Every time we saw something beautiful in the north island and I took my camera out, Alex kept telling me, “just wait until you see the south island. You’re not even going to know what to do with yourself.” I didn’t quite know what to expect because the north island was still the most beautiful place I had ever been.
We took a ferry from Wellington to Picton, on the south island, and right when we hit the road, I could tell the south island was going to be a different world. Vineyards lined the roads, and it was much much more rural. A few hours in, the Southern Alps came into view, and followed us for the rest of our 10-hour journey to Queenstown.
That first day on the south island, we drove as long as we could and finally stopped when the sun started to set. We had passed most of the towns on the west coast, and were a few hours from the nearest hostel, so we found a quiet little camping ground right next to the beach. We watched the sun set on the beach and stayed up to look at the stars for a while before falling asleep in our car for the night.
Of course, sleeping in the backseat of a car isn’t the most comfortable of situations, so we were up before the sun the next morning, while everyone else on the campground still slept. We had the entire beach to ourselves and walked around for a while in the quiet before getting on the road to the Franz Josef Glacier.
We arrived at the glacier before anyone else, and had the entire place to ourselves besides a couple other tourists. The morning light, the beautiful fog, and the lack of tourists made it a perfect morning, and the glacier was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
After a couple hours of staring at the Franz Josef Glacier in awe, the sun finally came out in full force, and it went from jacket and flannel weather, to skirt and sandal weather. We drove with the windows down all the way to Queenstown, stopping at some awesome spots on the coast along the way, and staring at the mountains that came into view as we made our way south.
Queenstown is, without a doubt, the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. It’s a quaint town nestled between stunning mountains, with a crystal clear lake in the middle, which also happens to be the freshest lake water in the world. We drove on the winding roads around the lake and explored charming towns surrounding Queenstown our first morning there before setting out to Te Anu, which was much closer to our destination for the next day, the very remote, very beautiful Milford Sound. We spent the evening hiking around Mistletoe Lake near our hostel in the middle of nowhere before heading out to the sound early the next morning.
Our drive the next morning was the most scenic part of our journey, which was still hard for me to grasp since everything up until then had been so beautiful. In Alex’s words, I pretty much lost my shit when we drove to Milford Sound, and then continued to be amazed as we took a ferry around the sound. Words really can’t explain how perfect that day was.
Our 5-hour drive back to Queenstown from Milford Sound was filled with more adventures, the best being our hike near The Chasm, a powerful waterfall that empties out into a small pond. The main attraction is the top of the waterfall standing over a bridge, but we accidentally found a hidden trail leading down to the bottom. We climbed down and found a magical blue lagoon that we had all to ourselves.
Our final day in New Zealand was spent horseback riding through a beautiful valley and soaking in all the views. Our last dinner was quite possibly the best meal either of us has ever had while watching the sun set behind The Remarkables mountain range. Usually, I’m pretty bittersweet when it’s time to leave a country I’ve just explored. I’m nearly always ready to be home, but New Zealand is the first country I was ever truly not ready to leave. It was more than perfect, and I can’t wait to go back.
our favorite things in queenstown:
to eat: public
to hang: everywhere