New Zealand for Tourists – South Island

If you’re following my route from the North Island, you’ll arrive at Picton on the ferry and continue heading south.

After a brief stop at one or more of the vineyards around Blenheim (The Brancott Estate was nice, but felt a bit posh for us – we preferred the Jackson Estate and – more casual yet – Allan Scott), head to Nelson. It’s a cool town with some great places for beer, including the Craft Beer Depot and The Free House – a converted church, very much to my liking!

From there, westwards to Abel Tasman National Park. This is a relatively unusual national park for NZ, as it’s less about the mountains and more about the beaches and sea. You can hire sea-kayaks, take a boat trip, or just take a walk along the coastline path, possibly using a boat to get there and / or back.

Further south, and you’ll reach Nelson Lake’s national park, confusingly not particularly close to the town of Nelson. There are some huge lakes that you can take in from the roadside, but you will be missing out if you don’t take the overnight hike to Angelus hut.

From here, you have a long old drive down the west coast, with not a lot of people or sights along the way. There are some not-too-exciting glow worm caves in Hokitika, and two major glaciers, Franz Joseph and Fox, further south. Some people rave about these, but we were unimpressed. The standard trail stops several miles (perhaps slight exaggeration!) away from the glaciers, so you can’t see a great deal. You can pay your dollars for an (admittedly reasonable value) helicopter flight onto the glaciers themselves but my advice would be that if you want to see glaciers, come visit us in the Alps and you’ll get a lot closer for a lot less money!

Onwards to Wanaka, where you should visit Rachel Sidda, (if you know her!) chill out by the lake, and climb either Roy’s or Isthmus Peak – both offer spectacular views of lakes and mountains. Next, Queenstown: probably the most trendy place in New Zealand, with lots of cool restaurants and bars; you must take part in the obligatory huge queue outside Fergburger. From here, an optional trip along the lake leads you to Genorchy and the trailhead of the Routeburn Track – I’m not usually a fan of there-and-back walks, but this one was well worth the trudge of the first 5-10km.

From here, it’s a long drive round to Milford Sound, so many people take a day trip by bus. As a spectacular must-visit destination, it’s a bit of a shame to only spend a few hours there, but it’s not easy or cheap to stay in Milford Sound itself, so the bus is probably the best option. We extended our time in the valley by walking the Greenstone-Caples track, but still only spent one day in Milford Sound itself.

Your journey is nearly at an end and, to be honest, you’ve left the best bits of New Zealand behind. Round off your trip with a drive over to Dunedin, which felt like one of the more normal towns, and then up the coast, possibly via Penguin spotting in Oamaru or Timaru. If you need one last dose of mountains, pop inland to the innovatively-named Mount Cook Village. Apparently this place is mostly covered in cloud, but if you show up on a clear day, you’ll get some spectacular views of New Zealand’s highest mountain – a great way to end your trip.

Finally to Christchurch, where you’ll inevitably partake in a bit of disaster-tourism as you check out the ruins from the 2011 earthquake – yes, many buildings still haven’t been fully repaired. From here, you’ll fly back to the real world. Many months later, it may feel like a surreal dream. Do people actually live permanently in this beautiful, isolated land?

New Zealand for Tourists – North Island

I didn’t write my blog with the intention of providing useful information. However, quite a few of my friends have asked for advice on New Zealand so I thought I’d add a couple of retrospective posts.

This first post will give a general overview of the main sights that New Zealand has to offer for tourists. I will follow this up a second post aimed at people who are keen to exploit the amazing array of walking trails and mountain huts that the Department of Conservation maintains.

I will list this as a five-week itinerary – an epic tour of the whole of New Zealand. If you’re making the 24-hour-plus journey from the UK, I think you should seriously consider spending this long there, but if you wish to do it in less, just cut out parts that interest you less. My route starts in Auckland and ends in Christchurch, but the reverse route would work just as well.

Auckland – Welcome to North Island! The the largest city, we didn’t even go there because cities aren’t really my thing. If you’re a city person, try it, but if you’re a city person, you probably won’t really enjoy NZ!

Bay of Islands – Sub-tropical islands and beaches north of Auckland. Again, we didn’t go there (not a great start advice wise!) because I’m not that in to beaches, but there are also some culture and history in the form of important Maori sites. It’s a long way off the route, so will add 7 hours to your already long drive.

Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove – This was our northernmost destination and I was shocked by how spectacular (and tropical-feeling) these beaches were. Dig yourself a natural hot-tub, fed by underground thermal rivers, then take a walk through Cathedral Cove. You can comfortably do both in a day, but may wish to stretch it out… take note of the tide times, which affects the best time to dig your hole.

Hobiton Movie set – again, we didn’t go here, but I thought I should mention it, as I’m sure some LOTR fans will not want to miss it.

Rotarua – We didn’t like this town much, but it’s the best place to see geothermal New Zealand in action; ie. lots of expensive spas and a foul stench of sulphur everywhere. We did stay in a great campsite about 30 minutes away: The Waitangi Valley Thermal Pools: as the name suggests, there is an on-site spa and entry is included in the price of your campsite.

From here, you have three options: to travel down the West, Centre or East of the Island. Of course, you can incorporate parts of both, but it will make for a very zig-zagging route over small, poorly maintained roads – we did this, but we had 3 months!

Eastern Route:

Taupo – We went here for a Parkrun and to cheer on some friends, who we met in a mountain hut, in an Ironman race. The town seemed nice enough, but not that exciting otherwise.

Napier – Famous for its vineyards, it’s one of the warmest and driest parts of NZ. We stayed at a really great AirBnB with Malcolm and Liz, who felt like our parents by the end of our stay. As well as the vineyards (Black Barn was our favourite), there was a great farmers’ market and scenic views from Te Mata Peak. The coastline is also famous for its surf: for us, the beaches were not as scenic as elsewhere, but if you like long, straight beaches, there is plenty of sand here. The town of Napier is also known for its art-deco style buildings, mostly built after a huge earthquake levelled the town in the early 20th century. The town houses a museum with a thorough exhibition all about this disaster.

Central Route:

Tongariro National Park – Passing ‘Mount Doom’ from Lord of the Rings, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most spectacular day walks in the world. It took us around 5 hours – leave up to 8 if you’re not so fit. It’s not a loop, so you need to organise transport from one end to the other (From here, you can leave your car and get a shuttle to the other end, or local hotels can organise transport to the start and from the end.

Western Route:

Taranaki – We spent a week in the Taranaki area and I personally loved it. We had great views of the volcano from pretty much everywhere we went, including the main town of New Plymouth. It’s known as an arty town and we particularly enjoyed the Govett-Brewster art gallery, as well as the great views from the very short but very steep climb to Paritutu Rock. Nothing, though, can surpass the views from the top of Taranaki itself. If you’re reasonably fit, you can walk to the top and back from North Egmont visitor centre. When I visited in mid-December, crampons were advised but not necessary; however, there was a significant amount of snow and ice for the final 500m, so I wouldn’t have been comfortable without solid walking boots and poles.

Whichever route you choose (perhaps add a week or two and do all three), your next stop will be Wellington. A hip, hilly city, it’s probably the place that we’d most like to live in New Zealand. Home to our favourite peanut butter Fix and Fogg (visit their little counter to taste and buy) and probably our favourite restaurant from our whole trip, the Aro Cafe, we enjoyed the feel of this place. Whether you cafe hop along Cuba street or walk up to the Mount Victoria lookout, it has a bit of something for everyone. It’s also the place where you will take a ferry to the South Island…

End of the Road

I’ve read tales of people returning from long trips and finding it very tough to return to normality. I should reserve judgement, but I doubt that will be the case with Alice and me, especially as our life will be quite different post-travel.

As I think back over the past 9 months, I have a huge number of great memories. I have learned on this trip that I have a strong tendency to remember the positives of travel and forget the negatives. Just this morning I was fondly thinking back to jogging around Brisbane, fondly remembering the sense of space and the freedom to run about cities with no time limit or commitments. At the time, I was pretty bored of Australia.

As I’ve written before, I don’t regret one day of our three months in NZ and I feel that we’ve had the right amount of time in Patagonia too. A key lesson is not to rush a country. In retrospect I would have learned some Bahasa and spent all of the first two months in Indonesia; this isn’t to say that I don’t have amazing memories of snorkelling in the Philippines, a country I found rather unpleasant at times, or Vietnam, which had food that I loved but made me sick(!)

Overall though, I have scratched just 6 new countries off the map that my Highgate colleagues bought me when I left London. It can be very tempting, especially for someone with my slightly aspergic personality, to see the map as a target and plan accordingly. I’m glad we generally didn’t fall into that trap (ok, two days in Uruguay was indulgent). This is my number one piece of advice: don’t try to visit too many countries. Instead, think carefully about which countries you really want to visit and why.

So apart from a shaky start, I feel that our overall plan was pretty good, but even so, Alice and I both missed home (partly friends and family, but partly just the comfort and stability of not moving around all the time) quite a lot at different times. In future, I doubt we’ll ever travel for 9 solid months again; instead, we would prefer three 3 months stints, with some time at home to relax in between. If you’re planning a year of travel and you can afford this approach (and I don’t think it would cost much more than ours), I would seriously consider it.

Driving through the outback in Australia.

I almost don’t want to write this because it sounds snooty, but when I think back over the 9 months, I feel a sense of privilege. To have been born in a country and at a time where world travel is so easy and affordable is very lucky. For even my parents’ generation to have undertaken such a journey would have been much more adventurous and arduous.
But just to be able to take nine months off work is a luxury that so few people in history have been able to afford. On top of seeing a lot of new places, I’ve read books, listened to hundreds of podcasts and spoken to an even greater number of people in foreign languages, learned to appreciate my family more, improved my empathy and ability to compromise (a bit!), made friends who I hope to stay in touch with for life, and written this blog. It’s been great.

The Small Print

We set ourselves a budget of £60 per day, excluding flights. This was fairly arbitrary but would mean that we could last 2 years without earning if necessary. And despite a flourish of luxury at the end, we have actually stuck to it, thanks to being under-budget for most of the trip.
In total, we spent £18063. We didn’t splash out on many extravagances but we also didn’t really rough it; we only spent about 10 nights in dorm rooms. How did we do it?

Planning:
I used several spreadsheets to consider alternative routes around the world, trying to visit countries at the optimum time of year to get good weather but avoid the worst of peak season. Another tab on the same spreadsheet shows some of my research as to how to get cheaply between the places we visited.

The x’s represent ‘best’ months to be in a country, with green cells showing a path through these. This was the final plan we went with, cut short by getting a job that started in April!

One key point is that we were flexible: other than the vague targets of Oceania and Patagonia, we had no must-see places, so we allowed flight prices to guide our trip.
One strategy which saved some money (and a lot of hassle) was to travel hand-luggage only until we needed camping gear. If you don’t want to camp/hut in NZ and Patagonia, then you’re missing out, but it means you could do hand luggage only for the whole trip.
Alice was amazingly dedicated in recording every single expense along the way; you can read the gory details here.

Accommodation:
Airbnb. The wonders of the sharing economy mean that a double room is now as cheap in Australia and New Zealand as it is in the Philippines.
We did spend about 15 nights camping in places where we could have paid for accommodation, in Australia and NZ if there were no cheap Airbnb’s and when we stayed with friends who had hired a campervan.
We spent 21 nights staying for free with very kind people along the way; from our past Airbnb guests and old university friends to a lovely couple we met in a NZ hut.
On that note, we also spent 30 nights in NZ mountain huts (total cost £50pp with an annual pass) and 10 nights camping in the Patagonian Mountains. Many people may see these nights as ‘roughing it’ but when you wake up to views like this and a cabin all to yourself, I class it as luxury.

The aptly named ‘Sunrise Hut’ in New Zealand.

So, if you’re not into camping, hutting and don’t have any generous friends to host you around the world, you’d need to budget for another 75 nights of accommodation: around £1000pp.

Food and Drink
We ate out 3 meals a day, every day in Asia, as food is so cheap and kitchens hard to come by. After that, we were glad to be able to cook most of the time when we got to Australia and NZ. For those five months, we ate out about once a week and in Patagonia about every other night. We tasted around 80 beers in Australia, but rarely more than 100ml of each! If you want to eat and drink out more in Aus and NZ, you’ll find it really hard to stick to our budget.

Obviously we lived different lifestyles in different countries, so this chart doesn’t intend to give an idea of the relative cost of living in these places, and is affected by our changing attitude towards the end of our trip.

Flights.
I mostly used kiwi.com, which is particularly excellent for finding bargain single fares when you have flexibility about where you want to go. Skyscanner and Kayak are better if you have fixed departure and destinations, with the latter more useful for return flights with a few days flexibility either side.
These days, most short haul flights are very cheap (<£50 if you are flexible on day, except for Aus-NZ which is heavily taxed) but long haul bargains are harder to find. With kiwi, I found good value flights from Dubai to Manila for £90 (yes, hard to believe) and Buenos Aires to London for £300, so we planned our trip around these. We had to stump up £460 each for Christchurch to Santiago, one route which has not yet been reached by low-cost carriers.

With kiwi.com, you can draw departure and arrival circles, if you’re flexible about where you want to travel.

Overall, I’m certain that buying 18 single flights was significantly cheaper than buying a round-the-world ticket. We usually booked one country ahead, because of the need to provide proof of onward travel, but this still gave us some flexibility to change our plans depending on how we were feeling.
If you wish to follow my advice on taking a few shorter trips rather than one big one, the fact that long haul returns often don’t cost that much more than singles is in your favour.

Other Travel.
We hired a car in NZ for the full three months and it cost £12/day. Cheaper were available and I regret not choosing them, as most rental cars seem equally old! Between two people, the value of this freedom was probably worth it but if you’re on your own, hitchhiking is very easy.
In Australia, we took advantage of camper-van and car relocation deals to drive the whole country. If you want to see the outback, this is a great idea, but be aware that the fuel for such long journeys is not an insignificant cost!
Elsewhere, buses dominated, except for a few choice train rides in Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia, which we did for (geeky) fun rather than budget reasons.

Activities.
You’ll see that we spent relatively very little on ‘Sightseeing’. Mostly, we climbed and looked at mountains, which is conveniently free in most parts of the world. In cities, we tasted beer and visited museums and galleries.
Particular (free) favourites were tours in Perth’s botanic gardens and Melbourne’s main art gallery, a gallery of traditional Vietnamese dress in Hoi An and the Welsh history in Gaiman, Argentina.
We don’t have a bucket list, nor do we particularly enjoy organised fun, which meant that we didn’t spend the money on the expensive tours in Asia (more fun to rent a scooter for around £5/day) or bungee jumping in New Zealand. It’s hard to strike a balance between being tempted by FOMO and later regretting not doing something.

Overall, I didn’t find it hard to stick to the budget as I’ve got my grandad’s thrifty genes, but Alice often wanted to spend more and this sometimes led to conflict. Part of me thinks that 10-20% higher budget would have made things significantly easier but I’m not sure; it may be that whatever your budget, you always feel restricted.
If we’d known that I was to be starting work again in April, we’d have spent more. This may have led to more type I fun, but I don’t think it would have affected the levels of type II fun. Above all, I love good value. I hope you’ll agree that our last 255 days have been a bargain.

Eight Month Update

Our eighth month started with a 12 hour bus journey to the “fin del mundo”, Ushuaia. The southernmost city in the world may only be on an equivalent latitude to the UK’s Lake District, but it’s far south of anywhere in New Zealand or South Africa, so maybe it does deserve the title.

Looking down over Ushuaia

Climatically and Geologically, it’s more like central Norway than northern England. The cold south Pacific currents that affect Fitzroy’s climate are here too, but fortunately(?!) gas prices are ridiculously low so the poorly insulated buildings are kept toasty warm.

We ventured out into our tent for a beautiful, if chilly three day trek, which saw the first true wild camping of our trip. After the first night, on which we had a lake to ourselves, the second and third days brought fast changing scenery from farmland to native forest and a bushline campsite with glaicer views to a rocky, barren mountain pass.

Looking back to Laguna del Caminante, where we had camped the night before.

The knowledge that we are soon to regain an income has changed our attitude towards money, and this has definitely made life easier. We’ve remained relatively controlled but haven’t tried to stick rigidly to our budget. I’m looking forward to seeing the final addition and how much this effects our spending.

We’ve just finished a ten day stint with Alice’s parents. We were very keen for them to visit us at some point but it took until now for them to find the free time. It was Jane’s first trip outside of Europe; Martin’s only previous long haul trip was to California, so quite an adventure for both of them.

Argentinan culture isn’t quite as foreign as they expected but vast deserts, penguins and the Andes gave them some new experiences. I love planning holidays so was delighted to act as tour guide, but it was slightly more tiring than I expected.

Now for two weeks rest and relaxation before the end of our trip and a return to (a new) normality.

Looking out over what Martin described as the ‘best view ever’. I agree, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Seven Month Update

Our seventh month started with a week in Santiago de Chile which left me asking ‘why am I not enjoying cities?’ It’s true that I was mopey and didn’t explore anywhere near as much as I could have, but we still liked Santiago. It has lively atmosphere with good restaurants, great beer and wine and near-perfect summer weather. Alice says she could live there. For me, it’s too big and noisy! Our AirBnB hosts were also really friendly, though I probably enjoyed my two nights in a hostel more. For me, cities are much better when you have a group of people to enjoy them with.

From Santiago, Alice flew south, whilst I took a slightly crazy five-day trip to Europe. A week of separation after sixth months ‘alone together’ is probably healthy. A few people have asked recently how Alice and I are getting on. The answer: pretty well. If you plotted our level of conflict over the trip, it would look something like a bell curve; it’s nice to be on the downwards sloping section! Mostly, we’ve got used to our differences and learned to accept them.
I felt a little bad for Alice, who would probably have appreciated the opportunity to see friends and family even more than I did. She really impressively ploughed on with our plans to camp for 3 nights in Torres del Paine.

I arrived back in Argentina on Friday night and on Saturday we set off on a four-day camping trip in Parque Nacional los Glaciares, near the spectacular mount Fitzroy. It was beautiful and we were blessed by unusually great weather which encouraged us to get up for sunrise on two mornings. No time to rest, the way I enjoy travel.

That said, after another walk with a friendly French couple, we’ve enjoyed a few lazy days in the Patagonian towns of El Calafate, Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. I’ve been quite easily entertained by bus rides through the huge, stark, slightly repetitive scenery, but I’m looking forward to getting back out into the hills when we reach Ushuaia.

I’m really happy to have found a great job in Geneva, but it does mean that our trip will be coming to a premature end in April. Just one and half months to go, better make the most of it.

Sixth Month Update

New Zealand has finally ended. Three months was a long time to dedicate to one country, but it was a great decision. I’ve absolutely loved the mountains and I’ll definitely be back in the future. However, for the first time in the trip we actually feel like we’ve seen a country well and are ready to move on.

A good idea for a year of travel may well be to spend three months each in four different countries. Obviously different countries are different sizes and hence there is more or less to see accordingly, but three months feels like a nice amount of time to get to know the culture of a place.

Last day in New Zealand and I managed to get above the clouds again – just!

It was good to spend some more time with friends over Christmas and New Year, and I feel we gave Jen a varied and thorough experience of NZ with just three main locations: the volcanos of Tongariro, beaches of Abel Tasman and mountains near Kaikoura.

After a few dismal days of weather over xmas, it has returned to typical glorious NZ with plenty of sunshine and even too much heat at times. We returned to the far south, two months after we visited with Dave and Lauren, and it was noticeably less snowy. The scenery is still spectacular but it lacks a certain magic without the white blanket. I’m glad we came at the start of November and in future I’d consider visiting even earlier in spring.

The coast between Dunedin and Invercargill – the only part of our trip that was a little chilly at times.

Having flexibility to adjust your plans according to the weather is really useful here, and we timed it well to even get sunshine on our trip to the second rainiest place in the world.

Milford Ford – Not so rainy when we visited 🙂

After many multi-day tramps with Alice, I’ve ended our trip with a couple of long and fast solo day walks. Both have been well worth it for the spectacular Fjordland scenery and probably my best photo of the trip so far.

Now Santiago then Patagonia, I’m excited about that but a little sad to have left New Zealand. I waited 32 years to come here for the first time, I’ll be very surprised if I’m not back within the next three.

Five Month Update

I’ve only managed to squeeze in two blog posts since my last update, a sign of how great the month has been. New Zealand was always the main aim of this trip for me. As a teacher I already had 17 weeks holiday a year, so the main reason for taking time off to travel was to take full advantage of the southern hemisphere’s summer.

And I’m very glad we did so. Before this year we were considering coming to New Zealand for just a few weeks over Christmas holidays but now even three months doesn’t feel enough.

We have been to beautiful location after beautiful location.
Each time I’m amazed that we’ve managed to find something even more spectacular. I’ve watched more sunrises in the last month than the entire rest of my life.

Finding a balance between spending time in the mountains and elsewhere which keeps both Alice and me happy has been a challenge. We’ve coped pretty well, although I have occasionally got bored in the city and Alice stressed in the mountains. Finally we spent a day apart recently as I climbed Taranaki whilst Alice stayed at ‘home’. We should probably do more of this.

Although I’ve been more active on Facebook than ever before, I feel that a good thing about the trip is that it had taught us to live without the internet for extended periods. We met a great local couple in Angelus hut and we’ve found that people are generally very friendly, much more so than in your average hostel. Would this still be the case if the huts had WiFi?

There were several moments earlier on in the trip when I wanted to bail out because I wasn’t enjoying the lack of freedom I felt whilst travelling in Asia, but I’d say that this is the first month that I’ve actually missed home. Bizarrely given how much I love the long summer days, I have been missing the winter spirit: cosy rooms with a fire, mulled wine and less surprisingly, the family get-togethers. Though with walks like this on Christmas and Boxing day, I can’t say I missed the days themselves…

Four Month Update

A short one this month, as I already wrote far too much English in my analysis of Australia’s excellent craft beer.

It has been a strong fourth month. Sydney, Melbourne and the area in between was probably my favourite part of Australia. I can definitely see why it’s the part on which most travellers focus. If you want to live in a big city, both seem like pretty pleasant options.

Melbourne, nice contrast between the old market and new CBD.

Sydney in particular is great: the centre didn’t seem too hectic, it had great food and drink and some beaches that are far too beautiful to be in a huge city. It helped that we were hosted by Claire in her lovely and well-located house.

 

It’s barely believable that beaches this nice are well within the city of Sydney.

That said, after just a few days we knew that we preferred New Zealand to Australia. There is more to see and do within a smaller area but more crucially it wins on mountains. It’s also feels a bit less of a nanny state! We were slightly biased by spending the first two weeks with Dave and Lauren and their campervan. As I’ve previously mentioned I need to be kept busy and a group of four is better for that than just Alice.

In both Australia and New Zealand, we continue to enjoy the freedom of our own vehicle and the ease of getting off the tourist trail. However, I’ve once again fallen into the trap of doing way too much research into the coming weeks in an attempt to optimise our trip. I guess I should be reading a book, learning some languages or enjoying the place we’re in; regardless, I must ban myself from phone-based research. I think I miss lesson planning and organising things at work – a whole year without a job is probably too much for me.

Good news though, I may have found a  temporary outlet for my energy: in the last week we’ve just started to visit some of New Zealand’s excellent mountain huts. More about those next month.

Paddling around Australia

I’m breaking with tradition to write in English for three reasons.
1) I don’t want to misrepresent this vitally important topic.
2) It will not be appreciated by most Europeans* with their crappy lager (yes, not even you Germans with your high and mighty purity law).
3) Rob requested it, and he was recently confused by the menu item ‘camembert au four’.

Anyway, I am happy to report that Australia has some really good beer. Granted, poor lager is the staple for most Aussies (though famously NOT the well-known export Fosters). However, like much of the world, there exists a growing craft beer movement.
Unsurprisingly, this focusses on American-style craft beer, so you’ll be happy to know that the UK is still the only place in the world where you can easily get all of the three genres of beer: lager, real ale, and ‘craft beer’ (which in my mind is just a cross between the first two).
So, to the detail. A beer tour of Australia…

We started in Western Australia and our first brewery produces probably the best-known craft beer in Australia: Little Creatures. A professional setup in a sanitised ‘warehouse’ with huge brauhaus-style tables and a smart looking food menu were initially off-putting. However, when we found the tasting area of the bar (in the right-hand warehouse) the barman was one of the friendliest of our trip. He took the time to talk us through each of ten beers on the tasting tray and even brought out two more special editions. We enjoyed the nationally popular pale ale enough to buy a six pack but we also particularly enjoyed the malt flavours of the bright ale. I liked the Elsie wheat beer, a genre which turned out to be fairly rare in Australia and Alice’s favourite was the white rabbit dark ale. 12 beers.

We moved on to Margaret River, a region about 3 hours south of Perth known for its wine but with plenty of beer producers too. We started at beer farm where we had a small but excellent set of beers in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The India Pale Lager was particularly memorable as it managed to retain the hops and citrus of an IPA in a refreshing lager. 16 beers.

Next up was the Eagle Bay brewing company. More of a restaurant than a brewery, it still had a selection of six beers and we managed to get a seat on a comfy sofa by the fire which warmed us up on a rainy day. The beer wasn’t bad but a couple were quite bland; they did make a good black IPA, another rare find in Australia but personally I’m not a huge fan of the heavy malt and heavy hops combination. 22 beers.

On the next section of our tour, back to Perth and then over to Adelaide, we took an inopportune break from beer and so missed out on two of the top new breweries in Australia. In Perth, Balter brewing and in Adelaide, Pirate Life. We went some way to rectifying this at the end our trip by sampling their trademark beers whilst sitting by the river in Melbourne. Balter’s XPA was a very solid american pale with lots of hops. Pirate life’s IPA was too strong and too bitter for my taste, although this may have been because it was paired with very sweet Korean fried chicken! Nonetheless, if you’re in Adelaide, I would definitely visit their brewery, though at nearly £4 a can I wouldn’t buy it from an bottle shop. 24 beers.

Driving from Perth to the east coast we drank quite a few Fat Yak pale ales. They weren’t the best beer we had in Australia but they were much better than your standard lager and were by far the cheapest at £1 a can from Aldi. We also invested in a pack of Stone and Wood pale ale from Bryon Bay. A rival to Little Creature’s nationwide popularity, it was equally hoppy but less fruity and more floral; I’d definitely buy it again. 26 beers

I really enjoyed this paddle from the newer brewery in Byron Bay, though in retrospect we can’t remember any of the beers very well so perhaps it wasn’t that exciting. Maybe it was the funky art work or the vibe of the town, probably the hipp(i)est place in Australia. 30 beers.

The next stop was, for once, not a tasting paddle but some schooners at a pub quiz hosted by the Fritzenburger Brewery Bar in Brisbane. The IPA and the wheat saison were good but we both really loved the hazelnut stout: so often dark beers list flavours, most commonly chocolate or coffee, which just don’t come through: No such problem here. Alice started with their basic Pale Ale which I thought was rather bland. However, upon winning a round of the quiz our team bought a growler of the same beer which was totally different: really fresh grapefruit made a great pale ale. The poor keeping of the first keg was a disappointing stain on an otherwise great brewery. 34 beers.

Also based in Queensland is Feral Brewery. We didn’t get chance to visit it, but sampled their trademark Hop Hog in the beautiful surroundings of Kosciusko national park. A predictably hoppy beer left me wanting more, if it was earlier in our trip I’d have bought a pack. 35 beers. I thought I’d add a quick note here to point out that beer is Australia is very expensive – this single bottle cost $6 from an off licence and pubs are similarly extortionate. There is also confusion over how much beer you’re ordering!

Arriving in Sydney, we had a schooner of Kosciusko pale ale, which was disappointingly bland and expensive but this was more than made up for by a trip to 4 pines brewery. We arrived at 4.50 but made the excellent decision to wait until 5 for the opening of their ‘kellar door’, an area where they sell experimental and interesting brews. This was by far the best overall paddle we tasted in Australia, with all five beers giving something interesting, from a banana and rye beer, to a good wheat beer and a strong ‘Australian’ IPA. We don’t normally like strong beer, especially at 9%, but this had so much flavour that the strength didn’t overwhelm it. Leaving, we bought a six pack of their standard pale ale – a good beer, we enjoyed our final bottle in the airport just before security. 41 beers.

Still in Sydney, we stumbled upon the Endeavour tap rooms, which sits in the shadow of the harbour bridge. They had a deal of 4 tasters for $10 from 4-6.30pm so we tried all 8 of their brews. Apart from a couple of boring pilsners, we enjoyed all of these. I particularly liked a marmite-like very smoky beer but Alice preferred their standard pale ale, which I agree was very good. 49 beers.

On our drive to Melbourne we enjoyed our 4 pines collection before reaching the Yarra Valley. More renowned for its wine, it nevertheless features several breweries and we stopped at Coldstream. The atmosphere and decor were good but the beer and service was the most disappointing on our trip: I can only remember a flat pear cider and the staff were too busy making cocktails to show interest in beer. 53 beers.

Arriving in Melbourne we happened upon the crafty squire, a large outlet for the mass-produced James Squire beer. We liked that you could choose which of their beers to have on the sampler and I particularly enjoyed the Cabin Fever, a session IPA which had a lot of flavour for a 4% beer, but overall, we wouldn’t rush back. 59 beers.

Last but far from least came a trip to the mountain goat brewery in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. We mostly wanted to go here because of my love of the mountains but it turned out to be one of our favourites. We got great chat from a kiwi brewer who served us and I particularly enjoyed the refreshing beer that he had brewed himself (I think it’s called Barnaby’s choice); indeed, all four were good. We loved the atmosphere; in fact, its warehouse style felt like a more developed version of our Oxford favourite, the tap social. It was a great way to end a surprisingly tasty set 63 of Australian beers.

*Apologies to Scandinavians, who do know good beer.