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Australia and New Zealand

Visit New Zealand… never leave!

May 16, 2019
girl in front of lake Queenstown

map of new zealand

Recently my parents taped a Smithsonian Channel special called Aerial New Zealand for me to watch. I was thrilled when I realized that I had been to most of the places featured. I had long wanted to visit New Zealand, and I knew I wanted to experience all of it, trekking from top to bottom of both islands. I’m pretty confident that after spending many weeks I really got to know this great country. After exploring Australia’s east coast and outback I flew from Darwin to Queenstown and immediately felt like I was home.

SOUTH ISLAND
lake in Queenstown

The water really looks like that — straight off my iPhone with no editing.

band playing in bar

Local band Cheat playing at Ballarat Trading Co.

people dancing in ice bar

Dancing at the Minus 5º Ice Bar in Queenstown

girl in canyon swing

My friend Natalie on the famous Nevis Swing in Queenstown

Queenstown
This is my favorite area in New Zealand! This is my favorite place ever! I will live in Queenstown one day! A lot of people ask me why I loved it so much. I’m not really sure, except it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and a really chill town. The lake is visible most of the time as you walk around and it is gorgeous. I was in complete awe of the natural scenery. Additionally, the shops and restaurants are pretty awesome. I went to a cool craft beer joint and caught live music nearly every night at Ballarat Trading Co. The Fergburger restaurant is quite famous – you may even have a celeb sighting – and they had two veggie options that were decent. Queenstown is called the adventure capital and there are a lot of options from the original bungee jump site to intense whitewater rafting.

tall waterfall

Thunder Creek Falls is on the way to Franz Josef Glacier

Milford Sound

Milford Sound view by ferry

Wild black swan and geese

Wild black swans and geese at Lake Wanaka

Franz Josef Glacier & Milford Sound
This one requires some planning. I was SO excited to get to walk the glacier, but the entire time we were there the rain prevented us from going! I recommend either planning to be there a few days (tough because there isn’t much to do outside of the glacier) so you have multiple chances, or being flexible in plans and able to drive over when you see the weather is good. We were also unlucky with weather when we visited Milford Sound. These are the rainiest places in New Zealand though and that is very common! Rudyard Kipling called the Milford Sound the eighth wonder of the world and even though it was very foggy the fjords were quite impressive.

building in Christchurch damaged earthquake

The 2011 earthquake has had major lasting effects on Christchurch

Christchurch
When I visited Christchurch in fall 2017 there was still a lot of damage from the 2011 earthquake. Many buildings are abandoned and much construction is needed. It was fairly eerie to see the remnants of a major natural disaster everywhere. However, there are fun new places like the Re:Start Mall popping up (colorful shipping container shopping area).

hand-drawn divider

NORTH ISLAND
View from cable car of Wellington

View from cable car of Wellington

View from cable car of Wellington

View from cable car of Wellington

Wellington
Wellington was a nice mid-size city. The botanical gardens are beautiful and it was a nice walk from our hotel to get there. I also rode the cable car which only took five minutes and had great views.

Taupo lake

Taupo’s iridescent water

Wairakei thermal pools

Wairakei thermal pools

Sunset cruise in Taupo

Sunset cruise on Taupo Lake

design shop in Taupo

Adorable design shop in Taupo

Taupo and Huka Falls
Taupo is a very cool little town with the most beautiful water! We took a sunset cruise on the lake – I definitely recommend doing this! I wish I had more time to walk around and shop. I found the best design store in town and wanted to buy everything but couldn’t figure out how to ship furniture to the U.S. easily so I settled for placemats.

Huka Falls is home to the jet boats! I rode these in Queenstown and by the time I stopped screaming the ride was pretty much over so I was super excited to try it again in Huka Falls. It is SO MUCH FUN! Seriously the design of the boat lets it sort of hover over water and do all these cool spins. Somehow they are able to get the boat really close to the side of the riverbank or a tree and then it boomerangs away from it. The ride is very thrilling and fun!

zipline canopy tour in Rotorua New Zealand

Rotorua Canopy Tours leads eco-friendly zipline expeditions through the forest

Rotorua
Rotorua smells! There is a lot of sulfur and some parts of the town have more rotten egg odor than others. I got used to it quickly and only noticed if I was coming back into town, but some people I was traveling with found it unbearable and said they had headaches and nausea the whole time. If you can get past that there is so much to do! Our visit to the Mitai Maori Village was astounding (see more on this below) and I also had so much fun on an eco zipline tour.

girl in front of Hobbit houseHobbiton in New Zealand

girl in front of Hobbit house

Hobbiton
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan this is a must do when you visit New Zealand. I regretfully hadn’t seen the movies and felt a little ire from the guide and other travelers/fans on the tour for not recognizing every little house. BUT! Despite not being a fan, I loved this place! It’s adorable and you can spend so much time wandering around photographing the houses. There are also special movie-inspired beers at the Green Dragon Inn!

Sky Tower jump in Auckland

Sky Tower jump in Auckland

View from the Sky Tower in Auckland

View from the Sky Tower in Auckland

Auckland
This is New Zealand’s major city and there’s a lot of shopping, restaurants and a few sites. I enjoyed the panoramic views of the Sky Tower and it was fun to see people doing the major sky jump or walking around the top of the tower. I flew from into New Zealand at Queenstown, but Auckland is also a good place to begin your journey. If you fly into NZ’s biggest city, there are several ways to get there from the airport.

Warriors in traditional dress paddle an ancient canoe

Warriors in traditional dress paddle an ancient waka (canoe) down Wai-o-Whiro stream.

The Fairy Springs at Mitai Maori Village

The Fairy Springs at Mitai Maori Village has perfectly clear filtered water at this sacred spot.

Maori History
There are many places to learn more about the indigenous Polynesian people. We got to experience a traditional Hāngi dinner (cooked underground using hot rocks) in Rotorua complete with a Haka dance. Mitai Maori Village is amazing and full of sacred spots. If you haven’t seen the Haka – usually performed by warriors on the battlefield to scare other tribes – it’s definitely worth searching on Youtube. However, there were many tour groups at the dinner and several people had inappropriate reactions to the serious dance (laughing, scoffing, talking, etc) and I implore you not to be one of those people. Later as we got to Auckland we took a guided tour of the Waiangi Treaty Grounds (established British sovereignty).

water between north and south islands New Zealand

View from the ferry I took between south and north islands. (Pro tip: take sea sick medicine, I don’t get nauseated normally but this is DEEP SEA and I was super green around the gills!)

Arthur's Pass National Park

Arthur’s Pass National Park

Wild black swan

Wild black swan




  • Reply
    Jeremy
    July 10, 2019 at 8:08 am

    You take really beautiful photos ! My friend keeps telling me that NZ is another world ! He will say that it is the most beautiful landscapes he has ever seen, and he had been to Iceland !
    I’m looking forward to plan a trip to NZ ! Hopefully with sufficient time to cover some of the activities you highlighted here, e.g. bungee jumping, canopy walk, kayaking in the lakes, and Hobbiton !
    Thanks for sharing ! Bookmarking this post for my future planning ! =)

    • Reply
      Summer
      July 11, 2019 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks so much I’m glad I could help! It is definitely worth it to spend a good amount of time in New Zealand as there is so much to do. Let me know if you have any questions when you are planning your trip! 🙂

  • Reply
    Susanne
    July 10, 2019 at 11:00 am

    This looks like such a fun trip in New Zealand. And you really went to see everything! The sea between the North and South island looks stunning, and very blue.

  • Reply
    Daniel
    July 11, 2019 at 6:56 am

    You’re not the first person to say that once you visit you’ll never want to leave and I can totally see why. I still haven’t visited New Zealand but it’s definitely on my list and I really enjoyed this virtual tour. Seems like you had an amazing time!

  • Reply
    Paul Healy
    July 11, 2019 at 7:18 am

    So many great things to see in NZ you could stay for a year and still have plenty left to do. I loved Queenstown too, such a chilled city with so much going on. I thought the jet boat thing was crazy good as well. Looking forward to heading back to New Zealand again sometime soon after reading your post.

  • Reply
    blair villanueva
    July 11, 2019 at 11:40 am

    I guess New Zealand is not only fun to travel but also to actually living the life there. I have many friends who gave up their job here and decided to moved to New Zealand, for work and also to experience a different lifestyle. The nature is very flourish there!

  • Reply
    Anita
    July 11, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Is it the onlu ice bar in the world? This looks like a one time experience because honestly I don’t think it’s a pleasure to dance when it’s freezing cold. However, interesting idea.

    • Reply
      Summer
      July 11, 2019 at 10:25 pm

      No there are others too! I know some colder countries like Sweden, Canada, etc. have them and I think it some big tourist cities like Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida you can find them as well. I probably wouldn’t be a frequent patron, but it was a fun experience. They give you warm jackets and gloves and such too!

  • Reply
    Shane Prather
    July 11, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    I have been to 36 countries and New Zealand is my favorite yet! I only visited the South Island but it is so scenic with so much adventure to be had! All with temperate weather and a laidback lifestyle.

  • Reply
    Aleksandr Popkov
    July 12, 2019 at 5:21 am

    I am always surprised, how similar New Zealand looks to Scandinavia. Norwegian fjords and forests look so much similar. And guess where did I go to the ice bar? Yes, Norway 🙂

  • Reply
    Epepa Travel Blog
    July 12, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    I think New Zealand is one of the most remote places from my country, Poland. I have always been curious how it is there, on the other side of the Earth, and thanks to your photos I can see this beautiful country a bit. Queenstown is a really wonderful place. I really like Thunder Creek Falls and Milford Sound which looks so mystical in the fog! You made a great tourist guide what to visit in New Zealand. If one day I go there, I will use your tips.

  • Reply
    Ana
    July 12, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    Glad to see that you traveled to so many places in NZ and loved reading about all your adventures! How many days trip would you suggest for a perfect trip to NZ and covering all the major attractions of the country!

    • Reply
      Summer
      July 13, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      I spent a lot of time in New Zealand and I would probably suggest at least two weeks if you want to cover both the North and South islands! It can probably be done in less time, but since the flight was so long for me (16 hours) and the time change counted as two days travel time, I wanted to spend a month + there to really get the most out of my trip.

  • Reply
    Christopher Mitchell
    July 14, 2019 at 1:46 am

    I’ve heard so many great things about New Zealand! I really want to get over there ASAP, especially after reading this post!

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