We usually try to visit my husband’s family in New Zealand every other year. We were due to visit in 2020… when all travel plans got put on hold. So when the news broke last November that New Zealand would be opening up for visitors without managed isolation, we bought airplane tickets within two days. At the time we bought our tickets the rules said we’d need to self-isolate for one week, so we bought tickets for a three week trip, assuming we’d work remotely for one week. By the time of our trip the self-isolation was no longer required. We kept our three week itinerary, anyway, and worked from an AirBnB in Auckland for the first week. Then we headed to Wellington by way of Waitomo (our kids needed to see the glowworms!) and National Park. After a few days in Wellington, we took the ferry to Picton and drove to Anakiwa, in the Marlborough Sounds, where my sister-in-law has a vacation home. From there, we went to Mapua to end our vacation in a lovely spot right on the water.
It was a vacation more focused on seeing family and friends than on a lot of touristy outings, but that won’t stop me from my usual award show post!
Best Place to Stay
This was an easy category for me – our final lodgings were at the Mapua Wharfside Apartments and they were right on the water. We were in an upstairs room overlooking the estuary and I spent a lot of time on the deck or at the living room window watching the tides and birds. It was beautiful.
My older daughter picked the house in Anakiwa for this category, because she liked staying near her cousins. The rest of us picked the view!
My husband and older daughter picked seeing the All Blacks play Ireland in Eden Park in Auckland. That was certainly the best of the three games in that series to see (it was the only one New Zealand won), but I preferred my quiet time sitting and watching the tides and birds from the apartment in Mapua. My younger daughter also picked something in Mapua, but she picked something a little more active. One afternoon, we rented bikes and took the very short ferry ride over to Rabbit Island and biked around the trails there. It was a lot of fun! But I liked the birds better.
This was a new category in last year’s list and I decided to keep it this year because I liked how it made me think a little bit differently about where we went and what we did. Of course, I came up with a location in Mapua as my winner: The ferry landing on Rabbit Island. We waited there for about 30 minutes for our return ferry, having finished our bike ride only 15 minutes after the previous ferry left. It was late afternoon and the water was so calm that it reflected the clouds and birds. It was very peaceful.
My husband picked that spot, too, although he spent less time there since he chose to take another, faster loop around the trails while I waited with the kids. My younger daughter picked the Waitomo Cave, with the pretty glowworms. My older daughter picked Otorohanga, for having a good cafe (The Fat Kiwi) and two giant metal kiwis.
I liked The Fat Kiwi in Otorohanga, too – it was in fact my favorite meal of the trip, possibly because it was the first steak and cheese pie I had on the trip. It was a good one, and they had a good caramel slice, too! My husband picked the meal we had with friends at Baduzzi, in Auckland. He had a lamb dish that he said was divine. My kids picked another Auckland Italian meal, but a very different one. On our last night in town, we walked to a restaurant near our AirBnB called La Porchetta. My younger daughter discovered she likes carbonara sauce and my older daughter liked the fruit frappe she had. We all liked the laid back atmosphere.
My favorite treat of the trip was the caramel slice I had from the bakery near our AirBnB (Raspberry Tarts). I had several other caramel slices on the trip, but that one was the first and the best. My husband says the best treat was a passionfruit manuka honey Kapiti ice cream bar he had in Auckland. We actually got these on the plane ride home and they were indeed yummy. My older daughter picked the lemon blueberry muffin she bought in the airport before we flew home, which might make you think she didn’t like the other treats but she loves New Zealand candy and had plenty of it on the trip, so I guess it was just a really good muffin. My younger daughter says the best treat was the chocolate gelato she got at the Penguino Ice Cream Cafe in Nelson on our last day.
Best Cheese Scone
My kids love the cheese scones in New Zealand, so I let this be a separate category. They both say the best one was at the Scorch O Rama in Scorching Bay, Wellington. (As an aside, can I say how funny I think it is that anything in Wellington would be called “scorching”? I have been there in the summer and it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, scorching.)
The kids say the playground in Levin is still the best, but the best flying fox is now at Kowhai Park in Whanganui. Apparently it is bouncier.
My husband says there are too many excellent New Zealand beers now to pick a favorite but if I insist, he’ll pick the Hop Salad from 8 Wired. I liked the Red IPA from Hop Federation the best. My favorite alcohol, though, was the Resurgence Sauvignon Blanc from Riwaka River Estate winery. I had it at the Rimu Bar in Mapua as part of a tasing flight. I liked it so much I went back and bought a bottle to have a glass or two on our deck on our last evening there.
And that’s the award show version of our trip! Like I said at the top, this was really a trip about seeing family, but we did get some fun outings in so I’ll write some more posts soon.