Up early again today for a cooked breakfast in our apartment. It's great having our own kitchen. Today we head out around 11 a.m. to Arrowtown, around 20 minutes from Queenstown. Arrowtown is a historic former gold mining town, located on the banks of the Arrow river. At the peak of the gold rush in the 1800's, Arrowtown's population rose to over 7,000 people. With a
population of about 2,500, it now houses a museum, pubs, and gift
shops. Many of the old buildings have been preserved and any new
buildings have been constructed in a style sympathetic to the original
We travel to arrowtown via the Shotover Gorge and stop off at the headquarters of the Shotover Jet , where jetboats take visitors on hair raising blasts through the gorge. We did it several years back and it was
great fun. This time though we
watch others screaming as the boats blast through the narrow neck of the
A few kilometres past the gorge we pass Millbrook Resort. This popular holiday resort also boasts a first class golf course, one of several in the Queenstown area, including the privately owned Michael Hill course, home of the New Zealand Open.
We spend an hour or so in Arrowtown, then head back to Queenstown for a late lunch at Pub on Wharf. We share a garlic pizza bread and then each have a $10 lunch special. Then back to the apartment for a few hours
rest before heading out to dinner at the Irish pub, Pog Mahone's. Like
most pubs and restaurants in Queenstown, the food is good quality and
there is plenty of it. Kim has salmon, I have lamb shanks and Tim has a
burger. The balcony on the second floor is a relaxing place to sit and
overlook Lake Wakatipu, and we spend an hour or so there enjoying our
meal, having a few drinks, and recounting our trip so far. Our thirst
and hunger quenched, we walk along the lakefront back to the Beacon.
Today is our last full day in Queenstown. Tim wakes up after a night out and tells us that he had the best burger ever late last night. One of Queenstown's iconic eateries is Fergburger. This small shop is always packed with people (always a good sign), and has a large range of unusual burgers such as Sweet Bambi (wild deer), Little Lamby (New Zealand lamb), and The Codfather (fresh blue cod)!
Today we have a reasonably quiet day. A trip out to the Remarkables Park shopping centre to visit The Warehouse, a large discount chain, which you will see all round New Zealand. Then back to the Pub on Wharf for lunch. While we are at the wharf we wander around to the booking office for the TSS Earnslaw. We consider a trip, but the weather is pretty ordinary today so we promise ourselves that we will do it next time. The historic TSS Earnslaw is a steamship that takes visitors on tours along Lake Wakatipu. They have dinner cruises and trips to a working high country sheep farm at Walter Peak. We have spoken to numerous people who have taken trips on the Earnslaw and they have all spoken very highly of it.
As we mentioned earlier on, Queenstown has an almost unlimited supply of
things to do. But there is one thing that you must do above all else.
Milford Sound, New Zealand's number one attraction is often not
associated with Queenstown, perhaps because it is located 3 to 4 hours
drive away. However, regular flights and day tours via coach operate out
of Queenstown. It's a big day (12 or 13 hours) but it is well worth it.
Milford Sound is recognised as one of the best tourist attractions in
the world and we highly recommend that you set aside a full day in your
Queenstown itinerary for a visit to Milford Sound.
For more information, have a look at our page on Milford Sound Tours .
Today we wave goodbye to Queenstown and make a promise to come back as soon as possible. It's an intoxicating place.
Our journey today takes us to Mt Cook village, around 3 hours drive away. From Queenstown we will travel to Cromwell where we will join State Highway 8 which takes us through the stunning, snow covered Lindis Pass, through to Omarama, then on to Twizel. Shortly after Twizel we will turn left and follow the shores of the magnificent turquoise Lake Pukaki before arriving at Mt Cook village.
As we head towards Cromwell the road narrows and we enter the Kawarau Gorge. We catch glimpses of the Kawarau River rushing through the gorge, and soon we arrive at the home of bungy jumping. AJ Hackett's original site is located at the old Kawarau Bridge, and over the years thousands of people have made the plunge off the 43 metre high span. We both jumped 10 or so years ago, and it was an amazing experience, and something we can highly recommend. We watch a few nervous jumpers before hopping back into our car and continuing our journey.
Along the way we also pass the Roaring Meg hydro electricity station,
and the Goldfields Mining Centre. The Goldfields Mining Centre is
protected by the Department of Conservation and depicts what it was like
for the early Chinese gold miners of the area. You can even try panning
for gold yourself. Jetboat and white water rafting operators also make
use of the Kawarau Gorge.
We stop briefly at Cromwell for some fuel. From Cromwell we head inland
towards Lindis Pass. The surrounding hills are capped with snow, and as
we climb towards the pass we cross the snow line. At 971 metres, Lindis
Pass is the second highest point on New Zealand's State Highway network.
We take it slowly as we climb the pass and have no problems. We check
the outside temperature which has dropped to a chilly 1 degree celsius!
Another stunning New Zealand landscape. How did we ever cope without
We pass through Omarama, where State Highway 8 intersects with State Highway 83 (which leads to the east coast town of Oamaru), and continue north to Twizel, where we have a quick loo break. Shortly after leaving Twizel we turn left off SH8 towards Mt Cook.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a part of a Unesco World Heritage
Site. This stunning region attracts visitors from around the world, keen
to sample its amazing location and facilities. At 3,754 metres, Mt Cook
is New Zealand's highest peak, and one of over 140 peaks within the
park which stand at over 2,000 metres. The park also contains 72
glaciers, including the Tasman Glacier and the Hooker Glacier. Popular
with mountain climbers, hikers, and photographers, this is a place you
really must visit if you come to New Zealand.
Mt Cook is one place in New Zealand that we had never visited. Don't really know why we had not stopped there before, but boy are we glad we stopped there this time! Nothing really prepares us for what we are about to see. The drive in from SH8 is around 55 kilometres, and for most of the journey the road runs along the western shore of Lake Pukaki. Lake Pukaki, and the nearby Lake Tekapo are both the most indescribable turquoise colour. When the sun shines the surface glistens and.......no, I can't describe it. You need to see it yourself.
As we get closer to Mt Cook village, the clouds begin to roll in and Mt
Cook slips in and out of view. We arrive at the village and park the car
at our home for the night, the
The Hermitage is the largest place to stay in the village, and in
addition to providing first class hotel facilities, it's also home to
the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre (in 1953 Sir Edmund and his Sherpa,
Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to reach the summit of the
world's highest peak, Mt Everest). The centre houses a museum which
documents Sir Edmund and the history of mountain climbing in New
Zealand, and a 126 seat 3D theatre and planetarium.
We check in and make our way to our room on the seventh floor of the
tower. Our room is modern, clean and comfortable, and has the most
amazing views over the resort towards Mt Cook.
And then it happens! As we unpack, the clouds close in, Mt Cook disappears, and it begins to snow. And snow. And snow. Before long everything is white. We decide to head downstairs to the bar, and on the way we step out onto one of the observation decks. The conditions are blizzard like now and we can't believe how quickly the weather has closed in and how heavy the snow fall is. It's just beautiful.
Before making our way to the bar, we make a reservation for the Alpine Restaurant for later that evening. That done, we head to the Snowline Lounge
for a couple of hours. It has huge picture windows looking out towards
Mt Cook and it's the perfect place to sit and watch the ever changing
After a few drinks we decide to visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, 3D theatre and planetarium. The museum is fascinating and gives you a real insight into Sir Edmund's achievements. The theatre and planetarium are both worth seeing, and we spend an hour or two watching the shows and wandering through the museum.
As daylight fades we head to the Alpine Restaurant, looking forward to
their evening buffet. We are not disappointed. The variety of food is
extensive and we take our time sampling as much as we can. The selection
of seafood and meats is excellent and they have a huge range of deserts
to choose from. Our window seat is the perfect place to watch the sun
fade. It's been a great day.
After dinner, Kim and Tim decide to head back to our room. I decide to have a few more drinks, so I wander into the bar and introduce myself to a group of guys. I learn that they are Kiwi's and are workers in the village. We sit and chat for a few hours, and I learn that one of the guys runs the "Glacier Explorers" tour on the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake. He explains that he takes
visitors on a boat tour on which you see huge icebergs which have
fallen away from the glacier. The tour is currently closed for the
season but is scheduled to reopen in early September for the new season.
I make a promise to myself to take the tour next time we are here. They
also tell me about some of the other activities available in the area
like the 4 wheel drive and Argo tours, and the many walks throughout the
park. There is a lot of great information about the park's walking
tracks on the
Department of Conservation website.
Around 11 p.m. I wander back to our room for a good nights sleep.
Today is clear and sunny, and we decide to leave around 8 a.m. for our trip back to Christchurch (around 4 hours drive). We were a little concerned last night that we may have trouble getting out of the village if the snow continued, but fortunately there were no overnight falls, so the roads are clear. During
heavier falls, snow chains would be a "must". We pay our account, and head out to our car, only to find that the shaded car park is icy and slippery. I carefully creep to the car to find it covered in snow and ice, with doors that are frozen shut! After a bit of gentle persuasion, I manage to free the driver's door, and remember a handy little tool that was in the glove compartment when we collected the car from the hire company. Hertz think of everything, and provided us with an ice scraper for moments just like this. After a few minutes I have the windows ice free, and we pack the car and head off. As we leave the village, the roads are bathed in sunshine, so any over night ice has melted, leaving the road clear and safe. We decide to have breakfast in Lake Tekapo (around 1 hours drive).
Lake Tekapo is another beautiful spot. We have often stayed here for a
night to break the trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, as it's roughly
half way between the two. At 710 metres above sea level, it is said to
be New Zealand's highest large lake. The stunning colour of Lake Tekapo
(and nearby Lake Pukaki) comes from suspended particles of rock known as
"rock flour". Glaciers at the head of the lakes are continually
grinding the rock into fine particles which are then washed into the
Probably best known for the much photographed Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo has plenty more to offer. Fishing, skiing, scenic flights, hot pools, hiking, and horse riding are just some of the activities that can be found in and around Lake Tekapo. The village has lots of accommodation (read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor) , several restaurants and cafes, and a small supermarket with a reasonable range of groceries. When we stay overnight we always try to book a room with a lake view (you won't be disappointed). Today though, we have a cooked breakfast at one of the cafes, then continue our journey towards Christchurch.
At this time of year, the cold winter months brown the hills and
paddocks around Tekapo, creating a unique setting. The surrounding hills
and alps are covered in snow and it's very beautiful in its own way.
This landscape continues for another 30 or so kilometres. Then, just
before the town of Fairlie, the road climbs over a ridge, and the
landscape changes completely. The grey hills and paddocks are replaced
by rolling green hills and pastures. It's like walking from one room
From Fairlie, we continue to Geraldine, then on through the Canterbury Plains into Christchurch. We check in to our hotel, Pavillions, for a quiet afternoon and evening.
Today we are up early, and head off to Christchurch airport for our flight home.
Our trip has come to an end much too soon. We have had a wonderful time in this vibrant, amazing country. New Zealand is one of those places where it's easy to feel comfortable. Add to this some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable, a great exchange rate, welcoming locals, and you can see why we highly recommend it as a place that you should add to your "must see" list.
We hope that you have enjoyed our New Zealand Travel Journal and that it has inspired you to visit New Zealand.
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