After several weeks of almost perfect weather, we finally encountered some rain as we arrived at our campsite just outside of Mount Cook National Park. This continued all night, before luckily stopping just in time for us to start exploring the park.
We decided to begin our visit with the popular 10km Hooker Valley Track. Despite arriving early, there was already plenty of other hikers beginning the walk.
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.
After travelling through the Central Plateau, we had a choice to continue our road trip through the North Island along either the east or west coast.
We decided to go west and after driving to the regional hub of Taumarunui, we began our journey along State Highway 43, also known as the Forgotten World Highway.
The 148km road is built along old bridle paths and passes through remote and rugged countryside, before ending in the town of Stratford. Continue reading
Fully rested after a relaxing time in Taupo, our next challenge was the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. One of New Zealand’s most popular day walks, the 19.4km trail passes through the volcanic terrain of the Tongariro National Park. The Park is home to three active volcanos including mount Ruapehu, the summit of which is the highest point in the north island at 2,797m.
The evening before attempting the walk, we made the short drive south along Highway 47 towards the National Park Village, with the Park’s volcanic peaks looming large in the distance.
Rather than easing ourselves back into the campervan lifestyle, we decided to spend our first full day in the van taking on the ambitious drive to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the New Zealand mainland and around 6 hours drive north of Auckland.
Thankfully, having lived in Australia for two years we are well accustomed to long drives, although usually on very straight and very flat roads. It didn’t take us long to realise driving conditions in New Zealand would be a little different, with steep climbs and tight corners seemingly the norm.
After powering through the first few hours of the journey, we made our first stop at Rainbow Falls, which was just a short detour from the highway, near the small town of Waipapa. We made use of the picnic facilities for a quick lunch, before beginning the short walking trail to the waterfall.
Probably the highlight of our Christmas holiday in Tropical North Queensland was the two days we spent exploring the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest. Known as the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree is said to be 180 million years old, and is one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth.
The Daintree is also known as the point where rainforest meets reef, with the Daintree Reef located just a short distance from the coastline.
For our 2018 Christmas holiday we decided on a trip to North Queensland, one of the very few popular tourist destinations in Australia that we had yet to visit, and the furthest north we had been since arriving in the country.
We flew out of Sydney a few days before Christmas, and thankfully just minutes before the city was hit by a huge hailstorm, with hail the size of tennis balls causing extensive damage to homes and vehicles (Rachael’s included).
Arriving into Cairns, the hot and humid tropical climate was immediately apparent upon stepping out of the plane. We picked up our rental car, and made the short drive to the AirBnb where we would be staying for our first night.
The following morning we began our road trip, driving south out of Cairns, with our first stop at Babinda Boulders. The popular swimming hole is given its name by the vast boulders that surround the creek. Thankfully, despite it being summer the water was still refreshingly cool and shaded from the sun by the surrounding trees, making it perfect for a relaxing swim. We followed a short walking trail along the river, stopping at several viewpoints to watch the water rushing past over the rocks.