Tara Whiteman Captures NZ's North Island

4 November 2015
Read Time: 4.1 mins

Tara Whiteman is one of Australia's most creative instagrammers, incorporating colour, setting and quirky flair in her inspiring photos from around the world and back home in Sydney.

Gramming under the handle of taramilktea, Tara has quickly developed a large following of engaged fans.

Flight Centre recently flew Tara over to New Zealand, where she explored the North Island ticking off Waiheke Island, Hobbiton, Auckland and more incredible destinations.

Here's what Tara had to say about her experience, which included a lot of dream foodie moments.

 Enjoying the sunset from Muruwai in Auckland (Image: Tara Whiteman/@taramilktea)

What inspired you to start Instagramming your travel photos?

It kind of just happened gradually. I obviously post the best parts of my life online, and travel is one of the best things that I find myself doing.

I find I capture some of my favourite photos when I’m on the move. This is probably because each and every experience is always so unique!

When you got your New Zealand itinerary, what were you most excited about? Did it live up to your expectations?

Definitely all the food spots were calling my name. And they all went above my expectations. I’m already dying to go back for more.

I was absolutely spoilt for choice, and the food (especially in Auckland) was fantastic!

Also, seeing Hobbiton on the list made me giddy inside and actually visiting the set really blew me away. Being given the chance to enter Bag End made my life.

 A feast fit for hobbits at The Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton (Image: Tara Whiteman/@taramilktea)

So you have foodie's heart along with a traveller's. What were your three favourite meals in New Zealand and what made them so special?

I absolutely loved Giapo’s as I was able to actually meet Giapo and his wife. Not only were their desserts insanely amazing, but the story behind their business and dream was also a huge highlight.

I also loved Ponsonby Central, along with the wineries we visited on Waiheke Island. Oh and the food at Waitomo Caves really surprised me! We had a fantastic meal there!

I found this to be a highlight because I’ve never experienced such amazing restaurant food outside a popular tourist attraction before. You’d expect people to normally just go there for the caves, but then to come outside after a long day and have an amazing meal … it really topped everything off.

You mentioned being blown away by the Hobbiton Movie Set. How did one of New Zealand's most famed attractions stack up on your travel highlights list?

Hobbiton was my favourite place out of the whole trip. And that’s saying a lot as each place we went to was so unique and different.

I’m really glad we did this on the last day, because it just completed the trip for me. Hanging out in Bag End and eating a delicious feast at The Green Dragon was one of those moments I’ll never forget. So yeah, it’s pretty high up there!

After spending two nights in Auckland, what are your three must-dos for anyone visiting and why?

DESSERTS. Auckland does desserts really well! I was on a sugar high the whole time, but it was so worth it!

Giapos is a must, along with Ponsonby Central – get an Ice Cream Sandwich at The Dairy and drinks at Bedford Soda.

I also highly recommend a day trip out to Waiheke. It’s such a short trip over there, and it’s amazing because it’s such a different landscape and has incredible views. I loved it over there.

 Cocktails at Bedford Soda (Image: Tara Whiteman/@taramilktea)

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What surprised you the most about New Zealand?

Firstly, the food. I’m really spoilt in Sydney with the amazing cafe culture, but New Zealand blew my mind!

I found myself in a food coma every day, but the food made me so happy; I’m such a glutton [laughs].

Also, I was really surprised by how close everything was. We’d spend one morning in one place, then we’d drive an hour or so and find ourselves in a whole new community with a million new things to see and do.

After spending time on New Zealand's North Island, where would you like to visit again?

I’d love to spend more time at Hamilton Gardens. That place was simply breathtaking. I think the gardens won The International Gardens awards recently, and it really goes to show!

There were over twenty international-themed gardens, but we were only able to visit three or four. Those that we visited were stunning, so I can’t wait to go back and experience the whole place.

I also really loved the town of Russell. It was tiny, but our night at the Duke of Marlborough was awesome. It was so private and calming there, and the view was amazing!

 Italy in New Zealand! One of the stunning themed gardens at Hamilton Gardens (Image: Tara Whiteman/@taramilktea)

What did you bring back from New Zealand? What do you wish you had brought back?

I did five minutes of shopping and brought back some really cute things from the Karen Walker store. We don’t have one in Sydney, so I loved looking at all the KW designs in one place. I love that she’s an amazing New Zealand designer killing it globally!

I really wish I could have brought back the Kiwi Meringue Ice Cream from Milse at Brito Mart. Hehe! Also a must try!

Where would I find you on a perfect day?

I love being on the move, and I love the sun, so probably roaming around in Santorini or Hawaii eating ice cream with my boyfriend.

But I do really love time spent with friends and family. And I also love picnics … and tea. So you’d probably find me setting up a picnic for a few friends with tea and blankets. It would probably be in my backyard too, as long as I have good company!

In some of your Instagram photos you include an animated version of yourself. What inspired this?

I started drawing Tara Milk Tea in high school for fashion projects, and somehow when I started uni/Instagram she became incorporated into my fashion posts. It wasn’t intentional, but people responded to them really well, so she’s been around ever since!

 Tara and her cartoon doppelganger hanging out in New Zealand (Image: Tara Whiteman/@taramilktea)

After New Zealand, where's your next dream destination and what do you hope to experience there?

I want to go everywhere. Really. Everywhere. But for now, the USA is my next goal. I’ve only been to Hawaii so far.

In January I’m going to take on New York, LA, San Fran, and Hawaii (again!). I’m excited to experience the cold and snow for a longer period. I’ve only ever experienced snow for a short amount of time.

I’m told I’m going to hate it as I’m a spring and summer girl, but I can’t wait!

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to New Zealand.

Ben Stower

I love the kind of travelling that is one part strategic planning and two parts spontaneous adventure. Whether I'm exploring my local city or a small town in the middle of nowhere, I'm always hoping to find something no one else has discovered.