As we left Invercargill we decided to forgo a few hurried days of traveling through Fjordland in favor of staying and playing in Queenstown instead. I left the decision up to Matt, mostly, because it was a priority of his to see Fjordland. He spoke with a local gentlemen somewhere between Dunedin and Invercargill who suggested we drive to Te Anau and then take a boat tour to Doubtful Sound. We could also have driven to the famous Milford Sound as well. Both were very appealing and it was a difficult decision to make, but we ultimately decided to just head for Queenstown to relax a bit.
Traveling with our tiny companion obviously influenced the decision, but he actually did remarkably well in the motor home and overall. We had been breaking up the long drives each day with stops to play outside or eat (or both), or we timed longer drives around naps, and things worked out nicely (as I remember). That being said, it’s always nice to not force things too much with little kids. Sure, we missed out on some adventures in the Sounds, but take a toddler to trail, park, or lake and they usually have more fun getting to explore on their own. In New Zealand, there isn’t a bad view anywhere so watching Porter play and be happy while taking in the view, any view, was pretty amazing and always worth it.
Queenstown is an awesome city to spend some time in if you are into adventure sports. There is so much to do there! It’s a place that a lot of people come to play (snowboard, sky dive, bungee jump, adventure tours, etc.) – so pre-kids it would likely have been awesome. With a toddler, it still held a lot of fun possibilities, but we were also contending with some crappy weather for the couple of days we were there. In short, it won’t be remembered as our favorite time and place in New Zealand, but I can see why people love it.
Let’s back up a bit. Driving to Queenstown was fairly quick, and the road in from Invercargill (Highway 6) ends up traveling along Lake Wakatipu, on a section of highway called “The Devil’s Staircase”. I assume because it’s a winding road with mountains on one immediate side and the stunning lake on the other.
It’s so beautiful. We stopped probably 5-10 times just to take in the views and snap some photos (there are frequent pull-outs and were few other cars around while we were driving).
The mountain range is called The Remarkables, I can’t imagine why?
When we arrived in Queenstown we checked into this holiday park close to the downtown area and proceeded to let Porter play for a while at the playground. The holiday park was very nice, very well maintained, and I appreciated the mid-century/modern flair it had. We set off that first evening to just mosey around downtown, check out what was around, and grab some groceries for a low-key dinner which we made at the holiday park kitchen. It was nice to eat a simple homemade meal that night.
The next day we got out early enough to do some more walking around, grab breakfast at a local place, and pick up the last of our souvenirs. See, we wanted to get Porter a rugby ball; not content with a small toddler-sized one, Matt bought an official All Blacks one – deflated so we could easily pack it. Porter desperately wanted to play with it though, and since we sometimes can’t say no to his sweet little face (and just wanted to quiet him down…), we ended up getting him another tiny rugby ball, which he then clutched for the remainder of the trip 🙂 We managed to make it back to the holiday park just as the weather turned for the worse (wind, snow), so the afternoon was spent napping and chilling out.
Before our afternoon flight on our last day we decided to do the Queenstown gondola ride up the mountain. It was literally a 2 minute walk from the holiday park, and a cool ride up the “steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere.” It scared the sh*t out of me.
The Māori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which loosely translated can mean “the land of the long white cloud”. You will see often see this referenced around NZ, and as you can see above: the long white cloud!
At the top, there is a cafe, gift shop, views for miles, and a pretty awesome luge ride you can do with your family. Check out that link for even more that you can do up there. Like the Swedish-brainwashed expats we are, we had to first grab a coffee at the cafe up top, of course. Million dollar views are even better with a drink 😉
On the way down Matt spotted some chamois and it was a very exciting moment 🙂
At the bottom of the mountain, where you can park on the street and/or 2 minutes from the holiday park, there is also the Kiwi Birdlife Park. If we had more time that day we would have definitely spent a lot of time inside the park. Alas, we needed to head out.
We returned the Jucy motor home at the Queensland office where we had a significantly better experience with the employees compared to Christchurch. From the Jucy drop off area, we just walked to the airport to wait for a bit before flying out Brisbane.
All in all, it was a great time in New Zealand. The South Island is an incredible playground full of adventurous opportunities, wonderful people, and wine (but of course I had to get knocked up before this trip, WTF). There are a lot of things we missed out on, not only because there is just so much to do there, but because we had some limitations placed on us (toddler, pregnancy, etc.) I certainly hope this was NOT a once in a lifetime trip because it’s too stunning of a place to not go back. We need to do/see/hike/skydive/camp/photograph more, definitely get up to the “winterless North” Island, and hello… sample the wines! You can be sure if/when Matt and I get too antsy or have a joint mid-life crisis, we’ll be selling everything we own and up and moving to New Zealand.