Whether it’s Matty throwing up off the bridge on his birthday, someone setting fire to the oven on my birthday, or Holly peeing against the bin outside Cafe Hanoi, I will always have amazing, if not slightly vague memories of Auckland. It’s the city where it all began. I arrived with no money, no friends, no home and no job, yet 5 months later I’m standing drunk on the street crying because it’s my last night there.
There’s so much going on, and to all you Auckland haterz, ‘Auckland isn’t real New Zealand’ I think we will have to agree to disagree. It might not have the quirkiness of Wellington or the beauty of, well, anywhere in the South Island, but where else can you hop on a boat during your lunch break and go see a volcano, where else can you persuade your manager to let you off work early, sprint to the vector arena to buy a last minute Mumford and Sons ticket for that night, and most importantly, where else can you buy Giapos, the best ice cream in all the land.
As a city, Auckland really does have so much to offer. I saw Hozier, Mumford and Sons, and Fleetwood Mac. I sat in numerous cafes, eating over-priced eggs benedict and I spent far too much money on gluten free, sugar free, dairy free cake which a) has the same amount of calories as real cake, b) is more expensive than real cake and c) doesn’t taste as nice as real cake.
So if you head to New Zealand you’ll probably fly into Auckland anyway, and it is worth spending a few days there. Eat yourself into a food coma at La Cigale market, get burned sunbathing on the Domain in winter because we’re British and that’s what happens and head up to the sky tower’s revolving restaurant on a hangover day.
I admit I thought Queenstown would be overrated. It’s basically all anyone harps on about when they talk about South Island. But it honestly was incredible. I had not one but 3 amazing burgers. The world famous Fergburger (amazing), World Bar burger (better) and Devil’s burger (the best). To anyone who is thinking ‘wow that’s unlike Alex to eat 3 burgers’ you’re right, I lied. I actually just had bites of Matty’s.
In Queenstown I went horse riding, played the escape room, did a bungee (ok I just watched Matty’s – but I felt his fear), saw some glow worms, did the amazing luge at the top of the Gondola, contemplated doing a paraglide and just sat in Queenstown gardens gazing at the beautiful lake and mountains thinking that I didn’t even know places this incredible existed.
3) Lake Tekapo
We planned to camp at Tekapo on our way to Queenstown as we had a car relocation from Christchurch. This was both an incredible and also an incredibly stupid idea. We stopped off at The Warehouse (a big shop which sells everything) in Christchurch, to stock up on camping supplies such as a tent and sleeping bags. With all my camping experience to look back on (none), I decided that cheap and cheerful was the way forward, so picked up a $16 (£8) tent and headed to the checkout. Matt seemed a bit more hesitant, but I assured him we would be fine, we could sleep outside if we needed to, it was that hot. We grabbed some equally cheap sleeping bags and the happy campers were on their way.
We arrived at Tekapo and were greeted by gale force winds. The very helpful man next to us tried to tell us what direction to point out tent in and we listened politely, all the while thinking ‘there is no way our tent is going to stay up’. It didn’t even have guy ropes. Eventually we pretended we just couldn’t be bothered to put it up so wandered off calling out loudly ‘we’ll just put it up later, I’m too tired to do it now!’
We had dinner at the side of the lake and then slept in the car.
Despite our first night camping failure (we have since invested in a better tent), our night at Lake Tekapo was incredible. It is known as ‘The Window to the Universe’ as there’s virtually no light pollution, so you can basically just sit and gaze at the stars all night and that thing happens where you just suddenly realise how small you are and how your problems don’t matter and suddenly it’s ok that you ate a Burger Fuel and a Maccas on the same day and maybe tomorrow you’ll do yoga and omg just so zen.
This is probably my number one. I was going to order them properly but that was far too much effort and decision making so I’m sorry.
Lake Pukaki is absolutely breathtaking. Especially when the sun shines on it. It’s something to do with glacial rocks being dragged up to the surface which is why it shines an incredible blue colour (I can’t quite remember so you’ll just have to go there and read the signs yourself). Lake Pukaki is worth flying all the way to New Zealand for. Fact.
4) The Abel Tasman
The day of our Abel Tasman trip was almost a disaster. We booked it the day before and sat eagerly waiting outside our campsite for the bus to pick us up.
It never arrived.
It turned out they had the wrong day. I was super close to throwing a strop because there was no other day that we could do it (we had already booked our ferry back to North island for the next day), but, luckily the majority of kiwis are super friendly and helpful, so the manager of our campsite said he would give us a lift there!
We arrived on time for our tour, and even better, they gave us the tour for free to apologise for the mix up, and who doesn’t love free stuff?!
So we were all happy campers by this point. The Abel Tasman is stunning, it’s basically just tropical beaches with incredibly golden sand and turquoise water. Unfortunately due to the rush of the morning we hadn’t bought any food and there is nowhere to buy any. So by the end of the day we were absolutely famished, which resulted in everyone on the bus having to wait for me as I sprinted to the shop down the road to buy a family sized pack of Grain Waves to stuff ourselves with on the way home.
We got back and decided we deserved a huge dinner out, so headed out for wedges and nachos. Matt then ate so much he threw up so that was nice.
5) Hahei Beach
We spent 3 days at the coromandel and Hahei beach was the highlight. Whilst we didn’t get to visit the famous Cathedral Cove due to an issue with parking (typical), our time at Hahei beach more than made up for it. It was super quiet when we were there, but also had amazing surf (we rented bodyboards). There’s also a shop nearby and they only charge $5 for a Coke. So, if you want to lie on an incredible beach whilst getting simultaneously ripped off, then Hahei is your place.
If you want to see marine life look no further than Kaikoura. We saw whales, dolphins and seals and it honestly was one of the best days of my trip (and my trip is now roughly 320 days long). I’m just going to post some photos of it because other than ‘we saw a whale and it was amazing’ there’s not much left to say.
Few places make me as happy as Hobbiton. It was adorable and even thinking about it now gives me a warm feeling in my tummy. Going to Hobbiton and seeing all the little Hobbit holes was along the same lines as putting a hot water bottle under your jumper, getting into bed with freshly shaved legs or drinking a nice mug of English breakfast tea.
Yes it may be a complete tourist trap (our trip costs $114), but it’s so worth it, not only to see the Hobbit holes but the amazing farmland surrounding it. Plus you get a free drink in the Green Dragon at the end of the tour and who doesn’t love free alcohol? (I will just admit this now – I chose the non-alcoholic ginger beer).
I’ll be honest here, Rotorua smells like rotten eggs. At one point the smell was so bad it wafted through our dorm window and woke me up in the night. But, in my opinion that’s all just part of the charm.
There’s so much thermal activity going on its crazy. Even just wandering through the park, the wind will suddenly change and you’ll get a huge waft of warm, thick eggy air soaking into your pores.
I love Wanaka. Everyone loves Wanaka. We spent our Christmas Day jumping in the lake, eating ice cream at Patagonia chocolate shop and drinking wine outside in the garden. Whilst I missed my fluffy socks, hot chocolate, and of course, my family, I managed to enjoy my first Christmas away from home by distracting myself with swimming, kayaking, eating and playing an extremely competitive game of catch with Matty’s family. It’s a hard life.
10) Tongariro National Park
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t really like walking. I like walking to the shop to buy a snack, or going for occasional walks around the farm with Iona, aside from that I’m not really a hiking gal. But this trip has changed me. We did the Tongariro Crossing which, I quote, ‘is no stroll in the park’. Everyone there had hiking boots and walking poles, the whole lot. Of course Matty and I were also prepared as ever. We decided to do it two days before so I wore my sketchers and Matty wore his skate shoes. No hiking boots or walking poles for these crazies. And aside from falling on a rock and developing a black bruise the size of a tennis ball on my bum, we managed to do it in 7 hours ish and saw the amazing Mt Doom and the emerald lakes in the process!