Monthly Archives: February 2013

Glenorchy – we will miss you!

View of Glenorchy mountains from our house

View of Glenorchy mountains from our house

Us at home in Glenorchy

Us at home in Glenorchy

So we leave the lovely Glenorchy on Friday – when we will be flying back up to Auckland and then travelling by ferry to the beautiful Waiheke Island (where we will be staying for 5 weeks). We are sad to leave Glenorchy after living here for just under a month – it has been a real experience living here. Read more in my previous post about Glenorchian life. I have more photos I will post soon, but just wanted to include just one of the many amazing shots we have taken whilst living here. The above photo was taken from the porch of our house! We have been so lucky to be living with a mountain view from everyone window, and in such a beautiful area. This is closing another chapter of our amazing adventure, but know another one based on Waiheke island will be starting very soon – and we can’t wait!

Categories: Accommodation, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Visited New Zealand? Please complete my quick survey that takes just 2 minutes!

Survey MonkeyFirstly thanks very much to everyone who has already completed the survey . I am keen to get as many respondents as possible, so am re-posting my New Zealand Favourites survey.

To access the survey either click on the Survey Monkey icon to the right or click the link below.

New Zealand Favourites Survey:

I know lots of people who visit wordpress and my page have visited New Zealand, and I have put together a survey with 5 short questions – which takes just 2 minutes of your time.

The results will be incredibly helpful to my new travel consultancy company I have set up – called Blue Penguin Travel. Blue Penguin Travel specialises in helping you travel to and around New Zealand by providing personalised off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries. We plan to use the results to improve our offering to our customers.

If you are interested in reading more about Blue Penguin Travel, then please take a look at our Facebook page (and ‘Like’ it if you are interested), or our website (full site coming soon).

Thank you very much to everyone who takes the time to complete it – I am very grateful for all the support.

Categories: Blue Penguin, Survey | Tags: , , , , , , ,

New Zealand market research help would be much appreciated!

Survey MonkeyFor those of you who regularly read/follow my blog you might know that I am currently setting up my own travel consultancy business – called Blue Penguin Travel. This has been partly inspired by moving over to live in New Zealand with my husband for a year. Blue Penguin Travel specialises in helping you travel to and around New Zealand by providing personalised off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries. Our mission statement is that: “We promise to help you create the travel adventure of a lifetime in New Zealand.”

Blue Penguin Travel logoIf you are interested in reading more then please check out our Facebook page (and ‘Like’ it if you are interested), or website (full site coming soon). I am so grateful for the support – thank you.

My main reason for writing this post is to ask anyone reading this that has travelled to New Zealand to complete a quick survey I have compiled about New Zealand favourites. I will be using the data I collect to inform my business and the services we offer. I would be so very grateful to anyone that takes a few minutes to complete it – there are just 5 questions to answer.

To access to survey either click on the Survey Monkey icon above or click the link below. Thanks again to everyone for their help! 🙂

New Zealand Favourites Survey:

Categories: Blue Penguin, Survey | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Interview featured on Expats Blog Website!

Expat Interviews An interview I gave back in January to the Expats Blog website is now live and their featured interview of the day. It discusses my life since moving over to New Zealand, including how I have been so inspired by my time in New Zealand that I have set up my own travel consultancy business – called Blue Penguin Travel.

Expats Blog is a great website bringing together expats from all over the world, including links to lots of different blogs, interviews and articles so take a look! 🙂

Either click the image above or click the link below to read my interview:

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

100 posts – My top 10 favourite photographs of New Zealand

This is my 100th blog post since I started my blog back in June last year to tell the story of mine and my husband’s amazing New Zealand adventure. So I decided to select 10 of my favourite photographs that I have taken since we arrived in New Zealand. These are of New Zealand landscapes and wildlife that we have come across during our adventures. It was incredibly difficult to select just 10, but I thought it would be a nice way to commemorate 100 blog posts. Also, I have just reached 100 followers as I post this – what great timing!

A beach in the wild and beautiful Catlins region

A beach in the wild and beautiful Catlins region

Lake Pukaki framed by the snow-covered Mount Cook

Lake Pukaki framed by the snow-covered Mount Cook

A jumping dolphin in Marlborough Sounds

A jumping dolphin in Marlborough Sounds

Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins region

Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins region

A yellow-eyed-penguin in the wild at the Petrified Forest - Curio Bay

A yellow-eyed-penguin in the wild at the Petrified Forest – Curio Bay

A stunning Great Barrier Island sunset

A stunning Great Barrier Island sunset

An amazing breaching humpback whale in Bay of Islands

An amazing breaching humpback whale in Bay of Islands

Little Kaiteriteri beach

The beautiful Little Kaiteriteri beach

View of Lake Hawea on the way to Queenstown

View of Lake Hawea on the way to Queenstown

The very beautiful Lake Tekapo

The very beautiful Lake Tekapo

Thanks for looking at my photographs. As I said on a previous post I am really grateful to everyone who has read, liked or followed my blog. I hope you have taken something from the posts I have shared and I have certainly taken something from being part of the blog community. To reiterate my previous comment – each and every one of you who had read, liked or commented truly has brightened my day with your contributions – so thank you so much! 🙂

Categories: Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Little blue penguin photographs

Blue Penguin Close up face

Here are a collection of my own photographs I have taken of the little blue penguins (all without a flash of course!) – in one photo below one of them only has one wing – bless him!

Blue penguin headBlue penguin with only one wing

Blue Penguin close up

Little blue penguins

Little blue penguin close up

Blue penguins

Blue penguin close up

Blue Penguins

Blue penguin

Blue penguin on sand

































I also have a couple of photographs from our visit to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. The one on the left is my own photo taken of the blue penguins crossing the road at night – it is dark as we didn’t use flash so as to protect the penguins. The one on the right is copyright of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony – we purchased this photo when we were there as didn’t take any photos during our visit so as not to disturb the penguins.

Penguins crossing the road!

Oamaru Penguin Colony Photograph








I hope you have enjoyed looking at my photographs. They have definitely been an inspiration for my new business I am setting up – helping people travel to and around the amazing country of New Zealand (providing off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries) – aptly called Blue Penguin Travel! 🙂

Note: All photographs (other than the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony one) are copyright of Nicola Barnard and if you wish to use any of them in any capacity please contact me 🙂
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Motivational blue penguin!

Animated penguinI discovered this little guy a while ago and think he is amazing! He helped give me inspiration for my business I am currently setting up (Blue Penguin Travel). He’s just so cute and fun! Hope you like him too 🙂

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Very close to two big ‘100’ milestones!

After starting my blog back on June 30th 2012 I am now very close to reaching 100 blog posts and also very close to 100 followers! 🙂

This will be my 97th blog post, and with two other ‘blue penguin’ related posts planned for tomorrow (they are such an amazing animal!) I am also planning something a little special for my 100th post.

I am also incredibly lucky to have 94 amazing followers – and only 6 away from making a wonderful 100.

I am really enjoying writing this blog which is documenting mine and my husband’s amazing New Zealand adventure. I have also loved interacting with other fellow bloggers and I have learned so much and gained some very valuable tips about future adventures in this wonderful country.

Thanks so much to everyone who has read, liked or followed my blog over the last 7 and a half months. Each and every one of you has brightened my day with your contributions – so thank you! 🙂

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Inspired by Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to climb Mount Everest – in 1953 – he lived until he was 88 and is a New Zealand icon. He is referred to as a “humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world’s greatest explorers”.

Sir Edmund Hillary

When visiting Mount Cook back in October last year we went to the Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre – which is an amazing tribute to the great Sir Edmund Hillary. Whilst there one of his quotes really stood out to me and I was thinking about it today so thought I would share it.

“I have had the world lie beneath my clumsy boots and saw the red sun slip over the horizon after the dark Antarctic winter. I have been given more than my share of excitement, beauty, laughter and friendship. Each of us has to discover his own path – of that I am sure. Some paths will be spectacular and others peaceful and quiet – who is to say which is the most important? For me, the most rewarding moments have not always been the great moments, for what can surpass a tear on your departure, joy on your return, and a trusting hand in yours?'”

– Sir Edmund Hilary

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Glenorchy – living in Lord of the Rings country for a month

Tuesday 5th February – Friday 1st March: Glenorchy

Lake Wakatipu

Welcome to GlenorchyGlenorchy is certainly unique! We first came here for a day trip back in October – read all about our Glenorchy lagoon walkway walk and amazing LOTR 4WD tour with Glenorchy Journeys on my previous blog post. We then returned in December for a lovely 3 day Christmas break, where we did the amazing Dart River Jet boat Wilderness Safari. We were lucky enough to stay in a gorgeous house with a hot tub! We then popped back on numerous occasions whilst we were staying in Queenstown for a month – as well as stopping off at the lovely places along the drive (Wilsons Bay, Closeburn etc.).

Our lovely cottageSo, it seemed like a great idea when we decided to rent a holiday house for a month and live here after our time in Queenstown. We hired a car from trusty locals Queenstown Car Hire and arrived here on Tuesday 5th February. Our house – Mountainview Cottage – was just perfect! It had lovely open space all around, with all the right amenities inside just right for our stay. It also had air con – which we never thought we would use so much (it has been really hot!!). There are mountain views from every window which are just amazing. The living room is nice and cosy and it has a huge fireplace (never going to use it!). It also has a good work area for us both to work from home. We know we are really lucky to have work from home jobs (John doing his software development, and me working on my own start up travel consultancy – Blue Penguin Travel). We have been really busy with work so far, but have really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of living in this area. We really are surrounded by paradise (and actually, the place called ‘Paradise’ is about 20kms up the road!).

GlenorchyWithin a 5 minute walk we are on the Glenorchy jetty right on Lake Wakatipu, with stunning views all around. The Glenorchy lagoon walkway starts from there, which is just a wonderful walk. Being close to Queenstown is great, as we can pop into there for food shopping and to eat out (as we did on Valentine’s Day at Winnies).

There are some quite quirky things about living in Glenorchy too. it does feel pretty remote. It is about a 45 minute drive along a very windy (but scenic) road as it winds itself around the side of the mountain. There is no police here, only a volunteer fire service. It has two shops – one is tiny and part of the hotel and pub and visitor centre (it is all one – Basil Fawlty anyone?!) and the other is also small and is based by the campsite and anything it does sell is pretty basic with a high premium. It has two cafes, a tiny petrol pump and post shop and not a lot else! But we like it 🙂 Next door neigh-bours!It does also have some lovely horses who were our next door neighbours for a while. And it has quite a few random dogs wandering around (some cute – the little three legged one who likes to run alongside us, and some others not so much – there are some big scary dogs that every now and again get off their chains!). There is also one house that likes to play crazily loud music every now and then. There are lots of houses around it, and we are a few hundred metres away yet can still hear it. It is crazy actually that we are in the middle of paradise in such a small town, and still have people making noise like that! It proves that nowhere is perfect really (and that this can happen anywhere)! I guess they can get away with it because it is not like you can call the police!

Still, it is a real experience living here and one we won’t forget. We leave for Waiheke one week on Friday so will make sure we enjoy every minute we have left!

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Blue Penguin | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The perfect Valentine’s Day on the other side of the world!

Thursday 14th February 2013 – Glenorchy/Queenstown

Me, hubby and Lake Wakatipu

In Queenstown GardensSo me and my hubby were celebrating our 12th Valentine’s Day together – and this year we were in a really special location – Glenorchy and Queenstown. During the day whilst working from home we swapped cards and lovely gifts (we had bought each other New Zealand pendants – mine was a gorgeous green made from jade). After work we drove into Queenstown and headed to our favourite place to eat – Winnies – for a delicious pizza. We have been there quite a bit since we arrived in New Zealand back in September and this time were presented with a ‘Friend of Winnies’ loyalty card! Queenstown beachWe were pretty chuffed with this, plus it gave us 15% off our food which was great! After that we took a lovely walk along the beachfront in Queenstown town centre. On the drive back we also stopped off at a few hidden beaches and took some pictures. We also skipped some stones across the lake and just took in the peace and amazing scenery together. It really was a wonderful end to a truly memorable Valentine’s Day on the other side of the world to home!


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Categories: Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blue Penguin Travel – a wonderful testimonial

Blue Penguin Travel logoSetting up my own business is continuing to go well and I wanted to post the two part testimonial I have already received from one of my lovely clients. Blue Penguin Travel is a travel consultancy specialising in off-the beaten-track travel advice and itineraries. If you have interested please take a look at my FB page or the holding page of my website (which is coming soon!). Thanks! 🙂


“We chose Blue Penguin Travel after reading Nicola’s blog of her travels in New Zealand. This is superbly written with many wonderful photos. Nicola’s incredible in-depth knowledge, experience and passion that she so obviously has for New Zealand, and her sense of adventure were a real testament to her ability to help us plan the holiday of a lifetime.

We would like to say a huge thank you to Nicola for somehow managing to plan, organise and book a two week trip to New Zealand in a week!!!! That in itself was amazing. We wish to express our appreciation and thanks for her very effective organisation, continued patience and guidance throughout the whole planning and booking process. Nothing was too much trouble!!!! The personal touch was wonderful as she guided and advised us on everything. She asked us what we liked and worked with us in order to fulfill all of our wants and needs. Her knowledge of New Zealand was limitless and what she didn’t know, she found out and she was in constant touch feeding this back via email and phone calls, promptly and efficiently. Nicola was extremely prompt in responding to questions/concerns that we had along the way, which was a critical factor for us as we had never been to NZ before. Nicola was always polite and professional and she compiled an incredibly comprehensive spreadsheet with all of her recommendations which included clear web-links and lots of choice so we could preview and choose everything very easily. This included flights, accommodation, activities and even car hire. Her commitment and attention to detail was outstanding and the itinerary she produced was superb and very comprehensive and took into account all of our wishes.

We feel incredibly excited about our upcoming trip as this is our first visit to New Zealand and I can’t wait to visit all the amazing places that Nicola suggested.  Thank you, Thank you….It will be a trip of a lifetime!!!! We can’t wait.

We would wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend  BPT to anyone who is looking to go to New Zealand. If you are looking for a custom vacation itinerary, but don’t have the time to spend months researching and planning on your own, we would recommend BPT as a great alternative.  Please accept our warmest thanks for your personal care, outstanding service, meticulous planning, thoughtful scheduling and integrity in helping us plan such a very special trip.”

A follow up response was also added to their testimonial following their return:

“We would both like to heartily endorse you, as an ambassador for New Zealand and an awesome trip planner.

Our trip was an experience of a lifetime and you did everything we could have asked in planning such an adventure. We were particularly impressed with how you were able to book everything under such a tight timeline (one week!!). Everything went like clockwork from the flights, the hire car, the wonderful accommodation you helped find, to the fantastic boat trip on the Tasman glacier lake (one of our favourite activities).

The highlight had to be our wonderful family Christmas in Queenstown. The incredibly amazing house you found for us was excellent, right on the shores of Lake Wakatipu with the most fantastic views over The Remarkables; the location was ideal. We also loved Wanaka, Mount Cook and Franz Josef Glacier. The itinerary you had planned for us was perfect. We kept thinking each day that it could not get any better, but it did.

Your in-depth knowledge of where to go, what to do and see were invaluable in making this a very special time.

We will go back to NZ for sure, the beauty of this wonderful country surpasses everything we could have ever imagined. So thank you so very much Nicola for all your help and patience, excellent advice and planning. It was a trip that will stay with us forever.

We can’t wait to return.”

Get in touch with Blue Penguin Travel at if you are interested in travelling to New Zealand we I will get back to you to arrange a free consultation 🙂

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Blue Penguin Travel Facebook page is up and running!

Blue Penguin Travel logo

The off-the-beaten-track travel consultancy business that I have set up – called Blue Penguin Travel – now has its own Facebook page.

Blue Penguin Travel specialises in helping you travel to and around New Zealand by providing personalised off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries.

If you are interested in learning more then please take a look at our Facebook page, and ‘Like’ it if you want to! I am really grateful for the support 🙂 Or you can email me at if you are interested in planning your own adventure to New Zealand. The main aim of my page is that of inspiration – I am hoping to inspire people to want to travel to New Zealand. I will be sharing photographs I have taken since moving over here last September, stories, links, reviews, helpful tips and just generally interesting things about the amazing country of New Zealand.

Thanks for stopping by and supporting my own Blue Penguin Travel dream 🙂

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STA Travel’s ‘Global Travel Help’ = incredibly poor

I need to vent and what better place than my blog. I know this blog is telling stories of our adventures, but also a story of realities, and if I can provide any help to future travellers then that is something positive. Recently whilst trying to change the dates of our flights home to the UK from New Zealand in Sept (using STA’s special multiplex pass) I experienced more stress and difficulty with this than I thought possible – through communicating with their department called ‘Global Travel Help’ who deal with flight changes.

Unfortunately this leads me to say to people out there DO NOT use STA Travel to travel with – certainly if you want some flexibility in your flights. This certainly applies to anyone who may need to change their flight dates and to everyone travelling for a year or more. This is because flights cannot be booked far enough in advance so will inevitably have to be changed at some point. When we booked our return flights they had to be booked in for May, and then we had to request to change it to Sept.

It seems like it isn’t just us that have had a very bad experience with Global Travel Help, as their UK Facebook page is completely full of complaints about the service they have received (just take a look). Many of them actually have real emergencies they are trying to get home to, or trying to arrange flights with short notice and have received even worse service than we have.

This is in some ways hard to write because prior to this STA Travel themselves have been quite good to us over the years. We booked our amazing 2006 flights with them at their Cardiff branch. And we have been helped and supported by a good travel advisor at the Bath branch this time around.

BUT, sadly that is not enough, because of their Global Travel Help (GTH) arm – who are the only people who can deal with flight changes (no you can’t just ask the travel advisor you booked with or email someone at STA at that branch – don’t be silly). They tell you if you try and do this or change your flight any other way they will charge you! Ok . . .  It is just a complete shame that the system they actually have in place to do this is completely and utterly ridiculous!

Back in October we altered our flights and through an incredibly lengthy email exchange it took over 11 days until we were finally able to sort our revised flights. Our circumstances have again changed and this time around it has taken even longer at just under 2 weeks. This time around I emailed the same email address I had emailed before only to be emailed back saying “this address is no longer monitored”!! When that is the email address they tell you to email on your itinerary!! I then went online and submitted my query and I experienced silence from them for a whole week!! They say on their email they will get back to you within 48 hours (and the website actually says they “guarantee responses to you within at least 24 hours”). And they only actually replied to me because I asked my contact at the Bath STA store to prompt them to get in touch. Once I had heard back and replied with a question I had silence again for quite some time. And again only when I complained to the STA branch and customer services did I finally get a reply. They information was very limiting and unhelpful, and the response time simply unacceptable! They either need a telephone number you can call to sort out your flights there and then, or an email system that actually works.

it is a shame really that this system operates so badly as it does completely dirty the STA name – certainly for us. Online STA Travel claim that “Here at STA Travel we offer incredible support even after you have left” – which is certainly not at all true for us and the exact opposite of what they have provided!

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Queenstown Sunsets

Sunset in Queenstown

We have sadly left Queenstown now after living there in an amazing apartment overlooking the lake for a month. Both myself and my husband worked from home – John doing his software development job and me continuing to work on setting up my own business (off-the-beaten-track travel consultancy Blue Penguin Travel). It was a wonderful location to work from and we were incredibly lucky to have beautiful unspoilt hot weather for the last two weeks of our stay there. We enjoyed exploring at weekends and evening walks along the Frankton arm – especially to enjoy the sunsets. Queenstown sunsets are amongst some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, so I have included a selection below (along with a couple of shots of the moon!).

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Categories: Activities, Blue Penguin | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Swimming in Lake Wakatipu

Sunday 27th January – Queenstown

Swimming in Lake Wakatipu

Enjoying the sunshineA little delayed in posting, but wanted to make sure I included a highlight of our time in Queenstown – swimming in the glacial lake – Lake Wakatipu. It was one hot Sunday and we decided to cool off in the lake! The lake is fed by water from the glaciers so it very cold (it was about 11 degrees when we swam in it!). We managed about 15 minutes and it was freezing but fun 🙂 This was in the midst of a couple of weeks of unbroken beautiful sunshine and hot weather in Queenstown, which we made the most of.

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