A $14K Honeymoon Through New Zealand

My Best Trip is an anonymous, vacation-in-the-life diary that provides a real-world look (including cost!) at exceptional trips.

New Zealand Fjordland.jpg

*Hot tubs, fjords, and bomb Pinot Noir.

Your Job:
Business Advisory Consultant
Your Age:
Where You’re Based:
New York, NY


Trip Goal:
This trip was for our honeymoon and with the type of travelers we are we were looking for a combination of scenery, activities, relaxation, culture, and good food and wine.

Your Go-To Trip Planning Tools: 
Before I travel anywhere I have to do lots of research to make sure that what we want to get out of the trip is possible with the time we have to travel and budget. I usually Google and see what travel sites come up or sometimes review some Travel & Leisure articles. If I find something that looks up our alley, we usually verify via Trip Advisor or other reviews if available. However, since we were going to New Zealand and could not necessarily narrow down in words what we wanted because everything looked so amazing, we sought help via a travel agent. Originally, we were using someone in the States but did not get the sense that they were catching what we were looking for; so, back to Google we went to find a New Zealand-based travel agent - cue First Light Travel. After we generally explained to Jo, our travel agent, what we were looking for we fell in love with the itinerary she sent us (with a few minor modifications), and booked our flights from there (they will do it for you at extra cost). 

Destination Visited: New Zealand
Travel Time:
Somewhere between 18 and 20 hours
Length of Trip:
15 days

Cost of Trip: Flights between $1,500 and $2,000 + $5,000 (per person) for time in New Zealand not including food + beverage. We did not have points but the exchange rate was very favorable to USD.

Trip Type: It really depends on the type of person/traveller you are and how much time you have. Zealand is amazing and versatile in that the South Island is unbelievably beautiful and lush, with a lot of action and nature packed activities; while, the closer you get and once in the North Island there are more beaches and warmer weather (Note: New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere so remember south = farther from the Equator and colder and north = closer to the equator and warmer).

Vibe: This depends on where you are in New Zealand. There are certain towns like Wanaka that are more vacation spots and therefore people are there to relax and enjoy the area and then there are places like Queenstown or Franz Josef which has more of the backpacker vibe. Regardless of where you are, everywhere feels like vacation just in their own way. New Zealand is a very safe and clean country and all sites visited as a tourist were very clean, safe and well managed.


Most importantly, why New Zealand is not on the list of places to go for amazing food and wine is beyond us. They are all about sustainable and locally sourced ingredients. There are no natural predators, grass for days (apparently certain areas have the best climate for grass), and where they are situated in the world the surrounding sea and ocean have a lot of nutrients = AMAZING food. While most known for their Sauvignon Blancs, their Pinot Noirs are the best we have ever had. 

Lake Wanaka is an absolute must for wine and activities on and around the lake. The drive there and the scenery around the area is beautiful. The food in Wanaka was some of the best we had on the South Island.

Overnight cruise on the Doubtful Sound - The New Zealand Fjordland is absolutely stunning. Sheer rock face all around you and the most still water.

Amisfield winery in Queenstown (do the dinner!)

Meatpies - these in nowhere compare to any other meat pie you may have seen or heard about. They are considered street food so when you cross a stand, grab one!

Waiheke Island - You get to walk through the most beautiful wineries on this amazingly beautiful island

 (if the continuous description of the scenery does not do it justice, New Zealand was just absolutely stunning. We would take pictures and videos and realized it couldn’t do it justice. Everywhere we went was so vibrant.)

We wish we had more time so we could see more of the North Island. Kiwi’s all rave about the South Island, as they should, mostly because it is less crowded than the North Island. However, we were told about beautiful beach towns on the North Island that we wish we had time to see - mainly Coromandel Peninsula.

Driving into Lake Wanaka from Franz Josef, Waiheke Island, Tin Tubs at the Tin Tub Lodge.


Breakfast: Black + White Cartel Coffee Shop
Lunch: Little High Eatery
Dinner: Twenty Seven Steps
Activity: Walkthrough Godley Head Park, Scoot around town, + Drinks at the OGB (Old Government Building)

Alpine Train Journey to Greymouth
Breakfast: Ate on the train
Lunch: Monteiths Brewery
Dinner: The Canopy Restaurant at Te Waonui Rainforest Retreat
Activity: The train ride is a scenic train ride through the mountains and across the south island. Unbelievable views! Then drove to Franz Josef. 

Franz Josef
Breakfast: Te Waonui Rainforest Retreat
Lunch: King Tiger
Dinner: Snakebite Brewery
Activity: Four wheel through the Franz Josef glacier grounds and surrounding area. Drinks on the patio at Monsoon Restaurant

Franz Josef
Breakfast: Te Waonui Rainforest Retreat
Lunch: The Landing
Dinner: Relishes Cafe (Lake Wanaka)
Activity: Heli-hike and tour on Franz Josef glacier. Lake Matheson. Drive to Lake Wanaka.

Lake Wanaka
Breakfast: Tin Tub Luxury Lodge
Lunch: Big Fig
Dinner: Kika
Activity: Mou Waho Island Cruise + Nature Walk. Bike to the Prince Albert in Albert Town. Tin tub stargazing!

Te Anau
Breakfast: Tin Tub Luxury Lodge
Lunch: The Chop Shop (Arrowtown)
Dinner: Radhas
Activity: Watch the sunset at High Leys Lodge.

Overnight Cruise on the Doubtful Sound
Breakfast: High Leys Lodge
Lunch: Miles Better Pies
Dinner: Overnight Cruise on the Doubtful Sound
Activity: Experience Doubtful sound on kayak and by boat. Learn about the discovery, history, and nature of New Zealand. Stargaze.

Breakfast: Overnight Cruise on the Doubtful Sound
Lunch: Habit Foods
Dinner: Botswana Butchery
Activity: Stop off at Amisfield winery


Breakfast: Hidden Lodge
Lunch: Lunch in the Beech Forest of Mount Aspiring National Park + Mrs. Woolly’s General Store (more meat pies!)
Dinner: Amisfield Winery
Activity: Guided walk through Beech Forest of Mount Aspiring National Park). Wood stoked hot tub! 

DAY 10
Breakfast: Hidden Lodge
Lunch: Best Ugly Bagels
Dinner: Chokdee
Activity: Walk around Mapua Wharf 

Day 11
Breakfast: Wairepo House
Lunch: Sandwiches made by Wairepo House
Dinner: Jellyfish
Activity: Cruise and hike at Abel Tasman National Park

Day 12
Breakfast: Wairepo House 
Lunch: Shucker Brothers
Dinner: Amano
Activity: Walk around the Auckland waterfront and have some cocktails along the way! (Princes Wharf, Wynward Quarter, and North Wharf).

DAY 13
Auckland - Wahiki Island
Breakfast: The Grand Windsor Hotel
Lunch: Tantalus + Casito Miro Vineyard
Dinner: Cafe Hanoi 
Activity: Hop-on + Hop-Off vineyard tour around Waihiki island (a wine enthusiast playground!) .


DAY 14
Auckland - Ponsonby Neighborhood
Brunch: Orphans Kitchen
Dinner: Airport Lounge
Activity: Walk through Western Park + Fly Home :

It’s beautiful! If you are looking for summer during winter; safe adventure; easy to navigate + drive; beautiful scenery; good food and wine; with no language barrier and where the USD is strong, New Zealand is for you!

If traveling the South Island, bring layers, rain gear and hiking boots. The weather changes often especially as you travel.

Dylan Essertier