New Zealand, Highlights of a beautiful country

Before heading to New Zealand, I spent a few sunny days in Sydney! After about 10 minutes of wandering around, I realised why so many people stay and choose to call it home. I can enjoy several days in the countryside, but it are the big cities that really excite me!

Sydney now ranks in the top 3 of favourite cities in the world, together with Cape Town & Buenos Aires!

Auckland

After saying my goodbyes to the lovely city, I continued my journey to New Zealand where I would be spending nearly two weeks, hopping from one place to another, one highlight after another. By the time I arrived at the hotel in Auckland, the local party scene was doing well and streets were filled with lively, young partygoers. Auckland was celebrating its 175th anniversary that weekend with a lot of festivities .. and alcohol. Seafood festival, a chance to explore the Navy’s vessels, vintage cars,.. and helicopter flights. Don’t skip the War Memorial museum when you’re there! Nice city… but it’s not Sydney.

Auckland 175th anniversary

Auckland 175th anniversary

Auckland from the helicopter

Auckland from the helicopter

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Speaking of alcohol, there’s a Belgian Beer Café “The Occidental” in Auckland, not only do they serve Jupiler, Stella, Leffe and Hoegaarden, but also Westvleteren 12 for the noble price of 104 NZD or 70 EUR. Each. Career switch, anyone?
For breakfast, I recommend Eggs Benedict at Café Melba, located in Vulcan Street a few meters from the café.

Taupo

Just a bus ride away from Auckland is Taupo, that serves as an excellent base for the Tongariro Crossing, the best walk-in-the-park ever, the highlight of this awesome trip. Taupo has a view bars and restaurants, but have a look at some of the watersport activities such as parasailing, jet skiing, fly board, kayak, … etc. Sunsets aren’t too shabby as well.

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South Island

I’m very well aware that my time there wasn’t nearly enough, but after about five days on the North Island of New Zealand, I hopped on a plane to Nelson, located in the North of the South Island in close proximity to Kahurangi National Park & Abel Tasman National Park.

Sea Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park is nice, it’s cool and the beaches are perfect. Keep in mind that the kayaks are for two persons so you might end up being the one who does all the paddling… #justsaying. Not only can you go kayaking for a day, but you can also spent a (few) night(s) in the Park. Remember that Kahurangi National Park isn’t that far off.

Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

After Nelson, I drove to Blenheim, Marlboroughthe wine region in New Zealand. Miles & miles of wineries and vineyards, have lunch at the Alan Scott Family Winemakers or stop for a unique Cellar Door Wine Tasting Experience at Cloudy Bay.
And continued after said lunch to Kaikoura, which in all honesty is quite a boring place. I just needed to spend the night there to rise bright & early for (sperm) whale watching and dolphin spotting. Keep in mind that you normally only get to see one whale, two if you’re lucky! Although seeing a full breach would have made my day!

whale-watching-listening

Christchurch

The earthquake in 2011 hit the city hard, streets are still closed in the center, some buildings are in the process of being restored but a lot have simply been abandoned. I do like how business seems to be picking up, there’s a RE:Start container mall set up for retailers and it’s pleasant to spend some time there.

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Eat: Souvlaki – DIMITRIS SOUVLAKI & YEEROS @ South Food Court Re:Start
Visit:  Canterbury Museum – free – gifts are accepted

Driving in New Zealand

You need to drive on the wrong side of the road… If you’re having a hard time adjusting, keep in mind that as a driver you need to be ‘in the middle of the road’ and then you’ll do just fine.
if you’re coming from the East Coast when headed to Queenstown, take the detour along Wanaka! The Crown Range road is simply stunning!

Driving in New Zealand – Blenheim to Kaikoura

Driving in New Zealand – Blenheim to Kaikoura

Church of the Good Shepherd – driving in New Zealand

Church of the Good Shepherd – driving in New Zealand

Lake Pukaki – Driving in New Zealand

Lake Pukaki – Driving in New Zealand

Kane Road – Driving in New Zealand

Kane Road – Driving in New Zealand

Crown Range Road – Wanaka to Queenstown

Crown Range Road – Wanaka to Queenstown

Crown Range Road – Wanaka to Queenstown

Crown Range Road – Wanaka to Queenstown

Queenstown

As far as scenic cities go… Queenstown.. holy cow! Look at that mountain range! LOOK AT IT!
I stayed there for 3 days, unfortunately the weather wasn’t great and all ‘activities in the sky’ were cancelled! No skydiving, no hanggliding, no parasailing, .. etc! A shame really, but on the morning of my flight back to Auckland, the weather cleared and I rushed myself to Bob’s Peak, using the Queenstown Gondola! Worth a visit! Have a look:

View over Queenstown from Bob’s Peak

View over Queenstown from Bob’s Peak

View over Queenstown from Bob’s Peak

View over Queenstown from Bob’s Peak

TO DO: Mountainbike from Kawarau Falls to the Queenstown Golf Course to Jacks Point

EAT: Ferg Burger – try Tropical Swine (Prime New Zealand Beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli) – there’s always a line. Check the pictures on TripAdvisor
(
honestly, best hamburger ever. I went a few times.. No need for the extra fries. Thank me later.)

Looking back…

Everyone who has ever been to New Zealand, can surely agree when I say that New Zealand is one of those countries that you just need to visit. Its nature is simply stunning. Personally, I don’t think that I could live there though, as I said I like the big city life. New Zealand, a bit larger than the United Kingdom, only has 4,5 million inhabitants! But for travelling, it’s awesome!

If you’re hitch hiking, fear not, you’ll likely to spend less than half an hour at the side of the road waiting (or so I have been told, multiple times). And the speed limit in New Zealand..

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