New Zealand’s South Island: 10 Day Road Trip from Christchurch (Part 1)
Day 1: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
When we were greeted in Christchurch by a vibrant rainbow arching over the outside of the airport, we knew it was going to be a great day. We hopped in our rental car, and immediately began the three hour drive to our first destination in New Zealand, Lake Tekapo.
We chose the cozy village of Lake Tekapo to begin our journey through New Zealand because we knew we would be quite tired from our red-eye flight, and with beautiful blue water all around us, and hot springs just a stone’s throw away from our accommodations, we felt this would be the perfect place to relax and recharge before starting our road trip.
Lake Tekapo Hot Springs
When we arrived in Lake Tekapo, we wasted no time, immediately taking advantage of our pre-purchased hot springs pass. After a quick pit stop to take in the beautiful blue beauty at the shores of Lake Tekapo, we drove straight to the hot springs to get our relaxation on in the outdoor pools. The weather was just crisp enough outside to make these pools feel like the perfect refuge, and as we soaked away our minor jet lag, we already started planning our trip back to the hot springs later in the evening. The second time around was even more enjoyable and relaxing than the first – there is nothing like relaxing in a hot springs under a starry night’s sky! Lake Tekapo is one of the largest dark sky reserves too, so the stars truly have a chance to twinkle their very brightest here.
Day 2: Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook National Park and Queenstown
The next morning, we woke up feeling refreshed and couldn’t wait to do some more sight seeing in Lake Tekapo, and also Mount Cook National Park before heading Queenstown later in the day. After a delicious breakfast at a local cafe, Run 67, we headed to the historic Church of the Good Shepherd which is ideally situated right at the shores of Lake Tekapo.
After a nice little photoshoot under the morning sun, and one last look at the beautiful blue lake, we said good bye to Lake Tekapo and began the hour drive out of town to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The drive to Mount Cook was gorgeous, with yet another beautiful blue lake (this time it was Lake Pukaki) and mountains framing the view out the car window.
As we drove into Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, the view only got better. We were right in the mountains! The snow capped Mount Cook was definitely the star of the scene. We excitedly got out of the car at the trailhead and began the easy hike along the Hooker Valley Track to the Hooker Valley Lake at the foot of Mount Cook. The walk was spectacular, and every time we turned a corner, we couldn’t get over the view. Accordingly, we took about a zillion photos, and although not a single one do the area justice (which we would soon discover was an everyday problem over the course of our New Zealand adventure), we also have a hard time finding words to describe this amazing and quite accessible hike, so the pictures will have to do!
After our incredible Mount Cook hike, we were off to our next destination, Queenstown. We were super excited for our stay in Queenstown as it is known for being the adventure capital of New Zealand, and it is where we had decided we would spend the most time on our trip. As soon as we drove into Queenstown, we knew we would not be disappointed. The setting couldn’t be more picturesque with the shores of Lake Wakatipu around the city, and the downtown core was so perfectly walkable, we were happy to leave the car for a few days and get out on foot to explore further.
That night we went to a great bar with awesome food and drinks, Smith’s Craft Beer House, but hit the hay relatively early to get a good night’s rest for our adventurous day to follow.
Day 3: Queenstown
Shotover Canyon Swing
In the morning, Desta woke up bright and early feeling a bit anxious about the adrenaline pumping activity they had planned for later that morning. Of course this meant Dermot was up much earlier than he expected.
When planning our trip to New Zealand, we knew it wouldn’t be right to visit Queenstown and not partake in some crazy adrenaline-fueled activity. After all, this is the adventure capital of New Zealand. After having seen a video of the Shotover Canyon Swing on YouTube, there was no doubt in our minds that this was the stunt for us.
The Shotover Canyon Swing involves jumping off a 109 metre cliff (the largest cliff in the world according to the Shotover Canyon Swing website). After a 60 metre freefall, you then swing in a 200 metre arc over the beautiful Shotover River. If that wasn’t crazy enough, you’re allowed to choose the style of your jump from the cliff! They have multiple jump styles to choose from, using a rating system of five “stained undies” to give you an idea of how scary they are – one stained undie out of five being “very scary”, where as five out of five being considered “very, very, very scary”!
After meeting up at the Shotover Canyon Swing office (located conveniently just down the road from our hostel), and each having a very ominous drawing done on our hands, we were in the shuttle and off to the jump site!
Needless to say, the jump site located over the Shotover River was beautiful, and helped distract us from the events ahead.
Dermot volunteered to be the first of us to jump. Not wanting to settle for just a “very scary” jump, he decided to go upside down and backwards!
Desta was up next! The workers had a lot fun teasing Desta and pretending to knock her off the edge early as she nervously laughed the entire time they were getting her set up safely. Desta decided she wanted to leap off the edge herself though!
We both enjoyed our jumps so much that we were crazy enough to do a second jump – but we thought it would be a lot more fun to go tandem! Dermot admits he was more scared having Desta attached to him than he was diving off backwards the first time.
After two jumps off the Shotover Canyon, we were officially gravity abusers, and ready to head back into Queenstown for the rest of our day.
When we arrived back in town, we knew exactly where we were heading – Fergburger! Fergburger is Queenstown’s most popular gourmet burger restaurant, so no matter what time of the day you go, you can be sure that you’ll be waiting in a long line. We can both assure you it’s well worth the wait though, and the perfect meal to end your morning of cliff jumping in New Zealand.