New Zealand Top Ten: Gorgeous Scenery, Fabulous People, and Oodles of Gluten-Free Options!

A gorgeous morning by the Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand

Finally.

My New Zealand post is up!

Sorry it took so long, but it takes awhile to go though 750 + photos!

Don’t worry…

I’m only going to share 700 of them with you.

Just kidding :-)

In all honesty though, it was hard to whittle down my trip to my 10 favorite experiences, but I figured that would be the best way to share at least a glimpse of this gorgeous country with you.

So, here they, are {in no particular order}

New Zealand Top Ten

ONE: The fabulous people!  Without a doubt, Kiwis are some of the nicest people I’ve met.  I mean, how can you not help but smile at people who say things like, “That’s cool!” and “Cheers!” My father-in-law was quite taken with how every one referred to things as “cool!”, and SiSi perfected the Kiwi accent down to a T.  Really, though, I should have known ahead of time how nice the Kiwi’s were going to be when I asked my Twitter friends for help planning our New Zealand itinerary.  I owe a huge shout out and thanks to Emma Galloway at My Darling Lemon Thyme, Fiona Brown at @mrsbrownkiwi , Kiran at Kiran and Tarun, and Jimmy Boswell at The Gluten Free Chef.  Kia Ora to all of you, and I would love to cook you all a delicious feast in my home if you ever come to San Diego!

TWO: Farm Stay in Rotorua.  It’s official.  SiSi and Big Tex want to move to a farm!  And, I just might want to also, after staying at the Liz and John’s gorgeous farm house, Lakeview Heights, in Rotorua.  Our gracious and lovely hosts, 2 sweet Penny’s {King Charles Cavalier Spaniels}, 1 fluffy cat, appropriately named “Fluff”, 2 coy sheep, plus a handful of cows and horses, all made our stay a most memorable one. If you ever travel to New Zealand, you absolutely MUST stay here.  Just check out this view, and the animals…

Gorgeous view from our farmstay at Lakeview Heights, Rotorua

Shy, but sweet cows at Liz and John’s farm.

Could this horse be any happier???

THREE: Rotorua Geyser and Thermal Mudpools and Glowworm Caves in nearby Waitomo. First, the glow worm caves…Pretty cool stuff, although I have no photos to show you because they don’t allow pictures to be taken in the caves.  Apparently the worms don’t like it!  The glow worms are actually the larval stage of the New Zealand glow flies, but, poor flies only live 4 days after they are born because they have no digestive tract, and are unable to eat.  Rough life indeed!  Still, it was very cool {there’s that word again} to see the larvae glowing on the ceilings as we travelled through the dark caverns via foot and boat.  This link will show you some photos and tell you more about the glow worms.  As for the geyser and mud pools, they were a bit on the stinky, but spectacular to see.  Check out my photos below…

Pretty, but smelly, thermal pools in Rotorua.  Who likes rotten eggs???

Thar’ she blows!!!

FOUR: Playing tag with my kids at our cottage in Martinborough. We arrived in Martinborough late Thursday night after a long and winding drive.  Home of 24 wineries at last count, we were really hoping to spend a relaxing Friday sampling some of the local wines.  As fate would have it, wine sampling was not in the cards for us, because the wineries, and pretty much everything else were closed for Good Friday, so we headed down South for a short drive to the capital of New Zealand, Wellington, where we ate lunch at a local pub, and toured the spectacular  Te Papa Museum of New Zealand.  The kids and I got in some exercise playing tag behind our cozy cottage at Brackenridge right before sunset.  The surrounding countryside and farmlands were pure eye candy for this suburban gal…

Wellington Harbor

An idyllic place to play tag!

Moss covered fence.

FIVE: Queenstown.  Glorious Queenstown. Of all the places we stayed in New Zealand, Queenstown gets my vote for favorite city.  Perhaps it was the beautiful house, 45 South, my family and I stayed in, set high above the city…Or maybe it was the pedestrian friendly shopping and eating area downtown…It might even have been the myriad of adrenaline boosting activities available {Not that I sky dived or buggy jumped, mind you, but I did luge down the mountain which was pretty fun}.  All-in-all though, my love for Queenstown probably can be attributed to the friendly people, and the gorgeous scenery. Check it out…

Strolling around the Saturday Arts and Crafts Market in Queenstown.

The hilly walk to and from our house. Definitely needed after all the food we ate!

I could wake up to this view every morning!

SIX: Jet Boating on the Shotover River, Queenstown. 360 degree spins…speeding past tall canyon walls with the teensiest sliver of space between the boat and the canyon wall…more gorgeous scenery…Jet boating on the Shotover River was a blast!

Getting ready for our adventure on the Shotover River.

Gorgeous scenery, and adrenaline pumping adventure!

SEVEN: The Food. Glorious Gluten-Free Food.  Let me just say this, the gluten-free food options available in New Zealand put the US to shame. I would venture to say that 90 % of the restaurants had specialty gluten-free food items available on their menu, and sometimes, there was no extra charge.  And, even if there weren’t any specialty items on the menu, almost all menus had gluten-free {and vegetarian or vegan options} clearly labeled on the menus.  Of course, you still need to check with the wait staff and kitchen to make sure the food is gluten-free, and to ask about potential cross contamination. And, even though I have gotten to prefer ordering a burger wrapped in lettuce “protein style” over one on a bun, I couldn’t resist trying one of the 100 % New Zealand Grass Fed Beef burgers on a gluten-free bun at Burger Fuel in Lake Taupo. It was pretty darn good!

I enjoyed a delicious gluten-free pizza in Queenstown.

When in Arrowtown, have “Devonshire” tea at The Pannikin.

More gluten-free options in Arrowtown.

EIGHT: Horseback Riding, Queenstown.  SiSi’s big request on our trip was that we go horseback riding.  We chose Ben Lomond Station near Queenstown and ventured out for a ride through lovely country side, finishing up near Moke Lake. Even though we only rode for  1 1/2 hours, our sore R.E.A.R.E.N.D.S., wobbly thighs, and stiff knees suggested we had ridden more. All, in all it was a fun afternoon, and my buddy Tigger treated me well!

My sweet buddy Tigger.

Stopping for a bite to eat in front of Moke Lake.

NINE: Touching an iceberg near the Tasman Glacier in Aorkoai/Mt Cook. We were lucky to experience fabulous weather on our trip.  The only exception was at Aroaki Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. Grey, foggy, and drizzly for most of our stay.  Nonetheless, we managed to have a great time touring the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake by boat {see photo from this post}, and checking out the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center, Theatre, and Planetarium at our hotel, The Hermitage. As the birthday God’s would have it, we were treated to a {brief} glimpse of Mt Cook as we were eating breakfast the morning of Big Tex’s birthday.

Brr…..Cold and foggy near the Tasman Glacier, Mt Cook

The clouds are starting to part…

Aoraki/Mt Cook~There she is in all her glory!

TEN: Celebrating Big Tex’s Birthday in Christchurch. Unless you count our last night In Auckland where we stayed at the airport near the airport, and woke up at 3 am to catch our flight back home, our last “real” night was in Christchurch where we celebrated BigTex’s 9th birthday {Wow!} with a celebratory dinner and a flourless strawberry cheesecake courtesy of Divine Cakes and Desserts.  The next morning, we walked around the downtown area that was rocked by 2 almost back-to-back large scale earthquakes in fall 2010 and winter 2011. It was sad and almost eerie to see the heart of downtown Christchurch vacant and surrounded by chain link fences, but, it was also heartening to see the resilience of the Christchurch community with the revitalization efforts going on like Re:START, a new retail area built out of shipping containers, and to see the beautiful park still open and vibrant with people strolling along the lovely Avon river…

Happy Birthday Big Tex!

Shopping at the Re:START Shipping Container Mall

Run away birds, before SiSi and Big Tex catch you!!!

Thanks so much for allowing me to share my travel adventures with you.  I hope you’ve gotten at least a little bit of an idea of what this gorgeous country, in both adventure, scenery and spirit has to offer!

Have you ever been to New Zealand?  What’s a favorite city or country you have visited? Where have you found the friendlies people to be?  If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would it be???

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Comments

  1. LOVE your photos, love your recap of your visit and trying very hard to hold the homesickness at bay now!! (Plus very proud and pleased that you found the kiwis so friendly).
    I love Burger Fuel too!
    xx (mrsbrownkiwi)

  2. Those photos are so beautiful and I can’t believe how striking the colors are!

  3. New Zealand is on my top 3 list of places to visit, now I want to go even more!

  4. I live in New Zealand and loved your blog! Yes it is all you say it is! We are very blessed to live here xxx

  5. It sounds like you hit every spot that I did when I went. These pics make me want to go back! I loved Queenstown for all the reasons you mentioned. And I remember the stinky pools in Rotorua. And I got to go horseback riding too. So fun! Glad they have so many gluten-free options now!

  6. looks + sounds like you had a wonderful trip! your pictures are just lovely. and i’m so happy that there were so many GF options for you – too cool!

  7. Its so “cool” that you loved our country and this is reflected in your words above. Its a great place with lots of diverse things, places and of course plenty of Gluten free options.

    New Zealand is a country that has its fair share of people that need to live GF. I love being a Gluten free chef and there are so many great products and suppliers to work with. As I mentioned next time you are here let me know and we will cook up a storm. let me know also if you have people that you know who are coming here.

    Cheers

    Jimmy

  8. Those photos are breathtaking! What an amazing experience for you!

  9. I must admit I had never had a real desire to go to New Zealand (the plane ride–oy!!) but now I totally want to! Thanks for sharing!! As for my favorite place, it would have to be Dublin, Ireland where our best friends live (and my youngest daughters namesake). love your posts!

  10. Oh wow, I LOVE this post! Makes me want to leave everything and just travel to NZ right now!!! Thank you for sharing your gorgeous experience and amazing pictures!

  11. What a beautiful post about our wonderful Aotearoa! I’m so please you found it easy to eat gluten-free. And seriously if you ever make it back down our ways (or over here to Australia!) do let me know. You’ll have to also visit my home town of Raglan, just south-west of Auckland next time. It’s one of the best places on earth (in my bias opinion!). And you never know, next time you visit NZ I might be living back there and you are more than welcome to pop in for dinner :-) xx All the best

  12. Stunning post, Miss EA. I have always wanted to go and this post has propelled NZ to the top of the llist. Really. For the big 5-0 (yikes). I don’t know which photo I like best as they were all so fantastic and hugely evocative. Thanks for cramming your post full of links as this will really help plan. And thanks to your Twitter friends for helping you too. The jet boating looks almost too much fun! And great news about the g-f options. Britain’s not too bad but nothing like NZ.

  13. EA – what gorgeous photos and great reasons to go! If NZ weren’t already on my travel list, it definitely would be now. Thank you for sharing your trip with us and and the great resources you found!

  14. Gorgeous, gorgeous!!I just loved each and every picture EA!Such a beautiful country, definitely on my list of countries to visit!!Glad that you all had a great time :)Thanks so much for sharing!

  15. Beautiful Pics Ea! …looks like you all have good time … Thanks for sharing this beautiful journey with us :)

  16. Beautiful photos – I’ve never been to New Zealand so thanks for taking us there virtually. So interesting that there are so many gluten-free options – do you know if there are a lot of people with celiac disease or are people just on a gluten-free diet.

  17. Spicy, you are an amazing photography. Have you ever entered any of your imagines in an exhibit or showing or contest? You are skilled, girl! I love how you captured the ripple in the first photograph and the clarity of all the photographs are phenomenological! I can’t decided if I like the happy horse or the thermal mudd pool better. But I imagine with over 750 photos gutting it narrowed down to just this handful was quite the chore. You have an amazing weekend and thanks for sharing this glimpse of the world through spicy eyes! :)

  18. EA! Looks like a BEAUTIFUL place and from the pictures this was truly a FUN vacation. I would have gladly looked thru 700 of them. It is so heartwarming to see that the world has a safe gf destination for us living the gf life!
    Thanks for this post! I think I will renew our vows in NZ instead of HI..lol

  19. Wow, NZ is STUNNING! Thank you for sharing some of your adventure with us. It seems like you got in a variety of different activities and experienced LOTS! Love that you fit some horsebackriding in! P.S. – If you would like to adopt me prior to your next vacation, I would be okay with that!! :-)

  20. Yay, your travel post. The scenery doesn’t look real. What was the reason for your trip, just pleasure? So curious why you think more gluten free options there. And I hope your had a chance to wine taste.
    Favorite city- London, New Orleans, San Francisco, St Petersburg (for different reasons). I would love to go to New Zealand (and Australia).

  21. Great pics! Sounds like an amazing trip. I am heading to Australia in September for a conference and I noticed that they had a ton of vegetarian options on their menus, very clearly labeled. I tried to fit NZ in, but at 3 weeks in Australia, I really couldn’t spend much more time away from home. Now I wish I had planned it though! Do they have a lot of people with celiac there? It would be interesting to see how they fare compared to US (although I suspect there are still plenty of people undiagnosed in the US). My favorite country to visit is Spain, although it is pretty much tied with Israel right now, and I am heading to both next month! Of course I plan to blog all about it- the sights and the food! I also really wish I could head back to the Azores. I miss my quiet little island life. Thanks again for sharing all about the awesomeness of NZ.

  22. Your photos are just amazing!
    I would love to go to New Zealand!!! Just gorgeous.

  23. I almost went to New Zealand about ten years ago, but then things didn’t work out. Your pictures and descriptions are beautiful. Sounds like a truly amazing trip!

  24. How lucky for you to go on such an amazing trip. Your pictures are just amazing! I’ll bet it was tough to come back. :)

  25. What a beautiful place! The shots of the happy horse and that gorgeous arch with the river beneath are some of my favorites.

  26. I WANT TO VISIT NZ NOW!! the picture of those mountains… breathtaking….wow…………~~~ i don’t know if i could stomach visiting a cave full of worms though, not my cup of tea. hahah. glad that you had a wonderful vacay! and YAY for a plethora of GF options!

  27. Fabulous!!! Thanks for the link EA! I will be there in two weeks!! Still have a bit of our itinerary to plan but this helps so much! Haven’t figured out where to stay yet in Rotorua…now I know. Hope there are accommodations available at Lakeview Heights when we are there.

  28. Adele in N. Minn. says:

    Thank you for the wonderful photos! I’ve been reading about NZ since the early ’60′s in a collection of books by Essie Summers. She included much history and geography,and scenic discriptions all wrapped up in lovely stories with nice romantic themes. I keep rereading them and would love to go see each of the places she writes about.

    Your pix are the next best thing!!!!

  29. Thank you so much for this post! Lots to consider here! And especially all the gluten-free stuff. Great.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Stephanie! I wish you could pack me up in your suitcase and take me back with you to NZ :-) You’re going to have a fabulous time there!

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