and walked along the beach and loved it here, so if you want to go to a beach with a difference definitely add this to your New Zealand itinerary.

Food & Beverage

Arborio

Arborio is one of New Plymouth’s fine dining restaurants, it is situated in the Puke Ariki museum and has views overlooking the ocean. It’s decor is funky and stylish, and the restaurant sources New Zealand’s most freshest ingredients.

It’s a little on the pricey side but has a great ambience, we stopped here for a drink and a breakfast snack before entering the museum. There is a bar too and a light snacks menu, so if your on a budget you can still stop here to experience it without spending a lot.

Waitomo

When we visited Waitomo we decided to stay in Otorohanga, which is situated in between Waitomo and Hamilton and close to Hobbiton, so that we found it easy enough to travel between all of these main attractions.

Sights & Activities

Hamilton

Hamilton isn’t one of the most glamorous or exciting cities we have visited, and there isn’t a great ton to see and do here, it’s main site is the Waikato River, which runs right through the city, however the layout of the city almost ignores this river.

Hamilton does however have a good selection of vibrant cafes, bars and restaurants and you can also visit the Hamilton Gardens.

I would recommend if your pushed for time then knocking Hamilton off of your itinerary as there isn’t a great deal to see and do, and there are cities and towns in New Zealand with a lot more going on. However if your staying around Waitimo and near Hobbiton and have a spare few hours like we did it’s worth a wander.

Hobbiton

Hobbiton is the movie set from The Lord of the Rings films and is situated in Matamata which is a small country town until it was put on the map by the popular film trilogy.

I myself am not a huge fan of Lord of the Rings but felt I couldn’t come all the way to New Zealand without seeing Hobbiton.

The attraction is a must see whether your a huge fan or not. I would recommend booking in advance, however we were lucky when we turned up and managed to get spaces onto one of the tours.

Tours buses leave from the I-Site in Matamata and take you to the set of Hobbiton, and the guide tells you all the behind the scenes stories and facts, which is really interesting.

The tour lasts approximately 2 and a half hours and finishes off in the Green Dragon Inn where you get a choice of a complimentary drinks. The guide allows enough time to sit and enjoy your drink before getting back onto the bus to take you back to the I-Site in Matamata.

I really enjoyed looking around Hobbiton and the surrounding views are stunning, when we visited it was NZ$84 per person which is quite pricey, but I’m so glad we visited Hobbiton I think I would have regretted it, if we hadn’t.

Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves practically always comes up in every guide book about New Zealand and must dos while visiting, and I can’t say that I disagree. The caves are abit of a tourist trap. However the vast amount of glom worms is stunning and looks like a night time sky.

There are several options when booking Waitomo, we decided to book a package deal which was the triple cave combo which included near by Caves called Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave, finished off with visiting the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The triple cave combo package saved a lot of money and wasnt much more than visiting just one of the caves.

The guide tours around the Ruakuri Cave also allow you to take photos of the glow worms as long as your flash is off, where as in the Waitomo Cave photos of the glow worms are not allowed under any circumstances.

When we visited we spent NZ$97 per person on the cave package which saved a lot and we got to see so much. I would recommend doing one of the combo packages as the Waitomo Caves alone are around about NZ$50 per person, I would advise spending a little more and getting to see some caves near by on guided tours.

Raglan

Raglan is a laid back surfer town. It has a great selection of bars, restaurants and boutiques. It has a gorgeous harbour area and a good selection of surf beaches. It’s quite an artsy town and has lots of craft and art shops too. Raglan just oozes cool and is a great little place to add to your New Zealand itinerary.

Sights & Activities

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is a 55 meter plunge waterfall and is located just on the outskirts of Raglan. You can walk all the way down to the base of the falls and the pool it’s created. These were some of the best waterfalls I’ve seen in the world, the surrounding plants, trees and greenery around the falls make it absolutely gorgeous. If your staying in Raglan it’s worth taking a drive over as it doesn’t take up a lot of time, we spent about 45 minutes here viewing the falls from the different platforms and walking down to the bottom.

Manu Beach & Ngarunui Beach

Manu Beach is the most popular surfing beach around Raglan and is about 1 mile away from Ngarunui Beach. Manu Beach is also known around the world by surfers to have the world’s longest left hand break, this is due to its position and angle where the Tasman swell meets the coast.

Ngarunui Beach is where you will find lots of novice surfers taking lessons and surf schools teaching on the beach and in the water. It’s a large beach with black volcanic sand, and it’s great to sit on and people watch, we didn’t take any surf lessons but really enjoyed watching all the waves and surfers taking to the water.

Ulo

Ulo isn’t really a tourist attraction, however when in Raglan this quirky shop run by Japan born artist Kyoko Shirai has some bright colourful artworks unlike anything I have seen before. The shop sells vintage and second hand clothes along with lots of prints, clothing and homeware customised by Kyoko in her unique style. My husband and I fell in love with her artwork and the originality of it which combines Japanese, Maori and Pacific Island influences.

Whale Bay

Whale Bay is a lot quieter than Manu Bay and Ngarunui Beach, but is still a favourite surf spot. Many of the surfers have to climb over the rocks to get out to the break, but here we saw watched some experienced surfers, and also found a nice spot to have a picnic. I wouldn’t recommend surfing here unless your an experienced surfer, however on a sunny day it’s a great place to come and watch the day go by.

Food & Beverage

Aroha Sushi

Aroha Sushi is a small sushi restaurant and take away and is located next door to Ulo shop. The small restaurant is really good value for money and has a selection of sushi and Japanese dishes available, there are also a few tables outside. I opted to have the Katsu tofu which was delicious and filling. We also got a starter to share. This is a really good little find, especially if your on a budget and travelling around New Zealand for a while, this is a great and cheap place to eat.

Orca Restaurant & Bar

Orca Restaurant is located right on the sea front in central Raglan. The restaurant focuses on seasonal and fresh food and has a great selection of wine, and a bar area too if you just wanted a drink. We tried out the fish and chips which was delicious. The restaurant was really popular with locals and can get quite busy. The food wasn’t overly pricey either and had a great laid back atmosphere.

Accommodation

Kev’s Place

Kev’s Place was as a great little find, it was probably one of the most random places we stayed at, and was pretty basic, however it had the most amazing view overlooking Raglan, and it’s beautiful coastline. Kev’s place is located on Maungatawhiri ridge and the sunsets here were the best we witnessed while staying on all different campsites around New Zealand.

Kev’s place also offers chalets aswell as campervan and tent pitches. The toilets and showers are basic but it has everything you need. To add to Kev’s place quirky charm is the boat overlooking the campsite where you can check in at.

This campsite has no powered sites and is pretty much off grid and has a very laid back vibe to it. If you love dogs it’s also great as Kev’s dogs are always hovering around and love abit of attention. As Kev’s place is also away from everything you get the most amazing views of the stars at night.

Ahipara (90 Mile Beach)

Ahipara is situated at the end of 90 mile beach, this isn’t a huge bustling town, it’s mainly just locals and visiting surfers and tourists to see 90 mile beach. The area is mostly know for the beach, sand dunes and gum fields. When visiting bare in mind that this isn’t a great deal of choice for food and drink places, so if your on a budget and self catering ensure to stock up at a supermarket on the way.

Sights & Activities

90 Mile Beach

90 Mile Beach is not actually 90 miles long it’s more like 55 miles. There are several theories as to why 90 mile beach got its name, but the most common comes from when missionaries travelled on horse back and on average would cover 30 miles in a day. The beach took 3 days to travel therefore earning its name, but the missionaries did not realise the slower pace of the horses walking in the sand, so thinking they had travelled 90 miles when in fact they had only travelled 55.

90 Mile Beach stretches from west of Kaitaia towards Cape Reinga along the Aupouri Peninsula. This beach is officially a highway, but is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the tides. We personally didn’t feel comfortable driving along the beach in our campervan incase we got stuck and decided to book onto the Sand Safari Tour.

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga is the most northernly point of New Zealand and the North Island. Cape Reinga is a historic site for Maori as they believe that departed souls jump off Cape Reinga to make their journey to the spirit world.

The light house is a steady walk and overlooks the ocean where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. The views up here are breathtaking and really make you feel like your at the end of the world. We were taken here on the Sand Safari tour too.

Sand Safaris

Sand Safari Tours is a great way to see 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reinga. After the drive along 90 mile beach, they take you to the sand dunes and provide complimentary sand boards. The tour also includes a lovely picnic bbq lunch at the beachey cove of Tapotupotu Bay which is on the way to Cape Reinga. The tour when we did it was NZ$55 per person, if your staying at the Ahipara Holiday Park we also received a small discount on top of that too.

This tour is really good value for money and personally I think this is the best way to see 90 Mile Beach and with confidence that your vehicle isn’t going to get stuck, we did see one car stuck in the sand while driving along the beach, so do take care if going alone.

Shipwreck Bay

Shipwreck Bay is at the southern point of Ahipara Bay, and contains a number of shipwrecks which are visible at low tide.

Shipwreck Bay is also well known as an excellent surfing area. The bay is sandy with a few rocks around the tip. We went and drove up to it however there is a charge for parking so we didn’t stay, I would advise driving up to it but we didn’t think it was worth paying for parking.

Food & Beverage

Bidz Takeaways

Bidz Take Away is the best and only fish and chips in Ahipara, there isn’t much choice in Ahipara, we saw one other little restaurant/cafe but it wasn’t open while we were there. So we went and got fish and chips at Bidz and I have to say for a take away it was really good and fresh. There are some tables outside to sit at if you don’t want to take away. They also offer burgers and a selection of other fast food on the menu. There is also a small grocery store attached which is handy if you need to stock up your campervan.

Accommodation

Ahipara Holiday Park

Ahipara Holiday Park is a large site which offers powered and unpowered campsites along with cabins and backpacker lodges. There is plenty of outside space and a well equipped kitchen. The reception area also has some snacks and food on sale and the lounge area around the reception is great to if you want to sit and relax. The Holiday Park is also part of Kiwi Holiday Parks which means its of a high standard and if you have a Kiwi Card you can receive discount on the cost of your overnight stay.

Paihia (Bay of Islands)

Paihia is where the Bay of Islands is situated, and it is also the birthplace of New Zealand and where the treaty was signed between Maori Chiefs and the British.

Sights & Activities

Fullers Dolphin Cruise

Fullers has been around for over 125 years, it is a well know and reliable cruise company which offers a range of cruises around the Bay of Islands. We booked the Dolphin and Hole in the Rock cruise which is a 4 hour cruise, and costs about NZ$107 per person.

On this trip it departs from Paihia and stops at Russel and takes you all around the islands in the bay, and we saw lots of dolphins which were coming up close to the boat. The boat also sailed through the Famous Hole in the Rock, this can only be done on days when the sea is calm.

The Cruises was really interesting and we got told a lot about the history and heritage of the Bay of Islands and about the wildlife that surrounds the bay. This is a must when in Paihia, it was a really relaxing day out which we both enjoyed.

Haruru Falls

Haruru Falls are some horseshoe falls, which have a walkway that leads from the treaty grounds along the Waitangi River. If you don’t fancy the 5 kilometre walk, you can drive straight to the car park. The falls are only small and you can walk along them and dunk your feet into the small pools.

Food & Beverage

Avo Sushi

Avo Sushi doesn’t look much from the outside but we liked it so much we ate there twice!! It’s got a display cabinet of a large variety of sushi and asian savoury snacks like spring rolls, chicken sticks, tempura etc. Prices range from as little as NZ$1 per item, so it’s really good value and really filling we only had a small box each of bits we had chosen and was full. There is also some tables and chairs outside Avo Sushi or you can take away with you, definitely check this place out even if it’s just for a snack or a cheap lunch.

Pizza Shack

Pizza Shack is located in the centre of Paihia, and is a laid back restaurant which sells a good selection pizzas and an option to build your own pizza. It is reasonably priced and delicious food and has a selection of starters and sides if your in need of a carb overload.

Accommodation

Bay of Islands Kiwi Holiday Park

Bay of Islands Kiwi Holiday Park has a lush green setting surrounded by tall trees, the patches are quite large and popular with Kiwis for their family camping trips. The showers were really clean and powerful here and it wasn’t far from the centre of Paihia. This campsite is also part of the Kiwi Holiday Parks which again if you have the members card you can gain discount off your stay.

Transport & Getting Around

Campervan

The only way I would recommend getting around New Zealand in general is by camper van. You will see so many camper vans driving around because honestly it’s the best way to see New Zealand. You can pull over at all the breathtaking view points and make random pit stops and just enjoy the stunning scenery.

Plus all of the camp sites dotted around New Zealand are so well equipped and clean. The showers in the camp sites were some of the best showers I’ve ever had, they were more powerful than my shower at home! The kitchens are also really well equipped.

If you are going to drive around New Zealand, download the app called Campermate it shows you all the campsites in the location your looking at and you can read write ups and reviews to help you make the best decision for you.

We booked our campervan through Happy Campers as they worked out to be the cheapest and as we needed one for 31 nights in total they can work out quite pricey, but when you think about it, it’s your accommodation and your mode of transport all in one.

When driving around you will see tons of camper vans and RVs. We booked a basic campervan with a bed in, as we stayed at campsites every night, we didn’t need a toilet and shower as we used the campsite facilities. We had a small camping stove in the back and storage under and behind the bed.

I actually slept really well in the campervan and found it really cozy and was quite sad when we had to hand it back in.

Ferry

There are several ferry companies linking North Island and South Island which go between Wellington and Picton. Make sure to book in advance as sometimes the ferries can become very busy, the ferry takes approximately 3 hours and you can either go on as a walk on or drive on, once you have parked your car or camper van you can then go upstairs where there is plenty of seating, a restaurant and WiFi.

If you go during a clear day you can get the most amazing views of both North and South Islands. The main ferry companies are Interiander and Blue Bridge.

Plane

If your on a tight schedule and don’t have a lot of time, New Zealand offers lots of domestic flights between the main cities and towns, however this can work out quite expensive but worth it if your limited on time. Have a look at Air New Zealand if this is the case.

Bus

Buses tend to be much cheaper than air travel, and New Zealand’s bus service is frequent and reliable. Have a look at Intercity which is New Zealand’s National bus company. There are also a whole range of tours you can book onto through companies like STA, Kiwi Experience and New Zealand Coach Tours etc.

Train

New Zealand’s Trains are not cheap or fast to use, however they are regular and reliable. We didn’t use any public transport while in New Zealand so cant advise much on this other than from what I have heard.

Hitchhiking & Biking

Believe it or not you wouldn’t believe the amount of people we saw hitchhiking and biking around New Zealand. So many people with a tent and camping equipment attached to their bag or bike making their way around. However both of these are time consuming so would only be achievable if you have no time limit or you have a good couple of months in New Zealand.

Top Tips

My biggest tip if your camping around New Zealand would be to invest in either a Top 10 Holiday Park Card or a Kiwi Holiday Park Card.

These campsites tend to be of a really high quality with regards to their amenities, and by signing up and paying for membership you receive discount on your nights stay, discounts on favourite nearby attractions and entrance fees etc, and receive discounts at some restaurants too.

We saved quite a lot of money by signing up to the Kiwi Holiday Park Card, maybe have a look at which parks your more likely to stay at and sign up to one or the other rather than both.

I-Site is New Zealand’s official tourism information and you will see plenty of I-Site offices these are really helpful when getting ideas of what’s around the local area your in, and provide a wealth of tourist information on attractions and places to stay, and the staff are always really knowledgable and helpful.

The Department of Conservation also known as DoC are New Zealand’s agency for conservation. They ensure that New Zealand’s natural beauty and wildlife is preserved and looked after and will last for many years to come, while ensuring it’s enjoyable and accessible for locals and visitors.

DoC also provide lots of tracks and trails all over New Zealand as well as campsites. However the campsites don’t have facilities as such other than toilets so we didn’t stay at any of the DoC campsites as we needed showers and more facilities as or camper only had a bed, and I’m a girly girl and didn’t want to rough it too much.

While in New Zealand the plan was to do lots of cooking in the camper van and at the campsites to save money on food, however my husband and myself don’t particularly enjoy cooking at the best of times and especially while we are on holiday.

We did end up eating out in the evenings, my tips for self catering on the road would be to keep meals simple just think the more cooking the more food, herbs and spices you need to purchase and the more washing up!! We kept breakfast simple and healthy and ate fruit in the mornings and cereal or cereal bars. Then for lunches we tended to buy picnic type items so we had salads, olives, crisps, gherkins, tomatoes, cheese and breads etc and tended to have mini spreads for lunch.

If you purchase jars of olives, beetroots, gherkins, mini peppers etc they keep well and tended to last us a few days to go with our lunches and keeps the costs down.

Prior to going to New Zealand I bought some boxes of cereal bars, mug shots and hot chocolate to take with us as food shopping in the UK is much cheaper, and having a few snack type items for on the go was really helpful.

Itinerary

We covered a huge 3750 Miles of New Zealand, below is a map of our road trip itinerary, and all the places we stayed at and places we stopped off at to visit. I did loose track of how many times we actually pulled over to admire views and off the beaten track wonders of natural beauty. This was what my husband put together prior to our road trip.

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