The Land of Hobbits, Waterfalls, Flightless Birds and Wineries: 10 Days in New Zealand

The Land of Hobbits, Waterfalls, Flightless Birds and Wineries

New Zealand, an island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, offers a rich and diverse history characterized by the arrival of the Māori people over a thousand years ago and subsequent European colonization in the 18th century. The country’s unique flora and fauna are unparalleled, with lush green landscapes, rugged mountains, and pristine coastlines. Iconic species like the kiwi bird and the silver fern are emblematic of New Zealand’s natural beauty. The people, known for their warmth and hospitality, embody a vibrant culture that blends Māori traditions with European influences. Thousands of people visit New Zealand every year to take in its breathtaking scenery from world class wine to Milford Sound’s fjords. The nation’s commitment to environmental conservation adds an extra layer of allure, making it a must-visit destination for both nature enthusiasts and culture seekers. We were in New Zealand for 10 days, and while it was incredible, we were of course unable to see everything. If you have the chance, I’d recommend going for at least 2 weeks, but 3-4 weeks would be even better.

Auckland, The City of Sails

Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, offers a dynamic urban experience with a unique blend of fine dining, art galleries, and an energetic night life. This hilly city is clean yet vibrant and makes for a great place to begin your trip. The Sky Tower, an iconic landmark, dominates the skyline and provides panoramic views of the city and its harbors. Auckland’s waterfront is lined with lively restaurants and cafes, many of which have excellent views of the water. Be sure to enjoy the many museums as well, such as the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which showcases the country’s rich history and Māori heritage, as well as the Auckland Art Gallery, which includes artwork from Picasso and Dali. And of course, don’t miss out on a day trip to see Hobbiton and the Glowworm Caves.

Waiheke Island, The Island of Wine

Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland, is a haven of serenity and natural beauty. Renowned for its 30 vineyards, olive groves, and pristine beaches, Waiheke provides a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Explore the island’s art galleries, enjoy a guided food and wine-tasting tour, or relax on the sandy beaches. Waiheke’s relaxed atmosphere and stunning landscapes make it an ideal retreat for those seeking a tranquil getaway. Make it a day trip, or stay for a few days.

Wellington, The Windy City & Wellywood

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city offers a blend of cultural richness and natural beauty with its hilly streets and picturesque harbor. Enjoy a day trip to the world-famous Martinborough wine region. Spend time exploring Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum that showcases New Zealand’s history, art, and culture. Stroll through the Wellington Botanic Garden, which offers a peaceful retreat of roses and trees with panoramic city views. A visit to the Zealandia eco-sanctuary is a must for any bird lover. Zealandia offers an immersive encounter with native wildlife, including the elusive kiwi bird. Enjoy several hours walking around the property listening to all the birds chatter. And don’t miss out on the trolley, which brings you back down to the harbor after a day filled with walking across Wellington’s steep and hilly streets.

Queenstown, Adventure Capital of the World

Queenstown, nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by jagged mountains, is a playground for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. Known as the “Adventure Capital of the World,” Queenstown offers a myriad of outdoor activities, from bungee jumping off the historic Kawarau Bridge to heli-skiing on the pristine slopes of The Remarkables. If you’re looking for something more relaxing, enjoy a tasting tour of the Otago wine region, either by bus or bicycle. The tranquil Milford Sound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is well worth the day trip from Queenstown. You’ll see fjords, waterfalls, and wildlife, and hopefully, your tour guide will pull over to show you a few spots where scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed. Queentown’s vibrant nightlife and charming lake walk surrounded by mountains and lined with shops and restaurants, making it an incredible destination.

Take the Trip

If you ever have the chance to go to New Zealand, do not hesitate. Take the trip. Use up all your vacation days, save up for it, go with friends, go alone. Whatever it takes. While I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled all over the United States and all over the world, New Zealand is as magical as they say. Before our trip even ended, my husband and I were already talking about what we’d do when we returned to New Zealand someday in the future. For me, it felt like this strange utopia where everyday was perfect; the food, the weather, the people. And after we left, it felt like a dream I had and wanted more of.

Looking for more international inspiration? Check out my blog posts on Paris! For more local ideas, check out my blog posts on Duluth, Bayfield, and Minneapolis.

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