Being able to travel New Zealand is another achievement for me in 2016. This beloved country fills my bucket-list for so long until I finally ticked it off. As a mountain-junkie I’ve been dreaming endlessly to present myself and now, here I am! I’ll share my one month itinerary in New Zealand, both south and north island. Enjoy!
Day 1: Christchurch
Touchdown Christchurch, finally! I felt excited but tired in the same time after long flight from Bali. The time difference slightly affected me. It was 5 a.m. when I arrived, almost the same time with Fahmi, my travel mate who flew from Sydney. He was just in front of my line at immigration check, what a coincidence.
The immigration check was quite tight, not only checking passport and issuing stamp but the officer also asked me lots of questions like what do you do? what’s your plan in NZ, with whom you travel? It happened to Fahmi as well.The day was still young, too early to pick up the car so we had a small breakfast while waiting. Another friend, Vivi, she’d arrive later around noon. It’s been a while we haven’t met since Sydney, a lot of things to catch up. Then it’s time to pick up the car that we booked, however something’s wrong with the car so we had to wait almost 2 hours till they fixed it. It dragged our mood down a little bit.
Got the car after waiting for so long! Fahmi and I slid to the city to get things that we need, mostly camping equipment and food supplies. Done with our shopping we went to get Vivi and had a look a bit of Christchurch. The city was super quiet, nothing much happening due to end year holiday. So, we decided to call it a day.
219 on John Holiday Park ($13 pp)
*Price for tent/unpowered site
A nice family campground near airport and city with shower, kitchen and common room to use. Best value so far for a big city.
Day 2: Christchurch – Lake Tekapo
We’re so ready for the adventure. I couldn’t control the pulse inside me to see everything that I had imagined about New Zealand. The nature, mountains, beautiful scenery, sense of adventure, I wanted to be there quickly! We drove towards Castle Hill wanting to do Arthur Pass, however the weather was unfavorable. After much consideration we changed the route to Lake Tekapo.
The weather was getting much better around Lake Tekapo. Just before the lake, we saw many cars stopped on the side of the road (you’ll see this happen a lot). And there it was, a bunch of colorful flowers grown with mountains as the background. Lupin is the name of the flower, looks like lavender in instance. Lupin can be easily spotted during spring and summer on South Island and Lake Tekapo is one of the best spot to see them.
Lake Tekapo is a popular destination in Canterbury Region and also photographer’s favorite spot to shoot milky way, adding Church of the Good Shepherd in the frame. This church was the first church built in Mackenzie Basin in 1935.
I have to warn you, this is where it all begins, the reason why people talk and praise New Zealand a lot. I might be too overwhelmed by the mountain ranges and the snow so it sounds a bit exaggerating, but everything that you see in South Island will make your jaw drop.
Lake McGregor Campsite ($5pp)
Cheapest option around the area and great view of Lake McGregor, toilet only.
Day 3: Lake Tekapo – Lake Pukaki
The next day, we drove up to Mt. John. The drive up itself was a bit horrifying if you’re afraid of height. It was steep, narrow, with sharp turns. Once we parked our car, as far I could see was the mountain ranges. It’s like we’re in the middle of basin and the mountains circled around it, like a tart (I have no idea why I’m illustrating it with a tart!). I turned around and my whole 360’ view was mountains, some topped with snow, some just normal. I wonder how it comes to winter, they’re all be sparkling with snow!
On top of Mt. John, premiere New Zealand’s observatory was built to facilitate researcher and also monitoring southern sky. There is also café to chill on the top of Mt. John. It’s nice to sip a cup of coffee while admiring the nature. Some walking tracks can be accessed from Mt. John.
Done with Mt. John, we had a short drive to Lake Pukaki. The weather was at its finest, clear sky and hot sun. We kept pulling our car on the side to get pictures cause the view was mesmerizing. Then we saw this blue tosca lake and about to go insane, it’s Lake Pukaki! The lake looks unbelievably blue in a perfect weather like that. And, Mt. Cook and friends looks elegant. We moved to the campsite on the other side of the lake and had this worth million dollars view. We spent that hot afternoon by jumping to the freezing lake, how fun!
Lake Pukaki Camping (Free)
Our best free camping site with Lake Pukaki just right next to you. Incredibly stunning view of Southern Alps. The only thing I don’t like about this site is the dust and toilet a bit stink but it’s free campsite anyway
Day 4: Lake Pukaki – Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park
Far from yesterday, the weather was rather disappointing. Dark clouds growing and covered most of the peaks and the saddest thing is we could only see the foot of Mt. Cook. I checked the weather if it could possibly better in next day but it’s getting even worse. So, we decided to do Hooker Valley Track today. It took 3-4 hours to complete the track and in that position we could only enjoy the different atmosphere of misty, mysterious kind of feel.
It wasn’t raining but very windy. The track is flat and stable, passing the Alpine Memorial to the first viewing point, Mueller Glacier. It’s sad to see how the ice melted and the glacier has decreased significantly for the past years. We crossed over three swing bridges, across Hooker River till we reached the end of Glacier Lake where some icebergs could be spotted in the lake, even on the shore.
That night was new year’s eve, a very unusual way for me celebrating new year’s eve. No crowds, no fireworks, not something typical. Besides, I was spending the night in a hut, middle of nowhere without lights. It was rainy and cold. The good thing was I could still have bbq with Fahmi and Vivi and stayed up till midnight. The wind was too strong that night and shook our tent really hard. It was the worst sleep ever, oh Mt. Cook.
The gate to Hooker Valley Track. Large campground with nice toilet facility and a common room with sink. No lights in common room and toilet during the night.
Day 5: Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park – Gore
What can be more excited than first day of New Year! Especially in such a lovely country. I felt so good on wheels heading to southern. Wasn’t exactly in my plan, but my friend wanted to see Moeraki Boulders. It’s a long drive, the view changed from range of mountains to drier land, also farms on both sides.
While I drove my car, I could see through my mirror that a police car was after me. Yes, first day of new year and I got fined by police (good girl!). I’m not going to tell the story here but if you wish to know, drop me message.
To be honest, I didn’t see anything special from the boulders. I expected bigger boulder and more of them, but that’s it. Then, we did Nugget Point, still, hours drive from Moeraki. This area on southern coast is known for wildlife watching. However, that’s not what I fancy to do. At least, it’s good to see a bit of it.
A&P Showgrounds ($5pp)
The main function of this place is a sport arena and hosting shows I guess. But they also let campers stay overnight when there’s no event. Good deal for a night in Gore. Hot shower +$3
Day 6: Gore – Milford Sound
Entering different area, Fiordland National Park somehow appealed me. It’s the largest national park in New Zealand, encompassing mountain, lake, fiord, and rainforest. The term fiord is defined as a u-shaped glacier-carved valley which has been flooded by the sea. In total, there are 14 fiords where waterfalls make their way to the sea.
Milford Sound, one of the famous fiord is in our bucket-list to do in New Zealand. The closest and last township is Te Anau, a peaceful lake town where we got the information about things to do around as well as getting more food. Afterward, we drove to the next campsite while stopping along, such as Eclinton Valley and Mirror Lake. Too bad the weather wasn’t so good either.
Driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound was a pleasure, another excitement to me. Apart from the scenery, I enjoy driving on winding road with the abundance of rainforest. The only nightmare that we had was sandflies. They hang a lot around Milford Sound and west coast of South Island. It looks like tinier version of normal fly but when it bites, it stings. Beware of them. We had a night in Cascade Creek before our cruising tour in Milford Sound tomorrow!
Many campsites run by DOC on the way to Milford Sound. We chose the last campsite, Cascade Creek. Large area surrounded by beautiful nature of Fiordland National Park. Toilet and running water only. A lot of sandflies.