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July 31, 2018

Top 5 Travel Destinations: # 2 New Zealand | Middle Earth

New Zealand is SOOOOOOOO unbelievably gorgeous.  There is so much to see and the views leave you in awe.  New Zealand is made up of 2 islands: North and South.  The South Island is my FAVORITE- the mountains, glaciers, fjords, and serenity— LOVE!!!  While I’m writing this blog and looking through the photos, I got the biggest sense of nostalgia.  I miss New Zealand!

Things to do:

South Island

  1. Roys Peak Hike
  2. Wanaka- the city
  3. Milford Sound
  4. Key Summit Hike
  5. Fergburger
  6. Queenstown
  7. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
  8. Fox Glacier

 

North Island

  1. Tongeriro Crossing Hike
  2. Piha Canyon
  3. Hobbiton
  4. Rotorua: Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park
  5. Rotorua: Polynesian Spa
  6. Muriwai Black Sand Beach
  7. Glow Worm Caves
  8. Mount Alfred
  9. Hooker valley walk
  10. Weiheki Island Wine Tour

 

Where to fly to: Queenstown- South Island and Aukland- North Island

Personal Opinion/Timing Tip:  North Island can be done in 5 Days.  South Island can be done in 6-7 Days

 

 

South Island

The flight in to Queenstown is breathtaking!!!!  Stay awake for this and secure a window seat!  There are mountains for as far as the eye can see.

Roy’s Peak Hike:  This is by far, the HARDEST hike I have ever done.  It is located about 1 mile from Wanaka town center.  You are hiking through a sheep/lamb farm so there is a lot of dung- watch where you step!  The entire 3.4 mile hike up is uphill on a 60 degree incline (I might be exaggerating, but it was STEEP!!)  The elevation gain was 4,100 feet!!!  We took so many breaks and were completely exhausted when we reached the top.  BUT THE VIEWS!!!   As much as I was hating the incline, every time I looked out, I (almost) forgot about how tired I was.  I wouldn’t do the hike again, but I am so glad I did it!

THAT is where we hiked to! (excuse my husbands face 😂)

 

Wanaka:  The city is on a huge lake surrounded by mountains.  It is a beautiful spot to hang out and rest for a day.  There are cute restaurants along the lake where you can eat and drink the day away.

While in Wanaka, we stayed at the Edgewater Hotel.  There was no particular reason to choose this hotel other than the price.  If you are able to find another hotel for cheaper, go for it!

Milford Sound: the drive to Milford sound is a treat!  You are driving through valleys (and some avalanche areas).  Milford sound can be reached by driving or taking a helicopter ride from Queenstown.  Since it is separated by mountains, driving to Milford sound takes 3-4 hours from Queesntown.  When you get to Milford Sound, you can pay to take a cruise through the waterway.  Its a nice serene ride.  There are coupons in travel books (pick one up when you land at the airport)

We stayed in the city of Te Anau at Distinction Hotel. Te Anau is a small quaint city right on the water.  It’s somewhere you can relax and unwind.

 

Key Summit Hike: the BIGGEST bang for your buck.  It took about 1 hour to reach the top where you are surrounded by mountains.  Its 4.7 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1400 feet.

 

Fergburger: THE hot spot in Queestown.  Anytime during during the day, you will see a line here.  The burgers are delicious (and I’m NOT a burger girl)!  You HAVE to stop here for a taste!

Queenstown: There are a lot of young, tourists here so its a fun spot to hang out at night (I was on my honeymoon, so we didn’t explore the bar scene).  The city is small and hotel views are unbeatable- you’ll have a view of the lake and mountains almost anywhere in the city.

We stayed at 2 different hotels here.  Doubletree and Mecure.  The Doubletree was across the bay from Queenstown.  It was a VERY cute hotel with an option to take a water taxi to Queenstown (at a cost of ~$10/person).  You get beautiful views of the city and there are restaurants (3-4 to choose from) right in the hotel.  The Mecure had GORGEOUS views of the mountains.  We were upgraded to the 3rd floor and we HAD to sleep with the blinds open just so we can fall asleep and wake up to the views.

This was in the patio area of our hotel.  The VIEWS!!!!

 

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park was on our list to visit but we weren’t able to make it due to time constraints

Fox Glacier: we had a helicopter, glacier climbing adventure all planned but the weather decided to stop our plans.  Since South Island is predominantly mountains, the weather is very unpredictable.  It stormed and rained the entire morning and both tours (they offer 2 a day) were canceled.  We would have gone with Fox Guides who offered different tours like: helicopter- ice hike or ice climb.  Check out their rates on their website.

The drive to Fox Glacier was long but stunning!  We drove during sunrise and the peaks of light coming through the mountains made for the most angelic views.

Fox glacier Guide- heli-climb

  • 8-9 hours
  • 8am departure
  • 5.5 hours on ice
  • $350/person

Fox glacier guide heli hike

  • 4 hours
  • $280
  • 850 and 1150 departure times

Since we couldn’t do the tour, we hiked to the edge of the glacier instead.  The glacier is to the left:

A random stop along one of our drives on South Island— this view is literally everywhere you drive in NZ!

North Island

Where to stay: We had friends who lived in Aukland, so we had the luxury of staying with them.

Tongeriro Crossing Hike: This hike was LONG: 12 miles and an elevation gain of 3,700 feet.  We went to NZ during the end of their winter/beginning of their spring so we were met with lots of snow.  This hike is a ONE WAY hike.  So you have to secure transportation at one end of the hike.  At the time we went, there were no other modes of transportation except to take a tour.  The tour gave us snow cleats, axes and helmets to navigate the icy condition. It cost us about $170/person USD.

It was slippery and dangerous at times  but we were able to slide down the mountain a few times to save some hiking time. Sliding down the mountain would probably be my FAVORITE part of the entire hike.  When you reach the top of the hike, you’re able to see for MILESSSSS.  This is also where Mordor was in Lord of the Rings (with a lot of added CG)

We stayed at The Park Hotel Ruapehu.  There are other options for lodging including hostels.

Below, is Mordor (Lord of the Rings)

Sliding down the mountain was SOOO much fun!

Victory beers are the BEST!

 

Piha Canyon: Piha canyon is where we rappelled (NZ calls it Abseilling)  We went with AWOL company and it cost us $185 NZD/person.  You’ll start the adventure at their small convenient store (where you meet up and change).  Wetsuits are provided but if you have your own, I recommend you wear it.  They drive you in their van to Piha Canyon.  You hike up to the start of the journey.  If I remember correctly, there are 4-5 small rappels and 1 high one at the end (pictured).  It takes about 3 hours.

 

Hobbiton: Joey wanted to come to the set of Hobbiton.  I had never seen the movie before this so it was all new to me.  The cost of entry was ~$75 NZD and the tour lasts about 1-1.5 hours.  The guides are very informative and made me want to watch the movies (which I did!).  On our drive to the set, we were able to see the most beautiful rolling hills and lamb EVERYWHERE.

YAY to complimentary victory beers at the Shire following the tour

The rolling hills were such a treat to drive through!

 

Rotorua: Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park: New Zealand is one of the newest islands (geologically) and was formed by volcanic activity.  Rotorua lies on a very active area of thermal land and the park showcases it well. I highly recommend taking the tour since the guide will be able to educate you on all the cool facts about the main areas of the park.  Be careful, because the thermal baths can be deadly due to their temperature and acidity levels.  The cost of entrance is about $32 NZD

At 1015AM daily, they have a geyser talk and demonstration (below)

There is a secret hotpool at Kerosene Creek at the end of the road to Wai O tapu. The road to the creek is rough.

 

 

Rotorua: Polynesian Spa: is a unique spot to relax.  They have different outdoor pools that have different temperatures and pH’s.  We got massages while there and really enjoyed it.  Warning: Rotorua smells VERY much like methane.

Cost: 45 NZD for access to all pools.

There are also coupons for the cost of entrance.  These books can be found at any tourist area and also at the airport.

 

Muriwai Black Sand Beach: Since we visited during their winter, the beach was VERY cold.  It was a cool little beach and there were a ton of wind surfers flying high in to the sky (it was cool to see).  I would skip this if you are pressed for time.

 

Glow Worm Caves: We were told to not do the boat tour and instead do the Glow worm adventure tour.  Due to costs, we decided to take the boat tour.  It was cool to see the glow worms but if it works for your budget, do the adventure tour!  We’ve been to a lot of caves and to me, once you’ve seen one cave, you’ve seen them all.  The unique part of these caves was that they are family owned and operated and there are glow worms.

Black Abyss Adventure tour: $235NZD/person, leaves at 9, 11, 2 oclock

 

Some destinations that we were not able to make it to:

Mount Alfred- 4-5 hour RT- views of the Southern Alps, requires permission from Earnslaw station (private farm that you hike through), near Queenstown, South Island

Hooker valley walk: easy but pretty, 2 mile RT hike, located in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island

Weiheki Island Wine Tour: Located in North Island– An island full of wineries- 1 hour one way by ferry
Ferry 36.50 NZD roundtrip/person

Cable Bay Winery: 11-5
$10/5 wine tastings

Goldie Winery Wed-Sun 12-4
18 Causeway Road, Surfdale, Waiheke Island, 1081

Mudbrick Winery 10-5
$10 tastings
26 church bay road, Oneroa Waiheke Island

Kennedy Point Winery Fri-Sunday 11-3

Poderi Crisci Windery 12-430
205 awaawaroa road awaawaroa bay, Waiheke Rd1

Te Mau-
no hours posted but states that theyre open Fri, Sat, Sun
218 Te Wahu drive Oneroa Waiheke Island

 

WANT TO SEE MORE FROM THIS TRAVEL SERIES?

# 1 Travel destination: Glacier National park

# 2 Travel Destination: New Zealand

#3 TRAVEL DESTINATION: BANFF & JASPER NATIONAL PARK

#4 TRAVEL DESTINATION: OREGON

#5 TRAVEL DESTINATION: UTAH

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