We've been back from our whirlwind trip to New Zealand for exactly a week. I may or may not already be looking for tickets back as we speak. Seriously, saying I'm in love is a huge understatement. And it's not just me. It seemed to be the consensus of every traveler we met along the way. Stop what you are doing right now and book a trip. I promise, you absolutely won't regret it.
Anyway, I will stop my daydream of quitting my job and moving to New Zealand and get down to the details of our trip. I've got tons of other posts of our travels and life from the past year that need to be posted, but I think this trip definitely takes priority. I've been asked for our itinerary by multiple people so I thought I would start by sharing an overview of our trip. I am not a New Zealand expert by any means, especially since there is so much to see and do there, but I would love to answer any questions you have! Many posts to come on each of our New Zealand adventures.
Here is our itinerary:
Day 1 and 2: Travel from Okinawa through Shanghai to Auckland. Travel tip: avoid Shanghai airport at all cost. (Stay in Auckland at Rendezvous Hotel)
Day 3: Explore Auckland (Stay in Auckland at Rendezvous Hotel)
Day 4: Drive to Coromandel. Walk to Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, Drive to Matamata, Hobbiton Tour, drive to Hamilton (Stay in Hamilton at YHA Hamilton)
Day 5: Drive to Waitomo, Waitomo Caves (Stay in Waitomo at YHA Waitomo)
Day 6: Drive to Napier (Stay in Havelock at Craggy Range)
Day 6: Winery Tours (Stay in Havelock at Craggy Range)
Day 7: Drive to Wellington (Stay at Novotel Hotel in Wellington)
Day 8: Ferry from Picton to Wellington, Drive to Blenheim (Stay in Blenheim at St. Leonards)
Day 9: Winery Tours (Stay in Blenheim at St. Leonards)
Day 10: Drive the Great Coast Road to Franz Josef (Stay in Franz Josef at YHA Franz Josef)
Day 11: Drive through Wanaka and Arrowtown to Queenstown (Stay at St. Moritz Queenstown)
Day 12: Explore Queenstown (Stay at St. Moritz Queenstown)
Day 13: Drive through Tekapo to Christchurch (Stay in Christchurch at Lilac Rose)
Day 14: Explore Christchurch/Rest (Stay in Christchurch at Lilac Rose)
Day 15: Fly out of Christchurch
Day 16 and 17: Fly through Sydney and Shanghai (brutal 9 hour layover) back to Okinawa
Here is what our trip looked like:
We stayed at a combination of hotels, hostels, and B&Bs/boutiques. Many travelers in New Zealand stick to hostels, but that isn't really our style. If you are traveling on a tight budget, hostels are the way to go. New Zealand has a really great hostel system and it is lots of fun to stay at them. We really enjoyed the three hostels we stayed at, but we also enjoyed the other very nice accommodations we stayed at.
After every trip you think about what you loved and what you would have done differently. I questioned along the way as we came across many travelers who were only doing the South Island if we should have done that too. After many hours in the car I also questioned whether we should have driven so much. But, as I look back now, I don't think I would have changed anything for our first visit to New Zealand. I absolutely loved the North Island and am so glad we got to see it. Yes, there is much more to do on the South Island and it is much more rugged, but the feel of the North Island and the different scenery definitely made it worth it. I also think that driving was my favorite part, even though we spent a significant amount of time in the car. I don't think we would have been able to fully appreciate or understand New Zealand without seeing all that we were able to through driving. I was in awe at the scenery during every drove we made. I am sad we missed a few places, but it is almost impossible to see everything in such a short amount of time. Next trip we make, because it is happening, we want to spend some time in Abel Tasman, visit the Milford Sound, go all the way south, go up the east coast through Dunedin, Akaroa, and Kaikoura, actually stand on top of Franz Josef, and go to Rotorua and the Bay of Island on the North Island. Whew, sounds like I've got some planning to do. In the meantime, I'll look back at pictures and pretend I'm still there.