Lamington National Park flora and fauna

Lamington National Park is World Heritage Listed and includes over 20,000 hectares of diverse forest ranging from sub-tropical rainforest to dry eucalypt forest. The park is home to a variety of flora and fauna, providing a wealth of photographic opportunities for everyone.

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Sunset at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is located  in Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Away from the hustle and bustle of everyday living, you can choose to spend a day or stay for a while and take the time to explore the rainforest surrounds and soak in some of the most spectacular sunsets.

I had the pleasure of staying there a few years ago and whilst there have been changes to the retreat accommodation, the sunsets remain as beautiful as ever.

My favourite destinations in New Zealand

Glendhu Bay, Wanaka
Glendhu Bay, Wanaka

Driving to work gets a little boring and the radio just doesn’t do it for me most days, but now I have an ipod connection in my car and can listen to my favourite podcasts such as Travel with Rick Steves, This Week in Travel and Amateur Traveler.Driving is much more enjoyable now and I don’t feel as though I’m wasting my time sitting in traffic. Anyway, one of the podcasts featured New Zealand, a country I love and consider my second home and the guest speaker was half of the kiwi couple responsible for Indie Travel Podcast (which I also enjoy listening to). She spoke of many great places in New Zealand, some of which I haven’t been to and it got me thinking about my favourite destinations in the land of the long white cloud so I thought I’d share them with you.

Maori carving, Northland
Maori carving, Northland

North Island:

  • Taupo Bay, Northland – a picturesque beach north of the Bay of Islands, popular for fishing or just lazing around on the beach.
  • Whangarei – not the most beautiful place to visit however I have lots of good memories from having spent time here with my family as I was growing up. There are some really nice spots for lunch or a picnic and the art/craft scene is thriving.
  • Paihia – gateway to the Bay of Islands, from here we always make the trip by ferry across to Russell (former capital of NZ) and enjoy an ice cream as we stroll around the town. Waitangi is not far from here, I cannot remember how many times we visited the location for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and took a walk through the rainforest.
  • Lake Taupo – it has been years since going to Lake Taupo, I remember blue skies, looking down at the lake from a luge track and staying at DeBretts Spa resort, a campsite that offered visitors thermal hot pools and spas. Taking a walk around the Waiotapu Thermal park was amazing, the colours created by the geothermal activity were like nothing I had ever seen.
  • Rotorua and the Te Puia Arts and Craft Institute – the smell of Rotorua can be pretty off-putting, but we knew what to expect, all of us had experience the smell of sulphur during chemistry classes at school. What I remember most is trying to pronounce Te Whakarewarewa and failing spectacularly, waiting for the Pohutu Geyser to erupt and watching the carvers at work. The Maori culture is alive and thriving in NZ, although Rotorua is a major tourist destination for the country and may seem a little cheesy it really is worth spending time there in order to learn a little about the Maori.
  • Wellington – landing at Wellington airport was a bit like landing on a country airstrip, surprising for a capital city, it only adds to the city’s charm. With only one day and night to spare there was only time to see the major sights: The beehive shaped Parliament Building, Te Papa Museum, Old St Paul’s church (made without nails) and a really ugly, salmon coloured Catholic Church.
Ruakaka Beach, Northland
Ruakaka Beach, Northland

South Island:

  • Christchurch – the city I loved most of all. Walking through the beautiful, calming botanic gardens is the first thing I do when in Christchurch and I have hundreds of photos of flowers to prove it. The art and craft markets are real, they’re not littered with junk stalls selling cheap imported goods, you can talk to the artists about their work and if you can afford it, pick up an original piece of art. The art gallery is an inspiring space, inside and out, apparently the architect was Australia and the gallery is not far from my choice of accommodation – the Windsor B&B. Getting around is easy, you can walk everywhere or catch the tram.
  • Wanaka – a ski resort town based on Lake Wanaka, it is a gorgeous spot for a holiday any time of year. I’ve been there early autumn and the weather is great for walking (tramping), horse riding or taking a boat out onto the lake. It is close to ski fields and Mt Aspiring National Park.
  • Dunedin – enjoyed shopping and eating out as part of a girls weekend, we saw the major sites: Larnach Castle and the Taieri River Gorge by train.
  • Milford Sound – I took a return flight from Wanaka to Milford Sound in a little six-seater plane, what a spectacular view. The pilot flew over the southern alps, even though there was quite a lot of cloud we saw glaciers and meandering rivers, it was a trip I won’t soon forget. Milford Sound was at its best, there had been rain for the last two weeks yet the day I was there the skies were clear and blue, it really is a very pretty sight and see the fur seals sunning themselves on rocks was a bonus.
  • Akaroa – a former French settlement on the Banks Peninsula, not far from Christchurch. Pouring rain and the cold temperature didn’t stop me from falling in love with this little town, the tasty fish and chips certainly played their part in making the day a most memorable one.
Akaroa, Banks Peninsula. South Island
Akaroa, Banks Peninsula. South Island
Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park. South Island
Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park. South Island
Larnach Castle, Dunedin. South Island
Larnach Castle, Dunedin. South Island

A few more of the photos taken during my trips to New Zealand can be found in my SmugMug Holidays gallery: http://maxiblack.smugmug.com/Travel/NZ. One day I might get around to scanning some of the photos that I took pre-digital, or I could just go and back and see them all again 🙂