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: and Facebook page: 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

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



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


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


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

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


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

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



12 fire at hobbiton

13 milford sound

14 awana beach


16. Clay cliffs





21.moke lake

22.glenorchy pier23.cathedralcove









32 qthill.jpg

33marokopa falls


35.rees river.jpg

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






43. kingstonbay.jpg




47. hanmer springs conical hill.jpg




Categories: Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island | 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

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

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 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

Destination Feature: The off-the-beaten-track Catlins region of New Zealand

Catlins Collage

The Catlins region of New Zealand is one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets. It is one of the most beautiful and best places to visit in this amazing country. It has variety – stunning waterfalls, amazing wildlife and beautiful beaches. It is also ‘off-the-beaten-track’ and so much quieter than other parts of New Zealand (and given how quiet New Zealand is in general that is really saying something!).

Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

One of the best things about this area is being able to see yellow-eyed penguins in the wild. At the petrified forest in Curio Bay the yellow-eyed penguins come ashore and waddle across the beach to nest. It takes a bit of patience, but if you get your timings right (ask at the local campground store for advice on the best time as this varies seasonally) then it is a really magical sight. Make sure not to disturb the penguins – keep your distance and a zoom lens on your camera comes in handy for getting photos of them (also do not use a flash).

The drive from Queenstown down to the Catlins follows the Southern Scenic route and is a very beautiful drive – this links all the way up to Dunedin on the east coast. It passes alongside the striking Lake Wakatipu via Kingston, on to Te Anau and the gateway to Milford Sound, Tuatapere (NZ’s sausage capital!), and passes hidden gems such as Gemstone Beach. Detour off the Southern Scenic to get deep into the heart of the Catlins to areas such as Curio Bay.

Check out this map for things to do in this area. Highlights of the region include:

Cathedral caves

Cathedral caves

★  Cathedral caves – only accessible at low tide these caves are a spectacular sight. The walk that takes you to the caves down through the forest and along the beach is beautiful – it is through private land so a $5 fee is payable.

★  Slope Point – this is the most southern point on mainland New Zealand and the scenery here is beautiful. You take a 20 minute walk from parking your car along a track through some fields, and can pose with the signpost indicating the distance to the equator and the south pole. Check out the famous windswept trees on the drive out here.

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

★  Purakaunui Falls – one of the most photogenic waterfalls in New Zealand this waterfall is a little hidden away down a gravel track but definitely worth the effort. Only a 10 minute walk from the car park this three-tiered waterfall is simply stunning.

Hector dolphin

Hector dolphin

★  Seeing hector dolphins at Porpoise Bay – summer and autumn are the best times of year to see the resident population of the world’s smallest and rarest of dolphins – the hector dolphins – playing in the surf in the Curio Bay area.

Florence Hill lookout

View from Florence Hill lookout

★  Florence Hill lookout – located along the southern scenic route near Papatowai, pull up and stop here for incredible views down to Tautuku Bay. The waves rolling into shore and the beautiful beach make for a picture postcard photograph.

Nugget Point lighthouse

Nugget Point lighthouse

★  Mclean Falls – another wonderful waterfall in this area. Take the narrow and windy gravel road not too far from the turnoff to Cathedral Caves. Falling 22 metres in total this waterfall is very picturesque and descends a number of terraces.

★  Nugget point lighthouse – pass Roaring Bay on the drive up and wait in the hide there to see yellow-eyed penguins from a distance. Carry on the road up to Nugget point, where a short walk takes you to the lighthouse, with great views all around.

Curio Bay Accommodation

Curio Bay Accommodation

The region also contains one of the most special accommodation places in the whole of New Zealand – Curio Bay Accommodation. It has recently been voted one of the top 25 places to stay in New Zealand and rightly so. The view of the beach from your boutique studio is simply stunning. Little blue penguins nest underneath the house too so you might be lucky enough to hear them in the night!

The Catlins feels like a really special unique place when you are there – it is such an incredibly varied and beautiful area and is sure to create such wonderful lasting memories.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting the Catlins 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, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top 10 Things To Do in New Zealand

New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful country and has a huge variety of amazing activities to do. After having visited New Zealand three times in the last 9 years (including living there for a year), and started my own New Zealand travel company – Blue Penguin Travel – I have put together a Top 10 list of things to do in New Zealand. There are in no particular order but I have personally experienced all of them and in my opinion the activities below rank amongst the best things to do in New Zealand.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

1.   Milford Sound

❤   Take a magical boat trip deep into the heart of the Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island.

?   Mitre Peak Cruises are an excellent option for the cruise – who offer a smaller boat with limited passenger numbers and a more intimate experience where you can get closer to the scenery.

$   From $70 per adult and $17 per child.

Clock face  7 times daily in peak season, starting at 8.30am with the last cruise at 4.30pm.

⧗  Cruise length is 2 hours.

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of my images below:

Tasman Glacier Lake

Tasman Glacier Lake

2.   Glacial boat trip at Mount Cook

❤   Experience an amazing boat trip out on the terminal lake of the Tasman Glacier, which includes being able to touch and taste the icebergs you encounter.

?   Glacier Explorers are the only company offering trips out on the lake. The package includes a bus trip out to near the lake and a walk to the boat start point.

$   Cost is $145 per adult and $72.50 per child

Clock face  7 times daily from mid Sept to end of May, starting at 8.00am with the last cruise at 5.00pm.

⧗  Total trip time is 2 hours 30 mins with 45 mins-1 hour on the lake.

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of my images below:







3. Hobbiton

❤   Visit Hobbiton – the home of The Lord of the Rings films, deep in the heart of Middle Earth.

?   Hobbiton Tours run official tours that depart from Rotorua, Matamata or The Shires Rest Cafe on site. Your guide takes you deep into the heart of Hobbiton so you can step inside the films and enjoy exploring the set – including hobbit holes and the Green Dragon. Your guide will share insights and details about filming and how the set was created.

$   Tour prices from The Shires Rest Cafe start from $75 for adults, £37.50 for youths and $10 for children.

Clock face  Tours from The Shires Rest Cafe run approx every 15 mins, starting from 9am with the last tour departing at 5pm in peak season. For details on other departure points see the website.

⧗  The tour from The Shires Rest Cafe lasts approx 2 hours including transport.

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of my images below:

Dart River Jet Safari

Dart River Wilderness Jet

4.   Dart River Wilderness Jet

❤   Take a diverse trip into the awe-inspiringly beautiful Mount Aspiring National Park and explore The Lord of the Rings country.

?   The Dart River Wilderness Jet experience combines an informative bus ride, a fascinating forest walk and an exhilarating high-speed jet boat ride, with the only operator allowed on the stunning Dart River.

$   Adult price is $219 and child is $119. Cost for a family ticket is $557.

Clock face  Departures from Queenstown (including bus transfer to Glenorchy) at 8.00am and 12.30pm in summer and 8am and 12pm in winter. Departures from Glenorchy (self-drive yourself to Glenorchy) at 9am and 1.30pm in summer and 9am and 1pm in winter.

⧗  6 hour return from Queenstown and 3 hour return from Glenorchy.

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of my images below:

Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike

Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike

5.   Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike

❤   Take a scenic helicopter flight up above Franz Josef Glacier and land on the glacier. Walk amongst the stunning glacial formations including inside ice caves.

?   The Helicopter Line offer an excellent heli hike with experienced and professional guides to guide you on your adventure. Moderate fitness is required for the hike and they provide all equipment you need.

$   Adult price is $425 and child price is $395.

Clock face  October to April – 9.30am, 12noon and 2.30pm; May to Sept – 11am and 1.30pm.

⧗  Total trip time is 3 hours with approx 2 hours hiking on the ice.

Clock faceTake a look at my gallery of images below:

Thermal Pools

Thermal Pools

6. Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools

❤   Relax and unwind in the unique and varied thermal pools in the scenic town of Hanmer Springs.

?   At the Thermal Pools and Spa choose from one of 15 different pools, including sulphur pools, rock pools, rainbow pools and the popular massaging aqua-therapy pools. They also have a waterslide and kids play area, and for the more relaxing choice they have many spa options – including massage and beauty treatments.

$   There are various price options. Child single entry starts from $11 and adults from $22. Concession prices available, as well as multi-trip tickets. Costumes, towels and lockers can be hired.

Clock face  The Thermal Pools are open 10am to 9pm and the Spa is open 10am to 7pm every day except Christmas Day.

⧗  Time spent in the pools is not capped so you can stay as long as you wish!

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of my images below:

7.   Queenstown helicopter trip

Helicopter trip

Helicopter trip

❤   See Queenstown and its amazing surrounding scenery from the air and experience a memorable snow landing atop a snow-capped mountain.

?   The Alpine Scenic flight offered by Glacier Southern Lakes helicopter includes aerial views of the Queenstown basin and Skippers Canyon and a snow landing.

$   The Alpine Scenic Flight option costs $330 for adults and $230 for children. Reduced prices can be found on book me.

Clock face  Flights depart up to 10 times a day in peak season, on the hour – starting at 8am, with the last flight at 5pm.

⧗ The Alpine Scenic Flight lasts 35 minutes.

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of my images below:

Whale tail

Whale tail

8.   Whale watching in Kaikoura

❤   Visit Kaikoura – a small coastal town on New Zealand’s South Island – for their world-famous whale watching tour. Get up-close to the giant sperm whale in their natural environment.

?   Whale Watch Kaikoura are the only vessel-based whale watching company in Kaikoura. They offer a 95% success rate of seeing whales on your trip.

$   Child price is $60 and adult price is $145.

Clock face  Tours run up to 10 times a day at peak season, starting at 6.45am, with the last tour leaving at 3.30pm.

⧗  Total trip time is 3 and a half hours, with 2 and a half hours spent on the water.

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of my images below:

Image copyright of Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

Image copyright of Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

9. Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

❤   Visit the blue penguin colony in Oamaru and see the little blue penguins – the smallest penguins in the world – come ashore in their natural environment.

?   The Oamaru penguin colony offer self guided or guided day tours, or the very special evening viewing tours, where you see the little blue penguins come ashore from their day out at sea. The numbers vary from 30 to 200 to come ashore depending on the time of year.

$   Prices for tickets range from $5 up to $40, depending on the tour selected, and details can be found here. The premium seating for the evening viewing is recommended and is $40 for adults, $20 for children and $35 for concessions.

Clock face  Self guided tours are possible from 10am until an hour before dusk. Guided tours run between 10am and 4pm. Evening tours commence before penguins come ashore which is usually between 5.30pm and 9.30pm, depending on season.

⧗  Self guided tours are 10-20 mins. Guided day tours last 30-40 mins. Evening viewing is between and 2 hours.

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of images below:

Entrance to the Kiwi Park

Entrance to the Kiwi Park

10.   Kiwi Birdlife Park

❤   Experience New Zealand’s amazing native flora and fauna at Queenstown’s brilliant Kiwi Birdlife Park.

?   The Kiwi Birdlife Park is located next to the skyline gondola in Queenstown. See kiwi being fed, or watch the informative Conservation show. You can also see a tuatara which is New Zealand’s living fossil and survivor from the dinosaur age. Explore the park by walking through the forests. A free self-guided audio tour is available.

$   All day access passes cost $43 for adults, $22 for children and free for under 5s. Private tours and group bookings are also available.

Clock face  The park is open 9am – 5.30pm. Kiwi feedings are at 10am, 12pm, 1.30pm and 4.30pm. The conservation show is at 11am and 3pm.

⧗  You can spend as long as you wish in the park as passes last all day.

Clock faceTake a look at a gallery of my images below:

All prices are in New Zealand Dollars (NZD). All details are correct at the time of writing.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in doing any of these amazing ‘Top 10 things to do’ 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, New Zealand, North Island, South Island, Top 10, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top 10 things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is one of our favourite places in the whole of New Zealand – and we had the privilege of living in this beautiful town for a month, as well as taking numerous trips there during our year living over in New Zealand. I have put together some suggestions for the Top 10 things to do in Queenstown. Despite leaving out many other amazing things to do in this area, this list is varied and contains something for everyone!

  1. Beautiful Queenstown

    Lake Wakatipu

    Take a dip in Lake Wakatipu – New Zealand’s third largest lake, Lake Wakatipu is icy cold (around 8 or 9 degrees celcius), even in summer! To cool down on a hot summers day you can brave the cold water and take a refreshing dip. It is an incredibly beautiful lake, with mountains all around – including the spectacular Remarkables mountain range.

  2. Sking and snowboarding – Hugely popular with snow-sports enthusiasts Queenstown offers some of the best ski fields in the whole of New Zealand. Among the best include The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. Views from both ski fields across Lake Wakatipu towards the centre of Queenstown are simply stunning.
  3. IMG_4691

    View from snow landing

    Helicopter trip with snow landing – Take a helicopter ride up above the town, with amazing views of the alpine scenery. Snow landings are highly recommended, with fantastic views stretching across the mountain ranges.

  4. Visit Kiwi Birdlife Park – One of the best places in New Zealand to see their native kiwi bird, the Kiwi Birdlife Park is strongly committed to protecting New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. See the kiwi being fed or their very popular Conservation Show.
  5. Cycle along the Frankton Arm – Popular with walkers and cyclists but away from the hustle of Queenstown’s centre, the Frankton arm track runs along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The views around every corner are simply spectacular. The walk begins/finishes at Queenstown gardens, where you could find time to fit in their now legendary disc golf.
  6. View from Queenstown Hill

    View from Queenstown Hill

    Walk up Queenstown Hill – The Queenstown Hill Time walk is one of the best walks in Queenstown, with incredibly rewarding views for the climb! Taking you mostly through pine forest, the steep walk is a 500m climb, reaching the summit of Te Tapu-nui (meaning mountain of intense sacredness).

  7. Adventure activities – for the brave at heart or the thrillseekers, Queenstown offers an abundance of adventure activities. Some of the most popular include jet boat ridesbungy jumping and skydiving.
  8. T. S. S. Earnslaw

    T. S. S. Earnslaw

    Get out on to Lake Wakatipu – jump aboard the historic T.S.S. Earnslaw for a unique expereince on a steamship over 100 years old. Other smaller companies also offer cruises around the lake. Another option is to hire a kayak and take in the views from a different angle.

  9. Skyline gondola and luge – taking the gondola up to Bob’s Peak provides you with incredible views out across the whole of Queenstown. Whilst there hop aboard the luge for an exciting downhill ride! Some walking tracks depart from the summit. A good short easy option is the loop track or for a full-day walk try the Ben Lomond Summit walk.

    Early morning Moke Lake reflection

    Camp at Moke Lake – one of the less well-known things to do in Queenstown, the turn off to Moke Lake is located just a 10 minute drive away – from here you follow a track (often 4WD depending on season) to the remote and very beautiful Moke Lake. The DOC campsite here is very quiet and scenic and there is also a loop walk around the lake. Wake up to pure serenity overlooking this stunning lake.

Wherever we went in New Zealand Queenstown would always call us back. In many ways it felt like home and will always hold a special place in our heart.

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Destination Feature: The beauty and serenity of Queenstown, New Zealand

Beautiful Queenstown

Nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island lies the resort town of Queenstown. Famous for its snow sports and adventure activities, Queenstown is also a stunningly striking place – home to the beautiful Lake Wakatipu amidst the snow-capped Southern Alps.

Popular with tourists, it is a busy town with lots of activities to do and always lots going on. Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park to see kiwi and native birds; take the skyline gondola up to Bob’s Peak for stunning aerial views or a fun luge ride; brave a jet boat ride out across the lake; eat a legendary Fergburger; take a bungy or canyon swing; ski or snowboard with the most beautiful backdrop at The Remarkables or Coronet Peak; or take a helicopter trip high up above with a snow landing.

Queenstown dusk

Queenstown at dusk

After doing all of these things, or as many as you can fit into your trip – you will notice that as much as Queenstown is a place of colour and vibrancy, it is also a place of peace and calm. In fact its real charm lies, it could be argued, in its serenity. Seek this out by taking a walk along the Frankton arm at dusk, away from the people and appreciate its pure beauty.

View from Queenstown Hill

View from Queenstown Hill

Take a walk up Queenstown Hill and take in the 360 degree panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Camp at the remote Moke Lake and wake up alone with nature and take in its gorgeous views.

Enjoy the multicoloured skies produced by its gorgeous sunsets.

Queenstown Sunsets

Make an effort to seek out the beauty and serenity of Queenstown and you will be richly rewarded.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Queenstown 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.

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Queenstown – a town for all seasons

Beautiful Queenstown

Beautiful Queenstown

However you first cap eyes on beautiful Queenstown – whether it is arriving by plane taking in the stunning views across Lake Wakatipu as your plane touches down amidst the surrounding mountains, or by road as you get your first glimpse of the lake framed by a picture perfect mountain backdrop – it is certain to stay with you forever.

A resort town on the South Island of New Zealand, Queenstown is one of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand and on many people’s ‘Must See’ list. Films such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and TV series Top Of The Lake have also been drawn to the unique beauty of Queenstown and its surrounding area.

Well-known for its adventure activities and snow sports Queenstown is often overlooked in other seasons but has a lot to offer all-year round.


With beautiful clear blue skies and temperatures reaching 30 degrees Queenstown is a popular place to visit in summer. Queenstown can offer you a typical kiwi Christmas and New Year by having a BBQ on the beach and watching their famous firework display. For those brave enough the icy cold glacial waters of Lake Wakatipu can offer a brief refuge from the hot summer sun. Spend time by the lake enjoying a picnic on the beach, take a kayak out and explore the shores of the lake, watch the gorgeous sunset from one of the many surrounding walks, take a hike up Queenstown Hill and view the scenic panorama from the top, or brave a jet boat ride across the lake. Camping at the DOC site at nearby Moke Lake is also popular at this time of year. It offers a challenging drive to reach it but you are rewarded with serenity and incredible views to wake up to!


AutumnEnjoy the seasonal colours in Queenstown in autumn with a walk along shores of Queenstown or a cycle along the Frankton arm. You can also get out and about explore the surrounding areas which look especially beautiful at this time of year – visit the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown or enjoy Wanaka‘s vibrant colourful trees that line the shores. Taking a boat trip out on the famous T. S. S. Earnslaw steamship is another good option in the autumnal sunshine, as you take in 360 degree views across the lake. With less visitors to Queenstown at this time of year you can skip the longer queues at world-famous Fergburger and enjoy eating your legendary burger overlooking the beautiful expansive surrounding Southern Alps.



Queenstown is perhaps most famous for its snow season – with the Remarkables and Coronet Peak offering two excellent ski fields for sking and snowboarding. Other options at this time of year include taking a trip up the skyline gondola to look down over the town and across the snow-capped mountains. Whilst at the top and for the more adventurous among you take a bungy jump with AJ Hackett Bungy. For those with a bigger budget a helicopter trip up onto a nearby snow-covered mountain on a sunny day can provide some of the best and most scenic views in all of New Zealand. Once back on the ground warm up in the nearby relaxing Onsen hot pools.



Spring in Queenstown tends to be quieter and a perfect time to take a stroll through Queenstown gardens, admiring the spring flowers or perhaps taking in a game of the legendary disc golf. Visiting the Kiwi Birdlife Park off-peak means you avoid the crowds and can have more time alone with the beautiful birds and kiwis – and your entrance fee goes towards helping protect New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. Or you could visit local picturesque Lake Hayes taking a circular walk or cycle around the lake – and there are excellent wineries nearby for those who wish to relax with a glass of wine. Another option nearby is to spend time in the small town of Glenorchy. The drive there alone is worth it – with incredible views along the road that hugs the side of the mountain twisting and turning alongside Lake Wakatipu. Take a Dart River Wilderness Trip (including an exhilarating jet boat ride) and explore Mount Aspiring National Park, or take a horse trek through Paradise with Dart Stables.

Queenstown really does cater for everyone and has proven itself as one of New Zealand’s best all-year-round destinations.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Queenstown 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.

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Guest post: 10 Non-Touristy Things To Do In Auckland – New Zealand

Today, and for the first time, I am sharing a guest post on my blog. This is written by Benjamin Tong who runs A Short Term Rental website, which specialises in short term rentals all around the world. I felt this post would be incredibly useful and interesting for anyone keen to experience the best Auckland has to offer, away from the busy typical tourist attractions.


10 Non-Touristy Things To Do in Auckland – New Zealand. By Benjamin Tong.

“Auckland is synonymous with sailing, the Blues, Waiheke island, and the unfortunate term of four seasons in one day. All of which are pretty important clues for understanding what makes the Auckland region unique from other cities in NZ.

Sailing is a favorite past-time with an incredible 1 in 3 Auckland’s owning a boat, that’s higher than most cities car ownership statistics. With fantastic access to the ocean, Aucklanders love nothing more than being out on the water.

Aucklanders have a difficult relationship with their regional rugby team, with their performance in recent years being nothing to brag about. This is a little unfortunate as they love to talk rugby, fortunately the national team the famous All Blacks are still world class.

Waiheke island is Auckland’s island getaway, warmer and less rainfall than the mainland it is said to have it’s own microclimate. Waiheke is about relaxation, wine, artists and multi million dollar weekend/holiday homes.

Few cities in New Zealand can boast four seasons in one day – nor perhaps would many want to. Auckland more regularly than many would like, produces crazy weather patterns making in sometimes impossible to ‘dress for the conditions'”.

Check out the infographic below for 10 of the best non touristy things to do on your Auckland trip. 

Non-Touristy Things To Do In Auckland By Short Term Renting
Courtesy of: Short Term Renting
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Flashback time – Bay of Islands and Breaching Whales!

Whale breaching

Whale breaching

Jumping dolphins

Jumping dolphins

This time two years ago we were travelling around the beautiful Bay of Islands region of New Zealand. Exploring the area was great and there were some really beautiful things to see. Take a look at my blog post about our trip for details of exactly what we did – this is a rather honest account where I had some issues with the ‘Dolphin Discoveries’ boat trip we took. However this also brought us one of the highlights of our time in New Zealand – seeing beautiful humpback whales jumping out of the water! I was able to capture a few shots of them (again see my post for more!) and the above shot is my favourite. Apparently this is a very rare sight in this area and only 2-5% of trips are as lucky as we were. We also saw dolphins who put on a bit of a display with their acrobatics – jumping high out of the water.

Photographing wildlife is one of my favourite things to do, and check out my photography website for more shots of some wildlife I have been lucky enough to capture.

Cape Reinga signpost

Cape Reinga signpost

We stayed in Paihia, which although one of the busier areas of the Bay of Islands was the perfect location to get out and explore the best of this area. Other highlights of our trip included the long drive up to Cape Reinga (where we timed our trip perfectly so we were the only ones at the famous signpost and lighthouse which was great) and exploring off the beaten track and seeing the kauri trees and the beautiful Rainbow Falls. We were also blessed with gorgeous weather during our stay and enjoyed the warm sun and clear blue skies.

The Bay of Islands has the perfect mixture of beautiful scenery, beaches and wildlife – with easily enough to do for a short break.

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Flashback time: Glenorchy and Dart River Jet Boat!

Two years ago exactly today we went on one of the best trips in the whole of our time in New Zealand during an amazing three night stay in the beautiful town of Glenorchy. We spent three wonderful days just before Christmas in Glenorchy and treated ourselves to the Dart River Wilderness Jet Safari. It really was an incredible trip which combined a coach trip through the aptly named ‘Paradise’ deep into The Lord of the Rings country, a beautiful forest walk, and a exhilarating jet boat trip – and you can read more about this experience in my blog post about it here. It also features in my Top 5 things to do in New Zealand blog post.

We first visited Glenorchy in October 2012 when we took an awesome private 4WD Lord of the Rings tour and explored locations used in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. Then, we returned to spend just a few days in Glenorchy back in December 2012 which was such a brilliant experience that we actually ended up living there for a whole month in February 2013. Leaving Glenorchy was really hard to do and inspired a special goodbye post. It is such a wonderful unique place – so quiet and stunningly beautiful, and definitely worth spending longer there than an afternoon or even just a few days. The scenery from every corner of this little town is breathtaking and can be enjoyed from the various surrounding walks (including one of our favourites – the Glenorchy Lagoon walkway, which features in our Top 5 walks on South island). The drive from Queenstown, that winds alongside the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu (part of my Top 5 road trips post), is absolutely amazing and worth driving simply for the scenery itself – let alone the stunning town you find at the head of Lake Wakatipu!

Often overlooked in favour of nearby and well-known Queenstown, I believe Glenorchy is one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets and it will always have a special place in our heart 🙂

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Beauty of New Zealand Video

Recently I have been reminiscing about our amazing time in New Zealand a lot. I came across the video I made during our stay in New Zealand – including a variety of photographs and some video taken over the course of the year. It includes New Zealand’s stunning scenery and wildlife. I thought it was worth sharing this again on my blog and I hope you enjoy watching it! New Zealand = awesome!

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Thinking of Hobbiton . . .

With the release of the final The Hobbit film this week it got me thinking back to our visit to the amazing place that is Hobbiton back in May 2013. Being big fans of The LOTR trilogy and the newest The Hobbit films we were really keen to visit the land of hobbits and took our chance whilst touring both islands of New Zealand in our Spaceship for 9 weeks (during our amazing year living there).

I wrote about our wonderful day at Hobbiton right here on this blog last year.

It also featured on my Top 5 things to do in New Zealand blog post I also wrote last year.

Hobbiton really does look exactly like it does in the films! We feel really privileged that we were able to visit during our time in New Zealand. We loved every second of our time there and also felt lucky to have visited on such a wonderful sunny day.

Hobbiton really is a magical place so if you are interested in visiting take a look at the official website for tours now!

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A brief stopover in Singapore and the end is nigh . . .

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

The last part of our amazing year away had come – a stopover in Singapore on the way back to the UK from New Zealand. For anyone who is a regular reader of my blog you will know both myself and my husband, John, have had THE most incredible year in New Zealand. We have also been lucky enough to spend a month in Australia (travelling the Great Ocean Road, visiting amazing Tasmania (in particular the incredible Cradle Mountain) and spending time with my sister in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, and two weeks on the stunningly beautiful island of Aitutaki deep in the South Pacific Ocean.

August 27th – the date had arrive for us to leave our beloved New Zealand. We departed from Christchurch (such a lovely airport) and flew with Singapore Airlines to Singapore. The flight passed pretty quickly and we were soon in Singapore. Stepping off the plane the strong heat and humidity hit! We had visited Hong Kong before so knew what to expect, but it still gives you a good shock! We had arranged for a car to collect us from the airport and take us to our lovely hotel (the luxurious Pan Pacific – we had splashed out). On checking in we were given an upgrade to a room with a view of the city and water – it was lovely.

The Flyer

The Flyer

We spent the next few days recovering from a little bit of jet lag and exploring the wonderful city state of Singapore. We were dazzled by the high rise buildings and super-modern malls. We spent time at the National Museum of Singapore, and took a trip on the Singapore Flyer for amazing views of the city. We also spent a couple of hours (in the crazy heat!) at a wonderful hidden gem of a place called Haw Par Valley. I had received a recommendation from a friend of the family that I should visit this place – so we took the MRT (for those who have visited London, think uncrowded/clean/cold-air-filled version of the tube!) on a fairly long journey from Promenade station (the nearest to our hotel) to the station at Haw Par Villa.

The amazing Haw Par Villa!

The amazing Haw Par Villa!

On arriving we knew we were in for something special as the decoration that filled the entrance was amazing! The ‘Your Singapore’ website says it is “like no other place in the world” and they aren’t wrong! The whole place is adorned with rather ageing statues and dioramas telling the stories of various Chinese legends and folklore. It is classified as a ‘historical’ theme park – and in my opinion has much charm!! Loads of the statues were just so random – such as the pictured crazy rat with a gun!

Our favourite part – and not for the fainthearted – was called the ‘Ten courts of hell’ which tells the stories of various scenes of punishment and reincarnation. The statues were pretty graphic and have been known to scare young children – and as such I will not be posting them here – but think gruesome statues depicting scenes such as being sliced in half and killed on a bed of nails (just to name a few!). If you really wish to see photos then take a look here as this website documents it well. It was actually a fascinating place! Soon the heat became too much for us, and after exploring as much of the park as we could, we left. Definitely an off-the-beaten track gem as we only saw a couple of other people in the whole park whilst we were there.

In Singapore Pizza Hut

In Singapore Pizza Hut

We also enjoyed a couple of trips to good old Pizza Hut (yes a favourite of mine) – which tasted pretty nice! We also discovered we could get to the restaurants and mall without leaving our hotel – we had a special entrance and such avoided the crazy heat which was a real plus!

August 30th was soon upon us and the time had arrived for us to leave Singapore and fly back to the UK. We took a taxi from our wonderful hotel to the airport, and after a slight blip from Singapore Airlines (try arriving early to check in and being told our flight was full and we were going to be put on one over 12 hours later!! I wasn’t having any of it though and in true ‘Kinnie spirit’ I soon had them telling us we could fly on our original flight and printing our boarding passes 🙂 ) we were all checked in and waiting at the airport. We knew my parents would be meeting us the other side at Heathrow and we were really looking forward to seeing them as had missed them lots.

As we sat waiting to depart our minds took us back to our truly incredible year. We had seen and done so much more than we had ever dreamed off – and had so many amazing experiences. It really had been the most amazing New Zealand adventure! As I said on our last post our year away has really changed us, and we plan to take this with us on onwards in our journey through life – wherever it may take us.

What is next? Who knows, but I am excited to find out!

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One last New Zealand road trip

Sunday 25th August – Tuesday 27th August: Queenstown to Mount Cook to Christchurch

So our final road trip in New Zealand was upon us. 600km, 48 hours – us and a free Toyota Camry!!

It has taken me a while to write my last post about our time in New Zealand – it is now well over a month since we took our final road trip. I think I partly feel that once I write this our amazing New Zealand adventure is over – that writing this closes that chapter on our life. However, I want to try and feel like the memories and legacy from this trip will live on in everything we do and in how we live our lives.

Our Camry

Our Camry

As my last post explained, we sadly left Queenstown on the Sunday morning, but what it didn’t mention is where we were headed next and how! During our time in Queenstown we always knew our next step was going to be that we flew to Christchurch before staying for a couple of days and flying out of there on the Tuesday. Now despite feeling like we should see Christchurch and spend time there, all we really wanted to do was spent time in our favourite place in New Zealand before flying out – Mount Cook. So we decided to make a change – we decided instead to cancel our flight (we had got an incredibly cheap deal via grabaseat and paid months ago so could afford to let this go) and hire a car instead and drive ourselves from Queesntown via Mount Cook to Christchurch airport.

We love Mount Cook

We love Mount Cook

Having spent a year in New Zealand we knew this was one of our favourite and most scenic drives, and also after three previous visits to Mount Cook that we couldn’t leave without saying one final goodbye. I gave Thrifty in Queenstown a call (who we had hired a couple of cars with previous and had been great) and discovered that could offer us a relocation (or a ‘relo’ as they put it!) for FREE! They needed a car taking from Queesntown to Christchurch airport within 48 hours and all we had to do was pay for petrol 🙂 The best bit was what car it was – a lovely amazing Toyota Camry! It was huge, and posh and completely wonderful! We never had so many comments on our journey about what a great car it was – and all for free! Thank you Thrifty.

So despite leaving Queenstown with a heavy heart back on that Sunday, we knew we still had one last road trip and one last adventure to come. Being in the Camry was a real dream, and John said it was so comfortable to drive it didn’t feel like he was really driving! It made all the difference on our two long journeys.

At Peter's Lookout

At Peter’s Lookout

We set off on the road to Mount Cook, passing through New Zealand’s beautiful scenery, passing the mountains we had come to know so well. We said goodbye to Lindis Pass as we passed, and hello to lovely Twizel. We made a stop here to visit one of our favourite places to eat in New Zealand – Shawtys – to eat their delicious pizza! After our lunch stop we headed for Mount Cook, taking that turn off up to the stunning scenic road that winds alongside the gorgeous Lake Pukaki. We stopped at one of our favourite lookouts – Peter’s lookout for some photos across the lake towards Mount Cook. We carried onward and soon Mount Cook was out in front of us, as we drove ever closer –  and soon arrived. We checked in to our favourite place to stay at Mount Cook – Aoraki Court Motel – where we were given a lovely view towards the mountains. We felt at home!

View from Hooker Valley bridge

View from Hooker Valley bridge

We headed out shortly after arriving to a really memorable spot for us at Mount Cook – the first Hooker Valley swing bridge. All of our visits to this area have included a walk here – particularly one with my parents when they visited back in December. There is something really special about the walk from the car park through the stunning scenery, to the viewpoint over Mueller lake and the walk down to the bridge below. It will always hold such lovely memories for us. The following morning we took a walk to Kea Point – where we were the only ones on the walk and had it all to ourselves. We reached the lookout and enjoyed the scenery and silence. We said goodbye and took one final visit to the visitor centre, before heading back to our Camry for the last part of our journey.

As we headed off leaving Mount Cook behind, I think back to October last year and our first visit to Mount Cook – venturing out for the first time on walks in the area (many in the rain!), and our amazing trip out on the Tasman lake with Glacier Explorers. And on to our two other visits since then (including one in our spaceship). So much has happened and we have come so far.

Beautiful Lake Tekapo

Beautiful Lake Tekapo

We made a final stop at Lake Tekapo and took a walk down by the lake to take in its beauty. Lake Tekapo will always hold a special place in our hearts as it was the first place in New Zealand we visited on our first trip here back in 2006. We drove from Christchurch airport late at night and woke up in the morning in a motel overlooking the lake to the most amazing view. I will never forget that feeling of amazement at seeing the shimmering beauty of Lake Tekapo and feeling a strong love for New Zealand after only one day! Now 7 years later we were at the end of an epic year here, and it felt like a fitting final place. We took our lovely Camry on his final leg to Christchurch airport, stayed overnight in a motel near the airport and flew out early Tuesday morning.

So our amazing New Zealand travel adventure had come to an end – this will be my last post about our time in New Zealand – and have one last post left about our stopover in Singapore, which will be my last about our year away.  New Zealand had given us so much – it really is hard to put into words. But as I said we will take our amazing experiences and memories with us on our journey through life, and especially take that amazing positive kiwi mentality! Goodbye New Zealand – we will be back.

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A final Queenstown goodbye

Sunday 18th August – Sunday 25th August: Queenstown

Snowcapped mountains from the air

Snowcapped mountains from the air

The time had come – we had to say goodbye to Queenstown. Part of us really wished we could stay, but the UK was beckoning and after spending as much time as possible in our year over in New Zealand in Queenstown we knew this would be our last week in our favourite place in NZ.

Let me take you back to our arrival back into New Zealand from the beautiful Cook islands. We flew from the beautiful island of Aitutaki (read about celebrating our anniversary in paradise here) to Rarontonga, where we had an overnight stay, and then flew on to Auckland. Here we had a 4 hour wait, where I made a call to my parents who I hadn’t spoken to for ages, so it was lovely to have a catch up. Our last flight in New Zealand was from Auckland down to Queenstown – and again we flew with Jetstar. Being a budget airline in NZ we hadn’t heard great things about Jetstar but we have nothing but praise, after having really positive experiences with them. We didn’t experiences any cancellations or major delays, and were really happy with all our flights with them. We would definitely recommend flying with them if you are looking for a cheap internal flight option in new Zealand. On our flight to Queenstown the scenery was stunning – we saw lots of snow on the mountains as we flew over Lake Wakatipu to the airport.

Queenstown Beauty

Queenstown Beauty

We touched down amongst the beautiful snow-capped mountains of Queenstown that surround the airport – just as stunning as remembered. We headed to our accommodation – the Alexis Motel – where we were staying for 3 nights in a Panoramic Studio with wrap-around view across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. We loved our room here and it was a great place to stay and only a 10 minute walk from Queenstown centre. The remaining 4 nights were spent back at Lake Edge – a holiday rental we stayed at back in May. Lake Edge is the lower section of a larger house – managed by Liz who lives above, and who is just the loveliest person. She made us feel so very welcome and we enjoyed our chats with her! The place is completely self contained with an amazing view of Lake Wakatipu and only a short walk from the centre.

We spent the week enjoying all our favourite things in Queenstown – including playing mini golf, walking the Frankton Peninsula walkway, taking the gondola up Bob’s Peak, and having pizza at the amazing Winnies. We spent a month living in Queenstown back in January and were lucky to spend a further two weeks here in winter.

In Arrowtown

In Arrowtown

We also hired a car from Thrifty – a nice white Corolla – to explore some of our favourite areas around Queenstown. We took the amazingly scenic drive to Glenorchy (where we lived for a month back in February), stopping off along the way at Wilson’s Bay and a lovely beach (thinking back to a wonderful Valentine’s Day we spent in the area) and and took a final walk down the jetty – reminiscing about all our favourite times there. We also drove beyond Glenorchy towards Paradise, stopping at some of our favourite places on the way – including where they filmed Isengard from LOTR.

We also took a drive out to Arrowtown and explored the old Chinese Settlement one last time, and drove round to Kingston stopping at some lovely spots along the way.

Soon the time had come to leave – the morning of Sunday 25th August. We had one final travel adventure left, which I will blog about next and which will be my last post about our amazing year in New Zealand.

Leaving Queenstown with a tear in my eye I glanced up to the mountains above, remembering the amazing helicopter trip for my 30th birthday, waved goodbye to our Christmas house where we have such lovely memories of a family Christmas, took a final look at the stunning Lake Wakatipu behind and thought back to the hot summer’s day when we took a glacial dip, and said farewell to some of the happiest times of our lives.

Happy in Queenstown

Happy in Queenstown

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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