Epic Adventures in New Zealand: Camping & Hiking

How to plan the most memorable New Zealand camping & hiking trip ever!

New Zealand…a place where heaven seems to be tangibly present on earth, a place where the vast wilderness is best explored one tiny step at a time!

This is no secret here friends: Kiwi country is probably best explored by foot, and since its one of the best ways to ensure that you see all of the pristine beauty New Zealand has to offer, we suggest you pack your hiking gear and prepare to be blown away.

Top New Zealand Hiking Trails and Camping Opportunities

We’ve rounded up some of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets, the trails and camping grounds that will allow you to emerge yourself in the natural tranquility and start traveling with a greener tomorrow in mind. Have a look at our recommendations and see if you can squeeze them into your travel itinerary!

Milford Track – Fiordland National Park, South Island

Why Head Here?

Fiordland National Park is an excellent spot to embrace a proper multi-day hiking excursion.

 The Scoop:

Aside from the spectacular green Fjord in the National Park, Milford Track offers you a 4-day trekking opportunity, and of course the idea of losing yourself in the beauty of the misted mountains and cataracts that tumble down the valley. This place is one of the bets hiking trails in the world, which means that you’d be mad to miss out on the opportunity of seeing it!

The 33-mile trail path was made back in 1888, and spans from Lake Te Anau, all the way to Milford Sound. Roughly 14,000 backpackers head here on an annual basis, beginning their hiking and camping journeys at Lake Te Anau, and ending off their adventures at Sandfly Point.

Mount Sunday – Canterbury, South Island

Why Head Here?

It’s the best place to get that “Lord of the Rings” experience!

 The Scoop:

Mount Sunday offers backpackers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of trekking through one of the locations where the epic film, The Lord of the Rings’ Capital of Rohan – Edoras -, was shot. Sunday is as remote as they come in New Zealand, and experiencing the bliss of the Southern Alps is simply astonishing!

Explore the site that made the world relive Middle Earth, and then hike up to the windy summit to get a bird’s eye view of the Rangitata River. This also makes for a great picnic spot, so make sure you pack some munchies to complete the experience.

Abel Tasman Coast Track – Abel Tasman National Park, South Island

Why Head Here?

If you’re looking for an opportunity of trekking along a scenic stretch of beach, this is definitely it.

The Scoop:

Lined with beautiful, golden beaches, a subtropical forest-line along the coast, and spectacular granite cliffs to explore, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of a kind. New Zealand is famed for its variety of Great Walks, but the Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of the least strenuous, and also one of the best beach hiking trails in the country.

You can embark on a tour that spans anywhere between two-and-five-days. As far as camping is concerned, you can choose between staying over in the Department of Conservation’s huts, or just pitching camp along the water’s edge.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Tongariro National Park, North Island

Why Head Here?

Backpackers looking for a quick and relatively easy day hiking trail should definitely go see this park on the North Island.

The Scoop:

Tongariro National Park is yet another gem that Lord of the Rings fans will appreciate, as it’s the site where Mordor was shot for the films. You’d be hard pressed not to feel a little bit eerie as you take on the climbs that steeply go over the barren lands, or gaze upon the volcanic rock on a moody-weathered day.

When the weather is being friendly, hikers can look forward to seeing Mt. Ngauruhoe, the all-star attraction of L.O.T.R trilogy films, Mount Doom. Once you’ve seen the splendor on offer here, make sure you head down to Red Crater for the popular Emerald Lakes and its turquoise geothermally heated waters. On your descent, you’ll pass on towards the Ketetahi trailhead as you make your way through old lava fields, finally making your way back to the pickup bus.

Mueller Hut Route – Mount Cook National Park, South Island

Why Head Here?

If you’re a hiker looking for an epic overnight trekking opportunity, make sure you work Mount Cook into your itinerary.

The Scoop:

New Zealand’s tallest mountain is Mount Cook, measuring it at a whopping 12,316 feet high. The terrain around here is glaciated and leads up to Mueller Hut, a cozy halfway house (well, hut), located on a high alpine plateau.

The valley’s river system that seamlessly braids through the landscape and the stunning blue glacial pools at the mountain’s foot are essentially what demands your full attention as you make your way three miles through the terrain. Once you get to the plateau, at 6,000 feet, you’ll bunk over for the night in the hut. All that’s left to do then is to soak up the breathtaking views and regroup for the descent you’ll tackle the next day!

Final Thoughts

From New Zealand’s fantastic fjords, to its misted mountains and fern-ridden forests, the miles of pristine beaches and the cascading waterfalls, Kiwi country truly is a hiker’s paradise. Where there’s a hiker with a will, New Zealand will provide a wild path.

We hope that this post has helped you, in your stupor, to plan out the best hiking and camping route for navigating the Land of the Long White Cloud. Grab your gear and your sense of adventure, and get prepared to leave New Zealand as a changed human being!

About The Author

I’m Dan, and I’m the Editor in Chief of True North Athletics. I’m also an avid adventurer, digital nomad and traveler. I enjoy all types of outdoor sports, a good golf tan, and spontaneous weekend trips. I currently live in Brazil where I can be found frequently hiking the rain forest around my city!

The magic of Jamaica

If you are already fed up with the winter weather, you may be looking to get away from it all by going on holiday somewhere a long way from the cold, dark days offered in the UK. Well Jamaica could be just the place to lighten the spirits and kick back for a relaxing break.

One of the best places to stay on this charming Caribbean island is the area known as Ocho Rios. It is a very popular destination as it is a major cruise port, and has plenty to cater for the enthusiastic tourist. It can boast some stunning beaches, the most impressive of which are Turtle Beach and Mallard Beach.

Jet ski on Jamaica

This is also the part of Jamaica where novelist Ian Fleming penned his James Bond classics. Film fans will relish the chance to visit the James Bond Beach, and the Golden Eye Hotel, which was once the residence of Fleming himself and where Doctor No was filmed. There is an impressive array of Bond artefacts, including the desk at which Fleming would bring Bond to life. Just next door is the Firefly plantation, which was owned by Noel Coward, and is also open to tourists.

A short distance away you can check out Dolphin Cove, surrounded by a rainforest. Here you can enjoy the amazing experience of swimming with dolphins, and marvel at other tropical fish. You should also pay a visit to Dunn’s River Beach, which can be found by the simply sensational Dunn’s River Waterfalls. You are able to bathe in small whirlpools, climb the falls and you can’t help but be astounded by the natural visual beauty of the area.

As most people are aware, Jamaica is also synonymous with Bob Marley. Reggae enthusiasts should go and visit the Bob Marley Mausoleum, situated in Nine Miles. This is both the birthplace and the final, and controversial, resting place of Marley. For more Bob Marley sightseeing, you can go to the Bob Marley Museum which is in the island’s capital, Kingston. Here you can take your time and explore everything to do with the reggae legend in what was actually his old studio. Alternatively, you can pop along to the Bob Marley Experience and Theatre, situated in Falmouth. You can watch films about the man himself, and do souvenir shopping in what is believed to be the biggest ensemble of Marley memorabilia in the world.

Another of the most popular resorts in Jamaica is Montego Bay, which is often referred to as MoBay. This is frequented in the main part by Americans, enticed by the luxurious resorts and hotels that will cater for your every need.

In contrast to this, you may want to sample life in Negril. This area is far more laid back and typically Caribbean. The beaches are quieter, many of them nudist, and in the streets you will feel a far more local and authentic atmosphere, with traditional eateries and modest accommodation found in what is known as the West End.

Culture vultures will be fascinated by a trip to Runaway Bay. This doesn’t pull in the tourists like other places in Jamaica, even though it has its special place in history. This was the region where, as its name suggests, the Spanish fled from the British and is a delightful place to stay.

Another reason to visit Jamaica is the party lifestyle. The locals love to let their hair down and have fun, and there are a few festivals which encapsulate this attitude. At Christmas time Jamaicans celebrate Junkanoo, while in the week that follows Easter, you can savour all the action of Carnival, one of the Caribbean’s liveliest festivals.

Annecy – The most beautiful town in France?

Most people, after visiting the Alpine town of Annecy in France, come away saying that Annecy is the most beautiful town in France. I visited Annecy for the first time last summer and I can see why tourists make that statement about this town that sits at the end of the lake that bears the same name.

Annecy has cobbled streets, winding canals, colourful flowers and pastel coloured houses. The Medieval Chateaux de Annecy looks out over the town and the lake and this castle was once home to the Counts of Geneva. The Alpine water in Lake Annecy is crystal clear and it is said that you can drink straight from the lake it is so clear of pollution.

We arrived on the train after a stunning scenic rail journey from Chamonix in France, on the Mont Blanc Express via Switzerland, and stayed at the Best Western International Hotel. This was a functional economical hotel, about a 10 minute walk from the station and the old town. The old town throngs with people in summer and the weather was hot whilst we were there. There are plenty of restaurants where you can eat outside overlooking the aqua blue canals. The speciality of the area is Tarte au Flet, a delicious potato, onion and ham dish. It’s a winter dish but we ordered it anyway!

What to do in Annecy?

There is lots to do in Annecy. Wander around the old town and explore canals and pretty shops. Take a long lunch and people watch! Walk to the lake and over the Pont des Amours (Lovers Bridge), hire a bike and cycle around some of the lake or go out on a pleasure cruise on Lake Annecy. After a day in the sun sit on a bench and look out over the lake before heading out to get something to eat at the many restaurants.

I would certainly go back to Annecy. Spending two nights there was not long enough to explore all the activities on offer in this stunning area of France.

Here are a few photos that I took whilst in Annecy.

Annecy old town
Chateaux de Annecy
Luxurious chateaux in Annecy

Where is Annecy?

Dancing on the Paris Plage in summer

Paris in summer is an amazing place to be. The city of romance is also the city of dance! Parisians love dancing and in August when the city opens the Paris Plage, it’s a city of colour and happiness.

For the last 3 summers I have visited Paris for a few days and it has become one of my favourite cities, close behind my favourite Venice. Take a stroll along the Paris Plage, an artificial beach created by the city along the River Seine which is created every summer and you can’t fail to be drawn into the eclectic atmosphere of music and dance. You will see everything from traditional dancing to street dance and you will be thinking that you want to join in, which of course you can!

It’s a joy to see so many people of all ages and cultural backgrounds taking part. Some are very good dancers and some are trying it for the first time, but it doesn’t matter how good you are or otherwise because that’s not the point. I stood there, mesmerised by the spectacle, asking myself should I try it too. It’s not just on the Paris Plage that you see dancing. Walking through a shopping centre looking for somewhere to eat one evening, we came across a few couples dancing inside the centre.  and this appeared to be a regular event as well.

The Paris Plage in summer is really like a  huge festival. There is street food, an artificial beach with imported sand, places to drink, deckchairs and sun loungers, play areas for children, lots of music and because it runs along the River Seine you really feel like you are beside the sea. What makes the Paris Plage special though is the people, everyone looks happy and relaxed and that is such a good thing to see.

Dancing on the Paris Plage
Dancing on the Paris Plage
Dancing in a Paris shopping centre

 

Explore the Langdale Valley – The Lake District Cumbria

The Langdale Valley in The Lake District National Park offers some of the finest mountain scenery that Cumbria has to offer.

The Langdale Valley in The Lake District National Park.
The Langdale Valley in The Lake District National Park.

You can reach The Langdale Valley by driving from Ambleside on the A593 towards Skelwith Bridge. Take the B5343 at the junction of the Skelwith Bridge Hotel and follow the road past beautiful Elter Water. You can stop and take the path around Elter Water but parking is limited here on the narrow road. The road will take you past The Langdale Hotel and Spa and Wainwrights’ Inn. It will be hard to find a parking spot until you reach the small public car park in front of the  New Dungeon Ghyll pub. You can either park here or drive further on until you reach The Old Dungeon Ghyll pub, which is famous for the popular Hikers Bar.

If you like walking you can park your car in The New Dungeon Ghyll car park and take the steep, well defined path up to Stickle Tarn. On the way up you will see dramtic scenery and waterfalls. Eventually you will reach the calming waters of Stickle Tarn where you will have close up views of the peaks of Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark which are both over 700 metres high.

The views up The Langdale Valley are stunning so take a camera to record the moment.

The walk to Stickle Tarn will take about 3 hours and is nearly 4 miles in total. Wear good walking boots because this is a fairly challenging walk.

The Dungeon Ghyll pub awaits you on your return and you will have certainly earned that pint. Food is served throughout the day in the Hikers bar from 12pm until 9pm.

There are many other footpaths in the area and this part of  beautiful the Lake District is well worth exploring.

Thruscross Resevoir – Such natural beauty so close to Leeds!

One of the best things I love about living in Leeds is that the city is very close to beautiful countryside, natural beauty and wildlife. Within 20 minutes drive of Leeds you can be in the countryside and walking footpaths and trails through woodland and up hills and peaks.

I have been to Thruscross Resevoir many times but I hadn’t been for a few years until yesterday when I took my camera and a drone to try and get some good video of the dam and countryside around it. The Autumn colours were out and the sun was shining so it was a good day for photography.

Thruscross Resevoir is just north of the Yorkshire town of Otley and west of Harrogate. It’s just off the A59 and is one of several resevoirs in the Washburn Valley. The resevoir was completed in 1966 so it’s the most recent resevoir to be constructed in the Washburn valley. The village of West End was flooded during the construction of Thruscross Resevoir and during severe droughts parts of the village can still be seen.

The area around Thruscross Resevoir is an area of natural beauty with woodland and moors and footpaths around the resevoir and surrounding area. There is a good sized car park next to Thruscross. It’s the sort of place that you can visit and not see anyone else although at weekends and holidays you see dog walkers and ramblers as well as curious sightseers who want to drive over the bridge at the top of the dam.

Thuscross Resevoir from the air.
Thuscross Rsevoir from the air.

I took two cameras for this visit to Thruscross Resevoir. I took my Nikon D3300 and tripod as well as a Yuneek Typhoon H drone. I decided to make a short film about Thruscross Resevoir and the video below is the end result.

Shopping heaven in Milan

Shopping in Milan has got to be the ultimate female shopping experience and perhaps male experience too!  I’m just back from two days in Milan, one of the shopping capitals of the world. If you are looking for high-end designer purchases this is the place to be.

Quadrilatero della Moda is the place to head for – it’s set amidst four of Milan’s most expensive and prestigious shopping street such as via Montenapoleone, via Monza, via della Spigna and corso Venizia. It’s on these streets that the most important fashion designers offer their goods to discerning shoppers.

Open 7 days a week, the Brian & Barry Building San Babila is a cult destination for shopping in Milan. There are 12 floors and the ground floor with its gallery experience offers a sneak preview of what you can find on the other floors.

Where to stay in Milan

There are plenty of good hotels in Milan but if you really want a luxury hotel experience for your shopping trip you could stay at the 5 star Armani Hotel which is only a 12 minute walk to Milan Cathedral.

Entertainment in Milan

When the shops close you will not be short of exciting entertainment in Milan. You can walk through the streets near the Duomo but you should head for the Navigili district where you will find countless waterside bars and restaurants where there is live music and a buzzing atmosphere.

I took these photos at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping centre next to Milan Cathedral.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping centre in Milan
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Designer shopping in Milan
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Louis Vuitton shop in Milan

Otley Chevin Forest Park

Otley Chevin Forest Park is about 10 miles north-west of Leeds City Centre. Otley Chevin is a cliff that rises steeply from the Yorkshire market town of Otley in West Yorkshire. The River Wharfe can be seen in the valley and on a clear day you can see for miles. The highest point of Otley Chevin reaches 282 metres and as well as fantastic views it’s a great place to walk your dog or explore the woodland and heathland. There are several walks with easy to follow footpaths along The Chevin and The Dales Way uns through the area.

There is a good car park at Surprise View and you will find The Royalty Pub just across the road from the car park if you need food or refreshments.

I recently visited Otley Chevin at sunset and took this photograph.

Otley Chevin
Sunset over Otley Chevin near Leeds.

French Alps Cable Car breaks down

The French Alps cable car that broke down this week  offers amazing panoramic views of the Mont Blanc mountain range and I was there only two weeks ago.

The cable cars that broke down, stranding people overnight in sub zero conditions, connect the Aiguille du Midi peak in France, at 3,842m (12,605ft), to Pointe Helbronner in Italy, at 3,462m (11,358ft). Aguille du Midi is the highest cable car in Europe and is a must see attraction on a visit to Chamonix, which is on the French, Italian and Swiss border.

You have to ascend the main cable car of Aguille du Midi before you can board the connecting cable car into Italy. The cable car to Helbronner Point covers 5 km of glacier and you travel over crevasses that can be 70 metres deep, which is the height of a 23-storey building. Nearby you can see stunning mountain peaks that top 4000 metres including Mont Blanc itself at 4810 metres.

I took these photos of the cable car that broke down, on my recent trip to the French Alps.

Cable Car in French Alps
French Alps Cable Car
French Alps Cable Car
Aguille du Midi
View from Aiguille Du Midi
View of French Alps near to French Alps Cable car that broke down.

The Vatican Museums – How to beat the queues

When in Rome, everyone eventually heads for the Vatican City and this is where you will find St Peter’s Square and The Vatican Museums.

Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum exit

Pope Julius II founded the Vatican Museums in the early 16th century and the museums contain many works of art that the popes have collected over the years. Most people visit to see the Sistine Chapel with its ceiling painted by Michelangelo and it is magnificent, however, it’s a very busy place and you can’t hope to spend any time looking at the exhibits because you will find yourself swept along with the vast crowds, as you catch a fleeting glance of the passing masterpieces.

How to beat the Vatican Museums Queues

So, you have decided to visit The Vatican Museums, which is great, but the queue is likely to be very long. On my recent visit to The Vatican Museums in August 2016 the queue was about 200 metres long. I walked straight past this huge queue and walked straight in! Why waste time queuing in 35C summer heat when it’s easy to beat the queue?

We paid 33 Euros each for the Vatican Museums and audio guide ticket, however, we didn’t use the audio guide and you can save 7 Euros if you don’t get the guide. You can buy official Vatican Museum tickets online or pay at the museum and the cost is 16 Euros plus a 4 Euro booking fee. Beat the queue tickets are twice as much as tickets bought at the museum but take my word for it, they are well worth it to avoid the very long queue.

Where to buy ‘beat the queue’ Vatican Museums tickets?

Always buy your beat the queue Vatican Museums tickets from an official vendor. As you walk around the Vatican City you will be approached by many people wanting to sell you tickets. Stay clear of these sellers. Although many appear to wear official lanyards and badges you can’t be sure that you are buying from an honest retailer. Instead, buy online before you arrive in Rome.

We bought our tickets online for The Vatican Museums before we travelled and the website we bought the ticket from can be found here. This company are an official Vatican ticket supplier but there are several more official retailers.

Other information about The Vatican Museums

No shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts. This applies to both males and females. Even if you get through security, you will be turned away by the attendants at the door. Although this is the official rule I saw many people wearing shorts and they were allowed in. It might have been because the weather was over 35C.

Pushchair’s are permitted in the Museums.

It is forbidden to use flash photography inside the Museums and no photography at all in the Sistine Chapel.

It is forbidden to touch works of art.

Just a few of my photos of The Vatican Museums.

Spiral staircase at the Vatican Museum
Spiral staircase at the Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum
Vatican Museums Gardens
Vatican Museums Gardens, Vatican City