I case you missed Part 1 of my travel diary, click here to indulge in pictures of breathtaking landscape and to mentally prepare for more to come.
Last time I left you at Milford Sound, the place where the sea meets the mountains and tourists take the bus by the dozen to go for a quick boat ride among the sight of waterfalls gushing into the ocean.
To stay with the touristic theme, our journey took us further up north to…
|HydroShark Queenstown (Photo Credit)|
This city is called “The Adventure Hotspot” and this is no exaggeration.
Want to go skydiving, Bungee jumping or rafting? Queenstown has everything you need.
Fancy a tattoo? There are tattoo studios by the dozen.
Looking for company? Bars and cafés for every budget line the streets and they are crowded by the party people pretty much 24/7.
Too wasted from last night but still in for some adrenalin? Go jet boat driving or ride the “Shark” conveniently from the city harbor.
But if you are traveling with a baby? Don’t spend too much time in the city. You can do a lot of things when traveling with children, but staying out late and getting wasted isn’t one of them.
If you leave the city and drive to Glenorchy though, you are in for a treat. Set picturesquely at Lake Wakatipu it is a great way to start day trips exploring the mountains and even visiting “Paradise”, an aptly named piece of land which made an appearance in “The Lord of the Rings” and thus was a must-visit for me.
|Driving up to Mt. Cook|
2. Mount Cook
Leaving the party crowd behind, we made our way to visit the “Sir Edmund Hillier – Center” at Mount Cook, providing information about New Zealands most famous mountaineer and the Southern Alpes.
Only driving there is quite an experience: You drive alongside the most turquoise looking waters I have ever seen in my whole life with the snow covered mountains on the horizon, slowly drawing nearer. Make sure to stop and take pictures!
|Hiking at Mt. Cook|
Once you have arrived at your destination, there are several hikes waiting for you, suited for different fitness levels. We took a medium one, as we had limited time, and walked up to lakes with ice bergs floating and a great view of the Mount Cook glacier.
Is there anything more pretty than sunlight reflecting on a wall of ice?
|Hiking at Mt. Cook|
Crossing the mountains we headed for the West Coast, experiencing three different types of vegetation within four hours.
The alpine landscape gave way to dry and rugged steppe, wind-blown and wild, which turned into thick and green forest once again when you reached the coast line.
The further up north you drive from here, the more the forest gives way to stony shore.
|Impressions of the shore I|
|Impressions of the shore II|
3. Pancake Rocks and the seals
It is no secret that I have a big sweet tooth, so as soon as I heard of a place called Pancake Rocks I knew I had to go there.
|Water gushing through the holes|
Of course, the name refers to the shape of the rocks rather than the taste, but it still is an incredible place to visit. The ocean pushes in with all its might, gushing through holes formed throughout the years, and erupts in sky-high spouts, glistening in the sun light and covering you in sea spray. It is one of the places that shows you the force of nature spectacularly.
|Wild and beautiful|
A little further up north is the largest colony of seals on the West Coast, easily accessible by a coastal trail. The trail itself is a shorter trip (around three hours return) suited to people without much hiking experience, but offers a great view and isn’t too crowded, as most people just do the first 15 minutes to get a glimpse at the seals.
After crossing the Souther Alpes once again, it was time to start exploring the northern part of the Southern Island.
Nelson, called the “Gate to the Food Trek”, is where we spend my 36th birthday indulging in a variety of excellent food before we drove up to the beach to settle for a camp ground directly at the water front.
Being born in February I rarely spend my birthdays sitting outside watching the ocean, so this was a treat for sure.
|Crystal clear waters|
If you don’t mind braving serpentine gravel roads, there are plenty of hikes waiting for you over there, and if you are in for some beach time, this is the place to be as well.
We went for the hikes most of the time, but happened to stumble upon out own secluded beach once and spend the afternoon there. There was literally no one around, so it didn’t matter that I hadn’t packed my bikini for the hike.
Another day, while crossing a beach to get back to our trail, we met a family with three kids that had set up their tent just at the beach side and were spending a week there. With the parents chilling with a book and the kids roaming the beach, chasing each other and splashing water it looked like the perfect family getaway to me.
|The Marlborough Sounds|
5. Marlborough Sounds
Time came to leave the beautiful and wild Southern Island and board the Interislander, but we decided to stay one more night at the Marlborough Sounds. Hidden among the trees, there are some pretty weekend getaways and very low-key campgrounds, which was exactly what we wanted.
Spending the night beneath the stars, no lights distracting from their beauty and no sounds except the waves and the wind was the perfect way to say Goodbye to New Zealands South.
|Watching the sun rise over the Sounds|
|Sunrise over the Sounds again|
We will be back!