The resort town of Queenstown is one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand, with its stunning location on the shore of the vast Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by the Southern Alps. It is also commonly referred to as the adventure capital of the world, and offers endless opportunities to try almost every thrill-seeking activity you could possibly think of.
Given the town’s reputation, it only seemed right that we began our visit with something adventurous, and we therefore arranged a tandem paraglide flight with G Force Paragliding. This was paid for using the very generous Christmas presents from both my parents and brother.
The flights take off from the top of the Skyline Gondola, which is located on Bob’s Peak at an elevation of 790m, and towers over the town below. Having decided to book an early morning flight, rather than taking the gondola we climbed the 45 minute trail to the top of the Skyline.
Once we had arrived and checked in, we were both introduced to our pilots before being led to the nearby launch site. After helping to unfold the gliders, we were each strapped into a harness and prepared for takeoff. This essentially involved running towards the edge of the hill as fast as possible, before being quickly swept up into air just in time.
After a cloudy drive over the Haast Pass from the West Coast, the weather cleared up almost immediately as we arrived into the resort town of Wanaka. The town is situated on the banks of Lake Wanaka and is surrounded by the beautiful backdrop of the Southern Alps.
We wandered briefly around the small but busy town centre, before beginning along the Mount Iron summit track. The 4.5km trail climbs gently over rocky terrain, with the view across the town and lake gradually growing more and more impressive. Upon reaching the summit, we found a perfectly situated bench to sit and take in the panoramic views. Continue reading
Our next stop as we continued our journey along the West Coast was in Glacier Country, home to the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, two of the most accessible glaciers in the world. They are some of the South Island’s most popular attractions, and there are small Tourist towns servicing each of the glaciers.
We were concerned our trip may be delayed, with a huge slip closing the highway that leads to the glaciers just a few days before we were due to travel. This left us at one point considering a 1,000km detour to make our prearranged tour of Franz Josef. Fortunately for us the road was partially reopened just in time and we were only delayed very briefly.
Upon arriving in the region our first stop was at Lake Matheson, which is just a short drive from Fox Glacier. Before beginning a walk around the lake we stopped for the obligatory coffee and cake at Matheson Cafe. While the refreshments were good, the view across to the peaks of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook were incredible.
Our journey over to the west coast took us through several hours of remote farmland until we arrived into the small town of Westport. With plenty of time to make our way down the coast, we decided to head north first.
After driving for a further hour, we found Gentle Annie’s Camping Ground where we decided to stay for the night.
It was a cold day, and instead of exploring further along the coast we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the warmth of the on-site cafe, the Cow Shed
The next stop on our road trip was the coastal Abel Tasman national park. Despite being the countries smallest National park, it is extremely popular and home to the 51km Coastal Track, one New Zealand’s series of Great Walks.
As well as being popular with walkers, the parks secluded coastline also makes it an ideal location for sea-kayaking. We thought this sounded like a great idea, and decided to hire kayaks for a full day from Abel Tasman Kayaks.
Arriving early into their site in Marahau, we were given our equipment as well as a detailed safety briefing. Our guide made it clear that sea-kayaking can be dangerous, and that conditions on the water can change quickly. Fortunately for us it was another very calm day, and we were told it was unlikely we would face any challenging conditions. Continue reading
After a great weekend in Wellington, it was time to say goodbye to North Island. Having booked onto the 8am ferry, we had an early start for the beginning of our South Island adventure. We had been warned that the ferry crossing is often quite choppy, so we were thankful that it was a beautiful and calm day.
We arrived into Wellington early Friday afternoon, timing our visit perfectly for the start of the weekend. It had felt like a while since we had been in a proper city, and we were therefore both excited to explore.
Firstly, and most importantly, we decided to see if Wellington’s reputation for serving excellent coffee is well deserved. After wandering along the trendy Cuba Street, we stopped at Customs by Coffee Supreme, which came highly recommended. With it being another very warm day, we enjoyed some great iced coffees, accompanied by an even better filled donut.