After our time in Australia, we spent a few days cruising across the Tasman sea, relaxing, eating, drinking, taking a few days to just be on holiday and enjoy a rest before more adventures. We headed to the South Island first, right to the incredible ‘Sounds’.
There are a number of Fiords in New Zealand, all located in the southwest of the South island, in a mountainous area called Fiordland.
A Fiord is a narrow inlet of Sea between cliffs or steep slopes, in New Zealand they use the spelling of Fiord instead of Fjord, although all of the maritime fiords use the word ‘sound’ in their name. New Zealand has 15 named maritime fiords and we had the amazing opportunity to visit 3 of them.. Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound. After a few days out at sea and a lot of Martinis later, we finally arrived at The Sounds, the first and probably most famous was Milford.
Milford sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman sea at Dale point and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1200 meters or more on either side. This sound harbours two permanent waterfalls, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. We approached the opening to Milford sound around 8am, so we were up and ready for our first glimpse of land in 3 days. It was a chilly morning, quite a change from the 40 degrees we had left in Sydney. I got my leggings and jumper on and headed out on Deck.
Most people reach Milford sound by car or bus and get to see the sound from the land but I can tell you, I felt so lucky to be sailing through the middle of these Sounds as the experience was just something unimaginable.
Milford Sound has been judged one of the world’s top travel destinations in an international survey and is acclaimed as New Zealand’s top tourist destination, often referred to as an eighth wonder of the world and I could see why!
Up on the top deck, the morning sun just starting to peek through the mountains, the sky was filled with pinks and purples, the clear blue just starting to rise.
Although there was a cool wind, there was not a cloud in the sky, we were so lucky having a clear day. I was expecting cloud and fog as well as rain, it is a very common occurrence for this area of the world, so to have a whole day with no rain is so rare.
I was stood on the top deck, hot chocolate in my hand about to enter the first fiord of the day. As soon as we entered Milford Sound the wind stopped and the water was perfectly still, it was so serene and peaceful.
My Nans name was Milly, well Mildred but she always preferred Milly or as my Grandad called her Mil.. Being in ‘Mil’ford sound, this gorgeous, calm place of incredible beauty I just wished she could have been there with us, I like to think she was.
As we started the journey along the 15k stretch of water, it just felt so surreal, the gorgeous green mountains, just iced with a drop of snow on the top, the green tranquil water and the sun just starting to make an appearance in the clear sky. The only noise you could hear was the flow of the beautiful water of Stirling Falls and the odd bird squawking overhead.
At Milford we sailed right to the end of the stretch of water, did a 360 spin and back out of the beautiful passageway, unlike the next two Dusky and Doubtful where we could travel in one end and out of the other. So from there we headed into Doubtful Sound, it took around 2 hours hugging the coast of New Zealand before we reached it.
At 40km long, Doubtful is the second longest and with a depth of up to 421 meters, Doubtful is also the deepest. In comparison to Milford, it is more widespread and it’s cliffs are not as high and dramatic but it is still just as magnificent.
By the time we got to Doubtful the sun had reached its peak and it had dramatically warmed up, so I switched to my fave yellow swimsuit and got myself a cocktail, what a perfect way to enjoy this incredible journey through the sounds. From Doubtful we headed back along the coast to the amazing Dusky Sound, one of the more complex of the many fiords in this area and also one of the largest, 40 kilometres in length and 8 kilometres in width, at its widest points.
Again Dusky was just indescribable, the words I say and the pictures I have does not do this place justice, it is one of the most natural, beautiful places I have ever laid my eyes on.
However Dusky gave us an extra treat, the pod of dolphins that live in the area came to say Hello, jumping in the wake of the boat for at least half an hour, they gave us a real show, there were at least 40-50 of them at some points and it just added to the magic of the day. We were so lucky with the weather and the dolphins but even without that the place just has a incredible sense of wonder and magnificence about it, if you are planning a trip to New Zealand do not miss out experiencing the sounds.
Next on our adventure and my first time stepping onto New Zealand soil was Dunedin and Port Chalmers. Another beautiful sunny, blue sky day, I was so happy to be able to put on a dress and only need my denim jacket. We firstly arrived in Port Chalmers and decided to hop on a bus to Dunedin, it took around 20 mins to get there but that flew by as the scenery was gorgeous, it actually reminded me of Wales. Dunedin was a quiet town, you can see the Scottish influence quite clearly. We spent a few hours wandering around and just happy to be in NZ.
There was a main square with a grassy area to relax, a gorgeous cathedral and quirky shops but the most impressive of all was the train station. Nicknamed the Gingerbread George, from its distinctive colours and patterns and also from the fact that it was designed by George Troup, it really is a gorgeous sight to see. Although Dunedin is a beautiful place, after a few hours I felt like we had seen all it had to offer so headed back to explore Port Chalmers.
Several Antarctic expeditions left from Port Chalmers and there is a memorial to Captain Scott up on the hill above the town, which is also the best spot to view the harbour and port. A sleepy town but so beautiful, nestled on the coast, the walk around the harbour is gorgeous. No more than a day or two is needed to explore Dunedin and Port Chalmers but still is a perfect spot to stay on your way North.
Our next stop was Akaroa. 52 miles by road from Christchurch, Akaroa is a small costal town in the Canterbury region of the South island. It is a resort town and has hundreds of Hector’s dolphins local to the Harbour, also rumoured in the harbour was to be a family of Orca whales. We visited in March and were told by locals that a mother and calf had been spotted numerous times just the week before, I looked for the Killer Whales all day.
I have seen whales in the wild numerous times, Humpbacks in Costa Rica and Blue whales in Saint Lucia but never Orcas and I was so excited. We took a small boat ride around the harbour but were not lucky enough to see whales or dolphins that day, there are many wildlife trips running from Akaroa harbour every day, you just have to be lucky enough, from what I heard the Orca sightings in that particular location are very rare.
The rest of our time there we spent exploring, the beach was amazing and the water looked so inviting, I had a little paddle but it was ice cold and not a hot enough day to need a cool off. We walked up to the Akaroa lighthouse, quite a popular sight in this seaside town. The lighthouse is open 10am -2pm most days for tours but we just went and appreciated the building and the views over the bay from where it is located.
Tauranga was next on our destination list and the first stop on the North island of New Zealand. Situated in the Bay of Plenty region, Tauranga is one of NZ’s main centres for business, international trade, culture, fashion and science. But my main reason for wanting to visit is due to the fact that Tauranga is also home to Mount Maunganui, a large lava dome, formed by the upwelling of lava around 2-3 million years ago.
Initially I had wanted to climb the mountain to reach the top and witness the spectacular views but my sister had injured her foot just a few days earlier, probably due to all our dancing in high heels, so we decided it was best to walk around the lower rim of the mount. Still just as beautiful, it took around an hour to leisurely walk the base of Maunganui, surrounded by the sea we were on the constant look out for dolphins or seals, both local to the area.
The turquoise water surrounding us looked so inviting, it was quite a humid day and I couldn’t wait to get in so decided we would head to the beach after our adventure.
The walk around the mount was gorgeous and is a historic reserve, we crossed so many locals, jogging or friends walking around pushing their babies in prams. I don’t blame them if I lived there what more of a perfect circuit to use for exercise, much more exciting than a treadmill inside the gym. Following the path, sand and sea on one side and bright green tropical plants on the other we soon completed the loop and headed towards the white sands of the gorgeous beach. The beach was a long stretch of white, curling around to a point, with the waves lapping over each other, just caressing the shore. Once we reached the other side of the beach, we soon discovered we could explore the point some more.
it was another little stony pathway, quite thin and water on both sides, we headed along it to see what was at the end. Apparently it lead to a blow hole in the rocks, after around 15 mins of walking through the gorgeous vegetation and hearing the waves in the distance we reached the ends and found a cluster of rocks. It was gorgeous, miles of ocean in front with a few small islands dotted like chocolate chips in a sea of ice cream.After all the walking I decided I needed to put my feet in the South Pacific. It was a gorgeous day, quite humid and I love nothing more than feeling the ocean on my skin. We met some friends, 2 guys from New Zealand and they lived nearby, they told us that Orca whales were very common in this area of New Zealand, they were living just an hour away close to Hot Water Beach, a place I really wanted to go, but just didn’t have the time. They offered to come pick up me and my sister to take us there but we just couldn’t fit it in. Apparently underneath the sand is Hot Water, warmed by volcanic movements and so you head to this beach, dig yourself a hole and chill out in your own sandy hot tub. It is definitely on my list next time I visit NZ.
The next destination and the last on our trip was Auckland. The first day we arrived, we were so lucky having a beautiful sunny day yet again. As we got to Auckland we checked into another incredible Air BnB apartment, right on the waterfront at Princes Wharf, it was perfect, with a balcony equipped with the most comfiest egg swing chair, I spent many a hour curled up reading in that thing. After arriving in our apartment it became very apparent that we had been living in a different world for the last few weeks, away from social media and the news, as I was inundated with messages from friends and family checking if we were going to be able to make it home in time. Covid had gripped the world and countries were closing their borders, I’m not gonna lie it was stressful.
We’ve not been the luckiest in the past with flights and traveling home, I have been stranded in the South of France due to air traffic strikes, I was in Hawaii when Thomas Cook went bust and was due to fly home with them from San Francisco just a few days later, so I was thinking, here we go again….. Thankfully we made it back just in time, without having to cut short the trip, 3 days after New Zealand closed its borders and just one week before the UK went into full lockdown. Our last few days in Auckland, although lined with a little stress, were still fabulous. I spent the first day doing my usual thing, walking and exploring. We wandered around the stunning harbour and had a nosey at all the gorgeous yachts moored up, walked along the water front,
although there was A LOT of renovation work going on so you couldn’t fully appreciate the waterside, although looking at the plans for it once its complete I can tell its going to be amazing, full of fountains and water features, as well as seats to sit and just take in the view. We walked up and to the bottom of the sky tower, initially I planned to go up the next day but it was so overcast that it just wasn’t worth it in the end. I would sit and watch people bungie jump of the edge and think wow how brave but yet I would love the thrill of doing something like that, it would just be the initial jump I would struggle with, they’d have to push me to get me off. It is something that is a big attraction in Auckland but when you have been up the likes of the CN Tower in Toronto and the Willis Tower in Chicago it just didn’t seem comparable.
One afternoon we found a gorgeous pub called The Paddington, it was an English themed pub and had a ‘This is Anfield’ sign above the door as you go in, except saying ‘this is Padfield’.. being BIG Liverpool FC fans we had to go in. We had a gorgeous, refreshing pint and then ordered food too.
I went for a burger and it was delish! Highly recommend this place, it was off the beaten track and kind of hidden away, we stumbled across it accidently but it was lovely for a little taste of home.
One of our last adventures in NZ was a boat ride over too to an island paradise called Waiheke, our friends had told us we had to go and the day we had did not disappoint. With regular ferries departing from Auckland city everyday its and easy accessible adventure. From world class vineyards to ziplining and snorkelling, Waiheke has something for everyone, being my last full day in this country I wanted to explore the beaches and have one last dip in the sea. The beaches we went to were just stunning, smooth soft sand and blue sea just kissing the shore, it was calm and beautiful, a real special find.
I found a tree swing on the beach and spent hours seeing how high I could swing, I’d spend all day on a swing in my garden as a kid. Oneroa bay was stunning and gorgeous for a dip in the South Pacific, Palm beach and Onetangi beach were also equally as stunning and perfect for a gorgeous beach day.
New Zealand was such an exciting and stunning place to visit, at times it reminded me a lot of home with all the green hills and sheep but then I’d pinch myself and say ‘you’re on the other side of the world’, there are so many adventures to be had in that beautiful country.
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