Where do I even start?!! At the time of starting this blog post I’m sitting on a plane from Wellington to Melbourne typing about the past two weeks following the Lions around New Zealand.
It’s difficult to put into words how incredible this trip was!! But I’ll try… ☺️ It feels as though we jam packed so much into 2 weeks which was amazing but there’s also SO much we didn’t get a chance to do. Returning to this part of the world is definitely on our bucket list and I’d recommend you add it to yours too! ✈️ I’m going to discuss everything in detail as much as I can here and I’m also editing YouTube videos which I’m hoping to upload this week too. If you have any questions about heading to NZ don’t hesitate to send me a message! The contact page on my website is here.
My boyfriend, Gav, and I left Dublin on Saturday the 19th June and set off to join all the Lions fans across the other side of the world in Auckland, New Zealand.
We flew with Emirates from Dublin to Dubai to Auckland. Flying with Emirates wasn’t too expensive – approximately €1200 each return and it was worth every penny. The flight to Dubai was about 9 hours and the flight on to Auckland then was 15 I think.
Although this sounds really long we had a free bar for the duration of the flight as well as complimentary meals and snacks served throughout.
On the way to Auckland we got Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast. The meals were absolutely delicious – bread rolls and dessert were served with lunch and dinner.
We also got socks, a toothbrush, eye mask, blanket and pillows so we were really comfy! There was lots of leg room and movies/tv shows on the screens in front of us so we weren’t at all bored. Of course we snoozed too & tried to sleep on New Zealand time as against Irish time. This really helped with our jet lag when we arrived. I have to say if I could afford business/first class I would absolutely go for it – it looked really incredible and you basically have a bed for the flight! It took us about 24 hours travelling to get to NZ.
We rented a car in Auckland with a company that had been recommended to us and we found them brilliant. Check them out here. We were able to pick up the car at Auckland airport and leave it back at Wellington airport which was brilliant because we were travelling around the country by car.
My big tip would be to get a phone that is unlocked before you travel. Gav bought a NZ SIM card for his iPhone with data so that we could stay connected and use Google Maps while we were driving around. The roads can be quite busy, especially in the cities like Auckland, so I’d recommend either doing this or getting GPS from the car rental company. Also I would definitely recommend getting full cover when you rent a car, so that you are covered for breakdowns, road side assistance, accidents, etc. I think we got this for about €300 for 15 days which was really decent. About 5 days into our trip we realised a back light had been left on in the car (not by us) and we had to call the AA out so we were delighted we had chosen this option. Better safe than sorry!
We stayed at a backpackers guest house called Brown Kiwi in Auckland. We got this for a ridiculously reasonable price for a week. It was pretty basic but perfect for what we wanted because we were able to make our breakfast & packed lunches in the kitchen in the house. We weren’t spending much time at our accommodation anyway. The place was really clean, safe and had great facilities. It’s a great choice for backpackers but there’s lots of hotels in the centre of Auckland if you want something more glam 🎒
On the second day of our trip we drove from Auckland to Hamilton for the Lions game against Chiefs at FMG stadium in Waikato. It took us about two hours to drive there. Last minute we decided it would be great to just stay in Hamilton for the night and we got really lucky with a gorgeous room at a nearby motel style place, complete with hot tub in the back garden 😍👙
There was an incredible atmosphere at the rugby game, and Lions won 🦁👏🍻 We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our trip!
The next morning we checked out early and headed to Matamata for the one thing we really wanted to do – The Hobbit Tour! It was less than an hour’s drive. We were blown away by this experience. Even if you haven’t seen The Hobbit or Lord of The Rings you would love this tour. It was magical!!
One thing you’ll notice straight away in New Zealand is how lovely the people are. The guide on our tour was chatting to us, asking how our trip was going and taking a genuine interest in our plans! We came across so many other people like this too. When we did our first grocery shop a lady stopped us to give us her discount card for our shopping so we could save $20. Where would you get it!!! Kiwis are very friendly, welcoming and passionate about their heritage. It was lovely to see and I especially loved witnessing the Maori culture.
Back to the Hobbit Tour though…we walked through the farm where many of the scenes from the movie were filmed.
The green landscape of the farm was so picturesque and we were lucky to get such sunny weather as its winter time in NZ. Here I am outside Bilbo Baggins’ house…
The guide also told us that Gandalf hitting his head off Bilbo’s roof in the opening scene of The Hobbit was unscripted and was a genuine accident but Peter Jackson decided to leave this part in the movie. We learnt so many other cool facts about the movies. I won’t give any more away! The tour concluded with a visit to The Green Dragon pub, where we tried The Hobbit-themed beer and food 😍🍺
This is a brilliant experience that has to be on your list if you’re travelling to NZ.
We then headed back to Auckland, where we did a stadium tour of Eden Park, the home of the All Blacks and of course attended the first test match at Eden Park on Saturday 24th June.
During the stadium tour we got to go to the All Blacks dressing rooms in Eden Park and see the coach’s box.
When we were trying to hail a taxi to go to the first test match a man saw us, stopped his car and offered us a lift to the stadium. He wouldn’t take any money from us (we threw it at him in the end 😂) but we just couldn’t get over how nice the people in Auckland were!
For the first test against the All Blacks we got hospitality tickets which was worth every single penny (not cheap!!).
What an experience!!!! We were greeted by Maori warriors and then treated to a huge selection of canapés and complimentary drinks with table service before the game.
We also listened to speeches from iconic former All Blacks players, including Tana Umaga and Dan Carter!
This was SUCH an unbelievable experience but the only bad thing I could say is that leaving the Eden Park stadium was a disaster at the end of the game!!! There wasn’t a taxi to be seen so everyone was walking through the streets or towards the train station. There were massive queues and we didn’t get a taxi until about 40 minutes walking and even at that we were lucky… So I’d recommend staying close to the stadium or parking nearby if you’re heading to a game there.
We also did Drift Karting in Auckland, before heading to the more remote Rotorua. I was a bit of a granny driver and all I could see was Gav doing 360s around the corners 😂
We absolutely loved Rotorua and I’d definitely recommend visiting here if you get a chance. I think this might have been my favourite place, although it is hard to choose because all the places are so different. We stayed at the four star Jet Park hotel and it was beautiful.
I’d stay here again if I was going back. A lot of activities in Rotorua are outdoors and there’s also some cultural Maori villages that you can visit. Rotorua is the land of geothermal lakes and geysers which means that there’s a strong smell from the sulphur in the water (smells like rotten eggs 🙈). We were used to this after visiting Iceland earlier in the year and after about an hour you just stop noticing it!
The Maori village was a fantastic experience. We watched a Maori family perform the Haka and show us some dances practised in their community.
We then went on a tour around the village and it was really amazing to see a tribe that cook their food and bathe in geothermal water, yet all have smartphones! During the show I was chosen to try one of the ladies’ dances with the “Poi” – looking like a right eejit 😂 Gav laughing his head off at me!
Of course we also went to the luxurious Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, which has natural geothermal pools, ranging from 35 degrees to 42 degrees.
The view across the lake is incredible, especially at night time.
My favourite experience of the whole trip in New Zealand though, was the Skyline.
Basically you take a gondola up to the top of the mountain in Rotorua and then you can go kart back down the mountain. It was so much fun and an amazing way to see Rotorua!!
You can get the lift back up to the top of the mountain to kart down as many times as you like, choosing from the scenic, intermediate or advanced course. It was brilliant!!!
I was nervous to do it because I don’t really like heights but I was so happy I did it and I’d urge anyone who’s sceptical to just give it a try!!! 🏎 I mean I think I was going down the most basic route at about 5 miles per hour but other people can easily pass you and it’s not intimidating at all!
Rotorua was eerily quiet at night time, but we found a hub a short walk from our hotel known as Eat Street. Here we went to an amazing Indian restaurant called Indian Star.
The place was packed which is always a good sign! There is also an Italian restaurant next door which looked really nice too. We didn’t get a chance to eat there.
Next we were off to Wellington to see the Lions take on the Hurricanes. Wellington is such a cool city, quite hipster and laid back. It has more bars and restaurants per capita than New York so it’s food and drink heaven! 😍🍹🍕
We found an AMAZING restaurant called Five Boroughs. Just check out their Instagram here and it’ll be enough to convince you!!! It’s a bit off the beaten track but so so worth it.
Those burgers 🍔
If you’re going for drinks Courtenay Place or Cuba Street are the place to be. There’s a really popular place called The Library but you’ll probably need to book a table. It was packed! They also have a sister bar called Motel just around the corner, where I got this insane Piña Colada.
After a night out there’s a lovely food truck which does amazing Pizza. It’s on Courtenay Place just across from Danger Danger. I can’t remember the name of it but they had incredible wood fired pizzas and were open late (I think we were there around 1am on a Saturday).
We had four days in Wellington. We did the Lord of The Rings location and studio tour which was one of our favourite things we did while in NZ.
You get to go to the forest where Peter Jackson filmed lots of the scenes for LOTR and also go to the Weta workshop where most of the props are made. The workshop have worked on many different movies including King Kong, Power Rangers, Avatar, District 9 and of course Lord of The Rings. It was amazing to see how they film the movies, see what kind of costumes they made and how, and hold some of the props. If you’re any kind of movie buff you’ll love this tour.
We went to two rugby games in Wellington, both in Westpac Stadium.
We loved this venue – there was a great buzz around the area and it was really easy to get to. The first game was against Hurricanes, and it finished 31-31. It was a great game to watch!
The other game was of course the second test against the All Blacks. Gav had gotten his jersey signed by all the players so he was wearing it proud at the game!
We actually ended up sitting in the middle of the All Blacks players’ families!!
We scored the first try of the game and went on to BEAT the All Blacks 24-21, which was the first time they had been beaten at home since 1993!
Just watch the reaction of the crowd when we scored the penalty to put us in the lead in the last few minutes. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric – it was such an exciting experience but also nail biting!!!
We celebrated by going for a few drinks in a bar on Courtenay Place, before heading home to pack for our flight the next day!
While in Wellington we also did a craft beer trail which was so much fun! Here’s a sample of some of the beers:
We also stopped at the delicious Wellington chocolate factory for a hot chocolate.
On the way home we flew Wellington to Melbourne to Dubai to Dublin. We had a long enough stopover in Dubai to go visit the Lost Chamber Aquarium at the incredible Atlantis, The Palm.
This place is just magical and we’ll definitely be returning for a proper stay – waterpark, spa, fitness centre, diving experience in the aquarium, award-winning restaurants, swimming with dolphins, a private beach, this place has it all!! You can either get the metro train or a taxi to Atlantis from the airport. It’s about €25 each way in a taxi and €6 each way on the metro. If you get the metro you still need to get a taxi from the Internet City stop to Atlantis. There is an Atlantis desk in the arrival hall at Dubai Airport that are really helpful and also offer a discount for Emirates customers.
Another thing to take into account is the heat in Dubai. We landed here at about 6am local time and it was 33 degrees Celsius. It’s just such a dense heat!
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you get the chance GO, GO, GO!
My YouTube videos will be up soon.