• Mt Maunganui, at last!

    Tauranga highlights - Moturiki Leisure Island, our rural Airbnb with views to Mt Maunganui and Kaiate Falls

    Moturiki Island, our rural Airbnb with views to Mt Maunganui and Kaiate Falls


    I’ve been saying for ages that it’s crazy that I’ve still never been to Mt Maunganui! Well, that got rectified over the Christmas break. Here are a few highlights from our whirlwind trip into the Bay of Plenty.


    From the award winning Gold Star Patrick’s Pies, that is. Lots of interesting flavour combinations there – but go early, the selection was a bit limited by the time we arrived late afternoon (damn Auckland-fleeing traffic).

    Mt Maunganui

    The Mount itself dominates the landscape all around – it’s THE icon of the region. We only walked as far as Pilot Bay … it was so freaking hot, we didn’t feel like climbing the whole thing and it was way later in the day than we expected given the traffic – maybe next time?

    Hot pools

    They’re not really our thing, but we had to try the famous Mt Maunganui salt water pools out. It was worth it to get a private pool room given that we didn’t plan to stay for ages as the price was only marginally higher.

    Moturiki Island

    Another wacky thing about the Mount – this little island you can walk to from the beach! Great vantage point for the views, and cute rabbits scampering around.

    Our countryside Airbnb

    We stayed in a rural rental just a short drive away. And yet it was like a whole different world – utterly silent at night, once the cows on nearby farms piped down, that is. The property was full of gardens and trees – the hosts were organic growers, who supplied fresh fruit, muffins and juice. It kinda made me want to retire to the countryside right now.

    Kaiate Falls

    Making up for the hike we didn’t do at the Mount! The thundering falls were an awesome sight as were the rocks where dozens or maybe even hundreds of people had carved their names.

  • The lazy girl’s guide to NZ



    Sure, you can jump off ledges, dive out of planes, and roll down hills in giant inflatable balls – but you don’t NEED to be a hardcore adventurer to appreciate the best of nature here. You might, like me, have decidedly average fitness and nerves of cotton wool. So if intrepid multi-day hikes and epic ski sessions aren’t really your thing, read on to find out how to get your fix of amazing sights and scenery with minimal exertion…

    A waka tour in Northland

    You can almost imagine that you’re travelling back in time as you paddle a traditional canoe along the Waitangi River, taking in the flora and fauna along the banks. I won’t lie, rowing is definitely a workout for the arms, but at least there’s a group of you to help spread the load.

    Horse riding along Auckland’s west coast

    Imagine trotting down a windswept beach as waves lap at the shore. You too can have your own movie-worthy scene when horse riding out at Muriwai. (And yep, these treks are A-OK for total newbies.) Take in the black sand of the west coast beaches, then cross the sand dunes and explore the Woodhill Forest.

    Find more things to do in Auckland

    Walk to Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel

    The walk to Cathedral Cove takes about half an hour, and the cliff/ocean views along the way are just spectacular. Of course, the payoff at the end is the cove itself! There’s a secluded beach, where you can sun and swim all day and enjoy the pristine environment. The track does have some fairly steep up and down parts that get a bit rough, so take your time navigating the path – but it’s well worth it.

    Ride through the redwoods in Rotorua

    The Whakarewarewa Forest is packed with biking trails that cater to all levels of rider, including beginners and kids. Ride through towering redwoods, native fern canopies, and keep an eye out for the odd lake and mountain view too while you’re out on the tracks.

    Find more things to do in Rotorua

    Take the Wellington cable car

    A must-do in Wellington, with basically no effort required! Take the historic red cable car up the hill toward the botanic gardens, observatory, planetarium, and sweeping views of the city and harbour.

    Find more things to do in Wellington

    Punting on the Avon in Christchurch

    One iconic way to see the Garden City is in fact from the water. Luckily, the professional punters are the ones doing all the steering and poling as you travel along the Avon River in a flat-bottomed boat. Just lean back and soak up the sights, from the boat sheds to the botanic gardens and more.

    Find more things to do in Christchurch

    Take the Treetops walk in Hokitika

    Take a walk through the West Coast forest – 40 metres above ground, that is. Making your way along narrow suspension bridges high in the air lets you get amongst the treetops and get a whole new perspective.

    Heli hiking in Queenstown

    If you’re keen to get away from busy ski slopes, then snow shoeing will be right up your alley. (Seriously, if you can walk, you can snow shoe – it’s a dead simple alternative to snowboarding or skiing.) You’ll take a helicopter ride high up to the winter wonderland that is the untouched parts of the mountains, strap on some gear and start making tracks across unbroken snow. It’s absolutely silent, stunning and spectacular.

    Find more things to do in Queenstown

  • Wednesday Wanderlust: Places I’d rather be…

    What I REALLY would love right now is to get away and be spoiled, somewhere luxurious like…

    Minaret Station

    Much as I love the city, I also really need space around me (hence, living in the burbs). I quite like the sound of escaping into the Southern Alps to a chalet accessible only by helicopter.

    eagle's nest

    Eagle’s Nest

    Russell is a sweet little spot in the Bay of Islands and Eagle’s Nest is probably the ultimate place to stay. Infinity pool, Jacuzzi, personal chefs and spa therapists – yes please.

    the farm at cape kidnappers

    The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

    Hawke’s Bay is one region I haven’t really explored (but would like to). As well as all the usual luxuries, I love the sound of the amazing food – straight from the veggie garden, inhouse pastry chef and local meat and seafood.

    When was your last holiday?

  • Top free things to do around New Zealand

    It’s true: New Zealand can be an expensive place to visit. But there are definitely some free natural attractions to add to your itinerary. Here’s 9 free things to do/sights to see around New Zealand that I can vouch for.

    Tane Mahuta, lord of the Waipoua Forest in Northland, NZ - NZ Muse


    See Tāne Mahuta, our largest living kauri tree

    It’s just a short walk through the Waipoua Forest to Tāne Mahuta, aka, Lord of the Forest. Stick to the walking tracks; the environment is delicate.

    It’s free to visit; that said, the Footprints Waipoua tour is quite amazing, with Māori guides sharing songs, stories and insights.
    Mt Eden summit crater - Climb a volcano!


    Climb a volcanic cone

    You can absolutely take your pick, but Mt Eden is a popular one close to the CBD, complete with panoramic views and a neat crater at the summit.

    Cathedral Cove - a must-visit in the Coromandel


    Cathedral Cove

    Magical is the only word to describe this beach. It’s a bit of a hike to get to Cathedral Cove, but more than worth it.

    And a little further down the Coromandel coastline lies Hot Water Beach. At low tide you can dig your own hot water spa pool in the sand. But get there early and stake out your patch. Maybe bring a gang.


    Huka Falls

    The Huka Falls are our most-visited natural attraction. The roar and spectacle of the thundering waterfalls are just spectacular.


    Te Papa

    Our national museum is an absolute must-see, and entry is free. DO IT.


    Milford Rd/Milford Sound

    The Milford Rd leading into Milford Sound is just bursting with amazing sights around every corner. Waterfalls, the Homer Tunnel, the Mirror Lakes, the Chasm … the journey itself really is half the pleasure.

    That said, you really need to take a cruise to see the best of Milford Sound (or a scenic flight, perhaps?), otherwise you’re just chilling at the end of a really long dead end, picturesque as it is. More on that part of our South Island road trip.

    Pancake rocks at Punakaiki - NZ Muse

    West Coast


    At high tide, the ocean sprays up through blowholes at the ‘Pancake Rocks’. There’s a lovely cafe across the road, too. Then drive north along the Great Coast Road; the stretch between Westport and Greymouth has been voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet. More on that part of our South Island road trip.


    Nugget Point

    Around Nugget Point you can spot yellow eyed penguins if you time it right. Plus, the coastline is magnificent. More on that part of our South Island trip.



    Baldwin St

    Said to be the world’s steepest street, the sheer angle of Baldwin St is a bit mind-boggling.

  • Introducing: The Blue Spring/Te Waihou (aka I live in paradise)

    I had no idea this place even existed until recently. Know how I found out about it? Instagram! All in the name of work, of course.

    Near the Waikato town of Putaruru, the Blue Spring is so ridiculously pure it supplies the majority of New Zealand’s bottled water. Photos don’t do the blue, clear water justice.

    This was a quick stop for us on the way to Taupo so we parked at the Leslie Rd carpark to make it a 10 minute walk to the stream. (There’s another track from Whites Rd to the downstream part, which apparently takes 90 minutes to walk.)

    Blue Spring Te Waihou near Putaruru

    Blue Spring Te Waihou near Putaruru

    Blue Spring Te Waihou near Putaruru

    Blue Spring Te Waihou NZ near Putaruru



  • How NOT to do the Tongariro Crossing

    1. Have your husband pull his hamstring at rugby the week before. Nothing but pain can come from that.

    2. Get lost driving to the shuttle pick up point and just about miss our ride. Bloody Aucklanders.

    3. Fail to plan out a good lunch stop beforehand. Result: a teeth-chattering summit stop in freezing temperatures.

    4. Forget that you have a terrible head for heights and that the ‘alpine’ part of the crossing does actually involve a mountain ascent. (Seriously, I always do this!)

    Despite the mishaps, this was an epic experience from start to finish.

    Hiking the Tongariro Crossing, April 2015

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - NZ Muse

    It all starts with a few kilometres of easy jaunts through fairly flat terrain in the Mangatepopo Valley. The sun is a scorcher, although as we wander in and out of sheltered valleys, the wind amps up to a pretty ferocious bite at times.

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - Mt Ngauruhoe


    Why hello there, Mt Doom! (Mt Ngauruhoe, actually.) Those colours are REAL.


    Tongariro Crossing - flat valley looks like Mars


    Only a panorama could do this part justice. It was like an alien moonscape, down in a wide, barren flat.


    Tongariro Alpine crossing - Mt Ngauruhoe

    Clouds rolling in past the mountain peak. (No, we didn’t climb this one. It adds 3 hours to the trek and most definitely was beyond the ability of at least some of our group.)

    Scrambling up the slippery earth and scoria slope toward the Red Crater summit did get slightly hairy; this is about the point when I remembered HEY I get dizzy at heights, and wind + fog only exacerbate that by infinity! It’s safe to say I didn’t really enjoy myself along this stretch.

    This is also when it started to get seriously, seriously cold. We spotted a few slivers of ice along the ground up here.

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - Red Crater at summit

    The Red Crater reveals itself at the summit. The colours, again, are out of this world.

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - Red Crater at summit

    The sheer scale of it blew my mind. The enormity is humbling.

    Then it was time to descend. Surprise #1: the big volcanic rock ridges were warm to the touch! Surprise #2: there was a whiff of that (un)lovely geothermal smell in the air. Surprise #3: those lakes!

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

    The three Emerald Lakes are all slightly different colours, as you can see here: a deeper green, light green and a blue.

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes


    Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

    You can see the wind rippling across the surface of the lakes.

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock

    Fog was a near constant companion through the second half of the hike.

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock


    T found it boring, but I was in my happy place. I love these muted reds, yellows, purples – volcanic, desert type landscapes are my absolute favourite in the world.

    Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock

    The very last stretch (not pictured) turns into what looks exactly like West Auckland bush.  Every single one of us felt this part was neverending – it just seemed to go on and on forever! It felt like someone should be at the end to greet us with medals once we emerged into the carpark (or at least hand out Milo and cookies).

    We lucked out with great visibility and no rain. I can absolutely see why this hike gained its reputation as the best one-day hike in NZ.

  • Ridiculously beautiful New Zealand spots I want to hike

    I love west Auckland’s bush and coast, but staring at epic landscape imagery all day at work has convinced me I really am missing out on other parts of the country.

    Active is not a word you’d use to describe me – but there’s so much natural beauty here, and the best way to experience it is just to get out amongst it. And the best thing is our national parks are free to visit. Here are a few New Zealand hikes I’m pretty sure will be worth the walking.

    Tongariro Crossing

    Aka the greatest one-day walk in New Zealand. Just look at the colour of those lakes. Middle-earth in real life. Just a few years ago I would’ve been all ‘Go walking for a full day? Are you nuts?!’ but here I am.

    Mt Aspiring

    Glaciers! Valleys! Tussock! Boulders! This region really has it all.

    Mt Cook

    I just reeeeeally want to see Lake Pukaki with my own two eyes.  Oh yeah, and the tallest mountain in NZ.

  • A day trip to Cathedral Cove

    Cathedral Cove beach - a day trip to Coromandel from Auckland The last (and only) time I visited Cathedral Cove years ago, I barely even knew it existed. I’m so glad that my friends knew about it!

    Whilt it was an easy outing from our base in the Coromandel then, this time around we made it a day trip from Auckland. It’s just over 2 hours one way, which, I think, is about the acceptable maximum for a day trip. I generally think you should be able to easily spend as much time at your destination as you do travelling (round trip), otherwise it’s a bit of a waste. Then again, I live in a tiny country so my standards when it comes to distance are skewed.

    Everything was different from the moment we got there. Parking was impossible. Odds it’s not even worth driving up to the car park; just turn into the paddock on the right hand side off the road that’s full of cars, and take the bus up. The Cathedral Cove ‘park and ride’ shuttle bus costs just $3, and allows you to ride both there and back again.

    The Cathedral Cove beach was absolutely packed – it brought to mind some European beaches – and there were so many commercial tours out on the water, from glass bottom boats to large kayaks. But I think this made me appreciate Cathedral Cove even more, somehow. Losing myself in the turquoise waters, surrounded by limestone cliffs, I felt at peace for the first time in so long. The Coromandel region sells itself as “good for your soul” – and it was.

    Cathedral Cove - a day trip to Coromandel from Auckland

    The one thing that was just as I remembered it? The hike. The walk from the carpark down to Cathedral Cove beach is signposted as 45 minutes, but you can nail it in half the time – we always do. It’s crazy beautiful, though, winding through forest and over clifftops with amazing views out to sea and the islands, so maybe allow some time to stop for photos. The track has some climbs and dips but nothing too taxing; you can definitely navigate in jandals, though I wouldn’t recommend bare feet.

    Cathedral Cove - a day trip from Auckland

    I suppose it was inevitable that such a fabulous spot would only become busier, despite its secluded location (which, I think, is a real blessing). I can’t really resent others for wanting to enjoy it, too.

  • Waka time: Up the river with a dozen paddles

    Taiamai Tours waka river journey - Bay of Islands

    A photo from our trip, courtesy Taiamai Tours (Facebook)

    Waka with Taiamai Tours, Bay of Islands, NZ

    Three unexpected things happened while I was in the Bay of Islands recently.

    I was part of a team that successfully paddled a waka

    There were probably around a dozen of us on the Taiamai Tours excursion: a group from my organisation, plus four actual international tourists, a couple from the US and a couple from the Netherlands. We rowed a little way up and down the Waitangi River, singing and chanting as we went, as tradition dictates. Let me tell you, it is hard going; my arms were burning after just a few minutes.

    We were invited onto a marae

    We were lucky enough to have Taiamai Tours owner and tribal chief Hone Mihaka as our guide. Along the way, after he’d shared a few stories about the land and its history, he invited us to visit their marae, and we paddled over to the banks.

    I’ve been on large, more ceremonial marae before, but never to one like this: intimate, raw, rustic. We stooped to ease past the low roof, making our way over the dirt floor to the simple wooden benches lining either side. What a sight we must have been, still swathed in our garish lifejackets, but honoured and humbled to be there.

    The young boy who’d performed the welcoming ritual to invite us onto the grounds spoke for a little while, haltingly. Then it was our turn. Impressively, both the tourist couples also stepped up to say a thank you. We wrapped up with a waiata (song) – luckily, we’d been practising at work for occasions such as these.

    I learned something about my neighbourhood

    The last thing I expected was to learn something new about my suburb back in Auckland. I’d never given any thought to its name, but apparently it has a bit of a dark history. In anticipation of tribal uprising and potential war, a blockhouse was built down at the bay. On the plus side, it was never really needed.

    My intermediate school was big on arts, culture, and music, led by a fantastic Maori teacher, and all this made me nostalgic for those days.

    For me, this trip was a reminder that Northland isn’t just about dolphins, beaches, Cape Reinga and the Waipoua Forest; it’s also got a rich cultural heritage, including the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.