From Sydney (read about it here and here) the plan was to travel around New Zealand’s South Island for a few days before ending in Auckland. The first stop was Queenstown, and as our flight landed our breaths were taken away. The airport was surrounded by snow-capped mountains that seemed to go on for miles. Actually – scratch that – they DID go on for miles. We stepped off the plane and into the brisk winter air and couldn’t see anything else around it seems. The mountains are called The Remarkables, and there isn’t a more fitting word.
Breath = Taken.
Queenstown is a VERY cute little resort town popular for skiing, snowboarding and other winter activities. I didn’t know that getting there but it was confirmed when the Immigration officer asked me if I was going to get any skiing or snowboarding done. Then shortly after, the Customs officer asked if we had hiking boots and totally judged us when we told her we only have running shoes. (“Oh…. So you’re not hikers……” cue once-over).
We arrived later in the afternoon, checked in and dropped our stuff off at the hostel and immediately headed for the Skyline Queenstown Gondola. GEEZ LOUISE WAS THAT EVER HIGH! It is not for the faint at heart, that’s for sure. On their site, it says it’s “the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere!” Oh. Really? Because I certainly didn’t notice. Although, you could just distract yourself with the scenery; the higher it went the more beautiful it got, especially with the sun setting.
Oh – and hey bungy jumpers! We took some more pictures and then headed inside the restaurant to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine before we headed back down to meet up with friends for dinner (review on food to follow separately). We arrived too late to be able to enjoy the luge and it was really overcast but all in all it was still memorable.
The next day, we were up and at ’em early to take the bus ride to Milford Sound. The bus driver was an absolute pleasure and gave us some history as he drove. We have to travel through Te Anau in order to get to Milford and it took approx 4 hours to reach our destination. Along the way, we stopped to take in the various sights, so the ride wasn’t all that bad after all.
A little while later, we arrived at the dock to take the boat out to Milford Sound. Hot beverages were provided for free, and had you paid for it there was also food on board. We were however all about the PB&J sandwiches. The weather was overcast/rainy and very windy and with that the boat ride was an interesting one. Between maintaining your balance when you ventured outside and taking pictures, I’m very happy to say no one ended up overboard.
One of the more popular fjords (an inlet surrounded by step hills and mountains) in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is a major tourist attraction, and if you’ve ever googled it you’d see why. But look no further because I have pics for you. Despite the weather and overcast skies, it was still breath-taking. Dozens of turns and waterfalls meant for snapping many pictures.
We ended up having to spend an extra night in Queenstown, which gave us a chance to do the tourist thing and walk around. Remember when I mentioned it was cute?
From there, we hopped on yet another bus to travel to Fox Glacier. By the time we’d arrived, it was late afternoon and the sun was threatening to set. Our one-day delay had set us back and we had no choice but to rush to see the glacier before sunset, seeing as we were leaving (on another bus) early the next morning. Off we ran to see Fox Glacier, and it was magnificent in the sunset. We went as close as we could that was within the all the safety warnings (from rock falling) along the way. The glacier has receded considerably over the years but there are still tours that can be taken.
The next morning, we took a bus to Greymouth so we could transfer onto the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch. The TranzAlpine is a four and a 4-hour, 9-stop route that travels from Greymouth and Christchurch with large windows allowing passengers get to take advantage of the scenery along the ride. The train is very comfortable (leg room to make us tall folks happy) and comes with airplane-like systems in each arm rest, allowing passengers to take in the pre-recorded and informative commentary along the way. I certainly learned a lot about the South Island’s history this way. It even had an open area at the back of the car to step out onto and take scenic photos.
As you can tell, I couldn’t get enough of the mountains, but do you blame me?All I keep thinking “this must be beyond compare in the summertime”. We arrived in Christchurch late into the evening, quite excited to find a Canadian working at the hostel front desk!
The following morning we were up and at ’em early so we’d have time to walk around Christchurch. We had been told that there would be evidence of the earthquake that hit in February 2011 (6.3 magnitude – killing 185 people), but we were not prepared for what we saw considering it was over 2 years ago. It was a nice touch to see the colour added by artists Sara Hughes and Chris Heaphy trying to beautyify the city. It was also early in the morning, so we only saw a few pedestrians.
After our one-hour mini tour, we collected our stuff and headed to the airport. Next stop – Auckland!