post author: rachel
The final stop of our two week trip in Australia and New Zealand was to Auckland, which is on the north side of the island. Upon landing, we hopped on the SkyBus, which was a really easy way to get around town, plus there was a stop just a couple blocks from our AirBnB. It was a small apartment in the perfect location, right in the heart of downtown. We dropped our backpacks and went to explore the city and find dinner. We stumbled upon a Spanish style restaurant near the Sky City Tower called Bellota. Two sangrias and a large seafood platter later left us happy and full after a long travel day!
As I've mentioned in previous posts, throughout this trip we made it a habit to stop at the grocery store on the first day we arrived in a new city. We found that having snacks on hand, or breakfast readily available made for a quicker start to the day and saved us money. Buying a few bottles of wine also helped cut costs because the price for one bottle at the store was the same for one glass at most restaurants.
Following dinner, we walked to the grocery store to stock up, headed back to the AirBnB, opened some wine and watched a movie on Netflix to end the night.
Wine tour day! Can you tell we love wine?
We got up early, walked down to the Harbor and boarded a ferry for Waiheke Island - an island just off the coast of Auckland that produces some of New Zealand’s best wines. We stopped at a two wineries - Casita Miro and Thomas Batch - and one distillery - Dellows.
After the tour, we asked our guide to drop us off at Mudbrick Vineyard. We had dinner reservations there and were extremely excited to try it. It did not disappoint! This place is a MUST-TRY! When we arrived, we went to the tasting room and sampled some amazing wines. Neither of us favor white wines, but their Chardonnay was one of the best we've ever tasted. We then hiked up on top of the hill that’s located right behind the vineyard and were treated to the 360-degree views of the ocean and the entire island. Such an amazing sight! Take a look at the photos in the gallery below to see the view.
We then walked back down to the vineyard and found a bottle of wine and table in the shade to relax, snack and enjoy the out-of-this-world view. Ironically, our waitress was from Oklahoma and had just moved to NZ a few weeks before. It was fun to chat with her, hear her experiences and how she up and left the states to explore the country.
When we finished our bottle of wine at Mudbrick, our waitress had recommended walking over to Cable Bay Vineyards. It was a quick walk up the road and had more of a relaxed hipster vibe. After grabbing one last glass of wine, we ventured out to the patio area, which was a large lawn filled with bean bags overlooking another absolutely phenomenal view.
After visiting as many vineyards as we could on Waiheke Island, we decided it was probably time to head back to Auckland. We split a cab with another family back to the pier and caught the ferry to the city just as the sun was setting. What a beautiful sunset! To think, we almost paid to take a sunset dinner cruise! Save the money and just hop on the ferry at the perfect time.
We were up early and at the bus stop to meet our tour guide for Hobbiton - the location for the filming of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings series, and The Hobbit - and the Waitomo Caves - a cave filled with glowworms lighting up the walls.
The tour company we used, unfortunately, was horrendous. It was through Great Sights - do not use! Due to holiday traffic (it was Good Friday), and our driver not leaving on time, it took us over half the day to get out there! It's normally just over a two hour drive from Auckland, but the heavy traffic disrupted our plans. Since we arrived in Hobbiton so late, we missed our time slot for the Hobbiton tour and missed our chance to get over to Waitomo Caves on time, which we were the most excited about.
The good news was that the Hobbiton employees were able to shuffle a few things around and fit us into another tour for the movie set. Our Hobbiton tour guide led us through The Shire, walking along the same trails the hobbits used in the movie. She shared tons of movie facts, grounds keeping stories and even let us go inside a hobbit home! We walked through the 12 acre set and saw all 44 hobbit homes on the property that are exactly as they are in the movie. At the end of the tour, we went inside the Green Dragon Inn and were treated to an apple-cider ale. It was such a neat experience.
Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings series, is regarded as a king in New Zealand and it's incredible to hear about his work, his keen eye and his creativity. His attention to detail is absolutely impeccable.
This is well worth the journey! I'd suggest a different tour company than Great Sights or rent a car and make the trek out there.
This was our last day of the entire trip. Our flight was that evening on Air New Zealand (highly recommend this airline!), so we had the whole day to continue exploring the city. We had to check out of our AirBnB that morning, so instead of lugging around our 15lb backpacks all day, we packed our smaller day bags with the essentials and stored our backpacks in a locker at the bus stop. It was the cheapest and safest way to ditch our luggage.
We wanted to see the city all at once in just one day...the solution - the hop on/hop off tour through Auckland Explorer Bus. We bought our tickets, grabbed the map, circled which places we wanted to stop, and made our way through the city.
We started on the red bus and made our first stop at the Bastion Point lookout for some out of this world views of the island, just breathtaking. Then we hopped off by the Parnell Rose Garden, which contains over 5,000 roses.
At the museum, we switched to the blue bus to explore Mt. Eden and Maungawhau, which is the highest volcano in Auckland. The last eruption was about 28,000 years ago, leaving a crater 160ft deep. We walked to the top in just under an hour, and let me tell - it was worth climbing that hill! At the top it was a 360° view of the city! Such a magnificent sight.
We made the long trek down the mountain and back to the red bus. Our next stop was to a gorgeous park. We had packed a few snacks and one last bottle of wine in our bag, so we found a cute bench in the park near the trees and flowers and enjoyed the last of our New Zealand wine and food.
After indulging, we made our final stop of the tour - the Sky Tower. Our bus tickets included passes to the Sky Tower, the 23rd tallest tower in the world. It was a fun and unique way to see the city. Just outside the base of the tower, we stumbled upon a festival. There were a number of locals, vendors and dancers. It was a wonderful way to experience their culture and put a cap on our trip.
This two week journey was one of the best of our lives! My husband and I loved every second of Australia and New Zealand! During our bus ride to the airport we were already talking about when we could return.
Thanks for following along this trip with me!
Sign up for our quarterly newsletter!