By: Rosette Obedoza
Part I: 4 Days in Sydney, Australia
How to explore Sydney and things to remember before you go:
BEFORE you leave, check your passport’s validity -it must be valid for at least 6 months. Apply for your Australian visa or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), guidance - https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Australia.html . Apply for your ETA on line at https://www.eta.immi.gov.au/ETAS3/etas --cost AUD $20 per person.
There is no better way to explore Sydney than on foot, these are the 3 best walking tours of Sydney:
Tour 1 - Circular Quay to Hyde Park
Sydney Opera House , Royal Botanic Garden, Government House, Mrs Macquarrie’s Chair, Art Gallery of NSW, Hyde Park Barracks, St Mary’s Cathedral, Australian Museum, Hyde Park and Anzac Memorial
Tour 2 - Hyde Park to Darling Harbour
Sydney Tower Eye, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney Town Hall, Chinatown, Chinese Garden of Friendship, Powerhouse Museum, Australian National Maritime Museum, Wildlife Sydney Zoo, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium and Madame Tussauds Sydney
Tour 3 - The Rocks to Walsh Bay
Customs House, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), The Rocks Discovery Museum, Pylon Lookout, Dawes Point “Tar-ra Park”, Sydney Theater Company & Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Observatory
Resources for planning:
www.sydney.com and visitnsw.com
Hop On/ Hop Off Bus - the australianexplorer.com.au
Is UBER readily available? YES
Top 3 Brunch Spots when in Sydney: (1) About Life at aboutlife.com.au (2) The Boathouse at Balmoral Beach at theboathousebb.com.au (3) Bills (Bondi Beach) at bills.com.au
Tipping? Tipping in Sydney is not compulsory . However, if you’re happy with the service, 10% is acceptable.
Get the wiggles out for the kiddos - we love Darling Harbour Children’s Park which is super close to our hotel and we walked around the area! They have cafes and restaurants close by so you can grab a cuppa and let the kiddos enjoy, https://www.darlingharbour.com/things-to-do/darling-harbour-childrens-playground/
Where to stay? We stayed atNovotel Sydney Darling Square (formerly Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour)17 Little Pier Street, Sydney NSW 2000Darling Harbour https://www.darlingharbour.com/things-to-do/ is a good base for us, we did not rent a car but used Uber to go around and it worked perfectly well.Part II: Camper Van Road Trip (10 days) from South Island to North Island, New Zealand
Kia Ora to the land of the long white cloud! If you want to understand what makes New Zealand tick, hop on a camper van and immerse yourself to its beauty.
From Christ Church, New Zealand
Upon arrival at Christ Church airport, our shuttle (courtesy of Britz) took us Britz Christchurch Branch- 159 Orchard Rd, Christchurch Airport Phone: +64 3357-5610, we picked up our Sprinter and we are on our own!
Cost of camper van rental (10 days): $2,833.56
(1) SIGHTSEE in CHRISTCHURCH: Christchurch is one of the identified South Island campervan pick-up points and I recommend spending a day here to check out the great food, shopping and wonderful sights. Don’t miss the International Antarctic Centre where you can see the penguins, Orana Wildlife Park, Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Christchurch Arts Centre, Church of St Michael and All Angels, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and Canterbury Museum.
City Walking Route - (1) Botanic Gardens (2) Arts Precinct, Arts Center, Art Gallery (3) Re: Start Mall (4) Cathedral Square (5) Cathedral Junction (6) New Regent Street (7)Margaret Mahy Playground (8) Cardboard Cathedral (9)Poplar Lane
Trivia for yeah - Christchurch is the oldest city in NZ. In 2010/2011, the city was hit by a series of seismic activities.
Overnight at Mt Somers Holiday Park - to hike Mt Sunday aka EDORAS - reaching the summit is amazing and what a great view! http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/canterbury/places/hakatere-conservation-park/things-to-do/tracks/mount-sunday-track/
Mount Sunday: The capital of Rohan and home to Meduseld, the hall of King Theoden.
Hakatere Conservation Park
Access to Edoras: Hakatere Potts Rd, walk up Mount Sunday
(2) KAIKOURA - provides an unforgettable location to enjoy NZ’s eco-tourism : Whale watch, www.whalewatch.co.nz ; Kayak www.kaikourakayaks.nz, make sure to stop by the Kaikoura Sea Colony and walk - https://www.freewalks.nz/south-island-walking-tracks/kaikoura-coast-seal-colony-walk/track
Watch out for these side of the road eats as quick pit stops -
Nin’s Bin, https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g255374-d1978588-Reviews-Nin_s_Bin-Kaikoura_Canterbury_Region_South_Island.html
Kaikoura Seafood and BBQ, https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g255374-d2083994-r467742924-Kaikoura_Seafood_BBQ-Kaikoura_Canterbury_Region_South_Island.html
(3) PICTON - is a village with 1/5 of NZ’s entire coastline stretching out from its natural harbor, www.visitpicton.co.nz
Travelling between the North and South Islands of New Zealand means crossing the Cook Strait. The only way to do this with a vehicle is by taking a ferry with either the Interislander or Bluebridge which both arrive and depart from Picton and Wellington.
The Cook Strait crossing (Raukawa Moana in Māori) is the connection between the Tasman Sea on the West, the South Pacific Ocean on the East and the North and South Islands of Aotearoa.
Considered one of New Zealand’s most iconic tourist experiences, and one of the most spectacular ferry crossings in the world, crossing the Cook Strait is a top to-do on many travellers bucket list. As with many stunning vistas though, the Cook Strait is also considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable pieces of aquatic paradise around.
The Strait often experiences rough water and heavy swells from strong winds, especially from the South. New Zealand’s position is directly athwart the roaring forties, meaning the Strait funnels westerly winds and deflects them into northerlies, further aggravating wave heights. This, combined with the tides from the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean being out of phase with each other, creates a challenge for anyone operating a work-boat in the region.
DO NOT FORGET to grab your treats while on the ferry from the Picton Village Bakery, https://www.facebook.com/PictonVillageBakery/ --thank me for it later :-)
Cost: 2 adults + 1 child (5 yrs old) + 1 camper van = $398.00
Eco World Aquarium for the kiddos - touch a living fossil (Tuatara)! at www.ecoworldnz.com
Yay! You have explored the south island and crossed the famous Cook’s Strait. Now off we go to the North Island delights.
(1) WELLINGTON - craft beer + city central + a visit to Te Papa (New Zealand’s National Museum) + Weta Workshop . For a walking tour: www.walkwellington.org.nz - this should be your first experience of this wonderful city to familiarize yourself on what to do and where to eat.
Trivia for yeah: Wellington is famous for its coffee culture and known as the “coolest little capital in the world”
(2) TAUPO - there is only one site that I will recommend you to stop, relax,indulge, and spend the night --yep, I spent my birthday here -- Waikite Valley Thermal Pools! Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit, flip flops and towels! Go to www.hotpools.co.nz, by chance we were able to grab the LAST camping spot for our camper van for this place (so lucky!)
Adrenalin junky? Yes, Taupo Bungy, www.taupobungy.co.nz
(3) ROTORUA - set amongst lakes, forest, and volcanic peaks, Rotorua is the grand daddy of NZ tourism--which is why we concentrated most of our activities here :-)
Rainbow Springs - www.rainbowsprings.co.nz
Zorbing - Did you know that Rotorua is the FIRST official Zorbing site in the world? Zorbing? Check it out www.zorb.com/world/rotorua
Skyline - www.skyline.co.nz/rotorua
Redwoods Tree Walk - (our fave!) www.treewalk.co.nz
Kawaru Jet - one of our most fun rides at Lake Rotorua, https://www.nzjetboat.co.nz
Spend a day at Te Puia - Maori culture + geothermal wonder + famous Pohotu geyser, www.tepuia.com
*you may also want to visit Whakarewarewa: The Living Maori Village, www.whakewarewa.com, Tamaki Maori Village, www.tamakimaorivillage.co.nz, or Ohinemutu
Spa? why yes...www.polynesianspa.co.nz -- a much needed pampering after spending a few days roughin’ it in a camper van
(4) WAIKATO - discover the eerie subterranean world of caverns, grottoes,then explore craggy coastlines, peaceful pastures and gorgeous gardens.
Checkout the famous limestone cave system and the glow worm caves - www.waitomo.com
You are getting closer to Middle Earth - adjacent to Waikato is the Matamata/Piako district where fans of LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit can tour the Hobbiton Movie Set.
(5) Matamata- an unexpected journey to Middle Earth
Book your visit at www.hobbitontours.com and step into the hobbit’s world. Package trips? Book a combination of tours at www. themiddle-earthtrilogy.com
(5) AUCKLAND - aaaah, end of our journey! As any city, a walking tour is great to orient yourself of what the see can offer to you.
To see, expl0re and do:
Auckland Museum - www.aucklandmuseum.com
Getting around is faster, easier and cheaper with HOP, www.myhop.co.nz
Skywalk - www.skywalk.co.nz
Culture? Auckland Art Gallery and The Auckland War Memorial Museum are top spots
Family Friendly Attractions: Sky Tower, www.skytower.co.nz ; Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, www.kellytarltons.co.nz; Auckland Zoo, www.aucklandzoo.co.nz; Motat, www.motat.org.nz; Rainbow’s End, www.rainbowsend.co.nz; and Butterfly Creek, www.butterflycreek.co.nz
Returned the camper van at the Britz Auckland branch - 36 Richards Pearse Drive Mangere, Auckland. Checked in at Ibis Budget Auckland Airport, https://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-7865-ibis-budget-auckland-airport/index.shtml - tiny room but good enough for one night. There is a nearby strip mall for restaurants and cafe. A shuttle to the airport (very close!) is available, perfect for a super early AM flight out.
A few things or trip notes (wisdom gained from the trip):
*When is a good time to go? Spring offers a snapshot of NZ’s stunning diverse landscape. Match it with milder temperatures, longer days, and less crowded landscapes. September - November is ideal (we went mid October)
*Reserve as early as you can your camper van. Choices - Maui, Britz, Mighty Campers, search for the one that fits the size and other requirements you have.
For Britz, we used - www.britz.co.nz/
* Decide whether you wish to go far south as Queenstown or start at Christchurch, we opted for the latter because we only have 10/11 days.
*Map out your stops for the holiday parks. Download Rankers to identify your camping locations - https://www.rankers.co.nz/about/official-camping-nz-app
*Take with you basic necessities as if going camping, first aid kit is a must!
*Decide whether you will rough it out all the way (no Air BnB’s or hotels) or you will do a combination of. This way, you can map out the holiday parks where you will stop at AND/OR Air B N B locations.
*Tipping is not expected for regular service but if you wish to extend your gratitude for something above and beyond, 15% is ideal.
We opted to stay at the gated community of Nusa Dua in Bali and chose Sofitel to accrue Accorhotel points.
Total cost for 8 days: $1,260.21
The hotel has a Kid’s Club so it was perfect if you wish to spend some quiet beach time, spa date with hubby or explore the nearby areas. There is a corresponding fee.
Treat yourself and your hubby for a day of massage and facial at So Spa at the Sofitel :-)
Local Eats We Enjoyed - say Hi! (for me) to the staff when you go and visit them!
Coffee and breakfast - Secret Cafe, https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g297698-d7084197-Reviews-Secret_Cafe-Nusa_Dua_Nusa_Dua_Peninsula_Bali.html
Local ‘hole in the wall’ restaurant or warung - Warung Bule and Susy , https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g297698-d3802947-Reviews-Warung_Bule_Susy-Nusa_Dua_Nusa_Dua_Peninsula_Bali.html
For a sunset view with seafood dinner must be booked at Jimbaran Beach --there are a few restaurants to choose from but we went to Menega Cafe and enjoyed our last dinner on the island - https://www.menega.com/
What to do at Nusa Dua? Here are resources and ideas -
Of course, when in Bali...aside from visiting various temples and shopping, a trip to UBUD is in order -
We went for the Quad Tour for a day trip in Ubud, you can check out www.baliquad.com or www.pertiwiquadadventure.com. They picked us up from Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua and brought us back after the day trip. A lunch buffet is included. If doing this trip--you will get dirty, muddy -- bring a backpack with change of clothes -a clean, shower area with fresh towels are available.
All the things helpful as travel trips before heading to Bali, we made sure we took note of are here, have a browse at: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/bali/travel-tips-and-articles/essential-bali-travel-tips-what-to-know-before-you-go/40625c8c-8a11-5710-a052-1479d277522a
We decided not to jam pack our Bali leg of the trip, we wanted to enjoy the beach, spa, and the seafood --all affordable (waaaaay more affordable) than Australia and NZ. Bali was meant for us to decompress and prepare to head back to Bahrain. Overall, our family trip ended on an excellent note.
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