Our Kiwi Christmas roadtrip

by Jan 22, 2015New Zealand, Wellington3 comments

We had been planning a Kiwi Christmas trip back to NZ since back when we first got engaged. We thought being recently married was a great excuse to get back to NZ and see our family and friends there.

The biggest downside to a trip to NZ from the UK (other than the cost) is the journey. We usually don’t mind plane journeys too much but our trip over was enough to put us off long haul flights for awhile. We flew with Korean Air so flew London to Seoul for 11 hours, switched planes in a 2 hour stopover then hopped back on another flight from Seoul to Auckland for 14 hours.

We had a grand plan of staying up on the first leg of the journey and watching movies before sleeping on the second leg of the journey so we would arrive bright and early in Auckland and our body clocks would already be halfway adjusted. It was a good plan but it fell over when the leg room on the second leg was worse than the first and we both struggled to get any sleep at all.

So we arrived in Auckland slightly worse for wear and in need of a shower and a nap but we were home!

Auckland had apparently had a run of lousy weather but it greeted us with blue sky and a nice warm day. It was a welcome change from the grey, drizzly London winter we had left. We chose to make the transition even better by picking up our rental car and making our way out to Piha on our first afternoon (where I got to enjoy my first of many NZ Flat White coffee’s – the best coffee in the world).

First time visiting Piha. So nice to dip my feet into the ocean...I miss living near the water.

My Aunt was kind enough to let us stay with her for a couple of nights so it was great to spend some time together and go out for a few meals. We got to meet up with my cousins as well and meet my now 2 year old 2nd cousin (is that what your cousins child is called?!) who was born shortly after we left NZ in 2012.

We continued our holiday by taking a road trip from Auckland to my old hometown of Napier in Hawke’s Bay. I left when I was 17 and have only made it back for 2 very brief trips in the decade since then. I was really looking forward to showing Dayna around and it did not disappoint. We had a very relaxing few days of visiting friends, walks in the bush at Te Mata peak, wine tasting at Craggy Range winery, swimming at Waimarama beach and eating and drinking all the kiwi food we had missed.

View from our hotel room. Looking forward to sitting out on the balcony with a bottle of wine later on!

The view from our hotel room




The house I grew up in – the new owners seem to really like Christmas!

Te Mata

All this to ourselves with nobody else around – quite a change from Oxford Circus at rush hour!

Te Mata

Te Mata

Te Mata peak used to be under water a long time ago…

Te Mata

Te Mata

Te Mata

Te Mata


Hot Chick! (one of my old favourite fast food restaurants)

We walked by a couple of real estate brokers with house ads on the wall and comparing what you get there versus London made quite an extreme contrast.  Huge property with 6 bedrooms and a pool vs small 2 bedroom lease in ex council flats. Same cost. The house prices and the fact we had a great few days definitely made us think there’s a chance we could end up back there one day.

We continued our little road trip south to Wellington and had great luck again on the drive with hardly any traffic and had a classic gourmet kiwi lunch on the way (a flat white and pie from Wild Bean cafe at a petrol station in Dannevirke).


In no time we were at my Mum’s on Christmas eve at the start of a week long stay in Wellington.


My sister’s infamous “Santa with inappropriately placed beard” still going strong after a few decades

At our wedding we had opted out of a wedding cake as we preferred to spend our money on other things (like candy and booze) and we aren’t big fans of the whole wedding mark up thing making cakes ridiculously expensive. Mum obviously wanted to fix this omission for us and with my sister Josie’s help made an awesome travel themed wedding cake for us.

Matt's Mum and sister made us a wedding cake. So cute!

Wellington continued the trend of great weather for nearly our whole stay (New Year’s eve decided to bring in a bit of crazy windy weather just in case we forgot what Wellington wind can be like).

We managed to do a bunch of things we had missed (mainly spots to eat at), caught up with friends and family and also managed to do a few new things like visit the bird sanctuary of Kapiti Island and go out for dinner at Hippopotamus restaurant.



View from Kapiti

On the trail




Blue Robin


Milk shake from Maranui cafe in Lyall Bay

New Zealand, being the wonderful and weird place that it is, managed to stir up a massive buzz around a brand of chocolate milk.  This stuff is like liquid gold with knock off black market impersonators and people fighting over the bottles when they get stocked up. Thanks to Rahul we got to taste the rare, chocolate-y goodness.  The verdict: Yum but still just chocolate milk.


We made a trip in to town to pick up our old local fish & chips and thankfully they’re still as amazing as ever. Probably my most missed takeaway shop in the world.


We had a great, slightly tipsy New Years spent with a few friends and family playing Cards Against Humanity – hilarious and awkward at the same time!

Happy new year!!


The day after was our last full day in Wellington where we got to enjoy a final ice cream on Oriental Parade and Wellington showed off for us for a goodbye.

Beautiful final day in Wellington #latergram


Event the sunset on our flight to Auckland was impressive:

Stunning sunset as we left Wellington last night - you can see the top of the south island as well @flyairnz @airnz

Given our terrible experience on our last leg of flights last time we lobbied for some exit row seats and finally got them for once. So no cramped seats in our way this time although I did have another issue – people standing on my feet while in line for the bathrooms. Oh well – you can’t win at everything.


Our flights back were so much better than on the way over due to one reason: a free overnight stopover in Incheon. We got put up in a nice hotel with a free buffet dinner and breakfast and the flashest toilet I have ever sat on (heated toilet seats FTW). Other than the bus to and from the hotel we didn’t manage any sightseeing as we really just wanted to get some sleep after our big flight and before having to get up and do it all over again.  Next time we’ll make sure to see a bit more of South Korea!

After getting sorted with our free hotel and meal vouchers, we decided a good night's sleep was probably better than sightseeing (we're actually quite far from Seoul itself). But hey! I got a stamp so it counts as another country ticked off (I'm sure we'l


I tried mashing a lot of these buttons but didn’t manage to figure out what many of them did. Who knew a toilet could have so many options, I thought there were only 2!

We had such an amazing, relaxing time tuning out and enjoying not having to rush around like we would on a touristy trip away. It really allowed us to reflect on how lucky we are and expand on some exciting new plans to make our London lives a lot better (it’s fair to say we’ve both been beaten up a bit by working so hard over the last few months). Some times you need to get outside of your ordinary life to give yourself perspective on what you need to change.

Our “Happiness project” as we’ve been calling it started gaining momentum and we managed to plot out a bunch of things to do to build an even happier life in 2015 onwards. That’s a separate blog though!

Before we left London we had spoken about this trip being a key one as neither of us had had a particularly strong pull to move back before. I’ve never suffered from any homesickness other than the odd time of really missing family and wishing I was there with them. The trip definitely changed our views on NZ and completely sold us on the idea of being back there long term one day. Before then we have quite a few more adventures ahead of us but NZ will always be home.