A Travellerspoint blog

Down under New Zealand and Austrialia Feb 2024

New Zealand and Australia

New Zealand and Australia 2024

The term Down Under is a colloquialism and refers to Australia and New Zealand. It comes from the fact that these two countries are located in the Southern Hemisphere below many other countries on the globe. We had met two couples from Australia in 2022. We had shared several private excursions with them and it inspired us to book these two cruises. The International Dateline subtracts one day,

We found a place to Park, Fly Stay at Best Western Glenview for 28 days took a 3 pm shuttle to the Airport, and flew out at 7 pm. We flew Air New Zealand and had a sky couch in economy. 3 seats that could be made into a bed. It was quite comfy. They gave you a mattress pad and two large pillows.
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We were lucky and the plane was not full so Jim was able to acquire e empty seats to also lay down.
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16-hour direct flight. Arrived at 6 am. Left on Sunday and arrived on Tuesday due to the dateline.

Took a taxi to our Airbnb in New Zealand. The first rip off meter said 62 dollars he charged us 82. Should have asked price. The owner let us store luggage in a locker. The instructions were great. We changed clothes and I put sandals on I had developed a blister on my foot. It was hot and Auckland was very hilly. We went down the street to a cute little coffee shop. Had pastry and cappuccino.

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We walked down a huge hill to town. We were tired and the sidewalks were unlevel. All of a sudden I tripped. I landed hard on my knee and wrist. Shook up but luckily unscathed. A construction worker ran up to help me and said Maam that was one wipeout. We were meeting Jeff and Evelyn a couple we had met two years ago. They were leaving today for a cruise on Oceania around New Zealand for their 10th anniversary. What a coincidence we would be able to meet up in Auckland. We talked about doing a hop on hop off bus. We met up and decided to go get a coffee and pop to catch up. We missed the bus so we took a taxi to Auckland Museum. Had a great time enjoying the museum and spending time with Jeff and Evelyne.

Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of the mainland New Zealand. They arrived in several waves of canoe in 1320. Over several centuries in isolation, these settlers developed their own distinctive culture, crafts mythology, and language.

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They went on to start a cruise on Oceania IMG_2555.jpegaf8b6a30-df19-11ee-acaa-1b87e4cd8f9a.jpegae0ba800-df19-11ee-bf08-094ca2601a2f.jpegDSC05367.jpeg

We parted ways and took a taxi to check in to Airbnb It was advertised as a Little studio with Big Views. Perfect for us.

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We showered and exhausted walked to our reservation for 360 Sky Tower for our 6 pm dinner. It was set to a price of 109 a person. The reviews said the food was good but it surpassed that. the restaurant revolves once an hour and we had a leisurely dinner for 2 hours.

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We enjoyed our leisurely walk back on a beautiful evening and to a welcomed bed.fea1fda0-e126-11ee-95f3-ed7be76942dc.jpeg

We had booked a tour through Viator to Hobbiton the movie set. It was a full-day tour from Auckland that explored New Zealand's Middle Earth where the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were filmed. We would see hobbit holes in gardens and enjoy a drink in the Green Dragon Inn. It was a two-hour drive through lush landscapes and we saw kiwi farms on the way. I am not a big fan like my husband Jim but ended up loving it.

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We walked to one of the pickup places at a hotel. The bus was nice and cool and 16 people were on it. Stopped at a rest stop, When we got there had time to go through the shops. We had a great guide. c16c0fa0-e236-11ee-880c-4d4b87c3ed4a.jpegc079e770-e236-11ee-993a-6ff7a4a65921.jpeg4aac8b70-e235-11ee-993a-6ff7a4a65921.jpeg

Wednesday 14, Sunny day and very hot. all tours now include an interior Hobbit Hole. Located on Bagshot Row these offer an authentic glimpse into the charming dwellings of Hobbits. Intricate hand-painted details and carvings adorn the wall It was a plethora of colorful hand-stitched linens and
allowed to touch and explore.

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One of the dominant trees at the site is an oak tree on the hill above Bag End. It is fake and constructed of fiberglass with leaves of silk. 44 Hobbit holes lying amongst emerald hillsides and luscious gardens are waiting to be explored. Seriously it doesn't feel like anything else you have ever visitedDSC05445.jpegDSC05405.jpeg

The Green Dragon is one of many inns of Shire. Had a good cold beer there at the end of the tour.

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We got dropped off where we were picked up. Walking home my blisters were worse so stopped at a pharmacy and got some silicone sleeves that fit my toes like a condom.

We found a place called Ziggles a Korean burger chicken place. Split a sandwich and realized it was a popular place because it was packed for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, Feb 15th. Jim was up early walking. I did a load of travel clothes and laundry handy to have a washer and dryer. He brought me a delicious cup of cappuccino. The Airbnb provided a light continental breakfast. We put our luggage in our locker and headed out to explore Ponsonby Area, which had a beautiful park and hip shopping and restaurant area. We stopped in a local pub and got a cool beer called hazy mystic that hit the spot.
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We had an Uber coming at one and he never showed and said we were not out there. We had been waiting 15min early. He charged us 20 so I disputed it and got returned. Called another Uber and onboard Edge at 230. We are in room 6139. Our room Stuart is Wayne.

Friday 16th Tauranga New Zealand.

Had to be in the lounge at 0815 to catch the Thermal Lake Jetboat excursion. It was a drive there through the Kiwi area. The jet boat It was a thrilling ride,
We had a female driver who put us through many 360 turns,

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Next up was Hellsgate Geothermal Park. Steeped in Maori myth and legend. We did not have time for a mud bath. Ok by me they said the Sulpher smell stayed with you a few days. While walking through this reserve you will be seeing billowing steam, bubbling of pools of warm mud...

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Saturday 17th Napier

In 1931 a devastating earthquake rocked and destroyed most of Napier City. The cities began rebuilding in the Art Deco which has kept Napier an Art Deco mecca in the Southern Hemisphere. We got lucky and it was one of the four-day festivals they have yearly. During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in society. In 1920 became popular in Paris. Monuments of the style include the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

A pretty sunrise caught from our room

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Jim went to gym at 515 and brought me back Cafe Americano from Biaco We went to the main dining room for breakfast. Walked around the ship. Enjoyed time in the Eden area. Had a salad in the dining room and got off the ship at 1 pm. They had a shuttle to Napier. The festival was going on. Lots of locals dressed in period clothes. Old cars lined the streets.

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When got back on the ship went to Sunsett Bar and had Mojito and Jim had Long Island iced tea

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Sun Feb 18th

Picton is nestled at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Picton is possibly New Zealand's most pretty seaside town. This charming little fishing village has secluded bays and crystal-clear waters. We were up early to watch coming into Marlborough sounds. the sunrise was a ray of color. The export of trees is big in New Zealand. Before man came 80 percent was covered in wood. Radiata pine was preferred because grew faster in New Zealand Mass planting in 20'a and 30's created a robust forest industry.

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We joined a table of 6 people from Michigan and Utah who had traveled together before. Had a great breakfast with them.

The meeting place was the ship theater

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Talked to a couple that will be going on our Norway trip on August 2025. Jim and I have Kayaked about 6 times together. this will be our last. I asked the guide where I should sit and he said the back. Little did I know I had to steer with foot pedals. To Jim's dismay, he said I drove like a snake! To my credit, the 6 other kayaks had men in back steering. It was a terrific paddle in crystal clear waters. Also we wore q dry bib to keep water out of kayak. Had to snap it down and remember if tipped relax, feel your way around the rim, and pull the tab to release.

Got back and had drinks in Martini Lounge they do a light show at 6 pm and bartenders perform

We ate dinner with a couple from Wales that had been married for 50 years. He skies at the age of 74, Some of the best things about cruising are the people you meet.

Monday, Feb 19

Seas were rough so we could not port. The port authorities closed the port to Christchurch. Today would become a sea day. We ate breakfast with Mark and Linda from California. They told us they like to use Gate 1 for travel. Love all of the travel tibits you learn from seasoned travelers. We went up to the Gym for a workout. We enjoyed a restful day, Supper tonight we had an extensive conversation with a single widow from Singapore. She encouraged us to travel there soon. The courage it takes to traveL alone is eye-opening.

Tuesday, Feb 20th Dunedin

They call it Little Edinburgh both because of the scenery and the architecture borrow heavily from Scotland. We took a tour of the great houses of Dunedin. We stopped at Olveston house a mansion that had treasures from all over the world. The garden will delight any gardening enthusiast.

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Dunedin is home to the only castle in New Zealand, Larnach castle is located on the crown of a wooded hill overlooking Otago Harbour. This castle had my heart at the bagpipe-man greeting us with music and escorting us to the ballroom to have hot scones with clotted cream and jelly and hot tea.

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Guide

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Wed, Feb 21

Up on deck for the first of 3 sounds for the day. We found a good spot as we entered Dusky Sound. The weather was overcast with fog, which made it feel dreamlike. A fjord is an underwater valley carved by glaciers. Generally narrow with steep-sided mountains on either side these valleys were carved by ancient rivers of ice which have disappeared. Because these valleys are below sea level, they have been inundated with seawater creating the fjords we see today. the naturalist Cecilia Garland on board came on intercome outside and narrated about the fjords.

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Doubtful Sound, Once you breathe more than natural air and experience the atmosphere's serenity, you will see why Doubtful is inarguably a favored peaceful destination. Doubtful Sound is a rather untouched paradise that is off the unbeaten path. It is an adventurous journey you will share with fewer people.

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In the afternoon we would enter the last, Milford Sound. Situated within Fiordland National Park this natural wonder is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site, and is protected by its natural geography.

We should experience one of the rare sunny clear blue days in the fjords. The day flew by.

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Thursday day 8 sea day Feb 22

Crossing the Tasman Sea is sandwiched between the Australian and New Zealand land masses. Unlike many other bodies of water, wind and wave conditions on the Tasman 'sea are rough for most of the year as the currents of the Southern Ocean collide with those of the Pacific.

I did Zumba up in the Garden area. The leader is really good. Went in a closed area of Eden to read. Had a lovely dinner with a Danish couple he was a pharmacist and she was a Lutheran Minister.

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Friday day 9 sea day

Sat Feb 24

We were an hour late tendering due to rough seas. It was cloudy, overcast, and called for rain. We got off by the Opera House this is a massive place. It was very crowded so decided to do hop on hop off the bus.

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After dinner it was a magnificent evening so went up on deck to see skilines of sydney

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Sat Feb 25
Today was the turnaround day for back-to-back cruises. this morning was a stunning sunrise with the Opera House in the backdrop.

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Fortunately. we had the same room for both cruises. We got off at 0930 and decided to walk to
botanical gardens.

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Australia's natural masterpiece and oldest botanic garden overlooking Sydney Harbour. The Domain wraps the garden, It was a hot sunny day and we found ourselves seeking the shade. It was a free entry to luscious gardens. We then walked over to the area known as the Rocks. There was a market going on. We walked the streets and found a Munic bar stopped and had a beer and rustic bread, cheese a meet.

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Jim wanted to go to a church and I headed back to Edge to board,

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On Monday we ate at Elite Breakfast in Bistro, Had freshly squeezed juice, a bagel and cream cheese, and a fruit plate. I had cappuccino.

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Went to the Great Barrier Reef Seminar.

Tuesday Sea Day Feb 27

We were sailing the Gold Coast of Australia. Went to a couple of lectures on reef animals. Jim has been getting up every morning at 515 and walking outside or going to the gym. He brings me back a cup of Americana every morning at 630. The barista knows him and calls him Sir James. He was tired today and I told him to go to Eden and find a quiet place to read or find a couch to take a nap. I took my book later and it made me smile to see he found the perfect spot.

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Wed Feb 28

Airlie Beach Queensland Australia. Located in the heart of the Whitsundays region the coastal town has long been a popular holiday destination. We had booked a Catamaran. It was a tender port. The weather on the whole trip had been picture-perfect. Today would be another story. It started off overcast with the look of rain in the distance. We all boarded the purple catamaran and were on our way. Met some fun people up on deck and did get to enjoy sailing for about an hour and a half when the bottom of the day dropped out. It was a deluge of rain for about 2 hours. There were 88 on board and it was very tight underneath in the covered area. Jim sat outside with another lady instead of being crammed inside. The crew worked hard to make everyone happy and put on a tasty dinner even grilled chicken and hamb in rain. It was not their first Rodeo and we all tried to make the best of a miserable day.

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Thursday, Feb 29th

Today is the day We had been waiting for Would the Great Barrier Reef be everything we had dreams of? We are avid snorkelers and have snorkeled in most Caribbean islands, Hawaii and Tahiti, Galapagos, Our favorite being St John, Today would surpass our expectations tenfold. The first view of and underwater landscape of corals in the vast number of colors, shapes, and textures. What a treat and feast for our eyes. None came remotely close to plunging into the South Pacific Ocean and snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is all about superlatives. It is the world's largest Coral Reef. extending some 1400 miles, It covers some 133,00 square miles. It can be seen from outer space.

The dive boat picked us right up at Edge. 44 people total. We had the best safety and snorkel instructions. 20 people dove and 24 snorkeled. There were 3 lifeguards and a naturalist on board. One Master diver for 3 people. All of the divers were very experienced already. They gave us a Lyrica suit and fins. Jim and I brought our full face masks. It was very easy to get in at the end of the boat with the ledge going out. The water was bouncy, I wore a vest and took a noodle for visibility for Jim. It was overcast. The moment I had my face in water was so thankful to be experiencing this.

Hastings Reef Cairns is where they took us. It took about an hour and a half to get there. This was idyllic for snorkeling was a good swing through up to reef experience something I will remember for the rest of my life. We snorkeled for 2 hours came in and ate went back in an hour. I thought it was time to come in the lifeguard said we had about an hour more. I wanted to go back in. Jim was tired and Lifeguard said you are like a fish in water and he would keep an eye on me. I don't like to snorkel alone but hated to give up Jim also watched me from the end of the boat so I went off to my little bit of heaven.

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We got back to Edge at about 4 pm. We were tired but happy from the day in the water. We shared a table with Alan a 84 year old gentleman that was traveling alone on back-to-back cruises. He lived in Auckland. He was a widower and had traveled with a lady friend who now was at home for dementia. He had no children but was close to the daughter of a lady friend. She talked him into doing cruises. He said never again just too lonely traveling by himself. He was a good conversationalist and interesting to talk to. Glad we could share a table with him. We were staying overnight in Cairns so went to see the local entertainment in Theater. A musical journey celebrates indigenous traditions through dance and music. Iat offers a profound glimpse into the heart of Australia's indigenous culture.

March 1 second day in Carnes, We had to meet in the theater at 0645 am. The large Sunlover boat picked us up at Edge. It had 3 levels. Er sat in the middle. They again did a great safety speech and snorkeling instruction. Seas were rough and several people were using barf bags. The staff was exceptional in helping people who got sick.
Took about 2 hours to get to Moore Reef a stunning and extensive series of offshore coral atolls. It is also one of three reefs that have a pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef. It has diving platforms underwater observatories, a bar buffet, and a sundeck,

When we got there we had the advantage of knowing the drill since we had snorkeled yesterday. Jim got the right sizes of Lyrica suits and I got our fins. Before we knew it we were on a platform to enter water. Who knew this would be our best snorkel? From the moment we got in we looked at each other like are we really experiencing this. The sun shined through the corals invigorating the reef and creating an incredible Kaleidoscopic effect. So many juvenile fish out on the corner of the reef. We snorkeled a couple of hours and a half. Jim even said he did not care if he missed lunch. If you know him you know he rarely misses a meal. We made it out and went to a lovely dinner of curried meats, salad fruit, and fresh prawns. When we got done some were enjoying sundeck, water slide, submersible submarine, and observatory deck.
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March 2 Port Douglas Quick Silver Vessel. Another similar excursion takes you to a pontoon platform that again takes an hour and a half to a ribbon reef called Agincourt Reef. located at the very edge of the Great Barrier Reef along the Reefs Continental Shelf. At least seas were calmer on ride out. Unfortunately, the Seas were roughest of 3 snorkel days while snorkeling. This was a totally disorganized start total chaos with people going every which way. We got our equipment. The life jackets did not fit as well. In the water, we go to get kicked by many beginner snorkelers flailing in the water. We got out past them and got out to deeper water. Lots of dead coral at the beginning. It did get better as we got out past the ropes. It was very bouncy and after about an hour Jim said he would wait for me at the middle. I went out deeper but was always trying to keep an eye on him. Saw lots of turtles that people were chasing and trying to touch. I actually screamed at a lady who was trying to touch. I have such respect for animals and coral and it infurates me the lack of respect some have for these creatures. We ate a good lunch and were a little disappointed with the snorkel even though was still good. Took the free submersible submarine and was quite surprised at how healthy the coral was here and really enjoyed this. Very good for people who were unable to snorkel or dive. It was time for the long way back, getting to the port and having to transfer to the ferry took about an hour. We were wiped out from three days of snorkeling.

Supper was a shared table with a couple from Sydney who was going to see 4 day-old first grandchild in Bisbon. It was so good to see the joy in their eyes and how excited they were to meet their grandson. the other couple was from Whales. We had such a good time visiting we stayed in the dining room till 0915.

Sunday, March 3

Sea Day and pass by Willis Island is one of the most remote islands in the Coral Sea, The island is home to a weather station operated by the Australian

We went for a walk and decided it was not windy and would go up in the Jacuzzi

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Tue March 5 Brisbane

You cannot come to Australia without seeing Koala bears and Kangaroos. Since we were not going to the outback booked Steve Erwins Australia Zoo.

Koala bears are awesome animals that are not bears. they are marsupials and have [picjes where their newborns develop. A joey grows and develops in the pouch for about six months. They eat eucalyptus leaves. They sleep up to 18 hours a day.

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Kangaroos are marsupials that carry young in pouch. A male is a boomer and a female is a jill. There are more kangaroos in Australia that people. Kangaroo meat is commonly found in Australia and is considered to be healthier than other meats. Big back legs are good for hopping and tail is used to control balance. Short forelegs are handy for food gathering and in combat.

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Wed March 6

Our last sea day. we packed and got our suitcases outside the door before 10 pm, One last walk, and said goodbye to home of 21 days.
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Thur Blue Mountain debark tour

We left at 7 am for a2 hour ride to Blue Mountains. The mountains are a rugged region known for its dramatic scenery The Blue Mountains are rich in eucalypt trees and it is these trees that create a blue haze. Evelyn lives in the Blue Mountains and told me she lives about 10 min from Echo Point. She offered to pick us up show us around more and take us back to the airport hotel. We finished the tour and she picked us up and we were on our way. She showed us her mountains and took us on some hikes. We went to her house and Jeff took us back to the airport we stopped at a great restaurant on the way.

We first went to Echo Point where we got to view three sisters.37c8dc90-e4b8-11ee-81a2-457d830e509f.jpeg376c3da0-e4b8-11ee-81a2-457d830e509f.jpeg3735eb60-e4b8-11ee-81a2-457d830e509f.jpeg37058c90-e4b8-11ee-a8c1-7f20fe890c65.jpeg

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next stop was scenic park We enjoyed the Cableway, skyway, and railway

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Our first stop with Evelyn the road was being worked on so she took us on a new hike. DSC06453.jpeg37c8dc90-e4b8-11ee-81a2-457d830e509f.jpeg376c3da0-e4b8-11ee-81a2-457d830e509f.jpeg3735eb60-e4b8-11ee-81a2-457d830e509f.jpeg37058c90-e4b8-11ee-a8c1-7f20fe890c65.jpeg

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We stopped at Evelyn and Jeff's house. What a beautiful, peaceful area they live in. We stopped at a great bar for supper. Our meals were very tasty Our treat for them took us to the airport hotel and provided a wonderful tour of the area.

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We stayed at Holiday Inn Express at the airport. Had a hot breakfast including a fancy coffee machine. Left for the airport at 0800 for an 11 o'clock flight to Auckland. Had a 3 hour wait. ate lunch at the airport and headed home for a long flight home. Air NewZealand. Had seats that made into bed and Jim was able to get a row of empty seats too. Good night. Arrived in Chicago 430. Waited for the shuttle to get car at the hotel. Jim slept enough and decided to drive home. Traffic was heavy and arrived home at 9 pm, Grandbaby Stoch was at our house the men were making sausage tomorrow. Until next time.

Posted by Cindygad 00:46 Archived in New Zealand

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