Wildlife

Destination Feature: Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island Collage.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All photos are copyright of Blue Penguin Travel.

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

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

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

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: 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: 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

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

Flashback time – Bay of Islands and Breaching Whales!

Whale breaching

Whale breaching

Jumping dolphins

Jumping dolphins

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

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

Cape Reinga signpost

Cape Reinga signpost

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

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

Categories: Activities, Flashback, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beauty of New Zealand Video

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

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Photography website launched!

My photography website

My photography website

Since returning to the UK after our amazing new zealand travel adventure I have decided to develop my own photography website. Regular followers of my blog will know I was lucky enough to visit some truly amazing places on our year away in New Zealand and having always loved taking photographs I decided now would be a good time to collect together my favourite images on my own website.

I have also been fortunate enough to visit other amazing destinations around the world including Australia, Iceland and the Cook islands and some photographs from these places feature too (along with a few from the UK). One of my favourite things to photograph, other than landscapes, is wildlife and my website also features some of the loveliest wildlife I have encountered on my travels.

So, take a look at Nicola Barnard Photography and see what you think! I have a Portfolio page with 6 portfolios containing a selection of my favourite images. There is also a Purchase page containing links to both my RedBubble store and my Photobox store where you can purchase various print and gift options, including 2014 calendars and iphone cases. Alternatively if you have any comments or feedback about my sites then please contact me through the Contact page on my site.

Thanks for taking a look and for the continued support!

I have included a mosaic below of just a few of my favourite images from my travels 🙂

Categories: New Zealand, Photographs, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A week in Sydney and the end of our amazing Australian adventure

Sydney Panoramic

Sydney panoramic

Mon 15th July – Mon 22nd July: Sydney/Manly

Cockatoos on Kat and Darren's balcony

Cockatoos on Kat and Darren’s balcony

After arriving back from a memorable 9 days in Tasmania we were lucky enough to have another week staying in Sydney with my sister – Kat, and her boyfriend – Darren. They live in a lovely flat in Manly – a short ferry ride away from the CBD. We spent 5 days with them before we left for the Great Ocean Road and Tassie – where we visited the Northern Beaches, and the Blue Mountains.

Opera house

Opera house

We did a whole mixture of things in our second week there and had a really great time. We spent quite a bit of time in the centre of Sydney – taking the ferry across from Manly each time. It only costs $9 one way, and takes about 30 minutes. It is a beautiful ride, as you leave the Manly wharf behind, and arrive at Circular Quay with the most beautiful view of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Views from park

Views from park

We walked across the harbour bridge, and spent time in the park down in Kirribilli where there is a brilliant view across to the centre of Sydney and up to the bridge. We enjoyed pancakes at Pancakes on the Rocks and spent time exploring the wonderful Rocks area. We also took a walk through the Royal Botanical gardens – which are huge! We only walked through a small section and they were very beautiful.

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum

Whilst in Sydney we visited the National Maritime Museum and spent time exploring the huge ships they have there – with amazing histories. We were able to board these ships and learn about their past and life out on the water. The main ships we explored were the patrol boat, the submarine, the Vampire and the endeavour (which is a full-sized replica of Captain Cook’s ship that he used on his famous 1768-71 world voyage).

Endeavour replica

Endeavour replica

There were excellent indoor exhibits containing great artefacts. We were also lucky enough to visit the Elysium exhibition, which contained photographs and video taken on a fascinating trip to the Antarctic in 2010. I especially loved the photos of the penguins! Find out more here about this amazing exhibition.

Another museum we spent time at was the Australian Museum. John was especially interested in learning more about the aboriginal history of Australia, so we spent time in this area of the museum. Whilst here we also spent time at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition, which contained some really stunning photographs.

Goat and city at Taronga zoo

Goat and city at Taronga zoo

For many of these activities we used discount vouchers (between 10% and 20%) that we found in guidebooks/leaflets we picked up from the information centres in Sydney, so if you are visiting make sure you pick up some.

View of city from the zoo

View of city from the zoo

We also visited Taronga Zoo with Kat and her friends Ben and Pia who also live in Manly. We had a fantastic day at the zoo and seeing all the animals! It was a huge zoo with so much to see and do and we spent all day there. It was also great catching up with Ben (who is from my hometown of Frome) and his girlfriend Pia 🙂

Cool chicken we saw :)

Cool chicken we saw

I took a few snaps but we mostly focussed on enjoying watching the animals. The zoo is also in an amazing location, so you can look across the water and see the city – with the opera house and bridge in sight. Whilst on the cable car which takes you across the zoo you can also see the city as it comes into view, which is awesome.

View from our room

View from our room

Whilst visiting Sydney we also treated ourselves to one night staying at the very posh and luxurious Shangri-La. Our room was beautiful and we had paid a little extra for an incredible view of Sydney harbour! We could see both the opera house and the harbour bridge. There were brilliant window seats too so we spent hours just sitting there enjoying the view!

Our Shangri-La room

Our Shangri-La room

The room was huge, and so was the bathroom – it was awesome! You could even play music in the bathroom! The hotel was also located in the Rocks areas, so a great location. We enjoyed some food at Crust Pizza, and just enjoyed relaxing in our lovely room with such a wonderful view. Definitely an experience we won’t forget!

Manly beach

Manly beach

On our penultimate day – Saturday we spent time relaxing in Manly. We walked along from Manly to Shelly Beach, which was simply beautiful. It was a lovely walk along the water.

Enjoying time in Manly

Enjoying time in Manly

We also enjoyed a nice ice cream as we sat on the beach and watched the surfers. It was a beautiful late afternoon in Manly, and the weather was just amazing – we felt lucky to be there!

On our final day with Kat and Darren we celebrated Julymas – Christmas in July!

Christmas decorations!

Julymas decorations!

Apparently it is ok to celebrate a second Christmas over in this part of the world in their winter, so we thought we would make the most of this – and as anyone who knows me I LOVE Christmas so jumped at the chance! In the morning me and John made some decorations and wrapped a few presses we had bought Kat and Darren to thank them for having us to stay, and then we all went to a local farmer’s market to buy food for lunch.

Blue penguins

Blue penguins

In the afternoon we went to the aquarium in Manly which we all loved! We had actually arrived just as the blue penguin feeding was about to start so we headed up to Penguin Cove and saw them being fed. It was just brilliant being able to watch them – they seemed so happy and well looked after – we all loved it. We also explored the rest of the aquarium which was equally fantastic. The underwater walkthrough area is great, and we saw huge sharks, turtles and stingray. They have a huge selection of fish and other underwater animals. Overall it was a really great afternoon and a lovely way to spend our last day with Kat and Darren.

Big Sis and Lil Sis

Big Sis and Lil Sis

In the evening we enjoyed a delicious Julymas dinner cooked by Kat and Darren and relaxed together. The next morning it was sadly time to leave, as we caught a taxi to the airport. I’m not sure when I will see my big sis again as she lives in Manly and in a month I will be returning to the UK, but we made sure we left saying ‘see you soon’ rather than ‘goodbye’ after a wonderful few weeks together. 🙂

Amazing Australia

Amazing Australia

So this brings me to the end of mine and my hubby’s amazing Australian adventure. Australia has been so very kind to us – offering us some experiences of a lifetime – from stunning scenery, beaches and wildlife on the Great Ocean Road to a memorable experience in the snow in Tasmania, more wonderfully sunny days out on the road exploring and some wombat friends for life! We are sad to leave, but happy to return to New Zealand for a few more weeks before it is time to head back to the UK. We have one final adventure left – a trip to the Cook Islands so are really looking forward to that – which I will post about soon.

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Tasmania Days 8 and 9: Bruny Island and amazing albino wallabies

Rare albino wallaby on Bruny Island

Rare albino wallaby on Bruny Island

Sat 13th July and Sun 14th July: Russell Falls to Bruny Island and time on Bruny island. 

Another incredible wildlife highlight came in the shape of beautiful albino wallabies in the wild on Bruny island – such a wonderful sight! 🙂 More to come about that later . . .

Us on Bruny Island

Us on Bruny Island

Let me take you back to the start of our trip to Bruny Island. In my last post I wrote about our amazing trip to Cradle Mountain, and our trip down to Russell Falls. On Saturday morning we awoke and left the Russell Falls area heading for Kettering to catch the ferry to Bruny Island. It was really simple and easy to catch the ferry – we arrived at the ferry terminal and purchased our tickets, then parked in line to wait. We got a quick hot drink at the cafe while we waited, and it was soon time to board. It was a well-designed ferry which you drove on one end and then off the other (rather than the ferry to Fraser Island, which you have to reverse on to over what is basically a narrow plank of wood!). The journey was quick and we soon disembarked on Bruny Island.

View from The Neck

View from The Neck

Bruny Island is just off the coast of Tasmania – and has a population of around 600 people yet is actually really large – at 100km long! So as you can imagine it is a pretty quiet place – and also a beautiful one. What is interesting is that we had read it was really remote and wild, yet in our opinion it wasn’t that different to other parts of Tasmania we had visited. This isn’t a criticism, but it just wasn’t as different as we were expecting I guess! Especially after having been to Fraser Island further north, and Great Barrier Island in New Zealand – both of which feel very different to the mainland.

Still, we were going to enjoy the peace and quiet and take some time to explore what Bruny had to offer. On arriving we headed for South Bruny – passing through the ‘Neck’ which connects North and South Bruny. We climbed the steps to the top here and took some photos – the weather was a little cloudy but we still had a good view.

Our boutique spa studio

Our boutique spa studio

Inside our studio

Inside our studio

From here we headed to Adventure Bay and had some lunch at the Penguin cafe (the only place we found that was open – it was pretty deserted!). Also as a note, there are very few shops and no ‘supermarket’ on Bruny so we bought food on the mainland at nearby Kingston prior to taking the ferry over. Next we checked into our accommodation – 43 Degrees. This was a boutique spa studio very near the beach at Adventure Bay – which was also especially environmentally-friendly designed – using solar power etc. It was a beautiful apartment and a lovely place to stay. Because of its design it was also really warm, which was lovely in Tassie’s cold winter, and definitely the warmest place we stayed.

Misty Adventure Bay

Misty Adventure Bay

Unfortunately during our time on Bruny the weather didn’t cooperate – and we could hardly complain after near-perfect weather in Tassie so far for the previous week! We had lots of rain on Saturday afternoon after we arrived, and all-day Sunday – our main full day on Bruny. What was actually great about this is that we didn’t feel any pressure to go out and do loads of things which was lovely – and a nice break! Although it has been amazing being on the road in Tassie it has also been pretty exhausting, so it was nice just to have a relaxing day. We explored the Adventure Bay area, walking along the beach and also walked part of the Grass Point walk.

Me and the albino wallaby

Me and the albino wallaby

This brings me to the wildlife spot I mentioned at the start of this post. Bruny island is the ONLY place in the world where the rare albino wallabies still live in the wild, and we spotted two of them on this walk. For anyone interested in looking for them, we walked along the adventure bay beach to the end, and headed inland, following the Fluted Cape walk signs. Once on land and faced with a left turn towards the coast or a right turn further inland, we took the right turn and that is where we spotted the albino wallabies on the grass. It was really amazing to see them. We took some photos and just enjoyed watching them. We felt so lucky to have seen them! 🙂

Amazing albino wallaby

Amazing albino wallaby

We also spotted some other wallabies with them, which were great to see. On the two nights we spent there we also spotted wallabies just outside our apartment eating the grass at night!

Happy in Tassie :)

Happy in Tassie 🙂

We just really relaxed the rest of the time on Bruny and enjoyed spending time in our gorgeous apartment. On Monday morning we woke up, packed up and drove up to the ferry terminal before getting the ferry back to the mainland. We spent some time in the historic town of Richmond before arriving at the airport in time for a flight back to Sydney in the afternoon.

The time had come to say goodbye to Tasmania and we were really sad! We have seen some really incredible places in our time in New Zealand, and in Oz but Tassie was just really extra-special to us – we were so lucky to have seen such wonderful animals in the wild, and our Tasmanian adventure will remain with us forever. 🙂

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Tasmania Days 6 and 7: The beautiful and memorable Cradle Mountain

Thurs 11th July – Fri 12th July: Cradle Mountain and Russell Falls

Highlanders Cottages

Highlanders Cottages

So for the next instalment of our Tasmanian adventure – we had now arrived in the beautiful Cradle Mountain area. As I explained on our last post we were staying in a gorgeous cottage at Cradle Mountain Highlanders Cottages – called Buttongrass. It was a lovely wooden cabin with a fire box fuelled by logs to warm it nicely. This is definitely one of our favourite places we stayed. The people were so friendly and welcoming and the cottage was perfect  – with lots of lovely extra homely touches.

Enjoying the snow

Enjoying the snow

It had also snowed quite significantly a few days prior to our arrival, and so the whole area looked especially pretty with snow everywhere. We certainly made the most of the snow and went out on lots of snowy walks to explore! It seemed quite surreal being in the snow in Australia – as it is one of the very few places where it does snow!

Pademelon in the wild

Pademelon in the wild

Cradle Mountain is also one of the best areas in Tasmania to see wildlife in the wild. On our first evening we were visited by a lovely pademelon on our front porch! And the evening after that we also saw more of them. Whilst we moved around the area we also spotted wombats by the side of the road. As it had snowed so much we saw them mainly on areas where snow hadn’t settled on the grass.

Loving Cradle Mountain

Loving Cradle Mountain

Thursday was our main day in the Cradle Mountain National Park. We had already purchased our national park pass whilst down in Coles Bay, so were able to explore the park. We also received tickets for the park shuttle bus. On the day we wanted to take our walk they weren’t allowing cars through to park by the starting points for the walks so everyone took the shuttle bus. This meant they were pretty in demand – even off-season! Apparently it is just crazily busy here in summer. We waited for around 45 minutes for the bus, which wasn’t too bad. It was quite icy and snowy everywhere though so we had to take care not to slip up!

The shuttle bus picked us up in the morning outside the visitor centre and took us to the Dove Lake walk car park. The drive up was beautiful and we loved seeing everything all snow-covered. On arriving at Dove Lake we took some brilliant photos of Cradle Mountain reflected in the lake. My favourite one is below:

Cradle Mountain reflected in Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain reflected in Dove Lake

On Dove Lake walk

On Dove Lake walk

It looked just stunning – especially with such clear and sunny weather. We headed off on the walk around the lake, which was pretty precarious because of the snow and ice! I certainly wouldn’t have recommended it to any families or older people in the snow! We absolutely loved the walk – despite it being quite tough in the weather. The snow and ice still lay on the paths almost the whole way round, which did make it very slippy in places – some on the edges with sheer drops below! We took great care though and I managed to only fall over once!! And I fell nice and cushioned on my bottom!! We also stopped for a nice picnic once about halfway round the lake. The views almost the whole way were amazing – we looked out over the lake with Cradle Mountain ahead of us.

View from Glacier Rock

View from Glacier Rock

Towards the start of the walk we climbed up to glacier rock, which was a high viewpoint with fantastic views out over the lake and of Cradle Mountain. The walk around the lake was quite strenuous as it did have a couple of tough climbs/drops, but I think without the snow we would have found it easier! However, we didn’t mind as the snow made everything look even more beautiful! We think it is definitely one of the most beautiful walks we have ever done.

On arriving back at our cosy cabin after the walk we warmed up by the fire and enjoyed a lovely evening in relaxing and watching a film. We felt content after one of our best days on our entire trip since leaving the UK last September.

Russell Falls

Russell Falls

The following morning – Friday – we sadly had to leave Cradle Mountain. We awoke early and got on the road as soon as it was light as had a long drive ahead. We were heading down to Russell Falls, and took people’s advice that it was best to head back through Sheffield and Deloraine to the midland highway and take that down to Russell Falls. We stopped at Ross on the way – which resembled a pretty and quaint English town.

On arriving at our Russell Falls accommodation, we headed up there to do the walk to the waterfall which looked awesome! You need a national park pass to enter and visit the falls, so we were lucky we had our season park pass which meant we could enter. The walk is around 20 minutes through beautiful forest. The falls themselves are just stunning! We took a few pics here and headed back to relax for the evening.

Our time in Cradle Mountain was just incredible – and a time we will never forget. Next stop – Bruny island!

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Tasmania Day 5: The road to Cradle Mountain and ‘that’ crazy shortcut

Kangaroo in the wild

Kangaroo in the wild on the road to Cradle Mountain

St Columba Falls

St Columba Falls

Whilst not a post heavy on scenic photographs I still thought the road to Cradle Mountain warranted its own post. To carry on the tale of our Tasmania adventure, after we left beautiful Binalong Bay (see one of my previous posts for photos) we were heading for Cradle Mountain. Our first stop on the road was St Columba Falls – which are approx 30 minutes drive west of St Helens., and at 90m high is the highest waterfall in Tasmania. A short walk from the car park (mostly downhill going there) takes you to the foot of the falls which were pretty spectacular! The positioning of the sun made taking a great photo a little tricky but I got one which is ok. It was brilliant to just stand and watch the powerful waterfall rush and flow cascading down the rocks in front of us. It was definitely worth the trip.

Next up we needed to head back to the main road to get across to Launceston and then on to Cradle Mountain. We had a detailed map of Tasmania we had purchased before our trip and noticed there were a few minor roads which linked up with the main road much further on – as opposed to going all the way back to the A3 and all the way round the top. Now, we have taken a few shortcuts in the past that have worked out well (and a few that perhaps haven’t!), but we thought long and hard as to whether this would be a good idea – and decided it was. The main reason we decided this is because this route took us past a tourist site – Ralph Falls – and we thought that the road couldn’t be that bad if it passed this place – we were WRONG! Anyone reading this who may have driven this road may feel differently and feel that this road was no trouble – but in all our experience of all the crazy roads we have ever driven (including some very crazy ones in Iceland and New Zealand) this was officially the worst!! We (rather naively perhaps) thought that any roads unsuitable for normal cars would have ‘4WDs only’ signs, so proceeded even when the road started to get very rough. And when I say rough I don’t mean gravel, or stones, I mean small boulders!! What vehicle were we in you ask? No, not a Monster truck, not even a dinky Rav 4, but a Hyundai i20! And a white one (which wasn’t white at the end of the trip I might add!). Our car most definitely should not have been driving on this road. This was compounded when the only other vehicle we met was in fact some version of a monster truck. 🙂 The problem was, once we had started heading down this road it became more difficult to turn around the further we went – of course we should have turned around as soon as it became tricky! The other disconcerting thing was that our sat nav refused to recognise the route we were going, which made us worry slightly that this could in fact be a road to nowhere. We did genuinely believe we were going to break the car, and for almost the whole journey (which lasted for a few hours) we had no phone signal, and as such would not have been able to call for help had we broken down. Maybe it is the kiwi spirit which has been installed in us over the last 10 months but we didn’t row, we didn’t shout, we were both really calm and kept reassuring each other the whole time it would be ok (when we had no idea it would!). The main reason that we were ok was down to the incredible driving skills of my husband John who somehow managed to avoid every large boulder and large pot hole that got in our way, and negotiate tight corners with steep drops below. He did amazingly!

The one saving grace of a completely crazy shortcut was that we were lucky enough to see two lovely kangaroos in the wild, whilst in the middle of nowhere. The two kangaroos just hopped out in front of the car and I managed to grab my small camera (without the large zoom, but never mind!) and take a quick shot – as you will see above.  We were delighted to see them! We also felt a little that they were possibly thinking ‘what on earth is this car doing out here’?!

So, as I am writing this you know we survived and aren’t still stuck out there! Definitely a memorable part of our amazing Australian/Tasmanian adventure – but not a journey we would like to repeat!!

Oh, and it was the C428 heading west from Columbia Falls towards Ringarooma – for anyone interested in avoiding it in future! 🙂

Our cosy cabin in the snow was waiting

Our cosy cabin in the snow was waiting

Cradle Mountain was calling, and after a brief stop in Launceston for food shopping we headed on. We took the recommended route via Deloraine and Sheffield (via the B13 and B14) and finally on to Cradle Mountain. As we drew closer we spotted snow had fallen in this area, and was either side of the road – it looked so pretty. Excitedly, we pushed on and soon arrived at our accommodation surrounded by lots of snow – the beautiful Cradle Mountain Highlanders Cottages, where a warm and cosy cabin heated by a lovely log fire awaited. But that story is for another day! 🙂

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The wonderful wildlife at East Coast Natureworld in Tasmania

We love Natureworld

We love Natureworld

We had such an amazing day at East Coast Natureworld in Tassie! We have been very fortunate to have seen lots of lovely animals in the wild but absolutely loved our time at this brilliant wildlife park. One of the main reasons we loved it was the amount of space the animals have – the wildlife park is spread over a huge 150 acres with the kangaroos and their cute joeys roaming completely free.

My husband (John) actually made a quick iMovie about our time at Nature World and I am sharing here if you are interested in watching:

We arrived early at the park which is located in Bicheno, just after it had opened, and paid $22 each which we thought was amazing value. The park was very quiet and most of the time were the only ones looking at the different sorts of animals, which was great.

John feeding the kangaroos!

John feeding the kangaroos!

We purchased a couple of bags of kangaroo feed on arrival – as John was really keen to feed them. John had no trouble encouraging them over to feed, and they were pretty feisty actually! They kept wanting more from John, and even held his hand with their paw when he was feeding them! It was funny! 🙂

Tasmanian devils fighting

Tasmanian devils fighting

We were lucky enough to see the tasmanian devils being fed twice – and if you are thinking of visiting I would definitely recommend planning your trip around the feeding times as they are a lot more active then. Outside of these times they were either slowly wandering around, or sleeping.

And sleeping

And sleeping

We were fascinated by the tasmanian devils as they are actually quite misunderstood creatures – and even though they let off their famous ‘wail’ when fighting with others over food (which we witnessed a few times and can be seen on the above video!) they are actually quite shy and cute! We also learnt about the devastating facial tumour disease that is drastically reducing their numbers. They are really special animals and we really loved watching them.

Another of our favourite animals were the gorgeous wombats. There were 3 in particular that were amazing:

Leila the wombat

Leila the wombat

Leila was 15 months old and so friendly and lovely. She was really used to human contact, and loved and adored by the workers there and really well looked after. She loved being stroked and loved attention!

Baby wallaby Ralph

Baby wallaby Ralph

Ralph was 8 months old and so little! They were hand rearing him at the park, and so brought him out in a little fleece blanket for us to meet him. He was adorable.

George the wombat

George the wombat

George (we weren’t sure of his real name, so named him this) was an older wombat who was also really funny and friendly. He took a liking to me, and decided to follow me, as I moved around the outside of his enclosure. He also made a funny grunting noise as he did this – he was amazing!

Little pademelon

Little pademelon

We loved spending time with the wallabies and cute little pademelons and also watching the kangaroos and joeys play. We also saw koalas in the trees (and as great as this wasn’t it couldn’t quite match the time we saw them in the wild!). Another of our favourite were the quolls who we also saw being fed.

Quolls

Quolls

There was an aviary there too, where we saw lots of lovely birds – including a black and yellow-eared cockatoo, and two gorgeous eclectus parrots (which feature in the above video!).

The lady that worked at the park was also great, and as it was so quiet she often came over to us especially to do feedings with the animals we were watching. It was almost like a private tour! The animals are so well cared for and looked after with so much space, we absolutely loved it.

We were at the park for almost 4 hours and the time flew by so fast! We could easily have spent a whole day there, and the beautiful weather also made it all the more special. We felt so happy to have seen so many beautiful animals and take these happy memories with us back on the road (and for the rest of our lives!) to continue our Tasmanian adventure.

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Amazing koalas in the wild on the Great Ocean Road

 

I have written my two posts about the incredible Great Ocean Road (days 1 and 2, and day 3) and have decided to write separately about the amazing sight of seeing koalas in the wild. As much as we love seeing animals in wildlife parks and zoos (ones that take good care of animals) there is something really special about seeing animals in the wild in their natural environment.

On two occasions on the Great Ocean Road in Australia we were lucky enough to do just that!

The first time was near the Kennet River (about halfway between the towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay). For those wanting to try and spot them we put Grey River road (Kennet River) into our sat nav and it took us there. We just then drove up this road for about 1-2kms and found them high up in the trees. They were pretty high up in the trees, but we could still see them and I used the awesome zoom lens on my camera to get some shots. Here is one of my favourites:

Koala near Kennet River

Koala near Kennet River

We saw about 7 of them up in the trees and they did take a bit of looking for, but was just so worth it. They were just adorable!

The next day, we were lucky enough to see yet more koalas in the wild – this time on Lighthouse road heading to Cape Otway lighthouse. These ones were about 8kms down this road and much lower in the trees this time. As I have said previously you will usually see other cars that have stopped looking for them – so make sure you park up safely off the road before you go off exploring. We saw about 25-30 koalas this time – dotted all over the trees by the side of the road. I have included a gallery of some more photos I took of them at the bottom of this post. Most of them were quite low down this time and we could just watch them. Some were sleeping (one hanging precariously above the road!) as below:

Koala hanging on

Koala hanging on

And others were up and about eating and moving about the trees. I managed to get one of my favourite shots of them just as one koala woke up and looked right at me:

Amazing koala in the wild

Amazing koala in the wild

I will leave you with his sweet fluffy face – as we were left with such amazing memories of these beautiful creatures in the wild 🙂

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The spectacular Great Ocean Road (day 3): 12 apostles, beautiful loch ard gorge, more koalas and the end of an amazing road trip

Weds 3rd July: Apollo Bay to Port Campbell

Maits Rest walk

Maits Rest walk

Now for the concluding part of our Great Ocean Road adventure in Australia. As I explained on my last post (covering days 1 and 2) the days we spent exploring the Great Ocean Road were amongst the best in the whole time we have been away from the UK – more than 10 months now!

We woke up early on Wednesday and set off for the last full day of our adventure – and the weather yet again was absolutely beautiful! Our first stop was Maits rest rainforest walk. This is located on the main road – 17km from Apollo Bay. It is a lovely 20 minute walk through the rainforest. This was a great way to start the day.

Koala in the wild

Koala in the wild

Next was another real highlight of our trip to Oz – more beautiful koalas in the wild. This time the koalas were a little more known about than yesterday’s spot near Kennet River – but this time we saw a lot more and they were a lot lower in the trees! I have posted separately about the koalas in particular – as they really warranted it. We saw around 25 koalas approx 8kms down Lighthouse road (*sat nav tip) which leads to Cape Otway lighthouse. You just need to keep your eyes open as you reach this distance down the road, but there will usually be other cars around that have stopped. Just make sure you park safely and pull completely off the road! There are spots by the side of the road big enough to park in which is good. We stopped at a few different places and saw the wonderful koalas. They were quite low in the trees and mostly sleeping. It was truly amazing to see them. We went all the way to Cape Otway lighthouse but at $18.50 per person we felt it was a little steep (considering Split Point lighthouse had been free to see the previous day!), so we headed back up to join the Great Ocean Road.

Lookout on the Great Ocean Road

Lookout on the Great Ocean Road

From here we stopped at Princetown to look for some kangaroos in the wild. We had read that they usually frequent one spot on Old Coach road (*sat nav tip), so parked on this road just before the bridge over the river and had a look around by the boardwalk – but unfortunately weren’t lucky enough to see one (although ended up seeing kangaroos in the wild a few days later in Tassie, so will post about that soon!). I just thought I would include the info here in case anyone is passed by and wants to try their luck. We did have a lovely picnic here just by the river though.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

Next up was Gibson’s Steps, where there are a few beautiful viewpoints down to the beach and looking out to sea. We walked partway down the steps to the beach, although the tide was in so we couldn’t get out to look round to the 12 Apostles. We then took the short drive to park up at the 12 Apostles car park. We walked under the road through the underpass and out the other side to the stunning view of the 12 Apostles. It really is quite beautiful! Obviously it is a touristy place with people congregating all in one small area to get the best views. Because of this it strangely wasn’t our favourite part of the trip, as we tend to enjoy quieter spots that are more off-the-beaten track. However, we took the walk amongst the crowds as far as we could go out into the ocean high up, and looked across to the 12 Apostles and took some photos.

Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge

Back on the road the next stop of the day was actually one of our favourite parts – Loch Ard Gorge. Approx 10 minutes west of the 12 Apostles this is definitely worth a stop. We headed down the steps to the beach here and watched the waves crashing through the gorge to the shore. It was a really wonderful place, and not too busy either – a real gem.

London Bridge

London Bridge

Our penultimate stop was brief at a place called The Arch. London Bridge was then our last stop of the day which is 7km west of Post Campbell. We took some photos here of the landscape – and saw where the land bridge known as ‘London Bridge’ used to exist between the two parts now left. It was a great sight, made even more beautiful by the continuing good weather.

We backtracked slightly to Port Campbell and our motel for the night. We enjoyed fish and chips from the well-known Frying Nemo takeaway, which were delicious!

We really have enjoyed every second we have spent driving the Great Ocean Road – it is up there with the best roads we have ever driven! There is so much variety and amazing things to see and do – made all the better by our stunningly beautiful weather. We have some amazing memories from this trip that we will certainly treasure forever 🙂

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