Landing in New Zealand in Autumn felt like being dropped into the mystical land of Catan. Like the board game itself, NZ is neatly organized with varied and extreme landscapes in close proximity of each other. Natural resources abound, and the pulse of the land and people who live on it and off of it are visible by the countless sheep and neat stacks of hay and lumber.
Pastoral landscapes are created by lush farmland filled with ever-grazing sheep, cows, and deer. Picturesque farms and vineyards are nestled into rolling hills framed by epic mountain and ocean vistas.
Within each part of our adventure, we encountered distinct unique climates: dry tussock covered passes, craggy glacier-capped mountains with ice blue lakes, green jungles filled with giant fern trees, glow worms, the exotic sound of the tui bird, shiny coastline with pancake stepped rocks, blow holes, and flax plants that dwarfed the trekker.
We explored via undulating ribbons of roads, along one lane bridges, hairpin turns, occasional washouts and invisible shoulders. Drivers are patient, waiting for a turnout to pass, and like on many islands, a friendly wave between camper vans is customary.
New Zealand is dramatic yet approachable. The Kiwis are helpful, friendly, and seemingly relaxed. Even the easy screw top bottles of Sauvignon Blancs reflect the laid-back vibe that is NZ. Sweet as.
NEW ZEALAND HIGHLIGHTS
Do rent a camper van and drive around for 8 days with your husband and two best friends
Lake Pukaki - super private camping along lake
Mt. Cook - do the short hike to see the Kea Point, do a longer/overnight hike to Mueller Hut for epic alpine views
Lindi's Pass - epic landscapes
Lake Wanaka - the Wanaka tree is really cool, cute little town, check out the eels under the dock
Rippon Winery - overlooks the lake, super beautiful vista, free wine tasting
Drive from Wanaka > Queenstown via the very windy Cardrona Valley Road
Drive Queenstown to Glenorchy - super beautiful, we camped on the lake Wakatipu and saw the best stars ever
Fergburger - have to get a giant burger from here when in Queenstown
Milford Sound - fly/cruise/fly day trip from Queenstown - worth every penny to see the glaciers from above, epic views from the plane and boat, and saved a lot of driving in the slow camper van.
Blue Pools - must stop location for clearest blue water
Epic views of the West Coast around Bruce Bay
Fox Glacier Glow Worm Forest Check out glow worms for free!
Punakaiki - pancake rock stacks, really beautiful sea stacks
Able Tasman National Park - we camped outside the park, then took the water taxi for a day trip, much easier then driving all the way into the park. It would be amazing to backpack for a 3 day+ trip. Beware of sand flies…
This random parking lot with a beautiful reflecting pool
Hamner Springs Thermal Pools