We’ve seen our fair share of zoos around the world, but with the kidlets in tow this time, we opted for something a little different in the way of Willowbank Wildlife reserve.

Its broken up into 3 sections:
Zoo/exotic – animals from other countries, mostly smaller creatures. You wont find big game, elephants or tigers but you will see tortoises, lemurs and capuchins.

NZ natives – mostly popular birdlife, including the destroyer of windscreen wipers and way too friendly Kakas (yes, they will have no problem landing on you to get a closer look at jewellery or food!) and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the very illusive kiwis

Farmyard – this was definitely a highlight for the little ones with a hands on free-feeding (feed for sale at the entrance). Alpacas, donkeys, kune kune pigs, rabbits, ducks and peacocks are all very friendly and tame.

The layout of the reserve for the most part has a very natural feel which adds to the ambience of roaming with the animals.

Travel tip: budget about 3hrs depending on your kids attention spans and your walking pace


New Brighton Beach

The beach is probably a less than ideal travel stop to make in winter (that ocean “breeze” is quite unforgiving!) but at only 15min from the CBD it was worth it for the impressive jetty alone. The beach also sits near a group of shops and eateries so if the weather suits, it would be worthy of an afternoon outing for a swim or picnic.

That brings us to the end of our truncated NZ trip, we weren’t planning a follow up visit any time soon, however with the current pandemic and potential travel bubbles/restrictions, the north island could be on the itinerary, but before that, in 2019 we did a quick dash over to our second home, yep, you guess it, Japan! Stay tuned for those highlights!

If it has wheels, wings or will send you broke the National Toy and Transport Museum probably has it. The museum sits just outside Wanaka and is housed across several large buildings and hangars and is easily the biggest collection of collections we’ve seen in our many travels. On cars alone it dwarfs LA’s Peterson’s Automotive museum in quantity and variety but it doesn’t stop there, there are all manner of toys, vintage and modern, quirky hand built machines and planes… and a tank. Some sections are grouped into type (eg. Trucks) and sub type (eg. Fire trucks) while other items seemed to have been added where ever there was space at the time, which ends up being like a little easter egg hunt, for example, finding a random slot machine wedged between two trucks.

Even if you’re not overly interested in toys or vehicles, there’s just so much there, its hard to look away and just when you think you can, something else catches your eye, so the easiest way to narrate the day would be a photo dump. Enjoy!

Travel tip: we were there on a week day, early afternoon, numbers were very low and it was a breeze to move between sections and spend a few extra minutes getting an unobstructed photo. However, with some of the spaces being a little cramped eg. Between toy displays and aisles of cars it could get a bit squishy during school holidays or if you bumped into a couple school excursions.

Next up, we wind down this NZ trip with a day at Willowbank Zoo and New Brighton Beach.

Queenstown

We chose to stay at the Queenstown Holiday Park – Creeksyde, it was the closest and best value/rated of the inner town spots suitable for motorhomes. At a bit over 1km from the town center it was an easy stroll in to the shops, restaurants and markets. There’s also a supermarket just around the corner to save carrying groceries all the way back from town but if you want better choice and prices head to Pak n Save or Countdown (NZ version of Woolies) just outside of town.

Queenstown had certainly changed a lot since we were last there 11 years ago. Gentrification and the hipster artisan movement is alive and well, though the benefit of that is there’s plenty of burger and beer options. Retail options in general were more in line with a large town than a blip on the map. Sadly the Pizza Hut restaurant was no more, though it seems this may have disappeared not long after we left the last time! )-,:

Travel tip: the Queenstown arts and crafts markets are on every Saturday at Earnslaw Park (walk towards the lake, once you hit the Bay beach follow it along to your right)

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Wanaka

At the half way point of our trip we splurged on a cabin to stretch out a bit, its amazing how even a small cabin can feel spacious after about a week in a camper!

We chose to stay at the Wanaka Lakeview holiday park a short walk to the lake, slightly longer to the famous Wanaka Tree and into the town center. The tree being the attraction it is, was of course a bit of a jostle to get a good shot at sunset regardless if you got there early. Even on a day with a lackluster sunset it was a battle of tripods and people walking into your shot.

Photo tip: try a longer lens so you can sit further down the line and wear waterproof boots or go shoeless (probably not a good idea in winter!) to set your tripod up further in the water. You may also have better odds with a sunrise especially during the cooler months

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Cardrona Snow Farm

Wanaka is a good jump off point for the Cardrona Snow Farm especially if you’re using the shuttle service. With the bad luck and pain we had last time with putting snow chains onto a motorhome and questionable weather looming, we opted to be chauffeured for the day. Only draw back was not being about to stop at some of the look out spots on the way up the mountain. The winding road was mostly slow going so its still possible to get some phone photos through the windows.

I don’t know about other ski locations but the Snow Farm covers a big variety with everything from a snow fun zone for the kids, to snow shoeing, cross country skiing and even dog sledding. With the kidlets in tow, the fun zone was our speed, though even then it was a tough sell with only one kid seeing snow once before and neither being fond of the cold or snow! They did however warm up to the tubing after a few clenched runs.

Travel tip: if you’re planning on bringing little ones, it would be most wise to invest in some snow pants and boots or at the very least rain pants and gum boots.

If you need a break or are simply over falling over for the millionth time, remember you are in the southern alps! The view is amazing which ever way you look but the weather is very unpredictable and can change at the drop of a mitten, so keep your camera and or clothing layers handy.

Next up we make a stop at the National Toy and Transport museum! 😀

It had been about 11 years since our first amazing adventure to New Zealand where we threw caution to the wind, jumped into a camper and toured the better part of the south island. Needless to say, expectations and eagerness were high to do it all again but you know that thing about best laid plans and ol mate Darwin? Yes, well, they had other ideas.

Losing the first day to camper hire company woes then the whole second week of activities on the west coast to cyclonic winds were a definite set back, battling 100kph winds in a big ol mobile home was not something we wanted to experience, the 60kph ones heading towards Queenstown were bad enough! That aside, with 24/7 access to a kettle and a toilet, the open road was still our oyster.

The country itself certainly never disappoints so rambling text in these entries will be slim but there will, of course, be plenty of photos!

Geraldine
First night we stayed at The Farmyard holiday park in Geraldine. Unbeknownst to us on our previous trip, these working farm holiday parks are easy to come by and are great when travelling with little ones. (Oh, I forget to mention, the biggest difference from the last trip is this time we have two extra little humans in tow!). These farms of course have a bunch of tame animals you can hand feed. We grabbed a couple bags of feed from reception (couple bucks each) and quickly made friends with the locals. Llamas, donkeys and rabbits were a big hit, there were also some rather pushy little pigs and chickens all too eager to nab stray pellets.

Lake Tekapo
We chose to stay at the Lake Tekapo Motel and Holiday park purely for its location, which was pretty much right on the lake (and just down the road from Tekapo Springs ice skating rink). A mere ~100m to have water lapping at my feet was perfect for the pre-dawn struggle to get some sunrise photos.

Thankfully the early rise was worth the effort with the sky turning it on with some beautiful colours and cloud formations.

Lake Tekapo is also home to the NZ dark sky project making it an ideal spot for some astro photography…on clear nights. Added to the “next time” list.

Tekapo Springs is a water, ice and snow park depending on the season, being winter we were keen to check out the snow tubing and the large outdoor ice skating rink. The line for the tubing was long and slow, so ice skating it was! While also quite busy, the wait was minimal.

Travel tip: they do package deals for their attractions

Travel tip: on the way out of Tekapo Springs, stop at the little grocery store for one of the most scenic little flying foxes/ziplines next to the lake.

Gotemba Premium Outlets
Japanese retailers were really ahead of the curve, how do you get people to come to your stores? Make it a train station and they come right to your door, genius! The same goes for out of the way outlet malls like Gotemba, previously we spent a bit of time navigating a few different trains and a courtesy bus to get there but this time we tracked down a direct service from the Yokohama CAT station. For around 1700Y one way (discount for return trip) we didn’t have to worry about dragging our luggage through stations and finding a seat on a train. Plus it was on the way to the 5 lakes area anyway so it’s a win-win 😀

Travel tip: Bus routes, costs and departure locations for Yokohama can be found here
Travel tip: There are storage lockers on site (to the left of the main entrance from the bus stop, near the toilets)
Travel tip: Remember to grab a coupon discount booklet from the information booth
Travel tip: Remember to check the departure times when you arrive so you can plan your day accordingly as services dwindle later in the day.

Photo tip: On a clear day, keep an eye out for Fuji-san when crossing the walk bridge between the two mall sections.

Kawaguchiko
Coincidentally, the Outlets had a bus that goes to where we needed to be next, Kawaguchiko, luck or crafty planning? 😉 Same deal as before, door to door station service, no faffing about.

At Kawaguchiko station there are two bus services (red or green) which run in roughly clockwise and anti clockwise routes around the southern side of the lake. These cover most of the affordable hotels and some of the local attractions. They run every 15-30min for only a couple bucks but having arrived late afternoon amongst a couple busloads of tourists, the services were struggling to meet demand, so after about 45min of waiting we grabbed a cab to our hotel (Kawaguchiko hotel). The hotel is only about 1km from the station, easily walkable but not so much after a long day with luggage in tow.

Travel tip: If you did have to wait at the station, there are hot meals available from the small eatery inside.
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Full Kawaguchiko Hotel review

Its rare that you can get the trifecta when it comes to hotels – good accommodation, good value, good location, usually one of those has to be sacrificed and its usually cost. Being out in the country side, with a lot less options, makes it even harder to score this so if you want the other two you need to pony up on the dinero. If not, manage your expectations, you saving money means corners are cut somewhere and in this case its in the general upkeep of the place.

To me, it felt a lot more like staying at your friends’ beachside place during schoolies, it was more the fact that you were there that mattered than the place where you dumped your bag and crashed out for the night. Sure, the carpet could use a steam clean (or just have new runners laid) and the window sills and the like could do with a vacuuming but the linen was clean along with the bathroom and for the double room we got, there was a welcomed amount of ample space compared with other places we have stayed at in Japan. In general, it definitely has a mum and pop store feel where they’ve just done the same thing for decades, and its worked, so they haven’t bothered changing anything…at all.

All staff however were the usual Japanese kind of helpful even with minimal English but if you are after a more detailed response, track down one of the younger staff members. Rooms were quiet with minimal foot traffic, though being at the end of a hall helped. Bicycles and paddle boats are available for hire on the lake (not related to the hotel).

We didn’t get to try the in house catering, the restaurant was booked out (and had to be booked in advance) but not to worry, there are plenty of eating places within walking distance. Exit the hotel and go right^, there are a couple buildings that look like they have or more so, HAD a restaurant but we couldn’t tell for sure as they weren’t open at all over the days and nights we were there. Further along there’s a small Asian takeaway but keep walking along the scenic waterfront till you get to a large intersection where the road hooks to the right*, here you’ll see a Lawson’s amongst a string of restaurants and souvenir shops. We went with the Indian place across from Lawson’s with no regret, good portions and reasonable prices.

^ – look over your right shoulder, you might be lucky enough to see Fuji off in the distance
* – following this street with a couple back street zig zags will take you back to Kawaguchiko station which is about a 15min walk. Reasonably easy but some of the streets are narrow with no footpath so navigating this with big luggage could be a little difficult, a cheap taxi ride might be the way to go for some. This route also includes a couple smaller supermarkets if you want more than what a convenient store offers.

Hotel staff actually recommended turning left out of the hotel and to go around the block for restaurants, which on a quiet night was a bit difficult to tell the difference between a hotel and a restaurant (the few along this street all looked like hotels). Eventually you’ll reach a major road, turning left here will lead to a few Japanese style fast food restaurants and a convenience store. It’s a much longer walk, about 15-20min but felt much long with no scenery. Google maps shows a short cut route through some very small “not sure if lane or someone’s drive way” kind of “streets” but it was impossible to navigate these at night as most were poorly lit, if at all.

Overall, the location and the surrounds more than made up for the short comings of the hotel, if we end up out that way again, it would definitely be considered.

 

 

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Travel tip: if you’re going to air clothing on the window sill, don’t open the opposite one ^_^’ but if you do, make sure you know how to use a tripod like giant chopsticks ;p

Next we try to catch some pink moss (yes pink moss) and a glimpse of Mt Fuji at the Fuji Shibazakura Festival and Chureito Pagoda.

Japan 2016 part #1 – Travelling with a plus one
Japan 2016 part #2 – Yokohama
Japan 2016 part #3 – Gotemba to Kawaguchiko
Japan 2016 part #4 – Fuji Shibazakura Festival and Chureito Pagoda
Japan 2016 part #5 – Fuji Q Highland
Japan 2016 part #6 – Matsumoto, Alpine Route, Snow Corridor
Japan 2016 part #7 – Matsumoto castle, Ashikaga Flower park
Japan 2016 part #8 – Tokyo Skytree, Ueno
Japan 2016 part #9 – Tokyo wandering, Odaiba + Disney Sea

When travelling its pretty easy to get desensitised to the wide eyed wonderment moments of the first couple days where cool alleyways and brightly it intersections blend into one but its always a good idea to snap these simple shots as the magic returns after the smell of ramen and the roar of trains has disappeared. Thankfully there’s a constant reminder with random eye catching ‘gram worthy pics on just about every corner!

Photo tip: Different times of the day yield different results but it’s amazing what twilight and a bit of rain can do to a scene.

Odaiba
Standard ritual for our Tokyo stop is heading over the rainbow bridge to Diver City shopping mall for dinner and to see our 1:1 Gundam buddy, RX78-2. This was sadly the last year he was at this site but the news is not all bad, he has been replaced by a new Gundam Unicorn RX-0! (look out for a future post on this!)

Photo tip: there are some good views from the ferris wheel at Venus Fort but dirty “glass” and movement restricts long exposure shots. Afternoon or early evening would yield better results.

Disney Sea
Its Disneyland with a lean towards ocean related themes and places, its what you would expect from a large theme park but being Disney it was a good choice to take a toddler with plenty of options for height disadvantaged kidlets. We happened to stumble across the 15 year anniversary and a commemorative gold pirate ship to match.

Aladdin fans wishes also come true with middle eastern Agrabah inspired scenes and buildings and of course what would a Disneyland be without a bit of Americana.

Japan 2016 part #1 – Travelling with a plus one
Japan 2016 part #2 – Yokohama
Japan 2016 part #3 – Gotemba to Kawaguchiko
Japan 2016 part #4 – Fuji Shibazakura Festival and Chureito Pagoda
Japan 2016 part #5 – Fuji Q Highland
Japan 2016 part #6 – Matsumoto, Alpine Route, Snow Corridor
Japan 2016 part #7 – Matsumoto castle, Ashikaga Flower park
Japan 2016 part #8 – Tokyo Skytree, Ueno
Japan 2016 part #9 – Tokyo wandering, Odaiba + Disney Sea

All ol skool, all vinyl, all night long!
Candeeflip smashed out another cracker of an event the other week with DJ Brisk leading the charge! Not only did they expand to a second room but they kept the good times rolling with a kick on afterwards! 😀

If the bumper gallery below isn’t enough, head over to the Candee Flip page for more action and to our soulbridgemedia facebook page for more socials than you can poke a chupa chup at!

Little boxes, on the hill side…LOTS of little boxes. You cant go past the Tokyo skytree for one of the best vantage points in Tokyo. At over 600m up you get a good sense of just how vast and dense the city is and it certainly makes for some magic-eye-esque type photos (some of these will definitely be printed up poster size!). We could easily sit there for hours watching the ant farm-like traffic and people go about their day. May not be the best idea for Trypophobia suffers though!

Travel tip: if you have the time and patience, timing your visit for late afternoon will get you day and night shots but of course, everyone else has the same idea. The weather will also play a big part, get the wrong day and your view could be one of thick haze.

Travel tip: There are two viewing decks, the higher one costs extra. Foreign tourists can now also buy a fast pass at a higher price to skip the potentially long queues


Ueno, Akihabara

Ueno and its Ameyoko markets are always worthy of a quick stop even tho over the years the dinginess and unique stores have made way for more of a mall feel (think Nakano broadway with narrower walk ways) with a lot of repetition, there are however still some gems to be found to fill your suitcase and your belly. Worse comes to worse, there’s always TGI Fridays 😉

Japan 2016 part #1 – Travelling with a plus one
Japan 2016 part #2 – Yokohama
Japan 2016 part #3 – Gotemba to Kawaguchiko
Japan 2016 part #4 – Fuji Shibazakura Festival and Chureito Pagoda
Japan 2016 part #5 – Fuji Q Highland
Japan 2016 part #6 – Matsumoto, Alpine Route, Snow Corridor
Japan 2016 part #7 – Matsumoto castle, Ashikaga Flower park
Japan 2016 part #8 – Tokyo Skytree, Ueno
Japan 2016 part #9 – Tokyo wandering, Odaiba + Disney Sea

Sophomore efforts can always be a bit hit and miss but the team at Good Things have once again smashed it out of the park! Stellar line up and another seamlessly run event. The rain, most of the heat and even the smoke held off for a fun summer’s day of metal and rock and or roll. Bring on 2020!

Check out our huge gallery of all the action below!

Reel Big Fish


Skegss


The Butterfly Effect


Veronicas


Trivium


Voyager

 


Enter Shikari


Falling in Reverse


Simple Plan


The Beautiful Monument


Thy Art is Murder


Yours Truly


A Day to Remember

 


Parkway Drive

Socials


More socials over on our soulbridgemedia facebook page!

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