Real honeymoon: A New Zealand adventure

I’m delighted today to bring you Olivia and James’s “real honeymoon” in New Zealand, which is really brought to life by Olivia’s wonderful writing. The couple married in July and spent two weeks travelling around – I’m seriously impressed by how much they managed to cram in. Having visited all of these places as a backpacker, I have to say that reading about their honeymoon has left me longing to go back there and do it again in luxury…I’m especially envious of them seeing baby seals in the wild!

Olivia works for luxury tour operator Scott Dunn, and following her honeymoon she’s now a New Zealand specialist for the company – so if you’re thinking of a honeymoon in New Zealand you should definitely get in touch. Over to Olivia:

Having spent my life travelling the world, I always thought deciding on a unique honeymoon destination was going to be a challenge. My husband and I wanted to go somewhere a little out of the ordinary, actually extraordinary, that didn’t scream ‘HONEYMOON’ at us.  After speaking to the different teams at work about what we were looking for (scenery, lots of activities, good for photography, great outdoors etc), they suggested that we see New Zealand, in style. As our wedding was in July, I was at first a little cautious about the weather at that time of year but as soon as my husband heard we could ski, that was it! And as it turned out, we had clear blue skies every day and with the snow on the mountains, every single view was like a postcard.

We began our trip in the North Island, starting with a couple of nights in Auckland at Mollies, a really quirky property in the trendy suburb of Ponsonby. All the rooms are full of antiques and we just loved relaxing by the roaring fire in the evenings whilst the owner Frances sang opera to us and the other guests! From Auckland we flew up to the Bay of Islands, where we spent a few nights at Bay of Islands Lodge, which sits on a peninsula overlooking the tiny jewel-like islands in the Bay with the most amazing views! It didn’t take us long to realise that the properties in New Zealand are all about warm and friendly service as well as stunning luxury accommodation. As the hotels are fairly small and intimate (some only three or four rooms) we were greeted by name and left feeling as though we’d been staying with friends.

From the Bay of Islands, we flew down to Taupo for some action and adventure. We had heard a lot about our next hotel, Huka Lodge, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Huka is one of New Zealand’s ‘Super Lodges’, an unutterably luxurious property on the banks of the Waikato River. Our room was furnished in a really soft, country style and we were completely spoilt from the moment we walked in the door. We’ve never really tried fly fishing so thought we’d give it a go and were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow trout which the lodge then cooked for our supper. I didn’t realise at the time, but you can’t buy trout in New Zealand so if you want to eat it, you have to catch it for yourself!

Huka Lodge, Taupo

After our amazing few days at Huka, we flew to Nelson at the top of the South Island to explore Abel Tasman National Park. We spent our days walking and kayaking and also indulged in some superb wine tastings at a few of the vineyards in the area, with guidance from our hosts at the gorgeous Edenhouse. The Marlborough region is world-renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc wines and the vineyards are just so beautiful, acres upon acres of snaking vines under a cloudless, turquoise sky.

Kaikoura was our next stop and having picked up our hire car in Nelson we drove down the coast to this pretty coastal town, stopping on the way at one of the seal colonies. Following a tip-off from a friendly local, we wandered through the native bush to a waterfall where wild baby seals spend the winter months. They hop up the stream from the sea to the waterfall in the middle of the forest just outside Kaikoura and we sat on a rock watching them frolic for about an hour at dusk before we could tear ourselves away.

We stayed at Hapuku Lodge in one of their luxury Tree Houses – a real moment of nostalgia where your childhood fantasies are realised. Our Tree House was perched up high with the most stunning views of the snow-capped Kaikoura Ranges and the lit wood-burning stove and heated floor were a real treat after being out in the chilly air! The following morning we embarked on our whale-watching trip and were delighted to come across two of the resident sperm whales, Tutu and Tiaki, taking a break on the surface from feeding on giant squid in the depths below. They were unbelievably huge and so majestic, waving goodbye with a flick of their enormous tails as they sank once again down to the bottom of the Hikurangi Trench.

Tree Houses, Hapuku Lodge

We hopped in our car once again and drove to Christchurch and took the TranzAlpine train across the country to the West Coast, where our next stop was Franz Josef in the heart of Glacier Country. We stayed at Westwood Lodge, a really cosy and relaxed property that overlooks the mighty ice monoliths of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.  It was here that one of our highlights took place – a heli-hike up to the top of the Franz Josef Glacier, where we were guided through the ice caves, seracs and fissures of this azure blue masterpiece – truly one of the most awe inspiring experiences we have ever had.

We then continued down to Queenstown, a really fun and buzzing little place that is lauded as ‘the adventure capital of the world’. We didn’t fancy leaping off bridges or out of planes on our honeymoon and were keen to explore what else was on offer. Taking the advice of my colleagues, we booked a helicopter ‘flight seeing’ trip over Milford Sound. The weather was perfect and the views were out of this world – seeing the fiords from the air was so special and we just loved our glacier landing on the way home. We also spent a day touring the amazing vineyards of the Central Otago region – something we’d highly recommend! In Queenstown, we stayed at Eichardts Boutique Hotel, right on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. Another gem, we loved the cosy suites and the really intimate atmosphere of the place. My other half came back from a day of skiing (a day in the Spa at Millbrook for me) and we sat by a roaring fire in the bar downstairs, tucking in to the most delicious tapas and enjoying local wines.

New Zealand might not be the first place you think of for a honeymoon, but we really feel like we’ve started married life with the most amazing adventure. If you are looking for something different, I can assure you that you will be rewarded with incredible experiences, stunning hotels, warm hospitality and fabulous food and wine – we can’t wait to go back and see more of this beautiful place.

Thanks to Olivia for sharing her honeymoon with The Honeymoon Project – it sounds like an amazing trip. If you’ve already been on honeymoon and want to share your experience with other readers, then do drop email me.

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