New Zealand in a Nutshell

In late November/early December of 2012, I had the incredible opportunity of taking a trip to New Zealand. While I could have probably written an entire blog about my experience there, I decided it would be fun to do a recap post for anyone who is interested (and also to encourage EVERYONE to travel there).

One of my best friends, Dustin, currently lives in Auckland. When he moved there, I knew I had to jump on the opportunity to get to that part of the world while I had a good friend living there. I booked the cheapest flight I could find ($1,002 roundtrip from LAX to Auckland, with a stopover in Fiji). **While Air Pacific is significantly cheaper than most airlines in that region, I do not encourage anyone to travel with them. They canceled/changed almost every leg of my trip and were awful to deal with. Spend the extra $$ and fly Air New Zealand. You won’t regret it.** 

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As luck had it, Dustin had a couple other friends who also wanted to come visit. Unfortunately they work real-world jobs and could only come for 2 weeks, while I was able to make it into a 23 day trip. My first 4 days were spent in Auckland. Dustin still had to work, so I took some day-trips and did some solo-exploring. Then he and I would meet up in the evening and he would show me the best happy hour spots downtown has to offer or we would have a relaxing evening catching up like best friends do. Highlights of my first week: hiking to the top of Rangitoto, a volcanic crater island off the coast of Auckland; taking a silent row-boat ride through the Glowworm Caves of Waitomo; and naturally, catching up with my best friend who lives on the other side of the world.

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My first weekend, Dustin, his friend Mallory, and I roadtripped up to the peninsula of Coromandel for a couple days. It. Was. Incredible. We camped at a crazy cool bird observatory and got to feed the animals, soaked for hours in self-made hot water pools on a beach with 100s of others doing the same, and had the most relaxing day playing frisbee and soaking up the sun at Cathedral Cove beach.

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Shortly after our weekend in Coromandel, Rachel, Alex and Kyle arrived in Auckland, and finally, the 5 of us were ready to set up exploring the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We went up to the Bay of Islands, the northern point of the North Island, and did a 2-day kayaking trip. We spent day 1 on a sailboat in, what I would call Heaven. Our captain then dropped us off on an island with our kayaks and gear, and we kayaked to another island and found our campsite. We camped overnight, went on a wild Kiwi hunt (the endangered national bird of New Zealand) and then spent most of the next day kayaking back to the mainland.. in the rain. Not to worry, we still had a blast.

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After a crazy night back in Auckland at the Calvin Harris concert, the 5 of us flew the next day to Christchurch in the South Island. Not much to say about this city.. most of it was destroyed in the devastating earthquakes of 2010. We then drove across the South Island through Arthur’s Pass National Park and saw some of the most beautiful scenery I will probably ever see in my life. We spent the night in a small glacier town, and woke the next day to hike to Franz Josef Glacier. It was pretty cool to see a glacier in person.. this giant natural chunk of ice in the middle of the wilderness, but unfortunately we weren’t able to hike onto it (unless we wanted to spend a couple hundred dollars).

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On our way to Queenstown, we spent time in Wanaka and Arrowtown, both precious little mountain towns. and finally… we arrived in Queenstown.. the city I was most excited about visiting. Queenstown is a small ski-town in the mountains of the South Island, sitting on a breathtakingly beautiful lake. In both summer and winter it is the capitol of outdoor adventure by day and partying by night. We saw beautiful sights, made great hostel friends, and had a blast. I also injured my foot in a bar our first night there and had to use crutches for the rest of the trip, but those details aren’t important ;).

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After sadly leaving the South Island, we went back up North and spent our last 2 days in Auckland at a black sand beach and touring 5 wineries on Waiheke Island, off the coast of Auckland. Our trip would’ve ended with the wineries, but then Air Pacific screwed up our flights and we had to spend 24 hours in Fiji, accommodated by the airline (poor us). Rachel, Kyle, Alex and I made the most of our day in paradise and enjoyed exploring the local life of the markets, towns and bars.

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I was so sad to leave New Zealand, say bye to my friends and end the trip of a lifetime. By the end, I had even picked up some of the Kiwi slang and was a pro at driving on the other side of the road! 😉 It truly was the most beautiful country I have ever seen with some of the friendliest people in the world. I thought this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but after spending 3 weeks there, I am dying to return at some point.

If anyone is thinking of traveling to NZ and has any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! Stop thinking about making this trip happen and just book your ticket.. you won’t regret it. Kia Ora!

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