(Mis)Adventures in the South Island, New Zealand

Lake Matheson reflection pool with views of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman

In my opinion, the South Island is significantly more stunning than the North.  With the Sounds, Fjords, and Southern Alps, the natural beauty of the South Island cannot be paralleled.  Beauty aside, my ten days in the South Island was filled with hits and misses.  While I had perfect weather every day, a handful of my desired activities were cancelled for various reasons.  I had to chock that up to the ebbs and flows of travel…plus, I was in NEW ZEALAND.  I really couldn’t complain.

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My Kiwi Experience

As a newbie to the wonderful world of travel, I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of countries around the world is limited; New Zealand is no exception.  I booked my trip two months prior to my departure date, selecting a one-week stint before returning back to Australia.  One week!  I am embarrassed now to admit it. This is how little I knew.

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Why Melbourne Is New Orleans’ Sister City

Flinders Station, Melbourne

Have you ever stepped into a new city and felt several other cities staring back at you? This is what happened to me during my first week in Melbourne and, this time, the city I felt the strongest connection with was a city I call home, my New Orleans.  

Now, to be fair, there are numerous aspects of Melbourne that are nothing like New Orleans, and maybe – just maybe – I’ve been feeling a little homesick, but allow me to make a case for why I think Melbourne is New Orleans’ secret sister city.

1. Both cities offer a strong arts & culture scene.

The Great Australian Rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney runs deep and with only one week in the Victorian city, I have developed a few opinions of my own, most of which I will not delve into now. I will say though, where Sydney is rich with natural beauty, Melbourne is beautifully designed.

Melbourne is a city that was well-planned with artistic structural achievements and creative usage of spaces. Here you’ll find lane ways filled with urban art, small bars, and cafes as well as parks and colorfully designed buildings on every block. While living in Sydney, I asked Sydney-siders how they would compare the two cities. And while Sydney reminded me of the big city life like you’d find in New York or San Francisco, Melbourne sounded like the cultural hub that is New Orleans. Yes, I arrived with preconceived notions, but the arts & cultural vibes you in New Orleans are what I’ve felt here in Melbourne, too.

2. Both cities allow you to drink while you shop.

Browsing local artist stalls, sampling tasty foods from all around the city, purchasing fresh produce, and sipping some wine – yes please! New Orleans knows how to do this best but I was pleasantly surprised that Melbourne has this down, too.

Day one, I stopped by the Queen Victoria Night Market and instantly fell in love. The market was bustling with young people who were there to browse, shop, eat, and drink. It was my kind of scene and, of course, reminded me of many a market back in NOLA. 

3. Both cities are known for hosting major national and international sporting events.

Without much foresight, I planned my move to Melbourne during the Australian Open and on my first full day in the city, I ventured over to the tournament’s grounds. Assuming that I wouldn’t be able to afford a pass, I admired from the gates and continued on my way. A few days later though, I was back. Granted, I was there late and caught the last 10 minutes of a match but I was in!

Melbourne is the annual host for the Australian Open as well as numerous other major sporting events just as New Orleans hosts Superbowls and National Championships in the Superdome. Both cities are nationally and internationally known for their welcoming venues and sporting arenas as well as world-class attractions around the city for visitors.

4. Both cities offer horse-drawn carriage rides as a way of touring the city.

Sure, other cities have this tourist attraction, too but I couldn’t leave it off the list! I’ve enjoyed seeing these carriages around Melbourne, especially because the horses are trotting along with feather headbands!

5. Both cities feature street artists, many of which are actually good!

Every major city has street performers but does every city have good performers?!  This is where NOLA and Melbourne shine.  I’ve walked down various streets in Melbourne to find musicians playing and singing on multiple corners, some even with a CD for sale and most with large crowds standing to listen.  A breath of fresh air, if you ask me.

6. Both cities use street cars (or city circle trams, if you’re in Melb) as a form of public transportation.

Not only that, both cities also prominently feature the street car images on t-shirts, magnets, tote bags, stickers, mugs, you name it! They’re an iconic part of the city and one of my favorite sights in Melbourne*. Ahhh, it feels like home.

*I will say that Melbourne has a bit of an edge on this one though as their “city trams” are free to ride! They stay within the city center and take you to all the top spots for nothin’. Gotta love free!

7. Both cities were built on the banks of an important river.

The Yarra River and the Mississippi River are vital water sources in their respective countries and have helped shape the cities in which they flow.  Both rivers are essential for their ports and are the busiest in their countries.  Melbourne and New Orleans were built up along these rivers and offer excellent river-side views and water activities for their locals.

8. Both cities are foodie-meccas.

While New Orleans is a popular foodie destination for creole and southern delights, Melbourne is a culinary hot spot in Australia.  It’s hard to find a bad meal in either of these cities.

9. Both cities love their cocktails.

Melbourne’s cocktail bars are constantly on the short list for best in the country, and boy, do they know their drinks.  Watching these bartenders mix up a cocktail is like watching an artist at work.  It’s no wonder these bartenders have been given the name of mixologist and New Orleans is no stranger to the perfect drink.  

Home to the annual Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans hosts mixologists and cocktail lovers from around the world for this week-long spirit industry event.  Melbourne mixologists are likely to be in attendance (or really want to go!).

New Orleans and Melbourne have much in common but there are also many key differences between the two cities.  More on Melbourne soon…but for now, Ali in Oz is off to New Zealand for 3 weeks!!  Ciao!

A Love Letter to Sydney

Dear Sydney,

We’ve spent four beautiful months together and created memories which I will cherish forever.  I’ve hiked your coastal cliffs, sailed your harbors, explored your neighborhoods, wined and dined in your restaurants, viewed your highest points, and tanned on your beaches.  I can’t imagine a better place to spend my first few months in Australia and am forever grateful for our time together.  And now, as I reflect back and set my eyes on the future, I think it’s time for us to move on, to see other people and places.  Thank you for being the city I’ve grown to love, with my five favorites included below.

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Celebrating NYE in SYD

Bucket List: “Spend NYE in SYD”  Check!

“There will be over a million people!”

“You will need to arrive early and make a day of it.”

“Most of the good vantage points are ticketed and will cost at least $150.”

“All the free spaces are alcohol-free.”

In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, my head was spinning with information overload.  This was my first, and likely only, time in Sydney for the celebration and I was determined to see the world famous midnight fireworks…I just didn’t know how I would pull it off.

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How to Speak Aussie

Learning to speak and eat like a local. How Australian are these gems?!
Learning to speak and eat like a local. How Australian are these gems?!

One of the best parts about living in a new country (or even a city sometimes!) is picking up the local lingo.  Here in Australia, there’s heaps of fun Aussie slang and slight variations to my American English language.  After a short three and a half months in Oz so far, I’ve learned a few new Aussie words and phrases.  And, while I haven’t incorporated them into my daily speak quite yet, they’re still fun to hear and share.

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A Night Out With Travel Massive

Sunset over Sydney Harbor

A friend of mine introduced me to Travel Massive before I arrived in Australia.  She lives in New York, is a travel blogger (@TheGlobeGetter), and is part of Travel Massive’s New York City chapter.  Knowing that I too have a travel blog, she suggested I join the Sydney chapter to meet up and network with travel industry people in my new city.  Travel Massive’s mission is “to unearth and connect travel insiders in every city in the world in order to empower change in travel”.  Thus far, I’ve participated in two of Travel Massive’s events in Sydney, one of which I was privileged enough to have my friend, The Globe Getter herself, join me!

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My Top 10 Travel Moments of 2015


On January 1, 2015 I made a life changing decision.  I have never been one to set resolutions, but I knew this year would be different.  I decided 2015 would start with a promise to myself and I declared the new year to be “the year that lived”.  Wow – did I keep my promise!  I am proud to say that not only did I explore several amazing cities in the United States this year, I also took a leap of faith by quitting my job, leaving my city, and moving to Australia to begin an adventure of a lifetime.

It’s difficult to narrow down all my wonderful, meaningful, adventurous experiences of 2015 into a list of 10, but I’ve done my best to present them here.  I am truly blessed and grateful for all that I have, all that I’ve done, the people I’ve met along the way, the family and friends who continue to provide endless love and support, and all that’s yet to come.  Join me as I journey down memory lane to my top 10 travel moments of 2015.

10. Celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans 


I didn’t have to travel far this year to experience the glory that is Mardi Gras.  Every year the entire city of New Orleans shuts down to celebrate together and I’ve been privileged to enjoy the celebrations for the past 6 years.  With house parties, neutral ground tailgates, plenty of drinking, colorful parades, and an endless supply of beads, Mardi Gras is one of my favorite holidays in New Orleans.

While some tourists come for the boobs and beads on Bourbon, the rest of the city joins together to eat King Cake and revel in the week-long party with friends and family.  This year one of my sisters joined me for the main event and we spent our days wearing colorful wigs, catching signature throws, and attending high society balls.  Mardi Gras is a must-do for any travel bucket list.

9. Viewing the Washington Monuments by Kayak


I have visited Washington, D.C. approximately 7 times in my life and toured many of our country’s great monuments and museums.  On this year’s trip I decided to explore another side of D.C.  My friend and I went to a vineyard in Virginia, a concert in Maryland, and explored the new M.L.K. Jr. museum by night in DC.

My favorite activity of the trip was kayaking along Potomac River on a twilight tour of the monuments.  Viewing the famous buildings from the water as the sun set behind them was nothing short of magical.  I love experiencing new things in a familiar city.

8. Enjoying Texas BBQ in Austin 


Austin, Texas is known for great small bars, delicious restaurants, up and coming indie bands, and an active population of young people.  The weather was perfect on this April visit and I took to Hill Country in search of another famous Texas experience, barbecue.

Driving through Hill Country is beautiful with its rolling hills bursting with blue bonnet flowers and grazing Texas longhorn cattle.  I wasn’t there just to enjoy the view though, I was in search of Texas barbecue!  I made my way to a well-known restaurant called The Salt Lick and sat down to a massive plate of barbecued meats including chicken, ribs, and brisket and a few sides coleslaw, beans, and potatoes.  I left feeling absolutely glutenous and satisfied.  This was Texas at its finest.

7. Braving Beach Explosives in Vieques, Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico was the destination of choice for Spring Break this year.  I was lucky enough to travel with three beautiful ladies to the tropical island.  We enjoyed a blissful week of rum punch, gorgeous white sand beaches, and delicious meals.  Most of our days were spent beach hopping and, in turn, we found one of my now favorite beaches in the world, La Chiva.

Located within a protected park, La Chiva requires a car and a lot of patience to find.  As we pulled up to the beach’s parking area, we noticed several warning signs.  The signs were posted in Spanish and warned beach goers of the potential explosives danger.  Explosives?!  I wasn’t so sure about this beach anymore but we refused to be deterred.  With a foam noodle leading the way, we cautiously made our way out to the beach.

La Chiva is easily one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen with gorgeous turquoise waters softly crashing up on the white sugar sand.  We spent the day relaxing in the sun and thankfully went explosives-free!  Worth the risk!

6. Hiking to Wineglass Bay


I could carve a space on this list for my entire trip to Tasmania, but instead I’ll highlight my favorite moment.  Continuing with my list of beautiful beaches around the world, my hike down to Wineglass Bay comes in at #6 travel moments this year.  While my time was rushed, I got to spend about 45 minutes on another perfect beach.  I am now starting a new tradition of taking jumping pictures at my favorite beaches around the world — Wineglass Bay is #2.

5. Hiking Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawai’i


Hawai’i is a breathtakingly beautiful addition to the United States and it’s been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.  When I booked my one way to Australia, I decided to add in a few days in Hawai’i to break up the trip and see the islands.  I spent 5 short days experiencing the magic of Oahu and hope to get back to see the remaining islands soon.

One of the many gorgeous sites in Oahu is the Diamond Head crater, observable from the beaches of Waikiki and an iconic destination.  I walked to the national park from Waikiki and spent a few hours hiking up the mountain to outstanding views of the island and Pacific Ocean.  I did the hike on a Saturday and while it was incredibly crowded with people on the same mission as myself, the views alone were worth it.

4. Sunset catamaran cruise on the Sydney Harbor


The Sydney Harbor is Sydney’s most iconic landmark and one of my favorite sights in the city.  My first views of the Harbor remain a perfect memory but last week I took my Harbor experiences up a notch by jumping aboard a sunset catamaran cruise, thus landing the #4 spot.  Departing from Darling Harbor, the catamaran chartered under the Sydney Bridge, alongside the Opera House and over to a secluded beach to dock for the sunset.  Watching the brilliant colors dance across the sky behind these iconic buildings was a moment I’ll remember forever.  It didn’t hurt that I was in excellent company with a crew of travel industry professionals and several bottles of wine as well.

3. Turning 30 in Costa Rica


One of my favorite trips overall this year was my birthday present to myself – a 30th celebration in Costa Rica.  I joined a G Adventures tour and convinced a friend to come along with me for an 8-day adventure in pura vida.  I did everything from salsa dancing to hiking in a cloud forest, horseback riding through the mountains, swimming in natural hot springs, and zip lining (see #2!).  I celebrated my actual birthday in La Fortuna and was treated to a birthday cake, flowers, and drinks by my guide and hosting restaurant.  A friend of mine also sent a birthday dollar pin along for me to wear, a New Orleans birthday tradition.  I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate a big birthday!

2. Zip Lining in Monteverde


One of the most amazing and terrifying experiences of my life, zip lining above the canopies of Monteverde, Costa Rica easily takes my #2 travel experiences spot this year.  With a large harness strapping me to a cable, I soared over the trees like a bird on the longest zip line in Latin America.  I remember moments of being completely terrified followed by moments of pure adrenaline and awe.  Thankfully there were people ahead of me and waiting in line behind me, otherwise it may have been harder to step off the ledge.  It is easily a top moment for me this year and an experience that I would recommend to anyone traveling in Costa Rica.

1. Hot Air Ballooning in The Hunter Valley


A childhood dream come true!  Last month I continued my theme of floating through the air by joining a hot air balloon ride across wine country.  The Hunter Valley has rows and rows of lush vineyards that, in my opinion, are best viewed from above.  I was a little nervous during our ascent, but my nerves were quickly calmed as we floated gently across the sky like a cloud.  The 45 minute flight was by far my best travel moment of 2015.

Cheers to an amazing year and to all that 2016 may bring!  Happy New Year, everyone!

#TassieTrip: Wineglass Bay

Easily my best day in Tasmania with a visit to one of my favorite beaches in the world. The day began with a drive across the island state to the eastern coast, jumping onto the Great Eastern Drive with beautiful coastal views and white sand beaches.  Our first stop was at a lookout with a glorious view of the miles of inviting white sugar sand beach, aptly named the Friendly Beaches.

As we continued on to Freycinet (pronounced Fray-chen-ay) National Park, my excitement grew.  I’ve been browsing and liking photos of Wineglass Bay for months now and the anticipation was almost too much to stand!  A beautiful, isolated beach with the word “wine” in its name?  Where do I sign up?!

Upon arrival into the park, our tour guide hit us with the reality of our time constraints. He explained that many visitors only make it as far as the lookout due to time restrictions. However, if you hiked quickly, you could make it down to the beach and back before we had to meet up again.  I know I am a fast walker but this man had me all stressed out.  How could I come this far and NOT feel that gorgeous, glistening white sand squeaking between my toes?  I had to get down there.

The hike down to the beach is advertised as about a 1 hour walk from the parking lot to the sand; I did it in 40 minutes.  I basically flew down to the beach and therefore had 45 minutes of pure beauty to savor.  Upon first arrival, I noticed several tour groups down near the water, closest to me, with the rest of the beach essentially empty.  A small boat floating in the bay.  I kicked off my shoes and socks and began exploring, enjoying the warm sugar sand, dipping my toes into the chilly water, climbing on rocks, and searching for sea shells along the shore.

After taking multiple initial photos, I walked along the shoreline toward the opposite end of the beach.  I found several more shells along with patches of seaweed, jellies, and crab claws; all virtually undisturbed.  At this point, I was almost entirely alone on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches!  Eventually I found a space in the sand to relax for a bit, listening to the water gently kissing the sand.   I couldn’t have imagined a better moment.

My 45 minutes flew by and I soon had to begin my hike back up through the forest to our van. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one week in Tasmania is simply not enough. Who wants to go back with me?!  Till next time, Tassie!

#TassieTrip: Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain is Tasmania’s most visited national park, located on the western side of the island state.  The complete opposite of Tassie’s eastern beaches and towns, the west receives about 300 days of rain; my day trip to Cradle Mountain was during one of its many rainy days.  As with most mountainous regions, there is a tendency for rapid changes in temperature and weather conditions.  While it rained on and off for the entire day, the weather shifted from cold and windy to sunny and warm multiple times.  I was unprepared for the dramatic weather shifts and was grateful my tour company brought extra jackets to use.

Cradle Mountain is a protected park with rolling hills golden in color, deep valleys, silky smooth lakes, and rugged mountain peaks.  The park features several hikes and walks of varying difficulty levels. Cradle Mountain is also the start to Tassie’s famous Overland Track, a 6-8 day hike that has become a rite of passage for experienced hikers.  Cradle Mountain is home to unique wildlife, including my new favorite animal, the wombat. Unfortunately I didn’t see one on this day trip but have heard they’re incredibly friendly, even in the wild, allowing many visitors to pat them as if they were a pet.

My tour took our group into the heart of the park with the option to take the walking track around Dove Lake or complete the moderately challenging hike up to Marion’s lookout.  Guess which one I selected… The hike was a climb of 1,200m up to a beautiful lookout over the mountains, lakes, and valleys. The trail proved to be difficult at times, with some steeper areas being lined with a chain to grab hold while climbing up and down the mountain. Well worth the view and feeling of success, the hike took about 2 hours in the rain, wind and occasional rays of sun to complete.


I wish I had more time in the park to traverse the other hiking trails and explore the mountains; one of the downsides to booking a day tour.  Cradle Mountain is a must-see for any Tassie traveler offering glorious views, hiking adventures, and historic stories about the people who made the park what it is today.