South Island NZ
Destinations, Meeting People, Planning, Posted by Amanda, Travel Activities

Discovering New Zealand

A year and a half ago I took my first solo trip abroad to Vietnam and ended up meeting a ton of people from New Zealand, apparently that’s a place on the Kiwi travel circuit! After spending 2 weeks with them I was suddenly interested in visiting this country that they spoke so fondly of. To be completely honest, it had never crossed my mind to visit New Zealand before I met them. It always seemed like some unattainable country because it was just so far away.   But once I decided to quit my job and travel for an extended period of time, this was the first country that made it on to the list!

Since I didn’t know much about New Zealand I had to figure out what I wanted to do and see once I got there. There are two islands that make up the country of New Zealand, appropriately named The North Island and the South Island. Both are so different but one thing that they have in common is sheer BEAUTY. I’ve always heard that New Zealand was pretty but I never knew how beautiful it was until I went there. It will literally take your breath away. I’ve seen 33 countries in my life and New Zealand falls in the top

I wanted to see as much as I could so I made a list on everything I read, country facts, and things that I couldn’t miss to help me organize this trip.

  • Only had one month to spend there
  • Wanted to see both islands
  • They drive on the left side of the road
  • I want to go on some challenging hikes with amazing views
  • The entire country is ungodly expensive
  • Their summer is our winter (if you are from the west)
  • I must try bungy-jumping and skydiving!

After taking a look at the list I decided that the best way to see New Zealand was through a guided tour. I was skeptical at first because most guided tours are not flexible but for me, the most important thing, was to see as much as possible. I always find it helpful to rate the most important thing that you are looking to get out of a trip to help you organize.

I also was completely terrified to drive on the left-side of the road without a companion. With my driving record, it would only be a matter of time before I unconsciously started driving on the right. The thought of making a “right-hand” turn while driving on the left still gives me anxiety to this day!

Stray Tour Itinerary Map
A tour would also be a little bit more expensive than doing it on my own but not by much, remember New Zealand ain’t cheap but I will say it is worth every red cent!

I ended up finding a tour that fit perfectly with my expectations! Stray Tours travel through both islands and takes you to main destinations as well as others that are off the beaten track. Since I only had a month this was going to give me the best bang for my buck. I could hop off if I wanted to stay longer in a particular city or I could go straight through.  What’s great about Stray is that there are all different types of “tickets” that you can purchase (2 weeks, 1 month, hop on/hop off, straight through, unlimited, etc) and you can go virtually anywhere based on the ticket you choose.

My one month in New Zealand exceeded all my expectations and I was able to see everything that I wanted to do. What I hadn’t realized before the trip is that this beautiful country has everything! And since it’s so small you never feel like you are driving that long. One minute you’ll be at a beautiful glacier and then an hour later you can be on the ocean and if you drive just a little further down the road you’ll be in green rolling hills scattered with sheep. And just as a fun fact, there are 14 sheep to every one person in New Zealand.

Here is a quick snapshot of my month in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and everything it has to offer.

Deserted Beaches

 The beaches in New Zealand were like nothing I’ve ever seen. There are not enough people in the country to fill them, even in the dead of summer!

Mountains Ranges as Far as the Eyes Can See

In every corner that I looked mountains could be seen soaring high into the clouds. They were so beautiful it looked like I was walking in a world of “photo shop”. None of these pictures have been enhanced by the way, they truly are this beautiful!

Extreme Sports

New Zealand is known as the destination for extreme sports.  White water rafting, bungee jumping, canyoning, ziplining, skydiving, canyoning, zorbing and off-road driving.  You name it New Zealand has got it!

The two biggest things on my bucket list in New Zealand were skydiving and bungee jumping.  I was most nervous about the skydiving but it turns out that bungee jumping is way more scary than skydiving.  Apparently 134 meters turns out to be pretty high when you convert it in to feet.  A word to the wise don’t try and convert those measurements on your way to the bungee jumping station, nothing good can come from it mentally.

Here is a video of me doing the Nevis Bungee. It’s the third biggest in the world and just so we are clear 134 meters is equal to 440 feet and about 8 seconds of “free-fall”!



One thing that I loved about Stray Tours is that they introduced us to the Maori culture in New Zealand. Maori are the indigenous people that arrived there about 1,000 years ago from their Polynesian homeland.

 Stray took us off the beaten track and we were able to stay at a traditional Maori meeting house and watch tribal dancing and eat authentic food prepared and cooked on hot stones that are buried in the ground.  To learn more, click on this link that will take you to the blog I wrote during my travels.  It explains everything I learned about these beautiful people.

Delicious Food

New Zealand has turned into quite the place for fresh, delicious, farm to house gourmet cooking. You’ll find sparking, crisp white wines, savory roasts, fish’n chips, meat pies and blackberry crumbles washed down by a “flat white”, which is their version of a latte (and oh so good). As I previously mentioned, New Zealand is expensive, especially when it comes to dining out. While I was there, I stayed in hostels to save money and would buy food at grocery stores. I would make myself a big breakfast in the morning and have a few snacks snacks throughout the day. Then I would splurge on a nice dinner in the evening with a big glass (or two) of New Zealand wine!


Hiking the 13-Mile Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the North Island. It was worth every blister, sunburn and shin-splint that made it hard to move for 2 days after.

New Friends

New friends that I met along the way, we were like one big happy family in the end.

Pure Beauty!

It’s puzzling to think that this tiny country half-way across the world with a population of only 4 million has so much amazing scenery.  Even though it’s far away this tiny jewel with welcoming and friendly hosts will not disappoint.  Get there!

pic collage NZ

nz outdoor shot

Thank you Stray New Zealand

An Unforgettable Experience

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1 Comment
  • Lou Hughes

    The pictures are breath taking….Love looking at all your pics when you writing a blog during your travels…..Enjoying passport love….:)

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