Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand

Photo of cloud covered hills in the New Zealand fiords


The islands of New Zealand are beautiful and wild. Teaming with wildlife, beaches, streams, waterfalls, and trails New Zealand is a magical destination you will want to explore. Put New Zealand on your bucket list! This is a recap of our vacation in New Zealand with photos and commentary.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand

Last week I wrote about our Australian adventure. Titling it When Not to Go to Australia, you can see that it was an adventure, just not the “good kind” of adventure.

This week, I am giving a recap of our New Zealand vacation. Let me start with the spoiler: we LOVED New Zealand. I would like nothing more than to go back for a month and further explore the South Island. It was simply breathtaking. The North Island was nice, the South Island… simply phenomenal.

New Zealand was a place Hubby has long wanted to go. He was a great fan of Xena: Warrior Princess {insert eye roll} I swear he still has a crush on Renee O’Connor (yes, I am sure he is aware she is from Texas), and he watches everything Lucy Lawless is in.

Photo of waterfall in the New Zealand fiords


When we planned this trip the New Zealand portion was planned first. We found a cruise on Celebrity that looked interesting and booked it. New Zealand and Australia drive “on the wrong side of the road” and Hubby and I had no desire to attempt that. We figured we would use the cruise ship as a floating hotel in New Zealand and get our taste of the country that way. (Cruises are a destination “taste” to determine if you would like to go back to an area for a longer trip, in my opinion.)

We booked back-to-back cruises featuring Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand fiords and then made our plane reservations. Since the Australian cruise was first, and they both departed from, and returned to, Sydney, that is the airport we flew in and out of.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


We sailed for New Zealand leaving a stormy Sydney Harbor behind.


At the end of the first cruise, I went to get my hair done in Sydney. We were given a card that showed we were back-to-back cruisers and so didn’t have to do much to re-board except show our passports, get new photos, and seapass cards. It was then on to New Zealand!

Hubby wanted to visit some specific places in New Zealand if at all possible: Lord of the Rings filming sites, and Xena: Warrior Princess filming sites. He was disappointed with the Xena sightseeing… there was no such thing. He found a random blogger who had pieced together areas where filming had occurred, but nothing concrete or actionable.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Part of “Middle Earth”


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


A Hobbit house at Hobbiton


LOTR was a different story. We were able to visit “Middle Earth” on the South Island, and Hobbiton on the North Island. I plan on breaking out a full post on that. Another spoiler alert: I am not a big LOTR fan (basically I have read the book and seen the movies) and I thought these tours were FABULOUS!! Hobbiton is so idyllic I can see why Sam wanted to go back to the Shire.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Fiords in New Zealand


We cruised to Fiordland National Park and through three of the five fiords. Fiordland National Park is in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. There are glacier-carved fiords of Doubtful and Milford sounds.

As we cruised through the park we encountered sunshine, clouds, rain, cold, and warmth. It was several seasons in the matter of a few hours. We were told you could walk in and it would take several days.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


While there was an overnight excursion from our cruise ship to camp overnight, we did not even consider it. My idea of camping is the Four Seasons.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


On our trip in New Zealand we saw quite a few dolphins. Besides birds, the dolphins were actually the wildlife we saw the most of!

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


At our stop in Dunedin, Hubby and I decided to walk around on our own and now take a tour. It is a lovely town with a beautiful train station, adorable shops, and art galleries.

We were told by one of our tablemates to make certain we tried the seafood chowder on the South Island if we got a chance, and so we did when walking into a random beer pup. If I had been alone I would have licked my bowl! I have no idea what went into this soup, but it was amazing.

On our way to this beer pub (Hubby found it on thefork which we had also used to get discounts and discover great restaurants in Italy), we saw this street. When Hubby pointed it out, I immediately said, “no!” He started laughing, he didn’t mean for us to walk up it. Baldwin street is the third steepest street in the world!

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Green Kiwi and Kiwi Grove


We took several nature and food trips while in New Zealand. We got to see how kiwi grows. The green kiwis are most plentiful, grown to export and the “best” are indeed shipped overseas.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Gold Kiwi Grove


The gold kiwi are more expensive to grow and ship, and less plentiful. We were told they are experimenting with a red kiwi that will taste like a cross between a berry and a kiwi fruit.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Avocodo


We saw some enormous avocado trees on an avocado farm. They had to have been 40′ tall and loaded. Avocado growing is a big industry in New Zealand and growing larger every day (no pun intended).

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


A not-so-faithful geyer in New Zealand.


Now, there are three types of kiwi: a fruit (always called kiwi fruit), a person (a New Zealander), and a bird. The bird are nocurnal. We visited a Maori Cultural Center in Rotorua that was more about the geysers and spitting (boiling) mud. Our tour guide told a gruesome story from when he was an EMT and someone had fallen into the mud pits. “Cooked chicken” were the words used. Gross (and that poor man that fell in died).

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Spitting mud pit.


It did have a kiwi bird though. To see the kiwi you entered a completely dark facility. I am surprised I didn’t kill myself or at the very least, trip over the person in front of me. In the US the nocturnal exhibits have red lights to prevent accidents. There? They were more concerned about the two birds than the people (there are only about 68,000 kiwi birds left). The kiwi itself looked like a bush, and because it was so dark it was almost indistinguishable from the rocks and plants in the exhibit.

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


A silver fern upside down on the left.


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


The circular shape of the koru conveys the idea of perpetual movement.


The silver fern is one of the unofficial symbols of New Zealand. If you lay the silver fern upside down while walking on a path, it will shine for you on your way home in the dark, guiding your path so you do not get lost!

Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


Take a Trip to Beautiful New Zealand by AnnsEntitledLife.com. A 13 day trip to the north and South Islands of magnificant New Zealand


The beaches we saw in New Zealand were lovely, but harsh. This was a beach in Bay of Islands. This was a very interesting stop. It was a tender in, not a dock, so I know what I wish could never happen, buuuut…

This stop needed to be overnight so people could take advantage of the fishing, hiking, and camping in the area. When we tendered in we immediately got on a (free) city bus and were taken to the teeny-tiny central business district. After walking the three streets, we walked the 1.5 miles back to the tender area to get back on the ship. There was just not enough to do in the area outside of a longer-length nature excursion.

Speaking of getting on the bus; after we were loaded and moving the bus driver told us the power was out in the city center (good thing we had cash!) The plates are constantly moving below New Zealand and that can result in power disruption. The New Zealand Prime Minister was due to arrive that afternoon (our tablemates got photos of her) and they has emergency generators on standby for her!

Photo of geyser in New Zealand


A few tidbits we learned about New Zealand… there were no mammals on the island before man imported them. There are no natural predators (coyote, wolves, fox, etc.) and no poisonous snakes. For all that “everything in Australia is trying to kill you”, almost nothing in New Zealand is looking to harm you.

That doesn’t mean everything is hunky-dory. Because there are no natural predators the possum that have been imported have flourished (millions and millions). Rabbits and hare can destroy crops. Sometimes nature balances its own, and there are plans to contain these mammals that have caused ecological destruction.

We took a 13 day cruise that gave us nine days in New Zealand. It was far too short. I would love to return someday to see more of the countryside as this was a rough, wild, and beautiful destination.


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Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe

A serving of chicken with mozzarella on top of it, tomato and lettuce side dish on a white plate. There is a second, identical plated chicken in the upper left.


This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto Caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella… mmmm, it’s so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


Faraglioni, the three spurs of rock next to the Island of Capri


I love caprese in all forms; from the traditional caprese side dish to Hubby’s fantastic cucumber caprese salad, caprese salad is a served all over Italy. Originating on the Island of Capri, traditional Inslata Caprese is found on every Italian restaurant menu, yet it is simple to make at home. Comprising of buffalo mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar, it is the easiest side dish you could possibly make.

So, why not eliminate a bowl and make it in the pan with some chicken?

Wondering what to serve with caprese chicken? How about some potato wedges? A nice spinach salad? Or, perhaps your family would enjoy some homemade yeast rolls!

Overhead shot of a serving of chicken with mozzarella on top of it, tomato and lettuce side dish on a white plate. There is a second, identical plated chicken in the upper left.


Tips for Making Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken:

• I list three Roma tomatoes, you may have to adjust to four if they are small, or two if they are large.

• Fresh mozzarella is recommended which you can buy in the ball and slice yourself or presliced in the ball or log. You can substitute shredded, packaged mozzarella in a pinch.

• Serve with a little balsamico di modena to really enhance the taste!

• If your chicken breasts are very thick you will most likely have leftovers.

• If you have leftovers, cook up some spaghetti, add some cherry tomatoes, sliced baked pesto Caprese chicken, and some balsamic vinegar or olive oil, and served with a side of broccoli!

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe Ingredients:

• 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
• Salt, to taste
• Pepper, to taste
• 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
• ½ cup Basil Pesto
• 3 Roma Tomatoes, sliced
• 8 oz Fresh Mozzarella, sliced

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Mise en Place:

13″x9″ Baking Pan
• Non-stick Spray
• Knife
• Cutting Board
• Spoon
Measuring Cup
Measuring Spoons

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
2. Lightly lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
3. Pat chicken breasts dry and lay in the prepared pan.

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


4. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


5. Spread pesto over chicken and top with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


6. Bake in preheated 400ºF oven for 35-40 minutes uncovered, until chicken is fully cooked.

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes into preparing this great tasting chicken dinner.


7. Serve.

Close-up of a cut up piece of chicken with mozzarella on top of it, tomato and lettuce side dish on a white plate. There is a second, identical plated chicken in the upper left.


Yield: 4

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe

Baked Pesto Caprese Chicken Recipe. This easy-to-make, 5-ingredient, quick prep, baked pesto Caprese chicken recipe packs a lot of great taste in a simple recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked in a pan and smothered with fresh mozzarella... mmmm it's so good! Only you will know how little effort goes

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • ½ cup Basil Pesto
  • 3 Roma Tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 oz Fresh Mozzarella, sliced

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
    2. Lightly lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
    3. Pat chicken breasts dry and lay in the prepared pan.
    4. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
    5. Spread pesto over chicken and top with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
    6. Bake in preheated 400ºF oven for 35-40 minutes uncovered, until chicken is fully cooked.
    7. Serve.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 508Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 146mgSodium: 683mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 51g
Note: for exact nutritional information, consult your dietitian. All nutritional information provided is simply a guideline.

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When Not to Go to Australia

Photo of the Sydney Opera House against a blue sky background


If you would like to know the worst time to go to Australia, read on…

When Not to Go to Australia

I had wanted to go to Australia for over 35 years. It was definitely a bucket-list item for me for a very long time.

When Mr. Max passed away in late 2018, I decreed (yup, decreed) that Hubby and I would do some traveling. So, we went on a cruise to the Panama Canal in early 2019 on Princess, Hubby planned (and we went on) a six week trip to Italy in the fall, and we decided to make a huge trip to Australia and New Zealand in early 2020.

Since we live in the Northern Hemisphere, New York State to be exact, and Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, we knew we would be traveling during our winter, the Australian summer. The distance is very great and like many others, we made the decision to combine a trip to Australia with a trip to New Zealand. We had long ago decided that when we went, we wanted to see New Zealand by a cruise ship.

New Zealand and Australia drive “on the wrong side of the road” and Hubby and I had no desire to attempt that. New Zealand also is pretty small. We figured we would use the cruise ship as a floating hotel and get our taste of the country that way. (Cruises are a destination “taste” to determine if you would like to go back to an area for a longer trip, in my opinion.)

Well, since we were traveling to the other side of the world (literally), and the journey going was over 20 hours in the air plus time between flights, and I had always wanted to see Australia, it just made sense to look for a cruise in Australia too.

Hubby found one with Celebrity for the Great Barrier Reef. I was thrilled! We would cruise the Great Barrier Reef and then stay on the same cruise ship to do a back-to-back cruise to New Zealand. We were not the only people with that idea. Out of the approximately 2800 passengers on that first Great Barrier Reef cruise, 672 stayed on for New Zealand! Since we were flying a great distance to Sydney to take this trip – approximately 10,000 miles, combining made sense.

Because I wanted as few plane connections as possible – we were checking luggage not going carry-on only and the fewer chances for our bags to be lost, the better – is my traveling motto (and the big reason we do carry-on to Europe all the time) we decided to drive to Toronto (about 90 minutes away) and then take a plane to LAX and then on to Sydney.

I also knew that we might suffer some jetlag after such a long flight, going east to west, and losing a day, and so wanted to acclimate as much as possible before our cruise. We landed in Sydney five days early to see the sights, do some tours, and explore the area.

A word about the flights: they are long. We live in the Buffalo, New York area. If we had wanted to fly BUF to LAX to SYD (one plane change), we’d have had to fly Jet Blue, collect our bags, and then transfer to a different plane to fly to Sydney. (Ironically, because of how customs works flying back to the US in LAX (you have to collect your bags before you finish customs, and then go back through the TSA line) this would have been our best bet on the way home!)

For those wondering: the flight from Toronto to LA was 5.5 hours (6 hours was scheduled), and LAX to SYD was 15.5 hours (16 hours scheduled). The flight back from Sydney to LAX was 13 hours (we actually landed 15 minutes early), and from LAX to Toronto was 4.5 hours.

We landed in Sydney on a Thursday after leaving Toronto on a Tuesday. It was a bit odd losing a day!

We had closely followed the fires that were ravaging so much of Australia from the news being reported in the United States. The last article I can find about the fires has 716 deliberly set fires in New South Wales alone.

The fires did considerable damage to Australia. They were constantly being described as unprecedented. One a personal level, we hated to complain when people were losing their homes, livelihoods, and even their lives. However, those fires obviously negatively impacted our time in Australia.

The smoke from the fires came in, and I coughed a lot while in Sydney. I also blew my nose a lot, and we are still are not certain if it was poor air quality, or if I had an allergy (summertime there).

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Sydney Opera House


Sydney Opera House


We were able to do some sightseeing while in Sydney, just not as much as we would have liked due to the fires. We had a trip to the Blue Mountains booked, but canceled it when they closed the national park. We figured we would do it on our return from our cruise (bad move, didn’t happen).

We had purchased opera tickets for Thursday evening thinking that would help us stay up and adjust to the time change. The best laid plans… Hubby and I decided to lay down for a short nap (I had slept nine hours on the plane!) and when we woke up, it was after 10pm and the opera was long over.

The next day we planned to just walk around the Sydney harbor area, so that was what we did. It is a beautiful harbor area with many restaurants, some shops, some museums, the aquarium, and more.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Cocktails at the Sydney Harbor. That is a passionfruit garnish.


Cocktails at the Harbor. That is a passionfruit garnish.


Sydney is, hands down, the most expensive city we have ever visited. The currency exchange rate was favoring us by 30%, there is no additional tax on products (just a boatload of taxes built in to everything), we live in NYS, and we were still taken aback at how very expensive Sydney is. And down at the harbors? Oy. I am not certain how people afford to live there!

We did find the new tram to be an easy way to get around. We used our credit card to “tap on, tap, off” (avoiding the Opal card) and a ride cost us 69¢ US. That was a bargain. While in Italy this past fall Hubby was trying to kill me with us walking 5-10 miles per day, in Sydney, he was kinder, and it was 3-5 miles walking per day. I brought walking sticks, which helped a lot as the streets are steep!

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com These photos are of our trip to the Sydney fish market, the third largest fish market in the world.


When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com These photos are of our trip to the Sydney fish market, the third largest fish market in the world.


When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com These photos are of our trip to the Sydney fish market, the third largest fish market in the world.


Those live King Crabs are $189.99 per KG (AUS).


We did a quick stop at the Sydney fish market. It is the largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere, third largest in the world (after Tokyo and Mexico City).

There is an auction there weekdays (we were there on a Saturday), tons of local fresh fish, and some restaurants inside and outside the market.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Drought stricken Hunter Valley Winery, on poor air quality, smokey day (Australian wild fires).


Drought stricken Hunter Valley Winery. The air quality wasn’t too great that day.


We went on a great wine tour to Hunter Valley. This chef-led Hunter Valley gourmet food and wine day trip was unique and very good. The guy has a bus that he converted to have a place to cook and store food. He prepared us kangaroo meat, and I must admit it was pretty tasty!

Australian wines are probably my least favorite in the world. However, I am generally open to trying new things and broadening my horizons when it comes to wines, and I actually bought a bottle at one of the wineries!

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Kangaroo meat, beet jam, and a cherry tomato on top of crostini.


Ground kangaroo meat with a beet jam dressing.


At the first winery, we saw kangaroos that were out during the day. Kangaroos are nocturnal, and it was explained to us that they were out hunting for food as the fires and drought had ravaged where they lived and they had dpread out to look for food, and taken to looking during the day. Kangaroos are considered nuisance animals in Australia (like deer are here), and they can do a lot of damage when someone hits one with their vehicle at dusk or dawn.

The drought has hurt the winery business. The first winery we entered you couldn’t even tell was supposed to be a winery; the vines were dead and gone. The owner said he had not harvested last year, there would be no harvest this year, and it was devastating to them and their livelihood.

It was truly a sad situation.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Paper tree in the Sydney Botanical Gardens


Paper tree


When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Sydney Botanical Gardens in bloom


While in Sydney, we also visited the Botanical Gardens. Hubby is very much in to bushcraft (started in Australia), wilderness survival, and hunting. While the Botanical Gardens are free to walk, the wild edibles and medicinal plants tour we went on was $40 each AUS. I would like to say it was worth the money, but the tour was too large, the lady’s voice too soft to carry over the group, it was a million degrees out and she kept us standing in the sun for long periods of time. She may have known her stuff (I have no idea, I couldn’t hear half of it and I have ears like a bat!), but the whole tour was just poorly planned and executed.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Sydney Harbor Bridge


Sydney Harbor Bridge


We also visited the Maritime Museum. It was free to wander some parts, and they had interactive areas for people (with children). I found it very interesting. Hubby and I only did the free portions (we wandered over after seeing the line to get into the aquarium was a good 45 minutes long with kids everywhere, we figured we would return after New Zealand as the kids would be back in school. (Bad move.) We were in and out in about 90 minutes. If we had added the interactive portions geared toward the children, it would have been a much longer experience.

After five days in Sydney, it was time to board our cruise ship. We took the tram from our hotel, walked down the harbor, dropped off our luggage, and then made the trip into the terminal where our passports were checked, photos were taken, and seapass cards were given. This was the easist port access we have ever experienced.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Airlie Beach, Queensland


When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Airlie Beach, Queensland


Airlie Beach, Queensland


In retrospect, the Great Barrier Reef may not have been the best choice for Hubby and me. We do not snorkel, scuba dive, etc. Yes, it is beautiful, but we were not able to take advantage of the underwater experience because… unfortunately, the sea waves were quite high, the waters churning, and even with a glass bottom boat, there was no visibility. The people we met on the cruise that dived and snorkled told us that once you got 20 feet down, it was breathtakingly beautiful.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Koala Bear in a tree.


When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Koala Bear being held by a gamekeeper


When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Kangaroo


I made certain that we would do some wildlife preserves on our cruise ship stops as I was traveling ten thousand miles to see koala bears. We did several, one near Brisbane, one near Newcatle, and they were great.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Throwing an aboriginal spear.


Hubby throwing an Aboriginal spear.


When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Throwing a boomarang.


Hubby throwing a boomarang.


When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Aboriginal canoe in the water.


We also toured an Aborigal cultural park in Cairns. Hubby got to throw a spear, and a boomerang. We got to see a great Aboriginal show, hear music played on the handmade instruments, got a lesson in tools and weapons, and saw a very sad movie short about the plight of the Australian Aborigines.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Stormy Sydney Harbor.


We sailed for New Zealand leaving a stormy Sydney Harbor behind.


At the end of the first cruise, I went to get my hair done in Sydney. We were given a card that showed we were back-to-back cruisers and so didn’t have to do much to re-board except show our passports, get new photos, and seapass cards. It was then on to New Zealand!

I am going to break out the New Zealand portion of our trip into another post next week, but spoiler alert: we loved, loved, LOVED New Zealand!! If Hubby asked me to if I wanted to return for a month, I’d be packing my bag tomorrow.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Torrential rains in Sydney Australia


Rain, rain, go away…


On our return from New Zealand, we can back to Sydney for four more days. We arrived to rain, an inch fell that day, and it only got rainier. In all, there was about 10 INCHES of rain that fell over three days. The positive is the fires are out.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Torrential rains in Sydney Australia


We watched the news and people were flooded out, and yet grateful for the rain. It helped relieve the drought, and it stopped the fires.

Generally speaking, Sydney has crappier weather than even Seattle. Sydney gets an average of 51.5 inches of rainfall per year (Seattle gets 38 inches by comparison). It rains an average of two weeks per month. The drought was really something unusual. Normally, if you plan to go to Sydney, an umbrella is a necessity you pack.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Torrential rains in Sydney Australia


We sat in our hotel room for those three days. One day, we literally ran around the corner to eat at the tiny little Japanese restaurant next door. There was no way to walk or go anywhere as the rain was coming down in sheets, the sidewalks were rivers, and the underground trains were flooded, and in general, it was best to stay indoors.

When Not to Go to Australia, by AnnsEntitledLife.com Timtam cookies.


One of my favorite food-finds in Australia!


Our final day in Sydney was much clearer. We took the time to walk down to the harbor one last time, eat lunch, stretch our legs, and shake off that claustrophobic feeling of being contained to a hotel room.

My best advice? Do not go to Australia during raging bush fires, extreme drought, or torrential rains.

We set-up base in Sydney for the before and after portion of our cruises and Hubby was wondering if we did ourselves a disservice by not flying to Melbourne for a few days. In the before-cruise portion of our trip, I am not certain that would have worked due to the fires. On the after portion, I wonder if the plane would have taken off?

Australia is a very large country, about the size of the continental United States. The people are the friendliest I have met anywhere (and I live on the Canadian border!). We happened to go during a particularly bad weather time which greatly impacted how much of Sydney and its surrounding areas we could visit.

We saw a bit of the east coast, kangaroos, koala bears, and now I can cross it off my bucket list. The weather was dreadful, the fires (oh, those poor people!) were horrible, and the rain and flooding was terrible and good at the same time. It was a memorable vacation, although not for the best reasons.


• For more Travel Posts on Ann’s Entitled Life, click here.

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