Bay of Islands

Basing ourselves in Opua, with the nearest town being Paihia, our first day was spent locally chilling out, doing a little organising and heading to Paihia beach.

And enjoying some scrumptious pizza!

Paihia

A popular beach fronting a touristy town that sees regular cruise ship visitors, although busy it definitely wasn’t our favourite of beaches. It had fun toilets though!

The next day was an early start to get me into Paihia to go diving whilst Evie and Tim had a daddy & daughter day breakfasting out and hanging out at the park. It allowed me to see a bit of the Bay of Islands by boat as well, something we didn’t plan on doing as a family.

Doing a Bean swap, we hung out in the evening and Evie had a fun outdoor bath and walked up the road from the house, whilst Tim played at the local golf club.

It was then Tims turn for a day of fun as he was excited to be able to go and play at the exclusive Kauri Cliffs golf club.

Biking – The Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Evie and me got the bike out and set off from Opua through mangroves and farmland, past a crazy toilet mobile!

cycling along a short section of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail (apparently a 4 day trail).

We however just followed the old railway track to Kawakawa, along which the Bay of Islands vintage train runs, had a picnic and played at the playground, before heading back and retreating to the ranch from the sweltering heat for another outdoor bath!

Oke Bay

We finally found a little bit of paradise in the Bay of Islands. Getting the car ferry across from Opua to Okiato we stopped for a drink at Russell.

A more up market cruise ship tourist town based around a marina, with a much more inviting beach than Paihia.

However we were moving on for our swim as the ferry guy recommended Oke Bay.

A half hour drive away, partly on gravel road, it was worth the drive! The view from the top of the steps were what we had been expecting from the Bay of Islands.

Some lovely swimming, even Evie had a proper dip. And she enjoyed lots of paddling and walking along the beach.

Sadly time to leave this beautiful bay and head back across the tiny stretch of water on the ferry.

Haruru Falls

Packing up to leave, we finished our time here with a walk from the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi to Haruru Falls. Took about 1&1/2 hours each way with a little picnic at the falls.

Through beautiful forest again, the only trouble being fitting through the bike prevention gates at each end of the walk with a child carrier!

Getting there was exciting as the high tide was so high that shoes off was required through the mangrove swamps

The falls were nice to see, shame no jumping in allowed!

Seeing some nice birds nesting and sunning themselves on the return

Back through the now emptier mangroves

Having had a good walk it really was time to leave. In truth a little underwhelmed with the Bay of Islands (would advise the Coromandel if you had to pick between them) we head off to Auckland.

Queenstown and around – Christmas week 2018

Arriving in Queenstown on a wet and wild evening, for Christmas week in the New Zealand summer, we were then exceptionally lucky and blessed with a week of sunshine.

Queenstown

Queenstown itself doesn’t have a huge waterfront, but it’s bustling with plenty do to, including a fantastic play area. To me, it is like the New Zealand Windermere of the Lake District – everything a tourist could possibly want, from shops to cafes & restaurants to fun galore.

Mini golf

For a bit of fun we had gone to play the indoor mini golf as it is awesome – a must if you have a couple of spare hours. Sadly it was closed so instead we played the outdoor mini golf. Still fun but standard. I discovered it is hard to play with a mini in a front sling!

So in the end we let Evie romp and she made the course even more difficult!

These are both located at the bottom of the gondola.

The Gondola

Easily walkable from the centre of town, this takes you up the mountain for a great view, and if you choose, paragliding, bungi jumping and riding the luge. For us though, it knocked an hours walk off each end of our bigger walk up Ben Lomond.

Ben Lomond

You may think this mountain is in Scotland, but it also exists in Queenstown! This must be one of the most popular walks given the number of people doing it. But it is obvious why once on it.

From the top of the gondola the path winds through the woods a short way before starting an unremitting ascent to the top.

It was a 1&1/2 hrs walk to the saddle. It’s unusual that we take as long as walking signs suggest, but on this walk we did! The saddle is a good place to stop at for turkey sandwiches round 1, for it has great views of the next mountain range across.

From here it got more rocky underfoot and was a harder steeper ascent, and Evie started to few super heavy! I have to admit (and this is unusual for me), that I nearly suggested that our view was good enough and we could turn back. However, so long as you can see the summit, it’s worth it.

The view from the top was nothing short of remarkable.

It is definitely Evie’s highest peak at 1,748m and we therefore woke her up to appreciate the view! She told us later how much she loved it.

Taking special care on the first part of the descent, and stopping for Turkey sandwiches round 2 back on the saddle, we then made our way back down. Although expensive, I was by this point super pleased of the lift down as both our feet were super painful.

At the gondola cafe we treated ourselves to smoothies and fries before heading back down for the evening.

Glenorchy

Again, the New Zealand version of this Scottish sounding place. It was about a 40 minute drive from Queenstown and a beautiful spot. We liked the sound of the lagoons and thought they would be a great place to hang out and swim. Reality was that although they had their own prettiness, they were very shallow and silty.

Despite Finley repeatedly asking if we were going in, after I watched Tim wade and get not deeper than his shins, kicking up silt with every step, even as someone who swims whenever possible, here did not inspire me to get wet!

So after a hot picnic on a small jetty, we headed back to the head of the Lake Wakatipu and there we did swim. Jumping off the jetty and in and off the swimming platform, into the gorgeous blue water. Evie had a little paddle but was not hugely amused at the cold temperature of the water! So she hung out with Granny & Granded.

The Remarkables walks

Just out of Queenstown past the airport, you can drive up the steep hairpin road to The Remarkables ski area.

From this car park two walks are signposted.

Tim, Evie, Granny & Grandad went to the lake, which took about an hour to walk to. It looks a pretty special place.

Nick, Cath, Joseph, Finley and myself went on a slightly longer walk to the Lookout, as the terrain wasn’t suitable for all. We even managed a snowball fight and some bum sledging in the patches of snow left still in December. From here was a spectacular view over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

Kelvin Heights Peninsula

This is a nice sheltered bay that looks across to Queenstown but is very easy to get to by car. With a golf course in the middle but woods around the outside, you can walk or cycle around the peninsula, walking for about an hour. The water is a beautiful blue which just makes you want to jump in. It’s also where the locals seem to hangout with all their water toys.

Queenstown trail

Back on the bike, the Kelvin Heights Peninsula is a section of the Queenstown Trail that is nice to cycle. When you have biked around the peninsula and through a small housing estate you can then continue along the Queenstown trail to Jacks point. This is a gorgeous section of trail looking down on Lake Wakatipu. However, still being new to having Evie on the back of my bike rather than in a trailer, and with the path a bit loose under wheel, I pushed up the steeper hills but we enjoyed whizzing down. From previous experience you can continue doing a bit of mountain biking around Jacks Point. Not for us on this day though.

Swimming in the lake

We were incredibly lucky to be staying in a family house that looked onto and had access to Lake Wakatipu.

Although super cold (far too cold for Evie), it was great fun to jump into and enjoy a refreshing cool off after a hot summers day.

Even Grandad couldn’t resist the tempting waters and braved the cold for a swim.

A warm Christmas Day

Christmas doesn’t seem to be a big thing in New Zealand, but Santa and his reindeer still got left their drink, mince pie and carrot to ensure that we were not forgotten out here.

He thoughtfully left some very small gifts that Joseph and Finley helped Evie to open.

A nice walk around the Kelvin Peninsula, a turkey dinner and then (apparently) a New Zealand style pudding, a pavlova.

Merry Christmas one and all – time to move on in our trip.

Mt Cook national park

So this is where our first major trip alterations were made because we now have a baby. We had booked a night in the Meuller Hut, a 3-5 hr steep walk up from Mt Cook Village. But we decided against going, with avalanche warnings on alert and freezing temperatures with high winds…. not what we felt was the right conditions to go with Evie, so our plans were abandoned. Looking down the valley as we drove past Pukaki we wouldn’t have seen anything anyway.

We also didn’t go the next day…. similar reason.

Thankfully we did have one small window of opportunity to see the Mt Cook range the morning that we were moving on, as for a few hours only the clouds parted and the sun came out. We got the classic amazing view down Lake Pukaki.

Walking the Hooker Valley Trail with Granny & Grandad, meeting up with the rest of Tims family briefly there,

we didn’t quite make it in time for a good view of Mt Cook, but we did get a glimpse.

And the opportunity just to take in the beauty of the Hooker Valley

Watching as the cloud rolled in and feeling the first drops of rain, it was time to walk away from Mt Cook and carry on our journey. Looking back down Lake Pukaki on the way out there were no longer any views to be had.

Evie can thoroughly recommend the lavender ice-cream from the Lavender Farm on the way out of the valley!

Lake Ohau – nr Twizel

If you drive long the aqueduct you can park at Lake Ohau, which is great for a dull day as it has a low level path around the lake shore suitable for both biking (we did this on the previous trip to a nice lodge for lunch) and walking.

Although lesser known on the tourist trail, it is worth a visit if you have a spare day as it has a stunning backdrop, and is otherwise pretty quiet, so nice if you are tired of the crowds.

Wrapped up warm in layers, daddy & daughter enjoy the view.

A Christmas walk around the base of Hallin Fell

On a damp December morning we set off for a Christmas walk with Evie’s new baby friends (Bella, Willow, Oliver and Evan) and their mummy’s (Helen, Paula, Claire and Lou).

Parking at St Peters Church in Martindale, with the normal faff factor of multiple mums and babies, we set off down towards Howtown with the wind and rain on our backs.

What used to be one of my favourite easy off road runs makes a nice easy walk with a baby in a pack and lovely views without going up, perfect for wet weather days.

The other nice thing about this walk is it’s circular. On nicer days there are a number of gorgeous picnic and swimming spots and even a cliff jump into Ullswater. Maybe save that for when this bunch are a bit older!

Of course a damp walk must be rewarded with a nice cafe for a warm up tea and food! Granny Dowbekins in Pooley Bridge fulfils this job very nicely, especially with a big table and multiple high chairs.

This is where the Christmas outfits could finally be shown off !

Little Mell Fell – 03/08/18

For a small walk so close to home, this was a walk new to me as well as Evie. A blustery damp August day meant it was perfect for a brief bit of fresh air.

Even on this dank day, there was still atmosphere in the views. It’s rare that it’s not worth going out…. at least for a little while…

Moel Famau – stunning views on a stunning Autumnal day (20/10/18)

A great place in North Wales for an easy walk with stunning views, starting from the car park just up from Loggerheads.

The sun was out so a family walk on this beautiful day was a must, with the sun bringing out the best of the colours.

Evie was fast asleep and snoring in my ear for the first part of the walk, but then woke up to enjoy the top

Arriving at the busy top, where there is a great 360 degree view from the tower for miles around

Time for a much deserved snack for Evie (having made it to the top awake!)

Then back down through the trees that are all turning

And back to the car across the wibbly bridge! Nice playground for when Evie is older….