A Walk with the birds at Zealandia

It is a perfect winter’s day.

A day where the air is cool and crisp, the sky is blue as far as the eye can see and there is not a breath of wind.

Today I am off to Zealandia. A 225 hector, fully fenced sanctuary that’s home to a variety of native birds, reptiles and plants.

Within minutes of arriving, there are 2 things I become very aware of. The first being the stillness and silence. Not silence from noise altogether, the birds are rather loud. I am talking about silence from man made and city noises. There is something very energizing about being surrounded only by sounds of nature.

I am also aware of the variety of bird song I can hear. I have been in the bush many times where the birds are chattering away, but this is different. Being in the sanctuary, the variety of birds singing is awesome and the melody they produce together is wonderful.

Is this what it was like for our ancestors who first arrived to the shores of New Zealand? What a magical, untouched place it must have been.

Our walk begins along the lake. The water is so still and flat, creating some awesome mirror effects.

At the wetlands, we see a small group of shags. One is nesting, another is drying its wings in the sun.

I have put the zoom lens on my camera today. I am hoping to get some great bird shots. While taking photos of the shags, I notice how my zoom lens is dwarfed by the lenses on the camera’s next to me. I feel a bit embarrassed. One of the guys next to me joking tells me I will need to get a bit closer. (Any closer and I would be in the water!)

I am on this walk with Daniel today. He always likes to take the hardest, steepest routes. So up we go. He wants to see the upper dam. I am huffing and puffing away, but on the plus side, not as many people take these routes, so the peacefulness of the forest comes with us. When we reach the dam, we are rewarded with views across the canopy.

We see a number of different birds including piwakawaka (fantail), tieke (saddleback) and toutouwai (North Island robin) all or which were so hard to photograph, they move so quickly. This is the only photo I got that wasn’t just a big blur.

I did manage to get some good shots of the Kaka though (actually, Daniel did). A large brown parrot with orange under it’s wings. We saw several of these, they were quite easy to spot due to their size and the amount of noise they make hopping from branch to branch and gnawing on bark.

Next time I will be sure to check out the Tuatara Research Area. On warm sunny days you may see one basking on a rock, catching some rays. These ‘living fossil’ are relative of the dinosaurs and pretty unique looking.

Zealandia is a a nature lovers paradise. There is so much to explore, to see and to hear. I am grateful for places like this that allow us to get a glimpse of what untouched New Zealand might have been like.

There are many walks and routes you can take here. We only really scratched the surface of it, but even then, were rewarded with some beautiful forests and lots of birds.

Zealandia is currently free until the end of June. If you are local, I highly recommend checking it out. There is also a special on their year’s membership pass at the moment. For $50, I couldn’t resist.

Have you been to Zealandia before?

The Bucket List

2020 started over 5 months ago, but in someways it feels like it is just beginning. As with all new starts, its time to start dreaming (and planning) those adventures that will leave you with lifetime memories.

Not sure where to start? I thought I would share my top 5 New Zealand bucket list items. (In no particular order)

Doubtful Sounds Overnight Cruise

I have been fortunate enough to have done an overnight cruise in Milford Sounds. To this day, it remains one of the most magical and memorable travel experiences I have ever had.

There is something about the fiords that makes you marvel at creation. They make you feel so small, in a good way, where you are reminded of just how awesome mother nature is. Combine that with the stillness and silence of the place and your are in for a real treat.

Doubtful Sounds is less visited by tourists, much larger and very quiet. I want to kayak next to huge fiords again, count shooting stars at night and watch the sun rise in the sounds.

Who could imagine anything better?

Star Gazing in a Dark Sky Reserve

I have always had a fascination with stars. They are so mysterious and magical. We live in a world with so much light pollution that our night sky is very different to what our ancestors would have looked upon. Fortunately there are still areas in the world where the magic of the milky way and shooting stars that make you gasp can be seen.

New Zealand has 2 official dark sky reserves, including the world’s biggest – the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in Canterbury. At Lake Tekapo you will find Mt. John Observatory where you can partake in a variety of star gazing experiences (currently closed due to Covid-19).

The star gazing experience that’s on my bucket list though is Lake Tekapo’s Soak in the Stars experience at Tekapo Springs. Imagine floating in a natural hot pool, gazing up at the milky way. I am sure it would leave me breathless.

Stewart Island

Following on from my fascination with stars and the night sky, I would love to see the Aurora Polaris. I am sure many of you have heard of the Northern lights, but you don’t have to head all the way to Alaska or Scandinavia. The Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights, can be seen from parts of New Zealand, including Stewart Island. I don’t know about you, but for me, all those colours dancing about in the sky and witnessing this natural phenomena is most definitely a bucket list item.

Stewart Island is 80% national park, making it an excellent place for bush walks and seeing some of our native wildlife including the kiwi. I can’t wait for the opportunity to explore this place.

Swim with Dolphins

This experience has been on my bucket list for the last few years. I have made 2 attempts at this so far. The first one I had lined up was in Tauranga but I had to cancel that last minute as my husband had a small motorbike accident a week before we were due to depart. I then made a second attempt earlier in the year on our south island trip, you can read about that here and here.

As with any wild animal encounter, there is always an element of chance and luck. This is part of what makes the occurrence so special. On this trip, we didn’t get to swim with dolphins, but we did get to observe the little, rare Hector’s dolphin in it’s natural habitat which was pretty special.

I am not sure when, but I will definitely be making another stop at E-Ko Tours in Picton for another chance at swimming with dolphins. I really love the care and commitment this company has for protecting our environment.

Multi Day Able Tasman Kayak

In 2000 I tramped Able Tasman on a school trip. I then went straight onto a family holiday in Rarotonga. I remember thinking that the beaches at Able Tasman were more amazing. And that’s saying something because the beaches in Raro are beautiful.

In 2012, I did a half day Able Tasman Kayak with my husband. Clear water, blue sunny skies and stunning beaches. I can’t get enough. I have my eye on this 5 day kayak trip with Able Tasman Kayaks. Bring it on!

What’s on your bucket list?

Te Awa Kairangi – a walk along Hutt River

It has been so long since I have been here.

Months in fact.

I want to spend some time exploring places closer to home and to try and see the places as a tourist does. When you see a place over and over again, you can miss the beauty amongst the familiar. I had forgotten how beautiful Te Awa Kairangi is.

Stretching from the Southern Tararua ranges out to Wellington Harbour at Petone, you can walk beside it’s river bank for miles.

I am out with my dogs, Frank and Ed who are having an excellent time. There are so many exciting things for them to sniff. Unfortunately there is a toxic algae that grows in the water during the summer months which is deadly to dogs, so I always avoid the place from November through to April.

Frank and Ed are a bit like toddlers. They are curious and love exploring the world by putting everything in their mouths, so it’s just not worth the risk to take them here in the warmer months.

Its an easy flat walk and I often find I’ll walk to an hour without even realising it, forgetting that this also means and hour walk home! Along the edge of the river bank is the off lead dog walking area, up above is a sealed pavement that makes it a popular route for cyclists. There are also may spots perfect for an afternoon picnic in the sun.

It’s autumn now. The day is still, the river is like a mirror and the trees are a display of autumnal colours. We see lots of bird life, from seagulls and ducks to black swans, pukeko and kereru. Also monarch butterflies. We are so close to the city, but nature abounds.

If I were a tourist, I would think this place was pretty beautiful. As a local (it’s a 5 minute drive from my house) I think I take it for granted sometimes.

What’s on your back doorstep that you have maybe taken for granted?

Our Backyard

Exactly one year ago today, I was in Italy.

In Tuscany, to be more precise. Exploring hill top towns, indulging in gorgeous food and enjoying the simple things in life.

How different the world of travel looks now. Over the last few months we have watched the impact of Covid 19, seen it spread it’s way around the world, literary putting whole countries into lockdown.

With international travel looking like it will be off the cards for sometime, I am really hoping that Kiwi’s will use this as an opportunity to explore their backyard.

An adventure holiday, a relaxing holiday, a nature holiday, a gastronomic holiday; mountains, lakes, glaciers, beaches, caves, forests. Whatever type of holiday or experiance you are looking for, you will find it right here in Aotearoa.

As New Zealanders, we are so lucky. We live in such a diverse, beautiful land. People travel thousands of miles to see this place and we have it right here on our doorstep.

There has never been a better time to explore your back yard.

With the impacts of lockdown, I have begun to see incredible deals popping up around the country and already have 2 trips locked in.

In July, my husband and I celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. We are heading to Queenstown, staying at a beautiful boutique hotel that looks out over the shotover river. I got it at an incredible price of $110 per night. Check out Nugget Point Hotel Queenstown for some awesome deals.

In September we are ticking of a bucket list item, that, to be honest, I never really thought we would do. When I saw that Wharekauhau in the Wairarapa were having a ‘back you backyard’ special, I couldn’t help but book it.

There are so many awesome experiences out there to be had.

Where are you heading to next?

Leave me a comment below. I would love to know what part of the Long White Cloud you are planing to explore next.

Wine tasting with Frankly Tours

We wake in Waipataki and walk a few minutes down to the beach. A small golden sandy bay, enclosed by rugged looking hills, a world away from the city. The waves are big and the tides are strong. I wouldn’t recommend swimming here unless you are a confident swimmer. I’m not, but can manage a paddle in the surprisingly warm water. The morning colours are starting to appear through the clouds. This beautiful little place is still and peaceful.

I wish I could stay longer. However, our wine tasting tour is calling.

Hawake’s Bay is the oldest wine region in New Zealand and the second largest. Today, we are joining Frankly Tours  to help guide us in our wine tasting experience.

At first I was disappointed to learn that the owner, Frank, would not be our tour guide. Frank has many excellent reviews! I need not have worried though, Mark was an excellent host. Friendly and knowledgeable, we were in great hands.

We visit 4 quite different vineyards, the first being the oh so grand and elegant Mission Estate. (Mission estate is another winery that holds concerts amongst the vines.)

Established in 1851, it is New Zealand’s oldest winery. The building exudes elegance. A grandiose colonial styled building with a tree lined driveway, central water fountain and a foliage engulfed porch to welcome you in.

We try 6 wines here while a Mission Estate host shares his knowledge of wine making with us. I learn that pinot grapes grow really well in Otago but not in Hawkes Bay. This is because the pinot grapes have very thin skin and cannot manage with the heat Hawkes bay gets. I also learn that Shiraz and Syrah are made from the same type of grapes.

We then move onto Moana Park, a small boutique winery producing 100% plant based wines. We wine taste, alfresco style, under walnut trees, while snacking on fresh bread, olive oil and homemade dukkah. My favourite wine was from here. A 2019 sauvignon blanc. I’m not normally a fan of sauvignon, but this one was delicious. I wish I had bought more than just one bottle. Small places like this can sell out fast. My advise – if you like it, buy it. You might not get another chance!

After a scenic drive through the country side, we arrive at Oak Estate Wines It is run by and Austrian couple and their wines have a European taste to them. The land in this area was no good for growing crops or raising stock, but it was discovered to be the perfect place for growing grape vines. A platter of delectable treats was included with this wine tasting. The burnt butter mousse was outstanding.

Back into the van and onto the next place. I am quite please we are such a small tour group today (just the 4 of us and our driver Mark) it means there is lots of room on the back seats for our quickly growing collection of wines!

We arrive at Unison Vineyard, our 4th stop and by now I am struggling to walk in a straight line. I have tasted so many wines! We are each asked what type of wines we like and our host tailors the tastings for each of us. We are told a bit about the technicalities of corking wine, but to be honest, I am far too happy to take any of it in.

I leave Unison Vineyard with a few more bottles of wine feeling very merry. We have one last stop – Roosters Brewery . I am not a fan of beer, so opt to have a cider instead. Daniel gets the beer tasting paddle. I am not sure how he managed it, they were very generous servings. Paired with some hot chips; it was a great way to finish off the tour.

Hawkes Bay produces some excellent wines. With Frankly Tours we were able to sample a huge range of wines in a fun and hassle free manor. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Frankly Tours, it was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. To end the day, Daniel and I decide to head back to Mission Estate for dinner.

We have an early start the next morning. I’m talking on the road by 6am early. My lovely husband forgot that he had someone coming over to our house in the morning to interview him about his turbo motorbike!!

The advantage to this early morning car ride home is that it’s much cooler and I get to see a sunrise – even if it is from the car window.


Car Sauna, a Swanky Macca’s and Dancing under the Stars

Hawkes Bay, it’s one of those places that, whenever I visit, I am left pondering why I don’t live there. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wellington, but the weather is often far less than favourable. But in Hawkes Bay, the sun shines, vineyards are plentiful, fresh produce abounds and everyday life looks like a beach holiday.

Napier is where we are heading today. I am looking forward to the promise of a sun drenched weekend. The car is packed, we are ready to go, but first we have to drop Frank and Ed off at the pet sitters. Somehow, Frank and Ed have more luggage as us. Yes, my dogs are spoilt.

Napier is a 4 hour’s drive from Wellington, but it felt so much longer! The aircon in our car doesn’t work and OMG, it was such a hot drive up. (My husband wants me to mention that it hasn’t worked for years because I didn’t want to pay $800 to get it fixed. I made my bed and now I am sweating in it!) I was so happy to finally arrive and get some water and an ice cream, even if it was from McDonalds.

Believe it or not, our McDonald’s experience was actually pretty cool.

In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Hawkes Bay region, completely devastating the area, including Napier. When Napier was rebuilt, it was done in the current fashion of the era – Art Deco style. Everywhere you go, you will see an amazing variety of art deco styled buildings, including the McDonald’s building. I don’t think I will ever see such a swanky McDonald’s in my life – stained glass windows, ceiling rosettes, décor in the typical 1930’s design and art work, depicting the way of life in this bygone era. If you’re in Napier, be sure to check out the Taradale McDonald’s

Every year in February, the city holds an Art Deco Festival Weekend. People dress up, ride around in vintage cars, attend Gatsby picnic’s and much more. I love how the city has embraced the era.

Writing about it now, I think it needs to go on my bucket list.

The reason we are in Napier though is not to go to and Art Deco Mcdonald’s or attend Art Deco weekend. We are here to see Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminal’s concert at Church Road Vineyard.

Every year, Napier holds a variety of concerts in some of their beautiful wineries. They have had a multitude of famous artist such as Elton John, Michael Buble, Sting, Eric Clapton and more, filling the vineyards with songs. This is my first time attending one of these events and I am really looking forward to it.

We arrive as the doors are opening and find a spot on the lawn to set up our picnic. (You can take your own food in.) There are a number of food trucks you can purchase meals and snacks from, as well as wines from the vineyard and beer.

The atmosphere was great. A warm summer night, dancing barefoot in the grass under the stars. A delectable picnic on hand, wine and some great music.

What more could you want?

Things did get a little awkward as the day turned to night and picnics turned into a concert as wine filled people started tripping over picnic baskets. I wouldn’t recommend setting up your picnic right in front of the stage!

We spend the night out at a friend’s batch at a remote beach called Waipataki. The night air is filled with the sounds of the ocean, chirping crickets and a house party singing ‘don’t go out in the pouring rain’

Away from the city and light pollution the stars are magnificent. I have always had a fascination with stars and it has been a long time since I have seen a night sky this clear, the Milky Way is stunning.  I was disappointed I didn’t think to pack the camera. My cell phone camera won’t pick up this incredible moment.

Next time.

Lobster krill anyone? E-Ko tours part 2.

We leave the Hectors dolphin’s behind and continue the search for other dolphin species that we can swim with. While searching all the bays and inlets of Marlborough sounds, 2 notable things happen. First – someone spots a shark. I didn’t see it, apparently it was just a baby but in that moment I was quite pleased we were not out in the water. I have a huge fear about being attacked by sharks!

We also pass large patches of red sea water moving with the swell of the ocean.  Our skipper explains that is it thousands of lobster krill. Tiny little crustaceans. We are then asked ‘Does anyone want to eat one?’  and Daniel pipes up with ‘yip, I’ll try one’.

Hundreds of tiny krill turning the ocean red

The skipper puts one in Daniels hand – a little bright red crustacean with long slender nippers. Not the sort of thing I would want to put in my mouth! Then it looks at me. Right in the eyes and we have a moment (can you tell I am an animal lover?) and I can’t let this little creature be eaten. I beg Daniel to put it back. Fortunately for this little critter, lobster krill is off the menu today and he is returned to the big ocean to do whatever it is that lobster krill do.

This lucky little guy was taken off the menu

As we are nearing the end of the tour, it looks more and more likely that we won’t be swimming with dolphins today. E-Ko tours have an 80% success rate of getting clients in the water with dolphins but it just wasn’t for us today. But seeing as we are all kitted out in wetsuits and masks, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to go for a little swim. We dock in a quiet bay and hop into the water. The wet suit keeps me surprisingly warm and buoyant. Fish food is then thrown out around us and in moments we are surround by schools of fish darting left and right, picking up the food as it lands in the water. The visibility is excellent – there are just so many fish!

We then pile back into the boat and make our way back to shore. Although I didn’t get to swim with dolphins, it was still an excellent tour. Part of the thrill of having encounters with wild animals is that it is never guaranteed, but when it does happen, oh, how special it is!

I know I will be back for another go at this bucket list item.

Picton Harbour

It’s time to board the Interislander Ferry, our trip has nearly come to an end. This time, motorbikes are the first to load which is excellent as we are booked into the Plus Lounge.

Um, wow!

We will definitely be doing this again when we take the ferry. Big comfy seats, magazines, wifi, huge windows with great views (tinted so passengers outside can’t see in.) It is also fully catered; all food and beverages are included in the price. We head straight to the bar where the staff pour us some wines to taste before we make our selection.

There is so much food, hot, cold, savoury and sweet. What I am most excited about is the large plate of colourful macarons. I may or may not have sampled one of every colour.

Motorcycling is such an unforgettable way to travel the country, but it is tiring and at times uncomfortable. It is such a treat being able to sit back and relax in the plus lounge for the last leg of the journey.

It is a great end to our trip.

As we pull into our driveway I’m filled with excitement and can’t wait to get off the motorbike. Our dogs, Frank and Ed are there waiting for us. I have missed them so much.

Anywhere with these two is the place I call home.

1 Motorbike. 11 days. 1935km.

What an adventure.

E-Ko Tours, part 1

Today is bucket list day.

My husband and I spent many years trying to start a family. There was a 2 year period where my life felt like it was just a series of blood tests, pills, injections and procedures.

Life was unintentionally put on hold.

I longed for the day I could make plans more than a couple of weeks ahead.

That activity that I dreamed about doing – swimming with dolphins.

This morning we are joining E-ko Tours in the hope of making that bucket list item a reality.

It’s a beautiful, still sunny day, perfect for dolphin spotting and swimming. We check in at E-Ko tours and change into the wetsuit, mask and snorkels we are provided with. Then we have a short introduction video about what to expect on the trip and some key do’s and don’ts.

The group gets asked if everyone has swum in the open ocean before. I forget sometimes how lucky we are in New Zealand. No one lives more than a 2-3 hour drive from the ocean. Beach holidays are a quintessential part of being a kiwi. The fact that some people live hours away from the ocean, with some never even seeing it, is such a foreign thought.

There are 5 different species of dolphin we might see on this trip; the common dolphin, dusky dolphin, bottle nose dolphin, hectors dolphin and orca. We are told that we are only allow to swim with the first 3 types of dolphins as hector’s dolphins are rare and endangered and in New Zealand Orca are not classified as a dolphin so we can’t swim with them either.

We board the boat and are handed binoculars and species cards. We are the last to board, but get the best seats – right up the front, behind the captain. We seem to have the only opening window – the rest of the boat is enclosed so it means I am not taking pictures through the glass.

Marlborough Sounds is beautiful, lush and green with really still water. We see seals basking on the rocks and also one just chilling out in the ocean, quite content with it’s bit of kelp seaweed.

New Zealand Fur Seal chilling with it’s kelp
Catching some rays while having a snooze

There is lots of bird life and we also spot a pair of little blue penguins swimming. They were so cute and I loved the fun fact that little blue penguins mate for life.

Seabirds enjoying their ocean playground

After an hour or so, we have our first dolphin sighting. Little black ‘micky mouse ear’ fins popping out of the water. Hector’s dolphins have a very distinctive, small, black rounded dorsal fin. We stop the boat and spend quite some time bobbing up and down in the water watching these beautiful, curious and playful creatures from the boat. They are the world’s smallest dolphins with adults measuring 1.2 – 1.4 meters. We are told that there are about 40 that live in the Sounds. It’s quite an experience to watch them. They come quite close to the boat, and we all watch, waiting for those flashes of silver to appear as they come up to the surface.

It was such a special encounter.

To be continued..

A sunrise, 2 seals & vintage aircrafts

I am up early for the sunrise, but it is not a sunrise sort of day; grey and drizzly. There is so much fogg that the Kaikoura ranges I could see yesterday from the beach are completely hidden.

I am the only one on the beach, the town is not awake yet so I am left with the sound of the waves rolling back and forth across the stony sea bed. The birds are also quite lively at this hour of the morning.

10 more minutes and the sun should start appearing above the horizon. Some pink hues appear in the distance, this could be promising, but as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared again.

No beautiful sunrise for me this morning.

Another time.

My next stop is to the seal colony. It takes me about an hour to walk there. It’s an easy walk along the waterfront. I arrive, ready to spot some seals, but it’s actually a bit disappointing. I manage to find two, but they are both sleeping, so I decide to take a short walk up the hill to the lookout point which has some pretty sweet views.

I head back to the backpackers, we pack up the motorbike and continue our journey north heading to Picton. The ocean is sage green and the day is very grey, such a contract to what we rode through only 1 week ago. 

Again, from the motorbike I am able to spot seals playing in the waves and sleeping on the rocks.

I actually see way more than I did at the seal colony.

We stop in Blenheim for lunch and then make a trip to Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. We visit both exhibits, Peter Jacksons, ‘Knights of the Sky’ a WW1 exhibition and ‘Dangerous Skies’ WW2 exhibition.

The displays are incredible.

Huge, realistic and dramatic. Also very informative.

The collection includes some original aircrafts, such as a Caproni, and replicas recreating very realistic scenes.

There are even some artefacts that once belonged to Baron von Richthofen, also known as The Red Baron.

There is some sort of aviation event happening just outside the hanger while we are here, which means we are viewing the displays with the sound of old aeroplanes flying overhead.

It really adds to the atmosphere.

I found the very early models fascinating. They seemed to be made of nothing more than wood and canvas – so fragile and vulnerable.

Another fascinating but awful fact I learnt was that pilots in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1 were not supplied with parachutes, even though they had been invented by this time. Aside from the cockpit being quite small and not a lot of room for a parachute, it was thought that supplying parachutes would encourage pilots to abandon the plane at the first sign of trouble, rather than stay and fight and try and save a valuable plane.

I can’t even begin to imagine what this would have been like.

This is an excellent exhibition and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I am not really that interested in aviation. I highly recommend it.

There is also a vintage car exhibition at the same site. We didn’t have time for this, will have to check it out next time.

And for those who are vintage aviation enthusiasts, you can enjoy the views of Marlborough from the air in a Boeing Stearman.

We arrive safely in Picton but pretty dirty. There are still lots of road works happening around Kaikoura. Combined with rain, it made for a pretty muddy trip.

Our old fire blade will definitely need some TLC when we get home.

Motorbiking, the best way to travel

Today is a traveling day. No plans other than get from Geraldine to Kaikoura where we are staying for a night.

It is another windless, sunny day. Daniel chooses the route we will be taking – state highway 72, the inland scenic route through the Canterbury plains. Just out of Geraldine, Mr. ‘never gets lost’ takes a wrong turn. He realises pretty quickly though and we are back on track in no time.

I’m not complaining, it’s a rather pretty wrong turn.

Heading north, we pass golden pastures (aka, hasn’t been any rain in a while and everything is so dry) framed by mighty mountains in the distance. We pass over Rakaia gorge and stop to take some photos (and awkwardly try to ignore the 2 women having a very loud argument in the car park) There is also a walkway at Rakaia Gorge, that according to Google, is an easy 2 hours walk which you might like to check out.

The rivers and lakes in the south Island are so mesmerising. The colours are incredible and I am speechless every time I see them. The photos don’t really do them justice.  I don’t recall seeing rivers this vibrant in the North Island. (Might need to do a bit more exploring)

Carrying on, we pass lots of small country towns, some so small you would miss them if you blink. We make a stop in a place called Oxford for some lunch. I had a rather delicious tomato and herb soup.

I think motor biking has got to be one of the best ways to travel and explore a place. You have the convenience of a vehicle, but are far more engaged with the environment around you than you are in a car. You experience the elements; the sun, the wind the rain. You can smell the forests and feel the warmth of the sun in the air coming in through your helmet. I feel far more connected to my surroundings on a motorbike than I do in a car.

Arriving in Kaikoura we check into our backpackers and have a bit of a rest before heading down to the beach.

It’s quite a wild beach.

Stony and rugged it has an untouched beauty about it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Kaikoura is famous for its marine life. Tourists flock here to go whale watching, swim with dolphins and seals. We have chosen not to do that this time.

On our South Island trip back in 2012 I really wanted to do the whale watch. We had an early evening ferry to catch so we didn’t have time for the boat trip and instead choose to do the Wings over Whales flight, a short 30 minute flight with amazing views over Kaikoura. Unfortunately we didn’t see any whales on this trip (still and awesome experience though) and have since learnt that the best time to see a variety of whale species in Kaikoura is during winter months when they are migrating up to the warmer waters of the pacific.

We are staying only a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach so I decide that tomorrow, I will get up early to watch the sun rise. I am not sure I have ever watched the sun rise before. (We tried to at Lake Bled in Sloveina, but that was a bit of a fail)