When Joel and I were planning our big New Years trip, we decided that if we were going to fly all the way Down Under, then we should definitely check out New Zealand. After reviewing several travellers’ blogs, we decided to start in the South Island. The flights were cheaper returning to the USA from Auckland. So we needed that to be the last city.
Day One: Queenstown & Millford Sound
The more I researched New Zealand, the more I found to love. Whether it was the lush green plant life or the wide expanses of nature, it is just so beautiful there. Another thing I found was that there are a lot of “extreme sports” opportunities there. AJ Hackett is a company that operates a bungy jump off of Kawarau Bridge. This was the world’s first commercial bungy jump. But also, they allow people of many shapes and sizes to enjoy.
As a human of size, I normally find myself having to skip the fun activities when I travel: SCUBA, Snorkel, Paragliding, Sky-diving, etc., but not in New Zealand. I was under the weight limit. This meant I was for sure going to do it.
Almost immediately after landing and picking up our luggage and the rental, Joel and I headed over to the facility. It turns out that the Kawarau Bridge is actually over the river that was used in Lord of the Rings to depict the River Anduin where the Fellowship canoe up to The Pillars of the Kings. So that is cool. After wandering out, and getting my safety brief, I got my feet fastened and edged out to the jump point. This was real… from there, I flew. It was amazing. Touching the water was so worth it. I literally felt weightless, even if it was just a split second.
Following my jump, we grabbed some beers from a local shop, Arrowtown Wine Store, then headed back up northwest to Milford Sound. Here is a tip for you. Something may seem close in New Zealand, but it is like Hawaii: sometimes you have to drive all the way around something huge just to go a half mile and the bird flies. Plan accordingly. On our way to the sound, we met our first Kea. These birds look like parrots, kind of, but they are aggressive and will steal your food. Joel loved the Keas. He named one Karl the Kea.
Honestly, I wish we had spent an extra day in the sound and done one of the boat tours. It was fricking beautiful. We hiked around and got some pictures, but it is hard to capture all that wonder in a short time.
From there, we headed back down to Te Anau for our hotel, Distinction Luxmore, to get some sleep. This trip was going to be amazing and tiring at the same time. We also thought it was funny since our friend’s last name is Lux. Almost everything at the hotel was branded as “Lux.”
Day Two: Franz Josef Glacier
The next morning, we woke up and grabbed our stuff. Our first stop was going to be Franz Josef Glacier. Driving around New Zealand should not be underestimated. It is straight out of movies, literally, and it is beyond gorgeous. Green plants and mountains are everywhere. You could almost spend a month just driving around taking pictures from the roads.
When we got to the start of the glacier hike, it was extremely overcast. Joel seemed skeptical, but I knew my guardian angel, Jeff, would take of the weather for us. Ever since he left this earth, I have had near perfect weather on every trip. I think it is his way to let me know he is still with me. As we arrived to the top, it was grey clouds everywhere, I was absolutely out of breath, but I told Joel to wait a bit. We waited, then as if in a movie, the clouds began to clear. Slowly, but surely, they opened up and revealed a marvelous sight. It was breath-taking. After taking my fill, I felt the need to walk back alone and talk with Jeff. It was almost too much for me to handle.
After dinner, we were blessed with a pretty cool sunset over our hotel, Misty Peaks. That night, I treated myself to some tasty New Zealand beers. There are surprisingly some pretty outstanding bottles down there.
Day Three: Fox Glacier and Christchurch
I woke up with a smidge of a headache, but that can never stop an adventure. So we packed our stuff, loaded up the car, and headed out. I didn’t feel much like hiking, but Joel was all about it. He went and did the whole trail around Fox Glacier.
After an hour or so, I felt like I needed to at least see it, so I got out and checked it out. It was very beautiful as well.
Next we made our way up to Christchurch. We did not have much expectation for this city, as it was mainly a midway point for our drive. But it is a cool beach city with a mountain that provides wonderful sunset views.
We actually had an amazing apartment in Christchurch. It was in a cool neighborhood. Granted we didn’t stay there much at all. But, the Sumner Retreat is a great spot.
Day Four: Nelson
By now, the driving was wearing on us a little. But the delicious meat pies from the gas stations were our fuel. Those things are a true delicacy and should be consumed as often as possible. We made it to Nelson a little later than we wanted. But the first stop was the to the jewelry shop of the official Ringmaker, Jens Hansen. He provided all the rings for the Lord of the Rings movies. His shop is basically a museum to the rings of the movies, but I was able to purchase a ring for myself as well, of course.
We dropped off the rental and boarded ferry, saying goodbye to the South Island.
The South Island is a marvelous place for nature. I cannot emphasize enough how much I think people should visit both islands.