The first time I knew about the spectacular natural landscapes of New Zealand was watching the movie “Lord of the rings” in 2001. Since then, New Zealand has always been at the top of my wish list. After many times planned and then canceled for many reasons, until 2016, I was finally able to visit this beautiful country.
New Zealand is reasonable small island nation, famous for its wild picturesque sceneries, stretching from north island to south island. Its populations are little and scattered, while public transportation is concentrated in major cities. Therefore, the best way to fully discover the splendid beauty of New Zealand is self-driving. This was the first time I was the main and the only driver of the group, plus the car was right-hand wheel, hence I was either excited or nervous with this important mission.
14 days driving in the South Island of New Zealand was the first road trip that I was the main driver. We were continuously astounded by the pristine and magnificent nature of this small country. Charming and quaint cities and towns, the as-immense-as -the-sea freshwater lakes with uniquely remarkable blue, the towering limestone mountains huddled alongside with the massive white glaciers and the endless indescribable coastline. New Zealand is the showcase of all those spectacular landscapes.
- Day 1 & 2: Christchurch city
- Day 3: Castle Hill, Arthur’s Pass (149km)
- Day 4: Greymouth and Punakaiki (140km)
- Day 5: Franz Josef glacier (217km)
- Day 6: Wanaka (286km)
- Day 7: Te Anau (240km)
- Day 8: Milford Sound (118km)
- Day 9: Queentowns (288km)
- Day 10: Arrow town (20km) and neighborhood wineries
- Day 11: Glenorchy (46km)
- Day 12-13: Mount Cook (287km) and Tasman Glacier
- Day 14: Christchurch (307 km)
(* Distance is measured by google map)
Day 1-2: Christchurch – The green city
Christchurch – the largest city in the South Island, New Zealand was the first destination in our journey to explore this tiny island nation. As the name of “Green City” or “City of Gardens” , Christchurch appeared peacefully with lots of green spaces thanks to its large parks, famous botanical gardens and tree-lined streets.
We had two really relaxing days in a lush green atmosphere, wandering in the vast Hagley park under the giant old trees, marveling at the beauty of the flowers in the Christchurch Botanical Garden. It was interesting since the first time ever in my life I had seen such many kinds of roses in different colors and all were fragrant.
Day 3-5: Strolling the west coast (Punakaiki and Franz Josef glacier)
We drove from the highlands to the west coast of South island of New Zealand, excitedly admiring the breathtaking transition of the scenery along the way. The gloomy green of mountainous grass-covered Arthur’s Pass gradually turned into the bright blue with the scent of the sea in Greymouth. Being impressed by the giant ferns on the trekking road along the river and then surprised by wonderful sunset with the ghostly light on the spectacular rocks in Punakaiki. Those were the feelings that we had experienced on this west coastline.
Day 6-8: The serenity of Wanaka, Te Anau and Milford Sound
The road from Franz Josef to Wanaka town or from Wanaka to Te Anau is probably the most beautiful route in this road trip. The magical natural interference really captivates people’s heart, from the scenery of the blue sea running along the magnificent glaciers to the dense tropical forests, blue lakes as immense as the sea and towering mountains. We passed by countless flocks of sheep and cows leisurely grazing on the green fields with majestic backdrop of giant mountains. It seems that all the most typical natural landscapes of the South Island of New Zealand are featured on this road.
Wanaka town was charming on the side of immense & peaceful Wanaka Lake. Te Anau was quiet but glorious in a sunny day, while Milford Sound welcomed us with its typical drizzling rain and gloomy sky. Above all, the natural landscape of those three places exudes a unique serenity.
Day 9-10: Charming Queenstown
Perhaps the quaint natural scenery with immense Wakatipu Lake, not too busy undulating streets, lovely restaurants, together with lush green wineries and pretty neighborhood towns have made Queenstown a unique charm. It was a endless peaceful feeling when jogging around the shore of Wakatipu Lake in the early mist, watching the first ray of sunlight hit the water, glittering and magical.
Day 11-13: The magnificent nature Glenorchy and Mt. Cook
Nothing was better than watching the wild beauty of Glenorchy on horseback. I was stunned by the uniquely remarkable blue of Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo. Stroll the lush green meadow in Mt. Cook, admire the snow-covered peaks magically appearing behind layers of clouds and first time kayak on the Tasman glacier were the perfect experiences to end our road trip.
After the trip, I felt more confident about my driving ability. Almost 2000km in 14 days was such a milestone for me who had never driven beyond 600km in Vietnam. Took the challenge with little worry, kept mistaken all the gears/ buttons in day 1 as they were in opposite position given right-hand driving, caught by the police once because of over speed (didn’t see any police along the way, when we first saw them, we got caught). But overall, it was safe & memorable.
The roads are in good condition and the sceneries are picturesque and indescribable. I have to thanks my friends for believing me, get into my car without hesitation (though i was not as confident as i had showed to them). Scenic roads with lovely crew made my first road trip successful more than expected.
Do you want to know all of my tips for a road trip in New Zealand?
Click here then you are all set to go.
Traveled in Feb, 2016