The beautiful, dramatic South Island of New Zealand is the perfect place for an epic road trip. It started with the relaxing three and a half hour ferry ride from Wellington on North Island. Arriving in Picton we immediately got onto the coastal road and made our way south towards Christchurch.
A couple of hours along the beautiful sunny coastline, we came to the township of Kaikoura which stretches between the ocean and the mountain range. We took a stroll along the Shoreline Walk there and ate a picnic watching some seals sunbathing nearby.
Christchurch was of course badly damaged by the earthquakes, and is still in the process of recovery. There are many amazing initiatives and the people’s resilience has been salutatory but the complete recovery will take years. Still, Christchurch was a remarkably pleasant and cheerful place considering the disaster that just recently befell it. We spend a couple of days exploring the city and the surrounding area. A pop-up restaurant and a couple of pop-up bars were particular highlights, where we met interesting and kind people and had a great time.
Banks Peninsula, whose rugged topography contrasts so starkly with the flat Canterbury Plains round Christchurch, is a good place for a day trip from the city. We stopped in at Lyttleton and the former French colony, Akaroa. We also went a little further afield and left the plains to take a look at Arthur’s Pass National Park, high in the mountains of the Southern Alps.
Reluctantly, we said goodbye to cool, hip, Christchurch and headed south once more. The plains stretched on and on between the mountains and the sea, but eventually we left their patchwork fields behind and began to climb into the Southern Alps. We made for Lake Tekapo.
Lake Tekapo looked stunning in the sunshine with its amazing turquoise water and the mountains rising all around. We visited the Tekapo Springs Hot Pools, where we luxuriated in the hot water and gazed out over the awe-inspiring vista.
Moving on, we detoured down the side of the Lake to see Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, and visited the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. We took a boat trip to see the ice-giant of the Tasman Glacier, and then back on route, took another short detour to see the magical scenery of Lake Ohau and its surrounding mountains. We found a good spot off the beaten track and pitched our tent for the night.
At Omarama we headed back down towards the east coast. We saw the amazing Moeraki Boulders which looked like something that had landed from outer space, before reaching the surprisingly Scottish seeming Dunedin, with its Gothic architecture and Celtic immigrant traditions, this is the ‘Edinburgh of the South’. We visited the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, and then enjoyed our journey south along the coastline. By the time we reached Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city, where we were to spend the night, we were half way through our south island adventure.
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