The Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton departs daily and is a common use of travel crossing between the North and South Island in New Zealand. Once aboard the ferry it’s a three hour journey and very comfortable ride. Upon arriving in Picton and first sites of the South Island, we began heading along highway 6 to Nelson.
There is something humbling about Nelson, it’s artistic and creative vibes don’t go unnoticed. I’m a sucker for markets, big or small, I think it’s a great way to experience a bit of the place you’re visiting if time is of the essence. Once again, we were conveniently in Nelson over the weekend only to discover their Saturday Markets: jewellery stalls, home ware goods, local food stalls selling anything from homemade mustards, chilli sauces and jam. Food dishes ranging from Indian, Turkish, Italian, vegetarian and many more filled the air with an aroma of mouth-watering sweet, sour, spicy, salty and savoury along with countless buskers adding the hypnotic sound of string instruments and drums into the warm atmosphere. In addition, there are plenty of opportunities for kayaking, sailing, hiking, and much more with numerous National Parks surrounding the area. We were short for time in Nelson with so much to see and do on the South Island, Nelson is a place I could definitely go back to explore more.
Nelson, Saturday Markets
South Island: West Coast
From Nelson, we began heading towards the west coast, making our way south to Franz Joseph Glacier. The town of Franz Joseph is just off the west coast, slightly inland. The town only consists of one main strip however, don’t be deceived by the amount of activities to do within the area. Franz Joseph Glacier, Fox Glacier and Mt. Cook National Park are all a short drive away from one another, where the possibilities of glacier hiking, helicopter scenic flights/ snow landings and so much more are available all year round.
Franz Joseph Glacier Trek
A beautifully scenic drive from Franz Joseph to Wanaka surrounds you with bodies of water and snow covered tipped mountains. Sitting on an incredibly majestic lake with crystal clear waters, the town has been rapidly expanding because of it’s ideal location for summer and winter seasons and appears to be less commercialised than the often sought after Queenstown. During my time here there was a relaxed vibe with many families on summer holidays there to do just that! Plenty of shops and restaurants all walking distance within the very new and modern town. Like the majority of places in New Zealand, there were plenty of bike trails, hiking trails, kayaking, etc. where the preserved natural beauty never seized to amaze me. On a hiking trail along Lake Wanaka I was drawn to the clearest water I have ever seen. From meters away I could see the bottom of the lake, fish swimming below the surface, and ducks diving underwater. To top it off, Wanaka is home to a large wine region. For those of who you love your wine and food for that matter, Wanaka has some of the greatest wineries pairing their award winning wine with equally tasty food. Extremely peaceful and lovely town, great way to spend a holiday!
Drive to Wanaka, off Hwy. 6
Doubtful Sound is the second largest fiord in Fiordland National Park. Many people travel all over the world to see New Zealand’s outstanding fiords. The popular choice and more accessible fiord on the southern west coast is Milford Sound. Both Milford and Doubtful Sound are meant to be incredibly stunning, although Milford Sound being more popular, that also means more crowds and a less comfortable ferry ride to truly appreciate your surroundings of the untouched wilderness. I was told by many travellers to do the Doubtful Sound tour opposed to Milford because of this, it did not disappoint. There is a price increase for Doubtful Sound although you pay for the experience you receive; comfortable seating with only about 30 passengers on our ferry and a more untouched feel with only one or two other boats on the water that we passed by.
We booked our day cruise with Go Orange that was recommended from the information centre in Wanaka while we were making our booking. Please see the ‘Go Orange’ link for any and all additional information on bookings, pick up and drop off locations, overnight cruises, kayaking and so much more! Doubtful Sound was an absolutely breathtaking experience, if you have any plans on heading to New Zealand the fiords is a must do!
They don’t call Queenstown the Adventure Capitol of the world for nothing. For those of you who have heard of Banff, Alberta.. I’m reminded of it being in Queenstown – a small resort town sitting amongst the mountains where the possibilities of activities are truly endless. Here are just a few…
Bungy Jumping (multiple)
Tandem Hand Gliding and Paragliding
Off Roading Expeditions
White Water Rafting
Renowned as a tourist destination, Queenstown’s lively streets are filled with smiling faces eager for their next adventure. The opportunities remain endless, some of the activities are seasonal so that’s something to take into consideration when planning your trip and what you’d like to do. I was here during the summer months which was great to see although I’m already planning my next trip back and excited about hitting the slopes! I would recommend Queenstown for anyone and all ages, truly something for everyone!
It’s now the last leg of our trip, heading north east back up highway 8 with pit stops at Lake Pukaki and Tekapo, admiring for the last time Mt. Cook from afar.
Our last two days of the trip were spent roaming the Christchurch Botanical Gardens, CBD, Memorial sites from the 2011 earthquake, Hagley park, and Re:Start shopping mall built from shipping containers. According to the Richter scale, the 6.3 earthquake that struck Christchurch in February 2011 has remained to leave the city and locals in shambles even five years later. I’m quite appalled by the lack of rebuild during this time that has left a massive portion of the CBD with nothing but boarded up buildings and large gravel parking lots where buildings and churches once stood. My mother and myself spoke to some locals and all of them had the same thing to say; saddened and frustrated. The rubble of where buildings once stood is a constant reminder to locals who have to relive what has happened day in and out. There are many plans for Christchurch and I believe in a few years time it will be the great city it once was.
185 White Chairs Memorial – For the Lives lost in the 2011 Earthquake
New Zealand is literally a breath of fresh air. The country will leave you feeling at peace, refreshed, and inspired by so much natural beauty. Its landscape has always been something that’s drawn me in, far exceeding its expectations – New Zealand is the world’s best hidden secret, I can’t wait to go back.