Posts Tagged With: road trip

Our Latest Great Adventure

I feel like I’ve had a lot of adventures in the last year, but our latest adventure is going to be a whirlwind 5-week trip around New Zealand for our honeymoon!

New Zealand has been on my bucket list for a long time (pretty much since the first time I watched Fellowship of the Ring), but it’s never been the right time to go – either too far or too expensive. But the stars have aligned and we decided to embrace doing something new together over the holidays this year (although my Mom wasn’t too impressed about it). It’ll be our first time ever not going home to Newfoundland for Christmas, but we’re excited to have so much time to travel around New Zealand and create our own memories for our first Christmas married.

As usual, I’m planning to blog the whole trip! It’s definitely a commitment to write when you’re on the go, but I always get a lot of enjoyment out of it, so I’ll do my best. We have a big itinerary planned, so I’ll just give you a quick overview of our plans!

We’re flying into Auckland and then almost immediately taking a second domestic flight to Great Barrier Island. It’s a small island off the coast of Auckland that is known for its wildness. There’s no electricity on the island and everything is powered by solar and generators, so we’re looking forward to kicking back and relaxing for a few days and hopefully doing a bit of stargazing, since the entire island is a dark sky reserve.

After that we’re taking our second, and last, domestic flight down to Queenstown on the South Island. From there we’re planning to rent a car for the rest of the trip and slowly make our way back to Auckland over the span of the next month. We’re starting with a little road trip around the south part of the island, doing some day hiking near Mount Cook (the tallest mountain in New Zealand) and then road tripping down along the east coast to hopefully see some cool wildlife. We’re taking a ferry at the very bottom of New Zealand to another island called Stewart Island, which is known for it’s birdlife. I expect this may be the highlight of the trip for Seth and we’re hoping to see a Kiwi.

From there we’ll start back up the west side of the island to Te Anau, where we’ll drive the world famous Milford Road to do a boat cruise of Milford Sound. We’ve decided to take it one step further though and we will actually be hiking the Milford Track, a 55km trail through Fiordland National Park, which might be the highlight for me. The Milford Track is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand and is insanely popular. Only 40 people can hike the trail a day, so we feel really lucky to have nabbed 2 spots! We decided to do the hike over Christmas since nothing will likely be open during that time.

We’ll have a well deserved break in Queenstown for a few days after the hike and then we’re back on the road to explore Wanaka and Fox Glacier. This was one of the more self indulgent parts of the trip and we have decided to splurge and heli-hike Fox Glacier. But nothing’s a sure thing and who knows what the weather might do, so cross your fingers we get to do it!

After that we have a few days in Abel Tasman National Park. We were planning to just hang out on the golden sand beaches for a few days, but when we discovered there are no roads in the park, we decided to go on a 3-day kayak trip instead. We started kayaking last year and have really been enjoying it, so we’re looking forward to the trip. We purposely set a pretty slow itinerary for the park though so that we can still relax and enjoy the beaches.

That pretty much ends our time on the South Island and we’re planning to take the ferry to Wellington in early January. We’ll spend a little bit of time in Wellington, but we’re planning to head out to Tongariro National Park pretty quickly so that we can do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, another super popular hike. This is a 20km hike, but it’s usually done as a day hike, so no big backpacks for this one. It circles around Mount Ngauruhoe, which is more popularly known as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy!

We’re planning for one last adventure activity in Taupo – white water rafting – and then we’re planning to slow it down for the rest of the trip. We have a few days in Rotorua to explore some of New Zealand’s culture and geothermal wonders, as well as some of the hot springs. The other highlight of the trip will come after Rotorua when we visit the Shire and Hobbiton and finally achieve my childhood dream!

Hobbiton will just be a brief stop on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula where we’re planning to visit the beautiful Cathedral Cove and maybe do some snorkeling. After that we’ll drive back to Auckland for a day on Waiheke, a small island next to Auckland that is known for its wines! Then we’ll finish the trip with one more drive north of Auckland to check out a few of the attractions just outside the city.

So it’s going to be a pretty packed itinerary. It’s hard to believe it, but even with 5 weeks, we still couldn’t fit in everything we wanted to do. New Zealand is so rugged and wild – it was so hard to settle on only doing one of the Great Walks. I have a feeling I am really going to love New Zealand and can’t wait to start exploring!

Categories: Exploring New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Driving Through Oregon

We departed Seattle in the morning for our second destination, Portland! It’s only a 2.5 hour drive so we arrived just in time to head into the city centre to check out some food carts for lunch. There’s more than 700 international food carts located all over the city, so there was lots of selection to choose from. Gill, Mel, and Karen all had gourmet grilled cheese and had the BEST falafel I’ve ever had in my whole life (seriously, I’m still dreaming about it)!

Our first impression of Portland is that it is one of the most chill cities. It’s Beerfest this weekend and since Portland has more microbreweries per capita than any other city in the world, there were a lot of people visiting. But even though the city is flooded with tourists attending Beerfest, it still felt completely relaxed. It’s so easygoing that after spending the day there, Mel decided it was her favourite city she’d ever visited!

The first attraction we hit up was Powell’s Bookstore, which ended up being everyone’s favourite part of Portland. Powell’s is the largest new and second hand bookstore in the world, and as an avid reader it was a dream! The whole building is stacked to the ceiling with books and there’s several different rooms making up the bookstore – we spent an hour and a half wondering from the orange room to the rose room to the gold room. There were so many books that we all left with a full bag!

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After Powell’s we walked to Portland’s second largest attraction (or perhaps biggest attraction for some people), Voodoo Doughnuts! This famous doughnut shop had a lineup out the door to try some of the tastiest and most original doughnut creations. Between us we sampled the ‘Portland Cream’, ‘Maple Crueller’, ‘Dirt Doughnut’ (covered with crushed Oreos), and the ‘Miami Viceberry’! They did not disappoint and were easily the best doughnuts we’ve ever had!

We had a bit of trouble figuring out what the best Portland landmarks were, so we decided to take a walking your with a local in the late afternoon. It was a great decision and we learned so many interesting things about the city! Portland is known for being chill and for being weird. The official slogan of Portland is “keep Portland weird” and the more we learned about its eccentric past the more appropriate it seemed. Only 40% of people living in Portland actually grew up in Oregon. The rare individuals that actually grow up in Oregon are referred to as Unicorns because they’re almost like a mythical species. The downside to having so many people moving into the city though is that Portland currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the country (second only to Detroit). We found this easy to believe as we saw a lot of homeless people around and it explains the high number of food carts that have popped up in the city as many people are forced to start their own business in order to sustain their livelihoods (the number of carts increased from 70 to 700 in 2009).

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However, we also learned many wonderful things about how green and sustainable of a city Portland is. They’ve had a global warming city plan since 1992, they heavily promote biking, they founded the car sharing industry, and they currently divert 66% of their waste out of landfills with recycling and composting programs (Vancouver is at 58%). We also learned that Portland is home to a large number of haunted buildings, as well as the worlds largest and smallest city parks! Overall, it was an interesting and educational tour and we loved the opportunity to learn a little more about this unique city.

We’ve now departed Portland, but as we drove east across the mountains we discovered that the rest of Oregon is just as interesting and beautiful! We hit the long driving stretch of our trip as we made our way towards California and we had an incredibly scenic drive through Oregon. We drove through dense, old growth forest, past snow peaked mountains, across golden desert plains, and over ancient volcanic lava flats. We spent a whole day driving through Oregon, but we kept the trip interesting with a stop at the ‘Lava Lands Visitor Center’ to check out an old volcano and see the rock lava flows that still descend from the volcano. We drove to the top of the volcano, or ‘lava butte’ and I found it really interesting because you could see how the lava had wiped out every living thing and that the tree line quickly picked up again at the edge of the lava flow.

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We also stopped into Crater Lake National Park and enjoyed incredible views on the lake which now fills the crater of a gigantic ancient volcano. It’s the deepest lake in the United States – we hiked up to a tower called ‘The Watchman’ to get an even better view of the stunning mountain vista. Crater Lake is one of many mountains and the backdrop of the mountains surrounding Crater Lake were just as jaw dropping as the lake itself!

We’ll spend a night in Southern Oregon before crossing the border into California and making our way to South Lake Tahoe. Here’s Gill’s next video blog:

Categories: American Road Trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road Trip Begins. First Stop: Seattle

The road trip has officially begun! The group enjoyed one last day in Vancouver before catching the night bus to Seattle. We decided to just drive one way to San Francisco, so we took the bus to Seattle where we picked up our rental car.

The group spent the last day in Vancouver at Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s located at the base of the mountains in North Vancouver and features a huge swinging bridge across the river gorge, as well as a trail of platforms and bridges up in the trees. It was a crowded day, but a good opportunity to get a little bit outside the city and enjoy the giant trees! The evening was spent on the bus to Seattle where we played a spirited game of Harry Potter 20 Questions until something went wrong in the bathroom at the back of the bus and we spent the last 20 minutes of the trip holding our noses from the smell!

Fortunately things quickly improved the next day with a full day of exploring in Seattle. We started off at Pike Place Market, exploring the eclectic collection of shops that make up the market. Pike Place is arguably Seattle’s biggest attraction after the Space Needle – my favourite shops included this one that specialized specifically in TV and movie memorabilia (they have a whole aisle of just movie scripts) and a pet shop featuring items starring any breed of cat or dog you can imagine! Gills favourite purchase was a pair of socks with pomeranians on them and I was very tempted to buy coasters with my favourite breeds on them!

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After exhausting the market, we made our way along the waterfront towards Seattle center to see the EMP Museum and the Space Needle. We were pleasantly surprised to find the place in full swing celebrating the Seafair when we arrived! Apparently Seattle hosts the Seafair every year to celebrate the warm weather and summer season. There were tons of tents set up giving out free stuff and there was performers in the middle of the square. We made the most of it and enjoyed free brownies and granola bars while watching the most bedazzled troupe of dancers! It turns out the entire event was sponsored by Alaskan Airlines and we had a good laugh at the hats they were handing out!

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The EMP Museum proved to be everyone’s favourite part of the day and we all agreed it was the best value for money. The museum is housed in this huge multicoloured metal building and stands for the “Experience Music Project”. It had exhibits on music, sci-fi, and pop culture. Mel’s favourite exhibit was the sci-fi exhibit, but the rest of us favoured Fantasyland. It highlighted some of our favourite films and movies, including Harry Potter, the Wizard of Oz, and The Princess Bride! The museum had some great exhibits on popular artists to come out of the Northwest, as well as an exhibit on music videos.

We finished off the afternoon with a bit of shopping and went to the top of the Space Needle in the evening. It was a beautifully clear day, so we had a great view of Seattle with the scenic Mount Rainier in the background. Overall it was a very busy day, but we feel like we accomplished a lot. We finished with an enjoyable walk back to the train as the Seafair Parade serenaded us with lively music one block over!

Check out Gill’s second vlog summarizing our last day in Vancouver and our day in Seattle. Next stop: Portland!

 

Categories: American Road Trip | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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