Trip Pulse: New Zealand on steroids part 1/2 – North Island

New Zealand with children – part 1 of our adventure

If we were to tell you that New Zealand is “nature on steroids”, we wouldn’t be far wrong.

Everything here is in technicolour – the grass is greener, the trees are taller, there are ferns everywhere. And we mean everywhere.

It’s no wonder that ferns are the official symbol of the nation and the All Blacks rugby team. Despite being a young nation (one of the last places on Earth to have been inhabited by people) the population is increasing, with most people living on the smaller and perhaps less scenic North Island, yet still one of the most beautiful places we have seen on our trip.

Maori people migrated to New Zealand at the beginning of the 13th Century and their communities play a prominent part in society, despite the occasional conflict between them and the government. As well as all of this diversity, New Zealand was also the filming place of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy – who wouldn’t want to check out that scenery?!

Auckland – City of Sails

Auckland is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the whole country. As it sits on the water (where sat moored some of the most amazing yachts we’ve ever seen), it feels more relaxed than many of the other cities.

Auckland (New Zealand)

The streets are filled with backpackers, travelers and students (but this isn’t a bad thing, honest!). There are good meal deals to be had during the week although prices jump considerably at the weekends. Despite being a big, bustling city, it’s also surprisingly the home of AJ Hackett, the original bungee jumping daredevil, and the birthplace of bungee – you can even bungee off the Sky Tower, an icon on the city skyline.

Bay of Islands – water sports galore

If water sports are your thing, then the Bay of Islands are definitely for you. Kayaking, sailing, fishing and scuba diving can all be sought after from the great jumping-off point of Pahia. If none of that floats your boat (pardon the pun) you can always swim with dolphins or take a trip to Ninety Mile Beach (which actually is ninety miles long – gasp!) for some impressive views. Although we didn’t make it to Cape Reinga, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, we’ve seen so many great photographs of this northern part of the island, we may have to make another trip.

Coromandel – diverse coastline with a hot tub

Unfortunately for us, our time in Coromandel was very rainy and the ocean water was cold. Despite that, we were still amazed by Cathedral Cove, made famous by film, The Chronicles of Narnia and a trip to this area of the world wouldn’t be complete without creating your own hot tub at Hot Water Beach.

Coromandel Peninsula Scenery

A highlight of our time here was a visit to Steward Pig Farm, a piglet farm which has been open since the 60s. Niko loved the interaction with the black piglets, so it’s a great place for families.

Mt Manganui – Surfer’s Paradise

Located in the Bay of Plenty, Mt Manganui is named after the inactive 230 metre (750 feet) volcano, which, incidentally, we climbed and would definitely recommend. Mount Maunganui - New Zealand with Kids
The area is a surfer’s paradise and is home to many surfing competitions, as well as volleyball tournaments on the white sand beaches. Another great thing about New Zealand – how soft and white the sand is. Amazing!

Rotorua – Maori central

How to describe Rotorua in one word? Stinky. Located on the thermal explorer highway, you are hit with the smell of sulphur as soon as you enter this part of the island (imagine the smell of rotten eggs, and it comes pretty close). But everything comes at a price and the reason for the smell is the amazing geysers and geothermal baths that can be seen around the region. Rotorua is also a centre for Maori culture and you can watch many cultural shows and eat traditional Maori meals here.

Tagariro National Park – stunning views and hikes

Many who come here will be doing so to tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a famous and stunning hike that takes around eight hours. Not us – climbing Mt Manganui was enough exertion! Tagariro National Park New Zealand - New Zealand with KidsInstead we opted for a nice 20 minute hike which is perfect for families that rather explored the nature in this area. It’s also fun to say that you’ve been in one of the film locations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, hike or no hike.

Wellington – multicultural and artsy

Not only is Wellington the capital city of New Zealand, it’s also the southernmost capital city of the world. Multicultural and artsy, this colourful city also manages to retain a small city feel. As we arrived on the busiest day of the year, just as a music festival rolled into town, we had to settle for an overpriced motel room in a neighbouring area. One of the highlights of the city is definitely the Te Papa Museum, filled with interactive games, multimedia stuffed animals and dinosaur artifacts – informational and yet fun.

Nature on Steroids indeed. What else can you ask for? Perhaps the South Island? Second part coming soon. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What would your perfect family adventure in New Zealand look like?

Here are some of our photos from this trip:

Here are some of our photos from North Island of New Zealand:

Australia with children – The best New South Wales and Queensland have to offer family travellers Part 3/3

Australia with children – Our east-coast road trip!


To put it simply, we loved Sydney. You’ll find much culture and entertainment, colonial history, a fantastic variety of cuisine and of course some of the best city beaches! What a great time we had with Niko at Bronti, Tamarama and Bondi beach! We were amazed by the beauty of this Coastal Walk. If it wasn’t for the weather we would have visited the famous Manly beach as well.

Sydney is one of our favourite “big” cities on our around the world trip.  
Opera House in Sydney

Of course we coudn’t miss a visit to the iconic Sydney Harbour, home to the equaly famous Harbour Bridge and the architectural masterpiece, the Opera House. If you think of Australia, I bet the image of the Opera House is in the top 3 images you will think of. In fact, The Opera house earned itself status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. We also took a stroll in the 30 acre Botanical Gardens. It’s a must!

While the climb over the Harbour Bridge is rather expensive ($200pp) you can still enjoy amazing city views while crossing the bridge on foot or car, which we did.

Sydney on foot

We love to discover cities on foot, so we walked everywhere. We spent some time by The Rocks, a destinct central area of narrow cobblestoned laneways full of galleries, restaurants, and boutiques.
We also walked through the grand Centennial Park, and discovered Oxford street in Paddington referred to by locals as “Paddo”. It is one of the most historically rich, culturally vibrant spots in Sydney with many shops, cafés, bars and a popular open-air market held every Saturday.

Austin and Martin in Sydney by Bronti beach

Friends are essential

While in Sydney, we stayed at a homey residential area, Alexandria close to the bohemian King street, home to many students, artists and the gay community. Here you can expect to see much colour and greenery, small yet quirky businesses as well as affordable and eclectic cuisine.
If you’re traveling to Australia with children, finding affordable accommodations is challenging, so do your research well in advance. We were lucky to be staying with Austin and Amie, our friends, who opened up their home and hearts to us with home cooked, gourmet meals, great wine and an invaluable perspective on Australia. They also helped us tremendously in preparing our road trip which made it so much more memorable!
Amie and Austin – Thank you so much! If you’re ever in Canada, we hope you’ll look us up!

Our road trip highlights … of the 2000 kilometer stretch from Sydney to Airlie Beach.

New South Wales

Nelson Bay

Out here, you can expect calm and safe beaches, plenty of water activities such as snorkelling and diving and lots of sun and surf. Niko really enjoyed the Nelson Head Heritage Lighthouse and Reserve.

Port Macquarie coast in NSW

Port Macquarie

Although we stopped at this location only for a few hours, we enjoyed the view of the stunning coastline. Many tourists relax by the river or take a boat tour and shop for arts and crafts in this charming little town. If you have time, do visit the Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park as well as the Sea Acres National Park and Rainforest Centre. Your kids will have an unforgettable time!

Byron Bay and Ballina

This is yet another one of our preferred destinations on our RTW tour of eastern Australia.
Australia - New South Wales - Byron Bay

If you’re a backpacker or a surfer, then you can call this paradise! You’ll find many twenty-somethings heading out here to surf, socialize and simply have a good time. We enjoyed celebrating Australia Day along with the locals and tourists who seemed to love the laid back atmosphere of the seaside. It is here we celebrated Australia Day with the locals and I have the shirt to prove it!

Byron Bay - Australia

Up at the lighthouse, on the most eastern parts of Australia’s mainland, we enjoyed the breathtaking views of the coast. It really is a worthy destination! To relax, you can either hang out by the beach or visit the local watering holes for a drink. Accommodations can be expensive, that is why we stayed at Ballina, a more cost-effective option just 30 minutes away.



Although it poured nonstop while we were there, this laid-back and welcoming city has quite a bit to offer. This cosmopolitan city (and the third largest in Australia) has world-class art galleries, a growing live music scene and a great café culture.

Noosa Heads

This charming, low-rise, relaxed and leafy town is another top destination, especially if you’re in Australia with kids. Noosa Heads not only has amazing beaches but it also hosts a population of koalas, which are spotted in and around the National Park. We stopped over for 3 days during our eastern discovery trip and enjoyed every minute of it!

Noosa Heads Australia Queensland


Rockhampton lies on the Tropic of Capricorn, officially marking the geographic border of 23 degrees

Tropic of Capricorn - Australia

south where the sun always shines approximately the same length of time all year-long. The town is also the capital of cattle and sheep growers, quite similar to Calgary, Canada or Texas in the USA. It is an interesting rest stop.

Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands

This is a breathtaking, must-see place if you’re in Australia with children!
This was our last destination on the East coast before moving on to New Zealand.

Airlie Beach Lagoon

just perfect for kids. Airlie Beach doesn’t really have a beach per se and the fear of the stingers is quite great for most of the Summer season. These natural-looking pools offer a perfect spot for sunbathing and amazing area for kids to play in the shallows.

Whitehaven Beach

The Whitsunday Island beaches have powder white sands (98 percent pure silica) and sparkling, turquoise clear waters.

Whitheaven Beach - Australia's Best Beach

Not only has it been voted as one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches but also most eco-friendly. In fact, the sand is so pure that NASA used it to make glass for the optics of the Hubble Telescope. But don’t think of taking some sand away with you unless you’re willing to pay a fine of about 28K:), as shared with us by one of the tour guides. (read: unverified but a good story nonetheless)

You’ll love the experience of swimming among baby sharks in these warm and pristine waters. Get a stinger suit, so you won’t get stung by a box jellyfish or a stingray. Don’t forget your snorkelling gear!

Great Barrier Reef

While in Airlie Beach, you can easily book to sail the Whitsundays to the world’s largest coral reef; Great Barrier Reef (GBR) which is over 2,400km long.
No wonder, the GBR is one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

Diving in Great Barrier Reef Australia

It’s so grand that it visible from the earth’s orbit unlike the popular myth of views of the Great Wall of China. I loved my day-long diving experience at the reef and came away with most amazing memories and new knowledge.

Our time here was relaxing yet exciting and we were pampered by excellent accommodations which offered the most delightful views of the great blue sea. We’re certainly looking forward to coming back to this vibrant country!

Australia with Children – Travel Tips

  • Australia is expensive – it took a toll on our budget. It is as expensive as Switzerland or Japan so be mindful when you prepare your budget. We met a few people who had to shorten their trip due to budget constraints. Use services like or last minute flash deals to save!
  • Activities for kids – Check out the local tourism website to find listing of latest events for kids or locations of kids attractions or just ask a parent at the local playground as there are plenty!
  • Accommodations at hostels are not necessarily the best option – Parents take note. Hostels charge per person, usually 25-40 pp/night, so a stay for a family of 3 or 4 can cost more than a stay at a mediocre hotel. Some people opt for camping, others for camper vans but these are not as cheap as we would have hoped. If you find accommodations for a family for $100 you are doing well..
  • Internet is slow and expensive – most hotels charge extra for internet and it is not very fast nor reliable. Get a sim card with data plan (we found a good plan at the Woolworth’s supermarket) and use it with your unlocked smart phone. A good bet is hooking up to a free wifi connection at Mc Donald’s. Some city centres also have free wi-fi spots.
  • Australia is empty and huge – We flew three times to cover the largest distances in Australia from Perth – Darwin – Sydney and then from Airlie Beach and still managed to drive over 5000 km in 5 weeks. You can expect many stretches without seeing other cars especially in the North. So, be prepared. Get maps, lots of water, food, sunscreen, cell phone and GPS.
  • Sun in Australia – On many summer days the UV index reaches the maximum levels of 12+ (normal is around 6) so, be sun-smart. Cover up and use appropriate sunscreen. You will notice many warning signs in Australia in regards to sun safety!
  • Check out the Tourist Office – Australia has one of the best developed tourist infrastructures in the world. The information centres are very informative with excellent maps, guides, deals and helpful staff to assist you with planning your journey. It’s free too.

Robust cities, beautiful beach life and awesome surf and diving. What else can you ask for? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here are some of our photos from this trip:

Here are some of our photos from New South Wales and Queensland in Australia:

Trip Pulse: Australia Part 2/3 – Wild Wild North

Australia: mystic, wet and hot Northern Territory

Our tour of Australia with kid continued with our visit to the hot and wet Northern Territory that included Darwin, Kakadu and Litchfield parks. All 3 places provided memories and thrills we shall remember forever and all are worthy of any world traveller, preferably during the dry season.

We wanted to come here to explore this side of Australia, as it is a gateway to the famous Outback.

Darwin during the Wet

We arrived in Darwin, during the rainy season also referred to by locals as “the Wet”. Any tourist activity during this season which is rather long, from November to April was very low. Many businesses and shops were closed and those who stayed open, decided to charge an arm and a leg for accommodations and car rentals.

Northern Territory Australia

One of our goals during our round the world trip is to learn about the culture of the country we’re visiting. In Darwin, you’ll get a glimpse of the Aboriginal heritage and culture mostly through original artworks. We bought some small paintings ourselves from a very interesting local gallery. If you however, want to take a closer look at Aboriginal day-to-day life, you should get a special permit to visit the reserves.

Kakadu Park – “timeless place – exceptional beauty”

Australia’s largest national park, Kakadu, covers an area of 19,804 km2 (bigger than Fiji or Kuwait) and is located within the Alligator Rivers region, called that for its literal meaning.

It is a must-see, not only because of its UNESCO World Heritage status but mainly due to its renowned richness of Aboriginal art rock sites that tell stories of giant kangaroos and life of the natives for 40 thousand years.

We were there during the rainy season characterized by high temperatures and some intense and heavy rain. Unfortunately, many roads were closed off due to floods but that surely didn’t stop three smiling native girls from having fun in these croc-infested waters and it didn’t stop us to attempt to cross one of those roads with our little Hyundai.

Western Australia Piers

Natasza wasn’t smiling one day (read ‘terrified’) when we drove back to our ‘hotel’ one night during a wicked thunderstorm. Let’s just say, it was the most spectacular symphony of lights and thunders we will never forget. As picturesque and lively the surroundings are during the Wet, we recommend you visit the park during the Dry as it will be much more accessible and kid-friendly.

Out On the Road in Northern Territories Of Australia

While driving, keep your eye out for ‘road trains’ which are these formidable four trailer trucks with as many as 36 wheels. Trust me, I counted! These certainly reminded me of the movie classic – Mad Max! The roads have many warning signs for crocs, flash floods so be cautious. Also worth mentioning are great distances between cities, attractions and major hubs. For this reason we decided not to drive to the famous red rock, Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock), as it would have been a 1,500 km drive (one way) and most car rental companies will charge extra for milage.

Kakadu National Park

Niko’s kangaroos and ugly toads. Norther Territory is a gift for a curious toddler.

Being an animal lover, Niko was thrilled to see many Kangaroo’s in their natural habitat. He also caught sight of some storks, black parrots and the infamous turd. Although he was yearning to see a croc, thankfully the only one he met was a happily stuffed one at a local tourist information centre. Apart from that, he enjoyed the sacred aboriginal grounds where we got to see amazing rock art.

Things to Keep in Mind while visiting Australia’s Northern territory.

If Litchfield Park is on your agenda during your Australian adventure, book your accommodations early, as there are limited rooms. This national park, just a short hour drive from Darwin, offers stunning tropical waterfall panoramas and refreshing dip. Here we also learned of Cathedral termites

Litchfield National Park - Australia
that build these amazing magnetic mounds, architectural nature’s wonders designed to shelter the termites from the wet lands and aligned north to south minimise the exposure to the sun. Nature is brilliant, isn’t it?

Last piece for advice:

  • Plan for the journey and stock up on water and food, especially if you’re traveling in Northern Australia with kids.
  • Fill up the car with gas before you enter parks as there are limited stations and far apart.
  • If your budget allows, get a 4WD vehicle as it will be easier to maneuver the rough terrain. It’s wise to stay on the beaten path and not venture out to blocked paths due to floods and the crocs.
  • In-spite of the danger signs and the wild outback, we enjoyed our adventure in the North – it really is a wild and rugged region, worth exploring.

    Poisonous toads, floods, threatening thunders? Do you still think it’s worth a visit? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Here are some of our photos from this trip:

    Here are some of our photos from our Western Australia: