Queenstown: A little underwhelming

There’s no doubt about it, Queenstown is beautiful. Surrounded by stunning mountains and a beautiful lake, it couldn’t be in a prettier location.

However, Scott and I couldn’t really get in to the town. There were a ton of amazing things to do, skydiving, bungy jumping, and jet boating for the adventurous, and skiing, shopping, a kiwi bird sanctuary, and the cable car for the more scardycat of us.It feels ridiculous to complain about something being too expensive when I’m currently living my dream of travelling but, all of these things, including the cable car, cost way more than we were willing to pay, even with a 50% off coupon.

We did however, enjoy a delicious Fergburger, before we quickly moved on to Wanaka.

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Mirror Lakes


New Zealand is a wonderful country for road trips, everywhere we went there were lots of little side trips and walks available. This particular walk was really just a small boardwalk off the highway, but it provided gorgeous views…

and a little Kiwi humour.

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Milford Sound

After driving for three days and enjoying the charms of rural New Zealand, we headed West for our first big attraction, Milford Sound. Using a 2 for 1 coupon that came with our car rental, we were able to afford a boat tour, which would have been worth it even at twice the price.

To get to Milford Sound you have to travel down a road from Te Anau which is often closed in winter due to avalanches and poor road conditions. We left 4 hours early for a two hour drive, just in case. As it turned out the road was fine and we didn’t even have to use tire chains. Not only was the road fine, but it was absolutely beautiful, as much of an attraction as Milford itself. There are plenty of small hikes and campsites available along the road. The only scary bit was the 1.3km Homer Tunnel which goes through a mountain at a steep angle and whose walls are covered in ice. Barely wide enough for two cars, there are special passing bays for the tourist buses. It was terrifying.

The sound, which is technically a fjord, is over 15 km long and surrounded by steep cliffs. The boat tour makes stops to see waterfalls and other areas of interest, including in our case, a small detour to see a penguin. It was an amazing experience and I can’t recommend it highly enough.How to: we booked our boat tour with Real Journeys in Te Anau, and it normally costs ~$80 per person depending on the season. You can also get a combination tour which includes a bus from Te Anau or Christchurch.

 

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Geological Oddities: The Moreaki Boulders

My favourite part of road trips are the unexpected stops along the way, whether for natural attractions, a cup of coffee or a ridiculous monument. Between Christchurch and Dundin we had one of these stops at the Moreaki Boulders. These exceptional rocks were formed underneath softer rock which was eroded away over thousands of years. Now they are left alone on the beach, looking like something out of a science fiction movie.

A short walk down the beach from the car park are thirty or so of these fascinating boulders lying on the beach. We stopped and played on them for a while before remembering we had, on our first full day, already committed the cardinal road trip mistake of leaving our electronics in the car and hurried back.

They were an excellent diversion.

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An entirely pleasant and cheap day in Dunedin.

Our first stop on the South Island tour was Dunedin, proclaimed in our guidebook as “the Edinburgh of New Zealand”. I don’t know about that, but it was a lovely town. It was our first day testing out our trip motto “see as much as possible while spending as little as possible”, and I think it was a success. We spent most of the day enjoying free activities in Dunedin and it’s surrounding area. We skipped the Cadbury Chocolate factory and it’s ridiculous $18/adult admission, the Brewery $23/pp and the castle $27/pp, and confined ourselves to walking around.

We spent the day in Dunedin enjoying the quaint atmosphere, eating lunch at a lovely cafe, and then taking a drive out the peninsula to see Albatrosses and a beautiful view. After our delicious shared lunch we walked to the railway station, a beautiful building on the edge of the downtown, where site-seeing trains still leave daily.

Our favourite part of Dunedin was Baldwin street, the steepest residential street in the world as recognized by Guinness world records. Apparently the street’s steepness is due to the fact that Dunedin, along with many other colonial towns, was planned in a grid pattern by designers in England who had never seen the terrain of the area. Rising from the main street at a moderately steep slope, Baldwin street quickly picks up the pace until it reaches a slope of 1:2.6.  After we had climbed up and carefully made our way back down, declining to purchase the “I climbed Baldwin street” certificate for $2, we celebrated and pitied the people who live on the top.

The most amazing part for me was that while Baldwin street may, by some small margin be the steepest, all the streets in the area are ridiculously steep, which make me glad I am not a driver in Dunedin.

After our wonderful and almost entirely free day, we headed into our trusty campervan, Blackhole, and started driving to the Caitlins, a conservation park. It was our first attempt to find a Department of Conservation campsite, which turned out to be quite the adventure.

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South Island Road Trip

After much consideration, Scott and I decided that the only proper way to see New Zealand was to rent a campervan and tour ourselves around. We rented a spaceship for most of the month of August, capitalizing on the cheap winter and pre-world cup prices. We assumed that since we were Canadian we could handle whatever weather New Zealand winter threw at us. We were completely unprepared for a storm so intense that we were forced to spend nearly 48 hours in the Auckland airport waiting for our flight to Christchurch. When we finally arrived in Christchurch we found about 5 cm of snow on the ground and had a good laugh at the extreme weather we had been hearing about.

After 2 days relaxing and warming up with some family friends,we picked up our slightly dodgy looking vehicle, whose back left hubcap only made it about 1km into our journey, and started our trip!

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It took us 13 days to complete our south island itinerary, and even us hardy Canadians were quite chilly at night.  We saw glaciers, fjords, beautiful lakes, quaint towns, rock formations and other things which made my geography nerd self quite happy.

What a wonderful country!

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