Francis and I started our New Zealand journey on Nov 6 as we head out to Auckland. We stayed overnight at Ibis Budget Auckland hotel, which is somewhat walkable from the airport, then fly off to Queenstown with Jetstar. We figured to start our trip at the south and make our way back up to counter the tourist flow. It was a good move since our road trip had fewer cars and we get to enjoy the mountain scenery longer. It was 95 NZD for the domestic plane ticket.
To know more about our New Zealand trip in general, check out my introductory post. Let’s go exploring!
Queenstown is where the adventure activities shine the best. It is a quaint town filled with nice shops and restaurants. We just walked most of the time. We only rented a car after our Queenstown trip so we can head on to Franz Josef ice glacier. The real beauty is the mountains and the lake that gives this place a peaceful, if not exciting, retreat from the urban life. We didn’t come here for the bungee jumping, kayaking or skiing. We came here to hike, admire the mountains and fulfill our LOTR bucket list. If I were to pick a favorite place in New Zealand, this would be it. It is beautiful.
We stayed with our Airbnb host, Roni. It was 311 SGD for 3 days. When she mentioned cozy – it literally mean small but warm. She has the basics down, I suppose it beats the hotel room for square space and she was quite nice to recommend her favorite restaurants. We tried Habebe for the warm salad and kebab. It was the first time I saw chia seed drink. It tasted weird since you can feel the crunchiness of the seeds, if that makes sense. We also tried Patagonia Chocolates Lakefront for their gelato and hot chocolate. It was good after a walk in the park. Bella Cucina was a nice Italian place. And lastly, we made sure to try the Fergburger which is supposedly world-famous. It did not disappoint – and the burger was huge. They also have Ferg Bakery just beside it – you should try their meat pies and ice cream. There were times we just bought grocery and ate simple meals to save.
We booked our tours online to make sure we have a slot. We took the following tours. The price is per person and may differ depending on the season.
- Milford Sound, 155 NZD with Cruise Milford
- LOTR Safaris of the Scene Glenorchy, 175 NZD with Nomad Safaris
- TSS Earnslaw Cruise, 57 NZD with Real Journeys.
We wanted to go to the Gondola Luge ride but it was raining for the past days it was not a bad idea to slide on a mountain when it is slippery. We also missed the horse back tour to see the LOTR location due to time constraints. Maybe next time.
Milford Sound was lovely. It is a narrow sea channel surrounded by mountainous lands. You can travel here via bus, cruise or helicopter depending on your fancy. We took the bus since it was the cheapest, but not the fastest with the 8 hours roundtrip. Our bus driver was quite a cheerful entertainer, mentioning bits and pieces of interesting facts along the way. The scenery on the road was also quite nice. We had a detour to the rainforest (I didn’t catch the name unfortunately). Spring just started; it is cold and flowers just started to bloom, but in this area, it feels like spring at its peak. It is surrounded by mountains with ice caps and yet it feels warmer, more lush greenery and flowing river. After that nice nature side trip, we arrived at the Wharf Visitor Center for our boat ride around Milford Sound (an extra 2 hours ride). Be sure to bring lunch, wear light clothing with extra layers, just in case, as the sea wind can be cold and the experience wet. Be on a look out for dolphin, whales and seals!
The LOTR Glenorchy was on a 4×4 ride with 2 other guests. They took us to the movie locations: Ithilien Camp, Lothlorien forest, Isengard with the Remarkables mountains as the backdrop. It was really cool to see the location and have flashback on the movie scenes. I think we have seen sheep, cows and deers that can last us a lifetime while driving around the area
Earnslaw Cruise was another boat ride around the Queenstown lake. You can take only the boat ride or have a meal and a farm tour on Walter Peak. We enjoyed the relaxing ride and take pictures of the beautiful mountains against the water.
The adventure continues with onward to Franz Josef