So things have been a little quiet on the blog front. I’ve been trying to take advantage of the last few weeks of summer here in New Zealand, and I’ve been on the road have an adventure of a lifetime! Weeee! All in a day’s work!
A few weeks ago, headed over the hill to Queenstown to catch a flight to Christchurch to start on an epic journey, a photography trip around the South Island with a couple of Australia’s finest Instagrammers. I’ve spent the past year and half traveling around New Zealand by myself – I was excited to get to share some of my favorite spots and explore new ones with people who are just as passionate Instagram as me! (Are you following me yet? —-> @YoungAdventuress)
And yes, being a full-time Instagrammer is a thing. But more on that later.
Road trip time!
Our trip started together when I finally got to meet everyone in the Christchurch airport picking up our Britz camper and heading off to start our adventure. But before we get started, let me introduce the squad:
- Jewels Zee – I’ve been in love with Jewels’ colorful photos for a year now, watching her explore Australia and overseas. Without her, I don’t think I would have survived a week with the boys. Nope, definitely not.
- Mark Clinton – ringleader extraordinaire and lead mischiefmaker. His photos are some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen; soft, light and ethereal, a total contrast to his personality – he’s the most fun on trips!
- Will Patino – his landscapes blow me away over and over again. Apart from helping me take better pics on this trip, his sarcasm is barely matched by mine.
I don’t normally write itinerary posts but I’ve been getting a lot of “where the hell do I go in New Zealand” requests lately, so I thought I’d give an overview of my latest trip in the hopes it might inspire and help you guys on your own adventures.
Check out the highlights below of some of my favorite places we explored in a week, and be sure to check out this map at the end of the post which marks out the spots I mention if you’re planning to come to New Zealand and explore it for yourself one day! As you should! Start saving!
I am going to put this out there – I love Christchurch, I really do. I am not a city person by any means, but I love the vibe that has been going on in Christchurch since the earthquakes a few years ago. As the city is being rebuilt, you can really feel the love the locals have for it, and all the effort they are pouring into making it New Zealand’s coolest city.
Every time I visit, things are different, things are growing and it gets more and more exciting. It is also big enough that I am able to explore new areas and find new favorite spots every time I head over there.
This time around after an awesome dinner at The Clink, a hip restaurant out in Sumner which was once a building that housed mutineers (aka PIRATES) from a settling mission from England, before heading out to Godley Heads for an amazing sunset over the city.
As much as I love living in the mountains, I miss being by the sea, and I love that there are so many amazing beaches and little coastal spots to explore along Christchurch.
2. Castle Hill
If you drive 2 hours from Christchurch towards Arthur’s Pass and the West Coast, you’ll pass through an amazing rock formation at the foothills of the Southern Alps called Castle Hill. If you are on a trip with professional photographers and Instagrammers, you will be dragged out of bed at 4am to make sure you get to this awesome landscape for sunrise.
Sigh, one day I’ll be a morning person.
Moaning and groaning the whole way (even though I wasn’t even driving) I was so excited to finally get to see this amazing place for the first time, especially as it NARNIA!
Yes you read that right, recognize those amazing boulders? This was where the final battle scene of the Chronicles of Narnia took place. Nerd alert!
3. Arthur’s Pass
The last time I was in Arthur’s Pass, it was on my mid-winter road trip and it was pouring with rain so hard I didn’t even get to take a picture. The office in town said that the waterfalls would be raging and look great – understatement of the century, I basically swam to Devil’s Punchbowl and it was so flooded I couldn’t even walk on the platform.
I was excited to give it another try, though of course, it was raining again, though luckily it was less of a gale and I managed to take plenty of photos.
On the way out towards the West Coast we stopped at one of the high view points to meet some locals, the cheeky kea, the world’s only alpine parrot. I love these guys, they are so funny and definitely don’t disappoint! Totally drenched in the rain, they managed to play with us around the van for a little while before we had to hit the road. I love any chance I get to meet them!
I was so stoked to finally get back to the West Coast, my favorite part of the South Island. And in typical West Coast fashion, it poured. Can’t have it all, I suppose, not that I am complaining.
The West Coast is full of wild beaches, epic coastlines, and moody rainforests. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the sun, that would be weird.
Luckily we had time to go visit Monteith’s Brewery in Greymouth, perfect for a rainy day. The classic kiwi beer, it was pretty awesome to learn the story behind the brand, learn how it’s brewed, and then of course, taste ALL THE BEERS!
5. Franz Josef Glacier
As you head down the coast on the South Island, you’ll eventually pop out of the rainforest in front of Aoraki/Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, with front row seats to some of the most beautiful and impressive glaciers in the world.
Rainforests? Check. Beaches? Check. Glaciers? Check. Massive mountains? Check check check, oh, and all in one place. New Zealand really does have it all.
After a long day in the rain on the road, I was pretty stoked to check in at my room at the Te Waonui Forest Retreat, a 5 star luxury lodge I’d been ooh-ing and ahh-ing over for a year, followed up by an amazing 5 course degustation menu at the Canopy Restaurant that included raspberry sorbet served in bubbles!
Did I mention the last time I was in FJ I slept in my car?
Oh the life of a travel blogger!
6. Fox Glacier
I hoped and prayed all night for blue skies in the morning for our helicopter flight around the glaciers, and thankfully someone heard me!
A year ago I did an amazing heli-hike on Franz Josef and I was so so excited with the thought of getting to do a scenic flight again and land on one of the glaciers! It’s one thing to see these amazing sites from the ground but another entirely to see them from above.
First we flew out to Fox Glacier which is further south, which snakes down from Mt. Cook like a river and landed on a big ice field in which the pilot let us loose. I think we all sort of just ran around on the ice for 5 minutes without even taking a photo trying to absorb just how amazing it was to be on a glacier. Trust me, it’s amazing.
We flew back to town over Franz Josef glacier, spotting the heli-hikers from the window and even the road that leads out to the glacier walk. Pinch me, how can such a place exist?
7. Haast Pass
There are three mountain road passes that traverse the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and the Haast Pass is my all-time fave. I love driving through here! It connects the West Coast with Wanaka where I live.
Along here there are tons of amazing spots to stop and view waterfalls, mountains, glacial rivers and all of the above. There are great hikes and huts you can get to along the Haast Pass as well.
Google Maps gods will tell you it takes 3 hours to get from Fox Glacier to Wanaka, but let me tell you, build in plenty of time because you will stop the whole way and ogle everything!
No matter where I go in New Zealand, it can never compare with my beautiful home of Wanaka. I never get tired of coming back here.
I was so excited to show the team my fave spot.
And we started off with the biggest bang in history – a night at the famous Whare Kea Chalet!!!
The Whare Kea Chalet (remember “wh” in New Zealand is pronounced as an “f”) is a luxury lodge high in the Alps on Dragonfly Peak that you get to by helicopter. That’s right folks, you arrive in style!
Just like the glacier, as soon as we were out of the helicopter we were running around like kids!
Nothing incites pure euphoria like being high in the mountains of New Zealand.
It was raining in the distance creating beautiful rays between the surrounding peaks as the sun set over the chalet. It’s a moment I will never forget. I couldn’t resist running up the nearby ridge with our guide to grab a few hero shots of the setting sun.
After a late night of an amazing dinner, lots of wine and stargazing under a full moon, we were up at dawn in time to watch the sun turn all the surrounding peaks pink and gold, illuminating the glaciers and showing off Tititea/Mt. Aspiring, our local big mountain.
And of course we couldn’t leave such a stunning location without having some serious fun, involving Mark going town to one of the alpine tarns in a fluffy white bath robe and furry Ugg boots to have a swim.
These trips are never boring!
The misty weather was back the next day as we headed over the Crown Range towards Arrowtown for some more backcountry adventures, this time heading up to Macetown with Nomad Safaris, with the same driver I had when I visited Skippers Canyon a few weeks before.
Similar to Skippers, but with less crazy roads and more fun river crossings, I love the deep green and gold gorges around Arrowtown and Queenstown.
There are so many layers to explore in this part of New Zealand.
Since Queenstown is my local “big city” from Wanaka, I’ve spent a lot of time over the hill there since moving to the South Island. That being said, I’ve spent less time there as a tourist and a lot more time shopping and hanging out at the amazing cafes and, well, bars. A girl’s got to go out and dance once in a while, right?
After an amazing morning exploring the canyons around the area, we headed back into town to check out the forest under the gondola – I never say no to forest explorations.
We finished the day over a stellar lunch at the Amsfield winery before heading to the airport to go our separate ways, and you know, go home and sleep for a week.
Are any of these spots on your bucketlist? Have I accomplished my goal and given you a mad case of the wanderlust? Can you tell which ones are from my iPhone and which are from my big camera? Are you on the ‘gram too? Leave your handle in the comments and I’ll follow back!