Say ‘Kia Ora’ to a beefy travel post…
New Zealand, eh? What a ride. A 26 day holiday (with two days travel on one end and one day of travel on the other – time zones BE CRAZY), with 11 destinations and countless rest stops to take in the views/top up on Arnott’s Mint Slices on the way. We had a ball if you couldn’t already tell from my beaming 2018 video debut, but I thought it might be handy to summarise our trip for those who are looking for some NZ advice. There’s already a load of it out there, and that’s how we curated our trip from scratch. After we worked out what time it was feasible to take off of work and secured flights, we used a combination of the Lonely Planet Guide, the knowledge of our mate Matt who lived out there for a year and good ol’ Google Maps to plan a route. Then it was onto airbnb to find accommodation (with a few fancier stop offs because you know – HONEYMOON!). After that we went ham on TripAdvisor and booked in activities we wanted to do in each spot, before collating all the emails and tweets I received into our own mini travel guide featuring trails, view points, cafes, bars and restaurants to visit.
It sounds hefty (and it was), but being that this was a once in a lifetime trip, we really wanted to squeeze every drop of kiwi flavour out of it. So today’s post is literally a copy and paste of that big ol’ document. Say hello to Anna and Mark’s New Zealand TripAdvisor-esque extravaganza…
Where we stayed: Hotel DeBrett – as the hotel was quiet we were unpgraded to a two-level suite which was BEAUTIFUL. A great quiet place to stay in the centre of town to shake off the first day of jet-lag.
What we did: We flew into Auckland and our main purpose of our time there was to kick jet-lag in the arse. We wandered around, finding great shops and cafes to stop at on Ponsonby Road – Burger, Burger in particular was delicious (and thanks to us eating at 5pm there was no queue!). Chuffed was a fab spot for brunch and was so good in fact that we had it again when we returned at the end of the trip for our flight home. Although we didn’t get a chance to, the Sky Tower and Botanical Gardens are apparently great spots to also have a meander around.
Where we stayed: Willow Rest Cottage – a fab little Airbnb with friendly hosts who stock up the kitchen for you, like it’s their own. Plus, a stunning view over the lake can be reached very easily.
What we did: Although we only had one full day here, we managed to pack a fair amount in. We firstly hired bikes and went out on tracks in the Whakarewarewa Forest (we did the kid’s track twice – LOL). Then we wandered along the Redwoods Forest Tree Walk, before hopping back into the car and visiting the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which didn’t smell too fab but looked bloomin’ beautiful. We ate well here, having dinner at Atticus Finch on the first night – the lamb was perfection – and Terrace Kitchen on the second – would highly recommend.
Where we stayed: Braxmere – a last minute accommodation change for us as it was closer to the Tongariro Crossing and it was a great find. The view was INSANE and the mini lodge spacious and well equipped.
What we did: Our purpose of our Taupo stop was to complete the Tongariro Crossing, apparently one of the best one day hikes in the world, which I can conclude was rather tough in places, but completely worth it. I’m not much of a hiker and we completed it in around six hours and the decent wasn’t too horrid on the ol’ knees. It’s not a round-trip walk, so you have to use a shuttle bus company to take you the start and pick you up from the finish. We used Roam and they were on time and cheery folk.
Where we stayed: City Centre Flat – another Airbnb find that we picked because the reviews were all raving and rightly so. This is slap bang in the centre of town, but SO ridiculously quiet. Plus point – it has a washing machine and plenty of space to dry it all!
What we did: Everyone had said that we would love Wellington and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It’s a chilled city with cool little pockets to explore and delve into. I didn’t feel too fresh unfortunately whilst we were there, but we still managed to get the Cable Car to the Botanical Garden and have a wander around there. We also visited the Te Papa Museum which I would highly recommend – it’s free and air conditioned (it was BOILING whilst we were in Welly!). I visited Citta like you all recommended and of course I wanted to bring it all home. Ekor Book Shop & Cafe was a lovely spot to pour over books and grab a coffee, plus if you fancy a spot of pampering I can recommend Spring for a shellac mani that lasts about 87 years. Food-wise we loved Field & Green and Prefab for brunch (the former is much quieter and we actually preferred it), then for dinner Tatsushi was so fresh and delicious, and I’m still dreaming of the brioche bun and chicken fat butter from Egmont St Eatery.
Where we stayed: Boutique Bunker – an Airbnb that has been made with a lot of thought and love. So picturesque and I’d quite like to be adopted by the lovely hosts – Jo and Murry. They were some of the kindest NZ residents we came across and gave us so many local recommendations.
What we did: WINE COUNTRY! Our visit here was a bit of a blur and for food we basically drunkenly ate bags of pita chips in bed, but Wine Tours by Bike was so much fun. It’s a great concept. The owners pick you up and shuttle bus you over to the area of town where all the wineries are. They set you up on a bike, give you a map and then you just bike around, doing wine tastings, eating amazing food and filling up your bike basket with bottles. We stopped off for lunch at Wairau River and it did not disappoint. Also – get the tandem bike if there are two of you. It’s fun.
Where we stayed: Resurgence Lodge – this was undoubtably the nicest place we stayed in during our trip (and also the priciest), a great stop to make if you’re celebrating a special occasion. It was HUGE, came with amazing breakfast supplies and the views out of the balcony onto the native bush were unforgettable.
What we did: We booked on to the ‘Soul Food’ tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks and it was the best thing we did for the whole trip. So memorable, so beautiful and so many seals! I couldn’t recommend this more and if you end up having Jess as your tour guide then say hello from us! I genuinely hugged her at the end. The next day we visited Pohara Beach, Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach and did a wee little beach-centric road trip. Pack your SPF for sure! For food you have to have a burger at The Fat Tui stand in Abel Tasman – it’s one of the biggest, and best we had.
Where we stayed: Kahere Retreat – super cute lodges that were made by a local couple on their land. They were very comfortable and had good little kitchenette if you fancied staying in for dinner. Also the view over the mountains from the sofa were top notch.
What we did: Hike time again! This time round we fancied a walk to get an up close and personal view of the Franz Josef Glacier. The town is basically geared towards this and there are organised walks you can do, helicopter tours which actually land on the ice, however we decided to take ourselves for a walk (mainly to keep the cost down because a 26 day holiday ain’t cheap, let me tell you). We did the Robert’s Point Track, which is perhaps one of the most challenging treks I’ve ever done. Think three hours of rock scrambling to get to the top. However the view was incredible – I mean, just look at the pictures – and I completely take back the whining that I did on the way up there. Poor Mark. We ate at The Landing Bar and Alice May, which were both pretty good for dinner. Thumbs up all round.
Where we stayed: Hereweka Garden Retreat – we stayed here on Christmas Day and it’s one we’ll remember forever. Not only do you get panoramic views across the Otago Peninsular, you also get a breakfast basket with fresh milk, eggs from their hens and homemade granola. Lovely couple, lovely property.
What we did: This was our stop that we made for Christmas. We arrived on Christmas Eve, left on Boxing Day and spent a rainy Christmas Day inside (our first day of rain on the trip!), cooking our own food and getting in an extremely competitive game of Speed. However on Boxing Day we visited the Royal Albatross Centre, paid for the tour and saw a MASSIVE albatross right in front of our eyes. It looked like it was actually posing for photos – quite the performer. We also made a stop in Dunedin town centre before we left and has a rather tasty lunch at the Perc Cafe. A mini Edinburgh on the other side of the world!
Where we stayed: Te Anau Holiday Park – accommodation around by Milford Sound is pretty scarce, especially because we visited here on Boxing Day, but this was super cheap and did the job. They also had a kid’s trampoline which of course I went on.
What we did: They call it the eighth wonder of the world and I can see why, because the scenery here is just beyond. I know I keep bleating on about the views, but they really are quite something – both on the north and the south island. Of course when you get here there’s only one thing to do – get out on the water. We chose to do a three hour cruise with Southern Discoveries and I would definitely recommend. They do some options on smaller boats, so you’re not so crammed in, but if you haven’t got great sea legs like me then don’t worry because the water here is practically like glass. Ain’t too much bobbing! The drive there is something else too – make sure you allow some time for extra picture stops. I’d also recommend going in the morning so you can avoid the droves of buses that ship people in from about lunchtime.
Where we stayed: Forest Edge – an Airbnb that’s a short 6 minute drive from the centre of town and again has amazing views (are you sensing a trend here?). Top marks again for having a gigantic washing machine and garden area out the back which dried it all in about 2 seconds.
What we did: Queenstown is where it’s at. A buzzing little town that’s packed to the rafters with adventure sports and water sports. We unfortunately only had one full day there, and one half day, but we still managed to do a Canyon Swing which was bloomin’ hilarious. I still get sweaty palms just thinking about it and even though it’s pricey and you’re on the fence about doing it – DO IT. I honestly didn’t think I’d feel too safe doing it, but the team there are pros. On our second day Mark headed out on a bike ride and so I headed back to the QT branch of Spring for a facial and an eyebrow thread. The Votary Facial was so dreamy and I think the therapist did a pretty good job with my brows that I’d been growing for three weeks and had merged onto my hairline. That evening we went to the Onsen Hot Pools that again was seriously swoony. A must-do! For food we did the tourist thing and queued for FergBurger (verdict: it was good, but not worth the hour-long wait) and also went to Bespoke Kitchen (nice if you’re in the mood for something healthy). If we’d had longer we would have loved to have visited Rata and Madam Woo.
Where we stayed: Villas Waiheke – this spot is super new and so wasn’t the easiest to find online, but it could not have been more up our street. Scandi chic in the heart of Waiheke. If I could live here, then I would. Oh – there’s a pool too. SWOON.
What we did: Our final stop! Our trip here was a little sad because we knew that it was the end and we didn’t have amazing weather (can’t complain because the rest of our trip was glorious!). I’m so pleased we made this our end destination though because it was such a chilled place and full of great beaches, views and food – which ticks all the boxes for us. On the first night we found the pizza food truck – Dragonfired – IT. WAS. AMAZING. We loved it so much that we actually went back there for a second night! We also visited Mudbrick on New Year’s Day and it was just as incredible as everyone said. Definitely one worth booking in. The brunch was also spot on at Wai Kitchen if you fancy another food recommendation. In terms of things to do, the main town of Oneroa was great to wander around (stop off at the Island Grocer and Island Gelato Company) and a walk along Onetangi is breathtaking – just be prepared for a serious workout if you decide to rent out a paddle board. I think I still ache now…
Photos by Mark Newton