Tag archive for "queenstown"

Celebrating one year in New Zealand

Blog, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

Celebrating one year in New Zealand

13 Comments 09 July 2012

A year ago today, Ric and I arrived in New Zealand, which means tomorrow will mark a new achievement in my travels-spending more than one full year in a foreign country.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for so long and that I’m still hanging around here for a few more months, but it just feels right.

Whenever I meet locals from the country I’m traveling, one of the first questions they ask is, “Do you ever get home sick?”. Almost always, my answer is “Yes”. But there is something different about New Zealand. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been here for so long or the fact that I’ve spent my entire time here with a partner, but for some reason, I feel at home in New Zealand.

Which is quite weird considering this country gave me the coldest welcoming of all the countries I’ve visited in the past two and a half years.

Prior to arriving in New Zealand last July, I was traveling on my own rendition of The Endless Summer. It started in Sydney in January of 2010, which is where I first started my current journey. It continued in the farms of Victoria for a few months and after that I worked my way up the east coast, pretty much following the heat. When Winter hit Australia, I found warmth in the tropics of Far North Queensland. And when it became a bit too hot there, I headed back to Melbourne for another Aussie Summer.

Next was SE Asia where it’s always warm and finally the good ol’ US of A in the Summer of 2011, which is one of the hottest Summers I’ve ever felt at home. But my summer was cut short when, as I mentioned above, I headed to NZ in July of last year, first stop-Queenstown.

The snow must have just been waiting for Ric and I too. Prior to our arrival, Queenstown was having a bit of a “drought”. The heavy ski destination was missing it’s number one ingredient to a good season. But the night we arrived, it came in full blast.

Nothing like waking up to snow in Queenstown. This shot was taken from our hotel room the day after we arrived in New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I remember waking up at 4 a.m., jet-lagged, and Ric saying, “This is the first time I’ve had to put on all my clothes to go out for a fag in a year and a half.”

We weren’t in Australia anymore. 

But we wouldn’t stay in Queenstown for long, rumor of lack of jobs and friends’ calling up north led us to Blenheim. It’s not the most happening town, but we were in good company. We spent about a month there, then headed to Wellington, where we would make our first home in the country. We had a rough few nights in the country’s capital city to start, but came to love it and stuck around for about five months, the longest Ric or I have spent anywhere since we started traveling.

It was nice to have a home of sorts, but being the constant travelers we are, we had to hit the road eventually. In January we embarked on a six week trip around both islands. After that, I really understood why the people who have traveled NZ, go on about it so much.

Flat out, this is the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. From kayaking Abel Tasman to hiking Franz Josef Glacier, camping out in Haast to living it up in Queenstown, it’s just a spectacular place to visit.

Ric and I spent two weeks traveling the South Island with my Dad, two weeks catching up with friends around the country and two more weeks with Ric’s family in Mount Maunganui, then it was time to build another home. And I think we’ve built our best one yet.

We’ve been living in the Mount for five months now and plan to spend another two here. During that time we’ve lived with some great housemates, Ric found an amazing job at a cafe and I…well I’ve worked with one of the country’s biggest icons: kiwifruit. It’s not always been an easy industry to work in, in fact working in agriculture is quite tedious, but the work has allowed me to stay here for more than a year.

US citizens are granted a three month extension on their work holiday visas after completing three months of agricultural work in New Zealand.

I started my work in March and was granted my extension, actually on the spot, in late June. I can’t describe just how relieved I felt that day. Traveling for as long as I have, it’s not all a holiday. Money is a constant worry as is trying to stay with a partner from a different country. In fact, one of the things that drew Ric and I to New Zealand is the fact that we were both eligible for working holiday visas here. So being granted those extra few months here, just put everything in order for me.

While we don’t plan to stick around here for too much longer, Thailand in September-Yesss!!!, we would like to return. How, you ask? Stay tuned. My mission has always been to stay on the road for as long as possible and I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve to help me do that.

But today, I’m going to celebrate a year in New Zealand, two and half years traveling and almost two years with my favorite travel partner and best friend.

Home is wherever I’m with you-bad’un.

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A video tour of New Zealand’s South Island

Destinations, New Zealand, New Zealand, Road Trip

A video tour of New Zealand’s South Island

6 Comments 30 April 2012

It’s not possible to take just a few photos in New Zealand’s South Island. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to take thousands.

Considering my track record with taking too many photos (600 in Angkor Wat, yikes), I thought maybe I would try recording my travels around the South Island on video instead of photos. That way I could get every view, every moment, every glorious mountain or lake on record.

This is really my first attempt at vlogging a trip, so be kind. I separated this series into four parts. Ric, my dad and I started our 10-day journey around the South Island from Wellington and ended in Queenstown. Our car Maximus was a reliable carrier. It was nice to have private transportation in this trip, because we could stop at as many waterfalls, gorges and lookouts as we wanted and trust me, we did.

Part I: Wellington to Abel Tasman

We started our journey in Wellington as that has been my hometown for the previous five months. From Wellington, it’s a three-hour ferry ride across the Cook Strait to Picton on the South Island.

We didn’t spend long in Picton, just enough time to have fish and chips along the water and spot a ray in the water. We traveled to Blenheim to visit a friend at Moa Brewery, then headed to Nelson where we set up our tents just off the beach at Tahuna Beach Holiday Park.

After only one night, we left early the next morning for Abel Tasman, stopping along the way for my dad’s first skydive. The start of the trip was a bit of a rush, so we spent two days relaxing, kayaking and eating burgers in Abel Tasman.

Part II: Abel Tasman to Hokitika Gorge

The next leg of our trip was more about the journey then the destination. We spent this day and a half mainly on the road, which you’ll find is a good thing when traveling New Zealand.

We had a picnic on the beach as soon as we hit the West Coast in Charleston. We played around at a sweet cave on the beach not too much further up the road. Of course we stopped in Punakaiki to see Pancake Rocks. Then we spent a night in Greymouth at Noah’s Ark, one of the very best hostels I’ve ever visited. Greymouth is home to Monteith’s Brewery. Naturally we sampled the beer.

The first half of the following day was all about hitting Hokitika Gorge on the way to Franz Josef. I’ve never seen water that color blue. Stunning.

Part III: Hokitika Gorge to Queenstown

Unlike the last part, this part was all about the destinations. We hit some of New Zealand’s most notables in these days. First was Franz Josef where we climbed a glacier. Next was Haast where we tried white bait. After there was Wanaka where we sampled wine at Rippon Vineyard.

Finally we reached Queenstown, where we gave up our tents for a sweet apartment. In the country’s ski capital we had an amazing meal at The Bunker, which has a mysterious James Bond vibe to it. A few days isn’t enough in Queenstown. Luckily, we’d be coming back.

Part IV: Queenstown to Milford Sound

There’s no better way to finish a trip to the South Island than with what is perhaps its most stunning scenery, Milford Sound.

While Queenstown and Milford Sound are not that far from each other on a map, the only road connecting these two destinations goes completely out of the way, so the drive takes about four hours. It’s a great dive though, as usual.

We arrived in Milford Sound, rain pouring and waterfalls gushing. The small town doesn’t have many places to stay, so Milford Sound Lodge was an easy pick. The lodge is warm and full of life. Its dining area is walled with windows, so we spent the night drinking wine and watching the rain come down on the mountains just next to the lodge.

While I loved being in Milford Sound in the stormy weather and seeing how powerful the place is, I didn’t really want to cruise Milford Sound in rain the next day. Luckily, the clouds separated and the sun came out giving us a gorgeous day at sea. Unfortunately we had to leave early that day to drive back to Queenstown where Ric and I said goodbye to my dad at the airport.

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Cruising Milford Sound, a photo tour

Destinations, New Zealand, Other, Photography

Cruising Milford Sound, a photo tour

5 Comments 08 March 2012

Calling Milford Sound the most spectacular sight in New Zealand is a pretty bold statement.

Have you seen New Zealand?

It’s quite possibly the most gorgeous country on earth. Everywhere you look is amazing.

But for me, Milford Sound was the climax of our two week scenic tour of the South Island.

Located in the mountainous Fiordland, Milford Sound is a fiord located 15-kilometers from the Tasman Sea. It’s jaw-dropping from land, but the best way to experience it is by boat.

Several cruise operators offer Milford Sound tours, including overnight, morning, and afternoon tours. Prices range, but I found Jucy Cruize to be the most affordable option.

Starting at $65, the 90-minute tours leads its passengers from the Milford Sound Visitor Center and Boat Harbour to Dale Point, which is where Milford Sound opens to the Tasman Sea, and back. Along the way a guide will point out some of the most well-known sights, including Stirling Falls, Seal Rock and Mt. Pembroke.

The cruise felt just right on all levels. Jucy’s boat is smaller than other boats docked in the harbor, but they don’t cram it with people, allowing passengers to move around freely. The length of the tour was enough so that passengers really saw Milford Sound, but could spend the rest of the day exploring the area on foot or driving to their next destination. Most important, the price is unbeatable for backpackers.

Further, the staff was really friendly and they offer free tea, coffee and hot chocolate. We spent a night in Milford Sound staying at Milford Lodge, but for people who can only visit for one day, Jucy sells a cruise trip and return coach journey from Queenstown package starting at $159 for adults. Altogether, Jucy Cruize was a really informative and affordable way to see Milford Sound. Here are some highlights from our trip.

A classic Milford Sound shot with Mitre Peak in the background. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The white-tipped mountain in the back is Mt. Pembroke, the tallest mountain to look down on the fiord. It’s glacier is over one million years old. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Stirling Falls from a distance, the magnificent waterfall drops 146 meters. This photo was taken at about 10 a.m., so the waterfall is shadowed by surrounding mountains. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Clouds surround the mountains in Milford Sound. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon


Speckled with forestry, rocky mountains surround the fiord are quite steep. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon


Fairy Falls drops straight into the fiord. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The view from Dale Point on the way back on our cruise. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

When the black waters in this fiord are still, they mirror the mountains above. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon


New Zealand fur seals scattered all over Seal Rock. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Our cruise backed right up to Stirling Falls. Everyone with nice cameras were running for cover. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Thanks to Jucy Cruize for sponsoring my ten day South Island adventure. As always, all opinions are my own.

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A video montage of South Island scenery

Destinations, New Zealand, New Zealand, Road Trip

A video montage of South Island scenery

8 Comments 29 January 2012

While New Zealand may be known for its extreme sports, sheep and friendly people, it’s the country’s scenery that dominates anyone’s travels here. We spent ten days traveling the country’s South Island from Picton to Milford Sound constantly saying,”Look at that!” or “Wow that’s beautiful!”. Ric said after three days, “You really run out of superlatives for this place.”

He couldn’t have been more right. 

Driving this great country is truly incredible. Every turn presents a new landscape and every bend a sight more breathtaking than the last. We traveled about 2,000 kilometers up, down and through mountains, beside vineyards and crystal clear lakes.

Our general route of the South Island on Google Maps.

No picture or video will ever do this country justice, but hopefully this montage of our drive across the South Island will help people realize why I can so easily declare that New Zealand is by far the most beautiful country I’ve ever traveled.

Thanks to Interislander and Jucy Cruize for sponsoring my ten day South Island adventure. As always, all opinions are my own.

Banner photo taken by Bobbi Lee Hitchon near Milford Sound.

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Sound to Sound fact 10: Nevis bungy

Destinations, New Zealand, Other, Tips & Facts

Sound to Sound fact 10: Nevis bungy

3 Comments 08 January 2012

AJ Hackett’s Nevis bungy jump is New Zealand’s highest and one of the highest bungy jumps in the world. Dare devils jump from a small cart suspended on high wire above the Nevis River.

To access the Queenstown jump location, people are taken on a 4-wheel adventure with the famed bungy company. Consider this slight bit of adventure preparation for a 134m/440ft jump, an 8.5-second free fall.

Banner photo courtesy of Adventurestoday.org.

This is part of Heels and Wheels’ countdown to the South Island. Come back tomorrow to find more interesting facts about New Zealand’s South Island. 

Come back tomorrow to find out another South Island fact for day 9 of our countdown.

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Countdown until my dad arrives: one month

Destinations, New Zealand

Countdown until my dad arrives: one month

4 Comments 19 December 2011

Most people only have a short holiday, one to two weeks, at the end of which they return home to family and friends. But when you’re traveling for years on end, it’s family and friends who start coming out to you.

That’s one of my absolute favorite aspects of living in a new country. Not only do I get to experience a new place and culture for myself, but I also get to share everything I’ve learned with someone special from home.

It’s been a Hitchon family tradition since 2007 for my dad to come out to visit me. He’s visited me in London, where I walked him until his feet were about to fall off. He visited in Fiji, which was a new adventure for both of us. He visited me in Australia, where we drove the Great Ocean Road. Now he’s coming to New Zealand. 

Milford Sounds. Photo courtesy of BugBog.com

As usual, I’ve gone completely overboard with the planning of his trip. On my own travels, I plan very little and just go with the flow, but when I’m showing off a country to someone as special to me as my father, I make sure that person sees absolutely everything in the time he or she has, without a second of relaxation.

But this year, I’ve outdone myself. 

Oh yes, I think I’ve created one of the most INTENSE ten-day tours of the South Island. I will have my dad jumping out of planes, climbing glaciers, camping and maybe even bungy jumping. I won’t hold him to that last item mentioned, but everything else has been booked and promised.

Here are some of the activities we’ll be taking part in.

While in Wellington:

Ten Days of the South Island:

  • Marlborough Sounds
  • A day or so in Nelson
  • Tour a Nelson brewery, such as Lighthouse Brewery or Founders
  • Skydive Abel Tasman
  • Kayak, camp and tramp in Abel Tasman
  • Nelson Saturday Markets
  • Pancake Rocks
  • Hokitika Gorge
  • Tour Franz Josef Glacier/hot pools
  • A night in Haast
  • Explore Mount Aspiring National Park
  • A few days in Queenstown
  • Nevis Bungy Jump
  • Queenstown gondola
  • Visit Fiordland National Park
  • Milford Sounds 

I think I fit a lot into our tour, but I’m eager to hear about more activities. Is there anything I forgot that previous South Island travelers would recommend?

Thanks to Interislander and Jucy Cruize for sponsoring my ten day South Island adventure. As always, all opinions are my own.

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