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Exploring the Bahamas with Kids

There’s plenty to do in the Bahamas with kids: Spot wildlife throughout the islands and in the sea. Take a boating excursion with options for fishing and snorkeling. And with so many beaches, building sand castles with your little ones is a perfect way to while away the afternoon. Here are some of the top spots for family fun.

Atlantis, Paradise Island

Swimming pools and waterslides for all ages, aquariums and marine habitat exploration, and an interactive kids adventure club make Atlantis is a top destination for families.

Lory Birds Ardastra
The lory parrots of Ardastra Gardens. Photo courtesy of Mariah Laine Moyle.

Ardastra Gardens, Nassau

Wander the gardens and see a variety of plants, birds, and animals. Make sure you’re there to watch the marching flamingos, and grab a family photo with them. Children will love feeding apples to the colorful lory parrots.

Baha Mar, Western New Providence

Newly opened Baha Mar caters to adults but hasn’t forgotten about kids. It offers the Explorer’s Club for ages 3-12 with marine encounters, Bahamian art experiences, games, movies, and dancing.

Blue Lagoon Island, New Providence area

Kids and adults alike will enjoy spending the day swimming with dolphins and interacting with the other sea animals on Blue Lagoon Island.

Treasure Cay Beach
Treasure Cay Beach. Photo courtesy of Mariah Laine Moyle.

Treasure Cay, Abacos

For beach lovers, check into Treasure Cay Resort, or into a beachfront vacation rental where your little ones can play in the calm water.

Harbour Island

A great place for families, Harbour Island sees an influx of people with children throughout December, spring break, and Easter holidays. Spend your days on the beach, rent a paddleboard or tandem kayak for the calm harbor, and, for older children, let them explore on their own.

For more Bahamas family fun, check out:

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New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings Tours and Film Locations

There are countless reasons to add New Zealand to your list of dream destinations—dramatic landscapes, jaw-dropping wildlife, adrenaline-pumping adventures—but for fans of The Lord of the Rings, it can be an especially magical experience. New Zealand is happy to share its Middle-earth history with visitors, and there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in Tolkien’s world on your trip.

Tolkien aficionados might consider dedicating a few days to explore the numerous Middle-earth attractions. Most of the more accessible (and obvious) ones are clustered around the center of North Island. Movie locations on South Island are generally less-developed scenic landscapes scattered over a wide region and are often more difficult to reach. If you’d rather leave the planning to others, Great Sights offers a range of Middle-earth tours across both islands. Moa Trek visits a greater range of movie locations via hike or helicopter ride.

hobbit home in new zealand
Hobbiton, home of the Hobbit movie in Matamata. Photo © Weltreisendertj/Dreamstime.

Hobbiton (the Shire)

The rolling green meadows of Waikato served as the Shire backdrop for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies. You can explore the original movie set by guided tour at Hobbiton, on the outskirts of Matamata. The tour ends with a cup of specially brewed cider at the Green Dragon.

Tongariro National Park (Mount Doom)

In Tongariro National Park stands Mount Ngauruhoe—otherwise known as “Mount Doom.” It’s easily viewable from the roads around the park; better still, hike past it along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a 6-8-hour hike that winds right under the peak. Even hiking an hour or so from Mangatepopo car park brings the volcano into view.


Wellington is filled with Tolkien goodies. If you fly into Wellington Airport, you’ll be greeted by Gollum as he catches a fish, along with an array of enormous movie props. The woods around Mount Victoria are where the hobbits ran from the Ringwraiths. Kaitoke Regional Park, otherwise known as Rivendell, is lined with handy information boards around its trails detailing its cinematic history. Fans should not miss a visit to The Weta Cave and Workshop, where most of the special effects used in the films were created.

One Ring to Rule Them All

In Nelson, visit the jewelers Jens Hansen, where the One Ring was made. (There were actually 40 rings made for the film, not just one.) Original rings are on display and replicas are available for sale.

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The Best of Mexico City’s Nightlife

Long after sunset, CDMX remains alight. From old cantinas to chic nightclubs, traditional dance halls to cool mezcal-centric hideaways, there is something for everyone in this buzzing city. If you’re looking for the top Mexico City nightlife spots, look no further: We’ve rounded up the best of the best.

Mexico City skyline at night
For the best view of the city, head up to the 41st-floor of Miralto in the Torre Latinoamericana. Photo © Jake Brusha/iStock.

Most Impressive View

Many rooftop bars and restaurants in Mexico City boast great views, but none compare to the sweeping vistas from the 41st-floor Miralto in the Torre Latinoamericana.

Happiest Crowd

Come to party with the upbeat crowd at El Marrakech Salón (República de Cuba 18), a friendly gay bar on nightlife-centric República de Cuba, one of the most popular spots in the Centro.

Best Classic Cantina

You’ll find a traditional cantina atmosphere at Tío Pepe, complete with swinging doors, Formica tables, a run-down art nouveau bar, and roving musical trios.

Best Small-Batch Mezcal

There is an excellent selection of mezcal, ace music, and a cool underground feeling at Bósforo (Luis Moya 31) a mezcal bar south of the Alameda Central.

Freshest Pulque

There’s always a youthful crowd at Pulquería Las Duelistas (Aranda 28) but patrons of any age will appreciate the top-quality pulques at this long-running spot.

patio seating at a cantina in mexico city
The lively Salón Ríos in the Cuauhtémoc neighborhood is contemporary in feeling, yet inspired by classic cantinas. Photo © Julie Meade.

Best Nouveau Cantina

Join the crowds for a Friday afternoon drink at the beautiful and always-bustling Salón Ríos, an old-fashioned cantina with a new take on classics.

Hush-Hush Hot Spot

A speakeasy-style bar with a beautiful clientele, Jules Basement hasn’t remained clandestine, but it has remained incredibly cool.

Best Upbeat Cocktail Bar

Right on Álvaro Obregón, the Roma’s main drag for dining and nightlife, Licorería Limantour has amassed a loyal following for its inventive cocktails.

Best Spot for Rockers

For ear-splitting alternative punk, ska, or indie bands from Mexico City and beyond, squeeze into Multiforo Alicia, a rock institution in the western Roma neighborhood.

Best Billiards

A mainstay in the Condesa, Salón Malafama is a casual pool hall, with a hip crowd, gourmet bar snacks, and live music on the weekends.

Best Low-Key Bar

Coyoacán’s good vibes reverberate at Centenario 107, a spacious, amiable spot where Coyoacán locals gather for craft brews (the selection is impressive), mezcal, and bar snacks.

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The Book Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest has a rich literary history: writers like Ken Kesey, Raymond Carver, Ursula K. Le Guin, Theodore Roethke, Beverly Cleary, and many others have all called this area home. Book lovers will find plenty of inspiration here, from indie bookstores to literary-themed hotels to one mammoth library. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the rainy weather is perfect for kicking back with a cup of coffee and a new novel.

Here are 15 literary hotspots book lovers won’t want to miss:


Drink to the poets of the past:

Seattle’s literary history is kind of like the Blue Moon Tavern, the University District pub long known for its open mics and writer gatherings—not everyone knows about it, but it’s bustling and well-loved. Since opening in 1934, writers such as Richard Hugo, Allen Ginsberg, Carolyn Kizer, Dylan Thomas, and Theodore Roethke have all settled in for a drink here. Play a game of pool, soak up the divey atmosphere, and toast to your favorite poet of the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle's Central Library.
Seattle’s Central Library. © danielsearchfield / iStock

Find a book that’s one-in-a-million:

There are a million books inside Seattle Central Library and nearly as many glass panels on the unusual exterior. The interior feels like a greenhouse, but one that grows books. The windowed building was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and has enough glass to cover more than five football fields. Readings and events occur daily in the library’s auditorium and other meeting spaces, and the expansive 3rd floor has a café and reading areas.

Party in silence:

The stylish, 109-year-old Hotel Sorrento hosts a monthly silent reading party in the fireplace lobby, where strangers sit shoulder-to-shoulder reading in complete silence. (Okay, there’s also live piano music, plus food and drinks.) In the past, the hotel has also hosted “Ask the Oracle,” a Q&A with authors where the audience asks personal questions and the authors provide answers—selected randomly from books. An added bonus: legend has it that Gertrude Stein’s partner Alice B. Toklas haunts the place.

Discover your new favorite author from a staff pick:

In Seattle’s literary scene, Elliott Bay Book Company is a hallowed space. Readers gather among bookshelves, in the café, or in a basement reading room that attracts an audience for names big and small. This is the kind of indie bookstore where the staff recommendations are spot-on, and the café seats are a hot commodity.

Drink and sleep in literary style:

There’s a bookish theme to the Alexis Hotel, with ornate touches reminiscent of a classy, old-school library. For a truly literary experience, settle in at the cozy Bookstore Bar & Café. The colorful rows of classic tomes aren’t just for show—you can snag a book for just $5, and dishes at happy hour aren’t much more. Some of the best reading in the house, however, is the menu of 70 single-malt Scotch whiskeys.

Get involved in Seattle’s literary scene:

The poet Richard Hugo, a student of Theodore Roethke’s, inspired Hugo House: a creative writing center where you can hone your craft at a weekend workshop or simply attend a reading, open mic, or book launch party. You can even get your creative juices flowing at a donation-based “Yoga for Writers” class. Most events at the center are free.


Portland's Pioneer Square
Portland’s Pioneer Square. © zrfphoto / iStock

Get lost in the stacks:

If you think you’ve seen big bookstores before, you haven’t traveled the byways of Powell’s City of Books. More than a million volumes fill the store, which takes up an entire block on the site of an old car-repair shop. It’s open every day of the year, and color-coded signs direct newbies through the rooms and rooms of tall bookshelves. Readings and other events occur daily, often one after another, and feature major writers passing through Portland.

Immerse yourself in Portland’s feminist community:

In Other Words is more than just a sketch on Portlandia. It’s a feminist community center and bookstore, hosting events like reading groups that focus on feminist and queer science fiction, craft nights, yoga, dream discussion nights, and open mic nights.

Have a moment of nostalgia:

If you loved reading about the misadventures of the plucky but not always well-behaved Ramona Quimby from the unforgettable children’s series by Beverly Cleary, you’ll want to visit Grant Park, where Ramona, Henry Huggins, and Henry’s dog Ribsy are immortalized in bronze. Cleary grew up in the neighborhood, and a number of her favorite childhood spots are remembered in the stories of Ramona and her sister, Beezus. Download a map from the Multnomah County website and take a self-guided walking tour of Ramona’s neighborhood.

Cheer on a local author at a reading:

A great place for self-published local writers to hold their book releases, Another Read Through advocates for authors of genre fiction more than the average bookstore. With a large section of local and LGBTQ authors, plus mystery, nonfiction, bio/memoir, science fiction and fantasy, true crime, and more, the store also hosts readings, book clubs, and writing workshops.


Let your imagination run wild in the kids’ section:

Though located in a mostly residential neighborhood west of downtown, Roundabout Books is a destination-worthy stop for readers. Shelves are packed with a carefully curated selection, and the staff is knowledgeable and friendly. The sales counter doubles as a small coffee bar, and the children’s section is small but lovingly presented.

Sip a cup of pour-over coffee and pore over a unique find:

Downtown’s best book stop, Dudley’s Bookstore and Cafe feels mostly like a café at first, but upstairs are more shelves of guidebooks, history, fantasy, and fiction. New hardbacks are always discounted, used books are sold as well, and the couch makes for a comfortable spot to dive into a new purchase right away.


Take your “beach reading” to the next level:

The darling Sylvia Beach Hotel is a cozy, bookish treasure in a town of big hotels. It’s a blue four-story house on a bluff overlooking the beach, and much quieter than the usual beach motel. Each room is named for an author or book—the Colette room has a French feel and the Hemingway room has goofy animal heads mounted above the bed. Plus, there’s a library and resident cats. Dinner is family style in the Tables of Content Restaurant; reservations are required.
For room availability, call (541) 265-5428


Pay respects to the Bard (and plenty of other playwrights):

Of course there’s a proper bookstore in such a bookish town (Ashland is known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Bloomsbury Books is in a two-story space with plenty of reading nooks and a café between the rows of new books. The store’s knowledgeable staff makes good recommendations. And, of course, there’s a large drama section.


Celebrate one of Canada’s most remarkable writers in a stunning space:

The stately Munro’s Books has tons of literary cred, or at least literary adjacency—it was founded by the Nobel Prize winning writer Alice Munro and her first husband. The neoclassical building that now holds the bookstore was originally owned by the Royal Bank of Canada and is a cathedral to books, with intricate, tall ceilings. After celebrating 50 years in business, the store is still going strong, though it hasn’t been directly associated with Munro in decades.

Visiting Istanbul and the Turkish Coast

The country’s most visited destinations remain the coastal provinces, with a tourist high season in June-early September. Istanbul’s humidity and long lines can be overwhelming in July and August. The western and southern coasts benefit from a seasonal Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and chilly winters, while Turkey’s Anatolian plateau is dry and cold in winter.

View across the rooftops of Istanbul at sunset.
Beautiful Istanbul at sunset. Photo © silverjohn/123rf.

The shoulder seasons, early March-late May and mid-September-mid-November, offer milder weather, sparser crowds, and better deals on airfares and hotels. Spring heralds Istanbul’s annual tulip celebration and the city’s world-renowned arts festivals. Wine aesthetes uncork their passion in Thrace, Çeşme, or Cappadocia at the end of September, just in time for the grape harvest.

Ramadan, the month of Islamic fasting between sunrise and sunset, is based on the lunar calendar and will fall during summer for at least the next decade. Ramadan affects tourists in a minor way. The practice translates into low-energy staff and cranky cabbies but also presents occasion to partake in festivities including the breaking of bread over a hearty Iftar (breaking the fast) meal proffered by many eateries throughout the country.

Where to go if you have…

  • One week: Visit Istanbul and Cappadocia.
  • Two weeks: Add a cruise through the Turquoise Coast’s half-dozen resorts.
  • Three weeks: Add the southern Aegean cities of Kuşadası, Pamukkale, and Selçuk. Or add the northern Aegean coast, Ankara, and Konya.

Before You Go to Turkey

To visit Turkey for tourism or commerce, you need a valid passport and an e-visa. Visas for work or study are obtained through embassies and consulates. Obtaining visas when you enter the country is no longer possible as of 2014. There are no medical requirements to enter Turkey.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Istanbul & the Turkish Coast.

Things to Do in Québec City in Winter

Life in Québec City completely changes once winter hits. And though it might seem like the perfect season to hibernate, the mounting snow isn’t enough to keep the locals indoors. Whether you’re in the city or the country, there’s a variety of things to do when the mercury drops.

Slide in front of Chateau Frontenac
Winter sledding down the Glissades de la Terrasse Dufferin. Photo © Vlad Ghiea/Dreamstime.

Fun Outdoor Activities

  • Drive an hour north to Le Massif, the highest ski mountain in the province. The ski runs offer 49 different trails and have the most breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River.
  • Bundle up and head to Château Frontenac for some serious winter sledding down the Glissades de la Terrasse Dufferin.
  • Indulge in the sweet treat known as tire sur la neige (maple syrup frozen on snow), which can be found at just about every corner come winter.
  • Head to Carnaval de Québec, which takes place between the end of January and early February, and features two weeks of outdoor fun, from snow sculpture competitions and outdoor dance parties to dog-sled races and canoe races over the icy St. Lawrence River.
a chef scrapes cheese from a raclette wheel with a hot knife
The hearty and warming raclette will warm you up in winter. Photo © Andrea Izzotti/iStock.

Cozy Indoor Pursuits

Don’t want to brave the frosty temperatures? Don’t worry—there’s plenty to do inside as well.

  • Get bookish at the library at the Morrin Centre, which is both well-stocked and cozy.
  • Peruse the best in contemporary Québec art at Galerie Michel Guimont or visit Méduse, a hub for all things cultural from photography galleries to multidisciplinary acts.
  • Catch a show at Théâtre Petit Champlain. With its 140-seat capacity, you’re practically in on the act.
  • Enjoy the arts at Grand Théâtre de Québec, home of the opera, the orchestra, the ballet, and theater company Théâtre du Trident.
  • A typical après-ski meal of raclette is the perfect end-of-the-day fare. It can be procured in the cozy confines of restaurant Le Petit Coin Latin.

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Trekking New Zealand: The Nine Great Walks

New Zealand’s Great Walks are self-guided, multi-day trails that showcase the nation’s stunning landscapes and rugged backcountry: ancient native bush, rocky coasts, fiords, volcanoes, and glacial valleys. If you’re ready for the trek of a lifetime, here’s a breakdown of the nine official New Zealand Great Walks.

1. Tongariro Northern Circuit, Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is the North Island’s majestic, mountainous heart. It boasts dual UNESCO World Heritage Status, both for its cultural significance and its sheer beauty. Tongariro covers the southern reaches of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a volcanic network that stretches from the tip of South America to the west coast of North America, across the Bering Strait, down to Japan, and to New Zealand—and includes Mount Ngauruhoe, aka Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings films! The Great Walk circumnavigates Mount Ngauruhoe, starting and ending in Whakapapa Village. The 43km circuit can be done in 3-4 days.

the landscape of mount ngauruhoe
Mount Ngauruhoe. Photo © travellinglight/iStock

2. Lake Waikaremoana, Te Urewera

Te Urewera was once North Island’s largest national park until, in 2014, it was granted human rights—meaning it was no longer owned by anyone (though it is under the guardianship of local iwi). This extraordinary slice of ancient land is blanketed by more than 650 species of native trees that shelter 35 protected native bird species, deer, and wild pigs. Te Urewera’s most significant feature is Lake Waikaremoana (“the sea of rippling waters” in Maori), a jagged body of water surrounded by isolated beaches and towering native trees. Along the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk (46km one-way, 3-4 days), you’ll encounter native birds like the pukeko (listen for the call of the kiwi at Waiharuru hut), incredible views of the lake and forest canopy from Panekiri Bluff, and numerous opportunities to cool off in the lake. The first 17km of the track from Onepoto Bay, rising from 600m to 1,180m at Panekiri Bluff, are the most challenging—tackle that section first. From there, it’s a relatively flat hike along the water’s edge and through valleys cloaked in native bush.

3. Whanganui Journey, Whanganui National Park

The Whanganui Journey is classed as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, even though it takes place almost entirely on the Whanganui River. The route runs 145km from north to south, from Taumarunui to Pipiriki, and generally takes five days of three to nine hours each day. A popular option is to get on the water at Whakahoro, which reduces the journey to 87km, which can be easily tackled in three days. Note that it is not possible to stop or turn back from Whakahoro. The geographical splendor is set to a soundtrack of birdsong and waterfalls, and the meandering waters occasionally bubble into gentle rapids along the way, but these can be paddled by novice kayakers and canoers. Make sure to land at Mangapurua for the walk to the iconic Bridge to Nowhere (90 minutes round-trip), a lonely concrete structure built in the 1930s and abandoned before any connecting roads were laid to it.

Bridge to Nowhere. Photo © Uwe Moser/iStock

4. Abel Tasman Coast Track, Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park opened in 1942, exactly 300 years after its Dutch namesake became the first European to sight New Zealand and encounter Maori. At 29,350 hectares, it is New Zealand’s smallest national park, but its sundrenched Great Walk is among the most popular—and accessible—with an abundance of beaches, consistent weather, and the chance to kayak along the scenic coast. The trail (38-51km, 3-5 days) showcases the spectacular granite cliffs and rainforest-clad coastline as it winds its way through beech and manuka forests and across beaches and estuaries to the swirls of the crystal sea. The whole track stretches from Marahau, in the southern section of the park, north to Wainui Bay, and is lined with Department of Conservation huts and campsites as it follows the coast of Tasman Bay. There are a handful of saddles and a fun 47-meter suspension to navigate. A popular option is to combine the hike with a kayaking tour.

5. Heaphy Track, Kahurangi National Park

Kahurangi (“treasured possession” in Maori) is New Zealand’s second-largest national park and is home to some of the nation’s most ancient formations. Nearly a half-million hectares of wildly varied backcountry is undercut with gorges and cave systems and festooned with karst and forest home to indigenous fauna and flora, including the great spotted kiwi, giant land snail, and the giant weta insects. The Heaphy Track follows a route used by early Maori to collect pounamu (greenstone) and is the finest way to explore the magnificent diversity of Kahurangi National Park. The 78-82km Great Walk takes 4-6 days to complete and can be hiked in either direction. It climbs alpine saddles, wends through tussock-clad high-country, passes river valleys and subtropical rainforest, and finishes near Karamea on the West Coast. May-November, the track is also a Grade 4 mountain bike trail that takes 2-3 days.

spotted kiwi
A little spotted kiwi. Photo © JohnCarnemolla/iStock

6. Routeburn Track, Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks

The Routeburn Track (32km, 2-4 days one-way) is a Great Walk linking Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. The route can be completed in either direction, but most tackle it from Glenorchy. From the Routeburn Shelter, the track works its way through some of New Zealand’s finest alpine scenery—glacial valleys, bush, waterfalls, wetlands, and lakes—climbing to its highest point at 1,255m Harris Saddle a third of the way in. Along the way, look for birdlife such as the world’s only alpine parrot, the kea, and the rifleman, as well as rarer species like the yellowhead, blue duck, and rock wren. The world’s largest fuchsia, the kotukutuku, grows up to 12m; look for it on the final section of the trip, which ends at The Divide, 85km from Te Anau. Off-season, parts of the route are impassable due to heavy snow and rainfall.

7. Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park is one of four national parks (including Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring, and Westland) that make up Te Wahipounamu (Maori for “place of greenstone”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spanning the southwest corner of South Island, Fiordland National Park’s sheer-faced mountains rise straight from inky seas—a visage so dramatic that it should come with its own film score. Te Anau Downs is where hikers must take a boat to Glade Wharf for the beginning of the famous Great Walk, the Milford Track (53.5km one-way, 4 days). From Lake Te Anau, follow the trail north through beech forest and an imposing valley, along the Clinton River to Lake Mintaro at the foot of Mackinnon Pass. The climb to the top of the 1,154m Mackinnon Pass is relatively arduous but is rewarded by spectacular views down sheer glacier-carved Clinton Canyon. In summer, look for flowering alpine plants such as the Mount Cook buttercup. Descending the pass, take a side-trip to Sutherland Falls (1.5 hours round-trip), a 580m waterfall once thought to be the world’s highest.

milford sound
The Milford Sound. Photo © SkyImages/iStock

8. Kepler Track, Te Anau

On the eastern fringe of Fiordland National Park, the Kepler Track (45-70km, 4 days) sits sandwiched between Te Anau and Manapouri Lakes. The four-day trek crosses a swing bridge, small streams, beaches, and wetlands as it rises through beech and podocarp forest to ridgelines carpeted with alpine tussock. At the top, soak in the panoramic lake and mountain views. You’ll encounter birdlife such as the kea, a cheeky alpine parrot. Thanks to its loop design, the Kepler Track is one of the most accessible Great Walks. Enter or exit the track at three points: Kepler Track car park and control gates, Rainbow Reach swing bridge, or Lake Te Anau’s Brod Bay.

9. Rakiura Track, Stewart Island

Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third-largest island. It sits 30km from the mainland across the Foveaux Strait and is of great significance to Maori: when demigod Maui fished up North Island, his canoe—South Island—was anchored in place by Stewart Island. It’s known as Rakiura, which translates as “the land of glowing skies,” so-named due to the southern lights and the wondrous sunsets. The southernmost Great Walk, The Rakiura Track (32km loop, 3 days/2 nights) can be walked in either direction, any time of year; though it’s cold during the winter months, the weather tends to be less volatile. Great chunks of the beginning and end points of the route are coastal, with some beach walking and a swing bridge. The middle day will be spent among ferns and rimu trees in a kamahi forest alive with birdsong; you may even spot a kiwi (you’ll certainly hear one).

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Q&A with Jamie Desplaces, author of Moon New Zealand

As a travel guide author and New Zealand expert, Jamie Desplaces gets a lot of questions about travel to his home country. Here are his answers to some of the most frequently asked:

Q: Is New Zealand an expensive place to visit? How can I save money?

A: Though tucked away in the South Pacific, New Zealand prices are comparable to those of Europe and North America—though even visitors from these regions may still find things like alcohol and petrol to be expensive. But there are plenty of good quality lodgings for those on a budget, and heaps of bars that run happy hours and restaurants that allow you to bring your own wine, known as BYOs. Moon New Zealand has websites with last minute discounts on everything from sights to flights, while those visiting outside peak season are also more likely to score some deals on hotels and attractions. New Zealand’s biggest draws—its beautiful beaches and backcountry—are all free.

Sunrise at Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula ©wiiz, iStock

Q: What sort of clothing should I pack?

A: New Zealand is pretty casual, though it doesn’t hurt to pack a couple of smart shirts or dresses. Biblical downpours can occur even in the height of summer—you don’t get a country this beautiful without a bit of precipitation—so always make sure you’ve got a lightweight rain jacket in your backpack, and an extra layer if you’re hiking. Other essentials include walking shoes or good sneakers, a sunhat, and plenty of sunscreen—little air pollution and a thin ozone layer in this part of the world make for some unforgiving UV blasts.

Q: What’s the best time of year to visit?

A: The hottest and generally driest time is during the peak season in summer—remember the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, so our summer stretches from December to February. Most Kiwis take their main holiday in late December/early January, so it’s a busy time throughout the country. Either side, the weather’s still great during the shoulder seasons of fall and spring, with less crowds and more discounts on hotels and attractions. On South Island especially there’s plenty of snow during winter—and heaps of world class ski fields that cater to all levels.

Q: Do I need a visa?

A: There is currently a visitor visa waiver agreement with the US, Canada, Australia, and many European countries, meaning no visas are required. However, a proposal to introduce a one-off $35 tourist levy is proving popular and may be introduced sometime in 2019. The money would be used for maintaining tourist infrastructure and national parks, but visitors from Australia and the Pacific Islands will be exempt.

Q: What’s the best way to get around? Should I rent a car?

A: Air travel can be costly, and trains are limited. There’s a super nationwide bus network, and most of the more remote locations are well serviced by shuttles also. However, I would absolutely recommend renting a car or campervan. Not only is it more convenient, but you’ll get to savor the joy of experiencing a country of everchanging, spectacular scenery that looks as though it was carved out especially for road tripping.

Milford Sound, New Zealand ©shirophoto, iStock

Q: Is New Zealand a safe place for solo travel?

A: Solo travelers should always take the usual precautions, but for some peace of mind it’s worth remembering that in 2017 the Global Peace Index ranked New Zealand as the second safest country in the world. Kiwis are a staggering laid back and optimistic bunch who take great pride in their beautiful nation and welcoming overseas guests—scenery aside, among your fondest memories will be the people.

Q: Is tipping customary in New Zealand?

A: Kiwis certainly don’t work for tips and you’re pretty much guaranteed friendly service whether you tip or not. However, though tipping is not customary, it’s certainly very much appreciated if you do.

Q: What should I absolutely not miss on my trip?

A: New Zealand is so magical because its wildly varied landscapes of towering mountains, volcanoes, rainforests, fiords and tropical beaches are crammed into a really manageable area that allows guests—especially those with their own transport—to pack so much into their vacation. Top of the to-dos should be: experiencing some Maori culture; cruising or kayaking the “Eighth Wonder of the World” Milford Sound; visiting North Island’s geothermal heart; and scaring yourself senseless in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. There’s a wealth of world-renowned wineries and microbreweries where you can kick back in between the adventuring, too.

Ready to go? Grab your guide!

Responsible Travel in the Bahamas

Still feeling fired up about the disastrous Fyre Festival? It’s no secret that the failed event impacted the local economy, leaving many Bahamian workers without pay for their labors and the services they provided.

As travelers, we can do better. Here are some ways to visit the Bahamas responsibly, experience the true spirit of the islands, and give back to the local community.

Shirley's Fish fry restaurant in Bahamas
Fish fry. Photo courtesy of Mariah Laine Moyle.

Feast on traditional Bahamian food:

A few simple huts serving traditional Bahamian food make for a tasty, authentic experience. In even the smallest settlements throughout the country, a collection of open-air lean-to establishments huddle on the waterfront near the docks, where the catch comes in to be cleaned in the shade of a wooden roof. The fish fry is typically the social pulse of the community, with regular gatherings on specific days of the week. The community comes out in force to catch up on local “sip sip” (gossip), throw back a few beers, and let loose with energetic rake-and-scrape music.

As with most Bahamian food, it’s neither light nor heart-healthy, but it is tasty, and every shack has its own version of native dishes, each with a loyal following. The “fish” can refer to any number of varieties, including whole fried lane snapper, in which the tail and head are attached; the eyes and brain are coveted, and picking the bones is a leisurely task, not to be rushed. Grouper, jack, hogfish and barracuda (I don’t advise eating barracuda, as it is subject to ciguatera, a fish toxin that can cause illness) are also served, as well as conch salad and conch fritters, lobster (also called crawfish), and meat dishes. If you want to experience hanging out with Bahamians in a friendly environment, a local fish fry is the spot.

Explore the Bahamas with a local by your side:

The Bahamas is known for beautiful beaches, turquoise water, and ever-present sunshine. But what makes the Bahamas genuinely special is the warm and inviting nature of its people. Launched in 1975, the People-to-People Program is a free service offered by the Ministry of Tourism that connects visitors with Bahamians to experience this remarkable country from a local’s perspective. The program hosts around 5,000 visitors each year, and many participants create lifelong friendships.

Prior to your visit, complete a registration form with the Ministry of Tourism. You will then be connected with the ambassador directly so you can arrange activities—typically a meal with the host family, trips to the beach or a local hot spot, or a tour of the island. Not only do visitors enjoy this interaction, but the Bahamian volunteers are equally enthusiastic to show off their homeland with pride and learn about another culture in return. Both parties have interesting and enriching interactions they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Junkanoo dancers
Junkanoo. Photo © Gina Jenkins.

Experience the energy and culture of Junkanoo:

Junkanoo (downtown Nassau, Dec. 26 and Jan. 1) is an authentically Bahamian parade rivaling any Carnival or Mardi Gras celebration in the world. It is the pulse of the islands, and Bahamians are positively passionate about their Junkanoo celebration. Intricate and intensely colorful costumes are handmade of papier-mâché, crepe paper, ribbon, and beads, and large floats are constructed using Styrofoam and plywood. Each of the six major groups, with nearly 1,000 people, has a different theme each year. The excitement builds throughout the evening, and the parade can last into the early hours of the morning. The energy that flows as you witness this spectacle is contagious. Marching bands with horns, goatskin drums, whistles, and cowbells ensure that every spectator is in nonstop motion. Choreographed dancers spin cartwheels and flip batons, enlivening the setting. Judges vote on best music, costumes, and best overall presentation. Local businesses sponsor the groups. There are Junkanoo celebrations in Grand Bahama, Harbour Island, Bimini, Exuma, and Abaco, but the largest celebration by far is the Nassau festival.

Visit the Educulture Junkanoo Museum to learn more about the festival, its tradition, and its heritage, and to view retired costume pieces.

Buy souvenirs that directly support the community:

Straw crafts are an integral part of Bahamian heritage that is still alive and flourishing today. It is a traditional, creative, and sustainable practice that allows communities throughout the islands to maintain entrepreneurial integrity and independence. It has been told that for generations, families in communities such as Cat Island, Long Island, Eleuthera, and Exuma often plaited straw late into the night by lantern and candlelight, telling traditional stories and thereby preserving the folklore of Bahamian heritage.

Straw crafts are typically made from the dried fronds of the silver thatch palm, coconut palm, and sisal plant and are used to create floor coverings, placemats, serving trays, baskets, hats, handbags, shoes, and even clothing. Traditionally straw products were used by Bahamians in a purely utilitarian sense. It wasn’t until Eunice Albertha Brown of Fox Hill, Nassau, began selling straw goods to visitors in 1936 that a link between Bahamas tourism and the Bahamian straw industry was established. By the 1950s, an entrepreneurial network that connected New Providence to the Out Islands was developed, allowing trade between the islands and promoting much needed trade income in even the smallest settlements. Although you can find many straw crafts in the capital, you will also find locals selling their wares throughout the Bahamas.

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Where Our Editors Are Traveling in 2019

Need some travel inspiration for 2019? Ask the experts. For the first time, our Moon editorial team is sharing their wanderlust-worthy travel goals for the year. Feel free to steal their ideas:

Sao Miguel, Azores © font83 / iStock

“I have always wanted to go to the Azores to explore my roots. My family immigrated from the islands in the 1920s. Now it’s an up-and-coming destination — I better go soon to beat the tourist rush!”

Sierra Machado, Editor

“I’ve added the Azores to my list. The islands have a dramatic volcanic landscape that looks impossibly green – the moment I first saw a picture, I knew I wanted to see it in person. There’s plenty to do, like hiking, whale-watching, and soaking in hot springs. And there are direct flights from the United States, so I’m hoping to get there sooner rather than later!”

Kathryn Ettinger, Senior Editor

“I’m planning to go to Kauai this spring. The last time I visited Hawaii was in my teenage years, so I’m looking forward to exploring as an adult. We’re hoping to book a backcountry river tubing tour through the old Lihue Plantation! For my inner child, I’m also planning a Disneyland trip with my family. The long-awaited Star Wars themed land is slated to open this summer, but we’ll wait a bit until the crowds die down before venturing into that galaxy!”

Jamie A., Editor

Monument Valley
Monument Valley, Arizona © Bill Vorasate / iStock

“Usually, the national parks are my travel go-to’s. However, with the federal government shut down, I’ve had to re-think those destinations. Now at the top of my list is Utah’s Monument Valley, where admission costs directly benefit tribal lands.”

Sabrina Young, Senior Editor

Oaxaca has been on my wish list for a long time now. Maybe I’ll make it down there for Dia de los Muertos. I’m excited about the art, the music… and especially the food! In the meantime, I’ve planned a long weekend in Santa Fe, which is one of my favorite getaways and also has great food (I’m starting to see a pattern here).”

Kevin McLain, Editorial Director

“In the past couple of years, I’ve traveled to Morocco and Sri Lanka, both exciting up-and-coming destinations with delicious food and diverse appeal. This year I’m planning on road-tripping in Baja Mexico. The peninsula’s border towns, wild beauty, and sense of remoteness are what intrigue me most. I’ll also spend a weekend camping in the Channel Islands in my ongoing quest to visit every U.S. national park.”

Kristi Mitsuda, Editor

Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece. © Olga Gavrilova / iStock.

“I am eager to be in Greece this May: to be in awe at the soaring Acropolis and to be transformed by the wish-fulfilling seas of the Cyclades.”

MP, Senior Editor

“I just got back from a bucket-list trip to Fiji. It’s not a big destination for Americans, but it’s a surprisingly easy plane ride from the West Coast (only 11 hours). I recommend breaking away from the resort-filled Denarau Island and heading down to the Coral Coast. My boyfriend and I stayed at a low-key resort in a cottage that was literally on the beach, five minutes away from a marine sanctuary where we did some incredible snorkeling. We are now planning a trip to Barcelona, where we want to spend a few days at one of the cava vineyards that aren’t too far from the city. Following that, we’ll take the train along the Costa Brava and into southern France. I’m especially excited to spend a few days in Marseille, then go kayaking among the limestone fjords in nearby Calanques National Park!”

Leah Gordon, Senior Editor

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