Sun, snowy mountains peaks and stunning coast drives.
New Zealand is a country that, while growing up, seemed a far off place that I’d likely never ever visit. It’s about as far away from England as you can get. So while I’m spending so much time in Australia it seemed a waste not to go explore.
We flew into Auckland after a long day of travelling all the way from Portland in Aus. After a car, a bus, a train, another bus and finally a plane, we finally landed late at night. After catching up on some much-needed sleep, we drove into the centre and walked all over the city. I really liked Auckland. It was a really sunny day and even though the city has lots of hills, the place was really chilled out. In my view, it should be the capital.
After only two nights in Auckland, we drove down to Rotorua, stopping at Hobbiton, the set of the Hobbit movies. We booked a tour of the whole set. The set is ridiculously big and expensive. The level of detail by the director is psychotic. To the point where all the leaves at Bag End (the fake tree) had to be painted a different colour green by hand.
Rotorua is a small town that sits on a massive, geothermal landscape, which makes the town stink. In the two days we spent there, we visited the the Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland. A geothermal playground with a number of mud pools, geysers and sulphur lakes. It was like being on another planet.
The next day was a big drive down to Napier. We stopped half way in a small lakeside town called Taupo. It was a beautiful day so after I tried to win us $10,000 by getting a hole in one, we decided to hike up to one of the lookouts, which took longer than we thought as the sun beat down. It was a tough climb in the heat, but the view over the lake was totally worth it.
When we finally got to Napier we were slightly taken aback by the town’s architecture. It’s almost all funky art deco and feels like you’re back in the 1930’s. We walked around the rest of the day checking out all the old building before picking a pub to have a late dinner. We really liked the town and wished we’d had more time there.
The next day the weather started off great but by the time we got to Wellington it had changed. It was drizzly and overcast but to be honest, It matched the city perfectly. We didn’t like Wellington at all. It was dirty, graffiti-ridden, miserable and boring. I was glad to get out of there the next morning.
We took the four-hour ferry ride to Picton, picked up our new hire car and set off to Punakaiki, on the west coast. Most of the drive was long straight roads with far off mountains poking out in the distance. The dive was just starting to get boring when suddenly we made it to coast and discovered the state highway 6 coast road. It was late in the evening, there wasn’t another car in sight and the sun was just starting to set. it is, without a doubt, the best road I’ve ever driven on.
After arriving, and checking into our quaint little hostel house, we wandered down to the beach and watched the sunset with a bottle of wine.
The next day we were up early once again to drive the last of the coast road down to Franz Josef. Once there we set off to go hike an hour to the face of the glacier. Although we couldn’t get too close to it, we could tell the scale of it from where we were. It’s a massive slab of ice over seven miles long, that’s been there since 1859.
The next morning we headed to Queenstown after a brief stop at fox glacier, which is more or less the same only a lot smaller. I’d been looking forward to seeing Queenstown, as everyone I’d spoken to during my travels raved about it. It didn’t disappoint. By the time we got there we’d decided that as we’d been travelling for a while we deserved a nice restaurant meal. So we checked into our hostel overlooking the mountains and took a walk into town. Straight away we saw a little bar that looked very backpacker friendly. It was! We both got a big thick steak for just $20. Perfect. The next day we booked on to do some parasailing. Queenstown is the adventure sports capital of the world. Although the day was windy and cold, the view while parasailing was amazing. We could see most of the massive lake and all the mountains that surrounded us.
Next, we drove down to Te Aunu and booked on to a Milford Sound tour for the next day. The small tour bus picked us up the next morning and we set off on the two-hour drive. Along the way, our guide told us all about the area and stopped at some of the best lookouts for photo opportunities. By the time we got to Milford, the weather had set in and we were in the middle of a storm. The cruise down the river was a washout but at least we got to see the area at its full extream. Complete with thunder and lightning, high winds and sideways rain. Plus as it was a small boat, we could get really close to the waterfalls that are only there during heavy rain.
Next was the long drive to Mount Cook, after a short stopover back in Queenstown. The drive to Mount Cook was a mountain road lined with massive peaks on either side that were only replaced by the bluest lakes I’ve ever seen.
The place we stayed was a hostel right at the foot Mount Cook itself. The views were unbelievable in every direction we looked. We spent our time there doing some hiking and one the way out visited the Tasman glacier, which was easily one of the best places I’ve been throughout my travels. I didn’t want to leave.
After that, we drove up to Christchurch, where we spent our last two days catching up with Jules’ friends.
Exploring New Zealand is the most expensive place I’ve been so far. We got ourselves a hire car which is a more expensive way of doing it but gave us total freedom to do and go wherever we wanted. I’d highly recommend it as a travel destination as we managed to see most of the country in the short time we were there. Just be prepared to spend a lot of cash.
Some Useful Info:
Country – New Zealand
Language – English
Currency – New Zealand Dollar
£1 GBP – = 1.73 New Zealand Dollars
Accommodation – Ibis Auckland Hotel, Bamber House Hostel, Funky Green Voyager, Criterion Art Deco Hostel, Lodge In The City, Te Nikau Retreat, Franz Josef Montrose, Sir Cedrics Southern Laughter, Te Aunu Lakefront, Haka Lodge Hostel, YHA Mt Cook.
Main Activities – Sightseeing, mountain hiking, beaches, coast drives, glacier hiking.
Time Spent Exploring – 16 days
Average Daily Cost – £89.73
Date Explored – February 2017