The beauty and the colors are like a dream. There is just something about New Zealand that makes you feel like you have stepped into a world of adventure, beauty, and nature.
When my husband and I were invited to Auckland for our cousin’s wedding, we couldn’t wait. In fact, we may have been more excited than the bride and groom themselves! We planned to start the trip with the wedding and some touring on the north island, and then catch a flight to Queenstown on the south island. New Zealand did not disappoint. It was one of the best trips of our lives, and the country and people completely won us over.
We started our adventure at the location of the wedding. After landing in Auckland, we made our way through the city to a ferry station where we took a scenic 30 minute boat ride to beautiful Waiheke Island. The views from the ferry ride were unreal, filled with stunning blue skies and beautiful mountains covered with greenery.
After disembarking we took a taxi to our hotel, The Boatshed. It’s a stunning, boutique hotel that incorporates real converted boat sheds into gorgeously appointed suites. Sitting close to a scenic bay, the grounds are serene and private. It is a small hotel, as there are only around 6 bedrooms, including a unique lighthouse suite. This hotel was truly one of a kind, almost something taken straight from a movie.
Every morning we woke up to incredible views of the water with sailboats all around. We then would make our way out to the main deck for a stunning personalized, home-made breakfast. There was always a selection of fresh squeezed juices, dried & fresh fruits, as well as a variety of yogurts and breads. Once seated you were offered a choice of a daily savory or sweet breakfast option with customizable choices.
One of the famous features of Waiheke Island is its wine. We learned very quickly of all the stunning wineries they have to offer and arranged for a full day of tasting and touring around the island. From breathtaking vineyards, some with restaurants and all with jaw-dropping views, we kept falling more in love with the island, and of course with the wine…
Wineries: Jurassic Ridge Vineyards (call ahead, proprietor is definitely a riot so be prepared), Mudbrick Vineyards, Tantalus Estate, Cable Bay, Wan O’ War Vineyards
I would also highly recommend going into the main village, where they are known for their delicious oysters and Sauvignon Blanc. The main strip was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel, and we took a little hidden trail along the coastline. I really enjoyed The Osyter Inn, where we enjoyed beautiful views and you guessed it – delicious oysters. This was just one of many cute, little restaurants all around with stunning ocean views. It’s also just fun to walk around the town, visit the local boutiques, enjoy small snacks at the markets, and take in the scenery.
After the wedding, our time on the island unfortunately had to come to an end. We had one night booked in Auckland at a hotel on the pier, and we would be off the next morning on a flight to Queenstown.
We decided to explore Auckland for the night and our cousins recommended a fun speakeasy called Caretaker. There is no menu to be found, and a waitress comes to your table to ask you a series of questions about your tastes before she heads to the bar and comes back with a custom made cocktail.
Next, we decided to check out the famous Sky Tower and had dinner at a sushi restaurant, MASU by Nic Watt. I consider myself a bit sushi-obsessed, and this was definitely the best I had while in New Zealand. The Sky Tower has a bustling night life atmosphere with a busy casino as well as several restaurants and bars. The views of the tower at night are also spectacular.
The next morning we made our flight to Queenstown (it can be bumpy, be prepared) and had a bit of a climate shock! We had officially left the warm weather and lush greenery for the cold air and snow-covered mountains. We zipped up our jackets, headed off the plane, and took in yet another series of absolutely breathtaking views. They truly felt like something out of a dream.
Once we arrived to our hotel, The Spire Hotel Queenstown, we decided to check out the downtown. There was street after street of outdoor shopping, with a variety of boutiques and stores – including both local brands and well-known international names. Mixed in with the shopping were dozens of restaurants and bars, making downtown Queenstown so much fun to walk around and explore.
One of the top recommendations we had heard was the Onsen Hot Pools. You are given a private room to “soak in” both the hot water and the views. You are also provided a selection of drinks and snacks to enjoy. I definitely recommend going during daylight hours to fully enjoy the scenery, and sunset reservations fill up fast. From your tub you also have a great view of a winding river, where you can see people riding the Shotover River Jetboat. This was high on our to-do list as well, but since we only had two days in Queenstown, we had to postpone it until next time. However, we did get to watch the jet boats zip the curves which was a cool experience to see.
The following day we decided to head out on another wine tasting tour (notice a theme) arranged by our hotel. The locations are a bit more spread out so we only made it to around 3 wineries, but they were all excellent. If you have a love for wines, New Zealand really does have some of the best you can find. Later that day, we also rode the Skyline Gondola to Bob’s Peak. There you can ride the Skyline Luge, and enjoy a restaurant and bar with amazing views from the mountain top.
If you’re adventurous, I would also recommend bungee jumping while you are in town. New Zealand is the home of commercial bungee jumping, and this beautiful Queenstown bridge is one of the original sites. Neither of us are huge fans of heights so we just watched and cheered along those who were brave enough to take the leap!
Later that night we decided to head out to one fancy dinner. Our cousin had recommended the “Trust the Chef” dinner at the Amisfield winery and restaurant, and told it us that it was a can’t miss. There we enjoyed 7 delicious courses, each paired with an Amisfield wine – and these were not small pours! Each course was unique and the creativity was out of this world. If we ever go back, we would definitely do it again. Trust officially earned!
New Zealand is truly one of the most beautiful, adventure-filled, and thrilling places I have ever been to. We are planning to heading back sometime in the future because there is simply so much more to do that that we didn’t have time for. Now time to start convincing more family to get married there!