New Zealand’s spectacular South Island
Arriving in Queenstown wasn’t exactly what I expected. Everyone had said that it’s the “adult’s playground” of New Zealand, and they were right. But what I didn’t expect is just how beautiful it really is. I expected a trashy little city with no personality or intrigue, but instead I found a quaint and pretty town surrounded by snow-capped mountains and vast landscape.
Of course, the enormous Louis Vuitton superstore located on the waterfront is an eyesore that detracts from the views, and makes me sad and angry at the same time, but despite this the town still manages to exert some of its individuality through its tiny cafes and waterside pubs, giving it an edge certainly on New Zealand’s larger cities.
Everywhere in New Zealand (that I’ve been) is naturally exceptionally beautiful, but the South Island has a certain magnificence that I hadn’t felt anywhere else in NZ before. It isn’t extravagant, in fact, it’s entirely the opposite; it’s small, it’s rural and it’s almost pure. The Alpine air and the access to nature is unrivalled, and making a trip to the South from Wellington was one of the best decisions we’ve made in New Zealand.
We based ourselves in Queenstown at the Flaming Backpacker Hostel (be aware the prices are extortionate at most hostels in Q Town, but the facilities make it seem worth the extra cost and the staff at Flaming Kiwis were awesome), and spent the first day drinking wine, sampling all of Ferg’s offerings – his burgers, his pies and his gelato. We gorged and holidayed and it was fantastic.
The next morning, however, we had to wake up at 5.30am to get a 7am bus to Milford Sound. The five-hour-long journey there was a little daunting, but the scenery was again so stunning that it made the tiring and windy drive worth it. Luckily, our drive was a young, spirited Kiwi who stopped to let us take photos and even little walks in the bush on the way.
We hopped on the Milford Sound boat and saw the beauty we’d heard so much about. It was certainly pretty, although I couldn’t help feel like it was a long way for one day and was just as beautiful – but not more beautiful – than the sights we’d seen on the drive.
Our third day was our first ever attempt at skiing. We chose Coronet Peak for our ski day purely for its close proximity to Queenstown and the magic carpet lift access on the beginner’s slope. After grappling with our equipment (skis are so much heavier than they look) we made it to the top of the mountain and it was so worth it, even before we clipped on our skis.
It was a bluebird day, as they say, and the views from the mountain over the landscape around Queenstown were phenomenal.
We’d booked beginners lessons and with the help of our militant teacher, Serg, by the end of the day we were fully skiing, even gaining speed. Particularly, Stephen who was told (as a back-handed compliment after nearly crashing into someone when going too fast) that he was a natural born skiier…
We relocated to the quaint town of Wanaka and immediately loved it (what’s not to love?). We stayed at the YHA hostel in town, which again was overpriced for a hostel, but did offer a clean, large kitchen, log fire, movie nights, views of the mountains and our own private room with bathroom… It was magical.
We finished our final day down south (after a few days rest) by climbing Roy’s Peak. Feeling a tad under prepared, as we commenced the walk we had no idea how steep it was, we could both safely say that Roy was our very first peak.
After a few breaks, and lots of huffing and puffing, we finally made it to the snow-capped peak. It took three hours to reach the top, with the last 20 minute stretch covered in snow and ice. We were wearing our Reebook Classics, not a great idea, but luckily we managed to slip and slide our way up.
The views from the top were like the icing on the cake of our South Island adventure. The vast blue and white scene before me, on a freezing cold but sunny day, was like nothing else. As always, I won’t give you the rose-tinted view. There were some downsides. When we reached the peak a queue had started to form to take an individual Instagram-ready picture at the edge of the peak, which involved walking out on a thin stretch of ice and snow.
I was prepared at first to make the journey, but then serious selfie takers started became too pushy about the queue, and it was getting cold and colder. We chose (thankfully) to scrap the selfie seeking and the hypothermia for a nice landscape picture of our own and slid all the way back down to safety.