Archive for the ‘9.1 New Zealand’ Category

[New Zealand 2014] Almyra Waterfront Lodge

Ever since my honeymoon in France where I was pampered to bits staying in 5 star luxury hotels, I’ve found myself wanting to replicate the experience again when I was looking for accommodations for my trip to Nelson, New Zealand. The inevitable question, do I go for a cheap motel lodge in the heart of Nelson city, or do I splash out on a luxury B&B with great views but located in a more idyllic and further away spot?

I searched through a great number of hotels in Nelson, but the website that I kept going back to was Almyra Waterfront Lodge. It was really love at first sight looking at the pictures of the property. Almyra Waterfront Lodge is perched on a slight hill, overlooking the Kina Estuary and Mount Arthur Ranges in the distance. Imagine, waking up to such views, while sipping coffee and having breakfast?

Well, to cut the long story short, book with Almyra Waterfront Lodge we did. It cost about NZ$400 for our room which was the Tasman Suite, for the 2nd week of December. We had to change our itinerary a little, cutting short the time spent in Marlborough and making full use of our location north of Nelson by visiting the Abel Tasman National Park as well as the small towns of Motueka and Mapua.

Almyra Waterfront Lodge Montage 2

It’s a pity we were out for the greater part of the day for the 2 days that we were at Almyra. Otherwise, I would loved to have enjoyed the grounds a little more. There is tiny pond which Almyra has installed. It’s a nice spot to have afternoon tea or just relax as demonstrated by the Partner above.

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[New Zealand 2014] Driving from Picton to Nelson

After disembarking from the InterIslander Ferry that took us from Wellington at the bottom of the North Island to Picton at the top of the South Island, and getting settled into our nifty little rented Toyota from Avis, we got cracking on the journey to Nelson. The ferry ride took almost 4 hours instead of the usual 3, due to some loading issues, so we were keen to make up for lost ground.

There are two routes to Nelson. The scenic route takes you through curvy mountainous roads but rewards you with a spectacular view of the land, the straighter route takes you through flat wine country. Apparently both routes take about the same amount of time, as you have to drive quite slowly on the curvy mountain roads.

The route to Nelson goes through a little bit of the Marlborough region (ie wine country) but we weren’t intending to go for any wine tastings this time round, having already had ample opportunity during our honeymoon in Alsace, France last year. This time round, the focus of the holiday would be nature and scenery, and of course, lots of relaxation.

Vines Village

The Vines Village (Website , Google Map)

However, we did stop at The Vines Village, which is still along the route to Nelson. As the name suggests, the Vines Village comprises of a mish mash of several shops showcasing Marlborough’s arts, craft, food, wine and design. We were really absorbed in this shop selling numerous jams, honeys, liquors and what not. Really good place to stock up for last minute gifts or souvenirs. If you have the time, you could also rent a bicycle to explore the area.

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[New Zealand 2014] 5D4N in Nelson Abel Tasman / Picton

How time flies, my 17 day trip to New Zealand is officially over! I had intended to post a few blog posts during my time in New Zealand, but there were so many distractions ranging from Facebook, Instagram and just plain relaxing that I decided to heck it. To this day, I am amazed I managed to push out a number of posts while on holiday in Norway and Denmark!

Although the this trip may sound long, in actual fact the touristy stuff happened in the 1st half of the trip, with the 2nd half being more of family stuff as the Partner has family in New Zealand (aka my chance to live like a local). This is actually my 5th trip to New Zealand but only my 2nd time to the South Island. Since I had already covered the usual favourites such as Christchurch, Queenstown, Milford Sound etc, our focus this time round was to spend time in the Northernmost part of the South Island, ie the Marlborough / Nelson Abel Tasman areas. This is not an area that is usually covered by the tour groups but is picturesque in its own right. We spent about 4 glorious days in this region, as well as about 1.5 days in Wellington (capital of New Zealand) before flying back to Auckland. 

Journey-wise, we opted to fly into Auckland first from Singapore via Singapore Airlines, followed by JetStar to Wellington. We spent a night in Wellington before waking up at the crack of dawn to catch the 3-hour InterIslander ferry from Wellington to Picton. For those of you who are keen to explore the same area I did, you could also take the 10 hour Northern Explorer train from Auckland to Wellington, followed by the ferry ride. I hear the train ride is super scenic and we almost opted for this to enjoy the scenery, but decided to skip it in the interest of time and factoring in additional nights in a hotel etc. Also, the train only goes 3 times a week. We also almost took the option of flying to Christchurch (South Island) from Singapore, followed by driving up to Marlborough / Nelson Abel Tasman, but because air-tickets were fast running out back in September, we opted to fly into Auckland instead of Christchurch in case we changed our minds about going down south.

Kaitaki - InterIslander Ferry

The Kaitaki which we took to Picton. Snapped this picture when I spotted it on my return journey back to Wellington.

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New Zealand Auckland Zoo

Finally got round to sorting out my New Zealand 2012 photos. Sometimes I hate it that I take so many photos. It takes eons to whittle out the handful of photos that will make the cut from the hundreds that I have taken. I remember my 1st digital camera 10 years ago. With the memory card being so small, I was happy to get 50 photos at Disney World. And it’s Disney World mind you. Now, just day trip to the zoo gets me like 300 photos, and this is after much restraint!

Anyway, last month, I finally had the opportunity to visit the Auckland Zoo. The Auckland Zoo was low down in my priority list since we already have a world class zoo right here in Singapore. Also, I’ve been to a number of zoos around the world, and in New Zealand, I rather visit the petting farms where I can touch the animals than merely view from afar. But it being my FOURTH visit to New Zealand, I had to dig up something to do.

Let me get straight to the point. The Auckland Zoo is FANTASTIC! It is such a beautiful zoo and such a wonderful experience walking the grounds that at some points, the hairs on my arms literally tingled with the excitement and awesomeness of it all. If you are going to Auckland, you definitely have to take some time to go visit the Auckland Zoo. It would be time and money well spent.

The difference between The Auckland Zoo vs The Singapore Zoo
  1. Visitor Comfort – If there’s one thing that New Zealand has got going for itself, it is the weather. It is very pleasurable to be out and about without having to mop sweat off your forehead every 5 seconds. Unless a huge air-conditioned dome is built over the zoo, the hot and humid weather will always be a bugbear for Singapore.
  2. Lively animals – It’s a no brainer actually. If you don’t want to be out in crazy 34 degrees celcius, guess what, the animals at the Singapore Zoo feel the same way! I noticed a lot of the animals at the Auckland Zoo were up and in full view, pacing around, or swimming, or swishing their tails or just being plain awake. At the Singapore Zoo, most of the times, the animals were lying down, sleeping or hiding somewhere in the shade, out of view. Even the Night Safari animals seem sluggish. I know, because I’ve been there more than 10 times!
  3. Pretty as a picture – Okay I may be a little biased, given the weather and all, but I think the Auckland Zoo is prettier. It is like a beautiful park, which just happens to have animal exhibits! There is a river flowing through the park too, with lots of little duckies swimming in them. I don’t know why there are no ducks in our ponds and rivers and to me, a pond or a river just ain’t complete without ducks! Don’t get me wrong though, I do think our Singapore Zoo is pretty too, and part of the zoo overlooks the Upper Seletar Reservoir. I just think that the Auckland Zoo is nicer.
  4. Location – Auckland Zoo is just 5 minutes from Central Auckland whereas the Singapore Zoo is located in a “remote” region of Singapore. It’s like if you were in Orchard Road, the Auckland Zoo would be where our Botanical Gardens is. But given that Singapore is pretty small to begin with, this actually isn’t a significant point. And, if you were cabbing, that 5 minute ride to Auckland Zoo would probably cost you S$20, same as if you were cabbing to Mandai!

Other than that, both the Singapore Zoo and Auckland Zoo are world class zoos in their own right. The best part about these zoos are that the animal are housed not in cages but in enclosures made to look like their natural habitats. Also, both zoos boast of walk-in enclosures where visitors are able to mingle with the free-ranging animals. I would most definitely encourage tourists visiting Singapore or Auckland to visit the zoos! I make it a point to visit the Singapore Zoo every year or so.

Auckland Zoo (3)

Auckland zoo (6)

Taller than a hippo.

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Devonport Deli Cafe in Auckland

After my bank breaking trip to Norway and Denmark last year, this trip to New Zealand is much more pocket friendly. New Zealand is really a very affordable country to visit. Restaurant and cafe prices are very similar to that of Singapore, and I would even hazard to say that the cafes are cheaper. I haven’t seen a latte that costs more than $4.50 here, even from the cafes in a crowded mall. And don’t get me started on food at the supermarket, it’s crazy! Meat and fruits are half the price! But more about that in the next post.

I thought I would be blogging daily during this trip, just like how I did it for the Norway trip. However, this being my 4th visit to New Zealand, I haven’t gone to any of the key tourist attractions except for the Auckland Zoo and Devonport. The highlight for this trip was actually for us to take our pre-wedding photos in New Zealand, and this we managed to do on Wednesday, after scrutinising and fretting over the weather reports daily. Can’t share any photos of that for now as they are still with the photographer. Yoo hoo photographer, if you’re reading this, where are the photos?

After the pre-wedding photo shoot, we finally had some time and peace of mind to do the more touristy stuff. Visited the Devonport area on Saturday. It’s across the waters from Auckland City central, so it seems to be more laid back and less crowded. The place looks quaint, with a number of buildings in the Art-Deco style. Lots of restaurants and cafes, and shops selling antiques, gifts and books.

Where to eat in Devonport Auckland?

We had lunch at the Devonport Deli Cafe. I didn’t google about any of these cafes before I visited. Heck I didn’t even google about Devonport before I visited. I just stepped into the cafe whose decor appealed to me the most. But that’s the great thing about food here in New Zealand. More often than not, the food (and coffee) will be good. Certainly for this entire trip, the food has surprised me on upside.

Devonport Deli (1)

Devonport Deli Cafe (5)

Deli Breakfast $12.50 – Scrambled eggs, bacon, hash brown and grilled tomato on toast, plus a flat white

We thought this was a pretty good deal as the flat white on its own already cost $3.80. See I told you stuff is cheap(er) here. Loved the scrambled eggs, they had such great flavour! Also loved the hash brown, which for some reason tasted like meat, although the texture was that of potato.

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