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I looked out of the plane’s small window and admired the scenery below me. The landscape resembled a painting, with the river echoing broad strokes across a sandstone-coloured canvas… We were flying above the Slims River Valley, in a place where the Slims River snaked through dried-up land. The wind picked up and blew the valley dust across Kluane Lake, creating an otherworldly scene.

The wind was not kind to our tiny plane, which could only fit four people: two pilots and two passengers. The bumpy flight made me queasy, but it did not quell my enthusiasm…

To combat my motion sickness, I opened the window an inch. The fresh air allowed me to forget my uncomfortable predicament and instead, enjoy the spectacular scenery of Canada’s most inaccessible park: Kluane National Park and Reserve.

Slims River Valley with the Slims River

In this land of extremes, you will find a myriad of options to satisfy the adventurer in you. Every year, experienced climbers undertake expeditions to Mount Logan ‒ Canada’s tallest mountain ‒ with only around half of them successfully reaching its summit.

However, hope is not lost, for travellers can easily turn to Icefield Discovery, whose tours assist climbers by taking them up into the mountains and icefields. This provides you with an ideal starting point for expeditions.

The airstrip next to Kluane Lake

Around Kluane Lake, where the planes depart from, the weather was beautiful. However, over the mountain ridges, the weather was less forgiving, as dense fog and wind were making it impossible to fly among the mountains…

The opportunity to see the vast wilderness of Kluane National Park and Reserve had been on our bucket list for a long time ‒ so when Ash and I arrived at Icefield Discovery’s airstrip, we were rather disappointed to hear that they had cancelled the flight.

Planning a trip to the Yukon? Read our Yukon roadtrip travel itinerary for more info
An Icefield Discovery Tours’ plane, capable of landing and taking off on ice.

Because we had wanted to take the less adventurous route: admiring the icefields from above, Mike Butler ‒ an experienced pilot at Icefield Discovery ‒ discussed the few remaining options with us. He was confident that we could still fly up to the Kaskawulsh Glacier but warned us in advance that it would be a bumpy flight.

After a short briefing, we set off on a discovery flight around the wilderness and icefields, which are located close to Canada’s largest peaks.

The dust over Kluane Lake Slims River

The first leg of our journey saw us flying over Kluane Lake and the Slims River Valley where dust was swirling around the valley and lake. Dust storms are now a daily occurrence on Kluane Lake, but this was not always the case. The Slims River, which is fed by the Kaskawulsh Glacier, has always been the main source of water for Kluane Lake. However, in the last few years, the river has slimmed down to a trickling stream… The reason? The retreating Kaskawulsh Glacier. It has retreated to where its meltwater now flows into the Kaskawulsh River, away from the Slims River Valley.

The absence of water in the valley has now exposed Kluane Lake’s bed, which, as a result, has created a desert-like landscape filled with dust storms.

Slims River

As our journey continued, I kept my eyes firmly on the horizon to combat the motion sickness. Occasionally, I averted my gaze to the valley and the mountain slopes, where I tried to look for white dots scattered along the snow free slopes.

Thachäl Dhäl, translated as Sheep Mountain, is an excellent place to spot Dall sheep. Sometimes, you can see over 100 sheep grazing on the sunny slopes!

As we flew deeper into Kluane National Park, the landscape became even more dramatic. And, while we were flying over the jagged, snow-covered peaks, the wind began to push our small plane from all sides. Even though the flying conditions weren’t perfect, I felt safe in the hands of our pilot, Mike.

We passed over the Saint Elias Mountains, traversing several peaks before we reached the highlight of our trip: Kaskawulsh Glacier and the icefields below.

Ash and I both looked out in awe at the spectacular scene below us. The glacier swept through the mountainous landscape, resembling a paved highway. To form the Kaskawulsh Glacier, two tributary glaciers meet. In the process, they have also created fascinating lateral and medial moraines (accumulated glacier rock and debris).

The Kaskawulsh Glacier

By now, the wind was making the flight too uncomfortable, so Mike turned back. On our last stretch, we soared above the Boreal Forest, where grizzly bears and moose often wander. My eyes scanned the terrain below, trying to glimpse either animal, but sadly, they remained elusive.

Instead, all I could see were the effects of climate change. Although it was a stunning sight to behold, the dwindling Slims River also marks major ecological changes. The changes not only dramatically affect the landscape ‒ but they also have a major impact on the animals, who call this region their home…

Thirty minutes after take off, we landed back safely at Kluane Lake. As I placed my feet firmly on the ground, I took a moment to absorb the beauty of what we had experienced: a glimpse of a place that has remained truly wild.

It is a rarity on this planet… and something I hope we can protect for the future.

Plan your Kluane National Park flightseeing trip

Flightseeing tours: Icefield Discovery Tours organise flightseeing tours from their headquarters near Kluane Lake. Tours range from one to two hours in duration, with an icefield landing on the 1,5h tour. Pricing ranges from $265 – $350/pp for the shorter tours.

How to get to Kluane National Park: It takes 1h40 drive from Whitehorse to Haines Junction, the main town, which is located on the edge of Kluane. From Haines Junction, it takes another 45 minutes by car to reach Icefield Discovery.

Tourism Yukon invited us to experience the Yukon on a week long road trip. As always, all opinions are our own and you will always read our genuine thoughts and experiences.
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The canoe slid into the water… After gaining my balance, I paddled, making the canoe swing from left to right like a pendulum.

“The steering will be tricky,” I thought, as I tried to keep the canoe straight. Ash and I — both comfortable in kayaks — were new to canoeing.

“You chose a great day to canoe,” our Kanoe People guide Joe Bishop noted, as he paddled alongside us. “With this current, it will be a relaxing trip.” The sun was out, with just the faintest hint of a breeze.

Beautiful scenery along the Yukon River

Joe has been living in the Yukon for a while, and, as an avid wildlife photographer, he has plenty of fascinating stories to tell. “I attract bears,” he mentioned before we set off on our trip. As I had no desire to bump into a bear, this statement made me a little nervous.

Find out more about our week long road trip around the Yukon

The Yukon River is an easy-going waterway, surrounded by some of the Yukon’s most spectacular scenery. It’s a popular river, among both beginners and pros, who enjoy experiencing the wilderness through either a kayak or canoe.

Peaceful experience

Multi-day adventures – where you camp en route to your destination – are popular among visitors. Short on time, we opted for a three-hour canoe trip, which would take us from downtown Whitehorse to the river’s confluence with the Takhini River.

Yukon River Info

As it is some 3,190 km in length, the Yukon River is the third largest river in North America, and the longest in Alaska and Yukon.
At the end of the 19th century, during the Klondike Gold Rush, the river was the main means of transportation. Stampeders would travel 800 km on makeshift rafts down the river to Dawson City. Not everyone made it…

Ash, sitting at the front, would provide the power, while I, sitting at the back, was in charge of the steering. I lowered my paddle down into the blue-green water – and after just three strokes, the canoe was already heading the wrong way. I watched Joe effortlessly steering the canoe, and tried to emulate his movements.

Our canoe – tricky to steer!

“Left! No… Right! Slow down!” I kept shouting to Ash, trying to get a pace going. I realised the canoe would never go straight. So, for most of the first section, we paused, and let the current guide us.

“We’ll stop here for a quick break,” Joe said, pointing to a small beach. By now, the steering had become easier, but I failed to land the canoe. Joe came to the rescue, grabbing our canoe and pulling it to shore.

“How embarrassing,” I thought, as I stepped out of the canoe, “I seriously need to up my steering game.”

Quiet beach along the Yukon River

All was quiet on the beach, and I kept thinking about what Joe had said earlier: I attract bears. We walked along the shore until he stopped and pointed to tracks in the sand. “These are wolves; they patrol the beach looking for prey.”

Beach break along the river

Joe walked a little further through the bushes, until we passed a clearing. “Beaver trail,” he said, as he walked up the path, “They leave the river and visit this little lake over here, looking for food.” We stopped and looked at beaver marks left on a tree stump. “It’s when they’re most vulnerable, and probably why the wolves are here.”

Usually, I never notice the marks wildlife leave behind, so I found the little shore excursion incredibly fascinating.

However, having safely encountered no bears, I was glad to step back into the canoe, and continue with the next stage of our journey.

Quiet section on the Yukon River

Floating down the river was a peaceful experience. All was quiet, save from the splashing paddles and the many croaking ravens, flying around the cliff faces. Apart from an occasional bald eagle sitting on top of the trees, most wildlife seemed to be hidden away in the forest.

Eagle on top of tree

When it was time for a snack/tea break, we grabbed each other’s canoes and let the current move us along. “We have apples, strawberries, protein bars…” Joe said as he rummaged through the box, which contained all the delicious snacks. “Anyone want coffee or tea? I even have hot chocolate.” I did not trust myself with a hot drink in a canoe so I politely declined, instead taking a bottle of water and protein snack.

Joe made sure we were hydrated and didn’t go hungry on our canoe trip

The break couldn’t have come any sooner. I was just beginning to feel the results of the repetitive movement. Sudden shoulder pangs were telling me to take it easy.

So, as my muscles enjoyed a little respite, my body consumed the fuel it had been craving. Rested, we set off on our last leg of the journey.

“One hour to go! We must pick up the pace if we want to make the pickup time,” Joe told us. Ash and I quickened our strokes. By now, I felt I had control over the canoe, so Ash set the pace, and I followed suit.

I’m slowly getting the hang of steering the canoe

I steered the canoe whenever it veered off course, with broad strokes and the more unique “J” stroke, which I perfected from watching Joe. It felt exhilarating being able to paddle confidently – and by now, I was enjoying our paddle on the Yukon River!

There was still some ice left on the river

My excitement wouldn’t last long, though, for the weather turned, and the first raindrops began to fall. As the rain brushed against my face, I hoped the clouds would not break.

While the river’s current was fast at the start of our trip, it slowed down significantly towards the last section. Especially with my shoulder protesting, paddling became harder. “Can we switch hand more often?” I asked Ash, “My shoulder is killing me.”

Steep bluffs near the Takhini River

As we approached the Takhini River, sharp bluffs came into view. A colour difference between the waters marked the separation of the two rivers.

For our pick up, we needed to paddle into the current of the Takhini River. This proved to be the hardest paddle I have ever tackled. Ignoring the stiff muscles and pain in my shoulders, we paddled as if our lives depended on it.

I thought we were making progress until I glanced at the shore. “Oh no,” I called out to Ash. “We aren’t moving at all!”

I was exhausted. How could a three-hour canoeing trip wear me down so much? I clearly needed to work on my fitness.

The current slowly moved us to the shore, where we stayed close to the edge. This gave us the opportunity to paddle our way up the river towards the pickup point. Thankfully, we made it.

Looking for wildlife along the shore.

Canoeing wasn’t easy – in fact, at times, it was challenging. But paddling the Yukon River – encircled by wilderness and wildlife – is an experience I will not forget in a hurry… When you are heading up north, this is a true Yukon adventure not to be missed!

Canoeing the Yukon River Tips for a Yukon River canoe trip

While canoeing the Yukon River, I was often frustrated when trying to steer my canoe.
After some research, I found out that many people struggle with this, especially on their first try. So, if you’re planning a first-time canoeing trip, check out this great guide on steering canoes.

Other Yukon canoe trips

Apart from day trips, you can also book a multi-day Yukon River canoe trip with the Kanoe People. They offer guided trips, running from 7 to 12 days in duration.
Or, if you want to step into the footsteps of the Klondike Gold Rush prospectors, Up North Adventures offers a 19-day guided tour, which will see you paddling 735km from Whitehorse to Dawson City. Day trips start from $150, while multi-day trips start from $1995. Pricing includes the following for multi-day trips: hotel accommodation, food, drinks, canoes/kayaks, tents and camping equipment.

Spending some time in Whitehorse? Make sure to read our Whitehorse travel guide.
Up for a challenge?

The Yukon River Quest is the world’s longest annual canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard race. It starts in Whitehorse and sees participants paddling day and night to reach Dawson City in just two days.
To find out more, you can visit the official Yukon River Quest site.

Tourism Yukon invited us to experience the Yukon on a week long road trip. As always, all opinions are our own and you will always read our genuine thoughts and experiences.
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It was our love for the wild and the Yukon’s untamed beauty that drew us back to the north. At the start of winter in 2016, we spent four days exploring Whitehorse, and only experienced a sample of what this vast territory had to offer.

Eager to see more, we set off on a week-long Yukon road trip adventure to this land of pristine wilderness, where large wild animals far outnumber humans… Welcome to the Yukon Territory.

Day 1

Start of our Yukon Road Trip. Hello, Whitehorse Miles Canyon

We flew over the tall, snowy peaks of the coastal mountains for some time before descending into Whitehorse, the Wilderness City. On our second visit to the Yukon capital, the weather was in stark contrast to that of our first visit… As we left the airport, the sun greeted us and there were no snow flurries. The last signs of winter – save for a few, lonely snow patches on the hills and floating ice sheets on the lakes – were fading.

Read about our first visit to Whitehorse in our Whitehorse travel guide

Spring marks a change in the Yukon: the days get longer, with the sun only setting around 11pm in Whitehorse; the bears appear after their long winter slumber, and wilderness outfitters get ready for the summer activities… We were excited to be in the Yukon at this time of the year and were eager to check out places previously inaccessible on our last visit.

Miles Canyon suspension bridge

One such place was Miles Canyon, located just outside Whitehorse. This is where the Yukon River has cut through a flow of basaltic lava, creating a dramatic natural feature, with exposed lava rocks. We followed the river trail, where more than a century ago, the stampeders navigated their way along the challenging rapids of Miles Canyon, chasing the promise of gold further north near Dawson City.

We stopped for a late afternoon drink at the Dirty Northern, a stylish gastropub, which serves up delicious cocktails, craft beer (their selection is endless) and a menu promising comfort food… During our Yukon trip, this would not be the last time we frequented the pub.

Day 2

Canada’s Most Inaccessible Park Kluane Lake

On a late spring day, the sun rose early and temperatures sat at a comfortable 14 degrees Celsius. Perfect conditions for our first activity: horse riding around Fish Lake.

We made our way to the Sky High Wilderness Ranch (located 30 minutes outside of Whitehorse) where, upon arrival, a beautiful husky, wagging his tail in excitement – greeted us, clearly eager to see the new arrivals.

Jocelyne, the dog yard manager, met us at the ranch. She informed us that unfortunately, our horse riding trip had been cancelled – due to the guide being ill – but she was happy to show us around the ranch.

Sky High Wilderness Ranch

Not only does the ranch offer horse riding trips, but it also has one- or multi-day dog sledding tours. Sure enough, as we approached the yard, we could hear the excited barking of the dogs in the distance. More than 100 dogs – a mix of huskies and other breeds – were playing around outside… Clearly, they were happy to see Jocelyne too.

Horses at Sky High Wilderness Ranch

If you stay overnight at Sky High, you will be going truly off-the-grid. This means no cellphone reception or electricity. All appliances are run off propane and wood stoves, which keep you warm during the cold winters. In terms of ranch accommodation, visitors can stay in one of two cabins or lodge.

Fish Lake

It’s the perfect base from which to embark on epic adventures, as you enjoy mushing sleds through the Yukon wilderness… While in summer, you can hike with the dogs, or go horse riding in the mountains. (We met the gentle horses on the ranch and I’m sure that one day, we’ll be back for a ride in the mountains.)

Find out more about summer activities in the Yukon

After our ranch visit, we left Whitehorse for Kluane National Park and Reserve, one of Canada’s most inaccessible places, and the home of the country’s largest peak: Mount Logan. With its vast wilderness, ice fields and glaciers, this national park is a playground for adventurers.

However, as Kluane is also home to both black and grizzly bears, signs and leaflets warn visitors to be ‘bear aware’. Even though we have lived in Canada for two years, we still get nervous about hiking the trails in bear country. At the visitor centre, a short video explained how to react if you encounter a bear. Later, while carrying bear spray (a type of pepper spray), we felt a little better prepared to venture onto the trails…

Bear aware leaflets

There are two main roads around Kluane, both of which gave only a glimpse of the sweeping mountainous area before us. We drove the Haines Highway first, which, if you follow the road for three hours, takes you all the way to Haines, US.

With a map (highlighting all major stops) in hand, we drove to the Chilkat Pass, the highway’s highest point, which sits 1.070m above sea level.

En route, the landscape changed drastically from Boreal forest to alpine tundra. As we had no intentions of crossing the border, we turned back, stopping only to marvel at the stunning landscapes from a few viewpoints dotted along the way.

Haines Highway Trail

As we walked the trails, through fir and aspen trees, all was quiet. I often stopped to take in the absolute silence. No cars, no noise, just a few birds and the rustle of the leaves, as the wind brushed through the forest canopy.

My reverie never lasted for long though, as I was aware that there could be other animals – such as bears – around me. So the clapping, singing and loud conversations (all designed to alert the bears) continued, breaking the silence I craved…

Back in Haines Junction, we took advantage of the long, sunny evenings (the sun only sets at 11pm). We, as photography enthusiasts, had plenty of time to capture the mountains and lakes without fear of fading light. I usually fall asleep around 9 or 10pm, so I found it remarkable how awake and alert you stay when the sun doesn’t set.

–      Sunset in Haines Junction

We ended up at the local pub, Mile 1016, where – with a glass of Malbec in hand – we enjoyed the warm rays of the late-night sun. In that moment, I felt I could get used to that life…

Day 3

A Glimpse From the Sky Flying over Kaskawulsh Glacier

The following day, we set off along the Alaska Highway, heading towards Burwash Landing. Our first stop: a flight-seeing tour and glacier landing with Icefield Discovery.
We were excited to see this remote part of the world from above, a place only few people get to see, let alone set foot on.

The sun was out, but, despite it, the weather surrounding the mountain range did not look promising… Ominous clouds loomed over the peaks, causing our enthusiasm to flag. When we arrived at the landing strip, our fears were confirmed… The weather conditions around the mountains were deemed too dangerous for flying, as the wind would make for a turbulent flight, while the fog would make it impossible for safe navigation.

–      Dust over Kluane Lake

Luckily, the pilot, Mike Butler, was confident that we could fly up to the glacier without too much trouble, although he warned us that it would be very bumpy. Confident we would be fine, we agreed, promising to let him know when we wanted to turn back.

True to his word, the flight was bumpy – but the scenery made up for it… A dust storm had just kicked up over the Slims River Valley, sending ethereal clouds swirling across Kluane Lake.

Kaskawulsh Glacier

Further up the valley, we flew over the mountain tops until the Kaskawulsh Glacier came into view. It was a beautiful sight to behold, with two outlet glaciers coming together towards Kaskawulsh Glacier. Its prominent streaks of ice and dirt wind through the landscape, as it sits surrounded by the impressive Saint Elias Mountains.

The constant wind, which threw the plane up and down for the last 30 minutes, did make me feel a little queasy, so, before there were any mishaps, our pilot turned back.

Back on the ground, we continued driving along Kluane Lake to Burwash Landing. Ice sheets remained on the surface, a sign that summer was not around the corner just yet…

Once in Burwash Landing, we visited a quirky little museum: Kluane Museum of (Natural) History. It is an excellent spot to learn more about Yukon wildlife, and also provides insights into the Southern Tutchone people, who call this region their home.

Log cabin in Silver City

Burwash Landing was our furthest stop along the Alaska Highway, and, on the way back to Whitehorse, we stopped in the Yukon’s largest ghost town: Silver City.
During the early 1900s, the town popped up during a short-lived gold rush, but was soon abandoned after the construction of the Alaska Highway. Several log cabins, all in various degrees of decay, still stand… But now, the once-bustling mining town stands empty, with long-lost memories echoing through its decaying wooden frames. This is a fate that has befallen many other mining towns scattered around the Yukon.

On our return to Whitehorse, we checked into the Edgewater Hotel, where we stayed earlier in this trip. After the long drives of the past two days, the newly renovated rooms were a welcome treat.

After an apéritif at the Dirty Northern, we made our way to the Klondike Rib & Salmon, a local favourite, which serves good Northern food (salmon, char and elk etc.) from within the two oldest buildings in Whitehorse.

Day 4

Going Back in Time Colourful buildings in Dawson City

After a hearty breakfast, we set off early on our long drive to the heart of the Klondike: Dawson City. Years before, stampeders – looking to try their luck at finding gold – had to travel 800 km down the Yukon River to Dawson City. Depending on the challenges that faced them, the journey could often take around three weeks.

Luckily for us, the Klondike Highway offers an easier and much quicker route to the Klondike, which loosely follows the original winter overland route to the goldfields. The paved road is around 530 km long, spanning some six hours’ worth of driving through Yukon wilderness.

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After arriving in Wellington, I was happy to see that brunch was not only an option, but the staple meal of the day. Around the world, brunch is a tradition for most late risers on Saturday and Sunday. Wellington takes it a little further and offers brunch throughout the week. As a brunch addict, I was more than happy to discover the many different delights I could indulge in from Monday till Sunday.

“Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting… It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” – Guy Beringer

Below you can find my favourite brunch spots in Wellington, in no particular order.

Floriditas Avocado, rocket leaves, poached eggs, hollandaise & ciabatta toast

Address: 161 Cuba St
Rustic trendy meets fine dining; try the smoked mackerel and hash for brunch with a cup of great coffee or a selection from their curated wine list.
Why I love it: Fresh food that is locally-sourced and served in an intimate and cosy environment.
My favourite dish: House ‘hot smoked’ salmon, poached eggs, crispy capers, watercress & ciabatta toast with a Spirulina smoothie
Price Rating: $$
Website: http://www.floriditas.co.nz/

Egmont Street Eatery Brunch at Egmont St Eatery

Address: 11 Egmont St
A hidden gem tucked down an alleyway, the converted car park is now home to seasonal delicacies that will have you coming back for more.
Why I love it: Fresh, local produce combined to create unique flavours and unusual dishes. From baked beans & cornbread to buckwheat waffles, there’s something for everyone.
My favourite dish: Smashed avocado, kibble wheat toast, ricotta salata, pickled red onions
Price Rating: $$
Website: http://egmontstreet.co.nz/

Beach Babylon Persian eggs at Beach Babylon

Address: 232 Oriental Parade
Laid back vibes run rampant in this retro-chill, beachside café.
Why I love it: Classic and delicious menu options; pair with a fun tiki cocktail for extra awesome. The additional K9 menu caters exclusively to dogs, so no need to leave your furry friend at home.
My favourite dish: Persian eggs; poached eggs, beetroot puree, halloumi, organic smoked yoghurt & dukkah on turkish bread
Price Rating: $
Website: http://beachbabylon.co.nz/

Coene’s Bar Eatery Create your own brunch at Coene’s

Address: 103 Oriental Parade
Easygoing waterfront location makes for a perfect view to accompany the tantalising brunch menu (corn fritters and hotcakes, to name a few).
Why I love it: Harbourfront views invoking a sense of calm and freshness, and a variety of dishes that are a unique take on classic brunch meals.
Price Rating: $$
Website: https://whg.co.nz/coenes/

Chocolate Fish Salmon Bagel at Chocolate Fish Cafe

Address: 100 Shelly Bay Rd
Homemade, feel-good dishes for a laid-back homestyle vibe.
Why I love it: A quirky and popular hangout spot on the water with a sun-warmed patio and excellent local food (don’t miss out on the fresh fish sandwich).
My favourite dish: Bagel with house smoked salmon, or the Thai fish cake burger
Price Rating: $$

The Larder Brunch at the Larder

Address: 133 Darlington Rd
Brunch here is a refined affair combining local ingredients with a distinctly European style.
Why I love it: A warm and inviting interior with creative dishes that support local farming and fresh ingredients.
Price Rating: $$
Website: https://www.thelarder.co.nz/

The Arborist Brunch at the Arborist

Address: 166 Willis St
The brunch menu offers classic breakfast items with a homemade, fresh-from-the-garden feel that comes with the use of local farming ingredients.
Why I love it: A fun location offering different settings: the downstairs bar and restaurant, and a rooftop bar perfect for balmy summer evenings with friends.
My favourite dish: Eggs & Hollandaise with hot smoked salmon
Price Rating: $$
Website: http://www.thearborist.co.nz/

Fidel’s cafe Baked Spanish eggs at Fidel’s Cafe

Address: 234 Cuba St
Cuban-style comfort food & excellent coffee, and brunch dishes with a Latin touch.
Why I love it: A unique brunch experience that gives new life to typical recipes, such as the Spanish eggs & turmeric latte.
Price Rating: $$
Website: http://www.fidelscafe.com/

Olive Salmon eggs benedict at Olive

Address: 170/172 Cuba St
A wholly pleasant combination of house-made pieces and local farmed ingredients unite in dishes that are rustic but modern, served in an outdoor courtyard overflowing with flora and greenery.
Why I love it: An atmosphere filled with laughter and comfortable surroundings.
Price Rating: $$
Website: https://www.oliverestaurant.co.nz/

Plum Brunch at Plum Wellington

Address: 103A Cuba St
Casual atmosphere and a traditional brunch menu for a great morning meal. Pancake enthusiasts won’t be disappointed (a popular choice here).
Why I love it: A wide range of brunch menu options, from traditional to inventive, to satisfy any breakfast craving.
My favourite dish: Classic buttermilk pancakes
Price Rating: $-$$
Website: http://www.plumcafe.co.nz/

Loretta Waffles with coconut yoghurt at Loretta

Address: 181 Cuba St
Open-concept café that invites ease and relaxation, and offers a range of menus for different meals.
Why I love it: A brunch menu that will make picking a dish virtually impossible, between the endless list of savoury and sweet options to tempt your tastebuds.
Price Rating: $$
Website: http://www.loretta.net.nz/

The Botanist Brunch at the Botanist

Address: 219 Onepu Rd, Lyall Bay
Clean and natural eats for those living the plant-based life.
Why I love it: Both vegan and vegetarian options making good use of nutritious grains, plants, and organic local veg combined with tantalising flavours for an unforgettably unique brunch date.
My favourite dish: Buckwheat banana pancakes with coconut yoghurt, toasted seeds, mulled seasonal fruit & apple syrup
Price Rating: $$
Website: https://thebotanistlyallbay.co.nz/

Scorch-o-Rama Brunch at Scorch O Rama

Address: 497 Karaka Bay Rd
Nerd alert—this blast-from-the-past cafe combines an excellent ocean view with comic books and the tastiest of brunch plates.
Why I love it: Unique decor & art, comic book posters galore, and a view that only adds to the delicious meal.
Price Rating: $$
Website: https://www.scorchorama.co.nz/

Sweet Mother’s Kitchen Waffles at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen

Address: 5 Courtenay Pl
Bustling café with a lively attitude, and food that pulls its flavours from Cajun and Creole cooking (with bonus Mexican side dishes).
Why I love it: Rich and succulent food for a taste of New Orleans in New Zealand.
Price Rating: $$
Website: http://www.sweetmotherskitchen.co.nz/

Maranui Cafe Toasted Ugly Beach Bagel with Salmon at Maranui

Address: Lvl1, 7A Lyall Parade
A surf shop-inspired beach shack, offering vegan fare, New Zealand classics, and even a kids’ menu.
Why I love it: Comfortable, lazy vibes paired with fresh and filling dishes, from brunch to beyond.
Price Rating: $$
Website: https://www.maranuicafe.co.nz/

Best Ugly Bagels King Salmon bagel at Ugly Bagels

Address: 5 Swan Ln
Hole-in-the-wall meets old-style cooking for the best wood-fired bagels you’ll ever taste.
Why I love it: Simple, uncomplicated breakfast consisting of fresh bagels & tasty toppings.
Price Rating: $
Website: https://www.bestugly.co.nz/

Neo Cafe and Eatery Almond & buttermilk pancakes

Address: 132 Willis St
This little gem boasts all-day brunch, and a combination of classic dishes and modern vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
Why I love it: Healthy brunch dishes and superfood smoothies promising an energetic start to your day.
My favourite dish: Almond & buttermilk pancakes
Price Rating: $$
Website: https://www.neocafe.co.nz/

Elements Cafe Brunch at Elements Cafe

Address: 144 Onepu Rd
Traditional brunch dishes with a high-end undertone, using only the best and freshest ingredients.
Why I love it: Seasonally-changing menu that takes advantages of local ingredient availability to promote sustainability.
Price Rating: $$
Website: http://www.elementslyallbay.co.nz/

Picnic Cafe Brunch at Picnic Cafe

Address: Begonia House, Rose Garden 101 Glenmore St
Hearty and wholesome breakfasts and lunches are available daily, and change weekly to keep things as fresh as the ingredients used.
Why I love it: Definitely not your average brunch spot, because the Picnic Café is located in the middle of the Botanic gardens.
Price Rating: $$
Website: http://picniccafe.co.nz/

Spruce Goose Brunch at Spruce Goose

Address: 30 Cochrane Street
Laid back vibes and a view of Lyall Bay pair seamlessly with delicious, fresh, and locally-sourced food.
Why I love it: Eggs Benedict that will have you already deciding to make a return visit, or a salt and pepper squid bucket that you won’t want to share.
Price Rating: $$$
Website: http://www.sprucegoose.net.nz/

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Spring has arrived in Vancouver! The days are getting longer, the bears are waking up and the city is transforming into a colourful palette of pinks and whites. As the trees start to blossom, an array of flowers begin to show their beautiful colours throughout the city. Not only can you admire the flower displays in the many parks and gardens, but venture a little outside of Vancouver, and you’ll find vast fields of vibrant tulips.

There’s no need to book a trip to the Netherlands to admire the tulip fields. You can now enjoy the sea of flowers near Vancouver. From mid-April until the start of May, Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival invites guests to come stroll among the flowers.

Last year, we took the one hour drive from Vancouver to the festival. The weather was patchy, with the sun desperately trying to show itself through the rain clouds. Yet, even in the grey weather, the vibrant colours of the tulips were eye-catching.

We waited for the rain to subside before walking the muddy paths to the fields. We passed a few visitors in fancy shoes and white sneakers, and I was glad I was wearing my black rain boots…

As we walked between the tulips, the sun finally peeked through the clouds, and, as if the flowers weren’t photogenic enough, a rainbow appeared before us, complementing the many tulip colours.

We spent about an hour walking around the fields, taking plenty of pictures and enjoying the colourful display stretched out in front of us.

We hope to visit the festival again this year. Even though we visited the tulip fields last year, it’s always a fabulous feast for the eyes and a perfect excuse to indulge in some gorgeous photography!


Tickets can be bought on-site, as well as online. Prices vary depending on when you want to visit. The best time to buy is online and in advance. Prices go up significantly on the day. Check the website for more info on the rates.

Opening times

The Festival is open from 9 am until 7.30 pm with last entry at 7 pm but visitors can stay until dusk.
You are also able to visit the tulips at sunrise. To gain admission at this time of the day, you need a ‘Magic Hour’ pass, which can be purchased online or at the gate. As with normal admission rates though, you’ll be able to grab a cheaper rate if you buy online in advance.

Things to know before you go
  • Check the weather before you go. Even if it’s not raining on the day, it might still be muddy, especially if it has been raining the previous days. If this the case, rain boots will be a must.
  • There are portable toilets on-site.
  • You can bring your own food and enjoy your lunch in the covered picnic areas. But, if you forget to bring food and you’re feeling peckish after your stroll, there are food trucks available at the festival.
  • Apart from admiring the tulips in the field, you can buy the flowers on-site.
When were our photos taken?

We visited Bloom at the end of the festival. We arrived after 5 pm on the weekend. Usually, the crowds are a little less after 5 pm, and because of the rain, the fields were almost empty.

We tried to wait for the rain to stop, but after 20 minutes, it didn’t look like it would. After a while, we didn’t mind the rain anymore and, thanks to the stunning tulip colours, the photos came out vibrantly nonetheless.

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When travelling, a medical emergency can quickly turn into a nightmare. This is especially the case if you’re travelling abroad and don’t know where to go or who to call for help.

If you’re headed away from home for a trip, here are some useful tips that could help you in case of a medical emergency:

Be Prepared

The best way to keep a level head, particularly during any medical emergency, is to be prepared. While travelling, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have your insurance cards on you at all times; this can help to prove that you are indeed covered.

Also, consider drawing up a card that clearly shows all your important medical information. Your card could include things like emergency contacts, any medication you may be on or any chronic illnesses or allergies you may have. And, if you can, make sure that your medical card is in both English and in the native language of the country you will be visiting.

Disclose Your Coverage

If, while travelling abroad, you end up being placed in a medical facility, you may want to consider telling the health specialists that you fear you may not be covered. Disclosing information like this can help the staff decide on how to proceed. And, even if you do have healthcare, it’s important to understand that outside of the U.S., you still may not be covered.

Also, even if you are covered, you may still have to pay upfront for any medical assistance and only later submit a claim for reimbursement to your insurance provider.

Be sure to ask for copies of any medical records specifying your treatment abroad, so that, when you are back home, you can give these to your health care provider.

Medical Transport

In an emergency situation, the last thing you want is to be stuck without transportation or way of getting to a hospital in time. As such, before you even start your trip, it’s a good idea to have a plan set for medical transportation. Consider services like MedjetHorizon, as they offer air medical transport benefits and, if needed, specialty hospital and ground ambulance transfer too.

Aside from the possibility of being left helpless, you also don’t want to have a huge emergency transportation bill thrown at you, especially not on top of all your other medical expenses… So again, planning ahead can help you get to where you need to be quickly and safely, while also helping to minimise costs.

Contact a U.S. Embassy

During an emergency situation, It can help to contact a U.S. Embassy, as this may provide a sense of clarity and direction. This is especially true if you’re not sure where to go or who to call, as an embassy member can help point you in the direction of any English-speaking doctors or nearby medical facilities.

Additionally, an embassy can help to provide health information on the country you will be visiting. This may include information such as which, if any,  vaccinations you may require, the status of local health and water safety conditions. By visiting the U.S. Embassy’s official site, you can find locations and numbers for an embassy in your destination country.

By being prepared for any medical issues that may arise, you give yourself the best chance of getting through them. So, if you do find yourself in need of medical attention while travelling abroad, be open about your coverage, secure an emergency mode of transport beforehand and check with an embassy to figure out where to go and how to proceed in the case of an unexpected medical emergency.

Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by MedjetHorizon
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If you’re heading to Europe, you should definitely plan to spend some time in Salzburg, Austria. Having visited the city multiple times, Salzburg has quickly become one of my favourite cities in Europe. Its quaint buildings, charming streets, and magnificent views of the Eastern Alps capture the quintessence of Austrian travels, making this destination irresistible to many foreign visitors. And as an added bonus, Salzburg is also a gateway to several other well known cities and attractions.

The city’s location, situated on the border of Austria and Germany, make it perfectly placed for tons of memorable side ventures in both countries. You can take day trips from Salzburg to Munich, or travel via train from Salzburg to Hallstatt, among other fun ideas. Below, we’ve mapped out all of our top Salzburg day trips for you to try out!

Salzburg to Hallstatt View of picturesque Hallstatt

One of the most popular day trips from Salzburg is an excursion over to Hallstatt. Just over an hour away, Hallstatt is an easy journey from your base in Salzburg, and a visually pleasing one as well. On the way, you’ll enjoy some of Austria’s scenic, rolling landscapes before arriving in Hallstatt, another of the country’s gems.

This town has graced many a postcard in Austria, and for good reason. Hallstatt is nestled in the Dachstein Mountains and situated on the shores of Hallstatt Lake. The combination of towering mountains, reflective waters, and cute village all make for an extremely photogenic destination. But don’t worry, Hallstatt is much more than a pretty face!

Hallstätter See

You can wander around the Old Town, picking up gifts and souvenirs. Or, check out the Charnel House, graced with painted skulls. An excursion to the Hallstatt historic salt mines, is a must, although a salt mine tour could easily be its own day trip as well. And if the views keep coming back to you, head up the funicular railway to the Skywalk for a fun trip and unique perspective on the town below.

You have a couple of options for traveling from Salzburg to Hallstatt. Driving allows you the most freedom to roam, but if you’re not equipped with a car, don’t fret! Though the journey will be longer, you can take a local bus or a train instead. And since Hallstatt is such a popular stop for many travelers, tour companies are an option as well. But no matter how you get there, Hallstatt is sure to be a charmer.

Book your day trip from Salzburg to Hallstatt here.

Salzburg to Lake District Mondsee

While you’re in the Salzkammergut region, we recommend a day trip from Salzburg through Austria’s scenic Lake District. From Mondsee to Wallersee, the lake region is sure to impress with clear waters and fun activities, like hiking and boating. Plus, you can make stops along the way in Hallstatt and Schloss Fuschl, a castle. A day trip from Salzburg through the Lake District has something for every type of traveler.

If you have a car, you can certainly do a self drive tour through this gorgeous region. Or, invest in a tour company for this Salzburg day trip. Either way,  you’ll have a memorable journey and plenty of photos to share when you return home.

Salzburg to Munich Brandenburg Gate in Munich

Another top day trip from Salzburg is a visit to Munich. Cross over into Germany’s famous region of Bavaria via an epic journey with views of the Alps. The hour and a half ride is a great warm up for a fabulous day in Munich. Here, you can stop for a drink in the Old Town or stroll through the farmer’s market Viktualienmarkt. Take a tour of Munich Residenz, a royal quarters turned museum boasting gothic designs and historic artifacts. And if you’re there in autumn, you might be able to catch Oktoberfest.

Day trips from Salzburg to Munich will take about an hour and a half one way by both car and train. Transport via train is a hallmark of European travel, and this route through the Bavarian Alps is one of the most scenic you’ll come across. This might be a good Salzburg day trip for riding the rails.

Salzburg to the Alps The Austrian Alps

Sound of Music fans, rejoice! (Don’t worry, if you’re also just into gorgeous mountainscapes you’ll like this one too). Perfectly situated at the foot of the Alps, Salzburg is a gateway to a full day tour of nature. Wind down scenic roads with views of the Northern Limestone Alps, and plan to make some stops along the way.

One popular site is Eagle’s Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus, a building at the top of the Kehlstein subpeak. You’ll witness magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, not to mention get a little historical lesson. Eagle’s Nest once served as a meeting place for Nazis. A day trip from Salzburg through the Alps is once with views and history.

You can plan a day yourself, or else this is a popular Salzburg day trip for tour companies. Plus, the added commentary of a guide makes experiences like this, especially with stops along the way at historic places like Eagle’s Nest, all the more enjoyable.

Book your day trip from Salzburg to the Alps here.

Salzburg to Historic Salt Mines Photo Credit: Berchtesgaden Salt Mine

As we mentioned earlier, an excursion to one historic salt mine in this region of Austria can be executed while you’re in Hallstatt, but there are others to explore, making this terrific for a full day journey by itself. From Salzburg, you can venture out to the nearby Hallein Salt Mine, or journey just across the border into Germany to visit Salzbergwerk Berchtesgaden. Both of these sites and others will help you learn about the trade and even let you check out the mines. Outfitted with authentic gear and hopping onto the unique transport through the mines will make your experience unforgettable. Since you can’t exactly venture into a mine yourself, this is one of those trips where you’ll definitely need to book ahead with the attraction.

These are just a few of the amazing Salzburg day trips you can take when you visit this historic city. But don’t get so caught up in day trips from Salzburg that you forget to take in everything the town itself has to offer! From amazing side excursions to its own little charms, Salzburg is the perfect spot for a complete vacation in Austria.

Book your day trips from Salzburg

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I looked out of the tiny plane window. Through the low hanging clouds below me, I could see a few of the 300+ Fiji Islands dotted around the ocean. I was excited to start the first relaxing holiday I’d had in years. No early rising or long drives where we would need to squeeze in as much of the country as we could; no, not this time… This time was all about doing nothing.

Moving countries and our hectic work schedules had taken their toll, so Ash and I decided to recharge our batteries on the island of Fiji. There’s no better place to relax than a paradise-like country, where everything runs on ‘Fiji time.’

Matamanoa Island

Upon arrival, a lively band welcomed us. The upbeat tunes followed us throughout the airport, while locals greeted the new arrivals with the customary phrase “Bula!”Bula is most commonly used as a greeting in Fiji.

We spent two days in Nadi, where most international visitors land. We loved our first few days of doing absolutely nothing, sipping from coconuts, partaking in silly hotel games (we won the egg throwing contest!), relaxing in hammocks, and indulging in typical Fijian delicacies. But, we were most looking forward to our next destination: the private Matamanoa Island Resort.

Matamanoa is a two-hour boat ride from Nadi. As we approached the small island, the staff, dressed in traditional attire, treated us to a welcome song followed by a big “BULA!”

Our appointed villa stood at the back of the island, offering its own plunge pool, outdoor relaxation bed, and of course, stunning views of the beach and ocean. “How blissfully peaceful,” I thought, unaware that this seemingly postcard-perfect island would turn into a place straight from hell as soon as the sun went down…

Fiji sunset

We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool, wandering around the beach and eating a delicious Fijian BBQ. As the sun was setting, giant fruit bats made their appearance. They flew high above us, landing none-too-gracefully on the palm trees. I found their apparent clumsiness quite cute – and nowhere near as frightening as the mainstream media had led me to believe…

As we retreated to our villa for a nightcap, the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks was soothing. While preparing for bed, we heard an odd howling sound outside. “The wind perhaps?” I asked Ash. “Maybe,” he said.

We didn’t give it a second thought until the sound grew louder. “Sounds like a wolf,” I mumbled, confused by the noises we were hearing. We jumped out of the bed and walked out onto the patio… Then, the sounds stopped and it was eerily quiet.

The villa where it all took place

We stood there for a while, bewildered, until the sounds suddenly started again. This time, the noises came from behind us. My heart raced as I turned around. Again, the sounds stopped. Ash checked the side of the villa, while I tried to locate the noise around the back. Unable to find the source of the noise, we went back inside and tried to forget about it.

However, as soon as we turned off the lights outside, the sounds were back. This time they were even louder, and more eery. Suddenly, something dawned on me… “It’s the birds,” I realised.

Earlier that day, a member of the staff mentioned a variety of local bird, currently nesting on the island. “Don’t worry if you hear a baby crying… It’s actually the call of the Matamanoa bird,” she told us casually, so casually that we had completely forgotten about it.

In hindsight, her description was tame… For it started out as the sound of the wind and then turned into the howling of wolves. And as soon as it was pitch black outside, it turned into a full concert of crying demon babies, all around us…

Fiji at night

We stepped back outside, and this time we walked a little further away from the villa. Once our eyes had adjusted to the darkness, we could see giant birds flying all around us. The concert had started up again in full force. It was loud, ridiculously loud. The resemblance of their sounds to those of babies crying their lungs out was disturbing.

As time passed, the cries became more forceful and they turned into devilish screams. “This is how they hope to attract a mate?” I smiled, nervously. A sudden shuffle behind us made us turn. We both stood in slight shock, as a big, black bird clumsily stumbled across our patio and disappeared to the side of our villa. “I guess he found one,” Ash said, as he walked back to the villa. I rushed after him, not wanting to stay behind in the darkness.

Back inside, we tried to drown out the sounds by turning up the air-conditioning. No such luck. Earplugs? Nope. Air-conditioning, earplugs and even trying to wrap my face in blankets and pillows? Nothing worked. We both grew desperate, as the demon babies kept crying.

After a few hours, I just gave up trying to sleep. The birds were relentless, and it didn’t look like they would shut up before sunrise. But, as the sun rose, the cries of the birds dissipated. Relief flooded through me and I welcomed the silence with open arms, as I finally drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, we moved to a villa on the other side of the island where there were no Matamanoa birds. During our remaining island nights, we slept in silence. The only flying animals around there were the clumsy fruit bats, still crashing into the palms… Bliss.

Note: We loved our time on the island. Matamanoa is a beautiful resort we highly recommend if you’re looking for a place to stay in Fiji. The Matamanoa bird breeds on Matamanoa island as well as nearby Modriki island between December and May. If you want to avoid a sleepless night, ask for a villa on the south west of the island.
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No matter whom you speak to, when visiting the Mother City, visiting the best wine farms in Cape Town (and her surrounds) are top of everyone’s to-do list… and with so many gorgeous, award-winning wine farms in Cape Town, travellers and locals are well and truly spoiled for choice.

But don’t fret, for, even among the masses, there will always be a select few that stand out above the rest… And these are my personal picks of the best wine farms near Cape Town:

Paradise found at Dunstone Wine Estate Credit: Wines of South Africa (WOSA)

Wellington is the Cinderella of the Cape Winelands: overlooked (in favour of wine valleys like Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Durbanville and even Robertson) and underrated until it has a turn to shine… and then, it renders one breathless.

There are a few hidden gems in Wellington and, in late 2017, we discovered quite possibly the finest of them all: cue, Dunstone Country Estate and Winery.

Credit: Tamlyn Ryan

Protectively sheltered beneath the breath-taking Limietberg mountains and situated outside Wellington, Dunstone is a luxury boutique wine estate and guest farm, equipped with four-and five-star accommodation, a top bistro, award-winning wines and exceptional owners and staff. Here, passion and sincerely thoughtful touches permeate through every inch of this impressive estate.

During our overnight stay and visit, we personally enjoyed gorgeous accommodation, gourmet country fare and of course, delicious wines at Dunstone – so the memory of this gorgeous estate will stay with me for a long time to come…

Credit: Tamlyn Ryan

In so many ways, Dunstone was virtually faultless and, if you can only experience one or two wine farms in Cape Town, then let the Cape’s best kept secret, Dunstone, be counted among them.

For more information on Dunstone Country Estate, contact stay@dunstone.co.za or visit their website
Book your tour to wine farms near Cape Town here

Make a day of it at stunning Spier Photo credit: Stellenbosch Wine Routes

Spier Wine Farm is one of the Cape’s most recognisable and well-known wine estates. And, rather than this leaving it commercialised or tired as some might expect, Spier stands out as one of the Western Cape’s most spectacular, all-encompassing wine farms.

Here, outstanding wine, food, accommodation, local art and nature reign supreme. At Spier, families, friends or foreign visitors can enjoy the best Stellenbosch has to offer. Especially as it offers one: Cape Dutch history and architecture, luxury food and wine and stunning natural and man-made beauty.

Credit: Spier wine farm
Credit: Spier wine farm
Credit: Spier wine farm
Credit: Tamlyn Ryan

We had a particularly fun day out at Spier, exploring every inch of the farm… This included a visit to their outstanding Eagle Encounters (where we interacted with rescued birds of prey and wildlife); a gourmet picnic by the dam; and browsing the Spier Farm Kitchen, farm shop and outdoor mosaic exhibition.There is so much to do and enjoy at Spier – before you even add their hotel and spa, craft market, artisan studio or restaurants.So, if you’re after a fun day out in the Stellenbosch Wine Valley, look no further than a day (or overnight) visit to Spier.

For more information on Spier Wine Farm, contact info@spier.co.za or visit their website.
Beautiful Babylonstoren near Franschhoek Credit: Babylonstoren wine farm

If ever a wine estate has been name-dropped (in less-than-subtle terms) as one of the best farms around Cape Town in recent years, it’s this wonderful working estate.

Found near Franschhoek, this well-beloved farm – first established in 1692 – has been reinvented into something truly amazing by current owners, media mogul, Koos Bekker and his equally talented, creative wife, Karen Roos. Under their ownership, praises for the estate keep rolling in – and quite deservedly so because this humble, yet ultra-chic, wine estate is one of the most memorable I’ve visited in the past two years – and I’ve been to +30 in that time!

Credit: Babylonstoren wine farm
Credit: Tamlyn Ryan
Credit: Tamlyn Ryan

Babylonstoren is an honest-to-goodness working farm and wine estate that has it all: a farm shop, two lovely restaurants (Babel for chic wine farm dining; Greenhouse for relaxed family meals) and bakery, a luxury hotel and spa, complete with gorgeous farm accommodation, a tasting room, quality wine – and of course, labyrinthine gardens to delight young and old!So, whether you stroll the vast gardens, eat at one of the restaurants or simply enjoy a delicious wine tasting, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Babylonstoren.

Lunch at Babel – Credit: Babylonstoren wine farm

Closing note: I also love that, while Babylonstoren requires on a small entry fee, these funds go towards local child education. (Weekends and public holidays are R20 adults and R10 for children under 12, while weekdays are R10 for all entrants.)

For more information, contact Babylonstoren on enquiries@babylonstoren.com or visit their website.
Lovely Lourensford in Somerset West Photo credit: Stellenbosch Wine Routes

Lourensford was the first Somerset West farm I’ve visited – and it certainly did not disappoint.

This popular estate has so much for visitors to do and enjoy… Not only is it hugely child-friendly (a relative rarity among Cape wine farms) with its sprawling lawns, sprouting water features and delightful garden spaces – but it has plenty to keep teens and adults satisfied with too.

Credit: Tamlyn Ryan
Credit: Lourensford wine farm
Credit: Lourensford wine farm

Think: brilliant wine tastings, the awesome Lourensford Market, a classic Motor Studio and two eateries in The Coffee Roasting Co. and Red Riding Hood Deli, and The Millhouse Kitchen.On the Sunday morning when we visited, we first enjoyed a truly decadent and delicious wine tasting, sampling the Belgian chocolate and wine pairing… This was all kinds of awesome, and one of the most enjoyable and slickly conducted wine tastings I’ve enjoyed in the Cape Winelands to date.

Credit: Tamlyn Ryan

Afterwards, we popped into The Coffee Roasting Co. and Red Riding Hood Deli for a simple, yet delicious meal, before making our way over to the buzzing Lourensford Market and perusing the art gallery and Motor Studio in turn.The Lourensford market and Motor Studio add an element of Cape Town chicness to the estate, while the beautiful gardens and conservation efforts give a compassionate nod to nature…. Something I really appreciated and loved about Lourensford.

Credit: Lourensford wine farm

All in all, Lourensford Wine Estate is a wonderful place to visit for groups of friends or families, and I can definitely recommend it for wine tastings; their limited release Chardonnay and Lourensford Shiraz with chili-infused Belgian chocolate was particularly yummy!

For more information on Lourensford Wine Estate, contact info@lourensford.co.za or visit their website.
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“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…”

I was sixteen when I was first introduced to Middle Earth, a world that intrigued me beyond words – in fact, some might even say I was a little obsessed with Hobbits, Elves and Orcs…

But, until I was hired by Weta Digital (the company who worked on the visual effects for all The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies), I never thought I would one day visit one of the movie sets. Suddenly though, I found myself on a plane to New Zealand (aka Middle Earth) and the adventure began.

We visited Hobbiton on International Hobbit Day. Because of this, The Shire’s Rest – where you wait for your bus to pick you up – was buzzing with Lord of the Rings fans, eager to start their journey into Hobbiton.

Luckily, we had bought our tickets in advance, and we were soon driving along the lush rolling hills towards Hobbiton.

Book your Hobbiton tickets

Hobbiton tours sell out quickly. Don’t miss out!

Construction of the Hobbiton set

Built in 1999, for the first movie in the trilogy, the set was constructed on the hills of Alexander Farm. Construction was done with mainly temporary materials, so, after filming was wrapped up, the set was demolished and the ground returned to being undisturbed farmlands.

However, this didn’t stop people from visiting, eager to catch a glimpse of the Shire. So, when Peter Jackson returned some years later to film The Hobbit, the decision was made to erect a more permanent village.

A walk along the Hobbit Holes

During our visit, we walked along windy paths, visiting forty-four hobbit holes, complete with small gardens, bridges and ponds. We noticed little details throughout: clothing lines in the gardens, farming tools outside the hobbit holes, vegetable gardens with real vegetables… It was easy to imagine a buzzing village with hobbits running around, going about their daily lives.

Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, telling us stories about the set and anecdotes about each hobbit hole, while allowing us plenty of time to take photos.

“They dressed in bright colours, being notably fond of yellow and green; but seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was commonly brown.” – Description of the Shire Hobbits.

A drink at the Green Dragon Inn

When we reached the Green Dragon Inn, we were treated to an ale (or, apple cider) exclusively brewed for Hobbiton. While sipping our Southfarthing (love the name!) drink, we walked around the beautifully constructed inn.

Its wooden interior – complete with a fireplace, rounded doorposts and quirky details (such as hobbit coats and wooden staffs hanging by the door) – added to the genuine Hobbiton feel.

“Oh, you can search far and wide, You can drink the whole town dry, but you’ll never find a beer so brown, as the one we drink in our hometown …” – The Golden Hall Drinking Song.

Things to know before visiting Hobbiton
Make sure to book your tickets in advance

Especially during high season because Hobbiton is one of the most visited tourist attractions in New Zealand – and you don’t want to miss out!

Can you visit Hobbiton without a tour?

The only way to visit the set is with a guided tour. If you don’t want to walk around in a group, you can also book a private tour. Those who book a private tour can also enjoy a lunch at the Green Dragon Inn’s Party Marquee.

Where is Hobbiton located?

Hobbiton is located on a family run farm in Matamata, 2h 15 min drive from Auckland, 45 min drive from Hamilton and 1h drive from Rotorua.

Prepare for any type of weather

New Zealand is not known for its tropical weather, so make sure to pack a rain jacket and/or a sweater, as it can rain on any day. Even in the middle of summer, temperatures can drop to 15 degrees or lower, so a sweater can come in handy.

Booking tours

You can book tours that leave from Rotorua or Auckland, but, if you have your own car, you can drive to the Shire’s Rest and start the tour there (which is what we did.)

Where to eat in Hobbiton

If you’re feeling a little peckish, have some food at the Green Dragon Inn or at the Shire’s Rest. But, if you’re looking for a feast, check out..

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