Written by Julie Schafer.
While for some brides the toughest decision is what color the bridesmaids should wear, for me it was whether Nick and I should honeymoon in Tahiti or New Zealand. After much debate and some helpful travel advice from the pro, Joy Thrun, the choice was clear — New Zealand! Where else can you spend your first few weeks of wedded bliss soaring high in a hot air balloon or jumping off a side of a mountain together?
Our 2 week journey began from Detroit to Auckland via Los Angeles on Northwest Airlines and Qantas Airlines. The flight was approximately 13 hours from the west coast and Qantas Airlines did a wonderful job keeping us comfortable, entertained and well feed. Due to the time zone and travel time, we arrived 2 days later. Since a majority of the flight is overnight, we slept most of trip and arrived well rested and ready to start our honeymoon.
Upon arrival in Auckland, we picked up our rental car and it didn’t take Nick too long to get acquainted with driving on the left hand side of the road. When driving in New Zealand it is important to allow enough travel time, as the roads wind through hillsides and mountain passes. We traveled east to the Coromandel Peninsula, where we would spend the first 2 nights of our honeymoon. We stayed at the beautiful Mercure Grand Puka Park Resort in a chalet high on the hillside overlooking the ocean. During our stay in the Coromandel Peninsula we traveled along winding roads along the coastline and witnessed some of the most amazing scenery. We hiked to the picturesque Cathedral Cove, which is well worth the 7 mile hike. We stopped by the famous Hot Water Beach in Hahei at low tide to dig in the sand for our very own hot water pool. The Coromandel Peninsula was a wonderful way to start our journey and get rested up for the other adventures that were yet to come.
We then traveled to Rotorua with a stop at the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. We toured the caves in a non motorized boat. As we traveled though we had to remain completely silent and the caves were lit up by million of glow worms on the ceiling and walls of the cave. It was truly a rare and spectacular site! Upon arrival in Rotorua you instantly notice the rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulphide, which we adjusted to surprisingly quickly. Despite the rainy weather, we had a wonderful stay in Rotorua. We spent one afternoon at Mount Ngongontaha at the Skyline lookout, which offers a wonderful view of the city and Lake Rotorua. To get back down you can either ride the gondola to the bottom, or luge down the side of the mountain for a true adrenalin rush. We of course opted for the luge and had a wonderful time!
From Rotorua, we boarded a short Qantas flight to Christchurch in the South Island. Although Christchurch was once an agricultural market town, it now has all the makings of a modern city with sophisticated restaurants, cafes and arts scene. In the center of the city, there is a large city park that is great for jogging, playing rugby or just enjoying the beautiful surroundings. The Avon River winds through the city and you can take a boat trip past lush gardens and Victoria Square. During our 1 night stay in Christchurch, we awoke at 5:00 a.m. for a hot air balloon ride that departed from the park. It is hard to put into words the beauty of New Zealand while floating at several thousand feet in the air. From the air we could view the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the Southern Alps on the other, while directly below us was the breathtaking Canterbury Plains. I would highly recommend Christchurch for a once in a lifetime hot air balloon experience!
After our overnight stay in Christchurch, we traveled Arthur’s Pass, which is the highest and most spectacular highway across the Southern Alps. It is important to be well rested for this drive, as the road is a steep climb (3,100 feet) through the mountain range. We traveled past some of the most gorgeous mountain-fed lakes in the world, with crystal clear turquoise water with the mountain range reflecting off the water. The scenery on this drive was amazing and well worth the 5 hour travel time. We spent the night at the Hermitage Hotel, which is the only hotel located in Mount Cook National Park and it is surrounded by the mountain range. The view from our apartment was spectacular and from our patio we were looking directly at the snow-capped tip of Mount Cook. It was the perfect overnight before we completed our journey to Queenstown.
Queenstown – what a cozy, friendly, and exciting lakeside village! I would have to say that Queenstown was by far my favorite part of the trip. Nick and I spent 4 nights in Queenstown and wish we had 4 more there. Queenstown is one of the most scenic settings in the world. It is located on beautiful Lake Wakatipu and at the base of the Remarkables mountain range. This is the area that a majority of the “Lord of the Rings” movies where filmed from. When Nick and I were not bungee jumping into Skipper’s Canyon, jet boating through the gorge, or parapenting (parachuting) off the side of the mountain, we were happy just strolling through this beautiful village and appreciating the scenery. Although, we were visiting New Zealand during their spring time, many locals told us what wonderful skiing was available in the area during the winter months (our summer). Queenstown truly has something to offer every traveler year-round.
Also, from Queenstown you can visit Milford Sound, which is approximately a 4 1/2 hour journey each way, but well worth the trip. When touring Milford Sound you will see beautiful waterfalls, fur seals, dolphins and possibly even a Fiordland crested penguin. Some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world.
Nick and I will always remember our New Zealand honeymoon – it was truly amazing and a trip of a lifetime! New Zealand is a destination of unsurpassed beauty and excitement. Contact me today to book your very own New Zealand Adventure—why wait?