North Island Twin Coast Discovery
✔️ Driving north from Auckland via the North Shore, our first stop will be the town of Matakana....a gateway to your accommodation for a couple of nights at Brick Bay Wineries at Snell Beach. The city is a foodie’s heaven known for its weekend farmers market, boutique food shops and spectacular vineyards.
✔️ Keep following the highway north to Whangarei, the city by the sea. Whilst you’re there, visit the Whangarei Falls, the summit of Mount Parihaka and hang out at Quayside, the entertainment centre.
✔️ From there, go inland via Kawiti Family Glow worm Caves or over the mountains via the coast to Helena Bay.
✔️ Then you will be in the Bay of Islands - whether you stay in Kerikeri, Paihia or Russell there is plenty to do in this area with beautiful beaches, opportunities for fishing, surfing, diving and dolphin encounters as well as fabulous hikes including the Cape Brett Walkway.
✔️ On the way down south take the west coast highway for another scenic drive.
✔️ When visiting Auckland, there is one place you must always go to - Waiheke Island. It’s only a short ferry ride across the bay and together with fabulous wineries to visit, there are some incredible places to stay. A day trip is possible, but if you can spare the time, a few days spent here is recommended.
North Island Thermal Explorer
Start the journey in Auckland before venturing south…
✔️ After leaving Auckland this morning, travel south to Waitimo to see the incredible glow worm caves.....by foot or by boat, you’ll see the magical creatures light up.
✔️ Rotorua is the adventure capital of the North Island. It’s famous for its thermal mud pools and hot springs, but there are plenty of activities to keep the whole family occupied for days.
✔️ Continue south to Taupo for more adventure and a visit to Huka Falls and Tongariro National Park. Glamping in this area is popular to immerse yourselves in nature.
✔️ For a change of pace, let’s head into the Hawke’s Bay Area for some wonderful wine, innovative cuisine, shopping and art galleries.
✔️ Napier is known as the Art Deco capital of New Zealand - walking around the city is like being on a 1930s film set. The Art Deco festival is held each February.
✔️ To finish our North Island Thermal Explorer itinerary, we’ll end in Wellington. The capital is a city with a vibrant mix of culture, history, nature, shopping and cuisine. Wellington is the master of casual dining with great restaurants, night markets and food trucks aplenty.
South Island Exploration
✔️ Start your journey in Christchurch, hire a car and drive north to Hanmer Springs - known for its thermal springs and hot pools
✔️ Drive inland to Lewis Pass and do the Nature loop walk, then on to Maruia Falls near Murchison.
✔️ From there, it’s a must to visit Nelson Lakes National Park which is stunning.
✔️ Base yourself in Nelson for a few days to do some wine tasting in and around Marlborough Sound, boat cruises or visit art galleries and shop.
✔️ Or set off on the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk - one of the great walks of New Zealand.
✔️ Travel via Blenheim to see Lake Grassmere, otherwise known as the pink lake
✔️ End off the trip with a fabulous stay at the Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses in Kaikoura, check out Ohau Point Seal Colony and waterfall before heading back to Christchurch
South Island Glacier Adventure
✔️ Let’s start the journey in Christchurch - the historic centre with beautiful old buildings and scenic gardens.
✔️ Take a boat ride on the Avon River and then head to Akaroa and the Bays for some dolphin spotting.
✔️ From there, drive west to the uncrowded ski town of Methven which is the perfect base for your heli-skiing adventure, or otherwise just an overnight stop.
✔️ Let’s move on to the town of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park - the base for your adventurous few days of discovery at Tasman Glacier, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier.
✔️ Don’t forget to set aside time to see Lake Matheson and Lake Pukaki. Aside from the hikes, waterfalls, rainforests and lakes, there are glow worm caves and glacier hot pools to enjoy also.
✔️ As you drive north to Greymouth, drop off your car and take the TranzAlpine Express back to Christchurch.
When I visit New York, I steer well clear of Madison and Fifth Avenues for shopping. With designer stores as far as the eye can see; heading downtown to Soho, the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village has a lot more to offer the everyday shopper…..and then of course there are the regular designer sample sales that are always worth checking out http://www.nycinsiderguide.com/nyc-sample-sale#.WRw7i2iGOHk .
Some other favourite shopping haunts of mine from around the world include –
Barcelona – It is easy to spend hours wandering through the alleyways of the Gothic Quarter and El Raval. There are so many unique shops intermingled with tapas bars and restaurants that an afternoon is gone in the blink of an eye. Passieg de Gracia is the Champs Elysees of Barcelona and is beautiful to stroll down, but the backstreets hold far more appeal for me.
Tokyo – the streets of Omote-Sando, Harajuku, Takeshita-dori and Ura-Hara offer the quirkiest shopping I’ve possibly ever seen. Along with fabulous people watching, this is such a fun area to stroll around and pick up some very unique things.
Cape Town – the vibe in this beautiful city is wonderful especially down at the V&A Waterfront, but the boutique shopping area bordered by Long St and Kloof St in the city centre is a firm favourite.
Buenos Aires – Recoleta has the high fashion labels sewn up, but head to Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho for great bargains and shopping with a difference. A lazy afternoon strolling the streets in these districts is a must do for any visit to Buenos Aires.
Vancouver – this is one city where the shopping is spread out but Davie Village and Gastown are great shopping neighbourhoods which cater for everyone. Getting out a little further is Commercial Drive, a fabulous area showing Vancouver’s diversity and it’s worth visiting if you have a morning or afternoon free.
Singapore – a welcome escape from the countless shopping malls that overrun the city is Haji Lane in the Arab Quarter. It’s a lively area full of eclectic shops, cafes and bars with amazing graffiti covering the walls. It’s such a contrast to other areas of Singapore and is great to visit both in the day and at night.
A European summer vacation is not complete without a visit to a beach or two, but fighting for a square metre of sand, a sun lounge or an umbrella can make the day unpleasant. It’s time to explore further afield, get away from the usual tourist haunts and mix it with the locals at these magnificent European beach locations.
*Tropea, Calabria, Southern Italy – a favourite holiday destination for Italians with dramatic cliffs, beautiful beaches and a string of seaside resorts and villages dotting the coastline
*Cavalaire-Sur-Mer, Cote d’Azur, France – the French Riviera without the hype and pretentiousness, this is a playground for the young and old and particularly for divers
*St. Paul’s Bay, Rhodes, Greece – not a popular island for first time visitors to Greece, but it is definitely one to visit 2nd time round. This beautiful bay sits just south of Lindos on the island of Rhodes.
*Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos, Greece – if you haven’t seen it in photos, you’ll be amongst the few. This spectacular beach is well known to locals but very few Australian tourists visit Zakynthos. Put it on your list of “go to” places!
*Llafranc, Costa Brava, Spain – this is one of my favourite areas of Europe and this little gem is still quite unknown to tourists. Little caves weave in and out of the hilly coastline with crystal blue water. In one word – stunning.
*Caneiros Beach, Algarve, Portugal – it can be quite crowded in the middle of summer, but this beach stands apart from others as the beach is hidden by magnificent rock formations and is only revealed as you step through them.
*Saharun Beach, Dugi Otok Island, Croatia – a relatively untouched jewel, once you’ve caught the ferry from Zadar, this divine beach can only be accessed down a small gravel track between villages. The turquoise waters make this a standout destination.
*Brela Vruja, Makarska Riviera, Croatia – set between Dubrovnik and Split, the Makarska Riviera is a collection of small beaches, one equally as good as the next. Brela Vruja Beach is considered the best but why not try them all?
What female could visit New York without visiting a rooftop bar? For this New York lover, each time I visit the Big Apple, I seek out another fabulous bar or two to add to my list. There’s something to say about having a beautiful cocktail out in the open, up high above Manhattan amongst the glamour set. I think we can all thank Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda for that!!
Have you ever been to Eataly NYC…the vibrant Italian marketplace that features an array of cafes, counters, restaurants and a cooking school? It’s situated in the Flatiron District and it’s a great place to eat, shop, and learn. But the hidden secret is the fabulous rooftop bar, La Birreria where Aperol Spritzers on a Saturday afternoon are the norm.
For the art lovers, the Metropolitan Museum of Art situated on Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side, houses an amazing rooftop bar overlooking Central Park. Art and cocktails seem to mix quite well and what a setting!
A classy establishment is the Salon de Ning at the Peninsular Hotel, on the corner of Fifth and 55th. Sweeping views up and down Fifth Avenue highlight this very lovely outdoor bar – it has a very cool and sophisticated vibe. Another one to fit in this category is the cocktail bar at the Mandarin Oriental, situated at Columbus Circle with phenomenal views over Central Park.
For me, I prefer the more casual yet upbeat vibe of the aptly named “Roof” at the Viceroy Hotel or the PHD bar at the Dream Midtown. They are both quite small but have a similar feel and are both located just south of Central Park.
Travelling further downtown… the Dream Downtown, 230 Fifth, The Standard Highline and the Refinery Hotel all have amazing rooftop bars; with the highlight being the glass igloos/bubbles on the roof of 230 Fifth over the winter months.
For the youngsters, head down to the trendy neighbourhood of the Lower East Side where the Indigo Hotel has the hip “Mr Purple” rooftop bar with a pool and amazing views of the Empire State Building.
Head on over to Brooklyn for killer Manhattan views – visit Alma, Berry Park Roof Deck or Dobbin St Rooftop Terrace to look back on the city that never sleeps.