RTW Review: December 2014


A monthly summary of life on the road for a traveling couple on a trip around the world. 

We made it!

After nearly two years of dreaming and planning and waiting for this day to arrive, and often feeling like it never would, we finally landed in Auckland on December 1, ready for our around the world adventure (or “RTW” in travel lingo!) to begin.

Exhausted by a 13-hour overnight flight from Los Angeles via Air New Zealand, we recovered in Auckland before kicking off a whirlwind road trip that took us to 12 different cities in just 21 days.

We then journeyed on to Australia for a brief stop in the capital city of Canberra, before settling in to spend the holidays in Sydney.

Days on the Road: 31

Miles Traveled: 10,313

Destinations Visited:

  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Taupo, New Zealand
  • Napier, New Zealand
  • Wellington, New Zealand
  • Renwick, New Zealand
  • Nelson, New Zealand
  • Greymouth, New Zealand
  • Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
  • Queenstown, New Zealand
  • Te Anau, New Zealand
  • Dunedin, New Zealand
  • Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Canberra, Australia
  • Sydney, Australia
RTW Itinerary, New Zealand, Australia

RTW itinerary for December 2014: New Zealand and Australia

Favorite City: Wellington, New Zealand

There’s a reason they call Wellington the “coolest little capital in the world.” The seat of New Zealand’s government has a breathtaking natural setting, a world-famous craft beer scene, incredible food, a strong arts community, and a pedestrian-friendly city center that practically begs you to walk around and explore. And the locals were so warm and welcoming, it was almost impossible to leave.

Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand: Pretty sure we could live here.

High Point: Scenic Flight to Franz Josef Glacier

We made a last-minute decision to book a scenic helicopter flight to the top of Franz Josef Glacier, after initially planning to remain at ground level with a hike to the terminal face… and we were so happy we did. Standing at the peak, surrounded by ice and snow and a clear blue sky as far as the eye could see, turned out to be the most stunning sight we witnessed during our time in New Zealand. Which is pretty high praise for a country that happens to be home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world.

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand, helicopter tour

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand: Standing on top of the world.

Low Point: Christmas Eve Dinner at KFC

We’re all for spontaneity, but failing to make a plan and a reservation for Christmas Eve dinner on our first night in Sydney turned out to be our biggest travel fail of the month. After walking the city for hours, searching for an open restaurant with available seats, we finally accepted defeat and made our way to KFC. Crying ensued. But at least the mashed potatoes and gravy were good. Merry Christmas to us.

Biggest Splurge: New Year’s Eve in Sydney

We celebrated our five-year anniversary on December 31, and decided to go all out with tickets to a rooftop New Year’s Eve event at The Glenmore Hotel, a cool local bar in The Rocks, a historic neighborhood on the southern shore of Sydney Harbour. At a cost of $560, it wasn’t a cheap night out. But we had an incredible view of Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House, a front-row seat for the fireworks show, live music, an open bar and some seriously delicious food. We also met some fun new friends, making this experience worth every dime.

NYE, New Year's Eve, Sydney

New Year’s Eve in Sydney: Making the most of the open bar.

Best Value: Public Attractions in Wellington

Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand, is free and open to the public 365 days a year. On a rainy Sunday morning, we spent hours working our way through multiple floors of interactive history, science and art exhibits, from a recreated Maori village to a simulated earthquake zone. The next day, we visited the national Parliament complex and took a private tour of the Supreme Court, again at no charge. Which left a lot more room in the budget for sampling the city’s awesome craft beer.

Best Thing We Ate: Fergburger and Fergbaker

After waiting in line for more than an hour to sample one of the legendary burgers at Queenstown’s most famous eatery, Fergburger, anything less than amazing would have been a complete disappointment. Fortunately, it totally lived up to the hype. Next door we discovered Fergburger’s sister establishment, Fergbaker, where I devoured the most delicious lemon meringue pie I’ve ever eaten in my life. Two nights in a row.

Fergburger, Fergbaker, Queenstown, New Zealand

Fergburger: I’d show you a picture of my pie, but I ate it too fast to take one.

More Memorable Moments:

Going through airport immigration and receiving the first official passport stamp of our international adventure in Auckland.

Learning to drive on the left side of the road.

Developing an obsession with flat whites.

Watching the earth bubble and boil at Wai-o-Tapu.

Experiencing a traditional Maori village, haka performance and hangi dinner in Rotorua.

Sampling local wines in Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, and hitting the craft beer trail in Wellington and Nelson.

Binge-watching “Homeland” on Netflix after being rained out in Renwick.

Being chased by a pod of playful dolphins on a boat tour of Abel Tasman National Park.

Stopping every 10 minutes along New Zealand’s Great Coast Road to take in the insanely gorgeous views.

Seeing the sun set over Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown.

Getting stuck in the middle of a crossing sheep herd on a deserted road outside of Te Anau.

Sailing through the jaw-dropping Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park.

Fighting off a sugar coma after touring the Cadbury chocolate factory in Dunedin.

Paying our respects to those who lost their lives during WWI at the Australian War Memorial.

Joining hundreds of Sydneysiders for the Christmas Eve light show at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Getting up close and personal with kangaroos and koalas at the Taronga Zoo.

Chowing down on a picnic of fresh fish n’ chips while watching the Boxing Day yacht race in Sydney Harbour.

Catching our very first cricket match in Sydney.

Reconnecting with an old high school friend on a day trip to the Blue Mountains.

Celebrating Brock’s birthday with a Bondi Beach walk, lunch at Harry’s Café de Wheels and a bar crawl through Darlinghurst and Surry Hills.

What’s Next?

In January, we explore more of Australia, make a quick (and unexpected!) stopover in Bali, and experience our first adventures in Asia, visiting Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.