7 Weeks Travelling To New Zealand & Australia

7 Weeks Travelling To New Zealand & Australia

Written By: AlyT

I love researching places to visit, working out a route and places to visit and how much time we should spend in each place, so I had in my mind what and where we wanted to go and how much time we needed. Hence the 7 weeks!! We knew we wanted to be in Melbourne for the Australian Open LPGA Golf as our son was caddying and his girlfriend at the time (now wife) was playing so we worked the trip around that one week!!  

I have to confess with something like 10 flights and 7 weeks of accommodation to organise I did use the expertize of Trailfinders to help me. They are very good in that they normally have a consultant who is experienced in the area you are looking at to work with you and make recommendations. The advantage was that they were able to find competitive flights and change them if a part of your plan couldnt work taking the stress out planning. We did check all the accommodation they recommended and probably changed a considerable number of them, booking them ourselves using Booking.com, who we also find excellent and in most cases you dont have to pay until few days before and offer free cancellations. We wanted apartments rather than hotels so we could prepare our own breakfasts and barbeque some evenings.

We broke our journey to New Zealand up with a 3 night stop in Singapore, we did the open top bus tour, which is great way to see all the must see places and you can jump off and on as you wish. The weather was beauiful so we got to relax too and recharge our batteries. 

Places we visited and recommend:

  • Bus Tour
  • Gardens by the Bay!! wow!
  • China Town
  • Singapore Botanical Gardens
  • Clark Quay
  • Raffles Hotel

Next stop was:

Queenstown, New Zealand

We flew into Sydney then a short flight to Queenstown. We had booked a brilliant 2 bed apartment overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain range, a 25 minute walk into Queenstown Centre. Queenstown is renowned for adventure sports, it is a base for exploring the region’s vineyards and historic mining towns. There's bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge and jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers. In winter, there's skiing on the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.

We loved Queenstown, a buzzy town on shores of the lake, with a multitude of shops, bars and restaurants, very popular with the younger population. There are lots to do and very scenic backdrop. 

We took the 45 minute drive from Queenstown out to Glenorchy (one of the locations for filimg of Lord of the Rings), we got to experience some of the world’s most spectacular scenery in the Mt Aspiring World Heritage Park and along NZ’s most scenic highway the Glenorchy Road.  A quaint little village with several cafes, shops and lovely hikes.

Places we visited and recommend:

  • Skyline Cable car 
  • Hiking - lots of walkks/hikes in area
  • Arrowtown 
  • Winetasting tours
  • TSS Earnslaw Steamer cruise
  • Glenochy

Milford Sound

Our next stop was Invercargill and Bluff - our friends had family there! Bluff is famous for its oysters and the only wild fishery. To be honest wouldnt make a special trip there! 

We were now heading up to Milford Sound for an overnight cruise which we were super excited about. It was 300KM from Bluff so we decided to stop overnight at Te Anau on Lake Te Anau - the gateway to Milford Sound & Doubtful Sound. 

The Milford Road (also known as State Highway 94) is much more than a way to get to Milford Sound. It's an unforgettable journey into the heart of Fiordland National Park, and just as impressive as the destination itself. ... At its highest point, the Milford Road is 940 metres (3,083 feet) above sea level. We made sure we had plenty of time so we could stop and take in the scenery and take lots of photos!

Warning!! - there is no petrol station - make sure you fill up before you set off

Milford Sound more than lived up to our expectations - we boarded our overnight boat at 4.30pm, we got to see seals up close, cruise the fiord, see the sheer cliffs disappearing into the inky black water, an abundance of waterfalls and snow covered mountains in the distance. We had a great evening with nice food. 

There is only one road in/out of Milton Sound so we headed back along the same route, but amazing how different it looks driving the opposite way!!

Wanaka

Our next stop was Wanaka, a vey long drive from Milton Sound - we had booked to stay here 3 nights, set on the southern end of Lake Wanaka, with views of snowcapped mountains. It's the gateway to the Southern Alps' Mount Aspiring National Park, a wilderness of glaciers, beech forests and alpine lakes. Less touristy than Queenstown, had a very laid back feel. 

We took a very cool drive out to The Rob Roy Glacier along the Wanaka-Mount Aspiring road until you reach the very end of the road, to a place called Raspberry Creek Carpark. The drive itself is quite an unusual drive. Firstly, the drive up was a very scenic one – you get to overlook the Lake Wanaka area and the mountain range around it. The last 30km of the route, the nicely paved road ends and is replaced with an unsealed, gravel road that drives you through private farms on either side. The drive out was ok, several fords with a little water, but we had a downpour during our climb up to the glacier so on the way back it was a little hairy as the fords had swollen! 

We have just returned from New Zealand a couple of months ago, so I have to share some experiences from then too! Our oldest son and his fiancee love New Zealand so decided that they wanted to get married there!! We flew by helicoptor from Queenstown to Coromandal Peak, where we landed on top of the mountain for the small intimate ceremony. The views over Lake Wanaka were stunning - one of the most photographed lakes and you can see why.

On this trip we also did a private charter boat trip (Eco Wanaka Adventures) out to Mau Waho Island Nature Reserve. Our guide was excellent, telling us all about the flora and fauna and the birds they have re-introduced. He took us up to the lake way up on the island which gave us lovely panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and the very mountain we had been on the day before for our son's wedding. We then planted a tree!

Things to do in Wanaka:

  • Rob Roy Glacier
  • Lake side walk
  • Eco boat trip
  • Mount Aspiring National Park

Franz Joseph 

The road from Franz Josef to Wanaka covers the most diverse set of landscapes you will see in New Zealand, from snowcapped peaks and glaciers on Mount Cook to sandy beaches, incredibly blue rivers, waterfalls, and lakes. A winding mountain pass with panoramic views, turn scenic ocean drive. A stunning drive - not to be rushed!!

We arrived in Franz Joseph, a small town most famous for the Franz Joseph Glacier and hiking. Unfortunately, we had torrential rain the whole time we were there so we didnt get a chance to hike up to the glacier which was very disappointing.

Greymouth

We had a 172KM drive to Greymouth where we were catching the Tranz-alpine Train across the country to Christchurch. To be honest we just trashed the journey out as we had ot be there by lunch time.

TranzAlpine Train

Operated by The Great Journeys of New Zealand; often regarded to be one of the world's great train journeys for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 139 miles one-way, taking almost five hours. There are 16 tunnels and four viaducts, with the Staircase Viaduct being 246 ft high. The scenery was spectacular, there is a viewing carriage which gives you the opportunity to take some great photos - it doesnt travel too fast!!

Christchurch

I think this is one detail I got wrong, we only booked to stay the one evening, so only spent the following morning exploring the city - this really wasnt enough. It was a sobering experience, with the devastation of the earthquake still evident. The shopping centre consisted of very initive containers as shops and cafes and there was a very moving memorial of white chairs, one for each person lost.

Picton 

We drove the coastal road to Picton, again this was some 330k but there are some great stops on the way. We stopped at Kaikoura, a coastal town known for its abundant wildlife and its sperm whale population. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway winds from the town centre to lookout points at Point Kean. Close by, the rock platforms are home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals. The 1800s Fyffe House is a cottage built on a foundation of whalebones, with displays on the town’s whaling past.

Another worthy stop was Mangamaunu Bay, a popular spot for surfers which snow clad mountains as a back drop!! 

The picturesque seaside town of Picton where the ferry service linking the main islands of New Zealand and the heart of the Marlborough Sounds. We had booked a 2 bedroomed apartment just out of the town in Waikawa overlooking a marina. 

It is built around a sheltered harbour with a lovely seafront with cafés, restaurants, various types of galleries. There’s also a floating maritime museum and an aquarium. You can book to go cruising, fishing, dolphin watching, sea kayaking or mountain biking.

We took a drive from Picton towards Nelson, a picturesque trip with amazing views of the Marlbourgh Sound - we stopped on way back at Havelock, the mussel capital of New Zealand!! We found a quaint little restaurant with New Zealand Green mussels on the menu!! surprise!! Head down to the harbour and hopefully see fishermen selling their fish at the market. 

Arriving in Nelson, we stayed along the coast and found a beautiful beach where we enjoyed a great walk - there are loads of cafes and restaurants including one on stilts over the sea called Boat Shed Cafe!!. I am probably disappointed that we didnt plan to travel and stay at Abel Tasman. Everyone I have spoken with says its beautiful and needs exploring. 

Also a must while you are in the Marlbourgh region is experience some wine tasting! there are numerous wineries and most you can just pop in and try some wines.

Things to do in and around Picton

  • Walk out to Victoria Domain
  • Kaiupu Wildlife Sancuary
  • Boat trips
  • Havelock 
  • Nelson
  • Abel Tasman
  • Wine tasting

North Island - Napier

Our exploring of the south island had come to an end, now time to head to the north island. I always remember someone telling me that you go to New Zealand for the scenery, not the cities so with that in mind, we dropped off our hire car, caught the ferry from Picton to Wellington, picked up another car and headed to Napier for 2 nights.

Napier sits on the coast and is set amid the wine-producing region of Hawke's Bay. Rebuilt after a 1931 earthquake, the city is known for art deco landmarks.

Things to do in and around Napier:

  • Museum of history of Napier
  • Cape Kidnappers Golf course

Taupo & Rotorua

Taupo is pretty much in the centre of the north island, sitting on the edge of Austrialisia's largest lake - Lake Taupo - there was so much to do here, but as we were only here for one night we wanted to experience the Craters of the Moon, a geothermal area featuring boardwalks & gravel paths past steam vents & bubbling craters.

Another attraction was the  Hells Gate/Tikitere Geothermal Reserve - well worth a visit.

We also headed out to the Huka Falls, a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo. A few hundred metres upstream from the Huka Falls, the Waikato River narrows from approximately 100 metres across into a canyon only 15 metres across. Every day at the same time, they open the dam to allow 220,000 litres of water per second explode down the narrow canyon - quiet a spectical!

Things to do in and around Taupo

  • Lake Taupo
  • Huka Falls
  • Craters of the Moon 
  • Spa Thermal Park - Rotarua

Tauranga

Next stop Tauranga, a harbourside city in the Bay of Plenty region. It hosts historic buildings like the Elms Mission Station, an 1847 Georgian-style home. A bridge over the harbour connects Tauranga to Mount Maunganui, a beach town with hot saltwater pools and an extinct  volcano with winding walking paths. Offshore is the active volcano White Island, accessible by helicopter or boat.

A great one night stop with great beaches.

Auckland

Despite my earlier comment about cities, we spent 3 nights in Auckland - we have good friends living there and we hadnt seen them for a long time so there was lots of catching up to do. We had booked hotel in the city so we could walk to the sky tower, the habour etc. But on reflection I wouldnt recommend it. There are some beautiful suburbs around Auckland on the coast with beautiful beaches. (Our second visit earlier this year with stayed in Takapuna - lovely area with great beach and lots of great places to eat).

Things to do in and around Auckland

  • One Tree Hill
  • Takapuna
  • Boat trips
  • Hiking
  • Sky Tower

Piahia

We headed north to Bay of Islands and town of Piahia. Our friends had told us about a small town called Matakana with its village Farmers' Market, artisanal food, award- winning wine, stylish boutiques, arthouse galleries and cinema. A great little stop to break up the journey. 

There are several other little coastal towns to stop for a bite to eat. 

Piahia is an excellent base to explore the Bay of Islands with its stunning beaches and scenery. From the wharf you can arrange a trip to the outer islands, enjoy a fishing expedition or catch ferry to Russell, known as Kororareka in the early 19th century, was the first permanent European settlement and seaport in New Zealand

Top local adventures include cruising to the ‘hole in the rock’ at the tip of Cape Brett, finding dolphins (and even swimming with them) and sea kayak tours. Paihia is also just down the road from the historic Treaty House at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation. Just west of Paihia is Haruru, where you’ll find an impressive waterfall and a boardwalk.

Time to say goodbye to New Zealand!! We drove back to Auckland airport but not before a quick stop in KwaKawa to see the Hundertwasser toilets!!! I know, its sounds bazarre but worth the stop!!

Melbourne - Australia

As I mentioned our whole trip had been based around being in Melbourne for this week for the Austalian Open Ladies Golf, you cannot travel all that way and not see your son!  We stayed in the centre so we could use the tram service to get around. To be honest after 4 weeks driving around NZ we didnt fancy too much travelling. But we found plenty to do in and around melbourne. 

We were lucky enough to be there for the White Night Show, held over 3 days where iconic buildings are lit up with lazer shows, live music and food stalls. 

Things to do in and around Melbourne

  • Drive the Great Ocean Road
  • St Kilda Beach/town
  • Phillip Island - penquins!
  • Queen Victoria Market
  • St Pauls Cathedral
  • Federation Square

Whitsunday Islands and Airlee Beach

We had been advised by Australian friends not to travel north of Airlee Beach at this time of year because of the weather. We flew into Hamilton Island and had a boat trip to the mainland - beautiful trip stopping off at a couple of islands on the way. The weather was beautiful!!

Airlee Beach was a lovely town as a base, but our main reason for this area was to go to the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach. Both involved quite a lengthy boat trip. We were taken out to a large floating platform on the barrier reef, where we were given flatation devices and suits, snorkels and flippers. There was a small submarine type vessel so you could see the reef and ocean life without getting wet! and you could get in and out of the sea as often as you fancied and you got to see some interesting fish up close. I guess we were disappointed that the colours of the reef were not as impressive as I expected them to be. 

We had a very rough trip back - lots of people feeling rather unwell! 

Our trip out to Whitehaven Beach was much calmer and well worth it to see this amazing beach! a 7km long beach only accessable by boat or sea plane,  totally unspoilt, no facilities and no one is allowed to stay on the island. Whitehaven Beach is protected by the Whitsunday Islands National Park, and in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s been voted the world’s top eco-friendly beach, and Queensland’s cleanest beach. The sand is 98 per cent pure white silica, which gives it a brilliant, near luminescent colour. It is illigal to take sand from the beach and there is a hefty fine if caught doing so. 

We did try to book a seaplane out to The Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven beach but unfortunately it was fully booked.

Sydney

Our last stop was Sydney, we stayed close to Darling Harbour and used the water taxis extensively to explore Sydney and some of the suburbs. 

I loved Sydney, Darling Harbour was action packed with shops, restaurants and lots of water based activities, great place for the evenings. 

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House - wow, what a spectical! you can enjoy them either on the many ferries that leave the harbour or walking along to waterfront, through the botanical gardens. We were fortunatee enough to see The Queen Elizabeth cruise ship in the harbour!!

The botanical gardens are well worth a visit!!

We took trips out to Manly, a very attractive suburb with great walks along the waterfront and a nice beach. We also went out to Bondi Beach - you cannot go to Sydney without a trip there!! it was very busy and I was disappointed that there were no big waves and hence no surfers. There is a great coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee where we caught a bus back to Sydney.  Well worth the walk!

We took a water taxi trip out to Watson's Bay, Watsons Bay is literally the first place Captain Cook would have dropped anchor as he sailed into the harbour. As Sydney's oldest fishing village (since 1877), this picturesque suburb is drenched in history, and one of its notable must-sees is the South Head Heritage Trail, a scenic bushwalk dotted with historical remnants such as a disused cannon and rifle wall and a nudist beach!! 

We also visited Cockatoo Island, a convict precinct and underground silos, The Convict Precinct is part of the UNESCO World-Heritage-listed convict gaol complex from the 1840s. Very interesting trip! 

We had 5 nights in Sydney but you could easily spend a week here. There is so much to see and do!

Things to do in and around Sidney

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge - climb
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Darling Harbour
  • Cockatoo Island
  • Bondi Beach
  • Manly
  • Watson's Bay
  • Botanical Gardens

Bangkok

Our holiday is coming to an end, just 3 nights left in Bangkok before travelling back to reality!

We stayed in a beautiful 5 star hotel on the river close to the Night Market. To be honest, Bangkok was a bit of a culture shock and on reflection I would recommend visiting Bangkok on way out and Singapore on way home. Bangkok was busy and dirty. Having said that we had some interesting experiences! 

We took a trip out to one of the many floating markets, recommended by our hotel, it was a long drive (hour and half) and was very commericalized. The highlight however was our taxi driver took us on a little detour. He parked up and said we had 15 minutes to walk a short distance to the railway. We got to experience the Maeklong Market Train. When we arrived there were market traders literally edged up to the track with canopies and people walking on the track buying produce. Then suddenly you heard a train coming, the traders closed the canopies, moved some of their produce, the rest of us stood on the track watching the train coming towards us very very slowly, then when it was about 20 feet away we all moved the train passed, then everything was replaced and trading continued!! Quite a spectical!! I am glad we did the floating market.

We headed to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the grounds of the Grand Palace - beautiful buildings (a word of warning, make sure you are well covered up, you will not be allowed in if you are not suitably dressed). We also visited to Temple of the Reclining Buddha, just a short walk away.

There are over 400 Temples in and around Bangkok, so you may want to do your homework!!

We also used the skytrain and the river taxis - quite an experience. Health and safety not one of the priorities!!

A must while you are there is to go to the 6 storey indoor MBK market. You can get anything you want there! and you can barter to get good prices. We landed going back a second time because it was so big!!

The night market was close to our hotel, we used the Tuk Tuks to get us there - blimey not for the weak hearted!! There are loads stalls and restaurants - not sure the food was that brilliant but plenty of choice. 

We also enjoyed a thai massage!!

Well that was it - time to travel home back to reality! What an amazing trip!!

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