#12: Milford Sound

On Wednesday we packed our campervan and drove from the east coast to the west coast, to the little mountain town Te Anau. The city is the main gateway to most of the various sights and activities in the Fjordland region, so it had a real traveller-vibe. We walked a bit by the lakefront, enjoying the mountain sun and then stocked up on groceries and petrol. We stayed at a small campsite just outside of the city. 

The next morning we got up early and drove to Milford Sound. The 120km drive there is one of the most beautiful routes in the world, and we drove through large open plains with the snow-capped southern Alps as a backdrop, along rivers and clear lakes mirroring the same mountains and went by forest areas as well as waterfalls dripping down the majestic mountain sides. 

They say, 2 out of 3 days it rains in Milford Sound. When you travel, sometimes you have to get lucky. We sure did, as the sun was shining and the clouds on the sky was white. We had planned to stay two nights at the campsite in the national park, so we could spend the first day just driving there and a full day for sailing around the area. But when we arrived in Milford Sound around noon, we decided to jump on a cruise right away, because of the nice weather. 

The 2-hour cruise was stunning, and we saw waterfalls, seals and lots and lots of the most beautiful scenery. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest. 


#11: Dunedin and Otago Peninsula 

After a day in Akaroa, we headed down south to Dunedin where we stayed for a couple of days. 

Monday was a public holiday and the weather was quite boring and grey, so we spent the day wandering around the city. We saw the beautiful old railway station, according to Lonely Planet one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. 

We went for a stroll in the chinese garden. 

And saw some of the beautiful old churches and buildings scattered around town. 

We also spent a few hours having lunch and watching some of the Superbowl final at one of the local pubs. 

The day after the sky cleared, making the drive around the Otago Peninsula all the more spectacular. We drove to the tip of the Peninsula as this is the point where you should be able to spot all of the different wildlife in the area. 

At the Royal Albatros Center we did a tour, as we were told this was the only way to see the star attraction – the Royal Albatros. We paid $100 for a 30min presentation and 30min in a little room with a large window, from where we could see the 4 nesting albatros! We might as well have gone to the zoo, and we felt ripped of to be honest. 

Afterwards we went for a walk to the nearby Pilots Beach where we were lucky enough to see two small blue-eyed penguins lying in a small hole (they usually dont come to the beach until dusk), plus some New Zealand fur seals lying around on the rocks. 


#10: First days in New Zealand

We nearly missed our flight from Sydney to Christchurch – not because we were late but because for some reason we’ll never know, the online agency that we booked our tickets through, had entered our names the other way around on the ticket! Surname: Helle, firstname: Larsen etc. And Mai’s lastname was reported as Helle Maria! 

Long story short; it took us 2 hours, 30 min of phone calls to Virgin Australia’s “helpdesk”, 1 very bitter airline personel and 1 extremely helful one who made sure we didn’t have to pay the $436 fees, until we had our boarding passes in our hands! 

The flight to Christchurch was fine and because of the extra two hours time difference, we arrived very late at our motel. The following day we spent sleeping in and exploring Christchurch. There isn’ really much to see, sadly the earthquakes that shook the city in 2011 destroyed so much and many major old landmarks, and the town has been very slow in getting back on its feet and in restoring. The town felt empty some places, either with major empty squares and car parks, or abandoned ruined houses. 

There were also some cool areas around with a very urban vibe; cool cafes and a shopping area and street food stalls built using old containers. 

The botanical garden is very well kept and we went for a nice stroll there. We also visited Quake City, which is a museum that tells about the 2011 earthquakes and quakes in New Zealand in general. Very interesting. 

On Saturday we picked up our campervan at Tui Campers and thus started our camping adventure around NZ! 

The van is pretty cool, but old and a lot smaller than we expected. 

Our first stop was Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. The drive there was absolutely georgeous and a good way to start our journey. Akaroa was a cute little french-inspired town right by the water. We had a nice fish’n’chips dinner there and then tried to find a camp site for the night. But since we don’t have a toilet, we are not what they call “self-contained”, so we are not allowed to stay on the freedom campsites. And since it was a holiday weekend, the two campsites close to town was fully booked, so we ended up having to drive a little bit back towards Christchurch before finding a campsite. 


#9: Sydney

We’ve come to our last stop on our trip around Australia; Sydney. From home we had planned to have 6 nights here, which would give us 5 full days. However, after having travelled around with Mai for a month now, we’ve gotten to know her better and know her limits. And the minimum 8 hour drive from Byron Bay to Sydney would be too long for her.

Therefore we had a stop about halfway in Port Macquarie. Arriving around noon, we had a nice lunch and walked around the city and waterfront and had a quiet evening in our small motel room.

The next day we drove the last stretch and arrived in Sydney. On the way we had many laughs about how they in Australia have bike lanes on the highway! 

The first day in Sydney, we walked around getting a sense of the city. We started from our airbnb apartment in Pyrmont, walking via Darling Harbour and around the waterfront. We also went up Sydney Towers and got a view over the city. 

Our second day in Sydney we took the ferry from Pyrmont Bay to Circular Quay, and then saw Sydney Operahouse. We did the 1-hour tour which includes visits to all the theaters and stages and we learned interesting facts and the history of the famous operahouse. Afterwards we had lunch near Circular Quay and the walked around the Royal Botanical Garden.

On Monday, our third day, we headed to the Blue Mountains. I missed it on my first visit to Sydney so I really wanted to see it, and I was not disappointed. The sight was absolutely breathtaking! Because of the heat and little Mai, we settled for seeing the mountains from the various viewpoints and skipped the hikes. When Mai is older, we’ll just have to come back and do some trekking here, as I imagine it must be beautiful.

On Tuesday we let early and went to the famous Bondi beach! When we arrived, Mai had fallen asleep so we put her in the stroller and had a nice walk from one end of the beach to the other and back. The beach is around 1 km long so it was perfect timing and Mai whole up on our way back to the starting point. We fetched our towels and had a dip. In the nothern end of the beach there is a  little pool and shallow water, perfect for kids. Sadly, the water was pretty could and way too cold for Mai, but the rest of us enjoyed to be cooled off after our walk. 

In the afternoon we walked around Pitt street and the shopping area. After a nice dinner out, we headed for the Harbour Bridge. We really wanted to walk across the across the bridge and we also really wanted to see the city – and especially the operahouse – lit at night, so we combined the two. The Harbour Bridge is a massive construction and especially up close, it is very impressive.

Today on our last day here in Sydney and in Australia, we had a quiet morning where we did some laundry and such. We then walked around the city center, seeing St. Mary’s Cathedral, the ANZAC war memorial, Hyde Park, had lunch in Chinatown and finally walked up Macquarie street to see more of the grand older buildings.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Martins mother, who’s flying home to Denmark, while we head for Christchurch, New Zealand. 


#8: Byron Bay

After Hervey Bay and Fraser Island we headed further down south to Byron Bay. We chose to stay here a bit longer, 5 nights, to get some days of relaxation and “doing nothing”.

Byron Bay is cool, little surfing town with a very long and very pretty beach, and the town is filled with young backpackers, hippies and surfers. 

We had fish at the local fish restaurant, right by the water.

We spent an afternoon visiting the lighthouse, where you get stunning views over the bay, the surrounding beaches and the whole coastline. This is also the most easternly point of mainland Australia.

We also spent a day exploring some of the nearby towns. Starting out in cute little Lennon Head, we walked by the beach and visited the freshwater lake, Lake Ainsworth, which gets its brown colour by tannins leeching from the tea trees along its bank.

We then headed to Bangalow for a quick lunch, and then drove to see the Killen Falls. It was not easy to find and the trek through the forest was a bit longer than we had anticipated, but we were rewarded with a beautiful sight of the small waterfall. We could tell that the place is not on the normal tourist path, it had a much more local vibe and there were groups of local teenagers swimming in the pool below the fall.

Our two last days in Byron Bay we spent relaxing by the pool, and walking around the city seeing how Australia day was celebrated. We also went to the beach – we tried smaller Watego’s beach which is a bit away from the crowds. The water was perfect for a swim but the waves a bit too harsh for little Mai, so she only dipped her feet in the water.