New Zealand – First Impressions

I’ve had “ring in the New Year in New Zealand” on my bucket list since 2015 when I met a Kiwi (someone from NZ) in London. She marveled how awesome the festivals and celebrations were for New Years. Given NZ’s location it’s one of the first places on earth to ring in the New Year. Rhythm & Vines is a known music festival that has the first sunrise of the New Year. So I knew that during my time in the Southern Hemisphere I wanted to spend some time in NZ. I was so looking forward to some adventure. With the bush fires going on in Sydney/New South Wales (“NSW”) I also couldn’t wait for the fresh, open air.

My flight was from Sydney to Auckland, and unfortunately around the time of my flight the volcano erupted about 150 miles off the east coast of the North Island. Beyond a little delay I wasn’t impacted whatsoever, but my friends/family were not at ease. My thoughts go out to everyone who was directly impacted and hope families get answers soon.

I arrived in Auckland in the late afternoon and after checking into my hostel I went out to walk around a little bit. I noticed how small of a city Auckland was and although over 1/3 of NZ’s population lives here it wasn’t overtaken by huge skyscrapers. The city still felt open and when looking out into the distances you can see hills and bodies of water. Here are some other things I’ve noticed:

  • Strangely enough there were so many American fast food chain restaurants/stores that are even missing from Australia (Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s, actual Burger King, PitaPit, The Body Shop, Carl’s Jr., etc.), but the chains do not make NZ feel at all like the states or anywhere else I’ve been.
  • I think it’s very quiet even in the busiest places at the busiest times (like business district during rush hour). I think that’s because there aren’t that many people living here. More people live in Sydney or NYC compared to the entire population of NZ (~4.78 million).
  • The rolling hills, beautiful beaches, and so many adventure activities have already won me over. There’s so much to do and see.
  • Compared to NYC and Sydney I find that New Zealand is less expensive so far.
  • The drinking laws aren’t as strict here as in NSW. Everyone is so nice.
  • It’s chillier here than Australia because it’s closer to the equator, but the sun feels stronger.
  • People are really nice. Like kind of catches you off guard by how nice they are.

Travel Plans

I have booked my travel in NZ through Stray Travel. It’s kind of a hands off, hop on/hop off tour company. Their main purpose is to get you from Point A to Point B. Then you choose where you want to stay, for how long, what you want to do, etc. It let’s you be flexible with your travel and totally customize your trip.

New Zealand is made up of two islands (North and South). I’m doing North Island before New Years and ending the year at Rhythm & Vines music festival. Then I will embark on the South Island in January for a few weeks before heading back to Australia.

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