New Zealand, March 2024

Angela and I recently returned from an adventurous trip to New Zealand’s North Island. We previously visited the South Island in December 2022 and knew, even then, that we’d return in the future to see more of the country.

As with most of our travel, this trip was born of opportunity. I noticed rare award flight availability to and from Auckland and booked it. Together, though Angela certainly took the lead, we decided on our in-country itinerary over the next few months.

While things didn’t go exactly as planned during our time in New Zealand, we were able to adjust as needed and had one of our best trips yet.



Our final scheduled itinerary bore no resemblance to my initial bookings. In the two weeks leading up to our trip, better timed flights on more convenient schedules appeared. We gained an extra day in New Zealand and an earlier arrival home. Unfortunately, due to some bad luck, we wouldn’t actually get to fly our inbound itinerary as outlined below.

  • Angela
    • 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles + 44.00USD
      • LAS-DFW on AA J
      • DFW-AKL on AA J
    • 80,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles + 51.70USD
      • AKL-SYD on QF J
      • SYD-LAX on AA J
      • LAX-LAS on AA J
  • Nicholas
    • 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles + 44.00USD
      • LAS-DFW on AA J
      • DFW-AKL on AA J
    • 80,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles + 51.70USD
      • AKL-SYD on QF J
      • SYD-LAX on AA J
      • LAX-LAS on AA J


We booked most of our hotels far in advance, with a few exceptions. The Cordis Auckland, for our first night in New Zealand, was booked about a week out from our trip. The initial two nights at the Park Hyatt Auckland, booked using reward points, were secured a day in advance when we were forced to cancel our time in Tutukaka.

Because of my lack of attention to holidays, I once again managed to book portions of this trip over a major one. Our second stop in Auckland coincided with Easter weekend, resulting in slightly elevated prices for the last few days of our trip.

  • One room for one night at the Cordis Auckland for 16.18USD per night, inclusive of taxes and credits, booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts
  • One room for one night at Rydges Rotorua for 174.00NZD per night, inclusive of taxes
  • One room for two nights at the Hilton Lake Taupo for 55,000 Hilton Honors Points per night
  • One room for three nights at the DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington for 38,000 Hilton Honors points per night
  • One room for one night at The Dawson Motel for 175.00NZD per night, inclusive of taxes
  • One room for one night at the Waitomo Lodge Motel for 165.00NZD per night, inclusive of taxes
  • One room for two nights at the Park Hyatt Auckland for 25,000 World of Hyatt Points per night
  • One room for three nights at the Park Hyatt Auckland for 100.50USD per night, inclusive of taxes and credits, booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts


Our rental car was reasonably priced, but returning it was a bit of a hassle given we were scheduled to drop it off on Easter Sunday, decided to drop it off two days early, and were not provided with any specific instructions regarding how to do so.

In the end, we just parked it in front of the security fence and dropped the keys through a pipe labeled key drop and hoped for the best. A few days later, we were emailed an invoice for the finalization of the rental that included a somewhat substantial discount for some reason.

  • Eight day rental of a Hyundai i30 from Avis for 759.01NZD


While we did a lot of free walking and hiking, we paid out of pocket for some experiences.

March 18, 2024

As has become our preference these days, we dropped Fitz off at boarding before returning home to pack. We chose to park at the airport on this trip so that we could, hopefully, pick Fitz up on our way home.

At check-in, the agent kept telling us that her system wouldn’t allow me to board the plane for some reason that she couldn’t explain. Luckily, all was resolved when the agent swiped my passport for the third time. I remain extremely confused why this keeps happening to us, as we experienced the same with Angela’s ticket during our trip to Australia in January.

After receiving our boarding passes, we headed to the Centurion Lounge for a quick bite before walking to our gate. Our flight to Dallas was pleasant and uneventful. When we arrived, we shuttled to our departure terminal and visited the Capital One Lounge.

We were both very impressed with the lounge. It has good food options, similar to the small plates that JetBlue offers as part of its in-flight Mint service. The seating is a little haphazard and the lounge will probably need to restrict entry or expand in order to handle the traffic that seems likely in the near future.

We walked from the lounge to our gate and boarded ten minutes later. Angela and I both opted to skip dinner and eat dessert before bedding down and getting as much rest as possible before landing in New Zealand. The hard product on our American Airlines flight was quite good. The only issue I have with the seats is that they are quite narrow through the shoulders, requiring me to rotate a bit when lying flat. In addition to a quality hard product, the bedding was quite nice and the service was friendly.

March 20

After deplaning in New Zealand, we walked to immigration and, thanks to being the first people there from our plane, entered the country without delay. The biosecurity check all visitors are subject to was also quick. In comparison to our last visit, everything felt much faster.

We took an Uber from the airport to our hotel and were lucky enough to be able to check in and access our room seven hours ahead of the standard check-in time. I liked the Cordis Auckland. Our room had high-quality finishes and a nice layout, although I found the bed to be a little softer than I prefer.

After freshening up and taking a short nap, we ordered room service for lunch to use some of the property credit provided to us by booking through Fine Hotels & Resorts.

After lunch, we set out for Mount Eden. I enjoyed the walk through the city and loved the beautiful views from the top.

We walked back to the hotel and stopped at Gong Cha for some Boba Tea. Angela loved the Oolong Milk Tea, while I thought the Dirtea Coffee Milk Tea was somewhat mediocre and certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

Once back at the hotel, we finished off our property credit by ordering some light bites for dinner before getting some sleep. All of the dishes we sampled via room service were tasty.

March 21

After a delightful breakfast, included as part of our booking, we took an Uber to Avis, picked up our rental car, and drove to the Hunua Ranges Regional Park where we hiked the Wairoa Loop Track.

We enjoyed this hike quite a bit. We walked the loop in a counter-clockwise fashion. This made the beginning moderately difficult, but let us enjoy the second half of the hike more fully.

Heading in the direction of Rotorua, we stopped in Matamata to grab a bite to eat at The Redoubt Bar & Eatery. We both enjoyed the O.M.G. Burger which was served with fries and some of the best onion rings I’ve ever had. Unbeknownst to us, Matamata is apparently the gateway to Hobbiton and they really played into it. There was signage all over the town indicating as such.

We finished our drive to Rotorua and checked in to the Rydges Rotorua for the night. Unfortunately, I was a poor navigator and brought us to the wrong hotel at first because of some Google Maps issues. We figured it out, though, and arrived at our actual lodgings about five minutes later.

The hotel was fairly barebones, but it was exactly what we needed and was close to our activity for the evening.

After dropping off our luggage, we walked to the Te Puia Maori Cultural Centre for a tour of the facilities as well as the nearby mud pools, geysers, and steam vents.

The first stop was the traditional arts studios. Three traditional arts are taught at the culture centre: stone carving, wood carving, and weaving. We were given a brief overview of each as well as an introduction to the process by which students enter the scholarship-based program.

Afterwards, we walked through the kiwi centre which houses two of the endangered native birds. Luckily, both were quite active as we walked through the dark rooms that hold their enclosures.

Finally, we ventured down to the mud pools, geysers, and steam vents and were given some information as to why they are important to the Maori people who inhabit the area.

With our tour complete, we headed to dinner. To be frank, the food was fairly average and didn’t really seem to be strongly connected to the Maori traditions that we’d spent the last ninety minutes learning about.

After dinner, we were treated to a traditional Maori welcome ceremony, dancing, and singing. Our tour guide also spoke about how important tourism is to the Maori community’s survival, from the mid-nineteenth century to now. To hear it put so clearly from “Rob” was quite refreshing.

Once the performances were complete, we returned to the geysers to have hot chocolate and observe one of the twice-hourly eruptions of the main geyser. Once that was complete, we walked back to our hotel.

Of all the various cultural experiences that we’ve experienced over the years, I personally think this was my favorite. It is apparent that the Maori people are putting a lot of effort, sans government involvement, into the maintenance of their traditional arts, customs, and language, all while understanding how important tourism is to their ability to do so. They state it plainly without any compunction.

While the tickets for the evening were expensive, almost half of every ticket’s price goes into the scholarship fund for Maori students of the arts programs. Once I learned this, I was happy to have purchased them, in spite of the somewhat average food.

March 22

We decided to skip the poorly-reviewed hotel breakfast and grabbed coffee and protein bars from a nearby gas station. My expectations weren’t high, but the barista coffee from BP was legitimately delicious.

Following breakfast, we drove to Kaituna Cascades for our white water rafting tour. We were each given a wetsuit, booties, a fleece, and a helmet. The rest of our group showed up ten minutes after we arrived and, once they were suited up, we all piled into a raft (safe on dry land) for some instructions and safety information.

Once we were all comfortable, we loaded the raft onto a trailer and piled into the van that took us to the tour’s launch point.

We loved our experience on the river and would recommend it to anyone looking for an adventurous activity. The tour included drops over three different waterfalls, including the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at twenty-one feet, as well as swift paddling through rapids of varying intensity. We felt safe during our time on the river, even when we were getting pummeled with water.

The following are pictures from the first waterfall we descended, which was essentially a practice for the larger one later.

The second waterfall was very similar to the first one.

Finally, we hit the twenty-one foot drop.

After the waterfalls, we steered into a couple of different rapids and ended up absolutely soaked.

After stripping off our adventure gear, we toweled off and walked a short way to the Okere Falls as they are less than 300 meters from the rafting center.

We hopped in the car and drove to the Whakarewarewa Forest where we walked the Redwood Quarry Loop Track. The best part of the trail was the beginning where we walked through a grove of towering redwoods.

Once we finished our hike, we headed to Ciabatta Cafe & Bakery where we split the Brekkie and Reuben sandwiches, following them up with a pair of flat whites and a delicious passion fruit croughnut. We loved our lunch and wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant if you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Rotorua. As an added bonus, Angela met a very friendly dog on our way to the car.

After lunch, we drove to Taupo. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived at our hotel, so we drove to the Spa Thermal Park and enjoyed a walk to Huka Falls. The waterfall was absolutely beautiful and the river that flows to it is so transparent that you can see to the bottom at almost every point.

We returned to our hotel and dropped our bags in our room. I liked our hotel in Taupo, especially the attached second-floor balcony.

For dinner, we visited Ploughmans Restaurant. Angela opted for the lamb shank and I chose the venison pie. Both were delicious and we ended up splitting the dishes.

After dinner, we stopped at a nearby grocery store to pick up some provisions for the coming days before returning to the hotel for the night.

March 23

We enjoyed the continental breakfast at our hotel before heading to the AJ Hackett Bungy Centre. Angela and I were the first people to check in.

To get the day started, Angela was harnessed up and strapped in for her swing experience. After having her wave and smile for the camera, the attendant on duty starting asking if she wanted a countdown or to just be released. Before he even finished the question, he’d pulled the release and away she went!

I was harnessed up before walking out to the bungy platform. There, they asked me whether I’d like to perform a water touch during my jump and, if so, whether I wanted a full dunk or just the fingertips. I affirmed that I would love a fingertips-only water touch. Steeling myself, I leaped off the platform and was surprised to find myself plunged into the water fully up to my waist.

I enjoyed bungy jumping again and would likely do it in the future if the right opportunity presented itself, but the thrill from my experience in Taupo was less than that at Nevis near Queenstown. I did enjoy the water touch, though, so I’m still glad I did it.

We drove to the waterfront to grab some coffee and take a walk along Lake Tauopo. We enjoyed some tasty flat whites from The Steaming Bean before heading to a gas station and then returning to the hotel.

I was glad that we decided to return to our hotel because the sky opened up and started dumping rain as soon as we arrived. We relaxed a bit before heading over to the fitness room for a quick workout and then proceeding to the bar to take advantage of our free drink coupons.

For dinner, we visited Malabar for an absolutely delicious spread of Indian and Nepalese food. We started with the samosas, chicken lollipops, mixed momos, and garlic naan. For our entrees, Angela chose the lamb junglee while I opted for the lamb biryani. The amount of food we received was astonishing and every single dish was packed with flavor.

After stuffing ourselves, we took a walk around Taupo to see the sights.

Before heading back to the hotel for the night, we stopped at Kona Kones for some ice cream. I loved my scoop of double chocolate, but Angela was not impressed by her choices and would not recommend the shop.

We packed our suitcases in preparation for an early departure the following morning and then settled down to rest.

March 24

We departed our hotel at 0535. Angela drove us to the Ketetahi Car Park, arriving at 0638. We grabbed our backpacks and boarded our pre-booked shuttle, departing the parking lot at 0657, slightly ahead of schedule.

Luckily, we were first off the shuttle and able to use the bathrooms before everyone else. We started our hike across the Tongariro Alpine Crossing at 0733.

For the day, we both wore hiking boots to better handle the rugged terrain. We carried several liters of water each alongside some snacks. The hike is supposed to take six to eight hours, but we completed the thirteen-and-a-half mile journey from the start of the trail to our car in 5:25.

I believe that most people of moderate fitness can complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing without major issues. The first half was exceptionally beautiful, while the second half was a bit of a slog consisting of non-stop switchbacks through uninteresting landscapes. The different sections are described fairly accurately in this guide.

It was a real treat to see the mountain that played the part of Mount Doom in the Peter Jackson directed Lord of the Rings movie franchise and we really enjoyed the uniqueness of the landscape during the first half of the hike. At least one of us would do it again.

We were quite thankful when we got to the end of the track and also quite proud of our journey. The mindset of “one foot in front of the other” certainly served us well for the back half.

After a celebratory selfie, we hopped in the car and headed off towards Wellington. On the way, we stopped at a Streetwise Coffee location in Palmerston for some strong and delicious flat whites.

We arrived in Wellington around 1700. Angela parked on the street while I checked in and got the information we needed about parking, breakfast, and our room. Angela moved the car to the attached garage, we unloaded our luggage, and took some time to stretch out and relax after a very long day. I loved our room at our hotel in Wellington. We were upgraded to a junior suite which gave us a fair bit of room to lounge.

For dinner, we ordered a Caesar salad and chowed down on the rest of the bread and cheese that we’d purchased a few days earlier.

March 25

Full breakfast was included given my status with Hilton. The breakfast was good with a reasonable variety dishes, but isn’t going to make you want to go back for seconds.

After breakfast, we walked to The Hangar. We enjoyed sampling a variety of roasts at the home of New Zealand’s 2023 latte art champion.

We took a stroll to Shelly Bay Baker where Angela enjoyed a delicious almond croissant and I opted for an equally scrumptious cinammon scroll.

After walking along Cuba Street, we stopped at Duck Island Ice Cream. Angela absolutely loved her choices, but I thought it was only mediocre, the opposite of our experience in Taupo.

Now that we had stuffed ourselves, we walked along Highway 1 to the base of Mt Victoria before walking up the Lookout Trail to the summit.

From the top, we made our way down to Oriental Bay Beach and walked along the waterfront back to our hotel, viewing Solace in the Wind along the way.

After quite a bit more walking than we had anticipated for the day after our long hike, we returned to the hotel. For dinner, I picked up some extremely mediocre sandwiches from the grocery store across the street. I would not recommend anyone do the same.

March 26

After breakfast, we drove to the Te Kopahou Reserve for the Red Rocks Coastal Walk along the rugged southernmost coast of the North Island. While we strolled, we saw a seal laying on the shore as well as a few different birds. The tide pools seemed to be devoid of life except for a few random shellfish.

We returned to the hotel, but immediately set off for lunch at A Taste of Home. I chose the Dan Dan Noodles while Angela opted for Yo Po Mian with chicken. We both really enjoyed our dishes. One of the nice things about this particular restaurant is that the spice levels are what you’d actually expect from Chinese cuisine rather than diminished for a sensitive palate.

For dessert, we wandered over to the Wellington Chocolate Factory. Walking in to the cafe, we were greeted with an incredible chocolate smell. I decided to have a cup of hot chocolate while Angela chose a cookie a la mode. The chocolate in both was rich and delicious while not being too sweet.

We walked to the waterfront for an early afternoon coffee at Tuatua Cafe. This cafe was quite unique in its explicit emphasis on sustainability alongside locally sourced and natural ingredients. The coffee was tasty and the waterfront seating is a delight.

After coffee, we sat in a park above the boat shed and enjoyed the beautiful Wellington weather. It was lovely to just sit and look out at the harbor, especially for two desert dwellers.

We spent the afternoon relaxing in our room and reading before I walked to Pizza Pomodoro to pick up pizza for dinner. We enjoyed the flavor of the sauce and ingredients, but the crust was less crispy than we’d prefer.

March 27

After breakfast, we packed up, checked out, and set off for New Plymouth. Along the way, we stopped at Levin’s Coffee Corner for a couple of absolutely delicious flat whites. This stop might have been the best coffee we had on the entire trip, in my opinion.

Our next stop was the Waireka Honey Centre where we sampled a wide variety of honey blends, including a few with a high manuka honey percentage, and selected a jar to take home. During this stop, we both realized that we do not like the taste of manuka honey as it is very medicinal.

For lunch, we popped into the Windermere Berry Farm for some coffee and absolutely delicious pancakes with berry compote.

When we arrived in New Plymouth, we checked in to The Dawson Motel. I thought our room was comfortable and well-appointed and perfect for our one-night stay.

After putting our bags in our room, we walked from our hotel to Fitzroy Beach along the Te Huanui Takutai (Coastal Walkway). Along the way, we passed by the Wind Wand and got to enjoy watching someone drive around in a land sailer.

We stopped for dinner on the way back to our lodgings. While we intended to eat at Gamma Ray’s, they never opened. As an alternative, Angela enjoyed a delicious bowl of pho from Viet Nom Nom while I chose to order a tuna poke bowl from Kahakai Poke Bowl. I liked my dish, but was not so secretly disappointed that I didn’t get a burger.

March 28

We intended to hike up to a viewpoint over Mount Taranaki. Unfortunately, the mountain was shrouded in cloud cover with no signs of it clearing. As such, we decided to move the hike to our next visit to New Zealand and have a bit of a leisurely morning.

We visited Elixir Cafe for breakfast where Angela ordered a chicken burger with fries and I chose the avocado toast with a couple of extra eggs. Both dishes were absolutely delicious. We definitely recommend visiting Elixir Cafe if you’re in New Plymouth.

Before heading out for the day, we walked to Escape Coffee Roasters for a quick pick-me-up. As we walked along the coast, we received a call from the Tutukaka Diving Centre informing us that they were canceling our tour slated to take place over the weekend because of dangerous sea conditions. While disappointed, we were appreciative that they reached out proactively. We took a seat while I called and canceled our hotel reservation in Tutukaka and booked us an additional two nights in Auckland. Luckily, we were still four hours outside of the free cancellation period for our Tutukaka hotel.

The flat whites at Escape Coffee Roasters were great and I loved the vibe of the cafe. It seems like a cool spot to come chat with your friends after a workout or get some work done outside the home.

We really liked New Plymouth and would definitely return in the future. The town has a very relaxed feel to it and hasn’t yet been crushed by tourism like a lot of other small beach towns.

On the way out of town, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some items for dinner that night given we’d be staying somewhere without much in the way of a restaurant scene.

Driving to Waitomo, we stopped at a random viewpoint looking out over the ocean. The natural beauty was absolutely astounding.

We checked in to the Waitomo Lodge Motel. The room was exactly as pictured on their website and comfortable, while certainly not fancy. There was a lot of road noise during the day, but it seemed to decrease overnight.

After settling in, we walked across the street to the Bosco Cafe where we enjoyed a pair of flat whites and some sweet treats. Angela ordered a slice of citrus cake while I chose to devour a delicious little brownie.

When we were done eating, we walked around the nearby park, following a short loop trail before heading back to our hotel.

For dinner, Angela made some chicken drumsticks and rice, which were quite tasty. I was very thankful to have a small kitchenette during our stay in Waitomo.

March 29

Shortly after waking up, we checked out of our motel and headed to The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co for the Black Labyrinth cave adventure. Once our tour group was gathered, our guides, Alycia and Tutu, introduced themselves before handing out wetsuits. We were instructed to change and then were given a brief overview of the things we’d be doing during our activity. After this, we hopped in a van that took us to the cave entrance.

The first step in our tour was to get everyone comfortable with jumping backwards and landing in water on our provided inner tubes. We did this in a small river that flows out of the cave system. The water was quite cold, which I think is apparent in the following pictures.

After our trial run, we descended into the cave. We traversed the cave through a mix of rock scrambling, crawling, floating, and jumping off of waterfalls. Several sections of the cave were saturated with glow worms and, at one point, everyone shut off their personal helmet light, tucked into our tubes, and were pulled by Tutu through the caves as we admired hundreds of glow worms.

When we exited the cave, we were brought back to the staging area in the aforementioned van, stripped off our wetsuits, and took a much-needed hot shower. Tutu had mentioned a waterfall to us that was just up the road, so we took a detour from our originally planned route to visit Marokopa Falls. We are both very glad we did as their majesty and power did not disappoint.

After leaving the falls, we returned to the main road and made our way to Auckland. We decided to drop our car off a few days early. When we arrived at the rental center, we saw that it was locked up tight with a pipe labeled Key Drop next to the closed security gate. We unpacked the car, triple checked that the doors were locked, and left it outside the gate, dropping the keys in the pipe. We called an Uber to pick us up and take us to the Park Hyatt Auckland.

When we arrived at the hotel, I described to the agent who was checking us in that I have a few different reservations and requested that we stay in the same room. He guaranteed we’d be in the same room for the first three nights, but couldn’t promise anything for the last two.

We loved our room at the Park Hyatt Auckland. There was plenty of room to sit and relax, the bed was extremely comfortable, and the fit and finish of the property is extremely high-quality.

For dinner, we visited Arbung Thai Restaurant where I ordered the red curry and Angela opted for drunken noodles. We also split an order of the fish cakes. We had enjoyed Arbung on our previous visit to Auckland, but were less impressed on this ocassion.

We stopped at a local convenience store on the way back to our hotel to pick up some ice cream for dessert. We chose to relax the rest of our first night in Auckland after a long day of driving.

March 30

The breakfast at the Park Hyatt Auckland consists of a variety of high-quality dishes, including meats, cheeses, and breads available on a buffet, alongside hot dishes to order. This morning, I enjoyed the avocado toast while Angela ordered the prawn har gow. Both were quite tasty.

After breakfast, we walked to the Downtown ferry terminal to buy a reloadable transit card for our stay in the city. They are supplied from a vending machine that is straightforward to operate but only available in a small number of locations. As we exited the hotel, we met Beau, the Park Hyatt’s dog-in-residence, for the first time.

From the terminal, we walked to Albert Park, a cute little green space with a few statues and a fountain.

Next, we headed towards the Auckland Domain, a large greenspace with a few distinct trails and plazas. We entered via the Lovers’ Walk, stopping briefly at the (unfortunately duckless) duck pond.

From there, we made our way to the reflecting pond and valkyrie statue, which had unfortunately been removed from public display. We also saw some gorgeous flowers in this part of the park.

Our next stop was the Wintergardens & Fernery which hosted a large variety of plant species, including quite a few peppers and eggplants.

Finally, we visited the Auckland War Memorial. The inscriptions on the beautiful memorial spoke of the importance of remembering the dead and the changes they brought to the world that they lived in.

We decided not to visit the adjoining museum and moved on towards Cornwall Park. The park starts out very long and narrow before opening up into large grazing spaces for sheep and cattle.

After a brief break to enjoy some granola bars, we moved on to the top of One Tree Hill which hosts an obelisk and the tomb of Sir John Logan Campbell, the man who bequeathed the land for the park.

On the way down, we stopped for coffee at the Cornwall Park Creamery They were much needed after eleven miles of walking.

We exited the park and walked to a nearby bus stop that took us back to our hotel. Nearby the hotel, we were lucky enough to meet Rocky, a cute black and tan dachshund. He was a little aloof, but eventually allowed Angela to pet him.

We spent some time relaxing on our balcony before heading out for dinner. Our first stop was Mr Taco. I ordered a chicken burrito and birria taco while Angela chose to have one birria, one al pastor, and one carnitas taco. The meal was delicious and well-priced and we would definitely recommend a stop here.

After the meal, we decided to have a taco-off and headed to Tacoteca for a second course. I ordered ceviche and a lamb taco. Angela opted for one beef and one al pastor tacos. This meal was somewhat of a let down. It felt like they tried to upscale the taco experience without thinking about what that meant for the flavors. For example, the fish in the ceviche was completely subsumed by the flavors in the acid.

March 31

After a delightful Easter breakfast featuring hot cross buns and open-hearth pancakes (which I proceeded to order at every remaining breakfast), we took the ferry to Davenport to enjoy a little slice of Auckland. The ferry was easy to use, requiring a simple tap of our transit cards when boarding and after disembarking.

We walked around Devonport for the better part of the day. Our first stop was Mt Victoria for views over Auckland.

Afterwards, we walked along the waterfront to Torpedo Bay and visited the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum. This small museum is definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in the roles that the New Zealand Navy has played throughout the country’s history.

After the museum, we walked to North Head and explored the entire summit, including many decommissioned fortifications.

Once we finished exploring, we found a bench overlooking the ocean and settled in for an hour, enjoying each other’s company and the surrounding scenery.

We headed back to the ferry terminal after departing from the mountain and made our way back to downtown Auckland. By now, we were quite hungry. We decided to keep it casual and dine at The White Lady, an Auckland institution. We both ordered double cheeseburgers and split a single order of fries. The meal was just as described; simple, delicious food like you’d expect to get at home.

For dessert, we stopped at Giapo for some absolutely splendid gelato. I ordered the dark chocolate while Angela opted to combine the buono and summer berry flavors. We highly recommend a stop here.

Returning to the hotel, we met Franco and Toki, a pair of dachshunds, about one hundred feet from the entrance. They were quite excitable, as you can see in the following picture.

Once we returned to our room, we packed up our suitcases to prepare to move rooms the following day before relaxing on our couch to read.

April 1

After breakfast, we sealed our bags and headed out to grab the ferry to Rangitoto Island, a young volcanic island nearby Auckland that is free from permanent habitation and home to many interesting hiking trails. We chose to hike to the summit.

We reached the top in thirty-seven minutes and then stopped at the lava caves on the way down. You can enter the caves, which we did, but our enjoyment was hindered by a gaggle of children piling in behind us.

After leaving the lava caves, we hiked back down to the wharf. Once we reached the shore, we decided to visit the Museum Bach, which is a restored example of the baches that dotted the island as, essentially, temporary living quarters for select families. They are not actively used, for the most part, but there are three available for rent that allow you to stay overnight on Rangitoto.

We took the ferry back to Auckland and returned to the hotel. When we arrived, we were informed that our room wasn’t quite ready. We requested access to the gym and were readily provided with such.

After lifting weights for an hour, we were informed that our new room was ready and our luggage had been transferred. We were happy to see they had moved us to the top floor with a rooftop deck.

We decided to eat dinner at The Living Room, the Park Hyatt’s casual restaurant, to use our property credit from booking through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Everything was delicious. We ordered the haloumi fries and labneh to start. For my main, I chose the cheeseburger while Angela opted for the Caesar salad with chicken. For dessert, we shared the ricotta cake with mango chutney and each had a hot drink. Everything was delicious and the meal was reasonably priced, even given the 15% public holiday surcharge.

After dinner, we returned to our fantastic room to relax for the night.

April 2

After breakfast, we decided to take a walk along the waterfront. We walked along Tamaki Drive all the way to Mission Bay, chatting and taking pictures along the way. Once at the bay, we decided to hang out on a park bench overlooking the water.

We took the bus back to the hotel and chilled on our balcony reading for an hour before hitting the gym. After our workout, we walked to Burger Burger for dinner. The patties had good flavor, but the Kiwi burger was an absolute mess and almost impossible to eat as an actually sandwich. The highlight of the meal was the delicious curly fries we shared.

For dessert, we returned to Giapo where I, once again, enjoyed the dark chocolate and Angela combined “milk n cookies” with “lady lemmington”. After dessert, we returned to our room and packed up for our early morning journey the following day.

April 3

Waking up at 0415, we grabbed our luggage and checked out before taking an Uber to the airport. I took one final picture of Auckland in the early morning hours.

There, we checked in for our flight before heading to the Qantas lounge. We each enjoyed a couple of flat whites and a light breakfast before boarding our flight to Sydney. The flight was pleasant enough. We enjoyed a nice meal of yogurt and chia pudding alongside an apricot Danish.

Once we arrived in Sydney, we had to half-jog through the terminal because the status boards were already showing “Final Call” for our flight as soon as we deplaned. Luckily, we made it to the gate in time for boarding. Unfortunately, this is where our day took a turn.

After we handed over our boarding passes, we were informed that our baggage was not on the plane yet and we’d have to wait. Other people trickled in that were on our flight from Auckland to Sydney and were told the same thing. While everyone else gradually boarded the plane after confirmation their luggage had been transferred, we were left waiting without comment.

Eventually, the ground staff closed the boarding door and we knew that we had effectively missed our flight, through no fault of our own. We were still left in the dark, though, as no one chose to communicate anything to us.

About fifteen minutes later, we were told that we’d been rebooked on Fiji Airways through Nadi on the way to Los Angeles. We’d have a four hour layover in Fiji and a seven hour layover in Los Angeles. I asked about our checked luggage and was told they would get it from the baggage carousel (where I’m convinced it was accidentally sent) and recheck it for us. We didn’t need to do anything other than check in with Fiji at their desk as the flight’s departure time came closer.

Frustrated by this turn of events, especially given that I had specifically canceled an itinerary through Fiji with long layovers in favor of Auckland to Sydney to Los Angeles, we headed toward the Qantas lounge to while away the time before our flight.

Once we arrived at the lounge, we were surprised to find that a gate agent had chased us down in order to tell us that we needed to enter Australia and fetch our bags ourselves because they couldn’t actually do it for us. We were escorted through immigration, retrieved our bags, and made our way past the customs check. Our escort led us to the Fiji Airways desk before disappearing and we checked in for our new itinerary before heading back through immigration and security and finally finding our way back to the Qantas lounge.

After eating some extremely unsatisfying Sichuan pork (presumably named after Sichuan, Australia given it had no spice at all), we headed to the gate and boarded our flight to Fiji. The short flight was nice with good service and a comfortable seat. When our flight landed, we headed to the Fiji Airways Lounge where we ate a tasty dinner and waited out our layover.

A few hours later, we boarded our flight to Los Angeles. We both enjoyed the flight, each getting about six hours of sleep. The bedding was nice and the service was very friendly.

Arriving in Los Angeles, we cleared immigration, rechecked our luggage, and decided to head outside and walk from one end of the airport to the other, twice, to stretch our legs. After that, we cleared security and headed to the American Airlines Flagship Lounge where we spent the next five-and-a-half hours. The food in the lounge was surprisingly tasty and varied, and I enjoy the Coke machine that lets you add different flavors to sparkling water or any of the classic Coke drinks (Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Coke Classic).

Eventually, we boarded our short flight home to Las Vegas, arriving thirty-six hours after our journey had begun. Through some miracle, though, it worked out that we both completely avoided jetlag in the following days.

Thus ended our second trip to New Zealand, a country we love. It is so beautiful and, for us at least, sparks a sense of adventure. While I’m not sure when we’ll return, we definitely will as there’s just so much left for us to see and do.

3 responses to “New Zealand, March 2024”

  1. I very much enjoyed the New Zealand blog post. Incredibly beautiful pictures made me feel like I was there experiencing it with you both. What a crazy long trip home. Love you

  2. Super fun trip! I love all the details you share along with gobs of photos! Just like you took everyone along with you. I loved all the hikes, waterfalls, caves and flat whites. Great writing. You made me laugh out loud a few times.

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