Made it to our last country after visiting Far North Queensland in Australia. We had a heck of a travel day to Christchurch, but once on the ground we explored the city, met my parents and started our two week road trip. Our road trip was south to Dunedin, west to Te Anua, north to Queenstown, northeast to Fox and Franz glaciers and finally across Author’s Pass back to Christchurch on a wet and windy day. Read on to hear about the adventures and highlights of our last country on this amazing adventure!
Explored Christchurch and Met the French’s
Before even leaving the vicinity of the airport, we went exploring and checked out a very cool exhibit on humans in Antarctica. We road in a Bandvagn 206 with a quirky old driver, went in a simulated snow storm at -38c and saw some cool little blue penguins.
Once in the city, we checked out the beautiful Christchurch botanical gardens…
…and the Canterbury Museum…
…and the Re:Start Mall constructed of shipping containers as a way to quickly bring back shops and restaurants after the earthquakes of 2011 to help the economy and add a unique spin on what we consider a ‘mall’.
A day and a half later it was time to meet my parents at the airport! New Zealand was always a place they’d thought about traveling, and us being there gave them incentive enough to book a 3 week trip around the South Island! We toured around Christchurch with them and two days later we took off on our road trip.
In Christchurch we took the gondola up out of the fog to enjoy the views from the top of the Port Hills.
On day four we piled into our rental car and headed south towards Dunedin. On route we checked out an amazing view of Mt Cook from Lake Tekapo, a neat observatory that is world famous for it’s brilliant night sky watching, and ended for one night in Timaru and the next in Omaru.
Traveled to Dunedin
Dunedin was the last stop we traveled together as a group. While only a couple days into the road trip with the ‘rents, we found out that it wasn’t going to work if we travelled together. It was a combination of factors, but in the end we decided to go our separate ways. However, both us and my parents continued to tour and check out the amazing beauty of New Zealand.
While in Dunedin we explored the city; including the historic train station, some impressive architecture, the botanical garden, and the worlds steepest residential street.
We had heard a lot about Te Anau and the area did not disappoint, especially when we had beautiful weather out kayaking in the Milford Sound. Te Anau is situated on the eastern shores of Lake Te Anau in Fiordland. One morning we walked a great trail bordering the lake as part of the Kepler Track.
Here is a place that was just bursting with tourists, and for good reason! It was a busy little town that is built around adventure sports. It’s the place where bungee jumping was invented, and while we didn’t give that a shot, we did enjoy a wild jet boat ride and tempted fate on some difficult single track mountain biking.
We drove north of Queenstown and stayed just one night in Wanaka, but we felt as if we could move there almost instantly. The vibe was just right – beautiful lake shore, lively downtown where we ate dinner and sat and chatted with locals, plus there are outdoor adventures all around. It was similar to Queenstown, but smaller and less in your face–much more our style.
I took an early morning hike to the top of Mt Iron for sunrise and no surprise, it was colorful! The 360 view from atop was beautiful. Post breakfast we took out some paddle boards that we rented straight from the beach.
Along the drive to the glaciers of the West Coast, we stopped at the Blue Pools to break up the drive. The amazing blue waters felt refreshing as we dipped our toes in to cool off. There were people jumping off the suspension bridge, but we decided to simply observe this time. I’m sure the glacier water was fresh!
No visit to New Zealand is complete without visiting the glacier regions of Fox and Franz glacier. The drive to Fox Glacier was a lot longer than we anticipated and so when we got in all we had time for was a quick meal and walk to the lookout. We had the place to ourselves and witnessed the sunset on the surrounding mountains – amazing! The glacier itself (at least from this angle) was mostly dirty and not awe inspiring, but just thinking and imagining how large this glacier was in the past and how it shaped the landscape we were standing in, that was the impressive part.
On our second day in the region we went for a much more ambitious hike to Roberts Point for a glorious lookout onto Franz Glacier. It was a 6 hour return trek filled with suspension bridges, steep scrambles and only a few other hikers. We started early and were able to enjoy our lunches with the amazing glacier in our sights.
One other unique thing that we did in Franz Glacier was go glow worm hunting on our own. There are lots of glow worm areas in New Zealand, but this is one where you can simply walk about 10 minutes into the forest after dark and view the glow worms on your own. It was so cool! It turns out they’re not actually worms, but instead they are the larvae (maggots) of a special kind of fly known as a fungus gnat. They use their “light” to attract their food. When cluttered together it looks like the night sky standing in front of you.
Further north along the coast we made it to Hokitika. We were in Hokitika for just a couple days and it was here that our good weather fortunes finally ran out. Before the rain came in, however, we were able to view the unique Hokitika Gorge. The water is an otherworldly, milky, opaque blue due to suspended glacier-ground “rock flour.”
One last AirBnB – Lake Brunner
Prior to arriving in Lake Brunner, we drove north to check out some very unique stones called “Pancake Rocks.” The drive was stunning despite the rain and we’re glad we took the little detour.
We stayed in 30+ AirBnBs along our year long journey, and this was the last one. It was a beautiful property that included dinner and breakfast. After breakfast on the day we had to head back to Christchurch but were able to fit in one last kayak adventure with the complimentary kayaks. Despite getting caught in a rain storm the paddle was a blast before leaving.
Drive back to CHC via Arthurs Pass
This was it, our last drive to the last airport before we make it back to the west coast of the USA, where it all started over 12 months ago!
To get back to the east coast we had to drive through Arthurs Pass which contains some amazing walks, and so we were all geared up for a hike to a beautiful waterfall. Even though the waterfall would have been gushing out of control, the torrential (and sideways falling) rain kept us cooped up in the car until we got over the pass.
Well, dear readers, we made it! We boarded our 12 hour flight and headed back to the USA. We both feel accomplished and a bit strange now that our around the world journey is over. Don’t let our end of adventuring (for now) keep you from getting out and enjoying your own adventures.
Will and Jenny