The British and Irish Lions Tour 2017

Lions Tour ItineraryAlthough we’ve not even made it to summer 2016 yet (infact, we’re not sure we’ve even quite made it to spring based on the weather recently!) excitement is already beginning to build in advance of a very exciting 2017 summer for rugby fans when the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand takes place.

In June next year the British and Irish Lions will embark on a 6 week tour across New Zealand, playing 10 matches in seven different host cities across the country.

As well as an opportunity for fans to enjoy some world class rugby, it’s also a chance for travellers to experience some of New Zealand’s most beautiful and diverse regions in-between game times and a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the country’s most enchanting sights and sounds.
Of course, most of the focus is on the matches, and rightly so, but we think that if you’re planning to travel all that way, it’s worth making sure your trip isn’t just about the game, as there’s so much more to see and do, so we’ve put together an itinerary that makes the most of the sport and the scenery!

We cannot guarantee tickets to the matches but from past experience we should be successful in obtaining your requested allocation

Our itineraries differ a little from most of the official Rugby tour itineraries for a few reasons……

There’s something for everyone, rugby and non rugby fans alike!

We’ll make sure that the fans amongst you will be there on time to meet friends and head to the stadium for the big games but equally that those of you who are not so into the sport will be kept entertained by the wide range of activities and experiences that we can recommend at some of the match locations.

Complete flexibility

One of our favourite things to do when we’re planning trips for our travellers is to mix and match transport to include journeys by car, train, bike, ferry or even horseback! It really adds something special to your holiday when you’re able to see the landscapes from different types of transport, and by mixing a few different ways of getting around, you’re guaranteed to see sights and experience adventures you wouldn’t otherwise!

Lots of choices for accommodation

Firstly, for all our travellers, regardless of why they’re visiting New Zealand, rather than staying in large corporate hotels, we always recommend staying in smaller bed and breakfast style accommodation. Returning travellers often tell us how much more enjoyable their holiday was because of the charm, comfort and personal service they experienced in B&B’s, not to mention the chance to make new friends, enjoy the amazing breakfasts (often with homegrown produce) and have a true taste of the local lifestyle.

Deck Chairs

Of course if you do choose to stay in hotel accommodation, for convenience or personal preference, we’ll happily arrange that too!!

We also thought it might be helpful to give you a little insider info on the seven main centres that the Lions Tour visits, just click on the links to read more in depth information about each area on our website.

Auckland

A vibrant and diverse city, Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city. Often referred to as ‘the city of sails’ it centres on two large harbours. In the city itself, you’ll find the iconic Skytower, and the busy main shopping district of Queen Street. Viaduct Harbour is a must, if not to visit to admire the super yachts then to sample some of the cities best food at the restaurants and cafes that are found there.

Auckland Harbour (1)

From Auckland you can also take trips to some nearby islands including the vineyards, olive groves and beaches of Waihiki, just a 35 minute ferry ride from the harbour, or the volcanic island of Rangitoto.

To read more about things to do in Auckland and see some of our favourite accommodation options click here.

Wellington

The capital city of new Zealand and home to the countries parliament, Wellington is at the bottom of the North Island and a vibrant and buzzing little city.

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The National Museum here, te Papa is an absolute must, as is a walk around Oriental Bay, and for Lord of The Rings fans, a visit to the Weta Studios. We’ve written a whole blog post on our favourite things to do in wellington here 

Hamilton

The Hamilton region is famed for its rolling green hills, fabulous surf beaches and more recently, for being the chosen location for The Shire in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You can read more about that here 

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Natural wonders are aplenty here, and we recommend a visit to the Waitomo Glow-worm caves, and for adventurous types, a go at black water rafting or abseiling. There are options for keen walkers, cyclists and hikers from easy rambles to overnight adventures and some excellent mountain biking tracks.

Rotorua

Well known as the thermal capital of new Zealand, Rotoruas bubbling mud pools and exploding geysers make it a place quite unlike any other. Its also the place to go to experience some authentic Maori culture, as the spiritual home of Maori people, and it’s a great destination to learn more about Maori culture and history.

Adrenaline junkies can also take advantage of its growth as an adventure destination, but for those who prefer a more sedate pace, there are wonderful forest walks and volcanic valleys to explore. Our top tips for what to do and see in Rotorua can be found here 

Whangarei

Right at the very top of Northland, you’ll find Whangarei, the perfect place to kick back, relax and take it easy for a few days. Northland is a great choice for swimming, kayaking and cruising, and as the historic birthplace of New Zealand and the place that the Treaty Of Waitangi  was signed, it will fill your cultural cup too.

Christchurch

After the earthquakes in 2011 Christchurch is rebuilding itself with a vibrancy and energy that’s really inspiring. We love the ingenuity of the RE:start shopping mall housed in old shipping containers, and every time we visit we’re amazed at just how much progress is being made. We recommend visiting the Botanic gardens, at over 150 years old they house a wonderful collection of native plants and trees. Go punting down the River Avon, or head out to the Port Hills for some fabulous walking tracks and brilliant views. Click here to read more about our Christchurch recommendations

Dunedin.

New Zealand’s University City, travellers from the UK feel at home here, as the city was modelled on Scotland! The city itself is full of impressive architecture, our favourite of which is the railway station (make sure you check out the mosaic floor!), and Lanarch Castle is rather impressive too!

Larnach Castle

A short drive out to the Otago peninsula rewards visitors with a real abundance of wildlife from Penguins to Royal Albatross and seals.

Our must see highlights of the city and the surrounding area can be found here

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5 Reasons Why Bed and Breakfasts Beat Hotels

The springs rotorua

Staying at a bed and breakfast is always our first recommendation when we’re planning a holiday for our travelers. We spend a huge amount of time checking out unique and special places to stay across New Zealand and we all agree that bed and breakfasts offer something special that more often than not, can’t be matched by larger hotels.

From their locations, to special extra touches, incredibly personal and friendly service and fabulous food, the benefits of b&b accommodation are many, below we’ve whittled it down to our top five reasons to choose a B&B……

Personal service and more!

We spend a lot of time travelling around New Zealand and staying at the accommodations we recommend (we know – it’s a hard job but someone has to do it!) to make sure that they’re every bit as lovely as we tell you they are.

The hosts who run the bed and breakfast’s we recommend all go the extra mile to make sure that guests always feel looked after and have everything they need and they run their businesses with a passion and enthusiasm that in our experience is just not matched by hotels.

They choose to run a B&B because they love to open their homes up, meet new people and to share their stories. Bed and breakfast owners usually have an unmatchable local knowledge, and will pass on local tips as they share a crisp glass of Sauvignon with you in the evening sun. More often than not our travellers go home having, made friends for life and knowing much more about the local area than they would if they’d stayed in a large hotel.

Off the beaten track.

Often bed and breakfasts are found outside of the main cities and towns, though usually with easy reach of everything the area has to offer. The beauty of this is that you get out of the city, and have a chance to explore areas that you might not discover otherwise, plus, the chances are that they’ll be quieter and more peaceful than centrally located hotels. It’s a win win!

Unexpected luxuries

From homemade pre dinner snacks, to complimentary wine, locally roasted coffee and super soft luxury bed linens and cosy towels and bath robes, you often find bed and breakfast’s have little extras as part of the service and it makes such a difference!

mercury orchard coromandel

One luxury that we are never failed to be impressed by are the beautiful gardens many b&b’s have, offering the perfect spot to relax with a glass of wine after a busy day – this is where the peace and quiet can really be appreciated, often its just you, the birdsong and the sunshine, pure bliss!

Brilliant breakfasts.

Many hosts at our favourite b&b’s across New Zealand use their own produce in their breakfasts which we’re sure you’ll agree result in the most delicious breakfast and a wonderful way to start the day on your holiday.

Breakfast buffet decks of pahia Bay of islands
Eggs from their own hens, homegrown tomatoes and homemade fruit jams are often on the breakfast menu, and it’s one of our absolute favourite things about choosing a bed and breakfast over hotel accommodaton.

Great Value

We get a bit cross that people wrongly assume that bed and breakfasts are usually a more expensive accommodation option, when actually we believe that quite the opposite is true.

Not only do you often have to pay extra for breakfasts, wi-fi or snacks in a hotel (in a B&B they’re nearly always included and usually, where the food is concerned immeasurably better!), and many hosts have partnerships with local attractions and events so can offer a good discount for activities in the area.

Many of our travellers initially come to us requesting a motorhome holiday in New Zealand, but we find, nearly every time that it works out more economical, not to mention more enjoyable to combine car hire and b&b accommodation.

Comfort and Style

Bed and Breakfast accommodation has improved beyond recognition over the years, and room these days are often cosier, more comfortable and have more facilities that hotel room. Usually, all the rooms in a B&B are different, each with their own character and sometimes even their own unique theme. Rooms usually have lots of little thoughtful extras to make your stay special and add a personal touch too.

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If you choose a Silver fern Holiday, you might also find yourself sleeping in a wonderful Boot (sounds crazy but its completely charming – have a peek here)  in Nelson, or on a working farm in the Waikato for guaranteed authentic kiwi experiences!

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10 Reasons to Visit New Zealand in the Winter

New Zealand is a destination for all year round, and although there are some limitations to visiting in the winter, they are far outweighed by the benefits – from the broader choice of accommodation, quieter roads and less tourists to spectacular winter scenery in all its beauty, plus there are some activities that aren’t even possible in the summer months, which, if you’re a keen skier, you won’t want to miss!

It is true that some experiences and activities run a reduced schedule or shorter opening hours, but unmissable experiences such as cruising on the Milford or Doubtful Sound, or visiting the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds are just as spectacular and fascinating in the colder months, and some of our favourite things to do, such as visiting the natural Hot Springs in Hanmer or visiting the Fox or Frans Josef Glacier are even more breathtakingly beautiful and awe inspiring in the New Zealand winter time.

For those of you who are limited by school holidays you’ll be pleased to know that there is a still a lot to do and see in New Zealand during these months and we’ll be able to find some great value family friendly accommodation for you such as self contained apartments, or even farmstays, where you can experience true kiwi hospitality. We’ll be happy to put together an itinerary for you that makes the most of the activities and experiences that are ideal for young and old alike.

Here are our top 10 reasons to head ‘down under’ during the winter months……..

Its Cheaper and Quieter

New Zealand has grown rapidly as a holiday destination for travellers from all over the globe, and last year was the busiest yet. If you can avoid the peak season, you’ll not only miss the crowds but you’ll also be able to take your pick of accommodation, which comes at a much better price out of season.

Of course, because everything costs less, it’ll mean your holiday budget will stretch further and you can stay longer too!!

Winter Walking

One of the joys of visiting New Zealand is walking through its beautiful landscapes and we think little beats a good walk on a bright, crisp, sunny winter day.

Most of New Zealand’s best known walks can still be undertaken during winter with the exception of The Tongariro Crossing and The Moonlight Trail, though as always please check with us or the local Visitors Centre to be assured of local weather conditions before setting off on any walks.

You can read more about some of our favourite day walks on both the North and South Islands here.

Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

West Coast

At their biggest and best during winter, the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers make for some incredible photo opportunities, and are an experience not to be missed.

The Hot Pools

Right across New Zealand, you’ll find plenty of places to have a good soak after a busy day, from man made pools to the totally natural mud pools of Rotorua and the stunning alpine backdrops of Hanmer Springs 90 minutes from Christchurch.

HMN Hanmer Springs You can even dig one yourself at Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel. Although, it’s a lovely indulgence at any time of year, there’s something extra special about sinking into a warm outdoor hot pool when its chilly outside – we’ve even been in them in the snow before now

The Roads

A self drive holiday in New Zealand will usually involve quite a lot of time spent behind the wheel, and any road trip is much more enjoyable and relaxing when the roads are quieter, as they will be during the winter months.  Most roads in both the North and South Islands are fine for winter driving but do be advised that the Milford road is best done by coach not by car and do check local weather conditions each day before setting off, incase of bad weather.

More Authentic Experiences

We firmly believe the people you meet in New Zealand make a huge contribution to your memories and experiences of your holiday, and the beauty of travelling in winter is that people will be less busy and have more time to chat, share stories and extend their hospitality to you.

You’ll have chance for more interaction with the locals, whether they’re tour guides, bed and breakfast hosts or café owners, and we promise you’ll come home with some extra special memories because of it.

Skiing

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For those of you who are interested in strapping on your skis  there’s plenty of action on the North and South Islands on the ski fields of Ruapehu, near Tongairio and at Methven near Christchurch and of course the main ski fields at Treble Cone in Wanaka and Coronet Peak and the Remarkables in Queenstown.

For more information about Skiing in New Zealand have a look at the Tourism New Zealands website http://www.newzealand.com/uk/skiing/

Whale watching in Kaikoura

Heading to Kaikoura on the South islands east coast should be high up on anyone’s NZ travel itinerary in the winter, because although you can go whale watching in Kaikoura at any time of year, the months of June and July are in the middle of the migrating season, so you’ll have the best chance of spotting one of these incredible mammals.

Queenstown Winter Festival

The very last week in June, is a real highlight on the New Zealand events calendar, as Queenstown celebrates the season with its spectacular Winter Festival. Now entering its 42nd year, the mix of stunning fireworks displays, street parties, local and international comedy acts and lots of family friendly entertainment make for a really brilliant ten days, and definitely worth including in your trip itinerary if you’re down under at the end of June.

There’s still plenty of warmer weather to be found!

Up in the very north of the country, you’ll still find warmer weather during the winter months, and of course, if you’re after more sunshine, we can arrange a stopover in Australia either on an out or homeward bound journey, where you’ll find the Queensland coast, still sunny and warm with temperatures up to 27 degrees.

So if you hadn’t thought about New Zealand in the winter, we hope you are now! For any enquiries or questions about New Zealand, during any season, just give us a call or fill in the contact us (add link) form on our website.

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48 Hours in Singapore

Singapore has become one of our traveller’s favourite places to stop over en route to New Zealand and it’s easy to understand why. It’s not as chaotic and full on as other Asian cities, and its clean streets, easy to navigate metro system and relaxed multiculturalism make it a great choice to break up a long flight.

Ideally, you’ll want to aim to give yourself a couple of days there, to have chance to explore and really experience the city – there’s a lot to see!

Here are our top tips for how to spend your time in Singapore……………

Getting around Singapore is a breeze with the excellent public transport options, the main one of which is the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) system. The train network that travels both over and underground is super cheap, and super easy to navigate!

Theres also the highly recommended hop on hop off bus pass that’s free to those travelling with Singapore Airlines, and offers a great way to visit most of the main attractions in the city.

Head for The Skypark at Marina Bay Sands as your first port of call.

Sky Park Marina Bay Sands

The three towers sit 200 metres above the city skyline, awarding spectacular views. On a clear day you might even spot Malaysia in the distance! (http://www.marinabaysands.com/sands-skypark.html)

Just next to Marina Bay Sands, you’ll find the bayfront North Jetty, where you can hop on board and take a bumboat ride down Singapore River to take in the city sights from the water. The traditional wooden boats pass some of the cities most iconic sights and can make a mental note of where to return to on foot a little later on.

Now we know this isn’t the most original of ideas, but seriously, how can you come to Singapore and not pay a visit to one of the most famous hotels in the world!

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You can alight your bumboat at Raffles and stop for a spot of lunch from one of the restaurants and bars within this fabulous hotel that still oozes masses of character and charm. After you’ve eaten, you can walk off all that food (and possibly the Singapore slings you’ve indulged in) in the beautiful hotel gardens, or pay a visit the hotel museum to learn more about Singapore’s fascinating history.

Later, we really recommend taking the MRT to Little India and Chinatown. They’re both really worth visiting, providing a real insight into the culture of the city, and offering a multitude of places to stop for yet more food! Chinatown, particularly is well known and loved for its fantastic restaurants so it’s worth heading over there once your stomach is beginning to rumble and you’re thinking about dinner.

You’ve probably heard of Singapore Zoo, and although we agree that its well worth a trip, we would recommend saving your visit until the sun has set and embarking on the Zoo Night Safari. It’s the worlds first nocturnal zoo, and although its not cheap (we recommend eating before you go – food and drinks particularly are very expensive) its an unforgettable experience.

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You can walk or take a 35 minute tram ride around the park to experience over 2,500 animals from 130 different species, from the Malayan Tapir to giant flying squirrels! (http://www.nightsafari.com.sg/)

 

After all that action, you’ll want somewhere comfortable to get a good nights sleep, and we always enjoy staying at The Swiss Merchant Court (http://www.swissotel.com/hotels/singapore-merchant-court/) or the Park Hotel (http://www.parkhotelgroup.com/clarkequay/default-en.html) both located on Clarke Quay.

We recommend dedicating the whole of the following day to one of Singapore’s newest attractions. The Gardens at the Bay. With three waterfront gardens, it’s an amazing huge green space, right in the heart of the city that spreads over 101 hectares of reclaimed land.

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Suspended walkways that traverse between trees, amazing light shows, picnic perfect lawns and the world’s largest indoor waterfall. Its breathtaking and such a wonderful addition to Singapore’s sights. There’s lots more information on their website http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en.html

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There is so much to see and do, and a wonderful selection of places to eat and drink you really can spend a full day here, before ending your Singapore Stopover in style and heading to the nearby  Esplanade to catch a show or enjoy a romantic dinner. As well as lots of excellent restaurants you’ll find a 1,600 seater concert hall, a 2,000 seat theatre and other, smaller venues too. Check out the official website https://www.esplanade.com/ To see what’s showing when you’re travelling.

After all that its back to Changi airport to continue your journey, and that in itself is a whole other eating and shopping extravaganza!!

 

Keep an eye out for more in our Stopover series including Dubai, Hong Kong and San Fransisco.

 

 

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New Zealand -What to Know Before You Go

New Zealand is an easy country to get to – and to get around, but there are a few things that we think are useful to know before you embark on your trip of a lifetime. Below are answers to some of our most commonly asked questions about the land of the long white cloud….

The Geography

New Zealand consists of two Islands, the North and the South. The North Island is where you’ll find the country’s capital, Wellington, and also its largest city, Auckland.

000a - NZ Map

Even though New Zealand is a little bigger than Great Britain its population is only 4.4 million, with more people living in the North Island than the South, so it’s easy to get out of the towns and cities and find yourself surrounded by nature and with native wildlife as your only companion without too much effort.

There are 15,000km of coastline in New Zealand and nowhere in New Zealand is further than 170km from a beach, so if you enjoy the sand between your toes you’ve chosen a great holiday destination.

North v’s South

The North Island is well known for its geothermal and volcanic areas, Maori Culture and the cosmopolitan cities of Auckland and Wellington.

In the South Island you’ll find glaciers and the country’s main ski regions, as well as some of the most famous wine producing areas. It’s also where you’ll find the main cities of Christchurch and the adrenaline capital of New Zealand, Queenstown.

Getting Around.

New Zealand is small enough to get around easily under your own steam, be that by car, boat, plane, on foot or even on horseback, but we definitely recommend planning on staying for a minimum of three weeks if you want to explore both Islands.

Freedom of the RoadL353_A4

Self drive holidays are easy as New Zealanders drive on the same side of the road as us, but for ultimate relaxation and switching your brain off, you can choose to travel as part of a small group, and let someone else do the driving and plan the route.

The Seasons

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealands seasons are the opposite way around to ours, so December to February are their hottest months, and also the most expensive time to visit. June to September is the peak season for skiing in the ski resorts of Wanaka, Queenstown and Canterbury on the South Island, and the inbetween or ‘shoulder seasons’ often offer the best of both worlds, with better prices, more accommodation options and less tourists while still enjoying bright sunny days and warm weather.

Getting Between The Two Islands.

There are two ways to get across the Cook Straight that runs between the North and South Islands, You can take a domestic flight (flying is a bit like getting on a bus in New Zealand!) or you can use our preferred way of making the journey on board the Interislander Ferry.

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On a clear day he three and half hour crossing rewards you with fabulous views as you leave Wellington and approach the Marlborough Sounds and the small town of Picton where you disembark. You might even be lucky enough to spot dolphins swimming alongside the boat.

New Zealand Currency

New Zealand uses the New Zealand Dollar (NZD$) and you can expect to pay around $8.00 for a beer,$18.00 for a plate in a mid range restaurant and $25.00 plus in an upmarket one.

Kiwi Culture

New Zealanders are known affectionately as Kiwi’s and they’re well known for being friendly, laid back and happy to help give you advice, recommendations and share their tips and stories with you. You’ll make plenty of friends during your travels, and we guarantee you’ll thoroughly enjoy the Kiwi hospitality.

The Lingo

Although you might think they speak the same language as us in new Zealand, don’t be surprised if, when you get there you find yourself a bit confused by the local lingo! Key ones to remember are that New Zealanders are often referred to as kiwis (yes like the bird!), Jandals are Flip Flops, a Dairy is a convenience store and chips are crisps. There are many, many more but we’ll save that for another blog post!

Where to Stay and What to Stay In!

Accommodation options in New Zealand are endless, though during the peak summer months,  places get booked up very quickly so it’s always a good idea to book well in advance, especially as tourist number are still rapidly rising. From quirky and friendly Bed & Breakfasts to luxury beachfront Eco Lodges, there is such a variety, you’re guaranteed to find something to suit your tastes and your budget.

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We have a range of accommodations that we recommend in each area of New Zealand that we’ve carefully selected for our travellers.

Sensible Sun Advice

Due to the hole in the ozone layer over Australia, the southern hemisphere’s sun is much more fierce than in the UK, and the Kiwi’s are real sticklers for sun protection, so do ensure you apply sunscreen before going out and about. We also recommend wearing a hat to shield your face and protect your head too, especially if you’re out for any length of time.

So that’s it – a few tips to help you feel at home once you arrive in New Zealand – Don’t forget, if you have any burning questions that we have’t covered above, you can always give us a call or send us an email to

 

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24 Hours in Wellington

Wellington may be small but it’s compact size doesn’t mean it’s short on activities! New Zealand’s capital city is vibrant and buzzing, with a laid back arty vibe and is  absolutely chock full of fun, cultural and gastronomical ways to fill your day.

Many travellers just use Wellington as a stop to pick up the Interislander Ferry across to Picton, but if you have time, we really recommend stopping for a day or two to explore some of the fabulous treats it has to offer.

Well known for its vibrant café scene, and brilliant museums and galleries which we’ll talk about later, there are also many ways to spend the day outside getting active (if the famous Wellington wind isn’t too blustery!)

We recommend starting the day with a wander down Cuba Street and breakfast at one of the many fabulous cafes you’ll stumble upon.

image courtesy of Russell Street via Flikr

image courtesy of Russell Street via Flikr

Fidel’s serves a great Eggs Benedict, and Olive Café is sweet, with a lovely little outside courtyard where, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a spare table and be able to enjoy breakfast or brunch in the sunshine.

Once your belly is full and you’ve had your caffeine fix, a 20 minute walk from Cuba Street will take you down to the waterfront and Ferg’s Kayaks, where you can hire a kayak to paddle your way around the bay and see Wellington from the water. If you’re more of a land lover, you can also hire bikes and explore around Oriental Bay on two wheels.

Kayaking in Wellington

Exploring Wellington from the water

Now, we wouldn’t normally recommend you to make a beeline for a supermarket while you’re on holiday, but well worth a visit is Moore Wilsons Fresh Market on Tory Street. Absolutely packed full of local and internationally sourced produce, it’s a wonderful foodie heaven. Combining deli, greengrocer, fishmonger, wine merchant and baker, a description doesn’t do it justice – you have to see it to believe it – just don’t go when you’re hungry (or actually do, but be prepared to part with a sizeable amount of cash, EVERYTHING is so tempting!!)

Still in the city centre, newly developed Eva and Leeds Streets are home to the city’s independent foodie scene –you’ll find the Wellington Chocolate Factory, Gouldings craft beer, Pomodoros wood fired pizzas, Leeds Street Bakery (who make the best salted caramel cookies) and Fix and Fogg Peanut Butter Makers! A great place to stop for some lunch, or to pick up some treats for later, or to take home for the dog/cat/house sitter!

You’ll undoubtedly have heard of Te Papa, New Zealands National Museum, and a world leader in interactive and visitor focused museum experiences.

Te Papa Museum

Te Papa Museum

Not only is it packed full of really brilliant exhibitions illustrating the nations art, culture and science of New Zealand, and the stories of its indigenous people, but it’s completely Free!! Well worth a visit – it was recently named as one of The Lonely Planets top 500 places to see on the planet.

For a nature fix, head out of the city centre to Zealandia, Wellingtons wildlife conservation sanctuary that’s home to New Zealand’s rarest birds, reptiles and insects that are on the brink of extinction.

Zealandia entrance sign

Welcome to Zealandia

02Zealandia promotion only - conservation - k-++k-++riki chick banded at Zealandia --« ZealandiaYou can hop on a free shuttle bus from the I-SITE to get there, and easily spend an hour or two meandering along the walkways and through the native bush spotting all manner of fascinating wildlife.

If you have time, a trip up Kelburn Hill on the Wellington cable car from Lambton Quay and a wander back down through the botanic gardens is lovely, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

Cable Car Lane Wellington

Cable Car Lane on Lambton Quay

Rose garden In the Botanic Gardens

Rose garden In the Botanic Gardens

As you head back down into town, you’ll pass by the Parliament Building and the old Government Buildings before arriving at Old St Pauls Cathedral, which is well worth a good look around.

Parliament Buildings

Parliament Buildings

After all that, you’ll be looking forward to relaxing for dinner somewhere special, and Wellington has plenty of choice! Favourites include Logan Brown on Cuba Street., Co owned by well known and loved New Zealand Chef’s Steve Logan and Al Brown, the restaurant is housed in an old bank, and has oodles of charm, not to mention a seriously good menu and some of the best cocktails we found in Wellington and Boulcott Street Bistro, with its top notch service, lovely atmosphere and a real array of mouthwatering dishes to choose from.

And after all that, you’ll want to rest your head somewhere you’re guaranteed a good nights sleep, one of our favourites is the city centre Museum Art Hotel, with its quirky but super stylish décor and multitude of artwork displayed around the hotel, that you can discover with a self guided tour around.

Museum Art Hotel exterior

Museum Art Hotel exterior

 

Hippopotamus Bar at the Museum Hotel

Hippopotamus Bar at the Museum Hotel

It’s original, fabulously located and super luxurious and we love it!

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Napier: Art Deco Capital of the World!

Once a year, the pretty seaside town of Napier in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealands North Island, gets its glad rags on to celebrate the Tremains Art Deco Weekend, in serious 1930’s style.

people enjoying Napier Art Deco Weekender

Art Deco Weekender

The Tremains Art DecoWeekend has just enjoyed its 28th year, drawing over 40,000 people to the town over the five days it runs, with over 200 events, both free and ticketed, for visitors to enjoy.

Lovingly referred to as ‘An extravaganza of elegance’ by The Art Deco Trust, a charity run by over 170 volunteers that is dedicated to preservation, promotion and celebration of the city, the weekend is a chance for people to get dressed up and truly step back in time to celebrate a wonderfully glamourous bygone era.

If you haven’t visited the area you might well ask ‘Why Art Deco? Why Napier? And of course there’s a story behind it…..

On 12 March 1931 an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale ripped through what was then the very small town of Napier on New Zealand’s North Island, killing over 256 people and flattening many of the towns buildings in the two and a half minutes it shook the ground for.

Napier in 1931

Napier in 1931

Any buildings that weren’t destroyed by the quake were quickly ravaged by the fires that spread through the town, and it was not long before Napier, as it had been, completely ceased to exist.

Although a devastating tragedy, the Earthquake did leave a positive mark on the city. As the tectonic plates crashed together they lifted the earth by two metres, and 2000 acres of land emerged from the sea to surround the city, allowing the rebuild to create a much bigger Napier.

Once the initial aftermath had died down, the locals, aided by a very limited amount of financial help for the NZ government, began the job of rebuilding the city, with a remit to ensure that buildings were both safe and modern, and that costs were kept to a minimum.

The style of the times was Art Deco, a style that fit the criteria perfectly with its lack of ornamentation, making it cheap, and much safer than the tall, ornate architecture that was so easily damaged in the quake.

Art Deco Napier

Art Deco Napier

Fast forward 80 odd years, and Napier is now one of the world’s most impressive and well preserved Art Deco capitals in the world. The buildings reflect the sharp, clean lines that the architectural style is so well known for, and theres even a McDeco Macdonalds in the town!

The Tremains Art Deco Festival runs from Thursday to Sunday with a jam packed programme of events running throughout. From guided walking tours around the city, to lessons in how to learn to jitterbug, wonderful steam train rides, and a highlight for many, a vintage car parade through the town.

Visitors can take a great big step back in time, donning some wonderful 1930’s clothes and enjoy a champagne breakfast on the beach, or dress down for the famlous Depression Dinner.

You can learn more about the city from the back seats of a vintage car, chauffer driven by an Art Deco Trust expert, or dust of your dancing shoes and take to the floor to learn to Charleston.  The activities are endless!

The Gatsby picnic on the Sunday afternoon is our absolute favourite event – and its free! You can take supplies and find a spot by the ocean to sit back and take in the atmosphere. There’s even a competition with judges choosing the most impressive tea setting and most elegant gazebo!

The Art Deco Trust do a remarkable job of preserving Napiers heritage, and although this event is their biggest of the year, their 170 volunteers who work for them are busy the whole year round, organising various evens including a new mid winter festival , and daily walking tours around the city. their never short of a pair of hands to lead the popular walking tours that take place daily throughout the year.

DSC01919

If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, we really recommend adding Hawkes Bay to your ‘must visit’ list, whatever time of year your visiting. Aside from the wonderful Art Deco treat of Napier , the area is a great place to sample some of New Zealands best wines and follow the Hawkes Bay Wine Trail as well as visiting the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony to see the worlds largest Gannet Colony.

Enjoy!

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10 Reasons to Visit the Bay of Islands

images of the Bay of Islands

This month sees the opening of the brand new Waitangi Museum which look set to offer visitors a much more interactive experience than before, and with lots of events and activities planned throughout the year, It’s a definite ‘Must See’ on any trip to New Zealand.

That’s not the only reason to head up North from Auckland though! There are endless ways to fill your days in the Bay of Islands, and here are a few of our favourites…..

You can swim with dolphins

people swimming with dolphins

Swimming with dolphins

It’s one of those things that makes it onto just about all of our bucket lists, and we think there’s no better place to get acquainted with these amazing creatures than in the pristine, sheltered  waters of the pacific ocean in The Bay of Islands. Dolphincruises offer an Eco Experience where you’ll have the chance to cruises out to the many tiny islands in the bay, before taking to the water to swim with bottlenose Dolphins as they play in their natural environment – it’s a pretty special experience!

And if you don’t spot Dolphins on your trip, they’ll give you a ‘go again for free voucher’ for another Eco Dolphin Experience

http://www.dolphincruises.co.nz/

You can visit the new Waitangi Treaty Museum (soon!)

This year marks the 176th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and with the building of a new museum and education centre well underway, and due to open on Waitangi Day this year – the 6th February, there’s more reason than ever to make sure that a trip to New Zealand includes taking in one of the most historically significant sights.

Waitangi Treaty House

Waitangi Treaty House

The treaty of Waitangi is an agreement made back in 1840 between the British Crown and Maori Chiefs to found a nation state and build a government in New Zealand, and a visit to the grounds where the treaty was signed is a must. You can visit the treaty house itself, enjoy the amazing carvings in the Meeting house, and see the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe.

http://www.waitangi.org.nz

You can walk the Cape Brett Walkway

New Zealand has a lot of amazing walks, and this one, voted as one of the top 100 walks in the world, is one of our favourites. It does require a good level of fitness – there are quite a few steep climbs along the way but its well worth it for the 36o degree views across the Bay of Islands when you get to Cape Brett itself. If you don’t fancy walking the whole track (its not a loop so you have to return the same way you came) you can get a water taxi to Cape Brett and walk back, or vice versa, or water taxi in and out and complete some of the shorter walks in the area – you’ll still be able to enjoy the epic views!

http://www.capebrettwalks.co.nz/

https://www.silverfernholidays.com/walking/new-zealand-day-walks/cape-brett-track/

 

You can visit Tane Mahuta in the Waipua Forest

Tane Mahuta Kauri Tree

Tane Mahuta – New Zealand’s largest Kauri tree

Venture up the west coast from Auckland, and just past Dargaville you’ll reach the most famous of all new Zealand’s Kauri Forests, The Waipua Forest, most well known for being home to the country’s largest Kauri Tree,  Tane Mahuta. Over 2000 years old and still growing, the huge tree is known as The King of the Forest, and no wonder. With a diameter of over 4.4 metres, its an impressive sight and well worth a visit. Footprints Waipua will take you on a guided night walk through the forest to see the tress, keeping you entertained with songs telling the history of the trees and story’s regaling the forests spiritual significance.  http://www.northlandnz.com/visit/about-northland/walk-among-the-kauri

You get a sugar rush at the Makana chocolate factory in KeriKeri

A visit to KeriKeri, just North of Paihia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Makana, a boutique chocolate factory and shop. The huge glass windows mean you can watch the chocolates being handcrafted and there are always samples available to try before you buy. They’re also working on adding a café to the building, so visitors will soon be able to enjoy a whole host of treats, always finished off with a chocolate of course!

From Marlborough Pinot Noir truffles to macadamia butter toffee crunch, the varieties are endless and it’s a great place to go for gifts to take back home (if it makes it that far!) https://www.makana.co.nz/

You can visit the world famous Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa

It’s not very often that we recommend you make a special trip to visit the toilet, but this is an exception! Designed by Frederick Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist who fell in love with New Zealand and moved there in the 1970’s, the loo’s were built by volunteers from the local community using reclaimed materials with an impressive result.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser bathroom

Hundertwasser public toilets
image credit to flikr

The public loo’s are seriously worth a visit – even if you don’t need to spend a penny (worth mentioning that this is a free attraction so even if you do need to spend a penny you won’t need to spend a penny, if you see what we mean!) With a grass roof, beautiful ceramic tiles, windows made from old glass bottles and carefully crafted mosaic tiling and even a living tree integrated into the design, you really have to see it to believe it – we promise you’ll never find another toilet like it. Though while we’re on the subject, the Redwood forest does a pretty good job too! http://www.bay-of-islands-nz.com/hundertwasser.shtml

You can light up your life under the twinkling lights of glow worms at Kawiti caves in KeriKeri

There are several places in New Zealand you can go to see the natural wonder of glow-worms, and if you’re travelling ‘up north’ we really recommend making an effort to add a visit to a cave to your itinerary.

Kawiti caves have been showing visitors the caves for over 50 years and will take you on a 30 minutes guided tour through the twinkly limestone cave system. You’ll have chance to get so close up to the glow worms in their natural environment and learn all about them and how they make their magic lights. http://www.kawiticaves.co.nz/

You can pick up some Possum Merino knitwear to take home.

If you haven’t felt the super soft, snuggly warmth of clothing blended from a mixture of Merino Wool and Possum fur, you’ve been missing out! Bushtail Possum fur has amazing thermal properties that make it 35% warmer than cashmere but the little creatures wreak havoc on native forest and wildlife in New Zealand, and the need to control their numbers led to a whole new industry of incredibly cosy, insulating clothing. Pay a visit to possumtrendz in KeriKeri to stock up on a few wardrobe staples to take home with you. www.possumtrendz.co.nz

You can bike the Twin Coast cycle trail

Those who prefer two wheels to two feet, will thoroughly enjoy a day experiencing New Zealand by bike, and the trail offers easy cycling as it’s mostly flat with wide, open roads so it’s perfect for all abilities and great for families too.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Twin Coast Cycle Trail

The trail will eventually stretch right from Opua on the East Coast to Horeke on the West, though some sections are yet to be completed, but a popular day ride is the 14km return trip from Opua (just north of Paihia). You can hire bikes rom the Marina café, and head out at your own pace – enjoy the ride! http://nzcycletrail.com/trails/twin-coast-trail/

You can take to the seas and sail away for the day.

Taking a trip out aboard a custom-built classic ocean racing sloop promises a day out you won’t forget. Phantom Sailing will take you out into the Bay of Islands for a full day (10am-4pm), with lots of opportunity to take the helm and try your hand at sailing, or, if that sounds too much like hard work, you can just sit back and enjoy the views from the deck. After all that hard work (!)hosts Robyn and Rix will prepare you a lovely lunch and you’ll have a chance to spot pods of dolphins, enjoy the pretty coastlines and take a swim in one of the bays. Bliss!  http://www.yachtphantom.com/

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A Weekend Guide to Glenorchy [Guest Post]

Although one of the Silver Fern team heads across to New Zealand every year, and returns with endless ideas and notes for our New Zealand blog, we also love it when someone we know has been and can tell us about their unforgettable New Zealand experiences.

Just recently, a friend of mine, Lisa, bravely left her life in the UK to travel through New Zealand, and had (as we knew she would!) an amazing trip!

Below she shares some of her favourite walks and ideas for how to spend time in Glenorchy, a small settlement nestled on the shores of Lake Wakitipu, just 45 minutes from Queenstown.

Over to you Lisa!…………

After years of feeling like slaves to the system and living to work instead of working to live, my boyfriend and I packed up our lives and headed to the other side of the world for what we hoped would be a life changing trip – we werent disappointed!

We definitely wanted to embrace everything New Zealand had to offer and had read about some of the amazing track walks, one of them being the Routeburn track. So in our converted camper van, we set off from Queenstown towards a small town called Glenorchy. The road follows the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu so you can enjoy stunning views during your drive.

The road to Glenorchy

The road to Glenorchy

Unfortunately, whilst we had experienced cold but bright sunny days, we had overlooked that fact that it was still Winter (late aug) and therefore parts of the track were closed.

Glenorchy is a quaint town with a few cafes, accommodation and an excellent general store. On recommendation of one of the ladies there, it was suggested we head over to Kinloch on the other side of Lake Wakatipu where there is a campsite and pub/inn. We camped out there for the night and cooked our dinner on a makeshift fire on the cobbled beach by the lake whilst enjoying the stunning scenery surrounding us. Simply breathtaking!

Lake Sylvan

Lake Sylvan

Whilst in the area we decided to head to Lake Sylvan, its an easy walk through woodland (about 1.5hrs) so easy terrain (unless wet and muddy) ending up at the lake, again with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Theres a basic DOC campsite there and we did stay the night in our camper van, we were the only ones there (apart from some very elusive deer!) and it snowed lightly overnight so we woke to a winter wonderland!

The Goldmine Track

The Goldmine Track

Whilst enjoying a hearty cooked breakfast at the hotel in Glenorchy that morning, we got chatting to the manager about walks locally and he recommended the Invincible Goldmine track about 20 mins out of town. This track is not for the faint hearted but although steep, is easy underfoot and if you pace yourself its so worth it for the views alone! Id allow a good 3/4 hours depending on your fitness levels and take a pack up with plenty of snacks and water. There was snow underfoot as we neared the top but it was a cold but bright sunny day and we soon warmed up walking uphill (although quickly cooled down again once we stopped for lunch so lots of layers are definitely recommended!).

If walking up a steep mountain is not the sort of walk you enjoy there are several tracks in the area, for all abilities to enjoy and everywhere you look there are mountains aplenty!

If you enjoy walking, the outdoors, bird and wildlife, getting away from it all, off the beaten track then Glenoorchy and Kinloch are not to be missed!

In my opinion, whatever your ability and whatever activity you enjoy doing, New Zealand definitely has something to offer everyone.

Thanks so much for sharing Lisa – and I know your new views from your cottage in Bala in lovely Wales are equally as stunning!

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Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show

Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show is taking place at Olympia from the 4th – 7th February and we’re going to be there!

If you haven’t been to the event before, and are planning your next holiday or adventure to New Zealand, or indeed to anywhere in the world, Destinations – The Holiday and Travel Show is definitely worth a visit!

There are over 300 specialist travel companies attending Destinations this year, and we will be on hand throughout the four days to offer inspiration and advice for your holiday to New Zealand.

John (our big boss) will even be taking to the stage at 3.45pm on Sunday the 7th to give a talk on ‘New Zealand – on and off the beaten track’ so if you are visiting the show on the Sunday, make sure to stop by to see him!

Walker in New Zealand

off the beaten track in New Zealand

We have some exclusive complimentary tickets available just visit http://www.destinationsshow.com/london/form/registration and quote code DST72.

We’ll also have a super competition to win a case of New Zealand wine if you come to see us – there’s a reason if ever there was one!

 

See you there!!

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