A lot of things had to come together for us to pull off a 2 week trip to New Zealand and the end of 2018 seemed to work out perfectly. Over the years I’ve heard countless stories about New Zealand from patients that have traveled there and they all said it was a must see country and they all agree that the trip should be done as soon as possible. A why wait attitude was behind most of the stories. The 2018 holiday season seemed to be the right time to get there. Shutting down the office is no easy task, but a Christmas and New Years on Tuesday helped us make the decision to shut down the office for the first time in 20 years for 2 straight weeks.
So the plan began with narrowing down where we wanted to go and what to do. I decided on the less populated more “wild” South Island, with a focus on Te Anau and the Milford Sound and Wanaka and the many options that were in close proximity.
Charlotte -> LA -> Auckland -> Christchurch
Unfortunately our travel plans started off rough with missing our first connection in LA due to high winds leaving Charlotte. This put us exactly 24 hours behind as we were able to be put on to the same flight, to Auckland, the next day. We didn’t know what to do so we ended up with a day strolling from Venice to Santa Monica along the beach.
Finally getting out of the states we made our way to Auckland and then connected to Christchurch on the South Island. We missed another connection due to a lengthy customs process. Entering into New Zealand was pretty interesting as they take things pretty seriously. They do a biologic scan to make sure you aren’t bringing in anything, mainly plant or animal products, that could cause a problem. They even cleaned my trail shoes of the little dirt they had on them.
Getting to the Fiordlands was the goal. So day one had us travelling south to Dunedin (on the left side of the road). We stopped off at the Moeraki Boulders on our way. Those things were wild.
The next morning we decided to check out the steepest residential street in the world; Baldwin Street, Dunedin. After that challenge we were off to Te Anau. Being 18 hours ahead of our US friends we were now into Christmas Day. One of the main draws to Te Anau is the Milford Sound. People come from all over to see this area and to make the drive all the way through to the picturesque Sound and weather in this area can be really bad. Since it was Christmas and a beautiful day and not many people were out and about, we decided to go ahead and make this journey.
On our way to Milford Sound we hiked up to the Key Summit. This was a 5.6 mile hike with great views. The rest of the day/drive was taking in the views of the Milford Sound Highway.
Weather was going to be our guide for many of our adventures and the following day looked to be another great one. So we wasted no time to hike the 60km Kepler Track. This was a big day with fantastic terrain. We started out in a tree covered forest with giant ferns and moss covered trees. This took us up to the high point of the route the Luxemore Hut. From here we were ridge running and hiking for a few miles before dropping down into the valley for the remaining flatter miles. The last section was a forest of ferns. Everywhere you looked were 5 foot tall ferns. This is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and it was a awesome day.
We had to give our legs a break the next day, 12/27, so we walked along the shore of Manapouri and Te Anau and checked out both towns.
12/28/18 we headed to Wanaka, with an afternoon stop at Queenstown. This place was hoping and we decided on doing the Ben Lemond track. We caught this from the lift for the paragliding and alpine slide. From there we hiked straight up to where the lift dropped people off. This steep trail went along some downhill bike trails before popping out at the concessions and shop. There was a ton of activities going on up here. We continued on to the Ben Lemond Summit. This was a steady climb up to the saddle where there were great views of the mountains further north. From here it got steeper to the summit. From the top there were great views in all directions. This was a 10 mile journey round trip – https://www.strava.com/activities/2039444739
After the hike we walked around town and then continued our trip to Wanaka. I was hoping to drive through Arrowtown but we ran out of time. We did take the Cardrona Valley Road which was a nice drive and loaded with flowers the entire way to Wanaka.
12/29/18 we headed to another 10 mile hike to Isthmus Peak – https://www.strava.com/activities/2041218115. This wasn’t a long drive from town and promised another great peak view. Along the way we saw deer being herded with a truck in the valley below us. The hike and view didn’t disappoint.
12/30/18 we opted for the McAfees of Wanaka, Roy’s Peak https://www.strava.com/activities/2043215374 I think half of the hiking pictures of Wanaka have this place in them. What we found out is that all of the pictures of Roys Peak are actually below the peak and most people didn’t continue the extra mile to get to the top of the mountain. We forged on and made it to the peak and got a great view of the entire Wanaka town, lake and surroundings.
12/31/18 we headed out of Wanaka towards Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. This was supposed to be a scenic drive but the weather didn’t give us any views as we drove through Haast Pass and should have given us views of the snow capped peaks. We made it to Fox Glacier and did the tourist hike up to the viewpoint and back. New Year’s eve was pretty calm in Franz Josef and we just took it easy checking out the town.
1/1/19 on New Year’s day we hike at the glacier doing the Alex Knob hike. This was the most rugged trail we were on during our trip. It was rocky and rooty just like here in Virginia. It was a gray and cloudy day. There were a few overlooks of the glacier as we climbed but almost no visibility at the first one. At the second the sky began to part and we got a glimpse of the vivid blue of the glacier and a couple of the snow cap peaks came through the clouds. We continued to hike towards the know but were soon enveloped in fog and mist so we turned around and headed back. This was another 10 mile hike – https://www.strava.com/activities/2047634342 – We spent the evening in Kumara at the Theatre Royal Hotel. This was pretty much the only thing in town.
1/2/19 now we were headed back to Christchurch to wind down our trip. The weather was again cloudy and misty as we traveled through Arthur’s Pass. This was supposed to be another scenic drive but the mountains were in the clouds and we had minimal visibility until we came through the east side of the mountain range and the skies cleared up. We stopped and hiked around Cave Stream Scenic Reserve and Castle Hill. Once we got in to town we decided to go for a run on their hottest day of the year (80 degrees). We ran from our apartment to Hagley Park and did their fitness trail. This was a nice large park with a little of everything.
1/3/19 the goal for this day was to drive to furthest point on the peninsula to Akaroa. Akaroa was a cool little town that we walked around on. We drove in on the main highway and then took the summit road out of town. This road wound around the ridge where you could see the ocean in both directions. It was a nice scenic drive and along the way we stopped for a short hike up to a peak.
Later that day we walked from our apartment back do Hagley Park to check out the botanical gardens.
1/4/19 on our last day we decided to get up and do another round of the fitness trail at Hagley Park. It was convenient to where we were staying and made it easy to get back to pack up and get things ready for our trip back to the states.
New Zealand didn’t disappoint. I think we could have spent our entire trip in the Te Anau, Queenstown and Wanaka area. These towns had it all and everything you would want for recreation, scenery, town and food options. Everyone we met was pleasant. There weren’t many bad views in the entire 12 days. We put in a little over 113 miles and 28300ft of climbing. It was a busy week and we got to see a little bit of the south half of the south island.