For my 30th birthday, Terry surprised me with a trip to New Zealand for 10 days in November. New Zealand is so overwhelming – in a good way. There are so many things to see and do. In fact, I had a complete trip planned, scrapped it, and started again from scratch. We flew out of Houston on a direct flight to Auckland. Without further ado, here is our travel guide.


Where we stayed: Quest Parnell

What we did: We landed at Auckland’s airport and took the SkyBus into town. It’s a $16 NZD one way ticket and was a convenient way to get into the city and get our bearings. Taxis are an option and it was a few dollars more than the SkyBus for two. I couldn’t get Uber to work upon landing so unsure if they do airport pickups but they are available in the city.

We walked around Parnell and headed towards the Auckland Museum and the Botanical Gardens. We also spent time outside at the piers in the Commercial Business District (CBD). It’s unreal how blue and clean the water is in such a busy waterway. We skipped the Sky Tower but no regrets. In general, we used the day to adjust to the time change. We were so tired, dinner was takeaway in our room. Oh Calcutta was fantastic and the portions were so large that we shared with an extra piece of naan.

Parnell Auckland and the Commercial Business District Pier

The next morning, we took the Northern Explorer down to Wellington. It’s an all day train ride and you’re allowed to bring your own food and drinks, so do. The train ride was a great way to see a lot of the country in a convenient way. We especially liked not having to drive. There is an open air carriage so if you know you want to take a picture of something of note, head up there early for the best spots. Highlight for fellow Lord of the Rings fans – you go by Mt. Ngauruhoe, which we like to call Mt. Doom. There’s a stop at the station and while you can’t get off, you can take great pictures.

mt doom and cows

New Zealand Country side north island


What we did: We stored our bags at the Hotel Waterloo, a hostel across the street from the station as we took the overnight Bluebridge ferry to Picton. We grabbed a drink at The Thistle Inn and fish and chips at The Chippery in Thorndon. We had time to kill so we went to the New World grocery store up the street and roamed the aisles. I like seeing what people eat in different countries. Their grocery stores were the most like our stores in the US of any I’ve seen. However, they did have jell-o with edible glitter. New Zealand wins.

Where we stayed: On the Bluebridge ferry overnight. Don’t do it. Our boarding was delayed so it cut into our sleep time. The crossing itself was not smooth. The bedrooms were not clean and I saw blood spots under the fitted sheet. I also have zero clue where they got these sheets from because one of ours had someone’s random name written on it in permanent marker. Our window was so old and damaged so we couldn’t see out. If I had to do it again, we should have stayed in Wellington and taken the ferry during the day so that we could also see Marlborough Sound.

Approaching Wellington New Zealand

See where we land, literally, in the next post.


New Zealand Packing Essentials

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