Beachouse/Coral Coast – Fiji

Most travelers start and end their Fiji trips in Nadi/Yasawas, but because I had the time I decided to extend my trip and venture out beyond the typical tourist stops. Someone I met whist island hoping had said her next stop was Beachouse in the Coral Coast. She was going because her cousin had gone and loved it when she was in Fiji. Word of mouth recommendations from fellow travelers is my favorite way to travel. I looked up the property and it looked nice so I decided to go there after my lux few night stay in Nadi

It was hard to leave the Radisson, but after one night extension I decided to force myself out. The only way to the Coral Coast is by driving or bus. So from my hotel I took the bus to the main bus terminal for $1 FJ (CRAZY) and then hopped on the big bus, which was $10 FJ. It’s about a two-hour drive to where I was getting off, but the bus continues on to Suva. 

Beachouse is set on a beautiful, lush green property and it was like walking into a private retreat. The main area looks over the ocean, pool, and there are lots of lounging options. Rooms are a little bit of a walk inland and away from the ocean, but it’s no more than two minutes to all the action. I booked three nights here before I would head onward to Suva. 

There were plenty of activities on offer including yoga, kayaking, hike to a waterfall, snorkeling, massages, day trips to nearby islands, and more. Scuba diving was also available here. There were plenty of options or you could just lounge and swim – that was what I mostly did. Something to note the high and low tides here were insane; I’ve never seen the water recede so far back. If your first impression made during low tide you probably wouldn’t be impressed, but the landscape does a full 180 when the tide comes back in.  

A simple breakfast was included (fruit, toast, muesli, and coffee/tea), but you could buy a hot breakfast. Then for lunch and dinner there were separate menus that changed daily. For travel pricing, I found everything reasonable, but it may have been on the higher end for Fiji pricing. There was also an afternoon tea at 3pm included. In addition to the drinks there was also something to nibble on as well (pancakes and warm rolls were on offer two of the days). All the food I had was pretty tasty.

One of the highlights to me was the little shop up the road; it was maybe a minute walk from the rooms. They had all local artisan goods (clothes, jewelry, swim wear, etc.), but it also served as a coffee shop. They also had some sweets and I’ll admit I had cheesecake there more than I should have, but it was soooo good! I liked coming here in the afternoons and reading on the porch or chatting with the workers who were all super sweet. 

It rained every day during my stay, but it was usually at night and didn’t interfere with the day’s activities. It did however bring out a lot of bugs, which were relentless. That was probably the biggest downfall of my stay. I was being bitten up like crazy and no repellent was working. I didn’t have this much of an issue anywhere else in Fiji. Another “con” was that you’re kind of sucked in to this place. You feel like you don’t really need to leave because it’s so chill. Obviously, this isn’t a con for the property, but if you want to see more of Fiji you need to move on from here. I probably would have stayed longer if it wasn’t for being bitten like crazy. 

Milford Sound – A Must Do?

Milford Sound is one of the top things to see in New Zealand. It is a fiord set on the southwest coast of the South Island and part of Fiordland National Park. Even with the popularity getting to Milford Sounds is not an easy feat. We were coming from Queenstown and the drive was around 4 hours. There are some tours that you can book into which include a bus ride there but then a flight back to Queenstown to lessen the travel time. The saying goes that you should see Milford Sound twice – once while sunny and the other when it’s pouring rain. We had a beautiful, sunny, clear day for our trip. There were no complaints for our luck with the weather, however I do understand how going whist it’s raining would also be ideal – this would create hundreds of cascading waterfalls throughout. 

The best way to access Milford Sound is via a boat cruise. There are a number of cruises throughout the day or you can do an overnight cruise as well. There’s options to kayak, dive, and hike in the area. I was most surprised by how massive Milford Sound was – it wasn’t just a body of water, but a body of water enclosed by massive surrounding walls. These “walls” or cliffs and valleys were a result of the movement of ancient glaciers. There’s a section of the land where airplanes are not permitted to fly above and the area has been restored to pre-human interaction. Two permanent waterfalls flow regardless of the weather. One of these waterfalls, Lady Bowen Falls, is 162 meters high and provides water and electricity to the surrounding area. 

I really liked Milford Sounds, but common to the reoccurring theme of the South Island I felt like I didn’t have enough time here. I don’t think the trip we made out to Milford was particularly worth it.  If you have a lot of time and want to dedicate a full day to coming to Milford then go, but if you are limited I think this is one activity you could skip. Checking the weather and road conditions before going is very important. A few weeks after my trip here everything was flooded.

Accommodation – Gunn’s Camp

Rather than driving all the way back to Queenstown we stayed at Gunn’s Camp for the evening after visiting Milford Sound. Originally this camp was built for the married workers making the Hollyford-Okuru Road back in the 1930s. Their website says “modern comforts left behind” and that is totally accurate. There’s no cellphone service or wifi and we had to pay for the stay with cash. During the day the camp is powered sunlight and a generator, which is then shut off at 10pm. That means no electricity or power once it’s off. The showers were also heated by fire.

We were assigned two cabins – one held 12 and the other 6, but then the cabins were split in half so even though there were 6 people in my cabin the room only held three. We had a group dinner this night and then played cards until the generator turned off.

Would I recommend a stay here? Maybe if you really wanted something different and remote, but it wasn’t my favorite spot.

Getting Cultured at Lake Aniwhenua

Stray Travel is known to take you “off the beaten track” and it is totally accurate. Lake Aniwhenua was going to be a true cultural experience. I love those kinds of activities so I couldn’t wait for it. We met our Maori guides early in the afternoon and were guided through their tribal lands along a couple of stops. We saw 1,000 year old cravings and the largest man-planted forest, and a beautiful waterfall before driving through a local town and arriving on the property we would be staying on.

The cutest resident of the Lodge –
She fell asleep eating!

Wow the property was gorgeous. There were cute cabins situated all around with a breathtaking lake and mountain views. The best part of the experience was the warm hospitality and love we felt from everyone there. We feasted on a traditional hangi dinner. This is a method of cooking that was used by Maori tribes for special occasions. They essentially create a natural pressure oven underground.

We all played an old school “training” type of lawn game and were treated with fried bread (yep exactly what it sounds like) after a winner was crowned. Then there were optional activities including bracelet weaving and learning traditional hakas. This was of course to pass the 2.5 hours it would take for the food to fully cook underground.

We ate our hangi in traditional
woven baskets

When it was dinnertime we were all more than ready to eat! The food was absolutely fantastic and totally worth the wait. Most, if not all, of us went up for seconds, but there was still plenty to box up and it would be delivered within the community the next day.

We spent the evening learning more about Maori culture and history. When we were retiring to bed we were treated by an insanely beautiful, starry sky.

Part of this experience is going to the Maori school the next day to deliver the food and meet the local kids. We were unable to go into the school because they were already on holiday break.

This was such a special, beautiful experience that really just makes you appreciate what you have and opens your perspective further. You don’t have to be a Stray passenger to visit so if you are looking for an authentic, cultural experience in the North Island this is worth checking out.

Kohutapu Lodge

This isn’t a popular tourist destination and not a rich town so there aren’t any accommodation choices, but the Kohutapu Lodge and everyone there is really lovely and it’s worth the stop. The cabins seemed very well maintained and I thought they were absolutely perfect. Ours had two bunk beds and a lofted double bed area. There were communal lounge, kitchen, and dining areas on the property as well as a shower/toilet facilities all in really close proximity to all the cabins. I really wasn’t ready to leave when we had to head out the next day.

My First Rafting Experience

I think I’ve tried almost all water activities except white water rafting. I’ve always been interested in going, but for some reason I just hadn’t gone. Being in New Zealand, the “adventure capital of the world,” I figured it would be the perfect place to start.

The rafting trip was through Kaitiaki Adventures. We traveled down the Kaituna River through 14 rapids and down three waterfalls. This trip was classified as Grade 5 rafting. One of the waterfalls, Tutee Falls, is classified as the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 7 meters tall. It was pretty sick first time rafting conditions.

We really lucked out on the group in the raft as it was randomly assigned, but it ended up being five early to mid-twenty year old women and our hilarious guide, Cauzo. When we weren’t going down the rapids we had nice chats and the time flew by.

Rafting in general was SO fun! We all survived the big waterfall and didn’t fall out of the raft. I was volunteered by our guide to sit off the front of the raft on one of the falls which was such a cool feeling. The entire experience was fun and made so memorable by Kaitiaki. I highly recommend this experience if you are in the area – my favorite activity to date.