We decided to go to New Zealand because our friends were getting married in Wollongong, Australia near the end of December. We debated traveling around Australia “Oz” but Australia is a VERY large country. It is actually as large as mainland USA with the sticking out parts (Maine, Florida) cut off. After doing some research I found that December is a CRAZY BUSY AND EXPENSIVE time to travel in Oz. It’s both school holidays and Christmas vacation so people are going all over and prices are jacked way up. Couple that with the fact that a huge section of Oz is uninhabitable, and people basically travel the coasts, and it looked like a not practical or fun plan. So we decided to tackle a place that is much more manageable, famed to also be beautiful, and a much smaller country-New Zealand. As is frequently the case when we travel, we got our plane tickets first and then figured out the details.
We flew into Auckland, on the North Island, early in the morning and basically had the day and night to explore. We rented a car and did as much as we could in the short time. We drove around a little, but Tom had to adjust to driving on the left (wrong) side of the road AND the right (wrong) side of the car-no easy feat in city traffic.
Since neither of us knew very much about New Zealand, we decided to go to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. This was very interesting and gave us a much better understanding of colonialism in New Zealand, the wars that had shaped the country, and the Maori culture and language.
We parked the car and did a mad walking tour of the city!
Found a rose garden in the Botanical Garden with an aptly named rose bush.
This was one of my favorite parts of our Auckland stay! We stayed in an AirBnb in an old, converted New Zealand Railroad train station! It was great for an AirBnb but people lived there in low-income housing too. Our room was about dorm-room size and had no AC but did have an ensuite bathroom and and a small kitchenette (sink, fridge). People had to bring their food down to the large, industrial kitchen to cook and eat in the common areas. But the architecture and decor had been preserved so that it was very easy to tell that this was a train station at one time. It is probably one of my favorite AirBnb’s ever and I really enjoyed poking around and taking pics.
We left Auckland and started driving around the North Island. We had about 5 days for the North Island which meant we were going to miss lots of things, but we tried to hit the highlights.
The coast was absolutely BEAUTIFUL and did not disappoint at any time, even when it was raining and crazy angry looking.
So many beautiful flowers! Lots are also found in the US, but because NZ gets so much rain everything was large and lush!
Cathedral Cove. This is a protected area so we had to take a shuttle-bus to get here and then hike down to the water. It was cold-ish, but beautiful.
Taranaki Falls in Tongariro National Park. This was kind of typical weather for most of the trip. Raining/misting/cloudy. We still did stuff, but wished it was sunny and clear.
This hike, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, is touted as one of the most beautiful treks in the world (one of my guide books claimed that, but I ditched the book, so I can’t give you the exact quote). I am not sure I would go quite that far, but it was very impressive AND we had pretty good weather. We had WAY more rain than we wanted, or expected in NZ so this day and this hike were one of the gems of the trip.
This is a lava tube-a lava tube is a solidified path where molten lava once flowed. We’ve actually walked IN them before, in the Pacific North West, but it was neat to see this one from this angle.
One of the really cool things about NZ is that all of the water, the lakes, streams, ocean, are different shades of shocking blues, greens, turquoises, aquas. They were a pleasure to see!
The day we caught the ferry from the North to South Islands SHOULD have been a piece of cake. We got to Wellington (south part of the North Island) to take the ferry. Got there early, took the cable car up the hill and strolled back down through the gardens and parks. We were all set to drop off the car and catch the ferry BUT we forgot we had to get gas first. NZ, like Europe, uses the chip and PIN credit card system. But for reasons unknown, the US is not on board with the PIN part of the system so we needed an actual person every time we filled up. None of the gas stations around the ferry terminal had a human! We raced around like gang-busters trying to find an appropriate gas station, missing exits, and cursing while our ferry departure time got closer and closer!
…but we made it!
This is a weka-flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand. He was hanging out in the parking lot of the coastal walk we did.
Read about an area where we could go see sea lions so we headed over there. You had to look pretty hard to see them among the rocks and sticks. Look how little that one is!
This is the viewing area, the sea lion rocks are behind us.
We drove A LOT in NZ, but we drove A LOT, A LOT this particular day. We didn’t intend to do the huge loop that we did, but we had good weather, which was not in the forecast for the coming days, so we took advantage of it. The previous pics on the coast AND all the following mountain pics were all in the same day. We did both Lewis and Arthur Passes this day. Winding, meandering, beautiful, routes through the mountains.
There’s those clouds we were constantly trying to dodge.
En route back to the interior we stopped at one of my most favorite areas: Lake Pukaki! We came through this area twice once in ok weather and then again, near the end of the trip, in beautiful weather.
We were headed to Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. Mt. Cook is off in the distance, beyond Lake Pukaki.
These pics are from the second visit. I was absolutely enamored of this view.
En route to Mt Cook!
Beautiful stained glass in the Mt. Cook visitor center.
More cool coastal stuff; Moeraki Boulders.
And finally, for this post, I end in another city, Dunedin (done e din). We had a very nice time in this city. We stayed in another beautiful, old, full of charm hotel-The Leviathian. Again, I roamed around and enjoyed the furniture and architecture.
View from the common room with that cool fireplace.
Dunedin held (disputed now) the Guiness Book of World Records title of steepest street in the world; Baldwin St. We walked it.
So did a bunch of Asian people.
We went to a GREAT farmers’ market at the train station. They really shy away from disposable items in NZ. Even when I wine tasted at the farmers’ market they had little glass cups that they packed away and washed. No disposable coffee cups and pretty much all bamboo cutlery and biodegradable take-out dishes around the country. I know it’s harder in a country as large as ours but I was inspired.
More beautiful stained-glass in the train station.
In keeping with the reuse theme…I thought this was so cool! Take a cup to use while perusing and leave it in the bucket to be washed after.
Side of the train station.
Beautiful day for strolling and taking in the architecture.
Just kidding, I can’t end on a cathedral, even if it is is a beautiful one… here’s some more nature. I call them candy corn flowers.