Auckland Sky Tower, New Zealand


We spent much of the afternoon on our first day in New Zealand at the Auckland Sky Tower. The tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere rises 328-meters (1,076 feet) over the Auckland skyline. It’s a concrete and composite structure built for Harrah’s Entertainment as part of the SKYCITY casino and event center owned by New Zealand-based SKYCITY Entertainment Group. Although the tower opened in August 1997 to some concern over its potential impact as part of the city’s first (and still only) casino, it has since become a fixture in Auckland.

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Auckland, New Zealand


My family and I started our journey through New Zealand in its largest city, Auckland. We wondered if we should pass it by after landing at the airport to save time for other attractions on the North and South Island until I reminded myself, “You’re not going to stop in New Zealand’s biggest city? Why in the world wouldn’t you?”

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That was enough for me. We added another day to our itinerary with an overnight stop in Auckland and made due with a few hours of touring after our plane touched down at noon. The more I learned about the Northland Region from Auckland to the North Cape on New Zealand’s northwestern peninsula, the more I wanted to stay longer and explore the area. But it wasn’t meant to be. Our almost three-week driving itinerary was already crowded with daily stops from Auckland to Christchurch and everywhere in between. The Northland would have to wait for another trip, and Auckland, unfortunately, was relegated to a brief stop. The city merited more than half a day to take in the sights, but we were hard pressed to expand our schedule or steal time from another location.

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New Zealand


New Zealand, or Aotearoa in the Maori language, is a place of incredible beauty. Like a string of pearls, its two main islands, the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui in Maori) and South Island (Te Waipounamu) are surrounded by braids of smaller islands that extend for thousands of miles. Forged by an age-old clash between the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates of the earth’s crust, New Zealand has unique geographical features found nowhere else in the world yet may remind visitors of familiar locales because of the human hands that sculpted the land into what it is today. Isolated, New Zealand might seem like it’s at the end of the world, isolated in the southern Pacific Ocean and hours away by plane from its closest neighbors. Yet the country is close to home with a diverse society and a multi-cultural heritage influenced not only by the native Maori and the British who once ruled New Zealand but by everyone who has been there, from seafarers and immigrants to tourists. Kiwis, as the New Zealanders call themselves, are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

More About New Zealand

Hobbiton on New Zealand’s North Island

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A geyser at sunset in Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island

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Aoraki / Mt. Cook on New Zealand’s South Island

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Punakaiki / Pancake Rocks on New Zealand’s South Island

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Cross-posted from MGEdwards.com. Visit MGEdwards for more great travelogues, photos, and video from around the world.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Video)


When my family and I went to Australia in October 2012, we spent a few days in Cairns in the far north of Queensland. One of the highlights was our daytrip to the Great Barrier Reef about an hour off the coast by ship. We went snorkeling and took a submarine ride along part of the reef.

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Here’s a video clip of the reef on the World Adventurers Channel. The scene reminded me of a scene out of the movie Finding Nemo…or perhaps the other way around. More on Australia soon, but until then enjoy the clip!

Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Australia

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More About Australia

Visiting Australia

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buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander, Ellie the Elephant, and Zoe the Zebra, three books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, and a 3-in-1 collection featuring all three. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2014 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Australia


This article about a recent trip to Australia was published in the December 2012 edition of Thani Talk, a monthly newsletter based in Thailand.

In October my family and I visited Australia. We traveled to Sydney, a must-see destination Down Under, and Far North Queensland, a great jumping-off point to the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oldest living rainforest. The country’s so big that the flight from Thailand was more than nine hours, much of it over Australian territory!

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We began our trip with a visit to Sydney Harbour, the best starting point to explore the city. The walking tour through the city’s old town known as The Rocks, Circular Quay port and shopping district, Royal Botanic Gardens, and the iconic Opera House is an excellent daytrip.

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Taking in the brilliant sunset from the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a breath-taking, once-in-a-lifetime experience that will awe even the most seasoned traveler. After sundown, return to The Rocks for dinner at one of the many restaurants that cater to the cruise liners moored in the Quay.

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A visit to Darling Harbour for shopping and entertainment, Taronga Zoo, and one of city’s ocean beaches are fun trips in Greater Sydney. Plan these excursions on Sunday when all public transportation, including ferries, costs just A$2.50 per person for the whole day.

The Blue Mountains west of Sydney are a great out-of-town getaway. We were awed by the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters rock formation near the town of Katoomba. A trail descends more than 1,000 steps to the valley floor. It’s a three-hour nature hike to a gondola that carries visitors back up to town.

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A three-hour flight from Sydney, the city of Cairns in Far North Queensland is a launching point for trips to the Great Barrier Reef and Australia’s northern wilderness. The city has a laid-back atmosphere with a whiff of adventure. Tourists can enjoy cruises to the reef islands and shoals. We spent the day swimming with the fishes, snorkeling, and helmet diving courtesy of renowned tour operator Reef Magic, and making friends with Wally, a giant fish a la Dory from the movie Finding Nemo that loves to play with humans.

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No trip to Cairns would be complete without a drive up the coast to Daintree National Park. We spent the day on the beach at Cape Tribulation and exploring the Jurassic Park-like atmosphere of the world’s oldest rainforest at the Daintree Discovery Centre.

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Whether it’s the fascinating mix of Aboriginal and international culture or sweeping vistas, unique animals, or natural and manmade wonders, Australia is well worth a visit. Beware, though. Two weeks is barely enough time to catch a glimpse of this awesome place.

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clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Storiesand Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.