Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park

The southern Fiordland region along with Lake Hauruko, the Hump Ridge and the Waitutu Forest, is one of our top 10 New Zealand must-dos. And that is because it is a pristine area, well off from the main tourism tracks. In fact, much of this area is undiscovered and probably will remain that way. Deep in the heart of the Fiordland National Park, the  Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park can best be described as the experience of a lifetime!

 

Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park

 

Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park

The Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park is very much a small group tour. The day begins in Te Anau in the early morning. You will first drive yourself to the Lake Hauroko carpark. This will take about 1.5 hours. This is where your amazing mini expedition begins. It is helpful to know that the Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park offers a range of tours – so you can actually combine this tour with the Hump Ridge track and helicopter rides.

 

Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park - leaving from Hauroko carpark

 

Lake Hauroko

The Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park trip starts off with a leisurely 10km jet boat ride across Lake Hauroko. On a clear day, this part of the tour is incredibly serene – the waters are and calm and the skies are crisp-clear. On the day I joined the tour, we had 7 passengers all up.  For a personalised experience, it really was the ideal number.

There are stops in the middle of the lake where your driver guide explains some of the local history. There is a sense of the mystic all around you.  Maybe that is because there is a Maori Princess buried on an island around here.

 

Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park - Local History

 

Travelling the Wairaurahiri River

Even thought there are very few boats in this area, we still have to sign into the DOC log book at Teal Bay before proceeding. The next stage involves jet-boating along the Wairaurahiri River. And that means you get to travel for another 30 kilometres to where the river meets the ocean. Now the action really begins to ramp up!  The river becomes narrow and the water much more shallow. This is when your adrenaline rush begins.  The boat kicks up jets of water and travels so close to the beech trees along the bank,  you can almost touch them.

 

 

Conservation and Predator Control

For the owner guide, the preservation of this area is a lifelong passion. It is heartening to see so many traps that have been set to catch rats, stoats and weasels. These pests are ruthless predators of our endemic bird life.

 

Fiordland Conservation and Predator control

 

Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park – Bush Walk

Like most forests, you there is a constant moisture in the area. And that is why the bush is so lush and green. You will get to see and hear so many birds. Believe me, that is such a heart-warming sign of successful predator control. We were also introduced to so many different species of trees. How special it was to have a Robin drop in – just to say “gidday”.

 

South Island Robin

Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park – reaching the ocean

After about 2.5 hours, our jet boat finally reached the ocean – and what a sight it was!  We all wandered around for a while, before stopping to gaze at nature’s untamed world. On a clear day you see Stewart Island across the Foveaux Strait.

 

Wairauahiri Jet ocean view

 

You will find it hard to turn your back on such a beautiful scene.  But you will be returning to the Waitutu Forest.  And after all, how special is it to be in a forest that has been built over  millions of years.  This huge expanse of time has resulted in 13 terraces which display various vegetation and geology. We can actually discover so much by studying these terraces. Scientists have been able to interpret major seismic events – even comets flying into the earth.

Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park – Lunch in the forest

But as you can imagine, all this fresh air does give you quite a big appetite! After a 30 minute walk we were more than ready to eat. And the fact that our guide was wearing a chef’s apron was most promising!

 

 

I can assure you, that there are no stale white buns here folks. We ate like kings! I am referring of course to the Venison steaks, salads, freshly baked bread and vegetables. These were all so  attractively presented. I can quite happily recommend this ‘restaurant’!

 

 

Waitutu Track – swing bridge

After lunch everyone can take a walk on the Waitutu Track. This will take you about for 15 minutes – it is an excellent chance to walk off lunch and use the local “swing bridge”. Of course, some travellers may be a bit dubious about this.  I guess there are some travellers who have never used a swing bridge.  But the swing bridges in New Zealand are very sturdy pieces of well thought out architecture. Besides, they are absolutely essential in a wilderness like this.  There really is no other way can cross a river.

 

 

On our return back to the boat, we discovered that our our chef had returned to his role as a driver-guide. So we headed back up the Wairaurahiri River with stops on the way. The last few minutes were spent gliding over the river. The Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park is a standout experience. In fact, it would go down as being one of the best tours we’ve ever taken for this type of experience.

 

Wairaurahiri Jet adventure in Fiordland National Park with Michael in boat

 

Here are some other travel blogs on the Fiordland region you might be interested:

Happy travelling the Waitutu / Fiordland National Park.

Appellation Wine Tours with a great Guide

Appellation Wine Tours with a great guide is pretty much what you would expect in Central Otago.  After all this region is famous for its wine, especially Pinot Noir. And with Appellation Wine Tours it is the guides that really enhance the whole experience But of course personality alone, is not enough. As a guide, you do have to have an extensive knowledge of the region’s history, geographical and it’s exceptional wines.

 

Wine tours with tasting in Central Otago

 

Appellation Wine Tours – what is on offer?

Appellation Wine Tours operate from Queenstown and they have a range of modern and air-conditioned vehicles in their fleet.  They specialise in small group tours and that means greater flexibility for the day’s itinerary.  It is also good for for you to know that these tours visit different cellar doors every single day! So that means, you can make vineyard requests. If there is a particular vineyard you would like to visit, your driver guide will do their utmost to make it happen.

 

Appellation wine tours fleet

 

What you will experience

On the day we joined one of the tours, we drove through the Gibbston / Queenstown wine region – our first stop being Peregrine Winery. Even for its distinctive architecture alone, makes Peregrines a must-do visit.  The roof line is shaped to represent the wingspan of a Peregrine ( native falcon).

Although red wine has always been the star of Central Otago wineries, white wine is emerging as a show-stopper. The most beautiful Rieslings are beginning to gain much fame, so look out for these.

The tour we took, included a lunch platter at Carrick Winery.  Carrick Winery is an ideal place to have lunch – not only can you do a tasting, but you can then enjoy lunch overlooking one of the most beautiful views in Central Otago.

 

Appellation Wine Tours with a great Guide - Views from Carrick Winery Restaurant

 

The beauty of a small group tour

Because you will be travelling in a small group, by having lunch together, you will be able to get to know your fellow passengers.  Believe me, travellers from all over the world come to New Zealand and they often arrive from different places to your own.

One of the passengers on our tour, made a special request to visit the Mt Difficulty winery. It had not be scheduled for that day, but the guide changed to route to suit. We arrived at Mt Difficulty just as a late lunch was being served and the place was humming. In fact the staff were run off their feet, but couldn’t have been more cheerful.

 

Mt Difficulty Wines is one of the many vineyard in Central Otago

 

Iconic Chard Farm

One of Michael’s favourite wineries is that of Chard Farm.  Yes, we did have a butt-clenching ride up an incredibly steep gravel road but the views below us were spectacular.  Our guide negotiated the tight bends with ease.  On the way up we stopped to take photos of the AJ Hackett Bungy jump at Kawarau Bridge in the Gibbston Valley . Chard Farm has a special rustic character and has pretty much become an icon for this region.

 

Appellation Wine Tours with a great Guide - Chard Farm winery

 

At the end of the day, after numerous wine tastings at these beautiful vineyards, you will be feeling pretty mellow. Most of us were pretty quiet on the way back, just enjoying the views.  But our guide still had some fascinating stories to tell before arriving back at our hotel.   Here’s a toast to Appellation Wine Tours with a great guide.

 

Check out one of our South Island travel itineraries, which you can include a food and wine tour easily.

Happy Travelling with Appellation Wine Tours!

Travelling the Waikato Region

If you are visiting the North Island, it really does make sense to include travelling the Waikato region. And this is because the Waikato lies between Rotorua and Auckland (read more on those travel blogs). And for travellers, you will have so many key key attractions to see here.  For example, so many itineraries we do, include the Hobbiton Village and the Waitomo Caves. And for lovers of all things botanical, the Hamilton Gardens are a must-do.  Added to this list, is the truly magnificent Zealong Tea Estate.

Travelling the Waikato Region - Zealong Tea Estate

Zealong Tea Estate

Experiences in the Waikato region

Evening Banquet Dinner at Hobbiton

It is hard to believe that Sir Peter Jackson and his crew began filming for the LOTR in Dec 1999!  Since that time, the Hobbiton Village film set tours (blog) have really taken off. There are currently 30 tours running throughout the day every 15 minutes. But it is very well managed. I have actually done the village tour, but this time while travelling the Waikato Region, I wanted to give the Evening Banquet Dinner a try. I must say, it was very atmospheric with a crackling fire in the hearth and lots of candles.

 

Travelling the Waikato Region

Walking Tour before dinner

Now depending on the time of the year, departure times do vary – I did the banquet in mid-May, which is in the early winter.  The tour began at 5pm. Because you will be starting the tour later in the day, you will be will be leaving at a later hour as well – around 9.30.  So I can think of no better to stay overnight in the immediate area. Sure, Rotorua is about an hour’s drive away, but I would not recommend the drive there – the winter night driving can be hazardous on winding roads. Tours depart four times per week on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

As with all the Hobbiton Tours,  the starting point is at Shires Rest, which is a 15 min drive from the village of Matamata. You will quickly discover that the friendly local guides play a key part in the whole experience. Their knowledge and enthusiasm is unmatched! A short coach ride will deliver you to the Hobbiton village. For some travellers, it is almost like entering a holy shrine – especially when you step into the village and see those round entrance doors! You will get fabulous photo opportunities here.

 

Travelling the Waikato Region - Hobbiton Village tour

 

Dinner at Hobbiton is served!

The walk through the film-scene village took us about 1.5 hours. The time goes so quickly – and believe me, the guides make it so much fun. After the village tour, it is time to dine at the  ‘Green Dragon Inn’ (pub). The Green Dragon Inn was opened as a way of marking the wrapping up of the whole Tolkien project. In fact, you can actually feel the ‘Hobbiton vibe’ when you step in. After a refreshing local ‘brew’ (a selection on either ciders or beers) the moment has come to enter the grand dining hall. This part definitely has a ‘wow’ factor – with rustic oak tables laden with all the ‘goodies’ you have probably seen in the promotional videos.

 

Travelling the Waikato Region - Hobbiton Village evening feast

 

You will have a huge selection to choose from, which is just as well – most of us are pretty hungry after the walking tour. I guess every experience is what you make it.  The dining part of the tour is very communal scene and you will get a great chance to chat with other travellers.

 

Travelling the Waikato region with Zealong Tea Estate

I think it is fair to say that New Zealand is not really known for its tea-growing. But, it seems we Kiwis do have a can-do attitude to life.  The Zealong Tea Estate sits just outside Hamilton and still seems to be a bit of a hidden secret. But what a lot of folks do not know, is that Zealong is the only commercial tea estate in New Zealand. And it gets even better – the Zealong Eestate is a world-leading destination for tea, art and hospitality. And boy what a great setting it is!

 

 

Attractions like Zealong are great for giving you the chance to refresh before driving on to your next stay. You can stretch your legs by taking a wander through Zealong’s massive grounds. And on the way, you can enjoy the sight of hand-crafted copper statues and sculptures. There is also a some great Chinese and Western painting on show. I was delighted find out that Zealong offers  High Tea tours in the morning and afternoons. I will definitely keep this mind for the next time I visit.

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens is pretty much an iconic attraction for the Waikato and particularly for Hamilton City.  And it is massive! The whole area encompasses 54-hectares of a beautiful park on the banks of the Waikato River. If you are a garden lover, you will be in heaven. There is so much variety to be found here. You will be able to enjoy enclosed gardens of every tradition, open lawns, a lake and a nursery. This really is a gorgeous landmark and brings in more than 1 million visitors per year.  Hamilton Gardens is definitely worthwhile if you are travelling the Waikato Region.

 

Travelling the Waikato region with Hamilton Gardens

 

Accommodation options Waikato region

Let’s face it, Hamilton Gardens and the Hobbiton Village are huge magnets for the whole region. But it is also very exciting to get new accommodation options popping up. I am talking about the ones that are owned and operated by the ‘locals’. These are the types of accommodations where you get to feel at home among friends.

Villa Walton Bed and Breakfast

Villa Walton Bed and Breakfast is a historical house which was originally build in 1904. I am pleased to say that it has been beautifully renovated to receive guests. As a travel agent I am constantly on the search for something special for my travellers. Villa Walton was such a love find.

 

Travelling the Waikato region with Villa Walton

 

What I like about it, is that it is so conveniently located for all the key activities of the Waikato Region. Of course, there is the added charm of staying in a small rural village. And speaking of charm, the owners clearly love what they do. The breakfast area feels more like an upmarket cafe place and soft background music is such a relaxing way to start your day.

 

Villa Walton B & B Breakfast Room

Villa Walton Breakfast Room

With  smaller properties like this one, you won’t have so many people milling around – plus you get to relax in a more intimate setting. There are 3 individually designed guest rooms in the main house. But if you are looking for extra space to yourself, there is a cottage apartment next door. Naturally all rooms come with ensuite bathrooms.

 

 

Guests have access to a bar area and to have the option of pre-ordering small meals. A lot of us just want to kick back after a long drive – to avoid going out again after a long drive. So pre-ordering a pizza or a platter is a great service to have. In my opinion, Walton Villa is a gorgeous  property is stunning. I would happily send my guests there for a couple of nights to explore the Waikato region.

Henley Hotel

You will find Henley Hotel just outside Cambridge.  And Cambridge is not only famous for its lush rural land, but for race horse breeding. Unlike Walton Villas, Henley Hotel is a much larger property and has 14 guests rooms. The grounds surrounding Henley are really huge.  As to the room types, I would put them into three categories – ‘Good Rooms’,  ‘Better Rooms’ and ‘Best Rooms’. Henley Hotel re-opened as an accommodation in October 2918. It is very clear that no expenses has been spared to make Henley look fabulous!

 

Henley Hotel entrance area

 

But what you need to know is that Henley is not operated by an owner on-site.  So you will get a different type of hospitality to that of Walton Villa. However, there is a great advantage to staying at Henley, and not just for its decor.  They do have a very good restaurant. And that means that you don’t have to go out again for the night.

 

Travelling the Waikato region with Henley Hotel

 

There are other attractions in the Waikato area like the Waitomo caves. The ones listed here, are just a few of them.  But as you can see, I think there is a pretty good case for travelling the Waikato Region.

For more travel planning the North Island see more at our Pure Places travel itinerary.

Happy travelling!

Exploring Taranaki – New Plymouth Attractions

Exploring Taranaki – New Plymouth Attractions is all about getting off the usual touristy route.  That, and having a relaxed breakfast overlooking a beautiful garden, has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Hosking House B&B in New Plymouth

For this very reason, we chose to stay at Hosking House, a beautiful boutique B & B in New Plymouth. Each room at Hosking House is different and beautifully styled.  We also really liked being within walking distance to the town centre.

 

Hoskings House bed and breakfast in New Plymouth Taranaki

Pukekura Park

Virtually just across the road Hosking House is Pukekura Park, which happens to be one of New Zealand’s top botanical gardens. Pukekura Park is quite massive – being made up of 128 acres of lush greenery. Michael, pictured below,  is 6ft.3in – so you get some some idea as to how huge these Punga ferns are.

 

Exploring Taranaki - New Plymouth Attractions

 

This would have to be a favourite view in the gardens.  The sun filters so beautifully through the bush to the beautiful Tea House beyond.

 

Pukekura Park tearoom views

Puke Ariki Complex

I would thoroughly recommend that every visitor to New Plymouth take a few hours to visit the Puke Ariki complex  For a smaller city, New Plymouth really punches above its weight here. Not only is the Puke Ariki complex a fantastic museum, but it also is multi-functional. This complex also houses a a library and Information Centre – so much under the same roof.  What we found stunning was the Museum’s collection and display of precious Maori Taonga (cultural treasures). It is arguably the best in New Zealand. For cultural reasons, you cannot take photos. But you will probably agree that this is a good thing. It really is a mind-tingling atmospheric and the audio visuals really require your full attention.

 

Exploring Taranaki - New Plymouth Attractions - Puke Ariki

Eating out in Plymouth

Exploring Taranaki – New Plymouth Attractions. No matter how leisurely your pace of travel, exploring new places can be tiring. And that’s when we all seem to make a ‘beeline’ for the cafes.  Since our last visit, New Plymouth has become quite the trendsetter with its vast array of cafes to choose from. You’ll get fair share of organic and gluten-free options.  And believe me, the coffee is serious. Night dining is also pretty darn special, being a coastal town with sea views.

Chaos Cafe 2

 

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway

There is no better way of walking off brunch than a leisurely meander along the award-winning Coastal Walkway And you can walk the full 11km  if you wish.  Actually, this coastal walkway pretty much covers an expansive sea-edge promenade. The great thing about promenade walks, is that you are sure to meet many friendly locals along the way. But with sea views like this, you can also choose to be alone with your own private thoughts. Either way, it is very therapeutic.

Exploring Taranaki - New Plymouth Attractions - Coastal Walkway

 

Pukeiti Rhododendron Park

Make sure you set aside some time to visit the Pukeiti Rhododendron Park. The drive out to the park will take you about 25 mins. But believe me, a drive out to the famous Pukeiti Rhododendron Park is a definite must-do. And if you are travelling in New Zealand’s Spring months, the Rhododendrons are just dripping with bright coloured blooms. Most visitors here really enjoy the easy tracks and find it refreshes their spirits. Like most botanical gardens in New Zealand, you can get a map to help you find your way around.

 

Rhododendrons New Plymouth

Festival of Lights

If you are travelling New Plymouth between 15 Dec and 25 Jan, you will be able to enjoy the Festival of Lights.  This is such a spectacular visual extravaganza – and it actually involves the whole city.  There is no better inducement for romance and celebrating life!

 

festival of lights new plymouth

 

After New Plymouth we went through the Forgotten Highway into the central North Island district. Then from the famous Tongariro National through Lake Taupo and to Rotorua. On another trip we visited Orakei Korako Thermal Valley, yet another highlight in the North Island.

For your travel planing on New Zealand’s North Island check out this sample 12 Day North Island itinerary with many hidden spots often missed by other travellers.

Happy travelling in New Plymouth/ Taranaki.

Auckland Walking Tours with Aucky Walky

Most international travellers to New Zealand, will arrive in the City of Auckland. And after a long flight, it is a good idea to get out and explore the city, before you get that well earned sleep.  If you love boutique tours – or a private tour for just the two of you, then Auckland walking tours with Aucky Walky is a must-do.

Auckland Walking Tours with Aucky Walky

Liz, the owner guide of Aucky Walky, is a 4th generation local and she knows all the award-winning eateries. Plus she will take you up those gorgeous little back lanes to the real hidden gems. We chose the Taste Auckland Food Tour and believe me, it was a pure experience. BTW, check out the best time to visit New Zealand.

What Happens on the Aucky Walky Taste Auckland Tour?

Mouth-watering New Zealand Game

Liz doesn’t really see her guiding as just a job. She clearly enjoys showing off food made with love, beautiful art and especially those people wanting to experience the real deal. The Taste Auckland Tour is a progressive lunch tour where good food and cool vibes are everything. Our first stop was an eatery owned by award-winning chef Al Brown. This is where you will get taste plates galore – and this is real ‘nosh’ folks.  Our lamb spare ribs were mouth-wateringly tender and delicious!

Auckland Walking Tours with Aucky Walky - The depot in Auckland

One happy customer with Liz

History & helpful info

There is not a lot of ‘trekking’ that goes on with this tour.  In fact, most eateries are within a short distance to each other. But it really is all about what you see along the way, that makes this tour pretty darn special. For example, a lot of travellers don’t actually know that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the right to vote.  There is a story behind this historical mural – it commemorates the collection of over 32,000 signatures supporting the right for women to vote.

Art & objects of interest

As we passed through the lobby of the Skycity Grand Hotel, Liz didn’t really need to point out these stunning paintings.  In fact they are the first things you notice when walking through here.  At first, you may be mistaken into thinking that they are photographs.  But on closer inspection, you can see they are actually paintings.  These gorgeous works of art are by Karl Maughan, a New Zealand painter based in Wellington.

Auckland Walking Tours with Aucky Walky - paintings by Karl Maughan

As we made our way across to another eatery, we passed through the Britomart Shopping Precinct. And right through the middle and lined up in a large row, were these volcano sculptures.  And these actually represent some of the inactive volcanoes in the Auckland region.  Now if you look down the glass on top, you can clearly see the underground railway lines. We thought these were pretty cool.

Auckland’s exciting Asian-food scene

A major highlight on this tour, was a visit to an Asian food eatery. This restaurant really challenged our taste buds with its use of spice.  The thing is about some of these places, they can look so unassuming from the outside. It is only when you walk through to their ‘inner sanctum’ that you find some pretty spectacular layouts. In this eatery, we actually feel as though you are sitting in a huge glass house. There were gorgeous tropical plants everywhere and massive palm trees growing outside.

But really folks, it is all about the flavour, followed by the spice ‘kick’ at the end. Our tasting plates were so pretty and moorish.

Auckland Walking Tours with Aucky Walky - Asian Fusion

Sweet Treats?

The treats kept on coming.  Liz had heard of my chocolate cravings so it was no surprise when we entered the what can only be described as ‘chocolate heaven’. The culture in inner-Auckland is very diverse due to the rich history of immigration from around the world – and that has to be good for Auckland. We had the choice of 2 chocolates each to take away with us.  It was such a hard decision.

Auckland Walking Tours with Aucky Walky - Bohemein Chocolates

Desserts Divine

No Auckland Walking Tour is complete without a visit to the to an Icecream and Gelato shop – Liz introduced us to what can only be described as delicious works of art.  No room for guilt here folks – like everyone else we sat outside and savoured each mouthful.

Just before our last stop, we make a quick visit to a gorgeous little dessert shop down one of the lanes. Seriously, we would never have found this one by ourselves. Read more on why to use a locals in New Zealand.

Auckland Walking Tours with Aucky Walky -Dessert shop

But really, that’s the beauty of Auckland Walking Tours.  Liz will point the quality restaurants and hidden gems Auckland offers.  Then later on, you can find these yourself at your leisure – that way, you can make a booking at an eatery you already know something about.

Check out some New Zealand travel itineraries, which can include Aucky Walky Tours.

Waterfront Heritage Pub

Auckland Walking Tours are not complete without a visit to a pub – but not just any old pub. We thought it was a great way to finish our tour down at the wharf.  Liz did give us the choice of a beautiful rooftop bar, but we chose this option.  It was a fine thing to kick back in this beautiful historic building with a cider and enjoy the pub vibe.

Why choose Auckland Walking Tours with Aucky Walky?

The cool thing about Liz’s walking tours are that they are only for 2-3 hours. This means you stay engaged and excited and still have some spare time to revisit the ones you liked the most. Liz’s tours can either be done in the morning or in the afternoon. She told us that many travellers, who arrive with an early morning flight at 6-7am, are out and about walking with her at 10am. What a great way to get those tired legs moving!

To get your New Zealand travel planning started check out our sample nature & lifestyle itineraries.

Happy walking with Aucky Walky!

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