Text and images Madz Nidea
It’s done. We’re going to New Zealand!
You probably think like how I did before this trip: New Zealand is nothing but a big piece of green land that’s littered with fat, juicy cows where my carton of milk sitting in the fridge probably comes from. Oh but I quickly deleted that pre-social-media image of New Zealand from my head and thought of all the awesome scenery my family and I were going to see. I was totally stoked.
Touchdown. Fast forward. New Zealand was mind-blowing. What I thought would be a one-time trip became two. We were very lucky to have seen the beautiful country during two contrasting seasons: Winter and Summer. Before our first trip, we were told that in New Zealand you could experience all four seasons in one day. And experience them we did. A pair of trips during only two out of four seasons wasn’t too bad. After all, we got to experience all four in one day.
Let me show you a sneak peek of our wonderful trip to the land of Aotearoa, the land of the Long White Cloud.
1 Queenstown – Glenorchy Road. Another way of going to Glenorchy and nearby towns is by enjoying a leisurely drive, which is what we did. It’s so easy to book a rental car in advance and pick it up in the airport itself after you land at Queenstown. We stopped by the side of the road along the way to Glenorchy to take a cool photo of a boat in Lake Wakatipu with the Remarkables in the background.
2. Landing at Auckland International Airport. The sun was on the other side of the plane opposite my window seat and I thought it was cool seeing the shadow of our own plane descending, getting bigger and bigger as we got closer to the ground. Here we come, vast green fields!
3. Before hitting the Auckland city center, we stopped at a historic landmark called One Tree Hill. It’s a mere 25- minute drive from the international airport. The hike to the top is no walk in the park, but when you get to its summit it gives you a breathtaking 360-degree view of Auckland.
4. The Skycity Tower. It was hard to miss this landmark as it’s the tallest structure of the Auckland Central Business District. We tried the revolving restaurant at the top but didn’t have the time (excuse my excuses) to go bungee jumping from the top. But anyone can!
5. The Skycity at dawn. I went for an early run in one of the days of our summer trip to Auckland and caught a good view of the lit tower from a field down the road from it called Victoria Park. I learned from locals that this is where they have their countdown and fireworks for New Year’s Eve.
6. Mount Victoria at Devonport. Across the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland Central we went to the summit of Mount Victoria, which is one of the Twin Peaks in Auckland’s North Shore area. It gave us a beautiful view of the Auckland city skyline. It was interesting to look at sailboats move along the harbor while the sun was setting. I caught a young traveling couple who, like us, was in awe of the moment.
7. The view at the other side of the peak of Mount Victoria looking out to Mount Rangitoto, an active volcano not far from the city center.
8. One of the shops in Devonport that has a retro façade. They have really awesome coffee and creamy gelatos to complement it. Here’s a photo of my dad and sister waiting for their good brew and cold cones.
9. A shot outside one of the local burger joints in Auckland Central. It was just awesome to see structures that bring you back to the early 1920s.
10. Cape Reinga. This lighthouse looks out to the vast ocean where we witnessed two bodies of water meet, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a six-hour drive from Auckland Central but the views along the way are amazing.
11. We went to Tawharanui Regional Park, not too far away from Auckland city center, where we had access to hilly farms and a beautiful beach called Anchor Bay.
12. My son Mateo enjoying the grass in Tawharanui Regional Park .
13. Kai Iwi Lake, almost a three-hour drive from Auckland Central up north. The most beautiful lake I’d seen on this trip because of how blue its water was and how white the sand was. When you go down by the water, you would never think of it as a lake. This was a shot of my dad and I after hiking a trail up to the top of a hill, a perfect lookout.
14 & 15 . On the way to Kai Iwi Lake, we stopped by a farm that had lots of different animals—from farm chickens to cows, sheep, and ponies. Mateo was enjoying the easy walk around the farm while his newfound friends followed behind.
16. Queenstown. It’s this breathtaking view of the small town sitting right below the mountain range called The Remarkables. You can take a gondola up to the summit of this mountain and look down to a great view of Queenstown. What’s awesome is that you can have a fun ride going down the mountain using a “luge” (loojsh), which is similar to that cart the kids ride in the movie Little Rascals.
17. Lake Wakatipu, down by the docks in Queenstown. From here, you can ride a boat that takes you to the different towns near Queenstown.
18. Wanaka, another quaint town close to Queenstown. I’d say we had the best driving experience going there. It’s not too far of a drive to Wanaka and Queenstown. We decided to hit the road in the afternoon and our GPS took us for a cool ride through a beautiful valley. Imagine driving through a road that’s sandwiched between mountains, left and right, which are so close to each other. We went through that valley at sunset and everything was just lit golden by the setting sun. It was beautiful.
19. Fiordland Regional Park. Fiordland is the best massive piece of land I saw on this trip, stretching for miles and miles and met by beautiful mountains that break the vast plain. As soon as our tour bus stopped at the side of the road my wife and I jumped out to experience walking and running on this piece of land. The grass was so soft and cool, probably because they so rarely get stepped on. We just had to have this moment.
20. Mirror Lakes, further down the road from Fiordland. With the water undisturbed and, on a very clear day, you can take a photo of the lake and the mountains in one frame, flip it upside down, and no one will notice. The very clear water literally mirrors the mountains in great detail. We didn’t have a clear day so this was the best I could get.
21. Mount Ngauruhoe, an active volcano very close to the ski fields we went to on Mount Ruapehu. Mount Ngauruhoe was turned into Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s film adaption of the The Lord of The Rings.
22. Tongariro National Park. Golden fields around and in front of a famous landmark, the Chateau Tongariro Hotel. The hotel sits at the foot of Mount Ruapehu. It is the last stop before taking the steep climb to the ski fields. If you’re travelling with, kids I’m sure they’ll love running in this field as my son did.
23. Mount Ruapehu. The closest mountain to Auckland and the perfect place to go skiing and snowboarding. It was my first time trying skiing and it was awesome. I just had to sit at one point and marvel at the fact that I was learning how to ski on the slopes of an active volcano. I’m alive!
24. The Hilton at Taupo. About an hour’s drive from Mount Ruapehu is a town called Taupo. In the middle of all the mountains and lakes sits a Hilton Hotel. We got spoiled here. They have rooms for big groups like our family. We had a cozy balcony at the side of the room that looked out to the heated pool and the gym. The best part: Heated bathroom floors.
25. Huka Falls. About a 10-minute drive from Taupo city center, you can go to Huka Falls and go jet boating. You’re in for an adrenaline rush. It skips though the water making sudden and sharp turns as it brings you to the waterfall landing.
26 . Ducks at Lake Taupo. Ducks with attitude. Keep your snacks close to you as these ducks will go after them.
27. Muriwai Beach. Located on the west coast of Auckland, this beautiful black sand beach is popular among surfers and also home to a gannet colony. It’s beautiful to look at but the water can be pretty rough. The water sometimes can go from ankle deep to waist high in just two seconds, so just be careful when going by the water.