Queenstown and around:
After we had some heavy rain on the west coast we had nearly lost our hope on good weather. But as soon as we left the west coast with its mountains behind us the sun came out and we saw blue sky for the first time after a couple days. Finally! 🙂 We found a lovely and quiet camping place right next to Lake Hawea. Even though we didn’t go for a swim, it was actually our favorite camping spot of our New Zealand trip.
After a quick hike up small hill (Mount Iron) for a view over Wanaka, our next stop for the night was Queenstown. As most of you know, New Zealand is famous for its endless possibilities for hiking. To make things a bit easier, there are 10 great walks, which are supposed to be the best and most special hikes of New Zealand. Unfortunately, those hikes are all multi-day hikes and in high season you need a permission to sleep in the huts or camping sites. Since that didn’t go so well with our rather spontaneous traveling plans, the alternative is to do day hikes. For those you don’t need a permit and you can even do parts of the great walks. Whenever you want to do some hikes you have the opportunity to see an information center run by New Zealand’s government. They’ll provide you with maps and all kind of information or warnings on any trails. So that is what we did in Queenstown, where we then decided to do part of the Routeburn great walk as a day walk the next day. Afterwards we slept a bit outside of the city at the lake of Queenstown and whenever you expect it the least you get a surprise. That evening we saw the most beautiful sunset of our entire trip. But have a look at the pictures yourself…
Hiking in Fiordlands
The next morning the alarm woke us up at 6am. We had to get up early to eat properly and drive to the start of the Routeburn Track. You can make the entire walk in 2-4 days, sleeping in a tent on the way. But as written before, all campsites were fully booked for the next 3 months, so we ended up doing half of it as a day walk. It was a long day up to Harris Saddle and back down to the car park. But it was absolutely worth the effort and to reward ourselves we went for dinner including dessert… To recover our legs, we had a rest day in anticipation of our next hike the following day. We spent the day in Te Anau which is also the base of the most popular great walk. But we are happy we didn’t choose to do the Milford hike as we saw the hordes of tourists getting ready to “conquer” the trail by helicopters, busses, ships or by foot. Instead, we decided for the less popular Gertrud Saddle which is a short but painful hike up a mountain, with a view over a Fiord. We initially planed to hike the next day to Green Lake, which would have been another 6 hours but because of the tired muscles and we slept a bit longer we just had a walk the first few kilometers before turning back. But on that short walk, we’ve never seen so much moss covering the hole forest. We even believe we’ve seen some trolls and fairies :).
Up the east coast (again)
When you’re planning to see the south and north island of New Zealand and you’re traveling by car, your only choice is to take one of the two ferries from Picton, at the very north of the south island, to Wellington. Apparently the ferry can get quite busy and you should book well in advance. For us 3 days prior was actually good enough to get some tickets.
So when we left the Fiordlands we had only a few days before we had to be in Picton.
Our first stop was in Dunedin, where we drove out to the half-island (Otago Peninsula). We went to a beach where you can see quite rare but also shy Penguins. Even though we were camouflaging the best we can in the sand dunes we didn’t get lucky :). But at least we saw some more lazy seals.
From there we continued our travel to Kaikoura. And as a good reader of our blog that you of course are , you’ll remember that we still had some unfinished business to do in Kaikoura… Namely, a nice dinner at the surfing beach of Kaikoura, that we had to cancel 2 weeks earlier because of a 7h driving detour. So this time we were luckier and finally got to eat our salmon pasta, while watching the surf at Kaikoura.
From Kaikoura we then drove to our final stop of the south island, Picton. In Picton, we relaxed a bit from the intense last weeks and simply took a boat cruise… and not to forget, our tasty Riesling that we discovered 2 weeks prior at the wine tasting.