Best NZ Day Trips: Martinborough Vineyards

Why is it one of the best NZ day trips? Well first of all, there’s wine. Do I really need to keep going?

Okay fine, so there’s also great views, excellent food and a whole heap of fun to be had exploring! If you’re looking for a fun day trip around the lower north island of New Zealand than this should be a high contender.

We hired bikes from Green Jersey Cycle Tours (random name, don’t you think?) and the ten of us jumped on approx 11am. The vineyards are just a few minutes bike ride away and you pass one approx every four minutes or so as you cycle the outskirts of the Martinborough township.

We started at Schubert (an excellent place to start) before heading to Ata Rangi, Tirohana Estate (couldn’t fit us in), Poppies Martinborough, Margrain Vineyard for platters and then back to Poppies for platters. Tastings are approx $5 for five wines and generally if you buy a bottle you don’t pay.

My favourite wines were Schubert and Poppies. Schubert was very professional, lovely wines and great explanation of the varietals. Poppies was bursting with energy, Shayne (winemaker’s husband) provided unique and fun insights into each wine and most importantly the wine was delicious. I enjoyed the Pinot Noir and the Rose as well as most of the others. They had already sold out of a few of the varietals, it’s a popular place! Their platters are infamous so we made our way back there after lunch for a platter and I couldn’t resist the truffle cheese too! I’m a sucker for truffle anything. And a sucker for cheese. And wine… you get the point!

Margrain Vineyard venue was lovely with beautiful grounds. They were busy during the tastings and rushed through. I would suggest going when they’re quiet and doing the five wines tasting.

The bikes Green Jersey Cycle  were so much fun! They’re cute with little baskets at the front to store your goods, and they even had a free wine pick up service! Anddd you could choose which colour bike you’d like. I loved riding around with my friends, it was such a beautiful day too. Plus you don’t have to worry about driving or getting to each vineyard. The locals are obviously used to the bikes and keep a wide berth on the road.

If there’s a large group of you and you have your heart set on a certain winery or somewhere for lunch, I do recommend making a booking. We struggled to find somewhere that could fit the ten of us for lunch and were sure to make some tasting bookings. Otherwise just show up!

Get a group of friends together, hire some bikes (full day is $40), and get to some tastings!

 

Our Great Ocean Road Tour – Wildlife & Raging Coastlines

Last week my brother and I decided to spend a day exploring outside of Melbourne City and check out the Great Ocean Road. After umm-ing and ahh-ing we decided a day guided tour would be best. We were both really tired and didn’t have time to research the car journey if we drove on our own, so booked the Great Ocean Road Classic Tour with Bunnyip Tours.

So very glad we did. I think both of us slept most of the way there and had a few naps at other quiet times too! We headed off with Katie, our wonderful Bunyip guide, who decided that she would do the tour backwards to beat both the heat and the crowds.

The incredible 12 Apostles were our first stop on the Great Ocean Road. Breathtaking views, ragged cliffs, stunning colours and a roaring ocean. I could have stared at them for hours. Instead, typically, we did our best to take some photos in front of them and enjoy the view. Being so early in the day there weren’t many people around and while the weather wasn’t great, I think it was the best weather to visit the 12 Apostles in. The colours were mesmerizing.

Our next stop was the Loch Ard Gorge and the Shipwreck Coast. Luke and I ran along to see everything and Katie was very kind to take us to another special spot, Thunder Cave and Sherbroke River. I managed to break my shoe while running along the paths – oops! The views were so worth it. Big thanks to Katie for going out of her way to make our experience special, knowing that we were adventure nuts!

We stopped for lunch at Otway lighthouse, mainland Australia’s oldest lighthouse. It took 70 men 10 months to build and was much needed with all the shipwrecks along the coast. Lunch was a typical Aussie BBQ, sausage sizzle, pasta salad and fresh salad – yumm. There’s some really nice sweet slices inside too if you’re so inclined. We ate overlooking the lighthouse and then took the pathway that lead us to the top to magnificent coastal views. We learnt the ancient history of the Aboriginal owners, the Gadubanud people in an Aboriginal hutt where you can hear stories from the past.

We followed the Great Ocean Road back along the rainforest towards Melbourne, stopping in Apollo Bay and Lorne – both small coastal towns. At Lorne you could even try a vegemite gelato! Not my thing, but I’m sure some people like it…

We stopped to looked for Koala’s in the wild and found four! There were heaps of friendly birds too, with Cockatoos and Australian Parrots wanting to land on our arms and heads for the perfect photo opportunity. Luke was fairly pleased with his new pics (I’m sure they’re on his Tinder profile already – ha) with all his new bird friends.

During the course of the tour we also saw a kookaburra, a kangaroo and even some dolphins on the way home! They were following us down the coastline.

Katie is great entertainment and full of knowledge while on the road, constantly sharing stories, personal experiences and even singing local songs! I highly recommend doing a tour if you are time poor or from overseas – there’s so much to learn that you miss on your own. Plus you make new friends along the way!

*This tour was complimentary however is a true and authentic review.

Why I Love Staying at Shoreline Hotel, Waikiki

I love Hawaii. It’s my happy place. From the stunning beaches to the rugged mountain ranges, lush jungle, delicious local dishes, fun happy hours and the wonderful locals, it’s where I go to explore and unwind.

Every time I visit, there are soooo many choices on where to stay and it can become overwhelming. I enjoy a more boutique hotel. Something a little more fun, funky and relaxed than a corporate chain. Last time I stayed at Shoreline‘s sister hotel, The Coconut and had a wonderful stay so this time I figured it was only right to check out Shoreline Hotel! Plus my fave cafe in Waikiki, Heavenly Island Lifestyle is right downstairs – quite convenient, don’t ya think?!

After a huge day exploring Maui, I arrived at Shoreline in the middle of bustling Waikiki. The reception area is relaxed and funky, a projector showing fun clips along the back of the wall and huge couches to chill out on. I loved the welcome board with my name on it outside the lifts!!

I had the junior suite for my two night stay – a huge bed and room all for me!! Eep! The room was really spacious, the bed was HUGE and there were more wonderful little touches around like ear plugs by the bed. Little touches make me happy. As did the view! A stunning city line view of Waikiki looking towards the ocean.

A few times a day I would make my way to the reception to fill up my water bottle with the lemon, lime and cucumber water – it’s so refreshing before hitting the heat outside.

While there is a great complimentary continental breakfast spread in the lobby every day, I had other plans. Each morning I would visit Heavenly Island Lifestyle Cafe. If you follow my blog you would have heard me rave about it before – it’s full of healthy and sustainable food options, sourced from local growers. It has a funky vibe to it and the acai bowls, juices, kahlua pork eggs bene are all to die for! You can read more about that here.

Oh! I nearly forgot to mention, the rooftop is awesome! There’s a pool and it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset from with some friends.

The hotel is right by fantastic shopping, great restaurants and bars and the beach – it really is right in the heart of Waikiki.

PS. If you book direct you get 15% off – winning!

**This stay was discounted by Shoreline Hotel, however is completely true and authentic.

Heavenly Island Lifestyle Cafe – A Local Waikiki Gem

I’m a giant fan of Heavenly Island Lifestyle! It’s a funky, delicious and sustainable cafe located under the hip Shoreline Hotel. I first discovered Heavenly Island Lifestyle on my last trip to Hawaii and have been dreaming about it ever since!

Walking into Heavenly Island Lifestyle is like stepping into a eclectic Hawaiian beachfront cafe. There’s always something to look at. The interior design is funky and fun. I’d love to take home that pineapple skateboard.

Anyway, on to the food, the glorious food! I opted for the local Kahlua Pig eggs benedict. Oh my life! Comes with homemade hollandaise sauce with lilikoi butter, poached local eggs served with Okinawa purple potato & fresh local salad. The juices are refreshing and give you that green health kick you crave. I could eat the acai bowl every day. It’s perfect for the climate there and super tasty.

A local Waikiki gem, in every sense of the word! It’s a hit with locals and tourists alike and importantly, it sources the very best local ingredients, organic wherever possible. I love that you can look on the back of the menu on the map and see just where in Hawaii the beautiful food you’re about to devour has come from.

There’s often a line up, be sure to get in early or later or be prepared to wait – believe me, it’s worth it.

Heavenly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The best $13 I spent in Vancouver

I’ve been to Vancouver many times. In fact, I used to live there. I’ve done allllll the tourist (and local) activities. My favourite way to spend an afternoon still, after all these trips?  Ride a bike around the Seawall.

I headed to Spokes in West End, on the corner of Georgia and Denman to hire a cruiser to take me around Stanley Park. I was on limited time otherwise I would have done the entire Seawall and escaped over to Granville Island for lunch too!

I love the freedom of flying around Stanley Park on a cruiser. Crisp wind in your hair, sea air in your face. There’s a bunch of places to stop and admire (or if you’re like me, take a gazillion pics) and you’re getting in exercise at the same time!

I stopped for the totem poles (typical Canadian tourist), Third Beach,  under the Lions Gate Bridge and by the lagoon, which is one of my favorite views of Vancouver. If it’s your first time, try get around the entire seawall and also check out the Aquarium, Granville Island, Yaletown waterfront, Gastown (infamous clock), Canada Place (hello gelato) and Coal Harbour waterfront.

Did I mention it was only about $13? That was for approx 1.5hours.

I’ll be back again to visit next time!

 

 

St Martin – An Island Paradise in the Caribbean

The beaches are gorgeous – crystal clear, sparkling water in coves lined with palm trees. It’s just what you would expect for a tropical paradise. There’s waterfront bars everywhere, all serving up rum punch, delicious Carib beer and island snacks, pumping out bouncy Rastafarian tunes. You definitely feel like you’re on holiday from the moment you arrive.

Top Tips for exploring St Martin:

  • Hire a car for at least a day to sightsee. Make it the smallest car you can hire! The roads are tiny and the drivers are crazy. Like, really crazy.
  • Do a boat tour around the island – I loved Billy’s Boat Tours.
  • Spend $12 on a ferry to go to Pinel Island for a day. It’s a stunning island and it’s a great place to spend a day relaxing, meet some iguana friends and enjoy the tropical vibe.
  • Do your research for where on the island you want to stay. I think where we stayed in Simpson Bay was perfect for us. If I wanted a quieter holiday I would have stayed in Grand Case by their stunning beach and if I just wanted to party I would have stayed in Maho.
  • The buses are fantastic for getting around the island easily. They’re either going one way around the island or the other and cost approx. $1.50 each. You just hail them down anywhere on the road and they come about every 5 minutes. They’re actually just Vans with signs in the front indicating which way they are heading.
  • If you’re looking to buy some diamonds, the Caribbean is a great place. I did some research so you don’t have to. Blog coming soon!
  • Happy hour is very happy! Be prepared to fall in love with Rum Punch and Carib beer. It’s just so damn refreshing.
  • Supermarkets are your friend. There’s a high chance you’ll need after sun and more sunblock. Maybe some afternoon beers. We bought eggs, toast, bacon and berries and made a delicious breakfast at the hotel every morning.

St Martin, also known as SXM or St Marteen depending who you talk to is a fun filled island in the Caribbean. There’s a Dutch side and a French side so there’s a few different ways of saying it’s name. It’s pretty tiny – only approx. an hour to go around the entire island by car. Most of the locals speak French and have also learnt English however I found myself pulling out the basic French I knew a fair amount.

The island is right next to St Barth’s and there are many direct flights there from different parts of the US, although it took us three flights from Vancouver.

We stayed in Simpson Bay at the Royal Palm Beach by Diamond, not far from the airport and Maho on the Dutch side. It was the perfect location for us, not too far from the nightlife, a bus away from Philipsburg and surrounded by restaurants and bars with a supermarket in walking distance.

My favourite part of travel is always the people I meet (and the food if I’m honest – read about what I ate here) and St Martin was no exception. I love their accents and relaxed way of being. They’re truly on island time and are happy to sit and chat and share stories and tips with you. Most of them have lived there their entire lives although we did meet a few from Jamaica and surrounding islands. It’s a safe place, there’s security everywhere as a preventative and we always felt looked out for.

I would absolutely head back to St Martin for another holiday!

Brisbane-based lifestyle and travel blog image featuring mountain and sea scenery

Want new blogs to your inbox?

Yeah you do!

Add your email to receive new blogs to your inbox. We promise not to spam.

You have Successfully Subscribed!