North Island of NZ
New Zealand - Wellington, Tongariro National Park, Pauanui, Auckland
We took the 3-hour ferry from Nelson across to Wellington on the north island. We got lucky with the weather as the next few days had such bad storms the ferry was unable to make the trip.
Wellington is a cosmopolitan city and the capital of New Zealand. It's known for the museums and performing arts but unfortunately we only spent one day there... Out of the many cities we visited, it's the one I would most likely see myself living in one day ;)
Next we drove to Tongariro National Park where we stayed in a hauuuunted hotel, Chateau Tongariro Hotel. It's nearly 100 years old, was built during the Great Depression and looks like a scene from Paranormal Activity (there’s a pool in the basement). BUT it is also beautiful (I know, weird) and we enjoyed high tea with scones during the rainy afternoons. We also enjoyed reading the Lord of the Rings Guidebook that pointed out all the nearby locations where the movies were filmed.
After two days of endless tea and hikes to waterfalls, we headed to Pauanui – a cute beach town where many people in Auckland have second homes. This was the town my mom loved the most. We could walk from our hotel to restaurants or to get ice cream, down to the beach and past the gorgeous homes. It was the Seaside, Florida of New Zealand.
On our way to our final destination, we stopped at a kiwi farm (the fruit, not the locals). We learned how kiwis grow and how they are different than the ones we are used to - for one, they grow golden kiwis that aren't fuzzy like the ones you'd see at Whole Foods. They also sell manuka honey - a honey created by bees that pollinate the New Zealand manuka bush. It's known for it's healing powers and health benefits; the locals recommend taking one spoonful a day (gladly!).
Our final destination was Auckland – the largest city in New Zealand. We stayed at CityLife (same hotel chain as Wellington) which offers suites/apartments right in the middle of the city. My favorite thing we did in Auckland (and top three of the whole trip) was our day-trip to Waiheke Island. It’s a quick ferry ride over and I quickly learned that many older Kiwis (NZ natives, not the fruit) live on the island but commute/ferry over to Auckland for work.
The island has a slower pace than Auckland and is well known for its views and incredible wineries. We visited three wineries on our tour - Mudbrick where we walked the grounds and received a lesson on why different grapes grow well in the NZ climate, The Goldie Room which is the oldest vineyard on the island, and Te Whau which featured stunning views and outstanding architecture.
We headed back to the mainland with a few bottles and a growing sunburn. After a good night sleep and a little last minute exploring, it was time for my 13-hour flight back to SF. New Zealand was an amazing adventure and truly a once in a lifetime trip. If you ever have the chance to experience it, definitely jump at the chance!