What we ate in… Fiji!

Bula!

On our trip to Fiji we did not leave our resort, Maui Palms, at all. We had opted to do a meal plan at the resort after reading reviews about how great the food was. Each day we were promised breakfast, lunch and a 3 course dinner. We were more than excited to try the entire menu and hopefully get our seafood fix.

The food at Maui Palms was beyond impressive, always fresh and also always surprising and slightly different. Even if we ordered the same meal more than once, we were delighted to find a different presentation and new veggies. Things never got boring with the food, but then again, when is food ever boring?! 🙂

Here’s a sampling of some of the great dishes we tried…

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“Club” Sandwich for lunch

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Appetizer of fried heaven – calamari, tempura shrimp and chicken spring rolls

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Tapas appetizer platter with crackers, cheese and veggies

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Garlic prawns

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Local fish with tropical slaw and veggies

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Surf and Turf – Filet in wine sauce with prawns

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Scallops in sweet chili sauce

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Local fish in coconut cream sauce

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Our favorite dessert…ice cream with a fresh mixed berry sauce

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Famous crepes with banana and caramel and fried ice cream for dessert our first night!

Maui Palms also prepared a feast one night where they taught us some Fijian traditions and cooked us local foods. It was really neat to learn more about the culture and also get to know the staff even more. The evening started with a ceremony where we all sat around and drank kava. Kava is made from a ground root and then combined with water so you can drink it. It’s known for it’s sedating effects, it helps prevent and/or calm anxiety and it also makes your tongue go numb. We sat around with some other visitors and the staff of Maui Palms and learned the traditions associated with drinking kava. We also all laughed at the faces the others made when drinking it and pressured each other to do “tsunami” level drinks! We both started out with “low tide” size bowls of kava, and worked our way up to “high tides”….and both got numb mouths in the process!

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Offering a kava drink

Last but not least, we sampled some Fijian beers. We loved the local beers and made sure to drink a lot of them to make sure that they did not go to waste.

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We left Fiji with happy hearts, full bellies and better tans. There is no doubt that we will be going back to Fiji, and Maui Palms, again in the future. The locals, the staff, our taxi driver, the beaches, the snorkeling, the random rain storms and otherwise intensely strong sun, the food and the beer all won us over and made us more than welcome in their beautiful country.

Cheers!
~ Kerry & Jenny

Fiji and the Coral Coast

Bula!

When we started making plans for the first 2 months of our RTW (round the world) trip, Fiji kept coming up. This is a place that we both have wanted to visit for a long time so it only made sense to take a tiny detour to spend some time in Fiji.

We opted to take a week long trip to Fiji to see what it was all about. Another decision we made was to stay on the main island instead of spending time traveling to some of the smaller islands. Jenny found an adorable place called Maui Palms, about an hour and a half away from the Nadi airport, so we booked it for 6 nights as a vacation from our year long vacation.

Virgin Australia took us from Sydney over to Nadi and we arrived with giant smiles on our faces. Unfortunately, that smile quickly faded once we waited on our baggage and only one of our bags arrived. Kerry spent a good 5 minutes making sad faces standing by the baggage claim going round and round without her bag on it. Luckily, the lovely folks at the Nadi airport were swift to move in and try to resolve the where-in-the-world-is-Kerry’s-entire-life-in-a-backpack problem. We were given a reference number and told that our hotel would be contacted when her backpack was found. (Good news: the bag was returned just a few days later. Whew!)

Maui Palms had helped to arrange a ride from the airport to the hotel, and luckily they were also kind enough to have a taxi driver wait around while we worked on the baggage ordeal. They were even more kind in that they had the taxi driver take us to town so that Kerry could buy some essentials to survive until her backpack arrived. After a few bikinis, some basic clothing, a toothbrush, contact case and solution and a razor were purchased, we headed to our island paradise. Luckily, Fiji is a great place to lose your bags as you don’t need much other than a bathing suit and a toothbrush!

We settled in to our amazing room… a king sized bed, our own private bathroom, free towels, clean sheets, a view looking straight out at the water… all things we had taken for granted before we started living in hostels! Maui Palms is a small resort with just a handful of rooms, so we got to know the staff very well and quickly. Our villa was the closest to the beach, just steps from the pool, the sand and the coral reef out front. We had all kinds of friendly critters from bats to hermit crabs, cows to dogs and even a bunch of bugs that insisted on eating Kerry alive at any given opportunity.

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A REAL BED! Not bunks!!

The week was spent doing a whole lot of nothing. Most of our time was spent eating some of the amazing food Maui Palms prepared for us, laying by the pool or the beach working on our tans, doing yoga (that was all Jenny), swimming laps in the pool, watching movies at night, practicing our cannonballs (mostly Kerry), snorkeling the reef that was steps away, playing cards when it rained and lounging in hammocks while we read.

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Cannonball practice

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Yoga practice

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Cards during a rainstorm

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Here’s a look at some of the amazing things we saw while snorkeling the reef right outside our resort:

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Ready to snorkel!

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Fish swarming Jenny as we headed out to snorkel

Also, we try to do plugs for our blog, Instagram and Twitter anytime we can. Since there was plenty of coral scattered along the beach each morning, we made the most of it. Clearly you have discovered our blog, but be sure to check out our Instagram account for more photos and our Twitter for random narratives.wp-1487754962171.jpgwp-1487755198240.jpg

Fiji was absolutely stunning and even more relaxing than we had expected. We are grateful that we had the accommodating and friendly folks at Maui Palms to make our trip even more amazing. We cannot wait to go back! Who wants to join?!

~Kerry & Jenny

Blue Mountains and Sydney, Australia

The remainder of our visit in Sydney (outside of our many beach journeys) was spent seeing some of the major sites of the city.

On Tuesday, we walked outside to a rain shower. We decided to hit up the Sydney SeaLife Aquarium – first, because it’s cool…and second, it would provide shelter from the rain. We took the train and made our way through Darling Harbour to the aquarium. It’s a super cute area, but unfortunately it was still pouring so we got our tickets and entered immediately. We saw some adorable penguins, jellyfish, tons of fish, sharks, sting rays, seahorses, dugongs (sea cows) and many more! Here are some pics we snapped throughout the aquarium.

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Jenny really loves penguins!

After we left the Aquarium, the rain had not let up, so we decided to park it at a place for lunch and have some beers (shocking, we know). We settled on King Street Brewhouse on the wharf of Darling Harbour and hung out there a couple of hours. Once the rain cleared, we headed back to our hostel to get ready for our “Galentine’s date” (see what we did there?! ha). We had known that it was Valentine’s day and wanted to do something fun to celebrate….so therefore we booked a show at the famous Sydney Opera House. Yes, we are super classy. Oh, but wait, not to mislead you…we saw no Opera. We instead opted to get tickets to see a cirque-type show called Barbu. We were warned online that it was slightly racy and to be prepared for brief male nudity. Ha, we were sold.

We decided to get to the Sydney Harbour where there Opera House is located a bit early to snap some pics of us “dressed up” (hair down and blue jeans on). Sydney Harbour also is home to the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, so we couldn’t resist getting some pics with it in the background. We then went to the Opera Bar and sat outside and each had a few glasses of RosĂ©.

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Jenny before the show

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Kerry outside the Sydney Opera House

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The birds really like Jenny…

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Selfie Fail 🙂

The show was fantastic! We were in the 3rd row right in front of the runway-type stage and the performers were incredible. It was not the giant production like a Vegas Cirque show, but in that way, it seemed even more dangerous. The show was full of daring acrobatic moves and, as promised, a bit of nudity. At one point, one of the male performers approached Kerry and danced on her a bit, leaving some sweat behind and 2 hysterically laughing, slightly intoxicated girls.

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After the show, in front of the Harbor Bridge

We ended the evening at a speakeasy type of bar called the Swinging Cat. We shared a charcuterie platter and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (because we clearly needed more alcohol). It was a great evening and we felt super lucky to get to see a show in such a famous place as the Sydney Opera House!

The next morning, we woke up (wearily) bright and early to catch our shuttle bus for our tour of the Blue Mountains. We only had to walk half a block to the meeting point, where we met our tour guide, Adam, owner of the small local tour company called Barefoot Downunder. The tour promised to be a smaller group, under 2o people, and take us on a really cool hike, as well as to typical tourist locations for pictures. The hour and a half (or so) drive out of Sydney was slightly rough (no fault of the tour company whatsoever) since we were rather hungover and thought at the time that we’d rather be on a beach being lazy. But here we were, being promised a 3 hour hike that no other tour company from Sydney takes people on…lucky us?!

He first took us to see some kangaroos, which were really cute, but we opted to not exit the shuttle bus because the only one near us was a male and honestly…he kinda looked scary! Then we got to the entrance of the National Pass Hike in the Blue Mountains. We unloaded and set off on the hike, walking alongside Adam and getting to know more about him and his company that he and his wife started. We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the hike, learning about tons of species of trees and plants surrounding us (Adam majored in horticulture at university), and saw about 10 awesome waterfalls along the way. We also sweated out tons of booze walking up about 1,000 stairs (not exaggerating).

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ANOTHER set of stairs…

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Then we drove into Leura, a quaint town in the mountains. Here, people had the option of buying lunch in one of the many cafes, but we had packed a lunch, so we enjoyed it on some grass in the shade. We were ravenously hungry, and our lunch of salami, cheese, crackers, fruit, hummus and carrots hit the spot!

Adam took us next to see the famous “Three Sisters” rocks, and we also learned to play the didgeridoo. When we had first heard this word, we thought it was going to be some game, but it wasn’t a game. It was a long wooden tube-like wind instrument that you blow into and for us non-professionals, some oddly terrible sounds came out. Adam played one and it sounded really cool though.

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We went to several different lookout points, including Pulpit Rock Lookout. The views of the mountains and canyons were stunning! We snapped some cute pics near cliff edges.

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The trip ended back in Sydney, where we all had a drink (included in the tour!) together and mingled with Adam and the other day trippers. The bar was called Side Bar, which coincidentally was located within our hostel! We were wiped by the end of the day, but oh so glad that we had selected this particular tour of the Blue Mountains. In the end, we didn’t need another beach day…since FIJI was up next on our agenda!

Cheers!
~Jenny & Kerry

The Beaches of Sydney, Australia

Our first order of business upon arrival in Australia was to visit some beaches. We had read and heard a lot about different beaches in Sydney and we were eager to see them all and work on our tans. Some of the top beaches we had heard about were Manly Beach, Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach. Each had their pros and cons and we were determined to experience them ourselves.

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Arriving at the Sydney Airport

Once we arrived in Sydney we settled into our hostel in the CBD and prepared for the next few days. We met our roommates and started talking to them about things to see and do in the city. After asking if they had tried any of the beaches in town, we were told that Manly Beach was the best bet. So the decision was made to spend our first full day at the beach.

On Sunday we got up and headed out to see Manly Beach. It required a train ride down to the wharf and then a ferry ride over to another part of town.Typically this could add up on costs, but since we had our Opal cards for transportation, our max charge for the day was a whopping $2.50. After a 30-45 minute ferry ride, we arrived at our destination and wandered through an adorable town full of restaurants and shops to arrive at the beach.

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Views from the ferry

Given that it was a bargain transportation day, the summer AND a Sunday, the beach was extremely crowded. However, it was beautiful, full of great people watching and had killer waves. We spent several hours at the beach reading, playing in the surf, watching the tourists and locals, reapplying sunscreen and even watching an ad hoc air show!

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Manly Beach… before the crowds

The next day we tried out a Coastal Walk that our guidebook had suggested. This is a walk that is 6km and works its way down the coast, starting at Bondi Beach and ending at Coogee Beach. Once again, we put public transportation to use to get to our starting point (this is one of our favorite things about big cities… we cannot say enough about our love for great public transportation!)

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A view of the coast we walked along, as seen on our flight out of Sydney

We started at Bondi Beach and figured the best thing to do would be to really experience the beach by laying out and tanning. The downfall of this was that we did not want to get off our butts, put on tennis shoes and start walking up a cliff. After about 2 hours we talked ourselves into continuing on and headed out to start our walk.

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Some views from the Coastal Walk

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Jenny & Bondi Beach

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Kerry & The Ocean

We headed up some cliffs and got great views of Bondi Beach from afar, as well as stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. We continued onwards and saw Tamarama beach, which was incredible, but we talked ourselves out of another 2 hour detour and ventured onwards. Our next stop was Bronte Beach where we had lunch and another tanning detour. Our lunch was an elegant tapas platter that we packed in our backpacks… salami, cheese, crackers, carrots and hummus! Once we were re-hydrated and stuffed with tasty snacks, we checked out Bronte Beach. Our favorite part about this beach was that there was a part of the beach that was blocked off by rocks and formed a natural swimming area that was safe from the waves. It was really difficult to walk away from this beach and continue on our journey, but we did it so we could see the infamous Coogee Beach that was located at the end of the walk.

The Coastal Walk has taken a slight detour in the past year due to storms, so we actually had a detour away from the beach and through an old cemetery that was quite eerie yet beautiful. We passed another swimming pool/beach, walked up what seemed to be never-ending stairs, then walked/hiked up a giant hill, then complained a lot about how we were never going to walk again, then kept walking.

Finally we arrived at Coogee Beach. It was a larger beach and pretty full of people, with plenty of amenities close by, though it was far from our favorite beach along the hike. We partly wished we had stayed back at Bronte and spent the rest of the day there, however we felt accomplished to finish the entire walk. We stayed at Coogee for awhile until the sun started to set and our skin was over it all.

The good news is that we were only 2 days into our visit to Sydney and still had a lot more to see and do. Until next time…

Cheers!
~ Kerry & Jenny

What we ate in… New Zealand

Well, it’s been a bit over a week since we left New Zealand. That means it’s time to share all the things we ate (and drank) during our visit. New Zealand is one of the most expensive countries we planned to visit on this trip, so we cooked the majority of our meals in the kitchen at our hostel. However, we did venture out a few times and found some local gems.

At Our Hostels
Jenny perfected her fried eggs (with Lantana of Texas seasoning…yup she brought that along) which we had for breakfast pretty regularly. She was a pro at this before our trip, but when you’re working with hostel-provided cookware, it’s a bit more tricky. Breakfast typically included avocado toast (we could eat this forever!). Many of our lunches were PBJ’s (ideal for hiking) and fruit. For dinner we tried a variety of things… stir fry, pasta with veggies and chicken and sometimes deli sandwiches or grilled cheese sandwiches. We also consumed a ton of cheese.

Britomart Country Club (BCC)
When Anna and Adam took us out in Auckland, we stopped by this place after our trip to Devonport. We mostly focused on the beers, but also got some tasty pizzas, fries and chorizo snacks. The location was great, the food was tasty and the company was even better!

Cable Bay Vineyards
We spent a day exploring various wineries on Waiheke Island (which you may have read about here). At the end of the tours, we stopped at Cable Bay to take in the amazing views, share a bottle of wine and devour a late lunch. We opted for one of our favorite things – a mezze platter with a variety of snacking foods. It was tasty and beautiful!

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Off the Track
In Napier we went to Off the Track with Mandy, Ben and Maddie. It was Mandy’s birthday when we arrived and this was a great way to celebrate! We took the opportunity to try a variety of tapas and platters since we had several people to share with. We got mussels, scallops, shrimp, lamb, filet, a variety of other meats, cheeses, olives, bread, veggies… the list is never-ending! Since Hawke’s Bay is a well-known wine region, we also made sure to sample a few local wines while we were there.

Stonyridge
We extended Mandy’s birthday celebration with a visit to some wineries near Napier. At one stop we ordered a lunch for the three of us that consisted of… guess what… a sampler platter! Jenny gave the mussels a taste test to make sure they were safe, then we all dug in and enjoyed as we drank wine and caught up.

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Fergburger
After we finished the Ben Lomond hike in Queenstown we hit up Fergburger. This place is well-known in Queenstown, famous for it’s burgers and long queue. We timed it just right and didn’t have to wait too long to get two burgers the size of our heads and some fries. And it didn’t take us long to inhale the entire burger after hiking for over 6 hours!

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Fat Badger’s
This was epic. We heard from a fellow traveler that pizza was amazing at this restaurant in Queenstown, then online reviews confirmed the same thing. After our lazy day of sitting in our bunks doing nothing, we decided to go here and have some pizza. Some pizza. Ha! It was happy hour when we arrived, so we ordered a few beers and their Parmesan curly fries that were on special. They were huge… we should have realized then what we were getting ourselves in to. We continued with a few more beers. Then ordered our pizza. We decided on a 20 inch (12 inch would NOT be enough) split between with 2 of their specialty pizzas. Here’s the description on the 2 we chose:
Cheesy Badgers Cheesy Cheese 5 Cheese Pizza: Cheddar, NZ Mozzarella, Feta, Ricotta, with crusted Parmesan
The Smokey Badger: Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Roast Ham, Chicken, Spicy Beef, Thick Cut Bacon, a Smokey BBQ Swirl, All Topped Off With NZ Mozzarella.

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Needless to say the pizza was giant and amazing. We ate a ton, then packaged up the rest for leftovers the next day. They were pretty darn delicious left over for breakfast and lunch.

Drinks

As far as the beer and wines we tried… the list is long. New Zealand is well known for a lot of its wines, so we stayed pretty busy sampling those. Here are some of our favorite drinks, bars and vineyards we visited.

Thirty30
In Paihia, this was the first bar we tried in New Zealand. It had a great patio, was close to the beach, happy hour beers, free wifi and was directly next to our hostel.

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All of Waiheke Island
We visited a few different wineries and loved each of them for their own reasons. More on this great visit is in this blog post.

Speight’s Summit Lager
This beer was suggested to us while we were staying in Rotorua. It quickly became a favorite and our regular go-to beer when we hit the stores in each town. Jenny was a champ and carried it back to our hostel, the Funky Green Voyager, after our long day’s visit to Wai-O-Tapu.

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Craggy Range
Near Napier, the grounds of this vineyard are stunning. We tried a ton of wines and settled on a few to take home with us to drink on Mandy and Ben’s patio as we overlooked Napier.

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Perky’s Bar
This wins on the atmosphere card for sure. Located in Queenstown, this bar is actually a boat floating on the lake, overlooking the mountains. The views are amazing, the beer is cold and they provided blankets during a chilly, windy rooftop visit.

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Cheers!
~ Kerry & Jenny

Queenstown, New Zealand and the Ben Lomond Summit

After our long day on a bus for 10 hours to visit the Milford Sound, we thought that a day spent outside on a hike sounded like a good idea. We had read a few travel blogs that mentioned the Ben Lomond Summit as an awesome hike with killer views on top, so we knew this was a must-do for us while in Queenstown. 

We woke up Thursday and made a good breakfast, then headed out for our hike that is supposed to take about 8 hours roundtrip (or return, as they say here in NZ). One of the cool things about hiking Ben Lomond is that the entrance to the hike is actually located within the city, so we could actually just walk there from our hostel. The first part of the hike, we were warned, is the steepest part. There is actually a gondola that you can pay to take to skip that part, but what’s the fun in that?! 

Once we entered the Tiki Trail that leads you to the Ben Lomond Summit Trail, we started the hike up, and up, and up some more. We started to slightly worry that the entire hike would be this steep and we didn’t know if we were that brave! Luckily the extremely steep part only took about 25 minutes to get through. 

For the next 3 or so hours, it was pretty much a steady incline (at times gruesome), but we were in the wide open with stunning views to take in! 

We made it to the top in about 3.5 hours and all of our effort was rewarded with 360° views of the mountain range, famously known as The Remarkables, as well as Lake Wakatipu, a huge and beautiful lake that is spread out through Queenstown. 

We had lunch atop the Ben Lomond Summit and snapped some pictures (because if there are no pictures, did it really happen?!). We had been warned that there are Kea birds atop the mountain that enjoy stealing anything and everything they can, so we kept our food under our backpacks. Jenny was on her phone for about a minute and turned around to see a thieving Kea hopping away with her baggie of chips! 

Jenny giving the Kea over her shoulder a look of disapproval

The way back down was not as daunting as the way up, but also was no walk in the park. We had to be careful and watch each step down, as the path is quite narrow a lot of the way, with many rocks to potentially cause injury if one gets lazy with a step! We were able to snap a few more photos since we weren’t quite as exhausted as on he way up!

We made it to the bottom fairly quickly, and had finished the entire hike in just over 6 hours. We were quite impressed with ourselves since the signage had warned that it would be closer to 8 hours. 

To reward ourselves for another hike in the books, we decided to take a few beers with us from our hostel and walk over to get in line for burgers from Fergburger, which claims to have the world’s best burgers. We lucked out and the line was pretty short since it was in between lunch and dinnertime for most people. Score! The food was fantastic (more to come in another blog post), and we were sufficiently full and exhausted after 2 long days. 

The next day, we woke up somewhat sore and still exhausted so we decided to take it easy. It was a cloudy, windy day as well, so we had timed our 2 prior days perfectly. That afternoon we wandered around town to take in the sights need the lake, and also enjoyed some beers on a floating bar called Perky’s. 

We had quite a few more beers and some delicious pizza from Fat Badgers (which came highly recommended), then called it a night! 

We enjoyed Queenstown so much and both wished we had more time there to enjoy the adorable town and stunning views, but both agreed that we’ll be back someday! 

New Zealand has been the most incredible place to start our journey, and it sets the highest standard for the rest of our trip! We have made some friends along the way and got to visit some old friends, we’ve climbed a few mountains and soaked in some incredible scenery and views. We love you New Zealand, but we’re also excited to see what we can get up to next in Australia! 

~Jenny & Kerry

Milford Sound, New Zealand

When looking at what to do during our time in Queenstown, everyone kept telling us how we just had to make the drive to see the Milford Sound. We decided to book a day trip tour that had a few stops along the way for small scenic nature walks and picture taking opportunities, then a cruise along the sound to take it all in. The nicest day according to the weather forecast would be our first full day in Queenstown, so we went ahead and booked it for Wednesday. 

The bus picked up right near our hostel (which we soon learned that everything was located near our hostel in the quaint city center of Queenstown) at a bright and early 5:50am! We loaded up and started the nearly 5 hour journey to Queenstown. 

Our bus driver was very informative and gave detailed explanations and stories about all of the different sceneries that we were passing. He also informed us that the weather was going to be absolutely perfect at the Milford Sound, and that days like this hardly ever happen. It is usually cloudy and wet there, and he could count on one hand the number of pretty days like this in the past 7 months! 

Along the way we stopped to view the Mirror Lakes, known for being so calm and giving a perfect reflection of the scenery around them.


We passed by the most beautiful bright blue river that seemed to go on for ages.

Once in Milford, we boarded the boat that we would cruise on up and down the sound. Aboard the cruise we saw beautiful waterfalls, magnificent moss covered cliffs and even some sunning seals. Pictures do not do it justice whatsoever, but here are a few of the pics we snapped while in awe of the surrounding beauty that is the Milford Sound.

On the way back, we stopped at this wide open field that was basically a perfect backdrop for a photo.

We also passed an incredible amount of sheep and deer farms! (Yes they farm deer in NZ, venison meat is apparently quite the commodity.)

On our ride back to Queenstown, we kept saying how we were so glad we picked this day trip to go on, and how the Milford Sound was quite possibly one of the most beautiful and majestic places we had ever been. 

More coming soon on how we spent the remainder of our time in Queenstown! 

~Jenny & Kerry