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:
W A I T O M O
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.
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!
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.
Q U E E N S T O W N
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
P A R K
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!
Just one of the many waterfalls dotting the road.
Stopped by to fill up our water bottle with fresh, delicious and clean glacier water.
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.
W E L L I N G T O N
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:
The Hangi Shop– traditional Maori food
Sidart, Clooney for fancy eats
NEW ZEALAND FOODS TO EAT
- Oysters: NZ oysters are known to be some of the tastiest in the world, kind of creamy but still briny, fleshy and plump.
- New Zealand Green-lipped Mussels
- Mince & Cheese Pie
- Hokey Pokey ice cream: Vanilla with bits of honey comb
- L&P drink: iconic NZ lemon drink
- Lamb: grass-fed through the country, smaller
- Maori Hangi (food buried underground with hot rocks) and boil-ups
- Candy: Pineapple lumps, chocolate fish, peanut slab
- Cookie Time: chocolate chip cookies
- Lamington’s: sponge cake with coconut
- 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:
- Lake Wanaka
- Hike to Mordor (Tongariro Alpine Crossing, 19.4 km hike to Mount Doom)
- Cathedral Cove
- Hot Water Beach
- Waiheke Island
- 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.