Hi, my name is Alex and I’m an expat and travel blogger for my site Discover Aotearoa – New Zealand from N to Z.
I inherited the travel gene from my parents. We travelled for holidays since I was a little girl and thanks to them my passion for travelling grew. When it was time to choose a profession, I decided on tourism and never looked back.
While working and travelling in New Zealand in 2009-10, I met a charming man and after years of being long distance friends, we decided to meet again and see if there might be more. There was, and 1.5 years later I moved to New Zealand.
While waiting for my working visa to be approved, I started setting up my website Discover Aotearoa. I want to inspire both New Zealanders and tourists to travel this beautiful country and truly experience it. I’m giving real insight in New Zealand travel, in contrast to most bloggers who travel the country for a month or so and only see and write about the top tourist-must-dos.
Since I received my work visa, I’m a full-time worker and part-time explorer and writer, but try to do both as much as possible.
Aotearoa is the Maori word for New Zealand. When they first arrived from the pacific island, all chief Te Kupe could first see of the two islands was a huge white cloud. Hence the name Aotearoa, which literally means “Land of the long white cloud”
What is the climate?
New Zealand lies in the temperate zone with a maritime climate. It means that the North Island usually doesn’t get too cold in winter and not too hot in summer. Days below 0 and over 30 degrees Celsius are rare.
On the South Island, however, it generally can get really cold in winter and also summer days are not quite as balmy as they are on the North Island.
What both islands have in common, though, is the wind. And the famous 3-seasons in a day. It can pour down, be windy and cold one moment and 5 minutes later it’s sunny and warm. The most important thing is to wear layers to be prepared for everything!
Please note: Winter and summer are opposite on the Southern Hemisphere. Summer is roughly from November to April and Winter from about May to October
What are some of your favourite destinations and why?
I love anything that’s volcanic and Rotorua is an extremely active geothermal area. All over town you see it steaming and the smell sulphur is omnipresent. I find it fascinating how a town could grow so big in such an environment! And Rotorua is the adventure playground of the North Island. There are mountain biking and hiking trails, you can race each other on the luge, roll down a hill in a zorb ball or go kayaking on one of the many lakes.
Auckland is often the starting and ending point of people’s New Zealand trip. They hardly spend longer than a night here because Auckland has the reputation of being a boring city in international standards. Not many take the time to look behind the facade and if they did, they’d see a diverse city with many cultural festivals and beautiful nature, such as the Hauraki Gulf with its islands Waiheke, Rangitoto or Tiritiri Matangi and the stunning west coast beaches. Auckland definitely deserves more than just one night.
Another volcanic area that never seizes to amaze me! Most people know National Park because of the Tongariro Crossing, the most popular day hike in New Zealand and always ranking in the Top 10 in the world. I’ve done the hike twice already and for a volcano lover like me it’s like heaven. Mt. Ngauruhoe is also well-known as Mt. Doom of Lord of the Rings.
Did you know that, apart from hiking, Mt. Ruapehu is also great for skiing in winter season? Something not to be missed when visiting the area in Winter.
If you’re looking for really cool architecture in New Zealand, you have to go to Dunedin! The city has been built with by Scottish immigrants in the early 20th century and looks distinctively different than the other cities in the country. Don’t miss visiting the beautifully built train station, St. Paul’s cathedral and Otago University.
Twizel – Mt Cook – Tekapo triangle
The area around Mt. Cook has the most dramatic scenery in New Zealand and is often the picture that comes to mind when people think about the country. High mountains, deep blue lakes, glaciers, snow, and some lupin flowers in the foreground, that’s New Zealand out of the brochure. There are many amazing hikes in the region and you can’t help but feeling like some LotR characters could cross your path at any time.
What are your Top 3 Bucket list destinations
Abel Tasman National Park, South Island
This is my number 1 on my New Zealand bucket list. I keep seeing the most stunning pictures and can’t wait to go kayaking and hiking there!
Whanganui Journey, North Island
This canoe / kayak adventure officially belongs to the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand, even though there is not much walking involved here. It’s a 3 – 5 day journey (depending where you start) on the Whanganui River. Paddling downstream, you pass through stunning scenery and sleep on the basic campgrounds along the river. Just awesome!
Timber Trail, North Island
The timber trail is a popular 85km mountain bike trail you complete in 2 days. I’ve never ridden so many kilometers before and definitely never more than one day, so this will be a cool challenge for me.
Best places you want to visit for cultural experiences?
Rotorua is quite popular for Maori experiences since there are quite a few living there and the tourist attractions have plenty of shows and experiences. Personally, I would like to go to Waitangi in the north of the North Island. It’s where the Crown and the Maori signed the infamous treaty and New Zealand was officially founded. There’s a museum on the grounds now that offers tours and some Maori experience. I’d like to see this and learn some about the history.
Do you have money-saving travel tips?
New Zealand is an expensive country to live and to travel. Without a few money saving ideas you can easily end up spending a fortune! Here are some tips for you:
- Visit one of the many free festivals in Auckland during Summer
- Look out for meal deals
- Eat at the night markets in the bigger cities. It’s like being on a market in asia
- Shop at the Warehouse. They have pretty much everything you need for cheap
- Get the BBH card for reductions at Backpackers
- Camp on DOC campgrounds. They are usually very basic, but lovely and cheap
- Enjoy the free natural wonders like hot springs, glowworm caves and walks
Where do you see your travel blog in two years?
My site is fairly new. I aim at becoming the number 1 go-to blog for honest and real travel information and inspiration for New Zealand travel. So watch this space!
I also want to learn to make compelling videos and how to vlog, although this means I’m gonna have to overcome my camera-shyness.
What kind of traveller are you?
I’m a part time traveller. Sometimes my travelling time is higher than my working time and sometimes (usually) it’s the other way around. Currently it’s more weekend trips than longer ones. In my jobs, I often travel for work, too, like taking part in famils and other trips, which are some of the perks of working in tourism.
I’m not sure if I could be a full time traveller for many years. But given the chance, I definitely wouldn’t mind being on the road for about 3 to 4 months per year.