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new zealand

New Zealand

South Island, NZ

The South Island of New Zealand was one of the most picturesque and adventurous destinations I have ever experienced in my travelling career. It is somewhere I will always seek to revisit, and have fond memories from. I had the opportunity to experience the beautiful landscape, people, food and adrenaline with Stray New Zealand’s hop on, hop off travel network. 

Stray bus

Abel Tasman – My journey in the South Island began as we got off the Bluebridge Ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton. We spent approximately 3 hours cruising along and passing through the beautiful Cook Strait, named after Captain James Cook. Once we arrived in Picton, our group headed straight for the Marlborough region for some wine tasting! Wine from the Marlborough region is known around the world, as some of the best Sauvignon Blanc of it’s kind. Following the wine tasting and lunch, we began the journey West towards the smallest but most visited national park in New Zealand, Abel Tasman!

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Split Apple Rock – Abel Tasman National Park

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Kayakers in the National Park

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Torrent Bay – Abel Tasman National Park

While staying in Abel Tasman the choice of activities are endless! I decided to go sailing around the National Park on a Full Day Sail with Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures. If sailing isn’t for you, you can choose to rent a kayak, experience a half/full day coastal walk or go skydiving! Whichever you choose, you will be sure be able to experience the beauty and magic of the Abel Tasman National Park.

Westport – After an amazing time in Abel Tasman we continued our journey south along the coast towards Punakaiki. Punakaiki is famous for the Pancake Rocks that lay along the coastal waters. We had the chance to check out this natural wonder, and participate in a few scenic coastal walks in the area.

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Punakaiki

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On the way to Westport we passed through Greymouth, which is home to the famous Monteith’s Brewery! Unfortunately due to limited time, I was unable to visit the brewery – however it’s on my list of things to do next time I go to New Zealand… I did drink enough Monteith’s Cider while I was over there to make up for this though! We continued our journey south and in the early afternoon make it into Westport. Westport is home to some of the best surf on the South Island. This was a night to grab a quiet dinner, relax and rest up for our next stop… Franz Josef!

Franz Josef – Bright and early in the morning we continued south towards the Franz Josef National Park. Franz Josef is a very common bucket list item for many travelling in New Zealand; everyone including myself wanted to see the glacier! We arrived at the Stray accommodation, Rainforest Retreat in the early afternoon where we had the whole afternoon to explore or soak in the hot tub!

While visiting Franz Josef I choose to do a glacier hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides called the Ice Explorer. This activity included a 5-minute helicopter transfer to the top of the glacier, as well as a 2 hour guided walk up and through the beautiful natural wonder.

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And we are off!!!

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Landed on the Glacier – Time to explore!

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Fellow Stray traveller and I 

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Happy Days!

As the glacier is slowly receding/melting over the years – this is something you MUST DO when you visit New Zealand… who knows how long it will still be around for!

Wanaka: After spending a couple days in Franz Josef, we continued south towards Wanaka. The journey to Wanaka is a spectacular drive where you pass by various stunning lakes, and mountain ranges that cover the area. If you look really closely you may even be able to spot Aoraki/Mt Cook in the far distance. When you arrive in Wanaka it is easy to notice that the beautiful Lake Wanaka is the focal point within the town that everything is situated around.

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Lake Wanaka

While in Wanaka you can choose to participate in a few scenic walks, sit by the lake with some wine and cheese or grab a bite to eat along the boardwalk. Wanaka gives off a very relaxed and peaceful feel to it, and it continues to make its visitors fall in love with it. It is sometimes described as a smaller Queenstown, as it presents with characteristics of mountainous scenery and a beautiful blue lake. In the early evening, make sure you head down to the lake to take in one of the most incredible sunsets; it’s an experience you don’t want to miss!

Queenstown – For myself, Queenstown was somewhere that I have been looking forward to visiting for a while… And for good reason… it is the adventure and adrenaline capital of New Zealand – talk about my kind of place!

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Lake Wakatipu – Queenstown

While I was in Queenstown, I choose to participate in a variety of adrenaline and scenic activities, some of which included: the 134m Nevis Bungy Jump, 15,000ft NZONE Skydive, 43m Kawarau Bridge Bungy, Shotover Canyon Swing, Skippers Canyon Jet Boat, Real Journey Milford Sound Cruise and finally an evening up on Queenstown Hill at Skyline (Gondola, Kiwi Haka performance, dinner & stargazzing)! It was an action packed week and one I will never ever forget!

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43m AJ Hackett – Kawarau Bridge Bungy 

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The Chair of Death – Shotover Canyon Swing

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NZONE Skydive Queenstown – 15,000ft

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Skipper Canyon Jet boating

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134m AJ Hackett “The Nevis” Bungy Jump

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Queenstown Hill – Skyline Queenstown

Mt Cook – After a very sad goodbye to Queenstown we made our way north towards the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Travelling back along the road we took to get to Queenstown, we said one final farewell to Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables Mountains and Coronet Peak, capturing one last photo on the way.

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Lake Wakatipu – Queenstown

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Lake Pukaki – Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

In the early afternoon we approached the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Along the way we passed by one of the most pristine and spectacular lakes in all of New Zealand, Lake Pukaki. The distinctive blue colour of Lake Pukaki is caused by the glacier feed and the natural glacial flour (extremely finely ground rock particles).

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Hooker Valley Walk - Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

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Hooker Valley Glacier Lake - Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

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Never stop exploring – Go Pro shot 

While in the National Park, I chose one of the most popular activities, which is doing the 3hour return Hooker Valley Walk, which takes you to the Hooker Valley lake and the Aoraki/Mt Cook glaciers!

Rangitata: The next stop on Stray was to Rangitata – Peel Forest. Along the way, we passed by Lake Pukaki again for some last minute photos. When in Rangitata I chose to go rafting down the Rangitata River.

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Rangitata River

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Rafting with Rangitata Rafts

A fun fact about the Rangitata River is; the most recent series of Amazing Race: Australia vs. New Zealand was filmed on the same river Rangitata Rafts uses for their trips! They had to shut down their tours for the day to facilitate the teams competing on their river… cool! Back at the Rangitata Rafts Lodge we had the chance suntan on the deck, cook up a mean BBQ dinner, and have a few drinks in the evening. 

Kaikoura: It’s an early morning as we headed north along the coast to Christchurch. We only made a quick stop at the Christchurch airport to drop off some passengers and continued our journey North to Kaikoura.

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Dolphin Swim with Dolphin Encounter

Kaikoura is one of the main spots in New Zealand to experience interactive wildlife encounters. One of the most popular activities in Kaikoura is Dolphin Encounter: Swim with the Dolphins. This trip allows you to get the chance to swim with largest quantity of dusky dolphins in the entire world – sometimes you can get up to 200 dolphins in the area. Dusky dolphins are the most playful and energetic dolphins in the world, and swimming with them is one of the most interactive wildlife encounters out there!

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Dusky Dolphins – Close Up!

In the evening, we had free time to explore the beachside shops; wander along the beach, grab a bite of dinner in town, or take in the beautiful sunset from our accommodation.

Wellington/Auckland: We departed from Kaikoura and headed north through the Marlborough region to Picton. In Picton I jumped on a small plane for a trip to Wellington, and later a flight to Auckland in the evening! My final night in New Zealand was spent catching up with the Stray Auckland crew at Nomads Fat Camel for a couple farewell drinks!

The South Island of New Zealand lures in it’s visitors by it mountainous landscapes, clear blue lakes and stunning scenery. Home to the adrenaline capital of the World; Queenstown and the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mt Cook – the South Island is action packed! Everywhere from the Abel Tasman National Park, the Franz and Fox Josef glacier, Lake Wanaka, Milford Sound and more; travellers come near and far to experience everything that makes the South Island special. It’s a place not to be missed, and a place I will never forget. I will be back soon!

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New Zealand

North Island, NZ – Rotorua to Wellington

I was awoken by bright and early in the morning with birthday wishes, and a big smile from Tessa as she sent me off on the rest of my journey. I had an amazing action-packed few days in Rotorua, and it was time to jump back onto the big orange Stray bus and head to the second cultural stop of the North Island – Lake Aniwhenua. Lake Aniwhenua I instantly fell in love with Lake Aniwhenua the first time I experienced it on the Stray North Island Agent Famil. I had absolutely no idea what to expect for the evening, but I was blow away by the passion, and cultural significance this stop had. I also was very excited to visit the lovely family who runs this unique Stray stop – they make you feel home, while being away from home. 20140925_145756 Lake Aniwhenua has recently been voted by Stray Passengers as the second favourite stop of all Stray stops. We stay at the stunning Kohutapu Lodge, which is ideally located by the lake. The location presents with exceptional views and a very welcoming atmosphere. At Lake Aniwhenua you’ll learn about the traditional Maori culture, as well as have the option to learn to weave flax bracelets, cook, and go eeling! 20140925_160841 I really couldn’t of asked for a better place to celebrate my birthday than Lake A. While we waited for dinner to be served, the whole group enjoyed the happy hour specials as we sat by the glistening lake. My birthday dinner at Lake A was one I will never forget. 20140925_171911 Imagine the most amazing Canadian thanksgiving dinner you have ever had in your life; that is the hangi dinner. A hangi is a Maori way of cooking, where the meat is cooked underground for hours before serving. Your plate will be overflown with various styles of meat; chicken, pork and eel, as well as stuffing, salad and vegetables, bread rolls and dessert to top it off! You are guaranteed to leave Lake Aniwhenua feeling happy, full and inspired. Taupo After a sad farewell to Nads and her family at Lake A, we made our way South to Taupo. Taupo is situated next to New Zealand’s largest lake, Lake Taupo! To give you a bit of perspective, you can actually fit the entire country of Singapore within Lake Taupo. While stopping in Taupo, I chose to participate in an adrenaline-based activity, the thrilling sport of skydiving! IMG_4081 If free-falling 15,000ft doesn’t excite you enough, then how does jumping over New Zealand’s biggest lake! Skydive Taupo offers not only an adrenaline rush, but a scenic experience as well! I walked away from my skydive with a huge smile on my face, and the feeling I was invincible! IMG_4129 IMG_4155 Another highlight of visiting Taupo is seeing Huka Falls. Huka Falls is New Zealand’s fastest flowing waterfall. Not only will you sit in amazement as it rushes below you, the falls gives off a beautiful vivid blue colour! Make sure you take a few snaps of this stunning natural attraction while visiting Taupo. 20140926_095503 We began our journey through the rugged New Zealand countryside to our destination for the next two nights – Whakahoro, Blue Duck Station. 20140927_123601 Blue Duck Station continues to be voted as the most popular and favourite stop on the Stray network by passengers. Blue Duck Station is a working sheep and cattle station in the middle of the New Zealand country. You spend two days at the station and are given options to go on a guided hunt, 4WD bush safari, horse trek, kayak and jet boat or to give clay pigeon shooting a go!

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I chose to participate in the guided hunting option while staying at Blue Duck Station. The girls formed one hunting group, and the boys formed another. To keep things classy while hunting the girls ensured to put on some bright red lipstick! We jumped onto our Ute’s and headed out to the hunting grounds to get us some goat! By the end of the day we managed to get a goat and a rabbit – which was later skinned, and cooked for dinner! Conservation at it’s best! 20140927_082750 DCIM100GOPRO In the evenings at the lodge, we chose to spend the night kicking back, relaxing around the fire having some drinks. Many Stray passengers have been known to fall in love with Blue Duck Station and decide to stick around to WWOOF and participate in the various conservation projects that happen in and around the area. Tongariro National Park A highlight for me in the North Island is a visit to the Tongariro National Park. We departed early in the from Blue Duck Station and made the journey to the beginning of the 19.4km Tongariro Alpine Crossing around 9am. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the Nine Great Walks in New Zealand and is an absolute must-do when travelling through the country. DCIM100GOPRO 20141012_084330 DCIM100GOPRO We hiked to over 1800 metres in elevation through the beautiful mountain ranges, snowfields, pristine blue lakes and active volcanic zones. Along the way you will spot Mt Doom (Lord of the Rings) and Mt Ruapehu (operates 2 ski fields in winter) and you will experience moments of complete amazement for your surroundings. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing will leave you with spectacular photos, a sore body and a well-deserved hot tub session back at The Park Lodge! Wellington The final stop of the North Island was to New Zealand’s capital and one of the world’s “coolest” cities, Wellington! Located at the southernmost point of the North Island and surrounded by water, Wellington is somewhere lots of people like to explore further for a couple days! When visiting Wellington you can choose to accompany your Hobbiton Movie Set tour in Matamata with another Lord of the Rings film set tour, or you could choose to spend your time at leisure wandering the harbour and the shops. The night in Wellington was spent at the Blend Bar having a few beers and saying farewell to many other travellers who decided to stay in Wellington for a bit longer!

New Zealand

North Island, NZ – Rotorua

A great night’s sleep at the Marae refreshed me for my visit to New Zealand’s North Island Adrenaline Capital… Rotorua! Only a short drive away from Stray’s unique stop – the Marae, Rotorua offers a selection of adventure activities to the traveller. I planned on stopping off in Rotorua for 3 nights – to visit the Peterpans Rotorua team, in addition to take advantage of everything Rotorua has to offer – adrenaline, scenery, culture and more!

When I arrived into town, I went straight to the Peterpans Rotorua shop – here is where Tessa, a good mate of mine from Sydney has recently relocated for work! We both travelled on the Stray North Island Agent Famil a couple weeks before, but it was great to catch up with her and spend a few nights at her house.

Kaitiaki Rafting – Kaituna River

Kaitiaki Rafting are the leaders in adventure rafting in North Island, New Zealand. My day with Kaitiaki rafting took me down the Kaituna River in a thrill-seeking fashion! This trip is definitely not for the fainthearted! In addition to the adrenaline aspect that Kaitiaki provides, the crew incorporates a cultural feature which pays respect to the people of the river; Ngati Pikiao- by the way of karakia (traditional prayer) prior to entering the river and while travelling along. Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.08.50 AM

Kaitiaki Rafting takes you on a Grade Five rafting experience, as you pass through remarkable steep, narrow, bush clad canyons and across 14 rapids! During the hour I was on the river my group rafted down 3 waterfalls, one of which being the 7m Tutea Falls … the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the WORLD! My raft group managed to conquer the waterfall with the whole team staying safe and sound in the raft… this isn’t always the case though 😉

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As mentioned before, Kaitiaki Rafting has a big focus on providing you knowledge on your surroundings while floating down the river. The fully trained guides ensure to give appreciation to the land and the original owners of the river wherever possible. It is fascinating to hear the Maori stories, about how this river was originally used back in the day.

While rafting with Kaitiaki, you are fully geared by the staff prior to entering the river with wetsuits, boots, helmet, splash jackets and a thermal jumper. You don’t need to have any experience rafting and all you need to bring along for the day are your swimmers, towel and a positive attitude!

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I had such a great time with Kaitiaki Rafting – and not to mention… one of the raft guides found it quite humorous to pick on me along the way and push me out of the raft a couple times! Is this rafting protocol… or was he just flirting with me?… we’ll never know!

Agroventures

Agroventures has been somewhere I have been looking forward to experiencing since beginning at Peterpans Travel. I am always up for a thrill, and Agroventures delivers that!

Agroventures Rotorua offers a selection (5) of different adventure activities that you can choose from – it really is no surprise that Agroventures is known as New Zealand’s premier adventure theme park!

Offering complimentary pickups/drop-offs (based on availability) one of the lovely crew members from Agroventures picked Tessa and I up from the Peterpans shop to head to the park for our morning of adrenalin. When you arrive the crew welcomes you with a smile and provides you a summary of the various activities you can choose from while visiting Agro. I went for the “go big or go home” package, which was all 5-adventure activities – including the Shweeb, Agrojet, Freefall Xtreme, Swoop and Bungy!

As the Shweeb was something that I had never tried, yet alone heard of before, I was keen to give it a go first! The Shweeb, only one of it’s kind in the world was originally created as a futuristic model for transportation. As you enter the “capsule” sitting on your behind with your legs propped in front of you, you will begin self-propelling yourself around the 3 loop race track. Speeds of up to 45km/h have been reached, and your legs purely generate this! To add an extra bit of incentive, you can race against the clock and the previous world record speeds. If you shattered the world Shweeb record you can bring yourself home $1000 dollars!!!

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The next activity I took a go at was the Freefall Xtreme. Agroventures is the only place in New Zealand’s with an outdoor wind tunnel and the only place in the Southern Hemisphere where you can body fly! The crew at the Freefall Xtreme geared me up in a full jumpsuit and goggles prior to entering the wind tunnel. You are taught the basic flying position, and all the tricks/techniques used to manipulate the air and move yourself while flying. Once you get going, you will be flown up to 2 metres high by speeds of up to 220km/h! Your guide will bring you up and down, side to side and may even take you for a spin in the tunnel. You will be able to watch all yourself fly on the GoPro footage they capture throughout the experience but be forewarned… you may have a bit of drool at the end of your flight!

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Similar to the Minjin Swing I did a few months ago in Cairns, the Swoop will swing you up to 130km/h towards the earth! The best thing about the Swoop is you have to release your own rip cord… from 40 metres above the ground!!! I found the Swoop really puts your mind to the test as you have control of your own destiny. Being the adrenaline-junkie I self-proclaim myself to be, the Swoop was a favourite activity of mine at Agroventures!

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The most extreme activity at Agroventures is the Agro Bungy! The bungy at Agro is 43 metres high which provides you with approximately a 3 second free-fall. Regardless of how many times I have bungy jumped, I always get a bit nervous. It is very unnatural of the body to feel comfortable throwing yourself off a platform headfirst. Regardless of how unnatural it is, when you get up to the top, I find that one sec of insanity and take the plunge! Bungy-jumping is truly a mind game, and something that will challenge you beyond what you could imagine.

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The last activity… that I intentionally prolonged was the Agrojet; New Zealand’s fastest jet sprint! For some reason (not quite sure why) I have always had a strange fear of jet boating. I have never understood how these boats can turn on a dime, and how they can be so agile. With heaps of encouragement from Tessa and the crew at Agro they managed to get me into the boat. The professional driver will take you around the 1km track 3 times, reaching speeds of 100km/h in 4.5 seconds! After all I was psyched I gave it a go, and ended up loving it in the end!

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With all 5 activities complete and under my belt – I left Agroventures buzzing off adrenalin and with the biggest smile on my face! Agroventures is the perfect place to visit for travelling through Rotorua and looking for adventure. It’s great place for all ages, adventurous levels and budgets!

Hobbiton Movie Set – Matamata, NZ

With my 23rd year of life rolling in (October 9th) while travelling through New Zealand, I couldn’t think of a more unique place to spend my morning than the infamous Hobbiton Movie Set, in Matamata!

Experiencing Hobbiton is a bucket list item for many travellers. Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans from around the world travel near and far to see what it’s like to be a Hobbit for the day.

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I was picked up from the Rotorua CBD shortly after 9am for my journey to Hobbiton. When you arrive at Hobbiton, our group had the chance to explore the gift shop, buy some postcards and grab a coffee from the café. Once we were all checked in, our guide directed us to the buses that would escort us to the movie set – a short scenic drive down the road. On the journey to the set, we travelled along the beautiful country landscapes while our guide explained a few things – one of which being why this farm was chosen by Peter Jackson (Director) as the perfect location for his movies.

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When we approached the entrance to the movie set, you instantly feel like you are in the movies. Everything is placed exactly as it appears in the films – from the real life crops being grown in the gardens, to the colourful selection of hobbit holes surrounding the area. I found it extremely difficult to pay attention to the information the guide is telling you about, as I wanted to take photos of everything! Apparently the record for photos taken while visiting Hobbiton was 2000+ photos… in just over an hour!!!

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Though I have never seen all the Lord of the Rings, or Hobbit films, various people in my group would point out different hobbit holes that bring them back memories of a certain part of the movies. A few die-hard LOTR fans in my group insisted on reenacting some of the scenes that happened at that particular part of the set. As I made my way along, I knew exactly what I would be doing when I got back home… Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie marathon.

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The last, and in my opinion the best part of the tour was pass the “Hobbit party field” and then the visit to the Green Dragon Inn! At the Green Dragon we had the choice of a complimentary traditional ale, cider or handcrafted ginger beer to toast off to a great day together!

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Looking back on my time in New Zealand, I can concur that Hobbiton was the most unique and ‘strange’ thing I have done. For those who are huge LOTR/Hobbit fans a visit to Hobbiton is a must… and even for those who aren’t die-hard, you’ll unquestionably find yourself enjoying your day at the movie set!

From Rotorua, my Stray group was off to Lake Aniwhenua – where I could continue to celebrate my 23rd birthday, kick back relax and stuff my face with a traditional hangi dinner!

Until next adventure;

s.c

New Zealand

North Island, NZ – Raglan to Mourea

Our first night as a group on Stray New Zealand was a complete success! A few people noted that being on the Stray bus is like entering First Year University (College). Everyone is there with different hopes, expectations, apprehensions and dreams – when you jump on the bus you are signing yourself up for the ride of your life! There are so many new experiences to be had, so many new people from all over the world to befriend, and new life challenges to accomplish!

Stray is something that all those travelling through New Zealand should part take in as it not only takes you off the beaten track “geographically,” it tests you as a person and takes you to lengths that you never thought possible.

Waitomo Caves and the Glowworms

When we left Raglan, we made our way to Waitomo. Waitomo is home to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which are an absolute MUST when travelling New Zealand. These caves are very special to New Zealand, and more specifically Waitomo.

Waitomo Adventures Ltd offers 5 amazing adventure options – everything from half-day black water rafting trips, abseiling and rock climbing trips to full day Lost World ultimate caving experiences!

When visiting Waitomo I specifically chose to participate in their “most concentrated ACTION activity”, the Haggas Honking Holes. The Haggas Honking Holes is for those looking for a bit of thrill – it is adrenaline-filled, energy pumping and action-packed to say the least. Throughout your Waitomo adventure you will do 3 abseils of different heights down cascading waterfalls, rock climbing as well as many “army style crawls” throughout the cave.

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We arrived at Waitomo Adventures in the morning and got completely geared up. We were provided with full wetsuits, gumboots, helmets and a headlight. After a few safety drills, we were ready to hit the caves! Our group entered the cave through a small hole, which led us to our first abseil of the journey.

At certain points in the experience, you will be taken to depths of 70 metres underground, facilitated by various abseils, and rock climbs. Whilst traversing the underground playground you are surrounded by the infamous Waitomo glowworms.

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Throughout the trip, our guide would tell us to shut off our headlamp to take in the surrounding thousands of glowworms! Not only is this a physical experience, it is very educational as well. The guide gives you heaps of information on “what actually is a glowworm,” as well as you will be to told about how the various formations found in the caves, including Stalactites, Stalagmites have been formed.

The Haggas Honking Holes is something unlike anything I have done in my life. There are moments when you are in the cave that put you in a state of complete amazement, as you are 70 metres underground. The Waitomo Caves and the Haggas is the perfect adrenaline activity for those travelling through the North Island of New Zealand.

Pictures don’t do the place justice so you might have to go check them out yourself!

Evening in Mourea

The night at the Marae has been something I had been looking forward to since I was introduced to Stray New Zealand. Having the chance to be immersed into the Maori culture by staying with a family is such an incredible experience.

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When we arrived at the entrance of the Marae, (since I had previously been welcomed into their home) Ruth automatically allowed me to enter the house and sit amongst her family. The welcoming ceremony at the Marae is very special and spiritual – as you approach the house from the car park you are guided through spiritual “chant” from one of the family members. Before entering the house you must remove you shoes, and the file into the provided chairs. As soon as everyone has found a seat, the whole group sits down as one unit. With the males sitting at the front and the females at the back, one member of the family recites a Maori speech, which goes with the welcoming ceremony. Once this speech is complete, all the members of the family (including myself as I have previously been on their land) stand in a line and begin a “nose-tapping” ritual. This is a personal hello to all those who are being welcomed onto the land for the first time – ‘Kia Ora’ followed by two taps on the nose by each person is the practice. As this concludes, it’s time to eat – which finishes off the welcoming ceremony!

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Following afternoon tea, members of the family performed for us with traditional Maori singing and dancing – showcasing the Huka, and the technical manipulation of the Poi. The family sang us a few traditional and well known New Zealand and Maori songs that speak to the history of their culture. You can’t help but smile while you watch the performers – its beautiful to watch how proud the family is of their native culture.

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Dinner was served shortly after the cultural show which consisted of a massive portion of chicken, roast vegetables, garlic bread, peas, carrots and a delicious dessert. This meal put me straight into a food coma, which made it easy for me to settle into the Marae stay for the evening. Once dinner concluded the group cozied up in the Marae (meeting house) for a night of story telling and a good nights sleep.

Staying on the Marae is a once in a lifetime experience that I found quite powerful and spiritual. It is definitely something that sets Stray apart, and goes alongside with their motto that they can take you off the beaten track.

Until next adventure,

s.c.

Imagining yourself here? For 5% OFF any Peterpans Adventure Travel Package, use the promo code: SAMNZ on the peterpans.com.au website, email the call centre at info@peterpans.com or visit one of our many shops and quote SAMNZ to receive the discount!

New Zealand

North Island, NZ – Auckland to Raglan

After an amazing couple days with the Peterpans managers in Auckland, it was time to head south to begin my Maximus pass onboard Stray New Zealand!

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Keys, our bus driver picked us up outside the Stray New Zealand shortly after 715am, she packed our bags into the bus and we then headed off on the road! Our first stop of the day to visit the Stray head office in Penrose, to meet the team, and get a better idea of how the Stray travel network works.

Our journey from Auckland to Raglan was spent travelling through the Waikato Region, ‘Wai’ meaning water, and ‘kato’ meaning mighty. The Waikato River is the longest river in New Zealand, starting in Taupo and finishing just south of Auckland in a place called Port Waikato.

One of the highlights of the drive was stopping at Bridal Veil Falls. A short 10-minute walk into the bush we made it to the waterfall lookout point. Bridal Veil Falls get’s it name from it’s shape when it flows… in a shape of a bride’s veil.

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The final destination for the day was Raglan. Raglan has been featured in various surfing movies, including The Endless Summer and more recently Last Paradise. It is a seaside beach town located on the Northwestern coast of New Zealand. It is the perfect spot for beginners to learn how to surf, or for those with a bit of surfing experience to perfect their skills. When we arrived in Raglan, the Raglan Surf School took the group of us through an on-land surf lesson. The surf team guided us through surf safety, styles of surfing, and techniques on how to get up while in the water. After we all perfected the 4-step surf approach, we were ready to head to the beach.

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I think it’s safe to say; it’s hard to surf without smiling! Whether it be smiling after catching a good wave, or smiling from taking a massive wipeout – it’s all in good fun! Raglan Surf School guarantees that you will get up at least once, no matter how long it takes!

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After everyone got a chance to have a sauna and shower up we headed down to the water for some Fish & Chips for dinner! There is nothing better than fresh out of the sea – fish and chips!

Later on after dinner a bunch of the group enjoyed some drinks in our lodge to toast off to an amazing journey ahead of us!

Until next adventure,

s.c.

Looking for a budget adventure? For 5% OFF any Peterpans Adventure Travel Package, use the promo code: SAMNZ on the peterpans.com.au website, email the call centre at info@peterpans.com or visit one of our many shops and quote SAMNZ to receive the discount!

New Zealand

Bay of Islands – New Zealand

The adventure begins… in the Bay of Islands!

Bright and early in the morning I am awoken by my excitement about heading up to the Bay of Islands. A short walk from Nomads is the Stray New Zealand office, where my guide for the day picked me up, Muesli! All the driver guides have funny names that coincide with a funny story that happened when they first started with Stray. You’ll just have to join in on a Stray trip to find out what they all mean.

The drive up the Bay of Islands is extremely picturesque – I would best describe it as driving through a postcard… over and over again! Along the way to Paihia, often called the ‘gateway to the Bay’, the driver makes sure to point out the points of interest across the vast landscapes. Make sure you look closely… because you may see a sheep or two along the drive;)

We arrived in Paihia in the early afternoon, giving us time to settle into the hostel (Base Bay of Island), walk along the beautiful Bay harbour and grab a bite in the hostel bar. Base Bay of Islands has a nice tiki bar sort of feel to it – it has a very welcoming atmosphere to it and the staff strive to make you feel right at home.

There are various beautiful walks and treks to do while staying in Paihia. Depending on the amount of time you have, you can choose between coastal walks that take up to 3 hours, to shorter walks along the boardwalk, which could take you about an hour. Whichever you choose, you will be blown away by your surroundings!

A trip to the Bay of Islands with Stray is perfect for those who have a couple extra days spare in Auckland and want the chance to experience the magic of Northern New Zealand.

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Day Trip with AwesomeNZ to Cape Reinga (via 90 Mile Beach)

It was early mornings start for our group headed up to the Northern most point of New Zealand… Cape Reinga!

At 7am, our Great Sights – AwesomeNZ driver guide (an ex Stray driver) greeted us outside of the hostel with a beaming smile! After everyone jumped onboard, we were on our way to Cape Reinga! Shortly into the drive, we had the chance to stop at the “Top Bakery in NZ” (pun intended) to grab morning tea, and lunch for the day! The drive up to Cape Reinga is quite beautiful. Our driver ensured to point out all the hot spots, and points of interest to us along the drive – to keep us awake after an early morning wake up 😉

Some of the main highlights from the day were driving on 90 Mile Beach with the bus! You can actually drive directly on the beach… but you need to be careful to not hit the soft sand … you may get stuck! One sign that we found on the drive that I found quite humorous was… “DANGER, Drive faster…” to ensure you don’t get stuck in the sand!

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90 Mile Beach

Another highlight of this trip was the Te Paki Sand Dunes where we had the chance to participate in some rapid speed sand boarding. The final main highlight was the journey to Cape Reinga.

To give you some background info, The Te Paki Sand Dunes are some of the biggest sand dunes in New Zealand! Depending on your bravery level you can choose between small dunes, to massive sand dunes! It is such an exhilarating feeling as you are flying down the dunes, feeling the wind in your hair! Out of all the sand boarding experience I have had (Rainbow Beach, Kangaroo Island), this experience takes the top spot! Having a GoPro handy to capture some of those moments also is a plus!

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Wippeee!!!

Cape Reinga is the pointy part of the North Island that oversees the gathering place where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans meet. Legend holds it that it is believed to be the departure point for Maori souls leaving NZ and going back to their spiritual homeland.

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When we arrived at Cape Reinga, we were given some time to explore our way down the coastal boardwalk, which eventually brought you to the Cape Reinga lighthouse. Looking out from the lighthouse, you can see the sea go on for miles.

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Cape Reinga Lighthouse 

My day on the Cape Reinga, via 90 Mile Beach Adventure with AwesomeNZ blew my expectations. I highly recommend for those with those couple extra days in Auckland at the beginning or end of your Stray New Zealand adventure, a short trip up to the Bay of Islands will not disappoint!

Hole in the Rock – Dolphin Cruise

Our day in the bay couldn’t of been better. We departed from the pier in Paihia shortly after 9 o’clock, and from there we began our half day cruise through the 144 islands.

The Great Sights cruise boat held over 220 passengers, had 3 viewing decks, and a café/bar on board. My group decided to take a spot on the main platform at the front to get a full panoramic view of the Bay.

While cruising, we had the chance to take some scenic shots of the various islands, ships in the harbour as well as… the dolphins!

One highlight of the Hole in the Rock cruise for me was seeing the dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water directly underneath the boat. There must have been over 10 dolphins that found interest in us, and put on a little water show! It was incredible to see the dolphins jump out of the water simultaneously, and swim at speeds that keep up with the speed of our boat. In addition to being able to view the dolphins on board, you can also choose to experience a more personal wildlife encounter and you can swim with the dolphins as well!

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Another highlight of this trip was cruising out to the end of the peninsula (Motukokako Island) to see the Hole in Rock. At one point of the cruise the water got a bit choppy and led to a very fun and bumpy ride! You need to hold on tight! When we made it to the Hole in the Rock, we had the chance to look out on the horizon and see for miles. The view was spectacular and with bright, clear skies, we couldn’t of asked for a better day for pictures!

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On the way back to Paihia, we stopped at a beautiful island called Urupukapuka, for a little wander. As we cruised in, the first thought that came to my mind …are we in the Caribbean? Crystal clear waters drew us into the beach, and the grass on the hills was perfectly green. We were given just around an hour to make our way to the look out point, which gives an amazing panoramic view of all the Islands.

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Urupukapuka lookout to the Bay of Islands

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We made our way back to Paihia pier in perfect time for Stray to pick us up at our hostel and head back down to Auckland! The Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise was an amazing experience and opportunity to see the Bay of Islands from the water. There is nothing better than feeling the wind in your hair as you cruise along one of the most beautiful parts of the country!

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Until next adventure,

s.c

Thanks for stopping by! For a limited time ONLY! For 5% OFF any Peterpans Adventure Travel Package, use the promo code: SAMNZ on the peterpans.com.au website, email the call centre at info@peterpans.com or visit one of our many shops and quote SAMNZ to receive the discount!

New Zealand

A New (Zealand) Adventure

The day has finally arrived! It’s time to get my wanderlust on again! An early morning wake up call began my journey (courtesy of Byron Easy Bus) to Coolangatta (Gold Coast) Airport to catch my flight to Auckland, New Zealand!

I arrived at the airport just before 7am, which allowed for a good amount of time to check-in, go through security/customs and grab some food. As I should have expected, there is no such thing as smooth sailing when I travel. If you can remember back to the time I first came to Australia, I managed to leave my laptop in London, ON the night before my flight… that was a mini crisis that managed to cause some pre-trip excitement. It was only minutes from when I arrived at the Gold Coast airport and made my way to the check-in desk before the first mini crisis happened…

When I arrived at the Jetstar check-in desk, I was regrettably informed that as of right now, I wasn’t allowed to fly to New Zealand as my return flight back to Australia was booked later than when my first Australian WHV was set to expire… OH NO! In order for me to fly today, I was required to spontaneously book a return flight to Australia on a day before my visa expires. Due to me successfully completing my regional work on an organic farm over the past 4 months, I will be applying for this visa as soon as I touch down in NZ. When my 2nd WHV hopefully becomes approved shortly after applying, I will be able to change my flight, and return on the original planned date. *cross your fingers for me! 

All in all, my first (and hopefully only) crisis of this trip has been averted!

Tip for all working-holiday makers – If you are planning on leaving Australia to travel elsewhere (New Zealand, Asia, Fiji, etc) in hopes of applying for your 2nd WHV while travelling, make sure when you book your return flight date, you book it for before your first WHV expires in Australia. This is to ensure Immigration knows you have a valid visa while travelling, and when you plan on returning to Australia. After you apply and once that second working holiday visa is approved, you can go about booking/changing your flight to suite your travel plans! It’s always smart to double check with Immigration if you are ever confused or have questions regarding travelling Internationally and returning on a new visa – it will save a lot of time, stress and money!

This journey to New Zealand has been one that I have had on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. With working in the travel industry throughout the duration of my time in Australia, I have gained a large interest, fascination and drive to get myself over to experience New Zealand myself.

With huge thanks to Peterpans Travel and Stray New Zealand for hosting me, I will be traversing the entire country from North to South, capturing and sharing (with you!) the stunning landscapes, tantalizing food, exotic culture and beautiful New Zealand people.

The first leg of my journey will begin in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland! Once I arrive in Auckland, I will check into my accommodation (Nomad’s Auckland) and meet the gang at Stray New Zealand’s office in the centre of town. From here we will have the chance to meet up with the rest of the good-looking, adventurous travellers who we will be joining in on the Stray North Island Famil.

For the next 6 days, our group will be experiencing the diversity and culture that the North Island has to offer. Stopping in places such as Raglan, Whakahoro, Taupo, Lake Aniwhenua and more, Stray will take us further off the beaten track in order to give us a cultural travel experience unlike anything we could ever imagined.

I won’t give any more surprises right now, as I want you to follow this experience with me. Catch instantaneous images and my experience on my Instagram (instagram.com/sam_clarkey) or keep checking back here for updates!

If you have been inspired to go exploring and travel off the beaten track away from your everyday life, I can help you get on your way!!!

Simple use the PROMO CODE: SAMNZ online at checkout at www.peterpans.com.au, call the Peterpans Call Centre at 1 800 669 424, email info@peterpans.com or visit any Peterpans Shop (NZ, AUS, Asia wide) and quote “SAMNZ” to receive 5% any holiday package!

This is going to be epic – stay tuned!

sam.C

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Interested in Australia and NZ adventure travel? For 5% OFF any Peterpans Adventure Travel Package, use the promo code: SAMNZ on the peterpans.com.au website, email the call centre at info@peterpans.com or visit one of our many shops and quote SAMNZ to receive the discount!