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.
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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.

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.

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.






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.

























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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.