Posts Tagged With: bay of islands

Top 5 affordable places to stay in New Zealand

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

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

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

1. Little Greenie, Golden Bay



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

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

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


Where? Close to Wainui Bay, Golden Bay.

Cost? $185 – $260 NZD per night.

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


2. Curio Bay Accommodation, Catlins Region

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

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


Where? Curio Bay, Catlins region.

Cost? $160 – $200 NZD per night.

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


3. Oaks Shores Hotel Apartments, Queenstown


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


Where? Queenstown

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

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


4. Abri Apartments, Paihia (Treetops chalet)



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

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


Where? Paihia, Bay of Islands

Cost? $149 – $299 NZD per night.

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


5. Aoraki Court, Mount Cook Village


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


Where? Mount Cook Village

Cost? $165 – $325 NZD per night.

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

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

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

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

Photo of the Day: Breaching Humpback Whale

Breaching Humpback Whale

Breaching Humpback Whale

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

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

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 Bay of Islands

Thursday 3rd January – Sunday 6th January: Bay of Islands


TreetopsAnother part of our New Zealand adventure that had been on our ‘to do’ list for some time was a trip to the Bay of Islands. Like Wellington, its reputation certainly preceded it, and we were keen to explore the area and see what it was like. Many people we spoke to said it was their favourite part of North island so we felt it was time. After our New Years adventure in Wellington we flew up to Auckland, picked up our hire car (made all the less enjoyable by appalling customer service from a woman at Hertz). Soon behind the wheel of a black holden Barina spark named ‘Harry’ (for those of you who have been following the blog – a cousin to the sadly missed Barry), we headed up to Paihia which would be the base for our trip. It took us around 4 hours, as we headed over the Auckland harbour bridge, our of the city, and into Northland. On arrival in Paihia we quickly located our lovely accommodation – a house called ‘Treetops’ part of Abri apartments. The view from our place was lovely, and it had all the comforts of home, including a lovely spa bath and cuddly dressing gowns (although due to the hot weather while we were staying there we didn’t get to use the latter!). That evening we walked the short 5 minute walk into the centre of Paihia to have a nice meal – we went to Frank’s and enjoyed a delicious pizza.

On boat leaving PaihiaThe next morning we awoke to beautiful blue skies and headed out early to the Explore NZ office to pick up our tickets for a pre-booked boat trip out to the Hole in the Rock with Dolphin Discoveries. Our boat departed at 9.00am and we were lucky to have a seat outside on the mid-deck along the side. We explored the whole of the Bay of Islands on the trip, as we passed by lots of different beautiful islands (some of the 144 in the area!), and saw wildlife along the way.


We saw lovely dolphins jumping up and out of the water. It was a little tough to see at times due to the high volume of people on the boat (but this was the peak of summer in NZ and the summer holidays!). Then the big – and very unexpected moment came –  we came across humpback whales breaching. They repeatedly jumped high, out of the water, over and in again – it really was a beautiful sight. I don’t want to complain too much here, but I was quite disappointed with the actions of the company when this happened. The whales were at the front of the boat, and instead of turning the boat around and allowing everyone else at the back of the boat (there was no viewing area at the front for the public) they kept the boat facing forward. It seemed quite a selfish move, as their own photographers went to the ‘staff only’ part at the front of the boat and started snapping away. They were pretty open about the fact that they sell these photos to the people on board, and it really did seem that they thought they would get photos to sell the rest of us, rather than allowing us to see them for ourselves and take our own photos. This was a very rare sight though – and one member of staff mentioned it only happens on 2-5% of their trips that they see whales – let alone ones that breach so often! My lucky and magic moment came right at the end of our time with the whales and produced my gem of a photo above – the boat turned to move away from the whales as said time was up, and only when they did this were the whales now situated at the back of the boat. With some quick thinking I moved right to the back of the boat and was able to capture a couple of whales breaching, and was delighted. I used the action setting on my camera to capture multiple shots of them, and you can see the stages here:









Hole in the rock Following our whale adventure the boat headed off to the famous ‘hole in the rock’. Due to the weather unfortunately we weren’t able to go through, but we all got a good look. Next stop was Otehei Bay where due to the lengthy amount of time we spent with the whales was a whistle-stop tour. We docked here, had enough time to join the long queue for the toilet (there were 3 ladies loos!), have a quick snack on the beach and then had to head back the boat. The other boat – operated by Fullers – was there at the same time. We actually witnessed them leaving at the time they agreed and left a family behind! Luckily for them our company let them come aboard. Following our stop there we headed back towards Paihia and we requested the drop off at Russell on the way back.

Overall and for anyone reading interested in the differences between Dolphine Discoveries and Fullers Hole in the Rock tours I would actually recommend going with Fullers. Their boat was slightly smaller, they had a viewing deck at the front (which would have helped with viewing wildlife) and they turned around (we watched them!) when the whales were around ensuring all people on board can see and take photos. We did still really enjoy our trip, but felt that Dolphin Discoveries could have done so much more to enhance our experience. Still, we made the most of it and still got some great pics.

Long beachOn arrival at Russell we headed to have some food and chose the Waterfront cafe to have lunch. Unfortunately the food took forever to arrive and let’s say wasn’t at all delicious. They might have been having an off day but we quickly left. We took a walk through the historic parts of Russell, past its famous church and arrived at Long Beach. We spent a short while here, took some pics and then headed back to the wharf to take the ferry back to Paihia. A nice relaxing evening in Paihia followed after a great day out on the boat and exploring.

IMG_8476The following morning the alarm sounded at 5.30am and we were getting up early due to an ambitious planning trip up to Cape Reinga and back. We knew the tour buses departed Paihia around 7.15am so were keen to get on the road and up there before they did. We left the house around 6.40am and after filling up with petrol we were on the road. It was an enjoyable trip up as the roads were pretty empty and the scenery was stunning. Passing Awanui we took the lone road up to Cape Reinga. IMG_8528The total journey from Paihia up to Cape Reinga took us just under 3 hours. On arriving we parked up and took the walk down to the lighthouse and famous signpost. We were incredibly lucky to have this area to ourselves for about 15 minutes, so took some good pics and enjoyed our time. We read about the ‘Meeting Point’ which is where two seas meets – the Pacific ocean and Tasman ocean meet. You can actually see in the water where the two sets of waves come up against one another – it is quite a sight! IMG_8739The views down towards Ninety Mile beach were also spectacular and we enjoyed walking around this area to explore. After a bench stop for some choccie biccies and to take in the views we headed back to the car. We got back on the road and started our journey back to Paihia.

IMG_8949We made the most of the journey back, making stops along the way. We had lunch at the beautiful Cable Bay. We also took a detour along a gravel road to an Puketi ancient Kauri forest where we saw really old trees. We went on the Manginangina Kauri walk, which was well planned out and made up of a boardwalk around and through the amazing trees. It was really worth the trip and a great sight.

Us at Rainbow FallsOur last stop before Paihia was Rainbow Falls. A little harder to find – although heading for ‘Rainbow falls road’ meant we did find it! We took the short walks here – one to the top and a rather steep descent to the bottom to see the falls in all their glory. Whilst at the top we were lucky to see a rainbow across the waterfall and quickly capture a couple of pics (see below gallery for more). Whereas whilst at the bottom we saw the whole waterfall and it was beautiful.

A trip back to Franks was first whilst back at Paihia and we enjoyed a nice evening walk along the waterfront and an ice cream from Movenpick. Although busy – as it peak season – we really like Paihia’s atmosphere and the scenery was stunning. Sunday 6th of January was soon here and we got up early to begin our long journey back to Auckland. We were due to spend 2 nights here before flying back down to Queenstown and beginning the next chapter of our adventure.

Categories: Accommodation, Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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