Tuesday, April 5, 2016

we went to New Zealand (and it was worth writing about.)

I think I might be falling out of love with social media. I know for sure that when we went to New Zealand in March of 2016 the last thing I wanted to do was write about my experiences every day. I wanted to experience them, instead.

I did have a lot of thoughts, photos, and experiences, and since the people reading this blog are almost all family and friends, I thought I'd share. It's taken me a million years to tackle this, so I'm not going to stress too much, just share some of what we did. If you have any questions let me know and I'll try and answer any questions. (=

You can see our route on the map above. We left Los Angeles on March 3 and arrived in Auckland on March 5. We did a LOT of driving on the North Island over the first week; from Aukland all the way down to Wellington, with many stops in between. From Wellington we flew down to Christchurch (a change from our original itinerary) then took the train up to Picton, along the gorgeous coast. We picked up a car there, and drove into Nelson where we spent a couple of days (including a sea kayaking tour in Abel Tasman park) then flew back to Auckland where we hopped a ferry to Waiheke island and chilled by the beaches with wine. Then is was back to Auckland to fly back home, right at 2 weeks later, March 18.

Two weeks...

was enough to see what we saw, without getting too homesick. If you have more time, I definitely think at least 3 weeks is a good idea. (Most other travelers were there at least 21 days, even those from Australia.)

The flight...

was better than expected. We took Air New Zealand out of LA (about $1300 round trip) and paid for the "Sky Couch" upgrade which meant we had a whole row to ourselves. There were footrests that popped up to make a kind of sleeping platform; with a padded sheet to go under you, big pillows, and special seatbelts so you could sleep in weird positions. It was great for me (who sleeps in weird fetal positions anyways) and Patrick (who was able to move his legs around with the footrest.) [If you decide to fly this way, I have lots of good tips.] The flight was supposed to be around 13 hours, but we were about 2 hours early each time. The crew on the way out was really nice, the one on the way back not-as-much, but better than most domestic flights for sure.


If you are a fast food fan, you will be happy to know that most of New Zealand features your American favorites. McDonald's, Burger King, Kfc. If your thing is more charcuterie and seafood, you are also in luck. If you are a vegetarian with a nut allergy, you are going to have to work for your vittles.
There doesn't seem to be a traditional food type, but we got luckiest with small dishes from the case at coffee shops, and of course Indian and Mediterranean places.
Timing is an issue. Many places are open for lunch only, or dinner after 5, or have done sort of arbitrary closed hours throughout the day (2-5?) Since the shops all close early, and you're also dealing south travel times, eating can become kind of a hassle.
No tips are expected at any restaurant (or other service) which is awesome in a way you quickly discover (especially if you're someone who is hyperaware in socially sensitive situations.) Still, servers are nice and friendly. More so than up here, for sure.
*Pay at the register! I swear this was not in any of our guide books. Almost all of the places we ate (even nice restaurants) kept the bill and took payment at one central register. We sat at a few tables too long, wondering why they kept smiling at us and refilling our water glasses. We got SO MUCH free water. (;


Like I mentioned above, most shops close right at 5pm, so if you're a shopper plan to get there early. Tax is included in prices. The New Zealand dollar usually hangs somewhere below the US dollar in value, but the prices of items are similar. So if you're used to paying $5 for something, expect to pay $7 in New Zealand. Food especially seemed high- but I guess without tax or gratuity it was about the same.


Happens on the left side of the road. Yes, it's tricky. Yes, the gas is still in the same place. Don't worry, there are arrows to remind you EVERYWHERE.
People drive CONFIDENTLY in most places, so you'll need to be quick on your toes. Lots of roundabouts, lots of 80KM-100KM zones. People do seem to follow road-laws unlike some places we've visited, which is a good thing.
Public transit seemed to be pretty lacking in most of the places we visited. It seems like people rely more on cabs and driving than buses.
Domestic flights were extremely easy, quick, and abundant.


I think pretty much everywhere we stayed was delightful.  For the most part we were in B&B's, but there are a lot of "apartment" options too. I'll list the specific places we stayed on the appropriate cities, since they were great. Patrick did all the planning for this trip, and at some point I mentioned the awesomeness of the accommodations, and asked if there were just more good places to choose from. He said it seemed like there were more quality places to choose from. Cost of rooms varies greatly from city to town, but in general was as cheap or cheaper than similar accommodations in the states.

Okay, let's get to it.

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