Written after my first trip to New Zealand in 2015.
The most important thing that I learnt from this trip is that travel is best experienced with others. My favourite days in New Zealand were spent in the company of new friends, whether they were locals to the area or like-minded travellers. I am incredibly thankful for all the friendships that I made on this holiday, they truly made NZ worthwhile. This was the first country in which I explored solo and with this, it also sparked my love of nature, landscapes and the untouched wilderness. It was here where my love of travel photography started and it is without a doubt a place that I will forever return to.
New Zealand’s South Island, especially Queenstown, is inundated with tourist activities and extreme sports, none of which I actually did. You also don’t need to read another travel post that lists every type of bungee jumping or skydiving activity you could do. Instead my most memorable days were spent in a more low key way (and also incredibly cost effective for those on a budget).
- Walk Queenstown hill. Although it can be extremely popular for locals and tourists, this not too challenging trek will reward you with incredible views of the Queenstown centre, Wakatipu Lake and the surrounding mountains. I’ve done this hike a couple of times and if you pick the right time and day, you can be the only person in sight. Depending on your walking speed it can be completed in about 3 hours but I would suggest packing some food and staying at the summit for as long as possible to soak up the view, it would be an incredible sight at sunrise/sunset.
- Take a trip to Wanaka. If you like hiking, begin climbing Roys Peak at mid afternoon and if you are fit enough, you will be able to reach the summit for sunset and watch the sun go down over the mountains. It is one of the most beautiful sights you will see and even though I honestly hated this walk, it was completely worth it. A tip - bring lots of water and make sure you have a torch for the trip down, you will be descending in pure darkness! I would like to give Wanaka more of a chance, having spent only a couple of days in here in total. Like most of New Zealand, it’s a small town but its location has a lot to offer.
- Mount Cook – This is a town where I was able to experience thick clouds floating on ground level and snow covered mountains in the middle of summer. The drive to get here is just as beautiful as the place itself, the last stretch is spent alongside Lake Pukaki, which transforms into the most insane fluorescent blue on a clear day. While there, I would recommend walking the Hooker Valley track and also taking a short walk up to see the Tasman Glacier. If you go on a day with little cloud coverage, the reflection on the water with the icebergs and mountains is perfect.
- Located in a very sleepy lake side town, Lake Tekapo offers many water activities, horse trekking tours and a couple of short day walks, but I was only interested in the stars. Known for being the 2nd best place in the world for a view of the night sky, it was an unforgettable sight to see. The sky is one of my favourite things, so being able to photograph so many stars was an incredible experience.
- In one day I travelled across enough of the country to tick 3 activities off my list, that being Castle Hill, driving over Arthurs Pass and exploring Hokitika Gorge. Taking approximately 8 hours to drive from Tekapo to Hokitika, it’s a full on day, so pack some food and have a good playlist going. Castle Hill, known for the abundance of giant rock formations is one of the coolest things places I visited. The rolling hills are covered in boulders which you can climb, walk around and explore; I could have stayed here for hours. After Castle Hill you will soon reach Arthurs Pass, a nice little drive through town and due to its location in the mountains, it has multiple walking tracks and nature reserves around the area. Driving over their elevated road was something that I have wanted to do for a couple of years and if you stop at the lookout just before you reach the road, you can see the true scale and beauty of the construction. I finally reached Hokitika Gorge, which was the entire motivation for this massive day of driving. NZ is covered in blue pools, lakes and gorges but after researching photos, this place looked the most impressive. The walking track is covered in multiple vantage points, so you are able to continually see the blue water and its incredibly impressive colour. As you reach the bottom, especially in summer, you will find rocks covered in kids jumping into the gorge. It was so impressive and definitely worth the long drive.