Travel Writing

Christmas In Dunedin, NZ

When I lived in NZ I may have taken for granted just how stunningly gorgeous the country is. The beauty of your surroundings may be something you don’t appreciate until you get older (I was 16 when I left), but whenever I fly back home and see so all that untouched green landscape it makes me proud of that silver fern on the front of my passport.

Now that the corny patriotism is out of my system I’ll get to the point. This time last year I was able to have a number of uniquely kiwi experiences. My family moved to Dunedin in 2013 and last Christmas I visited them in their newhometown”. We are north islanders so my dad was keen for us to be as touristy as possible during my brief trip to the south.

If you ever find yourself in Dunedin, here are five things I recommend giving a go…



Larnach Castle is the only castle in NZ, but it’s as grand as they come. It’s not actually that big inside as the rooms are mostly contained to the inner tower but they are a few storeys high, which means, thanks to the castle’s hilltop placement, the view from the rooftop is 360degrees of 100% pure NZ.

Larnach Castle, Dunedin, NZ

The gardens are gorgeous and my Mum wouldn’t shut up about how getting married there would be wonderful. I really could not tell if this was some kind of hint to me or if she was considering renewing her vows and having a whole extra wedding.



I couldn’t resist this one. Unfortunately you can only go through the factory on a guided tour and you don’t actually get to see any of the chocolate in the making. I did appreciate the tour guides purple dungarees geddup and kind of felt bad that his script was quite obviously aimed at hyperactive children and our group was mostly… not children.

HIGHLIGHT: Free chocolate (obvy) and the CHOCOLATE MONSTER (you had to be there).


This was the highlight of the trip for me. We rented bikes and road 60km along what was once a rail line and is now an extremely popular bike and horse-riding trail. And for good reason. The views are absolutely breathtaking. It was EXACTLY like this scene from LOTR… you know, minus the Orcs.


Baldwin Street in the Dunedin CBD, is just a run of the mill residential, suburban neighbourhood street, but with a twist. It’s the steepest suburban neighbourhood residential street in the ENTIRE WORLD. This doesn’t sound that impressive, it’s no sheer rock face, and even in photos and videos it looks kind of tame.

But when we drove up Baldwin street I thought the car was going to roll backwards onto the roof. People live at the top.

Baldwin Street at street level



The Friday Shop is exactly what it sounds like – a shop open only on Fridays. The little bakery on Highgate Bridge is so popular that if you aren’t in by 10am you will have missed out. So, get there as early as possible and stock up on croissants, pies and other delicious morsels because TGIF. Best… Pie… Ever.

And that was what I got up to in Dunedin last Christmas. If you have any questions about Dunedin or NZ let me know in the comments 🙂




Tokyo, I Love You

Earlier in the year I had the awesome opportunity to fly to Tokyo for free! Because it is somehow already November I have been doing some reflecting (and also some forward planning and goal setting) and that reflection has been a lot about Tokyo.

Asakusa 2 I Live Here

I only spent 10 days away but they were jam packed days. I feel like the whole time I had aching legs, wet socks and a huge smile on my face. Tokyo is quite possibly my favourite place on earth – at least from the few places I’ve been (so far). I frequently daydream about alternate universe Sophie who lives in a small Asakusa apartment with wooden floors and sliding doors and knows not enough Japanese to stop feeling foreign but just enough to get by.

I thought I would do another ‘guide’ type post on my favourite Tokyo things to do so, here you go mates.

Sophie in Disneyland I Live Here

Why yes, that is a Daisy Duck Poncho, thanks for noticing!

1. Go On All The Rides: Disneyland and Disney Sea

This sounds like the most touristy thing ever but trust me it has got to be done. Located right next door to each other Disneyland and Disney Sea are about $50AUD entry for a full day at one or the other or you can be brave and attempt to do two parks in one day for a little extra. Tessa and I did go to both but we went on separate days because we are FREAKS who just couldn’t get enough of all the magic.

Hot Tip: If you really want to feel less touristy make sure you coordinate outfits with the people you are going with. I kid you not this a totally normal and cool thing to do.

Tokyo Disneyland I Live Here

Disney Sea definitely had the better rides for the older crowd so if you aren’t traveling with children I recommend going there if you can only fit in one park. Both parks have a convenient “Fast Pass” system which you can use once per hour to jump to the front of the queue of your chosen rides.

My Favourite Rides Were
  • The Tower of Terror (Disney Sea)
  • Big Thunder Mountain (Disneyland)
  • Raging Spirits (Disney Sea)
  • and of course the Mad Hatter’s Spinning Tea Cups at Disneyland
Donald Duck

Donald himself makes an appearance

In addition to the rides, the parks are just awesome places to be. There is so much to look at. You can shop, eat, watch parades, climb tree houses, go canoeing, whatever. By the end of the day my face hurt from smiling like a lunatic. When we first walked through the gates I remember saying that the instrumental Disney music was going to get a bit annoying.

“There’s that music again,” I said when I noticed the music playing towards the end of the day.

“Sophie,” Tessa replied, “the music has been playing the entire 7 hours we’ve been here.”

Happiest place on earth, folks.


Give Me A Kiss If You Dare Boyyyyy

Give Me A Kiss If You Dare Boyyyyy

2. Be Overwhelmed By: Takeshita Street, Harajuku

Tokyo’s Harajuku district should be the fashion capital of the world because those Harajuku girls have got some wicked and UNIQUE style. When you’re in the area make sure you check out Takeshita Street and a few other pedestrian-only streets nearby. With the exception of a McDonalds and a few others, Takeshita Street is lined with predominantly independent cafes and fashion boutiques. Wander down and get lost in the chaos of colour and sound.

Before you leave make sure you get your photo taken in a booth. I’m serious. Tessa and I did this on a recommendation with no idea what to expect so we were pretty shocked when the photo booth gave us fish eyes, plastic skin and longer legs.

Harajuku Photo BootThat’s a keeper.

Shibuya Crossing

3. Cross Shibuya Crossing

Just a short walk from the Harajuku district is perhaps what you think when you see Tokyo. I’d seen it in movies and in photos but I just was not prepared for how massive it is. Just walk across the damn thing. You’re in Tokyo, you gotta do it.

Cat Cafe Shinjuku

4. Meet Cats At A Cat Cafe

Cat Cafes didn’t start in Japan, but because the living situation for most locals doesn’t usually allow for pets, this is where the idea really snowballed.

The Cashier

The Cashier

Basically, you go in, put on some slippers and pay by the hour to hang out with 20-30 cats. It is exactly as bizarre as it sounds, which is why you should do it.

Sophie in Asakusa

5. Sing To Strangers: Karaoke

Last but not least, I don’t care if you get stage fright, are traveling solo or lost your voice from screaming on the Tower of Terror. If you are in Tokyo you must do Karaoke.

Tessa and I convinced everyone from our tiny hostel to come along with us, because the other option was to awkwardly serenade one another…

We rented a small room complete with disco lights and luckily had some Japanese speaking travelers in our group to help explain what the hell was going on. The place we went had a lot of English songs on their list but apparently not the rights to show the music videos to those songs. This meant that the same four hilarious ‘homemade’ music videos played in the background of the English songs, only adding to the night’s fun.

February Cafe, Asakusa

February Cafe, Asakusa

So those are my Tokyo highlights.

Is Tokyo on your Travel To List? Because it should be!