I think that 8676km deserves a list of the top ten moments, everyone likes a list right? And so, in no particular order here are my top ten favourite trips, moments or places from our time in New Zealand:
Swinging around Queenstown:
Queenstown is the party town that certainly lives up to it’s reputation. We were being somewhat careful due to our imminent plans to walk the Kepler track (see below). Still we chose to become the World’s biggest swingers by having a shot on the Nevis Swing. We had no idea what it actually involved and were easily influenced by the guides advising us that upside down and backwards was the best way to go, needless to say we were the only members of our group who chose this charming position. Once our stomachs had settled we scoffed down some amazing Ferg burgers, one of the only times I am happy to have queued for close to an hour for food. The Saturday markets and especially Goldpan Pete, with his handmade jewellery, are definitely worth checking out.
Bubbling away in Taupo:
Taupo is full of adventure opportunities. This eggy smell of Rotorua is slightly faded in this lakeside town but there are still many activities to do. From checking out the awesomely powerful Huka Falls, to eating in one of the World’s strangest McDonald’s. My favourite part of our time here was our visit to the Craters of the Moon. Bursts of steam wafting around the barren landscape were enough to transport me to another planet, well at least they were til the kids nearby started screaming and shouting. Taupo is also a good base to get to the Tongariro crossing and the national park there.
Campsite: Reid’s Farm (free) – nice riverside location, very busy and bogging toilets.
Puzzling ourselves in Wanaka:
Arriving in Wanaka provided us a relief from the cheap shower free DOC campsites in the glacier country. With our own little section in the shade we lazed about, finally clean and exceptionally happy with the fact there are no sandflies here. Wanaka is a stunning little town, but this is unfortunately no secret and so crowds of tourists and locals make the area swell as soon as the sun bursts out. Visiting Puzzling World had been high on my list before we arrived and it did not let us down. The kitsch Cinema Paradiso in town is also a must do, even if the weather is good. We checked out the latest Star Wars film, well Pinion did and I just played with the steering wheel of the car that we were sat in and munched on freshly baked cookies.
Campsite: Lake Outlet Holiday Park, great camping spots on the shore of Lake Wanaka with nice clean showers.
Te Anau, the Kepler and Milford Sound:
Chucking three things into one section, is this cheating? Perhaps, but all three are close together and we enjoyed different elements of them all. The Kepler, a ‘great walk’, was a beast. We were bashed and bruised by the end of it and stumbled back into town to our warm and clean hostel. The town also receives bonus points for not breaking into our car despite us leaving it unlocked and for awesome pizza. The Kepler track itself gave us one day of amazing scenery and then stole my toe nails. It was a challenge unlike anything we had done before, not necessarily one we’ll repeat but awesome nevertheless. Milford Sound is stunning, definitely worth the winding and slow drive up to it, the weather wasn’t willing to cooperate but that made for some great shots of the waterfalls flowing into the sound. We took a Jucy cruise, it was the cheapest of those offered and was informative and fun.
Best post walk pizza: Pizzeria Da’ Toni, next to the big supermarket in town.
Exploring the North:
Leaving Takapuna and our pretty awful experience whilst house sitting probably meant that we would fall in love with anywhere that we went. Luckily for us that was north, specifically up to Cape Reinga, right at the top of the North island. We stayed at a fantastic DOC campsite, it had views to die for. If our legs hadn’t been killed by the weeding session the previous day we would have walked to the light house but instead we went on a short coastal walk and chose to drive the end of the island. Northland has so many stunning scenic areas, we wish we could have spent more time up there.
Campsite: Tapotupotu, great tent spaces, clean toilets and cold showers available.
We left our visit to Christchurch right until the end of our visit to New Zealand. It followed one of our best weeks, where we HelpX’d at a dog kennels with a lovely lady called Angela, and still the city rose to the occasion and provided us with a great end to our time in the country. We took a bike tour that showed us the devastation from the 2011 earthquake. The projects around the city related to restarting life again were inspirational, although the dancing area with speakers did attempt to kill Pinion when cider influenced her into thinking she could break dance. Christchurch also provided us the opportunity to see one of our good friends from home, no doubt helping to influence our opinion on the city.
Good pizza in the RE:start mall: Base pizza.
HelpX’ing around the country:
HelpX provided us with our highs and lows in the country, here Pinion provides a good summary on each place. House sitting in Takapuna was a nightmare, where the hosts couldn’t agree on what we should be doing. The rest were highlights, providing an opportunity to actually meet people, share food and wine with them and see how they live. We cleaned, painted, walked dogs and generally just had a good time. It was hard work but is a great way to save money if you want to spend an extended time in the country, and we were able to meet some awesome people and their even lovelier pets!
Abel Tasman and Golden Bay
We picked our HelpX locations based on where it was likely we would get good weather. Following our week painting the house of our hosts in the Blenheim region we headed up the coast to Golden Bay. In exchange for a cute little cabin we would help to clean the campsite for 2 hours a day. This left us plenty of time to explore the local area including Farewell spit and to visit some beautiful spots like the Te Waikoropupu springs, home to some of the clearest water on Earth. They are sacred to the Maori population and so swimming isn’t permitted.
After finishing up at the campsite we set off to the Abel Tasman national park. We planned to do a bit of an obscure route, due to our lack of organisation with booking campsites. It turned out that some pretty horrible weather would cut our walk short but we did get to experience the north of the park and enjoyed some beautiful weather there. If golden beaches and clear waters are your thing then Abel Tasman is your type of park!
Art Deco Christmas in Napier:
As it was our first Christmas away from our home we chose to splash out and picked a fancy hotel in Napier. It was on the coast, warm and very sunny. Everything you could want from a Christmas abroad. Whilst I am probably never going to get on board with Christmas in summertime, we had a good time in Napier. It was fun to walk around the empty town and then witness it heaving during the sales the next day. It was obviously going to win me over when I spotted mini golf and completely destroyed Pinion with my putting skills.
The Tongariro Crossing:
Despite some pretty rubbish weather we still set off to walk the Tongariro crossing. Normally home to some sublime scenery but on our visit it was all a bit misty. The emerald lakes were more like slightly green puddles and the two mountain peaks that we passed could barely be seen. Despite the rubbish weather and hoards of people we still had a really good time. The challenge of the day was high, especially as we were still carrying wine weight from our miserable house sitting experience. I would love to go back and do this walk in nice weather, the crowds are a little off putting but if you take it at your own pace and let the eager walkers pass you should have a good day.
As with all lists this one leaves me feeling slightly unsatisfied, compressing 4 months of memories into a top ten is never going to feel complete. I had a great time in Greymouth, despite it not exactly being a top hit on most people’s visits. The Catlins were gorgeous but we only spent a day there and the glacier country was great despite being over run with tourists. New Zealand certainly has some stunning scenery, maybe 4 months there was too long for us and we certainly didn’t fall in love with the country. I guess that is the good thing about making this list, it has helped me to see we did have some great adventures in the land of the long white cloud.
Do you love New Zealand? What were your highlights whilst you were there?