Real Honeymoon: New Zealand

My good friends Becky and Niall had a legendary wedding in Ireland in 2013, and they went on an equally amazing honeymoon in New Zealand the following year. It was well worth the wait! Read all about their incredible trip below, and remember that it’s never too late to honeymoon.

When and where did you honeymoon?

New Zealand, Oct-Nov 2014.

  • 1 night in Auckland. Visited the SkyTower, took ferry to Devonport (Lorde’s hometown), and watched the Giants in the World Series!
  • Flight from Auckland to Wellington, then Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton.
  • 2 nights in Blenheim (Marlborough Wine Country). Stayed at the Marlborough Vintners Hotel (highly recommended). Did bike tour to visit three wineries: Hans Herzog, Cloudy Bay, and Wairau River Wines.
  • 2 nights in Abel Tasman area at an amazing Airbnb (cottages on an organic farm). Highly recommend the guided day kayak + hike trip in Abel Tasman National Park with Marahau Sea Kayaks.
  • 2 nights in Hokitika. Visited the Hokitika Gorge and the Glow Worm Dell.
  • 1 night at Frank Josef Glacier. Did the Glacier Valley trail walk and visited the hot pools. Stayed at the Rainforest Retreat.
  • 1 night in Wanaka. Hiked Mount Iron and visited lots of local watering holes.
  • 1 night in Te Anau. Hiked the Rainbow Reach trail (park of the Kepler Track).
  • 1 night in Milford Sound on an overnight cruise. One of the best nights of the entire trip! Can’t recommend it enough.
  • 3 nights in Queenstown at the Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel. Love love loved it! Did the 5+ hour hike up Ben Lomond from the top of the gondola (tough but worth it!). Food highlights were Fergburger, Fishbones, and brunch at Vudu Cafe.
Taking a break from kayaking in Abel Tasman

Taking a break from kayaking in Abel Tasman

Hiking in Fiordland National  Park

Hiking in Fiordland National Park

How long was your trip?

2 weeks.

Milford Sound at dawn

Milford Sound at dawn

Natural rock wonder called Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks. Blowholes have formed inside the flattened rock formation.

Natural rock wonder called Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks. Blowholes have formed inside the flattened rock formation.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination?

So as background, I’m from the SF Bay Area and we live here now, but my husband Niall is Irish. We met in Ireland and I lived there for 3 years. When we got engaged in San Francisco, we both knew right away we wanted to have the wedding in Ireland, both to accommodate elderly family on Niall’s side and because, well, it’s just an amazing place that is dear to our hearts. Given the wedding was a destination from our home in California, we were a bit maxed out on wedding planning to even think about a honeymoon. We ended up spending one week in the West of Ireland (Galway) after our wedding, but we considered that a somewhat faux or  ‘group’ honeymoon because it included friends and family.

So… it was always in the back of our minds that we needed to take a proper honeymoon just the two of us. We considered all the regions & places in the world that neither of us had been to, and New Zealand kept rising to the top of our list. Given we are both light-skinned and get sunrash after 10 minutes of being at the beach, New Zealand’s fall climate was a big pro too. And last but not least, we love hiking, walking, animals, and wine, so New Zealand offered all those things in spades. Basically, it ticked all the boxes so we bit the bullet and booked the trip!

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay Winery in Malborough

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay Winery in Malborough

Insanely beautiful scenery along the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown

Insanely beautiful scenery along the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown

The best part about our honeymoon was…

We both loved the day trip we did kayaking + hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. It was out of our comfort zone because neither of us had ever done sea kayaking before, but wow it was just spectacular. First of all we got super lucky with the weather that day because the days leading up to it were a bit ‘changeable’ with periods of torrential rain and wind and then sunny moments. But on the kayak trip day there wasn’t any rain at all. And it was truly magical to be in a remote corner of the world, and even remote by New Zealand standards, out in a kayak just chilling with nearby sea lions swimming around.

Another reason we loved Abel Tasman area was where we stayed… 2 nights at a lovely AirBnb called Matahua cottages. We stayed in a private cottage on an organic farm overlooking a quiet inlet bay. It was only 5 mins drive to a little village area called Mapua with delicious seafood restaurants.

View from the cottage

View from the cottage

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I would try to go for an extra week if possible. Two weeks was a good chunk of time, but we really were pushing ourselves to see and do a lot. In the 2 weeks there we stayed in 9 different places, which is kind of crazy in retrospect. I love that we saw so much and really journeyed our way from Auckland to Milford Sound with stops along the way… but it also became exhausting at one point after we had 4 nights in 4 different places. By the time we got to Queenstown where we stayed our last 3 nights we were so glad to just stay in one town for a few days.

Showing their Bay Area pride at the Ben Lomond summit above Queenstown

Showing their Bay Area pride at the Ben Lomond summit above Queenstown

How much planning did you do in advance?

We pretty much did all the planning in advance because I’m kinda of a psycho when it comes to having things organized. I also used TripIt for the first time ever to plan and it was a huge help to have all our flights, hotel confirmations, etc in one place. Will definitely use Tripit again for big trips!

Waterfalls at Milford Sound

Waterfalls at Milford Sound

Overnight cruise ship in Milford Sound

Overnight cruise ship in Milford Sound

We had planned our whole itinerary and booked our hotels every night, car rental, international flights, ferry from Wellington to Picton (North to South Island), and big excursions (kayak trip, helicopter ride on glacier). The only thing we hadn’t booked was what we would do each day but even for that had a rough sense and lots of notes. For example, we knew on a certain day we had to get from point A to point B but the timing of what we did that day was up to us so we would normally wake up, drive to our next location, go for a long walk or hike, then explore the new town that evening. On the nights where it was our 2nd night in the same place, we would do a more planned out local event like a bike trip in Marlborough wine country or exploring a museum + Hokitika Gorge + Hokitika town when we stayed on the West Coast.

Welcome to Hokitika

Welcome to Hokitika

The amazing glacial 'milky' water in Hokitika Gorge

The amazing glacial ‘milky’ water in Hokitika Gorge

What was your biggest honeymoon splurge?

We had booked a helicopter ride & hike on Franz Josef Glacier but it was cancelled due to bad weather (the rain was seriously insane that day). So I would have said that was our splurge but it turned out to be a wonderful day despite the cancellation because we went for a beautiful glacier valley hike and then treated ourselves to the local hot pools and a massage.

Lots of rain = lots of waterfalls. This is from Franz Josef glacier valley

Lots of rain = lots of waterfalls. This is from Franz Josef glacier valley

So our next splurge would probably be the Queenstown Park Boutique hotel. It was the most expensive and luxurious place we stayed on the trip and totally worth it. It was an amazing small hotel with top notch customer service and concierge advice which helped guide us to the best activities and places to eat in Queenstown. And my favorite perk of the hotel had to be the free cheese and wine happy hour every evening.

Where do you want to go on your next big trip?

South America (Chile / Argentina) is a place we talk about going to a lot.

_____________________

Becky also wanted me to share the following photo with the following explanation:

“This was basically my worst food ordering decision ever. I tried the local ‘delicacy’ called Whitebait. Didn’t know it was baby fish fried in an omelette sandwich.”

This was basically my worst food ordering decision ever. I tried the local 'delicacy' called Whitebait. Didn't know it was baby fish fried in an omelette sandwich. Yes those are the fish faces & eyeballs

Yes those are the fish faces & eyeballs.

 I’m all for trying new foods, but yeah, that’s pretty gross.

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