When I first started researching our trip to New Zealand I quickly realized that one week was nowhere near enough time to see it all. New Zealand is made up of a north and south island and even though they look tiny on a map don’t be fooled! You can drive for hours. Our flight from Sydney, Australia took us to Christchurch where we stayed in a lovely Bed & Breakfast. We stayed a week and explored the area all around the South Island. Christchurch really reminded me of Florida, if you’ve ever been you’ll know what I mean. The houses are built close together on tight-knit city blocks. The one thing we noticed that is different from neighborhoods at home in the U.S. is that most houses have a tall fence all around the property, especially along the street side.
Surprisingly enough, we did not find a lot of hotel options. Christchurch has more motel options and since we were unfamiliar with the area we opted for a lovely Bed & Breakfast that had great reviews and a homey feel since we were staying for a week. We stayed at The Lilac Rose right in the heart of Christchurch and had the most comfortable stay. Upon our arrival we were greeted by the resident Golden Retriever, Maddie. She is the sweetest dog, so calm and pleasant. The owners, Pam and Denis, were most accommodating. Pam made sure that we had everything we needed for a comfortable stay and Denis cooked up a hot breakfast every morning! I would highly recommend staying at The Lilac Rose over a motel any day. Here are some pictures from the lovely B&B, be sure to click through the slideshow:
One of the attractions in Christchurch that you don’t want to miss is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. There is no fee to enter the gardens and there is so much to see. We were there at the beginning of spring so the gardens were not in full bloom but we were still pleasantly surprised. The Central Rose Garden is absolutely stunning with the arched entryway and the many varietals of roses. One can’t help but stop and smell the roses! There are multiple conservatories, a paddling pool and nice walking paths. Visiting the Botanic Gardens was definitely a highlight of Christchurch.
A lovely day trip is just a short drive away to a small seaside town called Akaroa. This little town is a historic French and British settlement with quaint shops, restaurants and inns. We spent the day here and took an engaging harbor nature cruise with Black Cat Cruises. We were taken on a delightful tour of the harbor and the captain made sure that we saw plenty of wildlife. The crew were very knowledgeable of the area and knew exactly where to look to find dolphins, sea lions and even White Flippered Blue Penguins, the smallest penguins in the world!
I must mention that on our drive to Akaroa from Christchurch, we stopped at a charming roadside stand for a traditional New Zealand meat pie. This savory hand-held pie is a staple in New Zealand. The one in the picture had chicken, brie and cranberries baked inside of a flaky crust. This was a delicious lunch!
It would be lovely to go back to Akaroa someday and stay for awhile in this little village tucked away from the rest of the world.
What to see in Sydney, Australia on Your First Visit
Our first trip to Sydney, Australia was a bit overwhelming when it came to planning. Australia has so much to see and do. It really depends on what type of vacation you are going for. We knew that we only had a few days in Sydney so we were going to try to see as much of the city as possible and hit all of the highlights.
When you are looking for a hotel you will notice that Sydney is divided up into many different areas. We narrowed our search for a hotel into The Rocks area as it is the most historical of Sydney and located right on the harbor. There are many restaurants and pubs all within walking distance and you can stroll along the harbor at night and get a great view of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. We stayed at a boutique hotel called The Harbour Rocks Hotel which has been many things before becoming a hotel. I highly recommend this hotel, it was so comfortable and the daily breakfast was delicious. There was a continental breakfast that included fruit, yogurt, meats, cheeses and pastries. You could also add items off of the menu if you were hungry for something heartier. We took advantage of the breakfast every morning before heading out. Here’s a link to the hotel.
Bondi to Coogee Beach Walk
One of the best things that we did was a walking tour from Bondi to Coogee Beach. We took public transportation from Circular Quay which is at the harbor and an easy walk from our hotel. The walk between both beaches is 3.5 miles and although we did not make it the whole way, it was a nice walk. The walkway is paved and easy to follow although you can find tours if you want a guided one.
One of the sites along the way besides the amazing waves and beautiful blue water is the lifeguard training facility at Bondi Beach. I couldn’t get over the training pool!
Tall Ships Tour on the Harbour
We did a tour of the harbor on a Tall Ship and it was so much fun! They served appetizers and you could buy beverages. The tour took us around the harbor past the Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge so we got fantastic pictures. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about the history of Sydney and was able to point out places of interest. You can check out their website here.
Jenolen Caves ~ Blue Mountains
On our last full day in Sydney we took a bus tour to the Jenolan Caves. We had to see the world’s oldest open caves! Talk about a harrowing bus ride! It wasn’t too bad as we left the city behind on the 1.5 hour drive but the closer we got to the caves the curvier the roads became. Once we were a couple miles away, the road basically became one way (although not posted) and the bus took up the entire road. We just had to pray nobody was coming down the mountain! On the way there we stopped to view the Three Sisters rock formations from Echo Point which was a nice way to stretch our legs. Then a quick stop in a little town called Katoomba for a coffee break and to pick up a bagged lunch. It’s good to note that once you are inside the cave, the passageways can be very narrow and very steep. If you have a problem with stairs, you might want to plan ahead before going on this tour. I believe you can make advance arrangements and they can make accomodations. But it is definitely worth it to see the formations inside the cave!
Click through the slideshow to check out some amazing stalactites and stalagmites! We even saw a wallaby on the drive home!
All in all, there is a lot more of Australia yet to see. I look forward to going back. But Sydney was a great city and I was happy to spend a few days there. Next stop, New Zealand!
It’s amazing to me that my first Blog post would be about a trip to Australia and New Zealand but it is! We got to go on this amazing adventure in December and let me tell you, it was everything I was expecting and more. We went on this trip to see our niece graduate from her Master’s program that she completed at the University of Canterbury. Now you may wonder why we would travel all the way to New Zealand to see a niece graduate but I have to say, why not?! It seemed like the perfect reason to us.
San Francisco, California
We started the trip off with a 36 hour layover in San Francisco as we were meeting up with our traveling companions and taking a red-eye flight to Sydney. So while in San Francisco, we decided to do a little sightseeing.
You can’t go wrong with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour if you only have a little bit of time in a city and you want to see it all.
We also booked a tour of Alcatraz Island. I highly recommend booking this in advance. We were there in December and it was still really busy. I imagine in busier travel times that this tour is very busy. You have to book a specific tour time for the ferry that takes you to the island. You can click here to look at the official Alcatraz Island webpage. Touring Alcatraz is something that we had never done in the several times that we have been to San Fran and decided it was time. The Island itself is actually a National Park and, besides being home to one of the most famous prisons of all time, it was originally built as a fort.
No trip to San Francisco is complete without a stop at Pier 39 to see the lazy sea lions lounging on the docks and barking at one another. For a live look at the sea lions, you can click here and a new window will open the Sea Lion Webcam!
The final stop in our whirlwind tour of San Fran was Ghiardelli Square for some decadent hot chocolate. Since we were traveling in December, it was actually pretty cool temperatures all day and by nightfall we were cold and ready for some chocolaty goodness to warm us up.
After a full day of touring San Fran we headed to the airport to catch a redeye flight to Sydney, Australia!