Before humans arrived, New Zealand was a world of birds and plants. Here you will find some of the world's most unique birdlife. Unique wildlife encounters and natural spectacles are two of New Zealand's biggest attractions.
Within the space of one day, you can experience ancient forests, volcanic landscapes, mountain vistas and stunning coastlines all while spotting New Zealand wildlife found nowhere else on earth.
Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park
If you want to see Kiwi up close, then a visit to Otorohanga Kiwi House is the place to go. The not-for-profit wildlife and conservation center has been breeding Kiwi since 1971. The birds are on display all day in the special nocturnal houses. It also breeds rare and endangered native New Zealand Wildlife.
The family-friendly park offers Kiwi viewing of two of New Zealand's species - Great Spotted Kiwi and Brown Kiwi. The park also has ponds, wetland areas and walk-through aviaries including a giant dome aviary.
Whale Watch Kaikoura
The picturesque coastal town of Kaikoura, located on the South Island, is the perfect place for marine life encounters and coastal walks. An easy two-hour drive north of Christchurch, Kaikoura makes for a great day trip or a fun stop.
New Zealand's leading whale watching company offers an exciting up-close encounter with the world's largest toothed predator, the Giant Sperm Whale, in their natural environment at all times of the year. On a typical encounter, you'll see New Zealand fur seals, pods of Dusky dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season, you may also see migrating Humpback whales, Pilot whales, Blue whales and Southern Right whales.
Zealandia: The Karori Sanctuary Experience
Located in Wellington on the North Island, Zealandia is a self-contained mainland island. The Sanctuary is a unique eco-sanctuary for New Zealand's native wildlife. Here the rare species are living wild within one square mile of regenerating forest. The area is surrounded by a ground-breaking pest-proof fence.
You can choose from 32 kilometers of track to spot Kara, the playful forest parrot, tuatara, a reptilian living fossil, saddleback, hihi falcon, takahe, weta, tui, and many more. For a real treat, it is suggested that visitors book a night tour to seek out the iconic spotted Kiwi and other nocturnal creatures.
The Maori are the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, a Polynesian people, most closely related to eastern Polynesians. The Maori arrived in New Zealand, which was then known as "The Land of the Long White Cloud", around AD950 by canoe. Because the area was warmer, they mostly settled in the Northern parts of New Zealand.
Because the Maori culture is an integral part of Kiwi life, a visit to any of these will add a dynamic and unique experience. Below are three Mauri experiences.
Situated in Rotorua, Te Pula is an iconic destination for visitors. It is home to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and the world famous Pohutu geyser. Many of the guides have direct links to Rotorua's earliest hosts and share stories and insight into this unique corner of the world.
Along with access to the world famous Polutu geyser, visitors have an opportunity to see Maori cultural performances, live kiwi, boiling mud pools, native bush and the National Schools of Wood Carving and Weaving. There is also the opportunity to watch food cooked to perfection in the steam of the geyser.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Located in the Bay of Island, New Zealand's most important historic site, where you can discover the history of the country, is Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
The story of Waitangi begins the journey of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Enjoy an inspiring and interactive full day experience through performances in Waitangi's contemporary museum, the powerful Maori cultural authentic Meeting House. Take an entertaining guided tour, view a Maori waka (canoe) and finally a hangi (feast). There is also a tranquil cafe and much more.
Lush native forest and gardens, inspiring art gallery and carving studo are a "must-do" for all visitors to New Zealand. The award-winning Waitangi Treaty Grounds is one of the nation's premier attractions and tells Zew Zealand's story of two peoples coming together as one.
Skyline Queenstown - Kiwi Haka
Located in Queenstown at the top of the Gondola, Kiwi Haka is an intimate theatre surrounded by traditional decorations and mythical carved legends of the Wakatipu.
Feel the spirit of the proud Maori history celebrated in traditional song and dance as you journey through the mystical legends. Experience the fearsome Haka and stunning poa displayed in this live performance by the Kapa Huka group. You may also be chosen out of the audience to be a participant.
Throughout their culture, their values, and their customs, they pay tribute to Papatuanuku (the earth mother) and their natural world that sustains all living things.
You want to do some hiking while on your dream trip to Australia, but you don't have time for long treks. Here are some suggestions on short day hikes that may be on interest.
Lake St. Clair - Tasmania
There are three short walks at Lake St. Clair. These walks can be combined to extend the 2.4KM hike to 4.7KM.
Watersmeet is a short easy walk which will take about 45 minutes. The track follows an old logging road.
Larmairremener tabelti is a cultural heritage walk which uses creative interpretation panels to introduce the indigenous people of the region. The track follows moraines, which are ridges formed by retreating glaciers during the ice ages.
Platypus Bay is a 30 minute walk from Watersmeet Bridge. The track follows the Cuvier River to its mouth at the lake. The track then curves around the edge of the lake. Early morning or late afternoon platypus are sometimes seen in this area (thus the name).
Rosewood Creek Circuit - New South Wales
This trek is a peaceful 7.7KM loop walk which loops through astonishing World Heritage-listed rainforest, waterfalls, creeks and wildlife. beginning and ending at Never Never picnic area, it offers a moderate walk for a leisurely afternoon. The rainforests in this part of the world are just how scientists believe the supercontinent Gondwana world have looked - in a time when dinosaurs ruled. The circuit is located near Thora, New South Wales.
Kings Canyon Walk - Northern Territory
The Canyon Walk is known as the spellbinding rim walk. The 6KM circuit will take you down into the Garden of Eden and back to the top. While the start of the walk is the most difficult, once at the top, it is the most magical experience of your life. It is one of the great walks of the outback and something you won't forget in a hurry. Because the hike is in the Red Centre, there is very little shade and the best time to do this hike would be May through September.
While there are a number of Australia luxury accommodations, here are just a few of the resorts located outside the busy cities. Each is unique in its' own right and the accommodations, staff, meals and activities leave lasting memories.
Southern Ocean Lodge
Located on Kangaroo Island, it is Australia's first true luxury lodge offering a unique and exclusive travel experiences. Situated atop a secluded cliff on a rugged stretch of coast, the lodge commands peerless views of the wild Southern Ocean and pristine Kangaroo Island wilderness. Sensitive, intimate and sophisticated, Southern Ocean Lodge is a sanctuary of refined comfort and luxe.
Activities outside the lodge include marine based, an ealy morning walk among the seals at Seal Bay and wildlife based, done by a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Dining at Southern Ocean Lodge is both a delight for the senses and a gastronomic journey of Kangaroo Island. The resort incorporates the ‘produce to plate’ approach a real passion for the Executive Chef. In addition, an excellent range of diverse Kangaroo Island and South Australian wines and beers has been hand selected to comprise the beverage menu.
Saffire Lodge Freycinet
Located on Tasmania's East Coast, Saffire is Australia's new luxury coastal sanctuary. The Lodge delivers a sophisticated and inspirational experience for the guests. It was discretely built overlooking the Hazards Mountains, Freycinet Peninsula and the pristine waters of Great Oyster Bay.
The stunning landscape greets guests as soon as they enter the resort. The architectural design takes its inspiration from the unique natural surroundings with a strong connection to the sea through references of waves, sea creatures and sand dunes.
Saffire Freycinet offers a number of complimentary activities. Lasting from one hour to three hours, these activities are the guests opportunity to engage and connect with Freycinet's stunning natural wonders and attractions. Adventure, romance, rejuvenation or exploration, the complimentary experiences and activities add greater depth and dimension to a stay in Tasmania.
Lizard Island Resort
This exclusive resort is located off the Queensland coast. With 40 rooms and 24 private beaches, it is a world of luxury and privacy. The resort is set on a white sand stretch of beach and is the only development on the island. Because of this, the resort is accessible exclusively by plane. Cut off from the world by beautiful turquoise waters, it promises coveted seclusion at the edg of this important national park.
Activities include guided and self-guided activities include snorkeling, diving, paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, visits to the Research Center, yoga and spa treatments. For water lovers, there is an opportunity to dive or snorkel or for those experienced or not they can try their hand at sport fishing.
All photos from Tourism Australia.
New Zealand is home to some of the most memorable scenic train journeys in the world. These are just three of them. Be it a long or short journey, each is meant to amaze the visitor.
The TranzAlpine scenic train journeys between Christchurch and Greymouth. From the comfort of the carriages, see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. The train then climbs into the majestic Southern Alps to Arthurs Pass National Park. It then descends through lush beech rainforest to the West Coast town of Greymouth. This town is a great base for visits to Punakaiki (pancake rocks) and the always popular glaciers. Enjoy all this in the comfort of carriages featuring hugh panoramic windows. There is also an onboard cafe with a range of delicious Kiwi flavors, and GPS triggered at-seat audio commentary.
The Coastal Pacific was recently closed for significant maintenance to the track. I just receive the announcement that is is finally opened for business. The train is a fantastic way to journey between Picton and Christchurch and is one of the most scenic train trips in the world. The route runs along the Pacific coast, just meters from the lapping aqua surf and the snowcapped Kaikoura mountain ranges filing the panoramic windows to the west.
The train is operated by Great Journeys of New Zealand - and that it is!
Taieri Gorge Rail
Dunedin Railways, best known for its world famous Taieri Gorge Rail journey, specializes in beautiful scenic train trips in the Otago region of the South Island. In fact, there is no better way to explore the beautiful Dunedin and Otago countryside than from the comfort of a train. Sit back, relax and enjoy the journey.
The Taieri Gorge Railway and the Seasider rail journey are both considered highlights in New Zealand's rail network and offer scenic and panoramic views of the changing scenery. They both depart from the historic Dunedin Rail Station, another photo opportunity.
When booking any of my clients to Melbourne, Australia, I always suggest Echidna Walkabout as an unusual way to travel with wild kangaroos and do some Koala spotting. When any of my clients who have booked this tour return, I always call to see how things turned out. In every case I seem to get the same response…..”We loved this tour and when the day was over and we were saying good bye, we felt just like family”.
Janine and Roger, owners of Echidna Walkabout Tours, have a great love for nature and the animals they encounter, and this is manifested in the guided tours they provide their customers. Not only do they love the Koalas, but they also study their habitat and are able to identify them by facial features. Now, I always thought a Koala was a Koala, but that’s not the case. How much fun is it on the tour to have one of the guides introduce you to Babe, the 2 year old Koala baby of Sunshine?
In addition to Echidna Walkabout, when my clients visit Australia, I also encourage them to go to Kangaroo Island just off the coast of South Australia to take a walk on the Remarkable Rocks. What fantastic formations they will encounter. Kangaroo Island is also home to two different type of seals.
Seal Bay is just west of the Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park along the south coast of Kangaroos Island. The main draw is that it is a great place to view the largest colony of Australian sea lions who play on the beach, bask in the sand and swim in the sea.
The other, the New Zealand fur seal was once an endangered mammal on the island, with their numbers dwindling in the hundreds. This was due to their being harvested by early European settlers. Fortunately, the shores of Australia’s Kangaroo Island are now home to a population of almost 100 000 of these seals, and this rise in numbers has added yet another great attraction to the list of reasons to visit this incredible island. These beautiful mammals can be viewed from the boardwalk at Admiral's Arch.
And, if visiting Tasmania, Australia, there’s nothing better than viewing the little penguins just outside Becheno on the east coast. For a small fee, visitors can make an appointment to view the little creatures as they return to their burrows at the end of a long day of fishing. The number of guests are limited to approximately 12 each evening, so it is possible to walk along with the penguins as they return home. Because you are accompanied by a nature guide you will be provided with information on the “care and feeding” of the little penguins.
Due to the fact that most of these tours are limited to a small number of guests, as a travel professional, I always suggest that my clients pre-reserve the excursions before leaving for Australia. That way, they are not disappointed when they arrive and find out the tour is full.
Visiting the mysterious lanes and byways of Melbourne bring to life the history of an area mostly dating back to the Victorian era when the narrow streets were used by horses and carts. Some even date back to the Gold Rush era slums.
Starting in Degraves Street, a crowded alley had, years ago, been a way in and out for delivery trucks. Revitalized, it now has café’s spilling out on either side with bars hidden away among its upper floors also, among these hidden treasures one-off shops selling things such as imported hand-made stationery and Lingerie.
19th Century Block Arcade, less of a lane than an arcade, is roofed in an etched glass with a mosaic tile floor, the biggest expanse in Australia. Under its arched roof are café’s serving cucumber sandwiches and where you frequently hear the clinking of china cups in places like Hopetoun Tea Room. Included in this space is a doll hospital, a photoshop which specializes in restoration and a shop called Australian By Design where you can purchase locally made art and crafts.
Centre Place, quintessentially Melbourne, is an arcaded laneway which had been favored by artists in the 1980’s. Filling this half block lane are café’s, (like The Soup Kitchen and B3Cafe), shops like Kinki Gerlinki and vintage-inspired label Princess Highway. While strolling the laneway, take some time to enjoy an ever-evolving gallery of street art. While graffiti is, in theory, is illegal, Melbourne is ambivalent towards it.
As the population of Melbourne grew and the land sub-divided, those narrow lanes gave birth to even narrower ones. Of course, the gold rush of the 1850’ increased the demand for housing which quickened the pace. By 1895 there were 158 signposted lanes and 106 “alleys”. Among these were homes, brothels, warehouses, and factories.
While this is only a snippet of this magnificent CDB destination, one of the best ways for visitors to see the wonderful sights and learn to learn the history of the many streets in this area, is to take a Hidden Secrets tour.
My thanks to Hidden Secrets Tours for several of the pictures in this blog.
Long or short hikes in New Zealand are the best way to see beautiful landscapes and explore vast wilderness areas. So put on your walking boots, grab a snack and water and set out.
New Zealand is packed with short hikes suitable for all levels of fitness. Explore native forest trails and ancient glaciers with hikes of just 30 minutes up to 3 hours. New Zealand short walks cover everything from a slightly more challenging mountain climb to casual beach strolls.
Rotorua Lakeside Trail
Starting in the middle of Rotorua from beside the Polynesian pools, this hiking trail will take you along the lake’s edge towards the Wakarewarew Forest Park. Along the way, you will pass through the native scrub, across boardwalks in steamy thermal areas and takes you southeast along small beaches. There is informative signage provided so visitors can understand some of the finer details of the natural wonders surrounding you. The walk is about 1 1/2 hours roundtrip. There are several accommodations close to the lake and many people choose rooms with the lake view so they can enjoy the beauty of the area even when inside.
Queenstown Hill Time Walk
For a moderate challenge, test your stamina on the Queenstown Hill Loop Track. The hike starts from downtown Queenstown up to the Basket of Dreams, which is a favorite lookout spot. The hike up is a demanding uphill wall ending with fantastic views of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables, and other mountains. On the upward walk, the path eventually turns to the right and you will see a gate. In the neighborhood, you will see a plaque which reads –
This pathway leads to our future. With each step, we seek the guidance and wisdom of those who have gone before us; we walk with a sense of hope, that those who follow in our footsteps beyond the year 2000 can do so with the same sense of pride in, and protection for, this beautiful place.
As the name indicates, the 1.5km long, 3-hour Queenstown Hill Time Walk is built to show the past, present and future of Queenstown and the area around Lake Wakatipu as informational panels guide you along the way.
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
This is a meandering and pleasant hike that follows the coast and leads to a seal colony. Informative panels will share the history and geology of the area. Additionally, there are photographs both old and new to enhance the experience. If you choose, you can take the path from the seal colony up to the clifftop where the view includes hundreds of seals. As someone who has walked on the beach with seals, I must warn visitors to give them a wide berth.
To fully explore and enjoy the features of the hike, allow at least 3 hours to complete the whole Walkway, which extends 11.7 km.
Ironically, in a town built on whales, the peninsula when viewed from above, resembles the fluke of a whale’s tail.
Since my first trip to Australia in 1998, I have returned to the South Pacific over 30 times. On each visit I meet with hoteliers, tour companies, car companies, cruise companies and other suppliers in the region. With this knowledge, I am able to answer your questions and assist you in planning the memorable vacation of your dreams.