The Ultimate One Week New Zealand North Island Itinerary & Route!

After two weeks driving around the south island of New Zealand, we crossed the Cook Strait in our trusty Escape Rentals van and set foot on the north island, ready to continue our New Zealand adventure! Read on to find out what route we took on our 1 week adventure around New Zealand’s North Island!

New Zealand North Island Itinerary

First up on our tour, Wellington!

New Zealand north island itinerary

Wellington

After arriving on the ferry, we’d highly recommend spending a couple of days in the capital. However, finding a good place to stay can be tricky. You can stay in the city and pay a little more, or drive 8-10 km outside of the city to a motor inn and catch a public bus in. Being the cheaper and less stressful option, we opted to stay just outside the city at the Capital Gateway Motor Inn in Newlands, a mere 10 minutes bus ride away from the city.

We had originally planned to spend only one day in Wellington, but after loving our first day there we decided to extend or stay by a couple of days.

You’ll find a great choice of restaurants, bars, shops, theatres and museums in Wellington and a great vibe to go with them. In particular, we’d highly recommend a visit to the National Museum ‘Te Papa’. Set in an impressively designed building, it’s packed with many interesting exhibitions from Maori history and New Zealand’s geological history, to the world’s largest captured squid encased in a glass box for viewing!

On weekends, near the museum and adjacent to the riverside, you’ll find an international food market serving up an amazing array of cuisines including Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Chinese and many more.

Aside from great food and bars, you can also get a great view over the city by riding the cable car to a lookout spot near the city’s beautiful botanical gardens.

Wellington to Tongariro Alpine National Park

After a fantastic couple of days in Wellington, we journeyed north towards Tongariro National Park where we took on the challenge of the Tongariro crossing.

New Zealand north island itinerary
Tongariro Crossing Hike, North Island

Surrounded by snowcapped mountains, volcanoes and stunning lakes, the breathtaking landscape easily made this trek one of our highlights of our New Zealand tour.

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Tongariro Alpine National Park to Rotorua

Around two hours north east of the Tongariro National Park was our next stop, at the distinctive smelling town of Rotorua. This is where you’ll find New Zealand’s home of geysers, mud pools, thermal villages and a strong smell of sulphur to go with them! Here you can take a tour of a traditional thermal village and enjoy a dip in one of the many natural hot springs. We sampled a few to soothe our sore trekking muscles, and also took a visit to Whakarewarewa Thermal village where the local Maoris explained their interesting lifestyle and use of the geological landscape in which they live.

New Zealand north island itinerary
Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, Rotorua

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Rotorua to Otorohanga

Next we ventured west to check out the famous glow worm caves of Waitomo, close to the town of Otorohanga. There’s not much to do here other than take a tour of the amazing caves but it was well worth a visit in our opinion! The caves were magical and Otorohanga is a very nice town to spend a couple of days relaxing in if like us you need a rest from driving! Check out our experience of the Waitomo caves!

New Zealand north island itinerary
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

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Otorohanga to Auckland

And so, after almost 4 weeks of touring the south and north islands of New Zealand, it was nearly time for us to hand back our trusty campervan, so off we went to Auckland, our final stop of the tour.  Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit the Bay of Islands in the north or the Coromandel area in the north east this time, but there’s always next time! Overall, New Zealand is an incredible country to visit, and we would recommend having your own transport to get around the two islands. If you’re into extreme sports, you’ll be well catered for! But, if like us you’re not so bothered about throwing yourself off various edifices, then the stunning scenery and walks of the country will keep you more than occupied for a month!

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Escape Rentals Campervans, New Zealand

Meet Geisha, our home for a month in New Zealand! She was small, but perfectly formed and a perfect companion for our tour of New Zealand!

escape campervans

Escape Campervans Hire New Zealand

First things first, we know it’s cliche to hire a campervan and travel around New Zealand, but it really is the best way to see this incredible country.  And it makes you look really cool too.

We booked our campervan online through Escape Rentals, and we’d recommend using them if you’re thinking about hiring a campervan in New Zealand. You’ll find there are many options for campervan hire in New Zealand, but if you’re looking for something small, at the budget end of pricing and funky, then get in touch and see what they can do for you!

We went for the automatic Toyota campervan, and were given little ‘Geisha’ as our home for the month. Each of their van’s paint jobs are unique, and we had great fun spotting other Escape Rental vans along the way, getting a cheery wave or hello when our paths crossed.

The van slept both of us comfortably, and when the bed was put away, we had a table and comfortable seats to sit on.

escape campervans

Open the back door, and you reveal the kitchen with sink, water pump and space to put a gas stove for cooking.

escape campervans

After talking us through the van and sorting out the details, we hit the road.  Escape Rentals provide an Escape Guide, a really great booklet of what to see and do in New Zealand which we constantly checked to see where we should head next. Need some tips on getting the most out of your time in New Zealand? Check out our list below!

  • Stock up on tinned and dried goods when you pick the van up in a city (especially before you head south from Christchurch).
  • Buy local fresh produce as you go (look out for farmers markets on the side of the road).
  • Open the windows slightly at night to make it less cold (avoids build up of ice inside the van when cold – this happened to us the night before we attempted the Tongariro crossing!)
  • Whilst on the south island, you’ll find many Department of Conservation (DOC) sites to stay at for a small price and minimal facilities, but you’ll struggle on the north island unless you want to go way off the beaten path.
  • Aim to get to DOC sites at least a couple of hours before dark, otherwise it’s hard to see where to park and you don’t get much benefit if you leave the next morning.
  • Stay at a more expensive camper park once every 3 or 4 days to get electrical devices charged, get yourself showered and clothes washed (we stayed at Top 10 parks when we needed these facilities).
  • Park nearby to the toilet on DOC sites, you’ll appreciate it in the middle of the night.

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The Ultimate New Zealand South Island Itinerary & Route!

Chugging along in our trusty campervan, we spent 2 & half weeks travelling around the south island of New Zealand in our trusty Escape Rentals van, taking in many incredible sights along the way! Here is our guide to the south island, including our route and key things to see and do! Also check out our Ultimate One Week New Zealand North Island Itinerary & Route!

New Zealand South Island Itinerary

New Zealand South Island itinerary

Christchurch to Hanmer Springs

When you arrive in Christchurch, you have a few route options to consider! You can either go West towards Greymouth driving over Arthur’s Pass, South towards Dunedin or North towards Hanmer Springs.  Keen to cover as much of the South island as possible, and in particular the West Coast, we decided to head North to Hanmer Springs and then West through Lewis’ Pass towards Westport on the West coast.

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Hanmer Springs and Lewis Pass

There is incredible scenery en route to Hanmer Springs, and once you reach Lewis Pass the photo opportunities just keep coming and coming! We had some of the best views on the South island on this part of our journey.  Approximately halfway between Hanmer Springs and the West coast, you will find Maruia Springs natural mineral rock pools and Japanese bath, which was a good place to stop for a wash and take in the scenery of deeply forested valleys surrounding the outdoor pools.

Hanmer Springs to the Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers

Continuing West will take you to the main town of Westport where we stopped briefly before heading straight down the West coast to Franz Joseph town where you’ll find the famous Franz Joseph glacier.  Here you can book yourself into one of the many hikes or helicopter rides available to view the glacier.  We opted to take the short 20 minute drive and one hour return walk to see the Franz Josef glacier as we booked onto a cheaper half day hike at the Fox glacier, less than one hour drive south from Franz Joseph.

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The Fox Glacier to Queenstown

New Zealand South Island Itinerary
Fox Glacier

After hiking the fox glacier, it’s quite a long drive all the way down to Queenstown, so we decided to break up the journey by stopping off at a campsite along the way. There are lots of activities to do in Queenstown, but it’s also the most expensive town in New Zealand so there is a good chance you will find it cheaper to do most of the activities on offer elsewhere in New Zealand (such as jet boating). You could also visit an ice bar in Queenstown or enjoy a famous ‘Fergburger’ set against a stunning mountain backdrop. It’s also the perfect launchpad to visit Milford Sound!

New Zealand South Island itinerary
Below Zero Ice Bar, Queenstown

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Queenstown to Kaikoura

Kaikoura was our next main stop after Queenstown, however we decided to break up the long journey by spending a night at a campsite near Geraldine, approximately half way between Queenstown and Kaikoura on the East coast. Once in Kaikoura, you can get up close and personal at the seal colony, enjoy the fresh seafood on offer at the little huts on the beach or a drink with the locals at the friendly bars on the main street.

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Kaikoura to Blenheim (Malborough wine region)

After a couple of days in Kaikoura, it was time for us to make the relatively short journey north to Blenheim in the Marlborough wine region. It was here we did one of our favourite activities; wine tasting! The Marlborough region is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, so we booked onto a marlborough wine tour and relaxed in this beautiful part of the world.

New Zealand South Island itinerary
Malborough Wine Region

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Blenheim to Motueka and Abel Tasman National Park

After tasting and purchasing much wine, it was time to do a little exercise, so we headed North West of Blenheim to Motueka and the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. We opted for one day in Abel Tasman, but there are many options including trekking for a number of days. We loved the park and found Motueka to be the perfect launchpad for exploring it!

New Zealand South Island itinerary
Abel Tasman National Park

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Abel Tasman to Picton

Abel Tasman was our last main destination on the South Island, and after we’d had our day there, we made the short journey back to Picton where we caught the ferry to the North Island! Our North Island route will follow next week!

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Glow Worm Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

If you’re heading up the West coast of the North Island of New Zealand, a great place to stop for a couple of days is Otorohanga where you can visit the Glow Worm caves of Waitomo!  As we were nearing the end of our time in New Zealand, we stayed for a few days in this small town, relaxing after almost a month in our escape campervan, and took a day trip to the Waitomo Caves.

To be honest, we’d never heard of Glow Worm caves before, but we were intrigued to see what they were like.  Obviously you have to see them in the dark, which means going into some caves, so we booked a half day tour and headed out to see what all the fuss was about!

glow worm caves

Into the Glow Worm Caves…

With our helmets strapped on and torches checked, we headed into the first of two caves on our tour. First up was the Glow Worm cave, with a small entrance alongside a flowing stream taking us into the cave where we followed the stream further into the darkness. Once we were far enough into the cave, we turned the torches off and instantly a couple of glow worms came into view. Tiny turquoise and blue dots of light above us. And then as our eyes began to adjust to the darkness, more and more started to appear out of the darkness until the entire cave ceiling was covered in thousands of tiny green lit dots! Unfortunately it was too dark and wet to get any photos of the glow worms, so we stood and admired them before being ushered further into the cave.

As we got further in, the roar of a waterfall in the distance became louder, and at this point the pathway ended. There was no other way to get any further than in a dingy along the stream! So in we got, and floated up and down the stream as the glow worms twinkled above us. It was magical! After around an hour in the cave, we bid our farewells to the glow worms and headed back out into the sunshine.

After a quick stop for hot cocoa and biscuits, we made our way to the second cave of the day. This was a dry cave, and we spent an hour meandering through the various areas of the cave as our guide explained how the caves had been formed over thousands of years.

glow worm caves

This glow worm cave was incredible, with new caverns presenting themselves to us as we moved further into the cave. Stalagmites and stalactites were all around us, as were the remains of animals that had fallen through one of the many sink holes in the landscape.

glow worm caves

glow worm caves

After an hour, we reached the end of the cave (or at least as far as we were allowed to go) and once again made our way back to the entrance.  There are many options for cave tours in the area, from a simple dingy ride and walk in the caves, to 100m abseils into huge caverns, there is something for everyone! We opted for an easy half day, but if you’re more adventurous there are plenty other options out there!

Looking for more New Zealand inspiration? Click here.


Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, Rotorua

Anyone who has been to Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand will know it comes with a certain…odour. The area is famous for its hot, natural thermal springs which come in handy if you’ve just been trekking the Tongariro Crossing! When we visited Rotorua, we took half a day to visit the local Whakarewarewa thermal village!

whakarewarewa thermal village

The village is a real living village, but has been geared towards tourism with a number of daily tours around the village.  Despite the ‘touristy’ feel to it, we were genuinely intrigued by the village, which sits around 500 thermal pools and 65 geyser vents.

whakarewarewa thermal village

The Whakarewarewa Thermal Village & Rotorua Hot Springs

We were shown around by our guide, who explained to us how the village sits above many hot pools and indeed in some places the ground is less than a metre thick.  As a result, new vents open up in the village every now and then, forcing people to move from homes and adapt to the changing landscape.

whakarewarewa thermal village

whakarewarewa thermal village

There are, however, some very obvious benefits!  Being able to have a fresh, hot mineral bath whenever you want for free.  Utilising the steam vents to steam cook whole lambs and pigs, and the precise amount of time for perfect boiled eggs!  There are also areas of the village where the ground is hot enough to cook on as well, with the hottest pool reaching over 120 degrees Celsius! Jamie Oliver would love it here.

whakarewarewa thermal village

After an hour or so of touring the village, we were invited to watch a traditional Maori performance with dancing and singing.

Compared to some of our other adventures around the North island of New Zealand, this was a much more chilled out morning and we enjoyed the chance to learn more about the Maoris in New Zealand, and see how people live amongst a very active volcanic region. If you spend anytime in Rotorua, we’d recommend a visit!

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Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch Review

It’s not often you find yourself in jail a mere hour after arriving in a new country, but that’s exactly what happened to us when we landed in Christchurch!  It’s not what you’re thinking, we’d decided to book into the Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch for a night before our month in a campervan! Turned out to be a good decision!

The Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch

The Jailhouse Christchurch hostel accommodation was built in 1874 and used as jail, women’s prison and military camp until it closed in 1999. You can also walk into the centre from here, perhaps visit the cool Re:Start mall. We loved spending a night there and would recommend it to anyone staying in Christchurch!

Arriving at the hostel is a great experience, with the welcome area and general spaces feeling much more open than you might expect. If you’re into straight lines and white walls, this place is your idea of heaven! Moving upstairs, there are many rooms and also places to sit and chat in some beautiful spaces in the Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch.

Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch

Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch

The bedroom was…basic. No ensuite options here, just a bed and four walls! Still what did you expect from a jail? We had enough room for our bags and clothes, and enjoyed our experience of sleeping in a cell. Either way you look at it, it was better than the previous inmates!

Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch

If you need a base in Christchurch for a few days, and want something unique with character, you should really check our the Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch! It’s a great place to stay, and it’s great story to tell your friends…’Did I ever tell you about my time in jail in New Zealand?”. That’ll get them talking!

Looking For Accommodation In Christchurch?

If you’re looking for some accommodation options in Christchurch or elsewhere in New Zealand, we recommend you check out Agoda. Check if the Jailhouse Hostel Christchurch is available on your dates here.

 Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

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Ice Bar Queenstown, New Zealand

There’s nothing better than an ice cold drink, so we couldn’t resist a visit to the below zero ice bar Queenstown! Everything in the bar was made of ice, from the chairs, to the tables and even the light fittings!

Ice Bar Queenstown

Ice Bar Queenstown

With temperatures hovering around -5 and 35 tonnes of ice around us, we wrapped up warm and made ourselves at home!

Ice Bar Queenstown

Fancy a game of air hockey? Or ice hockey? It’s a bit confusing, but still brilliant!

Ice Bar Queenstown

And of course, if you get too cold, just go and sit next to the (real) fire!

Ice Bar Queenstown

Looking for more New Zealand inspiration? Click here.


Rebuilding Christchurch with ReSTART Mall

Before we picked up our Escape campervan for a month, we took some time to walk through Christchurch and see for ourselves the devastation caused by the earthquake in 2011. We couldn’t believe how much of the CBD had been destroyed by the earthquake, and indeed the amount of time it is taking to clear the centre and begin rebuilding.

restart mall christchurch

restart mall christchurch

restart mall christchurch

We also took a look around the ReSTART mall which was built in the aftermath of the earthquake to allow business owners to continue to operate whilst their own properties were repaired or rebuilt.  The unique solution was to use shipping containers converted into shops, and we were really impressed at how useful the containers were as shops!

The Inspiring ReSTART Mall, Christchurch

restart mall christchurch

restart mall christchurch

Christchurch was devastated by the earthquake, and the city is keen to bring tourists back after a major drop off following the earthquake. We’d highly recommend staying for a couple of days (perhaps in the Christchurch Jailhouse?) and taking a look at the rebuilding efforts!

Looking for more New Zealand inspiration? Click here.


Hiking the Fox Glacier New Zealand

One thing we didn’t realise before planning our journey around New Zealand was the climate, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the UK with average maximum summer temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees and winter between 10 and 15 degrees. After getting over the annoyance of travelling half way round the world for the same type of weather, we decided to make the most of the cold and climb a glacier!

Fox Glacier New Zealand

fox glacier new zealand

As we’re on a budget (and couldn’t quite stretch to the heli hike option), we opted for the half day trek up the Fox glacier on the west coast of the south island.  Our trek would take us from the valley, up onto the face and the body of the glacier itself.  We’ll admit, we didn’t know much about glaciers before we decided to climb one (aside from they are cold and move slowly), which is why we booked a guide to take us onto the glacier!

We were warned about changeable weather conditions, and should be prepared for every eventuality on the glacier.  Our solution?  Layer up, big time.  So much so we both resembled the Michelin man as we dawdled into the Fox Glacier Guiding offices.  In retrospect the wooly hat, hoody hood up and waterproof was probably a bit excessive, and with the amount of sweat that was dropping off us, they probably thought we were clinically obese.  Either way, we got checked in, stripped off some layers and eagerly awaited our first glacier hike!

fox glacier new zealand

First up was getting more stuff for the hike, wait didn’t we have enough already?  We swapped our walking boots for glacier boots, grabbed another rucksack and loaded up on crampons for the ice.  We looked like pros, we had no idea.

Hiking the Fox Glacier

Our group of 10 loaded onto the bus for the 15 minute drive to the glacier valley, carved out over thousands of years. Hopping off the bus, we were on our way to the face of the glacier.

We walked for around 20 minutes, before reaching this sign, it couldn’t be far now!

fox glacier new zealand

As we hiked up towards the face of the glacier, we gradually ‘got a sweat on’ and the layers came off again until we were down to two layers from the original five or six.  After a further 25 minutes, it was crampon time!

fox glacier new zealand

Putting a pair of crampons on made us feel very important and professional, like we knew what we were doing.  Strapping them on, we were ready for ascent.  All sorts of films raced through my mind: Touching The Void, Alive, Happy Feet…

Stepping onto the ice for the first time was exciting, as was stomping around with the crampons to make sure we didn’t slip.  And then we began climbing the glacier, around deep blue crevasses, and along and over ice cold water flows on top of the glacier.  We were incredibly lucky to have a clear, sunny day on the glacier which gave us unobstructed views of the mountains around us.  After climbing for 40 minutes, we stopped to admire the view and gather our breath before the descent back down.  Before long we were taking off our crampons, packing them away and making the trek back down to the valley floor.

fox glacier new zealand

If you do decide to climb a glacier, the  decision is a pretty simple one: Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier.

Our advice?  If you’re travelling North to South on the west coast, take a walk to Franz Josef first to have a sight of the glacier, wet the appetite, and then drive down the next day to Fox to actually climb the glacier.  If you’re going South to North, have a look at Fox glacier and then the next day climb Franz Josef.

Both had been recommended to us, but we opted for the Fox Glacier as it fitted in better with our south island route plan, and we’d heard it may be a bit quieter than Franz Josef.  As we didn’t do Franz Josef, we can’t really comment on how busy it was, but whilst we were on the Fox glacier, we only saw two other groups in our three hours up there.  Very cool, both figuratively and literally.

fox glacier new zealand

We loved our time on the glacier, and if we ever returned we’d probably splash out on the heli-hike option to see even further up the glacier.  We’d probably have to put more layers on as well, which would probably be more challenging than the hike itself! Alongside the Tongariro Alpine crossing, this for us is a must see and do in New Zealand.

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Cruising the waters of Abel Tasman National Park By Water Taxi, New Zealand

Everybody who’s been to New Zealand will tell you to visit Abel Tasman National Park, so of course it was pretty high up on our hit list! You’ll probably hear that kayaking is the best way to see it, but if you’re anything like us, you may not be particularly keen on the paddling effort required around the many coves and islands of its 50km coastline! You also might have a fear of capsizing with your cameras, and if you’re like us, tend to have some form of paddling argument when sharing a kayak!

If this rings a bell, then there are lots of great alternatives for you, including the Abel Tasman Water Taxi!

abel tasman water taxi
Abel Tasman Water Taxi

Being the smallest National Park in New Zealand, you can walk the whole coastline in a few days, camping along the way. Or if like us, your time is a little limited, you can take the Abel Tasman water taxi and tailor your route however you like. Keen to see the beautiful coastline and beaches up close, as well as the lush forestry and trekking routes, we opted for a half day cruise and half day trek. As we hurtled across very choppy waters, we were relieved to be sitting pretty in our sturdy boat!

Abel Tasman New Zealand

Now fully accustomed to the cool Spring climate and unpredictable rain showers on the South island of New Zealand, we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to a nice clear blue sky the day we planned to visit.  So after the usual dilemma of how many layers to wear in case of a change in weather, just like when we completed the fox glacier hike, we were ready for our tour. On route to the park, our guide assured us we were going to have great weather that day with only the potential for a south easterly wind kicking in later in the day – result!

abel tasman water taxi

Abel Tasman Water Taxi Review

As we pulled into the first bay of Kaiteriteri to catch our boat, we had our first glimpse of the beautiful golden coloured sands and lush deep forest backdrop of the park. We couldn’t wait to get going and see the rest!

Sailing West along the coast from Kaiteriteri to Totaranui and back, we meandered through the various coves and little islands along the way, stopping occasionally to appreciate the wildlife and stunning views. We saw seals, a couple of stingrays and lots of native birds, but apparently you can sometimes see dolphins or penguins hanging out of the water if you’re lucky.

abel tasman water taxi

After a few hours of sailing, we were dropped off at Torrent Bay to begin our 3 hour trek to Bark Bay.

abel tasman water taxi

Cutting inland a little, we trekked through the native bush and lush forestry. The unspoiled natural landscape was amazing and we especially loved the moments when we got a glimpse of the crystal clear bays below, like this discrete golden sandy beach.

abel tasman water taxi

The trek got even more interesting when we had to cross a few hair raising Indiana Jones style rickety bridges and passes!

abel tasman water taxi

abel tasman water taxi

After arriving at our final destination of Bark Bay, we wandered along the beach and savoured our last moments of tranquility before being picked up by our boat.  There is literally nothing on the beaches, so if you’re looking for a castaway feeling, you’ll definitely find it here!  We’d probably recommend visiting during the summer months however so that you can also appreciate a swim in the crystal clear water, it was too cold for us!

abel tasman water taxi

Even though we only trekked a short way along the beautiful Abel Tasman coastline and spent just a few hours cruising the rest, we felt like we got a great experience of its beauty and would also highly recommend a visit to anyone touring New Zealand! For those who prefer a full day trek, there are numerous options in Abel Tasman, or you could attempt the Tongariro crossing!

Looking for more New Zealand inspiration? Click here.


Bubbly Grape Wine Tours Review, New Zealand

When we put together our list of things to do in New Zealand, unashamedly one of the first things on that list was to visit the Marlborough region on the South Island! If you’re into wine, you’ll know the Marlborough region is highly regarded for its wines, in particular the Sauvignon Blanc which we both love. So we took a day off from driving, booked a full day tour with Bubbly Grape wine tours, and we were ready for some serious wine tasting!

bubbly grape wine tours

Bubbly Grape Wine Tours

The Marlborough region has around 140 wineries and produces over 65% of New Zealand’s wine, so it’s obviously the place to come to sample some wines! After a day and night settling into the region, the day had arrived. The day I had waited for for months.

Kerry, our guide for the day picked us up in a luxurious Mercedes Benz mini bus, and after getting over the shock of it being a lot bigger than the campervan we were living in, we were off to our first winery of the day!

bubbly grape wine tours

bubbly grape wine tours

Before starting our tour, Kerry asked us which wineries in particular we would like to go to, and after factoring in everyone’s requests, our small group of 6 were off to our first wine tasting of the day at Mount Riley. We tasted all types of delicious wines here, from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gurtwesenger and Pinot Noir, and after purchasing a bottle of our favourite, we were on our way to our second tasting of the day!

bubbly grape wine tours

Pulling up at Lawsons Dry Hills, our host greeted us and lined up a tasting table of tantalising wines. We tried them all as our host explained the nuances and differences of each wine. Again, we couldn’t resist and made a purchase of our favourite wine, ready to go with whatever Barry could rustle up on the stove in the back of the van!

bubbly grape wine tours

Onto our third tasting of the day, and Cloudy Bay beckoned us. World renowned, and owned by Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy, Cloudy Bay was a winery we had been keen to visit, and so did everyone else on our tour group! Seemingly this is a very popular winery, and it’s easy to see why. A beautiful setting in the vineyards, you can relax on the outdoor sofas enjoying your tasting or sit inside the tasting room, overlooking the barrels in the store. Again we tried numerous delicious wines, and again bought our favourite of the lot (well we did have a couple of weeks left in New Zealand to enjoy them!).

Next up on our tour of Marlborough was Allan Scott winery, again a beautiful setting to have some lunch and try some wine. As we were taken through the tasting with our host, an unexpected helicopter landed in the vines adjacent to us! Expecting a VIP to step out, we were slightly disappointed when it was just some other wine buffs eager to get in on the Marlborough wine region action! Perhaps something Bubbly Grape wine tours could offer in the future!

bubbly grape wine tours

Suitably refreshed (again), it was time for lunch! Bubbly Grape wine tours offer a number of options, from a three course meal on the Gourmet Lunch tour, to the Special Reserve Wine Tour where you visit a local cafe for a lighter lunch. As we were on a budget, we opted for the cafe lunch, and had a couple of hot sandwiches and coffee to prepare us for a hard afternoon of wine tasting.

bubbly grape wine tours

bubbly grape wine tours

We had two more wineries to fit in in the afternoon, first visiting Bladen winery, where we learnt about the owners and their decision to leave their city lives for a life of wine and finished at our final winery of the day at Hunters, a world renowned winery of the region. And then it was time for home, or so we thought!  One final stop off was required, the local chocolate factory!

bubbly grape wine tours

After some delicious chocolate treats, it was time to return to our little campervan.  Out of the luxurious Bubbly Grape wine tours van, and away from the delights of the Marlborough region, we were sad to finish our day with our tour group.  The Marlborough region is a fantastic region for wine growing, and an even better region for wine tasting!  We would highly recommend Bubbly Grape wine tours if you were looking to let someone else do the driving and share some fantastic insights and experience of the local wineries!

Disclaimer: We were sponsored guests of Bubbly Grape, as usual all opinions are our own.

Looking For Accommodation In the Marlborough Region?

If you’re looking for some accommodation options in The Marlborough Region or elsewhere in New Zealand, we recommend you check out Agoda. Whenever we’re making plans for a new destination, we always research the accommodation options first to check what’s available. That’s just our travel style. If you want to get some accommodation ideas in the Marlborough Region, search for Blenheim here!

 Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

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Hiking Volcanoes on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand

Chugging up the North Island of New Zealand in our little Geisha campervan, we were excited about what was to come.  The previous two weeks had seen us drive around most of the South Island before taking a ferry across the Cook Strait to the North Island.  We’d done a lot of sitting down, and sampled many of the delicacies of the Marlborough wine region so it was about time we did some exercise!  We’d heard about an amazing one day trek you could do in the Tongariro National Park, and decided to check it out for ourselves.

We checked in to the Discovery Lodge campsite close to the trek, and before we knew it we’d booked our early morning shuttle for the next day and began psyching ourselves up for the challenge of the Tongariro Alpine crossing.  What followed was one of the best days of our travels to date, and makes it onto our rarely populated ‘must do’ list, alongside our incredible rinjani trekking adventure in Indonesia, and our Sapa trekking experience in Vietnam! 

tongariro alpine crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

With our eye watering 0545 departure time confirmed, we hit the sack early in the hope of catching some sleep before our big trek the following day.  That plan was scuppered as temperatures dropped below freezing that night, and our campervan froze from the inside.  We were rudely awoken at 1am by our own teeth chattering, and found ice across the inside of the windows.  It made us wonder why we’d decided to spend a month living in a campervan.  Our carefully prepared sandwiches were also frozen, well at least they wouldn’t go off during the night, and the wine would be nice and chilled. 

tongariro alpine crossing

Morning came, and in the darkness (and bleary eyed) we layered up with our thermal under layer, trousers, long sleeve walking top, fleece and waterproof alongside our hats and gloves.  A quick bowl of cornflakes with the coldest milk of all time, we were ready for action.

The journey to the beginning of the crossing takes around 20 minutes, and as the sun began to rise around the mountains, we got an idea of what the weather, and views were likely to be like today.  With luck we were told conditions were perfect for the trek, and that we should have unobstructed views all the way along the trek.  Jackpot!

After being dropped off at the beginning of the crossing, and getting over the peculiar furniture arrangements, we were ready to go. 

tongariro alpine crossing

The first hour was easy and fun.  We chatted as we walked, marvelled as the sun slowly rose over the peaks we were about to ascend.  It was lovely.  And then the first ascent came.  Never before have we seen so many false summits, each time reaching the ‘top’ to be confronted by another 100 metres up.  And again, and again.  Cursing, we wondered why we were putting ourselves through this, we don’t even like walking really.  In fact, we realised the last time we did a big walk was in 2010 when we trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  We’re not exactly outdoors types, and not exactly in peak physical condition as well.  The weight of a few New Zealand white wines was weighing down on us as we climbed for an hour to the south crater. 

tongariro alpine crossing

Pausing for breath, the wind wipped up again as we climbed to the second highest part of the trip, for incredible views of the crossing across the crater and the rolling hills and valleys in the distance.  It was at this point that we thought we’d reached the top, had a little high five and looked forward to the descent.  And then the couple who had been sitting at the top with us got up, and began climbing the peak to our left.  Perhaps they fancy seeing the top before descending again?  And then the realisation, we weren’t at the top, not by a long way.  Crestfallen, we picked our chins up from the dusty volcanic floor and began climbing again.

Reaching the highest point of our trek, we were blown away by the 360 degree vista on offer.  We’ve had some pretty incredible experiences so far on our travels, and this point rivalled some of the very best moments.  It’s not often we recommend a must see or do, but this was a moment that made the preceding hours, and the pain, worthwhile.

tongariro alpine crossing

Directly in front of us was an incredible blue lake, surrounded by snow capped mountains.  Just below it to our right were three luminous green lakes, glistening emerald colour.  To our right just behind us was a gigantic smouldering red crater, steam and gases rising out of it.  Everywhere we looked there was something incredible to see.

tongariro alpine crossing

After sitting at the top admiring all that we could see, it was time to make the first of many descents.  First up, the emerald lakes we could see way down below us.

This was where the track became a loose load of ash/output from volcano, and we slowly scrambled down the slope as the ground gave way under us.  After 20 minutes or so, we reached the emerald lakes, and stopped for a few minutes before the strong smell of sulphur (think rotten eggs) overpowered us.  We quickly made our way past the lakes and onto the large, white expanse of snow we had to cross before we could descend further.

tongariro alpine crossing

tongariro alpine crossing

After crossing the great sheet of snow, we were on the move upwards again towards the great blue lake where we stopped for some food and drink.  And then the final descent, a three hour climb down the valley, zig zagging left and then right, and back left.  This was not the most exciting part of the journey until we reached this sign:

tongariro alpine crossing

Things just got exciting.

tongariro alpine crossing

Mount Tongariro erupted only 12 weeks previously, scattering debris all over the surrounding areas.  When we first saw the sign we didn’t think much of it, we knew we were in a volcanic region.  But it was when we turned the corner of the valley and the (seemingly active) volcano came into view, pumping out gases and steam all around it from various vents.  We picked up the pace.  As we turned the valley corner, all of the craters from the recent eruption were plain to see.  We were right in the firing line, and made easy work of the final 8km down the hill to the end of the trek, 8 hours after we’d set off before sunrise.

The Tongariro Crossing was the highlight of our time in New Zealand.  We were lucky with the weather, and crossing it at the beginning of November when there was still snow on the peaks but not on the path was perfect, but overall the crossing is an incredible experience.  We stopped for lots of photos so it took us 8 hours to complete, and as complete amateurs we found it hard but achievable.  Just make sure you layer up and take a hat and gloves as it gets below zero at the peak even in Spring when we climbed it.

As usual in New Zealand, we celebrated our achievement with a chilled bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a dip in a hot mineral pool to ease our shocked muscles. Well, it would be rude not too.

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Barry's Witchetty Grub Bushtucker Trials

From humble beginnings of refusing to eat anything but tomato soup and sausage rolls, I’ve grown to love most foods (except cucumber, I will never like that). Part of our journey this year has been to try interesting new foods, and we particularly loved the food of Vietnam. Things were about to change though, when on only my second day in Australia, I ticked something off my culinary hit list which had been there for some time…Witchetty Grub!  And then I attempted to crack a whip…don’t laugh…

My thoughts? The Witchetty Grub was…crunchy in parts, although I put that down to eating the head as well. I was only told eating the head was optional afterwards. It felt like an overcooked big prawn, only without any of the nice flavour that goes with it. As for the whip, well let’s just say I won’t be cattle rustling anytime soon!


Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

As our train pulled in to Circular Quay, right in the heart of Sydney, we got our first glimpse of the incredible bridge we were about to climb! We couldn’t believe our luck with the weather, it was a beautifully sunny Spring day with clear blue skies. We couldn’t wait to climb the bridge and see the city from a new perspective!

sydney harbour bridge climb

We practically jumped off the train and headed towards the bridge. From a distance, we were blown away by the sheer enormity of it and the realisation that we were soon going to be standing on top of the famous arch! As we got closer, we looked up and could see 10 blue blobs near the top….some fellow climbers. They were so high up, we couldn’t see any differentiating features between them – just 10 blue bodies, soon to be us yikes!

sydney harbour bridge climb

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

With excitement and a little trepidation, we entered the bridge climb office and ‘checked in’ for our climb. Soon after we waved goodbye to our family and were ushered into ‘Room 1’ for our safety briefing and instructions. After we passed the alcohol breath test, we were allowed to proceed to the kit room. Following a quick Superman style change, we were all suited and booted in matching blue and grey suits with matching black trainers – we actually felt like superheroes now. That just left the long and complicated process of adding our belts, radio, headphones, emergency fleeces and clips, sunglasses, sunscreen, harnesses, rope clips (including a practice simulation) and emergency handkerchiefs – phew we were ready to go! Now we know why it took the company 10 years to get agreement from the government for bridge climbing!

sydney harbour bridge climb

After all our preparation and build up, we were ready and excited to get going. As we exited the building and took our first steps, we were struck by the vast steel framework of the bridge and encountered the steepest part of our climb up the bridge’s left pillar and to the beginning of the enormous archway. As we climbed, our guide educated us about the fascinating history of the bridge and the groundbreaking engineering work involved between 1923 and 1932. The bridge was actually in planning for almost a century before the papers were finally signed, and took 1,400 workers 8 years to complete. But by far the most complex and nail biting part of the process was the joining of the middle of the arch, completed over a number of nightshifts for most workers (as the steel was at its coolest temperature and therefore most stable in the evening) and resulted in 16 deaths. Witnessing the sheer scale and intricacy of this engineering work up close was amazing as we slowly made our way up the arch and across 52,800 tonnes of steel and rivets (6,000,000 in total apparently!).

sydney harbour bridge climb

After the fairly steep beginning, the climb was relatively easy and slow-paced, giving us plenty of time to pause and savour the stunning views below of the iconic Opera house, Sydney harbour, the city and beyond. It was also pretty cool to see a couple of big cruise liners sail across under our feet and the little yellow water taxis looked tiny from where we were. The views only got better as we climbed further and finally reached the summit. The view from the top was breathtaking and well worth the hour or so climb!

sydney harbour bridge climb

After posing for our iconic snap, we began our descent and appreciated the afternoon south easterly wind breezing in to cool us down from the climb, thankfully not cold enough to need our emergency fleeces and handkerchiefs though! On our way down we learned more about the bridge and most interestingly that despite the curved appearance of the steel from a distance, every single piece of steel used was straight. Hence the absolute accuracy required to ensure the East and West archways eventually came together to create the perfect curved archway! Amazing!

sydney harbour bridge climb

As you can probably tell we were fascinated by the history and engineering of the bridge, so after our climb we took full advantage of the free museum and documentaries available next to the bridge climb starting point. For anyone interested, we’d highly recommend a trip here even if you don’t fancy the climb!

To climb the Sydney harbour bridge was something we never thought we’d do, and we were so glad to have had the opportunity to climb one of the most iconic structures of the world!

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Drinking & Eating Like Kings With Wine For Dudes in Margaret River

Most people who head to the Margaret River region do so for the delicious wines on offer, and we were no exception! But as you may know, I’ve set myself a goal of tasting as many different beers as possible from around the world (any excuse eh!), and with Australia having an unbelievable number of breweries, I wanted to see what a beer from the Margaret River region tasted like. So after a bit of research, we booked a tour through Wine for Dudes in Margaret River.

wine for dudes

After a hearty breakfast in preparation for the impending alcohol consumption, our pick up was right on cue, along with our guide for the day, Mandy. So before we knew it we were off on our tour with five other eager wine buffs! What followed was a day of delicious wines and beers in some of the most stunning settings in Margaret River…

wine for dudes

wine for dudes

Our guide was very flexible on the day, and eager to accommodate all requests for specific wineries or breweries, which was great as we’d asked if possible to visit a couple of breweries on our wine tour. Cheeky I know, but they said they were flexible and we wanted to test that out!

wine for dudes

First up on tour was ‘Cape Mentelle’, the second oldest winery in the region where we tasted some absolutely delicious wines. Our host, along with our guide Mandy talked us through the nuances of making each of the wines on offer, and we were spoilt for choice on the wines available. Suitably refreshed, we were off to our second destination of the day, a local venison farm where we sampled four different tastings and were able to browse around the various meats and chutneys, buying anything we fancied.

wine for dudes

Next up was ‘Laurance of Margaret River’, a stunning location and setting for our second tasting and lunch, and boy were we in for a treat! Sitting on the patio as the sun shone, the perfectly manicured gardens and lake glistening in the distance, we were treated to a fantastic selection of wines.

wine for dudes

And then it was time for lunch. Mandy had picked the perfect lunch location, and the food was about to knock us out! Cold meats, chorizo, marinated duck legs, cheese and bread, we were in heaven and perfect timing to prepare us for our afternoon of further tastings!

wine for dudes

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that every single tasting is optional, and indeed you can taste and use the spittoon instead of swallowing should you wish! We declined.

wine for dudes

Suitably full and satisfied, we left the luxury of Laurance and headed to our third tasting destination of the day: ‘Saracen Estate and Duckstein Brewery’. Catering for everyone, those who wanted to continue with wine tastings did so at Saracen Estate, and those who fancied a beer tasting could go next door to the Duckstein Brewery. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the gents of the group headed off to the brewery and the ladies continued with the wine tasting. Being indecisive as usual with beers, I opted for the tasting tray of beers of Pilsener, Hefeweis, Alt Bier, Dunkel and Dopplebock. All absolutely delicious, we sat on the terrace overlooking the lake and reflected on how hard a day this was for us.

wine for dudes

Knocking back the last beer, we left for our last tasting of the day, again at a mixed venue of ‘Killerby Cellar Store’ and the ‘Cheeky Monkey Brewery’. Again the ladies opted for wine tasting and the gents for the beer tasting. It must be said that the beer tastings were an optional purchase and not part of the tour, but this didn’t stop anyone from sampling the beers of Cheeky Monkey. Again, five different beers were on offer, but this time with a couple of cheeky cider tastings thrown into the mix for good measure, again all delicious. We were also treated to a tour of the brewery as well, which gave us a great idea of where all these beers came from! We left suitably refreshed (again).

wine for dudes

The last stop of our day was a classic one: the chocolate factory where we helped ourselves to the free samples and marvelled at just how much choice there was on offer.

wine for dudes

And then, sadly, it was time to return to our hostel. It was a fleeting glimpse of luxury in a day where we visited some of the best venues in the region, tasted some of the best wines, ate some incredible food and ticked a few more beers off the list! For anyone thinking of a tour in Margaret River of wineries and breweries, we’d highly recommend Wine for Dudes!

Looking for more Australia inspiration? Click here.


wine tour margaret river

Delicious Bushtucker Wine Tour In Margaret River Australia

When we first looked at our round the world trip, we talked about Australia and what we wanted to see and do. Very quickly it became evident that we were both very keen to taste some wine! So on arrival into Australia, the first thing we did was take a wine tour with BushTucker Tours in Margaret river, about 3 hours drive south of Perth! Talk about getting into the swing of things.

margaret river australia

Margaret River Australia

Margaret river is a popular wine growing region, with around 130 wineries producing 4% of Australia’s wine and 25% of its premium wine market. It’s location near the coast provides the perfect climate for growing wine, with original reports comparing the regions climate very favorably with Bordeux! We were ready for action.

Our mini bus for the day pulled up at 1030 and we jumped on board with our fellow wine appreciators ready for a day of serious wine tasting! There were 16 people on our tour bus that day, and we all chatted amongst ourselves as we were driven to the first destination of our trip. Our excitable and excellent tour guide Silvano regaled us with interesting facts about the Margaret river wine region and all that it had to offer. We were visiting four wineries, a brewery, a cheese factory and finally a chocolate factory. Laura was so excited she could almost burst.

margaret river australia

And so it began. First up was Churchview winery, where we were treated to a delightful range of red and white wines, sampling 10 wines as the owner explained the nuances in wine making that create the different types of wine. Suitably refreshed, and having made a couple of purchases, we were off to our second winery of the day. At Brookwood estate we worked our way down a fantastic list of red and white wines as our guide explained the differences. Although a spitoon was provided at each place should you want to use, we declined each time as we found each of the wines absolutely delicious!

Quickly following this tasting was lunch, which was a delicious, veritable feast of cold meats, chutneys, breads and salad, all washed down with a glass of wine or beer should you prefer. It was delicious and just the tonic after a hard morning of tasting wine!

margaret river australia

margaret river australia

Following lunch, and stomachs full, we were ready for another round of wine tasting. Off we went to Tassell Park winery where again we were treated to some delicious reds and whites, and also the added excitement of some hot mulled wine served by our tour guide Silvano.

margaret river australia

margaret river australia

Following this, we were off to the Cowaraup Brewing company for some tasty microbrews, and because I couldn’t decide which beer to choose, I chose them all!

margaret river australia

As you can tell, it had been a tough day so far (!) so we took a break from the wine and beer tasting to taste some more of the local delicacies in Margaret River: cheese and chocolate!

First up was the Margaret River Cheese Factory, where we sampled six different types of cheeses including delicious fresh feta and smoked cheddars. After making a purchase of chilli cheddar, we hopped back onto the bus for a short ride to the chocolate factory. This is where we went a little crazy. Having not really eaten any chocolate for a couple of months, we were presented with unlimited chocolate buttons to choose from (milk, dark and white). We’re ashamed to say we overindulged in the chocolate, but how can you not when this is presented to you:

margaret river australia

Help yourself! Imagine it. After hitting a major sugar high, we had to leave. We were out of control and got back on the bus for our final destination of the day. Tha’ts right, after a day of wines, beers, meats, cheeses and chocolate, there was one more stop along the way, it was cocktail time!

margaret river australia

Rocking up at The Grove, we were led to our own private tasting area where our host took us through some of the liqueur cocktails they are famous for: raspberry liqueur with dry ginger ale, macadamia nut liqueur with vanilla and cream, we were in heaven.

margaret river australia

We absolutely loved our day our with Bushtuckers tours, and enjoyed the choice of wineries and pace of the day immensely. Margaret river is a great area to see and taste many wineries in close proximity! Now, time for the detox…

margaret river australia

Disclaimer: we were sponsored guests of Bushtucker tours. As usual, all opinions are our own.