Before you read this post, make sure you’ve read part 1 first (on the road from Christchurch to Te Anau). Our road trip in New Zealand is split between 4 posts and this is the second part:
- 1/4 – South Island: From Christchurch to Te Anau
- 2/4 – South Island: From Te Anau to Picton
- 3/4 – North Island: From Wellington to Rotorua
- 4/4 – North Island: From Rotorua to Auckland
We left our new sheep friends with regret to drive to our next stop. It was the opportunity to take the pretty scenic highway along the Lake Wakatipu. We did a small detour to have lunch at the famous Cardrona Hotel, the most photographed pub in New Zealand. People stop there just to take a picture of the façade… It’s one of the oldest and most iconic hotels in the country. Built in 1863 during the gold rush era, Cardrona Hotel represents an important part of New Zealand’s history.
Not far away, the Bra Fence in Cardrona is a quirky tourist attraction. The story begins at the end of 1998. Some anonymous women hung 4 bras on a fence for an unknown reason. It intrigued locals, then more women decided to add their bras on it. Every time though, they mysteriously disappeared (stolen by a bra thief maybe?). And every time they were removed, even more bras were added. The media spread the news worldwide and from 4 initially, you can now see thousands of them on the fence. This is how they now effectively raise money for Breast Cancer Foundation. Pretty cool and funny story, used efficiently for a good cause!
Once arrived at Wanaka, we went straight to see the Rockstar: a tree made famous via social media with the hashtag #ThatWanakaTree. It really is a photogenic tree, but it’s just a lonely tree in a lake. In all honesty, we were a bit underwhelmed by it. It was all about taking our own picture of it and then leave, as there was nothing else to do around. You probably saw this landscape before as a screensaver, if you use Windows (see header picture).
Wanaka also offers attractions like Puzzling World where we spent some time in all 5 illusion rooms. The tilted house was probably our favourite, although it seriously affected our balance! There was also a 3D maze attraction outside. We gave up on that one when we found out we would get stuck for about an hour…
Franz Josef Glacier
Our next stop was Franz Josef Glacier. It’s a small village far away from everything but close to the glacier of the same name. We decided to add a bit of action and discover the area on a quad bike. In hindsight, it was a bit risky as hospitals are minimum 2 hours away in case of an incident! We had pretty bad weather that day, but we would have ended up with dirty clothes anyway. Clouds were too low and we couldn’t see the glacier properly but we had a lot of fun.
As our next day in the village was still rainy and grey, we went to the Hot Pools to relax. They’re so much better when it’s cold outside. Hot Pools are very affordable in New Zealand so it would be rude not to. First, we had our own private pool for 45 minutes. Then, we got access to the 3 public pools. They were warmed at 36, 38 and 40°C, all in the middle of a rainforest. I would strongly recommended the experience. It was good enough to make us forget the village is on a fault line, which makes the risk of earthquakes a lot higher…
Driving along the West coast from Franz Josef to Westport on the SH6 Highway is like a Kiwi version of the Great Ocean Road in Oz. We got the ocean on the left, cliffs and mountains on the right, and a long zigzag road with various speed limits. Just make sure you have a full tank of fuel, as you can be alone on this road for hours without petrol stations!
We stopped by a sweet seaside town called Hokitika on the way. Something is quite unusual there, from the art created with sticks on the beach to leftover pieces from centuries ago. There is The National Kiwi Centre where we saw some kiwis (the animal), but we were not allowed to take any pictures of them. This is a very protected species which live in the dark as it’s an nocturnal animal. They can be quite difficult to spot in the wild so it was an easy way for us to see some.
Along the Great Coast Road (one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world), we also stopped at the Pancakes Rocks. They are still a mystery for geologists as to how they got their unique limestone layers. Seeing how strong the waves sculpt there rocks, they will probably change their shape over the years. It was simply stunning and is definitely worth a visit. And if their name make you fancy pancakes to eat, you’ll find a pancake house just over the road.
Westport was just a stop for the night as there is no other reason to stop there but to break up the journey. The next day, we crossed the island from West to East via the Lewis Pass, a very scenic high road through the mountains. We stayed in Hapuku where we found plenty of paua shells (also called abalone shells) on the beach when the waters were shallow. These shells have a range of colours from striking blues through to aquamarines to greens, with tints of purple and gold. They’re often used in maori jewellery.
Our next stop was Kaikoura, famous for its seal colonies and whale watching. We didn’t see any whales but we did see seals in the wild, which was fascinating. They can live their lives close to humans in their natural habitat, we were lucky enough to approach two of them but they were sleeping deeply and we didn’t want to disturb them. They trusted us to leave them in peace, which reassured us people do respect their privacy.
That marked the end of our road trip in South Island where we spent 3 amazing weeks visiting stunning places. This island is very vast and felt very empty at times. I’ve never seen such beautiful landscapes and it made me feel free, like humans haven’t tarnished that part of the planet yet (and hopefully will not anytime soon). It’s the perfect location to switch off and forget about any issues you may have. Unfortunately for us we had a time schedule to stick to and it was time to take the ferry and cross the Ocean to the North Island. The interisland ferry from Picton (our last stop in South Island) to Wellington (our first stop in North Island) took approximately 3.5 hours.
If you want to read about New Zealand’s North Island, stay tuned for the next post – part 3 of our road trip!
Big Girl x