Blue Penguin

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! 🙂

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

Top 5 affordable places to stay in New Zealand

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

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

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

1. Little Greenie, Golden Bay

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

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

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

Details:

Where? Close to Wainui Bay, Golden Bay.

Cost? $185 – $260 NZD per night.

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

 

2. Curio Bay Accommodation, Catlins Region

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

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

Details:

Where? Curio Bay, Catlins region.

Cost? $160 – $200 NZD per night.

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

 

3. Oaks Shores Hotel Apartments, Queenstown

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

Details: 

Where? Queenstown

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

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

 

4. Abri Apartments, Paihia (Treetops chalet)

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

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

Details:

Where? Paihia, Bay of Islands

Cost? $149 – $299 NZD per night.

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

 

5. Aoraki Court, Mount Cook Village

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

Details:

Where? Mount Cook Village

Cost? $165 – $325 NZD per night.

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

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

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

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

First piece published in the Huffington Post!

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

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

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

GBI Huff Post Screenshot

 

 

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

Blue Penguin Travel’s Facebook Page

 

Blue Penguin Travel FB screenshot

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

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

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

Destination Feature: The Stunning Mount Cook, New Zealand

Mount Cook Collage

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

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

The road to Mount Cook

The road to Mount Cook

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

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

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

Glacier Explorers Boat Trip

Glacier Explorers Boat Trip

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

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

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

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

Blue Penguin Travel is a family affair!

Blue Penguin Travel

My baby boy Elliott

My baby boy Elliott

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Penguin TravelWho are Blue Penguin Travel?

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

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

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

Aitutaki Lagoon

Aitutaki Lagoon

Why would I want to visit Aitutaki?

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

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

Where is Aitutaki located?

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

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

Aitutaki Map

A holiday house

A holiday house

What is life like on Aitutaki?

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

Deserted beach

Deserted beach

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

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

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

How can Blue Penguin Travel help me?

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

How can I contact you?

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

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

Have you visited New Zealand? Please complete my survey!

Survey MonkeyHave you visited New Zealand? If so I would be really grateful if you could complete a quick survey. The survey is a New Zealand Favourites survey and I have already had loads of responses, so am hoping to collect even more. The survey contains 5 short questions – which takes just 2 minutes of your time.

Blue Penguin TravelThe results will be incredibly helpful to my travel consultancy company – 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. Check out our website to read more. 

We plan to use the results to improve our offering to our customers, so thank you very much in advance! 🙂

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

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:

 

 

 

 

Hobbiton

Hobbiton

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

Photo of the Day: Little Blue Penguins

Blue penguin

Blue penguin

Today is Penguin Awareness Day! So today’s photo is of my favourite penguin (surprise surprise!) the lovely little blue penguin. This day was created to celebrate and raise awareness of the amazing creatures that are penguins. My own travel consultancy company – Blue Penguin Travel – is even named after these little guys! They are amazing creatures and are the world’s smallest penguins at approx 35-43cm high!

I took this photo of them at Auckland Zoo where they are very well looked after and cared for. It is very difficult to get photos of them in the wild, as you only usually see them at night and if you do come across them you shouldn’t take photos of them with your flash as this damages their eyes. One of my favourite places to see them in their natural habitat is the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony on New Zealand’s South Island where they are well looked after and protected.

So, Happy Penguin Awareness Day everyone!

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in seeing the wonderful little blue penguins 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: Blue Penguin, New Zealand, Photo Of The Day, South Island, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Zealand = the best country in the world!

Beautiful New Zealand

Beautiful New Zealand

New Zealand has been voted the world’s best country in the Telegraph Travel Awards 2014 – to read the article click here. The article asks why it is the third year in a row that it has won the award and answers: “Perhaps it’s because New Zealand is a country that delivers almost everything a traveller could want in one easy-to-use package”. I couldn’t agree more! Having been lucky enough to spend a year travelling around New Zealand with my husband – exploring almost every corner of this amazing country – I completely agree and had the most incredible time.

The Telegraph have come up with 26 reasons why New Zealand is the world’s best country – so take a look here to see their reasons.

I have come up with my own Top 5 reasons I believe you should visit this phenomenally beautiful country and wanted to share them with you:

View of Lake Hawea on the way to Queenstown

Stunning scenery

Top 5 reasons to come to New Zealand:

1. The scenery is amazingly beautiful, varied and unspoilt – covering rain forests, glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains, beaches, glaciers and much more!

2. The road trips – The roads in New Zealand are easy to navigate, well-kept and surrounded by such beautiful scenery that driving almost anywhere is a pleasure.

Gorgeous scenic drives

Gorgeous scenic drives

3. The kiwi people – Laid-back and incredibly friendly and welcoming the New Zealand people make New Zealand that bit extra special.

Amazing wildlife

Amazing wildlife

4. The stunning and unique wildlife – rare and endangered animals can be seen in the wild if you know where to go – including kiwis, whales, dolphins, blue and yellow-eyed penguins, and birds such as the kaka, kakapo and kea.

5. The weather – with a temperate climate New Zealand has a well balance climate, with very lovely and long hot summers and winters with enough snow to enjoy and for snow activities.

If you are tempted by this wonderful country and are interested in planning your own trip to New Zealand then please take a look at my own travel company’s website – Blue Penguin Travel or get in touch via email at nicola@bluepenguintravel.com

Categories: Blue Penguin, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Amazing New Zealand Adventure is back!

Me and Elliott

Me and Elliott

It has been so long since my last post (over a year!) and I have the best reason in the world for not writing for so long – a lovely baby boy! We have welcomed our gorgeous son Elliott into the world and he will be 10 weeks old tomorrow.

Baby Elliott

Baby Elliott

On coming back to my blog I am delighted to see that despite not having written for so long that the number of visitors to my blog has dramatically increased! Thank you to each and everyone of you who is visiting my blog and reading this. I also have almost 250 followers, so again thank you to all of you for being a part of our adventure.

It is over a year now since we returned from our amazing New Zealand adventure living in New Zealand for a year. So, what brings me back to my New Zealand travel blog? Well I was contacted about 10 days ago by someone interested in working with me and my company Blue Penguin Travel (we specialise in helping people travel to and around New Zealand by providing personalised off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries) and wanted help planning their New Zealand itinerary. Being officially on maternity leave and with a little bundle of joy to look after I initially didn’t think I had time to help. However, on reading her emails I discovered the woman that contacted me was planning her honeymoBlue Penguin Travelon with just 3 weeks notice and planned to spend Christmas and New Year in New Zealand! I was really excited by the prospect of helping her and also knew it would be the ultimate challenge – being that New Zealand is SO popular and busy at this time of year.

I got working and in just 3 days we had planned a fantastic 12 day trip to New Zealand and booked all accommodation for their stay (including an incredible overnight boat trip on Milford Sound over Christmas Eve night) – it was pretty amazing! I worked pretty solidly on it, but really loved helping them plan the trip of their dreams. They arrive in NZ on the 21st of December and I know they will have the most amazing time.

The road to Mount Cook

The road to Mount Cook

The other thing that brings me back to my blog is my love of New Zealand. We bought our own home back in April and have just got round to choosing some acrylic photographs to go on the wall from our recent year in New Zealand. I relished the chance to look back at all the photos we took while we were away and felt we were spoilt for choice (not to blow my own trumpet too much!). Eventually we chose our favourite image of the road to Mount Cook to grace our wall. It is a daily reminded of what an incredible country NZ is, and how we would love to return there soon with little Elliott in tow this time. Check out my photography website for more of my photos.

So I have now decided that Our Amazing New Zealand Adventure should live on and I plan to blog as much as I can about all sorts of New Zealand related things – including my Blue Penguin Travel business, my photography, and about what a truly wonderful country it is.

If you are keen to know more about Blue Penguin Travel then please visit our website, check out the services we offer, or read some of our lovely testimonials. You can also email me at nicola@bluepenguintravel.com if you are interested in receiving help in planning your own adventure to New Zealand.

Thanks for reading this post and bye for now! 🙂

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

Want New Zealand itinerary advice? Let Blue Penguin Travel help!

Blue Penguin TravelOur Amazing New Zealand Adventure has now come to an end and I will shortly be starting up a new blog – for my travel consultancy business – 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. Our company focus is on providing a caring and bespoke service – based on my extensive knowledge and experience of New Zealand.

If you have come to this blog looking for advice on New Zealand and are interested in having your own amazing New Zealand adventure then get in touch as I would relish the opportunity of helping you to create your adventure of a lifetime in New Zealand.

If you are interested in learning more then please visit our website, check out the services we offer, read some of our lovely testimonials or  take a look at our Facebook page, and please feel free to ‘Like’ it to receive my post updates.

You can also email me at nicola@bluepenguintravel.com if you are interested in receiving help in planning your own adventure to New Zealand. I would love to hear from you with any questions you may have about working with us. 🙂

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

Blue Penguin Travel is mentioned in the Wall Street Journal!

Blue Penguin TravelI have some exciting news to share regarding my travel company – Blue Penguin Travel. Take a look at my website for more info, but Blue Penguin Travel was founded by myself and essentially creates off-the-beaten track adventures for people visiting New Zealand (through expert advice and help with their itineraries) – helping them to have an amazing travel adventure of a lifetime in NZ.

I was recently approached by a journalist (Catey Hill) who writes for a personal finance arm of the Wall Street Journal (MarketWatch) about assisting with an article she was writing about retiring to New Zealand. I completed an interview with her and as a result I have been mentioned in her amazing article on MarketWatch’s website – take a look at the article here. You will see I am mentioned in the first paragraph. It was my pleasure to help with her research and exciting to be mentioned in the Wall Street Journal! 🙂

If you are considering a trip to New Zealand and need help planning any aspect of it, do not hesitate to get in touch with me – either through my Contact us page on my website, or email me: nicola@bluepenguintravel.com.

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

My ‘The Beauty of New Zealand’ short film

I thought I would share with you a short film that I made recently titled ‘The Beauty of New Zealand’ using iMovie on my Macbook – under the name of my travel consultancy company Blue Penguin Travel. We are spending a year in New Zealand and our time here is coming to a close (we have trips to Australia and the Cook Islands coming up before heading back to the UK at the end of August) – so I have made this homage to the beauty of New Zealand using my own bits of video and photographs I have taken whilst over here. Enjoy! 🙂

Categories: Blue Penguin, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Living in a Spaceship for 9 weeks: 7000km, ultimate freedom and amazing New Zealand adventures

Spaceships - awesome!

Spaceships – awesome!

“That’s the longest anyone has hired a Spaceship for!” – is what we were told when we collected our Beta 2 Berth Spaceship (Mysteron) from the Queenstown Spaceships depot.

So we are trailblazers! Awesome! 9 weeks is a long time – but the only way to spend enough time exploring New Zealand fully and we wouldn’t have shortened our time in our Spaceship by even a day.

Spending a year in New Zealand my husband and I had been doing a mixture of work and travelling. We planned a well-deserved holiday as a break from work and decided to return to some of our favourite places as well as explore places we hadn’t yet seen.

Our awesome Spaceship

Our awesome Spaceship

For us, Spaceships was a pretty easy choice. We didn’t want a huge monster of a camper-van, but also wanted its freedom – being able to sleep in it and cook food. Having seen them driving around we looked Spaceships up on their brilliant website – and they were the perfect solution! We chose a Beta 2 Berth model Spaceship which are really unique and an amazing mix of a campervan and a rental car.

On the road to Milford Sound

On the road to Milford Sound

We really had the most incredible 9 weeks in our Spaceships Beta 2 Berth. We travelled all over New Zealand and saw such wonderful sights. Some real highlights on our Spaceships Adventure for us included: waking up at the stunning Moke Lake after our first night in our Spaceship, the amazing road to Milford and a brilliant boat trip out on Milford Sound; finding off-the-beaten-track hidden delights such as Gemstone beach in the Catlins and Clay Cliffs near Omarama; seeing yellow-eyed penguins come ashore and watching hector’s dolphins play in the surf in the Catlins area; being able to access Cathedral Caves at low-tide as dawn was breaking; seeing the morning mist drift across the Otago Peninsula; exploring the Otago Peninsula’s gravel windy roads to get to stunning Allan’s beach; seeing the majestic Mount Cook on the drive alongside Lake Pukaki; exploring the wonderful West Coast and walking to Franz Josef glacier and seeing Lake Mathieson’s incredible reflection; taking a helicopter trip over Queenstown with snow landing; relaxing in the thermal hot pools of Hanmer Springs; taking our Spaceship over on the Interislander from south to north island; travelling to Cape Palliser lighthouse along the scenic coastal roads; meeting Manukura the amazing white kiwi; spending time in sunny and picturesque Napier; having geothermal adventures in Taupo and Rotorua (including an awesome trip to Orakei Korako); walking where Frodo and Gandalf had exploring hobbit-holes at amazing Hobbiton and having a drink at The Green Dragon, and witnessing the beauty of the Coromandel peninsula’s beaches.

Being in the Spaceship also provided me with an amazing opportunity to do research for my own travel consultancy company – Blue Penguin Travel – helping people have their own amazing off-the-beaten track adventures in New Zealand! 🙂

Picnic near Cape Palliser

Picnic near Cape Palliser

As I am sure you can imagine, living in our Spaceship for 9 weeks was an incredibly long time – as you certainly have to know the person you are staying in it with well! 🙂 It is compact sleeping in there, but really designed so well, it is comfortable and just a genius design. For those of you that have followed my blog throughout our 63 days you will know we didn’t spend every single night sleeping in it – as needed a TV for the odd important football game when in Rotorua, or just a little more space. But that is another amazing thing about the Spaceship – it is the size of a car so can be parked anywhere.

We were also lucky enough to have a bond with two spaceships – as we swapped Mysteron halfway through (because he needed a well-deserved service) for the even more awesome Draco!

In summary, some of the main positives from our Spaceships adventure are:

  • Fantastic customer service: From pick up through to drop off (including the demonstration and customer service on the phone) the communication from Spaceships was amazing – they were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.
  • Complete flexibility and freedom: Spaceships allow you to travel wherever you want and make up your own unique itinerary. You can picnic amongst nature and stunning scenery. We camped at beautifully scenic DOC sites – they are cheap and offer a convenient loo and fabulous scenery!
  • Small enough to drive comfortably: The spaceship really drives like a car and does not feel cumbersome. We covered 7000 kilometres and many of the roads were gravel, windy and narrow and our Beta 2 Berth Spaceship allowed us to travel on them comfortably and with ease (where large camper-vans would have struggled).
  • Innovative features: We loved the unique features – especially the fridge and DVD player. We spent many a night snuggled up in our Spaceship listening to waves or a nearby river outside watching a film.
  • Dual battery system: This was an incredibly useful feature – we could power our fridge, DVD player and internal lights off a second battery. 
  • Amazing value and a low cost option: The price we paid was comparable to hiring a car and they offer a huge amount more than a hire car so was exceptional value.
  • It is the ‘Swiss army knife’ of campervans: Spaceships really can do everything!

Spaceships offered us the freedom of a campervan with the advantages of a car – and it definitely suited to us! We will always think of Mysteron and Draco fondly. Spaceships really gave us some of the most memorable adventures of our whole lives and we would recommend Spaceships unreservedly to anyone considering hiring one! 🙂

Me and Mysteron

Me and Mysteron – our Spaceship

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Blue Penguin, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Blue Penguin Travel update

Blue Penguin Travel I am busy updating my blog at the moment with tales from our Spaceship adventure around New Zealand, but I just wanted to post quickly with an update about my business Blue Penguin Travel. For those of you who follow me and regularly read this blog you will know that I have set up my own company helping people travel to and around New Zealand – specialising in helping people have amazing off-the-beaten-track travel adventures. My website explains more so please take a look if you are interested in travelling to New Zealand, or perhaps mention us if you know someone who is. I have a real passion for this beautiful country and would love to help people to fulfil their own travel dreams over here.

My website is: http://www.bluepenguintravel.com/

I also have a Facebook page which is focussed on inspiring people to want to travel to NZ, and have a unique Top 5 Friday feature where I post a NZ-related Top 5 feature each week! Please take a look here if you are interested.

A couple of snippets from my testimonials are:

“We would wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend Blue Penguin Travel  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 Blue Penguin Travel as a great alternative”.

“Your experience and insight created an amazing, unforgettable and relaxed holiday for us and allowed us to get the most out of every second we were in New Zealand”.

“We love Blue Penguin Travel – they do all of the hard work for you, so you can just enjoy an individual, flexible and completely personalised holiday, based on expert guidance from people who know and love New Zealand”.

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

Thanks to everyone for reading and I appreciate the support!

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

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula: views, penguin biscuits, railways, a beautiful city and a flat tyre!

Days 8 – 13: Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula

We have spent 3 days in the Dunedin area and really enjoyed our time here. After only passing through Dunedin for a brief stop last time we visited (back in October last year) we really liked it and so have been really lucky to be able to come back for a second time and stay longer.

Day 8 – Drive from Catlins to Dunedin

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach

Today was mostly a driving day as we checked out of the lovely Newhaven Holiday park this morning. We left our spaceship at the campsite and took the short walk to the beach at Surat Bay. It was pretty cloudy and stormy weather and the beach and waves looked beautiful, as we walked round the corner to the wider expanse of sea. We then started our journey up to Dunedin.

St Kilda beach

St Kilda beach

We stopped at Owaka and the Catlins cafe (a favourite of ours) for lunch and a bit of free wifi. The weather was mostly rainy here but we didn’t mind – especially as it was a driving day. We took the drive up to Dunedin and stopped at Brighton Beach on the way – a bit different to Brighton beach in the UK! We arrived at our holiday park (more below) and settled in for the evening. We also took a walk over the sand dunes to St Kilda beach at sunset – which was gorgeous! 🙂

Day 9 – Otago Peninsula

Lovers Leap

Lovers Leap

We spent today exploring the beautiful Otago peninsula. We were awake early and set off early heading for the peninsula. There were beautiful views to the left of the road as we took Highcliff road.  The mist was still clearing and the photos looked great! We drove to the car park near Sandymount at the end of Sandymount road. The road was gravel and fairly long – and pretty bumpy! But our spaceship got us there no problem 🙂 We took the walk up to Lovers Leap and the Chasm and really enjoyed the views along the way, and also the views from the car park!

Allan's Beach

Allan’s Beach

Next stop was Allan’s Beach – again it was pretty remote and the road there was gravel, and very narrow at times (with just water to one side!) – luckily we didn’t meet anyone and soon parked up. We took the short walk over the small mound (over private land) to the beach and without really knowing what to expect were incredibly surpassed as its amazing beauty!! There was no one else around and it really was one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. We took lots of photos here and just enjoyed walking around. We spent the rest of the day driving the rest of the peninsula road and stopped for a hot choc and awesome penguin biscuit at the Penguin cafe in Portobello.

Yellow-eyed penguin biscuit

Yellow-eyed penguin biscuit

Day 10 – Lanarch Castle

Lanarch Castle

Lanarch Castle

We spent today at Lanarch Castle – perhaps I should put ‘castle’ in inverted commas – as it is more a mansion or large house rather than a castle! But it is apparently called the only ‘castle’ in the Southern hemisphere! As with the railway below we thought the price tag was a little high – at $28 per person. It certainly was a nice ‘castle’ – and had a good history so we spent a good few hours wandering around. We looked around all the rooms using our little info leaflet to give us all the info we needed. We especially enjoyed climbing to the top and seeing the panoramic views around the peninsula. Again, as with the railway (see below) we were a little underwhelmed but maybe this is because we are spoilt for choice back in the UK with our castles! We also spent time exploring the various gardens that surround the castle. An enjoyable place to spend half a day, but possibly overpriced and slightly mis-sold 🙂 We then ate lunch at the amazing Ratbags and Innocent Bystanders on Dunedin’s Octagon. The pizza here is delicious and they do cool half-metre and metre pizzas. Although we could have eaten more a half-metre was enough for us! Yum!

Day 11 – Taieri Gorge Railway – Dunedin to Pukerangi

Taieri gorge railway trip

Taieri gorge railway trip

Today we awoke early again, heading into Dunedin to take the Taieri gorge railway trip. It left at 9.30am and we took the scenic train trip up through the gorge to Pukerangi. It is deemed ‘one of the world’s great train trips’ and we had heard and read awesome things about it – and maybe it had really been built up but being completely honest we were a little underwhelemed! Don’t get me wrong we really enjoyed the trip and the scenery was beautiful, but just not stunning and we weren’t blown away by it. It is a shame, but I guess we just have incredibly high standards after all the incredible things we have seen in NZ so far. It was also really expensive at $86 per person!

Views along the way

Views along the way

The last section of the trip is best and anyone thinking of doing this should sit on the right side of the train – with the train facing forwards heading out of the station. We were on the left so the view wasn’t as good but we switched over half way for the return trip. We also thought the train might have been  little older and more authentic, but apparently a steam train would be too expensive to run – though it would be cool! Good things were it was a cool train trip, with some nice scenery and a few stops along the way. If it had been half the price maybe we would have enjoyed it more! It was a unique trip in that the train did reached pretty high heights and the views down into the gorge were great.

All in all a good way to spend half a day – but in our opinion not worth the high price tag. We enjoyed a nice meal back at Ratbags after though and headed back to the holiday park late afternoon.

Day 11 – In Dunedin

The spare tyre!

The spare tyre!

We spent today relaxing in Dunedin. We really liked being here and really like the city. It is a great city – full of university students, and beautiful buildings! It is one of the few places in NZ you could easily imagine living and it being a great place to settle (if the job situation was better!). We were a bit thwarted today but a flat tyre though! On leaving the holiday park to head into Dunedin we somehow went over a nail which went straight into our tyre making it immediately flat! We pulled in right away and called AA who arrived within half an hour. They changed the tyre for us, and we had to head to a local Firestone tyre place so they could fix it. We left it with them and headed to the Otago Settlers Museum (amazing by the way) for a bit while they fixed it. We then returned and hung around for a while so they could change it back and we were back on our way. It was a shame it happened, but better today than a day we are somewhere much more remote!

Day 12 – Otago Settlers Mudeum and Drive to Oamaru via Moeraki boulders

Photos of Otago settlers

Photos of Otago settlers

This morning we spent time at a fantastic museum – the Otago Settlers Museum. This is an incredibly innovative and well-planned out museum. It has lots of interactive parts, and an amazing array of items covering a large period in history. We only spent a few hours here but could have spent more.

Immigration boat reconstruction

Immigration boat reconstruction

My favourite part was the reconstruction of being under deck on a boat that would have brought immigrants into New Zealand – it was dark and had all the noises as part of the reconstruction. The museum had loads of interesting items and it was really well laid out. Definitely recommended!

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

Me at Moeraki Boulders

Me at Moeraki Boulders

We then left for Oamaru, and stopped at Moeraki boulders on the way. Last time we visited it was high tide and we couldn’t see much, but this time it was low tide and we could see loads of boulders. It looked great and we took a few pictures here and enjoyed wandering around between the boulders.

We also stopped by the Oamaru Blue Penguin colony to buy a few souvenirs (we visited to see the blue penguins back in october but hadn’t bought anything from the shop). We were also able to wander round and see the houses of the blue penguins that they stay in when they come in from the sea at night. It was great! 🙂 We then drove on to Waitaki and our holiday park for the evening.

Blue penguin home

Blue penguin home

Where we spent time: Catlins – Surat Bay and Owaka, Brighton Beach, Dunedin – St Kilda beach, Otago Peninsula (Sandymount walk, Allan’s Beach, tip of peninsula, Portobello, Lanarch Castle), Dunedin city centre and Taieri Gorge railway, Moeraki boulders, Oamaru.

Where we stayed:

Dunedin Holiday Park (quite a busy and packed-in park but showers were clean and facilities were good. There are only 10 showers for women and 10 for men so you need to get in quick! Also good pic-n-mix from the onsite shop, and a short walk over the sand dunes to beautiful St Kilda beach).

Leith Valley Touring Park (a spacier and slightly greener park, also with good facilities and friendly owners – a few mins drive from Dunedin city centre).

Waitaki Holiday park (it has awesome reviews on Trip Advisor) and is pretty quiet and has really good facilities (including a nice kitchen and lounge and unisex showers) and friendly owners.

Where we are headed next:  Mount Cook – one of our favourite places.

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Blue Penguin, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lift off for our spaceship adventure is tomorrow!

Spaceship

We have now left Waiheke island, and are staying over in Auckland for one night, before our flight down to Queenstown tomorrow. I previously wrote about our upcoming Spaceship adventure so take a look at my blog post here.

So, we pick up our spaceship from Queenstown tomorrow and will be taking a 9 week trip in a little camper-car as we are calling it! They seem like a great design, and have a look at their website for more information.

After having been in New Zealand for just over 6 months now it will be great to explore more of NZ – and go back to some of our favourite places and see some other hidden gems we haven’t yet visited. It will also serve as a research trip for my own travel consultancy company I have set up – called Blue Penguin Travel.

I haven’t really camped before and people who know me know how much I like my home comforts, but I am looking forward to going out of my comfort-zone and having a real adventure! It should be great fun travelling all around. It is also hard for me not planning every day/night, like I am used to. But again, having the freedom and flexibility will be amazing and having complete control over where we go and what we do. We can’t wait to start this new and exciting adventure, and lift off is at about 11am tomorrow when our plane touches down in Queenstown!

We hope to enjoy our time and make the most of every second, so will only post blog entries as and when I have time rather than every day/every few days. I don’t want to spend too much time at the computer when I can be out enjoying NZ!

I will post updates when I can but otherwise see you in 9 weeks! 🙂

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

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