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.


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)



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


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!

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.


View from the Chief’s Luau

Finding a luau in Hawaii is like finding a bad tattoo at a music festival or a fight on St. Patty’s day, you can (should?) do it with your eyes closed! There are quite a few well known ones on the west coast that have rave reviews but what stood out about the Chief’s version is that he’s the man behind the show and in the show, not just a bunch of uni students on rotation. Being able to time it with our Sealife visit helped it work out perfectly. The “then its settled” moment came when we realised he and his gang of merry men (and women) appeared on one of the legs of Amazing Race 2011 (not surprisingly one of our favourite reality tv shows 😉 ).

There are a few package deals to choose ranging from $77 to $135 for adults, the main difference being the seating areas. The selling point for the Paradise upgrade package is priority queuing for the buffet and centered table seating while the Royal Package (*snicker*) has table service and “front of house” seating. They also throw in a turtle, sharks and dolphin “mini tour” before hand but if you’re already considering going to the Sealife park this will be redundant.

So what it essentially comes down to is the type of lei you want because even though there’s roughly 3-400 people, the grouped tables with assigned seats are all arranged so viewing isn’t very difficult from any angle and its easy enough to get up and step to the side if you want to snap some photos. The priority buffet line up is unnecessary, there is literally so much food that you wont miss out on “the good stuff”. They will also announce when you are allowed to go up for seconds so the “cheap seats” are just as good if you want the experience minus the frills (or lei flowers as it were). All options however are clearly listed on the site if you feel the urge to splurge for a special occasion.

Photo tip: If you’re planning on taking a lot of photos, your choice of package will have some influence on your shots. Front seats trade close proximity for shooting angle and the ability to stand. Seats off to the side/back will require a long lens. Almost all the photos seen here were shot with a 300mm, lighting is quite dimm when you factor in the higher shutter speeds you will need to freeze the action so be prepared to push the iso.

Travel tip: If you want to save a few bucks on parking, stick to the dirt area at the front of the park near the street. Its only a short walk (about 100m) up the hill to the entrance.


The luau conveniently starts before the park closes so there’s no waiting around if the park was first on your list. Get in early for demonstrations and interactive activities like hula lessons, headband weaving, tattooing, spear throwing and fire making. Luaus are all about song and dance and things get started accordingly. Halved whole pigs are blessed as they’re lowered into a home made hot coals pit – later to be filling our bellies!

DSC_1574-199  DSC_1602-202  DSC_1561-196  DSC_1564-197

The ceremony starts with a traditional welcome and some light history and story of a Queen and her tribe, a theme which continues through out the night. The charismatic Chief kicks off one of many stand up, slap stick routines with his larger than life personality which basically makes learning about the island way of life like demonstrating the husking of a coconut far more interesting and funny. With a few flicks of the wrist the coconut is skinned and cracked and he’s sipping the milk from it like he just cracked a beer instead.

The break for dinner is roughly an hour or so which leaves you plenty of time to eat and digest. Compliment your meal with some cake, fruit salad or maybe a spot of spear throwing.

DSC_1611-204  DSC_1609-203  DSC_1619-206

The on stage entertainment continues with traditional dances from neighbouring islands, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and other cultures that have influenced and fused with Hawaiian culture. After this, things get “hands on” with crowd participation. I can hear all the Marge Simpson’s out there mumbling “don’t make eye contact, omg theyre interacting!!” but its not that bad. They eventually get almost everyone up on stage in one way or another, be it guys doing the Hakka or girls doing the hula. Just think of it as dancing awkwardly with your old rellys at a wedding, it might be uncomfortable at the time but you get to bring home a memorable experience. You might even score a lei (or a lay?? Ay ay 😉 😉 ) for your troubles.


DSC_1664-215  DSC_1652-210  DSC_1645-209  DSC_1777-228


DSC_1743-225  DSC_1738-224  DSC_1718-222  DSC_1704-220



That is of course unless you are me… then things got -REALLY- interesting. I stood off to the side or at the back for a lot of the show snapping photos but that of course left me standing out like a bullseye saying “pick me for something embarrassing and slightly traumatic”. The stage was already full with audience members for a group dance so I thought they just wanted me up there to fill the last spot on the end, next thing I know I’m being whisked out the back amongst the dancers getting changed and before I could say “hey, at least buy me a drink first” I was getting donned in a grass skirt, lei and headdress with the instruction “when I say, “now” you run up on to the stage and yell out “ALOOHHAA”, then just follow the ques from the Chief. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine…. NOW!”. I didn’t even have a chance to poo my pants…

What proceeded was what seemed like an eternity (though in reality about 5min) of me making a fool of myself; getting props from fellow Aussies; quite possibly disrespecting/objectifying the tribes’ Queen and trying to learn how to hula by following fruit related commands from the Chief (apple was left hip, papaya was right etc) – all the while having to face the strikingly beautiful and scantily clad Queen and mimic her actions. Now, I lived through the 90s and am no stranger to the dance floor having conjured up a repertoire of moves from the likes of R Kelly, Janet Jackson, Johnny Gill, Vanilla Ice and EYC so I can at least move to a beat but to contort my spine in a way that even Gumby would look… Gumby? That, I could not and subsequently looked like a short circuiting C3P0 next to the hipshakin mama’s. It got worse before it got better with the rest of the dancers joining the Queen on stage and really shaming me out, thankfully by the end, the sequencing had dissolved into a freestyle circle, not so thankfully, I was still in the middle but at least now I could battle under my own terms and unleash the destructive force that is the running man!!! I believe it was purely coincidental that the music stopped at that time :p

In true (almost) nightly show fashion, the rest of the performance rolled on like clock work but my time on stage wasn’t done, they called all honeymooners and anniversary celebrators to the stage. Apart from a “you again??”, it was much more pleasant and very romantic slow dancing with my wife as the Chief serenaded us on acoustic guitar.

The night closed out with an explosive fire dance with the Chief showing his hefty frame had no hindrance on his agility or skill.


DSC_1794-231  DSC_1804-234  DSC_1800-233  DSC_1833-240


DSC_1861-244  DSC_1860-243  DSC_1853-241

There were high fives aplenty in the toilets afterwards, some actually thought I was part of the act. Maybe my performance didn’t completely stink… or maybe they were just “good sport”-ing me??

In short, it was easily one of the most memorable nights in Hawaii, so much so that we’ve already vowed to return for an anniversary one year. It goes without saying that we highly recommended this luau.



Next up is the finale as we wind down our island getaway with a spot of sight seeing and hiking.

As always, if you have any questions about our adventures or where to buy something, just hit us up on the Soulbridge Media facebook page.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay


Shapeshifter touring their new album “The system is a vampire” and we’re definitely diggin the new stuff! Still has those chilled airy moments but there’s also plenty of new bangers to get you air punching!

Shapeshifter photos here