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Photos from top to bottom:
1. Lake Mattheson 2. the road to Milford Sound (it was a misty day and yeah it was misty on the boat around the Sound also hence I have no photos here), 3. The road back to Auckland near Tongariro National Park (where Lord of the Rings' Mount Doom is located – the flat top volcano is Mount Doom itself soz to name drop) 4. Black swans and rocks on the road from Taupo to Auckland – fun game if you're really looking to kill time; can you guess which are rocks and which are swans?) 5. Sunset over the thermal lake at Taupo 6. Lunch near Tongariro National Park 7. The beaut location of the Nevis Bungy, taken from the bridge you jump off (I just watched, of course) 8. Me a at the bottom of the melting Franz Josef glacier (one of the most beautiful walks I've ever done thanks to rainbow waterfalls, a white glacial river and snow in the sun) 9. Hobbiton 10. Again more Tongariro clearly love this place 11. The lone tree within the lake at Wanaka (there were about 200 people sat by the river bed with expensive looking cameras waiting for the sun to go down behind this phenomena) 12. Me on top of Mountain Iron near Wanaka. 


New Zealand has never appealed to me. I've never seen, or heard, anything about NZ that made me think 'Wow, I've really got to go there'. Unlike the vast beaches and surfer lifestyle of Australia, and the white sands, beautiful turquoise waters and exotic temples of Fiji and Bali, I just didn't feel a pull. Perhaps for a similar reason to the one that stopped me interrailing around Europe – it just seemed so similar, or familiar (climate and landscape-wise, at least) to the UK. Close-minded, maybe, but this was just how I felt.

So when my friends were planning to leave Australia to travel New Zealand after our six amazing months travelling and working (a lil bit) in Oz (read more about that here), I had a decision to make. NZ wasn't going to be cheap (the bus ticket alone was $800AUD), and I had never planned to go anyway, however, despite believing I'd hate the traveller lifestyle and want to return to England a couple months in (max), I surprised myself by absolutely loving every minute, or almost every minute because to be fair who could love extinguishing hostel room cockroaches in order to sleep peacefully. It's all part of the experience though.

Anyway, eventually I decided, YOLO, I'm so far around the world that I might as well make the most of discovering this side of the hemisphere. I also would have major FOMO if it did, in fact, turn out to be an amazing trip.

Luckily for my indecisive self, it did indeed prove to be amazing, and I would have had the worst FOMO of life if I had decided against going.

Initially I had quite a few reservations when it came to the Kiwi Experience. It’s a well-known tour company, both around New Zealand where small town residents must get so sick of seeing the big green bus roll up with 30-50, often hungover, millenials, all ready to swarm the local supermarket in search of microwave noodles, but also throughout the world, or at least the world of travellers. However, this was the only fact (knowing so many had gone before me) that convinced me the ticket was worth the money.

To put the cost into context, our discounted (because there are four of us, and you can always haggle) Kiwi Experience ticket, which we needed only to get us around NZ for one month, was almost double the price of our Greyhound ticket, which took us all the way along the East Coast of Australia from September to December. To be fair we got one of the most comprehensive tickets available, we added on extra destinations such as Bay of Islands and Milford Sound, and when you get to NZ and realise how much all the activities cost there (almost $500 to skydive and roam the Franz Josef Glacier etc) you may well, like I did, change your opinion on the cost of the bus ticket, file it away under ‘bargain purchases’ and forget all about it.

Another thing I didn’t realise (because I literally did zero research and just let my friend sort and book everything), is that Kiwi does actually take you to many amazing places that you just wouldn’t know about, well unless you did extensive research and itinerary planning but who has time for that when you can pay someone else to do it for you. Plus, they basically give you a guided tour of the entire country as you drive around it, hand out useful little sheets of activities such as bungy jumping (totally didn’t realise you spelt bungy like that either, but I swear it’s how they spell it in NZ), rafting, horseriding, Maori stone carving blablabla as you’re on the way to the destination where said activity can be completed. This is particularly useful if you’re travelling alone or hoping to make friends when you arrive, because you can check what they’re doing and stalk their itinerary if you wish.

Additionally, still on the subject of the driver guides because they were my potential highlight of the entire experience, they are so entertaining. The driver we had for the majority of our trip, Simon, was honestly the most hilarious commentator. Sometimes when guides start talking and you’re listening to a really dece song/drifting off you just don’t want to bother making the effort to listen but with Simon I always sacrificed my headphones for his ramblings. He’d often tell facts that turned out to be utter bullshit but I’m not going to lie, those were my faves. He also let a 10 year old drive our bus at one point, which was my personal adrenaline activity of New Zealand. He later told us that three years prior the same boy (aged seven!?) had reversed the bus into a hostel, knocked a wall down and despite not injuring anyone was understandably traumatised for quite some time. Shockingly I don’t think this was one of the bullshit tales.

Anyway, moving on to the rest of the experience. The drivers were totally worth a whole paragraph lol. Would I, cost considered, do it by car/campervan if I was doing it again? I mean, potentially for a bit of variety as I’ve already done the Kiwi Experience once, but no, if you haven’t done it I one-hundred-percent recommend Kiwi Ex. You meet so many like-minded travellers along the way, which you simply wouldn’t going it alone, even if you were staying in hostels. Kiwi organise social events like bar crawls (the Queenstown bar crawl was so good and featured the best pizza from London halfway through), and a fancy dress party. We met some lovely people, had a hilarious time and I’m pretty certain we’ve made friends for life, or if nothing else, gained plentiful Instagram followers.


Kiwi Experience summary:


How it works: You choose your ticket (you can opt for one covering just the North Island, just the South Island, both, or both plus extras such as Bay of Islands, Deep South, Milford Sound (the latter is just a day trip really). Once you have your ticket you can call or email the office, let them know what dates you’ll be travelling from or two (it’s valid for a year or two but the entire circuit can be done in a month, which is how most people do it). When you’re there you can change dates of travel to and from certain places if you change your mind about what you want to do, or make friends and want to stick with them. in high season the buses go every day but they reduce this in May.

Our pass cost: $800

Places covered: Everywhere major across the North and South Islands, including Bay of Islands (optional extra) and Milford Sound (same). The only place we didn’t visit as far as I’m aware is the Deep South.

Unforeseen expenses: The bloody ferries to and from the South Island, which were $55 each way.

New Zealand & Kiwi Experience

Great Ocean Road Australia
Contemplating life on the Great Ocean Road

As you probably already know if you've visited my blog/Instagram/any social media recently, I am in Australia on a working holiday visa (I think I posted about it once or twice!). As you can imagine, it’s quite a change from the 9-5 life in the North East of England, and having lived and travelled around a few different places in the country, I feel like I've learned a lot about travel, life and Australia. Read on if you're thinking of travelling, visiting Australia one day or if you're simply nosy of course...

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things
When you're across the other side of the world, there’s no better time to experience something new. Luckily, there’s all kinds of fun to be had in this amazing country. You can try out everything from horseback riding and swimming with dolphins to scuba diving or the one your parents will advise you against - skydiving, and that’s just a few of the experiences travellers have the opportunity to partake in. I'd recommend biting the bullet and trying out anything and everything you've ever dreamt of doing but not had the opportunity to. You won’t regret it, I've never spoken to anyone who embarked on an adrenalin adventure who regretted it. Even my friend who is terrified of heights says jumping out of a plane is the best thing she's ever done... I'm yet to give it a go but New Zealand is next on my list and it may well happen there - stay tuned!

2. Always Be Optimistic
Australia is often spoken about as one of the world’s happiest countries and I can understand why. Well for me, personally, the sun and warmth and being outdoors makes me so happy and content. Plus, the people here are (not to stereotype and they do have different personalities, but generally) so friendly.

You're guaranteed to hear a jolly "How’re you going?" at least once a day - don't panic and wonder how you're supposed to respond to this alien phrase, they simply mean "How're you doing?" so the standard response, of "Good, thank you - yourself?" is fine.

3. Never Forget Where You’re From
Although the food and drink in Aus is amazing, there are some subtle differences which have not gone unnoticed. Firstly, and most importantly (as a chocaholic), the Cadbury chocolate is different. Don't expect to buy a Dairy Milk bar and it taste the same - the chocolate over here is made to a slightly different recipe to stop it melting as easily (it still melts easily). Additionally, the Weetabix (or 'Weet-bix') is just not quite the same.

It goes without saying that everyone will get a little homesick when they’re away and I’m really thankful to be travelling with my best friends from home (which really makes the trip feel like home from home) and my family back in the UK for always being on the other end of the phone for a chat, advice and updates about what's going on back in Teesside. They've also sent me care packages all the way to Australia from home that are packed with all my favourite things and it’s given me a newfound appreciation for all those things I took for granted back in the UK (miss you, Galaxy chocolate).

4. Make New Friends
Don’t be shy – try to talk to anyone and everyone whilst you’re travelling. Because you’re all in the same boat, you’ll find that you make new friends really easily and keep bumping into the same faces on your way around the country too. Esepcially down the East Coast if they're travelling in the same direction as you. We made some friends with some really nice girls along the coast (from Leeds lol) who we now hang out with in Melbourne where we're all living now. I guarantee you’ll make friends for life.

5. Go Off the Beaten Track
Yes, visit all the main touristy spots on your first visit Down Under – like the Harbour and Opera House in Sydney, Bondi Beach, the Great Barrier Reef and the city of Melbourne (which I love and have talked a bit about in a previous blog post here). They’re all a must on the to-do list, but don’t skip visiting some of the lesser known spots too, as they’ll give you a unique insight into the culture and how everyday life works away from all the travellers and visitors. I'll never forget our visits to tiny towns along the East Coast and chats with locals in the bars there. If you can’t squeeze these into your first trip, then it’s a good excuse to go back and visit again. I'd love to come back and do Western Australia if I don't manage to fit it in before I leave.

It’s hard not to fall in love with Australia when you visit, even if it’s just a short trip. I mean, when I first came out, I thought I'd be homesick and flying back to the UK before Christmas, yet now I'm considering carrying out 88 days of farm work to allow me to stay another year (this is what's required for your second year Visa fml).

Aus is a huge country with so much variety in everything from food to climate. You can have a chilled, beach lifestyle here or a busy city life. Or a bit of both as all the major cities have beautiful beaches. If you're suffering from wanderlust and not sure where to go, I can't recommend Australia more.

My journey in Australia isn't over yet, and I'm looking forward to all the adventures to come. Who knows, my northern accent might slowly start morphing into an Australian one and I’ll end up swapping parmos for parmas! Only kidding, that will never happen.

Have you travelled around Australia before, too? What lessons do you think will stay with you from the experience? If you haven't travelled Aus, but are planning to, check out my packing 'how to' post here.

Living in Aus: Life Lessons

Australia travel blogger kangaroo sanctuary
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia
How to pack for a working holiday in australia

My friends laughed at me when I told them I had bought suitcase organisers. "What the hell are they?" was the general response. Well, after living out of my suitcase for almost five months I can honestly say they have been one of the best investments of my life.

Before you judge, we decided against backpacks for a reason. I like to be able to roll my luggage where possible (diva) and I'd heard the terrain along the East Coast of Australia does not require a backpack as it's all quite flat and accessible.

So four months, three flights, one eleven hour train journey, lots of hostels lacking lifts and about 15 Greyhound bus journeys later – am I finding this to have been a good decision or a terrible one?

Personally, I think packing in this way with this type of suitcase was definitely the best and most convenient option, for me at least (a 5'3" girl with an inability to lift things). For my friend, Rach, who is now on to her second broken suitcase, perhaps not. But she has been very unlucky, so while I think you probably should invest in a suitcase with certain features (which I got told by the suitcase experts at Dalton Park, and will go into below) you really shouldn't worry too much about it all going wrong. Do bear in mind that dragging a case up a few flights of stairs isn't the most fun but I can't imagine carrying a 20kg backpack up multiple flights of stairs would be a ball either. Plus, if you just ensure you're outwardly expressing your struggle a strong male will probably offer to help. 

I've also loved the suitcase organisers. It's honestly so much easier to live out of a suitcase when you have what are basically see-through drawers and you know the location of each item cos it's always in the same place. Bloody brilliant invention, as Ron Weasley would say.


So, what to look for in your suitcase:

  •  Four wheels – makes life easier. But remember to use all four wheels where possible, cos it's not designed to take the weight on two wheels and this is one thing that could lead to the tragic sitch of the broken wheel.

  • Hard shell. Rach's first case was a soft shell, and we think the lack of even weight distribution this lead to may have been a factor in the breakage.

  •  Leading on from the previous point, evenly sized sections on each sides of the suitcase (which you naturally get with most hard shell cases).

  • A bright colour so you can easily distinguish it. You'll appreciate this when it's 2am, your bus has just pulled up to a new town and you are trying to identify your case among 20 others in the bus storage.

Essentials to pack in the suitcase:

  • A travel towel. A microfibre towel rolls up really, really small, dries easily and is generally such a good idea for any form of travelling. Hostels do not provide towels btw. Mine is from Craghoppers and was about £10 from an outdoor outlet store (Dalton Park again lols).

  • A sleeping bag liner. Admittedly I haven't used it that much because Australian hostels do tend to be quite clean, however a few of them have a lot of bugs (I slept in it in Airlie Beach because our room had a cockroach infestation and I just wanted to be in a sealed environment). Ooh and it also came in useful when we camped ('glamped') on Fraser Island because it was hot enough to use this as a sleeping bag so I didn't have to buy or rent one. Mine was also by Craghoppers from the Dalton Park outlet store.

  • SUITCASE ORGANISERS. I feel like I've said enough about this one. Just buy them, Separate your swimwear from your casual clothing and your dresses, roll them all up as demonstrated by my very thorough photography and enjoy the thrill of organisation. Head to Amazon for the best selection.

  • A portable charger. My phone literally dies after about three hours of use and while this wasn't too much of an issue for me while travelling the coast because there was barely any wifi so I didn't use it much anyway, it became quite the annoyance when settling down a bit in cities and actually having data etc/the need to use my phone to job hunt. Also a few hostels don't have sockets near your bed so if you need to sleep next to your phone this can be a great solution.

  • Plastic bags for shoes – cheap and cheerful advice here. Who wants to put their muddy trainers back among their clothes after a hike? Not me thanks. Plastic bags or shower caps are excellent for this. Or actual shoe bags if you wanna do it the posh way.

  • A pill box for jewellery. It will keep your necklaces separate and untangled, your rings safe and easy to find... Such a good idea c/o my mum.

  • Finally, the carry-on bag essentials I would recommend would be earplugs, an eye mask (I can't use them because my eyes feel claustrophobic but if you can they're probably super helpful for staying in hostels with strangers/sleeping on transport and what not), a water bottle – if you don't mind tap water, there are taps in most public spaces in Oz so refilling your own bottle will save you so much money.


This is probably everything I would recommend I think, if you have any questions/think there's something I've not covered please do ask!

 I hope someone looking to travel actually reads this because otherwise it has been a pretty pointless post hasn't it. Although to be fair if you just want to pack better for your holiday there's probably a lot of relevant advice for that too.

Anyway, thanks for reading! xxx


How to pack for travelling

Fraser Island Australia

Apologies again for my sporadic posts since coming away, I would blame the terrible wifi over here in Oz but that would sound like the worst excuse. But it is largely the excuse, along with simply having too much fun ofc. I always feel really weird about apologising for not posting on my own blog, like anyone would actually be upset about it, but you know what I mean! If you have been sat refreshing my home page for the past month then soz to u and I will try to improve.

I've finally got an actual apartment for a while, so goodbye hostels, g'bye shared rooms, shite wifi and name labelling my food, and hello to an actual wardrobe, double bed and internet connection, I have missed you all. I now miss my friends as I got somewhat used to living in the same room as them. I now have to watch random Late Late Show Youtube videos while getting ready just so I don't end up talking to myself. PS anyone else think this one is basically Kim admitting to Khloe or Kylie being pregnant?

Anyway, this was totally going to be a post all about how to travel the East Coast of Australia, what trips to do and how long to spend where etc, but as I seem to have rambled so much and made it into more of a diary entry I think I'll keep it as an entirely separate post so that the poor souls who come Googling East Coast tips don't end up having to deal with my own personal woes.

I now feel like it has to be a bit bulkier than this, otherwise it's just a three paragraph rant so here are my top 5 favourite and least favourite things about Australia:

Favourite things about Australia:

1. The weather, obvs
2. The beaches
3. The friendly people. They always sound so bloody jolly when they say 'How're you going?'
4. The kangaroos. I did the Friday trivia at work last week and discovered there are 25 million of these lil cuties in the country - who would've guessed? Not me or my team members unfortunately
5. The food. There is so much choice and so much variety, and all of it is really authentic too. The sushi here in Brisbane is amazing, Edo Sushi has been my favourite so far. Oh and let's not forget the dessert places, there are doughnut bars, chocolate bars, churro bars – you name the dessert and I'll probably be able to direct you to a venue solely dedicated to it.

Avocado salad cairns australia
fraser island australia
Magnetic Island Hike Australia
Base Magnetic Island food

Least favourite things about Australia:

1. It's difficult for me to feel festive in 30 degree heat and sun
2. My family aren't here
3. Everything is bloody expensive (which is kinda irrelevant when you get paid as the wages are so high, but still)
4. Chocolate just melts
5. Cockroaches. They get everywhere, especially in hostels!

Magnetic Island base

I'm thoroughly enjoying this list making so here's a bonus for you...

Weird things about Australia that you probably wouldn't expect before travelling here:

1. You won't see that many spiders. I've seen a couple in the rainforest, and one huntsman (which is the huge, ugly yet non-poisonous one) on Fraser Island
2. Australians say 'hey' at the end of their sentences a lot
3. It actually rains, a fair bit
4. Instead of the traffic light food product system thing, they have a health star rating. We actually love this, you don't need to know about the sugar or fat content specifically, your food is simply rated from 0-5, and it feels like a great achievement when you get a 4 or 5 star product. Abbie was thrilled when she noticed her cheese was rated 5 stars. PS if you're an Australian who knows how they figure this out I'd actually really like to know
5. They serve bugs at really nice, standard cafes and restaurants

magnetic island barbie car rental

Australia: the best and worst

Hosier Lane Melbourne
Luna Park Melbourne
Eureka Skydeck Melbourne fashion blogger
Eureka Skydeck melbourne
Hosier Lane Melbourne
Hosier Lane Melbourne quote
Hosier Lane Melbourne
Hosier Lane Melbourne
Southbank Melbourne fashion blogger
Melbourne river
skydeck melbourne fashion blogger
skydeck melbourne fashion blogger

Visit

1. Hosier Lane

This graffiti-covered street is world famous for its often political artwork, it's completely legal to graffiti here now so people literally must do it constantly, when we were there we saw one girl writing a quote (the one above) and groups of people creating something undecipherable down an alleyway.

Cost: Free

hosier lane melbourne fashion blogger

2. Eureka Skydeck

Via the Eureka Skydeck you can reach the highest point in the southern hemisphere at 297.3 metres, and if you're as idiotic/thrill-seeking as us, you can opt to hang out the top in a 4cm-thick glass box for an extra $12 on top of your $20 ticket.

Also, there was some special effects included as part of the box experience, involving being semi-convinced you were going to die.

Abigail describes this as:

"One of the best experiences of my life, if I was a mega fan of skydecks." (she was not a mega fan of skydecks)

Cost: $20 - $32

skydeck melbourne fashion blogger

www.eurekaskydeck.com.au

3. Luna Park

So I was desp to go here after seeing Mary-Kate and Ashley's Our Lips Are Sealed film aged 10. In the film they visit Luna Park in Sydney, which btw I think is v different lols.

This one was kinda small, but very cute and vintage-y. As it was $10 a ride, we decided to choose just one, and again for thrills went for The Great Scenic Railway which, slightly worryingly, is the oldest continuously operating ride in the world at 105 years old. It really wasn't that scary, in fact, just to demonstrate how lacking in bumps and danger it was, I'll let you know that the operator stood up on the carriage throughout the ride, but this might not be the impression you'd get from Abigail's face in our photo:


Rach describes the Luna Park experience as: "A once in a lifetime opportunity to walk in the footsteps of my childhood heroes." (soon to be repeated more accurately when we go to Sydney, I'm sure)

Cost: When we went it was free entry and $10 for a ride, but apparently this occasionally changes to an entry cost and free rides.

www.lunapark.com.au

Eat

1. Sister of Soul

Whether you're vegan or not, this is such a great restaurant. Most of us weren't even vegans yet we all bloody loved it. Just look at this burrito:


The salads and curries looked delish too.

Cost: $10-$20 (cheapish for an Oz meal)

www.sisterofsoul.com.au

Abbie the Pescetarian's thoughts on Sister of Soul:

"It was the dream."

2. Higher Ground Melbourne

I went to Higher Ground with my cousin from Melbourne who said it had been recommended. It definitely lived up to expectation with its hipster vibe and total Instagram-worthy meals, I mean, the customers next to us had a plate of what literally looked like 100% flowers. As tempted as I was to copy (for the sake of the gram/novelty) I was genuinely quite hungry so decided to order actual food instead:


Poached eggs with a creamy sauce and I think asparagus and truffle (I can't actually find it on the online menu anymore, but there are tons of similar, delicious items).

Cost: $10 - $20


Drink

1. Section 8

This is the kind of place chill place where you can chat to your pals over the prettiest cocktails (see below) or relax on your own with a book (well someone was doing this when we were there and they didn't look too out of place). It's made up of just a shipping container and a carpark with some benches and heaters. What more do you want.

Cost: Average

www.section8.com.au

2. Goldilocks

Again, this was recommended by another of my family member in Melbs, it's a semi-hidden rooftop bar and is well worth seeking out.

Cost: Average, cocktails are more expensive but if I remember correctly a cider was about $5.

www.goldilocksbar.com.au

3. Garden State Hotel

Another recommendation – this has got to be one of the prettiest beer gardens I have ever seen, plus this place has won a Gourmet Traveller Wine award.


Cost: pricey but worth it (for the cocktails)

www.gardenstatehotel.com.au

4. Day of the Dead, St Kilda

We were staying in St Kilda and have a friend who lives there so we met up with her and went to Day of the Dead, a themed bar which has a really cool atmosphere and amazing artwork.

Cost: Average

www.dayofthedeadstkilda.com

Do

Orz Escape

We have been wanting to do an escape room for ages, one of my friends has done a few previously, the other three of us had no clue what we were in for. But even the friend who was familiar with the escape room situations was a lil bit shocked at this one.

I won't give the game away, but it's cryptic, involves clowns and we are still quite baffled by the final stage. To give you an idea of the level of crypticness, we gave up and had the last part explained to us yet still did not fully understand.

Cost:  $32

www.orzescape.com.au

Things we didn't do that I want to do when we return

1. Queen Victoria Market

2. The State Library of Victoria

3. Federation Square

3. The Botanic Gardens

4. The Fitzroy Gardens

5. Melbourne Museum

6. Philip Island

7. Yarra Valley Wine Tasting Tour

8. Visit the penguins on the pier in St Kilda


What to do in Melbourne