New Zealand, where do I even begin? It truly was the vacation of a lifetime! Kwin and I are so fortunate to have spent our honeymoon making such great memories. I’m sorry that this blog is kind of on the long side…but I could write forever about how amazing this country is. I hope you enjoy(:
We arrived in New Zealand on Christmas day, ready to start our adventures! Little did we know that ALL of Christchurch was shut down for Christmas! It was a ghost town. We ended up renting some bikes (Next Bike) and headed to New Brighton Beach for the day. It was a nice ride (mostly because nobody was on the road). PS-For those who do not know the ozone layer in the Southern Hemisphere is thinner than the Northern Hemisphere so the sun is INTENSE! Unfortunately we both got pretty burned that day….
Christchurch also has a Botanical Garden and Historical Museum which we were able to walk around on our last day. Such a cool place!
Lake Tekepo and Lake Pukaki
December 26, we picked up our Mighty Camper van as early as we could, stocked up on groceries and then started on our adventures. Our first stop was Lake Tekepo, this was our first glimpse of the crystal clear, aqua blue water of New Zealand lakes. TRULY INCREDIBLE. After hiking around a little bit we finished our journey to Lake Pukaki and stayed at Glenntanner Holiday Park (Just outside of Aorki National Park-Mount Cook). Something pretty neat about the Holiday Parks in New Zealand was that they have community kitchens for everyone! It was such a cool atmosphere to be in: people from all over the world, cooking and eating dinner together! NOTE: We did not stay in holiday parks all the time, but in specific areas in New Zealand its illegal to Freedom Camp, so just know the laws wherever you are!
Mount Cook-Mueller Hut Hike
This was probably Kwin and I’s favorite hike of the whole trip! It was a 3-hour round trip hike. It was definitely a challenging hike: with steep incline and mostly stairs the whole way up. We stopped multiple times (both to catch our breath, and also take in the beautiful views.) Once at the top we had an amazing view of Mount Cook- The tallest Mountain in New Zealand- along with the surrounding glaciers and glacier lakes. Kwin got this crazy idea that we should hike back down, grab our Tahoe SUP inflatable paddle boards, do a shorter (less vigorous hike) to the glacier lake and paddle it. Unfortunately, after carrying our boards almost 2 miles, we got to the lake and found a nice cliff, which meant NO ACCESS to the lake. Frustrating, I know…but hey, at least we got some beautiful pictures!
New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world…and well Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand! It is perfectly located in the middle of the Southern Alps, and along Lake Wakatipu. A perfect set up for hiking, biking, paddle boarding, white water rafting, paragliding, etc. WE LOVED THIS CITY! It has so much to offer, we could have easily spent a week there! However, due to our limited time we only had 4 days, so we packed them full of fun!
–Bungee Jumping: We went to the Nevis Canyon Bungee jump (part of the AJ Hackett company) and jumped off a 137m (440 feet) platform in the middle of a canyon! This was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done, but let me tell you it was amazing! Felt like I was flying!
–White Water Rafting: We went down the Shotriver, which is full of grade 4 and 5 rapids. It was a fun and a beautiful ride! I would have to say that the scariest part was the bus ride out to the river! The roads in New Zealand are unbelievable… drivers have no fear and the roads are in some crazy areas! This road specifically was an old Gold Trigging road: dirt, pot holes, winding through the mountains, steep drop offs, spots of erosion- FREAKED ME OUT! (These roads are considered historical, so no repairs are allowed to be made.)
–Hiking: We did the Queenstown Hill hike which was also pretty steep, but definitely do-able. It has beautiful views overlooking the entire city of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
–Bike Wine Tour: Queenstown and all the surrounding towns have this awesome trail system (mostly mountain bike friendly) extending for miles! It’s hilly, winds through the mountains, and alongside vineyards and wineries.
–Paddle Boarding: Lake Wakatipu was is one of my favorite paddles EVER! Seriously, the scenery of the crystal blue water and mountains was just amazing. Also it was pretty easy to find secluded beaches to relax on. DISCLAIMER: It is illegal to paddle board in New Zealand (or any watersport) without Life Jackets! We did not know this at first!
We were advised to go to Milford Sound by everyone we talked too! While here we did some paddle boarding through the coves, but didn’t end up making it too far out due to the strong Sea Breeze that came in! It was a beautiful place, and the ride out there was beautiful too! I would definitely suggest getting out there and either doing the kayak tour (these are early in the day due to the sea breeze that always comes in) or the bout tour-if that’s your kind of thing!
We completed the Roy’s Peak hike which was LONG and tiring. It was all steep uphill hiking. (Talk about a calf and butt workout!) The hike took us about 4.5 hours to complete but is slotted to take about 5-6 hours. The views were incredible the entire hike up, overlooking Lake Wanaka and the surrounding Mt. Aspiring National Park mountain range. If you’re ever in the Wanaka area hit up the Burrito Food Truck! It was possibly the best burrito I’ve ever had in my life!
A guided Helicopter/Glacier Hike is pretty popular to do while in New Zealand, so we figured why not! There are a couple different glaciers to choose from, but we did Fox Glacier. It was really cool to be able to walk around on-top of a glacier, while also learning the history them. This was also my first time ever in a helicopter!
First we did the most iconic hike in the Arthurs Pass National Park- Punchbowl Trail. A beginners hike, but has a really cool waterfall at the end of it! After, we hiked the Mt. Aoiki trail (stems off the Punchbowl Trail) which was intense! Very steep, mostly like rock climbing at times, but a super fun hike up. It had a beautiful view at the top of the whole Arthur’s Pass valley.
Before leaving for New Zealand, Kwin and I were extremely nervous about freedom camping and the laws/regulations on it. For anyone who is planning on traveling to New Zealand (the South Island) the best advise I can give to you about freedom camping is that IT IS ALMOST EVERYWHERE! Most of the cities/towns do not allow it when you are within city limits, but they have signs everywhere telling you where freedom camping is and is not allowed. Some of Kwin and I’s best camp sites were ones that we found freedom camping!
Day 1: Christchurch- Bike to New Brighton Beach
Day 2: Glenntanner Holiday Park- Lake Tekepo and Lake Pukaki
Day 3: Queenstown Holiday Park- Mt.Cook and Walking around Queenstown
Day 4: Freedom Camping along Lake Te Anu: Milford Sound
Day 5: Queenstown Holiday Park- Nevis Bungee Jump, Paddle Lake Wakatipu
Day 6: Arrowtown Holiday Park-White Water Rafting, Queenstown Hill Hike
Day 7: Freedom Camping in Mountains- Bike Wine Tour (Arrowtown, Queenstown)
Day 8: Freedom Camping along Ocean-Roys Peak Hike, Swimming in Lake Wanaka
Day 9: Greymouth- Fox Glacier Helicopter Hike
Day 10: Freedom Camping, Craigburn Skiing Area-Arthurs Pass Hikes
Day 11:Christchurch-Botanical Gardens & Historical Museum