Planning your wedding or honeymoon? Look no further!

Tc honeymoon.jpgThose of you who have followed my journey will know that I am now working as a independent travel agent from my home in the country town of Frome in Somerset.

I can book any kind of travel anywhere in the world, but am also specialising in weddings and honeymoons. Having booked my own destination wedding to Lake Tahoe in California (best ever week of my life!) all via email and phone from the UK, I know exactly what it takes to plan your special day – even if it happens to be on the other side of the world!

I also planned our amazing round-the-world honeymoon which took us to the stunningly beautiful Aitutaki in the Cook Islands (simply paradise on earth), New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Let me introduce myself properly – in case you think I might be able to help you plan your own destination wedding and honeymoon.

“My name is Nicola and I am your personal travel counsellor with vast experience in the travel industry.

I specialise in helping people plan and book their dream weddings and honeymoons – anywhere in the world they want to go. I have helped people all around the world plan their special trips, including a very memorable Christmas honeymoon in New Zealand. I also planned my own destination wedding and dream round-the-world-honeymoon and fully understand everything that is involved in making your trip truly magical.

So why should you choose me to help make your wedding/honeymoon dreams come true? I can offer so much more than a high street or online travel agent. My focus is on providing a personalised and tailor-made wedding/honeymoon that is perfect for you, and I genuinely care that you both have the best possible time. I will get to know you and always go that extra mile and will help you create a completely unforgettable experience. I am also available 24/7 so can be there when it is convenient for you. Get in touch today and let’s start planning the wedding and honeymoon of your dreams!”

Please visit my website: http://www.travelcounsellors.co.uk/nicola.barnard and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nicolabarnardtravelcounsellor/ for more information and to get in touch.

Thanks so much to everyone for reading:)

Categories: Activities, Australia, Cook Islands, New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Travel Inspired Me To Change My Life

I trained to be a teacher back in 2012, but I am not a teacher – instead the power of travel pulled me away from the only job I thought I would ever do – and now I have qualified as a personal home-working travel counsellor. I love to travel and now I get to help others have amazing holidays as my job!

IMG_6319.JPGFinishing my PGCE (teaching qualification in the UK) back in the summer of 2012 was a real achievement. I won’t lie, the year had been the hardest of my life. There had been so many highs and lows, often in the same day, or even the same hour. Training to be a Secondary English teacher was such incredibly hard work and also so rewarding too. There were so many moments I loved — lessons that had gone really well, getting praise from fellow teachers, school trips, student achievements, making a positive difference to students’ lives, taking our year 9 girls on an adventure to Paris.

However, being a perfectionist I wanted every lesson to be good, to be amazing even, to be the best it could be. I wanted to do the best I could for every single child in that class. I didn’t want to cut corners, but the reality is teachers need to cut corners. In my opinion there aren’t enough hours in the day to do every single thing that is expected of teachers.

I started applying for jobs after finishing my qualification and for one reason or another I wasn’t getting them. Without sounding arrogant I knew I was a strong candidate (my previous pupils and teachers vouched for my excellent teaching style and aptitude for teaching) but somehow these jobs weren’t being offered to me.

I started to question myself, and I thought, I was so right for teaching. Yes it was hard, but I had felt I wanted it. But did I? Did I just think I wanted it? Maybe the alternative was just too scary, too unspecific, too unlike me? I had been sensible my whole life — reliable and trustworthy Nicola, always doing well at school and succeeding in everything I did. Teaching was just next on the list and I would soon be a teacher.

But then I stopped and I asked myself the most important question of all, was I truly truly passionate about it, deep in my heart? And my answer was no.

Maybe it was time to find another path, the path I was passionate about, and destined for.

I spoke to my sister (who was living in Australia) on the phone, and she asked me, somewhat out of the blue, if I could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Without hesitation I answered, Queenstown, in New Zealand.

Having been lucky enough to have travelled all over the world, this was the place that came to mind.

We had visited New Zealand twice before, once back in 2006 on a round the world trip and again in 2010 on our honeymoon. After two previous amazing trips I always felt like I had left part of my heart in New Zealand — and in Queenstown in particular. It had just never crossed my mind before to go back to live.

One thing led to another and the next thing I know I am suggesting to my husband John that we move to New Zealand to live for a year! Within a month we had booked our flights to leave a few months later and I started planning. We were going to have a 5-week holiday first before settling down somewhere we could get work. I loved planning our itinerary for the trip (I had spent the last 15 years planning and booking trips all over the world, including our honeymoon, as well as various trips for friends and family).

The time had soon come to leave the UK on a jet plane and not look back. Some might call the decision rash; I was turning my back on a teaching career after all, and after such a challenging year training to be a teacher, but it just felt right, really right.

IMG_0029.jpgWe had a really amazing first few months in New Zealand. It was during this time that I was inspired to set up my own business helping other people to have their own amazing travel adventures in New Zealand.

I got to work, a strong passion burned inside of me like never before, an entrepreneurial passion. It felt like, although it might sound cheesy to some, this is what I had been destined to do. Over the next few months I worked with branding and IT experts and a logo design company. I created a logo, wrote all the copy for and designed my own website, designed packages and services to offer my clients, collected feedback on my idea and website, set up a Facebook page, created a youtube video for my website, and much more. My business, and my passion – Blue Penguin Travel – was born.

For the next three years and a half years I was lucky enough to work with clients all over the world in helping them arrange bespoke itineraries for their trips around New Zealand – including a Christmas honeymoon. I loved working on their itineraries and being a part of their own life-changing travel adventures.

After living in New Zealand for a year we moved back to the UK in 2013 and the following year had a wonderful baby boy called Elliott (now 20 months old), who is just amazing – so sweet and cheeky and he fills my days with smiles and laughter.

Since having Elliott, and despite loving my business with a passion I have felt that I could do so much more. The idea of working as an independent travel agent is one I often thought about but had never made into a reality. I felt that if I did this then I would be able to not only plan trips for people, but book them too – with full financial protection behind me. This idea repeatedly came back to me – and so after much research I found the amazing Travel Counsellors. They provide the option to run your own business, using their own amazing support system (both in terms of their incredible IT system with access to all areas of travel, and their support teams).

Travel Counsellor’s focus is on personal tailor-made holidays for travellers — where we as travel counsellors get to know the client and tailor the holiday of their dreams just for them and will always go that extra mile. This ethos very much fitted with my own, and as a result I have qualified to work as an personal travel counsellor – where I can book any kind of trip anywhere in the world!

New Zealand, and travelling in general have changed me, inspired me and I’m excited for the future – I am ready to finally be who I am supposed to be.

This article was also feature on the Huffington Post.

Travel Counsellors imageI work as a personal travel counsellor and have over 15 years experience of planning and booking trips – including my own destination wedding to Lake Tahoe, California, and my round-the-world honeymoon. I have specialist experience in planning bespoke off-the-beaten-track New Zealand itineraries.

Take a look at my Travel Counsellors web page and Facebook page.

Categories: Huffington Post, New Zealand, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exciting new business expansion – my new venture as a travel counsellor!

Travel Counsellors imageI have some super exciting news. I have been lucky enough to work with clients all over the world through Blue Penguin Travel (my previous travel consultancy company which specialised in off-the-beaten-track bespoke itineraries in New Zealand) which has been brilliant but I have now decided to take the next step in my travel journey and I have completed my training to be a fully independent home-working travel agent for an amazing company called Travel Counsellors, which is a very exciting new venture for me.

Based from my home in Frome, Somerset in the UK I will now be able to plan/book holidays anywhere in the world for global clients (including of course those wishing to travel to New Zealand as I have such vast knowledge and experience of this country).

I will have access to great prices, packages and offers for any different type of holiday you can think of, and can also book different parts of the trip individually e.g. accommodation, flights, etc.

I have over 15 years experience of planning and booking trips (including my own destination wedding to Lake Tahoe, California, and our round-the-world honeymoon) and have run Blue Penguin Travel for the last 3 and a half years.

The focus of our company – Travel Counsellors – is on a special personalised tailored service, where I work as the client’s own Personal Travel Counsellor – really getting to know my clients and helping them plan and book the perfect trip. We will also be there for you 24/7, which high-street/online travel agents cannot promise! We are an international company based in 7 countries and have over 1400 employees across the world – and we will always go that extra mile for you. 

If anyone reading this is interested in having me help them book their holiday or trip away then please take a look at my Travel Counsellors page, my Facebook page and get in touch through either of those (or use my Contact page on here!). 

I just love helping people to travel and see the world so feel so lucky to be able to do it as a job!:)

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Australia, Blue Penguin, Cook Islands, New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 5 New Zealand Museums

New Zealand is full of rich, wonderful and culturally significant museums. I have chosen my Top 5 favourite museums across the whole of this beautiful country. Enjoy!

1. Te Papa, Wellington

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Probably New Zealand’s best museum, Te Papa has something to offer everyone. The museum’s website tells you when visiting Te Papa you will ‘discover the stories of New Zealand’. From the historic right up to the contemporary (The Lord of the Rings included!) the museum has a huge number of displays and art work, and hosts exciting events and amazing exhibitions.

The content and layout of the museum is brilliant. The variety of items in the museum, along with the innovative and interesting design make for a fantastic visit. Favourite sections of ours were the sections about New Zealand’s native wildlife, as well as the 20th century displays.

It is a place that has to feature on your Wellington itinerary!

  • Opening hours: 10am-6pm, 365 days a year.
  • Cost: Free.
  • Location: 55 Cable Street, Wellington.

 

2. Otago Settlers Museum

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IMG_0538The Otago Settlers Museum tells the stories of the people of Dunedin from the earliest settlers through to those who have recently arrived. The museum traces the lives of the settlers – indigenous Māori, the early Chinese, and other migrant groups – and their technological innovation, domestic life, fashion, art and transport.

It is an incredibly innovative and well-planned out museum. It has lots of interactive sections, and an amazing array of items covering a large period in history.

Immigration boat reconstruction

A special area of the museum is the reconstruction of being under deck on a boat that would have brought immigrants into New Zealand – it is dark and has all the noises as part of the reconstruction.

They state on their website they are ‘New Zealand’s newest and most innovative museum experience’ so be sure to check them out.

  • Opening hours: 10am-5pm, except for Christmas Day.
  • Cost: Free.
  • Location: 31 Queens Garden, Dunedin.

3. World of WearableArt™ and Classic Cars Museum, Nelson

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IMG_6772.jpgA unique collaboration of two very different interests, the ‘WOW’ (World of WearableArt) and car museum offers the chance to see the world-class collection of classic cars, as well as amazing wearable art from all around the world.

The selection and layout of cars is absolutely brilliant. The information about the cars is excellent and the cars are arranged thoughtfully, with extreme care taken over their preservation.

The fashion art gallery is very innovative and unique and unlike anything we have seen before. It contains over 60 World of WearableArt garments which are fascinating to see.

This museum is a fantastic collaboration and you find something for everyone on your visit.

  • Opening hours: 10am-5pm, except for Christmas Day.
  • Cost: $24 for adults and $10 for children, concessions also apply.
  • Location: Cadillac Way off Quarantine Road, Annesbrook, near Nelson.

 

4. Auckland War Memorial Museum

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IMG_9650A very popular museum, the Auckland War Memorial Museum is a large museum with a huge array of displays and exhibitions. It is set in a beautiful location with a view looking down towards the city.

Their website states they are ‘New Zealand’s first Museum’, and that the museum ‘tells the story of New Zealand, its place in the Pacific and its people’. It also has one of the top three heritage libraries in New Zealand.

IMG_9624The collections it houses include pre-eminent Māori and Pacific collections, social and military history collections, significant natural history resources and arts and pictorial collections. The museum is also highly involved in local education programmes.

With such a variety of collections, and in such a beautiful location overlooking the city, this museum is a must-visit on your trip to Auckland.

  • Opening hours: 10am-5pm, except for Christmas Day.
  • Cost: $25 for adults and $10 for children, free/donation for NZ residents.
  • Location: The Auckland Domain, Parnell, Auckland.

 

5. Southward Car Museum, Paraparaumu

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IMG_1352Named after its namesake – Sir Len Southward – The Southward Car Museum is a wonderful collection of over 400 cars and bikes and really is a fantastic place to visit.

Their website claims they are the ‘largest and most comprehensive car museum in the southern hemisphere’ and their selection of vehicles are in beautiful condition and are really well presented in a huge exhibition hall. They also have a lower level within the museum, which is down some steps housing yet more cars.

More off-the-beaten track than the other museums in this list, this museum will not disappoint and may prove to be a highlight of your trip!

  • Opening hours: 9am-4.30pm, except for Christmas Day and Good Friday.
  • Cost: $17 for adults and $3 for children.
  • Location: Otaihanga Road, Paraparaumu, approx an hour’s drive north of Wellington.

There are other wonderful museums that could have made this Top 5 list, so feel to share yours with me!:)

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 5 affordable places to stay in New Zealand

I have been debating whether to write this post and let out my secrets of some truly magical places to stay in New Zealand, but luckily for you I have decided to!

I am aware with an unlimited budget you could stay in places even more spectacular, but these places to stay are more for the ‘everyday’ traveller and will not blow your budget.

New Zealand has some of the most incredible and breathtaking scenery in the world, and whilst travelling through the country we stayed in some wonderful places. So, here we go with my Top 5:

1. Little Greenie, Golden Bay

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Buried away up a gravel track in Wainui Bay in the Golden Bay on New Zealand’s South island lies Little Greenie – somewhere so very special, that once you have stayed there no where else will quite stack up.

Lawrence and his team have created somewhere not only the most energy efficient and best eco-home in New Zealand, but somewhere you will never ever forget staying.

IMG_7141.jpgLittle Greenie is a completely liveable sustainable home (with electricity, hot water and indoor shower) and harnesses the sun’s power. Its unique position atop a hill over looking the bay is unique – you cannot see another person from this stunning vantage point. You can even take an outdoor bath underneath the stars!

Details:

Where? Close to Wainui Bay, Golden Bay.

Cost? $185 – $260 NZD per night.

Access? Up a narrow gravel road, accessible by 2WD car. Follow the signs.

 

2. Curio Bay Accommodation, Catlins Region

IMG_0363Curio Bay StudioTucked away in a quiet corner of the off-the-beaten-track region of New Zealand called the Catlins, lies Curio Bay Accommodation – a gem of a place.

Boasting incredible views these boutique studios are on the beachfront. Little blue penguins nest underneath the decking so you may hear then heading out to sea in the morning or returning at night. In the summer you may even see hector’s dolphins playing in the surf right outside your door. No wifi or TV so you can escape from it all.

Details:

Where? Curio Bay, Catlins region.

Cost? $160 – $200 NZD per night.

Access? Located on Curio Bay Road, route is a mixture of sealed/unsealed roads (depending on the direction you are coming from).

 

3. Oaks Shores Hotel Apartments, Queenstown

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IMG_9069The Oaks Shores apartments offer some of the best views for their price in the whole of Queenstown. Avoid the hotel rooms as they are pretty small, and opt for either a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment with a lake view (best views are from level 5). All apartments come with a full kitchen and underfloor heating and some have laundry, gas fire etc. Views of the surrounding mountains from the balcony are just out of this world! From here you can sit, relax, watch the sun go down and the moon rise.

Details: 

Where? Queenstown

Cost? 1 bedroom lake view apartments start from $214 NZD per night.

Access? Easy, off the main road heading into Queenstown on the lefthand side.

 

4. Abri Apartments, Paihia (Treetops chalet)

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The Treetops chalet at the Abri Apartments will provide you with a comfortable, relaxing and memorable stay. Sit out on your balcony and take in the wonderful view. The microfibre sheets in our chalet were the softest and most comfortable in all of New Zealand!

The chalet comes with air con, which is handy as the Bay of Islands experiences some of New Zealand’s nicest and hottest weather! And it also comes with a spa bath so you can relax and rest your legs from your day’s walking.

Details:

Where? Paihia, Bay of Islands

Cost? $149 – $299 NZD per night.

Access? Easy access, not far from the centre of Paihia, with 32 stairs up to entrance.

 

5. Aoraki Court, Mount Cook Village

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IMG_3521Aoraki Court is a brilliant alternative to the big-player in the area, the Hermitage Hotel (which is also nice, but just a different experience). It is a lovely boutique motel that provides luxury accommodation in the heart of Mount Cook Village. The units are extremely comfortable and have stunning views of the surrounding mountains with all directly facing majestic Mount Sefton. Parking is super easy and there is unlimited free wifi. Some units also have a spa bath – perfect for soaking in after a long day exploring the amazing surrounding scenery. It has all you need to relax and feel at home.

Details:

Where? Mount Cook Village

Cost? $165 – $325 NZD per night.

Access? By sealed roads, easy to locate in the village.

So there we have it – my Top 5 affordable places to stay in New Zealand. I hope you enjoyed reading about them and feel free to share any brilliant affordable places you have stayed.

Blue Penguin TravelIf you are interested in travelling to New Zealand and would like help planning your itinerary then let Blue Penguin Travel help. We are an independent travel company who offer a bespoke itinerary planning service, to help you create an amazing off-the-beaten-track travel adventure in New Zealand. Feel free to drop us an email: nicola@bluepenguintravel.com or check out our Facebook page.

Categories: Accommodation, Blue Penguin, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Destination Feature: Great Barrier Island

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Wild, unspoilt and stunningly beautiful – Great Barrier Island lies just 62 miles off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city – yet is a world away. 

With a permanent population of around 940 people, visiting Great Barrier Island feels like you have stepped back in time. It offers off-the-beaten-track bays and coves, stunning deserted beaches, beautiful rare birdlife, illuminating sunsets, peace and tranquility and a completely unique New Zealand experience.

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Seeking a truly special off-the-beaten-track travel adventure, myself and my husband took a trip to Great Barrier Island during a year we spent living in New Zealand and we were blown away by how different it felt from not just the rest of New Zealand, but from anywhere else in the world we had ever been.

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and take the 30 minute flight from Auckland. Immediately on landing you are aware you have landed somewhere special. You feel an imminent sense that you want to explore, and your best choice is hiring a car and exploring the island yourself. In fitting with the laid-back style of the island, the cars tend be a little ‘historic’, which only adds to the experience.

The stepped-back-in-time-feel extends to everyday basics one might usually take for granted – including electricity! There is no mains power on the island so they rely on generators and solar power. Arriving at a cafe at lunchtime one day we were offered ‘only coffee’ but we could have food after 4.30pm when they switched the generator on! The locals (many of them barefoot) were incredibly friendly and welcoming.

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Whilst being quaint and unusual Great Barrier Island also has much to offer the off-the-beaten-track traveller. Most of the beaches were completely deserted – shining with desolation and untouched beauty. The least accessible beach but perhaps the most stunning, was Kaitoke beach – down a steep gravel track and really worth the trip.

There are many panoramic lookout spots (Windy Canyon was our favourite) on the island that can be reached by a number of hikes. You can also take a hike to the fantastic Kaitoke Hot Springs and bathe in your own natural hot springs amongst the shade of the trees, listening to the birds sing.

The wildlife on Great Barrier Island is also very special – we spotted many smaller native birds (tui, brown teal) and were very lucky to see a few of the rare and beautiful North-island kaka. We also heard the little blue penguins on the beach at night.

The serenity and peacefulness, as well the stunningly beautiful scenery and very different way of life make Great Barrier Island a truly special and unique timeless paradise, and an escape from nearby city-life.

Make sure you include it on your New Zealand itinerary – you won’t be disappointed.

All photos are copyright of Blue Penguin Travel.

This article was also published in the Huffington Post’s Travel Section.

Interested in travelling to Great Barrier Island as part of your trip to New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We are an independent travel company who offer a bespoke itinerary planning service, to help you create an amazing off-the-beaten-track travel adventure in New Zealand. Feel free to drop us an email: nicola@bluepenguintravel.com or check out our Facebook page.

Categories: Destination Feature, Huffington Post, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First piece published in the Huffington Post!

I am delighted to announce I have been accepted to write for the Huffington Post in their travel section. I will be writing about my travel experiences all over the world, with a focus on off-the-beaten-track adventures in New Zealand (the speciality of my travel company, Blue Penguin Travel).

Check out my first post featured below that has been published on the Huffington Post. It is titled Great Barrier Island: New Zealand’s Timeless Paradise Close to The City. It is also currently being featured on the Huffington Post Travel homepage!

Please like and share if you want to. Thank you for your support!:)

GBI Huff Post Screenshot

 

 

Categories: Blue Penguin, Huffington Post, New Zealand, North Island, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My 50 favourite places in New Zealand

New Zealand leaves an imprint on your heart and will stay with you forever.

To celebrate reaching 200 blog posts I have decided to write a post which reveals my 50 favourite places in New Zealand. Having been very privileged to have lived in New Zealand with my husband for a year, and visited New Zealand twice previous to this, I have been to some incredible, special and truly memorable places.

I thought now would be the perfect time to share them with you. There are many more I could have included and I could have written a 1000! Here we go:

1. QT bench   2. Mount Cook Kea Point

3. Medlands beach

4. franz josef glacier

5. Wilson bay

6. elephant rocks

7. Purakaunui falls

8. Mount Cook

9. boundary creek

10.petrifiedforest

11.glenorchyview

12 fire at hobbiton

13 milford sound

14 awana beach

15.babyseals

16. Clay cliffs

17.mountcook

18.lakematheson

19.lakepukaki

20.brucebay

21.moke lake

22.glenorchy pier23.cathedralcove

24.lakewakatipu

25.laketekapo

26.oamarubluepenguin

27.qtgardens

28hahei

29.gemstonebeach

30orakeikorako

31cathedralcaves.jpg

32 qthill.jpg

33marokopa falls

34.hanmerspringshotpools.jpg

35.rees river.jpg

36.greatbarriersunset.jpg37.governor's bay.jpg

38.mounthyde.jpg

39.climbersmemorial.jpg

40littlekaiteri.jpg

41gelrnochylagoon.jpg

42.hokitika.jpg

43. kingstonbay.jpg

44.allansbeach

45.capereinga.jpg

46.waiheke.jpg

47. hanmer springs conical hill.jpg

48.auckland

49.bagend.jpg

50.paradise.jpg

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blue Penguin Travel’s Facebook Page

 

Blue Penguin Travel FB screenshot

Despite running as a company for over three years now here at Blue Penguin Travel we haven’t given our Facebook page as much attention as we would like, so we have decided to invest more time and effort into making it great. Take a look here if you are interested in seeing our page and if you like what you see, please give us a ‘Like’ and we promise to post interesting content about New Zealand. You never know, it might inspire you to take your own trip to the amazing country of New Zealand (if you haven’t already!).

For those of you who don’t know who we are, Blue Penguin Travel specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand. We offer travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries enabling you to have the adventure of a lifetime.

Categories: Blue Penguin, New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Photo of the Day: Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

This photo is of the very picturesque Lake Tekapo – which is located on the road from Christchurch to Queenstown. This was taken during our year living in New Zealand, in October 2012. As it is one of our favourite lakes we always stop by to take in the stunning views any time we are passing, so were lucky enough to also visit in May 2013 and August 2013 – both of which I blogged about so take a look if you are interested in seeing more photos. Back in 2006 on our very first trip to New Zealand Lake Tekapo was also the first lake we ever saw. And what a beautiful sight it is!

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Lake Tekapo and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: New Zealand, Photo Of The Day, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photography items for sale!

 

RedBubble Page

My RedBubble Page

For some time now I have been selling my photographs and photography items (iphone cases, cushion covers, canvas prints etc.) on a site called RedBubble. I usually make a couple of sales a week which makes me just so happy – the thought that people love my work so much they would like to have it in their home or give it as a gift:)

I thought I would share the link to my RedBubble page in case anyone is interested in taking a look – either click the image above or click here to explore my page. It features photographs from New Zealand, Australia, The Cook Islands, Iceland and the UK.

A few of the Christmas order dates have passed (not many!), depending on where in the world you live, but check out this link for more details if you are interested in purchasing items for Christmas.

Thanks so much for your ongoing support and for reading:)

Categories: Australia, Cook Islands, New Zealand, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Photo of the Day: Hobbiton

Bag End

Bag End

Today’s photo comes from the amazing place that is Hobbiton! As a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films we had the most incredible time visiting the set and exploring the home of the hobbits. This photo of Bag End is one of my favourite of the day and brings back such wonderful memories. We visited Hobbiton back in May 2013 when we were exploring in New Zealand in our camper-car, the spaceship. Check out my blog post for a detailed description of the tour and our day. Hobbiton also features in my Top 10 things to do in New Zealand post.

If you are a fan you cannot leave New Zealand without visiting Hobbiton – you will remember it forever!

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Hobbiton and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: New Zealand, North Island, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Day: Franz Josef Glacier

Inside an ice cave

Inside an ice cave

Today’s photo comes from inside an ice cave at Franz Josef Glacier on New Zealand’s West Coast. This photo was taken all the way back in 2006 on our first trip to New Zealand. We spent 10 days travelling around the South Island and one of the highlights for us was the heli hike we took up on to Franz Josef Glacier. We then hiked across the glacier, and explored inside ice caves which was an incredible experience. Franz Josef’s heli hike features on my Top 5 things to do in New Zealand and Top 10 things to do in New Zealand lists where you can read more about it.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Franz Josef Glacier and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Photo Of The Day, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brazilian Travel Blog Feature

Brazilian Travel Blog FeatureI was approached a few weeks back by Larissa and Carlos – a couple from Brazil who are currently living in New Zealand. They run a brilliant travel blog and mentioned they planned to write an article covering different points of view from other bloggers all over the world who live or have lived in New Zealand. They were interested in what people liked most about New Zealand and what they thought was unique about New Zealand. I thought it was a wonderful idea so wrote my contribution and they included it in their post. They are Brazilian and the majority of their readers are Brazilian so it is written in Portuguese (find the original English version below). I have posted a small screenshot from the article here and Google Translate tells me the article is called “The New Zealand by the sight of 6 travel blogs from around the world” and as I don’t speak Portuguese I have to trust the translation!”. Take a look!

Here is the English translation:

“When you think of New Zealand, it evokes images of stunning snow-capped mountains, beautiful turquoise lakes, deep and majestic fjords and the rolling hills of Middle Earth – and it truly is all of that, and so much more.

New Zealand is an incredibly unique country – and not only its variety of stunningly beautiful landscapes, but also their accessibility, are very appealing. Almost all roads in New Zealand lead somewhere truly special, and there is an adventure waiting around every corner.

Living in New Zealand was a wonderful and memorable experience – made that extra bit special by the overwhelmingly friendly Kiwi people. Nothing was ever too much trouble and I loved their laid-back and relaxed attitude. In fact on moving back to the UK after living over in New Zealand, I often tell myself to ‘Be Kiwi’: to relax and not stress about things in my everyday life.

New Zealand has taught me a different way of thinking and I have a new-found appreciation for everything and everyone around me. New Zealand is simply ‘Sweet As’ as the Kiwis say, and I wouldn’t change a thing about this truly amazing country.”

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Destination Feature: The Stunning Mount Cook, New Zealand

Mount Cook Collage

The highest mountain in New Zealand – Mount Cook – is one of its most striking assets. Standing at 12,218ft high Sir Edmund Hillary (the first man to summit Mount Everest) is one of the most famous men to have ascended Mount Cook, back in 1948.

Today Mount Cook attracts not only climbers and mountaineers from all over the world but tourists too. Despite its incredible beauty and surrounding scenery Mount Cook is still often overlooked on many New Zealand itineraries. Located approx 4 hours from Christchurch and 3 and a half hours from Queenstown, Mount Cook is fairly remote, and because of this maintains an element of serenity and peacefulness.

The road to Mount Cook

The road to Mount Cook

There are still some facilities for tourists (including the Hermitage Hotel, among other accommodation options, including camping), and a few excellent food options for those that stay in the village. But there is no supermarket, or post office (or bank etc.) and so it still retains a quaint charm.

As soon as you head out on the road up to Mount Cook (not forgetting to stop at Peter’s Lookout on the way) and should the weather be good enough you will be able to see this vast mountain stretched out in front of you.

The stunning scenery is the main reason to visit this area and the huge variety of walks that are on offer to even those with the most limited mobility. Take a look at this DOC leaflet detailing the walk and cycling options. This DOC leaflet also gives more detail on walks around the village.

Glacier Explorers Boat Trip

Glacier Explorers Boat Trip

As well as the interesting and varied wildlife to spot in the area, there are also other amazing activities you can take part in at Mount Cook:

  • Glacier Explorers Boat Trip – an incredible boat trip out on to the Tasman glacier lake where you can get up close to the icebergs and terminal face of the glacier, and take in the striking views all around.
  • Helicopter Flight over Mount Cook – there are a variety of flights that depart from Glentanner Park and are operated by The Helicopter Line.
  • Helihike on the Tasman Glacier – operating out of the Mount Cook airport take a helicopter trip up on the glacier and have the fantastic opportunity to hike across the glacier.
  • Stargazing – take a trip to an outdoor stargazing site to explore the brilliant night sky.
  • Tasman Valley 4WD and Argo Tour – take a 4WD tour through Mount Cook’s amazing alpine scenery.
  • Horse trekking – on offer are guided horse treks of varying length through the spectacular scenery , that depart from Glentanner Park.
  • Skiing, snowboarding and ice climbing – Alpine Guides offer a variety of more extreme winter sports in the Mount Cook area.

Visiting Mount Cook is an incredibly memorable event and Mount Cook is a destination that most certainly should feature on everyone’s New Zealand itinerary.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Mount Cook and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: Activities, Blue Penguin, Destination Feature, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blue Penguin Travel is a family affair!

Blue Penguin Travel

My baby boy Elliott

My baby boy Elliott

I have had a few people contacting me asking if Blue Penguin Travel are still running and the answer is YES!!! In case you don’t know Blue Penguin Travel is my own travel consultancy business and specialises in helping people travel to and around New Zealand by providing personalised off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries.

So yes, Blue Penguin Travel are very much still running! We just have an extra little helper now who is keen to get involved. Pictured is myself and my lovely and energetic baby boy Elliott, who has just turned 8 months. I haven’t been posting on my blog much because I have been busy being a Mummy, but I have been lucky enough to work with two clients since Christmas who have had wonderful trips to New Zealand. I have loved helping them with their amazing itineraries, and Elliott especially loves trying to help on my laptop by pressing the keys!

So if you are considering planning a trip to New Zealand and would like help with your itinerary do not hesitate to get in touch. We can help you plan the trip of a lifetime to New Zealand. Drop me an email or fill out our contact form.:)

Categories: Blue Penguin, New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Day: Moke Lake

Moke Lake reflection

Moke Lake reflection

This photo holds a special memory for me, as it was taken on the morning we awoke after our first night staying in our amazing camper-car – the spaceship! We travelled around the whole of New Zealand for 9 weeks staying in our spaceship in April to June 2013 (check out my summary post here) during our year living over there. This morning was a particularly frosty one after a very cold night (read more on my blog post), and we had camped at the DOC site at Moke Lake – located a short drive from Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. We awoke to this stunning view out the back window of our spaceship and it was by far one of the most beautiful places we camped during our trip.

Even if you don’t camp there it is definitely worth a visit as the drive there is quite an adventure and the lake is beautiful!

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Moke Lake and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: New Zealand, Photo Of The Day, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Photo of the Day: Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

My favourite lake in the whole of New Zealand is Lake Pukaki. It is such a gorgeous blue that you have to see it to believe it! During our year living in New Zealand we drove alongside it at every possible opportunity (which was a lot) but I first clapped eyes on this lake all the way back in 2006 which was when this photo was taken. We spent an amazing 8 days travelling round New Zealand’s South island in 2006 during a round the world trip me and my husband took.

Mount Cook (another favourite place of ours) can be seen in the background  – and the road to Mount Cook runs alongside this stunning lake.

If you are lucky enough to visit New Zealand do not leave without seeing Lake Pukaki – it will simply take your breath away!

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Lake Pukaki and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: New Zealand, Photo Of The Day, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ever wanted to visit Paradise (aka The Cook Islands)? Let Blue Penguin Travel help!

With vast experience of travelling to and exploring the amazing island of Aitutaki, Blue Penguin Travel have now decided to expand the services that we offer to include planning trips to Aitutaki in the Cook Islands – which is simply paradise!

Blue Penguin TravelWho are Blue Penguin Travel?

To give you a little bit of background – Blue Penguin Travel is my own travel consultancy company that I set up back in February 2013, inspired by living in the most beautiful country in the world – New Zealand! Since then, after living in New Zealand for a year and travelling to almost every far-fetched corner of this stunning place, I have moved back to the UK and had a beautiful baby boy. Since setting up my company I have helped some wonderful clients have incredible adventures in New Zealand and I have loved every second of it.

In a nutshell, Blue Penguin Travel specialises in creating amazing off-the-beaten-track travel adventures in New Zealand and we offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in New Zealand.

We have now expanded our services – and will be offering clients assistance with planning their trips to Aitutaki in the beautiful Cook Islands. We can create personalised itineraries for your special trip to this beautiful island.

Aitutaki Lagoon

Aitutaki Lagoon

Why would I want to visit Aitutaki?

It really is so unimaginably unspoilt and many of the places you visit appear to have been taken straight from a picture postcard. Aitutaki is a tiny island, part of a group of islands called The Cook Islands – located deep in the South Pacific Ocean.

With its gorgeous pristine beaches and inviting turquoise waters, it is the ideal location for a honeymoon, special anniversary/birthday trip or a relaxing break away. The island is just developed enough to ensure you have a wonderful trip when you visit, but the facilities provided do not ruin or spoil the beauty of this incredibly beautiful island. It really feels like one of the very few unspoilt paradises left in the world.

Where is Aitutaki located?

The map below shows where Aitutaki is located (indicated by the star) – it really is in the middle of nowhere and is surrounded by a strikingly beautiful turquoise lagoon.

Many people have heard of Rarotonga – the largest of the Cook Islands, but Aitutaki is only a short flight from Rarotonga and much quieter, less developed and more relaxed. It is an incredibly beautiful place that has to be seen to be believed!

Aitutaki Map

A holiday house

A holiday house

What is life like on Aitutaki?

There are no high-rise buildings on the island (nothing above one storey), very few cars (many people travel around by scooter) and a very laid back way of life. Islanders refer to ‘island time’ as the time they live by – where no one rushes and no one can be early or late! All the islanders are incredibly friendly and lovely. As you explore the island by scooter (or car if you wish) they will often wave as they pass you on their scooter, or wave from their houses. Often goats and pigs roam free and it isn’t uncommon to find a loveable wild pig in your back-garden (we did!). Much of the fresh fruit and vegetables on the island are grown there and other food is shipped in once a week.

Deserted beach

Deserted beach

Where could I stay and what could I do on Aitutaki that is really special?

There are many different accommodation options to choose from to suit varying tastes and requirements – varying from small private villas and holiday houses to beach-front bungalows. You can sleep just metres from the gorgeous lagoon and listen to the waves lapping at the shore , or relax on a hammock and enjoy a cocktail on the beach looking out into the lagoon.

There are different activities you can take part in, but one of the most special is taking a private boat trip out on the lagoon to explore the other tiny uninhabited islands that surround Aitutaki for a day – get dropped off on your own private island, enjoy time in the sunshine on the pure white-sand beaches, snorkel, swim and relax – completely alone and away from any form of civilisation.

How can Blue Penguin Travel help me?

Let us help you put together an itinerary for your trip to Aitutaki that is completely personalised and tailored to you. We have insider information on the best food places and accommodation options, the best hidden secret beaches, the best swimming and snorkelling spots and the best boat trips out on the lagoon or activities to take part in (including fishing, scuba diving and traditional ‘island nights’).

How can I contact you?

Take a look at our website, our cook islands page and please contact us using our contact page or drop me an email at nicola@bluepenguintravel.com if you are interested in travelling to the stunningly beautiful island of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands and would like a personalised quotation. We can help you plan the trip of a lifetime to paradise!

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Blue Penguin, Cook Islands, Destination Feature | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Day: Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

One of our favourite waterfalls in New Zealand is Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins region of New Zealand’s South Island. Incredibly photogenic, and definitely worth seeking out along its gravel road to reach it. We had the most wonderful time on both of our trips travelling through the Catlins region. Read more on my blog posts from October 2012 and April 2013, whilst travelling around in our Spaceship camper-car. This is a region often overlooked and easily missed on itineraries of travellers, but in my opinion contains some of the best widlife and scenery in the whole of New Zealand.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins region and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: New Zealand, Photo Of The Day, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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