Because of its natural beauty in such diverse forms, New Zealand was called “God’s own country” (the title of a poem written by Thomas Bracken in 1890) or “the Paradise of the Pacific“.
The beauty of the landscapes here surprised us a lot. To truly appreciate its beauty, you must visit this country.
The two islands of New Zealand vary greatly, and both are unique in their own way, but we particularly liked the South Island.
Our trip started in Sydney, where we boarded a Jetstar flight to Queenstown.
We arrived in New Zealand on a spring day at the beginning of November, when the mountain picks were still covered in snow and the air was cold.
We were inspired to choose the window seat and so we enjoyed an impressive view of the mountain ridges, the Wakatipu Lake and the vast grazing lands before we landed.
In Sydney, the temperature was about 30°C, and in Queenstown it was a rainy day and a temperature of only 10°C.
Our flight arrived in Queenstown in the evening, and after we passed the airport interview, we headed for Jucy where we rented the car.
You can rent cars and campervans from Jucy. In New Zealand, we rented 2 cars from them and we were very pleased with the cars we received.
We paid 60 NZD / day including insurance and we did not have to pay a deposit.
In this article you will find useful information for preparing a New Zealand vacation (airport interview, transportation and the weather in New Zealand).
Table of Contents
Where did we stay in Queenstown?
The apartment is 600 meters away from Queenstown Airport and a few minutes’ walk from the supermarket and restaurants. It offers free parking.
What did we visit on the South Island of New Zealand?
Given that we were going to spend only 4 days on New Zealand’s South Island, we chose to visit Queenstown and two national parks located a few hours away from the city.
For the first day in New Zealand we booked a helicopter flight over Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.
The day before we arrived in Queenstown, we were informed that the flight had been canceled due to weather conditions and would be rescheduled for one of the following days.
Unfortunately, the weather did not allow us to fly during the next 3 days, because the mountain peaks were hidden under a dense fog and we received the money back.
If you plan to fly by helicopter, it is good to schedule your flight at the beginning of the holiday so that it can be rescheduled for another day in case of unfavorable weather conditions.
Since the flight was canceled, we woke up early in the morning and started around 5 o’clock towards the Fiordland National Park.
We stopped to have breakfast in Te Anau, the entry point into the Fiordland National Park.
Te Anau is the most popular choice for accommodation among tourists who want to visit the park.
What can you do in Te Anau?
- A trip to – Te Anau Glow Worm Caves;
- A cruise on the Lake Te Anau;
- Day trips to Milford Sound;
- Flight by helicopter or a small airplane above the park.
You can reach Te Anau by car or by bus from Queenstown.
Fiordland National Park:
Fiordland National Park is located in the southwestern part of New Zealand’s South Island and is the largest national park in the country and the most spectacular park we visited.
This park is a true Mecca for nature lovers and hikers. Here are 3 fjords: Milford Sound, Dusky Sound and Doubtful Sound.
The park can also be visited on a day trip from Queenstown or Te Anau.
What did we visit in the Park?
After the heavy rains of the previous days, we were very happy that on the first day we were going to spend in the park, the sun began to make an appearance.
The lake where the mountains mirror perfectly is at the end of a trail that can be hiked in about 10 minutes.
After passing by Mirror Lake, the view changed, and the park began to portray the beauties that make it so famous. The landscape here is like a painting, the creation of the most famous of painters, who have joined forces to create a masterpiece.
It was difficult for us not to stop at every step on the route to admire the view. The rain of the past days created thousands of waterfalls on the steep slopes of the mountains around us, enriching the natural beauty of the park.
Lake Gunn Nature Walk (40 minutes round trip)
The route is accessed from the Cascade Creek car park, via Milford Road approximately 80 km from Te Anau. It’s a short trail that passes by Lake Gunn and through a green forest that makes you feel like a fairy tale.
Lake Marian Falls Track (20 minutes return) and Lake Marian Track (3.5 hours return)
It is the most spectacular route we hiked in this park and it begins with a wooden bridge that crosses a river with impressive clear blue water.
After you walk 10 minutes through the forest, you reach the place where the river flows into a stepped waterfall.
From the waterfall, the trail continues through a forest with different vegetation and plenty of birds.
Marian Glacier Lake is bordered by mountain ridges. When we got there, the fog had dissipated, revealing a breathtakingly beautiful landscape.
We sat down on a stone and had a picnic. We spent about an hour watching the view with the peaks of the snow-covered mountains, the lake that had an emerald green color in the sun, and the waterfall flowing into the lake.
The Chasm Walk (20 minutes return)
When we got to the car park we were greeted by a Kea parrot. This is the only species of alpine parrot in the world and lives only in the forested areas of New Zealand’s Southern Island.
Keas, curious by nature, come very close to people and cars. To protect these beautiful birds, you are asked not to feed them.
Kea, an emblem of the Fiordland National Park, is a protected species in New Zealand, as it is estimated that only 5,000 birds still live there.
At the end of the route, you will reach a bridge over a white-watered river which strikes the rocks beneath the bridge so hard, they make a deafening sound.
Milford Sound is the main attraction in the park. The most popular activities here are: helicopter flying over the Milford Sound, cruising along the fjord, kayaking, diving and hiking.
Although we were planning to visit this place on the next day, we could not resist the temptation and we went up there on the first day.
Milford Foreshore Walk (30 minutes round trip)
From the trail you can see the beautiful waterfall Lady Bowen, the highest waterfall in the park. The route starts from the main car park at Milford Sound Marina (120 km from Te Anau via Milford Road).
Milford Sound Lookout Track (20 minutes round trip)
It is accessed from the same car park as Milford Foreshore Walk, to get to the Lookout, you have to climb a few minutes through the woods.
Where did we stay?
From Milford Sound we headed for Manapouri (about 2 hours from Milford Sound), where we stayed overnight.
We stayed in a private cottage at the C4 Possum Lodge Motels and Holiday Park.
Cruise to Milford Sound:
Early in the morning we headed to Milford Sound in order to arrive in time for the first cruise departing at 9:25 AM from the Milford Sound Marina.
We chose a 2-hour cruise with Jucy, because as we rented the car from them, the driver paid only 50% of the ticket price of the cruise. The price of the Jucy cruise is 55 NZD / person.
Although it was rather cold and fairly foggy, we enjoyed the cruise very much. We passed by countless waterfalls running down the rocky walls of the fjord, and also by a colony of seals.
Key Summit Alpine Walk (3 hours round trip) and Howden Hut (1.5 hours round trip)
Our next stop was The Divide, where the Key Summit Alpine Walk starts.
The first part of the route is part of the Routeburn Great Walk, which is 32 km in length, and it is more like a walk through a forest with a few small waterfalls.
At one point, the route is divided into two parts, one trail leads to Howden Hut, and the other is basically the Alpine Key Summit. From this bifurcation you can reach the Key Summit Alpine Walk in 20 minutes.
There was still some snow and a dense fog. When the fog disappeared for a few seconds, we saw an extraordinary panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
After we had traveled the route, it was already evening, and we headed to Queenstown.
When we arrived next to Lake Wakatipu, the clouds began to dissipate, leaving behind a clear sky.
We had never seen a picture of the sky so beautiful, the stars were shining above the Wakatipu Lake so large and so close that they even gave you the impression that you could touch them.
We stopped in the first parking lot we found, and we stood stargazing in that complete silence. Soon, other tourists joined us, they were, like us, fascinated by the landscape.
Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is the third largest park in New Zealand and is located 120 km away from Queenstown. The park is crowded with spectacular trails with many natural attractions: waterfalls, glacial lakes and glaciers.
We spent only one day in the park and chose to hike two trails that drew our attention.
Wanaka’s Blue Pools (30 minutes return) and Blue-Young Link Track (2 hours return)
The route is just a few minutes’ drive away from Makarora (2 hours from Queenstown).
After a few minutes’ walk through a forest, you will reach a suspension bridge, which crosses the Makarora River and then a second bridge that crosses the Blue River in the area where Blue River meets the Makarora River, forming deep pools of pure blue.
The unique blue color of this river’s water is the result of the sunlight’s reflection in the clear, cold water of the river.
From Blue Pools, the Blue-Young Link Track continues for another 6 kilometers.
Rob Roy Glacier Track (3-4 hours round trip)
The road from Blue Pools to here is spectacular. After passing by the beautiful lakes of blue water with snow covered mountains in the background, Wanaka and Hawea, you will end up in Wanaka, the starting point to this route.
From Wakana to the route there are 52 kilometers and the last 30 are on an unpaved road, which is easy to drive with a 2WD car. This green area is fabulously beautiful and the road passes by many farms.
To get from the parking lot to the entrance of the route, you will have to cross the flowing river several times. During our visit, the level of the river’s water was quite low, and we had no trouble going through with a small car.
The starting point for the route is Raspberry Creek Park in Matukituki Valley.
After a leisurely 10-minute walk, you will reach a suspension bridge, where the route starts.
The route passes through a dense forest and ends in a glade with alpine vegetation, the view here is splendid.
From Rob Roy Glacier we returned to Queenstown, and on the way back we made a short stop at “Cardrona Bra Fence“.
On the previous day we had planned to stop at Wanaka Lake on the way back to Queenstown from the Rob Roy Glacier Track, but it was already dark when we got there, so we decided to visit the lake in the first part of the last day on the island and the second half we would spend in Queenstown.
The fascinating position at the foot of the mountains and the blue water of the lake make this place worth visiting.
On this lake you can take a cruise or a kayak tour.
Queenstown is positioned in an exceptionally beautiful region, at the foot of the Remarkables Mountains and north of Lake Wakatipu. You will be enchanted by the beauty of this area as soon as you get here.
Attractions and activities in Queestown?
Queenstown is considered the capital of adrenaline and is renowned for extreme sports that can be practiced here: bungy jumping, sky diving, zipline, hang gliding, rafting, bungy swing.
The city of Queenstown lies in the north of Lake Wakatipu. This lake impresses because of its magnificent position, being bordered by mountains.
You can take a cruise on the lake and admire the beauty of the area.
The Queenstown Trail
A holiday in New Zealand is the dream of cycling enthusiasts, as there are a lot of routes dedicated to them.
The Queenstown Trail is one of the tracks specially designed for cycling but it can also be walked on foot. This 110 km trail connects Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, Lake Hayes, Arrowtown and Gibbston.
The gondola climbs 450 meters above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu where you can enjoy a remarkable panoramic view.
Aurora Australis can be seen from Australia and New Zealand, but we were not so lucky to see this phenomenon.
The locals told us that sometimes, in June, Aurora Australis can be seen in Queenstown and it is a real show to see the colorful sky in yellow, green, and pink as reflected in Wakatipu Lake.
On the South Island of New Zealand, we felt safe, and we were very pleasantly surprised by the way people lived there, and by their quiet lifestyle.
We saw here how good it is to be surrounded by altruistic, benevolent and patient people. It is a true example that “a man sanctifies a place”.
No matter how beautiful New Zealand looks in pictures, they do not show its real beauty. It is one of our favorite destinations, and we are hoping to have the chance to spend here a longer holiday in the future.