Posts Tagged With: queenstown

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: Moke Lake

Moke Lake reflection

Moke Lake reflection

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

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

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

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:







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

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.

    Early morning Moke Lake reflection

    Camp at Moke Lake – one of the less well-known things to do in Queenstown, the turn off to Moke Lake is located just a 10 minute drive away – from here you follow a track (often 4WD depending on season) to the remote and very beautiful Moke Lake. The DOC campsite here is very quiet and scenic and there is also a loop walk around the lake. Wake up to pure serenity overlooking this stunning lake.

Wherever we went in New Zealand Queenstown would always call us back. In many ways it felt like home and will always hold a special place in our heart.

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

Destination Feature: The beauty and serenity of Queenstown, New Zealand

Beautiful Queenstown

Nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island lies the resort town of Queenstown. Famous for its snow sports and adventure activities, Queenstown is also a stunningly striking place – home to the beautiful Lake Wakatipu amidst the snow-capped Southern Alps.

Popular with tourists, it is a busy town with lots of activities to do and always lots going on. Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park to see kiwi and native birds; take the skyline gondola up to Bob’s Peak for stunning aerial views or a fun luge ride; brave a jet boat ride out across the lake; eat a legendary Fergburger; take a bungy or canyon swing; ski or snowboard with the most beautiful backdrop at The Remarkables or Coronet Peak; or take a helicopter trip high up above with a snow landing.

Queenstown dusk

Queenstown at dusk

After doing all of these things, or as many as you can fit into your trip – you will notice that as much as Queenstown is a place of colour and vibrancy, it is also a place of peace and calm. In fact its real charm lies, it could be argued, in its serenity. Seek this out by taking a walk along the Frankton arm at dusk, away from the people and appreciate its pure beauty.

View from Queenstown Hill

View from Queenstown Hill

Take a walk up Queenstown Hill and take in the 360 degree panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Camp at the remote Moke Lake and wake up alone with nature and take in its gorgeous views.

Enjoy the multicoloured skies produced by its gorgeous sunsets.

Queenstown Sunsets

Make an effort to seek out the beauty and serenity of Queenstown and you will be richly rewarded.

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

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

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

Queenstown – a town for all seasons

Beautiful Queenstown

Beautiful Queenstown

However you first cap eyes on beautiful Queenstown – whether it is arriving by plane taking in the stunning views across Lake Wakatipu as your plane touches down amidst the surrounding mountains, or by road as you get your first glimpse of the lake framed by a picture perfect mountain backdrop – it is certain to stay with you forever.

A resort town on the South Island of New Zealand, Queenstown is one of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand and on many people’s ‘Must See’ list. Films such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and TV series Top Of The Lake have also been drawn to the unique beauty of Queenstown and its surrounding area.

Well-known for its adventure activities and snow sports Queenstown is often overlooked in other seasons but has a lot to offer all-year round.


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!


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.



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 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

A final Queenstown goodbye

Sunday 18th August – Sunday 25th August: Queenstown

Snowcapped mountains from the air

Snowcapped mountains from the air

The time had come – we had to say goodbye to Queenstown. Part of us really wished we could stay, but the UK was beckoning and after spending as much time as possible in our year over in New Zealand in Queenstown we knew this would be our last week in our favourite place in NZ.

Let me take you back to our arrival back into New Zealand from the beautiful Cook islands. We flew from the beautiful island of Aitutaki (read about celebrating our anniversary in paradise here) to Rarontonga, where we had an overnight stay, and then flew on to Auckland. Here we had a 4 hour wait, where I made a call to my parents who I hadn’t spoken to for ages, so it was lovely to have a catch up. Our last flight in New Zealand was from Auckland down to Queenstown – and again we flew with Jetstar. Being a budget airline in NZ we hadn’t heard great things about Jetstar but we have nothing but praise, after having really positive experiences with them. We didn’t experiences any cancellations or major delays, and were really happy with all our flights with them. We would definitely recommend flying with them if you are looking for a cheap internal flight option in new Zealand. On our flight to Queenstown the scenery was stunning – we saw lots of snow on the mountains as we flew over Lake Wakatipu to the airport.

Queenstown Beauty

Queenstown Beauty

We touched down amongst the beautiful snow-capped mountains of Queenstown that surround the airport – just as stunning as remembered. We headed to our accommodation – the Alexis Motel – where we were staying for 3 nights in a Panoramic Studio with wrap-around view across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. We loved our room here and it was a great place to stay and only a 10 minute walk from Queenstown centre. The remaining 4 nights were spent back at Lake Edge – a holiday rental we stayed at back in May. Lake Edge is the lower section of a larger house – managed by Liz who lives above, and who is just the loveliest person. She made us feel so very welcome and we enjoyed our chats with her! The place is completely self contained with an amazing view of Lake Wakatipu and only a short walk from the centre.

We spent the week enjoying all our favourite things in Queenstown – including playing mini golf, walking the Frankton Peninsula walkway, taking the gondola up Bob’s Peak, and having pizza at the amazing Winnies. We spent a month living in Queenstown back in January and were lucky to spend a further two weeks here in winter.

In Arrowtown

In Arrowtown

We also hired a car from Thrifty – a nice white Corolla – to explore some of our favourite areas around Queenstown. We took the amazingly scenic drive to Glenorchy (where we lived for a month back in February), stopping off along the way at Wilson’s Bay and a lovely beach (thinking back to a wonderful Valentine’s Day we spent in the area) and and took a final walk down the jetty – reminiscing about all our favourite times there. We also drove beyond Glenorchy towards Paradise, stopping at some of our favourite places on the way – including where they filmed Isengard from LOTR.

We also took a drive out to Arrowtown and explored the old Chinese Settlement one last time, and drove round to Kingston stopping at some lovely spots along the way.

Soon the time had come to leave – the morning of Sunday 25th August. We had one final travel adventure left, which I will blog about next and which will be my last post about our amazing year in New Zealand.

Leaving Queenstown with a tear in my eye I glanced up to the mountains above, remembering the amazing helicopter trip for my 30th birthday, waved goodbye to our Christmas house where we have such lovely memories of a family Christmas, took a final look at the stunning Lake Wakatipu behind and thought back to the hot summer’s day when we took a glacial dip, and said farewell to some of the happiest times of our lives.

Happy in Queenstown

Happy in Queenstown

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Top 5 things to do in New Zealand

It has nearly been a year over here in New Zealand – so I thought it was time for a Top 5 things to do in New Zealand (after previously blogging about my Top 5 things to do on South Island) – although it could so easily have been a Top 10! I feel that having spent so long over here (as well as taking two prior trips here in 2006 and 2010) I can choose my ultimate 5 paid-for activities I would recommend doing in New Zealand. Obviously these are down to personal taste, and the weather also played a factor in our decision. I have also chosen different things to those in my Top 5 to do on South island – it was so hard to choose and any of those could easily have made this list!

1. Helicopter trip over Queenstown – with snow landing.

Helicopter trip over Queenstown

Helicopter trip over Queenstown

Snow landing

Snow landing

We took a scenic helicopter trip over Queenstown with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters to celebrate my 30th birthday recently (check out my previous blog post for more details). We chose the alpine scenic (flight 104) which included a snow landing and it was the most perfect choice! The scenery was completely and utterly stunning. We flew up with two other passengers over Arrowtown and Skippers Canyon and landed atop Mount Hyde. Here we spent time in the snow and it was great fun! The 360 degree views were just amazing.

Views from the helicopter

Views from the helicopter

The weather was also just perfect – which we think made a real difference. There had recently been a fair amount of early snow in Queenstown (we went in early May) and this coupled with clear blue skies meant we had the best of both worlds – summer sun and skies with the winter snow! Our pilot was great and took some great photos of us while in the snow. On the journey back I was able to sit in the front seat so had the most wonderful view of Queenstown – as we took off and circled round with Queenstown below us – I also managed to take some great photos. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience and one we will never forget!


Cost: $310 per person – although we got a reduced rate of $199 each via a discount website called Book Me.

Times: Often throughout the day – depending on demand.

Activity time: 40 mins.

2. Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Mirror Lakes

Mirror Lakes

We took an amazing boat trip (see my old blog post for more) out on Milford Sound with Mitre Peak Cruises. We chose this company because they used smaller boats than other bigger companies (such as Real Journeys etc.) so we could get a more personal and close-up experience.

One of the main reasons Milford Sound makes the Top 5 (as well as the brilliant boat trip) is the road to Milford. It really is one of the most scenic roads we have ever driven on! We were very lucky that the weather was clear and we had great views all the way along. There are loads of different stops on the way – our favourites being Mirror Lakes and Lake Gunn, and lots of places to pull in and take photos. It is also quite windy and steep and care needs to be taken. It was fun passing through the Homer Tunnel and the view that greets you the other side is beautiful. We loved driving the road, and definitely one of our favourite road trips from the year.

Out on Milford Sound

Out on Milford Sound

Back to the cruise itself – we much preferred being on a smaller boat. It also wasn’t full so we had space and could move around. We queued up early for the boat and so were able to get a seat up top outside which was great. We then spent about 2 hours out on the sound. We passed beautiful waterfalls (Bowen falls was our favourite) and saw wildlife such as seals. We went right up to the Tasman sea and then turned back into the sound. The scenery along the way – as we passed Mitre Peak itself – was just gorgeous. Another definite highlight of a wonderful year in NZ!


Cost: $80 per person.

Times: Up to 7 times a day in peak season.

Activity time: 2 hours.

3. Dart River Jet Boat in Glenorchy

Dart River Jet Safari

Dart River Jet Safari

Me on the Dart River Jet Safari

Me on the Dart River Jet Safari

Back in December we experienced an incredible trip on the Wilderness Safari with Dart River Jet Safaris – check out my blog post for more details about our trip. This was our first jet boat trip – and we had read so many amazing reviews about it being the best – so it was a great choice! The Wilderness safari is split into 3 main parts – the bus journey from Glenorchy through Paradise (where we can get out to take some photos) and learn all about the movies and adverts filmed in this area. The next part is a 30 minute guided walk through the beautiful forest. And finally the last part was the awesome jet boat ride!

On the jet  boat

On the jet boat

We were on the jet boat for about 1 hour 30 (so much longer than other jet boat companies), and our driver Simon was amazing! He was so careful negotiating the pretty dangerous river, and we always felt safe. It was such thrilling ride and we really did love every second. Some of our favourite parts were the 360 degree turns we did in the boat – we got a bit wet but it was great fun. Travelling along at speeds of up to 80kmph with the wind in our hair (gripping on tight!) was simply amazing and the whole trip was a fantastic experience.


Cost: $219 per person (they offer free transfers from Queenstown, although we drove ourselves to Glenorchy as its a stunning drive).

Times: 8am and 12pm (from Queenstown), and 9am and 1pm (from Glenorchy)

Activity time: 3 hours

4. Hobbiton

At Hobbiton

At Hobbiton

At Bag End

At Bag End

Definitely one for fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (which of course we are!) but in our view no trip to New Zealand is complete without a trip to Hobbiton. We visited on a stunningly beautiful sunny day back in May (check out my detailed blog post about our trip) and the trip completely and utterly exceeded all of our expectations! The trip felt so real and authentic and not anywhere near as touristy as I was expecting! They have really sensitively planned the tours, to make the most of the location and to maximise the experience for guests. Our trip started with a old but quaint bus picking us up and driving down the gravel and windy road to start our tour at Hobbiton itself. Over the course of an hour or so we spent time exploring Hobbiton – accompanied by our awesome guide. We saw lots of hobbit holes (including Sam and Rosie’s and Bag End) and took endless awesome photos (see my blog for loads more!).

A pint in The Green Dragon

A pint in The Green Dragon

We also saw the famous ‘party tree’ and party area, as well as the bench where Gandalf and Bilbo have their smoke hoop competition. We really were walking exactly where the stars of the films had, and at every turn there was a sight you recognised from the films – amazing 🙂 The best part was to come with a visit to The Green Dragon to complete our trip. We enjoyed a lovely cold ginger beer by the fire, while we explored The Green Dragon inside and out – which had been incredibly well replicated. It really was the perfect end to the perfect trip and one we will always remember with excitement and fondness.


Cost: $75 per person.

Times: Tours run every half an hour starting at 9.30am and 4.30pm from the Shires Rest cafe – there are also various pick up options from Matamata and Rotorua.

Activity time: 1 hour 45 mins.

5. Heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier in 2006

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier in 2006

Us on Franz Josef glacier

Us on Franz Josef glacier

This is the only one of the Top 5 not from our 2012/2013 trip – this was back in 2006 on our first trip to New Zealand. It really truly was one of the best things we have ever done, and still holds its own amongst so many amazing things we have done this time around. We took our trip with The Helicopter line who were amazing from start to finish. They were incredibly professional and our guide was fantastic – so knowledgeable and above all safe – we never felt any danger or risk whilst walking on the glacier.

Inside an ice cave

Inside an ice cave

Our trip took us up to land on the Franz Josef glacier, and the journey up was spectacular! It was our first ever time in helicopter (we have been in them a further 3 times since!) and we loved every second! After landing on the glacier we hiked across it – using crampons attached to our shoes. We climbed through ice caves and spent lots of time exploring. The scenery was simply incredible and it was such a memorable trip.


Cost: $395 per person.

Times: Up to 2 or 3 times a day depending on season.

Activity time: 3 hours.

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and would like help putting together an awesome itinerary (specialising in amazing off-the-beaten-track places) then feel free to take a look at my website – Blue Penguin Travel, check out some of my wonderful testimonials or drop me and email 🙂

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

An incredible Queenstown 30th birthday!

Our snow landing in Queenstown

Our snow landing in Queenstown

Days 28-37: Queenstown for my 30th birthday – a Queenstown birthday week!



What an amazing amazing birthday week I have had! We made the decision to return to Queenstown after our trip up the west coast because it was our favourite place in NZ and where we wanted to spend my birthday. We spent the week here doing all our favourite things – including the peninsula walkway, walking along Frankton arm and playing mini golf. It was also a chance to relax after spending so long travelling around in the spaceship. We gave the spaceship a bit of a rest this week and just used him to drive around – which was quite nice!

Me in the helicopter

Me in the helicopter

The real highlight of the week had to be on Tuesday (a few days before my birthday) when we decided to take a helicopter trip with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters. We have been lucky enough to have been up in a helicopter a couple of times before and have always loved the trips so decided it would be perfect to go up in one for my birthday. We chose Tuesday rather than my actual birthday as the weather was unbelievably perfect and the forecast wasn’t great for my actual birthday. We also used so got an awesome deal. We chose the 40 minute flight that including a snow landing on a mountain – and it was perfect! We headed over to check in before our flight time of 3.30pm and were soon on board the helicopter and taking off. Immediately we were rewarded with awesome views over Queenstown.

Snow landing

Snow landing

We headed for the mountains passing over Arrowtown and the Shotover river towards our snow landing atop Mount Hyde. Here we got out amidst a few feet of snow and the views were just stunning! We had amazing panoramic views all around and were pretty speechless! We took some photos here and the pilot kindly took a few of us too – so we could capture such wonderful memories. Soon it was time to return and this time I sat in the front for the return journey and was just so lucky! We headed towards Lake Wakatipu and the views of the lake and Queenstown were out of this world! I snapped away on my camera and enjoyed the trip as we came in to land. Overall – we think the best thing we have ever done in New Zealand! And the perfect way to celebrate my 30th birthday.

Views from the helicopter

Views from the helicopter

Birthday hot pool

Birthday hot pool

On my actual birthday (May 9th) I had a simply perfect day! I awoke in our apartment at Oaks Shores  – which we had treated ourselves to for my birthday and had cards and pressies – with an awesome lake view. I spoke to my parents on skype which was lovely as I miss them a lot – and they sang Happy Birthday to me as they always do! I also spoke to my sister who called and sang to me as well – and it was great speaking to her. We then headed out to my main treat of the day – to Onsen Hot Pools, where we had hired a private hot pool for an hour overlooking the mountains and Shotover River. It was so relaxing and wonderful and I loved every second.

Enjoying the hot pool

Enjoying the hot pool

We had also bought the accompanying pamper pack, so had juice, chocolate and a nice aromatherapy burner, along with fluffy towels. The views from the hot pool were great and we enjoyed watching the Shotover jet fly up and down outside. We didn’t hear anyone else in their hot pool and felt all alone – with the peace and quiet of the mountains for company. After reluctantly leaving we headed for my favourite place to eat in Queenstown – Winnies, where we enjoyed a delicious pizza.


Us at Winnies

Us at Winnies

Birthday cake!

Birthday cake!

An afternoon of mini golf followed with a relaxing evening at the apartment watching the sun set and enjoying a film together – as well as yummy birthday cake! It was lovely to speak to my parents again to tell them all about my day. I won’t ever forget my 30th birthday in Queenstown and I felt truly lucky to have had such wonderful experiences.

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As we spent the whole week in Queenstown we also took some images of the area which I have included in a slideshow below. One of my favourite is of me climbing some steps in Queenstown with the beautiful autumnal colours in the background as seen here:

Autumnal Queenstown

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Relaxing time in Wanaka and Queenstown

Days 17 – 22: Wanaka and Queenstown

Beautiful Wanaka

Beautiful Wanaka

We have spent a relaxing time in Queenstown and Wanaka. Apologies for being behind with my blog, but I am updating as and when I get internet and when I can.

Autumn colours

Autumn colours

We left Omarama on Day 17 and headed briefly back up to Lake Ruantaniwha to look at the lake and some of the beautiful autumn trees. We had a drive around this area which was completely deserted and took some photos of the trees which looked really gorgeous – even in the rain! From here we headed back up to Twizel to have some more delicious pizza from Shawtys. Then we drove on to Wanaka and spent time in the area before settling at our camper van site for the night.

Stopped on Crown range road

Stopped on Crown range road

The next day we took a drive round to Glendhu Bay before setting off for Queenstown, travelling over the Crown range road (one of our favourite roads). We had lunch at our favourite place – Winnies and spent the afternoon in Queenstown before taking the beautiful drive round the lake to Kingston and our accommodation for the night at Hectors.

Glenorchy - one of our favourite places

Glenorchy – one of our favourite places

Over the next few days we did various things in Queenstown including: the wonderful peninsula walkway, taking another of our favourite drives up to Glenorchy – which looked especially beautiful with its autumn colours, enjoyed a nice hot chocolate at Chocolate Patagonias, spent time exploring the lakefront and Frankton arm in Queenstown and John finally had a famous Fergburger (those of you who know me know I am not a burger person, but John enjoyed it!).

Following yet another stay in the Queenstown area (which we loved) we headed back up to Wanaka for a further night at Aspiring Campervan park before our big trip up the West Coast.

Where we spent time: Lake Ruantaniwha, Twizel, Wanaka, Glendhu Bay, Queenstown, Kingston, Glenorchy

Aspiring Campervan park

Aspiring Campervan park

Where we stayed: Aspiring Campervan park (Wanaka) – we loved this campervan park! It was really well-run, with a beautiful view of the mountains just a few mins drive from Wanaka. Everything was really well thought-out, with great showers and bathrooms and all-round good facilities.

Hectors at Kingston – this was in a quiet location and was quite a quirky campsite. The showers were quite small but the bathrooms were ok. The camper van spaces weren’t too close together, and we saw the Kingston steam train pass in the morning!

Shotover Top 10 in Queenstown – unsurprisingly NOT recommended – just read my blog post here (mouse and all!) to see why.

Where we are headed next: The West Coast 🙂

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There’s always one . . .

Our visitor

Our visitor

So the story starts with a mouse and ends with the most unpleasant man we have come across in the whole of New Zealand in our 7 months here.

Let me take you back to Wednesday 24th of April in Queenstown. As many of you know me and John are travelling around the whole of New Zealand for 9 weeks in a spaceship (a camper-car!). We have been staying in campsites and next stop on our trip was Queenstown where we had chosen the Shotover Top 10 holiday park. We had done lots of research comparing all the campsites in Queenstown and this seemed the best – but we were very wrong. I will tell you more! We decided on this occasion – mainly because my husband is currently working from home and needs power and a good base to work from – to treat ourselves to an ensuite cabin for a couple of days. This would be a break from the spaceship and sharing showers/sinks and would give us some space.

Next comes the ‘mouse’ incident. It was the evening of Weds 24th of April and me and John were relaxing in our cabin. John got up to make a cup of tea and suddenly asked ‘what’s that?’ – and looked over at the bin. I looked over and saw the lid of the small swing bing in our kitchen was moving. It moved again and as we both watched in horror a mouse jumped out of the bin, ran across the floor and under our fridge. As I am sure you can imagine we were both incredibly shocked to see this! Now, neither of us likes mice particularly (John especially) – who does? – so were quite freaked our by this, and decided we need ed to leave the cabin asap and go and tell the holiday park people who would sort it out. John spoke to the on-call duty manager (who we later discovered was also the owner) as it was after hours and his response was very poor –  he didn’t even apologise for the incident. He just asked us what we wanted him to do about it, and when we suggested possibly moving offered us a downgrade to a basic cabin. Obviously, this wasn’t suitable and we were not keen on staying there after what had happened. The response of this person was really disappointing – at the very least we would have expected an apology, and for him to come out in person to us to apologise and to come and look in the cabin with us or show us an alternative. Following this quite incredulous response we decided to leave the holiday park. We had to go back into the cabin (mouse and all!) and quickly pack up our belongings. We then called around to secure alternative accommodation and swiftly left.

The following morning (25th April) I received an email from the owner informing me of a $100 refund because we had left early – no mention of the mouse incident! At the very least I would have expected a phone call with a very heartfelt apology for such an incident like this and a discussion with them regarding this matter. We felt $100 insufficient compensation for what we went through and when we had spent $300 in total staying there for 3 nights – and only stayed for 1 night.

I then rang the holiday park and asked to speak to the owner – and was informed by the general office he wasn’t in and would be in later. I explained I had just received an email from him and wanted to speak to him, so only then did they give me his direct dial number. I called the owner directly and explained the situation and how unhappy we were to find out a mouse in our cabin. I also explained that having spent 7 months in New Zealand this was by far our worst accommodation experience and also that having extensively read reviews for the whole country on Trip Advisor we had never read any that mentioned finding a mouse in their room/cabin.

His response was awful really – he was very evasive, and said he didn’t really want to discuss it on the phone. He asked me to send an email with my concerns – when my main concern and desire was for an apology for this incident. I also explained I was an avid user of Trip Advisor and rely on it to make my accommodation selections and that following our incident I would be posting about what happened – mainly because I didn’t want want anyone else to experience what we have. He said I was entitled to my opinion but it didn’t mean they agreed with it! I asked him what justification they could have for having found a mouse in our cabin? I asked him how they could possibly ‘disagree’ with my opinion that finding a mouse is completely unacceptable. I explained that I was very disappointed in both the incident and the extremely poor way he was speaking to me and dealing with the issue. He then told me the way I was speaking to him was poor and unnecessary. At this I told him I was going to make a formal complain about it – as it certainly warranted it – and put the phone down.

We then sought external advice from local bodies in Queenstown – who shared our disgust – and who suggested we email the park directly to give them a chance to respond. We then wrote a simple and rational e-mail outlining our reasons for our complaint. The response we received to this was frankly disgusting! In this email the owner the owner the audacity to completely avoid the issue at hand and instead invent some story about me having a mouse phobia and needing to seek professional help for this – questioning my mental health in the process!! Utter utter craziness in our opinion.

I was in shock to be honest to be personally attacked by the owner of the holiday park when they were so far in the wrong!!

Anyway, we have posted to both trip advisor and rankers as don’t want others to go through this, and are pursuing our complaint with the Top 10 company.

As anyone reading this will probably know myself and John are avid travellers and have not experienced anything remotely close to this appalling incident in New Zealand (or in our lives before for that matter). We are also extensive readers of reviews on Trip Advisor and have never read about a mouse being found in accommodation, nor about such a completely and utterly unprofessional response from an accommodation’s owner.

Anyway, just thought I would share and it’s good to get it out. Myself and John feel much better about the incident now we have been able to share our experience with others and hope nothing similar happens to them – as it was a pretty stressful time. We now plan to put the whole incident behind us, and consider that despite this awful ignorant owner being the exception there are hundreds of other amazingly friendly and helpful kiwis we have met during our time over here and will instead think of those wonderful positive experiences. 🙂

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Moke Lake – what a start to our Spaceship adventure!

Day 1 – Moke Lake


We have arrived in space! Yesterday we flew down from Auckland to Queenstown, jumped on the super shuttle and were dropped off at the Spaceship depot (courtesy of a free transfer from Spaceships) at Qbox in Queenstown. On arrival the two women that greeted us were incredibly friendly and helpful. They dealt with us quickly and efficiently and were really welcoming. We sorted out all the paperwork and Jo showed us around the spaceship – we had hired a Beta 2 Berth model and it looked awesome! I have never camped before so asked lots of questions and she answered everything well. We were really impressed with the service we received on pickup and it made the perfect start to our spaceship adventure.

IMG_1056Soon we were on our way, and we headed for our favourite spot beside Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown – on Park street. We also rented a holiday house right at this spot over Christmas with my family so it has extra special meaning. We then headed into Queenstown for a lovely meal at Winnies (as always!) before doing a few bits of shopping both in Queenstown and at New World to get a few bits of food. We then drove up from Queenstown to Moke Lake. The road up from the road to Glenorchy is mostly gravel (for about 5 or 6 kilometres) and is narrow and windy, but soon brought us to the most stunning location – Moke Lake. We parked up at the DOC campsite in a good spot. We spent time just relaxing and taking in the beauty and serenity. We also had a lovely picnic tea right by the lake in the one of the most beautiful spots we have been to.

IMG_1145We had fun setting up the bed in the spaceship – it certainly is compact! But they have thought about it well, and the bed is a good size (even without using the outside option) and you can fit no problem. It was rather chilly for us – as the temperature dropped quickly outside. We had purchased two sleeping bags earlier in the day which we made good use of, along with the duvet they had supplied. When we woke up the temperature inside the spaceship was 0.2 degrees celcius! When we checked the outside temp it was -2! A frost covered the ground and the spaceships was pretty icey (but we soon warmed it up by running the engine). We then set off for a walk round part of the lake as we watched the mist rolling across the lake and mountains. It has been an eventful but wonderful first day and night with lots more adventures to come.

Where we stayed in our Spaceship: Moke Lake DOC Camp ground (cost $6 per adult). There are long drop toilets (which were kept very clean and tidy) and stream water available from 2 sinks. The camp is in an amazing location and very well kept.

Where we spent time: Queenstown and Moke Lake

Where we are going next: Te Anau.

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The perfect Valentine’s Day on the other side of the world!

Thursday 14th February 2013 – Glenorchy/Queenstown

Me, hubby and Lake Wakatipu

In Queenstown GardensSo me and my hubby were celebrating our 12th Valentine’s Day together – and this year we were in a really special location – Glenorchy and Queenstown. During the day whilst working from home we swapped cards and lovely gifts (we had bought each other New Zealand pendants – mine was a gorgeous green made from jade). After work we drove into Queenstown and headed to our favourite place to eat – Winnies – for a delicious pizza. We have been there quite a bit since we arrived in New Zealand back in September and this time were presented with a ‘Friend of Winnies’ loyalty card! Queenstown beachWe were pretty chuffed with this, plus it gave us 15% off our food which was great! After that we took a lovely walk along the beachfront in Queenstown town centre. On the drive back we also stopped off at a few hidden beaches and took some pictures. We also skipped some stones across the lake and just took in the peace and amazing scenery together. It really was a wonderful end to a truly memorable Valentine’s Day on the other side of the world to home!


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Queenstown Sunsets

Sunset in Queenstown

We have sadly left Queenstown now after living there in an amazing apartment overlooking the lake for a month. Both myself and my husband worked from home – John doing his software development job and me continuing to work on setting up my own business (off-the-beaten-track travel consultancy Blue Penguin Travel). It was a wonderful location to work from and we were incredibly lucky to have beautiful unspoilt hot weather for the last two weeks of our stay there. We enjoyed exploring at weekends and evening walks along the Frankton arm – especially to enjoy the sunsets. Queenstown sunsets are amongst some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, so I have included a selection below (along with a couple of shots of the moon!).

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Swimming in Lake Wakatipu

Sunday 27th January – Queenstown

Swimming in Lake Wakatipu

Enjoying the sunshineA little delayed in posting, but wanted to make sure I included a highlight of our time in Queenstown – swimming in the glacial lake – Lake Wakatipu. It was one hot Sunday and we decided to cool off in the lake! The lake is fed by water from the glaciers so it very cold (it was about 11 degrees when we swam in it!). We managed about 15 minutes and it was freezing but fun 🙂 This was in the midst of a couple of weeks of unbroken beautiful sunshine and hot weather in Queenstown, which we made the most of.

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Glenorchy and Waiheke adventures to come!

GlenorchyWe have now sorted out our accommodation for the next few months and are really looking forward to it. We leave Queenstown on Tues Feb 5th and up until a few days ago had no where else to stay! But after much research and thought we have worked out our plans and booked everything. February is still a really busy month in Queenstown and there was very little availability. So we have decided to hire a car and rent a lovely holiday house called Mountain View Cottage in Glenorchy (one of our absolutely favourite places) at an incredibly good reduced rate (about $70 a night!). We will stay here for just over 3 weeks. Glenorchy is a small quaint place and we love its beauty and quiet. It is also only a 45 minute drive from Queenstown so we can pop in whenever we want.

Waiheke IslandFollowing that we will then fly up to Auckland before taking the ferry over to Waiheke Island. We have only spent a day on Waiheke before but absolutely loved it. Despite not being far from Auckland it really is a whole world away. We wanted to see what it would be like staying on Waiheke for a longer period of time (also to consider whether it is an option longer term for the future). We found a lovely cottage online called Tui Cottage and after communicating with the lovely owners we have booked it for 5 weeks (again at a fantastic weekly rate, saving money on a usually expensive nightly rate!). We can’t wait to explore the island some more, take lots of walks and get used to Waiheke life! John currently has further work from home for Feb and potentially March and I am working on setting up my own business. It is great we have the flexibility to live wherever we want, and hope to make the best of this time. Roll on Glenorchy and Waiheke!

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A month in Queenstown – living the dream!

Tuesday 8th January – Tuesday 5th February: Queenstown

From the top of Queenstown Hill

IMG_9062So the next part of our adventure is upon us. Following our travels over Christmas and New Year we are now two weeks into spending a month in Queenstown. Before Christmas John arranged with the company he had been working for in Auckland to work from home for a month. We decided it would be brilliant to be able to live in Queenstown and work from home with a lake view (a dream of ours!). So we made it happen! I researched places to stay and as our previous experience in Auckland showed the only option was a reduced nightly rental at apartment (as longer stay places required a minimum of 6 months). Rainbow taken from apartmentWe settled on Oaks Shores apartments, and on arrival at Queenstown we were allocated (in our view) one of the best rooms in the whole complex! We are on level 5 right on the lake front with a huge balcony – see photograph. The apartment itself is also really large with a full kitchen and laundry facilities – perfect for a month-long stay.

We have been working in the days on both our jobs – John on his IT contract work, and I am continuing work on setting up my travel consultancy business (Blue Penguin Travel). Yet we have also tried to make the most of all of our time here, as we know we are really lucky to be living the dream.

Having already been up on the gondola and visited the kiwi park a few times before we were hoping to do some different things in Queenstown. Things we have done so far (two weeks in to our stay):

IMG_9368We climbed Queenstown Hill – we walked to the summit (906m) all the way from our apartment on Oaks Shores. It was a long way (just getting to the start of the walk from there) and then climbed all the way up. The views were incredible – and you had a full 360 degree panorama. It was definitely worth the walk up there!

Mini golf in QueenstownWe played mini golf – I used my free game voucher I got from when we played over Christmas (for getting a hole in one one the last hole) and we really enjoyed playing again. It’s a great course and John won!



IMG_9569We walked around Lake Hayes – we drove up to Lake Hayes, parked at Lake Hayes pavillion, which is just off the SH6 and spent a few hours walking around the lake. The walk is just over 7km long. The majority of the walk is flat, with a few climbs and drops. There are some benches around the lake too and lots of nice places for a picnic spot.

IMG_9708We drove up to Coronet Peak – we took this scenic drive up to the popular ski resort (currently shut at the moment) for amazing views over Queenstown and the surrounding area. The drive up there is pretty steep but the views are brilliant and it is really worth it. Coming back down the views are even better as the landscape stretches out in front of you.

Arrowtown Chinese SettlementWe visited Arrowtown – John ate one of Arrowtown Bakery’s famous pies and we took a lovely walk around the old Chinese settlement.




IMG_9843We visited Kingston – and were very lucky to see the steam train arrive at the station just as we arrived at Kingston. It is a beautiful little town right at the end of Lake Wakatipu.


  • We drove to Glenorchy and spent time there – the drive is one of our favourites, and we also love to stop at Wisons Bay along the way.
  • We ate at Winnies – a favourite place of ours where the pizza is delicious!
  • We enjoyed a nice ice cream on the waterfront from Patagonias.
  • We ate fish and chips from British fish and chip shop ‘PJs’.
  • We also walked Frankton arm walkway – this is a common walk for us now as it takes us from our apartment into town.

With another two weeks left in Queenstown we are looking forward to exploring more, having more adventures and continuing to live the dream! 🙂

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A remote adventure a step too far?

Saturday 29th December – Monday 31st December: Braemer/Queenstown


IMG_7767Having very sadly said goodbye to my parents who were visiting from the UK for Christmas we headed to our next accommodation – which was along a long gravel road alongside Lake Pukaki (the opposite side to Mount Cook) to a place called Braemer. We had hired a cottage here thinking it would be brilliant to be in the middle of nowhere overlooking our favourite New Zealand lake. Yet slightly worried that as the place was a bargain it might be a little scary. The journey there was firstly quite a trek (including fording a thankfully shallow river, in our little Yaris!) and on arrival our fears were realised. The setting of the house was clearly stunning, but inside the property was a different story altogether. The house gave a new meaning to the word ‘rustic’! It was very old fashioned, and pretty smelly! We discovered mouse traps (thankfully empty) and various oddities about the house which made it very difficult to live in. We were also very very isolated, and still feeling sad from saying goodbye to my parents this perhaps wasn’t the best place to be. We were about an hour’s drive from any kind of civilisation.


We did take a short walk down to a beautiful beach just a short walk from the house. But to make things worse the weather turned on us, with torrential rain and crazy howling winds. With the location and build of the house it didn’t seem well built to cope and I was kept awake all night listening to the extreme weather and worrying about blowing away!We actually made a decision that evening to look for somewhere else to stay, as just felt this adventure was one step too far. We found a lovely room last minute at the Heritage hotel in Queenstown.


So we awoke early on Sunday – to more crazy rain – and worrying about having to ford the river to get back to the main road made a quick getaway heading for Queenstown.

We enjoyed the drive back, stopping at Omarama for food, and at Roaring Meg close to Queenstown. On checking in at the Heritage Hotel we were kindly upgraded to a lovely suite, with a gorgeous lakefront location and view! We were very lucky and felt much happier here and got a good night’s sleep. The next morning we awoke and headed to the airport excited to fly up to the middle of middle-earth (Wellington) for New Years.


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An unforgettable Queenstown family Christmas

Monday 24th December to Friday 28th December: A Queenstown Christmas with the Kinnies and Barnards


IMG_2012So . . . we have just had the best Christmas of our lives, and are recovering from the amazing and incredible time we had with my parents visiting from the UK and my sister, Kat, visiting from Sydney. Following mine and John’s move over to NZ in Sept – to stay for a year – my parents had always thought they might come over for Christmas once everyone’s plans of where they would be were a bit more certain. This wasn’t actually until Nov 10th, when my parents decided they were definitely going to fly over – pretty last minute! A crazily busy time followed with flight research, bookings (at a fairly hefty price for them for that time of year!), along with huge amounts of research for a great place to stay in over Christmas and an itinerary for my parents for their second week here. As well as details for my sister’s flights, and our own itinerary for our two week break including Christmas in Queenstown. Thankfully I LOVE this sort of thing, and relish in all the research and information gathering, and we all worked incredibly hard to arrange everything. This also cemented in my own head that my choice to start my own travel research consultancy business – specialising in off-the-beaten track travel to and around New Zealand – which is a work in progress – was definitely the right one!

IMG_6780The day arrived – Monday 24th December. This followed two fairly frenetic trips to New World by myself and John to buy enough food to feed a lot of families (or so it seemed!), but armed with a list from my Mum and a turkey already on pre-order from an incredibly helpful store manager at New World – we did really well. On arriving at the house we had booked we were thrilled with the amazing view from the house, which directly overlooked Lake Wakatipu. It had a gorgeous deck which we could sit out on and enjoy the views, and was beautifully furnished and really perfect for us all. A trip to Warehouse for last minute Christmas decorations soon ‘Christmassed’ it up – as it was completed with tree, decorations, paper chains and merry Christmas sign (plus our pictured Christmas hats!).

IMG_2040We headed off to the airport to surprise Mum, Dad and Kat and were so happy to see them. We picked up the hire car and headed back to the house. Over the course of the week we had the most wonderful time all together. We enjoyed a fantastic Christmas day, which included opening pressies and a delicious proper UK Christmas dinner cooked by my amazing Mum. We also enjoyed the gorgeous walks around the lake, watched the sun set, played mini golf (which was great fun), went up the gondola to see great views of Queenstown, went to the Kiwi Birdlife park – and saw lots of lovely active kiwis, watched some films, and took a brilliant trip on the T.S.S Earnslaw. As well as spending lots of quality time together catching up. We were also really lucky with the weather, as it was boiling hot and beautifully sunny most of the time. Friday 28th December was soon sadly upon us and the time had come for us to say goodbye. Both myself, John and Kat were going to catch up with Mum and Dad later on their holiday, but still our Christmas time in Queenstown had come to an end. We had such special amazing memories though and will never forget 🙂


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Family Queenstown Christmas starts today!

Monday 24th of December – the family arrive!

Queenstown Christmas

I haven’t posted in a while as we have enjoyed an amazing pre-Christmas break in Glenorchy. We were lucky enough to do the Dart River Jet Safari in amazing weather – which was incredible! I will post retrospectively about that when I get better internet again.

My parents and sister are flying in today and we really can’t wait!! My parents are coming all the way from the UK and my sister from Sydney (where she is currently living). We are renting an amazing town house in the centre of Queenstown overlooking Lake Wakatipu – with the above stunning view from the living room. We arrived here yesterday after doing the final Christmas food shop.

Everyone arrives in just a few hours, so we have been decorating and getting the house ready. It’s been ages since we have seen everyone, so really can’t wait and are really looking forward to spending Christmas all together. It is supposed to be very hot here today in Queenstown – around 31 degrees celsius!! So it will certainly be a summery and traditional kiwi Christmas.

Roll on our Kiwi family Christmas! 🙂

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