“The south island is said be God’s paradise” -Nigel a Kiwi pub owner on the north island
Before we even made it half way down the north island, we started to meet Kiwi’s that would ask if we were planning to visit the south island, almost like they would be offended if we didn’t. Of course our plan all along was the spend the majority of our vacation on the south island, but unbeknownst to us was just how beautiful it really is. Sidebar: I’m running out of adjectives to describe NZ so bear with me with all the beautifuls, and amazings, and stunnings 😉
After the great ferry fiasco we finally boarded the boat to take us on a three hour journey (just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…sorry I just couldn’t help myself) through the Marlborough Sound to Picton, a city at the north tip of the south island. It was a rainy day and unfortunately I think we could have had better views of the sound, but despite that it was still extremely beautiful!
Due to the fact that I was trying to fill each of our days with some activity or adventure to make the most of the trip, we hopped right off the boat into our new rental car and made the half hour journey to Blenheim, located in the famous Marlborough wine country. I had found this great couple that was offering a wine by bike tour of the wineries in Marlborough and also provided a DD service (safety first), so of course I was all over that.
Despite the cloudy weather we had such an enjoyable afternoon biking around wine country and managed to fit in five different wineries. Fun fact about wine made in Marlborough, they are mostly known for their Sauvignon Blancs, but are also up and coming with their Pinot Nior’s. Another fun fact is this area is one of the first known to stop the corking method for wine and using twist off’s instead. I will admit that in my limited wine knowledge I thought twist offs were meant to be cheaper wines, but really that’s not the case as some of these wines were pretty pricey! Any who here are a few snaps from our “sophisticated” wine adventures.
After a night in wine country we were off to our next destination, Nelson NZ. I mainly picked Nelson because of Abel Tasman National Park, which is NZ smallest national park but probably one of it’s prettiest (of course I’m inclined to know since I’ve been to all of them, not…just my opinion it was amazing!). It also didn’t hurt that Nelson has a lively NYE celebration and we just happened to be there on NYE…so you know there was that.
I had booked a kayak tour through a company located in the park. Abel Tasman is known for their “golden beaches” and coast line, and few sea lion colonies, so of course I that was right up my ally. Our tour guide was a Kiwi straight out of the bush and I’m pretty sure had some Maori in him. For those that don’t know the Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and their culture is deeply ingrained into most Kiwi’s way of life. I won’t go into it too much on here but if you are interested in learning more about Maori culture, follow this link.
Sidebar: on our Abel Tasman adventure our tour guide told us of a conservation effort currently being done by the NZ government using a poison called 1080. Apparently it kills all plants and mammals that are not indigenous to NZ. This was the first I learned on how fragile NZ’s ecosystem is. Turns our there are no natural predators in NZ and only three indigenous mammals, which happen to be bats. Over the years more and more predators like possum and ferrets were introduced to NZ and have been killing off many of their indigenous birds. For example, the Kiwi bird, which doesn’t fly and didn’t need to due to lack of ground predators. It’s caused quite some controversy in the country but it appears that most Kiwi’s are in favor of it. If we heard it one time we heard it a million times from Kiwi’s, “if you see a possum on the road and it’s safe to do so please do us a favor and run it over”. Well alrighty then!
The rest of our time in Nelson was spent exploring the little town and ringing in the new year 18 hours ahead of our friends and family and even 4 hours ahead of Japan. Per my google search NZ is the third country in the world to ring in the New Year.
Annnnd because we are old it was an early night of 12:30am and we were up and at’em to drive to Greymouth the next morning. I had originally planned for us to travel to Christchurch from Nelson, but was told that the west coast of the south island was not something to be missed. So plans changed and the four hour drive to Greymouth was well worth it because man oh man was it breathtaking. I unfortunately don’t have any photos but I had booked a river tubing/zip line adventure in Greymouth that include tubing through some glow worm caves. It was a pretty cool experience to say that least. I wish that I had pictures to show off, but you will just have to use your imagination or do a google search of glow worm caves. Kiwi’s take adventuring pretty seriously and this tour was pretty legit, I have a few bumps and bruises from a few rocks, rock walls, shallow water, and a cave walls. All and all worth the trip. No one said adventuring is for the weak. 😛
The next day we had our longest journey yet of the trip, Greymouth to Queenstown. This is only a 6 and half hour drive but with the beauty that is NZ we had a few hikes and trips sprinkled in during the drive down. The first was a trip to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks close to Greymouth and the second was Franz Josef Glacier about 3 hours from Greymouth. The pancake rocks were a short hike around the coast, but the glacier was about an hour and half hike. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to pay for a guide to take us out on to the actual glacier, but it was still a spectacular sight from down below. I admit that towards the end we did get a little ambitious on all that we ended up doing, but I guess that’s what life is about and I really didn’t want to miss out. So what should have taken 6.5 hours ended up taking around 12.
Warning a million photos ahead!
From the glacier we were finally on our way to the last stop on our trip, Queenstown. Except per NZ usual there were too many beautiful sights along the way that we had to stop and take pictures of. I’ll only add a few and I feel that I’ve overdosed this blog on photos, but really I can’t help it! I wish I was still there looking at it all!
Our second to last day we spent on a 12 hour tour the the Milford Sound, which is located in Fiordland National Park, NZ’s largest national park. We were able to drive there on our own but decided to take a tour instead because of all the driving it was nice to have someone else do the work for us…it was also a four hour drive from Queenstown.
Outside of road travel one can also get to Milford Sound by helicopter or plane but for a hefty price and pending good weather. NZ at this point is the most beautiful place in the world I’ve ever traveled, but guys wait for it, Fiordland National Park is literally breathtaking and probably the most beautiful place in the world. There are really no words to describe it’s beauty. It’s so untouched by humans and what nature should look like. I learned on our tour that the the national park is 99% carbon foot print free. It’s truly an amazing place and I’m still pinching myself that I actually saw it with my own eyes.
Just a few quick facts about the Milford Sound, it’s not actually a sound it’s a fjord, which was created by glaciers and not created by a river or other bodies of water, but apparently Milford Sound sounds better then Milford Fjord. Anyway, this is the last photo dump of the blog, but here are a few snaps of the sound and a video from the boat tour we took.
Phew! I swear end of the photo dumps! But guys isn’t it pretty?!
Our last day was spend roaming around Queenstown. I even talked John into driving out to the famous Aj Hackett’s bungy bridge. The famous one where people dive off of. Well after watching a few people do it, I marched myself right into the sales office to inquire how I could participate, much to John’s dismay since they offered tandem jumps for couples. Thankfully, fate was on his side that day as the jumps were completely booked for the rest of the day…damn. I guess I’m going to have to go back.
One of the last bucket list items we had before heading to the airport was to see a live kiwi bird. Turns out there is a kiwi sanctuary in Queenstown and we showed up just in time to watch a feeding of the kiwi bird. I don’t have any photos because their nocturnal and it was too dark to actually really even see it. But I can at least say that I was in the same room as a kiwi bird. I did however, get in touch with NZ wildlife on the drive to Milford Sound and made friends with some alpaca, I know crazy it wasn’t sheep!
So there you have it our NZ adventure. What a whirlwind of a vacation, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. NZ should be on everyone’s bucket list. Thanks for sticking out this extremely long blog post with me. I guess I wish everyone could expierence what I have, because I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see it first hand. I guess my pictures will have to do until you get up and get yourself a plane ticket to NZ!
Mauri Ora! (Maori for cheers!)