WHAT IT’S LIKE TO JUMP OUT OF A PLANE

I’m scared of heights.

 

But for some reason, when I moved to New Zealand I felt compelled to conquer this fear. Not once, but twice. The first time was 140ft up when I decided it would be a good idea to bungee jump off a bridge. Don’t ask how I managed to do this–let’s just leave it at an abnormality. But hey, I could say I conquered my fear of heights and left it at that.

That is, until my mom visited me earlier this year. Skydiving has long been on her bucket list and was the number one thing she wanted to do in New Zealand.

It was 90% peer pressure and 10%FOMO (fear of missing out), but I somehow re-conquered my fear of heights from 13,000ft and jumped out of a plane.

DCIM100GOPROG0022143.

Despite the photographic evidence you are about to see below, this feat did not come easily. There were sleepless nights before the big jump, a couple hundred tears shed and a lot of fidgeting and walking like a maniac in circles before getting suited up.

 

This was my face when I was told we were only at 5,000ft…..

DCIM100GOPROG0042150.

And when we finally reached 13,000ft I started screaming….

DCIM100GOPROG0052162.

and didn’t stop….

DCIM100GOPROG0052170.

but then the screams switched from pure fear to pure joy….

DCIM100GOPROG0052194.

because the views were absolutely insane…

DCIM100GOPROG0052185.

and when the free-fall finally finished, I could barely contain my emotions (I mean there were waterfall of tears….but tears of joy none the less!)

DCIM100GOPROG0052218.

and then the real fun started when I was given control of the parachute…. I didn’t expect it to go quite so fast though!

DCIM100GOPROG0062257.

DCIM100GOPROG0062266.DCIM100GOPROG0062272.

The endorphin rush was like none that I have ever experienced and the feeling of flying over paradise will leave you speechless (*It took me 5 min to catch my breath and start talking again….but I think that was because I used all my oxygen screaming the whole way down)

DCIM100GOPROG0072282.

Thanks Mom! X

Advertisements

14 PHOTOS THAT PROVE FALL IN NEW ZEALAND IS THE BEST

Vibrant. Golden. Magical. Epic. No words really do justice to what New Zealand is like in the Fall.

I must admit, it is quite weird wrapping my head around the fact that fall in New Zealand does not go hand in hand with spiced pumpkin donuts, apple cider and Halloween costumes galore. But while the Northern Hemisphere (and my social media) is currently enjoying the blossoming cherry trees and longer days in the sun for the month of April, the South Island of New Zealand is being treated to one of the best showcases of #fall  in the entire world.

Don’t believe me? Here are 14 photos I took to prove it.

Christchurch:

Where the botanical gardens are just magical….

DSCN2100

DSCN2096

and orange leaves clash with the green silver ferns of the native ponga…

Lake Tekapo:

Where the golden hour never really stops….

DSCN2155

DSCN2161

DSCN2156

and the magical colours create a perfect contrast with one of the country’s most photographed lakes (fact–there were at least 100 other people out when I took this photo at 6AM…)

Mt. Cook:

DSCN2192

DSCN2183

Where bushes of orange perfectly frame this snow capped mountain of perfection….

and crisp orange leaves line the teal blue glacier lake….

Lake Hayes:

DSCN2047

Where rows of gold line the dirt roads….
and the reflections of autumn’s glory literally make your jaw drop….

DSCN2041DSCN2042

and make anyone with a camera handy go absolutely photo mad (guilty as charged….)

DSCN1956

Arrowtown:

DSCN2057

Quite arguably the most magical place in all of New Zealand to experience fall. Where this cute little town center looks even cuter…and where vibrant orange and red pop out among the green…

DSCN2059

which makes for a walk to definitely remember….

and where the leftover summer lupins are still mixed in with the golden leaves of Fall….

DSCN2081

Seriously. I don’t care how basic I sound…#FALL #NZWinsAtFall.

Image

WEST COAST WONDERS

Rugged coastline, memorizing waterfalls and ancient glaciers are only a few of the natural wonders that make the West Coast of New Zealand such a special paradise. Mix that with the fact that the whole region is isolated from the hustle and bustle that most cities are prone to and it is no surprise that I find myself continually longing to return.

While it is only two hours to get from Christchurch to the West Coast, you would be surprised that many Kiwis do not take advantage of this easy getaway. But their loss is our gain!

Even in the pouring rain–which there is a very likely chance of that happening (I mean, there wouldn’t be rain forests without the rain!), a trip to the West Coast is always worth it. And here is why:

The gateway to the West Coast is through Arthur’s Pass

IMG_2312

Arthur’s Pass is one of the most impressive mountain passes in the South Island, with some massive engineering feats allowing tourists to drive safely over rushing rivers, under waterfalls and past harms way from rock slips.

IMG_1911

Plus, chances are you will also get to encounter the Kea–a cheeky mountain parrot that will likely outsmart you in trying to steal rubber off your car!

Hokitika

IMG_1925

The gorge, the beach, the glow worms, the pizzeria–everything about Hokitika has this subtle charm that has made me fall deeply in love with this West Coast charm. Nothing quite beats sitting on a sandy beach, listening to the rough waves crash hard onto the coast while also admiring the Southern Alps protruding above the rain forest.

The most remarkable beauty in the area is the Hokitika Gorge, with water so teal blue it looks as if gallons of food dte had been poured in it!

And if it is a rain-free evening, you will find all the locals enjoying the sunsets on the beach with their fish and chips or takeaway pizza from Fat Pipi’s. Once the sun has set, make sure to head over to the Glow Worm Dell to see a remarkable spectacle of thousands of glowing blue worms coming from the rocks all around.

Fox Glacier

IMG_1987

Only a two hour drive south from Hokitika is Glacier Country–with Fox Glacier being an absolute must-see!

Because of how quickly the glacier is receding you can no longer walk directly up to it. But you can still check it out with a helicopter landing or from afar at numerous viewing points.

It is most certainly a humbling experience to witness the grandness of the glacier, but also gain a perspective of how quickly it is vanishing.

While you are there don’t forget to check out the epic swing bridges over the rushing glacial rivers!

IMG_2015

Haast Pass

IMG_2039

Arguably one of the most scenic parts of the drive along the West Coast, Haast Pass offers this stunning viewpoint of where rain forest and secluded beaches meet. And even though you will have to endure the sand flies, the views in Haast are absolutely worth it.

IMG_2035

Jackson Bay

IMG_2052

Before entering Mt. Aspiring National Park, make sure so take a quick detour to Jackson Bay.  A small township along the edge of the West Coast that has less than 400 people also has one of the most remote and quaint boating areas in all of the West Coast. On a clear day you can see all along the West Coast from the pier.

With Milford Sound just around the corner, Jackson Bay really does feel like a town that is on the edge of paradise.

Mt. Aspiring National Park

IMG_2199

There is simply not enough time in the world to properly soak in the beauty and magic that is Mt. Aspiring National Park. Less than an hour from Haast Pass you will be treated to an endless selection on natural wonders. And while you are guaranteed to be inspired by nearly everything you come across, make sure to leave room to explore my three favourite gems:

The Blue Pools: The swing bridges are epic, the water is the bluest and clearest I have ever seen and the jagged rocks the water flows past seem man-made. Only a ten minute walk to these pools, make sure to bring a swim suit and towel as you will most certainly be tempted to test these pools out.

Fantail FallsThis 23 metre waterfall is easily accessible from the car park and also an easy wade across the river to get up close and personal to this natural beaut! While there are literally hundreds of waterfalls within Mt. Aspiring National Park, this one is hands down my favourite.

IMG_2197

The road to Rob Roy’s Glacier:  This dirt path from Treble Cone to Rob Roy’s Glacier has got to be the most beautiful drive in the whole region. With the lush green hills flocked with cattle and sheep, the bright blue river rushing by the dirt path and the awe-inspiring mountains popping out around every corner, this area truly does feel like a slice of heaven (especially when the rays of sunshine pop out between the tips of the mountains!).

IMG_2182

It is worth the extra hour’s journey to explore this side of Mt. Aspiring and I am sure it will become one of your favourite spots in New Zealand, like it became mine.

The sunsets

IMG_1967

Okay New Zealand seems to always have really good sunsets. But the ones on the West Coast really are something else. Nothing quite beats a firey red and pink sky reflected on a still lake, with the sounds of the ocean looming in the distance. To see one of these sunsets is worth the trip to the West Coast alone!

Magic in Kaikoura

All it took was 24 hours to fall in love.

The combination of rugged coastline, snow-capped mountains, abundance of sea-life and majestic sunrises and sunsets—all bottled up in a small town feel— made me want to set up a bach (kiwi lingo for holiday home) on the coast and never go anywhere else again.

image

This wasn’t the first time I had visited Kaikoura but this was the first time I had truly allowed myself to explore and experience all that this place offers.

Maybe I got lucky, as Mother Nature blessed the area with clear skies and a glistening sun during what is supposed to be one of he coldest months of the year. But I am confident that regardless the temperature outside, Kaikoura has got to be one of the most underrated places in all of New Zealand.

image

It seems to be that the average tourist makes it a priority to visit the hotspot destinations such as Queenstown, Milford Sounds, Abel Tasman and Tekapo, but Kaikora all too often gets overlooked.

image

So in the grand hope that your are reading this blog post because you plan on visiting New Zealand at some point in time (or if you are already in New Zealand, are searching for new places to explore), here are all the things you will want to know and prepare for to ensure that you can take advantage of all of the magic of Kaikoura.

Getting there:

image

Kaikoura is placed along the north eastern part of the South Island and is only a 2.5 hour drive from Christchurch. It is the perfect weekend trip (or even day trip) destination and also a good stop-over if you are on your way to Picton. The drive itself is gorgeous, as you will start through the Waipara vineyards and then transition to driving along the rugged coastline.

When you reach the halfway point in Cheviot, make sure to take a quick detour and follow the tourist drive to Gore Bay. It is there that you will be introduced to the cutuest collection of luxurious batches lined up along one of the best surf spots in Canterbury!

Accommodation:

image

Kaikoura is not that big of a town, with a population of only 3,200 people. But luckily for you, this also means that the majority of accommodation is along the esplanade. One of the best parts about Kaikoura is the combination of magnificent mountains and the sparkling sea—so make sure that your accommodation gives you prime access to that!

Waking up to that mountain/sea view is part of why I fell so in love with Kaikoura. While there are a variety of places to choose from, beware that while it is located near the water, you might not get the view you want.

image

My suggestion is to stay at the Kaikoura Boutique Hotel. At $250 a night you get to enjoy a room with a balcony that overlooks the Kaikoura landscape and can lay in bed while watching the sunrise!

Not many places in the world would give you such incredible views for such a bargain—considering that in NYC you can pay $500 for a view of a brick wall!

The Kaikoura Boutique Hotel also offers a waterfront lounge and bar, as well as a delicious breakfast menu. And then it is just a short 10 second walk before you find yourself on the beach.

Dining:

image

Kaikoura is in no shortage of seafood. And with the average person being allowed to catch up to six crayfish per day, you can expect everything you eat to be unbelievably fresh.

That is why your best bet for having a memorable dining experience would be to head to the Top Shop Fish and Chip shop on beach road. And right across the road is Poppy’s Real Home Made Ice Cream. It’s pretty much a meal made in heaven!

Wildlife:

image

In Kaikoura, you will find yourself in an no shortage of wildlife! Because of the large continental shelf along the coast, there are almost always an abundance of sperm whales, orcas, dolphins, albatross and seals.

There are several ways to go about experience the wildlife. The most popular (and expensive) is to go on a whale watching tour. These often fill up really quickly and with only one licensed operator in the area, it is definitely overpriced. But you are also pretty much guaranteed to see a whale up close and personal.

image

You can also opt to view the wildlife in an airplane or helicopter, but that is also completely weather dependent.

During my trip to Kaikoura I opted for a sunset kayak tour with Levi’s Sunset Paddle Kayaks. The tour is literally as cool as it sounds. Levi planned the tour perfectly so that we would be in the water during the golden hours before sunset.

image

Not only were we treated to a group of playful seals preparing for their evening hunt, but also to a breathtaking sunset that made the sky glow with pink and gold.

 

Hikes:

image

There are also plenty of scenic walks to take along the Kaikoura Peninsula. While I haven’t managed to get around to doing the epic Mount Fyffe trek, I did manage to discover what must be second best.

Starting in South Bay, the Kaikoura Peninsula walk provides a stunning view of the coastline and the surrounding Seaward Kaikoura Range. It won’t be uncommon to see a whale breach from afar (I did, but my camera wasn’t fast enough to snap) and watch a pack of seals sunbathing on the limestone rocks below.

image

A majority of the walk is farmland and, with the mountain ranges in the distance, it is easy to have a Sound of Music moment. For a second, I felt as if I was back in Austria roaming through the alps!

image

image

As is my favourite part of New Zealand hikes, this walk also has benches located in the best—and most surprising—of spots. Make sure to enjoy this viewing bench and all the magnificent scenery you can see for miles.

Secret Location:

image

Okay, so it’s not so secret anymore. But there is a waterfall full of baby seal pups twenty minutes north of Kaikoura.

Yes, you read this correctly—a waterfall full of baby seal pups! What more could you possible want in life?!

Part of the Ohau River Stream Walk lies this magical occurrence and a trip to Kaikoura is not complete without witnessing this for yourself.

During the winter months, seal pups make their way up the stream on their own and spend up to seven days at a time swimming under the waterfall and creating bonds with the other pups. They then make their way down to Ohau Point to find their mothers, drink their milk and repeat the process.

Be prepared to share the experience with an over-eager/photo-fanatic crowd and, more importantly, be prepared to become overwhelmed with cuteness!

 

6 lessons learned from New Zealand

After spending the last three years of my life abroad, I have had first hand experience in learning about different cultures’ values and priorities. Now, don’t get me wrong—America will always be my first love and I will always admire Europe, but after spending the last year in New Zealand there are some things in the kiwi culture that the rest of the world could really take note of.

1. Nature is important to preserve

DSC01486100% Pure New Zealand—that is New Zealand’s motto and it is something that every Kiwi takes great pride in. So much so, that in 1987 the government formed the Department of Conservation (DOC) to ensure that the nature and heritage of the islands were maintained. This has led to over 14 National Parks and numerous walking trails being maintained for visitors and locals alike. And because of this, tourism is the second largest export industry. But it’s not just the tourists who come to appreciate nature—kiwis love being in nature. The majority of them plan weekends and holidays around the nature in New Zealand, with many taking their RVs and camping gear to sleep alongside the endless coastalines. But I mean, in a country where every corner is an awe-inspiring landscape, how could you not want to appreciate and protect your very own backyard?

2. Peace is priority

DSC01869In a world where mass shootings and suicide bombings are plaguing the headline news—so much so that people seem to be going numb to it—it is refreshing to be in a country where peace is the priority. It is a country where there is no law that give people the right to own a gun and a country where police lock their guns in a safe in their patrol car. Furthermore, New Zealand is a nuclear free zone and have even banned US naval ships from entering to uphold this law. Now don’t get me wrong, bad things still happen but it is definitely easier to feel at peace in the land of the long white cloud.

3. Pride in their work

DSC00367Kiwis take great pride in their work—specifically home renovations. It is a country where hardware shops are packed on the weekends and home renovation shows such as The Block and Grand Designs are among the most watched. Never in a million years did I think I would willingly walk into a Mitre 10, but more often than not I find myself walking in to get supplies for another DIY project.

4. Traveling is a requirement

IMG_9501 (1)

One of my absolute favourite values in kiwi society is that traveling abroad is essential. While it does help the motif more being so isolated from the rest of the world, it is inspiring to meet so many people who make going abroad a priority and appreciate it for all it’s worth. Traveling abroad is so engrained in the kiwi culture that they even have a term for it called OE (oversees experience). The average kiwi takes their OE post university studies and will spend around two years in Europe. But it is also not uncommon to meet Kiwis who have just gotten back from living in villages throughout the Middle East, exploring the Amazon or taking a voyage to the bottom of the earth in Antartica. While there are plenty of kiwis who have never left their home turf, the amount of adventurers in this country and the priority for people to get their passport is truly inspiring.

5. Yeah nah brah is an everyday phrase

DSC01569

Kiwis are known for being chill, drama free people (for the most part) and they tend to not take life too seriously. One of the most common phrases that I hear kiwis say is “yeah nah brah”, which to an outsider can be extremely frustrating to decode. More so than not, “yeah nah” is used to disagree with someone , but it is said so politely you can’t even get mad!

In general, kiwis don’t like to cause a scene and are willing to go along with absolutely anything. I will never forget when I saw two kiwis outside the catacombs in Paris who had waited for nearly three hours to go inside, and missed the entrance for the day by one spot in line. Rather than getting upset about it, they simply laughed, took a selfie with the security guard at the entrance and got on with their sightseeing. Many kiwis are equipped to deal with sudden change and keep stress far off their radar.

6.Brunch is the best meal of the day

4db60ce3-fb54-4c5f-944e-b87d8c4e47fb

Oh man, of all the things I love about New Zealand, brunches are sure high up there on the list! The café scenes are honestly out of this world (to the point where I don’t ever think I can ever settle for Ihop again). And to top it all off, having high quality coffee is of the top priority for any café—I have never experienced a bad cup of coffee in New Zealand and kiwis would be mortified if I had. With a country that glorifies and fully embraces brunch culture, what is not to love?!

Canterbury’s best kept secret

When you are in the South Island of New Zealand, one mustn’t go too far before stumbling across some breathtaking piece of nature. In particular, Canterbury is the gateway to some of the most diverse landscape in the world; I mean, where else can you wake up for a surf, go for an afternoon hike with the Alps as your backdrop and then relax with a Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyards?

Since moving to New Zealand last year I have become slightly obsessed with hiking (or in Kiwi lingo: tramping). Nothing quite beats the adrenaline rush of reaching the peak of a hike and being rewarded with a birds eye view of your surroundings.

And with the vast amount of hikes with world famous views that the South Island offers, it isn’t really a trip to New Zealand without experiencing one of these for yourself. While there are the options to do world famous hikes in Milford Sound or Wanaka, Canterbury also has a repertoire of hikes that are nothing short of spectacular.

One of the most underrated hikes in Canterbury is Peak Hill, located on the outskirts of Lake Coledridge.

133A3165.JPG
photo courtesy of the amazing @jillmillerphoto

Peak Hill is only an hour and a half outside of Christchurch and can easily be reached on your way to (or from) Arthur’s Pass. The route to get to Peak Hill is just as scenic as the actual hike.

FullSizeRender (64)

Driving the majority of the way on unpaved roads, you will be treated to stunning views of Mount Hutt and the surrounding mountain ranges, as well as the rustic farmland (and endless amounts of sheep) throughout the area.

FullSizeRender (21).jpg

Finding your way to Peak Hill is fairly straightforward, as there is only one road and one turnoff to get to the bottom of the hill.

The steep climb up to the 1204m peak  is no easy feat, but here are five reasons why you should give it a try and, more importantly, why Peak Hill just might be Canterbury’s best kept secret.

1. You will be treated to epic views of the Canterbury plains, Lake Coledridge and the Southern Alps

FullSizeRender (18).jpg

2. Because the hike is fairly unknown among tourists, chances are you will get to have these views all to yourself (with the addition of accompanying friends of course!)

133A3216.JPG
photo courtesy of the amazing @jillmillerphoto

3. If you are lucky, the lake is reflective. And when it is, it is epic.

133A3340.JPG
Photo courtesy of the amazing @jillmillerphoto

 

4. When you reach the peak, there is no cooler place to celebrate!

133A3440.JPG
photo courtesy of the awesome @jillmillerphoto

 

5. And if you plan it right, you will be treated to a pretty pink paradise during sunset during your descent.

FullSizeRender (16).jpg

 

 

Akaroa vs the South of France

Arguing that the small New Zealand town of Akaroa is comparable to the South of France is a bold statement to make, especially since to many, the South of France is one of the most luxurious vacation destinations in the world.

But I am here to do the unthinkable and make the statement that Akaroa offers everything (and more) that the South of France is famous for. 

Culture:

ez 2
Eze, South of France

South of France: The laid back French way of life can be experienced walking along the harbor en route to an espresso and croissant. The cities in the South of France have a quiet and rustic atmosphere that provides a peaceful vacationing experience. Just make sure you have mastered the basics of French language to avoid hostility among the proud Parisians.

FullSizeRender (34)
Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa:It is a common misconception that the British were the first western civilizations to discover New Zealand. In fact, French whalers were the first explores to set up base in Akaroa. And to this day, French influence still remains throughout the streets of this old whaling port. Just like in the South of France, you can take a stroll along the harbour on Rue Laverend and enjoy an espresso and croissant at a water front cafe. And the zen-like atmosphere that is found in the South of France is intensified in Akaroa with the “stress-free” kiwi mindset. And locals are also a lot more forgiving if you haven’t mastered the French language yet

Landscape:

IMG_1064
Sainte Tropez, South of France

South of France: The  rolling hills lined with French villas and sparkling blue waters filled with yachts galore is what makes the South of France so special. 

FullSizeRender
Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa: Also boasting a landscape of rolling hills and sparkling blue waters, Akaroa has been dubbed the most scenic place in the Banks Peninsula. And catching the landscape in the early morning makes it even all the more spectacular.

Beaches:

nice
Nice, South of France

South of France: In addition to beautiful villas and super yachts, the South of France also offers the magic of the Mediterranean ocean–warm water and sandy beaches (except for Nice, which has rocky ones). But with this also comes the risk of most likely having to share this slice of paradise with hundreds of other beach goers. 

FullSizeRender (30)
Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa: Okay, so the South of France might win in regards to water temperature, because the water in Akaroa is notoriously cold (perks of being so close to Antartica!). But Akaroa makes up for this with its private beaches. Accessible via a kayak or boat, there are both sandy and rocky beaches that you can enjoy in total seclusion! Added bonus, it is highly likely you will encounter a dolphin or penguin out on the water. 

Cuisine:

South of France: France is known for its splendid cuisine and superior wines. And in the South of France these delicacies can be enjoyed at the beach clubs. It’s hard to beat a selection of crepes other savories with a glass of proseco to compliment the salty taste of the sea.

FullSizeRender (33)
Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa: The best fish and chip shop offers a top-selection of battered fish, oysters and burgers (and with the best vegetarian burger you can ever have also available) is available to eat on the water front. But Akaroa also offers some fine dining experiences that feel as though you are in France! With a vineyard in the hills, you can enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in a rustic courtyard that had all the South of France feels. 

The annual bike race:

South of France: The Tour de France very well may be the most popular cycling event in the world. And chances are that if you are in the South of France towards the end of June you will get to see the event live!

nice 1
Nice, South of France

Akaroa: While it may not be as globally known like the Tour de France, every year Akaroa hosts Le Race, a 100km bike race from Christchurch to Akaroa, with the last 30km being a tough uphill challenge. But to the hundreds of competitors, it is well worth the views and spectator support when crossing the finish line by the water.

Viewpoints:

ez 3
Eze, South of France

South of France: One of the most scenic views on the French coastline is found in Eze, in which the magical contrast of rock and water will take your breath away. One glance from the top of Eze will make it difficult for any other viewpoint to beat. 

FullSizeRender (31)
Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa: in my humble opinion, Akaroa offers one of the few points in the world that can compete with Eze. Seemingly untouched by humans or wealth, the birds eye view of  is one that will surely make you fall in love with the French-influenced town of Akaroa.

How to hop around the Bay of Islands

It is a common misconception that all of New Zealand is a tropical paradise. Located only 4,000km from Antartica, the majority of New Zealand’s waters are actually freezing cold! But not to worry, because luckily the Bay of Islands, which is located at the top of the North Island, boasts warm waters that will make you feel like you’re in the tropics.
P1010042
When Captain Cook discovered this tropical haven, he counted 144 islands in what is now New Zealand’s most picturesque bay. And while it is highly unlikely that you will have enough time to island hop between all 144 of them, here are 6 ways to maximise your time in paradise.
1. Go find the dolphins
P1000908
This may be a little biased as dolphins are my spirit animal, but a trip to the Bay of Islands is not complete without getting up close and personal to some of the most spectacular animals of the ocean. Chances are you won’t have to go very far before seeing either a pod of bottlenose dolphins or the common dolphin. It’s also not uncommon to see orcas and blue penguins out in the bay, so be on the lookout for anything!
P1000928
And while it may take every bone in your body to resist jumping in and swimming with these majestic creatures (as was the case with me) when you finally find them, it’s important to remember that the NZ Department of Conservation has placed strict rules for encounters with these animals. Swimming with a mom and baby dolphin duo isn’t allowed as it can disrupt their feeding routine (a newborn needs to feed every three minutes!) and swimming with an Orca is a $50,000 fine.
P1000968
But it is still a life changing experience to see these animals up close and personal from your boat/kayak/paddleboard/jet-ski!
2. Kayak to a waterfall 
P1010107
Travel through the inlet the connects the Waitangi River to the Bay of Islands via a one-of-a-kind kayaking experience! An hour and a half of paddling upstream will lead to the Haruru Falls.  Depending on the weather, the power of the falls changes drastically. So for the adventure seekers wanting a challenge, kayaking this trek following a rain storm will ensure you get your heart rates up!
P1010119
You can paddle right up underneath the fall and get absolutely soaked. And the experience is addicting as you will most likely want to keep repeating this for hours on end (or until your arms are so tired you can’t paddle anymore!). But that’s okay, because the return trip is with the current and you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful bush scenery on the way back to the bay.
3. Take a trip to Russell 
FullSizeRender (25)
Not only was Russell the first capital of New Zealand, but it boasts the best beach in the area! And after soaking up the sun on the golden sand, cool off at the country’s oldest hotel the Duke of Marlborough. Access to Russell is inexpensive and easy, with routes either via a water taxi or ferry.
4. Visit the historic grounds of Waitangi 
FullSizeRender (28).jpg
The most influential document of New Zealand was signed in Waitangi. This document is what allowed the British Crown to have sole governance over New Zealand and gave the Maori natives the same rights as the British. Exploring the treaty grounds will not only give you more insight as to why the treaty has so much controversy attached to it, but will also give you one of the most spectacular views of the region.
5. Explore the Hokianga region
P1000819.jpg
This region is connected by the Hokianga Harbour and the Tasman Sea. Known for it’s unique landscape, rural lifestyle and home to the oldest trees in the county, Hokianga is well worth the day trip.
6. Enjoy the pier in Paihia
P1010074.jpg
Paihia is one of the most beloved spots in the Bay of Islands. Full of cafe’s, beaches and the best pier in the region, Paihia is a personal fave in this region. After a long day of exploring the countless islands, the pier offers the perfect spot to cozy up and enjoy a coffee. But the best time of day to experience the Paihia pier is in the early hours of the morning as the sun sets sparkle to the sea.
FullSizeRender (24)

The ultimate (and non-cliché) itinerary for the South Island of New Zealand

It has been 365 days since I first stepped foot onto the Southern Hemisphere. From sailing through fjords, jumping off waterfalls and bridges, exploring glaciers, climbing mountains and surfing the Tasman Sea I have had the opportunity to witness some of the most spectacular places down under!

And with this vast knowledge and experience of the ultimate natural paradise, I have an adventure-filled itinerary prepared for anyone who is keen to make the long journey to the South Island of New Zealand (and as a bribe to get visitors over here, I will be your personal tour guide free of charge).

Stop 1: Christchurch

IMG_9921

This is an ideal starting point for starting your trip through the South Island. There are direct flights from the United States to Christchurch and because Christchurch is on a mission to increase tourism, there are currently cheaper flights here than to Auckland. (and if you ask nicely I will most likely offer you free accommodation and airport pick up ….U.S. friends hint hint;) )

While many argue that Christchurch can be done in a day, I strongly disagree. I’ve been living in this city for nearly six months and still have yet to see it all! But no matter how long you decide to stay in Christchurch, here are three things in the Garden City that you need to do:

  1. Surf at Sumner beach—where else in the world can you surf with the Southern Alps as your backdrop?! And don’t forget to go over Scarborough Hill to find the cutest little beach houses at Taylor’s Mistake.
  2. Hike to the top of the Bridle Trek—for the best 360 degree view of both Christchurch and Banks Peninsula . Plus, why pay for the gondola when you can get to the same spot by retracing the steps of the original settlers?
  3. Indulge in a Kiwi-famous brunch—my top picks for the best eggs benny and cappuccinos are Addington Co, Hello Sunshine Café or Black Betty.

Stop 2: Tekapo

unnamed (58)

Okay, so this is probably the most touristy destination in the South Island and you will most likely have to rival thousands of pushy snap-happy tourists who are all trying to get the perfect picture of The Church of Good Shepherds with that sparkling teal blue water, but it is still worth going to. So get your stereotypical picture and then run for your life before you explode with frustration from the ridiculousness of the swarms of tourists. I suggest these three places as your safe-haven:

  1. St. Johns Observatory—an hour hike that will allow you to take an even better photo of Tekapo without tourists getting in your way.
  2. Tekapo Hot Pools—located at the summit of Mt. Johns, you can relax in the hot pools while stargazing at night. (and booking online will save you nearly 50%)
  3. Lake Punukaki—just around the corner from Lake Tekapo is an even bigger lake with Mt. Cook as the backdrop. Plus, not nearly as large of a swarm of tourists will allow you to have a peaceful picnic by the water.

DSC00021

**Tip: taking a short detour on the way to Tekapo will allow you to see the Rakai Gorge. Relatively unknown among tourists, the teal blue water plus mountain views are ones that you will most likely get to have all to yourself.

Stop 3: Queenstown

DSC01539

The ultimate adventure city, Queenstown offers a range of endorphin pumping activities that you are most likely to use as dinner-table stories for years to come. From jet-boating to bungee jumping, skydiving, mountain biking, skiing, and even canyon swinging, the options seem endless for thrill-seekers. A trip to Queenstown isn’t complete without defying death at least once; however, there are also some “not-so-cliche” activities that are an absolute must (and will give your wallet a rest after paying a large sum to risk your life):

  1. Ben Lomand Summit: starting at the bottom of the Queenstown hill, this 7 hour return hike will give you the most rewarding and breath-taking views in the whole region
  2. Arrowtown and Lake Hays: go check out the cutest little mining town for a walk back in time and end the day by watching the sunset behind Lake Hays ( a most likely bonus is that the lake will be reflective)
  3. Glenorchy: a thirty minute drive from the centre of Queenstown, this little town has the perfect jetty with stunning mountains as the backdrop.

Stop 4: The West Coast

unnamed (95)

The West Coast is one of those places that seems to really have it all. Not only does the highway go through coastline cliffs and native bush, but there are two different glaciers (Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier) that are no more 15 minutes from the ocean! But in addition to having a beach/glacier kind of day, make sure you allow time for the following:

  1. jump off the swing bridge into the Blue Pools: hidden in Mt.Aspiring National Park, these deep and clear natural pools will make for a memorable swim.
  2. Soak up the sparkling sea at Haast Pass: the gateway before heading to the glaciers is one of the best photo-ops on the West Coast
  3. Refuel at DP1: Greytown’s best cafe and arguably one of the top brunch spots in all of the South Island.

Stop 5: Arthur’s Pass

DSC00323

Concluding this epic round-trip road is one of the most famous passageways (and arguably one of the scariest to drive) in all of New Zealand. Starting in Greytown, Arthur’s Pass will take you from ocean to bush and straight through the Southern Alps. Known for it’s innovative highway design, here are three must-see’s before making your way back to Christchurch:

  1. Death’s Corner: if you catch it on a clear day, this overlook will leave you mystified at the combination of premier nature and architecture (and this is the most likely place to spot the rare Kea as well).
  2. Temple Basin: in the winter it is a skier’s paradise and in the summer it is waterfall paradise
  3. The Devil’s Punchbowl: a thirty minute hike will lead you to a 130 metre waterfall that will leave you jaw-dropped (and soaked if you choose to make a splash into the ice-cold wading pool below).

Stop 6: Homeward bound

castle hill.jpg

After Arthur’s Pass it is less than a two hour drive before making it full circle back to Christchurch. But the adventure isn’t over just yet! Here are three more things to do to prolong the conclusion of your road trip and max out your camera’s memory card.

  1. Hike Castle Hill: it is almost 100% guaranteed that you will be geeking out over these crazy limestone rocks.
  2. Go for a dip in Lake Pearson: mainly because it’s named after me, this lake is often reflective and a perfect place to take a quick pit-stop
  3. One final meal in Springfield: you can find the best Fish & Chip shop here; make sure to try the kumra chips as well.

Hopefully this six –stop itinerary gives you an insight into just how much there is to do in New Zealand (and this is only just a fragment of the South Island…there is still a whole other island up North as well). While many argue that it can all be seen in two weeks, I believe that to properly experience the land of the long white cloud takes much longer. So it’s a good thing New Zealand offers year long working-holiday visas to citizens of nearly any country so you can appreciate the true magic of this country.

 

Pancake paradise in Punukaiki

Okay, so it may not be the kind of pancake paradise this title led you to first imagine (an all-you-can-eat, mouth-watering, fluffy beyond belief pancake paradise that leaves your sweet breakfast cravings extremely satisfied). But there is a place called Pancake Rocks on the West Coast of New Zealand that has one of the most mind-boggling limestone rock formations and it really is paradise.

DSC00440

The Pancake Rocks are part of the Paparoa National Park and can easily be found on while driving on the Great Coast Road (Highway 6), which is the only highway you can take along the West Coast.

FullSizeRender (21)

Even before getting to the Pancake Rocks, it will already feels like paradise. The Great Coast Road winds along the high cliffs that divide the sparkling blue waters with the lush rainforests.

DSC00415

It is highly likely that your camera will already be maxed out on photographs as with every turn there is another perfect picture spot.

DSC00423

It is near impossible to miss the Pancake Rocks as the entire area has become a tourist destination with the Punukaiki Resort, Pancake Rocks Cafe and an almost alway packed parking lot.

FullSizeRender (19)

The Pancake Rocks get their name from the perfect “pancake layer”that these limestones have. Some theories suggest that this formation occurred over thousands, maybe even millions, of years in which marine creatures and plant sediments were layered together while seismic action continually pushed the limestone above the water. However, scientist seem to still debate their various theories for how this one group of rocks came to be.

FullSizeRender (18)

DSC00442

While this Pancake Paradise is not to be missed, it will have to be shared with thousands of other tourists. So to escape the crowds, escape five minutes north to the Truman Track.

FullSizeRender (17)

This track starts with a sub-rainforest full of ferns and rimu and ends with a secluded beach and endless views of the coastline.

FullSizeRender (15)

While the break is rather dangerous, so swimming is unfortunately not the safest option, there are other ways to experience this slice of paradise. The beach has a long stretch of rock coverage which offers a tranquil viewing spot to watch the crashing waves.

FullSizeRender (14)

But the best part about this secluded beach is the waterfall that crashes onto the sand! There is no better feeling than having fresh water fall on you while watching the salt water in the distance crash onto the sand.

FullSizeRender (11)

FullSizeRender (13)

The Pancake Rocks and the surrounding area is a true treasure of the West Coast that is not to be missed.

FullSizeRender (10)

And for those who develop an enormous craving for pancakes while exploring this area (like me, who had trouble fully appreciating the beauty of the area because of the overbearing craving), there is the Pancake Rocks Cafe across from this wonder of the world that just so happens to serve pancakes all day long. So it is a double win for anyone who comes to Pancake paradise.

FullSizeRender (16)