April 1, 2017

New Zealand

It was 5:00 am on a random Thursday morning as I was making my morning coffee, that Twitter notified me of a $225 USD round-trip flight LAX-AKL on American Airlines. 

All fees included. 

Los Angeles, California, USA to Auckland, New Zealand. $225. Yes. You read that correctly. 

So off we went. Another adventure chosen FOR us, rather than BY us. 

Here’s how my husband and I visited both islands in one week:



We flew into Auckland, picked up a rental car, drove on the left side of the road and headed straight to Waitomo.

Rental car tips: 

  • Make sure to book a “compact auto” instead of the cheapest “subcompact” if you want an Automatic drive.
  • Remember that driving Manual in NZ requires you to shift gears with your left hand. 
  • The road from Auckland to Waitomo is paved and very nice, so 4 wheel drive is not necessary.
  • There are rarely any traffic lights, but plentiful roundabouts. The entire journey from Auckland to Waitomo I only remember 1-2 traffic lights when leaving the airport and none after. 


We booked the BLACK LABYRINTH tour for 135 NZD/person for 3 hours of caving, waterfall jumping and tubing.
The cave is completely pitch black, except for the indigenous glow worms that are on the ceiling. These are real life bioluminescent beetles that only live in New Zealand!

This photo does not do the glow worms justice. Close your eyes. It’s pitch black. Now imagine twinkling blue-green lights on the ceiling as you float on a tube in a silent cave. It’s incredible!

These drippings are the glow worm “webs” in a sense, where they trap their food.
Our only light was worn on our helmets and we stayed warm with thick dry-suits and boots.
We visited last August, during the end of Winter and the water temperature in the caves was about 50F. It felt freezing!
Our neighborly EEL swimming in the caves with us!
What a hidden wonderland! Narrow walls, running water, so many waterfalls, stalagmites and stalactites galore!
Highly recommend this adventure! Just be prepared to be cold cold cold

After Black Water Rafting, we drove the 2.5 hours back to Auckland and stayed at an Airbnb right next to the airport. The next morning we hopped on the first Jetstar flight to Queenstown.



View from our Hostel, a scenic town from every angle.
We took the Skyline gondola up to the top of the mountain.
Commercial Bungy Jumping started in New Zealand, so which better place to jump off a tall ledge and bounce than Queenstown? (note: I didn’t do it. As adventurous as I am, bungy just does not sound like fun to me…)
We purchased the Gondola + Lunch + 2 Luge rides package for $80 NZD.

The Stratosfare restaurant is absolutely beautiful, however I would not recommend eating lunch here. The food looks beautiful but taste is average for its cost. I would just grab a glass of New Zealand wine and appreciate the view, then eat elsewhere.

The luge ride is fun, I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute must-do but if you’re already up at the top it’s something different to enjoy the view from.

The views from the top are unbeatable!

Here are some images from around the Queenstown Wharf:



Shotover Jet is a definite must-do!

It’s a 30 minute adrenaline ride through Shotover Canyon, going 80 kph with swerves and whips that will have you SURE that you are crashing into the canyon wall… but then you don’t. It’s a roller coaster ride not for the faint of heart. (Fun Fact: Prince Will & Kate did it!)


Queenstown is New Zealand’s adrenaline capital. Skiing, snowboarding, bungy, you name it!

Queenstown Restaurant recs:

Jervois Steakhouse: NZ is well known for its high quality beef which is almost all grass-fed and free-range

Fergburger : the famous burger joint that is now practically a tourist destination!

We stayed at Sir Cedrics Southern Laughter Hostel, low price lodging to counter the expensive adventure activities!


F I O R D L A N D  N A T I O N A L  



We booked a day trip to the park via Grey Line bus tour and it was excellent. The road is scenic and the boat tour of Milford Sound was beautiful. Pick up time was 6:55 am and drop off at 7pm.

If you have the extra funds, fly over Milford on a plane tour!

Mirror Lakes

Just one of the many waterfalls dotting the road.

Monkey Creek

Stopped by to fill up our water bottle with fresh, delicious and clean glacier water.


The Chasm

Milford Sound

Our tour stopped at a shop where we could feed and pet llamas. These giant labradoodles are the cutest, but they have missed every dentist appointment they’ve ever had.



We flew from Queenstown to Wellington for our very first Rugby match: New Zealand All Blacks vs Australia Wallabies. It was SO COOL to see the Haka in person (a Maori traditional war dance). Who knew but the Westpac stadium serves a delicious Pad Thai from the food truck!



The next morning we hopped on the first train aboard the Rail New Zealand from Wellington to Auckland. The train departed at 7:55am and arrived at 6:45 pm. It was beautiful to see the North Island via train!


 A U C K L A N D

Our last day was spent in Auckland, mostly eating! Here are some restaurant recommendations:

Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar

Local New Zealand Chardonnay (on tap) with Maharani & Orongo Bay oysters, diamond clams.

The Hangi Shop– traditional Maori food

Sidart, Clooney for fancy eats



  1. Oysters: NZ oysters are known to be some of the tastiest in the world, kind of creamy but still briny, fleshy and plump.
  2. New Zealand Green-lipped Mussels
  3. Mince & Cheese Pie
  4. Hokey Pokey ice cream: Vanilla with bits of honey comb
  5. L&P drink: iconic NZ lemon drink
  6. Lamb: grass-fed through the country, smaller 
  7. Maori Hangi (food buried underground with hot rocks) and  boil-ups 
  8. Candy: Pineapple lumps, chocolate fish, peanut slab
  9. Cookie Time: chocolate chip cookies
  10. Lamington’s: sponge cake with coconut
  11. Manuka Honey: made with pollen from local Manuka trees


Since we visited in the wintertime, there were a lot of sights we wanted to see but were unable or unwilling to. For our return, I wouldn’t miss these spots in the Summer:

  1. Lake Wanaka
  2. Hike to Mordor (Tongariro Alpine Crossing, 19.4 km hike to Mount Doom)
  3. Cathedral Cove
  4. Hot Water Beach
  5. Waiheke Island
  6. Just wine tasting in general at local wineries


Cheers, y’all! Hope this helps plan your next trip to New Zealand!



Cave photos taken by Legendary Black Water Rafting, all other photos by Melllypoo via Canon 6D & iPhone 6.