Backpacking New Zealand 2009

At the end of 2008 I decided quit my job and in the new year start a solo trip my first in fact, backpacking to New Zealand it was.

This trip was 2009 so many things may of changed, and with that if anyone has been recently I would love to know more about these places I visited and what it is like now.

I took the NZ1 Air New Zealand from London Heathrow to Christchurch via Los Angeles and Christchurch. Which now seems an odd route, but didn’t care at the time the excitement was to much.

Arriving at 6 am with just a bag and nowhere to stay the adventure had started I was about to start backpacking through New Zealand

Christchurch

Christchurch was a beautiful and vibrant city, after arriving the the Cathedral Square and seeing i was delighted at how beautiful the center was. The city was alive we people packed into coffee shops and cafes. The sun was shining and everybody seemed to be happy.

Cathedral Square’s uniqueness and beauty was partly down to the cathedral itself a stunning piece of architecture, which was a pleasant surprise to fairly modern approach the city looked. Another great addition running through the city were the old style wooden trams which have been running for years.

I Was only to stay the one night, as I wanted to set my sights away from a city. So an early morning coach and I was off to Queenstown.

Queenstown

The drive into Queenstown was one I will never forget. The rugged landscape, wild rivers, unbelievable views and most of all perched in the middle of it all a picture perfect town.

Although known for its great ski resort, the town is also a huge attraction in the summer. With its wide range of extreme sports, jet boating, bungee to name a few.

Queenstown Bungee

Frisbee Golf

With all the adventure that surrounds Queensland its quite amusing we got right into Frisbee golf of all things.

A course through the forest replacing clubs and balls with Frisbees and holes with buckets a game for anyone to play.

Want find out a bit more on this unique sport check out Chrstchurch Disc Golf Club for the rules, courses and a whole bunch of information and competitions.

The Best Hostel

Our accommodation was great, even nearly 15 years on now  it was the best hostel we have stayed in hands down. With no large dorms and only 6 bed per room, with a share computer in each room. Breakfast items were layed out in the mornings and tv room with lounges made a great homely stay. Although the name didn’t lend to its quality “The Last Resort Hostel”

Getting The Wheels For The Road Trip

My friend who I was travelling with prior to me arriving managed to find tbis little cash buy of a couple in Queenstiwn. I think $800 was the price with plenty of room and not one problem the whole trip. It was a steal of a buy.

Roadtrip car

Dunedin

Dunedin was only  a one night stop on our way down to the Catlins. One thing was for sure on this short leg was we wanted to get out onto the Otago Peninsula.

Sandfly Bay And Sea liins

We got down to Sandfly Bay late afternoon  we heard this was a good spot to see Sea Lions.

Sandfly Bay

Unfortunately for us we didn’t see any and we almost hit caught out with the light as it the night had closed in and an exit was only through a small gap at the top of a sanddune luckily we found our way through

Curio Bay

Curio Bay was not somewhere that was on the radar but after a night out and when we got chatting to some fellow travellers and a recommendation was made to visit we duly obliged and headed down.

The little town of Curio Bay was tiny a little street one shop a few scatterings of houses and a hostel. I do wonder what in 2021 the Bay looks like now.

Curio Bay street

Yellow Eyed Penguins

Curio Bay visit was for one reason its one of the best places to view the rare yellow eyed penguins, with the long rocky beach front it was a perfect spot where the penguins came in at night.

Curio Bay Sunset

One thing I loved about Curio Bay the most was the sunsets over the adjoining Bay Purpoise Bay. We would sit out on the hostel veranda and take in all its beauty and relax.

Sunset on Purpoise Bay
More sunset on Purpoise Bay

Hector Dolphins

We took surf lessons on our second day down on the Bay and we found out the the yellow eyed penguins were not the only rare local bread so to were the Hector Dolphins.

A very unique type of dolphin by the way they loved shallow waters. When we managed to stand up on the boards (which was not much) the dolphins would swim alongside us. It really was a surreal feeling and one to cherish.

Dolphins riding the waves

Milford Sound

The Milford Sound sits on the west side of the island, and even to this day is one of the most picturesque destinations i have been to. Its striking formation makes the trip into the sound jaw dropping and one we will never forget.

The Beauty Of The Sound

We arrived in a place called Te Anau just outside Milford Sound to stay in a cabin on top of the hills before our morning boat journey through sound.

It was a perfect morning we got to travel with the sun shining and very little wind.

As you can see below we navigated through the sound and its beautiful blue waters coming across many waterfalls and some stunning rock formations. We even managed to catch a rainbow or two as the boat reversed into the waterfalls for a bit of a thrill for those standing on the back balconies.

Seeing The Seals

One other sight to be seen in the Milford Sound is and all through the sound where the amount of seals that are about. We could see them lazing around on the rocks soaking up a bit of sun. We managed to get up close to some and it was a real treat to see them in there own habitat.

Motueka

Apple Picking Farm

We arrived in Motueka when we scored a few jobs on a apple orchard in Motueka. Accommodation was provided albeit very basic but we didn’t care. And we set off for a 5 week stint at picking apples.

Home Away From

After finishing up at the farm we moved into town to the  White Elephant hostel  Motueka.

A small scale backpackers with dorms in the house, cabins out the back and also camping.

It was here we met some great friends, had some great laughs and I believe shared a drink or two.

We settled into the white elephant for a while and found another job in a factory. It was here also that I joined Motueaka FC soccer club and signed on for the season. It was starting to feel very homely.

Motueka FC

The Finest Beaches

At the weekends we tried to get out and explore and to our joy there were plenty of little hidden sandy beaches to be found around the area. With little hidden coves to long stretches so beautiful to see.

We had seen some great Coastline along our journey but this had a different feel gone were those rugged shores and with crystal clear blue water its was beginning to be more paradise.

Farewell Spit

Right at the top of the South Island is the Farewell Spit. A large sand spit, full of sand dunes and eye catching views. It runs east from Cape Farewell which is the south island most northern point.

We took a day trip there, a fine day and the views were breathtaking. We climbed sand dunes, swam and nestled into a picnic, there are certainly not many better picnic spots than Farewell Spit.

Abel Tasman

I heard so much about the Abel Tasman, it was one I was looking forward to the most.

We wanted to camp in the national park by one of the remote beaches. And with that we found a campsite and a completely remote beach not accessible by car so we had to take a boat.

After arriving at the beach we got parked up and hoped on to the pristine sandy beaches, was this heavan ?

I remember it being very quiet with only a handful of people.

We were surrounded in lush forest with walkways and entries to walking tracks into the Abel Tasman National Park.

About half way up the beach we found an opening in the forest which lead to a small scale campsite. We fired up the camping stove and got cooking.

Finishing The South Island

A fair few months later after working hard we decided to pack up and end over the Tasman and give Australia a go.

Landing in Brisbane in May 2009 to start a new journey which eventually lead to the Gold Coast were I spent 13 great years.

Gold Coast

Fancy following on our journey then check out some adventures we got upto on the Gold Coast.

A Road Trip To Doolin And Cliffs Of Moher

The Road Trip

So it’s road trip time, the first as a family of 4, with an 8 month old and 2 year old the challenge was getting to witness great sights in the west of Ireland but bringing enough entertain and incorporating some kids activities. You may say a real “Chalk and Cheese” trip. The final destination is Doolin in County Clare, the entry to the Cliffs of Moher, so here is what we came up to.

Glendeer Pet Farm

With all driving and stopping and starting over the next few days, we thought it was only fair to bring the kids to somewhere they would love to start this road trip. Another reason, it will tire them out for the road trip ahead and give a little bit of respite and make the journey a bit more manageable.

Location

Located about 10 minutes west of Athlone, just off the M6 at junction 13 and follow the signs to Glendeer

Whats At The Farm

Glendeer has a great range of animals to see

  • Donkeys
  • Cows
  • Ostrich
  • Hens
  • Goats
  • Monkeys
  • Turtle
  • Lizards
  • Pigs

On entrance kids get free bag of feed to give the animals (beware the ostrich darts in)

They all have ample space to move around  and are certainly well looked after and very happy.

Other Things To Do

Other activities for kids include indoor play area with slides, a huge outdoor playground, nature walk.

The Glendeer pet farm also features this  beautifully restored 1850s cottage. With original features all in place.

So with the kids happy enough and tired, we hopped back on the car and off to our next stop.

Galway

We decided to head to Galway from the farm as it would be a great starting point to head down south. We could take in some of the Wild Atlantic Way and the Burren.

Refuel

We parked up at the docks and after a short walk we stumbled on a little cafe and pancake bar called Pascal. The quaint entrance drew our attention and the pancakes didn’t take away from the great looks, they were delicious.

For the journey coffee was needed and as good Americano as i have had in a long while with a creamy crema on top, always a god sign.

Kinvara

As we headed off down the Wild Atlantic Way our first point of call was the beautiful little village of Kinvara, and known as the gateway to the Burren.

Picturesque and idylic location which was once a thriving fishing port, but now known as a small fishing village.

Known for its great range of traditional pubs and a top spot to kick back and sink a few of the liquid gold. (The Guiness).

We also noticed many a independently run coffee shops and café scattered along the main street.

Dunguaire Castle

For tourists Kinvarra is known for one of the prettiest castles in the west Ireland the Dunguaire Castle. Ideally located on the waters edge adding to its appeal and striking look. 

Dunguaire Castle

Built in 1520, the castle was known for its feasting and banquets and to this day the tradition is kept alive. Banquet nights run from April to October. In keeping with the traditions, traditional food and entertainment are experienced just like it would of been many years ago.

Burren way

After leaving Kinvarra, we started to make our way through the Burren region and headed cross country following the signs for the Cliffs of Moher. The Burren, meaning Rocky is a vast piece of land and hills very distinctive and unique, almost moon like rocky limestone formation.

It was here we stumbled across the Alliwee Caves, unfortunately we couldn’t go in with an 8 month old it was going to be hard to manage. But not to be to deterred we drove up to the top and parked up for some of these great views of the Burren region in all it’s glory.

The Burren
Views of the Burren

Once we soaked up our view we headed back off and through the Burren and through the town of Listonvarna home of the one and only Matchmaking Festivals (we will maybe do this one another time). And then through to our stay for the next few nights Doolin.

Doolin

We arrived at the northern side gateway to the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin. We wanted to check out our Airbnb but the excitement got the better of us and with limited light left we headed straight to the center.

Straightaway we were blown away with how picturesque and beautiful this little village is. Streets lined with beautiful old buildings, local independent businesses and an array of pubs and eateries.

Doolin Village

With its coastal views and huge Cliffs along the shoreline it mad for some great views, and great start to our visit to Doollin.

Doolin Views

So Where Abouts Is Doolin

To give a view of where Doolin is located along this part of the coast the map below should help.

Things To Do

Doolin may be tiny in size but there is plenty to do in this little village. Here below is a few picks.

  • Doolin Caves
  • Doolin Ferries to Aran Islands and around the Cliffs of Moher
  • Doonagore castle
  • Doolin to cliffs walk
  • Doolin Food Tour

Eat And Drink

As we said Doolin is full of eateries, now with that said going late October and at the beginning of the week a lot were shut. Bare in mind Doolin is a seasonal place so maybe check a few places out before hand if traveling between October and May.

We decided to keep it traditional and tried a few of the pubs. The first pub was McGanns, a real traditional pub with a ton of character.

We all opted for the fish and chips, freshly battered local fish and hand cut chips. Was a delicious introduction to the food scene in Doolin, and a happy fed family.

McGanns is also a place known for it’s great music sessions, with nightly music a regular occurrence.

McGanns Pub

Night two we went and tried another pub and this time it was Fitz Bar which is part of the Doolin hotel on the main street.

I went with the buttermilk chicken burger whilst Michelle had the chickpea and beetroot burger both juicy and delicious. I couldn’t pass up a pint of Guiness and was a great creamy pint.

Fitz Bar

Our Stay Airbnb

We chose to find a Airbnb as we were with the kids and it gives a bit more space and freedom. We were on a Airbnb buzz after our stay in Navan at the Bective we wanted to find another treat. And that we found.

Nestled up in the hills with feature window giving unprecedented views across the Doolin coastline. The 2 bedroom 2 story apartment was a new build and incredibly well finished and comfy.

The apartment well spotlessly clean and Trish and her family most accommodating

For availability check with HOST

Day 2 The Cliffs Of Moher

The famous Cliffs of Moher, we are going to give a different spin to the normal routine of visiting the Cliffs. With have 2 very young kids the Cliffs are a difficult prospect, firstly the walk is a fair distance (we are calling this a fair walk based on both our children being under 3) and secondly the wind makes it all the more difficult , unless obviously is a still day, but hey its called the Wild Atlantic Way for a reason.

We managed to find a cheat for families by the name Guerins Walk. Located a 1 km passed the main entrance to the Cliffs is this path and small car park. As you can see below we got parked right up next to the Cliffs and only metres away.

Cliffs Parking

The white sign below is the one your looking for from the road turn up here and the entrance is about 1km up this road on the right hand side the entrance is below right picture.

Back in the car and off again

Driving Around The Back Roads

We love to explore the back streets and places nobody sees with the boys cosy and napping in the back we went off the beaten track in search of some views.

At times the streets were so narrow we were glad there was no oncoming traffic, but it certainly gave us some great views and vantage points.

After losing reception we did got a bit lost but popped out òn the main stretch from the Cliffs to Lahinch.

And it was at this point  it was where we found a little coffee stop off

The Best Coffee In Ireland

We had seen the signs advertising the Moher Cottage with the slogan the ‘Best coffee in Ireland’

We arrived, and instantly absolutely loved this old beautifully restored cottage.

Moher Cottage

More than just a coffee shop the cottage also serves a selection of fudge and had a great dhop of Irish made gifts.

We opted for some coffees, as we were a bit short on time, but as soon as we got back in the car we regretted not grabbing some fudge.

Moher Cottage Coffee

Did the coffee live up to its name it certainly did, perfect temperature, and a silky smooth texture. It passed the test. Refuel done and was time to head on to the next stop.

With a bit more time we would loved to of spent some time wandering the selection of Irish made gifts, including Moher Cottages very own sock collection.

Doonagore Castle

On our way back to Doolin we visited the Doonagore Castle. Perfectly nestled on the hills with stunning backdrop Doonagore Castle is a a striking addition to Doolin.

Doonagore Castle

Doonagore Castle History

Built in the 16th century this tower house’s name means ‘the fort of the rounded hills”. It is said that under the castle tower, lies the remains of a smaller and older castle.

It was used as a navigational point by boats that were approaching Dooling Pier or that would of been leaving.

The castle was surprising giving the landscape of the Burren, that sandstone was used instead of the limestone that was so readily available.

Nowadays

Nowadays the castle is a private holiday home, and not accessible by the public, However you are still able to get relatively close and it is very impressive to see and get close up snaps.

  

Dinner And A Quiet Night

After an action packed afternoon and a great day trip we tried out as we mentioned above Fitz bar for food and took a relaxing night in the apartment for us all to recharge.

Day 3 Kids Time At The Farm Number 2

After day 2 of exploring it was only fair to give the kids something and to try another local attraction and with our young ones love of farms, We visited the Moher Hill Pet Farm.

Moher Hill farm

Way More Than A Petting Farm

After stopping at the previous Pet Farm Glendeer, this one had a bit more of a play element about it. Now this on one hand was great for the kids but on the other hand 3 hours later carrying them out like a bag under our arms was a challenge.

But the main thing was fun after a lot of exploring the previous day.

Moher Hill had sand pits, crazy golf, playground, ball pit and bouncy castle for the kids to enjoy. And  coming into off season was quiet enough and not many crowds. The bonus of the indoor activities also is great, because after all its called the wild Atlantic way and the weather can be pretty unreliable.

The Animals

We did manage to break for a while to see some of the animals on farm. And our son enjoyed petting the ponys as you can see below

Ponys

But that was short lived and back to the activities is was. But there were a large amount of animals on show below shows the list.

  • Ponys
  • Alpaca
  • Cows
  • Goats
  • Sheep
  • Pigs
  • Donkeys
  • Ducks
  • Ostriches

Refreshments

Moher Hill also has a cafe with selections of treats, sandwiches and drinks. And also available are party rooms to hold kids birthdays etc.

The Journey Home

From Moher Hill we set back off on the road, two sleeping boys we head back through the Burren and on the way back to Roscommon

Final Thoughts

Although its no easy feat travelling with kids, it was good to get the first one out the way. Road trips over the next year are going to be big for us and making it enjoyable for the whole family is great.

Doolin was great and somewhere we would like to come back in the summer months. We would love to get out.to the Aran Islands and take the Doolin food tour.

Ireland Adventures

We have been back on Ireland now for just over 2 years and have enjoyed seeing many sights like Lough Key, Forest Park and Glencar Waterfall.

Alongside these we have also put together the ultimate guide to our county of residence Roscommon.

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