Franz Josef, Lake Wanaka, Queenstown and Milford Sound

Franz Josef:

The Franz Josef Glacier is no doubt, hands down, one of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen.

Part of the Te Wahipounamu National Park, a World Heritage site, the Franz Josef Glacier is 12 kilometres long of pure solid ice. What you see before you is a flowing frozen river of ice. As the stunning blinding white of the ice sears your pupils, the crevices of deep blue bewitch you. A hike up the glacier is incredible and a once in a lifetime experience. Trekking up and down crevices that could swallow a whale hole, and over walls of ice that are as high as the eye can see, you step up home-made steps of ice that your guide cuts out for you there and then. Each step you must take with caution, as you descend into the never ending maze of ice. As you become a dot in this swirling mass of ice, you thank the lord that your guide knows how to direct himself out of this beautiful but dangerous piece of nature.

Not my picture
Not my picture

Lake Wanaka:

Lake Wanaka is the fourth largest lake in New Zealand and is a beautiful lake to lose track of time at. It is an ideal place to fish, water-ski, snowboard, ski and even skydive over this huge mirror like lake. Although nail bitingly cold, swimming isn’t recommended. The town is an average size, built around the daily routine of town life and the city escaping romantics that come here, hoping to relax around the lake side. It is the perfect location to succumb to the slow pace of town life and see on a daily basis, with such an appealing natural landscape.

Queenstown:
Queenstown is my favourite place in New Zealand and I really can’t recommend it more. Queensland sits next to South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, straddled around the edges of this deep and elongated lake, where the Southern Alps reflect off the mirrored surface and linger in the background, reminding everyone that New Zealand has it all. And Queenstown, it seems, has it all.

If an avid lover of extreme sports- which I am, it is ideal. With skiing in winter, and bungee jumping and para gliding in summer, as well as canyoning and white water rafting, it really is a thrill seekers paradise. And if adventure isn’t for you, then Queenstown has an incredible diversity of nature and wildlife that is astonishing. In close proximity to Milford Sound, one of the most iconic nature spots of all time, it means that Queenstown has incredible mountains, alps, rolling hills and dense forestry that one would think they were in the heart of bear territory in Canada. It is easy to see why so many backpackers lose track of time here, and so many non-Kiwi’s move here, who wouldn’t? The town is a perfect size, big enough to stroll around, but small enough to know where where everything is. It is filled with cool hip bars such as World Bar and the world famous Fergburger.

Fergburger is the best burger I have ever had in the world, hands down.It combines a variety of different types of meat perfected in the right size and flavour of patty with an excellent choice of cheese, melted to perfection, a dripping and juicy sauce and tasty balance of vegetable. I have no idea how they create this succulent, juicy wet dream of a burger, but they do, and boy, do I miss it. Even one burger is called “The Jawbreaker” which undoubtedly does what it says on the tin.

Fergburger

The main attraction behind Queenstown is Bungee Jumping and on Christmas Eve, I signed up for one. Not any old one, but the third highest in the world. The Nevis. Travelling to the tiny glass box in the middle of the valley was terrifying enough but after my friend had jumped and the entire time I egged her on, I knew it would be my turn. I was fine at first, quite excited. Until, I made the stupid mistake of looking down, which was when I slowly moved forward with just a rope attached to my ankles, I suddenly realised that I was high, very fucking high, and had a very strong feeling I was going to die. Fear began to paralyse my legs and I really didn’t want to jump. Luckily I voiced my frustration, unlike some people who seem to turn into a quivering, silent mouse. And the guy who was there with me began to support me, telling me to go for it, which led me to just let my worries disappear and jump into the unknown. And that’s what it felt like when I finally got the guts to jump. That you are going to die. I had skydived before, but that was nothing compared to this. It was a great experience but I’ve done it, and I think that is enough for me.

The Nevis

Milford Sound:
I left my friends behind and took a trip to Milford Sound in Te Anau as I heard it was a beautiful place. And I was not let down as we took a boat along the river taking in the breathtaking view of the fiord and fantastic scenery of the cliffs that rise dramatically on either side of you with cascading waterfalls running down each jagged side. The lake centers the fiord, with its incredible shimmering surface that multiples the view in its reflection. The sight is spectacular, and as you float deeper and deeper into the ‘eighth natural wonder of the world’, says Rudyard Kipling, you are rewarded with each corner and curve you take. We were taken to an underwater aquarium which unfortunately was closed due to weather conditions. The tour guide said jokingly, “well does anyone want to swim in the Milford Sound with me?” And me being sleep deprived and probably still drunk as I came straight from a night out to the trip I said, “I Will.” Next thing you know he is undressing, which means I have to as well.

After that freezing experience, I learnt to keep my mouth shut.

Milford Sound

Not my picture
Not my picture
Not my picture
Not my picture

I stayed the night at Te Anau and went on a 7k hike to Broad Bay as the Milford Track is a rewarding place to hike and experience nature first hand. It was lovely to see the changing scenery and I was happy to escape Queenstown and it’s bars for the true beauty of New Zealand.

Te Anau Te Anau

Nelson, Westport and Lake Poo

Nelson:
Nelson is titled, ‘the centre of New Zealand’, and reaching the very top of one of its gorgeous hills, which rewards you with the view of its idyllic coastal beaches and its bustling port, you can see why. I am unsure how accurate that is, but what I do know is, it sure is the sunniest town in NZ. Rewarded with sun most months of the year, means that Nelson is the most laid back town in NZ, it doesn’t have the same work ethic as Auckland, or extreme sports as Queensland, but it does have a world famous wine valley and one of the most beautiful national parks throughout the whole of NZ, Abel Tasman National Park. Nelson is a place to sail, drink wine, bike and kayak. It reminds me of a NZ version of the south of France, but instead of the uncomfortable language barrier, you have warm Kiwi’s asking, ‘Why do you live there?! Come live here!’, and there is little reasons not to.

Nelson NZ

Westport:

Westport is a tiny town in NZ, that is only used as stop over for most bus journeys. It is a ghost town, shops and streets are incredibly empty, and I felt it was a scene out of a horror movie. Luckily our time was short here, although we did try out the extreme and fun loving, ‘jet boating’, where you are taken around on a speed boat, whizzing down a river and narrowly missing tight corners along dangerous jaunts of rock. It was incredible!

Lake Mahinapua:

This stop is purely for Kiwi Experience Buses, as all of the above I have so far mentioned you can easily do yourself with your own bus journey. But this stop is where you have a “Poo Party” in the middle of nowhere with a 100 yr old man and his bar, this top made our journey more personal and authentic.

Not my picture
Not my picture

On the way here we stopped off at the Punakaiki Rocks, in the area Paparoa National Park, which is filled with dense landscape such as rainforest, rugged coasts and snow sprinkled mountain tops. The area is famous for its pancake shaped rocks created 300 million years ago by fragments of dead marine life. The rocks are now blown and eroded by the surges of the sea and the powerful wind, whilst a dramatic coast line walk furthers past this scene.

Pancake Rocks Rocks Rocks

 

Christchurch and Kaikura

For both North and South Island of New Zealand, I began my first solo trip at the age of 18. After travelling around Australia with my best friend for four months, I felt more than prepared. Apart from arriving in Christchurch airport and nearly getting arrested for bringing walking boots with mud on them, (long story but just make sure you clean your boots Kiwis are REALLY pro environment), as well as living like Harry Potter under the stairs at my Couch surfers’ house who acted like he was going to murder me, I was okay. The best way to explore the entirety of New Zealand is to rent or buy your own van and create your own adventure around the country. With its jaw dropping remarkable scenery varying from volcanoes, to ice glaciers, white beaches and rolling hills one finds in a famous hobbit movie, travelling at your own pace and time is the best way to see NZ.

Christchurch

If young, wild and free- like I was, and wanting to take an easier and more organised way, buy a coach ticket. Coaches here are in the form of hop on hop off buses, which combines the ease of travelling around the country and taking in the ever changing landscape at each stop, meeting new and interesting people in a manageable environment, a personal tour guide, and unique stops within the country on your chosen route. Before my trip, I organized the latter with a coach company called ‘The Kiwi Experience Bus‘, and boy was it an experience. The drivers and tour guides are equally as bonkers and care free as those who decide to join the bus, meaning the entire trip is a manic and enjoyable ride. Each night the driver makes sure the entire bus is fuelled with alcohol, and those who don’t join in, are shamed until they do so. Developed for a young crowd, or for those who are young at heart, the trip is a blur of incredible sights, and incredible hangovers. If partying every night inst you thing (after 2 months of my trip it surely wasn’t), then there are other buses such as Stray and Magic that offer similar packages.

My first day in Christchurch I wandered around the city and booked myself to see a Haka Maori Dance in a small centre. It was one of the most cringe worthy things I’ve ever watched. Seeing teenager’s who weren’t even Maori dance out of time for around the world tourists was awkward and made me think if each performance around NZ would be like that. Thankfully it wasn’t, but as a recommendation, don’t settle for any old Maori performance, watch the best in Rotorua, North Island.

Christchurch Park

The sights in Christchurch are pretty ordinary, as it is basically a small city town with little attractions. Walking around I peered into the ancient cathedral, the art gallery exhibiting Maori style of art, and the botanical gardens filled with blooming buds of roses, and an ideal place to relax in. Although Christchurch has mainly, boring sights, what sets it apart from similar cities, are the numerous earthquakes that occur here and cause great destruction. Walk a little further from the main tourist sights, taking yourself down a few side streets and you will find buildings with giant gaping holes standing erect, most of its materials crumbled and destroyed on the floor. Pieces of tarmac have been stretched and expanded as if stretch marks on a pregnant women’s skin, which highlight the aftermath of the horrific disaster.

Although little to do in Christchurch, head out to Hamner Springs, an example of NZ’s fantastic geo-thermal activity. Here you can lie in varying temperatures of natural baths relieving yourself of any stress or worry. The most mild temperature baths are packed with local families, so I advise going during the week to avoid congestion.

Earthquake

Kaikura:
Kaikura is a beautiful small town where snow capped mountains and the wild freezing sea come together as if long lost relatives. Many tourists come here to spot the humongous beasts of whales whilst they gasp for air, or dolphins jumping in excitement with their friends, however Kaikura is also a fantastic spot to see sea lions huddle together and cry out in unison, as if at their own personal musical festival, at the piece of coastal path titled: Seal Walk.

Kaikura