Honeymoon Adventures: New Zealand

Blogger’s note: After our experiences in Queensland, Australia, we actually headed south to Melbourne for a few days before heading over to New Zealand. But for the sake of keeping my honeymoon posts organized by country, I’ll talk about Melbourne in the next post.

After a short three-hour trip, we were in Queenstown, New Zealand, where the weather was drastically different from what we experienced in Australia. While it was in the 80s and 90s in Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest in Australia, it was barely 40 degrees when we got to Queenstown. But despite the frigid weather (and me having a cold during this part of the trip), we were awed by the majestic beauty of Queenstown.

All photos personal unless otherwise noted

View from in front of our hotel

The Remarkables—famous mountain range in Queenstown

We only had three days in Queenstown and, like the majority of our trip, every day was jam packed with an excursion.

What We Did

  • Scenic Cruise of the Milford Sound

Entering the fjords; huge waterfalls

Clearly it was cold!

We took a five-hour ride in a glass roofed coach bus to get to the Milford Sound, but luckily not only was the drive very scenic, but we made quite a few stops along the way, including one at a stream with water so pure we were able to fill our water bottle and drink from it.

Mr. M filling our water bottle with delicious stream water

Unfortunately, it was a super cloudy day that eventually turned into light rain on the Sound, but nonetheless the fjords, waterfalls, and wildlife we saw on the two-hour cruise were majestic and almost otherworldly.

Mr. M is king of the world; I kept holding cups of hot water to warm my hands.

More sights from the Sound, including some seals

  • Lord of the Rings Safari of the Scenes Tour

While we are not rabid fans of the LOTR trilogy, there was no way we could go to New Zealand and not take a tour of where Peter Jackson filmed his famous movies. So the day after the Milford Sound tour, we did a tour with Nomad Safaris and saw more of the beautiful areas surrounding Queenstown—this time with much better weather! We were picked up by our tour guide and drove about an hour out of Queenstown. We made a few stops along the way to take some photos of Lake Wakatipu.

Beautiful forest where several battles scenes from LOTR were filmed

Where We Stayed & Ate

Hotel lobby / Image via New Zealand

We stayed at the Hotel St. Moritz in the heart of Queenstown, on Lake Wakatipu. It’s a beautiful hotel that feels like an upscale ski lodge. The breakfast buffet offered there was actually pretty good and helpful when we had a 6:45 AM pickup time for our Milford Sound excursion.

We also had some truly excellent meals in Queenstown, particularly at Botswana Butchery (excellent steakhouse), the infamous Fergburger (amazing burgers), Fergbaker (AMAZING meat pies—we had the venison & mushom pie, which was to die for) and dessert at Patagonia chocolates (where we had the famous Hokey Pokey ice cream).

At Patagonia Chocolates for a Hokey Pokey ice cream

After our short stay in Queenstown, it was time to head to the north island to Hawke’s Bay where we would be spending the next four days.  We decided on Hawke’s Bay because we wanted to spend part of our trip in wine country. And while Hawke’s Bay is less popular (in terms of tourism) than New Zealand’s other wine country, Malborough, the wineries there are excellent and rival anything that Malborough has to offer, with less crowds. Luckily the weather was gorgeous up here—sunny and in the 60s, a nice change from Queenstown.

For this portion of our trip, we had a car, and it was very interesting trying to get used to driving on the right side of the road. Luckily, Mr. M is a driving pro and, despite it being his first time driving on the right, he mastered it and got us safely to each stop along the way from Hawke’s Bay to Auckland, driving nearly 350 miles in total (spread out over three days).

Mr. M driving like a pro on the other side of the road

What We Did

  • Self-Guided Bike Tour

Beautiful day for a bike ride through wine country

We rented bikes through Bike Devine, and the owner Zoe equipped us with water, maps, and a pickup location and time (so that we wouldn’t have to bike all the way back). At first I was a bit skeptical about doing a self-guided bike tour, but the countryside of Hawke’s Bay was super easy to navigate (along with miles of beautiful bike trails). During our ride, we stopped at some wineries along the way, including Black Barn, Te Mata, and Elephant Hill (where Fiona picked us up). Despite being tipsy from all the free wine tastings, we managed to bike about 12 miles in total. :)

Where We Stayed & Ate

Beautiful sunset sky from our living room at Millar Road

We stayed at the incredible Millar Road, comprised of three different villas nestled in a vineyard. This was easily the best accommodation on our entire trip. We lucked out and got the two-bedroom villa so had plenty of space. The villas came equipped with a full kitchen (stocked with breakfast foods for the first day), a living room with TV, a pool (although it wasn’t warm enough out to enjoy this), and on-site laundry facilities. Being able to do laundry after carrying around two weeks’ worth of dirty laundry was a godsend!

We had some pretty amazing meals while we were here, most notably at Craggy Range winery for dinner, Black Barn Bistro for lunch, Vidal winery, Pipi’s (yummy pizza), Indigo (Indian), and Rush Monro’s for more Hokey Pokey ice cream. After days of lazing around, having incredible wine, and a few spa treatments, it was time to move on.

We drove east to spend a night in Taupo, then drove further east to get to our last excursion in New Zealand—the Waitomo (AKA Glowworms) Caves.

What We Did

  • Black Water Rafting in the Waitomo Caves

This was by far the most adventurous, crazy activity we have ever done. It was a five-hour excursion that we did with the Black Water Rafting Co. that involved abseiling 100 feet into a cave, zip-lining in the dark, jumping 10 feet into icy cold water, and climbing two waterfalls, but it was all worth it because in between these crazy activities, we got to see thousands of glowworms lighting up the ceiling of the caves. It was like looking up at the night sky, 100 feet underground. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life and photos don’t do it any justice.

Just to give you an idea of what the glowworms look like / Image via New Zealand

We weren’t able to bring our own cameras into the caves, so our guide ended up taking all these pictures.

We were taught how to abseil right outside the cave entrance.

You can’t tell by my face, but I was absolutely terrified to abseil 100 feet into this cave!

Jumping about 10 feet into freezing water; taking a ride down a mini water slide

This adventure was definitely not for anyone who was claustrophobic.

We attempted to spell “Waitomo” with our headlights and colored cups, but it didn’t quite work out, LOL.

Everyone in our group looking shell-shocked when we were finally done. Talk about an adrenaline rush!!

Immediately after this excursion, we had to drive about three hours north to get to Auckland, where we would only be spending one night so that we could hop a plane back to Sydney. I had never traveled so much in a three-week period in my entire life!


Mrs. Mongoose

New Haven, CT
Wedding Date:
May 2013
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  1. Member
    jaina8851 107 posts, Blushing bee @ 12:45 pm

    WOW. I usually skip over people’s honeymoon posts, but yours are AMAZING. I totally want to go to all these places and do all these things. That Black Water Rafting trip sounds like THE coolest thing in the world. Definitely bookmarking all of your posts in case my husband and I ever make it over to NZ and Oz :D

  2. Member
    Mrs. Filly 657 posts, Busy bee @ 2:38 pm

    Looks like you guys had a truly incredible time. You guys look so happy and adorable and the scenery is to die for!

  3. Member
    Mrs. Bighorn Sheep 114 posts, Blushing bee @ 4:04 pm

    The weather in NZ is drastically different from Australia because of the size of the two islands and the Antarctic winds blowing in from the South. I was freezing when Mr Big took me on over there for the first time. What shocked me is he used to walk around in just a tee and shorts. Crazy man, LOL.

    I’m loving your honeymoon posts! :) Milford Sound is my favourite place in the world and the black water rafting was definitely a rush! I need to try out Hawkes Bay. I’ve been to Marlborough, but I love me some wine tastings! :)

  4. Member
    webster 105 posts, Blushing bee @ 4:21 pm

    I was in NZ last month! We drove from the East Coast, up and around and then down to Queenstown where we spent our last 5 days. Queenstown was just amazing. You’re right though – so cold and not like here in Aus! I’ve been craving a Fergburger so bad!! We missed out on Milford Sound unfortunately. We also did A LOT of driving (we had a campervan) and couldn’t face the 5 hour drive to Milford and back. In total we drove nearly 3000km (which works out to about 1800 miles). Such an awesome place to holiday, isn’t it! Glad that you enjoyed Aus as well – I love my country :)

  5. Guest
    catiedidit, Guest @ 5:49 am

    I am going to NZ in February and I am SO EXCITED!!! We are mostly going to be in Auckland (staying with friends) but my number one thing to do is the Waitomo caves! Please let me know if you have any other travel tips!

  6. Member
    bebelicious1 951 posts, Busy bee @ 11:10 am

    This was certainly an amazing once in a lifetime trip! Everything was so beautiful. I see what folks mean when they say that they need a vacation from their vacation, haha! You guys did a whole lot!

  7. Member
    Mrs. Mongoose 726 posts, Busy bee @ 2:12 pm

    @jaina8851: I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts! We always thought we weren’t really the adventurous types, but this trip proved us wrong between the scuba diving and the black water rafting–SO much fun!!

    @Miss Filly: It’s an absolutely stunning country!

    @Miss Bighorn Sheep: You guys would looove Hawke’s Bay–it’s super chill and the wines are absolutely fantastic.

  8. Member
    Mrs. Mongoose 726 posts, Busy bee @ 2:15 pm

    @webster: WOW that was quite the drive you guys had!! And I’m right there with you–still craving Fergburger 2 months later :)

    @bebelicious1: We were so incredibly exhausted when we got back, and swore that we would never do a trip again with so many back to back activities hahaha. But at the same time, we don’t know when we’ll ever to get back down under, so we were of the mindset to do and see as much as we possibly could while we were there.

  9. Member
    Mrs. Mongoose 726 posts, Busy bee @ 2:18 pm

    @catiedidit: WHOO-HOO I’m so excited for you that you’re going to NZ soon!! And that’s so great that you get to stay with friends–that saves you a TON of money! One thing that’s great though–the exchange rate in NZ is in our favor (while we were down there, the value of the NZ dollar was about 80% the value of the USD, so things weren’t as nearly as expensive as we thought it would be). Also, definitely rent a car to drive down to Waitomo–it’s only about 3 hours from Auckland, the drive is very pretty and scenic and it’s nice to be able to drive yourself around as needed.

    Oh and since you are staying in Auckland, let me know if you want a restaurant list I put together. We only had time to check out one resto for dinner and it was really good (I can’t remember the name right now but I know it’s somewhere one my sheet). PM me if you want me to send it to you!

  10. Member
    jennifer_nz 323 posts, Helper bee @ 10:01 pm

    Your post just scared me a bit since you said you drove on the right side of the road…hopefully you were driving on the left!!

  11. Member
    Mrs. Mongoose 726 posts, Busy bee @ 5:00 am

    @jennifer_nz: Hahaha sorry about that!! It still confuses me lololm. Left side of the road, right side of the car ;)

  12. Member
    Mrs. Gondola 980 posts, Busy bee @ 3:48 pm

    It looks like so much fun!! I’m so jealous!!

  13. Member
    Mrs. Waterfall 1324 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:08 am

    You guys did so much stuff! I would terrified to abseil too! And I can’t imagine how amazing those glo worms were.

  14. Member
    Miss Pyramid 845 posts, Busy bee @ 2:27 pm

    That cave adventure looks awesome! And glowworms – who knew? I’d be pretty much terrified the entire time, but looks like you guys handled it like champs.

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