Crystal Blue Water at Abel Tasman

When planning my trip to New Zealand, Abel Tasman National Park immediately caught my attention. Pictures of this coastal nature reserve showed hiking trails over the ocean, dense forests, and that crystal blue water!

(*Heads up: the photos below have NOT been edited. The water really does look like this!)

There are several ways to access the reserve, but the easiest for us was booking a “self-guided” tour through  Wilson’s Abel Tasman.  We chose option 6, which lasts about 6 hours. It included a boat ride to an isolated drop off point and a boat pick up from another point hours later.

If the temperature had been warmer, we would have loved to do one of the kayaking or beach options, but given the season, this worked out great.

Chilly morning boat ride to Abel Tasman
Remote and gorgeous drop off point along Abel Tasman Coastal Track.

This tour let us walk along the track at our own pace. Believe me, you will want to stop and take so many pictures along the way. I should warn you though, there are only basic facilities in the way of water and restrooms, and  you’ll need to bring in your own lunch.

We spent the day leisurely stopping at the many lookouts and even getting up close to the water. Can you believe how clear that water is?

Every once in a while, the trail veers into the vegetation and you can walk along giant fern trees and babbling streams.

There was a forest suspension bridge to walk across.

After several hours, the end of our track led us to this beautiful beach, where we happily sat and waited for our boat pick up.

It seemed when researching this trip ahead of time that Nelson, where Abel Tasman is located near, is not as popular as other New Zealand cities like Queenstown or Christchurch.

However, this day during our trip was really a highlight for us, so I encourage you not to miss it if you make to New Zealand!

Dolphins and Waterfalls at Milford Sound

If I’m honest, I’m not a boat person at all.

I have too many bad memories of motion sickness from my past. But I do make an exception for dolphins, waterfalls, and fjords, all of which are in New Zealand’s Milford Sound.

Milford Sound’s landscape is  one of the most serene places I’ve ever been to. You can explore it by hiking for several days, or by boat. There are even overnight boat tours.

From Queenstown, we hopped on the BBQ Bus which led us through winding mountain passes. There were lots of scenic stops along the way and lots of information from our tour guide (er, everything you could want to know about the kiwi bird and also some stuff about his marriage we didn’t want to know). Once we were on the boat, the guide prepared us a barbecued lunch.  

One of the nicest stops was at the Mirror Lakes above. You really could see everything reflected in that water! The other picture on the right was taken right before a hundred Chinese tourists stormed the view.

Because the weather was so overcast, I was a bit worried about rain and how the boat trip would prevail… Rocky and uncomfortable? Bad visibility?  Humid and crowded inside?

But all that anxiety was for nothing, because it was really nice.

In addition to fun talk (I’m something of a magnet for college girls) and a great lunch of lamb kebabs, we enjoyed dolphins playing RIGHT NEXT to the boat.

I was pretty excited to capture these two little guys and now I sort of wish I were a National Geographic wildlife photographer.

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Milford Sound is located on the southwest side of the New Zealand’s South Island. It was a bit of a journey to get there by bus from Queenstown, but it was so worth it.

Christchurch Farmer’s Market

Enjoying the “Happy Buttie” sandwich at the Farmer’s Market

All the meals we had in New Zealand were great, but one of my favorite food experiences was the Farmer’s Market in Christchurch.

We almost missed it completely, though because … we had no idea it existed.

In fact, if I hadn’t been bored on the plane and hadn’t absentmindedly browsed one of those airplane magazines that people NEVER look at, we would’ve lost out forever.  I’m so glad for random airplane magazines. You too?

Anyway, to get this farmer’s market, we walked from our hotel through a couple little neighborhoods and a big city park. It turned out to the most lovely local setting right next to a little canal. 

What can I say about the offerings?

Well, there were so many beautiful looking fruits, vegetables, and pastries to buy and some new-to-me local specialties too, like feijoas and NZ Afghan cookies. More to come on those…

We spent some time browsing all the vendors, getting inspired by quite a few things.

But there was a HUGE line to get bacon breakfast sandwiches, and we knew we couldn’t resist. I mean, check out the menu.

How cute is the “Happy Buttie”? It comes with a long list of yummy things and a HUG! (My husband turned down the hug, but of course, I obliged)

Anyway, this sandwich was so good, and we’ve actually made this at home twice since coming back. (On a side note, it seemed like almost everything in NZ comes with these colorful fresh greens)

The other thing we had to try was “Posh Porridge.” The concept is so simple, and I’m sort of shocked we don’t see this at farmer’s markets in the States much.

Basically, it’s organic oats topped with all sorts of tasty things. We got the banana, sticky date, peanut butter, and chocolate version. Look closely at the picture and you will see they did NOT skimp on the chocolate.

I loved it, and I’m so glad I got a picture of the sign, because I’m planning to make all those versions as well (blueberry and lemon curd, oh yes).

Finally, can we talk about these Afghan cookies?

So these were a new completely new discovery to me (have you ever heard of them?), but they are a really popular treat in New Zealand.

This chocolate cookie has cornflakes in the dough, a thick swirl of chocolate on top, and a crunchy walnut. You can buy them in bakeries and grocery stores and we tried at least a couple versions of them in New Zealand.

I’m officially hooked and have googled recipes for homemade versions as well.

You see, this is why I LOVE travel. It’s all comes down to the cookies.