South Island

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

IMG_8098.jpg

IMG_8102.jpg

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_0503

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_6703.jpg

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_9615
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_1323

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 affordable places to stay in New Zealand

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

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

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

1. Little Greenie, Golden Bay

IMG_7143

IMG_7140.jpg

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

IMG_9058

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)

IMG_8142

IMG_9045

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

IMG_0499.jpg

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

My 50 favourite places in New Zealand

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

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

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

1. QT bench   2. Mount Cook Kea Point

3. Medlands beach

4. franz josef glacier

5. Wilson bay

6. elephant rocks

7. Purakaunui falls

8. Mount Cook

9. boundary creek

10.petrifiedforest

11.glenorchyview

12 fire at hobbiton

13 milford sound

14 awana beach

15.babyseals

16. Clay cliffs

17.mountcook

18.lakematheson

19.lakepukaki

20.brucebay

21.moke lake

22.glenorchy pier23.cathedralcove

24.lakewakatipu

25.laketekapo

26.oamarubluepenguin

27.qtgardens

28hahei

29.gemstonebeach

30orakeikorako

31cathedralcaves.jpg

32 qthill.jpg

33marokopa falls

34.hanmerspringshotpools.jpg

35.rees river.jpg

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

38.mounthyde.jpg

39.climbersmemorial.jpg

40littlekaiteri.jpg

41gelrnochylagoon.jpg

42.hokitika.jpg

43. kingstonbay.jpg

44.allansbeach

45.capereinga.jpg

46.waiheke.jpg

47. hanmer springs conical hill.jpg

48.auckland

49.bagend.jpg

50.paradise.jpg

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

Photo of the Day: Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

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

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

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

Photo of the Day: Moke Lake

Moke Lake reflection

Moke Lake reflection

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

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

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

Photo of the Day: Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

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

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

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

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

Photo of the Day: Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

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

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

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

Photo of the Day: Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

This photo was taken on the road from Wanaka, heading north towards the West Coast. We stopped by the side of the road to enjoy the stunning beauty of the lake and were rewarded with this amazing view! Travelling from Wanaka up to the West Coast is one of the most beautiful drives in New Zealand. I have previously written two blog posts featuring this trip in the past – one from October 2012 and the other from May 2013.

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

Photo of the Day: Breaching Humpback Whale

Breaching Humpback Whale

Breaching Humpback Whale

Today’s photo is one of my favourite wildlife shots I have taken. This was during our trip up to the Bay of Islands back in January 2013. Although the company we took our trip out on to the water with weren’t great (read my blog post for more), we really enjoyed our time in the Bay of Islands and I was especially lucky to be able to photograph the breaching whales as they leapt out of the water!

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

Photo of the Day: The road to Mount Cook

The road to Mount Cook

The road to Mount Cook

Today’s photo comes from one of our favourite places on earth – Mount Cook. We were lucky enough to visit Mount Cook a total of 4 times during our year living in New Zealand. This photo was taken during our trip back in October 2012 which I blogged about in two separate posts – the road to Mount Cook and spending time there. We also visited with my parents who had flown over from the UK in January 2013, again when living in our camper-car spaceship in April 2013, and took one last trip there on our way back to fly out of Christchurch in August 2013. Driving on the road up to Mount Cook is a really special drive – alongside the gorgeously blue Lake Pukaki.

It really is a very special place and we would highly recommend visiting Mount Cook on any trip you take to New Zealand.

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: New Zealand, Photo Of The Day, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Photo of the Day: Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

Today’s photo is wildlife-themed and is of one of the many wonderful yellow-eyed penguins we saw in the wild during our time in New Zealand. We saw this little guy coming up out of the water at the petrified forest in the Catlins region of New Zealand. I wrote about our experience back in April 2013 on my blog post here. We were also lucky enough to see more penguins before that, back in October 2012. I wrote about our experience here, and we also made a video of that experience, which I have embedded below. Also check out my Top 5 best kept secrets post, as seeing yellow-eyed penguins in the wild features on there too.

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

Photo of the Day: Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson

Today’s photo of the day comes from Lake Matheson on New Zealand’s scenic West Coast. One on of our many trips to the West Coast we saw the lake in heavy rain and were also lucky to capture it as seen above on a sunny clear-blue-sky day in May 2013 (which I wrote about in my blog post here) and were rewarded with this beautiful reflection.

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

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.
  10. http://www.queenstownseakayaks.com/

    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.

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island, Top 10 | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

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.

Summer

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!

Autumn

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.

Winter

Winter

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

Spring

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.

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: