For such a small country, New Zealand certainly packs a punch when it comes to natural beauty. On my recent two week road trip around the South Island I was so saturated with dramatic alpine landscapes, mountains and mirror-like lakes that I almost stopped taking any photographs at all. So if a New Zealand road trip is not already on your bucket list (seriously though, it should be), then maybe this lot will help change your mind…
Milford Sound is the most well known fiord in New Zealand – in fact, one of the most well known places in New Zealand – so it must be pretty special right? Trust me it is. And an absolute must-see for anyone visiting this country. I opted for one of the 2.5 hour cruises that take you all the way out to where the fiord meets the sea. But if you’re a little more adventurous you could try exploring by kayak or splurging on a helicopter ride.
Tip Take a waterproof jacket because Milford Sound is notoriously rainy.
Aoraki / Mount Cook
The highest mountain in New Zealand. Check. Glacier tours. Check. Alpine walks. Check. Do you need anymore convincing? How about skiing, stargazing and mountaineering? And if all else fails then all I have to say is – that view!
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park in the North of the South Island is home to one of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. I must admit to you now – I didn’t actually make it here myself and its one of my biggest New Zealand regrets. But if you like hiking, kayaking, beaches and beautiful views then put this on your list. Oh, and did I also mention that it happens to be in the sunniest region in the country?
I kind of fell a little bit in love with Glenorchy. I spent a few nights there for the sole purpose of doing a day hike on the Routeburn Track, another of New Zealand’s Great Walks, but I would have gladly spent a few more days wandering around the little town and exploring some of the surrounding countryside.
Rob Roy Glacier Track
Its difficult for me to really put into words just how incredibly spectacular this place really is. The track starts in Mount Aspiring National Park, about an hour’s drive from Wanaka, and runs alongside deep valleys full of trees, rivers and tall waterfalls, eventually reaching a huge valley sitting right underneath the shadow of the Rob Roy Glacier. The view from here is one of the best I have seen in the whole of New Zealand. Just…wow!
Note If it has been recently raining you may find it difficult to reach this as the road is intersected with streams at numerous points along the way that get much fuller after heavy rainfall.
Queenstown is the main hub and tourist draw of the whole of the South Island. A lively town set against a backdrop of lakes and mountains where you can indulge in all manner of adventure sports – skiing, mountain biking, bungy jumping (they have the highest bungy in New Zealand) and much more. And to round it all off at the end of the day you have your pick of great restaurants and bars.
Wanaka is Queenstown’s smaller, classier and ever so slightly less crowded neighbour. Its another lovely town set on the edge of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand’s fourth largest lake, and right next door to Mount Aspiring National Park. And let’s not forget that its home to that Wanaka tree.
Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef may not be quite as eye-wateringly beautiful as some other areas of New Zealand but it has its own special charm. Gone are the green, lush scenes of the South. Instead, the walk to the glacier feels almost otherworldly – a place of stark grey landscapes, bright orange rocks and glaciers.
Vineyards, vineyards and more vineyards. Enough said. Oh and even more mountain views, of course.
Clay Cliffs, Omarama
This one is a little off the beaten track. I had no idea it even existed until I saw a tiny sign tucked away at the side of the road. If you happen to find yourself in Omarama (on the way to Cromwell / Queenstown from Lake Tekapo or Mount Cook) then definitely make a stop here. You could almost be forgiven for thinking you were in a desert in the USA from those giant rock formations.
So I’m guessing you’re busy planning your road trip to New Zealand now right? Stay tuned for my in-depth road trip guide to New Zealand’s South Island, which has all the info you need to make it a reality.
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