The whole way down from Auckland towards Oamaru we were stunned by the nature. But we were still missing the wow-effect. I talked to some people on our way and noticed some rivality between the people form the north and south island. No matter where they lived, it was important to them where they came from. In almost every talk sooner or later the other said: “You know I’m from north/south island!”. Their opinion on where to stay longer and which island is the more interesting was always the one they came from. But everybody said that the region around Queenstown is stunning, beautiful, and unique. So we were really excited when we drove westwards.
The first mountains on the highway are nice, but the winding roads can be quite tiring for the driver. We drove towards Queenstown and were sure that we could make it, when a small accident happened. I wanted to go to the right, one guy with a boat-trailer wanted to pass me on the left. I swung the vehicle a bit to take the curve, and so he went into me. It was just a small bump, but anyway we had to wait for the police and write down the details etc. So that we had to stay in the place where it happened. This was Cromwell. There is a nice lake, but we were too tired to care about that. But maybe it was good, as we arrived in Queenstown around mid-day.
After being on the road for so long, especially in New Zealand, this place was shocking. Loud music everywhere, the streets packed with cars and tourists and every store tourist-centered. It felt like the first thing you wanna do in Queenstown is checking how to get out of there. We had two options:
1. Staying in around Queenstown and Wanaka and do some hikes there
2. Going to Milford Sound and then continue quickly to the west coast
We decided to skip Milford Sound as the effort was quite too much. Even though there are plenty of tours available, and we didn’t have to drive ourselves, it felt the saner option was to stay where we were. But not in Queenstown. We continued the highway along the Lake Wakatipu towards Glenorchy. And if you’re looking for the exact opposite of hectic, loud and touristy Queenstown, this is the place to go. We stayed at a DoC campsite right in the mountains 20km away from town and enjoyed a stunning view, a wonderful forest and a huge amount of sandflies. After spending the night there and waiting the rain to pass in the early morning, we took a walk through the forest, which had the perfect length for Linnéa. After hesitating at first, she liked it at the end. We walked to Lake Sylvan. The whole way went through the forest, it’s marked perfectly and it almost doesn’t go up at all. The campsite was the starting point for the hike. We enjoyed our time a lot. And even if you aren’t up to hiking around Glenorchy, the highway is definitely worth taking, as you’ll pass stunning viewpoints onto Lake Wakatipu.
Next stop was Wanaka, and there are two options on how to get there. Take the big highway, or the scenic one. Even though our vehicle didn’t seem to like our choice as it forced us down to 40 km/h on some proper highway, we enjoyed the view onto the valley, lake and river. Wanaka is much more relaxed than Queenstown, but the surrounding almost as nice. We stayed at a campsite outside of town and took a nice hike in the Mt Aspiring National Park. Linnéa got used to heat and hiking by promising a muesli bar at the end of the hike. She walked a lot of the way and was really proud herself.
All in all the nature is really stunning there. Especially Lake Wakatipu and Wanaka are amazing in between of the mountains. That was the New Zealand we were looking for. What we didn’t know was that the most beautiful part of the trip was still ahead of us.