Every bit as amazing as I had imagined, and delicious (vegetarian) food beyond any of my expectations! When people talk of New Zealand, it's mostly about the gorgeous scenery, diversity of landscapes, great wines, ease of travel, and nice people (and sheep). Without a doubt, all of these things are there, but I had no idea the food would be something to write home about too! We had about 13 days, including the Christmas holiday, to take it all in. We strategically decided to start in the South, see as much as we could of both islands and end in the North. This plan is the opposite of what most people do, and we chose it because of some great money saving tips which got us the micro-campervan rental with no one way fee! Our micro-campervan was the perfect option for the trip even though it was a tight fit, we were very glad to pay the smallest vehicle fee on the car ferry between the islands!
We decided early on that we'd have to save SCUBA diving and any serious hiking/backpacking for another trip and focused on taking in as many of the different sights as we could with a sort of New Zealand sampler approach. We layed out an ambitious schedule, and though it was busy (things are farther apart than you might guess), we fit in so many great sites and activities and still had time to enjoy the little things, and some unexpected adventures! From touring the beaches and hills of the Banks peninsula, to the strikingly blue waters of Lake Tekapo with Mt. Cook as a backdrop, to a quick skydive in Queesntown on the way to the Fiordlands, kayaking in Milford Sound, meeting new friends-of-friends in Wanaka, a glacier walk and visit to the mysterious pancake rocks, biking between wineries in Marlborough, ferrying across the Strait of Raukawa, a geyser eruption and some hot springs in Rotorua, some more wines in Hawke's Bay, and the beautiful beaches of the Coramandel Peninsula, we couldn't have asked for a better trip!
I don't think any description I could give the Fiordlands would do them justice, I was blown away by the dramatic peaks, cliffs and waterfalls! Even with our least lucky weather day, rain at the Fox Glacier, my first glacial experience was unforgettable! The perfect end to our summertime-beach-Christmas was at Hot Water Beach, where you can literally dig your own hot tub as hot water seeps up through the sand at low tide! Our timing was perfect with a lovely sunset and time to enjoy the starry night sky before the waves came crashing back. And back to food, no matter where we ate, either researching or getting recommendations on a place or just stopping by the nearest local spot when the tummy started growling, it was always amazing! Here's hoping for another chance to go back soon!