Have you visited New Zealand? Please complete my survey!

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

Blue Penguin TravelThe results will be incredibly helpful to my travel consultancy company – called Blue Penguin Travel. Blue Penguin Travel specialises in helping you travel to and around New Zealand by providing personalised off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries. Check out our website to read more. 

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

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

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

Catlins Collage

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

Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

Yellow-eyed penguin in the wild

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

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

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

Cathedral caves

Cathedral caves

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

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

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

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

Hector dolphin

Hector dolphin

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

Florence Hill lookout

View from Florence Hill lookout

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

Nugget Point lighthouse

Nugget Point lighthouse

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

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

Curio Bay Accommodation

Curio Bay Accommodation

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

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

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: Activities, Blue Penguin, Destination Feature, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

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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.

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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

Photo of the Day: Great Barrier Island Sunset

Multicoloured Sunset

Multicoloured Sunset

I have been looking back through all my favourites photos taken during our year living in New Zealand and have decided to post my favourite ones featured as a ‘photo of the day’. Today’s photo is a sunset taken on the beautiful and remote island of Great Barrier Island, off the cost of Auckland. 4 hours 30 mins away by ferry, or just a 30 minute plane ride the beauty of this place has to be seen to be believed! We spent 4 days living there back in October 2012 and read about our unique experience here.

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-Touristy Things To Do In Auckland By Short Term Renting
Courtesy of: Short Term Renting
Categories: Activities, Food, Guest Post, New Zealand, North Island | 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

Beautiful Hahei Sunrise

Sunrise in Hahei

Sunrise in Hahei

I thought I would share one of my favourite sunrise photos from New Zealand today. It is of a sunrise in Hahei on the gorgeous Coromandel Peninsula. This photo was taken back in 2010 when my husband and I were in New Zealand on our honeymoon. We were lucky to be staying in a beautiful holiday house that overlooked Hahei beach and the sea and one morning awoke with a bright red light streaming in our windows and looked out to see this absolutely stunning view! Just one of so many happy memories we have of this incredible country 🙂

If you are interested, prints and products with this image (along with many of my other New Zealand photographs) can be purchased via my Redbubble page.

Categories: Accommodation, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Flashback time: Glenorchy and Dart River Jet Boat!

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

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

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

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

Top 5 pizza places in New Zealand

Winnies

Winnies

Having done a few other New Zealand Top 5 blog posts (Top 5 things to do in NZ, Top 5 best kept secrets, Top 5 walks, Top 5 road trips and Top 5 things to do on South Island) I thought it was time for something a little different. Being a huge fan of pizza I just HAD to post about some of the delicious pizzas places we visited during our time in New Zealand. It is some of the most amazing pizza we have ever tasted!

1. Winnies Gourmet Pizza Bar and Restaurant in Queenstown: We became frequent visitors of Winnies as loved their varied menu (including very delicious pizzas) and excellent offers including their lunch deal. In a great location just steps from the beautiful Lake Wakatipu we also loved the laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff.

2. Pizza from Shawtys in Twizel: In an excellent location on the road between Christchurch and Queenstown (and not too far from the stunning Mount Cook) we often found ourselves passing through Twizel. When researching places to eat one day on our car journey not far from there we came across their amazing Trip Advisor reviews and just had to stop off and are so glad we did as it became our go-to place whilst travelling that journey. Their pizza is simply delicious and we always found it a warm, cosy and welcoming place.

3. Black Rabbit Pizza in Kaikoura: With limited options to eat in we often had takeaway from here or had it delivered. This a strong contender for the most delicious pizza I have ever tasted!! They are very experimental with their toppings and have become an iconic pizza place in the beautiful town of Kaikoura.

Ratbags and Innocent Bystanders

Ratbags and Innocent Bystanders

4. Crust Pizza and Hell Pizza – both takeaway pizza places from various locations: I have included both Crust and Hell together here as feel both are equally delicious! We have eaten these in a variety of places including Queenstown, Auckland and Rotorua. They are so much better than the traditional chains (e.g. Dominos) and easily top any takeaway pizza I have tasted back in my home country of the UK. Highly addictive too so beware!!

5. Ratbags and Innocent Bystanders in Dunedin: The unusually named ‘Ratbags’ is another unique and simply awesome place to get some pizza. They are famous for their half metre (photographed) and metre pizzas and are a must-visit food place in the lovely city of Dunedin.

I hope anyone who was searching for great pizza in New Zealand found this helpful. My mouth is watering just thinking about all this delicious pizza! Enjoy 🙂

Categories: Food, New Zealand, North Island, South Island, Top 5 | 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

Memories of New Zealand at Christmas

Queen Street Santa

Queen Street Santa being constructed in Dec 2013

Santa in 1960

Santa in 1960

Despite not living in New Zealand any more I still like to keep up with the news and recently one Christmas-related story in particular caught my eye. It was about the famous big Santa who lives on Queen Street in Auckland around Christmas time. I remember the first time, when walking through Auckland that we clapped eyes on the 18 metre height Santa. They were in the process of constructing Santa in his usual spot above Whitcoulls. Being a huge fan of Christmas I instantly loved it! And although some feel it is over the top and extravagant I think it is unique and memorable!

The story I refer to explains how the funding was cut for the big Santa and as such he would not be appearing in his usual home on Queen Street. Yet just the very next day the NZ Herald then reported that in fact big Santa had been saved by funding offers from an Auckland property development firm and SkyCity.

Santa himself has a long history on Queen Street and in fact was first constructed (with a somewhat different look to nowadays) back in 1960 above the original Farmers building on Queen Street.

The New Zealand Herald are calling it an Auckland miracle – brilliant! 🙂

A festive Auckland sky tower

A festive Auckland sky tower

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

Thinking about this made me remember our time in the weeks leading up to Christmas that we spent in Auckland back in December 2012 – including seeing the beautiful Christmas lights on the famous Franklin Road. We took a walk through Auckland to look at them one night, and also witnessed the Sky Tower lit up so beautifully!

We were then lucky enough to spend our first kiwi Christmas with my family who flew over from both the UK and Australia to be with me and my husband. We enjoyed an amazing traditional UK Christmas dinner cooked by my Mum in our gorgeous holiday home we had rented overlooking Queenstown lake. Lovely memories 🙂

Family Christmas in NZ

Family Christmas in New Zealand

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

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