Queenstown, New Zealand
When my husband Diego and I were planning our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to go someplace beautiful + adventurous. We aren’t exactly “lay on the beach for a week” type of people (ain't nothing wrong with that, it's just not our cup of tea), so we began researching locations where we could take an extended trip to, and in which could keep us entertained for the two weeks away we were craving. We decided upon New Zealand and Australia because of their beauty, endless opportunities for adventure, and direct flights from Los Angeles. Win, win, win!
The first blog post in our three-part honeymoon series, and the first of three locations we visited, is Queenstown, New Zealand!
Queenstown, New Zealand is a small, lively town in the South Island of New Zealand. It’s known as the “adventure” capital of New Zealand (think bungee jumping, sky diving, etc.), and in my opinion, should also be known as the “pure, complete, 100% gorgeousness” capitol, too! To get here, you will need to fly from the U.S. (or wherever you're coming from) into an international airport in the country and then take a smaller, domestic connecting flight into the Queenstown airport. IMPORTANT NOTE: New Zealand now requires a visa for all U.S. passport holders! When I booked our flights back in summer 2019, New Zealand had NO visa requirements, so I put it out of my mind and just successfully secured our Australian visitor visa. When we got to LAX to pass through security for our American Airlines flight, we were denied, as our passports did not show as being approved to visit New Zealand. Beginning only October 1, 2019, New Zealand implemented new visa requirements for U.S. passengers, although American Airlines never notified us (boo). Long story, short - we had to sit on the airport floor, passport/credit card in hand, and frantically apply for our visitor visa on our phones. Each minute that passed while waiting for email approval moved slower than molasses. After about 10-15 minutes of refreshing our emails like maniacs (cue the sweaty palms and majorly increased heart rate), we got approved and were successfully able to head into security! Major PHEW!
TRAVELER TIP #1: Always check Visa requirements for the country you are visiting, when you initially book the flight and then again both 1 week and then 1 day before departure. Lesson definitely learned for us.
We flew from LAX to Auckland (13 hours) on American Airlines, and since it was a red-eye we mostly slept the whole time. I’d highly recommend you get yourself a good pillow for an international red-eye flight. I wouldn’t be able to sleep on a plane if it wasn’t for the pillow I swear by - the Trtl Travel Pillow.
After flying 13 hours from LAX to Auckland, we had a few hour layover, which we enjoyed because we were able to eat a proper meal and stretch our legs a bit. We then boarded our 2-hour Air New Zealand flight to our final destination: Queenstown. We were up in the air, nearly to Queenstown, when our pilot came on the speaker and let us know that our plane had a mechanical issue and had to be diverted back to Auckland, where it would be able to land safely. We were a bit disappointed because we were just so ready to be off a plane and enjoying our honeymoon, but we both agreed it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and we trusted our pilot.
Upon landing (hi again, Auckland), we were rebooked on another flight to Queenstown just 30-minutes after landing. We were glad we would still be able to get to Queenstown that day, so we weren’t sweating it much. But, when our second plane tried to land on the tarmac in Queenstown, it floated right above it not being able to touch the ground due to very heavy winds. The plane immediately jerked up, flying right back into the sky. The pilot immediately came on the speaker, saying she was not able to land due to poor weather. This plane then flew us back to Auckland (AGAIN. Yup, another multiple hour round trip). By this time, we had been flying for 24+ hours, on less-than-descent sleep and not much real food. We were nothing short of completely exhausted. Air New Zealand rebooked us for a flight the next morning but would not provide accommodations (say what?!), so we got out our phones and found an airport hotel nearby. We had a good night sleep and tried to remain in positive spirits (while I sniffled through my tears). I definitely had to keep reminding myself that travel in itself is such a darn privilege and that we would make it to Queenstown eventually! The next morning, we boarded our third flight from Auckland to Queenstown, and this time around, our plane safely made it! #ThirdTimesACharm. I can’t even explain the level of excitement and sheer gratitude I felt when we got off the plane in Queenstown. WE MADE IT, y’all! Honeymoon, here we come!!
TRAVEL TIP #2: Always, always get travel insurance! We lost a night of our lovely hotel in Queenstown (the night we missed due to flight issues galore), because I did not book us travel insurance. Womp, womp.
Queenstown sits on beautiful Lake Wakatipu against the picturesque Southern Alps. There’s truly something for everyone here - all ages, abilities, and interests - and is a place I am positive anyone will fall absolutely in love with!
The small city of Queenstown itself is so walkable (if you stay downtown in the city), with so many delicious restaurants and bars to pop in and out of. Our favorite restaurants were Fergberger (the most deeelicious burgers ever), Public Kitchen (lunch and dinner), Chur Fish & Chips (amazing local, hole-in-the-wall spot), and Joe’s Garage (coffee and breakfast). Some of my favorite moments in Queenstown were walking around Lake Wakatipu after a big, delicious meal. The lake itself is so beautiful no matter the time of the day, and you can walk in any direction of the lake and be amazed.
There’s also lots of easily accessible shopping, massage studios, coffee shops, movie theater, and more. Keep in mind that you can also easily pop into any of the “tour” shops as well, to inquire about local tours or book something you’re interested in. The things to do in Queenstown, or in the surrounding areas, are pretty endless! Whether you’re an adventure junkie, lover of sitting back and seeing the sights, wine and food connoisseur, or more in the mood to relax - Queenstown’s got chu, boo.
We stayed at the super lovely Kamana Lakehouse for the first part of our trip in Queenstown, an adorably curated hotel with the most beautiful backdrop, just a short cab ride from the city center. This was a complete luxury accommodation, and I could not recommend it more. Their restaurant Nest is delicious and the views are just all around unbeatable. The second part of the week we stayed in Garden Court Suites & Apartments, because we were doing more adventures these days and literally only needed someplace to sleep. Also, Garden Court had laundry facilities which were very much appreciated, considering we both only packed a carry-on suitcase each for 16 days! *snaps*
If you know me, you know I always really love a good view, so we decided to do the (warning: touristy) Skyline Gondola. The gondola ride itself was only about 5 minutes, and the Queenstown + Southern Alps views from the top did not disappoint!
Hands down my favorite activity we did in Queenstown was renting a car from Apex downtown and driving to both Glenorcy and then in the opposite direction out to Lake Wanaka. We did this entire trip in one day, which was a lot of driving (Diego rocked it on the opposite side of the road!), but the endless amazing views made the journey 100% worth it! We didn’t really need a car for our entire time in Queenstown, but having it for one day, so that we could explore and venture out on our own, was perfect. On our drive, we pulled over basically any time we saw something super beautiful and wanted to explore it a bit more. That’s the beauty of having your own car - you are on your own schedule and can do as you please! It cost us about $100 US to rent the car for the day, including full-coverage insurance and topping off the gas at the end of the trek.
On our drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy (45 minute drive), we stopped for about a 2-3 mile round trip hike to Bob’s Cove. The vibrant, blue water color from both the pier mid-way and the top of the peak at the end of the trek was just RIDICULOUS - and so were the killer views. Overall, I would rank this hike as generally pretty easy. It’s a little steep at the end, so make sure you have good walking shoes on and comfortable, breathable clothing. This link is a good resource for more information regarding the hike.
I really don’t know what else to say other than LOOK AT THESE SNUGGLE BUGS! Both Diego and I love animals and knew we wanted to do something animal-related in Queenstown. We initially wanted to see sheep shearing but then stumbled upon the Glenorchy Animal Experience and opted for this, since we could be up close and personal with a variety of furry friends. Glenorchy Animal Experience is a family-owned farm in Glenorchy, NZ, surrounded by beautiful scenery and the snow-capped Southern Alps. They have lambs, sheep, llamas, cows, and more. You can pet any of the animals and buy little pellets to feed them while you’re out and about exploring the farm. We quickly realized that the animals that liked to be fed the most were the sheep and they REALLY liked to be fed, lol. As soon as they saw us carrying the little white bag, they came strolling on toward us and wouldn’t leave us alone until we were out of treats and our hands no longer smelled like food pellets. For the most part, all of the animals we interacted with were super friendly and sweet, and it was just the sheep that were a little pushy. To be fair, I get the same way when I am hungry, so no hard feelings. Enjoying the Glenorchy Animal Experience will cost you $20 NZ per person.
Wine lovers, rejoice! Just outside of Queenstown, the Central Otago wine region is waiting for you. The Central Otago wine region makes some of the most delicious wines in the world, so we knew we needed to carve out an afternoon for wine tasting. We opted for the Queenstown Wine Trail, as this 4-hour tour picked us up directly from our hotel in a small van, drove us to three different wineries, and then got us home safe and sound. We had a fantastic tour guide and shared the van with 3 other couples - another honeymooning couple from the U.S. and two couples from the U.K. Our favorite winery of the day was Gibbston Valley Winery, and we even shipped some bottles home for us to enjoy as we came down from the honeymoon highs + jet lag recovery. That was most definitely a great decision!
Oh my goodness, dear Queenstown: we could not have loved you more! From your endless adventure to your endless beauty, you filled our spirits and reminded us how big and amazing our world truly is. Your people are so kind and your air so fresh. We can't wait to return one day!
For my Honeymoon Series Part II: Sydney, Australia, CLICK HERE!
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