The perfect place to take a lunch break along the walking path on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown.
New Zealand is sixteen hours ahead of EST. It is a fourteen hour flight from LAX to Auckland, plus the four and a half hour flight from Indianapolis to LA. It is a world away, but so worth the journey. Our trip just happened to coincide with the Chinese New Year, so there were lots of tourists. Here are some of my recommendations.
Auckland is super easy and the least expensive city in New Zealand to fly into from the U.S. From here, you can easily travel around the north island by vehicle, or take a small plane to the south island for pretty cheap. When planning a trip to New Zealand, also look at the weather. When it is July in the U.S., the Kiwi’s are in the middle of winter, and when it is January in the U.S., it is mid summer there. Our trip was during two weeks in the middle of February, prime time for being outdoors exploring. If you take away anything from reading this post, than it should be this. YOU MUST GO TO THE SOUTH ISLAND!
Auckland – Our journey started at ended here. Auckland is a big city on a small island full of skyscrapers, people, and transportation. Albert Park just happened to be a block from our Airbnb and it was a nice surprise within the downtown area. The palm and ombu trees are like walking through a dream. My favorite adventure while staying in Auckland was the Waiheke Island Bus Hopper Wine Tour. If I ever go back to Auckland, I would do it again, and again! There is just not enough time in the day to venture into all the wineries on this island. Sauvignon Blanc all day please, and absolutely no hangovers later. This is a must!
Bay of Islands – This was a 3 hour drive north of the city through lots of narrow and hilly winding roads. We stayed in Paihia and took a private boat to the island of Otehai Bay. Is is said this island is filled with dolphins in the summer and you can just swim in the private bay with them. Unfortunately it was a chilly day and we were stuck on the island with only one restaurant and bar all day. So, needless to say we sat in the beanbag chair overlooking the bay drinking sauvignon blanc all day until we were picked up by the boat again. A little disappointed, but to say that this was my least favorite part of the trip, means it was a really fabulous trip.
Rotorua – This is another three hour drive south of Auckland filled with lots of geothermal activity and the Maori tribe. We stayed in an Airbnb off Lake Taupo, and it was stunning! The scenery in this country cannot compare to anywhere I have been. The wildlife, wildflowers, lakes, and hills are so simple but take your breath away. The wine is also in another realm. I am hooked for life. Nearby is a Redwoods park where you can get lost in New Zealand’s giant trees. We only had time to explore the Maori culture or geothermal area. So, we chose Wai-O-Tapu, which has a geyser that goes off daily, and colorful geothermal landscapes. I am sad there was no extra time to go to the Maori tribe area. I have heard amazing things about it! On the way down to Rotorua you will come along Matamata, a tiny town which is home to Hobbiton, or the Lord of the Rings. Worth a stop! Make sure to grab a beer at the Green Dragon before you leave. Pure magic!
Waiheke Island Wine Tour
Bay of Islands, Rotorua, and Hobbiton
Queenstown – If you only go one place in New Zealand, this would be enough. If you were to create my dream place to live, it would be Queenstown. The largest lake in the south island is here, Lake Wakatipu. The Remarkables within the southern alps are the backdrop here. There is an unlimited amount of activities during any season here. It has a small town feel with a huge outdoor presence. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been to and I dream of going back. Fergburger is all the rage for tourists and locals. The line to order was about 45 minutes long, with another 25 minutes till your Fergburger is delivered to you, literally wherever you found a place to sit. It did live up the hype. Bespoke Kitchen is a steep incline hike up to the top of Queenstown along the gondola line, a really nice place for breakfast. Everything there was almost too pretty to eat. So many great places to eat here including a real treat, CookieTime, “For Serious Cookie Munchers!” If you don’t make it into the actual CookieTime Bar, you will be happy to know they are also located in the airport so you can stock up on a tub of cookies for home.
Arrowtown – A small town just a short drive east of Queenstown. Full of shops along the Arrow River. This is also a great place to check out some wineries. Amisfield is a gorgeous winery setup in the country of Arrowtown. You can enjoy a glass of your favorite wine sitting outside by the fireplace taking in these beautiful purple wildflowers and nibbling on some tasty appetizers.
Glenorchy – is on the northwest side of Lake Wakatipu and the drive there is apparently not covered by any car rental company under an insurance policy due to all of the rocks that fall off the mountains and onto the sides of the road. This drive is absolutely stunning and requires loud music to sing and cruise along to. Once in Glenorchy you can walk to the end of a pier and stare out into the blue-green water, driftwood, and mountains.
Mildford Sound – A three hour journey on a bus from Queenstown will take you to the Milford Sound. If you venture past another hour, you will come to the more remote area of the Doubtful Sound. There is camping, hiking, kayaking, and boating here. This is the 8th wonder of the world. It is a sight to see! We ended up doing a Real Journey’s Bus/Boat Tour because our Airbnb host worked there and gave us a discount. It was worthwhile!