September 14th, 2017

Top Highlights Invercargill Southland

Top highlights Invercargill Southland may be a surprising title for some. Invercargill does tendsto be under rated by international travellers when planning a New Zealand trip. But there is lot to love about this place. One reason for that could be that Invercargill sits on the southern most tip of New Zealand or perhaps nature lovers see it as a ‘jumping board’ to Stewart Island. I suspect it’s also to do with the people. If you ask for their opinion, you’ll get an honest answer. If you’re lucky enough to make friends with a Southerner, you can be pretty sure it will be for life!

 

Top highlights Invercargill Southland – What to Include

The other day I visited Invercargill again. It’s hard to believe how many ‘treasures’ this place can now call its own. It has to be the ‘big southern secret’. Here are some pretty compelling arguments as to why Invercargill travel should be on your to-do list.

Top Highlights Invercargill Southland

Bill Richardson Transport World for Invercargill travel

 

Bill Richardson’s Transport World‘ is an absolute must-do. This massive complex has the largest private collection of its type in the world!  And if you’re really not that interested in cars, there are plenty of other attractions in this massive complex you’re bound to love. There are over 300 vehicles, an awesome wearable arts collection and children’s play zones complete with a Lego room. Plus The Grille Cafe and themed bathrooms are fast becoming just as famous as the actual vehicles.

Top Highlights Invercargill Southland

Classic Motorcycle Mecca

 

But wait folks, there’s more and this time, its the two-wheel variety. Another part of Bill Richardson’s is the ‘Classic Motorcycle Mecca‘ that is located at 25 Tay Street, Invercargill. The Classic Motorcyble Mecca is widely regarded as a world class display, with a collection of over 300 motorcycles and motorcycle related artwork from around the world. It is situated in two newly restored buildings within central CBD in Invercargill. Here you’ll find brands such as AJS, Ariel, Britten, Brough Superior, Harley Davidson, Henderson, Indian, Matchless and Rudge as well as little-known brands such as Schwinn and Zundapp. Located at  Open from 10.00am – 5.00pm daily.

 

Try Dig Inn when travelling Invercargill

 

Now for something completely different – ‘Dig This Invercargill‘. This is New Zealand’s very first heavy machinery playground. Believe me, this sort of attraction is really quite ground-breaking for Invercargill. There is only one other place in the world where you can do this and that is  Las Vegas, USA. People can live out their fantasies driving diggers, excavators, skid steers and bulldozers.  How cool is that! Just push and pull your way in an adult- sized sandpit! This is opening on 2 October 2017 and just in time for the summer season.

 

 

Southland Museum with the ancient Tuataras

 

For some more nature focused visitors the Southland Museum is a great place to be. Its the ideal attraction for families, especially if the weather is being a little temperamental. The Southland museum cares for over 100 tuatara, from new born babies to teenagers. By the way, this is where New Zealand’s world famous father and grand dad ‘Henry’ lives. Dear old Henry is over 110 years old and a gorgeous looking chap.

The Tuatarium is proclaimed to be one of the world’s best enclosures, where you can see live tuatara thriving in an environment that mimics their natural habitat. Being a much warmer environment than other outdoor enclosures, especially in the winter months, you are more likely to see a live tuatara here. Tuatara are cold-blooded and more active in warmer habitats. Tuatara can also be viewed outside museum hours through the windows on the north side of the pyramid.

 

The Batch Cafe Invercargill

 

On some occasions this week, I’ve been to The Batch Cafe twice a day. It’s a wonderful place, with stunning food, friendly staff and beautiful coffee. If chocolate berry brownies or sticky lemon slices are you’re thing, you’ll love it here.  All the food is made on site by great cooks and bakers.

There’s no artificial flavouring here folks – health and organic is the way to go! I was up ready for work at 7.30am every morning and always started the day with eggs benedict.

Top Highlights Invercargill Southland

Industry Cafe Invercargill

 

The Industry Cafe is the sister cafe to The Batch Cafe. Its interior has a totally different feel.  Its a large large, beautiful space with modern decor and a relaxed atmosphere. Like The Batch, the food is made from scratch and of course, the coffee sublime.

 

Buster Crabb Restaurant Invercargill

 

The Buster Crabb operates from the Dee Street heritage building which has been re-modelled. The portion sizes are generous and the atmosphere really great for everyone. I would happily bring my family here.

And that’s not all the Top Highlights Invercargill Southland. Wait until you see the surrounding scenic views of of Oreti Beach, to the native wonders of Waituna Wetlands and Omaui, or the boardwalk on the estuary and heritage wharfs!

 

Happy travelling!

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August 17th, 2017

Melbourne accommodation central city

On my recent trip to Melbourne I spent time to research more Melbourne accommodation central city options. Looking at websites with loads of pictures, videos and maps is one way to do it. But believe me, actually visiting these places to experience them firsthand, is much better. You get a clearer understanding of location, layout, room sizes, and general items such as cleanliness.  Of course the friendliness of management and staff play a very important part of the valuation. I have divided my findings into 3 main categories Mainstream, Boutique and High end:

 

Mainstream Melbourne Central City hotels:

 

Hotel Ibis Melbourne – Therry Street

This is a 3-star property just a stone’s throw from the Queen Victoria Market. The rooms are fine, as long as you intend to spend more time exploring the city than staying in-house. The hotel offers a good breakfast which is included in stay packages for the budget-minded traveller.

 

Novotel Melbourne – Collins Street

This 4-star hotel is located right in the hub of downtown Melbourne. Step outside the door and you can go straight to the famous Block Arcarde (which hosts the wonderful ‘Hopetoun Tea Room’). The hotel has all facilities you could ask for – gym, indoor swimming pool, restaurant.

 

Novotel Melbourne - Collins Street

 

Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne – Flinders Street

Flinders Street is one of Melbourne main roads. So, with any accommodation along this main traffic artery, you’ll get a fair amount of road noise. This 4-star hotel is set in an heritage building, so the minute you set foot inside, you’ll get a real sense of history. I would call it a ‘classic’, old-world style hotel.

 

 

Adina Apartment Queen Street

There are three Adina Apartment hotel in Melbourne. All a bit different to each other, therefore I went to all of them to check them out. The 4-star Queens Street Adina left the best impression. It’s central, well equipped, has a modern layout and with it’s 2- and 3-bedroom apartments it’s perfect for family travellers to Melbourne.

 

Boutique hotels in central Melbourne:

Beside the more main stream hotels the Melbourne central business district is lucky to have some more boutique styled accommodation options. Here are a few:

 

QT Hotel Melbourne in Queen Street

When I walked into the QT Hotel, I had one of those ‘wow’ moments. It reminded me of the QT Museum hotel back here in Wellington. It’s funky, vibrant and full of quirky corners. More like a huge community area with seatings, cafes and large restaurant with a glass walled wine cellar next to it. The guest rooms are spacious and modern in the 4-star property. I think I will be staying here the next time I’m in Melbourne!

 

QT Hotel Melbourne in Queen Street

QT Hotel Melbourne in Queen Street

 

Fraser Place Melbourne in Exploration Lane

Well, I had to explore a little bit to find this little germ! It’s right in the city, between La Trobe and Lonsdale Street. Actually, its not even marked at the official Melbourne Tourism map. My instincts told me to sniff it out and go there and what a great discovery! Fraser Place is a 4-star boutique hotel with two main towers. Everything is on a slightly smaller scale, but the roof top is spacious and a great place to hang out after a day’s explore. As with all Fraser properties I have looked through this one. Its very well looked after and maintained.

 

Fraser Place Melbourne in Exploration Lane

Fraser Place Melbourne in Exploration Lane

 

Adelphi Hotel Flinders Lane

If you want to be right in the middle of Melbourne’s hustle and bustle, then this is the place to be. Right in Flinders amidst cafes, restaurants and other foodie places. Be warned, there will be ‘people’ noise’ at night. The rooms are spacious as they were converted from a former office building. The reception area is very small. The staff are very pro-active and attentive.

 

Adelphi Hotel Flinders Lane

Adelphi Hotel Flinders Lane

 

Hotel Lindrum on Flinders Street

Hotel Lindrum is another ‘classic’ in Melbourne. This building is rich on history. It started off as a tea merchant store and really sings ‘old world charm’ from the minute you enter the small front entrance. Some of the rooms face Flinders Street and are noisy. But if this is an issue for you, don’t worry, take one of the other rooms facing aways from Flinders. All rooms are spacious and well maintained.

 

Hotel Lindrum on Flinders Street

Hotel Lindrum on Flinders Street

 

High-end Melbourne Hotels:

Langham Hotel Melbourne

The ‘Southbank’ side of Melbourne is basically on the other side of the CBD area across the Yarra River. This area is far more modern and developed with a number or hotels, restaurants and bars. Actually its a real ‘lifestyle’ area. The 5-star Langham Hotel has a ‘grand feeling’. Massive marble stairs, antique glass  chandeliers, indoor swimming pool, roof deck – it’s all here in a matter of a 10 minutes walk across the Yarra River to the CBD.

 

Langham Hotel Melbourne

Langham Hotel Melbourne

Westin Hotel Melbourne Collins Street

The 5-star Westin Hotel is in the heart of Melbourne. Get up in the morning and step into the city life of Melbourne. The interior design is classic-modern – very stylish actually and calming. So after a day out you kind of get the feeling of returning to your ‘nest’ to recharge for the next adventure.

 

Westin Hotel Melbourne Collins Street

Westin Hotel Melbourne Collins Street

 

Sofitel Melbourne Collins Street

I’ve visited the Sofitel Melbourne about 3-4 years ago and not much has changed. It’s still one of the leading Melbourne hotels located in the central city area. Giving the range of alternative options (as reviewed above) this 46-level building offers not only spacious rooms, but stunning views overlooking Melbourne. Unless you’re scared of heights, this might be an added bonus when selecting your hotel stay in central Melbourne next time around.

 

Sofitel Melbourne Collins Street

Sofitel Melbourne Collins Street

 

Happy Travelling!

 

 

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August 4th, 2017

3 days visiting Melbourne Australia

Last week I took 3 days visiting Melbourne Australia.  I discovered there is much to do in Melbourne for a brief, 3-night visit. I did travel in their winter season of July, but believe me, you can visit Melbourne at any time of the year. Melbourne’s population of 4.8 million souls, is actually New Zealand’s entire population. And all these people fit into just 70 x 50 kms.  So for someone like me, who actually lives in New Zealand, Melbourne is a 24/7 busy vibe. That’s why I also include a visit to public gardens before I start the explore.

 

Fitzroy Gardens Melbourne

Fitzroy Gardens Melbourne

Getting from the Airport to Melbourne City

A taxi from the airport to central Melbounre will cost A$60. The SkyBus coach service is a great way of getting to the SkyBus station in downtown Melbourne.  It is a bit more involved than just the one taxi ride. But it only  takes about 25 minutes and costs around A$20 per person. From the SkyBus station, its an easy taxi ride to the hotel. They are all fairly central in Melbourne

 

 

Hotel and Transport in Melbourne City

There really is a huge variety of hotels. From international chains, to boutique, arty places, there’ accommodation to suit everyone and most budgets. (I’ll be writing a separate travel blog on that subject.) Most hotels are very centrally located and for the sake of convenience, that’s ideal if you want to stay in Melbourne. It’s real easy to get around. You can either walk or use the free tram “Number 35” to explore the CBD area.

 

Tours in Melbourne for 3 days visiting Melbourne Australia

As you would imagine there is a huge range of tour options from Melbourne. Famous are the Phillip Island Blue Penguins, a Great Ocean Road day tour or a wine time into the Yarra Valley. On this blog I want to focus more on the Melbourne city tour and sightseeing options.

 

Half Day City tour

This is a good way to get to know the place and provide an overview with the help of a local driver-guide. I joined Robert from Oceania Tours and spent a few hours in some of the most famous gardens and the beautiful St. Patrick Church.

The nice part of these tours, is that you also meet new people from all parts of the world.  Here’s me with Paolo, my new ‘mate’ from Brazil!

 

Melbourne’s foodie places visit

If you are into food then Melbourne is an absolute gourmet paradise! Here’s where Chef Ben Shewry, a good old New Zealand boy, made his mark. Ben’s restaurant, Attica is one of the top restaurants in Australia! Melbourne is also known for its iconic lanes, where the unusual quirky and downright delicious, can be found.  We often have breakfast down these lanes.  Its a great vibe with bustling commuters starting off their day. There is a huge ethic mix of people in Melbourne, so the variety and overall standard are world-class.

My personal favour is ‘The Block Arcade’, just a stone’s throw through from Flinders Lane. There are wonderful places to explore and unleash your taste-buds. A must-do, is the Hopetoun Tearooms, a bland name for cakes and desserts that will have you drooling.  The Hopetoun Tearooms have queues of people lining up for much of the day.  You will need to choose your times. But while you’re waiting, have a look in the front window and make a choice…

 

Tram Restaurant Melbourne

 

For most of us, dining on a tram is a novelty experience and and another must-do if you’re in Melbourne. The Melbourne Tram Restaurant have a lunch sitting, plus 2 dinner sittings. I chose the early dinner and was not disappointed. The 34 person carriages have been authentically restored and take you back in time. As you ‘rattle’ down towards St. Kilda, there’s plenty of local life to see through the large windows.  (note: you won’t see as much in the winter months, as it gets darker quickly.)  The staff are extremely professional and friendly.  I chose the Barramundi fish as the my second course and it was delicious.

 

The bubbly also contributed to a very relaxing experience. Cheers!

 

 

These are just a few of the many wonderful experiences you can have in Melbourne. All of this will depend on the time you have available.

 

Happy travelling!

 

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July 21st, 2017

Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand

Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand  is very much a Kiwi ‘thing’.  In fact, the Jet Engine was invented right here in New Zealand by a local Christchurch man, Sir William Hamilton. He knew it was not possible to use propeller drive boats in our great South Island rivers – the water is often only an inch or two deep. So the Jet Engine was born!

 

Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand – Advantages of a Jet Boat

Jet boats are highly maneuverable. Its hard to equal the thrill of reversing at top speed and then stopping within a boat length. This maneuver is known as a “crash stop”. The well known Hamilton turn or “jet spin” is a high-speed maneuver. It involves cutting the engine throttle, steering sharply, then opening the throttle again. The boat then spins quickly around omitting a huge spray of water. No time to catch your breath here folks!

 

Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand

For visitors to New Zealand there are a number of Jet boating options. However, bear in mind there are 2 key differences.

 

a) The first option is the one I like to refer to as the ‘fast and furious’. The jet boat speeds through narrow gorges and delivers a total ‘adrenaline rush’

 

b) the second option is the ‘classic river journey’. Jet boating on wide river valleys surrounded by stunning native landscape such as mountain, rain forest or grassland. Option b) is found mainly in the South Island.

 

‘Fast and Furious’ Jet boating options New Zealand

 

Hukafalls Jet Boating Taupo, Central North Island – Hukafalls Jet Boating is located in Wairakei Park, Taupo –in the Central North Island, ten minutes north of Taupo and 45 minutes South of Rotorua. Exhilaration galore is pretty much guaranteed. But at the same time, you get to enjoy views of the spectacular Huka Falls.  By the way, is this is happening at 80km per hour – cap it all off with a jaw-dropping 360 degree spin!

 

Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand

 

Shotover Jet Queenstown – Shotover Jet is the only Jetboat company operating in the Shotover River canyon. For pure adrenaline , this iconic Queenstown attraction is the ultimate jet boat experience. Powerful jet boats are dwarfed by the towering Shotover Canyon walls. And great skill is need to negotiate rocky outcrops,crags and boulders. But, don’t worry, these guys have it in spades.

 

 

‘Classic River Journey’ Jet boating options

 

Whanganui River Bridge to nowhere –  This is a 30km (1 hour) trip upstream in the Whanganui River, Central North Island.  The native bush on either side of the Whanganui River is so lush, you can smell the moisture. There’s a variety of amazing scenery throughout this jet boat trip – deep gorges covered with ferns, caves and rapids.  Continuing on deeper into this wilderness area and you’ll arrive at the Mangapurua Landing.

 

 

Wanaka River Journeys – There is a spiritual element to this jet boat tour. The braided Matukituki River changes constantly. Fed by glaciers and surrounded by the peaks of Mount Aspiring national Park, the Matukituki river is one of New Zealand’s most pristine jet boating rivers. The landscape is really magical.  But what I really enjoyed about this trip, was hearing the stories of the the land and the people. See travel blog on this trip.

Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand

 

Siberia Wilderness Adventure Makaroa, South Island – The Siberia Experience is a 4 hour wilderness adventure in Mount Aspiring World Heritage National Park. It starts with a scenic flight, followed by a bush and valley walk. It ends with a jetboat ride in the Wilkin Valley. And if you love the feeling of complete isolation, you’ll love it.

 

 

Dart River Jet Queenstown – Dart River Safaris takes you into the very heart of a world heritage area. And for nature lovers, this tour is such a thrill. First, you’ll be jet boated into the pristine wilderness. Travel up a stunning aquamarine “braided” glacial river, beneath magnificent snow capped peaks mountains. Next there’s a refreshing short walk amongst ancient beech forest.  Finally, just kick back to enjoy a back-road coach journey through fantastic scenery where several Lord of the Rings films were shot. Its one of those great combo tours with variety plus. Allow 6 hours return. Read another travel blog on this trip.

 

Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand

 

Waiatoto River Safari South Westland – This jet boat tour is unique in that it is  the world’s first and only sea-to-mountain eco-jet boat adventure. Explore the remote Te Wahipounamu, the South-West New Zealand world heritage area. This Premier Jet boat tour of 2.25 hours, includes an optional bush walk. There’s no better recommendation than from Lonely Planet.

 

Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand

 

Wairaurahiri Jet Lake Hauroko Fiordland – Wairaurahiri Jet is located in a very remote area of New Zealand and covers 94 Kms of jet boating into the heart of the Fiordland National Park. Travelling across Lake Hauroko and down to the rugged southern Waitutu coast via the wild Wairaurahiri River – this is an exhilarating day in the great outdoors. Read another blog on this trip.

 

 

White Heron Nature Safari Westland – View the majestic Kotuku (White Heron), the Kotuku Ngutu Papa (Royal Spoonbill), Kawapaka (Little Black Shag) and other Bird life – all in their natural environment within the Waitangiroto nature Reserve.

 

This small group tour is suitable for those people with a genuine love and respect for birdlife. The jet boat ride is very gentle and only takes 20 minutes each way. After landing at the jetty, take a short boardwalk (500m) through native bush to the viewing platform. You’re able to quietly observe these beautiful herons for 30-40 minutes. It is a privilege to see these creatures in their natural habitat and for me, it was quite a spiritual experience. Read another blog on this trip.

 

Summary on Jet boating options in New Zealand

 

Most visitors to New Zealand include a jet boating option in their itinerary.  I guarantee, you’ll have no trouble finding a suitable option for Jet Boating Tours North and South Island New Zealand. If you’re lucky, you might even make a friend or two among the locals.  We love our piece of paradise and enjoy showing it off.

 

Happy travelling!

 

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June 28th, 2017

Travel times and distances in New Zealand

When looking on a world map to check out New Zealand, the ‘land of the Kiwis’ seems so tiny. It looks so easy to navigate this little country in a matter of days. But this perception is so very wrong!  Our big Australian neighbour calculates distances in the thousand kilometers (or miles). In New Zealand its more in the hundreds. But the key difference is that New Zealand has a) lots of hills and mountain ranges and b) very few highways.  So its very important to factor in travel times and distances in New Zealand to make an itinerary work!

 

In fact our max. speed limit is 100 km/h (approx. 60 miles/h)  – and that’s everywhere (note: this is currently being reviewed to 110 km/h for some parts of the road network).

 

Travel time and distances are grossly underestimated

Based on incorrect assumptions, international travellers often plan their New Zealand holiday with insufficient time. Travel time and distances in New Zealand are grossly underestimated. It often turns out visitors spend more time on the road than they initially bargained for. Local New Zealanders frequently use domestic flights to cover those long distances, especially between the North & South Island. This saves not only time, but also money. If you book airfares in advance, they become quite affordable.  And if you compare it with other modes of travel like ferry crossings plus the price of petrol, airfares compare very well.

 

 

Travel distance and time calculators for New Zealand

There are a number of online calculators available online. They are good and give a first impression on these subjects. The key issue is time (not the distance). Generally speaking, when travelling with a rental car, calculate on 80 km/h on average. And with a motorhome, calculate on 60 km/h. There is always a hill, windy road or a truck you have to pass. You really don’t want to do more then 250-300 kilometres (165 – 200 miles) on the road per day. Believe me, this will get very tiring and dangerous. Also, you want to have plenty of time to ‘stop and go’ at view points, scenic walks and guided tours. Rushing through New Zealand is not a good idea!

 

Key recommendations for time-short travellers

Very few travellers to New Zealand have more then 2-3 weeks to cover all of New Zealand. Within this time frame we recommend this:

 

> use 1/3 of your time in the North Island and 2/3 in the South Island
> use a one-way rental – say between Auckland and Rotorua
> then take a domestic flight to one of the key airport in the South Island
> pick-up another rental car at the airport and continue your journey

 

By international standards, New Zealand airports are much smaller and that makes check-in and luggage procedure much shorter and really easy. Air New Zealand is a well regarded local carrier.

 

Happy travelling!

 

 

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