New Zealand, On the Road From Te Anau to Picton (Part 2/4)

that wanaka tree new zealand

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:



Cardrona

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.

cardrona hotel

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!

Wanaka

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…

puzzling world wanaka

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.

franz josef glacier

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…

franz josef hot pool

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!

Hokitika

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.

hokitika

Pancakes Rocks

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.

pancakes rocks new zealand

Westport

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.

Kaikoura

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.

kaikoura sunset

Picton

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.

on the inter islands ferry at picton new zealand

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

New Zealand, On the Road From Christchurch to Te Anau (Part 1/4)

New Zealand Lake Tekapo

New Zealand has been in my travel wish list for so long… But it’s so far away from Europe! When we put together our entire 6-month trip, it was the country we had the most fun planning. There are so many possibilities on where to go! We started by establishing a priority list of things not to miss, helped by some Kiwi colleagues. Then we created an itinerary, before booking accommodation in every place we wanted to visit. We contemplated the idea of renting a van for such an adventure… But finally decided to sleep in a proper bed along the way. We completed our road trip in New Zealand within 6 weeks. There is so much to say that I’m splitting our experience in 4 posts:



Christchurch

We started off with Christchurch, biggest city in the South Island (despite being very small). It’s a peaceful place where we relaxed for a few days, after spending 4 weeks on the road in Australia. The climate in New Zealand was perfect for us, sometimes a bit chilly but pretty much always sunny. We needed a jumper as well as a good pair of sunglasses!

The earthquake that devastated Christchurch in February 2011 destroyed their cathedral. While the entire city is still going through a 20-year rebuild process, the Transitional Cathedral serves as a temporary cathedral. It’s also known as the “Cardboard Cathedral” because cardboard tubes have been used in its construction. The street art is also very present, locals have been adding many colours on empty walls with creativity! We had an awesome view of the city from the top of Mount Cavendish by taking the Christchurch Gondola. This cable car is a must do, Lyttelton Harbour is stunning with all its various colours.

christchurch gondola new zealand

Lake Tekapo

What followed next was probably the most beautiful place that exists on Earth: Lake Tekapo. This is why it’s so important to book your accommodation early enough, the campsite we stayed at was in an amazing location so it was fully booked very quickly. We rented a mini chalet there, but the site offered various sorts of options: from delimited space for tents, parking area for campervans, to chalets like ours, from the smallest to the poshest version (usually for bigger groups or older people).

Lake Tekapo has that beautiful turquoise colour thanks to the surrounding glaciers. I wish this place was just around the corner so I could go there when I need to meditate. The Church of the Good Shepherd is the most photographed church in New Zealand. There is also a dog statue to pay tribute to the value of the Collie dog, without the help of which the grazing of the mountainous area would have been impossible.

church good shepherd lake tekapo new zealand

We drove up to Mount John (1,031 metres above sea level) and walked the final part to get another amazing view of Lake Tekapo, next to Lake Alexandrina (left on the picture below). It showed us even more how this turquoise colour is unusual compared to a non-glacial lake!

lake alexandrina and lake tekapo from mount john summit

Mount Cook Village

On our way to Mount Cook Village where we were going to stay, we decided to do a quick detour and drove along Lake Pukaki for about 40 km. It’s as stunning as Lake Tekapo with the same turquoise colour but twice bigger! Then we did the Hooker Valley Glacier Walk (3-hour hiking track) which was a bit more challenging than anticipated. Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand and the Southern Alps offered amazing scenery, enough to keep us going while we were suffering (it was quite hot that day). There were 3 wooden suspension bridges in the track which were very wobbly… I can imagine how icy and slippery it could be during winter so I’m glad we did it in summer.

mount cook trail new zealand

Queenstown

On our way to Queenstown, the access road to The Remarkables was very scenic! It’s one of the highest public road in New Zealand with about 1,500 metres above sea level. Our little car was struggling and we were worried the small engine would overheat. A 4X4 with a powerful engine would have been more appropriate. The Remarkables is the name given to the magnificent range of mountains we can see from the city, very popular during ski season but also very “remarkable” in summer!

the remarkables mountains queenstown new zealand

Queenstown is definitely the place to go if you like extreme sports. There is a great cable car, the Skyline Gondola, which is the steepest I’ve ever been on. It looks like they cut an alley of pine trees on the mountain to build many crazy activities like bungee jumping, luge, paragliding, mountain bike trails… And the views on top are simply unreal: we can see Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, all at the same time:

queenstown lake wakatipu

If you’re more into chilling out, there is a really cool place to go to: the Onsen Hot Pools. This spa is a kiwi twist to the Japanese bath tradition called “onsen”, it offers relaxation with stunning alpine scenery. The pure water straight from the surrounding mountains is naturally rich in magnesium, detoxifies the body and mind. Add it in your bucket list if you’ve never been there!

Queenstown could be a very romantic place too! We were there during Valentine’s Day… So we indulged ourselves with a modern Japanese restaurant called Tatsumi Dining who designed a special menu for the occasion. Apparently Kiwis love celebrating this day as it was fully booked!

Arrowtown

Then we drove 20 minutes to visit Arrowtown, which is a historic gold mining village where the architecture keeps the heritage of the area intact. This is also where you can find a very unique cinema: the Dorothy Browns. There are only 2 rooms which can only fit a small group of people each, plus a bar and a bookshop so you can read books while you’re waiting for your movie session. There was an intermission in the middle of the movie, which we didn’t expect at all! Enough time for a nice break to go outside or order more drinks for example. We loved the concept. Finally, the sky was so clear that we could see the Milky Way when it got dark… I’ve never seen so many stars, words can’t describe how beautiful it was.

Te Anau

Our next stop was properly in the middle of nowhere, roughly 15 km away from Te Anau in a very isolated independent small house. We had 250 hectares of land to play with (the equivalent of 500 football pitches if it helps), only sharing it with 2,000 sheep and 100 cows. It was probably one of our best memories! We initially chose to stay there to visit Milford Sound but unfortunately the (only) road to access it was completely flooded and closed for the entire month. We also had the remains of a tropical cyclone coming our way, these sort of things you can’t control. So we just decided to use this time away from civilisation to unplug properly, taking advantage of our isolation for a few days!

sunset at te anau with sheep

That’s it for today! Stay tuned for the second part of our road trip in New Zealand featuring many other cool places!

Big Girl x