Explore the enchanting sites of Eastland

Referred to as the ‘far east’ of New Zealand, Eastland is a coastal region in the northeastern part of the country’s North Island. It’s the first land that greets the morning sun each day.

Blue Castle - Eastland sunrise

The laid back and tucked-away Eastland is nicknamed Te Tai Rāwhiti in Māori, which means Coast of the Sunrise, for obvious reason. Despite modern developments and existence of cars, the region still uses horses and barefeet for transport. It enjoys a warm and dry climate, allowing its visitors a relaxed coastal lifestyle.

The region is known for its vineyards, citrus, world-class beaches, spectacular trees, and wild rivers that winds up into the ocean. But most of all, Eastland is where Māori population is high. And this is evident everywhere you go. Try driving along the Pacific Coast and you’ll see its culture in every settlement, like the elaborately-painted churches and carved meeting houses. You’ll also hear the Te Rao language spoken. Māori people can even trace their ancestry as far as 24 generations back.

Eastland may be less explored and little known, but it’s well worth visiting. Here’s why.

Surfing. Eastland is known for its clean and reliable surf. If you are the adventurous type, you’ll surely enjoy surfing or body surfing. There are local guides around who can take you where the perfect breaks are found. You may even want to dive with sharks and feed the stingrays. Huh!… Don’t worry about being slaughtered by sharks; there’s a purposely-built cage for you to stay safe in.

Biking. Take on the Motu Adventure Trails and discover a liberating experience. You’ll feast on impressive vistas through the hill country farmland and rugged mountain ranges. The Motu Trails are among the 21 Great Rides under the Nga Haerenga.

Blue Castle -Mount Hikurangi

Hiking. Enjoy a good walk by the stunning Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera, North Island’s largest native forest wilderness. The lake itself is the centre of many activities in the park.

Visit Rere Falls and Rockslide. Be mesmerized by the serenity of nature at the Rere Falls. The Falls transforms the slow-moving Wharekopae River into an amazing cascade that drops 10 metres down at 20 metres wide.  

The river continues to race down against a massive 60-metre long slab of moss-covered sandstone into a naturally-created freshwater pool. People call it the Rere Rock Slide.

If you hadn’t been to Eastland yet, it’s time that you give it a try. It’s all worth the journey.

Experience Auckland

You’ve got to experience Auckland for yourself to understand why it is named the third most liveable city in the world.

Blue Castle - wineries

Auckland is a vibrant melting pot of cultures considering that it is the largest Polynesian city in the world. And this is obviously manifested in its food, festivals, music, and art among many other aspects.

The city also boasts of a lot of local attractions – from regional parks to beaches and wildlife, to its rich cultural heritage. It is able to preserve its naturally awesome landscapes against the constant development to keep up with modern living and standards.

Blue Castle - cycle with maori

And the locals? Ask the immigrants who choose to make Auckland their home. They would unanimously say Kiwis are friendly, hospitable, and free-spirited. The locals have high regard for human rights and equality regardless of where you have come from.

Auckland’s population is composed of

  • 11% Māori
  • 56% are of European descent
  • 13% have Pacific Island descent
  • 12% Asians

This just goes to show how diverse the culture of Auckland is. Perhaps, these are among the factors that the global Mercer Quality of Life Survey looks into when proclaiming Auckland as the third most liveable city in the world.

But hearing the accounts of those who have come to the region or reading this post is not enough. You’ve got to come to experience Auckland for yourself. You can visit here anytime because the region has a warm coastal climate with no extreme weather. Besides, there are always a handful of events that keep the city buzzing anytime of the year.

And you need not worry about accommodation either. Depending on your preference and budget, you can find a place to stay throughout the entire Auckland region, from the central business district to the islands. You may choose to stay in luxurious resorts, 5-star international hotel chains, bed and breakfast, or backpacker homes.

And another thing to experience Auckland is to try its fantastic variety of cuisine from all over the world. Thousands of cafes, restaurants, wineries, and bars are available everywhere.

Accommodation in Hamilton

Accommodation in Hamilton continually improves its facilities and amenities due to the increasing competition.  Each year, the city receives a significant number of international tourists visiting the city’s local attractions. 

Blue Castle - Argent Motor Lodge

Due to the increasing demand for places to stay, many types of accommodation have emerged over the past few decades in Hamilton. From high-end hotels to the simple and budget-friendly hostels, you are presented with an array of choices. And, so hotels and other accommodation in Hamilton have to continually improve their standard to stay in competition.

Of the many, here are a few places I recommend:

Argent Motor Lodge. It’s one of the most popular among many visitors because of its perfect location in the city, and clean and homey atmosphere. Argent is close to Hamilton central business district, many cafes and restaurant outlets, and other places of interest. Price range is from $135 to $360.

Astra Motor Lodge. Astra is ideal for solo guests, family, and business travellers. It has studios and deluxe executive one-bedroom types of accommodation.

Novotel Hamilton Tainui. This four-star hotel accommodation is located along Alma Street, and just a few minutes away from some important tourist destinations and attractions, such as:

  • beach and water sports
  • other sports activity, like archery
  • 18-hole golf course
  • cinemas and entertainment centres
  • the famous Hamilton Gardens
  • Hamilton zoo
  • Lake Rotoroa
  • Westpactrust Cricket Stadium
  • Waikato Rugby Stadium
  • Porritt Stadium

Blue Castle - Ambassador Hotel

The Ambassador Hotel. Located along Ulster Street, Whitiora, the Ambassador Hotel offers luxury studio apartments, hotel rooms, or group and family self-contained units.

The hotel is just a walking distance to Waikato Stadium, Founders Theatre, Claudelands Events Centre, and Seddon Park.

Kingston Hotel Hamilton. This is the ideal place to stay for business travellers, individual holidaymakers, and families because of its proximity to the Te Rapa Racecourse, out-of-town points of interest, and the waterfront. Located along Garnett Avenue, Te Rapa, Kingston Hotel offers 147 spacious guest rooms and 5 suites.

You may also visit the TripAdvisor for more choices of accommodation in Hamilton.

Backpackers’ accommodation in Christchurch and Canterbury

There are several backpackers’ accommodation in Christchurch and Canterbury, depending on your budget and preference. You may opt to stay right in the city centre itself or a bit farther from the noise and traffic.

Blue Castle - YMCA
YMCA Christchurch

Because of its perfect location on the edge of the Canterbury Plains, Christchurch offers many natural attractions to its visitors.  In fact, many of the visitors here are repeaters. They keep coming back because they can’t get enough of the majestic beauty of Christchurch.

And of course, with these tourist destinations, Christchurch’ tourism industry must also keep up with the demands for accommodation.

While many hotels may have been brought down by the 2011 earthquake, several other types of accommodations are made available to receive both local and international guests.  Some of these comfortable and less expensive facilities are the backpackers’ hostels.

Here are at least five of the many backpackers’ accommodation in Christchurch and Canterbury that I highly recommend.

The Old Countryhouse Backpackers. This is one of the favourite hostels among backpackers in Christchurch. Located along Gloucester Street, Linwood Christchurch Canterbury, it’s only around 15-20 minutes walk from the central city. Local bus stops are just in front of the hostel.  Room rates per adult guest per night range from:

  • High season: $33 – $144
  • Low season: $29 – $138

Around the World Backpackers. Located along Barbadoes Street, City Centre Christchurch Canterbury, this hostel is just about a short 10-minute walk away from The Restart Mall.  Part of its amenities include free unlimited calls to national and New Zealand mobile phones; free coffee, tea, sugar, and any spices left by other guests.  Room rates per adult per night are as follows:

  • High season: $31 – $80
  • Low season: $30 – $74
Blue Castle - YHA Mt Cook
YHA Mt Cook

YHA Kaikoura.  Located in Kaikoura, Canterbury, the YHA Kaikoura gives you a majestic view of the Kaikoura mountain ranges across the South Pacific Ocean. Rooms are available in twins, doubles, and small multi-share, with rates ranging from $30 to $110 per adult per night.

YMCA Christchurch. This is located at Hereford Street in the heart of the Christchurch’ central city, right next to the Arts Centre & Botanical Gardens.  Its room rates range from $30 to $220 per adult per night.

YHA Mt Cook. Located in Aoraki Mount Cook, this comfortable hostel charges between $31 and $183 per adult guest per night. Price includes community levy to assist with village development.

For booking and more information about the backpackers’ accommodation in Christchurch and Canterbury, please visit the Christchurch & Canterbury web page.

Take a surfing holiday at St. Clair Beach, Dunedin

Dunedin is home to some of the best beaches in New Zealand, most of which are only a few minutes drive from the central city. Of these, St. Clair Beach is the most popular because of its excellent surfing location and scenic view of the ocean.

St. Clair Beach is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a consistent surf break. And it’s only a ten-minute drive from the city centre. Besides surfing, you can also enjoy walking by the seaside or just go dining in its cafe-lined promenade, and watch the surfers ride the waves of the Southern Ocean.

Blue Castle - St Clair Beach

At the southern end of the beach there’s a the heated St. Clair Hot Salt Water Pool.  It’s an ideal swimming area for those who don’t want to venture into the ocean waters with huge swells.

Accommodation

Depending on your taste and budget, there are plenty of accommodation facilities close to St. Clair Beach.  Among which include:

Lisburn Avenue Cottage. The standalone modernized character red brick cottage costs from $100 per night, and can accommodate a maximum of 6 people.

Mosgiel Charmer. Its room rate starts from $130 per night, and can accommodate up to 5 people.

Stunning Panoramic Views Surf to City – St. Clair.  Room rate starts from $130 per night, and can accommodate up to 9 people. The place is a 3-minute drive to St. Clair Beach.

St. Clair Gem Holiday House.  Its room rate starts from $145 per night.

Fabulous Beach House at St. Clair. Located 1.5 kilometres away from St. Clair Golf Club, and 5 kilometres from Dunedin City Centre, this beach house can accommodate a maximum of 4 people.  Its room rates cost between $150 and $400 per night.

Blue Castle - Hydro

Wains Hotel Dunedin. Although it’s 3.6 kilometres away from St. Clair Beach, the hotel offers very good facilities.

Best Western 555 Bayview. It’s 1.9 kilometres from St. Clair, and a 5-minute walk from St. Kilda Beach.

Hotel St. Clair. This boutique beachfront hotel is just 0.5 kilometres away from St. Clair Beach.

Apartments at St. Clair is located just 50 metres away from St. Clair Beach, and just a five-minute walk from the St. Clair Salt Water Pool.

The Hydro Esplanade Apartments is located right in front of St. Clair Beach, or just a short 0.3 kilometres from the beach front.  It’s also just a minute walk from the St. Clair Salt Water Pool.

Or, you may want to seek the advice of your travel agent to get better room rates. They might also have special holiday packages to St. Clair Beach.

Why you should stay in Wellington

Booming city, rich in diversity, abundant job opportunities, and leading centre of arts and culture: these are but few of the numerous good reasons to work and stay in Wellington.

city landmark 1

Wellington is one of the best cities to live in New Zealand. And here’s why:

Proximity to major areas. With a span of only two kilometres in diameter, the central business district of Wellington can be easily navigated around on foot. In other words, you can get to your destination quickly. And if you choose to commute, the city has the most well-used public transport systems with the least vehicular traffic congestion compared with other cities in New Zealand.

Accommodation.  Wellington’s house prices are way below the national median.

  • Rent.  The cheapest way to rent is to share a flat with other people. The cost depends on the size of the house, the number of occupants, and location. But if you wish to rent an entire flat with your family, you can get a cheaper unit in the city fringes or outer suburbs.
  • Hotel. Depending on your taste and budget, you may choose from the different accommodation types in Wellington – from central hotels, serviced apartments, hostels, to backpackers.
  • Buy. The New Zealand property market is enjoying a sustained growth, and so does its economy within a low interest rate environment.  So, you can expect mortgage rates to be competitive.  Wellington offers many options to the house buyer. Financial institutions and lending banks offer flexibility on rates and terms.

Safety. Wellington has an efficient police force. There’s a strong coordination between government agencies and varied sectors to ensure that anti-social behaviour is curbed.

Activities. Situated within a scenic harbour, and being rich in history, Wellington never runs out of exciting activities you can indulge in anytime.

Blue Castle - food markets

  • Visual and performing arts. The city is home to Te Papa, the country’s national museum; National Art Gallery; the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and; the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
  • Recreation. Wellington offers a wide range of activities, depending on your preferences. You can go explore the city by walking or biking through scenic landscapes, stroll around the harbour, or enjoy the beach.  If you are more of the adventurous one, you can go to the greater regional areas and enjoy the sights of the lush vineyards, play at the golf courses, go for bush walks, or visit the bird sanctuaries.
  • Shopping. Wellington is home to a wide shopping complexes. If you can’t find it in Wellington, that only means you don’t need it.

Food. Again, depending on your budget and taste, Wellington offers you several places to dine and eat out.  But, if you prefer to cook your own meals, there are also many places to buy fresh and good quality foods.

These are but few of the many reasons why you should stay in Wellington. Not to mention the great career opportunities in this booming city.

What awaits skilled migrants in New Zealand

As New Zealand industries continue to grow, so does its need for more labour resources increase.  And since the local manpower source is not enough to cope with the increasing demand, the country invites skilled migrants to practice their expertise here.

Shortage of labour is one sign that business is expanding. And that is exactly what is happening in New Zealand now. Industries such as Tourism, Information and Communications, High Technology Manufacturing, and several others are in need of more workers to cope with increasing demand.

But with all these sectors recruiting a good number of workers all at the same time, local manpower sources would not be enough to fill the vacancies. That’s why New Zealand turns to other countries and invites skilled migrants to work here.

Most of the recruiting companies in New Zealand offer remunerative packages as well as other perks to qualified candidates. What is more interesting, aside from a financially-rewarding career, is that New Zealand sets a personal yet professional environment for all its workers. One example of this is by calling co-workers and officemates on first name basis, regardless of your position in the company. In other words, the spirit of belongingness to the company prevails. No discrimination of race and beliefs.

Blue Castle - emigration

Also, in New Zealand, you don’t only come to work, work, and all work.  Its a prevalent culture here that each employee or worker lives a well-balanced lifestyle. Meaning, even as you value your career, you also get the opportunity to spend quality time with your family and loved ones; for each New Zealander upholds the belief that “life is for living”.

It’s no wonder, then, to find several parks, gardens, and other public facilities and recreation centres all throughout the country where you may spend your free time.  New Zealand never runs out of events all year round.

Blue Castle - New Zealand signGetting a job

New Zealand implements certain rules and guidelines that skilled migrants must observe. First and foremost, you need to register your profession with the corresponding regulating body in which you belong. Be sure also that your qualifications comply with the host country’s requirements.

Once you have done the processing of your paper works, you are now ready to apply for a job.  Visit legitimate employment sites like Seek, New Kiwis, Workhere for job vacancies in New Zealand.

You may also check with New Zealand Now on how to become successful skilled migrants in the country.

What to expect at the Waiheke Island, Auckland

Waiheke Island is the ideal destination for those who want to get away from the hurly burly of city life for a while. Located just 17.7 kilometres away from downtown Auckland, you will find total relaxation on this island.

Waiheke Island is the second largest in the Hauraki Gulf, next to the Great Barrier Island.  Noted for its lush vineyards and wineries, sandy white beaches, public reserves, and homey accommodations, it is ideal for both day trips, eco-tours, and longer vacations.

Blue Castle - Waiheke Island

There are several things to do on Waiheke Island. If you prefer to spend the day swimming, or doing water activities, you may go to any of these white sandy beaches:

  • Oneroa and Little Oneroa Beaches
  • Onetangi Beach
  • Cactus Bay
  • Palm Beach
  • Little Palm Beach
  • Blackpool Beach
  • Surfdale Beach

Or, if you love strolling around and prefer to immerse in the beauty of nature, you may visit the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Here, you will enjoy watching the wildlife and plants that are not found anywhere else in the world.  You will also discover the island’s rich historical sites and cultural heritage at the Te Matuku Bay Cemetery and Scenic Reserves, Stony Batter Historic Reserve, or the Matietie Historic Reserve.

And, oh, don’t forget to join a guided tour to the fantastic vineyards and wineries. You’ve got to experience wine tasting of world-class wines there.

Accommodation

Hekerua Lodge

If you prefer to stay longer on Waiheke Island, there are a number of accommodation to choose from, depending on your budget. Here are a few of them.

When you’re on Waiheke Island, you’ll feel you’re a world away even if it’s only a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.

A glimpse to past civilizations through Hamilton Gardens

The Hamilton Gardens are a sort of museum that feature themes from ancient civilizations.  It is the most popular tourist destinations in the Waikato Region, attracting not less than a million of people each year.

Owned and managed by the Hamilton City Council, the Hamilton Gardens is a public botanical patch.  It lies on a four-acre land between State Highway 1 and the Waikato River bank in the southern part of Hamilton City.

Blue Castle - Sustainable Backyard

What makes Hamilton Gardens different from any other garden is its ability to convey a story in each of the garden themes. As soon as you enter, a guide will take you on a journey of discovery from the tranquil Chinese Sung Dynasty era, and into different periods.  You’ll surely be mesmerized at the varied themes that are divided into five collections, namely:

Paradise Collection.  This garden will bring you back to at least three Asian civilizations, two European periods, and the 20th century West Coast American tradition.

Productive Collection.  I have a personal bias for this themed-garden because it’s something closest to my heart.  I love the way the gardeners present the patches with such convincing and unique characters in

  • Sustainable Backyard
  • Herb Garden
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Te Parapara

Blue Castle - pondFantasy Collection.  Its newest addition, the Tudor Garden, stands out because it depicts the English aristocracy of the 16th century with a complex knot garden.  The other themes that belong to this collection include the Tropical Garden, and the Chinoiserie Garden.  And more gardens are still coming up.

Cultivar Collection features five themes, namely:

  • Rogers Rose Garden tells the story of how the modern rose developed from species to the newest hybrids.
  • Hammond Camellia Garden tells how the Camellia flower genus developed
  • New Zealand Cultivar Garden features cultivars from New Zealand native plants
  • Rhododendron Lawn highlights small deciduous trees
  • Victorian Flower Garden features greenhouses, and a 19th century English tradition

Landscape Garden. This features three themes, namely: the Hamilton East Cemetery, the Valley Walk, and the Bussaco Woodland.

How to keep calm when earthquake rattles

Nepal has yet to recover from its nightmare of the April disaster when another strong earthquake rattles the land on May 12 this year.  Tremors are unpredictable. They hit anytime, anywhere causing many to panic. Although we cannot prevent it from occurring, we can at least minimize its damage to our lives and properties.

Blue Castle - rubble
Earthquake damage in Nepal

On May 12, a 7.3 magnitude quake followed by a number of aftershocks hit the country of Nepal again. It occurred barely two weeks after a stronger 7.8 magnitude tremor claimed more than 8,000 lives and reduced the country to rubble.

The South Island of New Zealand also experienced tremors twice in April; although, those were of lesser degree.

What does this mean to us, then?

While no technology can ever predict when earthquake occurs or prevent it from happening, we can at least do something to minimize its damage to our lives and our properties. By being vigilant and equipped with knowledge on what to do during and after an earthquake, we can significantly stay safe and avoid severe damage to properties.

Blue Castle - ring of fire

The following countries are more prone to strong earthquakes because of their location within the Pacific Ring of Fire.

  • Chile
  • Mexico
  • Peru
  • Guatemala
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Antarctica
  • Russia
  • Japan
  • Taiwan
  • Philippines
  • New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Indonesia

Around 81% of the world’s strong earthquakes occur along this ring; although, this does not mean those away from it are safe. So, whether your country is within the Pacific Ring of Fire or far away from it, it is important that you know what to do during and after an earthquake rattles your area.

Safety tips

After careful study and based on experience, some organizations have come up with important tips on what to do during and after an earthquake. They also advise that you understand your risks to reduce or prevent injuries, damages, and long-term financial repercussions. I recommend that we all should read these guidelines.  We should rather be safe than sorry.