New Zealand Photo Travelogue

I wanted an easy way to share my photos since many have asked, so here is my photo essay recounting my two week journey through the North & South Islands of New Zealand in March 2024.

I traveled with my partner Freddy, with the original impetus for the trip being his friend’s wedding in Queenstown.

And since people always ask, these images are all shot on a iPhone. Despite being a professional photographer, I hate traveling with all my huge, heavy gear and get worried about damage & theft. I prefer to travel light! And the last thing I want to do after getting home is spending ages editing & processing raw photos…

Most of these photos are mine, with the exception of 1) pictures of me, which Freddy mostly took, 2) pictures of Freddy and I, taken by the nearest bystander, and 3) the cave photos, credited in that section.

North Island

In the North Island of New Zealand, we rented a campervan for 9 days from Wilderness Adventures. Highly recommend them!

Fun fact: I wanted my own campervan for years and was saving up for it, until my last car had major mechanical issues and I realized I didn’t want to own another vehicle. Renting costs a lot less, I don’t have to deal with car repairs, and I can have camper adventures anywhere in the world!

Over the course of 9 days, we did 1374 km (854 miles)!

Our journey started on the beaches in Northland with relaxing and scuba diving. We then traveled south of Auckland – immersing ourselves in Hobbiton, exploring incredible Waitomo Caves, camping in the deep bush, meeting Kiwi babies, sheep babies, and newborn piglets, soaking in hot springs, and more!

Sheep World & Nutty For You

Sheep World was one of those unplanned stops that ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. Because we LOVE baby animals!

We met Macaroni, the adorable baby alpaca only months old, and a whole litter (is that the right word?) of baby piglets born the day before!!

Did you know? There are 5.6 sheep for every person in New Zealand.

I’m weirdly picky about nuts and will only eat macadamias in their nut form. We ended up finding an amazing macadamia nut shop off the highway. After ringing the doorbell, the owner shows up on an ATV with 2 excited dogs chasing behind.

Turns out he had planted the orchard 20 years ago! And now he sells plain and flavored macadamia nuts from the store. They were some of the best macadamias I’ve had in my life!

Northland Coast

We camped at Matapouri Beach, enjoyed a stunning sunrise, hiked to the secluded Whale Bay Beach (my favorite), and generally relaxed right after arriving.

As a lover of scuba diving, I had to check out the famous Poor Night’s Islands dive sites. The underwater life with incredible! Soooo many fish, as this area forbids fishing to preserve the natural environment.

This was the first time I experienced an underwater kelp forest, their swaying movement underwater was a little trippy.

Marine life included moray eels (my favorite!), dozens of different types of fish, and vibrant nudibranches.

We also entered the 2nd largest explored sea cave in the world on the dive boat.


The Lord of the Ring & Hobbit movie set is truly immersive!! I wasn’t sure how much I’d love this since I’m not a diehard LOTR fan, but it was SO worth it and amazing.

Turns out, in the past the tour was only on the exterior Hobbit village Hobbiton. Since 2023, they added an interior portion where you got to enter inside a hobbit’s house. I’m so glad I saw that, it really took the experience to another level! The interiors are totally customized and personalized to the fictional family that lives there.

The attention-to-detail and immersive quality of this tour was top notch. And being able to see the sheep on the way in (this is a working sheep and beef farm) was a wonderful bonus!

Waitomo Caves

This was also a pretty mind-blowing and “forever memory” type of place. One of our favorites for the whole trip (definitely Freddy’s top favorite activity)

We abseiled 100m (approx 3ooft) into a cave from a ceiling hold, hiked/scrambled to the back to see the glowworm (which is actually glowing maggot shit), climbed the “stairway to heaven” 30m (approx 90ft) ladder to ascent, and walked out into breathtaking forest at the end.

I’ve been in plenty of caves before, this was totally a unique experience with all the foliage in the front of the cave, the glow worms (and the hilarious story behind them) and a local fantail bird who followed us to the cave!

Photo credit goes to the awesome Joel & Craig from Waitomo Adventures!


We originally wanted to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a hard alpine hike where you pass active volcanos and Mt Doom from LOTR, but it was cancelled due to rain.

Instead, we enjoyed local honey, shopping for some merino wool items, and soaking at the Wairakei Terraces Hot Springs.

Followed up the next day by some jet skiing to check out Māori carvings on a rock wall overlooking Lake Taupo and the BEST, most flavorful, most delicious, unmatched, Indian food of our entire lives.


We stayed at the Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park, so I enjoyed a peaceful soak with my book before going to the Redwoods Treewalk – Night edition!

This was another one of my top highlights from the trip. Suspension bridges between redwoods trees, the forest alight with art echoing nature.

The attention to detail put into the artistry of the nighttime light exhibit was stunning. It was great to learn about the history of the redwoods forest and the local forestry school.

While in Rotorua we also visited a local, still occupied Māori village called Whakarewarewa. It was a fascinating look into the indigenous culture and history of this place.

We watched a cultural show that includes battle cries, greetings, dances, and games. We also explored the village that was built up over hot springs & bubbling mud, and lunched on local hāngī food prepared in the traditional way (in the geothermally heated ground).

Finally, another highlight from Rotorua was the National Kiwi Hatchery! This nonprofit helps increase the endangered kiwi bird’s survival rate as babies – from 5% to 65%!

I only got pictures of the taxidermized kiwis they had on display as photos aren’t allowed in the hatchery to protect the birds (they’re nocturnal).

But we had the absolute best luck of being able to meet a kiwi baby (behind glass) that was only hours old! And a couple other babies who were 3 and 8 days old.

Apparently, one does not see kiwis in the wild since they’re endangered, nocturnal, and burrowing.

Fun Facts I Learned Here:

  • Kiwis are named after to the noise the male bird makes – it sounds like kiwi
  • The people were named kiwi after a shoe polish made in Australia and brought to WWI, the New Zealander troops were called Kiwi after the kiwi polish
  • Kiwi fruit is not native to NZ, it’s actually Chinese Gooseberry, but since Americans didn’t want to buy Chinese named fruit at the time, the name of the fruit was changed to Kiwi as a marketing tactic

Waiheke Island

After dropping off our campervan back in Auckland, we had time to visit Waiheke Island, a wine island that came highly recommended by Freddy’s friend (the groom in the wedding we were going to).

Our favorite stop here was Casita Miro, a gorgeous, tiny, Spanish-style vineyard & restaurant. I loved their wines (they had a sweet, fortified wine – one of my faves!) and the Spanish food was delicious. Their olive oil was the best olive oil I’ve had in a loooong time!

We also checked out Obsidian, Wild Estate, and the Waiheke Wine Shop for more tastings. At the Wine Shop we sampled from Man O’War, another winery on the island, and those were my favorite wines.

That night we had an incredible meal at Hello Beasty, a New Zealand-Asian fusion restaurant in Auckland before our Queenstown flight the next day.

South Island

Arthur’s Point

The only reason we stayed in Arthur’s Point was to be close to our private, outdoor hot tub reserved for that evening at the lovely Onsen Hot Pools. It ended up being way more delightful & interesting than that!

Before hot tubbing, we enjoyed some PERFECT pizza at a food truck called Rakhu and did a delicious gin tasting at the Gin Garden. All walking distance from our hotel, the Nugget Point Hotel, which had an incredible view.


Our first day in Queenstown we were invited to a private winery tour by Freddy’s friend. These wines, from Mondillo Winery, ended up being my favorite wines of their entire trip! Sadly, they’re not sold in the US, but we squeezed a small bottle of their late harvest Reisling (like an ice wine) in my bag.

Also, Queenstown is so beautiful! We walked along the water one day and I was in love with the natural beauty of it.

We then took a bus to the beautiful Glenorchy, a small town on the shores of the same Lake Wakatipu as Queenstown, for a wedding welcome party.

And the next day we took a ride on the ESS Earnslaw, a historic steamship, on Lake Wakatipu! Anyone who loves being on the water and seeing epic mountain views all around would love this!


I’m not sure when Freddy turned into an adrenaline junkie, but he really signed us up for some shit this trip.

First, the Nevis Swing, which sounds more mellow than it is – a terrifying 70m (approx 210ft) drop into a canyon.

We also did this thing called the Hydro Attack – “the perfect blend of shark and machine” (lol). This was like a half-underwater roller coaster ride in a mini submarine. Pretty fun, but no pics sadly!


There were a lot of activities part of the wedding, that were incredibly planned and super fun. It was also a lot, even as an extrovert it can be a struggle to socialize with a bunch of strangers for days in a row!

But we had a wonderful time and enjoyed the most epic sunset during the wedding dinner. And a lovely garden party just outside Queenstown the next day!

I like to joke that I usually RSVP no more than yes to weddings, but I’m so glad I was invited & attended this one! It gave us a push to visit this amazing country and the people we spent time with are wonderful.

The Longest Monday Ever

Lesson learned: don’t schedule 4 flights in one day. Especially when you’re moving backwards in time zone!

Our Monday was about 38 hours long, 17+ hours of flight time, another 18ish hours of layover time, with adventures sprinkled in.

Stops included:

-2 hour flight

Auckland Botanic Gardens – lovely and free! Such a great way to spend an afternoon before our next leg.

-3 hour flight (from nighttime 10pm to afternoon 1pm the SAME DAY. How is it still Monday??)

Fiji massage/sugar scrub and Nadina Fijian Restaurant Dinner – so relaxing and cleansing for halfway through our travel saga, and sampling delicious local food. I was surprised how much I like the rourou, a taro leaf patty, and we had the Fijian version of ceviche and other fish dishes with fresh coconut salsa, which was delicious! Oh and can’t forget the pineapple, mint, lemonade crack drink!

-10 hour flight

LA burrito & quesadilla at Benny’s (sooo good) and walking the beach by the airport instead of waiting at the airport. Enjoyed being on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean from where we started our trip in NZ’s Northland beaches

-2.25 hour flight


That’s it! I’d love to chat about it, or answer any questions. Comment below 🙂

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