Trip of a Lifetime: New Zealand’s South Island in One Week
As if seeing the beautiful North Island wasn’t enough, I also managed to squeeze in the highlights of New Zealand’s rugged South Island. I had only a week to fit everything into though, and it was tough! I definitely have to come back when I have more time, but for now here’s my itinerary for the deep south: Christchurch, Mount Cook, Milford Sound, Queenstown and Christchurch again!
New Zealand’s South Island in One Week: Christchurch
To save a day of travelling (but miss a day of beautiful views from the bus) I decided to fly from Wellington. This meant I got in early to Christchurch, and was able to get into town by 10am. Christchurch is known as the garden city for good reason; the area of Hagley Park is almost two kilometres squared. Clearly, I had to start there, and wandered through the botanic gardens as well. They weren’t so impressive in winter, but still a very enjoyable walk. I followed the Avon river to the Bridge of Remembrance, which is next to a host of street food stalls that I had to sample.
I followed the vintage tram on foot, going from the centre of town to the New Regent Street, the Transitional Church and Cathedral Square. Christchurch also hosts an impressive array of street art, and the city is marred only by the ongoing earthquake repairs.
I ventured up to Mount Cook village the next day and was gutted to find out that the famed Hooker Track was closed for flooding repairs! Unperturbed, I decided to get my hike on by heading up the Sealy Tarns track. Sealy Tarns is a very steep and completely uphill climb that ascends 800m, and had me making a pact to join the gym again when I get home. The top was covered in snow, but the views were worth the falls on my backside on the way back down.
I also managed the Kea Point track, a much easier and shorter walk to the Mueller Glacier lake, with views up Hooker Valley. The lake is stunning, and the lookout gives a great view of it.
The following day I made time for the Governor’s Bush Track, a track into the lush mountain greenery, with the sound of the nearby waterfall in your ears. Once at the summit of the track, there are some wonderful views of Mount Cook itself. I met up with some girls from the hostel, and they brought me to the Tasman Lake, which is only reachable by car from the village.
We walked the Blue Lake track, but the highlight was the Tasman Lake Lookout, over New Zealand’s longest glacier and the amazing pale blue lake, complete with Titanic resembling icebergs.
New Zealand’s South Island in One Week: Queenstown & Milford Sound
The bus left Mount Cook at midday and ended up at Queenstown at night. Fortunately, I made a few friends at the hostel and was invited to a local house party. The next morning was difficult waking up at 6.30 to make the bus tour to Milford Sound!
The coach journey was really long, but very rewarding as we stopped plenty of times throughout it for photos of stunning scenery. The Sound itself (actually a fjord) was breathtaking. I have never seen something so amazing, and the low-lying clouds added to the straight-from-a-movie scene. The boat tour on Milford Sound took us under waterfalls, up close to seals, and to where the Sound meets the Tasman Sea.Milford Sound itself (actually a fjord) was breathtaking. I have never seen something so amazing, and the low-lying clouds added to the straight-from-a-movie scene. Click To Tweet
The next day I explored town with a friend from the hostel, going up the (expensive) gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak. The view is not to be missed! If you want to avoid the gondola, there’s a 45 minute walk to the peak instead. We walked by the Queenstown bay to the City Park, where there are beautiful views of Lake Wakatipu. We went out again and had a great time, Queenstown has great nightlife even on a Monday!
One last bus journey took me back to Christchurch, via Lake Tekapo. We got to stop and admire the lake and the mountains, which looked straight from a postcard. I wish I had had more than one week in NZ’s South Island so I could see it properly, but there’s always next time!
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