When I was younger I danced Polynesian style dance, Maori was always a favorite of mine. I even did a whole project on the dance style in college. I knew one day I would have to go. Fast forward a few more years and My boyfriend’s best friend decided to study in New Zealand for her Ph.D. Alright, now we have to go, so planning ensued.

A trip like this is so often a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Knowing this would likely be true for us, I wanted to cram as much as I could into the 2 weeks we had. Most people warned that it was not enough time and that we should focus on one island, a month minimum is really recommended to see it. Challenge excepted! I was determined to see both islands in the time we had. I shared the itinerary that I put together here. It even got Kiwi certification that it was a “really good itinerary”!

The Details

When We Went

We went in March, it’s the end of summer in that half of the world. We really lucked out on the weather since we heard the weather is pretty unpredictable, in fact, we bought umbrellas just for this trip and used them once. It rained plenty of times, we just somehow managed to always be driving when it was. On our first day, we were so HOT. We planned for fall weather so only have pants. The Coromandel Peninsula missed the “it’s almost fall” memo for sure.

Where we stayed

After much research, we opted to stay in AirBNBs as opposed to a camper van, which is often the preferred method of travel for most people adventuring New Zealand. We loved the idea of staying with locals and feeling more at home. Also, the only what to “free camp” is with a self-contained unit and neither David nor I was keen on emptying a potty. 

You read all about why we AirBNB here.

Getting there

Like most of our trips, we took the red-eye flight over. We find that is the is the best way to make the most of the travel time. We sleep as much as we can on the plane and hit the ground running when we land. It’s also one very effective way to combat the infamous jet lag. 

Other Details

If you haven’t read about our crazy way of traveling. You might want to check out that post before diving into these posts! You can read about that here.

If you want the stripped-down itinerary of this trip you can find that here.

Contents hide

Day 1 – Aukland & Hot Water Beach

We got to Auckland early the airport is welcoming, it has a cool Maori archway as you came in. It really set the mood for the whole trip. We made our way to our rental car. 

New Zealand is our first time driving on the other side of the road. I’ll admit we were a little worried about it. I read so many horror stories of people getting into pretty bad accidents! David is the designated driver, I am the co-pilot and navigator. We came up with this little mantra to help us keep everything straight. If you want to read more about it and some other tips for driving on the other of the road here is a post all about it. 

We got this bright orange Holden Trax, for a rental. It was cute and clean and had Apple Carplay, which came in so handy!

Aukland, New Zealand

After a 14 hour flight, the last thing I wanted to do was sit again. So we opted to find lunch in Aukland. Since driving was still new we didn’t want to go too far. We mapped our way to the center of town and parked the car. Then we took to downtown by foot to stretch our legs. We found some more Maori-inspired art but otherwise, Aukland is a pretty standard big city.

We settled on Nando’s for lunch. I insisted. When I went to England several years ago and had eaten at Nando’s and remember loving the Peri-Peri sauce. When I saw that New Zealand had one I was set on having that yummy sauce again. 

After lunch, we had seen enough of city views and headed back to the car and out of town. On the way out of town, we stopped at The Aukland Botanical Gardens. It’s a fairly large garden. We walked the main trail, which took about an hour or so. 

The Coromandel Peninsula

We headed out to the Coromandel Peninsula. When I was plotting on my map, I had several top picks in this area so when we planned the trip we opted to forgo a whole day in Aukland and go out there instead. It was some extra drive time but worth it. On our way, we found a lookout that had a little walking path, a nice view, and a good leg stretch. 

Hot Water Beach

We chose an Airbnb at Hot Water Beach. It’s a very small and quaint little town. The Airbnb was within walking distance of the beach. Admittedly we didn’t know much about this beach and didn’t do enough research. All we knew is that there was geothermal activity below the beach making the water warm. So, when our host offered us a “spade” (a shovel for all you non-kiwis) we were confused and didn’t bother to take it with us to the beach. 

Upon getting to the beach we saw a small crowd gathered down the beach. We walked up to them to find them all hanging out in small holes in the sand. It was then we learned what the “spade” was for. The geothermal activity didn’t make the waves warm. It makes under the ground warm, so when you dig holes in the sand warm water underneath comes up. Some of it’s really hot!! Luckily, fellow beachgoers were nice enough to let us borrow their spade so we could soak our feet. 

After digging for warm water and walking the beach we were hungry. We found out the hard way that there isn’t much to eat around town but we did find a little fish and chip stand a short walk from the beach. It’s located inside a campground/RV park. Being one of the few places open at this time, it was quite the popular spot. Good fish too! 

Happily fed, we walked back to our Airbnb. Which was up a steep hill. It was dark, so so dark! Thank goodness for phone flashlights! We did take a moment to look up, being the dark you could see every star in the sky. It was stunning!! After a long flight and activity-filled day, it was time to hit the hay so we can hit the ground running tomorrow. 

Day 2 – Cathedral Cove & Hobbiton

Cathedral Cove

To kick off day two we got an early start and headed up to Hahei Beach. We thought that we would grab breakfast there and then take the walk to Cathedral Cove. It’s a good thing we had some snacks on this day too. It turns out that Kiwi’s consider hours of operation a suggestion and also value their work/life balance (Which I totally support btw). Pretty much every restaurant in the peninsula is closed on Tuesdays. The only place that was open was back at Hot Water Beach (which was about a half-hour back to where we were). So we settled for our snacks and started on our walk. 

A View along the way to Cathedral cove

The walk to Cathedral Cove is about an hour and a half round trip, it’s not a very strenuous walk and so pretty. However, we thought we were coming to New Zealand in the fall… we packed for fall… so needless to say we were not prepared for the 80-degree sunny weather. We sweated and panted all the way to the cove. The path is stunning and there are plenty of places to pause and take in the vast views. In the end, you reach the beach. 

Cathedral Cove

To the left is a cave when you go inside it will open up to more beach and the view seen here. At low tide, you can walk to the other beach. We didn’t take the tides into account so we ended up being there at high tide, but the view is still fabulous and worth the walk.

Us at Cathedral Cove

To the right of the path is a stretch of beach-lined light creamy sand, bright blue waves, and lined with trees. We did not bring swimsuits with us so we just walked the beach for a little bit, sat to take in the waves, and then headed back to the car. 

Cathedral Cove Beach

At this point, we were so hungry. The only place open was back at Hot Water Beach also happened to be on the way to Matamata. We stopped and enjoyed (a little pricy) but a good meal with an extraordinary view. 

Lunch with a View of Hot Water Beach


Next on the list was Hobbiton. It’s about 2 and a half hours away. We got our tour as part of the Trilogy experience. It was a great way to see the most popular things the North Island has to offer. The package includes tickets to 3 or more experiences around the island. We did the last tour of the night.

Us inside of a Hobbit Hole

It was nice to have that golden hour glow around the Hobbit holes. During the tour, you get to try different beers, dress like a hobbit, and hang around the grounds. I had a slight panic attack during this tour. My camera stopped working!! As a photographer, this was THE WORST. My expensive camera not working two days into the trip and being no were near a place to get a new one or a repair. I relied on my phone for the rest of the tour. Fortunately, upon returning the car and changing the battery on the camera, it turned out that I had a faulty battery. Moral of the story? Pack extra batteries for your camera!

Hobbit hole in Hobbiton

Once we finished up the tour we headed back to Matamata where we had an AirBNB. Very cute little house walking distance from the main strip in town, with a lovely host. We walked down to the main part of town and had dinner at a little Turkish place. 

Day 3 – Waitomo & Rotorua

We had to get an early start today! We packed a lot into today and it was unusually from other days because it had specific appointments. Typically we only do one “planned thing” in a day when we do them. The Trilogy Experience we purchased included Cave tours and entry into the Te Puia cultural center (in addition to Hobbiton from yesterday) You don’t have to smash these into a single day but we are gluttons for punishment and wanted to pack more things in on other days so we decided to pull out all the stops. 

The Ruakuri Caves

Our first tour was at 10 am… two hours away. So we got up early and made our way over. The tour was of the Ruakuri caves. We walked around and around and around and around the large spiral staircase to the entrance of the cave.  Once inside you can feel the damp cool air and the quiet dripping sound of drips from the ceiling. There are stunning stalactites and stalagmites all over. They have a sublet shiny sheen. There are also parts that are opaque. It’s really amazing to look at it all. We even found a couple of glow worms! We learned about all the rock formations and the history of the cave, it was very cool. 

Raukuri Cave. Waitomo New Zealand

Glowworm Caves

Immediately following the Ruakuri Cave tour was the boat tour of the Glowworm Caves. We had heard all about the glowworms and knew it was a must-see. It did not disappoint! You can’t bring cameras on that tour so I don’t have any pictures from it. It is a quick tour, the guide was funny and taught us a ton about the worms. Magnificent and disgusting little creatures. We got a quick lunch there and then headed to Rotorua for the next experience.

Glow Worm Caves, Waitomo New Zealand

Te Puia

It was another couple of hours to Rotorua, but we made a good time. We didn’t have to be at Te Puia until the evening so we went to our AirBNB and checked it before heading over. It was located right on the outside of town so it wasn’t too far. Thanks to the geysers the town is a bit smelly. You notice it more as you get into the city. We were pleased that we chose to stay just out of town to avoid that a little more. 

Geyser in Rotorua New Zealand

Te Puia is so cool! There is so much history there. it’s a cultural center and school for Maori people. We went on a tour around the center and learned so much. Then we walked the grounds. We went over to the geyser and got to watch it erupt. Now, they say it doesn’t erupt consistently but it was erupting most of our visit. We saw a kiwi bird! They are so cute and weird. We also saw the underground oven they use for the hangi. It smelled so good!

Hangi, underground oven, Rotorua New Zealand

The Haka

Once we wandered around it was time for the traditional Haka. I am familiar with these because I danced Polynesian dance for many years when I was younger. It was so neat to see one in person! We even got to participate! I got to do the poi balls, which is kind of cheating since I already knew how and David did the actual haka, which is a chant and a sort of dance. After the show, we got to eat the buffet. It had a bunch of food. Something for everyone for sure. I passed on most of the non-traditional stuff and stuck to the hangi and other Maori foods. I loved that the whole thing is run by Maori people and that they take the time to teach us all about their culture. 

After such a crazy day, we were happy to retire to the Airbnb for a good sleep. 

Day 4 – Rotorua & Taupo


Day 4 was, of course, action-packed as usual. We had a plan for the day but when we arrived at our Airbnb the night before our lovely host made some adjustments he thought would be a better use of the time. Who are we to argue with locals?


We did keep our plan to go Zorbing. It’s a unique experience, for sure. You can read all about that in this post if you want! Basically, you roll down a hill in a big ball, not unlike a hamster in a ball. 

Zorbing in New Zealand

Exploring Rotorua

After that we explored Rotorua. We went to Saint Faith’s, it’s a traditional Maori church, we had a look around the area and the church. We also explored Sulfur Pointe quickly. Quick stops for a good photo and to get a feel for the town.

Saint Faiths Church, Rotorua New Zealand

The Redwoods

Then we headed over the Redwoods and walked along the Grove Memorial Track. There is a bunch of trails but we went with the shorter one so we could pack more into the rest of the day. The trees are so tall! The area is lush and the trees provide shade. It’s so peaceful and nice. There was a cute little diner place right next to the park, we shared lunch before heading on to the next. 

Redwood Forest Walk

To Taupo

We headed out of town towards Taupo. There is plenty to see along the way. The first stop was the Blue and Green lakes lookout. We got good looking for the little lookout signs. This one also had a regular sign. We wandered around the car park for a min and then found some stairs that lead to a spot to see both lakes at the same time. We snapped a few pics and then jumped back in the car, down the road a little way was another lookout, we almost missed it! it’s called the Taraware lookout. It’s a small lookout with a Maori statue and a great view of a lake. 

Blue and Green Lakes

One last stop before Taupo. There is a little spot called the Hot-Cold Pools we had heard about, We stopped to check it out. It’s a little swimming spot where two rivers meet, One side hot and the other cold, hence the name. We took a quick dip and then headed on. 


Off to Taupo.

Craters of the Moon

Just outside of Taupo is a place called Craters of the Moon. We took a 45 min walk around just before closing. Good timing! It’s an interesting place with craters and hot spots that steam. The walking path is circular so you can just make a loop around and see all of the different craters and things. 

Creators of the moon

Huka Falls

Not too far from there is Huka Falls. We followed the signs to get there where we found a bridge with a few over the falls. I have never seen such blue water before! It was AMAZING! We had read about a walking track near the falls but didn’t see it around the bridge. Upon heading back we saw signs for the lookout (we really like lookouts) and decided to check it out. It was here we found the walking path. It’s about 30 min of New Zealand Bush that leads to a different view of the falls. 

Huka Falls

Our original plan was to stay in Taupo one night but a friend of mine from high school has family in New Zealand so we opted to detour and stay a night with them. Taupo is so cute! It’s the one part of the trip we felt like we missed something, I would have loved to stay a night there. We drove through it on the way out to Hawks Bay. 

Taupo Lake

It was a pretty long drive out there. Longer than we expected and there was a good amount of rain. We got in late but safe. We had a great time chatting and then went to bed. 

Day 5 – Hawkes Bay & Wellington

Hawkes Bay

Our friend’s view of Hawkes Bay

Our friend’s house was so pretty! We opted to delay out leaving a couple of hours in the morning so we could see her garden out back and a little of the area. A fun little tidbit I loved. They do mow the lawn, they borrow the neighbor’s cow for a while and let it eat the long grass. I found this very amusing, should I have a lawn one day, I would love to have a cow to maintain the lawn instead of mowing it. The garden was so pretty and had a great view of the bay. We could have stayed and chatted all day but we had to get on the road. 


This was the longest day of driving. Wellington is about 4 to 5 hours from Hawkes Bay. Unlike most of the other days, there were a lot fewer stops to make on the way to help break it up. We did stop at some spots to stretch our legs though. 

Once we got into Wellington we popped into the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

We got there a little late but still had plenty of time to wander and learn all about the Maori Culture and the country. Like Most Museums, the exhibits change, though there are several ones that are their long-term.

There are several exhibits that are about the Maori. The Treaty of Waitangi and Mana Whenua are two of them we saw. Passport is all about those how immigrated. It was really interesting to learn all about the Maori people and how New Zealand came to be what it is now. At the time there were exhibits about the native animals as well.

The last exhibit we explored was about the tectonic plates and how the earthworks, I remember learning about that in school, it was a neat reminder of all of that stuff. That one was a limited-time exhibit though. Oh, and of course, we paid a visit to the largest squid ever caught… it was indeed humongous. 

Really big squid!

Dinner in Wellington

After a long drive and a stroll about the museum, we were hungry. Yelp isn’t nearly as popular in New Zealand but in the bigger cities, it can still be handy. We found a place called Burger Riot, the burgers were good.

The bar Burger Riot is inside of.

Garage Project Brewery

After a good meal, we walked over to Garage Project to round out the day. Craft brew is pretty new to New Zealand, Garage Project is one of the larger ones and came recommended by a friend. You can read more about that here. David being the craft brew connoisseur he is we couldn’t miss a visit. 

Tasty beer flight!

Sleepy Time Again

So after all that we retired to our AirBNB. We stayed with a gracious host. Her place featured a great view, a cute little west highland terrier, and access to laundry. It’s located on a crazy hill, very steep and the roads are so tiny. Overall it made for a great night’s sleep.

View from our Airbnb

Day 6 – Wellington to the South Island

This was the last day on the North Island. Just like that. It really flew by! Our Airbnb was close to a great lookout called Mt. Victoria lookout which had views of the whole city. After that, we headed over to a fun little restaurant called Fidels. It’s Fidel Castro themed and the food is really good! It’s a popular place so we, of course, had to wait. It was well worth it though. 

A day in Wellington just wouldn’t be complete without a ride up the famous cable cars, so we headed there after breakfast.

The Cable Cars

They are really cool, It dropped us off at a great park with a nice view. The cars come every hour or so, we stayed long enough to enjoy the view and wonder a bit but we had much more planned for the day so we headed back down.

We found a Starbucks in town since they are few and far between, as a Barista I always find a foreign Starbucks to get a mug. Then we headed to the ferry to head to the South Island after we dropped off the rental car. 

New Zealand Trip: The South Island

We settled into a table towards the front near a window for a view. It’s about a 3-hour journey, the views on the last half were really pretty.

We even saw a pod of dolphins. They seemed to be welcoming us to the South Island. It was really neat. 

Once we got off the ferry, which lands in Picton, we picked up our new rental car. Some rental car companies allow you to take the car across others don’t. Ours was not one that allowed that but there isn’t a charge to pick one up on the other side. Of course, we didn’t know that so it was a bit of an adventure to get it all worked out, but it eventually was. We got a ford on this leg. We didn’t like it nearly as much as our Trax from the first leg, alas, a car is a car. 

There is a great walking trail with views of the whole bay. It took us about 45 min to walk the loop, it was just before sunset so it was cool and the light was so pretty for pictures!


After the walk, we headed to our Airbnb in Blenheim. It wasn’t too far, maybe 30 minutes but it would give us a headstart for our journey the next day. After all of the day’s excitement, we were hungry, of course. We took to yelp, Which really wasn’t too helpful but it led us to a super tasty Indian place nearby called Mango. We got in pretty late in the evening and in true New Zealand fashion, most things were closed. So we really lucked out finding a place that was open but also super tasty. 

Tired and Fed it was time for another sleep. 

Day 7 – Kaikoura & Christchurch

The trip from Blenheim to Christchurch is about 4 hours, fortunately, there is an adorable little town halfway between the two called Kaikoura that broke up the trip nicely. We found out that whale watching is really good here. We booked a trip but it ended up being too windy to go out. The unfortunate thing about how we travel is that there isn’t a lot of room for rescheduling so we didn’t get a chance to take the tour. Should we go back, it’s on the top of the list!  We looked into swimming with the dolphins, but it was booked up. I regret not booking those things further in advance. 


View of Point Kean, south island New Zealand

I mentioned before that one thing that brought us to New Zealand was our friend living there for her Ph.D. She lived in Dunedin, we were ending our trip there. Out of pure coincidence, she was visiting another friend in Kaikoura and Christchurch the same day we were so, bonus! We got an extra day hanging out with her.

Another view of point kean, south island New Zealand

New Zealand is a beautiful country, however, so we were not without things to explore. We went over to Point Kean, It’s a great walk. It started with a great view, then we walked along the rocks. Not too far down is a bunch of seals. There was a bigger colony of them if we wanted to keep walking but we wanted to get on to Christchurch. 

Lazy seal at point kean,  south island New Zealand


When we got to Christchurch, we were hungry. We all went to a little burger place in town. It’s called Slick. It is a very small place, if you aren’t looking for it you will surely drive right by. The building is painted with great art. It has an… interesting… theme. If you are one to partake in recreational marijuana then you will find this place homey. Living in San Diego, I am no stranger to the marijuana community, and while I don’t really partake myself, one thing I know is that stoners know good food. This place was no exception. The burgers were really good and so were the fries. 

Slick Burger, Christchurch, south island New Zealand

After dinner, we wandered to the center of town. One of the things that I love about traveling is the happy accidents. I don’t plan our trips by the second. I basically pick the day to be somewhere and kind of wing it, save for a few activities. One of these accidents happened while in Christchurch. We happened to be there during the annual Christchurch Lantern Festival.

Christchurch Lantern Festival

Christchurch Lantern Festival,  south island New Zealand

Once the sunset the town center was scattered with fun lit-up lanterns of all types. I had heard of lantern festivals before but I admittedly thought there were the smaller paper lanterns, like the ones they light and release in the sky. These are not those. They are large and are in shapes, traditional Chinese icons like buildings, ships, dragons, fish, and pandas. There was also a theater showing Chinese puppets. It was really neat to watch. 

Us a the Christchurch Lantern festival

Christchurch had a pretty nasty earthquake recently. Many of the roads are still damaged and closed, the town center has a church that was damaged. It’s currently being restored. The scaffolding all around really hits home and makes you feel for the people. 

City center of Christchurch after earthquake, south island New Zealand

We got an Airbnb at a BNB right across the street from the main park. It was really nice. Good end to a great day. 

Day 8 – Christchurch to Hokitika

Got an early head start this morning, not unlike most mornings when we travel. Our AirBNB was across the street from a big park in Christchurch so we took a stroll through it before heading out. We were driving from the east to the west of the island so it was going to be a trek. Fortunately, there were plenty of stops along the way. Our first stop was Castle Hill.

Castle Hill

Castle hill New Zealand Trip

We walked to the entrance of Cave Stream Scenic Reserve. It’s a very nice scenic walk, you end up at the entrance to a cave which, with proper attire, you can hike through to the other side. We opted to keep it short and just check out the mouth of the cave and head back. 

cave stream scenic reserve New Zealand Trip

The next stop was Devil’s Punch Bowl.

Devil’s Punch Bowl

This waterfall was one of the best I saw in New Zealand, Might actually be the best one. It seems to be a little lesser known than other areas of New Zealand but it was still plenty busy so I wouldn’t call it a secret. it’s not a terribly long walk, maybe a half-hour depending on how quickly you walk or climb rather. There is A LOT of stairs leading to the falls. We were wobbly in the legs for sure by the time we got to the lookout. It was well worth every step though. Great view and a nice cool mist from the falls.

Devils punch bowl New Zealand Trip

The next stop was a quick one, a view of the Otira Viaduct. The view was spectacular!

Otira Viaduct New Zealand Trip

We were lucky to stumble upon a couple of silly Kea birds too. They are funny birds, smart and brave. They will walk right up and take things from you (but they are wild and do bite so I don’t recommend trying it) They also are known to love playing (and breaking) windshield wipers and car antenna so watch out!

Kea bird New Zealand Trip


We arrived in Hokitika in the early evening. We found a fun Airbnb right on the beach, we stayed in a yurt! The town is not big, we walked in less than 30 min. We loved this town. This town was one of my top things we did on this trip. There was a neat clock tower in the center of town.

Hokitika Town center New Zealand Trip

We needed some dinner, the town this small only has so many options but that wasn’t an issue. We found a pizza place on the beach called Fat Pipi’s. The pizza was really tasty, we took it to go and watched the sunset from sunset point then we walked the beach to our Airbnb.

fat pipis pizza New Zealand Trip

The sunset was incredible. I live near the beach and still can say I haven’t seen a sunset like that before. 

sunset view New Zealand Trip

We found the famous Hokitika sign too. Of course, got some pictures with it and the chair statue nearby. 

Hokitika sign New Zealand Trip

Glow Worm Del

Once night fell we walked over to the Glow Worm Dell. While it is much smaller than the Waitomo caves it was still a nice walk and it was nice to see them walking instead of on a boat. I brought a tripod and got a couple of long-exposure shots. 

Glow worm dell New Zealand Trip

The night sky was stunning since the town is small there isn’t too much light pollution. Since I already had my tripod out I set it up outside the yurt and got some neat night shots of the beach. 

Night Beach shot hokitika New Zealand Trip

Our yurt was cute and cozy, you could hear the waves crashing outside. Just our luck though it was the one night that decided to pour rain all night, on the yurt. It was an experience but we didn’t sleep to sound. Still worth it though. 

airbnb yurt New Zealand Trip

Day 9 – Hokitika to Fox Glacier

Hokitika Beach in the morning

We got up early on this day to make sure we had ample time to see all the things on the list, we walked into town, we got some breakfast at Stella Cafe. We loved Hokitika so much we wanted to spend a little more time there.


After breakfast, we headed to Dorothy Falls but it, unfortunately, wasn’t open. Which meant some backtracking for us. We stopped at a lake on that way back to stretch our legs and take a break from driving. There was this cute mama bird and her babies there. We watched them for a minute the mama bird was not afraid of humans. She thought David had something to give her so she followed him around and tried to peck him! They managed to get themselves behind our car so we had to spend an extra few minutes coaxing them away to safety. 

Hokitika Gorge

From there we headed off to Hokitika Gorge. It only took about 30 minutes to get to the water, it was so blue. Like mind-blowing, oh my gawd blue! We stood there in awe for a moment only for it to be interrupted by a tickling feeling on our ankles… it was those blasted sand flies we had read all about but had yet to encounter before this point. Fortunately, we had noticed a guy when we got there that was covered in bites so we bathed in deer-filled bug spray (link to spray) before we started to the gorge. I snapped a million pics and David got some video and we headed out. 

Hokitika Gorge new zealand

A Couple of Walks

We drove on for a bit and then stopped at Mananui bush and beach walk. It was a pretty short walk, only about 20 minutes which leads to a nice view of the beach. 

Mananui Bush and Beach Walk

It is good that that walk was so short because the next stop was Okarito Trig Walk. It’s a steep walk! 

Okarito Trig Walk New Zealand
Okarito Trig Walk New Zealand

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier was next on the list. It’s 30 minutes from the carpark to the viewing place. There is another trail called Sentinel Rock that’s only about 20 minutes and it gave us a different view of the glacier. We were bummed to not get a little closer but we had walked on a glacier in Iceland so we figured were didn’t miss too much. though, it wasn’t a New Zealand glacier. Oh well. What can you do? 

Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand

This was the only place that we didn’t get to stay in an Airbnb. There was not a single one around, well that’s a lie. There were like 2 but they were well over $200 for the night and that was not budget. Our friend that lives there recommended The Ivory Towers hostel. We got our own room, had to share a bathroom but it was a great night for the price. Right next to the hostel was a place called Big Foot where we got some food before calling it a day. 

Big Foot Restaurant New Zealand

Day 10 – Fox Glacier to Wanaka

Another day of driving ahead. The only problem with wanting to cram both islands into two weeks is that you do spend a good amount of tie in the car. Fortunately, today’s 3-hour journey flew right by. There was a ton of stops along the way. 

The first stop was Peak View Point, it’s a spot just past Lake Matheson. You can get a really nice view of the glaciers. It is just a quick stop. 

Lake Matheson

After that, we walked along the loop around Lake Matheson. Luckily the lake was still calm so I was able to get this amazing reflection of the skyline.

The walk took about 2 hours, we stopped at all the little lookouts and got distracted but the bright blue mushrooms along the path. 

Once we saw all we wanted to see we headed on to Fox Glacier. There is an hour-long walk down the glacier but it was closed due to weather so we went to the little lookout and got another look at it. 

Onward we went. Along the way, we passed Bruce Bay. We pulled over for a quick stop to stretch our legs and get a picture. 

Knights Point Lookout was next on the list. It had bathrooms! Our bladders were so relieved. There are a couple of lookout spots so we looked out and take some more pictures. Get a big memory card for your camera on this trip! You will need it. 

Next, we went to Ship Creek. There is a nice view of the lake and it leads to a beach that was great for finding shells and pretty rocks if you are into that sort of thing. Which I am, so I did. 

The next 3 stops were very quick but worth the stops. Roaring Billy falls is a little person-shaped waterfall. Ok, ya, that’s a bit of a stretch, but I mean, look at it, it kinda does right? or maybe Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas…. I shall call him Billy. For obvious reasons. 

Thunder Creek was one of the more impressive waterfalls, it is quite tall. So crazy that it is just nestled there right on the side of the road. 

Fantail Falls was the last of these stops. Keep an eye out for the fantails! They are little birds. 

The Blue Pools

The Blue Pools walk was after this. We contemplated whether we needed to stop here or not. There wasn’t a ton of information on what it was when I had looked it up. Boy, I am glad we stopped. It takes about 30 minutes to walk it. There is a tension bridge to cross and at the end, Large blue pools. So it’s appropriately named. They are so blue. Unreal blue. I am sure you are looking at my pictures thinking “that has to be photoshopped’ well I assure you it is not. I edited it only to match what is actually there and it is THIS BLUE. People there were swimming and while we were tempted, March is not swimming weather. 

The last stop before the town was Lake Hawea lookout. There is a lot of lookouts in New Zealand. You get a great view of the lake here. 

We finally make it to Wanaka. We had Airbnb with a great location so we walked into town for some dinner and ended up having Indian again. Indian food is readily available in New Zealand and is very kind in the pocketbook. Bonus, It’s tasty! 

Sleep time.

Day 11 – Wanaka to Queenstown to Te Anau


Wakana is a cute little town, we spent the morning exploring a bit. There is a debate on the pronunciation of the town. The majority call it “wan-a-ka” but if you went to the Te Puia cultural center on the north island and got a lesson in how the Maori language is pronounced then “wan-A-ka” makes more sense. However you say it, it doesn’t change the charm of the town. 

There was a cute little breakfast place tucked away in an ally called Federal Diner. We grabbed some Eggs Benedict which we found to be the popular breakfast in New Zealand. Though it’s not like how it is in the states. It’s really just some sort of toast, whatever they choose with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce on top. 

Lake Wanaka

After breakfast, we went down to the lake, appropriately called Lake Wanaka. When looking up places to visit on our trip we kept coming up on this little tree that grows in the middle of a lake. We both thought it would be cool to see but figured we wouldn’t have time to see it since our time in Wanaka was limited. But upon arrival, I looked it up again just to be sure and was pleasantly surprised to learn it was just a short walk around the lake. We walked the edge of the lake heading left when facing the lake and walk for about 15 minutes and found ourselves at “that Wanaka tree”. Despite being small and in the water you can’t miss it, the lake shores are pretty empty except the clump of fellow travelers stopped to photograph the tree and take selfies with it.

People come from all around to get the perfect picture of this little tree that started off as a fence post. I feel like this little tree teaches a lesson to all. Despite being cut down and made into a post near a lake it still grew back into a tree. That’s persistence if I have ever seen it. After snapping our pics of the little tree we walked back into town to start the next leg of the day’s trip. 


We headed out to Queenstown, we made a stop at the Cardrona Bra Fence which is literally a fence of bras, it’s for breast cancer. Ladies from all over the world stop here and strap their over-the-shoulder boulder-holder to this fence along the side of the road. Apparently, this started just before the turn of the century with just a couple of bras, grew to 60 then they were removed. Word spread and then there was 200. Those were also removed. People kept putting them back and it got so out of hand that they decided to just let it be a quirky little tourist stop. Why fight it? 

We wanted to go horseback riding but we just couldn’t find a time that worked that had available. This is a great place to horseback ride so I wish we would have thought ahead and made a reservation.


We grabbed some lunch in Queenstown, we had a burger at Devil Burger, which was pretty tasty, and took a walk around the town. Our friend that we were visiting insisted we go to this cool two-story ice cream shop called Patagonia for some delicious ice cream with a nice view.

Then it was off to Te Anu to spend the night. Along the way, we got a little delayed due to a good ol‘ New Zealand roadblock

Day 12 – Milford Sound

Today was all about Milford Sound. One of the many beautiful sounds in New Zealand. This is one of the more popular ones. It’s about an hour from Te Anu, which is one of the closest cities to it. There is a large tunnel you will have to pass through that you often have to wait your turn for, luckily we were going with a friend who had been so she knew to leave early enough to account for it.

You can read more about Milford Sound here.

A view of Milford Sound from the boat tour
A view of Milford Sound from the boat tour.

The Chasm

On our way down from the sound we stopped to check out the chasm, it’s a short walk. It’s really something to see. The powerful river and waterfall. You stand on a bridge as it all flows below you. It’s really neat! 

The Chasm waterfall in new Zealand
A short walk from the road is the Chasm. A powerful waterfall along the river.

We stayed in Te Anu again. 

Day 13- Te Anau to Dunedin

We decided to ditch the alarm this day and catch an extra Z or two. But not too many of course, places to go! People to see! Then we set on our way to Dunedin from Te Anau. Which we learned is said done-E-din, btw…not dune-din to dun-i-din. Boy, were we happy we heard someone say it out loud before did. Dodged a real doozy there. 

Te anau new zealand


Along the way we stopped in Gore for pies, meat pies are a thing in New Zealand. They aren’t like pie pies. They are more like hand pies or pot pies. Very good. The places were wanted to go were closed though. ‘Cuz New Zealand; and their hours being a suggestion, not a rule. So we found a place that was open that had them. They aren’t too hard to find. 

Gore New Zealand


We passed a large sign that said “welcome to Dunedin” our friend quickly informed us not to get too excited, we still had quite a ways to go. She wasn’t sure why the sign was where it was but it’s a mean trick if you are tired or have to pee!

Once in town we walked around and explored, there is a lot of interesting building in town. This town wears its history on its sleeve. It was settled by the Scottish, there are plenty of little nods to this around the town. In fact, they still share a sister relationship with Edinburgh.   

dunedin uni new zealand

We went to a place called Nova where you can fill your own over-priced but delicious donut. You get this little ball of pastry and a large menacing syringe filled with sweet deliciousness. Then you literally inject the donut with yummy filling. 

To burn some calories we went to take a walk up the steepest road in the world, Baldwin Street. Well, David burned some at least. I was happy to hang out at the bottom and watch him walk up.

Baldwin Street Dunedin New Zealand

Dunedin seems to always have something going on. While we were there was something called The Fringe festival was so we caught a comedy show, an improv comedy dude name Gary Starlight, It was an experience, to say the least, we had a good laugh, which is what counts. 

Dinner at Home Edition

After all that of course we needed some dinner. It was a place called Home Edition. Which is Chinese and Thai food. The pork belly and lo mien were delicious, however, unless you like the smell of wet dog, I don’t recommend the Pad Thai, though it did taste better than it smelled. Still. Sorry to be harsh. I tend to stay positive on these things but I have to give heads up here. The staff was so nice and the other dishes were very good and would recommend them for sure. Just not the pad Thai. 

Street art in Dunedin New Zealand
Cool Street Art walking around town

After dinner, we went back to our friend’s house to play with her puppies and hang out some more. I should clarify that her dogs aren’t young, quite the contrary rather. I just tend to refer to all canines as puppies. 

We finished the night going up to Mount Cargill and giving long exposure sky shots a try. It was so so cold! But I learned something and got some cool photos so it was all worth it.

Starry night in Dunedin on our New Zealand trip

Day 14 – Dunedin & The Otago Peninsula

Alas, Our time in New Zealand was coming to an end. We made sure to get a later flight out of town though so we could have one more full day. And also so it would be nighttime when we left so we might get some shut-eye. We chose to explore the Otago Peninsula today. It’s really a beautiful place. 

First, we stopped to see the Albatross. There are several lookouts with great views. We were lucky enough to see an albatross flying! There is a little welcome center with a bunch of information about the birds and the area. It’s very informative. 

After that, we headed over to Sandymount. The views are spectacular. You will walk up Mount Cargill and get a 360-degree view of Dunedin. 

That pretty much took up the day and it was time to get to the airport. The Dunedin airport is pretty tiny. We still wanted to get there with plenty of time. 

One Last “Hoorah”

I had bought a whole bunch of fancy New Zealand wine to give as gifts to my friends. I had packed a pretty large suitcase for the trip and my gifts had caused the weight of my bag to be much too high. No amount of shuffling to the other bag was helping. It turned out that even without any of my liquid gifts my bag was 47 pounds! 50 pounds is the max. They wanted 100 dollars to take it overweight. So sadly I left the wine with our friend. Insert a crying emoji here. Are emojis appropriate for a blog post? oh well. You get it. I was sad. I managed to save one bottle which broke in transit… hooray for wine-covered clothes. Moral of the story: Don’t pack a big suitcase, don’t try and pack wine in a checked bag. 

TTFN New Zealand

It was bitter-sweet leaving New Zealand. It was a magical place with wonderful people. On top of the fact that David had to say bye to his bestie. I am so glad that we made sure to get out there to see the country and to see her while she was living there.

Love this itinerary and want to swipe a copy for your next trip? No problem, I got you. Get my Workflowy itinerary for this trip, just enter your email and I’ll send it right over. You can use it for reference or make a copy for yourself to make notes and changes too.

Let me know what you are most excited about in the comments!

Show 89 Comments


    • admin

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading it! It’s indeed a lovely country

    • admin

      It was an amazing trip. The north island is cool, the South Island is breathtaking!

  1. Kristi

    I can’t wait to visit New Zealand! What a wonderful trip.

  2. alison

    I totally want a cow in my backyard! What a fun drive and craft beer to go with it. Sound like a great visit.

    • admin

      So cool right? Organic lawn mower that also fertilizes at the same time! It was a really good trip.

  3. I love the idea of a cow to mow your lawn! In Colorado, they let the goats loose.

  4. I would love to visit New Zealand In the near future!

    • admin

      It’s such a pretty place! Should be on everyone’s list

  5. OK! This was so cool to read and see. New Zealand is one of our top bucket list destinations, and we are planning a trip there next Christmas. I am so excited!

    • admin

      Awesome! Be sure to check out the other days too. I have a post with the itinerary too if it helps you plan your trip. You will have a blast!!

    • admin

      Yes! It’s a really cool little brewery. We seek out the local craft brew.

  6. Sounds like you guys had an amazing day. Love the story about the cows “mowing” the lawn for your friends. LOL!!! I would have loved to have seen a picture of the burger you had.

  7. Wow! This looks like an amazing place to visit! Your Airbnb had a great little view!

  8. kmf

    New Zealand is on my bucket list so am loving to live through you vicariously on all your posts!

    • admin

      I’m so glad you are enjoying these posts! hopefully, you can do the same trip soon!!

  9. I love your long exposure pictures! Also, I haven’t heard of this part of New Zealand yet… Thank you for sharing another beautiful aspect of that amazing country!

  10. Pam

    Your pictures are beautiful! New Zealand is a place I’d like to get to someday …

  11. I enjoy waterfalls. New Zeland is on my list of places to see.

  12. Gorgeous! Did not expect anything less from New Zealand and this post does not disappoint. Great pics!

  13. I think my favorite part in the Yurt. How cool to stay so close to the beach.

  14. The photos are breathtaking~thanks for all the details.On my bucket list!

  15. I’d love to go to New Zealand. Castle Hill is amazing. Did you book your yurt ahead of time or before the trip?

    • admin

      The yurt was an Airbnb in someone’s backyard. We booked it ahead of time!

  16. Michele

    Your pictures are phenomenal! Absolutely amazing! Hoping to visit New Zealand one day!

  17. A yurt?! On the beach?!? I am game! Your pictures are absolutely beautiful!

  18. Wow – those photos are gorgeous. You definitely captured the beauty of the area.

  19. jen

    New Zealand seems so magical. I hope to see it one day

  20. New Zealand looks like an amazing place to visit, with all of the beautiful scenery!I would love to go someday!

  21. Wow, wow, wow! New Zealand looks fantastic and I would love to visit here one day.

  22. I can not wait to go to this side of the world. Everything looks amazing and there were so many dolphins in that pod!

    • admin

      They were so fun! Seemed to be welcoming us in and showing the way. So cute!

    • admin

      It was really neat! They really seemed like a welcoming committee!

  23. Clara

    You used one of my favorite phrases 😂 “it was really neat”. Your whole trip has seemed really neat to me!

  24. Wow. New Zealand is definitely a bucket list place. Can’t wait to visit. I saw a pod of dolphins like that once. They were mating and searching for another pod of dolphins. It was fascinating to watch!

  25. Wow, the area is so beautiful. We would hike there when we visit.

  26. Lisa Manderino

    Tha tlooks amazing! What agreat experience!

  27. Liz

    New Zealand looks absolutely stunning. It’s definitely on my bucket list!

  28. kmf

    Beautiful images…looks like a dream vacation. And great job maximizing your experiences in two weeks.

  29. Oh man, I don’t know when I’m going to get to this part of the world but these photos remind me that I need to start planning an incredible trip!

  30. New Zealand is so beautiful! I really don’t know very much about it. It looks like you had an amazing trip!

  31. You would think since I have family in NZ that I would have already been there but no. Sadly, it’s still on the list of must-see places. Thanks for the inspiration.

  32. Wow! Our trsveling styles sound similar – airbnbs, red-eye flights, packing as much as possible into a tight schedule, etc – I like it! 😊

  33. jen

    Awesome!!! And I love the layout too!!! I want to go there really badly!! Someday..

  34. I’m dying to experience New Zealand! I’m all about seeing EVERYTHING even if time is tight. Your itineraries are amazing. Thank you!

  35. Hunter has been there. He suggested we should go back so that I can see everything too.

  36. What gorgeous pictures – definitely sparks the wanderlust and inspires the traveler inside me.

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