Matapouri Bay, New Zealand

A few weekends ago, I visited my boyfriend (who is currently living in Auckland, New Zealand) and we spent a weekend away with some friends in Northland, namely in Matapouri Bay. Many New Zealanders and foreigners alike constantly rave about the south island of New Zealand, but I think the north island is also spectacular (ok, I haven’t been to the south island yet).

Matapouri Bay, and the surrounding bays and beaches was breathtakingly beautiful. Unfortunately, we had a bit of overcast weather which put a grey hue on the landscape, but once the sun came out, it sparkled. This area is perfect for walking, swimming and just enjoying the sunshine. There isn’t a whole lot to do if you need constant stimulation like me, but it’s a perfect place for a weekend away with friends and loved ones.

IMG_7481 Untitled-3 IMG_7504 Untitled-4 IMG_7509 Untitled-5 IMG_7521 Untitled-6 IMG_7532 Untitled-7 IMG_7538 IMG_7555 IMG_7559 IMG_7582 IMG_7590 Untitled-8 IMG_7606 IMG_7617 IMG_7640IMG_7700 IMG_7729 IMG_7733 IMG_7741 Untitled-9 IMG_7753 Untitled-10 Untitled-11 IMG_7758 Untitled-12 Untitled-13 IMG_7761 IMG_7763.1 IMG_7765 IMG_7766 Untitled-14 IMG_7776 IMG_7778 IMG_7788 Untitled-15 IMG_7796 IMG_7793 IMG_7799 IMG_7801IMG_7827 Untitled-16

Essentials:

Getting There:
We hired a car in Auckland and drive north. There are plenty of road signs along the way, so you don’t even need a GPS, or a map, but these could definitely be of assistance. It’s a leisurely 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Auckland, providing that there isn’t any traffic.

Stay:
Many people rent houses, known as baches, in beachside towns along the north island. Prices and standards vary, but there are plenty of options for every taste and budget. We found our accommodation on http://www.bookabach.co.nz.

Eat:
There aren’t many facilities in Matapouri Bay. If you have self-contained accommodation, stop in a supermarket in Whangarei for supplies for the weekend on your way to Matapouri. For a weekend away with friends, make sure you have a good supply of drinks, chocolate and other nibblies.

Advertisements

Waitakere Ranges, New Zealand

I spent another weekend in New Zealand visiting my boyfriend who is currently working in Auckland. After a rainy Saturday, we were blessed with somewhat clear weather and decided, with a couple of friends, to take a Sunday drive , to Waitakere Rangers, located on the west coast, about an hour’s drive from Auckland CBD. Yet again, the spectacular natural beauty of New Zealand’s north island failed to disappoint. We visited Piha and Karekare (the beach were the movie The Piano was filmed) and were amazing at the rugged beauty of these beaches and the lushness of the near by rainforests.

We are still deciding where to go on my next weekend visit in October (after a short visit to the Middle East to attend a good friend’s wedding in Tel Aviv) – either the Bay of Islands or the Coromandel. So keep posted for some more photos and inspiration.
IMG_4375 Untitled-1 IMG_4445 NZ1 IMG_4392 Untitled-2 IMG_4410IMG_4481 Untitled-3 IMG_4491 Untitled-4Untitled-6 Untitled-7 IMG_4594 IMG_4607 Untitled-8 IMG_4614 Untitled-9 IMG_4637IMG_4660 Essentials

Getting there:
I recommend you hire a car in Auckland – having your own car gives you so much more freedom and I’m not sure what the public transport is like from Auckland to Waitakere, if at all it exists. Take the freeway out west and then follow the signs to Waitakere, Piha and Karekare. Maybe it’s best to take a GPS with you just in case.

Eat:
We had a great lunch at Piha Cafe. They do amazing pizzas and have a great selection of healthy salads, cakes and drinks. The interiors a beautiful and it has a great laid back atmosphere and friendly staff.

Andalusia, Spain

Whilst in southern Spain, we took a little road trip from Seville to explore the landscapes, from the dry hinterland to the breezy Mediterranean coast, and of course the famous white hilltop towns of Andalusia. Our route took us firstly to Vejer de la Frontera, where we explored its quaint narrow streets and marvelled at the beautiful whitewashed houses, whilst enjoying an ice-cream with the locals in the heat of the clear summer’s day. Next we headed to Zahara de los Atunes, hoping to soak in some sun and cool off in the clear Mediterranean (we were unfortunately a bit disappointed, as the strong southern African winds made sunbaking rather unpleasant). Next stop was the historic seaside town of Cadiz. Being more sheltered from the winds, we enjoyed a tasty lunch by the beach, and spent the remainder of the afternoon lazing in the sun and bathing in the enticingly cool sea. We head back to Seville at dusk, making a quick stop at Arcos de la Frontera for an afternoon snack before watching the sun set over the freeway.

IMG_9216 IMG_9218 IMG_9219 IMG_9220 IMG_9221 IMG_9222 IMG_9225 IMG_9226 IMG_9229 IMG_9230 IMG_9231 IMG_9232 IMG_9235 IMG_9237 IMG_9238 IMG_9240 IMG_9242 IMG_9245 IMG_9249 IMG_9251 IMG_9252 IMG_9253 IMG_9255 IMG_9256 IMG_9266 IMG_9267

Essentials:

Getting there:
We hired a car from the Europcar office at Seville train station. With a GPS is quite easy to find your way around Andalusia. Going south from Seville, take the E-5/AP-4 freeway and this connects you to minor roads throughout Andalusia. There are so many hilltop and seaside towns to visit in this area, each being unique and all of which have their own beauty. Do a bit of research on where you want to go and what you want to see, as there are so many places it is difficult to choose. If these is something interesting on the side of the road, stop and take some photos too! I wish we had a few more days exploring the rural and coastal areas, and the little towns of Andalusia, as it was so interesting and beautiful.

Eat:Andalusia has some amazing food. In small towns, try to discover where the locals eat. These will probably be the best places, as they will hopefully be using local and fresh produce. On the coast, always try the seafood. Remember, it can get extremely hot in Andalusia during the summer months, so keep hydrated with lots of water and I always tuck into a few ice-creams too! Track down some local gelatarias.

 

Scotts Head, Australia

On our way to Byron Bay (see previous post), we spent two nights camping at Scotts Head. Scotts Head is a quiet little beach side town located on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, just south of Nambucca Heads.  Although it is a popular tourist destination in the summer, Scotts Head has a population of only about 800 people, so I guess it would be fairly quiet during the winter. There isn’t a great deal to see and do (there are a handful of shops, a few real estate agencies and a bowling club), aside from spending your days at the beach or enjoying a spot of fishing. There are three beaches at Scotts Head – Main Beach, Little Beach and my favourite Wakki Beach, which is only accessible by a steep dirt path. Wakki Beach and the north end of Main Beach are the best for surfing, and the southern end of Main Beach is patrolled and their isn’t much surf, so it is perfect for families with young children.

Unfortunately, the two days spent at Scotts Head were overcast and grey, as you can see from the photos, but luckily we didn’t have any rain. We camped out at Scotts Head Holiday Park, which has the best piece of real estate in town, being located right on the main beach. We spent our days there relaxing at the beaches, exploring the town, going for walks along and beach and the headlands and simply chilling-out at our campsite, having a few drinks together and listening to the strumming of guitars of our fellow campers. In the evenings, don’t forget to head down to the main beach to watch children squealing as they try to catch the ghost crabs that race down the sand and into the sea.

IMG_9737

IMG_9738

IMG_9852

IMG_9851

IMG_9850

IMG_9837

IMG_9836

IMG_9834

IMG_9832

IMG_9862

IMG_9831

IMG_9827

IMG_9826

IMG_9823

IMG_9792

IMG_9790

IMG_9783

IMG_9774

IMG_9771

IMG_9768

IMG_9767

IMG_9761

IMG_9756

IMG_9746

IMG_9744

IMG_9740

IMG_9739

Essentials:

Stay:
Scotts Head Holiday Park: It’s cheap and has the best location in town. We paid $20 per night for a large powered campsite and were located only a few metres from the beach. The campsite has great and newly renovated facilities – a large toilet and shower block, a laundry, barbecue area, clothes lines, and even a tennis court. The park is supposed to have free wifi, but we weren’t able to connect to it. There is a general store, two cafes, a liquor store, clothes/gift shop and a real estate agency right outside the camping group, so you don’t have to travel far to get supplies.

Eat:
If you’re camping, cooking your own meals at the campsite is usually the best way to go (you’ll also save some $$$). The general store is well stocked and the prices aren’t much higher than your average suburban Coles or Woolworths. Alternatively, there are two cafes offering simple, yet tasty meals. They do good coffee too.

Getting There:
The easiest way to get to Scotts Head is to drive. It is located about 10km from the Pacific Highway. There will be a sign to Scotts Head, at Scotts Head Road. Keep a lookout for wildlife, especially if you’re driving in and out at dusk or dawn and also during the nightime hours

Byron Bay, Australia

I’m just going to butt in on my European travels (I’ve been so busy that my posts are lagging behind – it’s already been over three months since I got back!), with a more recent getaway to Byron Bay over the New Years break. When it comes to holidays, I’m usually more of an adventurous, overseas kind of girl, than one who likes to take short trips closer to home. But meeting a Portuguese guy on my European travels this year in Lisbon (stay tunned on my travels through Portugal – one of the most interesting and architecturally rich countries in Europe), who has recently moved to Australia, means that I’ll be keeping my feet a little more firmly on the ground, and showing him around this amazing country, known as Australia.

I spent a week in the most gorgeous house (originally an old church), with some of the best company (there were sixteen of us crazy kids in total), in one of the most beautiful places on this earth (I was so impressed with the lush green meadows and rainforests, and seaside landscapes around Byron Bay). We relaxed at the beach, went bushwalking and swam beneath an amazing waterfall, visited some cute little towns and ate some, well a lot of, delicious food (lovingly prepared by my fellow housemates each evening, and not forgetting a few breakfasts of beacon and eggs or blueberry pancakes). A holiday can’t get much better than that.

The entire week was extremely well organised, which is usually difficult to do with such a large group. We rented a house for the week, located in the small village of Newrybar, about a 10 minute drive south of Byron Bay along the Pacific Highway. The house was a magnificently restored old church, with an extension at the rear, making it large and comfortable enough for all sixteen of us. Originally there were only 12 people going, but 4 extras (including me) asked to tag along. This meant that we had about $1,000 surplus, which was used to purchase food for the week. Each evening 2 or 3 people were in charge of preparing dinner for the rest of us, which created a great group atmosphere as, no matter what everyone was doing each day, we all got together at sunset to enjoy a few drinks and eat a good meal. And eat well we did – one night ceviche and chicken enchiladas were magnificently served, another evening it was pikanja and a summer salad on the back deck, New Years Day was Moroccan green curry chicken with couscous to nurse those hangovers, one evening some of the best spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever had were dished up, and on our final night Thai beef salad and mini pavlovas were a beautiful and delicious finishing touch.

The majority of the housemates were keen surfers, which meant that most mornings begin with them heading to the beach to check out the surf and hopefully spend their mornings catching waves. The rest of us sun-baked on the beach, went for a swim, read a book, or stayed at the house relaxing in the hammocks we hung in the backyard. Or playing a game or two of ping-pong. I’m always have itchy feet and am keen to go sightseeing, explore new places and take a photo or two. Below are listed some of my favourite places I visited during our week up near Byron.

IMG_0130

IMG_0129

IMG_0163

IMG_0160

IMG_0156

Here is the list of my favourite places to visit in and around Byron Bay:

Wategos Beach: The majority of people visiting Byron Bay tend not to venture far and spend their days at the overly crowded main beach. A few of the housemates were regular visitors to Byron Bay and recommended we visit Wategos Beach, located just north of Cape Byron Lighthouse (you can easily walk from the lighthouse to Wategos – it takes about 20 minutes). Wategos is a small beach, it can’t be more than 100m long and is popular with families. There is something about the beach that makes it beautiful and inviting and out of all the beaches we visited in and around Byron, it was my favourite.

Cape Byron Lighthouse: A must do when you visit Byron Bay. Cape Byron is the most easterly point on the Australian mainland and offers some of the most spectacular views. If you’re keen enough, get up before dawn and head to the lighthouse to be one of the first people on the continent to see the sunrise (we unfortunately weren’t so keen). When visiting the lighthouse, you can drive to the top and park your car for a fee of $7. If you want to avoid the fee and are don’t mind a good walk, you can park at either Wategos or Clarkes Beach (a little further away) and follow the path to the lighthouse. Aside from the landscape which is just breathtaking, the lighthouse itself, built in 1901, is a beautiful piece of architecture and is literary full of history (the ground floor of the lighthouse now houses a little museum).

Minyon Falls: One of the couples staying with us recommended we visit Minyon falls, located in Nightcap National Park, about 25km west of Byron Bay. Driving away from the coast, we passed through some of the most lush and green farming land that I have ever seen in Australia. It was just beautiful. And the falls themselves were indescribably spectacular. They can be viewed from a viewing platform at the top of the falls from which you look over a 100m drop. We decided to walk to the base, but we accidently took the long way, so if you visit and want to walk to the base of the falls, first view the falls from the viewing platform, but don’t walk to the base from there – drive back to Minyon Falls Grass from which you follow the path to the base – you’ll save yourself 2km of walking in each direction. As you near the bottom of the ravine, the dry bush turns into lush green rainforest. The path gets a bit tricky as you near the falls, as you have to complete an obstacle course of crossing creeks and climbing up and over enormous balders. But once you reach the base of the falls, all that hard work and effort would have paid off – you can jump into the crisp, cool water of the falls.

IMG_0401

IMG_0343

IMG_0319

IMG_0318

IMG_0316

IMG_0314

IMG_0313

IMG_0312

IMG_0304

IMG_0301

IMG_0298

IMG_0287

IMG_0129.1

IMG_0185

IMG_0184

IMG_0191

IMG_0187

IMG_0180

IMG_0179

IMG_0177

IMG_0173

IMG_0172

IMG_0171

IMG_0170

IMG_0150    IMG_0148

IMG_0147

IMG_0145   IMG_0138

IMG_0139

IMG_0314.1

IMG_0296

IMG_0301

IMG_0336

IMG_0348

IMG_0369

IMG_9999

IMG_9998

IMG_9995

IMG_9994

IMG_9987

IMG_9986

IMG_9982

IMG_0054

IMG_0049

IMG_0045

IMG_0029

IMG_0074

IMG_0059

IMG_0051

IMG_0029

IMG_0266

IMG_0272

IMG_0256

IMG_0257

IMG_0259

IMG_0271

IMG_0270

IMG_0265

IMG_0264

IMG_0261

IMG_0260

IMG_0123

IMG_0122

IMG_0121

IMG_0082

IMG_0417

IMG_9947

IMG_9958

IMG_9934

IMG_9971

IMG_9974

IMG_9979

IMG_0247

IMG_0243

IMG_0228

IMG_0225

IMG_0220

IMG_0245

Essentials:

Where to stay:

The Old Church, Brooklet Road, Newrybar: We stayed at The Old Church http://theoldchurchbyronbay.com/. It is an old church, built in 1911, which has been converted into a beautiful house. Although it is a little out of Byron, if you have a car, it’s only a 15 minute drive to the centre of Byron Bay. Highly recommended for groups.
Where to eat: 

The Harvest Cafe, Newrybar: A chic and stylish, yet rustic, cafe/restaurant located in the small village of Newrybar. It seems as though people visit Newrybar solely to eat at The Harvest Cafe – the place was booked out for lunch everyday we were there. It isn’t a cheap eat, but the food is just to die for. It’s easy to see why it is so popular. Just looking at the menu make you drool. Try the Harvest ricotta pancakes served with fresh local blueberries and maple syrup for breakfast, or warm goats cheese terrine with a fig and macadamia centre, served with fennel, asparagus and burnt orange sauce. And for all those sweet-tooths out there, you can’t go past the steamed mango and coconut custard, served chilled with toasted sesame and peanut brittle. Delish!

The Rails, Byron Bay: Your typical pub, but this one is on the railway lines. Serving upmarket and good quality ‘pub food’, this place is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, and always full of people. Make sure you get there early, before 5pm, if you want to get a table. I’ve heard rave reviews for their chilli salmon linguini, they have a good range of delicious burgers, from vegetarian to fish burgers, and their steaks are big and tasty. There is also live music seven nights per week, so the place is never dull.

The Top Shop, Cape Byron: Your typical corner shop turn cafe, is situated near Cape Byron (a great place to stop for breakfast or lunch after a surf at Wategos Beach). They perhaps have the best burgers in Byron, not to mention their bacon and egg rolls, and their berry smoothies are to die for. For all those caffine addicts out there, they do pretty good coffee.

Where to shop:

Little Peach, Bangalow: I absolutely adored this shop. A little store selling beautiful Japanese homewares and gifts located on the main road in Bangalow, selling everything from chopsticks to tableware, jewellery to kimonos. I spotted some gorgeous Japanese blue and white porcelain plates and noodle bowls, and couldn’t leave until I purchased a set. It broke the budget a bit, but they were worth every cent.

Red Ginger, Bangalow & Byron Bay: This Asian supermarket/cafe/homewares store is a mecca for anyone visiting Bangalow (there is also a store in Byron Bay too). They have everything you need to cook up any Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese meal, as well as other treats. It’s also a great place to stop for an afternoon snack – their steamed dumplings go down extremely well after a long day at the beach.

Drift Lab, Newrybar & Byron Bay: If you love theiconic.com.au, then you’ll love Drift Lab. Selling indi labels such Finders Keepers, Neuw, Status Anxiety, Sunday Somewhere, Raen, Brixon, ect, this is where you go for fashion. I’m a bit of a fashion lover and couldn’t resist a pair of Finders Keepers pants, nor a soft leather Status Anxiety wallet. Oooops. Another budget breaker.

Getting there:

Drive: We drove from Sydney up the Pacific Highway. The drive takes approximately 9 to 10 hours, depending on traffic. At the moment there are road works near Kempsey and Bulahdelah, causing delays of up to an hour. It a simple drive, you just continue straight until you see the sign for Byron Bay. Don’t forget to stop, revive and survive every two hours – there are plenty of rest points along the way.

Fly: There are flights from Sydney to Ballina, which is located about 35km south of Byron Bay. From Ballina you can take a bus to Byron.