We're looking back at the best bits from a year in Travel. Here are our highlights from trips in NZ and Australia.
There's nothing like a refreshing dip to cool off after a long walk, and on the Routeburn Track in New Zealand's majestic Fiordland National Park, I found the most refreshing of my life.
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It was the last day of our three-day hike and although it was all downhill from here, my calves were burning. The previous day had seen us scramble up Harris Saddle, a precarious optional extra that at times had me clinging on for dear life (a tad melodramatic, but it's my story, I'll tell it how I like).
We stopped for a picnic by a stunning clear blue lake, the early March sun lulling us into a false sense of security. The men in the group flexed their muscles and their bravado, and dived right in . . . followed by infectious giggles and high-pitched squeals.
My competitive side got the better of me - if they could do it, so could I. I braced myself; I dived; the breath was knocked from my lungs; I emerged; I shivered... and went back to do it again. And again. And again.
— Stephanie Holmes
It was supposed to be a great adventure, canoeing down the Whanganui River on a voyage of discovery: three families in six boats over four days.
The river levels were low, the flow slow and the first day a full-on slog to our first stop. My wife's RSI flared up from gripping a paddle all day and some of the younger team members were exhausted.
The next morning brought more woe after two of our crew had been up all night with a vomiting bug.
The decision was made to heave-to and cut our losses.
We stayed on at the Blue Duck Station, the last road access point for three days, watching scores of hopeful canoers putting in where we had pulled out. This was not quite the get-away-from-it-all adventure we had hoped for.
The Blue Duck Station sits right on the edge of the Whanganui National Park offering great opportunities for hiking, biking, riding and star-gazing. We stumbled across the Blue Duck Falls, a spectacular water-worn slice through the limestone bedrock, and hiked to the highest point of the farm that boasts the Chef's Table pop-up restaurant at the "Top-of-the-world" in summer months.
We slept in simple, but comfortable cabins, chatted over a fire-pit as the sun went down and drank great coffee in the Blue Duck Lodge and learnt from owner Dan Steele about his plans for sustainability and self-sufficiency.
Sometimes the real voyage of discovery is hidden in plain sight.
— Alex Robertson
HERE COMES INVERCARGILL
"They're sending you where?" Even relatives in the windswept Southland capital were surprised to hear that I was visiting Invercargill to write a travel feature. In August I flew on the first direct Auckland-Invercargill flight, NZ699.
As the first passenger jet to arrive at the airport, we were met there by a cavalcade of vintage motors from the Bill Richardson transport museum and a carnival atmosphere.
Taking approximately the run time of Goodbye Pork Pie, the new air route might be revolutionary for Southlanders flying out but it's even bigger news for Southland tour operators.
There was the real feeling that this might be the tip of the spear for a new destination Kiwi and international visitors.
Getting behind the controls of a 10-ton excavator at Dig This was a particular highlight. The tourist attractions in New Zealand's most southern city are undeniably unique.
In contrast to the motor-mad town, Southland's rugged Te Waewae Bay and the Hump Ridge Track are some of the most untouched bits of Kiwi coastline in the country.
— Thomas Bywater
BETTER WORK STORIES
Reporting from the Barrier Reef in a mini submarine is not your everyday assignment.
This May I was invited to join marine scientists and members of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef project on Herron Island, Queensland.
Given the chance to relive a moment straight out of Jacques Cousteau's life aquatic, I dived right in.
The sub is named "scUber" after the tech company that bank-rolled the project and it made for the most memorable cab ride I've taken.
Sitting in one of three seats in the tiny electric submarine, looking out into the vibrant underwater jungle was a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming experience. The fact the ride was summoned by a $3000 taxi-hailing app only made it more surreal.
— Thomas Bywater
When the waiter at Perth's Wildflower said he was pouring Geraldton wax sauce over my kingfish course, I was concerned. Honey, yes. Wax, no. Turns out that in Australia, Geraldton wax is a plant (actually, it's a roadside weed — pink and stalky and there again on my petit fours course). It's succulent and citrussy and just one of the many foraged revelations I ate at this extraordinary restaurant that changes its menu according to the six seasons of the indigenous Noongar calendar.
Wildflower (on the fourth floor of the gorgeous COMO The Treasury hotel) does incredibly interesting food with sweeping views of the Swan River and glittering, eavesdrop-worthy clientele. Overheard at the next table: Two glamorous 20-somethings in towering heels and backless frocks toasting their respective first divorces. wildflowerperth.com.au
— Kim Knight
HERE THERE WERE TIGERS
Tasmania's rugged, twisted landscape is like travelling back to the time of dinosaurs. Glaciers have carved the island's dolerite rock into fantastical shapes leaving such fascinations as Cradle Mountain. The fresh bite in the air reminds you how close you are to the frozen wastes of Antarctica.
The Clan of the Cave Bear-esque landscape has been enjoyed by many waves of visitors over the years – first came the early Aborigines, then the graziers, tree-fellers and miners – now it is our turn to follow in their footsteps.
This is the land where the Tasmanian tiger once lurked. Gustav and Kate Waldheimer loved Cradle Mountain so much they built a charming little cottage under the trees, which you can still visit.
— Helen Van Berkel