Sunday, 11 February 2018

And finally, New Zealand

I've wanted to visit New Zealand for years, but it always just felt so far away and expensive. I'm so, so glad we chose to spend time here and would highly recommend going if you're planning a trip to Australia - it's only another 3 hour flight from Sydney and SO worth it.

Somewhere on the side of the road, the West Coast

*I'm reading this post back to proof it and feels like a diary entry, and I really wish I'd filmed it so I had a video instead. So apologies if this is boring! But I guess selfishly I've written this to have something to look back on and remember our time in NZ.*

We chose to hire a car for our travels round the South Island. This gave us the freedom to set off when we wanted, change our plans at the last minute and see exactly what we wanted to see, stop when we wanted to stop. (and believe me, I lost count of the amount of scenic views where we absolutely HAD to stop and take a photo). I'm also proud to say that I drove a lot and at times on some of the scariest roads I've ever encountered in my life...

Arthur's Pass

Our first leg was driving to Hokitika on the West Coast - a stop off for some sleep before heading to Franz Josef. This meant driving across the country from Christchurch, through the beautiful Arthur's Pass. This drive was probably the most stunning of the whole trip - we started out strong! I've never seen such ginormous mountains. One minute we'd be driving through a flat valley surrounded by mountains, then suddenly we were on the cliff edge of a mountain, battling hairpin turns for miles.

Hokitika

Arriving in Hokitika, the lovely man at our accommodation told us that 'pretty much the only thing to do around here is watch the sunset', so off we went, just in time to see the sun setting. After that epic drive, and looking out into the darkening sky, it really felt like we were at the end of the world, a feeling that occurred a few times on this trip!

Hokitika sunset

Hokitika waves

Franz Josef

Franz Josef is home to the 12km Franz Josef Glacier, which was our main reason for visiting the town. We went all out and booked a heli-tour which basically means taking a helicopter ride to the glacier, landing on the ice, then spending the afternoon hiking around the glacier itself. 68% of these trips are cancelled due to weather, but our luck must have been up, as our trip went ahead (and the rest of the day was cancelled!) I've never been in a helicopter, so that was an amazing experience in itself, but to hike through the glacier was surreal. The water produced at the glacier is some of the purest you'll find and the guides encourage you to drink it! Despite the hefty price tag, the heli-tour was 100% worth it, and something really unique.

Franz Josef - town

Franz Josef Glacier

Helicopter ride

Wanaka

The drive to Wanaka was meant to take 3.5 hours but ended up taking more like 6 - the scenery was amazing, and we couldn't help but stop along the way to take pictures. I was excited for Wanaka as my friend RĂ­ona used to live there and had raved about it! Our Airbnb here was on a vineyard and it was just out of this world. Also owned by Brits who had lived in Aberdeen for 15 years (small world?!) I'm not sure what it was about Wanaka, but I instantly fell for the place. The weather was perfect, the town is on a lake and perfectly formed, there was so much to do, and as usual, the views were amazing every direction you turned. Oh and the sunsets were definitely the best we saw in NZ. (I have this thing with sunsets...) My highlight of our time in Wanaka had to be the heavenly scented Lavender Farm. They even had a lavender coloured life size Connect 4... It was hard to leave, but we planned to head back again before going home.

En route to Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

Lavender Farm

Lavender farm

Airbnb - vineyard

That Wanaka Tree... 

Queenstown

My friend described Queenstown to me as 'Aviemore on steroids'. She wasn't wrong. QT was buzzing. There are SO many activities on offer - before setting off we'd said casually that we might do a skydive but... we'd wait till we were there to decide. Fast forward to Queenstown and before I knew it I was handing over many, many dollars to do a jetboat trip, a bungy jump and a skydive. What can I say? When you're in Queenstown you just get swept up in the excitement of it all. We chose to bungy at the Kawarau Bridge, which is the world's first bungy site, and also happens to be where my dad bungy jumped back when it opened in the 80s. Definitely the most terrifying, adrenaline-inducing experience of my life, but so proud and glad that I did it. We booked our skydive for Wanaka so that would come later... Like Wanaka, Queenstown sits on a beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains. It's just bigger, and busier. I'd recommend Fergburger if you visit - there are queues down the street at all times of day, but it's worth it. We also spent an afternoon in the historic gold mining Arrowtown - it was like stepping back in time, and well worth a visit.

The view from our Queenstown Airbnb bedroom!

Bungy jumping...

Lake Wakatipu

Arrowtown

Jetboating!

Milford Sound

I really did feel like I was at the end of the world when we arrived in Milford Sound. Dubbed the '8th wonder of the world' Milford Sound is a fiord on the west coast of the South Island. The road that takes you from Te Anau to Milford stops at Milford Sound, and that's it. The only way to leave is to go back the way you came (driving for 2 hours to get back to Te Anau). We stayed at the only place there is to stay in MS - the Milford Sound lodges. You can book cruises to see the fiord, but we decided to book a kayaking trip. It was absolutely amazing, and the views were... you get the idea. In hindsight, I think a boat trip may have been the better option simply because we were kayaking for 4 hours which was bloody hard work, and I didn't have my camera with me. It kind of pains me that I have no good photos of the insane views. But trust me, it's worth the trip.

Wanaka

For our final stop in our loop of the South Island we decided to go back to Wanaka, since we loved it so much the first time round. Our Airbnb this time was different but equally as wonderful and peaceful. After an evening eating Red Star burgers (the best) and watching another epic sunset, we got up early for our skydive. I was so happy to do this in Wanaka, and the guys who took us up there were awesome - I'd 100% recommend a skydive here. The weather was perfect (skydiving first thing in the AM is the way to go). I was terrified, but not as bad as I thought I'd be before casually jumping out of a plane from 12,000 feet. The freefall was crazy, but the views and tranquility you experience once the parachute goes up was like nothing else, I was just peacefully floating through the air. It's definitely something I would do again. (I'm not so sure if I'd bungy jump again...)

Florence's Farmshop and Cafe 

Skydive

Just another Wanaka sunset

There are so many more places that I want to explore in New Zealand, and I can't wait to go back and see more. People talk so highly of NZ, and I finally understand first hand just how wonderful it is. I'll never forget it! The travel bug has bitten once again.

What a trip.

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