I can’t believe the semester is already over, but I can’t say I was sad to be done with finals (full disclosure: I’m already in my comfy clothes and on my very comfy couch back in Massachusetts). My last days in Christchurch were spent with my IES Abroad group and full of some very sad goodbyes which I will not get into now just in case I happen to get something in my eye and get a little teary (it’s fine, everything is fine, not going to miss these people every single day).
Thankfully my last taste of New Zealand wasn’t all sad because I was lucky enough to have my Dad fly out for a super fun road trip! Although I got to see a lot of the country during the semester, there were still a lot of places I hadn’t been and having someone to drive me there made things a lot easier, and as a bonus, it’s my Dad! He’s very cool, take my word for it. My Mom is absolutely terrified of flying, so the upwards of a 24 hour trip is not something she would ever be able to make, so it was really cool to give my Dad a reason to travel somewhere so far, something I doubt he’ll get around to doing any time soon.
If you’ve ever read any of my other blogs, you’ll notice that I pretty much write everything in lists and note that there are wayyyyyyy more things I could put on the lists, but I would fill a whole shelf of encyclopedias. Spoiler: this won’t be any different! Without further ado, here are some of the highlights from our big South Island adventure!
1. Milford Sound: This is something that you will see on every NZ “must do list” and I fully support it. Although we did most of the trip in our own rental car, we had a touring service pick us up in Te Anau which was definitely the right move. It rained 6 inches the day before our trip (fun fact: it rains almost 200 days a year in the region) and a landslide had covered a portion of the only road that leads out to the sound, so the tour company moved our schedule back a few hours which was awesome because extra sleep! Our driver stopped the bus at a bunch of scenic locations that I would have never thought to pull off for. We even got to see a kea in the wild! The actual Sound was even more breathtakingly beautiful. Definitely make sure you bring a raincoat and some clothes you are okay getting wet because the boat pulls right under some of the waterfalls that run down the sides of the Sound and getting to stand under them was probably the highlight of my entire time in NZ.
2. Queenstown: Also a very touristy destination (not my favorite thing normally) but heck, we are tourists! Our hotel had an amazing view of the lake and mountains, as did literally everywhere you went in the area. Queenstown itself is incredibly walkable which is a change from a lot of our trip (over our whole trip we traveled over 24 hours by car). We spent a lot of time just walking around by the water, did a bit of shopping, and even got to eat at the legendary burger joint Fergburger, which is 100% worth the hype! My Dad’s birthday was our first night in Queenstown so for the special occasion we ate dinner on the top of the Queenstown gondola which was amazing. In terms of “adventure”, we hiked Queenstown Hill (super steep and giant) in the morning and then, after our Fergburgers, we went jetboating in Shotover Canyon. I had been jetboating with my IES Abroad group and I knew immediately that it would be something my Dad would absolutely love, and I was totally right! We had a blast and I would 100% recommend it.
3. Mount Cook – Hooker Valley Track: I wish I was fit enough to climb up the actual mountain, but this is the Everest of NZ. A close second to getting up the actual mountain is just getting really close to it, right?! The Hooker Valley track is a three hour, almost completely flat, walk that gives amazing views of Mount Cook and the surrounding mountains. There were several swing bridges, rocks to climb up on, and sights that take your breath away. There is a little picnic table area at the end of the track (it’s an out and back) that is a great place for a snack and heaps of pictures. My Dad’s favorite photo from the entire trip was a picture of Mount Cook on the opposite side, reflecting off the bright blue water of Lake Pukaki, a view I actually got earlier in the semester on my first camping trip. I’d say this time was even better purely because I got to experience it with my Dad.
4. Wanaka: My Dad and I love lakes, so visiting the lake region of the South Island was high on the list of places I wanted to bring him. We went and saw the Wanaka Tree, which is basically a tree that looks to be growing out of the lake and is a huge destination for every photographer. We also decided to hike Mount Iron to work up our appetite because, let’s be real, 90% of traveling is just figuring out what to do between meals. The hike was a lot of fun and we met a super nice couple that gave us lots of recommendations for the area (and dinner!!). While the tree and the hike were cool, the highlight of the trip was being a chew toy for an 11-week-old golden retriever puppy that we met after dinner.
Seeing so much of the South Island of New Zealand was a dream come true, but the fact I got to do it all with my Dad made it truly a once in a lifetime experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
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<p>Hi! My name is Lexi and I am a junior spending my semester abroad at the University of Canterbury. Although my home university is in a city, I absolutely love being outdoors! Some of my favorite activities are hiking (especially with dogs), swimming in lakes, and trail running. I can't wait to explore the beautiful South Island of New Zealand and share some of my adventures!</p>