Vacation Diaries: Australia and New Zealand

Matt and I are so lucky to have been able to travel the world. I want to highlight each of our vacations here, as we have been some truly spectacular places.

In January 2019, we traveled literally to the other side of the world to Sydney, Australia. There we stayed for a few days, before embarking on a cruise around the North and South islands of New Zealand. This was my dream vacation, and since it is so far away, we really took it as a once in a lifetime trip. I, for one, never want to be on an airplane for that long again, so I think that is my first and last trip to ANZ!

Ovation of the Seas arriving back at port, the morning of our cruise

Sydney: Sydney was beautiful and amazing and everything you would expect it to be. We did a “hop on, hop off” bus tour, since we had a pretty limited time (only 2 nights) to explore the city. This was so efficient and we were able to see so much! One of the highlights was checking out the world famous Bondi Beach. We also had an amazing chef’s table dinner at Monopole, including fresh snapper, kangaroo, and some incredible charcuterie. Matt and I are always on the hunt for a new and unique culinary experience, and we will spare (almost) no expense. Our cruise embarked from Sydney, and leaving through the harbor was absolutely spectacular.

Sydney Opera House and outdoor bar area

There was quite a long (3 day passage) to get across the Tasman Sea from Sydney to New Zealand, where we enjoyed copious amounts of alcohol, food, trivia, shows, and games. Our game of choice on this cruise was 7 Wonders Duel and we would post up at one of the bars and play all day. I add all of these details because sea days on cruises are some of our favorite days. We also had our first venture into cruise “specialty dining” during these sea days, and Jamie’s Italian was so good that we went twice!! This voyage was 13 days, while that may feel like a long time, it was an incredible balance of port days versus sea days, and long enough that we were R E A D Y to go home when we got back to Sydney.

Balcony View
At trivia

Milford Sound: this.was.beyond.phenomenal.and.gorgeous. On this cruise, we had our first balcony room, and I don’t think I will ever go on another cruise in an interior room again. The number one reason I booked the balcony room was for our passage through Milford Sound. Nothing I say here, none of the videos, none of the pictures will do it justice. Just know if you ever have an opportunity to pass Milford Sound, whether it’s on a cruise ship or a day charter or a friggin’ canoe, just do it. I woke up early (gasp), played Kacey Musgraves “Oh, What a World” and marveled in the beauty. We had a remarkably clear day and perfect weather, so our captain was able to take our ship on a full 360* turn when we were in the sound. Perhaps he was blowing smoke, but he said that it was a rare for a ship of that size to be able to perform that maneuver. It was a bigggg ship.

Milford Sound

Dunedin: the first port we visited was Dunedin, where we did yet another “hop on, hop off” bus – fairly inexpensive and efficient! We toured some museums and learned more about the history and culture of New Zealand. After being on the ship for 3 days, and in some pretty rough seas, we were excited to get off the ship!

NZ Flora

Picton: the next stop was the Marlborough wine region, which was a personal highlight for me. Who doesn’t love wine country? After sampling many’a sauvignon blanc from this region, state-side, I was thrilled to go to some of the wineries! It was hot but we had a blast touring 3 different wineries (Spy Valley, Forest Vineyard, and Framingham’s).

Wine Country

Tauranga: this stop was actually WILD and I will never forget it. It was a hot, hot day and we had a food and culture tour which turned out to be quite unexpected. Our vivacious and passionate tour guide basically took our small group to her favorite local places. It was AMAZING and exactly the kind of tour that I would want to host if I was shuttling cruise ship guests around my city. We toured a grocery store (I’d liken it to a smaller, more luxe version of Whole Foods), we ate lunch on the Pacific Ocean at a literal hole in the wall fish shack. We went to a random bakery where we had some meat pies. A kiwi farm (!!). An avocado farm, in which we enjoyed an olive oil tasting in a garage. I absolutely kid you not. Matt and I were hysterical the entire time, asking each other if this was real life. We loved it though.

Avocado oil tasting. In a garage.

Auckland: we did another “hop on, hop off” bus tour here, since we didn’t have a lot of time to tour the city. It may sound strange, but one of the highlights here was going to a shopping mall. Safe to say one of the weirdest parts was everyone walking on the “other” side of the aisles and the escalators were backwards LOL (since they drive on the left, they walk on the left too). Another one of our traditions is to select a Christmas ornament from every country we have been, so this was another important stop for us! We also hiked (I use that term loosely, there was a path but it was STEEP) to the top of an inactive volcano (Mt. Eden) where we had the most spectacular views of the city.

The top of Mt. Eden

Bay of Islands/Pahila: this port was a cute little coastal town, and I was able to do a little shopping. The biggest highlight of this port though was that Matt went skydiving!! I would never, so I was just a spectator. It was his first time and he had a great experience. And naturally, I made some friends back on the ground while Matt was on his excursion.

Prepping for his adventure

We always cruise on Royal Carribean, and as soon as it is safe to do so again, we cannot wait to take our family on a cruise! I think Theo will really enjoy the adventure club ;-).

This vacation is one that I will never forget. Stay tuned for more vacation recaps! If you want to see more about our ANZ vacation, I have a highlight on my personal Instagram (@katieelizwilliams).

Have you ever been to the South Pacific? Where is your dream vacation, and have you been there yet?