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Where to get the best view of Mount Taranaki! Our five favourite spots!

Mount Taranaki; New Zealand's most perfectly formed volcano. If you haven't looked at Mount Taranaki on satellite maps, I would really encourage you to go and have a wee look! It's quite fascinating seeing the incredible symmetry of the volcano cone! I love driving around the North Island and suddenly spotting the perfectly formed peak of Mount Taranaki peeping out. From all the way out in Tongariro to driving around the rolling farmland in New Plymouth, it's really quite magical seeing the powerful volcano everywhere. In fact I love it so much, I've decided to put together a quick blog outlining some of the spots that I think offer the best views of Mount Taranaki. But before I get into it, I'll quickly add the typical 'mountain weather' disclaimer! Mount Taranaki tends to do its own thing more often than not, so I would really recommend checking the weather forecast before you plan on visiting the area. Of course, you need to take the forecasts with a pinch of salt as the mountain weather changes as quick as Caramilk sells out in Australia. I can't tell you how many times we have been monitoring a weather forecast, eagerly watching all the beautiful high cloud erupt in the sky and then find the sky fill with grey thick fog in the last ten minutes before sunset. You just have to take whatever you get! Tip: when checking the forecasts, I would suggest paying attention to the fog percentages as this can really make or break the visibility. We use this forecast when planning trips to Mount Taranaki as it provides estimated percentages for different cloud types and also offers fog and wind speed. Remember high cloud is the best and typically tend to light up/fill with colour at sunrise/sunset. Low cloud often affects visibility. Alright, fingers crossed you get some glorious weather and this blog will offer you a few good spots to visit :) 1. Pouakai Tarn Probably no surprises that coming in at number one is the Pouakai Tarn. This is one of those beautiful beautiful spots that you can (and likely will) see endless photos of, but yet, nothing prepares you for just how beautiful it is in real life. On a still, calm day, the tarn provides you with a perfect mirror reflection of Mount Taranaki. We have done the walk to the tarn twice now (and camped up top) and have to say that we think sunset is the best time to visit. In our opinion it is just slightly better than sunrise! You will want to give yourself two hours to comfortably get to the tarn from the Mangorei Road Carpark. When we rushed up (with and without our packs) we took approximately 1.5 hours to get to the hut and then a further 15 minutes from there to the tarn. Two hours would be just right we think. DOC suggests 2.5 hours from the carpark to the tarn. If you want to know more about the walk including track conditions and our photography tips for the tarn, check out our guide to the Pouakai Tarn here. We also have a blog which details all the different accommodation options for the tarn, how busy it is (now updated May 2020) and this provides more of our overall experience. You can read this here: Pouakai Tarn Summary Medium difficulty (definitely walking shoes/hiking boots required but the entire track is on wooden boardwalks which makes it much easier) Approximately 2 hours walk (one way) from parking 20-25 minutes drive from New Plymouth Best at sunset and on calm, low wind day for reflections 2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing This might seem a little funny listing this here, but it's such a beautiful spot and one you really need to have in the back of your mind, otherwise you might just miss it! Especially if you're walking the wrong way! If you walk the Alpine Crossing in an South-west direction (so heading towards the Mangatepopo carpark from the alpine lakes), there is an absolutely stunning view point of Mount Taranaki on the trail (perfectly peeping out between the rocky outcrops). I would say it's approximately 90 minutes walk from the Red Crater Summit and 50 minutes walk from the Mangatepopo carpark). If you have a zoom lens, this spot becomes absolutely magic and at sunset, people will appear as silhouettes which adds a bit of interest. I would say this spot is best at sunset, but I appreciate being here in the evening can be a little difficult given the parking restrictions for Tongariro. Our estimate at the coordinates is: -39.1413735, 175.6101207 Tongariro Alpine Crossing Summary - Taranaki Viewpoint Medium/Hard walk (definitely require walking/hiking shoes) Approximately 90 minutes walk from Mangatepopo car park Approximately 50 minutes walk from the Red Crater Summit viewpoint 3.5 hours drive from New Plymouth (to Mangatepopo carpark) Best at sunset for awesome silhouettes 3. Kent Road See those epic road-shots of Mount Taranaki on a perfectly lined up road? Remember at the start of this blog when I said to check out Mount Taranaki on satellite maps, well in doing this, you may have noticed that there are several roads that look like they all line up perfectly with Mount Taranaki. Our pick of all the roads is Kent Road, but we believe Arawhata street would also work well (yet to try!). Any time of the day here is beautiful, you really just want to make sure Mount Taranaki is visible!! We have come to Kent Road a few times now and on several occasions, had to wait for the cloud to move (this does tend to happen quite quickly especially if there is only a little cloud). Make sure you're willing to be patient here. During our Kent Road visits, we have been here at sunrise and sunset and found both to be just as good as each other. Remember when you do visit, you're right by people's farms/houses and there isn't much space to pull over. We were lucky enough to pass a farmer when we arrived and asked where was best to park Vinnie. We ended up using a pull off a little way down the road but were really glad we did as there really isn't much in the way of parking here. To be honest I'm not actually a huge fan of taking road photos, but this road is really quiet and you have good visibility of both ways from up on the hill. When we were leaving Kent Road, another couple arrived and parked right up on the hill (half in the ditch/half on the side of the road) and we saw a couple of locals driving by and honking at the car. Some even sped up in anger. Please make sure you pull off properly - the farmer said to us the most annoying/frustrating/dangerous thing is people parking half on the road. If you want to get the exact coordinates for Kent Road and our photography tips and tricks for our road shots, click here to read our travel guide - the CJ way to Kent Road. Kent Road Guide Easy Approximately 1-2 minutes walk from parking 10 minutes drive from New Plymouth Best any time of day when Mt Taranaki is visible 4. Wilkies Pool This is actually one of my favourite favourite spots in the entire New Plymouth/Taranaki area. And one I would still urge you to visit even if Mount Taranaki isn't visible. On the Wilkies Pool walk, there are a series of small, crystal clear rock-pools situated at the base of Mount Taranaki, and after recent rainfall, these rock-pools are transformed into gorgeous wee waterfalls. Even if you can't see Mount Taranaki towering in the back, pack your togs and enjoy slipping and sliding in the water here. We have visited three times and had loads of fun each time. It's really a spot where even the most serious of adults can find themselves reverting back to their childish ways! As you are at the base of Mount Taranaki (so rather quite close to it), you will see just how rapidly the weather can change. My advice would be to take your time here, as one minute the sky can be full of cloud/fog and the next, perfectly clear. It's actually quite impressive just sitting and watching the sky endlessly transform. I think the best time of day (for an epic epic shot) would be a cloudy sunset where you could use the rock-pools to get some colour reflecting in them and then have Mount Taranaki glowing in the background. Unfortunately we have yet to get this shot, (our sunsets here have always ended in Mount Taranaki disappearing into a thick blanket of fog haha) so we ended up snapping pictures the other way (see below). To get to the Wilkies Pool from the carpark, we would suggest allowing approximately 25 minutes and wearing water shoes so you can grip/climb the rocks easily. If you want our photography tips and tricks for our shots at Wilkies Pool click here to read our travel guide - the CJ way to Wilkies Pool Wilkies Pool Summary Easy/Medium walk Approximately 25-30 minutes walk from parking Water shoes are best here so you can quickly and safely make your way up and down the rocks Approximately 55 minutes drive from New Plymouth Best any time of day when Mt Taranaki is visible, but worth a visit even if it's not! 5. Lake Mangamahoe I'm sure if you Google best views of Mount Taranaki, Lake Mangamahoe will be somewhere in the list. This is a super duper easy spot to get to, it probably entails just slightly more walking than Kent Street, but is still only a couple of minutes from your car! So here's what you do. Drive to Lake Managamahoe and follow the road right until the end (the road will turn to gravel but is definitely 2WD accessible). Park in the last carpark (by the water tank) and then you have two options for viewpoints. One, you can simply walk to the listed viewpoint (which is five minutes from the carpark and signposted). While this viewpoint is nice (it is higher), we think the (second) viewpoint along the dam wall is better as you are closer to the water (and therefore have more options for reflections). To get to the dam wall you start off by walking towards the viewpoint, but at about two minutes in you will come across a T junction and rather than going right/straight (to the viewpoint) you go left and head to the dam wall. It's only another minute or so from this junction to the dam wall and once you're there you can set your camera up anywhere along the path. We think sunrise is best here and particularly on a calm day so you can make the most of the reflections. Note with Lake Mangamahoe, the gates do lock overnight, in the Summer (approximately October to March) they close at 8:30pm and open at 7am, however when we spoke to the guard doing the evening lock up, he said the gates would be open by 5:30-6:00am. If you're worried though about the gates potentially being locked when you visit for sunrise, you can park across the road (entrance to Lake Mangamahoe) and walk the 2km in. (As this is just walking along the road around the lake, it isn't strenuous so allowing 30 should be fine). For more info on the gate hours, you can check here . For more information on Lake Mangamahoe and our camera settings, click here to read our travel guide - the CJ way to Lake Mangamahoe. Lake Mangamahoe Summary Easy - jandals suitable Approximately 2-5 minutes walk from parking 15 minutes drive from New Plymouth Make sure you're aware of the gates potentially being locked Best at sunrise and on a calm day so you can get reflections Hope you found this blog helpful and if you have any questions on any of the above spots, please feel free to leave a comment below! :) Always happy to help! Happy travels :) Charlotte #awaywithcj #nz #nzblog #newzealand #travelblog #taranakai #aotearoa #wilkiespool #lakemangamahoe #taranakiroadshot #pouakaitarn #mounttaranaki

Hiking the Pinnacles in the Coromandel New Zealand - everything you need to know!

Last Summer, we did the Pinnacles walk in the Coromandel New Zealand and found it a real highlight of the area. We sat up in the mountains (759 m high to be precise!) and watched the sun go down over the Coromandel Peninsula. It was such a beautiful sight and the two of us really loved it. In fact, we loved it so much we decided it was worthy of a return over the 19/20 Summer!! This blog details all you need to know for the Pinnacles walk in the Coromandel including some of our own tips, how busy it is, and when we think is best to visit! So first of all, how long is the Pinnacles Walk and where do you start from? The Pinnacles Walk is a 7km walk (one way) from the carpark (Kauaeranga Road end) carpark to the Pinnacles Summit. Note, to get to this car park you drive on a gravel road for approximately 8.2km. And while it’s definitely 2WD accessible, it’s probably one of the worse roads we have driven in NZ. It’s not maintained (I don’t believe it’s a council road) so is often corrugated and full of pot holes. It's one of those things - if you expect it, then it probably won’t bother you but if you don’t it probably will! From the car park, it’s approximately 6km to the Pinnacles Hut (which I’ve touched on below under the accommodation section) and then a further 1km from the Hut to the Summit. For us, it took 2 hours 15 minutes to get to the hut/camp site (with our packs/tent etc.) and a further 35 minutes to get to the Summit from there. (I.e. total time from Kauaeranga Road end carpark to the Pinnacles summit was 2 hours 50 minutes). The walk back down from the summit to the carpark (the next day) took us approximately 2 hours 20. It can be a wee bit rough on the knees so try not rush it too much! What is the walk like? The best way to describe the walk would be to call it a bit of a Pick ‘n’ Mix really. You walk along swing bridges and over creeks and waterfalls, up wooden staircases, through a bit of muddy forest and then all of a sudden find yourself along dry, exposed rock-walls. The walk to the Hut (from the carpark) is uphill, but much more gentle when compared to the section from the hut to the summit. This part of the walk (from the hut to the summit) is primarily staircases and once you near the summit, it becomes rock climbing. DOC have done a fab job of putting iron rungs in, and there are two ladders to help you get up. You do need to be a wee bit confident to do this part of the walk, but as it is quite popular, you will likely be able to find someone to help you/give you a hand if needed. In some areas James and I both gave each other a hand and helped each other up. The top part of the walk is also quite dusty and you tend to use your hands/knees a lot so I would recommend wearing darker clothes if you can! How difficult would you say the walk is? We would say its about a 7 out of 10 in terms of difficulty. It can be quite demanding, in particular when you approach what feels like never-ending staircases, but we found it easier than Mount Fyffe in Kaikōura. If you take your time on this walk it’s not too bad - we saw several parents hiking up with their wee ones and going well! How busy is the walk? I was going to say good question but just realised I’m the one writing the question haha. Last year (2019) we did the walk in April and for sunset. On this particular occasion there was no one up top (during sunset) and it was so lovely. While the Pinnacles are rather well known for being a sunrise hot spot, we were still surprised to find it completely empty at sunset. This year (February 2020), we did the walk as an overnight hike so we could be up top for both sunset and sunrise. (We also wanted to see if sunrise was better as everyone says!) At sunset (not including us) there were approximately eight people up the top watching the sun go down. At sunrise (not including us) there were approximately 23 people up top watching the sun come up. Now this might not seem like a whole lot of people, but the space up at the summit is quite small so it can feel crowded quite quickly. In fact, for sunrise, we got to the top and as there were already four other people up there (noting we were up there 40 minutes before the sun was even due to come up!!), we decided to head back down a little and shoot an epic cliff face instead. We thoroughly enjoyed this and tried to get a little creative, but each to their own - you may prefer to be right up top for the sunrise show! Is the Pinnacles better as a day walk or overnight? What are the accommodation options? We would definitely recommend doing this walk for either sunrise or sunset, so make it an overnight trip if you can! With sunrise you will a) get the sun rising over the Coromandel Peninsula which is pretty spectacular, but b) probably struggle to get a quiet, peaceful sunrise if that’s what you’re looking for. At sunset, the sun goes down over the mountain ranges and in our opinion is equally as spectacular. As the Pinnacles are known for being the best at sunrise, sunset is always going to be quieter. The Pinnacles are beautiful any time of day, but in our opinion, is best seen during either sunrise or sunset (you probably just need to think about what kind of experience you're aiming to have so you can pick between these). When we started heading back down to the carpark (around 9:45am), we passed approximately 40 people heading up to the walk and when we got back to Vinnie the carpark had 46 cars in it (approximately 11:30am). (Also I have to ask - are we the ONLY people that do this?? Whenever James and I are finishing a hike, we always have a guess at how many cars will be in the carpark haha). If you’re planning to do it during the day, know that it will be very busy, and if you can, avoid doing the walk during the weekend! The Pinnacles has an awesome hut with 80 beds, water (non-drinkable), mattresses, toilets, burners and even a cold shower. I believe it’s 20 beds per room (with there being four rooms). The hut costs $20 per person and must be booked in advance (it typically sells out on the weekends, so again if you want to stay here try and time your visit for a weekday). You can book and read about the hut here. There are a couple of campsites on the walk up to the Summit, but in our opinion, are all too close to the start of the walk, so you’re better off continuing up to Dancing Campground if you would prefer to camp than stay in the hut. We chose to camp at Dancing Campground and really, really loved it. It is $10 per person (so half the price of the hut) and there are four sites available. They each have their own bench/log and a seat and are on designated sections filled with bark (so nice and easy for pitching your tent). This is great because there’s none of that awkward “where should we pitch our tent” or “are we too close to them!?” nonsense. We really loved camping here and found it so nice and quiet (there was only one other couple camping when we stayed and as we took site 4, and they took site 1, it felt very private). The campground also has its own toilet and non-drinking water tap so you don’t have to keep going to the hut for these. The campground is about 2 minutes from the hut, so the distance to the summit from there is about the same. You can book and read about the Dancing Campground here. How did you guys do the Pinnacles? What was your itinerary? Last Summer we walked up for sunset and then back down in the dark. To be honest, we were pretty tired/ exhausted doing this and said if we were to do it again we would stay in the hut. So this year when we set off to do the Pinnacles and were about to book the hut, we saw there was a campsite on offer and decided to give that a go as we had seen how busy the hut could get! We set off from the carpark around 4:15pm on a Thursday, got to the campground around 6:30pm, set up our tent, dropped all our camping gear and then walked up to the summit for sunset. We were up at the Summit by around 7:15pm, with the sun going down around 8:00pm. We wanted to be there well before sunset, because as you're up so high, the sun dips behind the pinnacles well before 'sunset time'. After that we walked back down, had a shower and ate dinner in our tent. On Friday morning we woke up around 5:20am, started walking up to the summit for sunrise (getting to the top around 6:15m for a 6:55am sunrise) and stayed up there for a few hours just taking it all in. By roughly 8am (or just before) the top of the summit was completely empty and all the 'sunrisers' had gone back down. We then went back to our campsite, had breakfast, packed up our tent and walked down. We left the campground around 9:45am and were back at Vinnie (in the carpark) by 11:40am. All in all, the whole adventure took us about 20 hours from start to finish! Photography tips? Be sure to arrive early/stay late for golden hour. The summit can get quite busy at sunrise/sunset so you might enjoy photographing from different spots. At sunrise, the sun comes up over the Peninsula and at sunset, it goes down over the mountain ranges. Our favourite spot for photographs was the rock facing towards the summit (where Charlotte is sitting up on top - image below). To get this shot, James stayed down on the ground (with the camera) just before the first ladder, and Charlotte climbed up top. Surprisingly, we weren't actually all that far from each other so we could wave and use our walkie talkies to chat. Take multiple exposures when shooting into the sun so you can blend in Photoshop General tips for the Pinnacles Walk in the Coromandel? What do I need to know? Check the walk here and make sure you’re aware of any alerts in place. During the Summer, day walkers are not able to use/access the water at the hut/campground so if you’re not staying overnight you must carry enough water for the walk up and down. Pack Condyz Crystals or Potassium permanganate as the water really does need to be filtered/treated before drinking. I don’t usually say this, but the water here (especially in Summer) can be a bit gross/stagnant. I made the mistake at looking at the water source haha. Try not to visit during the weekends as this is a real favourite for locals! Try and time your visit for a sunrise/sunset if you can If walking in Summer, or over the weekend, book the hut in advance as it can fill up quickly. Wear dark clothes as the top part of the walk does get very dusty and you will need to be on your knees/using your hands for the rock climbing part. Wear good sturdy shoes – sneakers or hiking boots and note they will get a little muddy in parts. The summit can get windy so you might like to pack a windproof jacket (although this hasn't been the case for us on either of our visits!). I hope this blog helps you plan your walk up to the Pinnacles, but even more so, I hope you have a wonderful time there! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or send us a message! Charlotte #awaywithcj #nz #newzealand #aotearoa #thecoromandel #coromandel #pinnacles #nztravelblog #travelblog #nzmustdo #goodforyoursoul

6 Hidden Gems in the West Coast, New Zealand. Our favourite off the beaten path adventures!

Known for its untamed, rugged and beautiful wilderness, the West Coast is an area where you feel like you’re constantly pulling over on the side of the road and hopping out to explore. This blog details six of the hidden gems that we have explored and ADORED on the West Coast. (I am hoping to update this with a seventh spot soon... watch this space). Now before I get into listing the beautiful spots, it’s really important to note that majority of these spots are rather risky and definitely not for the faint hearted. Admittedly, on a couple, it even became a real 'mind over matter' thing for me (Char), and I had to stop and take stock. I had to make sure I was comfortable and happy to continue. As a general rule of thumb, majority of the spots listed in this blog: are somewhat remote and isolated; require a good level of fitness (e.g. walking through waist deep icy cold water, pulling yourself up ledges on cliff edges, using ropes to guide yourself down rocks etc.); aren’t for the faint hearted; and require proper footwear (typically hiking boots or water shoes). They are quite simply, what the West Coast is all about - ADVENTURE! And just quickly, I want to note that if you're already on our website, you're probably a bit like us. Looking for adventure. Joy. Fun. To get off the beaten path a bit. We are big believers in sharing spots and tips, and believe that anyone reading this blog, will appreciate the importance in respecting and caring for these beautiful spots. So for that, thank you, and thank you for letting us share. 1. Wilson Creek Chasm This Chasm is beautiful beyond words. The mossy green rocks, the shafts of light beaming through the top, the gentle mist hitting your face. It’s a spot you could stay at for hours, just taking it all in. Except the water temperature is blimmin' chilly, so you probably won’t!! We have visited this Chasm three times, and every time, have had the entire place to ourselves (plus of course the hordes of classic West Coast sandflies). It's not very big, so would likely feel quite crowded if there was another group there. Of all the hidden gems in this blog this, in our opinion, is the most accessible (and consistently accessible). You pull over on the Highway, walk a quick minute down the road until you reach the Wilson Creek bridge and then into the Chasm. All up, it only takes 5-10 minutes to get into the Chasm (from parking). You may be able to continue exploring the Chasm further up, but we believe this would likely require canyon-ing/abseiling skills. As we do not have these skills, we therefore stopped where we were comfortable. To get into the Chasm you will get wet feet so water shoes/hiking boots are required. The rocks can be quite slippery, and there is a wee bit of a current in the water so you want to be steady on your feet. If you’re wanting to take photos here, the chasm is in shade most of the day and we have found late morning or early afternoon the best time to visit. You will also need to make sure you bring a cloth as the mist/spray from the waterfall can hit your camera pretty fast! WILSON CREEK CHASM SUMMARY 5-10 minute walk from carpark Low - medium difficulty Best time to visit: early afternoon or late morning QUICK TIPS FOR WILSON CREEK CHASM: Feet will get wet This beautiful chasm is the home to about 10,345,634,29 sandflies so lather up! Proper footwear is a must – either hiking shoes or water shoes (must have good grip). Water is bloody cold. Bloody bloody cold. Be prepared for this and try visiting during the warmer part of the day. Do not attempt this walk after rain! Although the Chasm is crazily close to the road, there is no cell phone service here (or along this stretch of State Highway 6). It is therefore unlikely anyone will be close by. You should be prepared for this. We carried our Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) on us and would highly recommend making sure you have one too! Make sure you have your first-aid kit on you and carry it in your backpack. Best time to visit is late morning or early afternoon so the chasm has some light but isn’t blown out. To find out more about where this spot is located, plus our photography settings for the above images, check out our travel guide - the CJ Way to Wilson Creek Chasm here. 2. Secret Fantail Falls (or Fantail Falls 2.0) I’m not sure if this (Fantail Falls 2.0) is the official name for this waterfall but it’s what we (super imaginative, creative types) have called it. We have visited this waterfall twice and had totally different experiences here based on the water levels! Last Summer (Feb 2019) we visited the Falls and didn’t quite appreciate how low the water level was (image below). We parked in the Fantail Falls car park and walked left (rather than right - as if you were going to the popular Fantail Falls) and followed the creek the whole way up until we reached the waterfall. All up, this relatively straight-forward path only took us about 15-20 minutes (and this wasn't rushing as we wanted to be careful when walking through the deeper parts of the creek as there was a current). The water was only knee deep on this occasion. This Summer (January 2020), we were absolutely shocked at the landscape in front of us (first pic of James and pic below of Char). The quiet, peaceful falls we were expecting were transformed into a wild, rugged adventure fall. This meant we were unable to walk along the creek like last year as the current was far too strong/there was too high a risk. Instead we crossed the creek at the very start (shallow - only ankle deep - and again this means going left rather than right as if you were going to the main Fantail Falls), and then found a path leading up the hill to the right. All up, taking this ‘route’ to get to the waterfall, I would say it took us about 45 minutes one way, whereas last year, walking along the water only took us 15-20. You should be prepared to take the longer route when visiting if walking through the water doesn't seem safe. This route is also pretty hairy and you are on (what feel like unstable) cliff edges for part of it. Definitely not one for the faint-hearted. Am I saying faint-hearted too much? Probably. The waterfall is in shade most of the day as it’s situated quite low down in the mountains. If you’re looking to take photos here, we think the best time of day to visit is mid-late morning. We also think the less water here, the better! As the base of the falls is such a beautiful clear turquoise colour and when there is lots of water (and it's rushing through), you miss out on seeing this. Worth it? For us yes. It was quite impressive seeing the transformation in the falls and sitting there, catching our breath and feeling the powerful spray on us. It was also one of the two 'mind over matter' spots for me (Char), where I had to really stop, catch my breath and confirm I felt comfortable continuing on the 'route'. This definitely made it even more special to me, as I felt like I had conquered something. Plus I never fell over here, only James. haha. And last note, if you do the two hour hike up to Brewster Hut (which we also highly recommend and I have linked our guide in here), when you're up the top, make sure you you look around and spot the two separate waterfalls! As you can probably guess, they are Fantail Falls 1 and Fantail Falls 2. It's pretty special seeing the falls start all the way up there and then finish all the way down here! SUMMARY FOR FANTAIL FALLS (FANTAIL FALLS 2.0) 15-20 minute or 45-60 minute walk from carpark (one way) Extreme/High difficulty if walking through the bush/over the hill Medium difficulty if walking through the creek/water Best in early afternoon or late morning and when water levels are lower QUICK TIPS FOR SECRET FANTAIL FALLS (FANTAIL FALLS 2.0) Feet will get wet no matter which route you take!! If water levels are high (i.e. there has been a lot of rain recently) you will not be able to walk along the creek until you reach the Waterfall, and instead you must walk through the bush/cliff. This is quite a risky walk and you should be a confident bushwalker if attempting! Proper footwear is a must – either hiking shoes or water shoes (must have good grip). Do not attempt when raining (or after recent rain) Although this waterfall is very close to the super busy Fantail Falls, there is no cell phone service here (or along this stretch of State highway 6) and it's unlikely anyone will be close by. We carried our PLB with us and would not do this walk if we didn’t have one. Make sure you have first-aid on you and carry it in your backpack. Best time to visit is late morning for photographing the falls. You will need to pack a microfibre cloth here as your camera will get rather wet from the mist! For more information on Fantail Falls 2.0, including detail on the track and what it's like, please see our guide - the CJ Way to Secret Fantail Falls here. 3. Hole in the Hill – Hidden West Coast Arch Unsure whether you have the time to make it up to Oparara to see the incredible basin? Well you're in luck, there is an incredible arch which is *relatively* easy to access in Charleston! And even better, you get that same sense of adventure here too - but without the crowds! We read about the 'Hole in the Hill' online a few months ago and ever keen for an adventure, we thought why not go and give it a go! Online, there isn't a whole heap of info on the walk, and the few statements you do read, can certainly put you off. In particular, statements like "be careful of sinkholes" haha. And on that note, I wouldn't say there are sinkholes on the 'path' per se, but the mud can definitely pull you in. At times we got sucked in right up to our calves! To get here, you drive along a rocky, almost 4WD track for 5-6 km, then follow a (super) muddy path for about 10-12 minutes and then cut left. Thankfully locals have kindly put markers (usually pink) along this path, otherwise it would likely be too difficult to navigate. From there you start heading down the hill for another 10-15 minutes until you reach the creek right at the bottom. This leads you to the incredible Arch. Caused by thousands of years of erosion, this arch is quite simply one of those sights that makes you stop and think WOW. You can't help but wonder what it must have looked like years ago. And then you can't help but wonder what it will look like in the years to come. For us, this arch was a lot of fun and a true adventure in every sense of the word. Going somewhere we had never been before. Slipping over in mud. Finding little waterfalls. Yelling in the arch and hearing the powerful echo. We visited around lunch time, and while the light wasn't ideal, sometimes it's not all about the photos, but the adventure. But also, when we go again, we would definitely come early morning or late afternoon as we think this would be ideal for light. Yes, I just re-read that and we are super contradictory. Haha. We ended up taking photos facing both ways here as there are endless opportunities to get creative with the rock-faces, the ceiling, or even the really cool lone tree that sits on the east side. Because this isn't a place you often see photos of, it's really fun to just go and do your own thing! Dance, jump, run, spin, do it all. SUMMARY FOR HOLE IN THE HILL (HIDDEN ARCH) Rough road in in but doable in a 2WD (just take it slow) 30 minute walk from carpark (one way) Medium difficulty Best in mid morning or late afternoon QUICK TIPS FOR HOLE IN THE HILL (HIDDEN ARCH) Feet will get extremely muddy and wet! If you have gumboots this is 100% their time to shine! Maybe even 110%. Do not attempt when raining, or if there has recently been rain, we think the hill would likely be too slippery/hectic! Proper footwear is a must – either hiking shoes or water shoes (must have good grip). Again, you must be happy for these to come back completely brown and muddy. Make sure you have first-aid on you and carry it in your backpack. Best time to visit is early morning or late afternoon for getting light in the arch. I would recommend packing a picnic and eating it down there. There can be quite a lot of wind coming through the arch, so a wind proof layer at the bottom might be a good idea, especially if you're planning on staying there for a few hours. For more information on the hole in the hill, including the detailed summary of the track and GPS coordinates, please see our travel guide - the CJ Way to the Hole in the Hill here. 4. Ford Creek Chasm Hands down my favourite of all these hidden gems. This one is just the best. A bit of an adventure, a bit of fun, and then absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful scenery. In fact I would go as far to say it would be in my top top spots in all of the South Island. If you time your visit well, seeing the dappled light hit the chasm walls will leave you truly speechless. So how do you get here? Crazily enough, this incredible chasm isn't actually all that hidden! It's located in Blackball, a town you might already be visiting for their museum of the working class (Mahi Tapuna - which by the way is well worth checking out!). We have visited this chasm twice and both times had the place to ourselves. On the second visit (January 2020), there were road-works blocking off where we had previously parked so we had to park a little way back. On this second visit, we parked at the lookout sign on Roa Road. From Roa Road, you then walk down the old 4wd track on the left hand side of the road to get to the start of the walk. Please note that even if you have a 4WD car, you will still want to park up on Roa Road as there is no space for parking at the bottom. Getting into the chasm itself is a little tricky, but if you know you're going to get wet and where to go, you should be ok! All up it took us about 20-30 minutes to get to the chasm entrance from the car. The colours in this mud-stone chasm are just gorgeous and you won't be able to take your eyes off them. Although I should note we (well I) almost gave up when we saw a giant eel about 20 minutes into the chasm (turns out I have quite the irrational fear of them haha). Slippery devils. There is also one section which is quite deep (where the eel resides) that went up to our tummies/chests. On our second visit here, James wore his boardies and I wore my togs (putting on my shorts when I started getting cold and then of course falling into the water minutes later and drenching them). If you have the right footwear, the ability to take your time and be careful, we couldn't recommend this beautiful chasm any more. The palette of colours in front of you will be like nothing you have ever seen before. In terms of lighting and photography, again, we would say this beautiful spot is best in the early-mid morning or late afternoon on a clear day. This is also one to AVOID if there has been recent rain or if any rain is forecasted. It was still very slippery when we went and there had been no rain for a couple of weeks (which is actually quite a feat for the West Coast haha. Well done West Coast, Well done!!). Also if it were to start raining, I expect flash flooding could easily occur here. SUMMARY FOR FORD CREEK CHASM 20-30 minute walk from carpark (one way and to entrance of Chasm). Medium difficulty to entrance, extreme difficulty from inside Chasm. Best in mid-morning or late afternoon on a sunny day. QUICK TIPS FOR FORD CREEK CHASM You really need water shoes with good grip here. Do not attempt if raining, or after recent rain. This track will be too dangerous. If you're taking camera equipment into the chasm you will want a dry bag. If going into the Chasm you should expect to be up to your waist in icy-cold water. Make sure you have a first-aid kit and carry it with you. Take a PLB if you have one. We personally wouldn't have attempted this walk without ours. Best time to visit is early morning or late afternoon for getting dappled light in the chasm (noting you will need sunshine!). Don't visit on a cold day unless you have a wetsuit. It will be too chilly otherwise. Top tip - bring an extra set of clothes and leave them at the start of the Chasm so you can get warm when you come out. We felt like a million bucks when we were reunited with our puffers. For more information on Ford Creek Chasm, including specific details on how we navigated the 'track' and exact GPS coordinates, please see our guide - the CJ Way to Ford Creek Chasm here. 5. Orange Starfish at Motukiekie Beach Low tide at Punakaiki? You might be feeling a bit let down that you don't get to see the crazy force of the Punakaiki blowholes, shooting up a ferocious sea-salt spray. But there's a silver lining to low-tide. In fact there's an orange lining if you will. At low tide, you have the chance to witness what I would call magic. Something the two of us had never seen before (or even come close to seeing!!). At low tide, you get a shot at seeing hundreds and hundreds of bright orange starfish appear at Motukiekie Beach. A very special spectacle. Now there are two ways of getting to the rock-shelf where the starfish are. The easy way is to park at Motukiekie beach parking and walk about 20 minutes south along the coastline. Here you will spot a small number of good ol' kiwi baches on your walk to the rockshelf (I mention these so you can make sure you're starting in the right spot). Or the trickier/more adventurous/classic West Coast way is to park along the road on a small pull off (coordinates provided below) and use the local track down. Note - this car park can only fit 2-3 cars so if it's full please park elsewhere. This route uses a couple of ropes, has a ladder and in one part takes you pretty close to the cliff edge. Full disclaimer, first time we did this 'walk' we wore jandals thinking it wouldn't be too hectic. Other than paying for a fitness app at $20 a month and not using it once, this was one of the worst decisions we have made lately. So second time we wore our water shoes as they have really good grip and some parts of the track are a little muddy. First time down would have taken us 15 minutes in our poor shoe choice, second time five or so minutes. Also yes, I have unsubscribed to the app now. And yes, I have also checked we weren't locked in to automatic payments. Thank goodness haha. Once you reach the bottom (using another rope), you climb down to the shore and walk right for about 4-5 minutes until you see the exposed rock-shelf. This is where thousands of mussels feed off the rock, and then feeding on them, are the masses of bright orange starfish. They create one of the most incredible, vibrant displays we have ever seen. If you can time low-tide so it coincides with sunset we would seriously urge you to spend it here. Watching the sky flash pink and purple above while below us was sparkling with bright orange starfish was just amazing. Now, to keep expectations realistic, I think this could be one of those spots that requires a little patience. Last time we had it lined up (sunset and low tide), we arrived to the beach and the weather had turned, with the water a little dangerous. The tides along the West Coast can be very rough, especially if there is a swell. On our second visit (the picture above), the tide was still going out, so we felt quite safe standing in the water. If you don't have the luxury of waiting around for ideal conditions (which let's face it - with the West Coast weather - could be a while haha), we still highly recommend a visit during the day. And if you do get to see this remarkable sight, please tell us if this is the first time you have seen starfish with more than five arms. SUMMARY FOR ORANGE STAR FISH AT MOTUKIEKIE BEACH Easy if parking at main stretch of Motukiekie beach (20 min walk). Medium difficulty if parking at tiny pull off on side of road (5-10 min walk). Only visible during low tide. QUICK TIPS FOR SEEING THE ORANGE STARFISH AT MOTUKIEKIE BEACH If you're taking the adventurous (and fun!) path down, wear shoes with good grip! Do not go down to the rock-shelf if it's high tide and/or a swell. In fact you won't actually be able to as the water hits up against the cliff. So a pointless bullet point really. Pointless point? Try saying that quickly four times. Try and time your visit (if you can) so low-tide coincides with sunset! Keep your eye on the weather as it's the West Coast so things can change QUICK! For more information on Motukiekie Beach, including the approximate coordinates of the rock shelf, please see our guide - the CJ Way to Motukiekie Beach here. 6. Glow Worm Dell in Hokitika If you have been dreaming of seeing starry skies in the West Coast, but the weather isn't playing along, good news! You can see a starry sky, no matter what the weather. And I'm not talking about the really cool starry ceilings that Reading Cinemas often have in their foyer area. Anyone else know what I'm talking about? Surely.. one of you? Right, back to the glow worms, a gorgeous, lesser known gem in Hokitika is the Glow Worm Dell. A small, but incredible wee dell that's home to hundreds and hundreds of glow worms. Given a lot of spots in NZ now charge for viewing glow-worms, the Hokitika Glow Worm Dell feels even more incredible. And it's only about 200m from where you park! When we visited (February 2019) there was only one other couple there (plus us haha). You do need to crawl through a tiny opening (where James is sitting in the above photo), but then it opens into a high 'ceiling' cave. I think this is a great one for the kiddies! SUMMARY FOR GLOW WORM DELL Best time to visit is at night when it's dark. Summer is the best time to visit as glow worms are more active then! Pack a red torch! Easy (in terms of difficulty) and definitely accessible for kiddies. Respect the glow worms and don't use torches/lights/flash photography. Park up next to the Woodstock Hotel. QUICK TIPS FOR SEEING THE GLOW WORM DELL You might like to wear shoes that have good grip as you crawl in the first bit. Photography wise, you will really need a tripod here and low aperture lens! (we have provided more photography info in the CJ way linked below!) :) For more information on Glow Worm Dell, including the approximate coordinates of the Dell and our photography tips, please see our guide - the CJ Way to the Hokitika Glow Worm Dell here. And there you have it, our top six lesser known gems on the Wild West Coast. We hope you found this blog helpful, and it inspires you to get off the beaten path and have an adventure (or two!). If you're looking for our eight top must-do experiences in the West Coast, you can read our blog on this here. Again, before I wrap this up I would like to please stress two points: All of these spots show how incredibly beautiful and diverse mother nature is. They show how special our environment is. Thank you for respecting each location and leaving no trace. Most of these spots require a good level of fitness and aren't for the faint-hearted (wow. I am going to town on that phrase), so please don't attempt them if you're not confident, or don't have suitable equipment/gear. Certainly for us we would not have attempted Ford Creek Chasm or Fantail Falls 2.0 without our PLB. And finally, I share these locations in honour of my wonderful, so very much missed, Dad. He was always a great ambassador for sharing his 'off the beaten path adventures' and I strive to continue this legacy of his. So that said - this blog, and all of our adventures listed in here are for you Dad. The mud up to the knees, James falling over in a waterfall, us dancing in a hidden archway. All of them. #awaywithcj #nz #newzealand #travelblog #westcoast #nzmustdo #westcoastnz #hiddengem #offthebeatenpath #fordcreekchasm #holeinthehill #starfish #motukiekie #wilsonscreekchasm #chasm #secretwaterfall #aotearoa

Our list of ULTIMATE must-do's in the South Island, New Zealand. 14 places you have to see!

A question we always get asked is “what are your favourite spots in the South Island” and even though I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of answering it (my love for the South Island is never-ending), I thought it would be a great idea to put some effort in and do a blog on our top 14 spots in the South Island. It actually started as a 'top 5' blog then became 'top 10' and now I have settled on 14 (for now) haha. The premise for this blog, is not so much an itinerary (we will have a couple of South Island itinerary blogs coming up soon) but more the sights we would personally prioritise seeing if we only had a short amount of time in the South Island. So without further ado, let’s get into the list of our favourite spots in the South Island. I tried to put it in order, but it’s just too hard! So take my numbering with a pinch of salt as they’re all really favourites. 1. Lake Pukaki This magnificent spot gets number one hands-down. I know I just said to ignore my numbering but this one is well and truly numero uno for us. This is our favourite place in all of Aotearoa. It is just stunning and beautiful any time of day. The water colour is the most beautiful bright blue and as you’re nearing it, you’ll be thinking “surely that can’t be real”. But it is. Lake Pukaki is one of those spots that just takes you. You can sit there all day and just feel incredibly, completely, and utterly happy. I don’t know why, it’s just the most beautiful beautiful place and I highly recommend visiting. We always seem to find ourselves returning to this spot, and spending hours just taking it all in. If you have a certified self-contained camper, the Mackenzie district is incredibly generous with their freedom camping regulations and you can find several spots dotted around the lake where you can responsibly camp. To read more about this click here. Our top tips for visiting Lake Pukaki It’s often busiest at the 'Lake Pukaki Viewpoint' car park or at the Visitor Centre. Either park at one of these spots and walk down a little way to find a nice quiet spot (you won’t need to walk far). Sometimes we will note that everyone is heading right so we will go left, and there won’t be a soul. The lake is big enough (x1000) that you can easily find your own wee spot. Otherwise park in a small pull off (there’s several along the lake) and walk down to the water front from there. Visit when it’s not windy and Aoraki/Mount Cook is visible! You can get an idea of Mt Cook's visibility by using the live webcam here Have a freezing cold swim if you're game! Depending on water levels, you might be able to sit/stand on a rock. In Summer 2018/2019 (below), there were lots of rocks around the water edge, but this Summer (2020), there has been so much rain that we have barely seen any rocks in the water! 2. Aoraki/Mount Cook You’re probably thinking I should have tied this in with Lake Pukaki, but really Aoraki/ Mount Cook deserves to get its own mention. Aoraki is the highest mountain in New Zealand and so, so very special. The drive in, the walks in and around Aoraki, and even just sitting at a road-side stop and admiring it; are all incredibly special. The Hooker Valley track is the most popular walk to do in the Aoraki area (you can read more about it here), but we personally prefer Sealy Tarns (which you can read about here). Hooker Valley is a much easier, gentler walk and leads you to the Hooker Lake at the bottom of Aoraki (which is often speckled with ice-bergs) whereas Sealy Tarns consists of 2,200 stairs leading you to a small tarn (often referred to as the stairway to heaven). On a clear, still day, the reflections of Aoraki in the tarn are just breathtaking. We visited the tarn for sunset and are itching to get back. You should give yourself a night in this beautiful area and you can camp right in the park at White horse hill Campground ($15 per person). See more about this here. We have also done up a blog on photographing Mount Cook which you can read here: Our tips for visiting Aoraki/Mount Cook Hooker Valley Track is the busiest walk, but beautiful with the track taking you over three gorgeous swing bridges, a boardwalk perfectly positioned with Aoraki in the backgroud and then ends at an ice-berg filled lake. It takes us approximately 70 minutes to reach the lake from the carpark (one way). Definitely do-able with small kids. Our personal favourite walk in Aoraki/Mount Cook is Sealy Tarns, where you can get a beautiful reflection of Aoraki (on a still, clear day). We have continued on to Mueller’s Hut, but personally preferred the view from the tarn, and found the track got quite tricky from the tarn to the hut. If you’re not confident scrambling on rocks, we would recommend stopping at the tarn. It took us approximately 90 minutes to reach the tarn (from the carpark). The car park can be pretty horrific. Try and arrive early and park in a corner if you can. We have seen many, many car crashes here as there are no lines/designated parks and 110% not enough space. Take your time and be careful here. Peter’s Lookout is a beautiful (but busy) spot for road-shots. Tasman Lake is pretty incredible for sunrise and seeing the huge ice-berg structures. We like the Tasman River viewpoint and suggest setting up a time lapse as you'll be able to see how much the ice-bergs actually move! Try and time your visit for clear (ish) weather. As Aoraki is often hiding, this can be hard. We recommend using the live webcam (click here) so you can best plan your visit. The view of Aoraki from the road and several road-side stops is just stunning. The drive in to Aoraki is one of our favourites in the country. Take your time on it. Mount Cook town is very touristy and expensive. We recommend purchasing any groceries/getting fuel/gas before you visit. Twizel will be your cheapest and closest town. Otherwise Tekapo if you’re heading from Christchurch way. 3. Wharariki Beach/Archway Islands Our favourite beach in the entire South Island. And there is definitely lots of competition! Beautiful big sand dunes, playful seals, glistening golden sand and of course, the Archway Islands. I think what we loved most about Wharariki beach was its size. It seemed absolutely endless, and with endless opportunities to explore too. When we visited at sunset in 2019, there were probably another 15 people there but it didn’t feel crowded in any way. And because we loved it so much we came back for sunrise the next day. And shut all the front doors, there wasn’t a single soul at the beach! We couldn’t believe it. This year (2020) we have already been back for sunrise (and are planning to return once more because it truly is that good), and while it was a little busier (approximately about 8-10 people there) it was still just beautiful. Note – the tides are quite large here so if you are looking to get a shot of the Archway Islands reflecting in the sand, you will want a low tide, and preferably one that’s going out. The walk to the beach takes about 20 minutes from the car park and is quite lovely – crossing over rolling farmland and taking you down onto and over big sand dunes. Once you reach the beach you want to head left to see the Archway Islands. I would personally recommend jandals for the walk as your sneakers will just get full of sand. Otherwise you can wear your sneakers for the first part and then swap. I feel like sandy shoes have no place in my life. Tips for visiting Wharariki Beach Try and time your visit for low tide and one that’s going out so you can get beautiful reflections of the Archway Islands. Allow enough time for the walk to the beach (approximately 20 minutes). The drive into the beach is gravel and can be quite rough. Definitely 2WD accessible, but just be prepared for a few corrugations/pot holes. Approximately 6km. Beautiful any time of day, but we think sunset here is the most incredible. There is a small campground situated right by the start of the walk if you want to stay the night. We can’t comment more as we haven’t stayed! Portaloo at the carpark! If you’re looking for more things to do in the sunny Golden Bay/Nelson area, check out our blog on our top five must do’s here. (And also - we are also going to be doing a more detailed blog on the Nelson/Tasman area in March/April so look out for that!!) 4. Nugget Point Lighthouse Truly iconic, and one of the first locations we wrote down when we were making a list of South Island spots we wanted to see. It might seem like this is quite far out of the way, but trust us, it’s worth the detour. Heck it’s worth a trip to NZ just to watch the sunrise here. We have visited Nugget Point Lighthouse at both sunrise and sunset and found both absolutely stunning. The rising sun lines up pretty well here – right between the lighthouse and nuggets and as a bonus, is also much quieter when compared to sunset! (At sunrise, there were only 2-5 other people at the lighthouse when we visited [January 2019] and they were all down at the lighthouse end shooting the nuggets). With sunset, the sun actually goes down opposite the lighthouse, but if you can nab a cloudy day, a reverse sunset is pretty lovely as the setting sun lights up the nuggets (whereas they are more silhouetted at sunrise). We have discussed this in great detail, and agreed both are beautiful but sunrise *just* takes the cake. The walk to the Lighthouse takes 10 minutes and is easy – jandals definitely doable. Take your time though and stop at Roaring Bay before the lighthouse and look for the yellow-eyed penguins (you ideally want to check the current time the penguins come to the beach - for us it was around 7:30pm). When we returned in January 2020 we saw one penguin and it was really quite exciting. Also if you do do this, please have a look for the tiny wee bird that lives in the lookout hut (its nest is inside by the sign - it's possible I was more excited by this bird than the penguin haha!). Tips for visiting Nugget Point Lighthouse Try and time your visit for sunrise or sunset to really be blown away. Allow enough time for the walk to the lighthouse (approximately 10 minutes). An easy walk and definitely doable with the kiddies Tie in your visit with spotting the penguins. The closest town for accommodation is Kaka Point. There is minimal cell phone service throughout the Catlins and we would recommend downloading offline maps. If you’re looking for more of our favourite activities in the Catlins (one of our favourite areas in New Zealand), check out our blog on our favourite 8 activities here 5. Lupins in Tekapo I’m all for learning while travelling (or just living really!) so I want to start this one off by saying the lupins are in fact a pest; threatening the safety of lots of special NZ natives. They are often discussed for their negative impact on our braided river systems, but I never realised that because they are also so dense they provide perfect shelter/coverage for pests such as stoats. It’s ironic isn’t it, how often the most beautiful, colourful things in life are those we shouldn’t have. Take donuts for example. So similar to lupins. The next most important thing to note with the lupins is they are only out for a short period of time – approximately November to January. They bloom in the North first and then continue further South. Tekapo is the most popular spot for viewing them and the locations of the lupins change every season. When we saw them in January 2019, they were right along Lake Tekapo, whereas in December 2020, there were barely any along the waterfront (due to flooding that summer), and instead were all in completely different fields/paddocks. We did up a complete guide on the 2019 Tekapo Lupins here if you want to know more about our photography tips for shooting the lupins! Tips for visiting Tekapo Lupins Visit between November – January when the lupins are in bloom. Typically the earlier the better. Call the Visitor Centre if you’re unsure whether the lupins are still in bloom (or you can use live social media posts/stories to see if people are posting them). Bring hayfever tablets if you suffer – these fields will destroy you! If you don’t have hayfever, stop and smell the lupins, the smell is glorious. Tie in your visit with the Church of the Good Shepherd (well worth a look) and a walk up Mount John! Tekapo is also famous for its starry night skies if you're staying for a night. Be mindful you're not trespassing when visiting the Lupins! It's unlikely as they're usually in public spots but thought I'd add this note in. :) 6. Split Apple Rock One of the most fascinating rocks we have ever witnessed and one we can’t help but keep returning to!! This incredible rock is situated along the Abel Tasman coastline in the Nelson region. The Māori legend we read for Split Apple Rock was that a giant seabird laid an egg here and then two gods – the Sea God and the Land God claimed the egg as their own. A battle then ensued and caused one of the Gods to slice the egg open, and because neither of them wanted only half an egg, it turned to stone. Although I’m not sure why we named it Split Apple Rock rather than Split Apple Stone?! The walk down to the rock/beach will only take you about 10 minutes and there is a portaloo at the bottom. If you’re wanting to swim out to the rock, you should only do this at low to mid tide – but note, you will need to be a relatively confident swimmer as even at low tide, the current can be quite strong. I'm not even going to tell you what James has lost/broken here. The beach gets quite busy during the day (especially with people canoeing/kayaking out to the rock), so while it’s lovely to see the rock against the bright blue ocean, we personally think sunrise and sunset is better here. Tips for visiting Split Apple Rock: Visit during sunrise/sunset for a quieter experience. At sunrise you can get a person in the rock for a silhouette shot. Look at the other little island off to the right of the beach and tell me if you see a Mickey Mouse imprint in it. Only attempt to swim out if it’s low tide AND you are a confident swimmer. Jandals are suitable for the walk down to the beach. There is no parking at the start of the walk (pickup/drop off only). As such, you will need to park on the road, which is quite narrow and doesn’t offer a lot of parking. Be careful when pulling over here and get as far over as you can. If you’re looking for more things to do in the sunny Golden Bay/Nelson area, check out our blog on our top five must do’s here. (We are also going to be doing a more detailed blog on Nelson/Tasman in March/April so look out for that!!) 7. Milford Sound Foreshore Such a beautiful beautiful place and surprisingly quite accessible! This is the spot you will have seen photos of when googling New Zealand. And rightly so – it is simply stunning. We have watched the sun both rise and set at the foreshore – it is such a stunning place we just couldn’t keep away. When we visited in 2019 at sunrise, there were only two other people at the foreshore taking photos, which to be frank, we simply couldn’t believe. Shout out if anyone named Frank is reading too. We had heard all about the huge crowds at Milford, so it made the two of us wonder how busy sunrise would be (as we knew it was meant to be better for photos). The next morning we got up early and were ready to fight our way through the thousands and thousands for sunrise. And trust me we blimmin' did. Thousands of sand-flies. But not a single soul. We could not believe our socks. Which we wished we were wearing as we got so many bites on our feet. So many. This year we have actually already returned to the foreshore for sunrise (January 2020) and again, had the entire place to ourselves. I’ll never understand this, but I highly, highly recommend putting a sunrise at Milford Foreshore on your NZ itinerary. Having such a beautiful place all to yourself is quite special. There are a few accommodation options in Milford Sound (but all quite pricey). If you’re looking to camp, there is one campground there. Word of warning, it is a little expensive, crowded and often booked out. We booked on the day and got the last site remaining (which was so small we couldn’t really open Vinnie's doors without them being in the next site). The facilities were super duper nice though and a great place to wash off all the mosquito repellent! Otherwise there are several DOC campsites on the drive in, but they're all quite far from the foreshore. (43km is closest and that's still approximately 45 minutes drive from the foreshore). There is no option for freedom camping anywhere on Milford Road. Tips for visiting Milford Sound Foreshore: We thought sunrise was better than sunset when we visited (Summer) as the sun rises behind you and lights up Mitre Peak. Although in the winter months, the sun would set right behind Mitre Peak which would be perfect! Low tide is the best (especially for reflection shots). If you time the low tide with sunrise you can see the awesome green mossy rocks. Pack all the mosquito repellent you have. All of it. The main car park is now $10 per hour 24/7, 365 days a year. To avoid this (quite simply horrendous) parking charge, park at the Deepwater Basin car park and walk to the foreshore from there. Note, this will take you approximately 15 minutes so you need to account for it if planning to visit at sunrise. The free car park is also quite small – only approximately 80 spaces so you will want to arrive early to nab a spot. They also offer a shuttle service from this car park, but this doesn’t operate until 8am. Take your time on the drive in - this is certainly one you don't want to rush. Plus it can be quite narrow, windy and stressful haha. I can't say I love the dripping, dark, 1953 built Homer Tunnel. To read more of our favourite activities in Milford Sound, including our suggested two day itinerary (and details on the below beautiful spots) check out our blog here. 8. French Pass, Marlborough Sounds WOW. This was a drive we really really wanted to experience last year but ran out of time for. And oh my hat, I’m almost glad we missed it, because the anticipation that kept building up over the year just got us even more excited. When we got to French Pass, our conversation pretty much went “WOW, look over there” “Wow did you see that? “Wow, Wow, Wow”. On repeat. For about two hours. It is so incredibly scenic and quiet and just a place you need to pop on your list right now. I know it’s a little out of the way but it’s so worth it!! Take the day, pack a picnic and drive the Pass, and if you can, stay for a sunset. It’s just glorious. We struggled to find information on French Pass (we will be doing up a guide on it shortly I promise) but for now, you need to know that the road is asphalt for approximately 42km from Rai Valley and then gravel for the remaining 21km. We drove all the way down to French Pass Campground, and while it was lovely, we definitely found the first part of the drive (after Elaine Bay) more scenic/impressive. We also did the walk down to the French Pass Lookout and this was great for a wee stretch of the legs and to see how the tide causes such strong currents through the pass. But our favourite of all was just pulling over on all the many pull offs and taking in the view. From the left, the right, in front, behind. Any way. Every way. It’s all gorgeous up there. Tips for French Pass: Drive with caution here as it’s mostly gravel, very narrow and windy! When we visited in February 2020, the road was very quiet but the few times we did pass cars we had minor heart attacks. Make the detour down to Elaine Bay and see the stingrays on the jetty (also a beautiful campground if you’re looking for a lovely spot to stay). See more here. Don’t rush the Pass, plan on spending the day here and have the flexibility to pull over and have spontaneous picnics/cups of tea/meals etc. We adored this. If you’re short on time, don’t drive the last 4km into the village, instead take in the views from higher up as they are the best (we think!). If you could pick a time of year to visit, we think just before Summer would be best while the Sounds are still green and luscious. When we visited in February, everything was quite golden and dry. Still gorgeous though (and especially at golden hour). You may need to be patient here – we arrived at 10am to full cloud/fog and by 3pm it had fully cleared. 9. Moeraki Boulders One of the best places to watch the sunrise in the South Island is Moeraki Boulders. And while it is becoming a little busier, you can’t really be mad, it’s so beautiful it deserves a bit of hype! Before I get into the nitty gritty of the boulders, I do note that while it is becoming busier, I have heard an increasingly large number of people say they’re not worth the hype/don’t visit etc. etc. For me, this was the first sunrise of our trip this year (after losing my Dad to cancer) and up until this point it had actually been quite hard for me to find the motivation to get out of bed. To actually want to be up and watch the sunrise. I’m so grateful James gently pushed me this day to come down here. The explosion of colours we experienced, saw and felt (can you feel colours!?) is something that will always stay with me, and for that reason alone, Moeraki boulders will forever be a place I associate strength, beauty and love with. I would love for you to feel what I felt there. Ok now onto the boulders and what you need to know. Moeraki Beach is home to Moeraki Boulders; approximately 50 spherical rocks (boulders) which will have you in awe. It’s a 5-20 minute walk from parking, depending on where you park. If you park at the café, it will take you approximately 5 minutes (but you may be required to pay a $2 donation during their opening hours*) but if you park further down the beach at the DOC parking, it will take you about 15-20 minutes walk (along the beach) to reach the boulders. ​The main consideration for visiting the boulders is the tides. Low tide is best as the boulders are exposed. At high tide, the beach can be inaccessible as the waves crash all the way up to the cliff face. In our opinion, sunrise is the best time to visit as the sun rises over the ocean. We have actually done up a guide on the Moeraki Boulders, including the optimal tides/times to visit and our photography tips and tricks, so you can read that here. Tips for visiting Moeraki Boulders: Try and time your visit for a sunrise and low to mid tide. Park at the café if short on time and walk from there (but note you. may need to pay the $2 donation). Jandals suitable for the walk down. Be mindful that you won’t have this spot to yourself for sunrise, but you can usually find your own boulders to photograph/shoot. 10. Blue Pools in Haast/Mount Aspiring Park This is such a fun wee spot!! Although it is becoming more and more popular it still seems to have a bit of that 'hidden gem' feel. I love hearing people say they were just driving down the highway when they saw a sign for blue pools and decided to pull over and check it out. It’s such an awesome place and while I’m far too chicken to jump from the swing bridge there, James had an absolute blast haha! We have visited the Blue Pools twice, both times in the early morning and had the place to ourselves for about an hour. However, in saying that, we have driven past on other occasions (around lunch time) and counted 42 cars down the road so it does get very busy! People have told us that on a hot summers day (yes go on have a LOL because NZ get's like two of these days!) there are 200-300 people there. :o The walk to the Blue Pools will take about 15-20 minutes and we would recommend visiting on a clear and sunny day. Not really much point in coming for sunrise or sunset as you really want to be able to admire the beautiful blue water. I do want to point out that there is no toilet at the Blue Pools so please make sure you go before visiting. (If coming from the North the closest toilet is at Cameron Flat Campsite [approx. 1km away] and if coming from the South the closest toilet is at Makarora [approx. 6km away]). Another thing I should mention is that after rain the Blue Pools can turn grey and murky. If the gravel/dirt gets stuck, it takes a second rain to return the water to its original (and beautiful) colour. Bear this (and the forecast) in mind if you have the luxury of choosing when to visit!). We have done up a complete guide on the blue pools, including photography tips and what to pack which you can read here! Tips for visiting the Blue Pools: Try and time your visit for early morning and a clear day. Check the forecast/recent pictures before visiting to see if the water colour is blue or if recent rain has turned it murky (we typically use Instagram stories for this). Lather yourself in insect repellent (seriously lather). A quick and easy 15-20 minute walk from the car park. No toilets at the carpark or along the walk. If you're looking for more of our favourite sights and spots in the West Coast, you can check out our new blog on our 8 must have experiences in the West Coast here! 11. Roys Peak I know everyone says this is oversaturated and instagrammed but honestly, it’s a blimmin’ beautiful walk with one of the most gorgeous views in the South Island. I personally think that sometimes falling into that way of thinking can encourage you to miss out on some of the most beautiful spots and experiences. But of course, each to their own. Our number one tip for visiting Roy’s Peak is to do it at sunset. Not during the day, and definitely not during sunrise. As Roy’s Peak lines up pretty well with sunrise it’s often very busy (I'm talking 20-30 people up there for sunrise). During the day the carpark (and overflow area) become completely full and the track very, very busy. I’m talking over 100 cars. Our friends recently did the walk during lunch time in January 2020 and said the ‘line’ to take photos was about 30 people long. However at sunset, it’s quite a different story and we have done the walk at this time twice now. Once in March 2019 and once in January 2020. Last year for sunset there were about 8 people up top, and this year, only about 4-6. We wrote a blog on this walk last year and what we thought of it – you can read it here. On both occasions the walk up took us about two hours to get to the view point (noting the actual summit is a further 30-45 minutes up from there). Our tips for Roys Peak: Do the walk at sunset, and pack a head torch for the walk down. If you’re walking it during the day and it’s hot, wear sunblock as it’s quite an exposed track. Allow 2-3 hours to get up to the view point and a further 30-45 minutes to reach the summit. Roys Peak is shut during October and November for lambing (the track is on a working farm). Keep an open mind and don't be put off by crowds. Remember you're coming for an incredible view and you will get it (unless it's clouded over - and our fingers are crossed it's not!) 12. Koropuku Falls A beautiful waterfall, made even more beautiful by its backstory (which you can read about in our blog here). Warning your heart will melt. The Falls are still very much a hidden gem, and it only takes you a quick, somewhat easy, 10-15 minute walk to get there. We recommend visiting Koropuku Falls in the early afternoon as the sunlight peeping over top of the falls truly makes you feel like you’re in an enchanting movie. With fairies. Definitely fairies. If you’re up for it pack your togs too – we thought the water here was much warmer than the other falls in the area!! Although it's not really very deep so you'll likely just be paddling/splashing. The track can also get pretty muddy (it is lined with ponga logs) so we recommend wearing water shoes so you don’t slip. We have done this track twice, once by ourselves and once with my family. With my family (which involved family members ranging from 1 year old to 70+ years) we did note that the track can be a little more challenging than we initially thought. Particularly at the end if you’re not steady on your feet it may be a bit hard to pull yourself up the rocks to the viewing point. The viewing point for the waterfall is also very small – probably only enough space for 2-3 people so bear this in mind. If you are of reasonable fitness, the track is pretty a-ok though. I just noted a couple of my family members struggled in a few spots so thought I would mention it here. Tips for visiting Koropuku Falls Visit during the early afternoon for best weather and light. Wear Watershoes as they will inevitably get muddy and wet. Take your time doing the walk and admire all the effort that has gone into the track. If you can, leave a wee note to say thanks to Wayne and Peter for making the track out here (they told us nothing makes them happier than seeing these!) Be careful pulling over here as the sign is very discreet and you can easily miss it. Our blog (here) has the GPS coordinates for the parking so you can be prepared (make sure you have downloaded offline maps for the Catlins as there is limited service in the area). Generally speaking, Koropuku Falls is about 20 minutes south of Papatowai. If you’re looking for more wonderful things to do in the Catlins (which you totally should!), check out our blog on our favourite 8 activities in the Catlins here. 13. Queenstown Oh this is a tricky one, as I am trying so hard not to include general areas but rather specific spots. Queenstown is providing a real challenge though so I'm just going to pop it in. Sorry! There are so many gorgeous spots in Queenstown that I would highly recommend staying for a couple of nights if you can. Our favourite spots in Queenstown include the Ben Lomond Hike (quite similar to Roy’s Peak at the Saddle we think), Bob’s Cove (a beautiful sparkling view of Lake Wakatipu with the Remarkables in the background), Queenstown Hill, and of course Ferg Burger. My favourite is when James rocks his Ferg tee, Ferg jersey and Ferg lanyard all on the same day and genuinely thinks he looks smashing. I don’t think I’ll be able to go into enough detail on all of these spots, so instead I’ll do the cheeky and link our blog to our top Queenstown activities here. If you only had time for one? I would actually suggest Bob’s Cove. I think it’s really underrated and unknown and absolutely beautiful. If you can nab a clear day for it, I highly, highly recommend it. (Pictured below) Tips for Queenstown: Petrol can be quite expensive in Queenstown (approx. 30-40 cents more per litre than say petrol in Christchurch), so try and pre-purchase your fuel using Z Sharetank if you can (we detailed this in our blog on best money saving apps for travelling NZ here) It can be very busy during Summer and Winter so pre-book your accommodation early Freedom camping is more or less prohibited everywhere in Queenstown so be prepared and plan/know where you’re staying. If you’re looking for a semi-close but awesome campground ($15 pp), we highly rate Moke Lake. One of our favourite camping grounds in NZ. You can read more about it here. If you’re ordering Fergburger, call up rather than waiting in line. While it can take about 150 calls (not even exaggerating) it’s so worth it as you skip waiting 1-2 hours in line! James thinks ordering at breakfast is the best time (15 minute wait time), but I'm cognisant of the fact not everyone loves a brekky burger haha. 14. Glenorchy Because I cheated on Queenstown, I’ll semi-cheat and include Glenorchy too. Sorry! This is a beautiful wee spot to visit, especially if you’re already down in Queenstown. The drive into Glenorchy is rated one of the best in the world and it’s easy to see why. It hugs lake Wakatipu, winds its way around the mountains and you can even spot a waterfall or two if you know where to look! A great spot to stop at on the way in is the old Meiklejohns jetty – we found this such a lovely wee spot and had dinner here one night while watching the sunset. Just lovely. Glenorchy is so sweet and quaint. It really has that ‘aww’ feel to it. It doesn’t have a whole lot, but somehow has it all. A settlement with a little ol’ beach, a little ol’ shed and a little ol’ jetty. We drove here from Queenstown one afternoon, and sat by the old shed reading our books, eating our dinner and watching the sun set. Then we loved it so much we decided to come back for sunrise. While there were about five or so other people around, it didn’t feel crowded or touristy in any way. I think Glenorchy is the perfect place to just sit, read and be. We haven’t yet checked out Earnslaw Burn Track, but several people have told us this is their favourite spot in all of New Zealand so we are really itching to get there!! If you have been, let us know!! We would really love to hear! Tips for visiting Glenorchy Stop at Bennetts Bluff lookout to take in the view. Be careful pulling off though as there isn’t a whole tonne of room. Check out the iconic wee red shed and the old jetty – ideally at sunrise or sunset if you can. Spend some time relaxing on the foreshore and ‘switching off’. It’s the perfect place for it really. My family think the coffee is really good at Mrs Woolly's General Store (I wasn't drinking coffee then so can't comment haha). Stop in at Meiklejohns Jetty on the way to Glenorchy. This is especially lovely at sunset. There are a few free camps if you are self contained (Little Stony Creek and Twenty-Five Mile Creek). Alright, that was a mammoth of a blog, and I’m almost certain I’ve missed some spots but there you have it – our ‘do not miss’ spots in the South Island (for now haha). I really hope this info is useful and it helped you plan your time in the South Island! If you have any questions or comments, drop us a message in the box below :) More than happy to help! Happy (and safe!) travels! Charlotte xx #awaywithcj #nz #newzealand #aotearoa #southisland #nzmustdo #mustdo #nztravelblog #queenstown #glenorchy

8 must have experiences in the West Coast, New Zealand. Our top things to do!

The Wild West Coast. With its rugged coastline, abundance of waterfalls and some of the very best sunset's we have seen in New Zealand. Maybe it's true what they say? West is Best? Now before I get into it I will add the disclaimer that the weather on the West Coast can be a bit of a rollercoaster. You can be promised a forecast of bright blue skies and minimal wind, and next minute find yourself handing over $10 for an overpriced (but much needed!) poncho. Bear this in mind, and try and find a patch of 2-3 clear(ish) days for your visit (if you can). And also BYO jacket, I'm of the belief that ponchos should never be more than $4. Ok, onto some of our FAVOURITE spots in the West Coast. Each included for different reasons, and each with that little somethin' somethin'. 1. Lake Matheson Reflection This is a spot that will leave you speechless.And also maybe a little frustrated. I say frustrated because it took us four visit before we got what we were looking for; that perfect mirror reflection of Aoraki/Mount Cook. Fox Glacier is home to the beautiful Lake Matheson Mirror Lake Walk which has three different view points on it, all perfectly positioned to give you an incredible view of Aoraki/Mount Cook. The walk to Reflection Island takes 30-40 minutes and is part of a loop, however at January 2020, part of the track was closed meaning you could walk all the way to Reflection Island but then had to return to the carpark the same way. The walk is very flat and well defined so you would be a-ok doing it at night time and/or before sunrise. While this spot is absolutely beautiful at any time of day, try and time it for a sunrise or sunset if you can! And this (like 99% of the West Coast, is also a spot you will also want insect repellent for!). To read our travel guide - the CJ Way to Lake Matheson - including which view point we took our photo at and our camera settings for the above shot, please click here. Lake Matheson Summary best at sunrise or sunset best on clear/ low cloud day so you can see Mount Cook/Aoraki 30-40 minute walk to Reflection Island from Carpark (one way) insect repellent required 2. Haast Blue Pools The most incredible water colour you ever did see. The Haast Blue Pools are very much worth a visit on your West Coast road-trip. However to have the best time here you really want to make sure you are LATHERED in insect repellent. (This, along with Hokitika Gorge [below] and Milford Sound Foreshore are in our top three sandfly hot-spots!). Side note, would this be a good blog? Sandfly Spots in NZ? Probably not haha. I digress. A quick 15-20 minute walk from the car park (on State Highway 6) will find you walking through beautiful NZ forest and over two old swing bridges. If you're game (like James), you can jump from the second swing bridge (where the water is deeper). Otherwise if you're more like me (Charlotte), you can dip your toes in, squeal at how cold the water is and put your effort into cheering James on. We think early morning is the best time to visit the Blue Pools as it can get very busy around lunch. Note, if there has been recent rain, the Blue Pools can also be a bit murky in colour. It usually takes a second rain to return them to their original blue colour. We recommend checking the weather forecast (including previous days) before you go. To read our travel guide - the CJ Way to the Haast Blue Pools including our photography tips and camera settings, click here! Haast Blue Pools Summary best early morning best on clear and sunny day 15-20 minute walk to second swing bridge from carpark (one way) insect repellent required 3. Hokitika Gorge This beautiful Gorge is about 20-30 minutes drive out of Hokitika, but well worth the detour. It's a quick and easy 10-15 minute walk to the Gorge from the car park (one way) which is actually wheel chair accessible up until the first view point. As you start to see the vibrant turquoise water surrounded by lush native bush you won't be able to help yourself - I promise "wow" will slip right out of your mouth. Again, like Blue Pools this is a spot that really requires you to be LATHERED in insect repellent before you visit! In fact, on the West Coast, sandflies basically destroy any dreams you might have previously had of smelling nice. But who knows, maybe you will find yourself starting to like the scent of Aeroguard. On our two most recent visits here we unfortunately didn't get to see the Gorge in all it's colourful glory. As the water here is glacier fed, it will always have some of the rock flour in it (this is what gives it its characteristic turquoise colour), but when it rains, that 'turquoise effect' is diluted and can create a more 'milky' looking colour. I have included a photo of the Gorge in Summer 2018/19 (when murky) and Summer 2015/16 (when vibrant and blue) so you can see the difference in colour. Please note our Summer 2015/16 photo was taken on an iPhone and about 10 days after we got engaged (just in case you're thinking WOW THOSE ARE BIG SMILES). If you can play around with the timing of your visit here, we would suggest waiting until there has been no rain for a week or so and then going. Although we appreciate this may be easier said than done on the West Coast! To read our quick travel guide - the CJ Way to the Hokitika Gorge (Which has exact GPS coordinates) please click here. Hokitika Gorge Summary best early morning or late afternoon best on clear day (blue sky will reflect in the water making it appear even bluer) 10-15 minute walk to main viewing point from carpark insect repellent required 4. West Coast Drive This might seem a bit flakey, me putting this on here as a must do. But the drive was one of our absolute favourite things in the West Coast and as such I would like to give it the shout-out it deserves. So SHOUT OUT TO WEST COAST DRIVE! The drive in the West Coast is scenic beyond words. Snaking its way along the coast, it provides you with incredible vistas of beaches and podocarp forests at every glance. There are also a heap of pull-offs and benches along the coast and we made a real conscious effort to stop at these for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They offer some of the most beautiful views and for some reason, are always deserted!? We also watched the sun go down from one of these random road-side pull offs and it was just glorious. A memory we'll always hold on to. So wind your windows down, put your favourite song on and enjoy the view. We promise you won't be disappointed. West Coast Drive Summary scenic all day but especially beautiful in golden hour the section between Rapahoe and Punakaiki is our favourite exercise caution on this drive - there are a lot of steep inclines, one way bridges and tight corners! 5. Brewster Hut A wee red hut nestled high up in the quiet mountains with no noise other than the roaring waterfalls in the distance? Pure magic. Brewster Hut is one of those spots that really makes you stop. Stop and feel your feet on the ground, the sun on your body and the smile that's starting to make its way across your face. It's a place where you try your hardest to look around everywhere. You do a full 360 in-fact, trying your absolute best to mentally capture the sights, the views, the landscapes in front of you. Because you know it's a place you don't ever want to forget. And the good news is that to feel this, to see this, to hear this, only requires a two hour walk! Albeit the two hour walk is rather a tough slog, and mostly uphill haha. But it's oh so worth it. I should also note you need to do a creek crossing at the beginning so get ready for some wet feet fun! In our opinion, we think it's best to visit Brewster Hut at sunset. Watching the sun slowly dip behind the mountains and turn the beech forest golden is quite an enchanting sight. Sunrise would also be lovely here (if you are planning on staying in the Hut over night), but do note at sunrise, the sun will be behind the mountains for the first part. To read our travel guide - the CJ Way to Brewster Hut , including the section of path we found the most scenic for photography (image below), and more details on the track and what to pack, please click here Brewster Hut Summary scenic all day but especially beautiful at sunset approximately two hour walk from carpark to hut (one way) must be relatively fit for the uphill climb! 6. Motukiekie Beach An absolute jewel of the West Coast. And one you only want to visit at Low Tide. Not sure why I capitalised that. Perhaps for emphasis? Now this beach gets a mention for two special reasons. Firstly, at low tide, you get the chance of witnessing what I would call magic. Something the two of us had never seen before (or even come close to seeing!!). At low tide, you get a shot at seeing hundreds and hundreds of bright orange starfish appear at Motukiekie Beach. A very special spectacle. You see, situated on Motukieie Beach is a rock-shelf where thousands of mussels feed off the rock, and then feeding on them, are masses of bright orange starfish. They create one of the most incredible, vibrant displays we have ever seen. If you can time low-tide so it coincides with sunset we would absolutely urge you to spend it here. Watching the sky flash pink and purple above while below sparkles with bright orange starfish is just amazing. Now, to keep expectations realistic, I think this could be one of those West Coast spots that (also) requires a little patience. Last time we had it lined up perfectly (sunset and low tide), we arrived to the beach and the weather had turned, with the water actually being quite dangerous. The tides along the West Coast can be very rough, especially when there is a swell. On our second visit here the tide was still going out, so we felt quite safe standing in the water. If you don't have the luxury of waiting around for ideal conditions (which let's face it - with the West Coast weather - could be a while haha), we still highly recommend a visit during the day. But again, this must be at low tide. Now, the second reason for mentioning Motukiekie beach here is all the incredible rocks and caves. Anyway you walk you can find a little nook, a little cranny, a little crevice, basically the whole beach screams "let's play an extraordinarily difficult game of hide and seek here". We took a few photos in the caves here, so we will edit one shortly and chuck it up so you can see. Take a picnic down and spend the afternoon here playing at the beach. And you'll quickly realise that it really is the simple things that bring us the most joy in life. Motukiekie Beach Summary: only accessible at low-tide look for the rock-shelf that is home to hundreds of orange star fish at low tide sunset is absolutely beautiful here To read our travel guide - the CJ Way to Motukiekie Beach and where to find the orange starfish, please see here. 7. Punakaiki Blowholes (Pancake Rocks) It's funny I have done this walk a tonne of times as a child. And yet if you asked me what I most remembered, I would have to say getting a $2 paua shell ring from the shop across the road. And a vanilla ice-cream if Mum and Dad were feeling real generous. (You know those wee Tip Top Vanilla tubs? THE BEST!)) But paua rings and ice-creams aside, now I have returned to this incredible limestone landscape as an adult (am I an adult?!) and I have to say, it is the rocks that leave a lasting impression. The pancake-shaped rock formations really are out of this world. This is a quick and easy walk, only taking about 15-20 minutes to do the full 1.1km loop, and is best seen at high-tide so you can watch (and feel!) the powerful spray of the blowholes! If you can, try and time high tide with a south-westerly swell as that makes the blowholes perform even better. Is that the right word? Do blowholes perform?? I feel like this blog is going downhill really fast sorry. But if you're wanting to do the impossible and go for a real challenge, try and go three for three! Visit this spot when it's a) high tide, b) with a south-westerly swell and c) at sunset. If you can pull it off, I will be most impressed!! Punakaiki Pancake Rocks Summary: best seen at high tide to see the blow-holes in action suitable any time of day quick and easy 15-20 minute loop walk To read our travel guide - the CJ Way to Punakiakiki, including the sections of the walk we found most scenic, please click here. 8. Dorothy Falls What's that saying? Kill two birds with one stone? What about see two sights with one drive? (Trademark Charlotte Maddock 2020). Yes I think blog is in real trouble now. Lucky we're on 8/8 now. If you're heading out to see Hokitika Gorge, why not make a day of it and continue on to Lake Kaniere to see Dorothy Falls. This quaint waterfall will give you all the feels, it's truly one of those 'awww' ones. You know the waterfalls that just look so darn happy and pretty. I sound like a right fool writing that but truly, that's what Dorothy Falls is all about. It's not powerful or forceful, it's not going to spray you or scare you, it's just happy and pretty. A nice wee slice of West Coast (gentle) wilderness waiting for you to explore it. And did I mention it's only a 1-2 minute walk from the carpark? The best time of day to take photos of the falls is early morning or late afternoon so they're not blown out, but other than that, Dorothy Falls is beautiful any time of the day!! And if you are going during the day, pack a picnic and eat it at Lake Kaniere (and have a swing on the gorgeous big wooden swings - they too make for a great photo opportunity!!). Dorothy Falls Summary: early morning or late afternoon is best for photos suitable any time of day 1-2 minute walk from carpark To read our travel guide - the CJ Way to Dorothy Falls, including the GPS coordinates and our camera settings for the above images, please click here. So there you have it, our eight must do's when exploring the West Coast of New Zealand. I hope you found this helpful and like always, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below if you have a question! And if you're looking for some 'off the beaten path' adventures or even 'hidden gems' in the West Coast have a read of our 'hidden gems in the West Coast' blog (coming shortly!!) Travel safe, Charlotte x #awaywithcj #travelblog #newzealand #westcoast #cjmaddock #lakematheson #punakaiki #motukiekie #southisland #nz #brewsterhut #dorothyfalls #aotearoa #bluepools #hokitikagorge #hokitika

Three amazing spots to watch the sunrise in Christchurch New Zealand. Our top picks for 2020!

Arguably the best way to start the day is by watching the sun slowly come up. Or by getting breakfast in bed. Probably the ultimate start to the day is in an outside bed where someone brings you breakfast while you can watch the sunrise from underneath your cozy duvet. But if you don't have a bed perfectly positioned for sunrise viewing (or a person to bring you breakfast in bed), here are three gorgeous spots in Christchurch where you can experience a bit of sunrise magic. Now, last Summer we wrote a blog on our favourite spots to watch the sun rise and set in Christchurch, but this time around, we have done a little more exploring and have picked our all-time favourite spots for watching the sunrise in Christchurch. The brother blog to this (our favourite sunset spots in Christchurch) is here if you are looking to watch a sunset in Christchurch too! Alright, without further ado, here are our top three spots for watching the sunrise in Christchurch New Zealand. 1. Shag Rock/ Rapanui Rock Now commonly known as 'Shag Pile Rock' due to the Christchurch Earthquakes, this place looks a little different, but in my opinion, is equally as beautiful as its previous appearance.For a bit of background, Shag Rock used to be a prominent sea stack, but post Quake, it now (as you guessed it) more just resembles a pile of rocks. From experiencing the earthquakes myself, I have to say I find Shag Rock the perfect reminder of Christchurch's resilience. That even though things might feel a bit broken, or look a bit different, they can still be just as beautiful. Just as beautiful, but even stronger. Shag Rock Quick Info: Jandals suitable Best at sunrise with lots of high cloud. You can check the high cloud forecast here Approximately 20 minutes drive from the Christchurch CBD To read our guide to Shag Rock, including GPS coordinates, our camera settings, and how to be careful when Google Mapping to the rock!!! (you don't want to end up on the wrong side of the estuary), check out our CJ Way to Shag Rock here. 2. New Brighton Pier No surprises that this made the top three, but can you blame us!? This is one of my favourite favourite places in the whole world to come and watch the sun rise. It's absolutely beautiful and to me, feels like it has its own mini community. When you visit, you'll find yourself saying good morning countless times. To people exercising, strolling along with a hot coffee in hand, or perhaps, like you, just sitting there and watching the sun come up. It is 'Christchurch' in one spot. Beautiful. Community. And Normal. Normal sounds weird, but it's a spot that's filled with your every day, regular Janes and Joes and I love it for that exact reason. It's down to earth. New Brighton Pier info: Jandals suitable Best shot with a drone or camera If you can time it with a low tide, you can get some beautiful reflections in the sand Arrive early and you might get the lights on on the Pier (these look great as sparkles) Approximately 15-20 minutes drive from the Christchurch CBD To read our guide; the CJ Way to New Brighton Pier click here. 3. Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve This is a beautiful wee gem for sunrise, and excellent because it's still relatively unknown. Meaning you can basically guarantee a sunrise here all to yourself. It's also wonderful because it's only a ten or so minute walk from the car (unlike many other spots in the Port Hills). We have visited Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve at both sunrise and sunset and found sunrise much better as the sun rises over the Lyttelton Port side. That said, if you did nab a sunset with lots of cloud, a reverse sunset would be pretty beautiful here. Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve Info: Jandals ok for walking up but you might prefer sneakers (approx. 10 minute walk) Approximately 25 minutes drive from the Christchurch CBD Nice for a reverse sunset too (if cloudy) To get the GPS coordinates to Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve and directions on the path you need to follow to get up top, check out our CJ Way to Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve here. We hope you enjoy watching the sunrise in these beautiful spots. And if you're looking for spots to watch the sunset in Christchurch, check out our Top Spots to Watch the Sunset in Christchurch Blog! Hope this helps, and like always, if any questions, please ask away! Charlotte and James xx #christchurch #newzealand #awaywithcj #sunrise #sunrisespots #nz #chch #travelphotography

Three beautiful spots to watch the sunset in Christchurch New Zealand. Our top picks for 2020!

I always love ending the day by watching the sun go down, but there is something extra special about watching the sun go down in my home-town Christchurch. Last Summer we wrote a blog on our favourite spots to watch the sun rise and set in Christchurch, but this time around, we have done a little more exploring and have picked our all-time favourite spots for watching the sunset in Christchurch. The brother blog to this (our favourite sunrise spots in Christchurch) is coming shortly! Alright, without further ado, here are our top three spots for watching the sunset in Christchurch New Zealand. 1. Port Hills Secret Tarn This spot is just beautiful, and even more-so because it's relatively unknown. Chances are (like us) you may have driven right past this spot without even noticing. The Tarn provides a beautiful reflection (on a still day) and overlooks the City. For me Char, this is a really special spot and one where you can't help but be reminded of the city's resilience. The Tarn is located on Summit Road, on the way to Witch Hill. For the exact GPS coordinates, read our quick CJ Way guide to the Christchurch Tarn here. Now, if you have the luxury of picking when to visit here, we would highly recommend a sunset with lots of high clouds. This will enable you to (hopefully!) get some nice reflections in the tarn. You can check the forecast for high clouds here to help you plan your visit. Port Hills Secret Tarn Quick Info: Jandals suitable Best at sunset with high cloud and minimal wind (so you can get the best reflection in the tarn) Minimal parking and you need to pull over carefully here (narrow, windy road!) Only 25 minutes drive from the Christchurch CBD 2. Coopers Knob (and Gibraltar Rock!) Coopers Knob is the highest point in the Port Hills and provides beautiful 360 degree views of Christchurch and the Lyttelton Harbour. You can spend hours here just looking at every which way. Coopers Knob is also great location wise as it's right by Gibraltar Rock so you have quite a few options of what/where to shoot. Click here for the exact location of Coopers Knob. Or copy and paste the GPS Coordinates of Coopers Knob: -43.661095, 172.624887 Now for Coopers Knob, we did find the drone best for doing justice to the incredible landscape, but there were also several other rock faces which you could use to put your camera/tripod on. Note, if you do do this you will need the good ol' fashioned self timer! Coopers Knob Quick Info: Jandals suitable (but sneakers advised) Best shot with a drone Minimal parking and you need to pull over carefully here (narrow, windy road!) Approximately 40 minutes drive from the Christchurch CBD To read our complete guide (the CJ Way) to Coopers Knob, including the walk up (and where to go left haha) and our camera settings, click here. And because we mentioned Gibraltar Rock, I'll sneak in a little bit of information on that too. Gibraltar Rock provides some pretty incredible almost pyramid-like symmetry and offers you two potential options for photography. 1 - you can either walk 40 minutes up Gibraltar Rock (and shoot the city from there) or like us, 2 - you can shoot from afar and get Gibraltar in the background of your shot. For our location and photography tips, click here to read our complete guide, the CJ way to Gibraltar Rock. Click here for the exact location of Gibraltar Rock. Or copy and paste the GPS Coordinates of Gibraltar Rock: -43.660301, 172.614370 Gibraltar Rock Quick Info: Sneakers required if walking up Gibraltar Rock If you're planning on shooting the shrubbery in the foreground, you will want a day with minimal wind (I know, I know, harder said than done up in the hills!) February and October are best for sunset here as the sun lines up well with the rock Minimal parking and you need to pull over carefully here (again, narrow, windy road!) 35-40 minutes drive from the Christchurch CBD 3. Witch Hill Like Gibraltar Rock, you also have the option here of climbing up Witch Hill and shooting from there, or staying down at ground level and shooting Witch Hill itself. We have visited Witch Hill at both sunrise and sunset and think sunset is best as the sun (more or less) sets over the Christchurch side. Note, it is a lot busier here at sunset than sunrise. When I say a lot busier, I mean sunrise will likely have no-one, and sunset will have about 3-6 different groups. So still not busy busy! Click here for the exact location of Witch Hill. Or copy and paste the GPS Coordinates of Witch Hill: -43.593341, 172.677557 If you are walking up Witch Hill, we would recommend allowing about 20 minutes to get to the top and wearing sneakers (you climb up a few rocks so a bit of grip wouldn't go amiss here). I foolishly wore a skirt and jandals and definitely needed Jim's hand a couple of times haha. Witch Hill Quick Info: Sneakers required if walking up Witch Hill The road past Witch Hill is closed (post quake) so you can safely get a road shot here (if you desire!) Both sunrise and sunset are great here but we personally prefer sunset About 35 minutes drive from the Christchurch CBD I'm sure our favourite spots to watch the sunset in Christchurch will continue to change, but for now, we hope you really enjoy these beautiful, beautiful places. And if you're looking for spots to watch the sunrise in Christchurch, we will have a blog on our favourite spots up shortly! Hope this helps, and like always, if any questions, please ask away! Love you guys sharing and exploring my hometown :) Charlotte xx

The five best (and free!) apps for travelling New Zealand 2020! Tips for saving money on the road!

Five free apps to help you save money while travelling in New Zealand! You know when you waltz into McDonald's with your ‘buy one cheeseburger, get the second one free’ coupon and feel like a million bucks? You can feel everyone’s eyes on the back of you; “who is she?” “Is that Prada?” “Will she get the pickles removed?”. You can almost see the thought bubbles forming above their heads; “how is she scoring such a wonderfully cheesy deal?”. While silently you’re thanking your folks for spending $65 on the latest Entertainment book and praying they won’t notice that the entire C12 section has been ripped out. They don’t like McDonald’s anyway right!? Well this is just like that. Except no $65 book required. Or stealing from your parents. Double win! This is just a bunch of free apps that will help you get more out of your NZ travels! 1. Gaspy Coming in first is of course Gaspy. Or Gasp-ey as my mum likes to call it. Possibly because petrol prices here are so ludicrous you do often find yourself gasping? Who knows? Mum probably. Anyway, this app is quick, easy and simple to use. It searches for petrol prices within a set radius (we usually do 20km in towns/cities and 50km when driving in-between) and shows you the cheapest and most expensive prices. In addition to your radius, you can also set the app to your fuel type (95, 91 etc.). Because petrol in NZ has the heartbreaking ability to bankrupt you almost instantly, this app is well worth getting. When to use the Gaspy app: When looking to buy petrol. 2. Z App Haha you’re probably wondering if this blog is just a list of petrol apps. If you have an electric car (woohoo go you – you are a real legend!!!), then please stay, I promise there might be one or two non-petrol related apps in here! Wow what a promise eh. “might be” – totally filled with guarantees. Ok Z App gets a mention for two reasons: Firstly when you first sign up to the Z App, you receive: 10c off per litre (coupon) Free espresso hot drink (and it's a large too!) $5 off a Z20 car wash (Note all of these deals expire within 60 days). The app also gives you featured deals quite often – e.g. save 6c per litre by scanning the app. Now if like me, you get confused where your vouchers/coupons are in the app, they are stored under My Account > Vouchers. Secondly, Z has just introduced Sharetank and if you’re driving up and down the country this is SO worth it!! Basically with Sharetank you can pre-purchase fuel at a cheaper price and then redeem it at any Z where it’s typically more expensive (full list provided in the app). For example, knowing how expensive petrol is in Queenstown/Wanaka compared to Christchurch, we decided to purchase 100L of fuel in Christchurch at $2.02 and then rather than paying the eye-watering $2.42 price down south, we got our petrol at that glorious $2.02 price. This is still quite a new concept but already we are loving it. Wow I just drop McDonald’s lines all the time don’t I. When to use the Z app: When looking for petrol When able to pre-purchase petrol if you're heading somewhere where it's typically more expensive. 3. CamperMate Chances are if you’re driving around New Zealand you have already heard about this app. The CamperMate app is great for searching for a number of activities and facilities near you, including (but not limited to): Drinking water Dump points Free camps (both self-contained and non self-contained) Tours Campgrounds/caravan parks A big feature of the CamperMate app are the user reviews and comments, but as it's also endorsed by the Government, it means you can really trust the information provided. It's a win win really. Like getting hot chips and then finding out the tomato sauce is free. When we are wanting to find somewhere to pull over for lunch this app is great and usually helps us to find a nice scenic pull-off. It’s also great for seeing the latest road works in New Zealand (e.g. where long stretches of highway may be down to one-lane only). Actually, just for this fact alone, I would recommend getting CamperMate. When to use the CamperMate app: When searching for basically anything in New Zealand! Want to know where to dump your grey water? Sit down for lunch? Where you can camp for free? 4. BookMe BookMe is a discount app which is focused on dining and activities (rather than goods). However the difference with BookMe (compared to your other typical discount sites/apps) is that the level of discount you receive is determined by the time you are wanting to eat or do the activity (and the number of spots left). So for example, if you're looking for a place for dinner (seriously giving myself the perfect segway for another McDonald's reference here haha) and you choose to go at a less popular time, you will get a greater discount. Opening the app right now, I can see a Milford Sound boat cruise is 60% off, one of my favourite pizza spots in Christchurch is 53% off and the luge, gondola and buffet lunch combo in Queenstown is 25% off. You do need to note that some deals have important booking notes (e.g. you might have to vacate the restaurant within 90 mins etc.). When to use the BookMe app: When looking for discounted activities and dining! 5. WildernessNZ Ok disclaimer, I don't actually rate the Wilderness app all that much, as compared to CamperMate I find it a little clunky (like the new WikiCamps AMIRITE) but stay with me and you'll find out why it get's a mention. LOCATION BASED DISCOUNTS! That's why haha. The Wilderness app offers you discounts for accommodation and tours based on your location. If you leave the app on (i.e. running in the background) and turn on notifications, you will see discounted offers for accommodation, tours, activities etc. pop up on your screen. This is especially useful when you're on the road, and entering new towns/cities. We have been able to nab powered campsites that were down from $55 to $30 using the app. Sometimes even just booking through the app gives you special little deals too - like getting free wifi at a caravan park. I definitely don't think it's as user friendly, or as comprehensive (in terms of locations/facilities listed) as CamperMate, but the cheeky discounts it offers are great, especially when freedom/low cost camping isn't an option. When to use the Wilderness app: When entering new towns/cities and looking for discounted accommodation or tours! And that's it! Five apps that really help us save money and have the best time road-tripping in New Zealand! PS - not an app but I would feel really bad if I didn’t tell you about this. Burger King have a coupon menu on their website and you legit feel like you’re in a Gladiator movie when you drive up to the window and say “2 B12’s”. Actually disclaimer #2 - I’ve never seen the Gladiator movie but I assume this is more or less what happens in it? What apps do you find are most useful when travelling NZ? Let us know! #awaywithcj #travelblog #nztravel #travelapps #camperMate #gaspy #wilderness #BookMe #z

The best hike in the South Island, New Zealand – Mount Fyffe, Kaikōura 2020

If you’re looking to do a *relatively* easy overnight hike in the South Island – why not consider Mount Fyffe in Kaikoura!? Rugged mountains in every direction, beautiful views over the Kaikoura Peninsula and for some unknown reason, barely a soul in sight! Easily one of our favourite hikes in New Zealand to date. MOUNT FYFFE QUICK INFO & TIPS: DOC states the hike to the summit takes eight hours return, it took us (with our heavy packs) about five hours one way haha The Mount Fyffe Hut has eight bunks, a toilet and water tank (although it does state the water needs to be treated). The hut is $5 per person. From the Hut, it’s approximately an hour and 15 minutes until you reach the summit. (DOC says three hours return from the Hut to the Summit). If you can time the hike for early Spring, you should get beautiful snow capped mountains. If you have the luxury of choosing when to do the hike, we highly recommend a weekday (we only saw two people in the hut when we walked it), whereas we have heard the hut is often full during the weekends. We thought the section of path right before the hut was equally as incredible as the summit! Both sunrise and sunset are incredible up here so it's worth staying a night. The last 5.5km to the carpark is unsealed however okay for a 2WD. Here’s our Mount Fyffe hiking experience: We packed our hiking bags and set off about 3pm, excited to test out our new hiking tent from MacPac. For most of the tramp, you follow an old 4WD track, and if I’m honest, usually James and I don’t particularly enjoy these walking tracks. We usually think that while they have an epic finale/destination, the actual trail/journey always seems to lack a little. But this time we were wrong. So very wrong. The scenery was exceptional. The track winds its way up and up (and up!) the mountain, offering you incredible views each and every way you look. The rugged Kaikoura Peninsula, the precisely lined farm paddocks below, the domineering Kaikoura Ranges. It was all beautiful. It took us about three and a half hours to reach the Mount Fyffe hut, and the reason for this was two-fold: firstly, we discovered we were grossly unfit and really struggled carrying our heavy packs, and secondly we were stopping every 20 minutes or so to capture the beautiful landscape in front of us. Once you reach the hut, the path changes, becoming a narrow foot trail and you only have an hour or so until you reach the summit. The hut has a toilet, bunk beds and a water tank (although the water tank did have a wee sign suggesting you boil or treat the water before drinking). Just before we reached the hut, James and I also noted the incredible section of the track - it was a really defined, almost ridge line section with the mountains sitting right behind. As we were so excited to test out our new hiking tent (Sunny) we chose to continue walking towards the summit and look for a clearing to set-up for the night. When doing DOC hikes, you must pitch your tent 200m away from the track (and 500m away if a Great Walk). We eventually found a good clearing about 30 minutes past the hut, which was just big enough for our tent. Our initial plan was to have dinner, set up Sunny, sit down and rest our feet for a bit, and then slowly meander up to the summit for sunset. But this was not the case. And to be perfectly honest, it never is with us. We always get overly excited with the scenery in front of us and end up in a rush as mad as the time we needed to do printing at the Warehouse Stationary and it was 6:56pm and they closed at 7pm. So of course, we pitched the tent, had no time for dinner or the sit down we were so eagerly awaiting and ended up running to reach the summit in time. We got to the summit and it was bloody windy, and while the view was incredible, we decided (with about ten minutes spare) that a little further back down the track was even better as it had a few overhanging rocks. So off we shot, running back down Mt Fyffe (sorry knees) trying to make it in time for sunset. And oh my hat of all hats, it was one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen. Sweaty, out of breath, exhilarated beyond words and staggering to get there just in time. It was breathtakingly beautiful. We slept super well that night, and woke up early the next morning to catch the sunrise. We thought it would be pretty hard to beat last night’s sunset but decided to give it a go anyway, and oh my hat of all top-hats, we were so grateful we got up. You might recall us saying we loved the section of the path right before the hut? This is where we thought it would be nice to watch sunrise, and we are so glad we did. We also (unknowingly) timed our hike so it coincided with the full moon and the moon happened to set just as the sun was rising. We sat there in awe, watching the moon set in a sky full of explosive pinks and purples and were just speechless. A morning we will hold on to forever. So, if we could have our time again? What would we do differently? We would definitely start the hike earlier than 3pm (no surprises there haha). In hindsight I don’t know why we did this? Actually I do, we got distracted watching all the cute seals in Kaikoura. I think having an early lunch and setting off at 12pm(ish) would make a real difference. You want to allow yourself lots of time to stop and take photos on this track. Secondly, there was a really good clearing right near the hut which was quite sheltered, and in hindsight would have been better to pitch our tent Sunny there. You also get the added benefit of having a toilet if you do this option. We would try and do the hike between August and October to catch the mountains covered in snow! The sun sets over the mountain range and rises over the Kaikoura flat. We would pack wind-proof jackets as the summit is very windy! If you’re looking for an overnight hike with breathtakingly beautiful scenery we highly highly recommend Mt Fyffe!! By the way, we did get our printing done at the Warehouse Stationary. It was touch and go for a bit but we made it. Any questions about the hike, feel free to ask away! :) #awaywithcj #nzblog #nztravelblog #mtfyffe #hiking #newzealand #nz #aoteaora #kaikoura

Five beautiful waterfalls to explore in Bali

Bali is full to the brim with beautiful waterfalls and we thought we would share our five favourites – especially as some of them are lesser known (and we would love for you to experience them!) 1. Tibumana Waterfall (Air Terjun Tibumana) While Tibumana might be considered quite a ‘simple’ waterfall, it was easily our favourite in all of Bali. We had a wonderful time swimming in the beautiful green plunge pool (it wasn’t too cold) and agreed the picturesque waterfall really reminded us of Millaa Millaa Falls in Queensland. It’s a short (and easy) walk down to the falls – only taking about 5-8 minutes. We arrived early - around sunrise (6am) and while the gate down to the falls was closed, it wasn’t locked and could be gently pushed open. We ended up having the falls to ourselves for about an hour – with other travellers seeming to arrive around 7am. (When we left around 7:30am, eight other people had already arrived). We had so much fun trying to capture different angles of Tibumana with both the camera and drone. From above you get such a different perspective of the waterfall – it seems to just suddenly emerge from the moss covered cliffs . Please note – if you are arriving early (and the ticket counter isn’t open), make sure you pay admission as you leave! Tibumana Quick Facts: 15k per person Car and scooter parking available (free) Toilet at the bottom of the waterfall 5-10 minute easy walk down (concrete steps) Seems to get busy very early so arrive as early as possible No swimming in the cave or under the waterfall (this is sacred) GPS Coordinates: 8°30'24.2"S 115°19'58.8"E 2. Pucak Manik Waterfall (Wanagiri Pucak Manik) We have NO idea why this waterfall isn’t more popular. Especially because when you visit – you actually get three waterfalls for the price of one (50k). We absolutely adored this tall waterfall and it’s calming, tranquil vibe. The track that leads you to the waterfall was easily our favourite too – as you descend into the lush forest, you are greeted with handmade bamboo bridges and quaint little wooden passages. It was also really refreshing to walk down to a waterfall without being harassed by storekeepers – this was the first waterfall walk we did in Bali that had no stalls on the track. We arrived at Pucak Manik around 9am and stayed until 10:30am (ish) and couldn’t believe no one else arrived. If you’re looking for a place to relax and have some quiet time – we would highly recommend Pucak Manik Waterfall. Lastly - if you’re worried about sunlight blowing out your shot of Pucak Manik Waterfall, we would recommend arriving no later than three hours after the sun comes up (based on the way the waterfall is facing). Pucak Manik Quick Facts: 50k per person to visit all three waterfalls (a bottle of water is also included in this price) No plunge pool to swim in at the bottom Car and Scooter parking (free) 15 minute walk down (concrete stairs – but be warned - they can be quite big!) Seems very quiet and off the usual ‘tourist’ path, so you could arrive a little later here A beautiful place for a picnic as you can easily find your own secluded spot Enjoy exploring all the wooden bridges and walkways and use these to frame your shots GPS Coordinates: 8°12'46.1"S 115°06'31.5"E 3. Leke Leke Waterfall Most blogs online call Leke Leke the ‘hidden gem’ of Bali and suggest that because it’s so unknown you will likely have the place to yourself. For us, this however wasn’t the case – we think Leke Leke might be the up and coming waterfall of Bali! (and rightfully so – it is truly gorgeous). We arrived at Leke Leke around 9am and there were two separate groups already there taking photos. Luckily for us, as we got closer to the falls, both groups magically happened to pack up and head off (either magic or a classic case of ‘the ol' cj people repellent’). Leke Leke has a really unique, moody feeling to it – we loved the way the water looked like a flow of white silky satin, dramatically emerging from the dark forest behind and spilling into a small rock pool below. (Ok that's my adjective quota done for the blog). We thought there were two great view points for Leke Leke – one higher up (with a small garden of bright red flowers that you can use to frame your shot) and one lower down – on the same level as the falls. This area has rocks perfectly positioned in front of the Waterfall which are just waiting for you to climb up on them!! We stayed at Leke Leke for about an hour all up and as we left (around 10am) another 4-5 groups (approximately 10-12 people) had arrived. It certainly gets busy! Based on the direction that Leke Leke faces, it seems to us that the waterfall wouldn’t be in direct sunlight for a few hours so if you’re worried about the sunlight blowing out your shot of Leke Leke – you should be fine to arrive as late as 4-5 hours after sunrise. Leke Leke Quick Facts: 50k per person 10 minute walk down to the falls Toilets on walk down to the falls Car and scooter parking available (free) Gets quite busy so would recommend arriving early Not as much space as at other waterfalls GPS Coordinates: 8°21'55.0"S 115°12'00.5"E 4. Git Git Waterfall – Single (Air Terjun Git Git) I can’t help but laugh when I think of this waterfall. You see, we actually visited this waterfall by mistake - James and I had planned on visiting Git Git Waterfall - Twin (see #5 below) but due to very similar naming conventions – we ended up here instead; at Git Git Waterfall – Single. So when we got to the bottom of the track and saw a 35m high singular waterfall, we were as confused as my Mum trying to use Instagram stories. We were thinking it looked rather different than the small twin waterfall we had seen online. Bewildered, we asked every single person we could find what was goin' on and every single one confirmed we were at Git Git Waterfall. After going for a walk and thinking there must be a second waterfall in the vicinity (it was the only thing that could make sense right!) we found a local who enlightened us – telling us that there were actually two waterfalls that go by the name of GitGit – one called GitGit Twin (where we had planned to be) and one called GitGit Single (where we actually were). Laughing at our apparent Git Git mix up, she told us that GitGit Twin Falls were nearby (about 5km) and we could still get there before dark if we rushed. It’s funny, the two of us initially went to rush so we could get to where we were ‘meant to be’, when suddenly we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves. We had one of those ‘what are we doing!!?’ moments – realising that by focusing so much on being at the ‘wrong’ waterfall, we had forgotten to enjoy and appreciate the waterfall that was ‘right’ in front of us. (See what I did there hehe). Thankfully we realised our foolishness quite quickly and ended up having the best time at Git Git - Single. We ended up loving the (unexpected) dramatic drop waterfall, the relaxing rock pools at the bottom, and of course, the iconic Bali temple gates leading you to the falls. This was our favourite spot for getting creative with the camera. Git Git - Single Quick Facts: 20k per person 10 minute walk down to the falls Car and scooter parking available (free) About 5 separate groups (15 people) were there when we arrived (4pm) but within 20 minutes, everyone had packed up and left for the day. We would suggest arriving early as it does seem to be a more popular waterfall. You can swim right up to the falls or chill in one of many rock pools at the bottom Toilets at the bottom of the falls GPS Coordinates of Waterfall: 8°11'36.1"S 115°08'06.2"E GPS Coordinates of Car Park: 8°11'21.7"S 115°08'09.9"E (Scooters) and 8°11'16.4"S 115°08'11.3"E (Cars/Buses) 5. Git Git Waterfall - Twin (Air Terjun Campuhan) Woohoo we made it! After accidentally arriving at Git Git Falls - Single (see #4 above), James and I were determined to find the ‘real Git Git’ Waterfall – properly known as ‘Git Git Falls - Twin’. And it was so worth the find. (Not that it was hard to find in any way!). We thought Twin Falls was one of the most beautiful waterfalls we had seen in Bali, with the two waterfalls sheltered in a narrow cliff and then splitting into two, almost equal streams. We arrived around 5:30pm, and had the place to ourselves so are unable comment on how busy it would be during the day. Because the Falls are ‘around’ a corner, you could easily visit during the afternoon and not need to worry about the sun blowing out the falls (if you're looking to take photos). If however you were visiting in the late morning/middle of the day, you might have some harsh shadows in your shot. N.B - because of the Git Git mix-up above, we arrived a little late, so our photo isn't as light as we would like (but hey - this just means all the more reason to return right!). Git Git - Twin Quick Facts 20k per person 10 minute walk down to the falls (western toilets are on the way down) Car and scooter parking available (free) Great plunge pool for swimming in (quite deep!) Situated around a corner so you can arrive in the afternoon and not have to worry about the sun blowing out the shot Another waterfall with an open bridge at the bottom which you can use for other shots! Again, we will pop the GPS coordinates for this Git Git Falls - Twin here so there’s no chance of the Git Git Mix up happening to you too! GPS Coordinates of Waterfall: 8°12'15.0"S 115°08'18.2"E GPS Coordinates of Car Park: 8°12'07.8"S 115°08'26.2"E We hope this waterfall blog helps you with your Bali planning and if you have any questions - please let us know! Happy to help!! #awaywithcj #cjmaddock #travelblog #bali #baliwaterfall #baliblog

CJ Weekly 11 - the Coromandel

Kia Ora and hello!! Welcome to the eleventh edition of the CJ weekly and woohoo we're in the double digits well and truly now! Week 11was a grand ol' week - still involved us driving round in circles everywhere in the North Island but you know what - we've just learnt to embrace it now. Why just go from A to B when you can throw in Z and D too and then head back to A and realise in doing so, that you never actually made it all the way to B? Anyway, after attempting to get up to the Coromandel about 103,904,209 times, we finally made it there and in all honesty, it was well worth the wait. We did all the touristy things - but put our own CJ spin on them where possible, like digging our own wee spa at Hot Water Beach but under the Milky Way at 1:30am. And obviously because I'm more or less a fortune teller, I basically pre-empted a break down in last week's entry. Yep Vin got so blimmin' excited to finally make it up to the Coromandel he started overheating. Good one Vin. Bloody good one you cracker. OUR FAVOURITE PHOTOS OUR WEEKLY EXPENSES TOTAL $8,346 (combined - weeks one to 11). $837 for week 11 only OUR WEEK 11 VIDEO FIVE THINGS WE LOVED Driving past a fence lined entirely with hiking boots. NZ you're just bloody great. MAROKOPA FALLS. These falls just blew us away. They are 35m high and absolutely breathtaking. We feel like we have seen quite a few waterfalls over here, but Marokopa Falls took the cake. They were just so commanding. They just kind of took you you know. I could have sat there all day marvelling at them. THE KINDEST LADY IN THE WORLD BRINGING IN OUR WASHING. Oh goodness me I'm almost getting teary writing this. You see James and I had done a couple of loads of washing (big deal as it was paid washing guys), hung them out and then headed off for the day. Because we're us, our plans of returning at 4pm somehow became 10pm and when we arrived back at the campsite it was dark, cold and rainy. Rainy? Raining? Hmm. Anyway, like any reasonable person over the age of 22 that has unfortunately learnt to appreciate the importance of laundry, we sprinted up to the washing line, ready to pull our clothes off quicker than the stampede in the Lion King. But alas, when we got to the washing line it was EMPTY. EMPTIER than the hole in my heart when I discovered Pascalls had stopped producing Jaybee Jellybeans (still a raw topic guys so no questions/comments on this please). So anyway we all know it's fight or flight right? It was 10pm so I was ready to fly off to sleep but of course Jim got all defensive and fighty real quick as he was completely convinced someone had stolen all our clothes JUST to get their hands on his Ferg Burger Tee Shirt. When in reality, the campground owner just saw that the weather was starting to take a turn and had generously decided to pull in all our washing for us. Such a simple act, but one I know I'm never ever going to forget. Just so so so kind and caring. How beautiful and quiet the Coromandel was at this time of the year. We somehow managed to get the most beautiful weather up there and because it's getting past Summer, the Coromandel was incredibly quiet. I'm talking entire beaches to ourselves. Empty campgrounds. Not a soul anywhere. It was just magic and what I imagined the Coromandel would be like (however we heard that in the Summer it's packed like a T Swift Concert with just one DOC campsite being able to accomodate over 1,000 people!! ). Colin - the LOVELIEST mechanic in Rotorua. He checked Vinnie out, gave James a right bollocking for packing so much gear in him (I told Colin that James can't bear to travel without all his clothes and many face serums) and then gave us a homegrown apple to try (he even cut it in two so we wouldn't argue haha #Colinknowshowtosaveamarriage). He was just such a genuinely lovely man. Colin for the win. Look it almost rhymes. That's when you know it's true. FIVE THINGS WE DIDN'T LOVE Vinnie overheating. And Colin (World's loveliest man) not knowing why. Pulling right over on the side of the road so the incoming car could easily get past us (NZ roads are notoriously narrow) AND THEN NOT GETTING A WAVE OR A SMILE OR ANYTHING. NO I LIE WE DIDN'T NOT GET ANYTHING. WE GOT CRUSHED FAITH IN HUMANITY. THAT'S WHAT WE GOT. Having an unlucky night. Driving in the rain for about four hours and finally rocking up to a free camp we had stayed at just a couple of weeks ago, only to find out it was no longer a free camp and in fact prohibited. So at 11pm, being the rule abiding citizens we are, we decided to head somewhere else for the night. Thinking we could thank our lucky socks we knew of a second site - we headed there. Same thing. New signs erected saying no freedom camping. So at 11:20pm we were getting pretty tired but decided to try a third site we had found online. And yep you guessed it, that now had a locked gate in front of it too. Thankfully at 11:45pm we FINALLY managed to find a place to sleep, albeit we were feeling pretty defeated. But also secretly like champions. Defeated champions. This really rude couple at Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel. For those of you who don't know - Cathedral Cove is probably one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand, and a real photography 'hot spot'. Anyway, this couple had set up early at the Cove taking photos at sunrise when two girls started running around getting a few shots of their own (which is totally OK to do - it's a beautiful public place and there for all to enjoy). Apparently not finding this ok, the couple went over and quite rudely told them (not asked them) to move and get out of their shots. Then unfortunately, the girls got their backs up and dilly dallied to further aggravate the couple (which 100% worked). It was just really sad to see this interaction. And so unnecessary. About 20 minutes earlier, I had asked if it was ok for me to quickly run out for a photo and everyone said yes and agreed to take it in turns after me. I just don't get it? Why can't we all be polite? How short the days are getting. SO SHORT. THREE THINGS WE FOUND FUNNY (with a sneaky fourth) Me jumping (literally) to join James while he was doing an instagram story, and completely miscalculating it and smashing my arm against a metal pole and bruising it real bad. The worst part is we have it all on cam. Hot water beach being SUPER DUPER HOT. Like way hotter than expected. We kept jumping in our wee spa pool and then instantly having to jump out. Eventually we realised we needed to make a drain so some of the hot water could leave. Kind of glad it was 1am and no-one saw because I think we would have looked pretty silly. James telling Colin (World's kindest man - as seen above) the wrong engine model for Vinnie. Colin had said "I thought it would have been an easy job based on the engine you gave me but when I started working, I realised it was a completely different model". You see this is hilarious because I missed Colin (World's kindest man) first saying this to Jim (who then hid it from me) but thankfully Colin found it so hilarious he repeated it and made sure I heard . Hehehehe. Not that I would get the engine right either. FIVE THINGS WE PONDERED How many people visit Cathedral Cove each year? And what percentage are Kiwi? Did the kind American lady get a parking ticket at Cathedral Cove? (She was real panicked and asked us if we thought she'd get one and I don't want to ruin anyone's day so I was all nah you'll be fine, don't even worry, but now I'm worried she did and she hates us). Does New Zealand have the most ride own lawnmowers per capita? Will the Coromandel Peninsula ever be asphalted? Are you really meant to eat the apple core? THE WEEKLY TALLY And that's a wrap for week 11! And what a wonderful week it was. The Coromandel has always been a place I've wanted to visit and it so so lived up to all the hype. I feel like I can finally join all of New Zealand when they rave about their Summers in the 'Coro. Thanks for reading and if you feel like helping us out, please keep your fingers crossed week 12 won't include any overheating! #awaywithcj #newzealand #nz #nzmustdo #aotearoa #travel #travelblog #travelcouple #nzblog #photography #cjweekly #thecoromandel #shouldwecallittheCoro #wonderifpeoplehaveCoronasintheCoro #definitelyathing #willneverknowhowtopronounceThamesthough #probablymeanswewontevergettolivethere #whatashameforThames #butseriouslyistheapplecoregoodforyou #IaminclinedtobelieveeverythingColinsays #somanyrideonlawnmowers #landofthelongwhiterideonmower #nooneisgoingtostealyourFergteeshirtJames #randomactsofkindness #whyyousohotHotWaterBeach #whatbreakdownisnextVin #OhVinnie #althoughyoudidbringustoColin #soitsnotallbad #feellikemyMumwaitingfortheshortestdaytohurryupandbeoverwith #growingup #growingold #BUTSERIOUSLYGIVEUSMORETHANFIVEMINSOFDAYLIGHT

The best view of Mount Taranaki! Our Complete guide to the Pouakai Reflective Tarn

We have had a few questions on our pictures here – which walk it was, how long it took, if it was busy etc. so we thought we would do up a quick blog explaining it all! But before we get into it, let us just say that that of all the walks we did in the North Island (including Tongariro), this was hands down our favourite. And even though we had seen endless photos of the beautifully symmetrical Mount Taranaki reflecting in the water, when we got to the tarns and saw the view for ourselves, we were just blown away. It truly is something to experience. Ok, so let’s get into it – here are the details! THE WALK AND THE VIEW POINT The famous reflection shot is on the Pouakai Tarns Circuit a 2-3 day 25Km long walk. However, if you don’t have two or three days spare (like us) it’s no stress as you can get to this beautiful viewpoint in less than two hours! So here’s what we did: We parked at Mangorei Road Carpark, and started the walk nice and early, aiming to be at the tarn for sunrise. The walk is mostly uphill (approximately 700m of elevation) and about 6km long. The track is very well defined, with most of it being wooden steps and boardwalks so definitely one you can do in the dark and not have to worry about getting lost! I will also add that the path is pretty muddy/wet in sections so make sure you wear shoes that will look good with a bit of mud on them! The Department of Conservation (DOC) suggests allowing 2 hours to get to Pouakai Hut and from there, another 30 minutes to reach the tarns. We would suggest allowing about two hours all up (one way) if you’re of moderate fitness, noting that if you do the walk for sunrise, you won’t want to be at the tarns too early (as it can be pretty chilly waiting for the sun to pop up!). WHERE TO SLEEP/CAMP BEFORE THE WALK We found three options here: 1. We believe you can freedom camp in the Mangorei carpark after talking to the Visitor Centre staff. The carpark looked like it was re-done when we went in April 2019 and there are hundreds of carparks so you won’t need to worry about getting a spot. It also has pretty fancy new toilets! Please note, if you are staying overnight here - most of the parks do seem to be on a slight angle. 2. You can stay in the Pouakai Hut which is about 20 minutes away from the tarns. The hut costs $15 per person and you need to purchase your hut pass before you rock up! The hut (like many others) operates on a first come first serve basis and has 16 bunks. It also has a kitchen, water tank, toilet, and lo and behold – a glorious fire! Note - it has been full both times we have done the walk! 3. You can pack a hiking tent and camp in the clearing which is just past the hut. This is what we did in May 2020 and absolutely loved it. This would be our pick. Not only does it mean you’re only about 15 minutes away from the tarn, you also get to camp with the most beautiful view of Mount Taranaki right in front of your tent. Camping here is also free (which is crazy!). WHAT TO PACK While we did the walk early April in 2019 and it was a clear sunny day, it was pretty chilly at sunrise and the boardwalk had iced over in some sections. When we did the walk again in February 2020 it was much warmer, but we still found it cool overnight. We suggest packing: Jacket and warm clothing Gloves!! Head torch (if you are going for sunrise or sunset) Shoes that you’re happy to get dirty/muddy – when we did the walk, we noticed every other person had hiking shoes on but I was fine in my running/exercise shoes. Food + water Camera + equipment WHEN IS BEST TO DO THE WALK AND OUR PERSONAL TIPS The biggest piece of advice we can give you is to check the weather forecast before you set off on this walk!! We have a friend who did the walk 40 times before he got the conditions he was after! I thought we had misheard him, but it was 40!! 40!! Ideally you want a forecast that is clear and with minimal/no wind (so you can get the clear reflection!). We suggest using two forecasts - 1. MetService - and pay attention to the wind forecast (noting wind is usually lower in the morning!) and 2. Yr.No - and pay attention to the cloud and fog cover. Typically 100+ people do this walk each day, so we suggest getting to the tarn for either sunrise or sunset as you will a) have nicer light and b) find it much less crowded. A couple of points on sunrise and sunset: At sunrise, the sun hits Mount Taranaki from the left; At sunset, the sun hits Mount Taranaki from the right; and It never lines up perfectly with the sun unfortunately. In terms of seasons, Summer will provide much more pleasant hiking conditions but Winter will provide an incredible snow capped Mount Taranaki. Tough choices right!? We definitely hope to do the walk again in Winter! HOW BUSY WILL IT BE? All together there would have been 8-10 people at the tarns for sunrise when we did the walk in April 2019. If I’m honest, usually James and I really dislike crowded ‘hot spots’ but this was actually quite different. It was the loveliest bunch of people – some had hiked up from the carpark, some had tented over night and others had walked from the hut. I think because everyone had made the effort to be there for sunrise, everyone was really considerate and kind. In the end, we actually all took each others photos and it was great – I said to James it was one of very few spots where the ‘crowd’ actually added to the place and experience! When we did the walk again in February 2020, there was probably about 10 people at the tarn for sunset and 12 or so at sunrise. Interestingly, sunrise seems to be busier here. PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS You will want to set your camera up nice and low by the tarns so you can get that lovely reflection shot. For our shots we typically set the aperture between F9 and F11, and kept the ISO as low as possible (64 on our camera). To get the shots of us in the frame we had to increase the ISO slightly so that the shutter speed was around 1 second (we're not very good at staying still for long haha). As the sun came up (the day time picture in this blog) we were able to lower the shutter speed even more while keeping the ISO at 64. Post Processing: We do all our post processing in Lightroom and for these pictures, it mostly involved bringing down the highlights and boosting the colours to bring the RAW file to life. WOULD WE RECOMMEND IT? YES x 1000! ANY OTHER TIPS? You can actually use Google Maps when you’re doing the walk so you can roughly see how you’re tracking for time. It’s listed as the “Pouakai Circuit Reflective Tarn”. If you're looking to get more epic views of the incredible Mount Taranaki, we have just uploaded a blog with our five favourite viewpoints. You can read this here We hope this helps with your planning and if there’s anything we have missed let us know! :) #awaywithcj #newzealand #nz #nzmustdo #aotearoa #hiking #mttaranaki #taranakinz #nztravelblog #nzblog