Day 7: Christchurch to Arrowtown
The Southern Island is as equally stunning as its Northern sibling except that its beauty is bigger and further away. While the North Island has beautiful green, rolling hills pretty much everywhere, the Southern Island is completely flat around Christchurch (where we flew in). There are tremendous snow capped mountains and spectacular clear lakes but they’re at least an hour away in every direction (more if you go South). The only reason we made it all the way to Arrowtown on the first day was because there was nothing around to see along the coast. It was like driving in Kansas but with sea gulls… And without seeing the sea. The only notable place we stopped at was Shag Point. There were a lot of seals and penguins there. Besides that, I recommend the Inland Scenic Route for anyone planning to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown in the future. I’m guessing that’s prettier.
Day 8: Arrowtown, Queenstown
Arrowtown is an old miner’s town with one main street tucked away between huge, green mountains. It was cute and cozy as we walked down the street and I really liked it there. Queenstown was much bigger but also more picturesque as it was on a lake. The city was okay but the true beauty was in its park. At one point there’s just an open view of mountains and lake and I absolutely adored sitting there even when it started drizzling. We also saw tons of parasailers floating down from the mountain and I was so close to going myself… We also drove up to Glenoarchy that day searching for the Misty Mountains. Unfortunately, it was a bit too misty and we couldn’t find them, but the drive itself was worth it. That lake is just so big and magnificent.
Day 9: Milford Sound
It took us approximately 4 hours to drive to Milford Sound from Queenstown. It took us even longer to get back since we stopped at multiple scenic points on the way back. We took a cruise into the fjord at Milford Sound and it was so stunning. Everything there was so green and alive! I saw some of the tallest waterfalls I’ve ever seen rushing down cliffs and we also got to see more seals, go in an underwater observatory, and kayak on the sound! Driving back to Queenstown, we also stopped at the Mirror Lakes (a World Heritage Site, like Milford Sound), Cascading Creek, and many other cool lookouts and stops.
Day 10: Arrowtown, Fox Glacier
To get to the glaciers we had to backtrack so we ended up staying another night in Arrowtown since it was about $15 cheaper to sleep there than in Queenstown. The next morning, Marie went to find where they shot Rohan, while I walked along another hiking track (there are lots) in Arrowtown and checked out the Chinese settlement (much more hyped up than it should be…). Then we drove out to Fox Glacier and for the first time in months, felt truly cold. The glacier itself was small and dirty, but still cool.
Day 11: Franz Josef Glacier, Great Alpine Road, Akaroa
Franz Josef is a much larger glacier but also rocky and rapidly retreating, with a reasonably strong river flowing from it. Almost every 5 minutes you could hear a helicopter fly by overhead. We got to check out pictures of how much the glacier had retreated in only 4 years and it was pretty dramatic. Afterwards, we took the Great Alpine Road up to Christchurch and experienced another inspiring drive through mountain ranges that seemed too perfect and beautiful to be real. We passed Christchurch and drove straight to Akaroa, a wondrous little town situated on the East coast. Unfortunately, a storm hit after we arrived so we didn’t get to do much that night… On the other hand, we learned that storm watching is pretty mesmerizing.
Day 12: Christchurch
It was still raining the next morning so we weren’t able to sail out on the voyage we’d originally booked. Instead, we just walked to the lighthouse and drove back to Christchurch. We got to explore that city which was, unfortunately, very broken due to an earthquake that had hit in 2011. There was construction everywhere and the mall was relocated so the shops were in trailers. We also visited the Christchurch Museum, which had some pretty interesting Maori history artifacts. But mostly we just ended up walking in circles since we kept getting blocked by construction.
Now after spending the night in the Christchurch airport and making it through both Australian and US customs, plus a 13 hour flight, I’m finally in LAX. Back in the right country with familiar customs and free wi-fi. Australia, you were amazing but now, I can’t wait for the holidays!