It’s been well over a year and I still haven’t posted about this trip yet because to be honest, I haven’t found the words! andddd there were thousands of photographs to go through haha… From popular demand, I’m going to briefly talk about the route and activities we did last year while exploring New Zealand, and if anyone has any questions feel free to leave a comment below and i’ll get back to you asap!
Peter and I originally planned our trip to New Zealand for Melissa and Grant’s beautiful wedding at Castaway Resort just outside of Auckland, and then my little sister met us (at the wedding actually haha) and we took off the next day for an epic north island road trip. We drove for 13 hours that day and saw so many beautiful sights and once we got to Wellington the craziest thing happened… one of our best friends johnny flew from Hawaii to meet us there as well as some of our best friends from Austria, and we all arrived on the same street corner at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME! One in a taxi, one walking, and then us in our rental car. what are the chances!!?
We stayed in a hostel that night and first thing the next morning we set out for our adventure to the South Island. The ferry was nothing short of interesting and thanks to some wind and weather half of the people on the boat were sea-sick an hour into the journey. Water splashed up on the window from waves on the 9th floor as we played cards in the cafe and I was a little nervous, but soon enough we were cruising through the Malbrough Sounds in glassy turquoise water with islands everywhere and my mind was already blown.
Johnny, Steph, Peter and I spend the day in Picton exploring around and chasing the sun. We found some epic lookout points and in true lack-of-planning-fashion, managed to miss all the open hours of the wineries we wanted to check out. Instead, we drove through the backroads with the music as loud as it could go, signing at the top of our lungs laughing at Johnny hanging his head out the window yelling at the sheep as the sun set.
The next day we road tripped to Christchurch, picked up our rental camper van from Pod Campervan Rentals and started to make the trek down to Dunedin so we could drop off Steph and pick up our friend Mandy who was meeting us there. The van was the absolute best way to see New Zealand and Pod Campervan Rentals were awesome. it could have been about twice the size to accommodate 4 people (at first it was supposed to be just Peter and I but Johnny and Steph soon hijacked that plan and then just a week before we left Mandy decided she couldn’t miss out so she booked her ticket too. In the end we had a 2 person camper van with up to 5 people at one point but it all worked out amazingly and we alternated van and tent nights.
Our first stop after picking up Mandy in Dunedin (which is an amazing city and we all wished we had more time there), was Tunnels Beach. We didn’t realize it was a little journey to get down to the beach and we had a long drive ahead of us but it was soo worth it. The coastline was absolutely amazing and is definitely worth the stop. We continued down the scenic route towards Bluff, and I wanted to cry it was so beautiful the whole way. The hills reminded me of Ireland, rolling and vibrant green with sheep everywhere, skinny windy roads and coastal views. We ventured down a gravel road off the highway and found ourselves at a secluded Bay where Johnny chased sheep and we took some drone photographs. The light was perfect and I couldn’t stop talking pictures out the back window. We ended that evening just before the sun set at one of the most incredible lookouts big enough for us to freedom camp for the night. We jumped the fence into a field of wildflowers overlooking a beautiful bay and the sky lit up the most insane colors of pink and purple. We listened to Bon Iver and took photos and the whole thing felt surreal. That evening after cooking our pasta out of the van we watched the moon-rise which was just as impressive as the sunset, and I had never seen more stars in the sky in my life. This may have been my favorite day, until the next day of course.
The next day we made our way to the Milford Sounds after meeting back up with our friends Andi and Josi (who had gotten secretly engaged over the last few days that we hadn’t seen them!!) We convoyed our Pod Campers down the windy mountain roads and we couldn’t get over how much the scenery had changed again. We ended up stopping at a little lake town and celebrating their engagement once I finally noticed the ring on Josi’s finger. We swam in the glacier water and drank champagne and it was another perfect day.
The next day we drove the rest of the way up to the end of the road at Milford Sounds and it was absolutely unlike anything I have ever seen. Coming from Kauai we all thought no coast line in the world could compare to our Na Pali, but once we got on the boat tour we all were speechless. Waterfalls cascading down rock face cliffs and mountain tops into perfect blue calm water. They said we got one of the nicest days for weather of the year and I was speechless. If there ever was a fairyland, this was it.
We made our way from Milford sounds to Queenstown which we all considered the adult DisneyWorld of anywhere we’d ever been. Any extreme activity you could think of including the raddest bars and restaurants were here and we quickly realized our money could run out in this town quicker than we’d like to admit (haha). We spent a few days here in the downtown campground and everyone but me went skydiving (because I am a chicken but I regret it and wish I would have gone after the fact), the boys went bungie jumping, Mandy and I did the worlds largest swing (The Nevis Swing – so fun! and we went jet boating and into an ice bar and rode mechanical bulls and went wine tasting and hiking and shopping. Queenstown was incredible to say the least and is a must-stop if you’re on the south island.
From Queenstown we ventured to Wanaka because there was a hike I had seen on instagram that I knew I wanted to do with the drone. We found the famous Wanaka Tree, went to an winery for a coincidental private tasting and decided that we would do the Roy’s Peak Hike for sunrise. It was an incredible experience and honestly deserves it’s own blog post so I’ll write more about that later. Long story short, we started at 3am and it was one of the most memorable mornings of my entire life.
Peter and I and Johnny and Mandy decided to go out on the town for drinks that afternoon and to cook our own dinner in attempts to save money. We were so fired up from the incredible hiking experience we had had going up to the top of the peak that we ended up having a $250 bill consisting of martinis, so we ate raman noodles once again and called it a day. Living the dream, haha!
The gang went our separate ways the next day as Mandy and Johnny flew home a few days before Peter and I, and we made our way down to Mt. Cook for our engagement photo session with Johanna MacDonald and a little exploring. The van was quiet with the two of us and we felt like we had so much room! We stayed in a campground on the lake inside of a star sanctuary that night and just as if I thought I couldn’t have seen any more stars than that first camping night, my mind was blown once again. We even saw a crazy commit fly through the air and light up the whole countryside bright green as it burned into the atmosphere, unfortunately (of course) my camera was facing the opposite direction, but get this… MY SHUTTER WAS ACTUALLY OPEN! Had I been taking photo of the lake instead of the mountain I would have gotten the most incredible photo, I guess sometimes things are nice to have just for us:)
The last few days we explored from Mt. Cook back to Christchurch to make our way home, and after 2 straight months of travel we were ready to be back on Kauai. We can’t wait to explore the west coast of the south island next time we get to go there, 3 weeks is definitely not long enough in this beautiful county!
Check out this highlight film Peter and I collaborated on to sum up our trip. Grateful for these opportunities and amazing friends to experience them with!! xoxo