Having caught the ferry across to Picton, our first overnight stop on the South Island was Abel Tasman. It’s a beautiful little town situated in the heart of a national park right by the ocean. Since we had a free day here we decided to do a half day walking and kayak tour. In the morning we set off from our hostel along the coastal path that runs through the national park. Along the way there are a number of bays that you can stop off at and the views were amazing. In order to meet our guide for the kayaking we had to walk for about 3 hours until we reached one of the larger bays. Once we arrived we had a picnic lunch on the beach, which included the yummiest chocolate cake. We then set off in our kayaks and began the 3 hour paddle back to our starting point. The views from the water were even more beautiful than from the coastal path and we even got to see seals and their cubs on one of the islands.
Next stop after Abel Tasman was Franz Josef, the home of one of New Zealand’s most famous glaciers. Unfortunately, while we were there the weather was awful, meaning we were unable to actually go and see the glacier, since you have to get up there via helicopter. Instead we used our free time as an opportunity to relax and visit the hot pools, which were really cool. That night our hostel ran an event called Pizza Fest, in which you paid $20 for 2 hours of all you can eat pizza – I was in heaven!
From rainy Franz Josef we then arrived in sunny Wanaka, which was my favourite place in New Zealand just because of how unbelievably beautiful it is! Before arriving in Wanaka we stopped off in Fox Glacier, home to Lake Matheson. We were given time to get off the bus and do the two hour walk around the whole lake, which is absolutely breathtaking. There is one viewpoint in particular where Mt Cook can be seen rising up over the lake. The water is so calm that it reflects a perfect mirror image. None of us could believe how beautiful it was!
Once we had arrived in Wanaka we decided to spend the day by the lake and have a picnic whilst enjoying the sun. We had also been told about the Wanaka tree, which is supposedly the most photographed tree in the whole of New Zealand! We decided we needed to see this for ourselves so went for a walk to go and find it that afternoon. Safe to say it did not disappoint and truly was outstandingly beautiful.
The next day we ambitiously decided to climb Roy’s Peak, which takes about 3 and a half to four hours to reach the top. Having done the tongariro crossing, which is a lot longer, I thought this would be easy in comparison… But I was so wrong. There were very few flat sections, so we found ourselves climbing up the side of a mountain for the best part of 4 hours in 25 degree heat. Although it was a struggle and not something I would willingly put myself through again the views all the way up and especially from the peak were absolutely stunning!
After Wanaka we headed to Queenstown, which is in very strong contention with Wanaka for being my favourite place in NZ. We were especially excited because we would be meeting up with a couple of friends who had been on our Stray bus previously! The day we arrived happened to be St Patrick’s Day and the whole town was absolutely buzzing as a result. We quickly got into the spirit ourselves and had a brilliant night celebrating! The next day we were feeling a little worse for wear, which gave us the perfect excuse to try the infamous Ferg burger, which has made a huge name for itself and which we’d been hearing about since before we even arrived in NZ! Safe to say it did not disappoint and was without a doubt the BEST (and probably the biggest) burger I have ever had in my life!
Being the adventure capital of the world, it would have been wrong not to try one of the extreme activities that Queenstown has to offer. Unable to muster up the courage to do the world’s longest bungee jump, we decided instead to do the canyon swing. This involved throwing ourselves off a 109m high platform, free falling, and ending in a swing. There are supposedly over 70 different ways that you can jump off so Hannah and I decided to do it in tandem.. backwards…! The feeling of free falling was 100 times worse than with a skydive because you literally just feel like you are falling with nothing attached to you. Hannah and I were so scared we couldn’t even scream. Once we reached the bottom and started swinging we were both caught in a fit of giggles, unable to quite believe what we had just done. It was so so scary but absolutely awesome at the same time!
Before leaving Queenstown we decided to go up the gondola to see the panoramic views of the whole town. Just like Wanaka it was absolutely beautiful and hard to believe that people actually live and work so close to such beautiful scenery.
Sadly our time in New Zealand was coming to an end, but not before our last stop – Mt Cook. We only had one afternoon here before we were due to leave for Christchurch the next morning so we decided to spend it doing the Hunter Valley walk. The walk itself was pretty easy, being all fairly flat and only taking about an hour and a half one way. The view of the mountain once we reached the end was absolutely amazing and just goes to further show what an absolutely stunning place New Zealand is.
Leaving New Zealand was extremely sad – not only because we had the most wonderful time there but also because it meant that we only had 12 more days left of travelling and one more country left to visit! Next stop Vietnam!!