Cascading waterfalls, icy blue pools, dramatic mountain peaks and glaciers that were formed during the ice ages: part 2 of absolute highlights of New Zealand, the South Island, has been long overdue. The second part of this road trip was arguably even more stunning than the first part; after every corner you’ll find another incredible view. New Zealand has been, without a doubt, the most beautiful country I have ever visited.
If you’ve only got a limited amount of time, it might be useful to decide beforehand which sights you definitely want to see. Me and my friend hired a sleeper car and had a bit over two weeks to see as much of the South island as we could. Make sure to head over here (click!) to read Part 1 of this list, before you read about the magical places that I am about to share with you next…
Rainforest, waterfalls, glaciers – when you’re driving from Wanaka to the West Coast you are passing through phenomenal scenery. The Haast Pass is a mountain pass in the southern part of the island, named after 19th century explorer Julius von Haast. Interesting fact; the Maori used the pass too, way before the existence of Europe! Above you can see a picture I took of the Blue Pools, which are hidden within the Haast Pass. The water is melted ice, which is why the colour is so vibrantly blue.
I wouldn’t necessarily say Queenstown as a city is a must-see (although you can find heaps of tourist centres there where you can book adventurous activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, etc). The area around Queenstown however, is out of this world. Around Wanaka and Queenstown you’ll find the most breathtaking landscapes you’ve ever seen. There are plenty of photo opportunities and amazing picknick spots along the road too!
Mount Cook & Lake Punakaiki
I mean, do I even need to explain this photo? I personally thought Lake Punakaiki was even more impressive than Tekapo, which you should still definitely visit if you have the time. The impressive backdrop of Mount Cook against the icy blue water of the lake, amidst the diverse vegetation; it’s not easy to find a spot equally as impressive as this one. Make sure to fuel up at the beginning, as the little village at the end of the road either doesn’t have a gas station or has a really expensive one (I forgot which one it was).
Milford Sound is probably one of the most famous attractions of New Zealand. It is a fiord in the south-west, part of the Marine Reserve and a World Heritage site. Some even call it the eighth Wonder of the World – this is quite a statement, but no surprise; once you’ve visited this place (either by boat or kayak) you wouldn’t dare to disagree. Make sure to dress warmly, even in summer it can be quite chilly!
Less well-known, but notwithstanding a stop you can’t miss during your road trip on the South Island – especially if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan. A lot of scenes from the trilogy have been shot around the area of Glenorchy – but also films like Wolverine, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit have featured the area. We took part in a horse-riding tour, which is available for both beginners and more advanced riders.
The Moeraki boulders are a collection of large, spherical boulders located on a stretch of beach in the south-east of the South Island. They are a natural phenomenon and have been protected for scientific purposes.
“According to Maori legend, the origin of the boulders dates from the loss of the Arai-te-uru, one of the large sailing canoes that came from distant Hawaiki. On her quest south for the precious greenstone, the canoe was wrecked near Shag Point (Matakaea). The reef which today extends seawards is the canoe’s petrified hull, while close by, in the shape of a prominent rock, stands the petrified body of her commander. Strewn along the beach are the boulders which represent the eel baskets, calabashes, and kumaras washed ashore from the wreck. The name Moeraki (Moerangi) means “drowsy day”.” (Source)
That is all for my list. Of course we visited many other places and highlights, but to keep this list comprehensive I’ve kept it to these locations. If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments!
Just some last pictures to really convince you to visit the other side of the world…