New Zealand: Unfinished Business

The short: there is so much more to explore in New Zealand and we want to go back.

View of Lake Rotorua on our daily run

Itinerary: 6 nights in New Zealand. 1 night near Auckland airport due to late arrival; 3 nights in Rotorua, 2 nights in Auckland

We have always wanted to come to New Zealand. It worked out that we found our most affordable flight back to the US from Auckland. It also worked out that we needed to get back to the US in early March; hence the short stay. So here are the notes from our breeze-through too-short experience of our time in New Zealand.

Borrowing other kids’ scooters like a boss

Travel lesson stuff:

  • This part of our 7 week trip confirmed that one week at a time in a location is currently the optimal time period for us. We could have stayed longer in both Rotorua and Auckland. The driving wasn’t long but it cut into our work, play, and running time in a way we haven’t been accustomed to over the past 6 weeks. I hope we remember this when back in the States for the next few months.
  • Nice hotel stays are so good! Auckland was a bit pricey for CBD hotels – $250+/night avg. We used an IHG reward night at the Crown Plaza and paid for the other night (earning a good chunk of points in the process). It was so nice! Great way to feel clean, organized, and regrouped after more intense travel times.
  • Summer, summer, summer! While it was a bit rainy at times, and not as warm as Australia, it was still summer here and we really love summer!
  • I finally had my turn signal and windshield wipers squared away in my mind and didn’t have to think twice about driving on the left side of the road. This was so much the case that upon returning to Seattle, I’ve had to relearn the turn signal!

Who doesn’t love paying $15 for ice cream when it looks like this!?!

Notes and memories:

  • Long travel days are tough! We did an overnight flight from Bali to Sydney. It was 5.5 hours and didn’t give us enough time to get good sleep. We then hung out in Sydney for a few hours before our afternoon flight to Auckland. By the time we got to our hotel south of Auckland it was after 10pm and we were all exhausted! Not ideal and one of our tougher travel days of the entire trip.
  • The Town Mouse restaurant in Pukehohe revived us the next morning following the big travel day. We learned that the kid’s drink known in Australia as the “baby chino” is known in NZ as a “fluffy”. Way cooler name, still only a dollar, and still one of Paavo’s favorites. “Special drink” is the name in Paavo’s world. We filled up on good food and hit the road to Rotorua.
  • Rotorua has bubbly mud, sulphur smells, and other geothermal wonders all around town. We found routes to run from our hotel which had us running right along stinky, bubbling wonders.
  • The big playground in Rotorua down near the lake was a big hangout spot for us. We started and finished runs here while Paavo played. We hung out with lots of kids and talked with parents for many hours. It was a big spot for us in Rotorua! There was also an ice cream shop close – convenient for sure!
  • I spent a good chunk of time getting caught up on work and life stuff at the nearby Artisan Cafe, drinking my Long Blacks and hammering away at the computer. I also met Brian from OH there and had a good chat with him. Fellow trail runner, fellow Tim Ferriss fan; we hit it off right away! Fun talking with someone with so many common interests and history.
  • Lodging was less expensive in Rotorua and also a bit more rustic. We had a small studio apartment, equipped with a microwave, a couple burners, and a sink. We had a toilet, but showers were in a shared bath house setting. The big memory here is the first night, despite signs warning us, we kept windows open too long with lights on inside. So many lake bugs were in our room by the time we went to bed – hundreds! Thankfully, they just hung out on the walls and ceiling, and somehow found there way out by the morning. We didn’t make that mistake the second night!
  • Running got back on track here! Such good paths all around town. I even managed a 20 miler in the Redwood forest just outside of town. We both felt fast again, and enjoyed running again (not one of Bali’s strong points).
  • We headed to Auckland and the immediate highlight for us is all about food.
    • There is an Indian veggie restaurant (Dosa Plaza) across the street from our hotel. All you can eat buffet for $8.90, full with dosa, chapati, and a few curries. Yes! We also enjoyed idli and masala dosa as well. I crushed the buffett two days in a row! Yum!
    • Giapo ice cream. Julie saw this place in the airplane magazine on our flight to NZ. It was within a mile of our hotel and we went back twice. ~$25 spent each trip and worth it both times! We had our own ice cream consultant and each cone or sundae was crafted like a work of art. And of course Paavo managed to acquire free stuff on our second trip after having his picture taken with some of the workers there.
    • Lord of the Fries. We were craving our Australian fried food goodness so our last night in NZ, we went out in the rain and found our favorite fries, onion rings, and veggie burgers. I will miss this place for sure!
  • We didn’t do a ton of kids stuff in Auckland. Paavo and Julie did one swim at the hotel pool, and we did plenty of walking around town for food, but no kids museums or aquariums. Our visit was so short, and one of the days was a big rainy day which we stayed inside for most of. It was all good though; regrouping period for all of us before the big flight back to the US.
  • Running was again one of the highlights. After a 700m jog down to the waterfront from our hotel, we were uninterrupted along the water for the next 6+ miles. We both got long workouts in and just loved the beauty and the open running routes.

Miles and miles of uninterrupted bike path outside our hotel in Auckland. Loved it!


We know there is so much more to see and do in NZ. We hope to be back. We learned that weather is way more volatile here so we’re ready for that, and we’ll do our best to hit the months with the best odds of summer. We’ll visit the South Island and do more touristy stuff (visit Hobbiton!). The vibe there is chill, there is a lot of natural beauty, things aren’t too expensive, getting around is easy, and it’s a place that checks all our kid, running, and vegan boxes. In short, we loved our taste of NZ and know we want to come back!

We’re planning to be back in the US for the next few months, but certainly not staying still. We have plans for West Coast time, East Coast time, Ohio time, and some Rocky Mountain times. Lots of good stuff ahead before we head overseas again! Life is good here in Urbyville.

Paavo enjoying his “fluffy” drink, steamed almond milk with a little sweetness

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