New Zealand - North Island

Nate & I have a special place in our heart for the South Pacific/Australasia. We met in Australia many years ago, so anytime we get to go back to that region of the world, we feel a certain sense of 'home'. That season of our life shaped us in such a unique way & we hold those memories really close to our hearts. So last fall when one of my dear friends from our time in Australia reached out about her wedding, I was so excited. I'd been to the South Island of New Zealand before, but Nate & I hadn't been there together. 
We spent a week before Laura & Ken's wedding traveling from the top of the North Island, to the bottom, where they were going to be married. It was a beautiful trip, & one that I will remember forever. Two people that take time the WEEK before they're getting married to go on an adventure with their foreign friends... those are good people. 

We started the trip in Auckland, where we flew into. Laura & Ken picked us up & we headed south. We stopped along the way at Hunua Falls, a waterfall that was off the highway. We did a quick change into our suits so we could jump in & swim under the falls. It was ice cold & a great wake up after being on the plane for 14+ hours. We continued on our journey to Matamata where Laura & Ken did a tour of Hobbiton. We stayed there overnight & the next morning got up early to make our way down to Rotorua. It's known for its hot springs & sulfur smell, but Ken took us to a hot river to relax in, called Kerosene Creek, without the sulfur smell. It was so lovely!!

The second day we tried to stop as many places as possible, but only made one quick stop near Taupo for lunch & a few scenic views of Mt Ngauruhoe. That night we landed at our final destination before the wedding, which was in the Wairarapa region. We stayed with Ken's parents in Carterton, their house is an oasis of plants & trees that grow every single fruit or vegetable you've ever heard of [or haven't heard of, like lemonade lemons. they look like lemons but are sweet like lemonade & you can eat them right off the tree!!]

There's something special about being surrounded by so much nature & the freedom that comes with it. I was so captivated everywhere we drove & couldn't believe how stunning it was. 

Our first full day around Carterton was spent hiking down into a Glow Worm Cave, which was beautiful. I was really thankful to have a local take us down into a cave, instead of paying for a boat tour. We went down into the cave & made our way through to the other side. At some points we were about knee deep in water, which was a little unsettling to me, but I just kept my head up & focused on the tiny little worms with their glowing tails. Once we made it out of the cave, we laid in the sun & ate some snacks by the car. 
That afternoon we drove into Martinborough, which is the cutest little town & is surrounded by wineries. My favourite spot there was Neighbourhood Coffee. I went with Laura & the girls to a wine tasting & then we had dinner at a restaurant in town. 

The last day before the wedding was spent out on the coast of Cape Palliser, seeing the sea lions & the beautiful Putangirua Pinnacles. On our way out we stopped at the Waiohine Gorge to walk across the swing bridge & sit down by the water. It was so beautiful on the drive up!! After that we made our way over to the coast to see the Sea Lions & the Pinnacles. We parked the car & walked out onto the rocks by the water & I was standing on a large rock & was about to hop to another rock when one of our friends pointed out that it was not a rock, it was a sea lion basking in the sun!! Once I saw that guy bathing on the rocks, all of a sudden I saw that there were tons of them!! They smelled terrible, but were the cutest little guys ever!

That's it for the first part of our trip, I'll post more with part II of our trip to Wellington & back up to Auckland soon!