While we were living in Sydney, L and I decided to go and visit New Zealand with a dear friend of ours. We all wanted to see this magical country and could take some time off work in the same period, so we ended up going there together. We hired a camper van with Britz and bought a Lonely Planet guidebook of the country – they are the best ones. We decided up front to visit only the Southern Island as it is considered the most scenic, but also because we didn’t have enough days to visit both islands without having to drive like crazy.
New Zealand is a country that has a lot to offer to those travellers who love the mountains, good food and incredible starred skies – just make sure the moon isn’t rising too early. Instead of writing a short memoire of our journey, I will list the top 10 places I loved and that I think other tourists should visit as well. They are listed in the order we visited them, so you can follow our route from Christchurch back to… Christchurch.
Akaroa is a a small town situated in the heart of an ancient volcano. It is not too far from Christchurch and offers a fairytale landscape. The shades of green that we saw there are unbelievable, it felt like entering a painting.
The place saw both English and French migrants, for this reasons many roads and beaches have French names. However, the French arrived too late to colonise the whole island as at that time English people had already asked the main tribe chiefs to sign the treaty of Waitangi that formalised the crown’s sovereignty –
though we must remember that the treaty was poorly translated in Maori language, so Maori tribes understood what that really meant only later. It is nice to witness such a footstep of history in the signs of the road.
On a more funny note, I managed to lose my phone in Le Bons Bay together with my debit card, which was in the pocket of the cover. I was extremely lucky that a very kind lady found it, contacted me on Facebook thanks to the name on the debit card and finally brought the smartphone and the card to the airport in Christchurch. I was then able to collect everything when we took the flight back to Australia at the end of the holiday, plus I enjoyed a smartphone-free, relaxing journey.
2. Sunset Point at Hokitika
New Zealand is one of the best places on Earth where to find wild, free Nature. Apart from mountains, lakes and glaciers, we found out that the sky plays a major role in the landscape. That doesn’t include only the night skies, but the sunsets as well. And the best place where to witness an incredible sunset is this little town called Hokitika.
There is not much to see in Hokitika as the place is quite small, plus we arrived there on a Sunday
so everything was closed. However, a lady at the tourist information point in Christchurch had told us we had to go to Sunset Point if we wanted to see something incredible. She was right, indeed. From there you can see the whole sky turning into shades of orange, pink and purple. It almost looks unreal.
If that wasn’t enough, close to the town there is a cave where you can go and see glowworms for free, tiny little warms that sparkle in the night. Just make sure you respect the silence, as when they hear some noise they get scared and stop glowing.
If you are lucky enough and you have booked your journey during a period where the moon is rising very late at night, you will witness a huge amount of stars. That is because the moon is too bright and its light covers the stars. When the night is bright and the sky is not clouded, you can literally see the milky way crossing the sky above your head. It is something surreal – and also very difficult to photograph. L spent several nights out to take pictures of that incredible view. Shooting stars are quite common as well.
4. Lake Matheson
We visited New Zealand during summer. When we got to the glaciers, we could not see much as the ice had melted and we were not allowed to walk past a certain point. However, not too far from the glaciers there is this lake that mirrors Mount Cook – the highest pick in the country. If you wish to visit it, I would recommend to do the walk along the lake and immerse yourself in nature. When water is flat, you can get very nice shots as well.
5. Wanaka Lake
Wanaka was one of our favourite spots. In fact, we liked it so much we managed to return there on the way back. The city is quiet and has a hippie vibe, there are many restaurants and pubs that serve amazing food and the atmosphere is very relaxed. The main attraction here is a tree that grows in the lake. For us though, the main attraction was a pub called Kai Wakapai that served incredible food. I loved the granola in the breakfast menu, as well as the salads they served for lunch. Service is a bit slow in New Zealand in general, but the quality of the ingredients is just incredible.
I would also suggest to do the walk to the top of the hill just to see the lake from above. It is not a long walk but definitely worth it, it’s the perfect way to start your day especially when it involves some hours of driving.
Those were the first 5 tips, click here to read the next 5!