We love the fact that New Zealand is so distant. Even though the trip to there took 30+ hours and lots of flying , it is a journey that is totally worth it. Being so far away from… everything, means that this Middle-Earth preserved its natural beauty of landscapes and cultures up to a high degree.
Aotearoa is so beautiful that all you need to get a car and drive! Just make sure you can afford many stops and mind-blowing views. Here we share week number four of our 4-week (during December and January) itinerary. We tried to cover as much as possible from the vast lands of this endlessly fascinating country.
Day 22 Where the road ends and pure native begins
Early morning drive to Bluff for catching the ferry to Steward Island. In Bluff we saw the Stirling Point. This is where the start/end of the state highway 1 is – the highway crossing the whole country all the way to Cape Reinga. The ferry experience was more than shaky, for one hour the small ferry-boat was fighting big time with the huge waves while sailing to the island’s capital Oban. We were advised by the owner of the hostel we stayed in to take a three-hour hike to the Horseshoe bay passing bush, forests, secluded beaches and many of the birds typical for more virgin regions of NZ. A couple of seasons changed as well. This island has a special magic – only one small township and hundreds of hikes to conquer.
Birdwatchers – this is your place! The most native and intact bird life will greet you here! And there are small islands with no predators – imagine the bird diversity over there!
Day 23 Let them take your breath away
We were happy to wake up in a nice summer morning which allowed us to take off the wind jackets and enjoy a smooth ferry ride back to Bluff. In about 400 km journey, last third of which under the no fuel warning, we arrived at Milford sound in Fiordland. Those landscapes made by glaciers in the past or Maori gods (you choose which version to believe in) are impossible to describe. That’s why we choose to board on an overnight cruise to enjoy the fiords during different parts of the day. We hiked a bit of the famous Milford track while being bitten by the nasty sandflies. And when the night fell, all we could do is to stare the starry skies and don’t believe how beautiful and silent it is. No sound, just water below and majestic mounts around.
The road to Milford sound is at least two-hour journey in Magicland. Make sure you have enough time to stop and admire and also a wide-angle camera. Those cliffs could be quite high and out of sight!
Day 24 The force awakens
Early wake up to see the color palette the sunrise offered. Approached the Tasman sea from the sound. On the way back we were entertained by playful dolphins and seals competing with our boat. As soon as the sun was up reflections in the water become surreal. We headed to Te Anau lake town where we enjoyed the lakefront sunset, organized some adventures for Queenstown, watched the Star Wars film (yes, with all the mesmerized locals wondering how two tourists found tickets – someone cancelled right before we go).
No fuel next 130 km is a really road sign in New Zealand and it is not a joke. Make sure you have enough fuel or go back to the nearest gas station if you see this sign. You don’t want to explore the price of the emergency fuel stations, if any!
Day 25 Smart and slide
Moving to Queenstown region – first stop is Arrowtown. This is another magical and well-preserved town from the gold fever times. It still has the Chinese village of Chinese gold-diggers and all of the main street buildings keep the outlook and memories from those times. We visit the Wanaka’s Puzzling World museum – the place to move your brain a little bit with plenty and illusions and riddles to guess and also the home of the great maze which we totally underestimated but eventually managed to exit. We arrived in Queenstown to climb with the cable car and take in the amazing views of the city, the mountains and the lake while sliding down in our toboggan Luges. Lovely funny ride! And we were in our Fernhill road neighborhood just in time for an unexpectedly nice dinner in a local wine restaurant.
Those amazing wines of New Zealand need to be combined with great food. As we expected seafood is also fresh and nice but kiwis also have good cheeses from the many sheep on the island and tasty fresh fruits and veggies.
Day 26 Some of them can fly, some of them can swim, but all of them can drink
We started with an extreme Shotover river jet ride. Those jet boats are initially invented for swimming in very shallow waters and nowadays for Formula 1 rides in the river. The feeling of riding with 85 km/h around killer-cliffs and then swirling around your own axis – great wet-windy-fun! Everything is expensive in the adventure capital but somehow the helicopter scenic flights were reasonably priced compared to other countries we check prices. So we hopped on a heli to explored the massive range of the Remarkables. They totally deserve their name! We landed on a the rocks somewhere uphill to grab 360 view of the amazing area and sharply flew down to the airport. Enough adventure for today – we thought – and started our wine trail tour to explore the Central Otago wineries – from lavender cozy tasting doors and reconstructed churches to huge modern cellars and caves.
You should do at least one extreme thing to be able to call yourself a wanna-be kiwi! All the adventures are extremely safe and will bring you to test your limits – physical or emotional!
Day 27 Swing over the abyss
This was the most scary adventure we picked – the Nevis Swing over a canyon. Getting there only happens with a 4WD vehicle so image where you’re going to. The swing platform just hangs in the air about 160m above the river. The World’s Biggest Swing has 300 meters of arc and gives you options for tandem, backwards, forwards, track’n’trailer, etc. positions just in case your adrenaline is not high enough. The guys working there have a particularly funny sense of humor and do their best to shoot the best photos and videos from 6 cameras. We survived the swing and are now proudly certified. It was that kind of day with shaky adrenaline and therefore the flight to Auckland was quite extreme on taking off. But later the flight assistant asked me for an ID to serve me wine and that compliment made me forget the mixed stomach feelings. The Mexican dinner in Auckland as well.
They always ask us where out accent was from. When kiwis hear we’re from Bulgaria they become super excited and thankful because “We don’t get to meet many Bulgarians here” or even “Wow, you are my first Bulgarians”. It is really cool to have the privilege to build the image for a whole nation.
Day 28 Haere rā!E noho rā!
Last day – let’s explore another island in the Hauraki Gulf. It was like yesterday when we sailed to Weiheke island but today we’re going to less urbanized island – Rangitoto. No food, no hotels – just tramping tracks. We climbed through lava fields to reach the summit and see the Auckland skyline in the distance. Nature is quite adaptive – many bush and trees along the way to give us shade from the burning the black ground sun. And the lava caves are cool to explore for the more flexible and tiny ones. Tired and dirty we returned to Auckland to catch the first flight of our returning home.
We did a lot and saw a lot but we also started compiling a list for our next visit of Aotearoa – Cape Kidnappers, the Abel Tasman National Park, Te Papa museum in Wellington, Mt. Cook, swimming with dolphins in open waters, …
Hopefully we’ll be back soon to the endlessly enchanting and breathtaking country! Thank you, New Zealand!
Accommodation pie chart – Airbnb (15 nights)/hotels (3 nights)/hostels,motels (8 nights). Average price per night – 46 euro for a double room. Almost all of them included kitchen available , some of them offered breakfast. Everywhere we slept in our own room, most of the times toilets were shared.
Food : 2/3 of the lunches and dinners were out at cafes, restaurants, etc. the other 1/3 were prepared home or consumed in a picnic environment. Most of the the breakfasts were cooked home or eaten on the way to somewhere. Tap water is drinkable almost everywhere and it actually tastes good. Artisan and farmers markets are affordable ways to taste the best the land of Aotearoa can produce.
Transport inland: mostly our Nissan Tiida(a.k.a. Jumpie), which we drove for 5541 km.We rented it from day 3 in Auckland to day 26 in Queenstown and the total cost including full insuarance and a gps was 1982 NZD including the Interislander ferry from North Island to South Island.
We used a ferry from South Island to Stewart Island and back, and a domestic flight from Queenstown to Auckland. Sailed many boats and ships for both sightseeing and transportation purposes and even spent a night on a boat.
Transport to NZ: a 900-euro flight (28h/35h return) from Istanbul to Auckland with two layovers in China.
Essential bookings – having in mind we were in the summer holiday season, we were happy that we had booked the ferry, accommodation on popular places, a whale watching trip, the Milford Sound cruise.
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