When I opened my mail about a year ago to find a wedding invitation to our friends wedding in New Zealand, my heart about fell right outta my butt. I’ve known my friend Jason for almost 8 years now and I’ve seen him go through so much in that short time. And when he met an amazing woman at our gym, his life completely brightened in so many ways. I saw him grow and change in such a positive way all because of this fantastic person that entered his life. And with this invitation, not only was I lucky enough to watch them get married, but I was given the opportunity to finally pull the trigger and buy a ticket to New Zealand. No excuses, no buts or what ifs, just yes. So today I’m going to walk you through our entire trip. This post will be pretty long because I’ve added about a million phone and every single thing that we did and ate, so get ready!
When we booked our airline tickets, we booked through Air New Zealand and I cannot recommend them enough. They were simply fantastic. We flew from Denver to San Fransisco to Auckland and then Queenstown. All of these flights together would add up to about 24 hours of travel. Pretty brutal when the longest I’ve traveled is about 7 hours. BUT when we got to San Fran, we stopped in the United Polaris Club and that made ALL the difference since our flight out of Denver had been delayed by a couple hours from snow. And since we really only had 10 minutes to spare before boarding our long flight, the United Polaris Club was SO helpful because we were able to grab dinner in no time flat, grab a snack and go to the bathroom without dragging our luggage everywhere with us. If we would have had more time like planned, we would have sat down in their formal dining area before taking off. But instead we were able to beef and broccoli from their hot food bar and some hot tea before we left, all in the span of 10 minutes. Not so bad.
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When booking a flight on Air New Zealand, you’ll have the opportunity to book something called the sky couch. My friend Jason (who is originally from NZ) told me that is was totally worth the extra money. When you book your two seats next to each other, you can book the third seat at a discounted price. Then all three seats have a foot piece that comes out like a recliner. When you get to your seats, you’re welcomed with a seat cover, multiple pillows and quite a few blankets. That way, once it’s time for bed, you can pull all the feet pieces up and lie down across all three seats. My husband and I spooned and slept just fine! I probably slept 7-8 hours at one point on one of the 13 hour flights and felt cozy as an be! Another cool thing about Air New Zealand is that when you book your flights, you’ll have the option to choose a gluten free meal. They serve both dinner and breakfast and both of my meals were marked gluten free! The food was actually pretty good and it was helpful to keep a bit of a schedule when it came to eating.
After watching two movies, 2 shows and sleeping for quite a while on our long ass flight, we had one more flight to go from Aukland to Queenstown. Problem was, it was snowing like a son of b in Queenstown so when we tried to touch down, they couldn’t see the runway so we had to turn back around to Aukland and catch a later flight. This meant that our 24 hour day turned in to a 32 hour day. That part was pretty brutal, BUT we made it AND our luggage made it, which wasn’t the case for everyone. Most people on our trip had some sort of luggage issue or flight issue or delay issue, but we all made it at some point and everyone got their luggage…finally. And when we made it to Queenstown, our friend picked us up in the tiniest car known to man. Four people, six bags, and not a whole lot of leg room. If you’re ever in Queenstown, get the bigger car. Don’t think this route will be comfortable, especially when also having to think about driving on the opposite side of the road.
After one night in Queenstown, we made our way to Wanaka, where the wedding would go on a few days later. We decided to rent houses while we were there to save a little money, have extra space and a kitchen, and so we would also have laundry available to us at any point. We checked in to this awesome Lake Wanaka Ski Chalet where the views were breath taking and the house was incredibly comfortable. We had a giant kitchen and living room with a fireplace and good size rooms.
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When you’re in Wanaka, it’s all about hiking and being outdoors, on the lake or on shore. The beautiful little lake town is surrounded my snow capped mountains, green hillsides and flowers everywhere. You can rent bikes while you’re there, go hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding or simply walk to see the Lone Tree in water. People get some pretty amazing photos of this tree, but I’ll warn you, it’s not that thrilling. It’s literally a tree in the water. Still beautiful…but it’s a tree.
Anywho, after a few days in Wanaka hanging out with everyone and dealing with some pretty sh*tty weather, a mixture of snow and rain, the skies truly opened up on the wedding day. The wedding was held at Rippon Winery which I HIGHLY recommend going to if you’re ever in NZ. It was 100% one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It honestly gives me chills just thinking about the views and how perfect that day was. We had been worried about crap weather the entire time and that day was completely different. It was warm, sunny and breathtaking.
The wedding was absolutely beautiful. They both recited their own vows (which made all of us cry) and their kids also spoke, then they took a helicopter ride to the top of Roy’s Peak (I believe) to take their phenomenal wedding photos. And since I know people will probably ask at one point, her stunning dress is made by Chantel Lauren and she worked with the fantastic photographer Rich Bayley. Go to his website and check out some of his work, it’s f*cking magical. I have more chills just looking at his gallery.
After the wedding and watching them fly away to take their photos, we enjoyed the most INSANE charcuterie board I’ve ever seen. The thing about NZ is you’re going to get the most fresh cheese you will ever taste. While I was there, I had a piece of feta cheese that made me about cry. Honestly, everything is insane fresh in NZ, but MAN was the cheese good. We spent an hour or so chowing down on all the things while enjoying the view and I had glass after glass of their Osteiner wine. I had never even heard of this wine until Rippon Winery and now I want to find it back at home. I had wine and I absolutely LOVED this one!
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After a night of wine, cheese, lamb and late night meat pies, the next day we made our way to Blue Pools. This place is a pretty touristy destination, but it really is beautiful. The pools are made up of mountain glacier run off and are this beautiful turquoise color. When you’re there, you can go on some pretty cool hikes, but since we were nice and hungover, we just skipped rocks in the water then made our way to some rest stop in the middle of no where that had more meat pies, amazing flat whites and gelato. It was interesting seeing how different the rest stops are in NZ compared to the US. Not only is the food WAY better, but the people are actually friendly. I definitely haven’t experienced that on the rest stops we stop at on our way to Nebraska.
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On our way out of town heading back to Queenstown, we stopped by the Cardrona Bra Fence. I really know nothing about this stop and I didn’t even read it, but it reminded me of that bridge in Paris filled with locks. But this time, it’s bras. I didn’t have a bra to spare…I don’t even think I wore a bra that day (vacation life)…so we simply snapped some photos and took in the views of some GIANT bras. Man, there are some huge boobs out there.
And while you’re driving back to Queenstown, you’ll get some views like this on a clear day. Insane.
Once we got to Queenstown, we had a full 3 days to enjoy this city. Queenstown is f*cking rad. It’s a super active town that includes a million outdoor activities and more restaurants that you can even make it to. And it’s a city that’s right by a lake and a mountain, so there are LOTS of hills. Not only are you constantly walking uphill (similar to San Fran), but you can also take the gondola up to either Mountain Bike or ride the Skyline Luge down. It’s super easy and pretty affordable to rent full mountain biking gear then head up to the gondola to take you up the mountain. And they have trails for novice all the way up to professional. We even talked to a woman who had moved from Sweden to Queenstown simply for the mountain biking. I hadn’t mountain biked in years and I was pretty scared AF on the first run, even on the easiest trail. But once you remember that mountain biking is simply the art of falling and you let your bike do the work, you’re slightly less scared. I got 3 runs in and then my legs were completely giving out on me after running hill sprints in the morning. I HIGHLY recommend mountain biking if you’re ever in Queenstown. It was awesome!
But if you want even more of an adrenaline rush, go to the Nevis Bungy Jump. OH MY GOD. It was so freaking rad. I’ve gone sky diving but that was 12 years ago and I cared way less about my life at this point. But now I’m 30, I have a dog that relies on me, and a business, so this felt a little scarier. My heart was definitely dropping out of my butt again once we got to the jump area. When you’re at the Nevis Bungy Jump area, you can either bungy jump, do the swing or the catapult. We had about 10 or so people in our group who decided to do the bungy jump which made it so freaking fun! We all headed over in this little cart that takes you to the jumping point in the middle of the canyon area that has a river down at the bottom.
When you get into the jumping “pod” you start jumping heaviest to lightest. And hopefully you were watching my instagram stories when all this went down so you had the opportunity to see one of our friends jump completely naked. Well, he had his shoes on, that’s required. The rest of us stayed completely clothed when we jumped because that was quite enough of a thrill. And it was THE BEST. It was probably my favorite part of the trip. You’ll never experience a feeling quite like that. You can see my own jump here. I had to say F*CK quite a lot to get the nerve to finally jump. It’s just such a weird feeling, your body says no but you don’t listen and you just jump and hope for the best. After I jumped, I wanted to do it 5 more times. If you go to Queenstown, DO THIS BUNGY JUMP!!!
It’s real damn hard to tell, but that’s a person all the way at the end of that rope. There’s actually a person down there. Insane.
Another thing you definitely need to do when you’re in NZ is experience Milford Sound in some way. I know some people took flights then took a cruise to experience it all, but we decided we wanted to keep it short. Both my husband and I aren’t huge into sightseeing. It’s usually cool for a few minutes then we are ready to do something active. And since those tours can often last hours upon hours and most of your day is gone because of it, we decided to go a different route and we booked a short flight with Air Milford. They pick you up at your house and take you to the airport then you hop on a small plane that takes you over Shotover Canyon, Lake Lochnagar to Mt Aspiring, then Volta Glacier glacier, Milford Sound, then through ‘glacier alley’ with the Olivine Ice Plateau, over Mt Tutoko and the Donne & Age Glaciers, before capturing the Fiord of Milford, then back to Queenstown. All of this happens in an hour. We left at 7:15am and were back home by 9:30am, with the entire day in front of us. It was such a great way to see amazing sites from above without wasting an entire day, if you’re not huge into sightseeing like us.
The last full day we had in Queenstown, everyone from the group met up to head out on a full day wine tour. The bride put this day together and I wasn’t fully looking forward to it since I’m not huge into wine, but it turned out to be SO MUCH FUN! We rented a bus and the driver took us to 4 different wineries all over the place. We stopped by –
- Mt. Difficulty Winery where things started off pretty calm.
- Carrick Winery where we had lunch, cake and LOTS of wine.
- Kinross Winery where things picked up since they also had a bar with hard liquor and a guy who was trying to explain the wines to our drunk selves by screaming at us.
- Wet Jacket Winery where we bought far too many bottles of wine and cheese. So much cheese.
Look at that happy groom!!!
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Once our wine tour came to an end, we decided going to Below Zero Ice Bar was needed. Mostly because my husband wanted to go SO BAD. And since I was pretty buzzed, I thought it was a good idea. And it TOTALLY WAS! It was so much freaking fun. There are ice bars like this one all over the world, but this was my first time in one. They give you giant coats and gloves you and can order drinks and play games while inside. I dropped by drink…twice. Slippery little suckers. But the drinks were damn good since they were ice cold…and because I was super drunk. We spent the rest of the night at some little pub where we were the only people so we thought it was a good idea to sing every song at the top of our lungs. I’m sure the bartender was thrilled.
But now I need to get into what is super important here – THE FOOD. For me, food is the most important part of any trip. If you aren’t planning meals, what the hell are you even doing!? Probably being active, but not me. I’m always planning out every meal before I even leave for a trip. And luckily, it was insanely easy when it came to meals in NZ. You know why? Because they use ingredients that were farmed nearby. Everything is fresh, grass-fed and gluten free is a completely common word everywhere you go. Even though I came back a little bloated from all the drinking, it was super easy to eat healthy while we were there. I LOVED the food. Loved.
While in Wanaka, we ate at Big Fig. This spot is similar to Chipotle in the fact that you can build your own bowl. You first pick your protein, then you have millions of veggies to choose from. From roasted pumpkin to broccoli salad to slaw to potatoes to quinoa. They have every veggie you can dream up and everything is so damn good. I wish I could eat at this spot daily because it would give me so much inspiration in my own veggie meals at home!
The next restaurant we ate at a couple times was Alchemy. This cafe has FANTASTIC food and even better pastries and baked goods. I had the most delicious gluten free muffin while I was there, but they also had a million other treats to choose from. And we didn’t say no to anything. I wish I could live inside this warm muffin.
Another must stop in Wanaka is at Kai Whakapai Cafe. This spot is ALWAYS busy and for good reason. Not only is the coffee amazing (get a flat white and love you life) but the food is fresh and stunning. I had a salmon benedict on gluten free bread with a cheese and pea spread. So bomb. It makes me want to cook with fresh peas more often!
When we got to Queenstown, eating was ON! Our friend Tommy who we stayed with was pretty annoyed because all I thought about was eating. Luckily his girlfriend is into food just as much as me so we planned out every single meal together. A restaurant we ate at a couple times was Vudu Cafe. They have a ton of gluten free options there and their pastry selection is a step above. Everything is absolutely beautiful in there. And to me, food like this is just so cool. The time and energy that goes into every pastry topped with flowers and poppseeds and a dusting of powdered sugar…that’s just a thing of beauty. I love it so much! And the food tasted just as good as it looked!
I love how much every restaurant was into chia pudding there. It was such a fresh treat in the afternoon!
And they had this nut-free granola bar that was PHENOMENAL. I actually ordered it a couple times because I loved it so much!
Now for the most popular restaurant in Queenstown – Fergburger. This restaurant is absolutely famous. I’m pretty sure CNN named it the best burger in the world. Fergburger is open from 8am-5am and it constantly has a wait, no matter what time you go. We went at about 9pm one night and waited probably 20 minutes to order then another 20 minutes to get our food, but I thought it was totally worth the wait. The burger was absolutely delicious, the gluten free bun was pretty than any GF bun I’ve ever had (I never order GF buns in the states because they all blow) and the whole experience was fun. And when you’re waiting outside in line to order, you also pass by Mrs Ferg where you can get some gelato, shakes and coffee. And you also pass by Ferg Baker where you can get a baked good AND the best meat pie ever. We ordered quite a few meat pies here and every single one was amazing. What was so cool about NZ is that even when I had something that was GF, like a meat pie, I never had a stomach ache. That absolutely never happens here in the US.
Now when you’re in Queenstown, you absolutely have to have some of the Thai and/or Indian food, because it’s really amazing there. We stopped in at At Thai Cuisine for Thai food and I loved every single second of it. You can smell the fish sauce as soon as you walk in, which means it’s gonna be a damn good tasty meal. I ordered the Panang Curry and a Papaya Salad on the side. I loved every last drop of that curry so freaking much.
Another great brunch spot is Bespoke Kitchen. I’m pretty sure it’s the sister restaurant to Vudu Cafe because they have a similar menu and a ton of the same baked goods to choose from. The salmon hash at this restaurant was insanity. Roasted pumpkin and potatoes with the freshest salmon and an egg on top. Talk about food beauty perfection! They have mastered it there.
So if you’re totally not into waiting in line for a burger at Fergburger, you can get a great burger at Devil’s Burger instead! A lot of my friends on this trip thought Devil’s Burger was better, but I have to disagree. I thought it was a great burger with some bomb ass fries, but I still liked Fergburger more! But this is definitely a great option when you’re starving and want food right away!
Now for some Indian food! I haven’t had Indian food in YEARS! I’ve made my own on the blog, but it’s just not the same since I have no real background in being a chef or knowledge when it comes to Indian cuisine. But I’m SO SO glad we had Indian food at Bombay Palace while we were there. And yes, I know this photos blows huge ass, but we were eating at 10pm, so the lighting wasn’t exactly doing me any favors. I had some sort of chicken curry that was out of control awesome and we also ordered garlic cheese naan bread, which is now something I want to eat right before I die. It was like having a quesadilla with my curry. Is there anything better than that?!!? NO!!
And last but not least, we ate at Yonder for breakfast. I loved the feel of this restaurant and everything on their menu is marked as GF or Vegan. It was super easy to figure out what I wanted to eat and they also had the most delicious flat whites there. While we were there, I had some sort of corn fritters for breakfast that were so damn good!!
The only thing we didn’t really do while we were there was eat at some of the high end, michelin star restaurants like I wanted to. I wanted to experience those restaurants that were so highly recommended, but it was just more fun to hang out with our friends instead. But I’ve listed those restaurants below in case you want that amazing type of meal while you’re there!
Now here’s the thing about New Zealand – it’s absolute perfection. I don’t know why anyone would ever leave. The people are kind, the views are insane, the food is the best quality, and the activities are endless. You’ll never get bored when you’re on a trip like this, it’s just not possible. And now I’m already planning our next trip there. I want to travel more through the South Island then also experience the North Island, as well. We were traveling for a total of 10 days and even though we wanted to go to more places, it was nice to have a landing spot for a few days in Queenstown to fully experience a city and unpack for a bit. Most people in our group stayed longer and made their way north and the places they stopped in looked awesome. 10 days was the perfect timing for us because I couldn’t imagine leaving my dog for longer than that. And this just gives us the opportunity to make another trip happen in the future.
Just a heads up, I’m planning to do a post in the near future that includes packing list and a must-have list for any international travel. There were some items I’m so glad I had with me and I’m going to share all those things in an upcoming post. I just thought it was probably time to cut myself off since this post is already insanely long. But I hope this helps you plan your own trip to NZ. It’s far and it’s definitely expensive, but it’s worth saving for. I promise you that.
Quick Summary of New Zealand:
- What To Fly & Where To Stay
- Work your way in to the United Polaris Club. It will be the best layover you ever have!
- Fly Air New Zealand. They are simply the best and offer gluten free meals AND the sky couch!
- The only house recommendation I have is the Lake Wanaka Ski Chalet. Our other spots were pretty sketchy, but this place had a great kitchen, laundry AND a sauna!
- Where to Eat in Wanaka
- Where to Eat in Queenstown
- Get a delicious and healthy gluten free meal at Yonder
- Get the most beautiful meal and snack at Vudu Cafe
- Get the most beautiful meal and snack at Bespoke Kitchen
- Get the most delicious burger with an awesome gluten free bun at Ferburger
- If you don’t want to wait in the Fergburger line, get a great burger at Devil’s Burger
- Get some amazing Indian Food at Bombay Palace. Be sure to get some garlic cheese naan bread.
- Grab some fantastic Thai food at At Thai Cuisine
- Spots We Didn’t Get to Eat At But I Heard Great Things About
- What To Do
- Grab a cocktail at Below Zero Ice Bar
- Head to a winery –
- Take a flight tour with Air Milford
- Get an adrenaline rush with Nevis Bungy Jump, Swing & Catapult
- Get active with a little Mountain Biking
- Leave a bra behind at Cardrona Bra Fence
- Wander the beautiful views at Blue Pools
- Hike. I don’t do that, but you totally should. There are about 4 billion places to hike in NZ.