To wrap up our great 2018 year of adventure, we decided to make the trek to Middle Earth aka New Zealand! While I’ve made the trip a few times as a singleton, this was my first trip this big with the family. (John thought the travel to S. Korea was long…HA!). I’ve covered the basics of traveling with kids in other posts, but this trip was epic. The heroes of the day(s) were the kindles loaded with all episodes of Puppy Dog Pals, several movies and games (thanks John!) and headphones for the kids. I’ve realized that my sanity was all-to-closely linked to the happiness of my kids. I had two books with me and got through exactly 5 pages during the combined 50+ hours of travel to Auckland and back. When the kids were entertained, I slipped into some sort of zen state and blankly stared at strangers. Lol.
My parents met us at the airport and what a relief it was to pass the kids off to someone else. Ha. During our two weeks, we spent about a week in Auckland. There is SO much to do and see within an hour or so around the capital.
One Tree Hill:
MJ Savage Memorial Park:
Waitakere Ranges National Park:
Piha Beach (on basically every episode of best beaches in the world)
Ferry to the city center:
John and I got away and visited Queenstown for a few days. We left the kids with my parents and headed to the adventure capital of the world! We didn’t bungee jump (invented here!) but we did do some awesome things. I would have never guessed that I would have done one of them:
One of the best places we ate was Fergberger. It was our first stop off the shuttle from the airport. It had a line around the block and we soon found out why. Two things of note here: 1) Coke Zero is EVERYWHERE in NZ (score!!) and 2) We sat where Ed Sheeran sat! (ahhhh!)
We rode the Shotover Jet and I would HIGHLY recommend it. We had a fun driver and whipped among the canyons and did 360s in the open water. Whatever you do, don’t be fooled by the other companies offering similar experiences. Shotover
Jet has the rights to this part of the whitewater and in my opinion has the best views and experience.
Not only were the views so crazy (the Remarkables aren’t called remarkable for nothin’) but the ice cream and street performers kept us entertained. (John: “Jess the Mess”- need I say more? LOL)
In some parts of the city, I felt transported back to merry old England:
Lake Hayes Loop Track:
Ok, I was lead to believe by my better half that this “walk” was going to be an easy “beginner” hike. I knew I had been duped when we “started” the hike with a walk up a hill so steep my feet were at a 25 degree angle to my leg (think: Lombard Street in San Francisco). We finally make it to the start of the hike and see people with walking stick and Camelbacks on…I had tennis shoes on and one water bottle. Lol. The sign also mentioned that this is an intermediate to advanced hike. (JOHN!!!) Once we made it to the forest area, the temperature was awesome and we wound around the mountain taking breaks to enjoy the scenery (and catch my breath). Several of the hikers were encouraging as we made our way to the summit, but others were complaining that the hike down was even harder. I had some choice words for those people – luckily they thought I was joking. Anyway, once we made it to the top, the view was INSANE and I had a major feeling of accomplishment. Maybe there is some outdoorsy person in me hoping to come out. Ha.
Queenstown Skyline Gondola:
I guess by now you know that I’m afraid of heights. This gondola ride took us to the top of the sister mountain that we just climbed. Tons of mountain bikers hooked their bikes to the gondola and flew down the mountain. I was just freaking out as we flew up the mountain in the gondola.
Once we got to the top, we took the luge ride about midway down the mountain (3 times, ha). John and I raced down and got some serious air. Major MUST DO!
One of the bucket list items for John was Hobbiton, and it didn’t disappoint. This private farm still hosts the set from the Lord of the Rings Series and Hobbiton. We were transported to the Shire and couldn’t get enough! There were some HARD CORE Hobbit fans there (this one guy had “the ring” and took pictures with it at every Hobbit door). We had an awesome guide and got the scoop on behind the scenes info.
The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest:
I was so low-key excited to hang where the Royals (Prince Harry and Megan Markle) were visiting a couple of months ago!!
NZ has some of the most awesome playgrounds and I think my parents located ALL of them.
We couldn’t have been luckier with the kids on the long flight. If you get the chance, make sure and reserve the “sky couch”. The cushions pop up and create a flat couch-like area. A cushiony mat is put on top of the seats, big pillows and fluffy blankets are provided. It helped these babies get a good 8 hours each way. PTL!!
All-in-all this was a trip of a lifetime and it was so special that I could share it with my family. NZ is so beautiful and would totally recommend that everyone visit!!