New Zealand- South Island
New Zealand has been on my bucket list for a long, long time. I mean….full of natural beauty. The rolling valleys, snow covered mountains, blue lakes, amazing beaches, and jaw dropping sunsets. Be warned…New Zealand will steal your heart.
If you followed along on snap chat than it is no news to you that we did the entire country in 2 weeks, in a car. YUP, a car & two weeks. The country is much smaller than Australia, so this was totally doable for us. Now let me tell you, travelling in a car is not for the faint of heart. You got to be dedicated, flexible, and legit adapt a very EASY, BREEZY, attitude. You got to be as cool as a cucumber. But more on that later.
I fell in love with New Zealand’s South Island. It was incredible. Now I have done A LOT of travelling, but what was so cool was watching Thomas’s reaction to this part of the country. He loves mountains but has never been out West in Canada, so this was all new for him. Watching him gawk, his jaw drop, his smile, his desire to want to climb each and every peak he layed eyes on, was incredible. A kid on Christmas morning…literally. The South Island is the thrill seekers play ground, the adventure capital of the world. Scenic mountain ranges and lakeside views….I mean can it get any better? We hiked, we climbed, we explored, we jumped out of a plane, we drove and we drove….days on end. We enjoyed packaged salads from the grocery store, we embraced the whole no shower for two weeks thing….yea I know….y’all are puking and mouthing a silent “WTF…TWO WEEKS”. Yup, no joke. Two weeks, in a car, no shower, no camping, no tent, no cooking our own food. Nope. Instead it was grocery runs for anything “healthy” that didn’t need to be cooked or prepared. The car was not a station wagon where there was a bed in the back, but instead we legit slept in our seats. Yup, reclined our chairs and tried to sleep. Oh and earthquakes…yes the earthquakes…good times. New Zealand in November was far from warm, we could see our breath while we slept and usually we woke up every two hours because we were frozen, so we would turn the car on, blast the heat for 20 minutes, I would say something along the lines of “this is insane, I can’t do this anymore, I’m frozen” (usually more vulgar and far from kind) and repeat that cycle every few hours. Then we would wake up, noses frozen and feel like a warrior…. “are we really doing this?” “CAN I GET A H*LL YEA”. Boy this trip was an adventure. You all know I love Van Life and that was an adventure….my favourite kind. But car life? Holy that was next level. No bed, no kitchen, no shower, brushing our teeth on the side of the road somewhere, trying to charge my laptop at a coffee shop so we could potentially watch a movie, being on airplane mode, therefore rarely knowing the directions, using maps, asking locals. It was such a raw, natural experience. Like next level. Some nights we would pull over around 9 pm using our handy dandy offline app called Wiki Maps that would tell us where we could sleep for free. Pull over, recline our seats, bundle up for the night, eat our packaged salad, snag a few sips of wine from the bottle (classy right), watch a DVD until my laptop died, and tried to sleep. Other nights we wouldn’t pull over till about 2 am. But it was pure magic. One of those once in a lifetime experiences. Like when I’m 80 the grandkids will be in awe of how effing fiesty their grandma is. I also regularly said the line “oh, if anyone ever calls me a princess, I will enlighten them on the whole #carlife experience”. You were warned…..
Okay, now you’ve got a little background of our adventure in a car…seriously try it. Go, go, go!!! Here is our list of must do’s when on the South Island.
Castle Hill- Castle Hill is located in the Canterbury high country and we stumbled upon these out of no where. 700 m high and about 90 Km NW of Christchurch, these beautiful rocks are between the Torlesse and Craigeburn mountain ranges and are limestone rock formations. They are so cool because the rock formations are the water eroded remnants of limestone formed during the Oligocene age 30-40 million years ago when most of New Zealand was covered by the sea.
Lake Tekapo- This place is magic. Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Dky Reserve and is a perfect spot to star gaze and take in the stunning views during the day. Three hours SW of Christchurch in the Mackenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo gets its stunning milky- turquoise colour from the fine rock flour that is suspended into the water. Now this lake is a photographer’s dream come true. With snow-topped mountains, a turquoise blue lake and a beautiful little church…not to mention the Lupins. Every year from mid-November to December, the beauty is enhanced by a colourful display of Lupins. Luckily they were starting to come out when we were there early November. Russell Lupin is an exotic plant that can grow up to 1.5 meters. The flowers are pea like and come in a variety of colours- blue, purple, orange, yellow, pink, white and even mixtures. This was a beautiful experience!
Lake Pukaki- A beautiful blue glacier fed alphine lake surrounded by high mountain peaks.
Mount Cook- Highest mountain in New Zealand and just completely stunning. Breathtaking.
Queenstown- I’m going to share my Must Do’s in Queenstown in a separate post. If you only choose one place to visit in New Zealand, this has to be it. It offers everything from hiking, skiing, sky diving, cycling, bungee jumping, the shot over jet, yummy eats, cozy inns. Queenstown gave me all the vibes of a Whistler village and Banff on a larger level.
Glenorchy- Glenorchy is New Zealand’s natural Paradise. This is more about the journey to get there rather than the destination. The 45 minute drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is so scenic, and rated one of the top 10 drives in the World. Be prepared for many photo stops.
Wanaka & Lake Hewea- Worth the stop. And find the famous Wanaka tree.
Milford Sound- This was amazing!!! We did the Jucy Cruise and for $40 you can’t go wrong. Described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. The fiord’s cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks seem to touch the sky and waterfalls surround you. Enjoy!
Fox Glacier Skydive- this was fate. After multiple attempts to skydive in the adventure capital of the world Queenstown, we were unable to due to the weather conditions, safety and then our time constraint. We knew we wanted to skydive, especially the experience of it together. I’ve bungy jumped before, and I am terrified of heights. Like jello legs on any type of bridge. Thomas on the other hand, no fear of heights. When we couldn’t skydive in Queenstown, we were very disappointed and discouraged. My heart was set on it. But then, after talking to some locals they informed us that in fact Queenstown is yes an amazing place to dive, but Fox Glacier is rated #1 in New Zealand and one of the top 10 places in the world. Better yet, you can jump even higher. As Lonely Planet says “with a backdrop of the Southern Alps, glaciers, rain forest and the ocean, it’s hard to imagine a better place to jump out of a plane than fox glacier”. In 2016 Fox Glacier Skydive has been voted the most scenic skydive in the world by Thetravelchannel.com, Escapehere.com and Travelnation.co.uk and The Lonely Planet says that only Mt Everest could possibly beat Fox Glacier for a scenic skydiving experience. And miraculously the weather cleared for us, they had an opening the next day and we boogied our way over. Everything was incredible. The staff were amazing, my partner Lee did a great job at keeping me as calm as possible…hehe, I was a wreck. We jumped out at 16500 ft, had oxygen masks, jumped through the clouds, over the Tasman Sea, the mountains and landed in a green field of rolling hills full of sheep…SO NEW ZEALAND RIGHT! Jumping out of a plane will change your life. No joke.
The Pancake Rocks- For the most amazing sunset you’ll ever see.
Mirror Lake- The pictures speak for themselves.
Abel Tasman- The lush coastal bush has it all. There is so many different hikes to do but we opted for the 24 km track to Anchorage point. Amazing.
Picton- This is where you go to catch the ferry from the South Island to the North Island. This town is super cute and offers fantastic hikes with beautiful views of the ocean. We did the Snout’s walkway.
Of course New Zealand’s South Island has plenty to offer, but these were our favourite Must See’s. As always do you…..your budget might be bigger and your timeline longer, or vice versa. Remember what works for me, might not work for you, you might not want to do it all in two weeks, you might not have a partner who is willing to drive through the night, but then again whatever you do and however you do it, SEE NEW ZEALAND.
Coming atcha you next for your daily cappuccino break will be an overview of our most do’s on the North Island, and even a special post dedicated directly to Queenstown, because it’s that good!
I hope this post finds you excited for Christmas, not to stressed, sipping Shiraz and a cappuccino or two (in whatever order you please…no judgments here).