Today we have a guest blog post from Daniel at Destinationless Travel. He’s lucky enough to call Queenstown home (one of our favourite places!) and so today he’s sharing some tips on what to do in this beautiful spot during winter.
5 Reasons to Visit Queenstown in Winter
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations. The small town of 30,000 residents is truly heaven on Earth. Located in the southern region of Otago in New Zealand’s Lake District, Queenstown is as the name suggests – fit for a Queen! And funny enough, that’s actually how it was named!
From the moment visitors fly in over Lake Wakatipu they are welcomed with breathtaking views of the Southern Alps. Once you leave the airport, Queenstown’s backyard is now your favourite playground.
The reasons to visit Queenstown are vast and its most popular season is in fact summer. However, it was Queenstown’s winter that had me on a plane with everything I owned to set up base here.
After moving here it was easy to see why everyone who visited Queenstown loved it. But, just in case you’re not sure why you should add visiting Queenstown in winter to your bucket list, I have detailed the top 5 reasons to visit Queenstown in winter, right here!
1, Mulled wine at your favourite bar
The nightlife in Queenstown in winter is something to get excited about. For most, including me, it’s not the large bars that entice me but instead sitting back in front of a fire enjoying a mulled (or hot) wine. There is even a mulled ginger beer! These delicious drinks are served at almost all the bars and come in all sorts of styles.
Many bars in town offer amazing views of the mountains so finding a spot to enjoy a mulled wine during the day or night is easy! However one of my favourite spots is the Sunset Bar. That place is beautiful!
2. The Hiking
Summer usually brings in hikers from around the world who come to witness some of the stunning hikes on offer in New Zealand. However, why limit all your hiking to summer?
With many amazing day hikes in and around Queenstown, hiking in winter is easy. Some of my favourites include Queenstown Hill, Ben Lomond Peak, Roy’s Peak, Jacks Point and the hikes up the Remarkables ski field!
Of course, in winter it is important to check weather and trail conditions before heading off but with good conditions, the many hikes around Queenstown become and whole new level of beauty in winter!
3. The Winter Scenery
Everything is more beautiful with snow – especially the mountains. I don’t think anyone can argue with that. Queenstown is surrounded by mountain peaks and when a blanket of snow lays upon them, the outcome is stunning. From sunrise to sunset the mountains put on a magnificent show. There is something about being surrounded by mountains that seem to bring joy to every day.
If you’re into photography then the winter scenery will surely get you excited! With endless photo opportunities around getting the perfect snaps is easy! With a short drive to Glenorchy or a hike up to Ben Lomond Peak, you can be truly in a winter wonderland!
4. Star Gazing and the Southern Lights
During the summer months in Queenstown, it doesn’t get dark until around 10 pm, however, in winter the days get much, much shorter. For most this is not ideal, however, with Queenstown’s remote location it is the perfect place to star gaze. With the shorter days mean you won’t have to stay up really late to view them either! By 7 pm in winter, the sky is completely dark and the stars begin to shine down.
From Queenstown, the Milky Way glows through the night sky and the stars feel like they are within an arm’s reach. Another great thing about Queenstown is that it’s south enough to view the southern lights! Yes, that’s right the southern hemisphere has its own amazing light show!
5. The Ski Season
That’s right, while the other popular ski destinations in the world melt away, New Zealand’s is just getting started. With this comes the vibrant and friendly culture the mountains bring as people from all over the world chase the powder. During this time of year, Queenstown is buzzing and a trip up to the mountains is the perfect way to spend the day. Located in the Queenstown area are three ski hills, the Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Cardrona.
With 3 amazing mountains right at your doorstep, you can hit the endless runs and enjoy some powder in July. All the fields are within driving distance of Queenstown and two of them can be seen from town!
Some Extra Bonuses
Last but not least, winter is not only less busy which means fewer lines, wait times at restaurants, and just all around craziness, but this also makes it cheaper! In the winter, there are so many food and drink specials at nearly every restaurant! But not only that, all of those adventure activities that Queenstown is known for such as bungy jumping, skydiving, or riding the jet boat, all go on sale! Winter specials are advertised throughout the streets of Queenstown and some activities go down to 50% off!
In winter, Queenstown becomes an entirely different place than in summer. The true beauty of the Southern Alps comes to life and so does this humble town. Visiting Queenstown in winter is a must, and for those who have been in summer, a new place awaits!
Daniel is an adventure enthusiast who travels the world looking for his next thrill. After just finishing 14 months traveling in Latin America, Daniel now calls Queenstown, New Zealand “home.” Daniel will be on the move again soon to explore the rest of New Zealand followed by India and Canada! Follow him on his adventures on his travel blog, Destinationless Travel or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
We had arrived in Goreme under darkness the night before, so the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia was going to be unveiled to us for the first time from above, in a hot air balloon. It was our first time in a hot air balloon, and we were rather excited.
A little nervous, perhaps, with the thought of a giant bubble of hot air taking us into the sky. But our concerns were thrown aside by Butterfly Balloons, arguably one of the best operators in Cappadocia – and that’s saying a lot, because there are literally dozens of balloon companies in the area. The whole experience with Butterfly Balloons was perfectly orchestrated – from the painfully early pickup of 4 am to the buffet breakfast, to piling us in vans according to balloon pilot, and finally the balloon flight itself.
Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia
The first fingers of light were beginning to illuminate the landscape as we arrived at the launch site near Goreme. All around us was the whooshing sound of balloons being inflated by huge fans and then by gas flame – a much noisier operation than I had envisaged.
Finally enough hot air was in our balloon and we were able to clamber inside the basket along with ten others. We gently rose into the sky amongst a rainbow of balloons, skippered by our pilot Fatih. The sight was truly something to behold. Shaun counted 103 balloons in the air with us that morning – a staggering number.
As daylight crept over the land we began to see why Cappadocia is one of the best places for hot air ballooning. Aside from the still morning air, perfect for the gentle ride, the terrain below was out of this world. This ancient volcanic landscape, with huge compressed ash deposits, has been eroded over millions of years to form the sculpted valleys and fairy chimneys of this wondrous place. It was truly delightful to float over the top of this land, a real treat for a geography nerd like me. It was like flying the drone, but better, as we were seeing it from above with our own eyes.
Fatih was an incredible pilot. He made our trip even more memorable by skilfully bringing the balloon down into valleys and then rising up out of them, literally metres above the tops of the chimneys. Cue squealing from some of the passengers on board. Now that must take some practice!
We drifted over the valleys and chimneys of Goreme and the surrounding area for over an hour. It was at the same time enthralling and peaceful. I wished we could have stayed in the air all day. All too soon, we were being told to assume the safe landing position (crouching inside the basket) and bump bump BUMP we skidded along the ground and the basket tipped on its side! What an exciting way to end our flight!
After being righted by the ground crew and disembarking we were treated to champagne with strawberries, rose petal confetti, and participation certificates. It was kind of corny but so well-meaning – we loved it.
Our balloon ride with Butterfly Balloons was a once in a lifetime experience and we wholeheartedly recommend it. I don’t say that lightly. We’ve been privileged to have many amazing experiences on our travels, but both of us agreed that this was right up there as one of the best things we have ever done.
If you find yourself in Turkey, go to Cappadocia. Go on a balloon ride. You won’t regret it.
Thanks to Butterfly Balloons for hosting us. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.
Have you ever been in a hot air balloon? Would you do it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Almost two years ago we wrote this post about a quirky new sneaker brand called Allbirds. We called them the most comfortable shoe in the world.
Well – how much has changed in those two years! Allbirds merino sneakers are now the shoe of choice for Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs and they’ve just sold their millionth pair of shoes, a far cry from the startup they were when we first heard of them.
Allbirds Tree runners – woody shoes these are not
We’re serious fans of the company: their sustainable ethos, New Zealand-sourced merino wool, limited packaging and of course their fantastic shoe design (no huge logos or fluoro colours). We’ve each got a couple of the wool pairs and they’re still some of our favourite shoes.
So when we heard the news that Allbirds had launched a new sneaker made from trees (yes, TREES), we knew we had to give them a go! Fortunately, the Allbirds team was only too happy to oblige.
The light blue ‘Kauri Cloud’ shoes arrived at our door in their cardboard box – no extra plastic packaging which was great to see. These shoes are really good looking, they have a lovely shape and are super stylish. In my opinion they look better than the wool runners!
Can you believe these shoes are made from wood pulp?! Yep, the fibre the shoes are woven from is made from Eucalyptus trees that are farmed using no irrigation in South Africa. Who would have thought that wearing trees would be so comfortable.
What we think of the Allbirds Tree runners
And comfortable they are. When I first tried them on there was a bit of a funny lump against the back of the heel, but fortunately that flattened out after a few uses. The shoe feels like a sock, and there is no rubbing at all – no seams help there.
One of the main things Allbirds markets their sneakers on is that you can wear them with no socks. Yes, this is true, and I haven’t gotten blisters from wearing them with no socks (and the shoes don’t smell either after a few wears), but my feet do get quite hot and a bit sweaty against the wool lining and innersole. I generally get quite hot feet anyway so I prefer to wear socks inside my Allbirds – but it’s nice to know that they won’t ruin your feet or smell if you don’t want to wear socks!
The Tree sneakers are much more breathable than their wool counterparts. You can feel the air coming through the mesh-like upper and they are generally a bit cooler. They look like more of a sports shoe than the wool runners (but I still wouldn’t go for a run in them – they’re definitely a fashion item rather than a serious workout shoe!).
The light colour had me a bit worried about getting them dirty. We’ve both gotten a few scuff marks on the upper but they have rubbed off fine with a wet cloth. Apparently you can also throw them in the washing machine to clean them, after removing the laces and innersoles. Our shoes aren’t that dirty yet but I’ll be sure to try this once they are! I would be a bit concerned about having the light colour and not being able to clean them on a trip – especially if you’re in a part of the world that has dirty footpaths – but fortunately there are darker colours to choose from as well.
Overall, we are really pleased with this new generation of Allbirds sneakers. We’ve worn them on lengthy walks of a couple of hours and they’re still comfortable and don’t get too hot when wearing socks. The Allbirds Tree sneakers would make a fantastic travel shoe – they’re versatile and can be dressed up or down. We can’t wait to see what other awesome shoes Allbirds releases in the future!
Thanks to Allbirds for sending us sneakers for this review. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.
Have you got a pair of Allbirds? What’s your favourite travel sneaker? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Do you have only a limited time to see the temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia? Fortunately it’s totally do-able to see the main temples of Angkor in one day.
We did it on probably one of the busiest days of the year (30 December) and although there were heaps of crowds, we got to see some amazing sights and absolutely loved our day at Angkor.
Here we’ve got some tips for you to get the most out of your day at the temples of Angkor!
Get an Angkor guide
We fully recommend getting a guide to take you around the temples of Angkor. We booked Kamsan (“Best Angkor Guide” on TripAdvisor) after getting a recommendation from a family member who did the same tour with him a few months prior.
It was the best decision we could have made – San was amazing. He was so enthusiastic, knew all the history, and the best thing was that he knew where to get great photos from and how to escape (most of) the crowds. We’ve got friends who hired a tuk tuk driver for the day, but those drivers barely speak english and they aren’t guides – they just take you from place to place where you want to go.
Another bonus was that San drove an air conditioned car, and carried around ice cold towels and water. This was an absolute plus as the weather was seriously hot! It was a welcome relief to hop into the cool car for the drive between temples.
For four of us for a whole day out, including sunrise, it was $135 USD. We were out for about 13 hours and visited Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei and Beng Melea. A bargain if you ask me!
Don’t miss the sunrise (weather dependent)
I’ve heard many stories of crap sunrises at Angkor. Well, they may be true but we were lucky enough to see a stunning one. It’s worth checking the weather forecast – if it’s overcast or raining then sunrise just isn’t worth it.
But if you manage to score a good day, starting that early in the morning is great. You can see most of Angkor Wat before it gets really hot, and also before all the crowds get there (the tour buses from the Chinese hotels start rolling in around 10 am).
It’s definitely busy enough in the early hours but apparently gets hellish around mid-morning!
San took us to a spot outside the temple walls and moat to watch the sunrise. So we didn’t get the famous photo of the temple reflected in the pond, but we also didn’t have to jostle with thousands of others (plus their selfie sticks) at the spot in the photo below – there were only about a dozen other people in the spot where we were, and it was so peaceful.
Tick off the big three – Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm
If you’re going to see the temples, you really have to visit the main three sites – Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. They are the most crowded, but it’s easy to understand why. They are pretty spectacular!
Bayon (the temple with the bas-relief faces) was one of my favourites. The carvings are beautiful and those faces are haunting. They seem to follow you around wherever you walk!
Ta Prohm (the famous one from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) was overrated if you ask me. Yeah, it was cool, but it was also really really packed with snap happy tourists. It’s a small temple and you’re forced in one way and out another way, so it wasn’t really that pleasant. If you’re visiting at a quieter time of year then I imagine it would be great!
Venture further to Banteay Srei and Beng Melea
Haven’t heard of these temples? They’re a bit further out from the main three and much less visited, so that’s probably why. However, we think it’s definitely worth venturing further (another bonus of having a guide with a car rather than a tuk tuk) to see them.
Banteay Srei is made out of pink sandstone so the temples have a lovely orangey colour. The carvings are so deep and intricate, it’s thought that these temples may have been carved by women due to their smaller fingers.
Banteay Srei is a small temple but it’s like a mini version of Angkor Wat – it’s stunning!
In my opinion, we saved the best until last.
Beng Melea was almost deserted – I think we saw half a dozen other people when we were there. It was a lot like Ta Prohm but bigger and more crumbly, surrounded by forest. It was amazing! There were raised walkways so you could walk above the crumbling ruins and see them from a different perspective. It was well worth the extra 45 minute drive from Banteay Srei to see Beng Melea.
Have you visited the temples of Angkor? Which one was your favourite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
When we planned our recent trip to Southeast Asia and chose the beach destination to be Koh Lanta (always got to have a beach destination on a holiday, am I right?), I knew there would have to be diving involved. We loved our first diving experience in Koh Tao on the other side of Thailand, five years previously, and we had heard that the diving was also great on the Andaman side of Thailand too.
We looked at various dive companies on Koh Lanta (there are quite a few) but kept coming back to Scubafish. Uniquely, they are located at the southern end of Koh Lanta at Kantiang Bay, which wasn’t far from where we would be staying at Klong Nin Beach. Scubafish also had excellent reviews, the added bonus of an underwater photographer on each trip, and the opportunity to do a dive refresher on the day.
The refresher really cemented it for us – it had been three years since we had been diving last, at the Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand, so our brains felt a bit rusty. More on the refresher later. We signed up to do a day diving at Koh Haa, a small island off the coast of Koh Lanta, in early January.
Shaun had been having ear issues for a few months before we went on our trip, and we were hoping that they’d be sorted by the time we wanted to dive. Alas, they were not, so a few days before we were due to go diving with Scubafish we asked to change Shaun’s dive to snorkelling instead – nobody wants a burst eardrum! They were only too accommodating and we were fortunate that Koh Haa offered good snorkelling as well as diving.
The day before the dive trip we scootered to Scubafish’s office in Kantiang Bay to get kitted up with the dive gear. They lent me a PADI text book and gave me a quiz to complete that night as part of the refresher – eek!
Bright and early the next morning the Scubafish truck stopped to pick us up and along with half a dozen others we bounced our way to the jetty at Kantiang. The jetty is really cool – it floats on the surface so they don’t need a physical structure – it would likely get damaged by waves during the monsoon season anyway. We motored off on our dive boat towards Koh Haa, which we could see on the horizon, while gobbling down on a breakfast of yummy pastries and coffee.
We were organised into small groups, with just four divers to one instructor. Because Shaun wasn’t diving I was put with three nice Austrian guys and our instructor was Naiyana – a Thai woman who had grown up in Sweden (a strange combo!). She was absolutely lovely and put my nerves to rest immediately.
For the refresher, we went over the quiz (I got most of the questions right, phew!) and set up the dive gear together. It all came flooding back to me – funny how you forget things but remember them immediately when you’re put back in that situation again! By that time we had arrived at Koh Haa and so we suited up and jumped into the warm water of the Andaman Sea.
More skills were completed once we were in the water, sitting on the sandy bottom – finding and putting on your mask, finding your regulator, and sharing air with a buddy. It was a really great opportunity to remember how to do everything properly, and I was really grateful Scubafish offered the refresher option rather than diving in without it.
Once the refresher was over, we were on our way! There was very little current and visibility was great, so it was a nice easy dive. The coral looked pretty healthy and we saw a good number of different fish species – moray eels, clownfish (my favourite!), boxfish, and many others. I was super jealous to hear that one of the dive groups ahead of us saw a turtle – it swam off just before we got there apparently!
Magnus, the Scubafish photographer, turned up to photograph us as we swam along. It’s a great perk that Scubafish offers, as all too often underwater photos come out looking pretty awful. Fortunately Magnus’ photos were fantastic – most of the photos in this blog post are taken by him.
The first dive was really enjoyable. The boat came to pick us up and we clambered aboard, hungry for lunch. The onboard cook served up a delicious tom yum stirfry with rice, as well as fruit and soft drinks. Yum yum! We had a decent break before the second dive at a nearby site (there are lots of different dive sites at Koh Haa).
The second dive was more technical, with some swim-throughs and a ‘chimney’ to navigate. I freaked out a bit in the chimney – a vertical tunnel about 2 metres wide that we had to swim down into – as my ears wouldn’t equalise. After swimming back up the chimney and going back down slowly I got it all sorted fortunately.
The star attraction on this dive was an octopus who was snuggling into a crevice. He curled his tentacles out and we could see his eye staring at us, it was really cool – I’d never seen an octopus while diving before.
As I wrote before, my diving photos are usually crap (a combination of an old GoPro with no screen (so I can’t review photos underwater) and not being able to control shutter speed in the dim underwater light). So you can imagine my surprise when I looked through my photos after the dive and found these awesome ones of a clownfish family!
Before long, it was time to resurface and we flopped on board the Maya II. Some people chose to do a third dive but I decided not to, and went for a snorkel instead. I was really stoked to see a black tipped reef shark – I’ve never seen a shark before! The divers were pretty jealous that us snorkelers saw something that they didn’t.
Then it was time to head back to Koh Lanta. What a fantastic day! It was a real shame that Shaun couldn’t dive but it was a good decision. I totally recommend diving with Scubafish when you’re visiting Koh Lanta – the people are lovely, the food is great and of course the dive sites speak for themselves.
Thanks to Scubafish for sponsoring our day out diving and snorkeling. Follow them on Facebook, and look them up when you’re wanting to go diving or snorkelling in Koh Lanta! As always, you’ll receive our honest opinions, regardless of who is footing the bill.
What should be our next dive site? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Whenever we’re in Southeast Asia, we love getting out of the cities and into the countryside. It’s where you get a real taste of how people live and what the country is really like. We have been hiking in Myanmar and Vietnam, and of course we couldn’t miss the opportunity to go hiking when we were visiting the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang in Laos.
Luang Prabang hiking with Tiger Trail
The hiking ‘industry’ isn’t hugely developed in Luang Prabang; there are just a few operators. We chose Tiger Trail based on the excellent reviews the company had been given on TripAdvisor, and we chose to do the Thin Pha Trek, a 12 km hike through scenic jungle, involving boat rides and a visit to the Tad Sae Waterfall. It sounded great!
We met after breakfast at the Tiger Trail office in downtown Luang Prabang, and 13 of us piled into back of the Tiger Trail tuk tuk (fortunately it was a big tuk tuk that could fit all of us!). We bumped our way out of town on the potholed Lao roads (a common sight here) for about 25 minutes to reach the Tiger Trail camp on the banks of the Nam Khan River (the same river that meets the Mekong at Luang Prabang).
We jumped in a couple of tiger-striped longtail boats for a short journey up the Nam Khan River to the beginning of the trail. Next door to the camp is an elephant centre, and even though we don’t approve of riding elephants it was a joy to see them wading through the river – such magnificent animals! Can you see them in the river in the distance in the photo below?
Most of the hike is through the lovely cool dappled shade of the jungle. We visited Luang Prabang in the winter and it was a great temperature for hiking, probably around 20°C. Even so, the sun was quite hot when it came out from behind the clouds. I can imagine in the summer when it gets well up into the 30’s that it would be rather unbearable doing any kind of physical activity!
Ambling in the jungle
We wandered through the jungle and crossed a sketchy looking bamboo bridge – they build them every year in the dry season when the rivers and streams are low enough so they won’t float away. The hike wasn’t hard so it was nice to amble along, chatting with the guide and the other guests in the group. There was a wide range of nationalities, with the UK, Australia, France, Germany and Malaysia represented (as well as us kiwis of course!). We passed a rubber plantation which was really interesting to see. Man the raw rubber stinks!
After a couple of hours we made it to the first village, Ban Houay Fai, which is home to about 400 Khmu people (descended from Khmer people from Cambodia). We visited a school where Tiger Trail had helped to build a kindergarten building and a toilet block, and got to walk around the village and talk to the local people. It was really interesting seeing how they lived.
Village life in Laos
Our guide translated some of our questions to an elderly lady who was 74 years old (it’s quite a rarity to live to that age!) – she had cataracts so was completely blind and had been for some time. Fortunately her family feed her and look after her. It was sad to see her with such an easily reversible condition, but they just don’t have access to healthcare like we do. Thank goodness she has a loving family otherwise I’d hate to think what her life would be like. She looks really grumpy in the photo below but I caught her in a bad moment!
Then it was back into the jungle. We were down in the bottom of a valley so we had to cross a small creek multiple times, and the trail was quite muddy. I can only imagine what it’s like in the wet season – you’d want to be wearing gumboots I think!
After a while we started to climb a hill, really the only decent hill of the day. It definitely made up for all the ambling along before! It was a pretty steep climb for about 15 minutes and got the blood pumping. But the reward at the top was a Hmong village called Ban Tinpha, and lunch! We were amazed when our guide and his assistant pulled out individually-wrapped chicken stirfried noodles in banana leaves, complete with little packets of peanuts and chilli. I was super impressed to see the use of biodegradable banana leaves instead of plastic or polystyrene packaging – what a great idea!
Lunch was delicious – we were ravenous. We enjoyed feeding the resident baby chicks and dogs our leftover noodles (did you know that chickens eat chicken noodles?). The village was very small, only 7 families live there. Most people seemed to be out for the day, but there was a friendly old man who greeted us.
You know what goes up must come down? Yep, after lunch it was down, down, down, back towards the Nam Khan River. We passed houses with vegetable plantations, pretty valley views, and a school where the kids were practicing a traditional dance that they are going to perform in front of the Prime Minister in the capital city of Vientiane.
Off to the waterfall
We got to the Nam Khan and our stripy tiger boats were waiting to take us downstream to the Tad Sae Waterfall, about 20 minutes away. It was nice to rest and watch the world go by as the boat driver expertly steered us down the river. There were people in their longtail boats fishing, and others doing their washing and tending to their crops on the banks of the river. Rivers really are the lifeblood of this part of Laos.
We docked next to a bunch of other longtails and walked up the hill to the base of the Tad Sae Waterfall. It was a pretty waterfall and far less busy than Kuang Si Waterfall which we had visited the day before. Tad Sae can only be accessed by boat so that’s probably part of the reason! We had an hour to explore and so we walked up the track to see the different parts of the waterfall. The second tier was definitely the best!
Then it was time for the final stretch in the longtails back to the Tiger Trail camp. We enjoyed racing the other boat (we won) and sitting back and enjoying the end of a fantastic day. It was so great being able to see some of the countryside around Luang Prabang and experience village life. It’s striking to see how different their lifestyles are, even such a short distance away from the booming city of Luang Prabang. We would totally recommend getting out there and doing a hike with Tiger Trail, you won’t regret it!
Thanks to Tiger Trail for sponsoring our hike. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook, and look them up when you’re in Luang Prabang! As always, you’ll receive our honest opinions, regardless of who is footing the bill.
Would you go hiking in Laos? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Go on, admit it. You love Instagram! So do I – it’s a fun way to share travel photos and get inspiration about new places to visit. In fact, it’s an integral part of The Global Couple – we post over there far more than we post on here!
Recently, Netflights sent us their blog post about Instagram locations in the USA and asked us to share our favourite Instagram locations in the USA too. We jumped at the chance! The US has such a varied range of landscapes, cities, and people – so there are endless Instagram photo opportunities. We hope you like our favourites – and comment at the end with yours, we would love to know!
The Global Couple’s favourite Instagram locations in the USA
Portland, ME is a photographer’s dream – the cobbled streets, old brick buildings, fishing village vibe, Portland has it all. The food scene is also fantastic so there are plenty of #instafood shots to capture too.
Multnomah Falls, Oregon
The US has no shortage of amazing waterfalls, but one of our favourites is Multnomah Falls, near Portland, Oregon. This is a beautiful spot, particularly in the fall when the leaves are turning. The whole Columbia River Gorge drive is spectacular and definitely worth the detour if you’re in Portland!
New York City from the air
The Big Apple is probably the most Instagrammed city in the world, am I right? I swear every third photo on my feed is NYC sometimes. It’s a popular Insta location for a reason – it’s a fantastic place to visit – but try and get a different angle on the city. We adored our helicopter flight over Manhattan, it was a blast and the resulting photos were pretty damn awesome.
Hawaii has a dramatic coastline – the angry turquoise waves, the lush jungle, the craggy peaks. There are many great Instagram spots, but one particular good one (and easily accessible from Honolulu) is Makapu’u Lookout on the eastern tip of O’ahu.
Grand Canyon, Arizona, in the SNOW
Most people visit Grand Canyon in the summer, and fair enough – it’s the easiest time of year to get there. But the best time of the year to visit is in winter when there is snow on the ground. It’s absolutely magical. Yes, it’s freezing, but there are hardly any people around and it’s drop dead beautiful.
What are your favourite Instagram locations in the USA? Are they the same as any of ours? Share below in the comments!
This post was brought to you by Netflights. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinions, regardless of who is footing the bill.
The East Coast of Australia is a lovely location and a must see for all international and local travelers to Australia. The New South Wales state alone covers a big section of the coast, incorporating gorgeous sandy coastlines, white snow filled towns and a vineyard or more in between.
It’s true, the East Australian Coastline has a few of the most amazing beaches in the world, yet that’s not all it has to offer.
Three Reasons to go:
The Beaches: be amazed at the beauty of an Australian beach!
The Wildlife: Australia has some of the most unique wildlife in the world.
The Aussie People: the local people are fun, relaxed and always willing to help.
Destinations for an Australian East Coast Road Trip
Byron Bay is the legendary beach town that tourists imagine before travelling to Australia, which is precisely why this location is so preferred. The coastlines are something from an Instagrammers dream, the residents are significantly relaxed and the marketplaces are one of a kind!
Most commonly referred to as the Country and Western Capital of Australia, Tamworth is a great regional town situated in the North West of New South Wales. Most famous for hosting the Tamworth Country Music Festival in mid January each year, the area attracts a range of people and for a good reason.
The Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley is situated just over 2 hours north of Sydney and has actually been dubbed the ‘wine country’ by the residents. This might have a something to do with the 150 vineyards that cover the area, making it among Australia’s most well-known wine growing areas.
Newcastle is the second biggest city in New South Wales, situated simply two hours north of Sydney. With fantastic coastlines, bars as well as a vibrant coffee shop scene, it’s an amazing location to check out.
New South Wales could not be effectively explored without travelling to the capital city and one of the very best cities on the planet, Sydney! There is a lot to do in Sydney, you’ll require a number of days to see it all, but it is guaranteed to impress.
Lord Howe Island
If you want snorkelling, diving or fishing Lord Howe Island is for you! Grab your camera and prepare to discover one of Australia’s most gorgeous islands.
The Snowy Mountains
In spite of just what you could assume the Snowy Mountains is not just a winter location, there are lots to do all year round. Nonetheless, throughout winter season it ends up being snow covered and it is spectacular.
Byron Bay has a lot going for it and it’s definitely one to add to the bucket list. It is worth taking a trip to the weekly markets to try the local food and produce and pick up a few interesting souvenirs.
Main Beach is probably the most beautiful and rightfully so, however if you want to feel less like a tourist and more like a local you should make your way to Wategos Beach. Just around the corner from Main Beach, Wategos is surrounded by a headland making it pretty perfect for swimmers!
Make your way to Tamworth for a change of pace. Unlike some other regional towns, there is plenty to do here in Tamworth! You can fish until your heart’s content, go trekking on some of the beautiful walking tracks through the Moonbi Range, or organise a horse ride through the countryside.
You just simply cannot travel to the Hunter Valley without visiting at least one of the many wineries that the region has to offer. With wineries as far as the eye can see, you can just walk outside and pick one that excites you.
Forget lunch today because it’s time to taste some of the best gourmet cheese and chocolate the region has to offer. If you’re a foodie like myself, you are really going to enjoy this part of the trip! Make your way to the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory tasting rooms and eat your way through a cheese platter or two.
Next up, Newcastle! If you consider yourself a bit of a coffee snob do yourself a favour and make your way to Darby Street, located smack bang in the middle of the CBD. This particular area of Newcastle is filled with eccentric cafes, great restaurants and boutique shops.
Cool off and take a dip at Newcastle’s Bogey Hole, which was constructed by convicts in 1820 by order of Commandant Morisset. Originally named the ‘Commandant Baths’, the baths were renamed later to encompass the indigenous heritage of the area.
Photo Credit: Tim J Keegan
After all of your travelling it’s time to stretch your legs and enjoy the breathtaking Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk in our capital city, Sydney. This walk follows a 6 kilometer path that wraps around the coast at the edge of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. It will have you taking in the views and exploring the rock pools, beaches and parks you will pass on your trip.
Tonight embrace the Aussie spirit, and get yourself to a big sports event. The heritage-listed Sydney Cricket Ground hosts some of the most exciting sports in all of Sydney and it’s a must for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in the Australian sport culture.
Be sure to do your research beforehand and book your tickets early to prevent you from missing out. There are plenty of different sporting games held in Sydney so depending on the time of year you are travelling the choice is yours!
Sydney needs more than just a few days, so make your way to The Rocks district, located just next to Circular Quay which is an area full of history and a story to tell around each corner.
With cobblestone streets, cute cafes, boutique stores and some of the country’s oldest pubs, this is definitely a place to come and explore. If you want to have a drink or two and take in the view, check out the Glenmore Hotel rooftop bar.
The World Heritage Listed, Lord Howe Island is the beautiful tropical island you dream about. Just a two hour flight from Sydney, you can walk along white sand beaches, hand feed fish, paddle board over the reef or use a kayak to explore. This island is one of a kind and the perfect place for someone wanting to unwind on the sand.
Depending on what time of year you decide to make your trip to the East Coast of Australia, but if you’re interested in totally embracing the winter weather then there is nowhere else you should be then Jindabyne.
Located in the beautiful Snowy Mountains, Jindabyne is wrapped around a large lake making it a great place to base yourself when visiting the area.
Just a few minutes drive from snowfields Perisher Valley, Thredbo, Selwyn Snowfields and Charlotte’s Pass means that you can enjoy all the winter sports that the area has to offer. Don’t own any snow gear? No need to worry, there is an endless amount of snow hire stores that will sort you out for all your winter needs!
Tips & Advice
Before you head off on your trip Down Under, be sure to jot down all the places you want to go, look on a map and see if it is achievable. Australia is a large country and most of the time there is quite a distance between each location. Make sure you’re spending more time exploring rather than travelling from place to place.
Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, this means that the hottest months are from November to February and the coldest month are from May to August. Depending on what kind of weather you prefer, make sure you keep this in mind when booking.
Slip, slop, slap! The Australian sun is hot and unforgiving so make sure you slip on a t-shirt, slop on some strong sunscreen and slap on a hat when going out in the sun for long periods of time.
I’ve long been obsessed with drone photography – it’s something about seeing the land from a different perspective. It’s why I always claim the window seat on a plane and why my preferred super power would be flight. I just love getting an aerial view of things. So when we decided to invest in a DJI Mavic Pro drone, I was super excited. One step closer to my flying dreams!
Getting to grips with drone photography
Flying a good quality drone like the DJI Mavic Pro really isn’t that hard. If you’ve ever played video games or had a play on a remote controlled car, then you won’t find it hard at all. It’s when you come to taking video that things become interesting, because you have to think about where and how you’re flying, as well as what the shot looks like on screen! We’re yet to master video but thankfully taking stills is much easier.
The first time we took the drone out was at the Auckland Domain on a perfect day – no wind, blue skies, just stunning. I flew a bit too close to a group doing a bootcamp fitness class (whoops, I really wasn’t spying! Just getting the hang of flying!). Shaun and my brother Patrick were pros from the start – probably something to do with them being males and having many more hours of Xbox experience than me.
It was amazing seeing this little buzzy thing take off and fly around, and all of us were amazed at how easy it was to fly. The best thing is that you can take your hands off all the controls and it just hovers there – so handy.
Exploring our backyard by drone
One of the coolest things about owning a drone is flying it in places we have been many times before, but getting to see it from a whole new perspective. We’ve had our family home in central Auckland for 25 years, but of course we’ve never seen it from the air! Our home looks out on some historic boatsheds, so Shaun flew the drone across the water (I was way too scared) and snapped some awesome shots of the boatsheds. On the way back to base, the drone got attacked by seagulls (over the water, ahh!) but luckily they didn’t hit it and we made it home safe.
Having a drone has made us go out and about in the winter weekends when usually we would hang around home. It’s great to have a purpose to those weekends that would otherwise just disappear! We’ve visited a dam in the Waitakere Ranges, a nature reserve in East Auckland, beaches, and a volcano/military defence area (North Head). Recently we visited our holiday home in the Bay of Islands and flew the drone there. It was stunning, as we expected it would be. We can’t wait to go out to the islands on our boat (it was too windy that weekend) – the beaches are just beautiful so I can’t wait to see them from the air.
We love our drone – it has opened up a whole new world of photography for us and is really fun to use. We totally recommend getting one, but make sure you are careful where you fly!
Driving up a gravel forestry road in the pitch black with dwindling cellphone reception, we wondered where on earth we were heading. Through a padlocked gate and across some farm bridges, finally our destination came into sight.
The warm glow coming from a safari-style canvas tent was a welcoming beacon in the darkness (although I’m not sure you would call it a tent as it was really something much more luxurious, but I digress). Finally we had arrived at Highfield River Retreat, our home away from home for the weekend.
Glamping in New Zealand
Glamping (glamour-camping) has massively increased in popularity in recent years, with people seeking a luxurious getaway with all the amenities of a fancy resort. Forget those leaky air mattresses and fold out chairs, glamping sites are well-equipped with anything you would hope to find in a resort-style abode.
We unfolded ourselves from the car and excitedly zipped open the tent door. Inside was a large squishy bed, a couch, and even a chandelier (no, I’m not kidding). The adjoining kauri timber hut contained the kitchen, comfy seating, and a sizeable bathroom with flush toilet and proper shower.
What luxury! Then we spotted the pièce de résistance – the outdoor bathtub. On went the hot water and it was time for a bath before bed. Despite a few moths landing in the bath (we were in the great outdoors, after all), it was heavenly sitting in the steaming water, glass of red wine in hand, listening to the crickets and the gurgle of the nearby stream.
During the night we were amazed to hear the call of multiple kiwi – New Zealand’s national bird and a species that is in a vulnerable state. It was such a fantastic feeling to hear kiwi calling in the wild; it is such a rarity for city-dwellers like us to come into contact with our most famous native species.
We woke up to a chilly morning and warmed up with coffee made on the camp stove along with pancakes topped with honey harvested from Highfield Farm’s own beehives.
It was so serene sitting outside the tent and warming up in the sun’s rays as they broke over the ridge behind us. After breakfast we zipped up the tent and headed north to see some of Earth’s biggest living things: kauri trees.
Kauri: Gods of the forest
New Zealand’s kauri are a sight to behold – these straight, massive trees with splaying crowns are incredibly impressive. Tane Mahuta is the largest living kauri tree, and thought to be the oldest at over 2000 years old. Te Matua Ngahere is the fattest. You don’t actually realise how huge these trees are until you see them in the flesh – they’re gobsmacking. How can something living get that big!?
Te Matua Ngahere (above)
Tane Mahuta (above)
After ogling at these gods of the forest (Tane Mahuta means Lord of the Forest in Maori), we continued further north until we reached the Hokianga Harbour. This harbour is edged by sleepy holiday towns on its southern shore and massive sand dunes on its northern shore. We ate a delicious lunch over the water at the Boatshed Cafe in Rawene – such a cute spot.
Back to the tent and the afternoon was spent reading in the sunshine – bliss! We ate dinner at the local pub, a true kiwi experience, complete with hilarious locals who had had a few too many beers. After dinner we drove the short distance to Trounson Kauri Park and walked around a bush track in the dark for an hour in the hope of seeing a kiwi. Unfortunately we didn’t see any although we heard heaps calling, but we did see a fat possum (boo!) and an eel in a stream.
The next morning we slept in and had a soak in the outdoor bath before heading back towards Auckland. What a relaxing weekend! If only we could escape to a Highfield River Retreat every weekend…
Our first experience of glamping (and trust us, this won’t be our last – as soon as we got back into cellphone reception we were looking up the other sites under Canopy Camping’s umbrella!) was such a joy. We loved having a weekend away from the internet and the city, and in the bush, but with the added bonus of such beautiful luxury.
We fully recommend checking out a glampsite near you – and if you’re in New Zealand definitely look up Canopy Camping!
Thanks to Canopy Camping for sponsoring our weekend at Highfield River Retreat. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinions, regardless of who is footing the bill.
Have you ever been glamping? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!