Sights Along the Southern Scenic Route
On our journey from our Christmas beach getaway in Dunedin towards the mountains of Queenstown and Wanaka, we saw many sights. We visited the Nugget Point Lighthouse, walked through a petrified Jurassic forest, and stood on the southernmost point of New Zealand’s south island, where we were just under 3,000 miles from the South Pole.
One of the highlights of our southern road trip was seeing the rarest penguin in the world: the yellow-eyed penguin, or hoiho. Yellow-eyed penguins come ashore on the south-east coast of New Zealand and some sub-Antarctic islands to breed, though the mainland of New Zealand now houses only around 300 breeding pairs of penguins. They also have no close relatives because they are the only species left in the genus Megadyptes.
The Milford Highway
The Milford Highway runs from Te Anau to Milford Sound, one of the most famous fiords of Fiordland National Park.
Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park
While a sudden change of plans only gave us two days at Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, we did have enough time for the Hooker Valley track, a 10-km round-trip trail with views of Aoraki/Mt. Cook. The track takes you over three swing bridges, over glacial moraine, through valley tussocks, and to Hooker Lake, the source of the Hooker River.
Though we hiked at mid-day with a crowd of other people, this was one of my favorite hikes on the trip.
Mt. Aspiring National Park
— the Rob Roy Glacier Track
Mt. Aspiring National Park sits near Wanaka, a small but trendy mountain town nestled on its own lake. The Rob Roy Glacier Track trailhead starts an hour and a half away from Wanaka, via a bumpy gravel road with water crossings for our car. The 10-km round-trip track brought us through sheep pasture, along a river, and up into a glacial valley, where fresh rains had formed countless waterfalls coming down from the glacier above.
Fox and Franz Josef Glacier Tracks
After Wanaka, we drove to the west coast to see glaciers and ocean views. We spent my 24th birthday (in New Zealand time) walking the Franz Josef Glacier track and seeing glowworms near our campsite in Hokitika.
The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers can be accessed in the west coast region of New Zealand. Like many glaciers around the world, they are receding more rapidly every year due to increased global average temperature.
A drive over Arthur’s Pass on the last day of our trip brought us to our destination: the Garden City.
We’ve already been Christchurch for two weeks and it is already clear this is a wonderful city. After a devastating earthquake in 2011 that killed 185 people, this community has spent the last eight years rebuilding structures and spirits. Evidence of the earthquake can still be seen around the city. With Starship’s “We Built This City” as their reconstruction anthem, Christchurch has once again become a community full of history, arts, and sustainability.
Ironically enough, we were able to see Jefferson Starship and Toto peform in Christchurch’s own Hagley Park!
I’ve been working as a receptionist in a hostel for 14 hours a week to pay for my accommodation. In our abundant free time, we’ve gone on hikes, tasted every food we can get our hands on at markets, explored cafes and night-lit streets, experimented with new recipes in the kitchen, and visited museums.
Temperatures range from the low 60s to the high 80s in Christchurch so I’m trying to soak up as much shorts weather as I can before returning home to Minnesota in just a few short weeks!
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One thought on “Our Final Two Weeks on the Road in New Zealand”
Lindsey … stunning photography and it looks like New Zealand is simply beautiful. I’m envious of you seeing a yellow-eyed penguin, or any penguin for that matter. I love penguins! Hope the rest of your time there is fabulous before you have to head back to the “real world”.
Safe & fun travels to you!