20 wild photos from the Wanaka flood in New Zealand


This spring in New Zealand has been a wild one, bringing on a flood in Wanaka.

Here in Wanaka, where I call home, in the heart of the Southern Alps, it’s been raining, raining and raining some more.

Considering it’s usually hot and dry and cold and dry as a general rule, this is rather unusual. Spring is generally windy but warm, teasing us for a beautiful summer ahead.

For all my fellow northern hemisphere inhabitants, spring in New Zealand runs from September to November.

With the snowmelt that feeds into the rivers, the lake level was already high.

Two weeks ago, the typically white beaches that outline our stunning Lake Wanaka were completely submerged beneath shimmering blue water, with the iconic Clutha River running high and fast.

Our mountains were bright green, lush and verdant, an unusual sight, but one that I love. Usually, a dry part of the country, come springtime our hills and valleys generally turn green with the snowmelt.

And then a week ago it began to rain properly. And I mean torrential rain for days, the likes of which we don’t usually see.

Cue the latest Wanaka flood.

Lake Wanaka has a history of flooding since the town was founded. Everyone was wondering if this year’s flood would top the 1999 flood when the lake came up so far that the New World was a meter underwater.

wanaka flood

Lucky for us, the rain has stopped just in time, as the water was spilling across the main road and lapping at the quickly stacked sandbags across the lakefront shops. Phew!

While the vibe of Wanaka is changing fast as the world catches on to how cool this wee mountain town of New Zealand is, the pride of the locals still runs deep. With everyone rallying together to protect the downtown and prep for the flood, it raised my spirits to see the community passion still alive and kicking.

Anyone who has ever visited Wanaka knows it’s unique.

wanaka flood

As the rain briefly stopped on Wednesday, December 4th, I made my way to the lakefront to have a good look at the state of affairs. The water was lapping over park benches, the jetties were gone, and the lakefront parking lot was covered in driftwood.

The clouds momentarily lifted, revealing snowcapped mountains and thundering waterfalls.

And our iconic Wanaka Tree, the infamous willow tree in the lake, looked like it needed a snorkel.

wanaka flood

Not only were all our beaches gone, but the lake was ever so slowly creeping across the grass towards the town in Wanaka.

Curious, I drove out to Treble Cone towards the Matukituki Valley, and I wasn’t disappointed.

By Glendhu Bay, the water was already spilling over onto the road. The waterfalls were thundering, much bigger than usual. The small wooden bridge in West Wanaka, which straddles the Matukituki River was shaking; brown water rushed down from the mountains into the lake.

It was terrifying, and I quickly returned home. A few hours later, the road was closed off from flooding.

wanaka flood

With the South Island doused in the rain, washing away roads and bridges this spring, it’s put it into a stark reminder that we are at the mercy of mother nature down here, especially in the mountains.

New Zealand is still a wild place, with big mountains, glacial rivers, and waterfalls galore. Hello, that’s why we all want to visit here. But it comes with a price. Mountain weather can be intense, and when it comes knocking, we have to listen.

It’s not all that uncommon for big storms to close roads and impact travel on the South Island. It’s happened a handful of times around Wanaka since I moved here six years ago.

If you’re planning to travel around New Zealand, I recommend checking NZTA’s (New Zealand Transport Agency) website for the most up-to-date maps on road closures.

wanaka flood

Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red

Usually, I’m not the kind of person who goes out to photograph something like this. When I’m home, I am not always inclined to pick up my camera. For the past few years, camera = work.

But I’m hoping to feel more inspired this year. I’m looking to challenge myself to take photos of things I might normally would otherwise. So it was time to drag my lazy bum off the sofa and have a little look at what our lake was up to. Camera in hand and with no agenda, I headed to the lake

Here are some photos from the Wanaka flood this year.

Have you ever experienced a flood on your travels? Have you seen anything like this? Any stories from the Wanaka flood to spill? Share!

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

wanaka flood

The post 20 wild photos from the Wanaka flood in New Zealand appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red


One of my favorite parts about the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island is my proximity to glaciers. Growing up in suburban Virginia, I never really experienced mountains of this scale before – and now I’m hooked.

Living in Wanaka, the heart of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and a peaceful lakeside mountain town, I’ve spent a lot of time in our neighboring national park – Mt. Aspiring.

Mount Aspiring National Park is a magical mix of remote high country wilderness, big mountains, and stunning river valleys. Home to over a hundred glaciers, it’s a place straight from the Lord of the Rings – literally. Every time I explore Mt. Aspiring, it takes my breath away.

But a new phenomenon has arrived in New Zealand – for the past couple of weeks, the smoke and dust from the unprecedented bushfires in Australia have arrived in New Zealand.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

I was away from Wanaka when I started to see posts from all my Wanaka friends on social media about their cars coated with thick red dust. It seems the devastating effects of the immense wildfires in Australia have made their way here.

As hundreds of uncontrolled fires burn across New South Wales and the Queensland coastlines in Australia, the wind has carried the smoke, ash, and dust thousands of kilometers across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.

For days our usually clear skies were hazy, a bizarre thing to witness.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

As the sky turned an ominous yellow haze, the smoke blanketed towns all across the South Island before eventually clearing up a few days later as the winds changed.

We carried on with our normalcy and routines, luckily free from the horrors of fires (at present). But as I journeyed back into Mt. Aspiring National Park last Friday, I noticed something unusual.

Why did the glaciers appear to be red?

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Hopping on a last-minute scenic helicopter flight with Wanaka Helicopters out to see the glaciers around Mt. Aspiring, I was fizzing with excitement as I piled into the front seat on one of those calm, spring mornings.

We’ve had a crazy amount of rain this springtime in Wanaka, so much rain in fact that the lake is high. Normally quite dry on this side of the mountains, everyone is worried the town might flood this week as more rain is on the way.

Right now is the perfect time for a scenic flight around Wanaka, and it’s definitely the most colorful time of year. The valleys are bright green with all of the rainfall, and there is still snow on the mountaintops. For photographers like me, we froth on these colors.

australia fire new zealand

As the snow melts and the mountains are pounded with massive rainfalls, hundreds of temporary waterfalls gush down from the glaciers in a scene out of a movie. It doesn’t look real.

Taking off from the Wanaka airport on a morning Amazing Aspiring scenic heli flight, conditions were just magical. No wind, blue skies, and warm air, spring was in the air, and I was itching to take in my favorite mountains again.

Zooming out over the town and down the iconic Matukituki Valley, I could see the river was pumping, and the lake was high, while the stunning peak of Mt. Aspiring twinkled in the distance.

And as we got closer and closer towards the first of the mighty glaciers, I pulled my sunglasses off to wipe them. Did I see things, or did the snow look, well, a bit red?

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

From far away, the glaciers looked almost dirty, a sooty look they often get at the end of a hot summer as the ice melts and rock tumbles down onto the ice in certain places. But it was springtime, and the snows were beginning to melt. What’s the deal?

Chatting with the pilot, I realized this phenomenon was tied to the raging wildfires plaguing the east coast of Australia. The recent westerlies brought a red haze and smoke across the pond here to New Zealand.

As the dust settled across the South Island, it coated our glaciers in a layer of red too.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

How crazy is that?

While I’m no scientist, I wonder this layer of red will exist in the ice to tell the story of the bushfires in a thousand years? The same way we could see the ash layers from ancient volcanic eruptions around the world now?

Curious. Curious.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

As a frequent visitor to Mt. Aspiring, and flying as often as I can around these big mountains I call home, it was unusual and exciting to see something rare and different. How crazy is it that we can see the impact of fires in Australia here in New Zealand?!

It’s pretty remarkable to see the impact of the fires from so far away.

Our glaciers don’t need any more battles as they are already truly endangered; it puts the impact of climate change into even more stark reality we can’t ignore.

This will cause our glaciers to melt even faster due to the obstruction of the ice-albedo effect – where shiny glaciers reflect energy into space. Someone correct me, but this is how I understand it to work; the red dust is now covering the usually reflective glacial ice, causing the glaciers to melt faster. Ah, science!

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Cue the anti-climate change propaganda. Though I would be heartily surprised if there were any non-science believers still on my blog.

The higher temperatures caused by climate change allows for more dryness and worse fire seasons in Australia especially. Greenhouse gas emissions have a direct impact on increased temperatures, which equates to increased dryness.

Climate change definitely makes bushfires worse.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Nothing really puts into perspective both the immensity of our mountains quite like a helicopter flight. It shows just how fragile they are. Especially when you see the impact of something so massive here in New Zealand.

I want everyone to be able to experience the joy and euphoria that comes from these wild spaces. I want to preserve our glaciers for generations to come. It breaks my heart to see the devastation both directly in Australia but also high on our precious mountains here in New Zealand.

Good luck to everyone working hard to stop this.

Have you ever seen anything like this? Have you experienced the effects of wildfires before? I’m curious, share if you don’t mind.

australia fire new zealand

Many thanks to Wanaka Helicopters for showing me around my favorite mountains. Like always, I’m keeping it real – as if you could expect less from me!

The post Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red


One of my favorite parts about the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island is my proximity to glaciers. Growing up in suburban Virginia, I never really experienced mountains of this scale before – and now I’m hooked.

Living in Wanaka, the heart of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and a peaceful lakeside mountain town, I’ve spent a lot of time in our neighboring national park – Mt. Aspiring.

Mount Aspiring National Park is a magical mix of remote high country wilderness, big mountains, and stunning river valleys. Home to over a hundred glaciers, it’s a place straight from the Lord of the Rings – literally. Every time I explore Mt. Aspiring, it takes my breath away.

But a new phenomenon has arrived in New Zealand – for the past couple of weeks, the smoke and dust from the unprecedented bushfires in Australia have arrived in New Zealand.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

I was away from Wanaka when I started to see posts from all my Wanaka friends on social media about their cars coated with thick red dust. It seems the devastating effects of the immense wildfires in Australia have made their way here.

As hundreds of uncontrolled fires burn across New South Wales and the Queensland coastlines in Australia, the wind has carried the smoke, ash, and dust thousands of kilometers across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.

For days our usually clear skies were hazy, a bizarre thing to witness.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

As the sky turned an ominous yellow haze, the smoke blanketed towns all across the South Island before eventually clearing up a few days later as the winds changed.

We carried on with our normalcy and routines, luckily free from the horrors of fires (at present). But as I journeyed back into Mt. Aspiring National Park last Friday, I noticed something unusual.

Why did the glaciers appear to be red?

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Hopping on a last-minute scenic helicopter flight with Wanaka Helicopters out to see the glaciers around Mt. Aspiring, I was fizzing with excitement as I piled into the front seat on one of those calm, spring mornings.

We’ve had a crazy amount of rain this springtime in Wanaka, so much rain in fact that the lake is high. Normally quite dry on this side of the mountains, everyone is worried the town might flood this week as more rain is on the way.

Right now is the perfect time for a scenic flight around Wanaka, and it’s definitely the most colorful time of year. The valleys are bright green with all of the rainfall, and there is still snow on the mountaintops. For photographers like me, we froth on these colors.

australia fire new zealand

As the snow melts and the mountains are pounded with massive rainfalls, hundreds of temporary waterfalls gush down from the glaciers in a scene out of a movie. It doesn’t look real.

Taking off from the Wanaka airport on a morning Amazing Aspiring scenic heli flight, conditions were just magical. No wind, blue skies, and warm air, spring was in the air, and I was itching to take in my favorite mountains again.

Zooming out over the town and down the iconic Matukituki Valley, I could see the river was pumping, and the lake was high, while the stunning peak of Mt. Aspiring twinkled in the distance.

And as we got closer and closer towards the first of the mighty glaciers, I pulled my sunglasses off to wipe them. Did I see things, or did the snow look, well, a bit red?

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

From far away, the glaciers looked almost dirty, a sooty look they often get at the end of a hot summer as the ice melts and rock tumbles down onto the ice in certain places. But it was springtime, and the snows were beginning to melt. What’s the deal?

Chatting with the pilot, I realized this phenomenon was tied to the raging wildfires plaguing the east coast of Australia. The recent westerlies brought a red haze and smoke across the pond here to New Zealand.

As the dust settled across the South Island, it coated our glaciers in a layer of red too.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

How crazy is that?

While I’m no scientist, I wonder this layer of red will exist in the ice to tell the story of the bushfires in a thousand years? The same way we could see the ash layers from ancient volcanic eruptions around the world now?

Curious. Curious.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

As a frequent visitor to Mt. Aspiring, and flying as often as I can around these big mountains I call home, it was unusual and exciting to see something rare and different. How crazy is it that we can see the impact of fires in Australia here in New Zealand?!

It’s pretty remarkable to see the impact of the fires from so far away.

Our glaciers don’t need any more battles as they are already truly endangered; it puts the impact of climate change into even more stark reality we can’t ignore.

This will cause our glaciers to melt even faster due to the obstruction of the ice-albedo effect – where shiny glaciers reflect energy into space. Someone correct me, but this is how I understand it to work; the red dust is now covering the usually reflective glacial ice, causing the glaciers to melt faster. Ah, science!

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Cue the anti-climate change propaganda. Though I would be heartily surprised if there were any non-science believers still on my blog.

The higher temperatures caused by climate change allows for more dryness and worse fire seasons in Australia especially. Greenhouse gas emissions have a direct impact on increased temperatures, which equates to increased dryness.

Climate change definitely makes bushfires worse.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Nothing really puts into perspective both the immensity of our mountains quite like a helicopter flight. It shows just how fragile they are. Especially when you see the impact of something so massive here in New Zealand.

I want everyone to be able to experience the joy and euphoria that comes from these wild spaces. I want to preserve our glaciers for generations to come. It breaks my heart to see the devastation both directly in Australia but also high on our precious mountains here in New Zealand.

Good luck to everyone working hard to stop this.

Have you ever seen anything like this? Have you experienced the effects of wildfires before? I’m curious, share if you don’t mind.

australia fire new zealand

Many thanks to Wanaka Helicopters for showing me around my favorite mountains. Like always, I’m keeping it real – as if you could expect less from me!

The post Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island


In August 2013 ago I took the plunge and hopped on a one-way flight to New Zealand. Six years later, residency and a newfound love for this pacific island nation, and I haven’t looked back since. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in those six years exploring the two islands that make up this magical part of the world and have gotten to know it pretty well. From climbing big mountains to road tripping through old farm country to eating at my favorite spots and getting lost all along the way, I’ve been lucky enough to discover some fantastic corners of New Zealand.

It’s a place I never tire of traveling around, and I love returning to old haunts again and again, especially on the South Island where I call home.

new zealand south island must do

If you’re looking to visit New Zealand for yourself (which you definitely should), be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get around.

And don’t miss the South Island in all its epic glory. A wild land of ice mountains, turquoise lakes, and gnarly haunted forests home to exotic birds and a few locals too, the South Island is a place that will blow you away. 

With a much smaller population than the North Island, and with much more dramatic scenery, the South Island beckons those looking to get off the grid in a place that seems somewhat otherworldly.

Here are my best tips after years of spots that are must-visits on the South Island. Enjoy!

Check out my interactive map for exploring the South Island of New Zealand

new zealand south island must do

1. Go hiking in Mt. Aspiring National Park near Wanaka

Wanaka is number one for me because it’s where I call home, and I’m unashamedly biased.

A beautiful little mountain town on the edge of a stunning blue lake an hour from the adventure capital herself, Queenstown, Wanaka was New Zealand’s best-kept secret until the lid got blown off. If you play your cards right, you might never leave. 

The gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park, home to some legendary hikes

new zealand south island must do

2. Get extreme in Queenstown

You can’t come to the South Island and not check out Queenstown, the adventure capital of Aotearoa.

The birthplace of bungee jumping, there is no shortage of high places to throw yourself off of in the name of adventure. Unabashedly touristy, Queenstown earns its accolades with epic views, big mountains, blue lakes, and experiences everywhere. 

I recommend the Shotover Canyon Swing for a pants-shittingly scary but fun experience, though less scary than a bungy (in my honest opinion) or a stunning zip-trek adventure overlooking the lake with Zip-Trek Eco Tours.

new zealand south island must do

3. Go look for penguins in the Catlins

The Catlins is a remote corner of the South Island of New Zealand, along the southeastern coastline, and it’s long been the seaside getaway of us Wanaka locals.

Sleepy holiday homes are scattered about the wild beaches, and the wind is often so strong here that the trees grow sideways!

But perhaps what I love the most about the Catlins is that it’s home to some of my favorite rare birds – the yellow-eyed penguins. You can safely watch them come ashore at sunset in Curio Bay, one of my favorite getaway spots.

new zealand south island must do

4. Go offline in Milford Sound

Milford Sound is often lauded as one of the many wonders of the world, and you don’t have to spend long there to understand that appeal.

Perhaps one of the remotest corners of New Zealand, Fiordland is home to some of the most epic scenery and a place none regret visiting.

If you have the time, my advice would be to pack up the car and spend a couple of days down in Milford Sound, go kayaking, on a boat cruise and take in some of the many hikes and walks along the famous Milford Road.

new zealand south island must do

5. Wake up in solitude in Doubtful sound

While Milford Sound is the gem of Fiordland, Doubtful is probably my more favorite spot. Peaceful and quiet, it’s a bit harder to get to and more overlooked than the shinier Milford.

Which is precisely why I love it!

Without a doubt, one of the absolute must-dos while exploring New Zealand is an overnight boat cruise in Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys. Book in quick, they sell out fast. It’s worth every penny.

new zealand south island must do

6. Dig the Jurassic Park vibes in Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park

The west coast of the South Island is one of my favorite places in all of New Zealand, and I don’t say that lightly. Six hundred kilometers long and home to few, it’s nothing short of wild, wet, and rugged. I love the isolation here.

On the west coast, you’ll find big mountains that drop down to temperate rainforests and thundering beaches, with Jurassic Park vibes galore.

Call in for a stop at the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks further north and book in to do New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the Paparoa Track.

new zealand south island must do

7. Explore where the mountains meet the sea in Kaikoura

Kaikoura has long been a beloved spot of New Zealand and has recovered significantly since it was shaken about by a big earthquake in 2016, changing the entire coastline.

Here huge mountains drop down to the sea, and then with a deep-sea trench right off the coastline, makes Kaikoura a perfect place to experience incredible marine life.

From whale watching to swimming with dolphins (responsibly of course) to looking for albatross and visiting fur seal colonies, Kaikoura is a pretty fantastic spot worth dropping in on any trip around the South Island.

new zealand south island must do

8. Sip all the Pinot Noir wine around Central Otago

Central Otago is a different region than what you might expect on the South Island, home to vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers, and tussock-clad hills, not to mention world-class Pinot Noir – come to me!

Dry and rugged, Central was once a booming gold-mining region in the 1800s only to dwindle to a quieter food-producing and wine-growing region today. With dry, hot summers and dry cold winters, it’s perfect conditions for grape-growing and harvests.

I love exploring Central Otago in the autumn (mid-late April to early May) and also in October when their annual food and wine celebration, Eat. Taste. Central is kicking!

new zealand south island must do

9. Dip your toes into the Blue Pools on the Haast Pass, if you dare

New Zealand has no shortage of crystal bright blue water thanks to the glaciers that feed the mountain rivers and lakes – for now.

But if one spot tops the rest, it has to be the infamous Blue Pools on the Haast Pass in between Wanaka and the West Coast.

So bright and blue you can see straight to the bottom of the river, on a hot summer’s day it certainly looks inviting – but remember that it comes straight off a glacier, and you can tell. Not to mention the minute you strip down and show some skin, you’ll likely be eaten alive by sandflies.

new zealand south island must do

10. Hunt for street art in Dunedin

Dunedin claims the title for one of my favorite cities in New Zealand, hidden away on the bottom of the South Island. A comfortable place to escape to, I love being by the sea, and the grungy, but bespoke scene speaks to my soul.

I’m always on the lookout for the fantastic street art decorating the walls of the city, and it’s a great way to get to know Dunedin.

Every time I visit Dunedin, something new has popped up, and I think I fall in love with it even more. It’s an excellent base for exploring the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula.

new zealand south island must do

11. Go for a helicopter ride and hike on Fox glacier

My all-time favorite activity is to do a heli-hike on Fox Glacier, one of New Zealand’s great wonders.

One of the only glaciers in the world that winds its way down from the mountains, like a river of ice into a temperate rainforest, Fox Glacier is one of New Zealand’s great gems.

The township of Fox itself is also pretty unique, with plenty of walks and beaches nearby, it’s a place I always enjoy visiting.

new zealand south island must do

12. Watch the sunset along the Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are one of New Zealand’s geological marvels. These huge egg-shaped boulders dot the beach outside the sleepy seaside town of Moeraki on the east coast of the South Island.

To me, they instead look like dragon eggs, and their mystery is appealing.

Moeraki itself is small and quaint, and a favorite spot of mine to escape to, especially for a meal or two at Fleur’s Place, one of the best restaurants in New Zealand.

new zealand south island must do

13. Marvel at New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook

Experience the beauty of New Zealand’s highest peak by heading on an inland road-trip to Mt. Cook village, deep in the heart of the South Island.

A behemoth of a mountain, Mt. Cook, while often shrouded in cloud, is stunning when he finally shows his face. The scenic drive along the neon blue lake Pukaki towards the town will take your breath away, especially on a windless day when the mountain can reflect in the waters.

From Mt. Cook itself, you can take in a variety of day walks, like to the Hooker Valley or a mightier tramp up to Mueller Hut. If you’re after something extraordinary though, hop on a heli-hike or snowshoe up the Tasman Glacier – you won’t regret it!

new zealand south island must do

14. Kayak with the local dolphins in the Abel Tasman

You only have to drive an hour or two in New Zealand for the landscape to change dramatically, and none more so than the top of the South Island.

Before you know it, you’ll arrive at the iconic Abel Tasman National Park, which looks like a tropical Southeast Asian paradise, home to sandy beaches, blue waters, and one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

The sheltered bays of the Abel Tasman are perfect for hiking and kayaking, with plenty of opportunities to see the seals and dolphins who regularly pop in to say hello. My good friend Kyle “Bare Kiwi” kayak guides there in summer (Abel Tasman Kayaks) and is a total legend!

new zealand south island must do

15. Jet-boat up the braided rivers around Glenorchy

Less than an hour from Queenstown on one of the most beautiful drives in New Zealand, lies the sleepy adorable town of Glenorchy, and a gateway into the heart of the Southern Alps.

The starting point for many of New Zealand’s great tramps as well as a significant character in the Lord of the Rings films, there are also plenty of adventure activities to choose from in Glenorchy.

My favorite would have to be the Wilderness Jet Boat ride up the Dart River. A crystal clear blue glacial river that’s shallow and braided, the best way to get deep into the national park is by jetboat, a kiwi invention where a jet engine is strapped on the back of a boat that can power it through shallow mountain rivers.

Adventurous and fun, it’s the perfect way to see some of the incredible nature here without hiking for days.

new zealand south island must do

16. Road-trip around the Banks Peninsula

Just outside of Christchurch is a veritable paradise of beautiful bays, quiet beaches, and charming towns along the Banks Peninsula. Made for a road-trip, the drive out to Akaroa on the summit road is stunning, and it’s a place that, while seems rather small on the map, actually holds heaps to explore.

A summer road trip around Akaroa is a New Zealand South Island must-do for sure!

new zealand south island must do

17. Look for kea and waterfalls in Arthur’s pass

Arthur’s Pass is an alpine highway that connects Canterbury and the west coast of the South Island, one of the three mountain passes that traverse the mighty Southern Alps.

Climbing to more than 900 meters through Arthur’s Pass National Park, it’s one of New Zealand’s most stunning stretches of road, with plenty of big hikes, waterfalls, and viewpoints worth stopping and exploring along the way.

You have a good chance of seeing kea, New Zealand’s native alpine parrot along Arthur’s Pass as well, and make sure to stop for a walk to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall.

new zealand south island must do

18. Visit iconic Arrowtown in autumn

Arrowtown takes the crown for the cutest village in New Zealand.

A charming historic gold-mining settlement tucked in between Wanaka and Queenstown, Arrowtown is an absolute must-visit on a trip to the area. My favorite time to visit is in autumn (our April/May) when all the colorful trees turn gold and orange.

new zealand south island must do

19. Go stargazing in Tekapo

Tekapo has been a hot spot for tourists for as long as I have lived in New Zealand. While it can be packed come summertime, it’s definitely a New Zealand South Island must do.

If you find yourself in Tekapo, don’t skip out on a visit to the Mt John Observatory, where you will witness the clear and vast starlit skies of the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve.

Here is some of the best stargazing in the world, and with virtually no light pollution, you’ll be blown away by the night skies here. If you’re lucky, you might even see the southern lights twinkling on the horizon.

new zealand south island must do

20. Soar around Lake Heron Station

One thing that makes the South Island so unique is its prevalence of high country sheep stations, beautiful farms that exist in what seems to be some of the most remote corners of New Zealand.

There is none so iconic as Lake Heron Station, a century-old family-run merino sheep station that spans across one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen. The geographical heart of the South Island, Lake Heron, is a stunning freshwater lake that sits at the end of lovely braided rivers dropping down from the Southern Alps.

You can stay out on the farm with the Todhunters in one of their cottages or huts and explore the area, which you will have all to yourself, though the best experience is to join them for a scenic flight around their land and the mountains. Prepare to have your mind blown!

new zealand south island must do

The South Island is magnificent, and it’s home to so many of New Zealand’s greatest wonders.

From thundering waterfalls to iconic mountain peaks, from friendly locals and historic ghost towns to a quirky art scene, it’s hard to pick a favorite spot.

What did I miss? Have you been to New Zealand? What are your must-visit spots on the South Island? Spill in the comments!

Check out my interactive map for exploring the South Island of New Zealand

new zealand south island must do

The post 20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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New Zealand for foodies – where to wine and dine in Central Otago


Nowhere else in New Zealand tugs at my heartstrings quite like Central Otago, where I’ve called home the past six years. And when I think of where to eat in Central Otago, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

A place of big skies, unchanged pubs, and demeanors reminiscent of a bygone age, “Central” as we call it is uniquely kiwi as it can be. You can just tell by the soft herbal scents in the air exactly where you are. The vibrant seasons and rugged landscape is wild and untamed, and it’s a place that evokes serious nostalgia amongst travelers like me.

There’s nowhere else quite like Central Otago.

10 reasons not to miss Central Otago, New Zealand

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Hidden away on the bottom half of New Zealand’s South Island, Central Otago is sprawling and empty, a land of high country sheep farms and rolling tree-free mountains straight from a painting. Here the skies are significant, and the rivers are bright blue, a place of deep gorges and tussock, and hills covered in wild thyme.

The mountains are rocky and feel vaguely lunar, and with a rich history of a 19th-century gold rush, Central Otago is memorable and a bit weird. With harsh cold winters and scorching hot, dry summers, the climate here is unique in New Zealand.

On top of that, it’s New Zealand’s premier Pinot Noir country, dotted with mum and pop vineyards and exceptional wineries, with fabulous eateries to boot.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

A place that births impressive produce, from cherries in the peak of summer to the most delightful honey and incredible meats like lamb and venison, the food scene in Central is blossoming fast.

For the past couple of years, Central comes alive every spring (September – October) with their own celebratory food festival, where restaurants, pubs, wineries, and venues put together festival dishes over a month that showcase the flavors of Central Otago. It’s the perfect time to explore Central Otago – but remember to come hungry!

After dining in and around here for years, I’ve decided to cobble together a list of recommendations on where to eat in Central Otago – enjoy!

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Cromwell and Bannockburn

Cromwell is by far the biggest town in rural Central Otago (discounting places like Wanaka, Queenstown, and Dunedin, of course), and it’s an excellent base for exploring the area with heaps on offer. The place where the Clutha and Kawarau Rivers meet, Cromwell has been a hub since 1862 when gold was first discovered here.

The lakefront and historic precinct in Cromwell is one of my favorite haunts, and of course, I always stop through here for fresh stonefruit come summertime when I am visiting vineyards in the area.

Ten minutes up the road from Cromwell, you’ll find the adorable wee township of Bannockburn, another critical gold mining area and home to some of my favorite foodie spots and walks.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Mt. Difficulty

Without a doubt, one of my favorite places to have a long lunch in the sunshine in Bannockburn is at Mt. Difficulty winery restaurant.

A solid, delicious choice, it hasn’t let me down yet. Tucked away on the prestigious Felton Road, the Mt. Diff menu changes regularly, and their Pinot always makes me smile. My mom loved it here.

Book in for sure.

where to eat in central otago

Carrick Winery

Carrick is another winery in Bannockburn that also serves up a classic Central Otago lunch and is another go-to spot for me, especially when I’m bringing friends out for a visit.

The views at Carrick over Bannockburn are some of my favorites, especially in the autumn.

where to eat in central otago

Armando’s Kitchen

Tucked away in the historic precinct of Cromwell, Armando’s Kitchen is a bit of an institution, overlooking Lake Dunstan.

I come for their cinnamon scrolls, which are so good.

where to eat in central otago

Cloudy Bay Shed

Cloudy Bay is an iconic New Zealand wine label from the famous Marlborough region at the top of the South Island, and I always call in when I’m in the area to pick up a bottle or three of their Chardonnay.

I was so excited to see they opened a beautiful tasting room in Northburn just outside Cromwell in the most picturesque of settings. Since they also grow grapes in Central, it’s pretty exciting to get a taste of Cloudy Bay closer to home.

And their platters are to die for, and they’re usually is a puppy or two around to play in the sunshine.

where to eat in central otago

Alexandra and Clyde

Alexandra is Central Otago’s busy business town, and it is the heartbeat of the region. In many ways, Alex is more classically “kiwi” than Cromwell, which is closer to Queenstown and experiences a significant tourism spillover.

I love Alex, and it’s right in the middle of some of my favorite landscapes along the Clutha River. Just up the road is the preserved gold mining town of Clyde, a place I love to spend time.

There is no shortage of small wineries and delicious eateries to chose from around Alexandra and Clyde, and I’ll let you know where to eat in Central Otago.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Oliver’s

If I had to pick a favorite place to dine in Central Otago, it would probably be Oliver’s in Clyde, a Central institution.

Beautifully restored historical accommodation, it’s also home to a restaurant that will knock your socks off (book in advance) with the most classic of Central flavors, you can feel the heart and soul that went into bringing the original gold mining general store back to life.

On-site, they also have the Victoria Store Brewery and The Merchant of Clyde, which is a cafe and deli with the most fantastic collection of antique maps and cozy corners to read in.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Paulina’s

While Oliver’s is very much the king of Central Otago in terms of local cuisine and flavors, just across the road, you’ll find the very busy Paulina’s (also book in advance), which brings the rustic farmhouse menus from her native southern Chile to life in New Zealand.

A place where South American flavors mingle with Central Otago tastes, it’s a match made in heaven for foodies like me who yearn for dishes from our travels.

where to eat in central otago

Courthouse Cafe

First things first on any road trip I take through Central Otago, I always stop at the Courthouse Cafe in Alexandra. No matter what. When I think of where to eat in Central Otago, this cafe immediately springs to mind

Feminine and borderline kitschy, the Courthouse Cafe in Alex, is not surprisingly inside the renovated old courthouse, complete with pew-like benches.

Their food is creative and AMAZING, and they have the most fantastic cabinet food in New Zealand. And they also usually sell fresh flowers. I love it here.

where to eat in central otago

Shakey Bridge Bistro

A walk across the famous Shaky Bridge in Alexandra (Kerry Street) will bring you to the beautiful outskirts of the town with some pretty special views. Now a footbridge, it’s best experienced in autumn when golden poplars surround the river.

On the other side, you’ll find a little bistro / cafe / bar that is sometimes open, sometimes not, but if you’re lucky and it is open, it’s a fantastic spot to while away the hours in the Central sunshine.

You can also drive there, but the directions are a bit confusing in Google Maps.

where to eat in central otago

Ranfurly and the Maniototo

As you pass through Alex and head inland towards Dunedin on the classic Pigroot (don’t ask me where that name comes from), you’ll visit some of my favorite spots. If you’re wondering where to eat in Central Otago in this part, read on.

Overlooked by most visitors except those cycling the famous Central Otago Rail Trail, Ranfurly and the Maniototo are stunning pastoral plains with the big wide-open skies you might expect from the American midwest.

Here you’ll find ghost towns, abandoned cemeteries and classic pubs that haven’t changed much. Great views, no people, and beautiful food, deep in the heart of Central, is worth exploring if you have the time.

This part of Central is home to many country pub hotels, which are pretty self-explanatory. Back in the day, it was so remote that the pubs were also hotels, a tradition that’s carried on here.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Pitches Store

My first foray into the amazing dining in rural Central was at Pitches Store in Ophir (pronounced “oh- fur”) back when I have a girl’s getaway to Lombardy Cottage – which since has sold.

Hidden away in the tiny historic gold mining town of Ophir, Pitches has been lovingly restored into a beautiful B&B and restaurant/cafe.

A beautiful setting with an exquisite menu, Pitches is worth traveling out of your way to visit.

where to eat in central otago

Blacks Hotel

My other favorite spot in Ophir is Blacks Hotel, a total gem!

Built-in the ’30s in an art deco style (standing out in a place with gold rush heritage sites), Blacks will charm the pants off you. Full of love and character, leave your shoes outside and park up and stay awhile.

With a real home away from home vibe, this pub slash country hotel is super charming.

where to eat in central otago

Maniototo Cafe

Ranfurly is small, no doubt about it, and if you blink, you might miss it.

Don’t blink, and be sure to call into the local Maniototo Cafe for a perfect flat white and something yummy to fill you up.

I could get a turmeric latte here well before I could find one in Wanaka, which is saying something (not that you could pay me to drink turmeric), and I’ve always made a point to call in here on a road trip. Ranfurly is close to some pretty amazing historic towns and sites around Central, and it’s a great hub for exploring.

where to eat in central otago

Waipiata Pub

It’s hard to pick a favorite country pub in New Zealand. If I had to, it would probably be the Waipiata Pub in Central Otago.

Built-in 1898 in mudbrick, the Waipiata pub is about as classic kiwi as you can get.

Quirky and full of character, nothing beats having a cold beer after a day exploring in the hot Central sun here.

where to eat in central otago

I love Central Otago. It’s a place I’ve called home for a long time, and it’s worth exploring more. A quieter part of New Zealand, it’s home to some world-class wineries and memorable spots to dine.

The question isn’t where to eat in Central Otago, rather how much?

What have I missed? Have you explored this part of New Zealand? Have any Central Otago foodie spots to add to the list? Share in the comments!

where to eat in central otago

Many thanks to Tourism Central Otago for hosting me – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post New Zealand for foodies – where to wine and dine in Central Otago appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island


In August 2013 ago I took the plunge and hopped on a one-way flight to New Zealand. Six years later, residency and a newfound love for this pacific island nation, and I haven’t looked back since. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in those six years exploring the two islands that make up this magical part of the world and have gotten to know it pretty well. From climbing big mountains to road tripping through old farm country to eating at my favorite spots and getting lost all along the way, I’ve been lucky enough to discover some fantastic corners of New Zealand.

It’s a place I never tire of traveling around, and I love returning to old haunts again and again, especially on the South Island where I call home.

new zealand south island must do

If you’re looking to visit New Zealand for yourself (which you definitely should), be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get around.

And don’t miss the South Island in all its epic glory. A wild land of ice mountains, turquoise lakes, and gnarly haunted forests home to exotic birds and a few locals too, the South Island is a place that will blow you away. 

With a much smaller population than the North Island, and with much more dramatic scenery, the South Island beckons those looking to get off the grid in a place that seems somewhat otherworldly.

Here are my best tips after years of spots that are must-visits on the South Island. Enjoy!

Check out my interactive map for exploring the South Island of New Zealand

new zealand south island must do

1. Go hiking in Mt. Aspiring National Park near Wanaka

Wanaka is number one for me because it’s where I call home, and I’m unashamedly biased.

A beautiful little mountain town on the edge of a stunning blue lake an hour from the adventure capital herself, Queenstown, Wanaka was New Zealand’s best-kept secret until the lid got blown off. If you play your cards right, you might never leave. 

The gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park, home to some legendary hikes

new zealand south island must do

2. Get extreme in Queenstown

You can’t come to the South Island and not check out Queenstown, the adventure capital of Aotearoa.

The birthplace of bungee jumping, there is no shortage of high places to throw yourself off of in the name of adventure. Unabashedly touristy, Queenstown earns its accolades with epic views, big mountains, blue lakes, and experiences everywhere. 

I recommend the Shotover Canyon Swing for a pants-shittingly scary but fun experience, though less scary than a bungy (in my honest opinion) or a stunning zip-trek adventure overlooking the lake with Zip-Trek Eco Tours.

new zealand south island must do

3. Go look for penguins in the Catlins

The Catlins is a remote corner of the South Island of New Zealand, along the southeastern coastline, and it’s long been the seaside getaway of us Wanaka locals.

Sleepy holiday homes are scattered about the wild beaches, and the wind is often so strong here that the trees grow sideways!

But perhaps what I love the most about the Catlins is that it’s home to some of my favorite rare birds – the yellow-eyed penguins. You can safely watch them come ashore at sunset in Curio Bay, one of my favorite getaway spots.

new zealand south island must do

4. Go offline in Milford Sound

Milford Sound is often lauded as one of the many wonders of the world, and you don’t have to spend long there to understand that appeal.

Perhaps one of the remotest corners of New Zealand, Fiordland is home to some of the most epic scenery and a place none regret visiting.

If you have the time, my advice would be to pack up the car and spend a couple of days down in Milford Sound, go kayaking, on a boat cruise and take in some of the many hikes and walks along the famous Milford Road.

new zealand south island must do

5. Wake up in solitude in Doubtful sound

While Milford Sound is the gem of Fiordland, Doubtful is probably my more favorite spot. Peaceful and quiet, it’s a bit harder to get to and more overlooked than the shinier Milford.

Which is precisely why I love it!

Without a doubt, one of the absolute must-dos while exploring New Zealand is an overnight boat cruise in Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys. Book in quick, they sell out fast. It’s worth every penny.

new zealand south island must do

6. Dig the Jurassic Park vibes in Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park

The west coast of the South Island is one of my favorite places in all of New Zealand, and I don’t say that lightly. Six hundred kilometers long and home to few, it’s nothing short of wild, wet, and rugged. I love the isolation here.

On the west coast, you’ll find big mountains that drop down to temperate rainforests and thundering beaches, with Jurassic Park vibes galore.

Call in for a stop at the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks further north and book in to do New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the Paparoa Track.

new zealand south island must do

7. Explore where the mountains meet the sea in Kaikoura

Kaikoura has long been a beloved spot of New Zealand and has recovered significantly since it was shaken about by a big earthquake in 2016, changing the entire coastline.

Here huge mountains drop down to the sea, and then with a deep-sea trench right off the coastline, makes Kaikoura a perfect place to experience incredible marine life.

From whale watching to swimming with dolphins (responsibly of course) to looking for albatross and visiting fur seal colonies, Kaikoura is a pretty fantastic spot worth dropping in on any trip around the South Island.

new zealand south island must do

8. Sip all the Pinot Noir wine around Central Otago

Central Otago is a different region than what you might expect on the South Island, home to vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers, and tussock-clad hills, not to mention world-class Pinot Noir – come to me!

Dry and rugged, Central was once a booming gold-mining region in the 1800s only to dwindle to a quieter food-producing and wine-growing region today. With dry, hot summers and dry cold winters, it’s perfect conditions for grape-growing and harvests.

I love exploring Central Otago in the autumn (mid-late April to early May) and also in October when their annual food and wine celebration, Eat. Taste. Central is kicking!

new zealand south island must do

9. Dip your toes into the Blue Pools on the Haast Pass, if you dare

New Zealand has no shortage of crystal bright blue water thanks to the glaciers that feed the mountain rivers and lakes – for now.

But if one spot tops the rest, it has to be the infamous Blue Pools on the Haast Pass in between Wanaka and the West Coast.

So bright and blue you can see straight to the bottom of the river, on a hot summer’s day it certainly looks inviting – but remember that it comes straight off a glacier, and you can tell. Not to mention the minute you strip down and show some skin, you’ll likely be eaten alive by sandflies.

new zealand south island must do

10. Hunt for street art in Dunedin

Dunedin claims the title for one of my favorite cities in New Zealand, hidden away on the bottom of the South Island. A comfortable place to escape to, I love being by the sea, and the grungy, but bespoke scene speaks to my soul.

I’m always on the lookout for the fantastic street art decorating the walls of the city, and it’s a great way to get to know Dunedin.

Every time I visit Dunedin, something new has popped up, and I think I fall in love with it even more. It’s an excellent base for exploring the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula.

new zealand south island must do

11. Go for a helicopter ride and hike on Fox glacier

My all-time favorite activity is to do a heli-hike on Fox Glacier, one of New Zealand’s great wonders.

One of the only glaciers in the world that winds its way down from the mountains, like a river of ice into a temperate rainforest, Fox Glacier is one of New Zealand’s great gems.

The township of Fox itself is also pretty unique, with plenty of walks and beaches nearby, it’s a place I always enjoy visiting.

new zealand south island must do

12. Watch the sunset along the Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are one of New Zealand’s geological marvels. These huge egg-shaped boulders dot the beach outside the sleepy seaside town of Moeraki on the east coast of the South Island.

To me, they instead look like dragon eggs, and their mystery is appealing.

Moeraki itself is small and quaint, and a favorite spot of mine to escape to, especially for a meal or two at Fleur’s Place, one of the best restaurants in New Zealand.

new zealand south island must do

13. Marvel at New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook

Experience the beauty of New Zealand’s highest peak by heading on an inland road-trip to Mt. Cook village, deep in the heart of the South Island.

A behemoth of a mountain, Mt. Cook, while often shrouded in cloud, is stunning when he finally shows his face. The scenic drive along the neon blue lake Pukaki towards the town will take your breath away, especially on a windless day when the mountain can reflect in the waters.

From Mt. Cook itself, you can take in a variety of day walks, like to the Hooker Valley or a mightier tramp up to Mueller Hut. If you’re after something extraordinary though, hop on a heli-hike or snowshoe up the Tasman Glacier – you won’t regret it!

new zealand south island must do

14. Kayak with the local dolphins in the Abel Tasman

You only have to drive an hour or two in New Zealand for the landscape to change dramatically, and none more so than the top of the South Island.

Before you know it, you’ll arrive at the iconic Abel Tasman National Park, which looks like a tropical Southeast Asian paradise, home to sandy beaches, blue waters, and one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

The sheltered bays of the Abel Tasman are perfect for hiking and kayaking, with plenty of opportunities to see the seals and dolphins who regularly pop in to say hello. My good friend Kyle “Bare Kiwi” kayak guides there in summer (Abel Tasman Kayaks) and is a total legend!

new zealand south island must do

15. Jet-boat up the braided rivers around Glenorchy

Less than an hour from Queenstown on one of the most beautiful drives in New Zealand, lies the sleepy adorable town of Glenorchy, and a gateway into the heart of the Southern Alps.

The starting point for many of New Zealand’s great tramps as well as a significant character in the Lord of the Rings films, there are also plenty of adventure activities to choose from in Glenorchy.

My favorite would have to be the Wilderness Jet Boat ride up the Dart River. A crystal clear blue glacial river that’s shallow and braided, the best way to get deep into the national park is by jetboat, a kiwi invention where a jet engine is strapped on the back of a boat that can power it through shallow mountain rivers.

Adventurous and fun, it’s the perfect way to see some of the incredible nature here without hiking for days.

new zealand south island must do

16. Road-trip around the Banks Peninsula

Just outside of Christchurch is a veritable paradise of beautiful bays, quiet beaches, and charming towns along the Banks Peninsula. Made for a road-trip, the drive out to Akaroa on the summit road is stunning, and it’s a place that, while seems rather small on the map, actually holds heaps to explore.

A summer road trip around Akaroa is a New Zealand South Island must-do for sure!

new zealand south island must do

17. Look for kea and waterfalls in Arthur’s pass

Arthur’s Pass is an alpine highway that connects Canterbury and the west coast of the South Island, one of the three mountain passes that traverse the mighty Southern Alps.

Climbing to more than 900 meters through Arthur’s Pass National Park, it’s one of New Zealand’s most stunning stretches of road, with plenty of big hikes, waterfalls, and viewpoints worth stopping and exploring along the way.

You have a good chance of seeing kea, New Zealand’s native alpine parrot along Arthur’s Pass as well, and make sure to stop for a walk to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall.

new zealand south island must do

18. Visit iconic Arrowtown in autumn

Arrowtown takes the crown for the cutest village in New Zealand.

A charming historic gold-mining settlement tucked in between Wanaka and Queenstown, Arrowtown is an absolute must-visit on a trip to the area. My favorite time to visit is in autumn (our April/May) when all the colorful trees turn gold and orange.

new zealand south island must do

19. Go stargazing in Tekapo

Tekapo has been a hot spot for tourists for as long as I have lived in New Zealand. While it can be packed come summertime, it’s definitely a New Zealand South Island must do.

If you find yourself in Tekapo, don’t skip out on a visit to the Mt John Observatory, where you will witness the clear and vast starlit skies of the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve.

Here is some of the best stargazing in the world, and with virtually no light pollution, you’ll be blown away by the night skies here. If you’re lucky, you might even see the southern lights twinkling on the horizon.

new zealand south island must do

20. Soar around Lake Heron Station

One thing that makes the South Island so unique is its prevalence of high country sheep stations, beautiful farms that exist in what seems to be some of the most remote corners of New Zealand.

There is none so iconic as Lake Heron Station, a century-old family-run merino sheep station that spans across one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen. The geographical heart of the South Island, Lake Heron, is a stunning freshwater lake that sits at the end of lovely braided rivers dropping down from the Southern Alps.

You can stay out on the farm with the Todhunters in one of their cottages or huts and explore the area, which you will have all to yourself, though the best experience is to join them for a scenic flight around their land and the mountains. Prepare to have your mind blown!

new zealand south island must do

The South Island is magnificent, and it’s home to so many of New Zealand’s greatest wonders.

From thundering waterfalls to iconic mountain peaks, from friendly locals and historic ghost towns to a quirky art scene, it’s hard to pick a favorite spot.

What did I miss? Have you been to New Zealand? What are your must-visit spots on the South Island? Spill in the comments!

Check out my interactive map for exploring the South Island of New Zealand

new zealand south island must do

The post 20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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20 photos that will inspire you to visit the Waikato, New Zealand


I’m so excited for springtime and warmer days here in New Zealand, and there’s nowhere better to experience it than up in the Waikato region of the North Island. Waikato travel will blow you away.

Lush and bucolic, with rolling green hills dotted with lambs and cows, beneath a bright blue sky, it’s no wonder this is the heart of New Zealand’s farm culture. I love watching everything bloom and finally being warm after months of frosts and snow down south where I call home.

Before we even land at the tiny Hamilton Airport, I’m struck by how green and fresh it seems here. Just south of Auckland lies the Waikato, an area I’ve visited many times but was excited to come back to again. A land of lush pastures, it’s not really surprising to any that Peter Jackson chose this area for the hobbits to call home in the Lord of the Rings films.

Spring here is as impressive as you can imagine, and I want to begin my story by sharing some of my favorite photos from a recent trip up north with you all before digging a little deeper. Enjoy!

waikato travel

waikato travel

waikato travel

Get to know Hamilton

The city of Hamilton is nestled on the banks of the mighty Waikato River on New Zealand’s North Island, and it is known for its walks, gardens, cafes, and nightlife. It’s also known as the Tron. Please, someone, tell me why. I have to know.

One thing I really loved about Hamilton on my Waikato travel was walking along the river, which seems to be the beating heart of the city. I can tell a lot of work has gone into making the riverfront epic, a fun spot to chill downtown. With lots of fun places to eat and explore, I couldn’t get enough.

And then as I was wandering, wearing my first short-sleeve dress this spring (yay it’s so warm!), I stumbled across this incredible mural of a kārearea (native NZ falcon) ❤️ , and I squealed with delight! And unabashed #birdnerd with a penchant for street art that decorates the walls of understated spots, all of my boxes were ticked as I spent a few days exploring Hamilton.

This mural “A Love Story” is based on a local, oral whakataukī (proverb) of a kārearea carrying two twins, Reipae and Reitu, from the Waikato to Whangarei for marriage. Painted by two renowned Auckland artists, Charlie and Janine Williams, it’s an exceptional price sharing a bit of local Māori narratives to the world. Have you seen it?

waikato travel

waikato travel

Dinner at the Chilli House is a must – a local Hamilton institution

Nothing beats spring at the Hamilton Gardens, especially in the early morning before the world wakes up. These gardens are pretty famous in New Zealand – and for a good reason – they’re fantastic!

Not just any old gardens, the Hamilton Gardens are more of a museum of gardens, dedicated to sharing examples of exquisite gardens around the world. As a new student of plant growing and mildly obsessed with historical botany, I was in heaven. Also, plants make me so happy, and nothing is better than a botanical garden in the spring, am I right?

While in Hamilton, we couldn’t resist a visit to New Zealand’s only tea plantation, Zealong Tea Estate.

As a neurotic lifelong coffee addict, I’ve begun drinking tea more and more in recent years, and I loved learning more and more about the process and careful cultivation of tea. And the intricacy of the tea pouring ritual is beautiful 😊

waikato travel

Me and my merino Allbirds loungers in the gardens – still the best travel shoe I reckon!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Surf’s up in Raglan

Nothing beats a sunset watching the surf in the sleeping seaside town of Raglan in the Waikato! Waikato’s travel here is incredible.

There’s just something special about this place that keeps bringing me back again and again and again. I love watching the sets roll in as locals jostle for the waves. It’s really mesmerizing. Laidback and chill, unpretentious and captivating, warm and lush, Raglan is a place that gets under your skin and stays a while.

You only have to spend a few hours here before you want to kick off your shoes and never leave. Literally. No one wears shoes here, even in winter. And why would you?

Must-dos on any North Island road trip

waikato travel

waikato travel

Bridal Veil Falls outside of Raglan is worth a visit!

waikato travel

Marvel at the glowworm caves in Waitomo

The first time I saw glowworms in New Zealand was over six years ago on an action-packed trip blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Caves.

Gazing up, it felt like I was looking at a universe of blue stars! But as it turns out, I was looking at a ceiling of bright shiny maggots! I love Mother Nature.

Māori call glowworms titiwai, which refers to lights reflected in water, and they are carnivorous glowing larvae that drip down a long sticky thread in dark, damp environments that entangle insects they attract with their bright lights! Too cool!

The best and most comfortable place to see them in New Zealand is at the Waitomo Caves, where there are various ways of taking them in from a chill walk or boat to an adventurous day floating through underground rivers!

waikato travel

Get your party on at Hobbiton

I can’t talk about exploring the Waikato travel region and not mention that it’s home to the real-life Hobbiton, where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films were shot. Guy, the Shire, is real and open for visitors. And it’s DELIGHTFUL.

I’ve been many a time to Hobbiton, even when I first moved to New Zealand in 2013. This time, however, I was so excited to return for their annual Hobbit Day, an epic feast and evening party at Hobbiton celebrating International Hobbit Day and Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday. It was actually the most fun!

Hobbiton sure knows how to throw a party, and it’s worth keeping an eye out on their events to try and time your visit when they’ve got something extra special happening.

Even if you don’t love the films as much as me, it’s still a pretty epic place to visit on a trip to New Zealand. The highlight for many, it doesn’t disappoint. Have you been?

An evening feast fit for a queen at Hobbiton

waikato travel

waikato travel

Relax and unwind at Villa Walton in Matamata

If you find yourself exploring on my Waikato travel, you have to stay at a B & B or farm stay at one point or another.

After visiting Hobbiton, try and grab a room at Villa Walton, the most elegant historic homestead in picturesque Matamata, overlooking the Kaimai Ranges.

Established in 1904, the rural boutique accommodation of Villa Walton oozes comfort and charm. With amazing homemade brekkie, great company, beautiful style, and a garden to die for, I was gutted only to spend one night here. I’ll be back for longer next time!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Go for a sunset glowworm paddle at Lake Karapiro

After a big day of exploring, we headed out for a perfect sunset guided kayak tour on the pristine Lake Karapiro, a place I’ve never been to before. What a beautiful part of the country the south Waikato is, idyllic, lush, and peaceful.

As the sun set behind the hills, we made our way towards the Pokaiwhenua Stream, a verdant green canyon straight from a storybook with Lake District Adventures.

After waiting for darkness to fall, we floated back through the narrow, steep canyon, in complete darkness, with nothing but millions of blue glowworms twinkling along the canyon walls and the Milky Way shining above our head!

This was definitely not a moment I will ever forget!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Visit the birds at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

The lovely native forest around Maungatautari never ceases to blow me away.

A massive predator-free fenced-in eco-sanctuary in the heart of the Waikato travel – the work they’re doing here to bring back our precious native creatures, like kiwi, is both inspiring and powerful.

Maungatautari is a true ecological ‘island,’ an eco-sanctuary inside one of the world’s longest predator-proof fences that allows beautiful New Zealand birdlife to thrive. Here you can find native wildlife, plants, and great walking trails, and I could easily spend hours and hours wandering in this incredible forest. What a place!

I really enjoyed getting up close and personal with kākā, a native New Zealand parrot, found chattering in the forests. They are lovely, and I always try and listen out for them when I know they are in the area.

waikato travel

waikato travel

waikato travel

Many thanks to the Mighty Waikato for hosting me on the North Island – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you can expect less from me.

The post 20 photos that will inspire you to visit the Waikato, New Zealand appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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New Zealand for foodies – where to wine and dine in Central Otago


Nowhere else in New Zealand tugs at my heartstrings quite like Central Otago, where I’ve called home the past six years. And when I think of where to eat in Central Otago, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

A place of big skies, unchanged pubs, and demeanors reminiscent of a bygone age, “Central” as we call it is uniquely kiwi as it can be. You can just tell by the soft herbal scents in the air exactly where you are. The vibrant seasons and rugged landscape is wild and untamed, and it’s a place that evokes serious nostalgia amongst travelers like me.

There’s nowhere else quite like Central Otago.

10 reasons not to miss Central Otago, New Zealand

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Hidden away on the bottom half of New Zealand’s South Island, Central Otago is sprawling and empty, a land of high country sheep farms and rolling tree-free mountains straight from a painting. Here the skies are significant, and the rivers are bright blue, a place of deep gorges and tussock, and hills covered in wild thyme.

The mountains are rocky and feel vaguely lunar, and with a rich history of a 19th-century gold rush, Central Otago is memorable and a bit weird. With harsh cold winters and scorching hot, dry summers, the climate here is unique in New Zealand.

On top of that, it’s New Zealand’s premier Pinot Noir country, dotted with mum and pop vineyards and exceptional wineries, with fabulous eateries to boot.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

A place that births impressive produce, from cherries in the peak of summer to the most delightful honey and incredible meats like lamb and venison, the food scene in Central is blossoming fast.

For the past couple of years, Central comes alive every spring (September – October) with their own celebratory food festival, where restaurants, pubs, wineries, and venues put together festival dishes over a month that showcase the flavors of Central Otago. It’s the perfect time to explore Central Otago – but remember to come hungry!

After dining in and around here for years, I’ve decided to cobble together a list of recommendations on where to eat in Central Otago – enjoy!

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Cromwell and Bannockburn

Cromwell is by far the biggest town in rural Central Otago (discounting places like Wanaka, Queenstown, and Dunedin, of course), and it’s an excellent base for exploring the area with heaps on offer. The place where the Clutha and Kawarau Rivers meet, Cromwell has been a hub since 1862 when gold was first discovered here.

The lakefront and historic precinct in Cromwell is one of my favorite haunts, and of course, I always stop through here for fresh stonefruit come summertime when I am visiting vineyards in the area.

Ten minutes up the road from Cromwell, you’ll find the adorable wee township of Bannockburn, another critical gold mining area and home to some of my favorite foodie spots and walks.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Mt. Difficulty

Without a doubt, one of my favorite places to have a long lunch in the sunshine in Bannockburn is at Mt. Difficulty winery restaurant.

A solid, delicious choice, it hasn’t let me down yet. Tucked away on the prestigious Felton Road, the Mt. Diff menu changes regularly, and their Pinot always makes me smile. My mom loved it here.

Book in for sure.

where to eat in central otago

Carrick Winery

Carrick is another winery in Bannockburn that also serves up a classic Central Otago lunch and is another go-to spot for me, especially when I’m bringing friends out for a visit.

The views at Carrick over Bannockburn are some of my favorites, especially in the autumn.

where to eat in central otago

Armando’s Kitchen

Tucked away in the historic precinct of Cromwell, Armando’s Kitchen is a bit of an institution, overlooking Lake Dunstan.

I come for their cinnamon scrolls, which are so good.

where to eat in central otago

Cloudy Bay Shed

Cloudy Bay is an iconic New Zealand wine label from the famous Marlborough region at the top of the South Island, and I always call in when I’m in the area to pick up a bottle or three of their Chardonnay.

I was so excited to see they opened a beautiful tasting room in Northburn just outside Cromwell in the most picturesque of settings. Since they also grow grapes in Central, it’s pretty exciting to get a taste of Cloudy Bay closer to home.

And their platters are to die for, and they’re usually is a puppy or two around to play in the sunshine.

where to eat in central otago

Alexandra and Clyde

Alexandra is Central Otago’s busy business town, and it is the heartbeat of the region. In many ways, Alex is more classically “kiwi” than Cromwell, which is closer to Queenstown and experiences a significant tourism spillover.

I love Alex, and it’s right in the middle of some of my favorite landscapes along the Clutha River. Just up the road is the preserved gold mining town of Clyde, a place I love to spend time.

There is no shortage of small wineries and delicious eateries to chose from around Alexandra and Clyde, and I’ll let you know where to eat in Central Otago.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Oliver’s

If I had to pick a favorite place to dine in Central Otago, it would probably be Oliver’s in Clyde, a Central institution.

Beautifully restored historical accommodation, it’s also home to a restaurant that will knock your socks off (book in advance) with the most classic of Central flavors, you can feel the heart and soul that went into bringing the original gold mining general store back to life.

On-site, they also have the Victoria Store Brewery and The Merchant of Clyde, which is a cafe and deli with the most fantastic collection of antique maps and cozy corners to read in.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Paulina’s

While Oliver’s is very much the king of Central Otago in terms of local cuisine and flavors, just across the road, you’ll find the very busy Paulina’s (also book in advance), which brings the rustic farmhouse menus from her native southern Chile to life in New Zealand.

A place where South American flavors mingle with Central Otago tastes, it’s a match made in heaven for foodies like me who yearn for dishes from our travels.

where to eat in central otago

Courthouse Cafe

First things first on any road trip I take through Central Otago, I always stop at the Courthouse Cafe in Alexandra. No matter what. When I think of where to eat in Central Otago, this cafe immediately springs to mind

Feminine and borderline kitschy, the Courthouse Cafe in Alex, is not surprisingly inside the renovated old courthouse, complete with pew-like benches.

Their food is creative and AMAZING, and they have the most fantastic cabinet food in New Zealand. And they also usually sell fresh flowers. I love it here.

where to eat in central otago

Shakey Bridge Bistro

A walk across the famous Shaky Bridge in Alexandra (Kerry Street) will bring you to the beautiful outskirts of the town with some pretty special views. Now a footbridge, it’s best experienced in autumn when golden poplars surround the river.

On the other side, you’ll find a little bistro / cafe / bar that is sometimes open, sometimes not, but if you’re lucky and it is open, it’s a fantastic spot to while away the hours in the Central sunshine.

You can also drive there, but the directions are a bit confusing in Google Maps.

where to eat in central otago

Ranfurly and the Maniototo

As you pass through Alex and head inland towards Dunedin on the classic Pigroot (don’t ask me where that name comes from), you’ll visit some of my favorite spots. If you’re wondering where to eat in Central Otago in this part, read on.

Overlooked by most visitors except those cycling the famous Central Otago Rail Trail, Ranfurly and the Maniototo are stunning pastoral plains with the big wide-open skies you might expect from the American midwest.

Here you’ll find ghost towns, abandoned cemeteries and classic pubs that haven’t changed much. Great views, no people, and beautiful food, deep in the heart of Central, is worth exploring if you have the time.

This part of Central is home to many country pub hotels, which are pretty self-explanatory. Back in the day, it was so remote that the pubs were also hotels, a tradition that’s carried on here.

where to eat in central otago

where to eat in central otago

Pitches Store

My first foray into the amazing dining in rural Central was at Pitches Store in Ophir (pronounced “oh- fur”) back when I have a girl’s getaway to Lombardy Cottage – which since has sold.

Hidden away in the tiny historic gold mining town of Ophir, Pitches has been lovingly restored into a beautiful B&B and restaurant/cafe.

A beautiful setting with an exquisite menu, Pitches is worth traveling out of your way to visit.

where to eat in central otago

Blacks Hotel

My other favorite spot in Ophir is Blacks Hotel, a total gem!

Built-in the ’30s in an art deco style (standing out in a place with gold rush heritage sites), Blacks will charm the pants off you. Full of love and character, leave your shoes outside and park up and stay awhile.

With a real home away from home vibe, this pub slash country hotel is super charming.

where to eat in central otago

Maniototo Cafe

Ranfurly is small, no doubt about it, and if you blink, you might miss it.

Don’t blink, and be sure to call into the local Maniototo Cafe for a perfect flat white and something yummy to fill you up.

I could get a turmeric latte here well before I could find one in Wanaka, which is saying something (not that you could pay me to drink turmeric), and I’ve always made a point to call in here on a road trip. Ranfurly is close to some pretty amazing historic towns and sites around Central, and it’s a great hub for exploring.

where to eat in central otago

Waipiata Pub

It’s hard to pick a favorite country pub in New Zealand. If I had to, it would probably be the Waipiata Pub in Central Otago.

Built-in 1898 in mudbrick, the Waipiata pub is about as classic kiwi as you can get.

Quirky and full of character, nothing beats having a cold beer after a day exploring in the hot Central sun here.

where to eat in central otago

I love Central Otago. It’s a place I’ve called home for a long time, and it’s worth exploring more. A quieter part of New Zealand, it’s home to some world-class wineries and memorable spots to dine.

The question isn’t where to eat in Central Otago, rather how much?

What have I missed? Have you explored this part of New Zealand? Have any Central Otago foodie spots to add to the list? Share in the comments!

where to eat in central otago

Many thanks to Tourism Central Otago for hosting me – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post New Zealand for foodies – where to wine and dine in Central Otago appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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The raw and wild power of the remote Auckland Islands


The more and more I travel the world, the more I’ve come to realize how much I value and adore going off the grid, voyaging to far shores few have been to and seeing places that barely exist on social media, if not at all.

Trust me; there are still so many spots out there.

These wild places beckon to me, they call to my soul, and they are the spots that fill my heart with pure joy, a joy I can’t even share because there definitely isn’t wifi around.

Does that sound like somewhere right up your alley? Or do you prefer to read about it from the comforts of home? No shaming whatsoever. As an ambitious adventurer full of fear, I devour plenty of stories that I would never in a million years attempt on my own. I get it.

Who doesn’t love a good story?

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

Last year over the Christmas holidays, which is summertime down in New Zealand where I live, I had the incredible opportunity to journey to the bottom of the world with Heritage Expeditions, back to the subantarctic, but this time on the Pacific side of the map – instead of from South America.

A Christchurch-based expedition company, Heritage Expeditions, and I go way back. These guys are badass. Pioneers in conservation tourism, they have been leading the charge over the past decade in responsibly sharing our precious places, encouraging us to be guardians of the natural world.

And I can safely say, there is nowhere better to see this than in the New Zealand subantarctic.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands


If you were to head south from the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island – past Stewart Island, many probably know that you’ll eventually end up in Antarctica.

But before landing on the icy white continent – you’ll first encounter a series of rugged, windswept, uninhabited desolate islands home to a lot of birds. Including the Auckland Islands travel here will blow your mind.

Many might find that description unappealing, but I can tell you, THEY ARE SO AMAZING! Wild weather? Rugged and remote? No people? All the birds?

Does it get any better than that? Don’t think so.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

A few years ago, I traveled to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, which are subantarctic islands on the South American side, and I felt with the profound and somewhat surprising revelation that I think I like the subantarctic islands better.

Why? Because for me, I enjoyed the wildlife there more. And it’s less white, less icy. I prefer the colors you see there, and it’s a place few ever visit.

Along with the Snares, Campbell Island, and Macquarie Island (Australian managed), on my trip south last year with Heritage Expeditions, we also visited the Auckland Islands – our trip was the Galapagos of the Subantarctic.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

The Auckland Islands are roughly 465 kilometers due south of Bluff, where the ship departs from.

They are the largest of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands, with a combined area of 57,000 hectares or 220 square miles, according to Google – but don’t quote me on that. I have little to no comprehension of size and scale whatsoever.

The Auckland Islands are big but not that big, none of the subantarctic islands are enormous. I imagine this is because they are constantly battered by gale-force winds which have whittled them down – but that’s pure conjecture on my part.

Moving on!

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

The big-but-not-too-big Auckland Islands are home to a massive variety of plants and wildlife, as well as having a rich human history that failed spectacularly many times.

Leave it to the birds.

What’s cool is that the Auckland Islands is considered to be the furthest south wayfaring Polynesians traveled to, with evidence of ovens and middens on Enderby Island from the 13th to 14th centuries before disappearing.

In about 1842, a settlement of Māori and Mōriori tried to establish themselves here too.


You only have to spend about an hour down here to understand that the weather patterns are grim, grimmer, and less grim. In fact, there were so many shipwrecks down here, eventually castaway depots were left along with wild pigs to feed shipwrecked sailors until they could be rescued again.

Eventually, humans returned in the 19th century to decimate both the seal and whale populations, with attempted settlements that, surprise! Failed.

Only the pigs and pests survived.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

While on the ship, I plowed through many of the stories and diaries from early explorers, sealers, and attempted farmers down here, and I just couldn’t even believe anyone would have given it a go. It’s so remote and wild; it would have taken a powerful person even to try.

Like I say, they don’t make men like they used to, eh?!

Even rugged up in my expensive Goretex and merino layers, I could feel the weather here. You’ve got to be prepared. But it’s important to remember that this wild landscape is what has allowed too many incredible creatures to thrive, like the albatross who need high wind.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

No humans inhabit the Auckland Islands these days, no matter how many times I pester the Department of Conservation to let me go down and set up shop. I’m just saying, and I could totally live there and be happy.

Sign. Me. Up.

What makes the Auckland Islands so unique from the other islands is its sheer biodiversity and abundance of very cool, enormous plants.


The subantarctic has an incredible phenomenon called megaherbs – which is what you might expect – huge flowering plants that exist nowhere else on earth. How cool is that?

It’s undoubtedly one of the first things I noticed wandering around the boardwalks and beaches of the island. The plants were big, way big, like Jurassic Park big.

Some of the plants we would frequently see are the Ross Lily, Anisotome latifolia, Dracophyllum, along with a beautiful and gnarly southern Rata forest. Enderby Island has kilometers of boardwalk built across it to protect the native fauna from being disturbed, and it certainly made our walks around much more accessible.

I couldn’t help but send a massive thank you to the team of people who installed them – it would not have been an easy feat. I salute you.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

There are vast numbers of seabirds on the Auckland Islands, despite feral cats and pigs feasting on them until somehow conservation groups raise enough money to eradicate them. Any millionaire philanthropists looking for a project which might be reading this – hit me up!

A vital breeding ground for many birds in the Southern Ocean, the Auckland Islands are home to white-capped albatross and millions of sooty shearwaters.

The Auckland Islands are also home to the largest breeding population of wandering albatross – which are one of my favorites. They are beautiful creatures, and we were lucky enough to observe them dotted amongst the hills and soaring over our heads.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

The Auckland Islands are also home to the highest proportion of the rare yellow-eyed penguins breeding here, the rarest penguins on earth.

We saw so many while exploring the islands, and it made my heart sing to see them here, somewhat thriving where they are in decline in mainland New Zealand.

Some of the other land birds on the Auckland Islands are the Auckland Island snipe, the Auckland Island teal, tomtit, the red-fronted and yellow-crowned parakeets, tūī, bellbirds, pipits, and even falcons.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

Did you know the Hooker’s Sea Lion, which is the world’s rarest sea lion breeds on the Auckland Islands?

I spent a lot of time sitting and quietly observing a breeding sea lion colony while on Enderby Island – and trust me – I’ll never be the same again.

Life, death, birth, sex, dinner, poo, blood, we saw it all. Repeatedly. I left filled with knowledge and the sincere gratitude not to have been born a sea lion female because that just sucks.

Fun fact – a breeding sea lion colony is called a harem. I can attest to the accuracy of this title.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

So what’s the current state of the Auckland Islands? Well, let me update you.

Animal pests introduced by humans over the last 200 years have inflicted severe ecological damage to the Auckland Islands in many ways, but luckily that might change.

Following the successful eradication of mice from Antipodes Island, DOC is currently investigating the feasibility of eradicating pigs, cats, and mice from Auckland Island to achieve mammalian pest-free status for the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands. This would be SO COOL.

In the meantime, if you’re keen to get down to the subantarctic like me, and see this incredible place for yourself, hop on one of Heritage Expedition’s trips as it’s pretty much the only way to get down to places like the Auckland Islands.

Have you heard of the Auckland islands? Is this the kind of place you would visit too? Do you love wild landscapes like me? Share!

auckland islands travel

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post The raw and wild power of the remote Auckland Islands appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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20 photos that will inspire you to visit the Waikato, New Zealand


I’m so excited for springtime and warmer days here in New Zealand, and there’s nowhere better to experience it than up in the Waikato region of the North Island. Waikato travel will blow you away.

Lush and bucolic, with rolling green hills dotted with lambs and cows, beneath a bright blue sky, it’s no wonder this is the heart of New Zealand’s farm culture. I love watching everything bloom and finally being warm after months of frosts and snow down south where I call home.

Before we even land at the tiny Hamilton Airport, I’m struck by how green and fresh it seems here. Just south of Auckland lies the Waikato, an area I’ve visited many times but was excited to come back to again. A land of lush pastures, it’s not really surprising to any that Peter Jackson chose this area for the hobbits to call home in the Lord of the Rings films.

Spring here is as impressive as you can imagine, and I want to begin my story by sharing some of my favorite photos from a recent trip up north with you all before digging a little deeper. Enjoy!

waikato travel

waikato travel

waikato travel

Get to know Hamilton

The city of Hamilton is nestled on the banks of the mighty Waikato River on New Zealand’s North Island, and it is known for its walks, gardens, cafes, and nightlife. It’s also known as the Tron. Please, someone, tell me why. I have to know.

One thing I really loved about Hamilton on my Waikato travel was walking along the river, which seems to be the beating heart of the city. I can tell a lot of work has gone into making the riverfront epic, a fun spot to chill downtown. With lots of fun places to eat and explore, I couldn’t get enough.

And then as I was wandering, wearing my first short-sleeve dress this spring (yay it’s so warm!), I stumbled across this incredible mural of a kārearea (native NZ falcon) ❤️ , and I squealed with delight! And unabashed #birdnerd with a penchant for street art that decorates the walls of understated spots, all of my boxes were ticked as I spent a few days exploring Hamilton.

This mural “A Love Story” is based on a local, oral whakataukī (proverb) of a kārearea carrying two twins, Reipae and Reitu, from the Waikato to Whangarei for marriage. Painted by two renowned Auckland artists, Charlie and Janine Williams, it’s an exceptional price sharing a bit of local Māori narratives to the world. Have you seen it?

waikato travel

waikato travel

Dinner at the Chilli House is a must – a local Hamilton institution

Nothing beats spring at the Hamilton Gardens, especially in the early morning before the world wakes up. These gardens are pretty famous in New Zealand – and for a good reason – they’re fantastic!

Not just any old gardens, the Hamilton Gardens are more of a museum of gardens, dedicated to sharing examples of exquisite gardens around the world. As a new student of plant growing and mildly obsessed with historical botany, I was in heaven. Also, plants make me so happy, and nothing is better than a botanical garden in the spring, am I right?

While in Hamilton, we couldn’t resist a visit to New Zealand’s only tea plantation, Zealong Tea Estate.

As a neurotic lifelong coffee addict, I’ve begun drinking tea more and more in recent years, and I loved learning more and more about the process and careful cultivation of tea. And the intricacy of the tea pouring ritual is beautiful 😊

waikato travel

Me and my merino Allbirds loungers in the gardens – still the best travel shoe I reckon!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Surf’s up in Raglan

Nothing beats a sunset watching the surf in the sleeping seaside town of Raglan in the Waikato! Waikato’s travel here is incredible.

There’s just something special about this place that keeps bringing me back again and again and again. I love watching the sets roll in as locals jostle for the waves. It’s really mesmerizing. Laidback and chill, unpretentious and captivating, warm and lush, Raglan is a place that gets under your skin and stays a while.

You only have to spend a few hours here before you want to kick off your shoes and never leave. Literally. No one wears shoes here, even in winter. And why would you?

Must-dos on any North Island road trip

waikato travel

waikato travel

Bridal Veil Falls outside of Raglan is worth a visit!

waikato travel

Marvel at the glowworm caves in Waitomo

The first time I saw glowworms in New Zealand was over six years ago on an action-packed trip blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Caves.

Gazing up, it felt like I was looking at a universe of blue stars! But as it turns out, I was looking at a ceiling of bright shiny maggots! I love Mother Nature.

Māori call glowworms titiwai, which refers to lights reflected in water, and they are carnivorous glowing larvae that drip down a long sticky thread in dark, damp environments that entangle insects they attract with their bright lights! Too cool!

The best and most comfortable place to see them in New Zealand is at the Waitomo Caves, where there are various ways of taking them in from a chill walk or boat to an adventurous day floating through underground rivers!

waikato travel

Get your party on at Hobbiton

I can’t talk about exploring the Waikato travel region and not mention that it’s home to the real-life Hobbiton, where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films were shot. Guy, the Shire, is real and open for visitors. And it’s DELIGHTFUL.

I’ve been many a time to Hobbiton, even when I first moved to New Zealand in 2013. This time, however, I was so excited to return for their annual Hobbit Day, an epic feast and evening party at Hobbiton celebrating International Hobbit Day and Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday. It was actually the most fun!

Hobbiton sure knows how to throw a party, and it’s worth keeping an eye out on their events to try and time your visit when they’ve got something extra special happening.

Even if you don’t love the films as much as me, it’s still a pretty epic place to visit on a trip to New Zealand. The highlight for many, it doesn’t disappoint. Have you been?

An evening feast fit for a queen at Hobbiton

waikato travel

waikato travel

Relax and unwind at Villa Walton in Matamata

If you find yourself exploring on my Waikato travel, you have to stay at a B & B or farm stay at one point or another.

After visiting Hobbiton, try and grab a room at Villa Walton, the most elegant historic homestead in picturesque Matamata, overlooking the Kaimai Ranges.

Established in 1904, the rural boutique accommodation of Villa Walton oozes comfort and charm. With amazing homemade brekkie, great company, beautiful style, and a garden to die for, I was gutted only to spend one night here. I’ll be back for longer next time!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Go for a sunset glowworm paddle at Lake Karapiro

After a big day of exploring, we headed out for a perfect sunset guided kayak tour on the pristine Lake Karapiro, a place I’ve never been to before. What a beautiful part of the country the south Waikato is, idyllic, lush, and peaceful.

As the sun set behind the hills, we made our way towards the Pokaiwhenua Stream, a verdant green canyon straight from a storybook with Lake District Adventures.

After waiting for darkness to fall, we floated back through the narrow, steep canyon, in complete darkness, with nothing but millions of blue glowworms twinkling along the canyon walls and the Milky Way shining above our head!

This was definitely not a moment I will ever forget!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Visit the birds at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

The lovely native forest around Maungatautari never ceases to blow me away.

A massive predator-free fenced-in eco-sanctuary in the heart of the Waikato travel – the work they’re doing here to bring back our precious native creatures, like kiwi, is both inspiring and powerful.

Maungatautari is a true ecological ‘island,’ an eco-sanctuary inside one of the world’s longest predator-proof fences that allows beautiful New Zealand birdlife to thrive. Here you can find native wildlife, plants, and great walking trails, and I could easily spend hours and hours wandering in this incredible forest. What a place!

I really enjoyed getting up close and personal with kākā, a native New Zealand parrot, found chattering in the forests. They are lovely, and I always try and listen out for them when I know they are in the area.

waikato travel

waikato travel

waikato travel

Many thanks to the Mighty Waikato for hosting me on the North Island – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you can expect less from me.

The post 20 photos that will inspire you to visit the Waikato, New Zealand appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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