If you love the outdoors, enjoy hiking and you’re not afraid to try some of the more adventurous things in life, then I highly recommend a trip to New Zealand. Queenstown, New Zealand is called the adventure capital of the world and is said to be where bungee jumping was born. I went there a year a half ago for my honeymoon and it was one of my favorite trips. Sure, the long flight out there was rough but once you arrive, you quickly forget that it took 20+ hrs.
My husband and I spent a week on the South Island (where the Lord of the Ring trilogy was filmed). Many people rent camper vans to save on accommodation costs but the idea of having to look for designated campsites everynight and figuring out where to shower was not too appealing. In all honestly, I am just not a big fan of camping. Maybe if we were spending a month in New Zealand, it would make sense. I know a month of traveling sounds exceedingly long for all you Americans out there but it’s not uncommon for Europeans. I came across quite a few Germans doing just that. They had included the North Island into their itinerary. The nice thing about driving around New Zealand is that you can very easily ferry your car between the north to south islands. And if you have the time, I do believe an entire month is what it takes to get close to seeing & doing every bit of what New Zealand has to offer. Unfortunately for those of us without such generous vacation time from work, that’s just not feasible.
We flew into Christ Church, rented a small car from ‘Jucy’ car rentals and drove clockwise around the island hitting all the major cities. They do drive on the opposite side of the road so there’s a bit of getting used to. Luckily, the traffic is minimal due to the small population on the South Island (can’t speak for the North) so the bulk of the driving is leisurely. Here’s our 9 day itinerary:
Day 2 – Drive to Aoraki Mt Cook for a tour with Glacier Explorer to see Tasman Glacier (NZ’s longest glacier and only one that terminates in a lake). After tour, drive to Wanaka and overnight in D’Lavande Bed & Breakfast (Tripadvisor review).
Day 3 – Explore Wanaka and go on a canyoning adventure. Canyoning is not for the faint of heart, especially for a non-swimmer like me. We went with an outfitter named Deep Canyon (Tripadvisor review) and after calling ahead and discussing my limitations, they worked with me to make sure we had extra guide on hand. Overnight in Wanaka.
Day 4 – Drive to Queenstown, stopping en route at the Kawarau Bridge (the world’s first bungee jumping site). The plan was just to watch but when we saw kids jumping, we just couldn’t walk away without experiencing it ourselves. Overnight in Garden Courts & Suite in Queenstown.
Day 5 – Full day tour of Milford Sound with NakedBus. Overnight in Queenstown.
Day 6 – Drive to Haast, the town from which to explore Fox and Franz Glacier. Make sure not to arrive too late or else you may find yourself scrambling for a place that’s still open for dinner. Overnight at Lake Matheson Motel.
Day 7 – Hike Fox Glacier. You can park and walk on your own to view the glacier from a distance but in order to hike on the glaciers, you must follow a guided tour. We chose to hike Fox Glacier over Franz Glacier because we had read about the crowds at Franz and wanted to avoid that. We picked the full day hike and were very happy with our decision because the half day hikes get you very limited time on the ice to explore. Overnight in Haast.
Day 8 – Drive to Hokitika, explore the town. Overnight at HokiVilla.
Day 9 – Drive to Christ Church airport.
As you can tell, we tend not to linger around in any city for too long and prefer to be productive. I am sure some people may want to go at a more leisurely pace but this worked out for us pretty well. It is possible to cut it down to 8 days but I think 7 days will feel too rushed.
Lake Tekapo. Amazing icy blue waters right?
Piece of ice from the Tasman glacier. It’s approximately 300-500 years old and 8x denser than the ice cube in your freezer.
Bungee jumping at Kawarau Bridge. They need to weigh you before the jump to calculate the right amount of tension in the rope.
For landscape photographer’s, New Zealand is a dream come true. There is a photo op at every turn and you will find it difficult to put down your camera. The landscape in the South Island is really lush, especially when I visited in early November (spring time). Stay tuned for more photos from the rest of the trip.