We’re not sure if travel-centric shows like Bravo’s Below Deck scratch the ever-growing itch we’ve had to see the world since COVID lockdowns began or just make it stronger. In truth, it’s a little bit of column A and a little of column B. Still, we’re happy we can at least live vicariously through the antics of the over-worked and (let’s be honest) over-partied stewards that make up the Below Deck crew.
The latest season of the reality show premiered last Friday, with the crew setting sail for the Caribbean. To mark the occasion we’ve linked up with fan-beloved deckhand and travel influencer, Izzy Wouters, to ask where she’s headed once it’s officially safe to travel again.
Izzy’s pick with every corner of the globe in play? Canterbury, New Zealand — the stand-in for Rohan, Edoras, Mount Sunday, and Helms Deep from the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. But if you nerds are thinking Izzy is a hardcore LotR-head… that’s not quite the reason.
“I have commitment issues,” she says. “I like change, and I’m unlikely to visit the same place twice. But the Canterbury region in New Zealand is the one place that challenges that. I just want to return again, and again, and again. And before you ask, yes, I am biased because I was born there. But it’s so very justified.”
Could there be a better guide to the diverse wonders of Canterbury than a hometown hero like Izzy? A hobbit, maybe. But if you can’t have Samwise lead you around, this is an excellent consolation.
Best place to grab a coffee or smoothie?
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Lyttelton Coffee Co Art 7/10 Temp 10/10 Milk texture 8/10 Balance 8/10 +10 x2 86/100 Coffee used: own Notes: A classic LCC flattie: well balanced, perfect temperature, average art. The milk could have done with a little more air integration to achieve full velvety microfoam, and the espresso could have cut through a smidgen more. However – the cafe was rammed as it was a fine Canterbury morning and the market was in full swing. Bravo! #coffee #flatwhite #christchurch #newzealand #microfoam #latteart
Just a hop, skip and..maybe not a jump, but definitely at least a bounce, over the hill from Christchurch city is Lyttelton Harbour, home to the Lyttelton Coffee CO. The cafe is eclectically designed, showcasing local artists on its walls. We stan #SupportSmallBusiness.
In my not so humble opinion, it also boasts one of the best views of any cafe in the region. Pair that with some live ambient tunes, from one of the many local musicians who flaunt their talents here, and you’ve got yourself one bloody great spot.
Favorite Beach or Outdoor Area?
If you’re in the region and miss this you will never forgive yourself, and I will never forgive you. The turquoise glacial waters of Lake Tekapo originate in the Southern Alps. Flowing down through the braided river systems, they’re very chilly. If you’re game for a swim you’re in for either serious fripple action or shrinkage…or both.
I couldn’t pick a season that is best to visit because they’re all magical in their own right. Springtime brings the bright and blooming Lupins that surround the lake. In autumn, the fiery red leaves and crisp mornings arrive. Winter blankets the shoreline and surrounding mountains with snow, so you’re basically in a real-life Christmas snow globe…but it’s not Christmas. Summer boasts warm breezes and the perfect climes for a cooling dip.
I am also very partial to Lake Pukaki. Another, “if you miss you will not be forgiven.”
Best Bar To Grab A Drink?
An all in one micro-brewery, boutique cinema, and super cute and cozy restaurant. Perfect for warm summer evenings on the small grassy knoll, while a local live band hums in the background, or a cozy winter evening with your whanau!
The hand-cut hot chips are to die for (that’s fries for our friendly American long-distance neighbors) and the wood-fired pizzas rival those of Naples, Italy. I’m not much of a beer drinker myself, but the beer aficionados in my family highly rate the selection of NZ craft beers available from the bar.
Best Place For A Hike/View?
There are countless stunning hiking locations all through the Canterbury region and everyone you ask will have a different favorite, but mine is undoubtedly Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. There are a plethora of hikes, for all abilities, that twist and turn through the breathtaking alps as you ascend towards views so out of this world you won’t know how to deal with it all.
I love the tried and tested Hooker Valley track. It’s a relatively easy walk that has you wind through the valley floor, across swing bridges, and over glacial streams. Once you pop out the end you will have breathtaking views over Hooker Lake, speckled with icebergs, and up to Mt Cook… weather dependent, of course. Sometimes she likes to tease you with fog!
One Thing People Visiting Canterbury Must Do?
Specifically Akaroa. Meander along the strip and check out the local boutiques and art galleries. Pop down to the wharf and order fish and chips for lunch. The fish is always super fresh and caught that day. A trip to Akaroa wouldn’t be complete without a dolphin watching tour to see the Hector’s dolphins as they twist and turn and play in your bow wave!
I always stay at the Criterion Motel when I visit. The rooms are beautiful, affordable, and boast a stunning view. Also, it’s owned by the most lovely Kiwi couple. What’s not to love?!
Favorite thing to do in Canterbury?
Hire a car, put on some tunes — my personal choice for a scenic roady is Hans Zimmer — and just drive, and keep driving. The natural beauty of Canterbury is out of this world, mind-blowing, indescribable…all the adjectives.