Porto, Portugal

Porto is a coastal city in northwest Portugal known for its stately bridges and port wine production. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Livraria Lello – The Guardian and travel website Lonely Planet picked this as the world’s third most beautiful bookstore. More than a century old, Lello is an art nouveau pearl with gothic details, stained glass and a fabulous red staircase, said to have inspired the one in Hogwarts (JK Rowling once lived in Porto). You have to pay to enter but you also get that money back if you purchase a book.
  2. Sao Bento Railway station – you can see the changes in modes of transport from one end of the ceiling, looping back around (horse carriage to train) IMG_5305
  3. Ponte de D. Luis 1 Iconic Metal Bridge (walk on the top and the bottom!) and take in the beautiful colorful buildings of Porto
  4. All the port brands are across the bridge on Gaia side where you will also see traditional boats along the way. They are now used as decoration and advertises the differenr brands but in the past, it was how the transported the barrels of port.
  5. Sao Francisco church IMG_5518
  6. Torre dos Clerigos bell tower which you can climb for sky high views – It was opened in 1763 and is blessed with a beautiful barrage of Baroque motifs thanks to its Italian designer Nicolau Nasoni. Given its prominent position, you can get some amazing 360° views of the city from the top, but you’ll have to climb 225 steps to get there.IMG_5292
  7. Lion fountain and the two nearby churches, one with pretty blue walls. You could never guess that between the church is the smallest house in Porto! I initially looks like one big church till you observe the architectural differences more closely.

     

  8. McDonald’s Imperial – super grand McD!
  9. Duoro Valley Day trip
  10. Old town for narrow cobbled streets, ancient houses and bags of character, and consider a Riverside biking tour (they provide electric bikes for the uphills)
  11. Majestic Cafe
  12. Brasao or Bulha are fancier restaurants to check out
  13. Francesinha is their famous dish – basically a meat sandwich with cheese and drenched in tomato like sauce
  14. Visit the beach by taking Linha 1 tram line, the most scenic route that follows the banks of the Douro River to the Foz district.
  15. Eat natas all day for only 1 euro. They tend to eat their nata’s cold other than at ” the world needs nata”
    c6f929b0-0ed0-4df0-b54a-8cc12d71c192

Accom: Stayed at Feel Porto Apartment downtown town house – amazing Airbnb

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, is bisected by the Vltava River. Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” it’s known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches and the medieval Astronomical Clock, which gives an animated hourly show. Here are the suggested things to do:

  1. Old town square – it has remained relatively untouched since the 10th century and here you will find on the best preserved medieval mechanical clock in the world.
  2. Prague Castle – Entry to the grounds of the castle are free although many buildings such as the St Vitus cathedral, Basillica of St George and Golden Lane can be visited with a combined entry ticket.
  3. Stroll across Charles Bridge.  The bridge was commissioned in 1357 by Charles IV to replace an older bridge that had been washed away by floods. Although completed in 1390, with the striking statues added in the 17th century, the bridge did not take Charles’ name until the 19th century. You will enjoy the musical performances by buskers, paintings by artists and other vendors.
  4. Admire the Lenon wall – Although Prague is a long way from Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles, fans should certainly check out this shrine to one of the most famous bands of all time. The wall has been covered in John Lennon and The Beatles graffiti, lyrics and quotations since the 1980s and is very popular among tourists and young fans wishing to pay homage to the group.
  5. Petrin Hill – For its gardens, views of the city from the miniature Eiffel Tower, unusual church of St Michael and mirror maze. You can walk up or ride the funicular railway to the top.
  6. The narrowest street in Prague – you actually do have to follow the pedestrian traffic light! 19.6inch wide gap nestled in Prague’s oldest neighbourhood, Mala Strana. IMG_9749
  7. Wanceslas Square – one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities in the New Town of Prague, Czech Republic. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings.
    53e6d822-8780-4e96-803b-6ee86a064085
  8. Kampa park – you will find the random row of yellow penguins and other art sculptures. If you keep on going across the park, it eventually links to island in the middle of the river where you enjoy the views of Charles bridge and the town.
  9. Dancing houseIMG_7994
  10. Spotting art all across the city – some stranger than others. King Kong Balls is what they call this one.
    IMG_9622
  11. Chimney Cake – Good food coffee and bakery was highly rated so that’s what I tried but you can find this everywhere! IMG_9791
  12. Prague hotdog – I wasn’t a fan but again you can find it everywhere as a convenient on the go food
  13. Key specialities – Roast pork knuckle and roast duck with cabbage and dumplings.IMG_9726

Day trips from Taipei

Having been to Taipei several times now, I decided to explore the countryside a little bit more. Here are some day trip options even though I chose to stay over night at Jiu Fen to make the trip a bit more relaxing and to avoid large groups of tourists:

  1. Jiu Fen and Jing Gua Shi – Jiufen is a mountain town east of Taipei. It’s known for the narrow alleyways of its old town, packed with teahouses, street-food shacks and souvenir shops. It is also known as the back drop for the movie Spirited Away! Don’t forget to try Grandma Lai’s famous mochi type dessert opposite the post office along the old street.Close by, the Gold Mine Museum in Jing Gua Shi traces the town’s history as a mining hub during the Japanese-era gold rush. Be sure to check out the golden waterfall too which you will surprisingly find just by the main road.

    You can easily take a public bus from Rui Fang station to Jiu Fen and from Jiu Fen to Jing Gua Shi.

  2. Jing Tong to Ping Xi to Shi Fen to Rui Fang – Buy a day pass or use your easy card to access the Ping Xi line train that connects all these must see villages. This area is rich in history and is famous for the sky lantern experience. I chose to do the sky lantern at Ping Xi station instead of the famous Shi Fen one because of the number of tourists! Releasing a sky lantern starts from 150NT depending on the number of colours you want on your latern as each color represents a different meaning (this matters to some people). Shifen is also known for it’s waterfall so be sure to check that out (closes at 4:30pm) – photo in my Taipei blog post.
  3. Ying Ge is famous for the production of porcelain and an abundance of art studios and shops. It was good fun learning to make pottery! Note that it take’s about a month for it to be fired and colored so it might be useful to have a Taiwan friend help you pick this up as I’m not sure that they do international deliveries. It cost 150NT to make and an additional 150NT for the firing process etc.

Athens, Greece

Athens is the capital of Greece. It was also at the heart of Ancient Greece, a powerful civilization and empire. The city is still dominated by 5th-century BC landmarks, including the Acropolis, a hilltop citadel topped with ancient buildings like the colonnaded Parthenon temple.

You could do a free walking tour to learn more about what you will end up seeing (because it all just looks like a pile of ruins if you don’t have any background info) and the tour will help you catch the changing of the guards which takes place every hour.  The free walking tours do not enter any of the sites so just use it as a source of direct information making your Greek experience more interesting and educational! Definitely by the 30euro package deal which gives you access to 7 sites (Acropolis, archeological museum, temple of Zeus, museum of ancient agora, roman agora, lyceum and Hadrian’s library) . Of if you are an EU student, show you student card and gain access to all sites FREE. You can walk everywhere apart from the Archeological museum which is a bit further out (bargain with a taxi driver and it should cost around 5euros only). Of course if you visit when it isn’t so hot, I’m sure you can easily walk it too.

It’s really beautiful walking around the alleyways of Athens. It’s surrounded by well decorated restaurants and buildings. That was the part I loved most about Athens actually, the varied alleyways.

 

Note: Taxi’s don’t use their meters, make sure you negotiate a price beforehand. Bus X95 goes straight from the airport to Syntagma square and is only 6 Euros, taking around 45mins depending on traffic. We kept getting warned about pick pockets so be aware. Finally, Summer gets really hot so be prepped!

  1. Parliament for the changing of the guards162E116A-BBB4-4581-9C53-E84BB2CE3404
  2. Hadrian’s Arch and Temple of Zeus (they are next to each other) 

  3. Panathenaic stadium
  4. Parthenon The Acropolis and Theatre of Dionysos 

  5. Acropolis museum4A56C101-C959-419D-97DC-3B0CD7DA6847
  6. Museum of Ancient Agora – I think you get one of the best views from here on the way to the temple of Hephaestus, still in this same ticketed area. DCE21354-1755-4CCF-84E1-D0ED8749DD23
  7. Hadrian’s library 72F8C881-8A27-432D-8661-CFCFEA29F737
  8. Roman Agora 

  9. The best bubble tea I have ever had was from some random Chinese restaurant just outside the airport bus ticket office in the city. I wish I noted the name down but if you are ever in Athens, try it! I wish I took down the name but you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Here is the tourist map you can pick up which isn’t the most clear tbh

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Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki is a Greek port city on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. Evidence of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history remains, especially around Ano Poli, the upper town. Much of the city center was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1917. The rebuilt 20th-century city has a modern European layout. There are so many beautiful churches dotted around so be sure to hunt for them.

Note: Some museums close as early as 2pm, so plan ahead. Everything is really walkable and you can cover it in one day if you wish!

Here are the key things to visit:

  1. Roman Forum 4FF11B03-3184-46A4-8D99-3067FB5592AF
  2. Agios Dimitrios 

  3. Rotonta24E00B39-D521-4CE2-B776-DF109435E9C9
  4. Kamara Arch 7AF275D9-D440-4EF2-BAED-B5174BDA8B9C
  5. Church Panagia Dexia right opposite the arch 

  6. The White Tower along the harbour front 2B05B06A-5B7A-41D4-9362-68BA47ED0AA5
  7. Try a funky boat tour, you have a few to choose from! Not sure where they go but they definitely caught my eye. 653BEB4F-D92D-4B26-8D6D-AEFB240CF965
  8. Alexander the Great statue further down from the White Tower 5BFD6C15-85F5-4695-8307-6853E142615A
  9. Continuing walking along the harbour beyond the statue towards the famous umbrellas, artwork by Giorgos Zongolopoulos made in 1997. 

  10. Metropolitan Church of Saint Gregory Palamas 5A4D2DE7-86DD-430E-B142-90159F1E65F5
  11. Aristolelous Square. I would recommend visiting at night, it’s much prettier and you will also get a chance to see bboy’s busking. D4BA4BF8-205E-4F71-97DD-5E1631F3C703
  12. Ladadika an area filled with restaurants and bars, again great for the night 3520C504-B0CA-4F7E-8092-74B0AB1F3FA8
  13. I ate at Neotabepna (not even sure if that’s the right name but look out for this restaurant based on my photos and definitely try Greek pasta!). They call it Orzo and it’s a much better version of risotto as you still get the chewy pasta texture. 

  14. The best Gyros you will ever have, the name is in Greek so again just look out for the word that matches the photo and it’s on Ptolemon street, around the corner from the hostel I stayed at. 

     

  15. Stay Hybrid Hostel was excellent. Air-conditioned room, much needed for the Summer, spacious and clean. Plenty of common room areas and in the heart of the city.

2CD2E1A3-6E5E-4B19-86FA-87DBE123A1B3

Banska Bystrica, Slovakia

Banská Bystrica is a city in central Slovakia located on the Hron River in a long and wide valley encircled by the mountain chains of the Low Tatras, the Veľká Fatra, and the Kremnica Mountains. This is also where Outbreak Europe Summer edition is held (Bboy jam). The town isn’t big, literally one high street, two malls and a waterpark. But worth a visit because it’s really pretty!

Accom: Kuria Hotel. Blown away by how cool the building was! Felt like I was living in a different age. They have done really well to preserve the historic buildings across the city

Here are some photos from the event. The first two days took place near the water park and the final day at Urban Spot for Rep your country. And of course photos of the town.

 

 

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is set along the Danube River by the border with Austria and Hungary. Stay in the old town, the heart of the city where you will then have easy access to all the main sites. You can take bus 61 from the airport to Hlavna stanica railway station and it’s a 20 minute walk to the old town from here. The old town is predominantly pedestrianised so you will have a great time sitting outdoors at a restaurant without having to breathe in fumes!

Note: Most museums are closed on Monday’s so plan what you want to enter ahead of time. Pre-buy your bus tickets from the yellow machines and make sure you get them stamped when you enter the bus. You buy a bus ticket according to journey time e.g. to get to Devin’s castle, you buy a 30min bus because the journey take’s around 25mins.

You can cover everything in 2 days. It’s very easy to get around!

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Bratislava Castle and it’s surrounding gardens. Views of the castle is of course, better from further away from it, in particular, from the bridges.
  2. St Martin’s Cathedral. Between 1563 and 1830 St Martin’s served as the coronation church for Hungarian kings and their consorts, marked to this day by a 300-kg gilded replica of the Hungarian royal crown perched on the top of the cathedral’s 85-metre-tall neo-Gothic tower. If you pick up a tourist map of Bratislava, in red, it marks out the path the royal people would walk after they were coronated. You can also spot metal crowns on the road marking out their paths.
  3. Old Town Hall and the square is a really nice chill spot 773F45C0-3A84-45F0-A2C8-F8D4B8841B10
  4. Primates Palace, pretty in pink! 21B7DE9B-19BE-4491-8DBB-631027B72289
  5. Michael’s Gate – is the only city gate that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications and ranks among the oldest town buildings.186F4349-3F25-4371-BC6B-8AB1FEB7C2B9
  6. Galerie Nedbalka. I liked the umbrella’s outside! C9FAC51A-14AF-41F7-BF67-4FC7B7854066
  7. Grassalkovich Palace. Just outside the old town, 5min walk and really pretty with a fountain in the front. 3D00B59D-A651-4C3B-ADDB-443F9FF93AC8
  8. Slavin Memorial. To get here, take a trolley bus 203 from Grassalkovich palace and get off at the end station where you do a short walk up hill to the beautiful memorial site. The statue there is as tall as the Rio Jesus Christ statue. 88CD1E2B-9179-4108-ABE8-01BD129C5CD5
  9. UFO observation deck. Definitely go up top at sunset! You can avoid paying the entry fee if you have a meal but of course the restaurant isn’t cheap. Be warned, it’s super windy. C3EAEE2F-9704-40DE-8F74-77E39F0CD069
  10. Old and new National Theatre. Which do you prefer?
  11. Eurovea mall is about a 15min walk away from the old city, beyond the green bridge and is their latest development.  The surrounding area, with a fake beach has many restaurants along the river. 201924AB-2F61-4274-9D83-9708A2C12DAD
  12. Man at work statue and right opposite is statue that holds a hat.
  13. Take a bus under the UFO bridge to Devin’s castle
  14. Best place to have breakfast/brunch or dessert – Mondieu. Their hot chocolate is incredible!
  15. Slovakian food to try – Their garlic soup in a bread roll and sheep cheese pasta. Bryndzové halušky is one of the national dishes. This meal consists of halušky (boiled lumps of potato dough similar in appearance to gnocchi) and bryndza (a soft sheep cheese), optionally sprinkled with cooked bits of smoked pork fat/bacon.2B716332-3DE7-46C5-BAC2-ED01737994FC

Tokyo, Japan

The last time I visited Tokyo was during a school trip back when I was 12! All I could really remember was sticker photos, Disneyland and Universal Studios. This time I got to do my own research on what to do and had the privilege of having many friends take me around too. Here are my top recommendations in Tokyo/from Tokyo:

  1. Watch a Sumo fight in Ryogkoku. Check when sumo season is on, I was lucky it was tournament season but when I tried to get tickets on the spot, it was sold out! So pre-booking is vital.
  2. Harry’s Hedgehog cafe Harajuku (you can hold em!) 30min or 1h time slots with unlimited free drinks from the machine.
    E7FA85CC-EF58-4CDE-BCED-405596C45523
  3. Takeshita Street Harajuku is my favourite because it has everything. Shops, cool cafes such as the Owl cafe, vintage shopping, and street food (plenty of crepe and unique desserts). Kawaii culture came from there so you will also find maid cafes.5AA4836E-114C-4239-9ADE-6CADE8FC494B
  4. Ichiran Ramen. You will start to realise Japan can be quite anti-social when it comes to amazing food places. Booth and bar stool culture where you just eat and then go. They are so efficient that you pre-pay for what you want from a machine before you enter.
    0E007B26-036B-47D6-80D6-1A82D5529F61
  5. Enjoy a free city view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Shinjuku15195ADA-D520-4E43-B21A-2FE95A4F5061
  6. Shibuya Crossing and the view from the Mag building where you pay 300yen to go up and 1000yen extra if you want the drone type shot!C80A2BD4-A26E-460E-A2AB-E9468F263949
  7. Consider trying the Robot restaurant
  8. Visit Sensoji, Asakusa – the older temple with traditional shops all around 

  9. Meiji Shrine in the city forest near Harajuku station 

  10. Tokyo Tower
  11. Rainbow bridge and Giant Robot 

  12. Team Lab – Borderless or Planet exhibition. Pre-buy tickets to avoid lines. E9F8602F-6A66-4475-8822-F2AAA97CD6C5
  13. Hachi statue, a very common meeting spot in Shibuya8863933B-B642-4F49-90C0-4AC38B860117
  14. Dancer’s collection for all your Hip Hop gear
  15. Sky tree885C85C7-709A-403C-9C87-D82398F5943E
  16. Akihabara – all your tech in one place
  17. Don Quijote – 24h shop with everything! They have branches all around
  18. Kura, Genki, Uobei and Sushi Ro for good sushi
  19. Geisha/Samurai show
  20. Bonus if you can catch cherry blossom season
  21. Day trip to Mount Fuji

 

Extra: My food list

  • Melon breadEB7A3296-4469-4CE1-9D27-F94A59FE4B95
  • Katsu Curry
  • Katsu Don
  • Ramen
  • Tsukemen
  • Yakitori
  • Crepe (they are everywhere especially in Takeshita)A071727F-B6A6-4F6E-9C72-468A60ADE22B
  • Rainbow toastie00C7E095-ECAC-490B-A07F-F7D2C8877FDE
  • Anura Soba – my fave! 

  • Cheese hotdog
  • Train Sushi
  • Takoyaki (Originated in Osaka)AF3CF433-AE0C-468B-9066-744CE7A5436F
  • Wagyu beef
  • Chicken Karaage
  • Gyudon (beef bowl rice)
  • Tsukiyaki
  • Okonomiyaki C27D61C9-B0F6-4132-9964-7CB06318270B
  • Monja (only in Tokyo)
  • Gyoza
  • Tamago DE95E859-622E-4C65-BA53-B0A8B69920C8
  • Chawanmushi
  • Daifuku D5E16C6C-10BD-496A-BB1A-0611AFCFD21F
  • Mocha (handmade, red bean inside) A8B91988-68A7-485B-9A32-E39617A3E0B9
  • Dango (plain mocha on skewer)
  • Taiyoki (fish shape waffle)
  • Piyanee Thai Milk Bubble tea (amazing bubble tea in Shibuya near H&M) 540A9E0C-2127-4E00-81BF-CA3A2D15C6BB

South Island New Zealand Road Trip

Having accomplished the North Island on my working holiday visa and loving it, I definitely needed to do the South Island too! Here is my 16 day itinerary and photo highlights to encourage you to take on this adventure. #noregrets

Tips:

  • I would definitely recommend all the accommodations I stayed at apart from the Takaka one.
  • There is plenty of possum road kill on the South Island so be careful and some roads were icy during this period so I can imagine it would be worse in Winter.
  • My rock climbing and paragliding got cancelled due to poor weather so always have some idea of what you could do if the weather isn’t in your favour and be ready to adapt the below itinerary. If you see the weather is good, move main hikes around and accomplish them while you still can!
  • Always fuel up when your tank isn’t full and you see a petrol station because you never know when you will come across another one!
  • Pre load your destinations on maps as signal can die at any point and bring an iPod as the radio could also get cut at any point.
  • Clockwise or Anti-clockwise road trip loop from Christchurch? Clockwise (what I did) starts off more intense and then it chills off as there isn’t as much to do/see/as many long days.
  • Always cheaper and safer to travel with another person.

Day 1 – Landed late at night in Christchurch from Sydney and stayed at the YMCA which was surprisingly clean, comfortable and spacious. Highly recommended especially it’s central location and lowest price.

 

Day 2Christchurch and 3h drive to Tekapo – Started the morning with the Christchurch Gondola. There is a $10 NZD return Gondola specific shuttle that takes you from Canterbury Museum to the Gondola base and back to the city departing every hour on the half hour. The Gondola ($30) takes your to amazing lake and mountain views and there is even a short indoor train ride which takes you through a bit of history. You don’t really need more than 1 hour unless you’ll eat at the restaurant up top too.

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View from the top of Christchurch Gondola 

I then spent plenty of time at the free Canterbury Museum and Botanic Gardens, walked to Cathedral Square to see the damaged Cathedral from the Earthquakes ><

1ED1ACC0-F340-4EDC-9038-D31F8F6A762B
Botanical Gardens during Autumn 

Picked up my car from OMEGA car rentals (not recommended, not cleaned well and my car roof ended up leaking during my Queenstown leg of the trip so had to go out of my planned route to change cars midway though which wasted time) and drove to Tekapo to stay two nights as I wanted two chances of seeing the famous stars at night incase I came across bad weather. It was completely cloudy this night so enjoyed my AirBnB Ashwick Flat

Day 3Tekapo and 2h drive to Mount Cook – Caught sunrise at Lake Tekapo. Drove to the start of the Hooker Valley Track which should have been a 3hour return walk but the track was closed near the start so only made it to the first bridge. I then did the 1h return Kea lookout track which is in the same area for a view of Mount Cook. Anorak Mount Cook Village is near by where you can stop for lunch and the information centre. I then drove to Lake Pukaki and did the kettle hole track for a higher view point and 1h loop  walk. This day was perfectly clear so I spent plenty of time at Lake Tekapo (bridge and Church of Good Shepherd) for sunset and viewing the stars. You can do a tour from Mt John Observatory but this cost over $100NZD (includes telescopes etc), but I just chose to enjoy it near my car for free.

Day 4 – 5h drive from Tekapo to Catlins – Nugget point and lighthouse, Purakaunui falls, Matai Falls and Horseshoe falls (these two are near each other on the same track) as Mclean Falls (the more famous one) was closed, and Florence hill lookout of the bay. Visited Curio Bay for penguins and dolphins after checking in but it wasn’t the right season. This was a random add on since the Mclean falls track was closed. I stayed at The Whistling Frog Resort, right next to Mclean Falls track, and the shared toilet and kitchen facilities were really clean.

Day 5 – 3.5h drive to Fiordland National Park and Te Anau– Eglinton Valley for views, Mirror Lake (don’t go when the sun is too high because you won’t see a reflection or when it’s bad weather because the lake has to be still), Chasm Gorge, Totuko Bridge, Milford Sound, Lake Gunn Nature Walk from Cascade Creek and stay the night in Te Anau. I fitted in a short lakeside walk at the start of the kepler Track in Te Anau before resting up in Fiordland Hotel the next two nights.

Day 6Te Anau bird sanctuary and lake, Humboldt falls, Key Summit Hike 3h, Te Anau Lion lookout point

D124F001-34E2-4B57-9BDD-2317B5B23380
Te Anau Lake

Day 7 – 2h drive to Queenstown and another 40 to Glenorchy for the Glenorchy Lagoon walkway (1-2h depending on whether you want to do one or two different loops). Visited the little town for its lake and red boat shed too before heading back to Queenstown for skyline Gondola. Free parking is super hard to find in Queenstown (lots of tourists) so be prepared to walk up/down hills and go in circles before you find a spot. Beautiful skyline view indeed and enjoy the luge ride too. Stayed the night at 8 Cotswold Court AirBnB.

Day 8Queenstown where we were suppose to do rock climbing and paragliding but the weather wasn’t great for it. Tried the famous Fergburger, walked the gardens and did two escape rooms before catching the Autumn festival in Arrowtown. From Arrowtown, we drove to Wanaka passing by Cardrona to stay the night at the amazing Airbnb for two nights, 10 Mills Road, Kirimoko Crescent. Since the weather was descent, I visited the Wanaka tree before sunset in case the weather forecast of rain to come would be correct (glad I did).

 

Day 9 – Wanaka – This day was suppose to be for the famous Roy’s Peak hike but our Airbnb host recommend we skip the hike because of poor weather conditions and heavy winds up top. Managed to book horse riding in Cardrona instead for the morning, spent the rest of the day at Puzzling world (great indoor option) and watched Avengers at night at their quaint Paradiso cinema (sofa cinema!). Found out the car war leaking from the roof onto the drivers seat somehow so had to sort some admin and organise for a change of cars.

Day 10Wanaka – Drove back to Queenstown in the morning to change the car and back to Wanaka to compete the 6h Roy’s Peak hike (did it in less than 6h including photos, not without pain! As you are going straight up and straight down for hours on muddy ground since it was raining and snowing) Did not want to miss the hike and am so glad I pushed through in the rain and snow as when I reached the top, the sky cleared for a window of about 25mins! The view was absolutely incredible and worth it. This was a tiring day starting the hike late and then having to drive 3.5h to our next stop Franz Josef to stay the next two nights. Worth it for the views! Stayed at Rainforest Retreat which was really nice and had a hot tub/Sauna too.

22A72B10-C99A-4E8D-BC49-DDF342C8399C
View point from Roy’s Peak

Day 11Franz Josef – so blessed the weather was perfect as all heli-hikes were cancelled before the entire week before we arrived. Our helicopter hike went ahead on Franz Josef Glacier and afterwards, we drove to Fox Glacier for Lake Matheson. From here you can see Mount Cook and the Tasman Glacier, and the lake is famous for being on most NZ postcards.

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Franz Josef Glacier

Day 12 Hokitika Gorge which wasn’t as blue as it could be due to previous days of heavy rain but was still pretty, Punakaiki Pancake rock and blowholes (very unique rock formation), Truman Track where I spotted my first ever blue mushrooms (random), West Port for their River walk before heading to Murchison Hamden Hotel. The cheapest accom ever yet really good. $37 for the night! This day is a great middle stopping point on the way to the Nelson region furthest North of the South Island which is quite a large area. The drive along the West Coats is really pretty and you see NZ’s version of the twelve apostles along the way throughout the coastline.

Day 13Nelson/Abel Tasman National Park – Lake Rotoiti in the morning where the walkway still had ice on it giving it a great effect on the pictures. Te Waikoropupu Springs which definitely requires a drone if you want to see all the colours, and clear weather. You can tell it’s really clean from just looking at it but it’s hard to capture on pictures. Wharariki beach (this was pretty incredible, felt like a small version of the Sahara with all the dunes and pure sand) for rock formations, seals (including baby seals swimming in the pools near the beach) and a short drive to see Cape Farewell point (or you could walk there and back from the beach). Stayed the night in Takaka Telegraph hotel just to break up the drive to Nelson the next day.

Day 14Nelson/Abel Tasman National Park – Drove to Wainui falls (3.4km return), Skinner Point Lookout and Goat Bay 2h walk from Totaranui Beach and enjoyed amazing burgers at Fat Tui Foodtruck Marahau before ending the day with Split Apple Rock. Stayed the night at the Prince Albert Backpackers and Bar which was really good as they had plenty of facilities for guest such as a spacious TV room and free waffle breakfast.

Day 15 – 3h drive to Kaikoura for the Peninsula Walkway (it’s a 3h loop from the Seal Colony/point Kean Carpark). Drove to the Kaikoura view point (absolutely stunning panoramic views) and started the way from there actually as Google maps didn’t show there was a carpark at Point Kean. Saw seals of course! Headed to Hanmer Springs after ($25 entry for the hot pools, $5 for towels, extra $10 to use the slides). You could spend awhile here if you pay for the slides as it’s pretty much a water park. I just enjoyed the hot pools, hottest going up to 42 degrees! The petrol station here closes at 6pm so be sure to fill up before then. Drove another 1.5h to get to Honeyfields Alpaca Farm where we stayed the night. This was by far the best accom, $220 a night for a big apartment including a farm tour the next morning and breakfast.

Day 16Honeyfields Alpaca Farm – enjoyed farm things – feeding Alpacas, petting them, walking them, holding a chicken, picking fresh eggs, trying honey before driving 20mins to return the car near Christchurch Airport.

Perth, Australia

Perth is the capital of Western Australia. There is now a direct flight from London to Perth! I definitely needed more time to see all of Western Australia but here is what I did cover and would recommend

  1. King’s Park and Botanic Garden for stunning views and walks that can take you all the way to the famous lone standing blue boat house.
  2. Day trip to the Pinnacles desert and Lancelin for sand boarding, passing by Swan Valley where you can try wine, honey, coffee and chocolates. Here is the tour I used which included a BBQ at the Pinnacles desert for dinner while we were star gazing.
  3. Day trip to Rottnest Island for the adorable Quokka’s who are super friendly and will smile for your camera. Be sure to rent a bike to explore the whole island (approx 22km), a much more comfortable option than the bus that does a loop.
  4. Fly or drive for ages to Esperance which is known for its pink lake, however it is no longer pink! There is still a pink lake on an island off the coast of Esperance which you can fly over via helicopter for $300+. Or you can stay on the mainland and enjoy Cape Le Grand National park which is the only beach in the world to have kangaroos roaming around and Australia’s version of Stone henge. You can also complete the short Great Ocean Drive with magnificent beaches, stand under a windmill and see the ‘pink lake’. Here is the tour company I used in Esperance as I didn’t rent a car.
  5. Visit Fremantle from Perth city centre, for their weekend market, do a prison tour and enjoy sunset by the rainbow sea containers.