For our Christmas adventure this year, Dan and I decided we’d go really big. We quickly decided on Australia and New Zealand! While planning our route, we decided to make it an AROUND THE WORLD experience by first travelling to LA, California. Dan’s brother, Scott, and his wife, Christine, recently moved to the LA area AND just had a baby so we were anxious to meet our new nephew, and we figured the few extra flight hours on an already long flight were totally worth it!
We spent our two day layover loving on our nephew, Henry, and catching up with our brother and sister. We loved seeing their new home and lifestyle in LA. Their neighborhood is beautifully located in the hills near Pasadena. Our time with them is never enough, but it was great to see them and catch up (last time we saw them was in Japan!). And how handsome is my nephew…I couldn’t get enough snuggles with him!!!
After LA, we flew into Auckland, New Zealand which is in the North Island. This is the only way to get to New Zealand via international flight. After a quick layover, we few down to Queenstown on the south island which was our base for the next week. We picked up our Jucy campervan at the airport and headed off! The best way to do New Zealand is by campervan, and ours was absolutely perfect for the two of us. The converted minivan’s backseat area turned into a full bed for sleeping, bench seats and a table for dining and the trunk was a kitchen, full with a stove, sink and mini fridge. We were really impressed with Jucy, their service was great and the campervan was in great condition. We also loved seeing other bright green and purple Jucy van’s on the road and everyone honked and waved as we passed by!
Our first stop and campsite was in Wanaka, just about an hour through the mountains and north of Queenstown. We explored the nearby lakes (including the infamous “Wanaka Tree”) and the town before settling into our first campsite.
On our first full day in NZ, we drove up to the base of Mt. Cook, which is the tallest mountain in the country. On our way there, we stopped by the Clay Cliffs. These striking cliffs are quite the site as they are HUGE and so different then any of the other landscape around it!
Once at Mt. Cook, we did a long hike through the Hooker Valley which sits just below the mountain. The hike was beautiful (and hot!), but we were both surprised at how busy the trail was. Most of NZ was very quiet and we never saw that many people, but out of the whole trip, this trail was the busiest (although we’ve become pro’s at making our photos look like it’s just us and nature!)
After our long hike, we drove back down south to Lake Hawea for our 2nd campsite. This was our favourite campsite out of the whole trip. We were able to park right on the lake and we were virtually the only ones there! It was such a serene place to relax.
We were fortunate to be visiting NZ during their summer time, and even more fortunate to visit during the longest day of the year. Our days were incredibly long, with the sun rising around 6am and setting at almost 11pm. So we woke up very early and had nice long full days to enjoy! We went back into Wanaka the next morning to shop around the little town before heading into Queenstown to explore the city and check out Fergburger. We had heard a lot about this burger place, and were warned that queues are usually around an hour for lunch and over two hours at dinner! Lucky for us, we only waited about 30 minutes! The burgers were good (and huge!), but definitely not worth waiting two hours in a line for! Fun to try!
After lunch in Queenstown, we drove down to Glenorchy. The drive to Glenorchy is known as the most beautiful drive in all of New Zealand. And it did not disappoint! It was incredibly scenic, with twists and turns along the lake and through the forest.
When we got to Glenorchy, we did a horse back riding tour around the Reiss River Valley. This area is stunning! And it serves as the filming location for many films such as, Lord of the Rings (Isengard), Mission Impossible 6 and X-Men Wolverine! It was a really cool ride because we got to go through rivers and do a fair bit of trotting! It was a great way to spend the afternoon!
That evening we made our way to our next campsite. We camped alongside Moke Lake, which is 15 minutes outside of Queenstown. It was a cool site because it’s up in the mountains alongside a lake, surrounded by a horse farm, a cattle farm and a sheep farm! So nature and animals were all around us! We made a wonderful stirfry for dinner and enjoyed some local wine before going to bed early so we could wake up in the middle of the night to star gaze. Living in London, we don’t see a vast array of stars. So we set up on top of our van and enjoyed the beautiful night sky!
Our next day started bright and early with a 7am flight to Milford Sound. The fjord’s were at the top of our list to see, but to get there by car, you have to go all the way around a mountain range which takes 5.5 hours EACH WAY! So Dan found a flight company (Air Milford) that gets you over to Milford Sound in just 45 minutes! It was an incredible flight (Dan got to be co-pilot!) over the lakes and mountains!
When we arrived at Milford Sound, we hopped on a cruise boat for a tour of the area. This area is remarkably breathtaking. It’s been unofficially titled the 8th Wonder of the World – and I totally agree. The striking coastline, the waterfalls, the wildlife (seals, otters, dolphins, penguins) and the water all make this place magical. Our boat tour was only two hours, but I could have spent all day in the sun enjoying the views!
We hopped back on the plane after the boat tour for a quick flight home. But our pilot told us it was very rare to have little to no wind in the area, so he wanted to have some fun and took us a little out of the way to see some cool glacial lakes and more views of the fjords!
That afternoon, we went back into Queenstown where we took the gondola up to the top of the town. Dan did downhill biking and I enjoyed the sun and read my book 🙂 Dan LOVED the biking!
For our last night in NZ, we stayed in Queenstown at a Holiday Park walking distance to the town. We spend that evening having dinner in the town before catching a good night’s sleep for our last big NZ adventure…
…BUNGY JUMPING!!! The first thing we did after booking our flights for this trip was book bungy jumping! We’ve had this up on the top of our adventure lists for awhile now, and why not do it at the home of bungy!? This was the most UHH-MAZING experience! Words cannot describe the feeling you have as you freefall 134 m over a gorge! Both Dan and I loved every second of it and we can’t wait to do it again!!!
Shortly after bungy jumping, we boarded a plane and made our way over to Australia for the next part of our Christmas Trip! New Zealand was incredible; if anyone gets the chance to go you have to take it! We loved everything about it and are ready to go back and explore some more!
Oh – and if you didn’t notice…we FINALLY GOT A GOPRO!!! Our parents got us the new Hero6 for Christmas! We were finally able to capture some of our crazy adventures! We hope you enjoy some of these fun videos!