After a lot of debate and almost 2 years of moving into Australia, we finally decided on embarking on this beautiful trip to New Zealand. We had although short listed couple of other places, including Tasmania, Japan , Fiji and Bali. However, New Zealand won us over 🙂 So here, i will be providing with detail of the entire trip including the accommodation , travel methods, and must see places.
The main deciding factor for us for choosing the South island was definitely the beautiful scenery and the majestic mountain ranges. Plus, there were cheaper flight options flying into Christchurch and out from Sydney. A round trip cost us about 350 AUD per head. During the peak season, they rise upto 1000 AUD easily. Since it was a quieter period before the Ski season, we got lucky. We booked our Jetstar flights through “Skyscanner” website, which basically gives you with the combination of cheapest versus best flights.
First Stop : Christchurch
Initially we had planned a 2 day stay in Christchurch city. However due to the cancellation of the flight (Fog in Christchurch), our flight was rescheduled for the next morning, which basically left us with half a day of the city. we booked ourself an accommodation close to the airport in “JUCY Snooze“. the hotel is clean and convenient. Since this was the second time we were actually driving around on ur own and given the winter season, we were a little hesitant to actually use the camper-van, which is the bestest and the cheapest way to see this beautiful country. You can choose a private double room or sharing pods with common toilet and showers. Me and my husband booked ourself a private double room, which came upto 80 AUD per night. They also have an option to include a breakfast for 10 AUD , however, I would recommend to head down to the town centre, just a stone throw away from the hotel where you have a lots of options to choose from.
Since we just had half a day in Christchurch, most of our plans was a little upset. So, we just decided on having a relaxed day by visiting the Skyline Gondola (Ropeway) from where you can get a beautiful view of the city. The ropeway cost us about 30 AUD. There are other combos from which you can choose from. Like a combo of Gondola and the Punting costs about 55 AUD. We also visited the Botanical Garden later in the day. With the Autumn coloured leaves, it was a perfect ending to the day. I would recommend to allocate around 2 hours for the botanical garden.
We did a little tour to Rakaia Gorge Walkway. Drive from Christchurch takes about 1 hr and 10 minutes. This was our first encounter with the gorgeous aqua blue water. Although, it was on a bit of a drier spell than usual, which is no means was an hinderance to the beauty. There is also a trek that can be done from a lookout point of the bridge to the view of Mount Hutt. We however, did a walk just till the lookout, which took us almost an hour to complete.
We stayed at the “Peppers Blue Water” accommodation which has the view of the Lake. Its on a bit costlier side when compared , around 126 AUD for a double bed lake view room, although it is one of the places I would highly recommend. There are also a lot of camping options around the lake.
Things to do in Lake Tekapo
- Visit the Mt John Observatory – Tekapo is considered to be one of the clearest sky reserves. And if the weather is your favour, you will have a really nice view of the stars. We did a small trek from Lake Tekapo to the Mt John Observatory. The trek leads you on few steep steps, only to reveal the most beautiful lookout of the Mt Cook , Lake Alexandria and the Lake Tekapo. You can also, drive upto the Observatory as well.
- The Church of Good Shepherd – It is situated at the shores of the Lake Tekapo, and around 10 minute walk from the City centre. Accessible by either walk or car. There is an entry period from 9 AM to 5 PM, after which it is closed for entry. However, you can still walk around the church. It is one of the most photographed places, with the Lake and the Mountains finishing the picture.
- Tekapo Springs – One of the best ways of relaxing wile in Tekapo is by soaking in the hot pools. It is located at a very ideal location at the base of the Mt John , with the view of the Lake Tekapo and the Mountain ranges. Surprisingly it is not one of the costliest places. An Adult ticket for the pool costs about 27 NZD. You can also get some discount which reduces the amount to 18 NZD. They also provided Day spa, sauna, star gazing tour, Ice skating all at an additional price. You can visit their website for further details.
Lake Tekapo to Wanaka
Next destination for us was Wanaka. On the way its really hard to miss one of the bluest lakes I have ever seen – Lake Pukaki. It almost shines in the cloud , closer to the lake. Make sure to grab pictures of this lake, as it looks almost unreal with the colour. Photos cant even come close to do justice to this milky blue color of the lake. I would highly recommend anyone visiting NZ to come see this lake.
It took almost around 5 hrs to reach with all the pitstops in between.By the time we arrived Wanaka, it had been raining cats and dogs So we had to do some minor changes in our plans. Initially we planned on doing the trek from where you get a good view. But we later changed to walking around the town and capturing on of the most iconic Wanaka tree photos. It almost look surreal.
Wanaka to Te Anau
This was the longest drives we had in NZ so far. Instead stopping over at Queenstown, we headed down south to Te Anau, as its in a reasonable distance from the Milford Sounds. The drive in it self is one of the most beautiful of all. We took a rest at one of the mid towns called Kingston. Beautiful scenic view. With every places we visited, we were awestruck. Te Anau is the entry to the Fjordland national Park. There are a lot of treks which ranging from 1 hr to several hours. We did a short walk in the Kepler track, from the Visitor centre to the Dock Bay, which took about 1 hour return. Given a dry day, walking the Kepler track would be really nice. Details on other walks can be found here.
Milford Sounds – One of the must dos when in South Island is the Milford Sound Cruise. With the rain pouring in, we were sure of having the most amazing views of the Waterfalls. We booked ourself the cruise from “Orange“. There are 2 timings for the tour, one at 10 AM and the other at 12.30 PM (Summer timings may vary). It costed about 55 NZD for a 2 hour cruise. You can either book just the cruise, in which case you need to drive yourself from Te Anau to Milford Sound, or choose the one with the coach service. We opted to drive ourself, which would give us the freedom to stop wherever we wanted. The drive is about 2 hrs, however give plenty of time as you might want to stop at few places, plus with the weather condition, there are few delays that run(mainly with the Homer tunnel). We took 2 stops on our way, one at the Mirror Lake and the other at The Chasm, both are which a 10-15 minute walk. Once in the Milford sound, park your car in one of the free parking bays, and walk towards the cruise terminal, which is also about 10 minutes. Make sure, to carry a poncho inspite of having no rain, as it will be needed for the cruise.
The cruise is about 2 hours, in which they take you through the Fjords and show some of the stunning waterfalls. They touch the Tasman sea and make the way back to the terminal. On few of the waterfalls, they take you so close to the falls, its very difficult not to get wet. Poncho is a saviour for such situation. The cruise definitely gets a double thumbs up.
This is about a 2 hour drive. On the way back, you get some incredible pictures of the route (Devils Staircase) and the lake Wakatipu. Queenstown is a hub for the backpackers and the younger crowd, with a lot of sports and activities. A must do would be the Bungy Jump at the famous Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge. Being the start season of the snow, the sports very a bit less operational than the summer times. So, for all those adrenaline junkies, I would suggest to visit this city during the summer months. We also visited the Skyline Queenstwon Gondola, which was about 30 NZD, which gives you a stunning views of the city.
We stayed at the Copthrone Hotel, with the views of the lake. It is about a km from the city centre. The rooms are pretty decent, and they also have a included continental meal.
I am actually going to write in a different post with all the places to eat and drink in NZ, however I need to give a special shout to one of the famous burger “Fergburger“. Initially, i was wondering if the hype is actual. But once in Queenstown, I had to try it myself. It usually has a huge queue to order, however when lucky, you will have a clear entry. We ordered a Lamb and a Beef Burger, and I can safely say, i does justice to every bit of the hype. They also have chicken and Veggie options in there. The service is quite fast, and you will come back for more.
Coming to almost to the end of the trip, we decided to immerse ourself in a day filled with relaxation. So, finally Omarama hot tub was the one. It is about 2 hours drive from Queenstown. You can spend upto 2 hours in a private hot steam tub, with the views of the mountain ranges, in a pure mountain water which is heated by a firebox. You will also have your private cabin to dry and change. It costs about 99 NZD for 2 person tub.
Lake Tekapo to Omarau to Christchurch
In Lake Tekapo, we were woken up to the winter wonderland. In a night the town had covered itself in snow with almost no resemblance the the evening before. Sadly for us, it was a bit unexpected , and we dint have the snow chains. But being a 4 wheel drive, it was a much easier task getting out of the city.
New Zealand South Island is added to the list of my favourite countries after Iceland and Switzerland, and with no doubt its going to be one of my go to countries every year.
And finally, a big big shout to “Off The Path” website, which provided me with information to plan my trip to this beautiful country.