KM 0 – 102 Wellington to Picton
We started our NZ adventure by flying into Wellington then jumping straight on the ferry to the South Island. This was all we saw of the north island… We know! It’s just as beautiful. We will be back one day. Big thanks to Chris and Sue who suggested the crossing. It was stunning travelling through theming islands that make up the northern most tip of the island. We even saw dolphins off the front of the boat! We spent the night in Picton, tucking into a tasty GF pizza before heading to bed.
KM 102 – 439 Picton to Christchurch
The next morning we hopped on a coach to Christchurch. It was a windy journey down the coast through small sleepy towns, villages the majority of NZ vineyards, gutted we didn’t have time to try! Our driver gave some adorable running commentary during the trip which made the journey even more enjoyable.
We spent that afternoon we grabbed a coffee and explored central Christchurch. It was harrowing to see how the city is still rebuilding itself after the earthquake in 2011. New building regs are incredibly strict so there aren’t many buildings on the city skyline higher than a couple of stories. We headed into Canterbury museum to learn about the first western settlers to come to New Zealand. It was interesting to learn that the early settlers didn’t look to destroy the indigenous Maori but actually worked closely with them. It was actually infighting between the tribes that lead to the Maori declines.
There’s a strong small town vibe in Christchurch that we soon realised exists throughout New Zealand. The next morning we got the bus back up to the airport to collect our car. In NZ you can rent older cars for super cheap. This car had a mini disk player. It was old.
KM 439 – 711 Christchurch to Barrytown
We stopped off in Arthur’s Pass for lunch and an afternoon walk on our way to the north coast of the South Island. It was at this point we realised 2 things – Siy would soon get neck ache from looking at the constantly changing, extremely beautiful scenery – around every corner was a ‘wow’ moment. We also learnt that petrol is expensive. Air con uses up petrol. No more air con! Like our trip to Canada, it became apparent that NZ was easy and enjoyable to drive around. We even spotted the famous Kea birds on our way through the mountains. We arrived at an amazing Airbnb with views of the Tasman sea. We explored the beach, cooked some food and headed to bed.
KM 711 – 935 Barrytown to Fox Glacier
We made our way down the coastal road to Fox Glacier, ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ as we went. We had a couple of nights in Fox Glacier and stayed with a local family who made us feel right at home. They were proper Fox Glacier locals and when a piece of land came up for sale, they moved their entire house on a huge flat bed truck! It was pretty drizzly while we were there but we managed to get out on a few short walks. The first was a night walk to see glow worms – they looked LEDs or fibre optics. The second was to the end of a small track that gave us breathtaking views of the Aoraki National Park and Fox Glacier itself.
The next day we headed to Franz Josef but the weather really was against us so we headed to a natural hot springs and enjoyed an afternoon of relaxation. Just what we needed after all the driving we’d been doing. It wasn’t long until we were back on the road…
KM 935 – 1262 Fox Glacier to Queenstown
An early start but great views along the way. We managed to stop off at some waterfalls, a brisk beach walk followed by a late afternoon stop off at Lake Wanaka, where we did a mini hike up a hill to get a view of the town and the lake. It’s worth giving a shout out to New Zealand tourist info at this point. You can head into any of their many centres and get info on all the hikes in the area by chatting to one of the amazing staff. We knew we only had a few hours in the area, they recommended a walk for us, showed us where the car park and trail head were and we were off! A great service that we used regularly on our trip. We arrived into Queenstown late that afternoon, staying in an Airbnb granny annex in someone’s back garden!
KM 1262 – 1277 Queenstown
OK so the KMs here were done in kayaks and on an incredibly fast and manvourable Speed boat. Both activities took place on the massive Lake Wakatipu, on the shores of which, Queenstown sits. Its a beautiful lake and a beautiful town, famous for its adventure sports that take advantage of the rugged terrain that makes up the surrounding area. We tucked into Gluten Free fish and chips, whilst telling off Chinese tourists who were trying to take photos of us on the sly. It was during our Queenstown stay that we heard news about the terrible shooting g in Christchurch. To add to the bad news, Siy found out that evening that his Grandma Brown had passed away after becoming suddenly ill. Not a great day. Rest in peace Grandma.
The next day we tackled Ben Lomond, a mountain just outside the town. The adorably named ‘tiki trail’ that lead up to the trailhead wasn’t that adorable at all. It got pretty full on pretty quickly and that was just the start… The moutain itself was completely covered in cloud which made for an uneventful climb. When we got further up however and broke through the clouds, we learned they were inverted, and all we could see was the peaks of the surrounding mountains. It felt very ethereal and very special. The push to the summit was nasty but we were chuffed when we made it – the views were spectacular.
KM 1277 – 1449 Queenstown to Te Anau
We spent 3 nights in a yurt at the bottom of an amazing garden in Te Anau. They kindly lent us a camping stove so we could leave cook outside. It was a great base for exploring the local area. We snuck across a golf course and went on a great walk around part of Lake Te Anau. It took us through some lovely forest. The surrounding area used to be home to New Zealand’s other famous ground nesting bird, the Kea. Unfortunately due to the introduction of animals like the stoat and weasel by Brit’s in the 1800 and 1900s the Kea population has been decimated. They had no natural predators so had no reason to need to move to the trees. Our host Mary works with an organisation who is trying to save the local population. Interesting but upsetting stuff! We actually visited a colony of wild, tagged Keas during a pit stop.
KM 1449 – 1685 Te Anau to Milford Sound and back again
One of our day trips from Te Anau was to the breathtaking Milford Sound. We found a great deal for the 2 hour boat trip as well as the speedboat in Queenstown on bookme.co.nz We highly recommend it! The boat trip was a slow chug through the sounds, giving you the oppertunity to soak in the stunning Jurassic scenery. They manoeuvre the front of the large boat underneath one of the main waterfalls which was impressive.
KM 1685 – 2154 Te Anau to Ashwick Flat
This was the longest day of driving but it was broken up by a trip to Lake Ohau which is where Harry and Kate, a couple who we met on the Salt Flats tour in Bolivia had been working before they went away. We actually met Harry’s Auntie – turns out she owns the hotel they were working in! Small world…
The reason we had gone to Ashwick Flat was its proximity to the International Dark Sky Reserve. We had planned to drive out in the middle of the night, find a large open space, pull up and enjoyable amazing night sky. However, as we drove into the valley where Ashwick flats is situated, the fog descended. You honestly couldn’t see anything which was disappointing. The Airbnb was nice though we got the fire going and settled down for Te night. Then the mouse appeared…
KM 2154 – 2339 Ashwick Flat to Christchurch
We had done it! We took a steady pace back into Christchurch stopping at a couple of ancient sites that were home to faint cave paintings. It was staggering to think they had survived out in the open for so long. We handed in the keys to our tired little Nissan and headed out for a meal and a drink before getting an early night. We had to be up first thing for our flight to Bali!
2339KM – 1453 miles!
New Zealand was definelty worth all the driving. The journies themselves felt like activities – there was so much to see and take in. Throughout the journey we went through such a variety of landscapes it truly lived up to our expectations. The rain was a dampener but it didn’t stop us from doing anything we really wanted to do. A beautiful country with an amazing population who understand the importance of caring for the environment they’re lucky enough to live in. There’s so much that we didn’t see… We will be back!