A NINE DAY ROAD TRIP IN THE SOUTH ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND
The temperature was a consistent -1 degrees, the weather put on an absolute show for us and its safe to say, we had the most adventurous trip of our entire lives!
Liam and I shared the same South Island road trip dream (we both love the outdoors, exploring new places and doing fun activities!) so we decided to book return flights to Christchurch to turn it into reality, a nine day long reality to be exact!
DAY ONE: CHRISTCHURCH TO FRANZ JOSEF
Day one began with a delicious breakfast in Christchurch at The Caffeine Laboratory which I would highly recommend if you’re in CHCH, and continued with a very full on, yet insanely beautiful five hour drive via Arthurs Pass (gorgeous scenes!) towards the West Coast to Franz Josef for our first night!
For both convenience and just for the sake of living life a little bit differently for nine days, we hired a van! It was perfect because we got to stop and start our roadie as we pleased, it got us from a to b to c to d, and it was our accomodation for 5/9 nights.
It was totally kitted out with a double bed, a heater, stove, kettle, toaster and pretty much everything you’d need aside from a toilet, thank goodness for cheap winter rates at campsites!
We hired a Cheapa Hitop for $566.46 including a $98 deposit for nine nights from Apollo Motorhomes in Christchurch (which we thought was an awesome deal!). You can book the same one over on www.motorhomerepublic.com.
The road from Christchurch out to the west coast is indescribably stunning. After a couple of hours driving, we stopped by Castle Hill which is topped with a very strange arrangement of lime stone and totally worth a pit stop to have a wander around, and a climb if you’re feeling extra adventurous!
Once arriving to Franz Josef town centre, we treated ourselves to an evening at Glacier Hot Pools to relax and unwind after such a huge driving day and before our first night sleeping in our beloved van, now named Josefine! She’s a beauty.
DAY TWO: FRANZ JOSEF TO WANAKA
Our second day was an exciting one. We woke up early, but not too early (the sun rose at 8 am!) and headed out to watch the sunrise over the super special mirror lake that is Lake Matheson. The fresh air was exactly what we both needed after such a full on first half of 2017, and it was at this point that we were officially in our idea of heaven, two incredibly happy campers to say the least!
On route to Wanaka, we drove the Haast Pass via a South Island spot that we were incredibly eager to visit, The Blue Pools. Just 25 minutes from the road, we met the majestic glacier pools complete with a tremendously picturesque swing bridge and soaked up yet another incredible example of how wonderful mother nature is!
DAY THREE: WANAKA TO QUEENSTOWN
We arrived in a very grey, dull and storm-brewing Wanaka a couple of hours after visiting the Blue Pools and decided to grab an early dinner and set up camp! To our disappointment, the only place that we wanted to head to for dinner was booked out, so we had to settle for the Speights Ale House (boring, but the vibe inside was very ‘Wanaka’ and the food was great so we were happy!). Our first option was Francesca’s Italian Kitchen which we had heard was the best place to go, especially for some delicious italian food! Next time!
We were aware that there was a chance of getting stuck in Wanaka and not being able to get onto the road to our next destination, Queenstown, so we packed up a day early and left around lunchtime to visit the magical tourist hub with of course, a quick pit stop in Arrowtown and a few other cute spots along the way!
We arrived in Arrowtown, and at this very moment of the trip, and I mean literally parking and hopping out of the car, we were absolutely spoilt by the weather gods with falling snow! It was absolute magic – not to mention how adorable Arrowtown is! We only stopped by for about an hour, but I totally could have spend an entire afternoon wandering each shop and drinking in every bar.
HOW handsome is he!!!!
We nestled into a place recommended by family members called The Blue Door. Honestly you guys, I was speechless when I walked into this absolute hidden gem. The entrance is literally a tiny, run down blue door that’s down a little alleyway and you’d have no idea that it was there unless you were told about it! The mulled wine was amazing, and the cosy interior literally makes you feel like you’re in a little snowed in cottage in Westeros. It’s THAT old school!
We both agreed that the scenes heading into Queenstown on this evening were especially spectacular, and at this point our two cheesy grins could not be more excited for a solid five days in the beautiful winter wonderland!
After settling into our powered campsite at Queenstown Holiday Park, we walked into town (yes, it’s that close!) to meet with our friends who were another couple doing a similar trip in the same van and some other friends who are currently living down in QT.
It continued to snow, so the group of us ended up at 1876 where we sat outside under cover and heaters to enjoy it while we had some amazingly decent priced beer and food, so if any of you are down there on a budget DEFINITELY head there for dinner! You could choose three small plates for $30 (which was more than enough food shared between Liam and I, and we were starving) and a jug of beer for $14. Crazy right? We opted for squid, nachos and crumbed chicken – it was deeeelish!
DAY FOUR: QUEENSTOWN
After a freezing night in our van, honestly thank GOD for our little heater and water bottles we picked up in Wanaka, we woke up to a situation that I could have only dreamt to be in (but didn’t expect to) before we embarked on this adventure.
IT WAS STILL SNOWING!
I truly cannot even string together a sentence that describes what it was like to wake up in a cosy van with my amazing boyfriend to a snowed in Queenstown campsite, complete with falling snow. We wrapped up and jumped out to run around with so much excitement that we forgot it was -1 degrees!
We set out for our first morning in Queenstown with a wander around the stores, a visit to The Remarkable Sweet Shop (obvs) and of course, a mission to get Ferg Burger for lunch! We even managed to get a table and seats. Yes, we are very clever.
P.s, we were in disbelief but it was actually still snowing at this point! CRAZY weather conditions for Queenstown! We were 110% counting our blessings, big time.
We literally had a panoramic view of snowwy pine trees and a white, hazy city. and as the snow continued to fall, we thought it would be spectacular to get a little higher up. We caught the gondola up to Skyline Queenstown and went luging, and yes, it was still snowing as we were luging! It was very very special.
*insert heart eye emoji*
DAY FIVE: QUEENSTOWN
Today was a VERY exciting one. We started off our morning with an early excursion out to jump onto the Shotover Jet which was in-sane. The trees and rocks surrounding the river were covered in snow and the speed that those jets can reach is just unreal! The scenes were stunning, however given the current temperatures, the wind got a little bit nasty and I ended up leaving with some pretty painful windburn all over my face. Luckily the rest of our day was pretty exciting so I didn’t let the stingy pain get me down!
We were moving from our little van heaven into our hotel room at The Heritage for three nights, and we had a couples massage/spa afternoon booked over at The Spa at Nugget Point (seperate blog post coming soon!). Without giving too much away, we had a ridiculously luxurious and relaxing afternoon – one of those too good to be true moments!
For dinner we decided to have a naughty food night at Winnies and had some delish bruschetta as a starter, I had some pizza and Liam had the ribs (his fave!).
DAY SIX: QUEENSTOWN
We had a tonne of lucky moments on our trip, but the best two would definitely have to be the fact that our two chosen mountain days both happened to be a no wind, beautiful bluebird situation.. we were stoked!
Liam snowboards and I am still learning after he taught me last year when we first got together (aw) and we really enjoyed our day up at Coronet Peak! After a couple of Snowplanet sessions before we left I really felt like I had nailed the basics which I was very pleased about.
We loved the tracks and I definitely felt like it was a great mountain for beginners, so if you’re learning and you’re down south, definitely start here! The only downfall was that the lines to get onto the lifts took foooooooorever.. but who could be mad with that bright blue sky up above you!?
DAY SEVEN: QUEENSTOWN
We headed to Cardrona for our second mountain day and I really have to be honest, as I always am with you guys on here, I had an absolute shitter of a day.
Cardrona is super tough if your learning to board, with a lot of long, flat ridges taking you between courses and a fuck tonne of rocks sticking out of the main tracks and honestly you guys, there were a lot of tears!
I had such an awesome day at Coronet the previous day and had gotten really confident, but I started off my day at Cardrona with a bad bail on an icy beginners track and whacked my head back (no helmet.. just wear one guys. It’s better than injuring your head!). I had a pounding headache for the entire day and my fatigue from the previous day really affected me.
A couple of other things went wrong (how bloody hard is it to get off the lifts?) and I decided to let Liam enjoy his favourite mountain on his own for the afternoon and have a sleep in our beloved van.
DAY EIGHT: QUEENSTOWN TO TEKAPO
We couldn’t have been sadder to leave Queenstown, BUT we were very very excited about travelling to a new place that neither of us had been to before!
Before we left, we stopped by Vudu for breakfast which was delicious all though the service was a little bit disappointing, however they did have the most impressive selection of cabinet food that I’ve ever seen in my life!
The road to Tekapo may have been one of the most exciting roadies on the trip, with a little detour into Mt Cook National Park aka BLOODY ANTARCTICA!
As you can see by the pics, the entire roadie was a complete white out. I’ve travelled to Iceland and the scenes weren’t even this impressive.
I’ve said this a couple of times throughout this post but honestly you guys, we were mesmerised.
We genuinely felt like we were driving through Antarctica and were eagerly waiting for a penguin to run out onto the road in front of us! (haha). The mountain views were insane and we really wanted to go for a short walk to the Tasman Glacier Lake to check out the glaciers but the roads were blocked off due to the weather. We weren’t complaining though!
After a couple of hours driving (honestly Liam was SUCH a trooper with all of the driving! I was so proud!) we finally made it to Tekapo just before the sun went down. The entire town was iced over, we even struggled to drive our van into our powered campsite because it was literally just ice – you almost needed ice skates to walk around it once it was parked up! Lol
We had dinner at The Tin Plate Kitchen and Bar and had some amazing pizza! Definitely a good one to go to if you’re in the area.
Neither of us had ever practiced Astrophotography before, and knowing that Tekapo was thee place to get some stunning shots of the stars and the milky way, we were blessed with a clear night to give it a go. Again, very very very lucky!
It took a LOT of trial and error, with the two of us getting super frustrated. It took numerous photography blog posts and Youtube videos to get the camera settings right, but come 1 AM and after about an hour and a half of fuffing about, we finally managed to shoot these…
Pretty spectacular huh? If any of you would like me to write a blog post on how to shoot Astrophotography please just let me know!
DAY NINE: TEKAPO TO CHRISTCHURCH
The saddest day of them all, the last one! We had a lot to do today, but still managed to make some time to enjoy the famous Tekapo Springs for a dip which was lovely (def recommend, all though our fingers and toes nearly froze off running from the changing room to the pools!)
We really had to rattle our dags (lol) and get our asses to Christchurch by 4 pm to drop our van off and get to the airport which became pretty damn stressful considering we hadn’t even started our van clean up yet!
All though we were running late, we stopped by Burts Pass on the way to Christchurch and holy moly I cannot believe I had never heard of it before! What a hidden gem!
The tiny little town takes you back to the 50’s with a thrift shop inside where you can buy lots of little retro goodies – SO cool.
Can you tell luck was a strong theme throughout this trip? Our home stretch drive was greeted with a bright full rainbow which neither of us had ever experienced before – we were amazed! It was a really special way to end our trip as we grew sadder and sadder the closer we got to Christchurch.
It really was such a special 9 days on the road together and we wouldn’t have done it any differently! It was really eye opening to see so much of the South Island and really gave us an extra appreciation for the beautiful, clean and safe country that we are so lucky to live in.
Everyone’s gotta do a trip like this at least once! We even thought doing the same route in the summer would be pretty damn amazing too.