Our road trip – 14 days across the sound island of New Zealand – has reached the final stage, however the natural landscape of this country still keeps us overwhelmed.
If the past days had been the lush scenery in Christchurch, or the spectacular transition from Punakaiki coastline to mountainous lands of Crown Range, or the serenity of Wanaka, and somewhat gloomy weather in Milford Sound, we then experienced the wild nature of Glenorchy, the grandeur of Mount Cook and the white Tasman glacier.
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.
- 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: Arrowtown (20km) and neighborhood wineries
Day 11: Glenorchy (46km)
Day 12: Aoraki/ Mount Cook (287km) and Tasman Glacier
- Day 14: Christchurch (307 km)
(* Distance is measured by google map)
Day 11: Glenorchy (46km)
Glenorchy is a small town nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu, about 46km from Queenstown, known as a heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Its awe-inspiring untouched natural landscape was featured as one of the prime scenes for the movie “Lord of the Rings” and “Narnia”. Peaceful Lake Wakatipu combines in harmony with the primeval beech forest and mountain range, creating a stunning and magical scenery.
Horse riding, kayaking, mountain climbing, hiking are popular activities in Glenorchy. Having been learning horse riding to prepare for the conquest of Mongolian’s meadow a few months later, our team was excited to choose a horse riding tour in Glenorchy.
For the first time practicing what we had learnt in a vast natural space, which had similar terrain as of Mongolia, though only walking and trotting, we felt very confident and comfortable on horseback. New Zealand’s horses are much taller than Vietnamese ones, so we had to use a platform to climb up a horse.
Admiring the beauty of Glenorchy on horseback turned out an amazing experience. The Glenorchy’s scenery was majestic with vast lush green fields, small streams in the backdrop of oak forests and towering mountains. The clear blue sky with white clouds enhanced the picturesqueness of this natural landscape.
Goodbye to the majestic wilderness Glenorchy, we continued our journey to Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. We were dumbfounded by two beautiful freshwater lakes – Pukaki and Tekapo. I’ve never ever seen such exotic blue. Although we had passed by many lakes in the south island of New Zealand, all of them were immense, calm and clear, but the water color of these 2 was too distinctive, indescribable and somewhat unreal.
Lake Pukaki is no doubt my favorite lake in the whole journey, not only because of its unique color, but also because of the spectacular natural surroundings. Driving along the banks of Lake Pukaki were unforgettable moments when observing this magical blue shimmering at every angle. The snow-covered peaks of Mt. Cook appeared blurry from afar, adorning the grandeur of this stunning landscape.
Lake Tekapo not far away also has a similarly beautiful blue. Perhaps because they are both located near alpine of Mt. Cook and New Zealand’s longest glaciers, they are influenced by the same geological terrain, creating this “one of a kind” blue.
The Church of Good Shepherd is a charming highlight of Lake Tekapo. The ancient stone church looked tiny in the immense peaceful natural surroundings of Lake Tekapo in the backdrop of mountain ranges. Not only is the worship place for the locals, this church is also a popular sightseeing spot for visitors.
Day 12-13: Aoraki/ Mt Cook (287km) and Tasman glacier
The last two days of the trip, we came to Aoraki / Cook Mountain National Park. Dubbed the rugged land of rock and ice, it is home of the highest peaks (over 3500m) and the longest glaciers in New Zealand. Aoraki / Nui Cook Village is located in the heart of the national park, which is the departure for all outdoor activities in this mountain area.
Trekking in Hooker Valley was like walking on the cloud. I could feel the nature with all of my senses: smelling the scent of grass and trees, listening to the sound of the heavily flowing glaciers, letting the strong wind touch my face and my eyes was filled of fabulous landscape along my steps.
I had seen the giant Aletsch glacier in the Swiss Alps, but the flowing glacier was first seen here – Tasman Glacier. Milky-white water looked very unique and different.
For the first time, we experienced kayaking on the Tasman glacier. The initial moments were quite hard and stressful to manage the boat without hitting the floating icebergs. With just a light hit, the icebergs were crumbled, melt into water. Near the shore is the place with the most ice blocks, so we were struggling to depart.
After getting used to the water flow and coordinating smoothly in kayak control, we began to relax and paddle while watching this unique magnificent landscape.
The road trip ended in Christchurch, then we flew to Auckland to catch our flight back home.
Watch our video clip below to explore those places with us.
Traveled in Feb, 2016
Read my other articles about New Zealand
New Zealand – My first road trip
Christchurch – The green city
Strolling the west coast of New Zealand
The serenity of Wanaka, Te Anau, Milford Sound
All essential tips to visit New Zealand