I’ve officially been in New Zealand for over 3 weeks now and it’s already been everything I imagined and more. To say I’m in love is an understatement. This beautiful place is my paradise!
This journey of a lifetime began when I flew out of Des Moines at 5pm Iowa time on Thursday, June 21st and arrived in Christchurch on Saturday, June 23rd at around 11pm NZ time (17 hours ahead of Iowa). Factoring in time differences, it was about 37 hours total travel time, including a 10 hour layover in Sydney…meaning I spent more than 27 hours on airplanes! Despite an exhausting two days of flying and basically skipping over an entire day, I actually didn’t experience any jet lag. I think it certainly helped that my 15 hour flight was through the night and I was able to sleep for a large portion of it. Plus, it was nearly midnight by the time I got to my accomodation in Christchurch and I went staight to bed for a restful night’s sleep. Even though I dodged the jet lag, I’ve been so incredibly busy exploring and adjusting to my new environment that I’ve sleplt like a baby every night I’ve been here!
I spent the first 2 weeks traveling the South Island in a rental car, starting and finishing in Christchurch. After picking up my rental, I drove about an hour to Geraldine to stay for a night before making the 4 hour drive to Queenstown the next day. It’s “winter” here, as the seasons are opposite to America, and when I was checking out of my hostel in Geraldine, I was told the road to Queenstown was closed due to snowy weather. A lovely local family who was heading the same direction offered for me to follow them. Turns out the road was fine, but it was still a relief to follow someone who knew what they were doing just in case! By the way, “snowy weather” means it was snowing on the mountain tops, resulting in a light dusting of snow on the ground closer to sea level. The roads are very twisty-turny and rugged in New Zealand, so it does do well to use caution while driving here, especially if the roads are wet or frosty. Still, it made me chuckle that schools were closed and section of roads as well just because of a bit of snow…I’d take a NZ winter over Iowa winters any day!
My South Island Itinerary:
June 23 – Christchurch
June 24 – Geraldine
June 25-27 – Queenstown and Milford Sound
Queenstown was quite touristy, but gorgeous! I can’t wait to go back in the summertime. I took a “coach and cruise” tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound – worth every penny! Fiordland National Park was absolutely stunning and I would love to see more of it.
June 27 – Wanaka
I stayed in Wanaka for just one night to breakup the drive to Franz Josef, but it ended up being one of my favorite stops. I watched the sunset behind the ranges and the Wanaka Tree while enjoying some delicious gelato – breathtaking!
June 28 – Franz Josef
I had a tour scheduled for Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers during this stopover, but unfortunately it was cancelled because there weren’t enough people signed up to make the outing. It’s definitely on the list to see again when I make another trip to the South Island!
June 29 – Greymouth
June 30 – Westport and Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
July 1-4 – Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park was by far my favorite part of the South Island. The scenery was jaw-dropping! I took a water taxi across the park where I was dropped off at a walking trail. The walk took around 2 hours; every bit of which I spent ooing and awing at my surroundings. Yet another place I’d like to see more of!
July 4 – Kaikoura
Kaikoura is an adorable little township where I spent some quality time up close and personal with the seals that were beached. I seriously could have touched them!
July 5 – Christchurch
As my road trip was coming to an end, I found myself quite exhausted and in need of some TLC, so on my last day in the South Island I treated myself to a relaxing massage before getting a good night’s sleep and hopping on the plane to Palmerston North!
I’m still in awe over all the incredibly beautiful things I saw over my 2 weeks down south and I can’t wait to go back in the summer. Next up, exploring all the wonder the North Island has to offer!
Stay tuned for my next post – I’ll get into all the little things I’ve learned and the differences here in the land of the Kiwi 🙂