A small Brisbane family, travelling, homeschooling and doing it on a budget!
Broaden your horizons and your mind, and follow our journey!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Home for the Gypsies!

Well we are back home after another 7 nights in one of our favourite camping grounds Killarney View.
Lovely fresh air, afternoon breezes and sunsets to die for!

After almost 4 months straight being with my son and husband 24/7 I am in need of a break and a little re-charge!  Hubby is busy working for the rest of the week and I sent my son off to the movies with his big sister!  I know it was only a few hours, but it was nice.  I think a visit to Nanna is in order this afternoon.

Hadley sent to see Percy Jackson.  He tells me it is the BEST movie he has ever seen - high recommendation indeed.  I have never heard of Percy Jackson but have been told there are books!
Yes books!  I feel Hadley does really need a break from reading adult non-fiction books so look forward to introducing him to something new.

We purchase lots of our books from the Book Depository.  Cheap, fast and free post!  Not sure which ones to start on, but found a pack of 3 so might start there.

Book Depository - Percy Jackson

I hope you are surviving the school holidays!  We are going to catch up on Maths and English next week before heading off to Rainbow Beach for a bit more camping!

You cannot keep a good gypsy still for too long!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Last Leg by Jason

The last leg of our trip saw us spend our final week split between Queenstown and Christchurch. 

It was certainly great to get back to Queenstown, a place we have been lucky enough to see many times. This time we stayed at the Lakeside Holiday Park, which is the closest park to town. It is just  a couple of minutes walk, to grab a well liked ( and well known) Fergburger, a hamburger bar and a bakery, that is famous in these parts.  We really enjoyed our few nights, staying in a nice clean unit with kitchen. We spent the days just walking into town and not really doing too much apart from eating and drinking. 

Lakeside Holiday Park - our cabin

A wonderful freebie is the Lake Hayes reserve, where you can feed the ducks, and walk around the lake, on several paths depending how fit you feel, locals have weekend Barbeques here. 

Lake Hayes 

We had to be back in Christchurch on Monday, so left early that morning to make it by the  mid afternoon. We had our car to sell on a local auction site,  as we were going home in 3 days, and were very happy to see it go for pretty much what we had paid for it several months prior.

We always go to the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, and once again we spent a couple of hours here as Hadley just loves this place. It was sad to drive the streets, through some of the worst hit areas from the 2011 earthquake. 

Make sure you do stop off in Christchurch if you come to New Zealand, the city is open and there are attractions like the Antartic centre, the pop- up shopping mall, built by containers, and great day trips to Akaroa or the Oxford markets.
Stunning Queenstown

New Regent Street in Christchurch is back up and running!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Queenstown by Shona

I was just reading an old blog I once started, Ramblings of a Wannabe Kiwi.  The first post about Queenstown was made in June 2009.  Unfortunately I cannot continue with this blog as I don't know any log in details!  Being in Queenstown again made the think about the blog and have a quick read.
This is my first entry in 2009 - I am still a Wannabe Kiwi - and I still ramble a lot!

I first stepped foot on New Zealand soil 6 years ago. A spur of the moment trip, with my 3 children and my new partner Jason (an ex Kiwi).

I loved the fresh crisp air - a fresh optimism hitting us as we walked out of the Christchurch airport. I felt like we were almost stepping back in time - a time when the word traffic jam was not part of our every day vocabulary - when people greeted you with a smile - when a high-rise was 5 storeys. My first drive into the city evoked such strong childhood memories of happier, carefree times.

Everywhere we went, people chatted and smiled - we were almost dumbfounded - this did not happen in Australia. People held open doors, gave way on roads, pulled over when they were driving too slow and waved on country roads.

Breath-taking is just too underwhelming a word to describe the scenery of the South Island - I cannot even think of an apt term to describe the beauty of this country. We were blessed with brilliant blue skies as we made our way to Queenstown. On your first trip, it is hard not to stop every few kilometres to take photos and simply breathe in the astounding beauty.

I certainly had expectations as I drove to Queenstown. We have all seen the photos, the ads campaigns and the travel hype surrounding Queenstown. We arrived around dusk, and to be honest, driving through Frankton to our hotel, I felt a little let down.

Next morning, we headed off to Deer Park Heights. As we meandered up the gravel road, Queenstown's beauty was laid out before our eyes. Nestled in the hills, surrounded by the magnificent Lake Wakatipu and snow capped mountains, this was better than any travel photo I had ever seen. This was the moment that I truly lost my heart to New Zealand.

A few years ago I read a book by an American who visited Auckland and within 2 days he was house hunting. He said he felt at home, like this was where he was meant to be. I know exactly how he feels.

I am now heading towards by 7th visit to New Zealand in 6 years. Each time is no different - I start to feel a deep sense of melancholy as my holiday nears its end. I do not want to go back to Australia, I never want to leave.

Unfortunately until I can convince 4 children that New Zealand is the best place in the world, Brisbane is where I lay my hat.

I know I will live in New Zealand one day, until then, I dream of living there, visit as often as I can, and continue to bore my friends and family with the "ramblings of a wannabe Kiwi".

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bluff, Invercargill, Southland........

Bluff. Invercargill. Southland by Jason


Are you scared yet?  Well we have travelled from Dunedin and today braved the road (in cyclonic strength winds) to Bluff -  the very bottom of New Zealand. The point of no return. The end of the world.  Here we are. 

We like what we see, we look at purchasing property. 

Bluff is like 1930s Scotland, harsh, windy, mean, derelict, gritty. It is our sort of town.  Maybe because we are none of those things, but we like to imagine that we are. We talk of living here. That's nothing new.  

Bluff is a gem though.  We ate at a tiny pub converted to a  B & B and went back in time. Bluff is well known for it's oysters.  It is the most southernly point of New Zealand and the wind is ferocious and mean.  It was so cold we ran to the car,  it was so cold the rain turned to hail. Locals didn't bat an eyelid, fisherman went about their business.  We froze, but we wanted to belong.

Invercargill is the big brother to Bluff and Invercargill is a hardy city in itself.  Sportingly strong, Southland has produced many fine All Blacks and has a strong Netball team and Basketball side.  We ate at an Irish Pub. It was solid and hearty. This was a Greymouth of the south. A hardy town that survives. 

The Museum is impressive. So are some of the houses on the side street off the main road. Bold, large and impressive as though in the 1920s size was everything. 

We stayed in a cabin, and the wind blew our brick structure. We survived.  

Life here is about surviving and not about cappuccinos and pate. This is a place of living history.  I like it. When you come here, treat yourself to a beer at the local bar, it is a trek to get to the Deep South but well worth it. 

The fishing boats of Bluff

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lakes District Museum

We have a little museum addict so we tend to visit the local museum in most places we stay.  The Lakes District Museum is a tiny but information packed Museum in the main street of historic Arrowtown (about 20 minutes drive from Queenstown).

Housed in one of the town's original buildings, it brings yesteryear to life.

Family entry price is $16.  You can also hire gold pans and try your luck in the local river.

The Lakes District Museum is much more than a museum in the conventional sense; hence its popularity with local residents and visitors from all around the world. The museum has a strong hands-on focus, presenting an authentic picture of early Maori life and the harsh pioneering days of the European settlers and goldminers through working displays covering two floors and incorporating three historic buildings.

Our son loved this museum.  Lots of interesting information on the history of the area, including a mock school room, bakery, and lots more.  

We highly recommend you not only visit Arrowtown when you are in the area but also this lovely museum. 

Arrowtown is a very pretty little town.  Down by the river they have preserved much of the original miner's village and many of the buildings in town are original as well.  Great food, lovely stores and beautiful scenery, Arrowtown is one of our favourite places in New Zealand. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Oamaru to Queenstown

We ended up in tiny Oamaru for 8 nights and whilst we all managed to get sick for most of the week, we also managed to see a little more of this place.
Our little cabin in Oarmaru

The view! 

About 40 minutes away is a small settlement of Duntroon, this is where Vanished World is located, a world of fossils and rock formations. We had a great day and happily dug out fossilised shells from our rocks with precision. 

Looking a microscopic fossils

Vanished World - Elephant Rocks

We also visited Oamaru's most prized tourist attraction- the penguins! We did the all day ticket which was only $12 more for a family pass than the night only ticket. This enabled us to walk around the sleeping enclosure and also watch the penguins sleep in pairs. We gathered at night and waited and waited and finally in waves they came. I think we counted 31  penguins in total,  and suitably cold, we checked under our car( for stray penguins) and drove home to our small cottage.
Scenery around Oamaru

We did day trips to Moeraki Village and Dunedin( 1 hour drive). The Otago Muesem was a good way to fill in a day with a good exhibit of animals on the top floor.

Otago Museum

On Friday we departed. We took the longer route to Queenstown and we weren't really staying there, we had found a "stay 2 get the third night free" deal at the quaint Arrowtown Holiday Park.  The drive through from Dunedin to Queenstown is a great scenic drive and we stopped many times for photos, arriving to our place at 5pm.

Our drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy

Surprisingly the holiday park was almost empty and we settled in our cabin and cooked spaghetti bolognaise. We also caught up on emails and washing, the dryer didnt quite dry all our clothes, and unwilling to pay $4 for another dry, I simply turned our unit into a laundry with clothes hung off everything possible and the heater turned on full.

Ps by Shona

Queenstown/Arrowtown is my favourite place in the world.  We have visited 14 times in the last 10 years and I can never get enough!  If you want magic views you will not find better!  Accommodation ranges from 5 stars down to backpacker style accommodation.  In the past we have opted for the 5 stars, but as we are budgeting holidaying, we chose a holiday park with generous sized cabins with snowy mountain views!  

Arrowtown Holiday Park

Friday, August 23, 2013

Kaikoura to Oamaru

Kaikoura to Oamaru by Jason

This was a big day out. Six or so hours in the car which included a stopover in Quake city - Christchurch. We briefly stopped and deposited five suitcases and bags into my Auntie's Car, which left the car able to breathe again. 

It is a lovely trip down the coast road with lots of sea views and rolling green hills.  If you have the time, stopover at Timaru, Geraldine or any number of small towns or pubs on the way.  One exceptional example of Art Deco Architecture was the hotel at St Andrews which is about 10 minutes south of Timaru, on the main road. There is a story with that pub  and how it came to be, but I shall leave that for another day - maybe when we stop there on the way home. 

Old Town, Oamaru

I hate to say I told you so (Shona),  but Oamaru has enthralled me for many years now.  For starters its a book lovers paradise, with numerous second hand and rare booksellers at every corner. The town itself is ordinary enough, but as you enter the wharf area, you are transported back in time to the 1880s, where original buildings and trades and quirky shops vie for your attention.  No garish discount stores here,  just shops that will make you ooh and argh, and argh even more and make you wish you had more money to spend.  Hadley purchased a 1974 book on birds New Zealand, which incidentally was the same year the Queen last visited Oamaru ( she looked at the botanic gardens - yawn).

Also in the Victorian part of town, is a wonderful old building that was once five stories high, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.  Alas a fire destroyed the top two stories in the 1920s, so that leaves three stories behind.  Within these walls is something you simply have to see as it is unlike anything I have seen before. 

Lovely limestone Victorian buildings of the old town

Steampunk. I can only describe it as War of the Worlds mixed with the past.  It is a wonderful quirky place, it is almost like being in a time capsule or on another planet.  The website doesn't give too many clues away and neither shall I, as you simply must go, children will love it too. www.steampunkoamaru.co.nz  $20 a family is truly a bargain if you like the macabre, the bizarre, and the astounding. 

The Steampunk Workshop

Rugby. Rugby. Rugby. Yes its another thing to do in New Zealand.  Find a local match and cheer on like the locals do. We were lucky enough to see a match between North Otago and Wairarapa Bush. These are two of the lesser lights of New Zealand Rugby, but all the big hits and the atmosphere were there.  Sometimes its good to seek out the things the locals do,  like watch the rugby, as it gives one a feeling of being involved in the community, if only for a couple of hours. I cheered North Otago on in vain, alas they lost in a close encounter.

We cheered on North Otago today (in the yellow)

Whatever you do, when you come to the South Island, don't just hide in the big cities or the ski resorts, check out Oamaru, it will weave it's magic on you too.

But wait there's more - next blog post - The Blue Penguins of Oamaru!

PS by Shona 

We are staying in a gorgeous but tiny (and I do mean tiny) cottage high up on the high above Oamaru.  We found it on www.bookabach.co.nz.  Sometimes check out the local accommodation websites for something and quirky.   This is a great price at only $400 for 7 nights.  It has a tiny kitchen, tv, great deck, bathroom and wonderful views!  The beds are warm and cosy and it would be lovely for a romantic get away.  The nightly rate is only $80.  It is on the same property as the owner's house.  They are friendly but leave you in peace.  They hand-built this little cottage themselves so lots of love and attention has gone into it.  

Our Oamaru accommodation, perched high on the hill above the town, with town and ocean views.
You will find lots of amazing things to do with your family here.  Lovely ice-cream shops by the water and a wonderful magical park with creations from the talented Steampunk Folk. 

And Jason did tell me so - once again I have fallen in love with another part of the South Island of New Zealand.  I will be busy looking up rent prices and home school groups in the area.  I could easily lay my hat here!  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Kaikoura by Jason

Kaikoura - taken in May (lots more snow now)

The drive through from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura was just a short couple of hours,  although if you have driven in the South Island you will know even a short drive is a long one (is there a straight road on the South Island?).  We took a small detour at Mt Lyford, a small ski village, in between both towns. They had a lot of snow in this area a couple of months ago and some still remains on the ground.  

Kaikoura Top 10 Park was our destination and we had found a good deal online with a stay 2 get the third night free. A tip here is to check out websites of individual parks, as they often offer deals that aren't available on the main Top 10 website. 

It is a nice clean park with great amenities and fantastic views.   We are in a small cabin with a tv , fridge, and some basic cutlery, pots, pans etc but no kitchen.   We use the camp kitchen.  Some campervans pull in late afternoon and a couple of people overnight in the ritzier motel units, but during the day it seems to just be us here. The views are quite spectacular, snowy peaks in the background and the beach next door.  

View from our cabin!

Kaikoura is a spectacular town, only 4000 residents, but has a lot more facilities due to tourism, however it still retains that sleepy feeling of 1970s beach holidays.  Nothing is rushed here and if you like wildlife then you will have arrived at your heaven.  Think baby Seals, Whales, Dolphins and more.  Whale watching is all year round, with the resident Sperm Whales as well as visitors such as Orca, Pilot Whales and Humpbacks.  

We walked around to the seal colony yesterday, and ate some fresh grilled fish and crayfish fritters at a roadside stall.  The stall is recommended by Lonely Planet and now by us as well!   Fresh fish on a bed of rice and salad only $7 and a view to kill for.  

Seafood by the Sea!

We also went geocaching, our success rate was 66.6% as we found 2/3 caches that we went searching for.  I'm still working out where the third one was hidden as we searched and searched.  For those on a budget, or with kids, then Geocaching is a great free family activity. Download the official app on your phone, its pricey at around $9, but will give you hours upon hours of free fun. 

Tomorrow we pack up our car and head to my Aunties place, where we drop off the contents of half the car, and then continue on to Oamaru. Oamaru is one of my favourite small towns, find out why tomorrow. 

Happy Travelling.

Seal pups playing in the salt water pond.

PS by Shona
If you cannot afford Whale Watching in Kaikoura (or the weather is too rough) there is still plenty of wildlife to see.  You can stroll by the ocean and see New Zealand Fur Seals frolicking in the salt water ponds, you can find them in the car park, and a short drive away, you will find a huge Seal colony and a freshwater water fall when the baby Seal play.  Unfortunately due to the melting snow the water wall was huge and so the pathway was covered and we could only get about 10 metres away from the pups.  When the water is not so high, you can virtually get within a metre of the playing seals which make for a great photo opportunity.

There is also an abundance of shore birds for the avid bird watcher.  

Alternatively, breath in the fresh sea air, sip a coffee, and take in the amazing snow capped mountain range dipping into the sea - a truly magic place.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Road Trip Day One!

Day 1 - Nelson to Hanmer Springs by Jason

Lewis Pass today! 

We woke at 7am and realised we had a house to clean before we departed. I did a fantastic man clean which basically involved cleaning the fireplace and washing floors, all the while content in the knowledge that today would be a great day - after all, the All Blacks had just cleaned up the Wallabies a mere 8 or so hours ago.

We had no time (or food) for breakfast so we would have to just grab something on the road. Shona talked about making biscuts or sandwiches but it was 10 am. We hit the road.  I was hungry already. 

We drove the first 90 minutes to Murchison, we had done this trip lots before!  At Murchison we generally headed right to the West Coast, but this time we went straight down through towards the magnificent Lewis Pass scenery.  I was hungry, did I mention that? 

It was now high noon, I didnt want a gunfight just a burger.  I awaited Springs Junction,  a roadhouse with bad food, but by now i was famished.  We passed a scarecrow - I wanted to eat it. We passed pine trees and flax bushes - I wondered which would taste better.  I was ready to eat gravel when Springs Junction appeared, just in time too, as I was considering cannabilism.  We went to order burgers, but thought why stay longer in a roadhouse than need be, so we changed to warm pies. Bad move, the pies were terrible, we drove on. 

The Lewis Pass, on a fine day is very scenic and amazing landscapes. Before long we were at the Hanmer Springs turnoff and 5 minutes later we checked into the Top 10 park in a kitchen cabin. It contained a small kitchen, a tv and bedding.  I turned on the tv and the Rugby test was being replayed. I bought a few items for dinner from the store and made a coffee. Life was good.

Ps from Shona!  

We are still keeping to our budget of $100 a day!  Thanks to a members card, our Top 10 cabin is only $72 per night!  Not bad!  Slightly stressed at no ensuite, but we are trying to think of it as camping without the canvas.  

Top 10s are reliably clean, have playgrounds, camp kitchens and warm showers - a great way to travel around New Zealand on a budget.  

So far I am quite impressed with the Top 10 in Hanmer Springs - clean, quiet, lovely mountain views - although it is almost 11 at night and these birds chirping loudly in the trees don't seem to notice that the sun has gone down! 

Tomorrow - Kaikoura! 

The cabins with lovely mountain views on a rainy day. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rabbit Island

Only 5 minutes from our Nelson home, Rabbit Island.
How blessed we have been to have had this opportunity.  It may have been short, but it was sweet.

The next blog post.......I am passing it over to Jason........enjoy the ride! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

8 Weeks on the Road

We have decided to set ourselves a challenge.......8 weeks on the road in New Zealand, 3 people, $100 a day!  Our budget must include accommodation, food and attractions.......can we do it?

We have spent the last 10 years exploring the South Island so we have decided to concentrate most of the 8 weeks on the North Island.  We will be heading South for a few things we have missed in the past 10 years, but then is onward and northward!

The boys (hubby Jason and son Hadley) will be blogging on the trip, I will be doing the driving.  Our wheels - our 19 year old Big Horn!

Where to start?  Blogs, websites and a good map (and a pin) and a few travel guides.  If you are looking at doing any travel in NZ we recommend the following guides.

New Zealand (Lonely Planet Country Guides)

New Zealand's North Island (Lonely Planet Country & Regional Guides)

We hope you join us on our trip - including the good, the bad and the ugly, and of course, the amazingly beautiful!  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We took a little drive..........

We took a little 4 day drive all the way down to Queenstown and back. 
We drove home via Arthur's Pass so that Hadley could see the Kea, one of his favourite birds.
They are the world's only mountain parrot and they like to say hello when you visit the look out on your drive.  
Hadley said they look soft and fluffy! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

One week on............

What a busy first week!

Cleaning our rental property to a liveable state, shopping for the little things that you forget you will need and generally trying to feel "at home".

Hadley is crying out for company though.  He has his friends at home, his cousins, his sisters, and his best friend Jack, as well as his best feline friend Felix.  He said today, I need to meet some kids!  It is actually quite exciting as a mother of a child on the spectrum, to hear those words!  But don't worry we are sorted!  We have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday covered for next week!

We have joined the library, the video shop and bought a car!

And we think our little home is starting to look just perfect!

School work may have been put to one side for one week, but Hadley has learnt to feed the chickens and fish.  He has written his Felix a postcard and has taken out 18 books from the library, all are non-fiction.  He has been reading about New Zealand birds, and Wetas, and Dolphins and Whales.

He has helped me design some new products I am working on for an upcoming craft market and he has done some fun New Zealand puzzles and word finds.  He has learnt about Hops and visited New Zealand's oldest pub and New Zealand's smallest pub.  He has picked fruit from the trees and we have started to plan our veggie garden.

All in all, not a bad week of schooling really!