Been there, done that

Last updated 05:00 05/01/2014
Nelson Bays, NSW
FAIRFAX NZ

NELSON BAYS, NSW: Sandy beaches, sunny skies and a spot of whale-watching

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Sometimes the best travel experiences can be found in our own backyard. Here are some of your recommendations for must-dos and must-sees at home, and in the Pacific, in 2014.

NEW ZEALAND

Great Barrier Island is truly a special place - almost everywhere you go looks postcard-perfect. My family and I stayed there for almost one month, and we feel it really changed our perspective on life. We soon realised that the simple pleasures are what really count. There is no standard electricity on the island, with most people using generators, solar power, or candles for light.

As an amateur photographer and artist, it was hard to put down my camera. The locals can easily spot a tourist, and are always friendly and helpful. What might make it obvious is that we were often gazing at the sky, "awing" at the kaka flying overhead. It almost felt like being in Wonderland, where my family and I discovered many firsts. We would go our own ways, then come running back like small children, saying, "look what I found!" or "guess what I saw?" There is plenty to do and see on the island, whether it's bathing at the pristine white sand beaches, climbing to the windy canyon, visiting the old honey and grain museum, or chatting to the locals about Great Barrier's interesting history.

Overall, the island is a truly unique and special place. Be prepared to be inspired. I feel a visit is a must for every New Zealander.

Lucy Bowen, Auckland

The Night Tour at Mount John University Observatory, Tekapo, is a hit. No artificial light, an unbelievable number of stars and it's amazing seeing some up close through a telescope - like Saturn with its colourful rings.Cold as, but hot drinks brought round and, to top it off, an aurora australis beginning to form. Magical.

Barb Shaw, Christchurch

Can you visualise New Zealand bush surrounding a quiet river?

Add to that a number of white ballet tutus randomly scattered in the trees and this will give you some idea of the White Heron Sanctuary, South Westland. It's reached by tour boat (permit required) from Whataroa. The boat travels down river, across the Okarito Lagoon and ties up on a bush-lined river. An easy walk through the bush takes you to this beautiful sight. If a heron moves away from the nest you may be fortunate enough to see the chicks. I've travelled widely in New Zealand and this is one of my top five experiences.

Lynne Hill, Mosgiel

AUSTRALIA

My travel hit was visiting the Daintree Rainforest, north of Port Douglas in Queensland. The viewing platform and walk above the tree tops was spectacular for views and bird life, and seeing a cassowary walking through the bush underneath was magical. Spotting the large spider under the veranda before sitting beneath it - heart-stopping!

Barbara Shaw, Christchurch

One hour north of Newcastle, New South Wales, is the Nelson Bay area. Blessed with great summer temperatures, golden beaches and warm seas, it is an ideal holiday destination that is not too packed with tourists. We had a great 10 days there.

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Adrian Peoples, Lower Hutt

RAROTONGA

For adventure, history, scenery and background knowledge of Rarotonga, the Raro Mountain Safari Tour provides it all. While it is relaxed and casual, the friendly tour guide makes you feel safe and secure as he climbs the highest point of the island, only accessible by four-wheel-drive. The panoramic views of the western side of the island and the Pacific Ocean clearly were the highlight of our family trip to Rarotonga and we highly recommend it as one of the best tours to take while holidaying there.

Bill and Linda Lindsay, Upper Hutt

- Sunday Star Times

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