Wanaka and Queenstown (and around) were probably the places we were most excited about when we came to the South Island. According to Kiwi’s though, you’re supposed to prefer either or. To be honest, I’m not ready for that kind of commitment so I’m going to let you guys do the judging by this post.
As I said in my previous post, we took the Haast Pass Highway to Wanaka, which is one of the most scenic roads of New Zealand. We spent hours there hopping in and out of the car to go for walks and explore. You’d think it couldn’t get any better, but then we started approaching Wanaka.
W A N A K A
As soon as we started getting closer to Wanaka we got really excited and thought to ourselves ‘this is what we came to the South Island for’. A HUGE bright blue lake, framed by humongous mountains, it’s insanely beautiful. Everywhere you look, looks like a postcard.
Sadly though, during the two days we spent in Wanaka it never stopped raining. I don’t want to complain about the weather in every post I write, but the weather was particularly bad during our weeks on the South Island. Despite the weather we still made the best of it of course, and we had an amazing time, but at times it was a bit of a bummer.
I made it my mission to not let the rain stop me from posing with Wanaka’s most famous resident, #ThatWanakaTree. That’s right, a tree that has its own hashtag, I guess that’s what happens when you’re the most photographed tree in New Zealand. The Wanaka tree is a willow tree that decided to do its own thing, and grow in the middle of Lake Wanaka, away from the other trees. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. I’m not the tree hugging type, but that is one tree I would have happily given a big hug (which I obviously couldn’t do because it’s in the middle of a lake).
(It was a bit clearer for 5 seconds the next day)
A R R O W T O W N
Except for walking and driving around Wanaka a bit, we didn’t do much else, because the rain simply didn’t allow us too. We looked at doing a few hikes, but it would have been too dangerous in the weather at the time. After our stay in Wanaka we headed over to Queenstown, but not before stopping in historic Arrowtown.
Arrowtown is a quirky little gold rush town between Wanaka and Queenstown that looks like time is standing still (sort of, if you ignore the skatepark, tour buses and people running around with iPhones).
Whilst Wanaka is home to the most photographed tree in New Zealand, the country’s most photographed cabin is situated in the middle of a parking lot in Arrowtown. When we got there there were two big fat white vans parked right in front of the cabin. One of them we could kind of crop out of our photos, but the other one was right in front of it. Who even does that? Luckily the driver of that van was sleeping inside, so I woke him up and kindly asked him to move his van (which he then did). Moron.
Q U E E N S T O W N
Justins birthday was on the 19th of January and we thought it would be a nice change to celebrate his birthday in the summer this year. But when we stopped at a lookout point on the road from Wanaka to Queenstown, it started snowing and the temperatures dropped to 3 degrees! Of course that also had to do with altitude, but still.
Because we skipped the hike up to Roy’s Peak (a steep 3-5 hour return) in Wanaka, we were really eager to go for a hike in Queenstown. We decided to go for the ‘Lake Alta Track’ in ‘The Remarkables’. Lake Alta is a glacial lake in the mountain range of The Remarkables, which is also home to the Remarkables ski field. This hike would have been about an hour and a half return, but little did we know.. there was a LOT of snow. It was a fairly easy hike, until Justin spotted a waterfall in the middle of the snowy mountains. We made our way up there to take some photo’s, but going back down was a little harder than we thought. By the end of it my feet were soaking wet from the snow that had slipped into my shoes from the ankles down. Waterproof shoes weren’t going to help me here. We ‘lost’ quite a bit of time climbing up to the waterfall and I have to admit I was preeeetty tired and grumpy after that, especially because the way down was a bit gnarly. None of that really mattered anymore as soon as we got to the lake (yes still throwing around those cliché’s). I’m going to let our photo’s do the explaining.
After our snowy adventure we went for a drive to Moke Lake, which is another one of those ‘is-this-real-life?’ postcard-spots.
G L E N O R C H Y
Another cute little town not far from Queenstown is Glenorchy. Glenorchy is only a small town but with its insane landscapes it has become a popular location for film scouts, portraying many scenes from the Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies. About 20km away from Glenorchy you’ll find áctual Paradise. Nobody really knows why it got that name. Some say it’s because of its beautiful scenery and others because of the paradise ducks that live in the area. About the town of Paradise Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) once said ‘This is the Middle-earth I had always pictured.’ If you ever find yourself in Glenorchy/Paradise make sure to stay at Mrs Woolly’s campsite, it’s one of our favourite campsites we’ve stayed at during our time in New Zealand (and also the only campsite in Glenorchy, so if you’re camping you don’t really have a choice anyway).
On our next New Zealand trip (yes already thinking about that) we’re definitely going to spend a lot more time in this area, we both fell in love!