Christchurch and Auckland were our last two stops in New Zealand. After traveling through mostly rural areas and being in small towns, it was nice to be back in bigger, more populated cities with many more choices for food!
The night before heading to Christchurch, while still in Cromwell, we thought it would be fun to try and see the Yellow Eyed Penguins! They come in from their day of fishing at sunset to rest for the night, so that’s the time to get a glimpse. Since they are endangered, you can’t sit right on the beach and wait for them, but rather stand at a lookout point and watch from above. We waited, and waited, and waited! After about an hour and a half, the sun had completely gone down and just as we thought they would never come, one little penguin made his way in from the ocean, waddling along through the sand on his mission back home. It was so cute! A family member of his popped out from the bushes and yelled for him to head that way… it was there the whole time and we had no clue! The whole thing, while long and cold, was so fascinating! Excuse the picture quality.. we had to zoom in quite and bit.. and then crop, so you can see how the photo would get distorted. This is where a nice lens would have come in handy! (Just imagine traveling the world with a huge lens…!)
The next day, officially on our way to Christchurch, we stopped at the Moeraki Boulders – unusually large, perfectly smooth surfaced boulders sitting right on the beach and embedded into the sand made up of mud, fine silt and clay, cemented by calcite. They are quite the sight! We had fun going to see them, hopping on top and walking up and down the beach with our feet in the sand and ocean.
When checking into our hotel in Christchurch, we immediately realized something that was definitely not going to work for us. No TV in the bedroom! I know, I know.. first world problems... But when you’re paying for a room and it turns out to be different than you expected, it can be deflating! We hopped on a call with hotels.com and between them and the hotel, we were not only moved into a room that suited us better, but hotels.com actually refunded us an entire night for the inconvenience! We had originally asked for help in return of the difference in price between the two rooms, as the hotel couldn’t help us with that (would have been about $40USD) but they offered us a refund for the entire night! Next time you’re booking a hotel, use them! They really do have your back when you need them. (But use our link so we get the credit!!)
Christchurch was almost completely demolished by earthquakes in 2011 and 2012 and the rebuilding is still going on today. Almost every street is under construction and torn down buildings are on every corner. It’s inspiring to see the non-stop work that is going on here. They are clearly not taking no for an answer and are moving forward each day to rebuild the city.
After the earthquakes hit and put the city in ruins, they had to figure out a way to bring life back into the central business district but knew it would be long before buildings were rebuilt businesses could run normally again. They came up with the idea of using shipping containers to house businesses during the rebuilding process as they would be strong enough to withstand any future earthquakes and would be a good solution to bring life back to the city. Not after long, the Re:Start mall was built. A “pop up mall” in the form of shipping containers that stack on top of each other to house small retail shops and eateries. At first it only had a few shops but has now grown to more than 50! All painted different colors, graffiti art tagged and embracing their own brand. It was so inspiring to walk around and be part of something that started so small and has now become such a staple of the city. To walk in and out of shops that exemplify not giving up when life literally tears you down and rebuilding from the ground up was so uplifting.
Our first night we searched for a while trying to find somewhere to eat that wasn’t insanely expensive (to our standards) or fast food. Luckily, we stumbled upon a Japanese place (shocker!) called Hachi Hachi. We both got Donburi, which is a rice bowl dish that can have different types of meat, fish and sauces on top. Dean got the Pork Kastu Don which is a crispy pork cutlet with a scrambled egg on top. They covered it all in a sweet Teriyaki style sauce and plopped all of that on a big bowl of rice. I got pretty much the same thing, but with crispy chicken. On our way out we noticed that at the end of each night, they put their pre-made sushi rolls on sale for half price! Since we hadn’t really eaten all day (do granola bars and potato chips count?), we decided to treat ourselves and get a few rolls to share as well. We got a crispy tempura veggie roll, a chicken teriyaki roll and they even had a huge rice ball stuffed with Karaage chicken! (Crispy chicken in a sweet sauce) We devoured it all and it totally hit the spot.
Friday’s are food truck day in Christchurch, so obviously we had to check it out! It seemed to be about half the size of any other food truck park you would see in The States.. but such a great variety of foods! Everything from Indian, Asian and Spanish to American, French and German. They had something for everyone! It was such a hard decision. The nice thing was that the trucks were priced appropriately! Everything was around $10NZ! Usually at food trucks in America, their prices are comparable to a nicer restaurant. At least, that’s how it always seemed to us. We settled on this fun Japanese truck called Lucky Ninja. Dean got their Ninja Burger, a grass fed beef burger topped with fresh salad, crispy fried onions, creamy mashed potato, Japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce and a sunny side up egg all on a freshly baked ciabatta bun. I got the Teriyaki Chicken Donburi, crispy fried chicken coated in sweet and sticky Teriyaki sauce on top of a bed of rice. I added a sunny side up egg to mine and it was absolute heaven. (Check out our instagram to see my slow-mo video of the beautiful egg, I’m so proud of it!) We shared a side of green chips which were French fries with a seaweed dusting on top. It was definitely interesting, but very tasty! It was a great way to end or stay in Christchurch.
Our last stop in New Zealand was back up to Auckland. Since we only had a short time here in the beginning, we thought we’d give ourselves a few more days. Flying back on Air New Zealand was effortless, and much less hassle and time than driving back up to Picton, changing cars, taking the ferry back, etc. It wasn’t as breathtaking beautiful as the ferry, but at least we got to see it on the way down!
Auckland was one of our top favorite places in New Zealand.. but we’re city people! Lots to do, tons of places to eat and a great variety of shops and hotels. We stayed right on Queen street in the center of downtown so everything was at our fingertips. Since we had fallen in love with the amazing Asian food court the last time we were here, we couldn’t wait to go back for more. Between our delayed flight and extended journey to the hotel from the airport – eating was the only thing on our mind. We quickly dropped our bags at the hotel and it was the first thing we did and we’re glad because we got there just in time before closing! We started with the a la cart sushi while we were waiting for our dinners to cook. We loved it so much last time, (and our tummies were growling so much) we couldn’t resist! For dinner, I got my favorite, Pad Thai and Dean got “spicy” Lamb Vindaloo, he’d been craving Indian food for weeks now. Luckily closing time meant massive portions! (Thanks Taste of India!) As we learned throughout our stay, our meaning of spicy versus New Zealand’s is very different, but the flavors were on point! On our way out of the food court we passed the little row of food carts that we patronized last time. Next to the Belgian Waffle stand we had eaten at before on our first day in Auckland, was a cart selling Dutch style fries. The best part of Euro fries are the sauces, and Double Dutch Fries didn’t dissappoint! They had the traditional zesty Mayo, but also had tomato sauce (New Zealand’s version of ketchup that has cinnamon and other spices in it.. total yuck if you ask me!) and satay sauce (peanut sauce) as choices. We opted for the combo of mayo, satay sauce and raw chopped onions, called Patat Oorlog. Delicious crispy fries, cooked to order with classic Dutch sauces really hit the spot and was the perfect impulse hunger purchase as we brought our food back to our hotel and gave us the energy we needed to make it back! (We’re clearly very dramatic when hungry… but who isn’t?!)
Unfortunately, our full days here were the days the weather was gloomy, but that didn’t stop us from walking around and checking out all the shops in between periods of rain. We walked down to the harbor to see all the ships and it was so nice to sit on the dock and watch them all roll in as the clouds parted. The architecture in this area of town was classic and Victorian. The beautiful buildings next to the ocean was a gorgeous sight. It all made for such a great afternoon!
When looking for a light bite on our last day, we stumbled upon Jango. A Mumbai street foot cart on he same strip as our waffle place and french fry shop and boy did it fit the bill. Each of us got a Samosa Pav, which is a samosa stuffed into a slider bun with tamarind and mint chutney – medium spice for me, extra spicy for Dean. It totally transported us back to the streets of Mumbai, except maybe a little more sanitary! They know their spice, too! They had quite the kick and we loved it! Indian spice always is a kick to your senses, and we had missed that in New Zealand!
The British roots run deep in New Zealand since it used to be a british colony, so eating at a classic British pub was only fitting for our last dinner in Auckland. Being that it was Sunday, we were in search for a place that had a “Sunday Roast” and found Spitting Feathers Pub. Dean got the classic dish which was both beef and pork with steamed vegetables, roasted potatoes and Yorkshire pudding all in brown gravy. He was definitely a happy guy and it was the perfect dish for a gloomy day! I opted for fish and chips with mushy peas. A simple and classic dish that never disappoints.
New Zealand was breathtakingly gorgeous. We were not expecting to be so overwhelmed by the beauty of the water and scenery. It’s the kind of thing that people tell you about, but you can never truly understand until you see it with your own eyes. We wish everything was a little more affordable, however. We decided this is the kind of place you go to when it is your entire vacation. Because we have so much more we are doing and seeing, we are way more money conscious than the average vacationer to New Zealand, so because we were spending so much on the rental car, hotel and food, it limited the number of activities we could do while we were here. We were still able to see some amazing things for low cost or free, but weren’t able to do the fun boat tours, whale watching and swimming with dolphin type things. Let’s just say, not including the flight here, we spent just as much for our 2.5 weeks in New Zealand as we spent on everything including flights throughout month in South America!
Next up – we’re goin down unda! Which is actually further north than we are now.. but no need to get technical. Can’t wait to start our Australian adventure in Sydney!
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