A short tour of New Zealand

For my 30th we finally went across the pond to New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to visit and the flight is quite short from Brisbane, so it’s almost like going interstate. Since I’m a winter baby we were there during the coolest month. The landscapes were whimsical and magical, but God was it cold. We started on the North Island in Auckland, went down as far as Hamilton. Then flew to Christchurch, stopped through Lake Tepako, Wanaka, Arrowtown and ended our trip in Queenstown. We had a great time though and I can definitely see us going back to see everything we missed. So this is our trip in 7 days, traveling with a toddler. It was challenging at times, but a place to visit as a family.

Day 1

On day one we flew into Auckland. After an extremely long wait for our rental car. We decided to see the CBD. We walked through Albert Park, which was quite pretty….

Then did a little window shop in the CBD. We went to the Crab Shack at Princes Wharf for dinner.  To be honest it was a bit disappointing so I didn’t take any photos.

After that, we drive about 1.5 hours to a Bed and Breakfast in Hamilton, as we had plans of going to Hobbiton the next day. The tours are quite early so this was a really convenient location to stay overnight. Unfortunately, the weather was really terrible and it was not possible to go. As you can see in the photos this is around 10 am and it’s still really dark and gloomy out there.

Day 2

On the bright side, we did find a really nice little cafe in Hamilton called Sugar Bowl. They had a great menu, full of healthy, tasty and decadent dishes. They also had great coffee and a great selection of takeaway pastries, muffins, cakes, and sandwiches. We bought a few items for snacks then drove into town to do a bit of shopping before our flight to Christchurch.

Day 3

The next morning we went out to breakfast to a place of Marco’s choosing. Luciano Espresso Bar in Christchurch is a busy little cafe that’s known for its coffee. I had the housemade granola with poached pears and berry reduction. Marco got this enormous wrap with beef, cheese, tomatoes, rocket and pesto. Everything was delicious and coffee was great too.

Next stop was the Willowbank Wild Life Reserve. This park was amazing and Octavia really enjoyed it. It is divided into three themes, introduced species, farming animals and native species. The park is very interactive, in that many of the birdlife roam free and the farming animals can be fed and petted.  It was also really nice to see the unique native species that we had never experienced before. I loved how natural, low key and informative the park was.

After that, we headed to the center of Christchurch to do Punting on the Avon. Punting is traveling through small waterways in a small, flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow. It was such a lovely way to see the Avon River and Botanic Gardens. Even though it was freezing we had blankets and hot water bottles to keep us warm, and a friendly punter to keep us entertained.

For lunch, we went to the Re: Start Container Mall. This mall was built after the tragic earthquake that hit in 2011. It contains over fifty businesses selling food, clothing, gifts and books. It was a really nice place for a quick bite and it wasn’t too busy. I got this amazing veggie pizza from Base Woodfired Pizza and really good coffee from A Mouse Called Bean. We also had a Blueberry, Mango Apple Smoothie from Berry Healthy Real Fruit Ice Cream and Yogurt. They use the most amazing New Zealand berries, which was a real treat.

After lunch, we had really long drive Lake Tekapo. Unfortunately, our baby is not a fan of the car so it was a long tear-filled trip. Due to the rain we also nearly drove into flooded lake. Somebody forgot to put out a sign to detour, so it after that near miss we still had to drive nearly an hour back to take another road. So a 3.5 hour trip took closer to 5 hours.

Once we arrived in Lake Tekapo we settled into our hotel, then drove down to the main hub for dinner. We went to the Japanese restaurant, Kohan Restaurant. I heard that the food was really good here and it didn’t disappoint. We ordered sushi, tempura vegetables, Tatsuta-age salmon and Ton katsu. The decor is very simple but apparently, the view of Lake Tepako is beautiful during the day and the staff are lovely.

Day 4

The next morning we got to see the beautiful landscape of Lake Tepako. The air was so fresh and frost was covering the vegetation. We went down to the main hub again for breakfast at Run 76 for coffee, Aoraki salmon croissant, and veggie frittata. Everything was really nice and it was a great, warm place to enjoy the views and get some free wifi. They also have lots of vegetarian and gluten free options and use New Zealand made specialty products. Next, we went down to the lake and visited the Church of the Good Shepherd (1935) and Mackenzie Sheep Dog Statue. The view was beautiful and we saw the cutest wild bunny family in the grass.

We then drove up to Mount John Observatory, at Lake Tepako. We would have loved to hike up but with a toddler, driving was the best option. Again another gorgeous view of the lake from this premier astronomical research observatory. The coffee is also said to be great from the cafe up here Astro-Cafe, with this spectacular view. It was on my to-do list, but it was really busy and we were full and had a big drive ahead of us. Something I would have loved to do was to stargaze on one of their evening observation tours. Unfortunately, kids need to be over 5 years, so that was out for us.

We then took the scenic drive to Wanaka, which takes about 2.5 hours. Octavia was meant to have her sleep during this trip. However, she screamed the entire distance until the last 15 minutes. It was still worth it to see the gorgeous New Zealand landscape. It was way too cold to get out, so all my photos were from the car.

Wanaka was our next stop, which is a nice little resort town. There are plenty of restaurants and shops, but it’s also more lay back than Queenstown. There are also many festivals held throughout the year and lots of outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, mountain biking, mountaineering, fishing, paragliding, kayaking and rafting  This was only a lunch stop for us. We had a quick lunch at Big Fig Slow Cafe. They offer good quality meals cooked with care and served fast.

On the road again for another hour to get to Arrowtown.  We saw this beautiful view and stopped briefly at the Crown Range Lookout.

Arrowtown is a historic mining town, which is both picturesque and eerie at twilight. The buildings both along the main drag are all consistent with the era and landscape features the arrow-like trees that were built by the settlers on a previously barren landscape. There are plenty of nice restaurants, cafes, and shops. There are also many family activities, such as skiing, hiking, golfing, biking and gold panning.

We stayed overnight in a local olden style motel. For dinner, we went to The Stables. This little gem was originally built in 1837 to house horses and still retains its character and serves fine dining comfort food. Since it was so cold in the evening, there was limited seating inside, but the staff were lovely and brought Octavia colouring materials at the bar while we waited for our table. We had the Venison Osso Bucco, Eye Fillet, and Sticky Date Pudding. It bit heavy but tasty and perfect for a cold winters night.

Day 5

Today was my birthday. So we started the day with an early morning breakfast in town at The Chop Shop Food Merchants Cafe. They are a unique vintage boutique cafe serving brunch and lunch. We didn’t take photos of our breakfast but I remember having perfectly cooked eggs and great coffee. Before leaving Arrowtown I took a few photos from the main street and from the lookout above the town. Wish we could have stayed longer, but had to keep moving.

Our last stop on our trip was the gorgeous resort town, Queenstown. This was probably the busiest place we had seen, but so much to do, see and eat. There are so many activities all year round, both indoor and outdoor thrills, animal experiences, air and sea adventures. This was probably my favourite place we went. You can visit many times and always have a unique experience. The only downside was that it was the coldest place we went. I could not feel my toes through my boots.

We started our afternoon just surveying the town. Marco and Octavia went to the Underwater Observatory, while I shopped. The observatory is on the lake, It is quite small and Octavia got bored pretty quick.

For lunch, we went a place our friends highly recommended, Fergburger. I guess everyone else had also been recommended to this burger joint since the line was the longest in town. It was worth the wait through. The burgers so huge and really taste. The menu features New Zealand produce such as beef, lamb, venison, chicken, and cod. There are also a couple of vegetarian burgers on this expansive menu. The only downside was limited seating and a few bench seats on the sidewalk. Little miss was still breastfeeding, which was fun to do in -2 degrees. Marco was warmed an amazing Hot Apple Cider, unfortunately for me, it was alcoholic.

For my birthday dinner we wanted to go somewhere special, so we went to Botswana Butchery.  This fine dining restaurant has an innovative seasonal menu, featuring New Zealand’s best local produce. I’m happy I had my birthday dinner here. It was so warm and cozy and the food was amazing. We started with the Turkey Bastilla Pie and then I had the Rabbit Pie with Rabbit loin and vegetables, Marco had the Fillet Mignon and Mash Potatoes and Gravy.  After dinner walk around town, which was bustling with people, but not overly crowded. I saw people ice skating and doing painting classes, which we would have loved to do if we were babyless.

Day 6

The next day we were up bright and early taking some photos from across the river where we were staying and then went into town for Fergbaker. They are situated next door to Fergburger and have the most amazing pies and great coffee. After that, we made our way to the wharf to take a boat trip.

We took a scenic boat trip across Lake Wakatipu. The landscape was just spectacular and no matter how cold it was out there, you just can’t help getting back out there on the deck. We also got to meet the captain and have a chat I love how layback the New Zealanders are and so friendly.

The boat trip was taking us to Mt Nicholas Station. We did a guided tour of the farm, which was a beautiful experience. This family-run sheep station produces merino wool for the brand Icebreaker. They raise over 29,000 merino sheep on 100,000 acres of land. The views are spectacular and it was nice to get up close and personal with the animals.

First, the guide told as a bit about the station and we meet some of the pigs, cows, horse and sheep dogs. After we visited the sheep and there was a shearing demonstration. Then we were taken around in a van around the station. The station seemed quite humane and the staff were really friendly and informative.

In the afternoon we took a 45 minute drive to Glenorchy. We hear that its spectacular views were used in both Lord of the Rings and Narnia. I’m not sure we stopped at the right views but the lake at the town center was stunning. Not sure we appreciated it so much after the scenic boat ride we took earlier. We planned on having dinner here, but everything was closed except for a tavern that smelt like a toilet. So we drove back to Queenstown.

We were starving by the time we got back to Queenstown. We were looking for any restaurant that we could get a table in. We ended up at Farelli’s Trattoria. Marco had the Bolognese and I had the Salmon. I couldn’t get enough of New Zealand Salmon, which I normally avoid at home. It was a nice dinner but definitely not as high quality as other restaurants, but definitely more affordable.

Afterward, we went for dessert at Cookie Muncher Cookie Bar. This store is part of Cookie Time, a New Zealand cookie brand. They serve fresh baked cookies, and cookie inspired ice creams sandwiches, milkshakes, hot chocolates, and coffees. The store is really fun and interactive but really busy in the evenings. Not the best place for gluten and dairy free options though.

Day 7

On our last day, we were more spontaneous. There was only so much we could do with Octavia and bad weather. Marco had planned to take a small plane to see the views outside of Queenstown, but all flights were canceled. We started our day at a really nice cafe near the Kiwi Birdlife Park, Bespoke Kitchen. Everything on the menu and in the counters looked amazing. There were so many gluten, dairy free and vegan options. Marco had the Eggs Benedict with spinach, oven dried tomatoes, apple cider hollandaise, on a toasted english muffin. I had the Black rice & Coconut sugar pudding with coconut whip, caramelized banana, mango gel, pistachio & pumpkin seed crumb and the Hot lemon, honey, and ginger drink.

After a fantastic breakfast, we visited the Kiwi Birdlife Park. It’s quite a small park but has many of the native birdlife, as well as some lizards, insects, and fish. It was quite lovely to walk among the trees and have a break from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown.

Right next door to the  Kiwi Birdlife Park is the Skyline Gondola.  The gondola is a small capsule that takes you to the top of Bob’s Peak. On the way up you can see sheep feeding on the steep mountain side. At the top, you can see an impressive view of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and surrounding mountains. While you’re up there you can also have lunch, visit the Jellybelly store, ride a luge cart and gain access to more activities such as mountain biking, paragliding, and walking tracks. By night there is also stargazing and a Kiwi Haka performance with dinner.

For the afternoon we thought we would take a drive to some nearby ski fields. The drive up to the Remarkables had to be one of the most horrifying drives we have ever done. The road zigzagged with incredibly sharp turns and is mostly gravel. Once we got to the car park we had to walk up to the building in front of the ski fields. The wind was so strong that it killed my lungs and really scared Octavia who was strapped to my chest. Once we got up there is was really beautiful. We didn’t stay long through since it was already late in the afternoon and we didn’t want to go down with all the buses.

For dinner, we wanted experience fresh New Zealand fish for the last time. Fishbone is a seafood restaurant that sources sustainable fresh fish and shellfish from the waters around the South Island. The vegetables and eggs are also produced on their own farm. The meals were lovely. Marco had the Tarakihi Fish and Chips and I had a white fish (sorry can’t remember what type) with miso sauce, kale, shiitake mushrooms, mash potato and croquette. After dinner, for our last hurrah, we had dessert at Cookie Muncher Cookie Bar.

I hope you enjoyed my trip through New Zealand. If your planning a trip and have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

For foodies,  there are so many amazing foods to try in New Zealand. For meat and seafood eaters you can enjoy Ora King and Aoraki Salmon, Fiordland Venison, farmed lamb and fresh seafood. They also produce amazing Manuka Honey and many manuka products. If your vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian you will also enjoy all of the fresh local fruits and vegetables. It’s quite easy to come across vegan and gluten free options, as well as local food cooked from scratch. If your travelling with a bub, you can find stacks of New Zealand organic baby food in the supermarkets.

For colourists, you can pick up beautiful New Zealand themed colouring books. I bought Kuwi’s Creative Coloring Book by Kat Merewether and got a cute little Kuwi toy with purchase. For a review of this book and completed coloured pages check out my review. You may also come across some of these other books:

4 thoughts on “A short tour of New Zealand

    1. Thanks Kristah! I didn’t realise you were from New Zealand, no wonder you have a such a beautiful garden. Yes I definitely want my next trip to be in summer. At least I can pack lighter and can do more walking. It seems like a place you can never get sick of.

      Liked by 1 person

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