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Out of all the places I’ve traveled in my life, New Zealand unexpectedly catapulted to my #1 favorite. It was my first vacation to a colder climate, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. It was the adventure of a lifetime, and I may or may not be planning my next trip there already.
Day 1: Road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown
I won’t pretend that this was the most luxurious trip I’ve ever taken, and a lot of it was planned within about thirty minutes. When my friends and I landed in the Christchurch airport, we had no reservations on transportation. After speaking to several rental car companies, we managed to “help out” one of the companies by driving a car that needed to be dropped off the next day in Queenstown. Since we were helping them out, we received a discount.
It took us the better part of the day and evening to make it to Queenstown, stopping along the way to take in the scenery of the South Island and gazing at the stars. Since our first couple of days were barely planned, we hadn’t reserved a place to spend the night, and the five of us slept in the car in a parking lot. Glamorous, I know. But it was worth watching the sun rise over The Remarkables the next morning, and being first in line for coffee at Starbucks.
Day 2: Tea and Burgers
The next day we checked into our room at the Nomads hostel, which was the most beautiful hostel I’ve ever stayed in. Once settled, we grabbed drinks at The World Bar, which serves its cocktails in teapots. We also stopped by Fergburger, and had the best burger of my life! (The Dawn Horn burger is also incredible)
Day 3: Adventures, adventures, adventures!
We started off our day bright and early by riding on the Shotover Jet Boat, going 80 km/hr between narrow canyons. After having adrenaline pump through my veins for a solid hour, we then took the ride up the Skyline Queenstown Gondola. After taking in the best view of the Remarkables, we luged down the side of the mountain!
Day 4: The Milford Sound, “8th” Wonder of the World
The cruise through the Milford Sound was better than I ever thought it could be: breathtaking, vibrant, incredible, and many more adjectives I can’t think of right now. On the drive there, we took in the alpine environment of the South Island and walked the Key Summit trail.
Day 5: Rock climbing and Bar hopping
On our last full day in Queenstown, we rock climbed along the raw cliff faces New Zealand had to offer. Afterwards, we had ice cream at Patagonia by Lake Wakatipu and checked out the local aquarium. That evening we drove to the top of a nearby mountain, popped some champagne to celebrate and incredible trip, and explored the nightlife of Queenstown (including the famous Ice Bar).
Day 6: A Trip home to Remember
Would it be a memorable trip without some speed bumps along the way? We rented a car back to Christchurch, and drove up to spend the night by Mount Cook, which showcased teal blue water and the majesty of the mountains. As incredible as it was, the battery in our car died, and after 4 different cars tried jump-starting it, we had to call the New Zealand version of AAA. It took the tow truck 14 hours to get to us because we were in such a remote area! After waiting through the night, we came to the conclusion that we could NOT turn the car off after it started.
When we were about halfway to Christchurch, the accelerator gave out…then the brakes…and the car rolled to a stop along the side of a tiny town with one cafe and one gas station. We waited the entire day for a replacement car, and made it to Christchurch 48 hours later than originally planned. But fate was on our side and we still made our flight home! While this was the most challenging part of the trip, looking back I would do it all over again for the stories!
In conclusion, here are my top picks for the South Island of New Zealand:
- Bungee jump
- Skyline Queenstown Gondola
- Shotover Jet Boat
- Cruise through the Milford Sound
- Hike around Mount Cook
- World Bar
- Cookie Time
- Mrs. Ferg
So my advice from this trip: Don’t plan everything (but plan most things), DON’T rent from Jucy car rentals, and add New Zealand to your travel list!