When we told our friends and family that we were going to New Zealand a few asked “Are you going to Australia?” or “I hope you go to Fiji too!” While I love their zeal and happy thoughts, I always answered them “we only have two weeks!” We crammed so much into our two weeks in New Zealand and still missed too much.
But we also saw a ton of diverse landscapes, hiked mountains, swam in oceans, walked cities and ate incredible food. Did we see everything? No. Did we love what we did experience? Hell yea!
Day 1 – We landed in Auckland at 7 in the morning. Refreshed and ready to go, thanks to our Sky Couch on Air New Zealand’s new route from Houston, Texas direct to Auckland, we hit the ground running – or driving. We drove straight to the warm and relatively tropical Coromandel Peninsula. We celebrated that I slept on an airplane with an amazing breakfast, seaside drive and hike in Fletcher’s Bay on our first day in New Zealand.
Day 2 – We drove from the town of Coromandel to Hahei for sea kayaking. We paddled for 3 hours through caves, into old blow holes and around small islands. As if this didn’t tire us out enough we hiked for an hour to Cathedral Cove; easily one of the prettiest spots in New Zealand. We basked in the warm sun, tip-toed into the icy cold water and enjoyed the views around us.
Day 3 – A drive from Coromandel Peninsula to Taurangua and another hike took up most of our 3rd day in New Zealand. The driving in New Zealand is so scenic that it was not a chore to drive a few hours between each destination. And hiking with ocean and city views was such a unique experience since all the beaches in Florida are flat.
Day 4 – A slow morning with coffee at the beach started Day 4. The day continued Te Puia – the biggest let down of our trip. The park is an over-priced, commercialized geothermal hot spot. Bad experience behind us, we continued driving to Taupo and checked into our great Hilton room with lake views. We set up our Tongariro Hike, walked around the lake, ate dinner and crashed early in preparation for our early morning on Day 5.
Day 5 – So from the low point of Day 4 to the high point of Day 5. Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was physically demanding but worth every step. Over 6 hours of rugged beauty that I expected and hoped for from New Zealand. The Emerald Lakes, the Red Crater and the snow-capped peaks were magical, mysterious and a series of moments that I will never forget.
Day 6 – We slept in on Day 6. Finally adjusting to New Zealand time and recovering from our hike the previous day, we spent the morning drinking coffee and looking at pictures from our hike. In the afternoon, we drove to Auckland and flew to Queenstown. Another great lakeside hotel was perfect and we settled in for an evening of drinking wine on our balcony and adjusting to the altitude and stunning landscape of the South Island.
Day 7 – “Merry Christmas from Milford Sound” was the theme for our seventh day in New Zealand. A beautiful drive from Queenstown all the way to Milford Sound took the entire morning. Lunch lakeside and then a boat cruise through the sound rounded out a picture perfect Christmas afternoon. We also ate our weight in pasta and chocolate cake for dinner; a true highlight of the trip for me! But hey! It was Christmas, so don’t judge us!
Day 8 – We drove back to Queenstown after a great Christmas in Te Anua. Our plan was to jump out of plane that afternoon. Weather stopped us from doing so. Instead, we drove an incredibly scenic road from Queenstown to Glenorchy, had a casual lunch and drank wine, yet again, on our hotel room balcony. Have you ever had a Pinot Noir from Gibbston Valley? If you have, you know why we were such lushes on this trip!
Day 9 – Our day began with a grueling workout at CrossFit Remarkables, named after the Remarkable Mountain Range, but a name they live up too! The workout afforded us a guilt-free afternoon as we ate and drank our way through the Gibbston Valley wine region later that day. We toured caves, indulged in local meats and cheeses and, of course, sampled the area’s white wines and famous Pinot Noir. It was a great way to spend the day on the South Island of New Zealand.
Day 10 – Strike two! Another windy day and another cancelled sky diving attempt. Back up plan to the rescue; it is always good to be prepared for cancellations! A drive to Wanaka, wine tasting at Rippon, a cafe lunch and a lakeside walk rounded out a pretty good day, especially for a “back up plan”. Wanaka is worth a look, if not a stay, as it has a ton of restaurants, shops, wineries and outdoors sports to experience year ’round.
Day 11 – We spent day 10 flying from Queenstown to Auckland, then driving from Auckland to Piha. We braved the chilly sea breeze and searched for tidal pools and sea creatures along the shore. No luck, however, we did see black sand beaches, dramatic cliffs along the coast and a very scenic roadway on the north island. A stellar dinner at a chop-house in Auckland rounded out our long day.
Day 12 – Next on the agenda? A good workout at CrossFit Auckland. We had to combat the wine and dessert after 12 days on the road somehow! The afternoon took us on another scenic drive on the north island. However, this only happened because we struck out a third time with sky diving. We booked a jump with Skydive Auckland but once again, high winds stopped us. You cannot say we didn’t try to sky dive in New Zealand! Coffee and art galleries, beaches and brunch filled our afternoon instead – not too shabby!
Day 13 – More wine tasting was on the agenda for our last full day in New Zealand. It was also New Years Eve – an added bonus. After coffee at a local joint, we boarded the 1 pm ferry to Waiheke Island. The ride was scenic, but the real adventure began once on the island. We hiked, yes hiked, to the first winery where we met some great people who happened to be staying at the same hotel as us. We then, as a party of 4, attempted to go to other wineries. Since most wineries closed early for the holiday, we struck out with two different wineries; lesson learned. Waiheke Island is not for New Years Eve. We rode the ferry back, got ready for a great dinner out and then rang in the new year by watching fireworks from the Sky Tower and drinking champagne with our new friends.
Day 14 – Travel day, already? It can’t be. We boarded our 12 hour flight before midday and kissed New Zealand good bye, for now.
So, you can see, we loved our experiences in New Zealand. There was adventure and relaxation, exercise and dessert, city life and countryside charm. But, believe it or not, there is so much more to see. While we made great use of our time down under, we missed hiking Fox Glacier, whale watching in Kaikoura, wine tastings in Hawke’s Bay, riding the ferry between Wellington and Nelson and so, so much more. It is impossible to do everything, I know this, but I would like to return to see more of New Zealand.