Christchurch

After leaving Kaikura early we spent a day and a half in Christchurch- plenty for a city recently completely destroyed by an earthquake.

My favourite part was a visit to Sumner beach which was covered in black sand and had some lovely views. We then tried to drive up to Lyttleton which was the epicentre of the 2011 earthquake. Unfortunately it got too dark too quickly so we stopped on the top of a hill to watch the sun go down over Christchurch. We also watched the moon rise… which almost appeared to shoot up over the horizon! This was the full moon after the one I saw in Sydney.

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We also visited several museums including the Quake museum which had loads of information about previous Christchucrh Earthquakes and a moving film about experiences of the 2011 quake. A museum which was located near the botanical garden which started my love of paua shell… there was a house which was owned by and old couple who have now passed away, but used to let tourists visit their house for free which was bursting at the seams with paua!

By far the best museum was the International Antarctic Centre. They had all sorts of exhibitions from the freezing cold room which replicated an Antarctic  summer, little blue penguins and a talk about them, and other exhibitions about expeditions and life forr esearchers in the Antartic…and some beautiful huskies

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Within the town itself, it was still pretty destroyed from the earthquake. Buildings were still being put up, the cathedral was in a pretty poor state. There were lots of empty areas which hosted temporary exhibits, and a temporary shopping centre made of shipping containers

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Wellington and the Marlborough Sounds

I spent a couple of days in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. When we first arrived, I obviously missed the roundabouts at home and took us for a few laps of the city before finding some ridiculously expensive parking in the centre of the city, big mistake!

We then took a cable car ride up through the disco tunnels to the botanical gardens. Kiwis and Australians seem to love their botanical gardens, placing them wherever there is a park in the centre of the city. This one was my favorite from my travels so far, built over a hill which allowed the landscaping to change throughout, dotted with sculptures, and it provided a bit of a burn for the calves.

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Driving through the disco tunnels

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Cable car to the gardens

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Hills in the gardens

We then headed up to Mount Wellington, a lookout point over Wellington . Some crazy kids were running up it, but as old and creaky twenty-somethings, we decided it was safer to drive and admire the view.

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Panorama from Mt Wellington

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View from Mr Wellington

After this we headed to the 3rd best restaurant in Wellington according to TripAdvisor (#1 for most affordable) Pizzeria Napoli with some friends from my European Summer Camp for some pizza! We then tried (really hard) to find some where for an affordable drink after, but nothing compared to the $22 jug of mulled wine in Ohakune. Nevertheless, it was lovely to catch up!

The next morning after a sleep in the grotty Lodge in the City hostel, we headed out to Zumos, an amazing coffee shop recommended to us. You chose your coffee bean and take a seat with the brilliant WiFi and open fire before they bring it out to you!

Next up was Te Papa, a huge free museum spread out over 6 floors with a viewing platform on the top floor and other exhibits such as galleries, Maori exhibits, War exhibits, natural history… The museum was great for all ages, with a lot of hands on entertainment for the kids… or us…

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So nice of them to provide us with some extra layers

In the evening, the sun came out and we headed down to the South Island by ferry. The route took us through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, where flat water and hills were plentiful.According to DOC they were formed around 10,000 years ago when the sea levels rose and drowned the steep sided valleys.

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Marlborough Sounds

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Sun setting on the Marlborough Sounds

Tasmania (photos to be uploaded)

I spent 9 full days in Tasmania, both on a tour and in Hobart, and it definitely wasn’t enough! After travelling the east coast on the mainland, Tassie is generally disregarded by Australians, as it is separate from the mainland with only a fraction of Australia’s population (apparently they have two heads in Tassie!). From exploring the island I would definitely recommend it as a place to visit, it is full of beautiful views, hikes and lakes, rivers and mountains.

My tour firstly took me down the west coast for three days which was beautiful. We visited Russell falls which appeared to fall over a stair-type rock formation which resulted in a beautiful intricate waterfall. We also visited another waterfall which had a suspension bridge you could walk along. As I had never been on a suspension bridge before, it felt very unstable, but well worth it for the view. We also visited Hetney Dune, which is a large sand dune. It had a little more vegetation than the ones in Frazer Island so they didn’t feel so barren, but had beautiful vies of the sea and mountains in the surrounding area. To leave the dune we ran down a steep slope in the sand, as the sand was unstable, it felt like you were flying! On the third day of the west coast we visited the beautiful national park surrounding Cradle mountain. I walked from Dove Lake up a steep hill to Marion’s Lookout then back down to Wombat Poo (Which I was later told the “l” from “pool” had been rubbed out!) which filled the three hours allocated to the site. To finish the day, we paid a visit to Cataract Gorge in Launceston which was a pretty 30 minute stroll filled with peacocks on the far end. We also visited various towns such as Strahan and a Town of Murals where we found a man with an Alpaca, and many beautiful lakes surrounded by mountains.

On days 4 and 5 of the tour we visited the East coast. The first day was pretty miserable which limited views and time we spent in certain areas. We visited a waterfall, the bay of fires which despite the weather were nice for a quick view, but would get drenched if you stayed ou the bus for more than a few minutes! The next day brightened up and the day started with a trip to Nature World near Bicheno, we were able to see Tasmanian devils being fed, feed kangaroos and see native birds, snakes, wallabys and many more types of animals! We then went over to Wine Glass Bay where we hiked up to the lookout for a lovely view of the bay below. We also visited a lighthouse which had even better 360 degree views of the sea and mountains.

Over days 6 and 7 there were day trips to Bruney Island and Port Arthur. The Bruney Island trip was a foodie based trip including a trip to a few lookouts and to see the white wallabys. We tried oysters, wine, chocolate,honey, whisky and salmon, it was a perfect trip for a rainy day! The day 2 trip took me to Port Arthur which was a punishment convict site, whilst its history is dark and you are made aware of this around the site, it is now a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour also took us to the small town of Richmond which appears quintessentially English, to Waterfall Cove and to Pirates Bay.

On my final two days I looked around Hobart. I walked around the pretty Battery Point and Salamanca. And had a free trip with my hostel to the top of Mount Wellington which overlooks the city. Unfortunately the top was covered in cloud, so views were only about 10 meters in front of you whilst you were bombarded with freezing cold rain. On my final day I had planned to visit the MONA gallery, however it was shut, so visited the oldest brewery in Australia, Cascade Brewery. I tried 4 beers which were served on a paddle, then it was time for a pull a pint competition… I definitely didn’t win this! I then finished my time in Hobart with drinks and dinner with a couple of people I had met along the way.

Melbourne 

I flew to Melbourne from Sydney and arrived at my hostel around midday. That afternoon I explored south Melbourne with their fantastic South Melbourne Markets, full of anything and everything you could want from food to clothes and tat, all for the fraction of the price of the supermarkets! I also went to their town hall which is a lot more grand than ones in the UK! After this I visited the botanical gardens and the Shrine which is a WWII memorial. There is a great museum inside and lovely views of the city from the top floor.

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The next morning I went on another walking tour run by the same company as the ones in Sydney. Again, it was a great way to get a lot of information about the city quickly. We were shown the old parts of the city, cafe and art laneways and so much more.

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DSCF7143.JPGAfter this, I decided to see the famous Ned Kelly’s armour in the library, which is also where i met a student who showed me around part of the city. We visited the Central Shopping mall where I got tried a virtual reality device which was really cool, I’m sure I looked crazy to onlookers! I followed this by feeding some possums in the local park.

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In the following days I went to the old gaol museum which was where Ned Kelly was locked up and thousands of convicts were held. Another part of the museum allowed you to be locked up in one of the cells and tried to make you feel like a convict… With a little added humour. Definitely worth a visit!

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On my final night I visited penguins in St Kilda which is about 40 minutes by tram outside of the city. As the sun set you could start to see little penguins return to their homes within the break wall,it was a special sight!

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On my final day I had breakfast with a friend from Camp America. It was lovely to catch up even if it was too short! I then chilled out on Bourke Street which is a hub for buskers and shops.

 

Sydney

I stayed a week in Sydney exploring the villages which make up the city and the Blue Mountains. I started off my trip by taking a short visit to Darlington Harbour where large naval ships were docked outside the maritime museum and posh restaurants and cafes line the edge of the harbour. This was followed by a free walking tour (charged on a tip bases) which lasted around 3 hours and gave a brilliant insight and information on key sights around the city. Whilst I had time before the tour, I decided to save seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House until I had more information relating to the structures, and it was definitely worth it! The tour finished around Circular Quay as the sun was setting, so provided a constantly changing view from dusk to dark of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

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The next day I took a train to Milsons Point and took a walk into the city over the bridge and climbed up the tower where you could see the areas surrounding Sydney and Circular Quay. I then went to the Friday foodie market at the rocks… There were only a few stalls so it was a bit disappointing  but smelt delicious.After this I walked to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair where you get the famous view of both the Opera House and Bridge. In the evening, i went for a tour around The Rocks which is the oldest precinct in Sydney. The area has an interesting past, when there were plans to rebuild the area down, all trades people agreed this would not have been the right decision, so refused to do the work. This resulted in the area being saved for future generations.

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Over the next few days I explored other districts including the pretty Paddington, Darlinghurst and Wooloomaloo which contained small boutique shops and art galleries. Manly was wet when I went, however it was nice to see the seaside so close to the city.

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I also walked from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach which was another highlight of my trip. The sun was out which turned the ocean blue and the tourists were out in full force. The walk takes you around several headlands and to see quieter beaches up the coast from Bondi.

DSCF7100.JPGDSCF7102.JPGOn a clear day I visited the Blue Mountains which showed exactly where they get their name from- the blue mist which covers them. We stayed until sunset where we saw the 3 sisters in the changing light.

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Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle

Between Brisbane to Sydney I stopped off in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Newcastle.

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I stayed 2 nights in Byron Bay. The weather was not as dry as I had hoped, but I managed to walk up to the lighthouse on my first day, where I saw a humpback whale. The next morning I had a surf lesson, this was my third lesson. I’m not sure how far I’ve progressed, but practice makes perfect!

On my final morning, I woke at 4:00 am and walked up to the lighthouse. I’d heard the sunrise is meant to be beautiful, unfortunately, the cloud was too thick to see it! But on the way home I saw dolphins playing in the waves, close to the surfers. This is the first time I have seen this so was definitely worth waking up for! I got a bit excited so was unable to catch anygood photos/videos of this!DSCF6918.JPGDSCF6909.JPG

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After a 4 hour bus journey to Coffs Harbour, I spend 24 hours there, which was not enough! I arrived at 3pm, so had a very quick walk around the CBD and Botanical Garden (where you could easily spend half a day). The botanical garden was strictly split into different zones, including a mangrove swamp and native and non-native species.You could really feel the difference in temperatures as you moved between the zones.

The next day I went to the Porpoise Park during the morning, I spent around 3 hours there where you are moved from one show to another. I arrived in time for the dolphin and seal “kisses”, before the main show.The main show featured a couple of seals and dolphins doing tricks. After the show you could feed the seal and touch the dolphin as they were swimming around. Throughout the next few hours there were shows at the snapper fish enclosure, and with the penguins, again, where you could feed all the animals. It was the most interactive park that I have been to. Even when the shows were not on you could see the animals play and relax within their enclosures. The trainers also seemed to know the animals well, ensuring they wouldn’t get too stressed or tired, and there were always people around to ensure no one would try and take a cuddly seal/dolphin!

That afternoon I walked to the seafront and along the pier. I thought I would also taste my first piece of Australian meat so I tried a crocodile burger… safe to say I didn’t enjoy it!

NEWCASTLE

What to say about Newcastle… I don’t know if it was just a little miserable when I went or if there is generally not much to do…I arrived late in the evening so I had about 2 full days in Newcastle. I was hoping to go wine tasting in the Hunter Valley, but was unable to find a tour company operating midweek in the off-season.

I walked to the end of the pier with the lighthouse. This was attached to the mainland by convicts when the area was first colonised and many lost their lives during its construction due to strong waves.The city cathedral is also worth a visit on the top of a hill, I’m sure pre-skyscraper it would’ve stood tall and proud above the city.

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As I walked around the city, it didn’t feel like it had a defined CBD, and like many Australian cities it seemed to be sprawling, with no real feel of a centre. After walking around a bit longer I managed to find the Civic building, which was surrounded by a nice park and a few museums and galleries. I then headed further along the water front where an area near from workshops had been regenerated then back to the hostel. On my second day I took a slow walk along the water front again to the Newcastle Museum which included plenty of information about the convict and coal past of the local area.

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Whilst I enjoyed my trip from Brisbane to Sydney, I would’ve happily skipped out the stop in Newcastle, and spend more time in Byron Bay or Coffs Harbour!

 

Brisbane

Brisbane was the first city stop along my journey. After 3 weeks of not seeing tall buildings, they felt like a shock to the system! I stopped off at Australia Zoo for the day where I met a friend who used to live next door to me. The zoo is home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, so there was a big emphasis on crocodiles. The main show displayed a variety of animals from birds to a crocodile. Around the zoo they had both native species like the Cassowary bird and other animals e.g tigers, giraffes and rhinos. That evening I headed over to stay with one of my oldest friends for a week.

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For three of the days I explored Brisbane and met with another school  friend and her travel buddy for the day who were also staying in the city. We went to South Bank and to the botanical gardens. South Bank had a covered walkway with a pergola of vegetation above and it was zoned into different areas. My favourite was a garden area maintained by volunteers, but it provided fresh herbs, fruit etc to the public to pick for themselves. Within the city I also went on a free walking tour provided by the Information Centre which gave information on the historic building within the area.

There are two art galleries within the City, the modern art gallery and contemporary art gallery, both of which are relatively small but show an array of artwork and sculptures. These are both located on South Bank. From the Gallery of Modern Art you can see a bridge which has been artfully designed to appear as masts of several boats, there were also fountains which looked like dandelions.

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Whilst in the city I also visited city hall where you can ride on a lift to the top of the clock tower and the Museum of Brisbane was situated below explaining the penal colonial past of Brisbane. Between visiting museums and other sites, there were plenty of food markets showcasing food from around the world as I was there during the Brisbane festival.

One of my favourite things I did within the city was jumping on the free city cat from the top of Queen Street. This takes you up and back down the river and lasts around an hour. the sun decided to come out when I did the trip and you get beautiful views of the city from the water, and get to see the districts which are further out of town when skyscrapers turn into single or two story homes with jetties on the water!

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 Over the 3 of the other days my friend showed me around the local area. We visited a small town in the hills where every shop a tourist could dream of was locatee from gift shops to fudge shops. We also walked up Mount Ngungun which had magical views over the other Glass House Mountains and has been one of the highlights of my trip so far.
Whilst exploring we also visited Surfers Paradise where skyscrapers meet the beach. On this trip I was also introduced to an award winning pie shop in Yatala (as the Aussies love their meat pies!) off of the highway to Surfers Paradise.

I also had the opportunity to visit several of the lookout points over the city and surrounding areas and saw the city from Kangaroo Point, the Brisbane wheel and mount Coot-Tha.

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Before reaching Brisbane, I discussed the city with other travellers and opinions over Brisbane were conficting . I really enjoyed it there and would recommend to set aside time to also explore the surrounding areas which really set the city and surrounding areas apart.