We just got back from an AMAZING trip to New Zealand visiting family and friends. After landing in Auckland, we hit the ground running on Sunday morning when we arrived, nice and jet-lagged. I wanted to take the time and outline our two-week trip itinerary cruising around the North Island.
The saying “it’s about the journey, not just the destination” is so true for New Zealand. In New Zealand, there is so much diversity in the landscapes, and it doesn’t take long to get from “somewhere” to the “middle of no-where”. If you know anything about New Zealand, you’ve probably heard of the major cities and attractions like Auckland and Queenstown, or Milford Sound. New Zealand is also known for adventure activities like bungy-jumping, “zorbing”, and amazing surfing on the picturesque beaches. But today we’re sharing seven of our favorite gems in New Zealand that are a just a bit off the beaten track.
I figured it was time to address some “basics” about New Zealand! James and I get a lot of questions about New Zealand. I’m from Michigan, which makes New Zealand quite literally on the other side of the world. So, listen up, I’m answering your questions about our south pacific home, and I’ll let the pictures do the rest.
I want to start off by saying: I love Queenstown. It’s definitely one of my favorite places in New Zealand. I’ve travelled to Queenstown in the winter and in the summer, and it’s hard to say which I love more. It’s also really hard to write and discuss ALL the reasons I love Queenstown and ALL the activities I recommend in one post, so I think I’m going to have to write a short series! I’m going to start it off with my favorite – or one of my favorites, I have a hard time with favorites – wine tasting along the Gibbston River Trail.
Just a few months after James and I were married and starting my fifth year living in New Zealand, my two best friends visited us New Zealand for 10-days. We spent time on both the North and South Island, and we spent 2-3 of those days in Queenstown.
Fall is right around the corner here in Michigan… which means New Zealand is heading into spring! James and I are planning our next trip to NZ and it’s got us thinking about our favorite hikes. James lived in Auckland most of his life, and I lived there for 4 years while at Uni. There were many weekends when we couldn’t manage a weekend away to Rotorua or elsewhere, but needed to bust out of the city and into the the outdoors – going on a hike was typically the answer.
The Hillary Trail through the Waitakere Ranges was our favorite hiking trail in Auckland. According to the Auckland Council, the full Hillary Trail is about 77kms and would take about 4-6-days to complete. Here’s a map from Auckland Council of the full trail, and their site also has information about accommodation and safety if tackling the full Trail.
James and I have never done the full route, though it’s on our bucket list, we have done pieces of it. We’re not professionals. So maybe you don’t have 4-6 days to set aside, but you’re looking for a good day-hike. Here are three day (or few hour) hikes, which are pieces of this beautiful trail.
Going through photos of us in Rotorua the other day made me reminisce about our love story. We have quite the tale to tell, so I thought I’d share our story!
It started in January 2010. I was 17. I was ski instructing at the Otsego Club & Resort in Gaylord, Michigan, and the Vancouver Olympics were right around the corner. The whole club was buzzing with excitement because we had snowboarding teams from all over the world coming to train at OUR ski club! It was pretty exciting, and our parents even took us out of school (I was in my Senior year of High School) for a long weekend.
Rotorua is located on the North Island. James earliest lake memories are catching rainbow trout off the boat with his dad at Lake Rotoiti at their rented cabin. Now, James family has a cottage on the lake and when we lived in New Zealand we’d travel there basically every other weekend for lakeside adventures. James even proposed here, high on a cliff over looking Lake Rotoiti. When friends visited us in NZ, Rotorua always made the trip itinerary.
Rotorua is a geothermal area – you know when you’re close cause it might smell a bit of rotten eggs, but this is just the bubbling mud! It feels a bit like Jurassic Park.