Fair warning: This post is very photo heavy. I blame jet lag for my inability to narrow down my selections.
Well we're finally back from our adventure on the other side of the world and while I'm a bit sad (OK a lot sad) to say goodbye to our many quaint hotel rooms and awkward attempts to drive on the opposite side of the road, there is something nice about heading home. After many hikes, spontaneous road trips and the occasional dare devil excursion, we're exhausted, but in the best way possible! As promised, I have several recaps ready to roll for you guys, each focusing on different legs of our trip. The first portion was spent on the Northern Island of New Zealand, in and around the Auckland area. Keep reading for more details...
When we first started planning this trip, I made it pretty clear we HAD to visit The Shire. It certainly didn't disappoint.
It had actually just poured rain right before our tour group started -- so glad the sun came out though! How surreal does this look?
Knock, knock...guess who lives here...
Yep, did I mention I was geeking out the ENTIRE time? Because I was. Majorly.
A road trip beverage must try: L&P, made famous in New Zealand. Think lemonade meets root beer. Kinda addicting. // Celebrating the Melbourne Cup in Auckland at Britomart Country Club Bar.
Catch of the day // New Zealand lamb (both from Botswana Butchery)
The view from our bed and breakfast in Rotorua. // One of the many meat samplers that we couldn't say no to (this one's from Depot Eatery in Auckland).
Kissing and repelling 300 feet into a cave. Talk about multitasking.
I couldn't help it. We just looked so cheesily happy in these photos.
Just thinking of this height still makes my stomach flip flop a bit.
Northern Island: What to do // Where to stay // Eat + Drink
What to do:
Since we had given ourselves only a few days to really explore the Northern Island, we wanted to pack as much as we could in, without killing ourselves with the inevitable jet lag. We started off nice and easy, spending most of our first day (we touched down in Auckland around 6 am local time) just walking around and enjoying the city sights. In a lot of ways, Auckland reminds me of San Francisco -- a very harbor-focused, water front town with some killer restaurants and niche boutiques. Make sure you stop off at the Britomart shopping precinct -- hello Karen Walker, Sass & Bide and a new Kiwi favorite, Zambesi.
Our next day, we rented a car, which I highly recommend you do. It was the perfect way to really see the countryside and make your own course through some of the winding backroads. As mentioned above, we made a beeline for Hobbiton, which was about a 2 hour drive south of Auckland. The tour itself only lasts 90 minutes or so but it's worth a day trip out there so you can stop off at different vista points along the way. (It's just so unbelievably green there!)
That same evening, we headed to a neighboring town, Rotorua so we could unwind a bit and stop off at one of their hot spring pools. Our bed and breakfast recommended the Polynesian Spa, which worked out perfectly since they offer private, lake front pool spots.
For our last day, we headed over to the Waitomo district (about another 2 hour drive from Rotorua), known for their intricate cave systems. There's plenty of adventure packages and companies to choose from here (the black water rafting sounded awfully tempting) but we ultimately decided to go with the one that boasted a 300 foot repel. For reference sake, that's roughly the height of the road portion of the Golden Gate Bridge down to the water (!!). I'd have to say this was one of our favorite highlights of our whole trip -- we had such a small, intimate group so it was nice to go at our own pace. Plus, there's something so eerie about caves -- they really are like forgotten worlds.
Where to stay:
Auckland: We stayed at the Heritage Hotel, which was central to a lot of great restaurants and easy access to the highway (which meant less of a chance of us getting lost!). Plus, their rooftop pool was pretty killer.
Rotorua: The Hamurana Lodge, how I wish we could have stayed longer here! Such a picturesque bed and breakfast nestled in the hills. A shame we only had one night here.
Auckland: Our two favorites included Botswana Butchery, which is located in the Ferry Building with water front seating, and Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar, which is in the heart of central Auckland, near our hotel. Both have completely different vibes from each other, but equally good selection of New Zealand meats. We also stopped off at the Britomart Country Club Bar for a celebratory pitcher of Pimm's Cup for the Melbourne races. Too bad I forgot my spectator hat!
Rotorua: We only had time for dinner right after our dip in the hot springs, but Triple 1 Five didn't disappoint. I ordered the lamb, which is served uncooked, on a heated stone grill that you cook each piece individually on yourself. I also may have sampled more than my fair share of Pinot Noirs here (when in Rome, right?).
Up tomorrow? We have our South Island lineup! Stay tuned...
Also, feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments below. I just wanted to share our itinerary with you guys in case you had New Zealand bookmarked as a future trip -- so if there's anything you'd like to know more about, I'm happy to help as much as I can!