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:

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:

    Trip Pulse: Australia Part 1/3 – Western Australia with Kids

    Australia with Kids – One can travel indefinitely here

    Our RTW trip brought us to a five week adventure in Australia, a truly interesting and welcoming country with breathtaking beauty. Known for crocs, poisonous toads, sharks, flying boomerangs and Aboriginal culture – we, like most people were very intrigued by this distant land.

    We loved the 35,876 km coastline which offered sun, sea and surf in abundance! Apart from the lively beach culture, Aussies love their cricket, footy (Australian football) and Vegemite, extremely salty and savoury taste made from yeast extract.

    Austin and Amie – a big thank you from us three! Your warmth and hospitality was reflective of Australia’s open and welcoming nature to travellers. Speaking of ‘nature’, we experienced some really heavy downpour on the East Coast.

    Western Australia – Awe-inspiring beauty and extraordinary experiences

    If you’re visiting Australia with children, you’ll love it! From Singapore, we headed to Perth, an isolated city, home to circa 1.7 million people but quite far from the hustle and bustle of the country’s bigger cities. Blessed by the Fremantle Doctor (west southerly wind), this location resembles Southern California for its beautiful beachside drives, excellent infrastructure and affluent society.

    Western Australia Piers

    We met some very friendly folk like Maryellen and Oli at Mullaloo Beach and Finn and Jon (fellow couchsurfers) who shared with us some invaluable tips about Australia and their own travel experiences. Thank you for inviting us!


    Keep in mind that Perth is quite far from other locations worth visiting (a day’s drive at times). This is important to note, especially if you’re planning to be in Australia with kids.

    Western Australia Dinner with Couchsurfing friends

    We drove past the amazing sand dunes of Lancelin, have seen the Pinnacles (unreal  limestone formations) in the Nambung National Park, experienced the Margaret River one of Australia’s most important wine regions and walked on a 2 km long Busselton Jetty – which happens to be the longest wooden pier in the Southern Hemisphere.

    There are tons of other attractions and experiences like wine tasting in which you can indulge if you have more time. 

    Our journey brought us to Cape Leeuwin (most south-westerly mainland point of the Australian Continent, 18,500 km away from Toronto. This was the furthest point from home on our journey.

    Western Australia Cape Leeuwin

    It was worth to go this far as we enjoyed every moment, Western Australia is as big and interesting as one’s imagination.

    Australia with Children – Never a dull moment!


    We headed out to Lancelin which is a small fishing village popular for jeep tours on sand dunes. People often surf these dunes on modified surf boards. Niko enjoyed running around on the dunes, slipping and sliding along the way.

    Western Australia Lancelin Sand dunes

    He also enjoyed bike riding in Perth and the many playgrounds in the region. Apart from the white sand beaches, Niko loved the Whiteman Park in the Swan Valley and the Caversham Wildlife Park.

    Things to Keep in Mind – Travel tips for Western Australia

    If you’re in Australia on your round the world trip it’s best to rent a car as organized tours are rather expensive. You can get a detailed map and suggested travel itineraries at any tourist information centres that dot the country. However, if you’re planning a road trip, book your accommodations well in advance, so you can take a break in-between those long drives.

    Western Australia delivered all that it had promised and more!

    If you have similar adventures from Western Australia, please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

    Here are some of our photos from our Western Australia: