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Moving from Australia to New Zealand: A Little Reflection Five Months Later

Moving from Australia to New Zealand: A Little Reflection Five Months Later

Holy smokes, I can’t believe it’s been five months since we were packing our bags getting ready to start moving from Australia to New Zealand in search of a new adventure!

Moving from Australia to New Zealand has been a complete whirlwind. Somehow moving to a country just a three-hour plane ride away (we left from Brisbane in case those of you from Perth are reading and screwing your nose up at that one) is so very different. 

The last five months have kind of gone by in a blur. I want to be honest with you, it’s taken us a lot longer to get settled here in New Zealand and to think that we’re halfway through this current visa is crackers. So I decided to reflect on our last five months. The good, the bad and the windy!

On Finding Somewhere to Live in New Zealand 

The biggest struggle here in New Zealand has been finding somewhere to live! Last year in Australia we moved to 5 different houses pretty easily. We would give ourselves around 10-14 days in an Air BnB and have somewhere snapped up soon before our time was up. 

Either it just isn’t as easy in New Zealand or this girl is a lot fussier than she thinks! I think it’s possibly a mixture of both but a lot of the latter! 

If you’ve following my blog for a while then you’ll know I’ve been hustling hard at this travel blogging business. In fact, in just one short year I’ve managed to grow an Instagram community of over 3000 and somehow Alicia Overseas is gaining over 4,000 page views every month.

Not so long ago I was dreaming of travelling non-stop full time. Can you think of a better way to live? Turns out I can. 

When we first arrived in New Zealand we spent our first 4 months jumping from hostel to hostel spare room to spare room and it drained me. Emotionally, physically I couldn’t have felt more disconnected to everything that I love from travelling. 

The past 2 weeks in New Zealand have been the best so far. Dave and I are finally in a lovely house-share with a gorgeous little room. It might sound materialistic but it has honestly done wonders to my mood and relationships. 

Here’s what I’ve realised: 

  • Nothing beats being able to cook in a real kitchen 
  • Having a window that floods the room with light is life 
  • I love nothing more than sitting down with my book, a cuppa and candle burning at night 
  • Having an actual desk to work on at home is now non-negotiable  
  • Decor matters – sorry but it really does. 
  • How lucky we are to have a place to call home that we can make our little sanctuary. 

So even though it took longer than I would’ve liked to have been settled in a permanent home for the rest of our time in New Zealand, it has made me so much more grateful for it now.

On Finding a Job in New Zealand 

Luckily this was a whole lot smoother than finding somewhere to live! Dave snapped up work the first week we got to Wellington! Luckily the hospitality scene is big here and they are always needing extra staff, especially those with experience! 

For me, it was pretty easy too! New Zealand like the rest of the world is crying out for nurses and just as we arrived in Wellington a job advert in my area of nursing expertise was put out. 

Coincidence or fate? I’m not sure but it was perfect. I was lucky enough to secure the position and found myself working a few weeks after Dave. From securing a nursing position to being on the floor can take a little time as you imagine there are thousands of checks that need to be done! So this meant I got an extra month off to enjoy being in Wellington which was wonderful. 

Nursing in New Zealand is similar to Australia and the UK, of course with some cultural and practical differences but very similar which makes me happy. 

I’ve also gone back onto a permanent rostered system instead of choosing my shifts as I did in Australia. I must say I have some strong feelings about which I’ll go into a whole other post. I could talk about nursing shifts and roasters and pros and cons until the cows come home! 

All in all, finding a job gets a big thumbs up from us! It makes even more grateful that I can take nursing all over the world with me! 

On Travelling the North Island 

New Zealand is breathtaking. 

There are no other words to describe it. It’s the quietest country I’ve ever stepped foot in and in the countryside I can sense how clean the air is. 

You don’t have to be far out of the cities to be surrounded by mountainous views and lush green fields. We’ve seen the whole of the North Island so far and have just got the South Island to explore. As I’m writing this we actually go on our first trip to the South Island in 2 weeks time. I can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country and I honestly don’t think we’ve seen anything yet! 

My favourite destinations on the North Island of New Zealand 

We still need to see Mount Taranaki and I can’t wait to spend a few days hiking around Egmont National Park!

Moving from Australia to New Zealand – On Feeling Homesick 

To my surprise, I’ve felt so much more homesick since moving from Australia to New Zealand. I can’t decide if its because we’ve not been home in over a year and I’m craving some time with my family and girlfriends or if it’s because New Zealand is so similar to the UK. 

If I’m honest since my mum left Australia the homesickness didn’t really leave (hi mum, please don’t start crying, I love you)! 

Homesickness is hard and completely normal whilst travelling the world. But as much as I love my home (which I’m only just realising now by the way) the experience of travel is certainly worth being away for a little while. I’ve adopted a few ways of dealing it. I’ve also had my fair share of tantrums and have been certain that I was booking the next plane home! 

But, one way I deal with it is by embracing this new country I’m in and making plenty of time to catch up with friends and family. I actually love these tips from Mollie over at Where’s Mollie too!

Time differences suck but it’s easy to keep in touch if you really make the effort. 

On the Weather 

After living in Brisbane and Sydney we arrived in New Zealand in the middle of winter and boy was it a shock!

Being from Northern England we are used to the cold but just one year Australia has turned us into complete wimps! 

I’ve only just taken off my woolly hat five months later (it made for a great accessory). I have no idea if we’ll ever be warm again after living in Australia but we did have our first beach day in New Zealand where I braved my swimsuit at 20 degrees! I’m sure when we one day get back to the UK we’ll be ramping up a huge heating bill even in the summer months but I’m it won’t take long for our bodies to re-acclimatise!

On Earthquakes 

About three months into our New Zealand adventure I experienced my first ever earthquake. 

It only lasted about 5 seconds but it isn’t an experience I’m likely to forget. I’m sure most New Zealanders probably slept through it and would be rolling their eyes reading this but coming from somewhere with zero natural disasters (although as I write this in November 2019 our home town of Sheffield is currently experiencing torrential flooding) it was so scary. 

We were living in the hostel at the time and the bed was wheels and it shook! Dave was on his way back from work and I honestly had no idea what was going on! Luckily it was fine and stopped but holy moly I had no idea how common earthquakes are in New Zealand! I certainly didn’t do enough research where that’s concerned. 

A tip for those looking to spend some time in New Zealand, research all about the earthquakes so you know the processes to follow should you ever need to. 

All in All…

So, moving from Australia to New Zealand has certainly been an epic adventure so far. Filled with highs and lows, all the ingredients to make a wonderful adventure. 

New Zealand is definitely the definition of ‘Middle Earth’ it’s so far away from anywhere else in the world but boy is it beautiful. If you’re thinking about travelling to New Zealand then I couldn’t recommend it more at this point and we haven’t even locked eyes on the South Island yet which is supposed to be even more beautiful! 

If you have any questions about New Zealand, moving here or about life here then let me know but here are a few facts about the country we’ve discovered so far: 

  • Earthquakes happen every day 
  • It’s normal not to see anyone else in the countryside all-day 
  • Wellington is the windiest place on earth (not statically true but I’m rolling with it) 
  • New Zealand has a teeny tiny population of just 5 million! 
  • The worlds first commercial bungee jump was launched in Queenstown 
  • Half the population own a car – literally! It’s hard to navigate without one!
  • Rugby is HUGE. 

We’ve got plenty more of this country to enjoy and I’m excited to experience more of it! Here’s to our next set of adventures down South! 

Happy Travels, 

Alicia 

How to Save Money in New York City: Budget Travellers Guide

How to Save Money in New York City: Budget Travellers Guide

How to Save Money in New York City, well that’s the big question, isn’t it? New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world. But of course, that’s no secret. Despite the cost to visit it’s somewhere all of us finding out selves wanting to explore. I’d been dying to see New York City for so long. It might have something to do with an all-mighty Chuck and Blair obsession but still, I lusted to see the big city where everyone goes to follow their dreams with my own eyes. I love any books or movies set in the big apple and I honestly couldn’t wait to see it in the flesh.

In 2017, I made my dream of visiting New York come true along with my mums. I whisked her away for her 50th birthday and we had a blast. 

As a budget traveller, my biggest concern was how much spending we would need and how expensive New York City would really be. I researched until I was blue in the face because I was determined to experience the very best of the city whilst on a teeny tiny budget.

As it turns out that you can totally visit New York on a budget and see it all. Upon returning home from the big city I was so smug that I hadn’t had to use my credit card once. It truly felt like one of those moments when you feel like you can indeed have your cake and eat it!

So, that’s what gave me the idea to write this post and share with you how to save money in New York City. It’s taken a while but here it is!

How to Save Money in New York City: Budget Travellers Guide!

This post is going to be the only budget travellers guide to the big apple you need! Expect to learn plenty of hacks on how you can save big during your trip to New York. I will note that this post is tailored more towards people who haven’t visited New York City before. That’s because when I put these money-saving tips into practice I had never been before. If you’re a seasoned traveller to the city then I’m sure you can probably send me a lot more tips on how to save money in New York my way! Hopefully when I visit again, which I pray isn’t too far into the future, I’ll even more tips about saving money in New York to share with you!

How to Save Money in New York City: Before you go! 

Saving money on a trip to New York City starts well before your feet land at JFK. It’s all about finding the cheapest time of year to go!

Let’s be real for a second. If you want to visit New York during a holiday season then your bank account is going to take more of a bashing then if you visit at an alternative time. 

Many of us dream of ice skating in Central Park and looking up in awe at that glowing Christmas tree in Central Park. But like anywhere in the world holiday seasons will be the more expensive end of.

My advice: To save money on your trip to New York then don’t visit at, Christmas, Easter or Halloween. 

The one holiday that might be an exception is the 4th of July. This is when we visited New York for 4 days. I wrote a whole post on why you should visit New York in July here but the main reason I booked those dates was because of the cheaper flights and accommodation! 

Honestly, we had the option of being able to take the trip in July or September and July was so much cheaper. The first week in July was also a lot cheaper than any other time of the month. To me, I thought it was crazy because of Independence Day! Turns out the holiday really didn’t skyrocket the prices! 

Now I have no idea if this was just a simple coincidence or if we simply got lucky. But if you fancy a summertime fling with the big city then I highly recommend looking into visiting in July! 

Either way, make sure you’re flexible with dates when taking a trip. Research ahead and make sure you visit during the cheapest time you can find! I know this point is fairly obvious. But you have no idea the number of people who I’ve heard complaining about New York prices when they decided to visit in December! 

mum and I at serendipity 3
Having the occasional ‘splurge’ for a meal out!

How to Save Money on Accommodation in New York

Accommodation, isn’t this often the biggest expense when travelling? and sometimes the most frustrating. As travellers we often find ourselves paying big sum cash for a place to stay. Yet we then spend no time in the room, other than to sleep. It’s because of this that since my trip to New York I’ve become a lot more frugal when it comes to booking accommodation. I seriously don’t need a luxury apartment that I’m only going to spend a tiny fraction of time in.

New York City, in particular, is expensive for hotels no matter how to budget you go.

My biggest advice is to book via booking.com and here’s why. With booking.com you can reserve a hotel and often cancel up to 48 hours before for no extra charge. This is brilliant because you can find a reasonable deal, book it and then keep looking for something even better! I booked and cancelled 2 hotels in New York before sticking with our final choice and ended up saving over 300 GBP! 

The accommodation we ended up staying in was in central Manhattan opposed to being further away from the city for a cheaper price! For more information on where we stayed in New York City then take a look at this post!

My Tip: When saving money in New York City book accommodation with a free cancellation option. Keep hunting for the best deal. I used to book a hotel then never look again but when there’s no charge for cancellation then you don’t have to worry. I always book accommodation with booking.com because that’s always where I find the best deals.


    
        Booking.com

How to Save Money in New York City on the Best Sights! 

So hopefully you’ve been able to haggle a little and found some relatively cheap accommodation. But if you feel like you’ve splurged just getting there don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to save money on a trip to NYC once you are actually there!

There are so many attractions you can visit in New York for free. I’ve got a few savvy tricks up my sleeve to make sure you can enjoy this city without break the bank or compromising on any of the New York attractions. 

Take advantage of the freebies!

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to enjoy the free magic that New York has to offer. You might not release but actually the majority of New Yorks biggest and most beautiful attractions are completely free. The following tourist sights can be seen totally for free, I’ll go into more detail on each attraction underneath. 

  • Statue of Liberty 
  • Times Square 
  • Brooklyn Bridge 
  • Grand Central Terminal 
  • Panoramic Views of New York City from above at sunset 
  • Central Park
  • 5th Avenue 
  • Bryant Park 
  • Bloomingdales 
  • 9/11 Memorial 
  • The Highline 

If it is your first time in New York then I’m pretty sure that you have most if not all of these spots on your bucket list. Even if you saw just these iconic landmarks and flew straight home the trip across the pond would be worth it. 

How to See The Statue of Liberty for Free

The Statue of Liberty, it wouldn’t be a trip to New York without paying her a visit. I honestly couldn’t wait to see this icon in real life rather than through my television screen! What got me even more excited was the fact I could do so for free! To see the lady herself for free all you need to do is take a subway to Whitehall station. From there catch the commuter ferry to Staten Island.

staten island ferry new york
The Staten Island Ferry

This ferry is completely free and runs from Staten Island to New York every 30 minutes. The boat sails directly past the Statue of Liberty offering amazing views. Sure the boat doesn’t go directly to Liberty Island nor can you disembark and go up to the statue but do you really need to?

For most us a glance from a distance and great photograph is satisfactory so save some money in New York by seeing the statue for free! 

Tip: The best time to hop on board Staten Island ferry. Is after 10 am and before 4 pm to avoid the commuters on their way to and from the office. On the way to Staten Island, you’ll need to be situated on the right-hand side of the boat and the left-hand side for the return journey to get a good view! 

This has quickly become one of the most popular ways to see the statue of liberty so some crowds are inevitable! 

Wander Around Times Square Don’t Shop

Times Square. Most have a love-hate relationship with this tourist heavy arcade that boasts some of the brightest lights in the city. I admit I also have a kind of love-hate feeling with it. Standing in Times Square for the first time made me feel so alive. The rush I felt as people pushed past me and shoving me out of their path was a little bizarre but so fulfilling. I felt concerned that people were so god damn rude but it also felt like a pinch-me moment. It also made me feel claustrophobic, frustrated at how busy it was and quite frankly like the smallest human in the world.

In Times Square you’re a nobody to those around you because all that matters is where you’re going. 

Times Square is a shopping hub. I admit I’m not a big shopper so it didn’t take any of my cash as a casualty. Honestly, skip the shops and just take it all in. Take some photographs for free and save the shopping for when you’re back home. The H&M is the same as the one you’ll find in your local town just bigger.

For now, just watch, smell and feel what it’s like be in the very hub of New York City. 

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge and The High Line

Another iconic landmark in New York the famous Brooklyn Bridge. There are a few options you can either walk, cycle or drive across the bridge my advice would be to walk. A taxi will cost you a small fortune so I wouldn’t even entertain the idea. Hop on the subway to Brooklyn and then walk back across the bridge to Manhattan. You get to enjoy that perfect skyline as you walk back towards the city. Cycling over the bridge would be epic but you’re going to have to hire the bikes costing money! Save some extra dollars by walking the bridge. 

Another walk that’s completely free in New York is the high line. A park built upon the old railroads walks you through the Meatpacking District, Greenwich and Chelsea before weaving in and out back to Manhattan.

Free walks are a great way to save money in New York City.

Grand Central Terminal 

This spot is my most favourite in New York. I’m not caught speechless on many occasions but when I walked into this station, it was one of them. Of course, Grand Central Station is completely free to visit and if you’ve got good will power then you’ll walk around not spending a thing. But I warn you there’s a whole concourse dedicated to some of the best food in New York as well as a produce market! 

New York City, New York City, Top 10, Things to do
Grand Central, New York City

Panoramic Views of New York City at Sunset!

The best way to see New York is from above. That view across the city is sensational and most head to the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Centre to get it. Both have observation decks but both require payment of up to $40 per ticket! To me, that’s pricey just to go to the top and wander around with 100 other tourists! 

During our 4 days in New York, we decided to do this a little differently. In the Rockefeller on floor 65 is Bar Sixty Five. Bar Sixty Five has a gorgeous outside area with sensational views of the city below. Instead of watching the city from above with all the other tourists why not do it in style?

We decided to book a table for free and head to see the view from here. We bought only one cocktail each and sipped whilst watching the whole of New York below us. It was a surreal moment. My mum and I all dressed up enjoying a cocktail on a rooftop bar in New York – had we won the lottery?! Nope, we just thought outside the box. 

For less money than what the observation decks charge we got a gorgeous setting, with the famous view and a cocktail in hand. The bar wasn’t by any means pushy to get rid of us or anything. There was no time limit on our table and I recommend seeing the view this way to everyone I speak to! I think we were there for over 3 hours!

Enjoy New Yorks Parks

Both Central Park and Bryant Parks are gorgeous assets to this city. The fact that so much greenery can be found in such a concrete playground is amazing. You can spend days wandering around Central Park and I recommend you use at least one full day to do so. Central Park is full of wonders to explore. From Strawberry Fields to Alice in Wonderland there’s something special for everyone. Bryant Park maybe a little smaller but it’s a wonderful little space to lose yourself in. Why not visit the New York Public Library whilst your there, it’s also free! 

me in central park new york
Me strolling around Central Park a few years ago!

Tip: Go to the supermarket the day before and pick up some groceries. Take a picnic so you don’t have to buy food from the stalls in the parks. I mean what’s more dreamy than having a picnic in Central Park?!  

9/11 Memorial 

What many travellers don’t know is the 9/11 memorial is completely free. It’s the museum which you have to pay. I do totally recommend it by the way but the memorial itself is free for you to go and pay your respects. 

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of free things to do in New York City but it’s definitely a start. Like wandering Bloomingdales,  5th avenue and the upper east side costs you nothing. Use your imagination and you could probably see the whole of New York for free!

9/11 museum new york
The 9/11 Memorial

How to Save Money on Broadway Tickets in New York City!

This is by far my favourite tip on how to save money on your trip to NYC because what’s a trip to the big city without going to catch a show on Broadway! There are a few ways which you can get cheap tickets for broadway but most involve not choosing what show you want to watch. If you don’t care then you can simply queue up at the TKTS booth in Times Square. Every day they discount so many tickets for those evening shows. It’s usually the shows that aren’t sold out but it’s a great way to a show for a cheaper price! 

Try Out AttractionTix

There was no way I was seeing anything on Broadway other than The Lion King. That said, at $200 a ticket on Ticketmaster, I had no idea if it was going to be possible. That’s when I came across AttractionTix. I admit I was a little dubious at first to whether or not this website was legitimate. They were offering Lion King tickets for half the price of Ticketmaster for a while I thought there must be a catch.

But I read positive review after positive review so decided to go for it. I booked two tickets for the Lion King on Broadway and then realised you can’t pick where you want to sit. They give you the option on what tier to sit on but not the seats themselves. Basically you have to keep it all crossed that you can your travel buddy will be sat together! 

They then send you tickets which you have to change on the day of the performance at the Lion King ticket office in New York. I was a bag of nerves standing in line praying we were sat together and got a good seat! Luckily for us, my mum and I were sat together and we also had a perfect view and aisle seat! The aisle seat is perfect for the Lion King because the cast walks through the crowd at the start of the performance!

It was a fantastic experience and I’d definitely use AttractionTix again and again! 

How to Save Money on Transport in New York City 

The best way to save money on Transport in New York City is quite simple to walk. New York is huge but you can get around pretty easily with your two feet if you invest in some comfy walking shoes. We saved heaps of money by walking to the majority of attractions whilst in the city. When the time came that we did need to use the transport around the city here are some of the tips which helped us save:

  • Never take a taxi unless you really have to! Don’t forget in the USA tipping is essential and that means the taxi driver too!
  • Use the subway instead but before you go work out how many trips you think you’re likely to take before deciding what kind of ticket to buy.
  • If you’re going to be in the city for a week then buy the $33 7 day metro pass. You get unlimited trips and It’ll work out cheaper than buying single trips of you take more than expected.
  • Make sure you research the cheapest options when it comes to getting transport to and from the airport. The subway is the cheapest option by far but can be a little tricky with luggage. We got a shuttle bus from JFK to Grand Central. It only cost $15 which I was more than happy to pay.
  • A taxi ride from JFK to New York City will be around $55. That’s not including a tip or any time added on because of traffic and there’s always traffic! If you’re looking to save money in New York City then like I said before taxies aren’t the way to go!

How to Save Money on Food in New York City 

New York City is serious foodie paradise! Honestly, the amount of street food around is mouth watering just thinking about it. You can grab a corn dog, pizza slice or burrito on every corner. The key to saving money on food in New York is to eat from the street vendors and go where the locals go! 

eggs benedict at scottys dinner new york city
Breakfast is enough to keep you going all day at Scottys!

Avoid tourist traps like Magnolia Bakery or the Cheesecake Factory. Anywhere you eat in Times Square is also going to be pricey so do a little research before you go. During our trip to New York City, we lived off cheap pizza slices and bagels!  It might sound boring but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. New York does bagels like nowhere else in the world and how you can complain at $1 pizza slices? 

Don’t get me wrong we totally splurged on frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3 and had a fancy meal out before watching The Lion King on Broadway but kept budget in-between. 

Some of our favourite cheap eats were: 

  • 2 Bro’s Pizza Shop – St. Marks Place Manhattan 
  • Zuckers Bagels – Grand Central 
  • Joes Steam Rice Roll –  Asian Style in the Ukrainian Village 
  • Scotty’s Diner –  Breakfast – Lexington Ave Manhattan
  • S’mac and Cheese – Manhattan 
  • The Grey Dog –  West Village
  • Best Bagel and Coffee – Midtown
  • IHOP – Pancakes in Manhattan 

Check out this post by Time Out for a much longer list of some budget eats in New York City! 

If you do want to treat yourself for a night like we did then I highly recommend Serendipity 3. The frozen hot chocolate is amazing and the food to die for. Endless celebrities have eaten there and you can see why. Its quirky interior has you feeling like you’ve well and truly followed Alice down the rabbit hole! It is a little pricey but totally worth it! You can’t book ahead but simply turn up and they’ll give you a time to return for your table. Don’t go far because they will give it away if you’re not back in good time!

The Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3
The Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3!

So, Can You Save Money on a Trip to NYC?

So to answer the questions in hand. Can you save money on your trip to New York? Well, I think the short answer is yes. If you follow some of these tips then you’re bound to save some money in New York. But it does pay to keep an open mind. New York is one of the most expensive places in the world so you’ll probably pay more for some things you wouldn’t in other cities around the world. To conclude I think the best tips I can give you to save money in New York City are: 

  • Book flights in advance 
  • Book accommodation with booking.com and keep your options open
  • Eat cheap street food 
  • Think about how much you really want to pay for things like observation decks? Is there a cheaper way of doing things? Like the Bar Sixty Five option I mentioned!
  • Take advantage of the many free things to do in New York 
  • Walk where you can or buy a metro card 
  • Use a website like Attraction Trix for Broadway Tickets 
  • Avoid Tourist Traps 

I hope that you enjoyed this post on how to save money in New York City! I really hope it’s given you some tips and some encouragement that you can go on a budget trip to the big apple. If you enjoyed it then I would be so thankful if you could share this post with your friends! I wouldn’t be able to carry on writing this blog without you so thanks for reading!

Other New York City Resources:

If you know any other tips on saving money in New York then let me know in the comments below! 

Happy Travels,

Alicia

How to Spend One Day in Wellington and See Everything!

How to Spend One Day in Wellington and See Everything!

New Zealand is famous for its mountainous landscape, aqua blue lakes and endless awe-inspiring hikes. What New Zealand isn’t famous for is its cities. Of course, we’ve all heard of Wellington and Christchurch but that’s not really why we visit New Zealand. That said it doesn’t mean that the cities aren’t worth checking out and just one day in Wellington is plenty of time to enjoy most of what this city has to offer. If you can spare 48 hours for Wellington in your north island itinerary then even better!

After living in Wellington for some time we’ve got to know this quirky little capital and some even describe it as the ‘San Francisco’ of New Zealand. Having indulged myself in San Francisco on a few occasions I’m sure I quite agree but it’s certainly has a chic urban character to it, so I get where the association has been made. Exploring this city is fun and involves a lot of food, coffee and picture-perfect harbour views. I could happily give you a one-week itinerary for Wellington but for now, let’s dig into how you should spend just one day in Wellington. 

How to Spend One Day in Wellington 

Most travellers glide through Wellington on their way south. The ferries that connect the north island to the south depart from Wellington, so some come for an afternoon beforehand and some literally just drive through. I recommend coming to Wellington at least the day before heading south, it is the capital city after-all. 

Arrive in Wellington Early Morning 

Freedom Campers – Park Up in Evans Bay Marina 

In this post, I’m going to assume that you have a campervan, like the majority of travellers in New Zealand, and no that’s not a presumption it’s a fact. Arrive in Wellington early morning that way you get to really make the most of the one day you have in this city. There’s are a couple of places you can freedom in Wellington but since this itinerary is covering just one day in Wellington, I recommend Evans Bay Marina. Evans Bay Marina is a great freedom camping spot to camp for the night with clean water and pretty clean toilets. The only downside is that it gets busy really quickly. If you arrive after 2 pm then you’ve probably missed your chance at getting a spot. 

Head straight to the campsite when you arrive and helpfully some early risers have already left to catch the ferry south. Park up at. Evans Bay Marina and expect to enjoy the rest of the day on feet if you’re able to. If not there are buses that frequently run from Evans Bay Marina into the city.  The bus stop is literally just across the street. 

Mount Victoria 

First thing on the list is Mount Victoria lookout. Mount Victoria lookout boats some of the best views of the harbour and city in Wellington. I say some of because my favourite has to be Mount Kaukau but it would be a real challenge trying to fit that hike in with only one day in Wellington. Mount Victoria looks over the harbour is just idyllic especially on a clear day. 

Leave Evans Bay Marina and walk through the village of Hataitai until you reach a small strip of shops. There’s a zebra crossing (black and white pedestrian crossing for anyone whose not familiar with that term) cross over to the left-hand side of the road and walk towards the public toilets. Here you’ll find the track that leads to Mount Victoria. 

The hike up to the lookout is steep in parts and will take around 30-40 minutes depending on how fast you walk/in my case, how many times I stop for photographs. Be sure to keep looking back because the view over Evans Bay is wonderful. Keep following the track until you start seeing the purple pillars in the ground which then direct you via ‘lookout walkway’ or just follow the crowd. See walking directions from Evans Bay to Mount Victoria below!

Once you’re on the viewing platform any sweat will be rewarded with awe-inspiring views. The panoramic views of the city below are wonderful. In the distance, you can usually see the Tararua Mountain Range. There are two viewpoints from Mount Victoria so be sure to visit both and both offer a different perspective of the city.  This is a pretty touristy area of Wellington but 100% worth a visit. 

If you’re unable to walk then you can drive right to the top and park the car. There’s also a bus that runs from the city and Hataitai. From Hataitai its bus number 2 towards Karori and the city it’s bus number 2 towards Seatourn Park. My best advice when it comes to getting around Wellington is to use Google Maps – its the easiest way to see which direction to walk and which buses you need to catch and where from! Unless you’re still handing with a paper map – which I am not! 

Tip – Mount Victoria is gorgeous at both sunset and sunrise so it’s up to you whether you go in the morning or evening. Either way, just make sure you climb it!

Walk Down the Other Side into the city via Oriental Bay 

After getting a fix of fantastic views from Mount Victoria head into the City. Take the southern walkway from the top and follow it back down to Oriental Bay. Oriental Bay is where you’ll find a gorgeous, one of the most popular summer spots in Wellington. On a day when the sun shines bright, the ocean glistening aqua blue and it’s simply gorgeous. I recommend spending little time taking in the beachfront if the weather is on your side! 

oriental bay the perfect place for a walk during one day in Wellington
Oriental Bay Beach

Brunch at Coene’s 

After all that walking you’re probably hungry so why not pop into Coene’s bar and eatery for some brunch! It opens at 11 am and serves up one of the best brunches you’ll get in the city. It’s not just me who thinks so either – The trips advisors of the world also voted Coene’s the best breakfast/brunch spot in Wellingtons. But it’s not the only great spot. 

Some other places for a great brunch are Victoria Street Cafe, they do 241 pancakes on a Monday and Tuesday! The Hangar on Dixon Street is also a great option serving up the best coffee in town! If you’ve followed Alicia Overseas here and on Instagram then you’ll know I’m not really a coffee drinker but at The Hangar, I will drink a coffee because it’s just gorgeous – so creamy! 

Te Papa Museum 

After enjoying a brunch I highly recommend visiting Te Papa Museum. Te Papa is the national history museum of New Zealand and you can learn so much about New Zealand history. Go back in time to when Moas roamed the land here in New Zealand in the wildlife exhibit or revel in war history. The war exhibition is well worth going to as well. This exhibition tells the story of New Zealand’s battles in the first world war and has some pretty impressive lifelike models that fill the whole room! Check out the official website before going to see what other exhibitions are taking place during your visit to Wellington. 

Te Papa Museum is completely free to enter but you do have to pay for some of the temporary exhibitions on occasions. You’ll find everything you need like toilets and water inside. You could seriously walk around Te Papa Museum all day so scheduling a short amount of time during a short one day in Wellington will be tricky but just be disciplined with your time!

Walk Along the Harbour Front 

Once you’ve spent some time in Te Papa its time to explore the Wellington waterfront. Walk around the harbour taking it all in. You’ll find old abandoned ships, the Solace in the Wind Statue, a love-lock bridge and plenty of culture along the waterfront. It’s a favourite with locals and visitors alike. There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants along the waterfront to pop into as well. 

One Day in Wellington – Afternoon

Visit the Parliament Buildings 

Once reaching the end of the waterfront cross over the road at the New Zealand gallery and follow the signs for Parliament houses. The houses of Parliament in Wellington is architectural brilliance and definitely worth swinging by even if you’re not really bothered about politics. The Beehive is my favourite building in the city. It’s unique and full of life. If politics is your thing then you can take a tour inside for free. 

Wellington Cable Car and Botanical Gardens 

After visiting the Parliament  Buildings walk down Lambton Quay which takes through the heart of the shopping district in Wellington. As you walk down the busiest street in Wellington remember to look up to see some gorgeous buildings. The Old Bank where you’ll now find shops and coffee is wonderful. 

wellington in winter
The view from the top of the Cable Car!

Walk until you get to Cable Car lane where you can catch the cable car up to the Botanical Gardens for some more epic views of the city and gorgeous gardens. I’ll admit that the cable car is a little pricey at $9 return but it’s a great way to get up to Botanical Gardens quickly otherwise it’s going o take about 30 minutes to walk from the city. If you have time then that’s great but probably unlikely with just one day in Wellington. 

The Botanical Gardens are huge so have a look at the. Maps and enjoy whichever section you like the sound of best before getting the cable car back down to the city. 

Visit Cuba Street

Cuba Street is where it’s all going on in the city. Imagine a street lined with cafes, bars, restaurants, shops Cuba Street is where it all goes on. You can simply take a walk down the street taking it all in or hop in and out of a few bars/cafes on your way. There are some great bookshops on Cuba Street one of my favourites being Pegasus Books as well as the iconic water fountain to enjoy just try not to get drenched as you walk past! After enjoying Cuba Street it’s probably going to be late afternoon, almost evening.

Evening in Wellington 

There’s plenty to do on an evening in Wellington but mainly it consists of eating and drinking. Wellington is known for the foodie scene and people spend most weekends making their way around the newest eatery or checking out the beer in some of the breweries. Here are some of my favourite places to eat and drink in Wellington: 

  • Pizza from Tommy Millions on Courtnay Place $5 a slice! 
  • KC Cafe – Chinese on Courtnay Place, doesn’t look much from the outside but the food is to die for! 
  • Sweet Mama’s – American food that’s extra tasty! –  Courtnay Place
  • Apache – Vietnamese and Paris rolled into one! Located on Wakefield Street.
  • Lulu’s for great cocktails and a more upmarket meal – Courtnay Place 
  • The Library –  another great spot for cocktails on Courtnay Place
  • ABV – Rooftop bar!
  • Dirty Little Secret – another rooftop bar on Dixon Street. 
  • MACS Brewery on the harbour front – more a relaxed laid back vibe! 

And there you have it! A one day in Wellington itinerary that gives you a chance to explore most of what this city has to offer. Of course, if you have the time there are plenty more places to explore inside and just outside of Wellington. There are so many suburbs worth visiting so if you can like I said before try and get at least 2 days in the capital city! 

I hope that you enjoyed this post and if you did I would be so grateful if you could share it with your friends! Have you been to Wellington before? Let me know how you found the capital city of New Zealand in the comments below! 

Happy Travels, 

Alicia! 

19 Things to Do in Bondi, Sydney

19 Things to Do in Bondi, Sydney

Bondi Beach is possibly, no definitely, the most famous beach town in Sydney. It’s known around the globe for its beauty and of course the hit show ‘Bondi Surf Rescue’. It seems like everyone who visits Sydney wants to snag a cheeky pic or 2 with those hunky lifeguards! Bondi Beach was one of our first ports of call in Sydney And after a few weeks of checking out the local suburbs, we actually decided to live in Bondi!

In a bid to be nearer the beach so we could live out a beach town life for a while we fully embraced ourselves in the Bondi lifestyle. I say lifestyle because living in Bondi is a lifestyle choice. You’re living in your own little Bondi bubble and often forget that your anywhere near the city! So after living in Bondi I thought I’d put together this post giving you 19 things to do in Bondi because there is so much more to this place than just the beach!

19 Things to Do in Bondi Beach!

1. Go to the Beach 

Bondi beach at sunset
Bondi Beach at Golden Hour!

Okay so yes there are a lot more things to do in Bondi than just hanging out on the beach BUT it is the go-to activity in Bondi. Bondi is full of surfing buffs, sun lovers, families playing on the sand, friends watching the sunset, the beach is a huge part of the lifestyle in Bondi so make sure you enjoy it during your visit too!

When we first came to Bondi I was actually surprised at how small the beach was – it looks a lot bigger on TV! I recommend heading to Bondi during the week when it’s less busy and catch some of those rays! 

2. Take a Surf Lesson with Let’s Go Surfing 

Surfing is the ultimate Aussie sport! If you haven’t imagined yourself at least trying to ride those waves then maybe you can never be a real Aussie, sorry! Just kidding but surfing is a way of life down at Bondi Beach and everywhere else in Australia so you might as well give it try! We took our first lesson on Bondi Beach in December 2018 for Dave’s birthday and it was epic! Neither of us had surfed before and we couldn’t have had more fun – we even both managed to stand up on our first lesson!!! True Aussies at heart?

Let’s Go Surfing is the only company teaching in Bondi and they also have a school up in Byron Bay. The guys at Let’s Go Surfing learnt to surf before they could walk and are the best people to teach you. The lessons start at around $98 per person so they aren’t cheap but they are so worth it! That gets you a 3-hour group surfing lesson with 2 instructors and all the gear hire like a board, wetsuit and suncream! 

These classes are perfect if you’ve never touched a surfboard before. I personally don’t really like deep water and my co-ordination? Well, let’s just leave that one to the imagination. So let’s just say I was terrified and even though this was one of the top things I wanted to do on Bondi Beach, I was shitting my pants. Luckily, the guys at Let’s Go Surfing were so good at what they do I instantly went from being scared to having the time of my life! 

The surfing classes aren’t about who’s the better surfer and there not even about making it to standing. You get taught the basic surfing technique and then head into the water to test out the theory. There’s a lot of laughing and falling straight in the water in fact, be prepared to spend more time on your arse in the water than on the surfboard! For more information on surf lessons on Bondi Beach then take a look at here. 

3. Walk from Bondi-Coogee 

Walking from Bondi to Coogee is another really famous thing to do in Bondi. It’s probably the most popular coastal walk in Sydney and honestly, it’s so worthy of that tittle. I’m not really a huge fan of tourist traps but here’s the thing about tourist traps and one of the reasons I always visit them. They became tourist traps for a reason, usually because these places are freaking insane! So, if you’re looking for a leisurely stroll along the Sydney coastline with no tourists taking photographs and being all giddy then this walk isn’t for you. But please don’t let that deter you from at least walking part of it. 

Bronte ocean baths
Bronte Ocean Baths!

The Bondi to Coogee walk starts at the Bondi Icebergs and follows the coastline for 6 km eventually finishing at Coogee beach and pavilion. The walk weaves through the stunning eastern suburbs, Tamarama,  Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee. If we didn’t live in Bondi then we’d have lived in Bronte which is my second favourite eastern suburb.

The walk includes getting sandy on all the beaches and weaving in and out of sea cliffs with picture-perfect views of the ocean and beaches behind. One of my favourite points of the walk is just after Bronte when you reach the top of the hill to the right of the beach. Here you can choose to climb to onto of the ledge that runs across the sea cliff (don’t worry this bit is safe) and you’re greeted with an epic view of Bondi in the distance, it’s simply beautiful. 

Coogee beach from the end of the bondi to coogee coastal walk
Coogee Beach where the walk ends!

The views just keep coming as you keep walking along with some beautiful houses that you and I could probably only ever dream of living in! I recommend taking as long as possible to tackle this coastal walk. If you have a full day then pack your swimmers and swim in every ocean pool you pass on the way! Clovelly has some great snorkelling so pack a snorkel too! 

If you don’t have long in Bondi then the full walk will take about 3 hours or you can just walk part of it like Bondi to Bronte. It might be a tourist and local trap (yep, the locals love this walk too) but it’s one of the best things to do in Bondi and should be on your list! Sydney has hundreds of coastal walks that are worth checking out, I wrote about some more of my favourites in this post!

4. Swim in the Free Bondi Ocean Pool

We’ve all seen the gorgeous photographs of the Bondi Icebergs, haven’t we? They are special indeed but even though I do recommend getting in those they are a little pricey which I’ve talked about right below! What a lot of people don’t realise is that there is a free ocean pool at the opposite end of Bondi Beach. 

One of the things that I loved about Australia is that every single beach has it’s own ocean baths. Basically a swimming pool that’s filled with ocean water but has all the safety aspects of a swimming pool. No current, no getting whisked out to sea but still enjoying being outside and on the beach! They are perfect for those who are a little daunted by the deep blue water but still want to enjoy a swim on the beach! 

People often miss this pool out because the attention is on the icebergs but if you’re on a budget and want a safe free swim then head to the other side of the beach for the free Bondi ocean baths. They’re only small and often full of families but still worth checking out.  

5. Swim at the Bondi Icebergs 

Bondi Beach wouldn’t be complete without these aqua blue swimming pools making up so much of the landscape. The Bondi Icebergs are ocean water swimming pools that overlook both the beach and the ocean. There are three swimming pools in total, a shallow pool, children’s pool and lane swimming pool. To swim it’s $7 per adult for a swim and sauna. There’s also a bar and restaurant inside. Again, this is another Bondi tourist trap so expect lots of people taking photographs both from above and in the pools! 

Always check the website before you go for a swim because Sydney swimming clubs often train at the Icebergs. 

Bondi icebergs from above
The famous Bondi Icebergs!

6. Watch the Sunrise 

Bondi does sunrises like no other place in Sydney. The sun does rise early in the summertime but it’s so worth it. Set that early alarm, get a breakfast picnic ready and head to the beach! Watch the sunrise behind the ocean creating a twinkling blue sheet below. On a good day the sunrise at Bondi Beach is perfect and so is the sunset! 

Bondi Beach at sunrise number 6 of my 19 things to do in Bondi

7. And Watch the Sunset too! 

The sun sets in Bondi to the right near Bronte and Tamarama so it fills the sky in Bondi with a pink hue that’s just incredible. Watching the sunset in Bondi is a perfect way to end the day. Sit up high on the grassy hill that overlooks the beach or get round to the sea cliffs near Bronte and watch from there. There’s always a tonne of surfers in the water at sunset too which are great to watch! 

Okay, so that’s enough for beach and swimming themed things to do in Bondi! Here are some more of the must-dos around Bondi that don’t involve getting sandy feet or wet! 

 8. Hit the Shops!

Bondi is shopping heaven. If you enjoy getting lost amongst cute indy boutique shops then you’re in for a real treat. Bondi is the queen of boutique gift shops and you can find some wonderful souvenirs. Head to Gould Street and check out all the shops. There are also rows of shops lining the beachfront –  These tend to be a little more mainstream for gifts but still great to browse! 

One of my favourite activewear shops EVER is found in Bondi too! If you’re a yoga lover or gym-bunny then make sure you check out Bondi Active. Dave and I bought our fair share of leggings, hoodies and shorts during our time in Australia and they are amazing. The material they use is so soft and durable – Definitely worth investing in! They remind me of a ‘Bondi Branded’ Lululemon type shop. 

9. Gertrude and Alice 

Gertrude and Alice is 100% one of the must-enjoy spots in Bondi! This place is a bookstore come cafe, a gorgeous little slice of heaven in other words! If you love reading and drinking coffee then this is your spot. My Saturdays were spent regulating trying to find my next read whilst blogging and enjoying a coffee from the tables afterwards. They sell second-hand books and is a favourite among the locals. If you plan on hitting the beach in Bondi then you’re going to need a great book right?! 

Gertrude and Alice are located on Hall Street and open 7 days a week 7:30 am – 8:30 pm. 

10. Things to Do in Bondi Sydney – Enjoy the Street Art!

The beach is actually lined with incredible street art murals. Walk from one end of the beach to the other and take in the amazing artwork.  The artwork changes from time to time so it’s fun to head down again and again if you have an extended stay in Australia. Don’t worry there’s a concrete walkway that lines the beach so you don’t have to get sandy enjoying the artwork! The artists often leave their social media handles on the paintings too so be sure to go them a little love if you enjoyed a particular piece! 

bondi beach street art
Some of the art on Bondi!

11. Take a Yoga Lesson on the Beach 

I think I completely failed when it came to keeping this section away from the beach didn’t I?! The truth is that Bondi revolves around the beach so you just have to embrace it! Yoga is also a way of life down on Bondi Beach. There’s a yoga studio on every corner but the best way to practice is on that stunning beach with the sound of the ocean in the background – there’s honestly nothing more relaxing in my opinion! 

There are a few ways to enjoy Yoga on the beach in Bondi. You can book an experience through Air BnB or check out the company Yoga By the Sea. They run yoga classes outside all year round at reasonable prices. Take a look at the schedule on their website here, they also practice at Bronte and Tamarama too! 

Tamarama beach next to Bondi Beach
Tamarama beach next door to Bondi – a beautiful beach with fewer people!

12. Or Take a Yoga Class Inside

If you prefer the comfort and safety of a studio then don’t worry Bondi is full of them! All you need to do is Google yoga in Bondi and you’ll be overwhelmed by options. My favourite studios are BodyMindLife and Power Living. Australia also has an app called Class Pass where you can find heaps of fitness classes around the country and you can do a free trial for 2 weeks. 

13. Eat at all the Cafes!

Bondi is full of gorgeous cafes. Honestly, I don’t even think I could pick a favourite because they are so good! The only thing I noticed about the cafes in Bondi is that they are all pretty similar. If you want eggs Benedict or smash ago on toast then you won’t have to go far in Bondi trust me. Explore the cafes along the main street on Gould Street. Breakfast and brunch is a social activity on Bondi. Everyone is up early and enjoying the sunshine with a morning coffee in hand. 

14. Weekend Markets 

Every Sunday Bondi is home to the farmer’s markets where you can grab your local produce at a cheaper price. Food in Australia is expensive there’s no getting around it. Shopping at the markets if the cheapest place and it’s also the most organic so its a win-win for everybody! If you’re into health foods then make sure you find the Yellow Deli stall! You can find out more about the Yellow Deli here but they produce the best healthy green bars I’ve ever tasted! You can find them at the Bondi and Bondi Junction Markets!

15. Go Golfing (even just visit the Golf Course for the views)

There’s a huge golf course in Bondi for those golf lovers amongst us. I must admit I’m not a golfer but Dave is. What I will say about the Bondi golf course is that the views are amazing. Head towards the course even if just to daydream at the awe-inspiring views of the beach. 

16. Explore the Parks

As well as the beach Bondi also has some wonderful parks which are a great spot for a BBQ. It’s worth noting that there are no BBQ pits on the grassland or beach in Bondi. There are BBQ areas on Tamarama beach which is just around the corner from Bondi but Marks Park and Hunter Park are both great spots to enjoy a BBQ and gathering with friends. 

17. Bondi Events and Festivals 

Before you go to Bondi make sure you check the dates you’re going for any events and festivals down at Bondi. The main events that run at Bondi throughout the year are:

  • Sculpture by the Sea – October to November. 
  • Carols by the Sea – December. 
  • Bowl-A-Rama –  Skateboarding Competition usually February. 
  • Festival of the Winds – Usually September time. 

18. Get Fit in the North Bondi Outdoor Exercise Area

Not having time or being able to afford a gym membership is a thing of the past these days. Bondi has an outdoor exercise area which is free to use for everyone. There’s your usual gym crowd that hang out there but if you need a workout then do not let them stop you! I admit I never went but if you need a workout to feel a little more human after eating out on vacation so much – we all do it, then head on down! The views overlooking the beach are pretty great! 

19. Go Shopping at Westfield in Bondi Junction

Just a short bus ride away from Bond is Bondi junction which is at the shopping hub of the eastern suburbs. You’ll find a huge Westfield with everything you could possibly need for your shopping needs! It’s also air-conditioned and. Perfect on a. Sweltering day! If you do visit make sure you go to the ground floor and find the pet shop – baby puppies everywhere! We would go just to look at the puppies every week! 

So, there you have it! 19 great things to do in Bondi, you could spend weeks in Bondi just laying on the beach and enjoying the cafes. Living here was one of our greatest life experiences and Bondi will always have a special spot in my heart. I know it’s a place we’ll visit time and time again as the years go on. I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you love Bondi as much as we did! If you did enjoy this post I would be so thankful if you could share it with your friends!

If you’re spending three days in Sydney why not check out my itinerary and make sure you don’t miss anything out in this amazing city!

Happy Travels!

Alicia

How to Use the Sydney Opal Card and How to Get Around on Public Transport!

How to Use the Sydney Opal Card and How to Get Around on Public Transport!

Sydney is one vast city. Its boundaries appear limitless and I’ll be honest getting around Sydney can feel like trying to navigate a giant labyrinth maze! After living in Sydney for 6 months with no car it’s safe to say I’ve experienced more than my fair share of public transport getting around Sydney.

Luckily, there a few systems in place, like the Opal Card, to make your commute from A to B run smoothly. In this post, I’ll be going into detail about how to use the Sydney Opal Card and how to get the best out of it, including rewards! I’ll also be going over all the important things to know about Sydney’s public transport system! If you’re planning on visiting this vibrant city in Australia then I suggest getting to know a little about the transport first. I can tell you that if you don’t it will be very confusing when you land in one of the worlds most popular cities. 

How to use the Sydney Opal Card - Image of train station
A very quiet central station

How to Use the Sydney Opal Card 

Before going into the public transport systems in Sydney lets talk about the Opal Card.

I decided to write this post because I found the whole Opal Card thing quite overwhelming when I first arrived in Sydney. Roll your eyes and call me old fashioned but pre Australia I lived in the countryside where we paid on board for buses and still bought paper tickets for trains. And I’ve also been driving for many years and unfortunately once you stop using public transport you become useless at figuring it out – I can’t be the only one?! 

So if like me you can be a little clueless to the systems then I hope you find this guide before you’re in the city and using the Opal Card for real!

What is the Opal Card?

Basically, the Opal Card is a pre-paid travel card that you top-up and then use to pay for public transport. If you’ve been to London and had an Oyster card then it’s exactly the same thing. 

Wynyard station in Sydney Australia
Wynyard Station is pretty special!

How to Use the Sydney Opal Card – Technical Aspect

Topping Up

The Opal Card is super easy to use. To top up your card simply go to any newsagents, shop, or station that has the Opal sign. You can honestly top-up anywhere in Sydney there are so many places that do it including the big supermarkets like Coles. The other option which I found so helpful is to top-up via the free opal app!

Download from the App Store or Google Play store, register the card and then top-up by using a master or debit card. 

Tapping On and Off 

The Sydney transport system works on a tap-on tap-off system. To get on and off public transport tap the opal card on the sensors at the train/ferry stations and on the reader as you hop on the bus. It really is that simple. When the balance is running low the reader will let you know that you need to top-up. If you run into a negative balance then the amount will be deducted the next time you top-up the Opal card. 

Now you know how to use the Sydney Opal card on a technical level there are few other things to keep in mind when getting around public transport using an Opal card. 

Initial Cost of Opal Card

The Opal card doesn’t cost but there is a $10 minimum requirement when you top-up for the first time. Honestly, you won’t get far on $10 in Sydney so top-up at least $20 to begin with!

It’s also worth noting that if you purchase an Opal Card from the airport the minimum top-up is $35! This is a total tourist trap if you ask me so don’t purchase until you get to the city! The train from the airport to city is a standard $20 so just buy a ticket from the airport! 

how to use the sydney opal card

Using a Contactless Card instead of an Opal Card as a Tourist 

Again, if you’re familiar with the London Oyster card then you’ll know you can now use a debit/master card on the underground instead of an Oyster.

There is that option in Sydney too. This is for sure an easier way to travel around in Sydney opposed to topping up the Opal card all the time. However, if you’re a tourist just get the card! Using an International card will occur international transaction fees. Sydney transport is already expensive enough without that extra cost on top! 

Alternatives to Using the Opal Card in Sydney 

If you really don’t want to buy an Opal card then you can buy a single ticket on buses and in stations. But these will be more expensive so I honestly recommend just getting a card on your first day and make it cheaper for yourself! 

The downside to the Sydney Opal Cards for travellers is that you can’t get the money that’s on the card back unless you have an Australian address/bank account. Keep an eye on your travel costs throughout the day so that you don’t top-up too much! But if you are on a working holiday visa make sure you claim any unused balances back from your opal card before you leave!

Fare Capping on Sundays in Sydney! 

Sundays are an important day in Sydney for public transport as all transport costs are capped at $2.70! This does mean that Sundays in Sydney are extra busy but worth it for the cheap travel! No matter if you use the Opal card or contactless the fare will be capped at $2.70. 

Other Budget caps on the Opal Card 

As well as capping the public transport fare at $2.70 on a Sunday the fares are also capped daily and weekly. The daily amount is $16.10 and weekly is $50 for your standard adult. Also if you make more than 8 journeys in one week the rest of the week is half price using the Opal card. 

Guide to the Public Transport in Service

Now you know how to use the Sydney Opal Card and everything else that comes with it, here’s an overview of the types of public transport available and the easiest ways to get around! 

Available Public Transport in Sydney 

Like most big cities in the world, Sydney has a fairly decent public transport system. I personally think it could be a lot better but that’s a matter of opinion. If Sydney had a tube system like London then I think it would make so many commuters very happy indeed! In Sydney, you’ll find the usual public transport options, trains, buses, ferries and the light rail (just another word they use for the tram – don’t ask me why!).

Sydney spent the last year rebuilding the tram system in the city centre. The first tram ran on the 14th of October 2019 so I’m sure it would be wise to expect some teething issues over the next few months!

The Sydney Train System 

a train in sydney
All Sydney trains are double-decker inside!

Sydney has a decent train system and I would say it’s the most efficient way to travel whilst visiting or living in Sydney.

The trains run very frequently throughout the city centre and to the suburbs daily so it’s easy to hop on the train to your destination. You’ll need an opal card to travel on the train in Sydney and once you know how to use the Sydney opal card getting on and off the trains is easy!  

The only downside to the trains in Sydney is that I don’t think they go far enough! For example, if you want to get to Bondi Beach you’ll have to get a train to Bondi Junction and then switch to the 333 bus to Bondi Beach which is a little bit of a pain! On the other hand, there has been talk about building a train station on Bondi Beach which has attracted a lot of backlash from the locals. I can understand why because Bondi and the area surrounding it is just beautiful but I do think it would help in the long run. Standing in line for the bus at Bondi is not fun and definitely not quick. 

The trains and most of the public transport in Sydney run all night which is brilliant for those out exploring until late at night or having a few gins down at the chic Bondi bars! 

Buses in Sydney 

The bus network in Sydney is actually very good. The only reasons I hated travelling on Sydneys buses wasn’t because of the service but the sheer volume of traffic. Honestly, Sydneys traffic is ridiculous to say that a lot of people don’t actually drive in the city centre! I get terrible motion sickness and there is so much stopping and starting on these Sydney buses. The other reason why I don’t favour the bus is that it does take a long time to get from one end of the city to the other, again because of traffic. But don’t let deter you from using them!

The Sydney bus service is very reliable and in my experience, the buses are always on time! The fare for the buses and trains is similar so it doesn’t matter too much which one you choose! The best thing to do is use some of the planning apps on your smartphone to help plan your transport routes! Keep reading for information on which Apps you’ll need in Sydney to get around easily!  

Tram 

Back in the 60’s the tram system in Sydney was halted and ripped out. That was perhaps one of the worst decisions the city made because now in 2019 it’s back up and running once again! The tram system or ‘light rail’ as they call it in Sydney now runs between the CBD and Kensington. The light rail was still under construction when we lived there so I can’t comment on it really but take a look at the official light rail website here for more information.

Ferries in Sydney

the commuter/public transport ferry in Sydney
This is the ferry you want to pay less!

As well as buses trains and trams Sydney also has ferries! The ferries are brilliant and offer some of the best views of the city so I highly recommend getting one at some point! The ferries are expensive which is the only downside. If you’re in Sydney for a Sunday then this is a great time to take a ferry ride when the fare is capped! Otherwise, fares on the ferries are usually about $7 upwards. The most popular and my favourite ferry journey in Sydney is the Sydney – Manly. The views are amazing and Manly should definitely be on your Sydney itinerary!

Fast Ferries: There are fast ferries available in Sydney and it depends on the company as to whether or not you can use the Opal card so check beforehand. The fast ferries are good because they get you from A to B faster but they are more expensive. You can easily tell the difference between the fast ferries and normal ones. The normal ferries are the huge yellow and green ones as photographed above!

Helpful Apps to Download in Sydney for the Public Transport 

Opal Card App – Download the Opal Card app if you’re in Sydney for an extended period. It’s easy to top-up via the app and you can keep a track of your weekly rewards. 

Google Maps – You can use Google Maps to get all the public transport information in Sydney.

NSW Trip Planner – This app is also helpful when planning your trips in Sydney and sometimes has a little more information than Google Maps if there are delays. 

Handy Sydney Transport Tips: 

  • For Bondi Beach the bus you’ll need is the 333
  • You cannot get the train to Manly or Bondi – you have to switch to the bus
  • The 333 also runs an all night service which is handy to know 
  • Sydney public transport runs on Christmas Day (crazy I know)! 
  • The ferry to Manly takes 45 minutes 
  • For the best views of the city take the ferry to either Manly, Watsons Bay or Rose Bay and sit at the rear of the boat outside 
  • The Sydney Harbour is choppy as! So if you get seasick be warned! 
  • If you sit at the front of the ferries you’ll probably get wet on a choppy day!
  • Your journey will take longer than it says because of crazy traffic 
  • Opal Card fares do not apply when travelling to the airport 
  • Kids under 5 go free! 
  • Students, Children/Youths and Seniors get discounted travel 

I really hope you found this post helpful and it makes your journeys in Sydney a little easier! Once you get used it and know how to use the Sydney Opal card then the system is really handy! If you’re on a Working Holiday Visa and have an Australian bank account then use contactless making it even easier to get around on the public transport! My biggest takeaway on getting around Sydney is to schedule enough time for traffic and always set off early!

Find more of my Sydney posts here!

If you did enjoy this post or find it useful then I would so grateful if you could share it! Thank you! 

Happy Travels, 

Alicia

Things to Do at Castlepoint in New Zealand

Things to Do at Castlepoint in New Zealand

When I first arrived in Wellington it’s safe to say it felt slightly anti-climatic. I’d just lived in the vibrant city of Sydney for six months and Wellington certainly felt like everything Sydney wasn’t. I also noted the sudden pang of homesicknesses. As I continually observed Wellington I soon realised it wasn’t that I wanted to go home at all. It was that Wellington reminded me of my home city Sheffield, a LOT! Over time I’ve come to believe that it isn’t just the city that makes Wellington a wonderful place to live, it’s everything around it. I’ve come to love taking day trips from Wellington to some beautiful destinations like Castlepoint. Castlepoint is a locally treasured spot on the east coast of the North Island and is truly awe-inspiring. Home to a working Lighthouse and stunning rugged coastline, here are some of the wonderful things to do at Castlepoint! 

the view of Castlepoint lighthouse from the viewing platform
Gorgeous views of this impressive landscape from the top of the viewpoint!

Where is Castlepoint?

Located on the edge of the Wairarapa coast Castlepoint is a much-loved spot in New Zealand. I’m yet to meet a Kiwi who hasn’t recommended that I check this place out. So as part of our bid to explore as much of New Zealand as possible during our Working Holiday Visa one gorgeous Thursday afternoon, we jumped in the car and headed for the coast! Before we went to Castlepoint I didn’t particularly know what there was to do in the area except visit the lighthouse but there is so much to explore around this gorgeous landscape. 

If you’re road-tripping the North Island then you have to squeeze Castlepoint into your itinerary along with all of these spots too! But if you’re based in Wellington then a trip to Castlepoint makes for the perfect day out. From Wellington the drive is so easy, you’re literally following State Highway 2 from the city all the way to Masterton. From there it’s only another hour until you reach this perfect seaside town. I’ve left a driving map with instructions on how to get to Castlepoint from Wellington by car. As far as I’m aware there isn’t any public transport linking Castlepoint to Wellington. 

Things to Do at Castlepoint, New Zealand 

Visit the Lighthouse

When you arrive at Castlepoint the first thing that’ll catch your eye is, of course, the lighthouse. It’s definitely the main attraction on this rugged peninsula! Parking is available on the beach right next to lighthouse. As you drive into Castlepoint you’ll see a car park next to the public toilets. You can park here and walk along the beach to the lighthouse or keep driving until you meet the other carpark. Don’t worry about taking a wrong turn because the road comes to an end at the carpark. 

Me at Casltepoint lighthouse
The walk is super easy to get to the top!

Lighthouse Walk

Once you arrive on the beach take the very obvious path that leads you to the lighthouse. This lighthouse walk is super easy and only a 30-minute return. There are some stairs and the track can be exposed to high winds but other than that it’s a gorgeous walk that isn’t too strenuous. The views back over the town of Castlepoint are stunning as is the lighthouse stood before you.

The Castle Point lighthouse first shone its light in 1913 and still beams every night to this day. The light beams for  3 times every 30 seconds and is one of the two-beam lighthouses still functioning in New Zealand today. The lighthouse is fully automated and has been since 1988. I love lighthouses and think they have such a special purpose still to this day! Whilst you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of this lighthouse there is no public access inside. The lighthouse will and should be at the top of your list of things to do at Castlepoint! 

Photograph the Views from the Lighthouse

As well as exploring the lighthouse you’re going to want to take your camera. Castlepoint is every photographer’s dream, I honestly could’ve sat there all day snapping away. The landscape is gorgeous from every angle. The cliff edges have been carved by the ocean over the years creating an irregular rocky coastline – it’s perfect for those leading lines!  As you look back on the lighthouse you’ll also see Castlepoint Rock in the distance making for more great photography and a wonderful hike which I’ll mention further down! 

me and Dave overlooking the view of Castlepoint
Castlepoint is also super quiet in the springtime – it was just us plus a few other tourists!

Watch for Marine Life 

As you reach the Castlepoint Lighthouse you need to keep your eyes peeled. There is so much marine life hanging around nearby. Look out into the ocean and see if you can spot some whales, they get both Humpback and Orcas in this area of New Zealand! You might also be lucky enough to see a pod of Dolphins or some fur seals! 

We saw 10 fur seals during our day trip to Castlepoint! The seals tend to hang out near rocks so as you start the walk up to lighthouse make sure to keep having a look off to the left beside you. There’s a collection of rocks from where the ocean has battered away against the land and that’s where the seals will most likely be hanging out! We watched a little seal head back into the ocean from the beach and it was so beautiful to watch it’s moments like that that remind me how lucky I am to be in such an amazing country! If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll have probably seen the video, make sure you are following along so you don’t miss any more of my travel moments!

Whilst searching for marine life with the naked eye can be fun but if you really want to spot some of those whales then pack a pair of binoculars! 

Walk the Deliverance Cove Track 

The Deliverance Cove Track is one of the best things to do in Castlepoint. The lighthouse may be the star but this walk offers breathtaking views of the lighthouse and beaches that line the coast. This walk is a 1.5-hour return and really easy. As you leave the carpark, follow the track into the forest, through the pine trees and onto a track high above the beach. Follow the weaving footpath through the grassland whilst taking in the views! This walk shows off the lighthouse and beach from a different angle and takes you right up to the foot of Castle Rock!

The views of Deliverance Cove from the track
The views of Deliverance Cove from the track

The walk has 2 route options. You can walk to the bottom of Castle Rock and turn around following the same track back to the carpark. Or follow the track down onto the beach walking along the sand and back to the carpark. There’s then the option to climb Castle Rock even though I personally do not think it’s wise nor do I think it’s necessary. 

Climbing Castle Rock

Castle Rock is that flat looking hill you can see in all the photographs of Castlepoint. It certainly makes up a part of this unique landscape and there is an option to climb it at your own risk! I only recommend it if you have climbing experience. By that, I mean experience with steep climbing and scrabbling. The hill is extremely steep and the footpath that you see leading to the top isn’t maintained by the Department of Conservation. There’s a warning sign at the foot of the rock so if you do carry on it’s at your own risk. 

We personally didn’t climb the rock even as avid rock climbers. New Zealand is windy and I did not fancy being flung off the hill. The track is poor and you can see just by looking that there is really no grip nor is there any kind of ledge. You are fully exposed. I personally don’t think you need to climb Castle Rock because the view is going to be the same as at the foot just slightly more elevated! I thought it was worth a mention because in the distance there looks like there’s a clear path to the top. Whilst there is a track the conditions are poor. 

Stroll on the Beach 

Castlepoint beach has been voted by New Zealanders as one of the top 10 beaches in the country and I can see why. The landscape is incredible and so different at every angle! You’ve got the rocks creating the barrier between land and sea. The lush green hills in the distance and golden sand lined with sand dunes! I can imagine this beach really coming to life in the summertime. We visited Castlepoint in Spring but there was already plenty of fishermen, locals walking on the beach and visitors taking it all in. You can stroll down the beach from the main carpark in Castlepoint. 

Fishing 

No matter what time of year you visit Castlepoint you’ll soon see that fishing is amongst the local’s favourite things to do in Castlepoint. We saw fishermen on every section of the beach trying out their luck in catching their supper! 

Best Time of Year to Visit Castlepoint 

Any time of the year! Honestly, Castlepoint will be beautiful in summer and winter. We visited in Spring and it was perfect. The sun was shining so we made the most of every minute exploring the area. In summer I imagine this spot will get very busy so spring is a great shout if you like to avoid the crowds! The only thing I’d say is to try to get a clear/dry day at least! There isn’t much else to do in Castlepoint except explore the outdoors so if it rains it could turn into a miserable day out! 

Freedom Camping at Castlepoint

What I love about New Zealand is the freedom camping culture. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world that allows freedom camping and there’s a designated spot at Castlepoint for it! Located in the carpark nearest to the lighthouse is the freedom camping carpark. There are toilets but the water isn’t to be drunk unless boiled first! The views onto the beach will be incredible from the back of your van, as will the sunrise at Castlepoint in the morning – I’ve heard that it’s simply spectacular! Of course, like all the freedom camping spots in New Zealand, make sure you leave no trace. There are rubbish bins in the town so use them. We are so lucky to be able to freedom in New Zealand so respect it and look after our beautiful shores. 

I hope that this post has given you a little insight into some of the things you can do at Castlepoint New Zealand. It’s a beautiful day trip from Wellington and a must-see for your North Island itinerary! If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends – I would be so grateful! Where’s your next adventure? Let me know in the comments below! If you want a monthly dose of wanderlust straight into your inbox then subscribe to our newsletter in the sidebar!

Happy Travels, 

Alicia