New Zealand’s North Island with Kids

I was talking to a friend about New Zealand today which reminded me I still haven’t gotten around to posting about our trip last year. I did quite a bit of research prior to both trips we have taken to the North Island with little ones, so I thought I would share what I found to be fun family friendly activities and sights.

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Visiting Hobbiton {New Zealand}

Hi friends! If you have been wondering where I have been the last few weeks, we have had some technical difficulties that hopefully have been resolved now. Here’s the post I have been trying to get up for the past few weeks…

So I am only a couple months late on finally sharing our trip to Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings movie set) in New Zealand. But better late than never!

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Cruising Milford Sound

When I began to research things to do on New Zealand’s south island, one suggestion showed up on every list I found- Milford Sound. To be honest until then I really didn’t know anything about Milford Sound, or even what a sound was (FYI it’s a narrow ocean channel between two bodies of land). Technically Milford is not a sound at all but a fjord, because it is formed by a glacier. But whatever is was, as soon I saw pictures of this beautiful natural wonder I knew we would have to make it there.


Milford Sound is not the easiest place to get to (although it is the only fjord that can be accessed by road). The entire area is a national park so there is only one campsite/hotel that you can stay in and obviously for that reason, it books up quickly. ALSO if you search on a hotel website it might appear that you can stay in nearby towns but once you put the addresses in google maps it is actually at least a 2 hour drive. Driving in New Zealand is just tricky like that.

We stayed in the small town of Te Anau, which is a popular gateway to the sound. When we arrived Wednesday afternoon we were advised multiple times to rent tire chains and check the road conditions, as it was supposed to snow the following day. We were pretty excited to see some snowfall in the middle of June (clearly still getting used to these opposite seasons) but were disappointed to see clear, sunny skies when we woke up. We checked with the local gas station and were told the weather conditions were clear and we wouldn’t need the chains.

Off we went down Milford Road. We had a map in hand and several stops we wanted to make before we got to the boat terminal for our cruise. First stop was the highly anticipated Mirror Lakes.

To be honest this one was kind of a let down which probably just speaks more to the how beautiful ALL of New Zealand is because these Mirror Lakes didn’t hold a candle to some of the reflections we had already seen on our trip. But they were still gorgeous because hey- were in New Zealand.


We hopped back into the car and continued on our journey. The next place we stopped was at Lake Gunn.


Lake Gunn provided us with another chance to stretch our legs on a short walk but more importantly- a stunning view of the snow capped mountains behind the lake.


Our last pitstop was at The Chasm where we completed a short rainforest walk and checked out some waterfalls.


There is also an abundance of birdlife in the area.

And they clearly love all of the tourists, I wonder why…


because some people feed them their granola bars (not naming names).

The drive from Te Anau to Milford only took us an hour and half since the roads were clear and there was not any traffic in sight. We pulled into Milford with plenty of time to kill so we enjoyed breakfast and coffees at the Blue Duck Cafe and took a stroll on the nearby hiking path.



As beautiful as the view from land was, we were ready to begin our cruise and get a different perspective. We chose the Southern Discoveries Discover More cruise because it was the most inclusive one we saw. If the weather was warmer I would have loved to kayak around the fjord as well.


We hopped on the boat and enjoyed a cup of tea as we cruised through Milford Sound taking in the sights.







We also took hilarious pictures like this one.



About half way through the crew announced that if we wanted to stand under Stirling Falls and drink glacier water we could get rain coats from the lower deck. Even though it was frigid outside we couldn’t turn down this opportunity. Apparently if you really want to get drenched you have to stand on the lower deck. We didn’t realize this until we were under the falls and heard all the screams from below, but I was completely content with my moderate amount of soaking.


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On the way back to the terminal the boat stopped and let off the Discover More passengers at the Underwater Observatory. It was pretty much an opposite aquarium where we were in a glass room in the ocean looking at the different fish and coral on the other side.  It was really interesting seeing the plants and fish in their natural habitat and the guide was full of information on what we were seeing.



After our underwater experience we got on a smaller boat and cruised back to the terminal with this view behind us…


The Quest for the Bluest Lake in New Zealand

After spending our first couple days in Queenstown, we drove to Lake Wanaka for the next two nights. By day 3 our only real plan was to find Lake Pukaki. As I explained here, Travis had seen it on google maps and was set out on finding this gorgeous glacial lake.


For the record I am not positive that Lake Pukaki is in fact the bluest lake in New Zealand but it is pretty dang blue. 

After some research and conversations with some locals in Wanaka, we determined there was not too much to do around the lake but it was worth the drive just to marvel at its beauty. The journey there alone was breathtaking, I would really like to know if there are any ugly parts of New Zealand though.


Once we arrived we realized that google maps/images had not deceived us and the water was as shockingly blue as we saw in pictures. We also realized people were not exaggerating about there not being much around the lake. There was a small information center, bathrooms and some picnic tables.



We walked around the lake and took pictures and then became frustrated that the pictures did not seem to do the color justice. And clearly in our social media/picture obsessed world, the impressiveness of your pictures equals the quality of your trip (I kid). These are our unfiltered, unedited shots of the lake.

Confession: some of the ones with us in it are edited so that you could see our beautiful faces more clearly, sorry I’m not sorry. Also, this is the day I realized that I can not pull off the knitted headband.



We also caught this gorgeous rainbow. I am not sure if it was just our luck but I saw more rainbows in New Zealand in a week than I have seen in the past year here.


After we walked around for a while we decided to drive a little further down the road to the more popular Lake Tekapo. This lake had a little town center around it with shops and restaurants. We ducked into one of the first cafes we saw since it was freezing. We sat by a fire in one of the back rooms that looked out onto this view…

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There are quite a few things to do in Lake Tekapo and if I had done a better job planning this outing we would have brought our swimsuits and taken advantage of the hot springs that are located along side the lake. There are also tons of scenic flights, tours and jet boats that run in the area. Since we were there kind of in between seasons (and in the middle of the week) things were pretty quiet.


We drove and walked around the area checking out the different vistas. I love how low the clouds look in front of the mountains. It makes you feel like you are up in the sky.



Just a little sibling love.


We found a quiet (and extremely blue) stream that was perfect for skipping rocks.




Per the suggestion of the cafe employee we crossed the road and checked out the Church of the Good Shepard which is located on a hill overlooking the lake.



They actually have services in this tiny, one room chapel. I went back to take more photos from the other side but about that time a tour bus of over eager backpackers infiltrated the place and I thought it would be rude to ask all 89 of them to get out of my shot.


On the way home we took several other detours to check out every brightly colored body of water we could see. We also really tested Hugo the Highlander’s 4 wheel drive capabilities when Travis got us stuck in the mud and almost rolled us into the lake you see above. As much as that would have made a terrific story I am glad that we were able to get out safely (and dry).

Next up is the last of the New Zealand posts, our cruise through the Milford Sound (that’s not actually a sound but a fjord). Have a fabulous week!

Linking up with Travel Tuesday as usual!

Road Tripping around Lake Wanaka

After our first couple days in Queenstown, we hit the windy road in Hugo the Highlander (our rental car) and headed towards Lake Wanaka.


Our first stop was in Arrowtown- where we scoped out their old fashioned chocolate shops and cute boutiques.




Peak-a-boo pictures are always funny.  




Travis loves making me take photos in phone booths (ex. here).

Lake Wanaka is only an hour away from Queenstown, so it wasn’t long before we arrived in our second destination.


We followed recommendations and ate a delicious dinner at Francesca’s Italian before enjoying a night cap (of wine) back at our Air BnB.


The next morning there was only one thing on our agenda- Lake Pukaki. Before our trip Travis was looking at Google Earth and a startling blue lake jumped out at him. After further investigation we found out it was called Lake Pukaki. From what we could gather it really was as piercing a blue as it looked in pictures and also that it was highly underrated. It was a 2 hour drive from where we were so we loaded up on caffeine, started our audiobook (The Girl on the Train- SO good) and headed to find this mysterious lake.


It wasn’t too long before we had to stop and check out the scenery.


Lindy Point Overlook


We drove past several very blue rivers (or streams?) and knew we must be getting close.

When we turned the corner and saw this…


Apparently glaciers make REALLY blue lakes.


None of these pictures were edited whatsoever and honestly, we were disappointed that we couldn’t capture the brightness we saw in person.


We spent the rest of the afternoon in awe of this gorgeous glacial lake and it’s neighbor Lake Tekapo. I have many more pictures from both of the lakes and will be sharing them in their own post later on. For now I will just leave you with pictures from our drive back to Lake Wanaka because in New Zealand roadside scenery is a little different then we are used to.




As we pulled back into Lake Wanaka we were greeted with this beautiful sunset over the lake.



Not too shabby, New Zealand.

Next week marks our one year anniversary in Australia! Time has gone by SO quickly. I will be celebrating our expat-averssary on the blog by sharing what I have learned in the past year. See you then!

Falling in Love with Queenstown, NZ

From the moment our plane touched down on the South Island of New Zealand we were pretty smitten (in fact my sister-in-law got in trouble for taking photos of the scenery while we were on the runway). With rugged snow-capped mountains and blue lakes everywhere you look, it’s not hard to understand why people rave about New Zealand.

We hurried through the (tiny) airport and picked up our rental car to begin our six day Kiwi adventure. We started off checking into our hotel, The Earnslaw Lodge, a cozy little hotel on the lake front.

We were not disappointed when we opened the curtains to this view…

It was already late afternoon so we were looking for something to do before dinner. I remembered my friend, Emily Anne, had gone to this ice bar while she was in Queenstown. I checked their version on Groupon (Grab One) and luckily they still had the deal going on for Minus 5.

Note: There are two ice bars in Queenstown, so if you just ask a stranger on the street where the “ice bar” is, they might lead you to the wrong destination.

We didn’t realize this isn’t a typical bar where people just wander in and hang out. You book an hour at a time, they get you all bundled up and you go hang out in the small bar area that is literally COMPLETELY made of ice. We lasted 22 minutes before our Texas/Queensland bodies couldn’t handle the cold anymore.


We wandered around the lake and watched the sunset. I’m not sure how many times we commented on how gorgeous the scenery was, but if I was a betting woman I would bet at least 150.

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The next morning Travis got up early to catch the sunrise, actually it rises at 8:30 but it was 5:30 in Brisbane time so the rest of us were still quite sleepy.





We spent the morning laying around, drinking tea and staring out across the lake from our little patio. Around 9:30 we decided to head out to Skyline Gondola for our first activity of the day. We originally just planned on taking the gondola to the top and grab breakfast/coffee, but when we saw the luge we decided to add a couple rides on to our itinerary.





After becoming properly caffeinated and taking an obscene amount of photos of the view over Queenstown, we made our way to the second gondola that takes you to the luge track.

Sidenote: At this point we were extremely underwhelmed about the luge ride, from where we were we could see everyone finishing up the course at a snail’s pace. Also, we had only seen children. Travis literally suggested we try and give our tickets away, but we decided to give it a go anyway.


This marks the first time I have ever purchased the photos they take of you, but how could I not? When we got to the luge track we realized that the track we had been seeing people finish up on was for kids and first timers AND the have to slow down practically to a stop right before it ends. I’m SO glad that we didn’t sketch out on the luge rides because they were SO fun (and the view wasn’t too shabby either).


We headed back down the mountain, grabbed lunch at the famous Fergburger (pork belly was the crowd favorite) and snapped a few more pictures in lovely Queenstown before we hit the road to begin our trek around the south island.

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DSC_0511Next up is our road trip to Lake Wanaka and the quest to find the bluest lake…

Linking up with the ladies of Travel Tuesday