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Category Archives: New Zealand
I've been invited to share three things I love about my favourite city, as part of Accor Hotels 'A Tale of Three Cities' promotion.
My favourite city in the world? This has had me thinking for quite some time - there are so many cities I love, how on earth can I pick a favourite!
Despite leaving New Zealand to travel the globe, I am a proud Kiwi and love my home country to bits. So of course my favourite city has to be in New Zealand! But I have already lived in four different New Zealand cities, and loved each of them for different reasons, so how would I be able to choose?
Not to worry, guys - I managed to figure it out. Despite being very partial to my hometown of Nelson, before I left to go travelling I lived in Christchurch for 1.5 years and found so many things I love about that little city that I simply have to share with you.
With a population of around 400,000, Christchurch is New Zealand's third-largest city, though compared with many cities of the world it is just teeny-tiny!
A little story before I convince you Christchurch is worth a visit...
Just the other day I was chatting to a European traveller who had spent a couple of months travelling around New Zealand a couple of years ago. He was advised by many travellers not to bother going to Christchurch, especially since the devastating 2011 earthquake (which destroyed the entire central city and very sadly killed 185 people). Ignoring the advice he was given, the traveller I was speaking with visited Christchurch anyway and loved it there - of course I absolutely agree with him, Christchurch is an incredible city!
Read on for three (of many!) reasons why I love Christchurch, New Zealand.
1. It is New Zealand's 'Garden City'
Christchurch is not nicknamed 'Garden City' for no reason! There are a number of parks and gardens in and around the city. Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens are both in the central city and can be enjoyed any time of the year. In fact, I used to spend half an hour wandering through the Botanic Gardens nearly every single day on my lunch break and would always return to the office feeling refreshed and revived.
Perhaps my very favourite area is the Daffodil Woodland during spring - vibrant yellow flowers peeking out of the lush green grass in every direction you look.
You can download a walking guide to the Botanic Gardens here, so you don't miss any of the stunning foliage the gardens have on show!
2. The Creative Temporary Inner-City
When I lived in Christchurch I worked in the inner city, an area that as I mentioned above was almost completely devastated by the earthquakes. The city centre continues to be in a constant state of change - buildings coming down, new buildings going up - meaning there are many empty sites all around the city as businesses slowly trickle back into the CBD during this lengthy rebuild phase.
You may have heard of the Re:Start Container Mall, which is a shopping area built entirely out of shipping containers! Along with the nearby iconic Ballantynes Department Store, it is now one of the city centre's most popular destinations.
There is also an initiative called Gap Filler which is AWESOME. They have helped create fun and build hope in this destroyed city, with creative, colourful and exciting 'gap fillers' to make the most of empty lots and turn them into something engaging.
"Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative that temporarily activates vacant sites within Christchurch with cool and creative projects, to make for a more interesting and vibrant city.
We utilise vacant sites and spaces for temporary, creative, people-centred purposes. We work with local community groups, artists, architects, landowners, librarians, designers, students, engineers, dancers – anyone with an idea and initiative."
Perhaps my favourite Gap Filler was the Pallet Pavillion which was a semi-permanent events venue built from, yup you guessed it, pallets! I went to Christchurch's Holi festival there and it was brilliant. I also love the different art installations around town, which add colour and vibrancy to the CBD. There is now a cool Gap Filler called The Commons which holds all sorts of events and is dubbed a "hub of transitional activity", in fact I believe the Holi festival will be held there this year instead.
3. Nearby to Nature
It is true that no matter where you are in New Zealand, you are never very far from being able to completely submerge yourself in nature. From my humble opinion, Christchurch is one of the best places in the country to base yourself for tonnes of fun outdoor activities in the midst of nature.
Probably my most favourite (and FREE!) activity EVER is Cave Stream, about an hour's drive from Christchurch. Like the name suggests, this is essentially a pitch-black cave with a stream running through it, including a 3-metre waterfall! You wade in one end and out the other - 362 metres later! Take a headlamp, some buddies and some courage, and venture through! Use your common sense and don't go after it has been raining or the forecast is for rain, don't go unprepared, and always tell someone where you are going - this is a dangerous activity, don't say I didn't warn you! Read this for more information.
Other favourite activities of mine within a one-hour or so drive of Christchurch are...
Castle Hill - a series of incredible rock formations to explore, nearby Cave Stream.
Ashley Gorge - this is a great spot for camping and summer picnics!
The Port Hills, near the central city and home to my favourite Rapaki Track.
Amberley Beach - a small camping spot run by an honesty-box system. Not to mention they do not skimp on ice cream scoops in this little community so be sure to get your compulsory NZ Hokey Pokey ice cream fix here!
Skiing at Mt Hutt
Taylor's Mistake - a picturesque beach and the starting point for an incredible coastal walk.
Oh, I could go on! There you have it - three things I love about Christchurch. A city that has changed so much over the last few years, and will continue to change into the future. A beautiful city of hope, of adventure and creativity, thats only going to get better!
Thank you, Accor Hotels, for reminding me why I love my favourite city so much.
Share something you love about your favourite city in the comments!
As part of the Booked.net - Top Destinations to Go There promotion, I've been invited to share five of my favourite destinations that I've been before and would love to revisit. I thought this was going to be easy, but as I reminisced over wonderful travel memories, narrowing down my favourites proved to be quite the challenge!
Don't stress guys, it sure was tough but I managed to reduce it down to my top 5...in no particular order - that would be way too hard to decide!
1. Palawan, the Philippines
Palawan, a province in the west of the Philippines, probably didn't know what had hit it when four of us on a girl's trip explored the region for three weeks a couple of years back. We spent our days island-hopping from one pristine beach to the next, and danced the nights away drinking copious amounts of pineapple juice with local coconut rum. Throw in a bit of music on the beach and a midnight swim or two, and you have the recipe for what might be the most perfect girls' trip ever. We need to plan a reunion, asap!
2. Langkawi, Malaysia
Even though I was on this beautiful island just a mere few weeks ago, I'm already thinking about when I will revisit Langkawi. To me, Langkawi was paradise! Perfect beaches, incredible waterfalls, easy roads for scootering around but rugged enough that you feel like you're truly discovering the island. We spent nine glorious nights there and I can't even begin to explain how sad I was to leave. Langkawi is the kind of place that you lose track of time in the best way possible, I've never felt so relaxed in my life as I was there.
3. Tortuguero, Costa Rica
It takes a long time to get to Tortuguero village, a tiny and remote township on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. This peaceful part of the world has no cars, let alone roads, so you get around by boat and foot. Tortuguero was a wonderful place to recharge, with serene landscapes, lush jungle and plenty of wildlife. As the name suggests, Tortuguero is known for the beach on one side of the village where thousands of sea turtles visit to lay their eggs every year. Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time of year to have much chance of seeing turtles, so I'd love to revisit Tortuguero to see the baby turtles waddling down the beach!
India had me captivated since I first ever visited when I was 14, spending a week in Mumbai with my family. I've already revisited as an adult when I backpacked through the country with some friends and my brother two years ago. Despite spending nearly two months there and loving it, I'm desperate to go back again (and I'm sure again and again after that!). India is such an enormous country that I still feel as though I've barely scratched the surface - I'm yet to visit Hampi, Darjeeling, Pondicherry, much of Goa, the list goes on! India is on our travel radar next year, and I can't wait!
5. Milford Sound, New Zealand
Before I visited earlier this year, I had never been to Milford Sound! As one of New Zealand's most popular tourist destinations I was more than excited to visit, and was certainly not disappointed - Milford Sound is stunning! We visited on a wet April day, though Milford Sound is one of those wonderful places where its better to visit when its raining, as the waterfalls become even more impressive. Mind you, its not hard to get to Milford on a rainy day as it is one of the rainiest places on earth! Such a spectacular and serene landscape, I need to get back to convince myself this place is real - its that beautiful.
I'm nominating the following five travel bloggers to share their top five destinations they would love to return to - can't wait to see where you pick! Petra & Shaun of The Global Couple, Leanne of Broke in the Big Smoke, Greg & Katy of Our Dream Adventure, Alissa of The Living Spree, Sara of Big World, Small Me.
Click here for more info on this promotion.
I'd love to know - where have you visited that you would love to return to?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, beach, Costa Rica, dreams, India, inspiration, life, Malaysia, New Zealand, Palawan, The Philippines, travel
Whilst for most of our South Island road trip we were blessed with dry weather, it was a very wet start to our day in Milford Sound, down in the far south of New Zealand in Fiordland. Usually, rain wouldn’t be a reason to smile – but for Milford it is! Milford is one of the wettest places on earth, with about 220 days and 7 metres of rain each year…that’s a lot!
Although a clearer day would have been great for photos, the rain creates what are called ‘temporary waterfalls’ i.e. waterfalls that only exist after bouts of rain, and cascade gracefully down the cliff-face, which make for spectacular scenery and good fun spotting out of the car window!
Many do like we did, and make Milford Sound a day trip from accommodation base in Te Anau. Milford is about 120km from Te Anau but takes a good 2 hours (or more) because the road gets fairly windy and narrow, plus its pretty common to get stuck behind tour buses which can be difficult to pass along the way.
But its okay, you’re not in any rush because there are plenty of scenic stops to be made on the journey – lakes, waterfalls and an exciting cave-like tunnel to look forward to as you descend down into Milford. Despite the rain and chill in the air on the day we visited (April) we rugged up warm and made a couple of scenic pit-stops!
Mirror Lakes is about halfway between Te Anau and Milford. The idea is that the lakes are so clear and still that everything above the water line is reflected in the water below. Unfortunately a wet day is not the best for the Mirror Lakes as the raindrops disrupt the mirror effect…
…but we still had great fun watching the ducks diving beneath the water for their food, and we spotted a massive trout!
My favourite stop was The Chasm – a series of powerful waterfalls. We threw a stick in to see how far it would go down, it was immediately swallowed by the thundery water below….you certainly wouldn’t want to fall in there!
Ten or so minutes before you get to Milford, the Homer Tunnel is good fun to drive through.
We arrived around lunchtime and after a quick bite to eat we checked in for the 2.5 hour long Nature Cruise we had booked with Real Journeys. We had such a cool boat: The Milford Mariner!
The guide on the cruise was pretty knowledgeable (and also pretty funny). I learnt plenty – one interesting fact being that despite there being so many trees growing on the mountains/cliffs, there is no topsoil! Therefore most of the trees are rooted into the moss – which can be up to 6m deep – and the roots are all interconnected to each other beneath the moss to create some kind of stability. This can cause problems – if one tree slips it can cause a domino effect as it brings down the rest of the trees it is connected to, in what is known as a ‘tree avalanche’. Interesting, huh?
We cruised right out to where Milford Sound meets the Tasman Sea, where we ran into a few rolling waves which made for a bit of a rollercoaster effect – it was fun!
We saw plenty of seals, and even had a pod of dolphins swimming beside the boat at one stage.
The boat was steered beneath waterfalls where we were showered with spray - it was a very fun, interactive cruise!
Whoever thinks that rain can ruin a trip needs to go to visit Milford Sound - in my opinion it is the perfect way to spend a rainy day.
Top tips for a day trip to Milford Sound
- Pack a waterproof jacket – chances are, it will rain!
- Wear warm clothes – polyprop, scarf, thick socks, beanie. Lots of layers!
- Bring your lunch, snacks and a water bottle (you can pre-order a lunch pack on the boat but much cheaper to just pack and bring with you).
- Take a camera, and perhaps something waterproof to stash it into if you want to take photos near the waterfalls!
Have you visited Milford Sound? Would you like to?
Arrowtown is SUCH a pretty place, guys.
Far away near the bottom of the South Island, Arrowtown has an incredibly rich history – literally, rich in gold! Gold was first discovered in Arrowtown in 1861 and within years was stripped almost bare of the rich mineral. These days, Arrowtown makes for a peaceful holiday spot amidst beautiful and interesting surroundings.
Here’s how to spend an afternoon in the picturesque village of Arrowtown:
1. Begin with a cheese roll at Jonesey’s Cafe. You’re down south now team, Cheese Rolls will appear in cafes everywhere! Jonesey’s serve giant cheese rolls, like nothing you will have ever seen before. They are award-winning, too!
Will put a smile on your dial for sure.
2. Stroll around the Chinese Village and learn all about the Chinese settlers that came in the 1800’s for the gold rush – and worked in extremely tough conditions to earn enough to make a better life for their families.
3. Pan for gold – have your own real New Zealand ‘goldrush’ experience! Guaranteed to leave with a few flecks of gold of your own, its a worthwhile way to spend 20 or 30 minutes of your day.
4. Wander up and down the main street, admiring the colonial architecture and the town’s stunning alpine backdrop. Check out the shops too for some cute souvenirs and gifts.
5. Visit The Remarkable Sweet Shop! Its amazing. And top up with some lollies for the next leg of your journey!
We visited in Autumn, which was absolutely beautiful with the leaves changing colour all around us – but Arrowtown is beautiful any time of year!
How to get there: Arrowtown is a 15 minute drive from Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island.
Have you visited Arrowtown?
One thing I have made a resolution to do is see more of my own country. Considering the fact that Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations, and I hadn’t been since I was a kid, it quickly made it to the top of our list for a bit of an Easter Weekend road trip.
In hindsight, perhaps Easter Weekend wasn’t the best choice, because it most certainly seemed to be everybody else’s! Queenstown was PACKED, guys. But we were on holiday and chilled out – though some places we busier than they usually might be, we still had an amaaaazing time!
Here’s some of the things we did that should be on your list in Queenstown:
Skyline Gondola and Luge – Head up the Gondola for a morning/afternoon, and add on a few luge rides for fun. We bought the Gondola + 5 luge ride package for $50. The luge is super fun! We were there on the busiest day of the year (they had so many people they ran out of helmets!) and it took us a good 3 hours or more to complete our 5 rides, however on a normal day you will do your 5 rides in an hour or so. Tip: grab some lunch before or after you go up, food at the top is pricey!
XD Theatre – A family-run business offering a couple of types of simulators, great for a rainy day or to pass a bit of time. Our favourite was the 7D simulator where you had to shoot the zombies…even though I came second to last it was still fun! Again, pricey - $30 a pop or $45 for two rides. But it was good fun!
Hot Chocolate or Gelato at Patagonia – Patagonia Chocolate shop is a bit of a destination in Queenstown. They serve real hot chocolate, as in delicious dark chocolate melted into hot milk. YUM! We went for the hot chocolate because the fresh evening air was chilly, but their range of gelato looked incredible too – if only it was a few degrees warmer!
Walk around Kelvin Heights – Kelvin Heights is on the other side of Frankton, a peninsula jutting out on the other side of the lake from Queenstown. We went for a drive and ended up strolling right around the golf course (perhaps 2-3km) and had a lot of fun involving an old boat ramp, jetty’s rope swings…and miniature Chihuahuas (OHMYGOSH SO CUTE). Beautiful views across the lake.
Day trip to Arrowtown – Just a 15 minute or so drive away, Arrowtown is an absolutely picturesque town to visit for a morning or afternoon. Head there for lunch in one of its many cafes, and spend a couple of hours wandering the streets exploring its golden history.
And some things we didn’t do that should be on your list:
Shotover Jet – Not only was this super busy when we were there but it is also very expensive! At $129 a pop for a 25 minute ride, we simply couldn’t justify the cost (in cut-back mode, we are off to Costa Rica in May!). However, from what I have heard it is super thrilling! The Shotover Jet is the only jetboat that does full 360* spins and has exclusive access to the Shotover Canyon – if you can afford it, it is highly recommended!
Bungee Jump – There are plenty of bungee options in Queenstown, just be sure to book in advance if you are there over a busy period. When we were up the Gondola the bungee up there was fully booked – however the bottom of the luge is a great viewing platform to watch them jump off. I enjoy the thrill of watching others do it but don’t know if I could do that to myself…!
Ice Bar – Another Queenstown institution – the Ice Bar. There are actually two Ice Bars in Queenstown- yep, that's right a bar in which everything is made from ice. From what I’ve heard they are fun for about 15 minutes or so before you get cold and over it – but worth it for the novelty! We didn’t make it but I will probably go to an Ice Bar next time.
Fergburger – Not so much fine dining, but perhaps the most popular burger bar in New Zealand – if you don’t mind waiting in a queue at least 15 people deep. I hear its delicious, but when I’m hungry I don’t have the patience to wait in a line that long..!
Where we stayed:
Kawerau by Hilton, in the Hilton complex in Frankton. $118 per night. Great if you have a car, perhaps stay closer if you don’t. There is a water taxi that zips you into town but its $10 each way which adds up quickly and it is not very regular (doesn't run after 9.30pm).
Its no secret that Queenstown is a very expensive city. Make sure you go with that in mind. Book accommodation well in advance, and go with the expectation you are going to burn through a bit of cash. No regrets, right? Also - call up and confirm your booking a day in advance, just to be safe.
Queenstown is such a beautiful area of New Zealand! Have you visited Queenstown?
Last week, the New York Times published this article on their 52 Places to Go in 2014. 52 - that’s one a week, right?!
I feel lucky to live in #2 on the list: Christchurch!
What they say about Christchurch...
"Three years after two large earthquakes devastated central Christchurch, the city is experiencing a rebirth with creativity and wit — thanks to the ingenuity of its hardy residents — and is welcoming tourists back again. Though much of the central city has yet to be rebuilt, entrepreneurs and volunteers are finding surprising ways to make temporary use of empty lots and bring life back to the downtown. The Gap Filler program, begun a couple of months after the first quake in September 2010 and expanded after a more destructive second quake in February 2011, has created an open-air performance space made of blue pallets, a dance floor with coin-operated music and lights, and even a nine-hole mini-golf course in vacant lots across the city. The Greening the Rubble campaign has since the 2010 quake been planting temporary gardens on the sites of demolished buildings. To replace the destroyed 19th-century ChristChurch Cathedral, a magnificent transitional church by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban opened in August with sturdy cardboard tubes for the roof. Businesses are also trickling back downtown. One bar, built inside shipping containers, has a name that encapsulates the spirit of the entire city: Revival."
- Justin Bergman
Christchurch has been hugely impacted by the earthquakes, to an extent that I simply cannot describe in words - but as the article depicts, our city is growing back in such a creative and exciting way!
There are so many places on the list I would love to go. Ummm…how about all 52 of them! But right up there at the top of the list…
- Ethiopia. It would be so different and interesting and wonderful. Plus, Ethiopian food looks deliciously unique.
- Nashville, Tennessee. "Leather jackets and skinny jeans join cowboy boots." Yes please!
- Uraguayan Riviera. Doesn't this sound like perfection? A little bit off the beaten track, a little bit of beach, and a whole lot of amazing.
- Chennai, India. Because I am obsessed with India, I LOVE it. I have only been through the airport in Chennai, I was so disappointed not to be able to explore!
- Krabi, Thailand. One word - glorious!
- Mekong River. I've done a day trip in the Mekong Delta before when I was in Vietnam just over a year ago. The sound of a 7 day sailing from Vietnam to Cambodia is utterly tempting!
- Athens, Greece. Where I would eat feta and olives and drink ouzo all day and live happily ever after.
- Nepal. Mountains and beauty and wonder and a country I dream of exploring!
Oh lets be honest, I'd like to go everywhere.
What is on your travel wishlist this year? Have you visited any countries on the NY Times list?