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Month Ninety-One was all about road-tripping around New Zealand and I am amazed at how much I saw and did during my three weeks on the road.
I started the month with a hike up Mauao in Mount Maunganui and running some errands before driving to Waihi Beach for five nights of Christmas celebrations with my Stepdad’s family, plus beach time and hiking.
After a quick overnight stop in Hamilton, where I squeezed in a hike up the North Island’s tallest waterfall, I was back in Auckland for three days to celebrate the New Year and my best friend’s 40th with the most epic New Year’s Eve party I have ever been to.
Then after a hungover start to the new year, I hit the road for a three-week road trip around New Zealand. I spent the first four nights solo, traveling down to Christchurch from Auckland.
I stopped in Papamoa to see my Mum and drop my brother off, Taupo to soak at Wairakei Terraces hot springs and hike to Huka Falls, Wellington to spend a sunny morning enjoying the views from the top of Mount Victoria and drive around the beaches and bays, and Kaikoura for crayfish.
I picked my friend Dani up in Christchurch and we did the rest of the trip together traveling through Arthur’s Pass, down the West Coast to see the glaciers, to Wanaka and Queenstown to hike, to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound for boat cruises, hiking two days of the Routeburn Track, hiking at Mount Cook, then we returned to Christchurch for breweries and food halls and then I flew out and Dani continued on her trip.
The last night of the month I spent back in Auckland, going for dinner and drinks with my Dad and best friend on K Road.
Now onto the stats!
Countries Visited: New Zealand
- New Zealand: Papamoa, Waihi Beach, Opoutere, Whangamata, Whiritoa, Hamilton, Morrinsville, Auckland, Taupo, Wellington, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Arthur’s Pass Village, Hokitika, Franz Josef Village, Fox Glacier Township, Wanaka, Cardrona, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Manapouri, Doubtful Sound, Queenstown, Glenorchy, Paradise, Arrowtown, Cromwell, Mount Cook Village, Lake Tekapo, Mount Somers, Methven, Christchurch
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Arthur’s Pass National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park, Fiordland National Park, Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
Islands Visited: North Island and South Island of New Zealand.
Days on the Road: 27 days.
Best Meals: Christmas Day Lunch including pavlova, brandy snaps, roast chicken, roast potatoes, and chicken kebabs; Beignets with lemon and berry sauces and crushed pistachios from Benyay in the Riverside Market in Christchurch; Vegetable curry pie from World Famous Sheffield Pies in Sheffield; Butter bean stew and Kumara bake from Big Fig in Wanaka; Bombay Chicken burger from Ferg Burger in Queenstown, Masala dosa from Dosa Kitchen in Riverside Market in Christchurch; Cookie pie from Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar in Riverside Market in Christchurch.
Worst Meals: Nothing comes to mind.
Best Craft Beer: So many great craft beers this month! Aloha Guava Passionfruit sour from Deep Creek Brewing out of Browns Bay, Passionfruit Sour from Ground Up Brewing in Wanaka, Pickle Beer from Garage Project out of Wellington, Raspberry Sherbet Dip Icecream Sour by Duncan’s Brewing out of Paraparaumu, A Feijoa Sour by Canyon Brewing out of Queenstown, Tart Side of the Moon #4 Feijoa by ChinChiller Brewing out of Christchurch.
- Mauao summit track in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand 1.6 miles
- Waihi Beach walk in Waihi Beach, New Zealand 4 miles
- The Trig trail in Waihi Beach, New Zealand 3.3 miles
- Orokawa Bay trail in Waihi Beach, New Zealand 5 miles
- Opoutere Beach walk in Opoutere, New Zealand 6.2 miles
- The Trig and Forest Loop trails in Waihi Beach, New Zealand 4 miles
- Wairere Falls track in Morrinsville, New Zealand 3.4 miles
- Huka Falls trail from Spa Park in Taupo, New Zealand 4.7 miles
- New Brighton Beach walk in Christchurch, New Zealand 4 miles
- Devil’s Punchbowl hike in Arthur’s Pass National Park 1.3 miles
- Lake Matheson loop trail near Fox Glacier, New Zealand 2.7 miles
- Fox Glacier South Side trail near Fox Glacier, New Zealand 3.8 miles
- Roy’s Peak Lookout trail in Wanaka, New Zealand 8.3 miles
- Routeburn Track from Routeburn Shelter to Harris Saddle (2 days) 17.5 miles
- Queenstown Hill Trail in Queenstown, New Zealand 3.7 miles
- Kea Point trail at Mount Cook, New Zealand 2 miles
- Sealy Tarns trail at Mount Cook, New Zealand 3.4 miles
- Tasman Glacier View, Blue Lakes, and Tasman Lake trails at Mount Cook, New Zealand 3.7 miles
- Huntsbury trail in Christchurch, New Zealand 2.8 miles
- Bridle Path trail in Christchurch, New Zealand 3 miles
Watching: Emily in Paris, A Man Called Otto, A Simple Favor.
Reading: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, Aue by Becky Manawatu, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.
New Posts: I wrote one new post this month – 8 Interesting Things To Do in Hamilton. I lived in Hamilton for three years when I first moved out of home and this underrated city actually has a number of fun things to do there.
Waihi Beach For the Christmas Period
I always enjoy hanging out with my Step Dad’s fun family when I am back in New Zealand for Christmas, and although my brother didn’t make it this year, it was still a great one with delicious food, crazy games, lots of time at the beach, and some solo hiking and beach adventures.
A Day Trip to the Coromandel
While I was staying in Waihi Beach over the Christmas period, I decided because the weather was so nice after weeks of rain that I wanted to spend a day visiting a couple of spots on the Coromandel Peninsula because I was so close and it’s one of my favorite regions in New Zealand.
I walked six miles along the wild and mostly empty beach at Opoutere, had lunch and checked out the shops. in bustling Whangamata then headed down to the beach for a swim, and stopped off at the quintessential Kiwi beach village, Whiritoa, for a quick dip on the way back. It was great to be back in the Coromandel despite it only being a quick visit.
Hiking to the Top of the Tallest Waterfall on the North Island
When I was in Hamilton to visit my friend we decided to drive an hour to Morrinsville to hike up Wairere Falls, the tallest waterfall on the North Island of New Zealand.
I hadn’t even heard of it before but this waterfall is stunning and I really enjoyed the steep hike to the top of the falls where we paddled in the pools and admired the epic views.
The Best New Year’s Eve Ever
One of the reasons I visited New Zealand earlier than I originally planned (I was meant to come in February) was so I could attend my best friend’s 40th birthday celebrations on New Year’s Eve and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
After a friends and family lunch at a cute Italian spot in Ponsonby, a few of us headed back to Eagle Bar to decorate for the evening celebrations then after getting changed and picking up my Dad back at his apartment, the party began.
There were heartfelt speeches, a couple of fun drag performances, so many drinks, and friends, and catch-ups – it was a whirlwind of joy and I am so happy I was there for it, and that I made it until 4 am – a very good effort for this 40-year-old.
A Perfect Sunny Morning in Wellington
On my long drive down to Christchurch from Auckland I spent half a day in Wellington and it was one of those rare blue-sky Wellington days with hardly any wind that makes you want to move there.
As I visited Te Papa Museum and took the cable car to the Botanic Gardens last time I was in Wellington a couple of years ago, this time around I decided to drive around the coastline and beaches from Island Bay and eventually into the city.
I don’t know if I have ever done that whole drive before but it was gorgeous. I grabbed coffee and walked around Island Bay, swam at Lyall Bay, and really enjoyed the views along the way. It was the best of Welly.
A Crazy Cave Stream Caving Adventure
I had read about the cave you could “hike” through at Cave Stream Scenic Reserve and it sounded like a fun adventure so as we were passing through, we thought we would try it. It turned out it was even crazier than we had thought it would be but it was such a fun adventure.
You are spelunking through an underground river cave for an hour, pulling yourself up waterfalls, and wading through a fast-flowing river that was chest deep in places – all without a guide and in the pitch black (we had head torches).
At the end, you have to exit the cave by climbing up ladder rungs bolted into a rock wall and then shimmying your way along a narrow ledge with a steep drop to the waterfall below. I still can’t believe they allow people to do this independently but I’m glad we did it although I admit I was definitely scared at times!
Wanaka Hiking, Lake Swimming, and Breweries
We spent three nights in Wanaka and we spent our time there doing all the things that Wanaka does best – hiking in the mountains, swimming in the lake, eating at Big Fig, and drinking at the breweries. Although it was so hot when we were there, I really enjoyed my return to lovely Wanaka.
Milford Sound Hiking and Boat Cruise
It had been 14 years since I was last in Milford Sound so I was definitely due a return there and I loved it this time around even more than the first time.
We stopped at a few places to hike and check out viewpoints along the Milford Road and then did the short but awe-inspiring Milford Foreshore walk before boarding a sightseeing boat for a two-hour cruise of the sound.
We had perfect weather for the cruise and it was even more dramatic and beautiful than I had remembered it. I definitely see why it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in New Zealand.
A Perfect Day Cruising Doubtful Sound
Like Milford Sound, I visited Doubtful Sound 14 years ago and I was excited to finally return. I love the remoteness and adventure of getting to Doubtful Sound and I was happy to see that it still felt like an undiscovered gem.
It was a perfect sunny day on the water and we made it all the way out to the open ocean on our three-hour cruise, seeing seals and dolphins along the way. I loved it.
I had only visited Glenorchy once before this trip and it was only a brief visit in winter. This time around we stayed a night there, did a hike, drove the dirt road to the tiny settlement of Paradise, and explored the cute town.
I thought it was pretty the first time but I fell in love with Glenorchy the second time and would love to return.
Hiking Part of the Routeburn Track
I have been trying to hike the Routeburn Track for years now but hadn’t had much luck due to late-season avalanches on my two previous attempts. This time around we had planned to hike from the Routeburn Shelter near Glenorchy to the Harris Saddle, stay at the Routeburn Falls hut, then hike out the next morning.
Everything went to plan, the weather was perfect, I loved the hut, and I was blown away by the scenery in the Harris Basin and from the saddle. It looked so much like the Scottish Highlands and was some of the best scenery I have seen in New Zealand.
I want to write a post about this so look for that sometime in the future.
A Luxurious Stay in Queenstown
After hiking some of the Routeburn Track, Dani treated us to a night’s stay at a lovely hotel just outside of Queenstown. It had a pool and jacuzzi, and beautiful views over the Shotover River from our room. It was so nice to sleep in a real bed after nearly two weeks of van life and was like hitting the reset button.
Hiking at Mount Cook
We had beautiful weather for our two nights at Mount Cook and the views were even more incredible than I remembered.
I had done the Hooker Valley track before so this time we hiked to Kea Point, Sealy Tarns, and Tasman Glacier Lake, I checked out the museum at the DOC Visitor Centre in the village and saw and heard lots of glacier carving right from our campsite.
I had forgotten how stunning Mount Cook and the surrounding mountains are but I won’t forget again.
Returning to Arrowtown and Cromwell
I love the cute little towns of Arrowtown and Cromwell and I really enjoyed revisiting both on this trip. Arrowtown reminds me so much of my favorite Colorado mountain towns and is definitely a contender on our list of possible homes in New Zealand when we move back.
The historic district of Cromwell is a pretty and interesting place to visit with preserved historic buildings showing what life was like over 100 years ago along with boutique stores and cafes.
Checking Out the Breweries in the South Island
The quality of craft beer and breweries in New Zealand has improved in leaps and bounds in the past few years and I am here for it. On this trip, we visited some excellent breweries and brew pubs in Wanaka, Queenstown, and Christchurch as well as buying a few craft beers from the supermarket.
There obviously aren’t as many options as in Denver or the U.S. in general, but the quality of what there is, is just as good. Now the costs just need to come down because it is a lot more expensive to drink craft beer in New Zealand.
Painful Skin Cancer Treatment
As I said in last month’s recap, I was diagnosed with skin cancer on my back. Although I do have to come back to New Zealand sometime this year to get it cut out, my doctor prescribed a cream that I need to apply to the area for six weeks that will hopefully reduce the area that needs to be cut out.
I ended up not applying it properly due to a misunderstanding of my Doctor’s instructions and it caused the skin in that area to turn into a painful open sore. I stopped using it after three weeks because it was so bad and will need to start up again next month – hopefully with better results now I know what I was doing wrong.
Extreme Heat on the South Island
Holy hell it was hot in Wanaka and Queenstown when we were visiting! I don’t think I have ever felt so hot in New Zealand before and hiking the tough Roy’s Peak trail in that heat was almost unbearable.
I ended up having to jump in the lake in Wanaka at 8 pm on the evening we did the hike to cool off because it was still so hot and I couldn’t bear it anymore.
My Camera Malfunctioned
When I was doing the Routeburn Track my camera suddenly stopped working, citing a malfunction – the same issue I had with my last camera when I was traveling in 2020. Luckily this time after taking the battery out for a couple of hours it miraculously started working again – hopefully it lasts.
Jacinda Stepping Down and the Rise of Angry Conspiracy Theorists in New Zealand
I always loved coming back to New Zealand to escape the rabid conspiracy theorists that are running wild in the U.S. these days but it’s gotten so much worse here too.
It was so sad to see Jacinda have to step down because she is so exhausted and beaten down by these nutters constantly harassing her online and saying truly vile things. She was one of the best leaders we have ever had in New Zealand and although I don’t agree with everything she and her Government enacted, I think overall she was a compassionate and strong leader and I am sad to see her go.
I definitely don’t blame her for stepping down though – it was the right thing for her mental health, and for her family.
A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.
Actually not bad if you take off the nearly $500 I spent on the website this month because it is not cheap to travel around New Zealand in a van with high gas prices and inflation being what they are. The favorable exchange rate with the U.S. dollar definitely helped me with keeping costs lower than expected.
My 19 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of eighteen nights camping throughout the north and south islands, and one night at a hut on the Routeburn Track.
My 12 nights of unpaid accommodation for the month consisted of one night at my Mum’s in Papamoa, five nights with family in Waihi Beach, one night at a friend’s in Hamilton, four nights at my Dad’s in Auckland, and one night at a hotel in Queenstown.
Food and Drink $658
Not a bad spending month as I ate out a lot and drank a lot of expensive craft beers, although we also cooked a lot in the van so things evened out quite nicely.
- Gas $431
- Uber in Auckland $20
- Flight from Christchurch to Auckland $64
- Wairakei Terraces hot springs in Taupo $10
- Movie Ticket at Cinema Paradiso $10
- Tekapo Springs Hot Springs $23
- U.S. Phone plan $35
- NZ Phone Plan $45
- Spotify $10.50
- Toiletries $14.50
- Stuff for van $50
- Blender $16
- Laundry $3
- Souvenir $6
- Head torch $13
- 3 x ebooks $35
Website Costs $491
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
- Two-Year Hosting with Siteground $479
Van/RV Costs $0
What’s in Store for Next Month
On the first day of the month after running some last-minute errands I will be flying to Sydney for a week of beach time, catching up with friends, and visiting old haunts from when I lived there.
From Sydney, I will be flying to Thailand to reunite with Toby. We’ll be spending the first six days in Bangkok where we’ll be getting our dental check-ups and I will possibly be getting my last wisdom tooth removed (God help me). I am going to punish myself further by also doing our taxes while we are there.
Then we will be spending two weeks on the Trang Islands on the Andaman Coast between Koh Mook, Koh Ngai, Koh Kradan, and Koh Libong. I am super excited to explore some new to me Thai islands!
After a couple of nights back in Bangkok, we will be flying to Nepal – a new country for both of us! – where we will be spending the last couple of nights of the month in Kathmandu. This trip has been a long time coming after having to cancel at the last minute in March 2020 because of you know what so we are excited!
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here