What to do in New Zealand *My Life*

Hey Friends! I couldn’t be more excited to share with all of you pictures from our amazing time in NEW ZEALAND! Y’all, I LOVE this country; it has everything you’d ever want to see – beach, mountains, forest, glaciers, rivers, and tons of cute little towns. It is definitely my favorite country I’ve ever visited and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I think I’ve become New Zealand’s number one fan! The people there were also incredibly kind and so interested in our lives and travels abroad. We met so many new friends along the way, both locals and people from all over the world doing the same thing as us – looking for adventure! Please read this post to find out the BEST things to do in New Zealand, specifically the South Island.

After spending four days in Sydney, we arrived in Queenstown, New Zealand and spent two nights there. We stayed at the Park Boutique Hotel (our one splurge of a hotel) and so enjoyed hanging out in Queenstown. It felt a lot like a Colorado mountain town, but right on the water with a view of the Remarkables, the most beautiful purple and blue mountain range I’ve ever seen. Hillary and Heather have had bungy jumping on their bucket list for years, so the first thing they wanted to do was cross this huge adventure off their list. I went with them and took pictures of this crazy experience! They jumped off the Kawarua Bridge at AJ Hackett’s Bungy (the world’s first commercial bungy jump site) and I was SO proud of them! Another fun thing we did in Queenstown was take the Skyline Gondola up the mountain to go luging. We felt like little kids riding down the track, meaning we had a complete blast!

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After our adventure-filled time in Queenstown, we rented a car and drove around the South Island of New Zealand for the rest of our trip. When we were planning our trip, we went back and forth about if we wanted to do our own road trip and drive ourselves around New Zealand, or go with a group on a bus, and we are SO happy we chose to do our own road trip. While driving on the other side of the road in a foreign country through the mountains was terrifying at first, we got completely used to it and were so happy we had control over where we would stop and what we would see. I highly suggest renting through Jucy rental if you choose to do a road trip in New Zealand. The drive through the country is incredibly beautiful; you will see endless breathtaking sites, and lots and lots of sheep. If you’re wondering what to do in New Zealand, well, just rent a car and pull off when you see a sign for an interesting site!

Heather drove us from Queenstown to Milford Sound, which was the most unbelievable part of our whole trip. As we arrived into Milford, the three of us literally screamed with excitement and wonder at what we were seeing. It’s hard to even explain because it’s unlike anything I’ve laid eyes on in my life. To get to Milford Sound, you wind down roads and tunnels until you get to the bottom, where you are surrounded by sheer rock faces with skinny waterfalls cascading down the cliffs. We stayed at the Milford Lodge, which was sort of like a nice hostel for backpackers. The rooms are dormitory style and you stay with whoever they place you with (shout out to our new friend Mark). After we dropped our bags in our little cabin, we did the Twilighter Classic kayak tour with Rosco’s Milford Sound Sea Kayaks. This was one of the most fun days of my life. Our guide John-O led us for four hours through the fiord, which I learned is a narrow and deep part of the sea between extremely high cliffs. We kayaked through a crazy rain storm which created even more waterfalls, and made the large waterfalls even larger! We rode the waves, went under waterfalls, and had the best time I could have ever imagined. Then, the sun came out just in time for it to set; I even got to help rescue a hurting bird in the water and carry him to a nearby beach. At the end of our trip, the moon was shining brightly and we had a peaceful trip back to shore. I feel like my words don’t even describe half of the adventure we had this day. Thanks John-O for being the coolest guide we could’ve asked for! The next morning, we hiked the path around the sound and saw stunning views of the cliffs and low clouds. We were so sad to leave this place!

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One of my favorite things about New Zealand is that it is very “road-trip friendly,” meaning there are endless stops throughout the island to pull off and go on mini-hikes and see stunning views. We loved the Chasm Walk because of the gorgeous green walk through the forest which leads you to the chasm, a waterfall with circular shaped rocks sculpted by the force of the water. It’s stunning and loud and a must-see. We also stopped at the Mirror Lakes, which sort of speaks for itself. The mountain range and cloud-filled, blue sky were perfectly reflected in the lakes below. Another “must-see” in my opinion are the Te Anau Glowworm Caves. You take a boat to the western shore of Lake Te Anau, where you enter a cave in the side of a mountain in complete darkness! You get in a tiny boat in the cave and as your eyes get adjusted to the darkness, you see the glittering glowworms above you! It’s breathtaking.

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If you’re on the South Island of New Zealand, you must spend a day in Wanaka, a town centered around Lake Wanaka and gorgeous views of the Southern Alps. Wanaka is one of the mountain biking capitals of New Zealand, and Heather’s sister recommended using Dan at Wanaka Bike Tours to show us around the beautiful terrain. Dan and the other guides were so much fun to hang out with, and they even brought along a professional photographer to take pictures for new marketing materials (you know I loved that!). To check out Ben Read’s pictures from our biking trip along the Clutha River, click here. Ben is a killer photographer, so you’ve gotta check these pictures out! On our way out of Wanaka, we did a wine tasting at Rippon Vineyard in the Otago region, known for their Pinot Noirs. Yum.

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Another amazing pit stop during our road trip was the Blue Pools on our way to Franz Josef. Crystal-clear, aqua water is one of my very favorite sites in the whole world (I think it’s the Florida girl in me), so I LOVED this little hike. This was one of our long driving days, so it was the perfect break to let out some energy and just be weird (as you can see from the pictures). We spent two nights in Franz Josef at the cutest place called 10 Cottages. I was obsessed with the style of the little cottages, and couldn’t stop taking pictures of them! Our adventure during our time there was doing a heli-hike on Fox Glacier, which means you take a helicopter to the top of a glacier and then hike around in the ice. It was just as amazing as it sounds and it was also our very first time riding in a helicopter. They gear you up in spiked shoes and big jackets, and the guide takes an ax and hacks places to hike throughout the glacier. I didn’t bring my camera on this adventure, but I included a couple pictures from my iPhone below.

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We spent a night in Greymouth and took a tour of Monteith’s Brewery, where we tasted the best of their hand-crafted beers. We saw Monteith’s beer on tap all over New Zealand, so it was cool to go to the place where it’s made! From there, we headed to Kaikoura, but of course not without making some fun pitstops along the way. After being in the car for a couple hours, we happened upon this beach where there wasn’t another soul in site, and just ran along the untouched sand for a while. It was heaven. The color of the water in New Zealand is this blue-green aqua that I will never forget. I even made Heather & Hillary pose for me and do a little “mini-session,” and then they each took turns taking pictures with my camera.

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Our last little adventure was in Kaikoura, a beach town on the east coast of the South Island. This was a part of the trip I planned because one of the biggest goals for me was to see some New Zealand marine life! We did the Whale Watch tour and saw a huge sperm whale on the surface of the water. On our way in, we came across a huge pod of dusky dolphins jumping and spinning and playing all around the boat. The three of us girls couldn’t help ourselves and just screamed and laughed the whole time because of how awestruck we were. I didn’t have my camera on the boat, but added some iPhone pictures below.

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Well, that concludes our adventures in New Zealand! We took the ferry from the South to the North Island to catch our flight back to the states and spent a day in Wellington. The trip back was very long and we didn’t want to leave, but we knew we had used our time very wisely while abroad. We made so many memories over those sixteen days and will never forget the incredible sites, people, and fun we had in Australia & New Zealand. A song that played in our car over and over was “Wonder” by Bethel Music, and the lyrics sing – “May we never lose our wonder, wide-eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child, staring at the beauty of our king, may we never lose our wonder.” There are no better words to describe how we felt on this trip – in complete awe and wonder of God’s creation.

Ferry from South to North IslandWhat to do in New Zealand

If you’d like to learn more about what to do in New Zealand, and find out where we stayed, ate, etc. in New Zealand, click on the “Get in Touch” button at the top of the page. I’d love to talk to you more about our New Zealand travel itinerary. Also, read the post below for tips on where to go in Sydney, Australia.