Road trip­ping in New Zealand

Just you, a car, and some of the world’s most beau­ti­ful land­scapes

ELLE (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS -

Tak­ing a trip of such epic pro­por­tions can be daunt­ing. It starts with 28 hours on a plane and ends af­ter 1,500 kilo­me­tres and 10 days on the road. But New Zealand’s South Is­land is the trip of a life­time, and to­tally worth all the time, lo­gis­tics and ex­pense. Here’s how to do it.

Day 1 Queen­stown

A two-hour flight from Auck­land and hud­dled around the ma­jes­tic Wakatipu lake, Queen­stown makes a great start­ing point. Pick up your rental car at the air­port but be­ware: New Zealand is strict on speed­ing and po­lice are gen­er­ous with tick­ets.

Use to­day to stock up on food for the road, as some ar­eas (such as Mount Cook) don’t have many restau­rants or any su­per­mar­kets. Then spend the evening soak­ing up Queen­stown’s small-town feel with a drink. Or two.

Day 2 Ao­raki /Mount Cook Na­tional Park

At 3,724 me­tres, Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest moun­tain and the crown­ing glory of the South­ern Alps. The na­tional park sur­round­ing it is packed with hik­ing trails, but af­ter a three-hour drive from Queen­stown, the short hour-long trek to the Tas­man Glaciers and Blue Lakes is a per­fect leg-stretcher.

While it’s pos­si­ble to make a day trip to Ao­raki, it’s bet­ter to spend the night so you can stargaze at the Ao­raki Macken­zie In­ter­na­tional Dark Sky Re­serve, and take an­other hike. The Hooker Val­ley trail is a long but easy walk that takes around three hours and has the most stun­ning views. You’ll soon re­alise you don’t need to be a good pho­tog­ra­pher to cap­ture a beau­ti­ful pic­ture in New Zealand be­cause the scenery does all the work for you. And un­like in neigh­bour­ing Aus­tralia, noth­ing on New Zealand’s trails is try­ing to kill you – no snakes, spi­ders, scor­pi­ons or poi­sonous in­sects – so you can wan­der at your leisure.

Day 3 Lake Pukaki

Af­ter two days of non-stop travel, driv­ing and hik­ing, it’s time for a lit­tle rest and re­lax­ation. Lake Pukaki is an hour away from Ao­raki and dot­ted with beau­ti­ful wa­ter­side lodges that of­fer breath­tak­ing views.

For food, visit a salmon farm and or­der a hot and cold smoked salmon plat­ter. New Zealand’s a big ex­porter of salmon, but the best in the re­gion comes from the glacial wa­ters around Mount Cook.

Day 4 Oa­maru

Oa­maru may only be a small town, but it has two big things go­ing for it: beer and pen­guins. Scott’s Brew­ery is one of New Zealand’s finest craft beer mak­ers, and also serves up amaz­ing wood-fired oven piz­zas. Af­ter­wards, head to the Oa­maru Blue Pen­guin Colony to watch the nightly mi­gra­tion of the world’s small­est pen­guins. (The pre­mium passes are worth it.)

The place to stay is Pen-y-bryn (left), a lux­ury lodge run by two lovely gentle­men, both called James. Built in 1889 by English mi­grants the Bul­lied fam­ily, it re­mains the largest sin­gle­storey tim­ber dwelling in Aus­trala­sia. While the façade has been re­stored to its orig­i­nal Vic­to­rian ap­pear­ance and some of the orig­i­nal fur­ni­ture is still in use, the lodge’s fa­cil­i­ties are cur­rent and top­notch. If you can, stay in The Gar­den Room, com­plete with in-room iPad, Ne­spresso ma­chine, Cal­i­for­nia King bed and over­sized bath­tub.

Day 5 Dunedin

Dunedin is a vi­brant univer­sity town with a num­ber of mu­se­ums and at­trac­tions. Start at Orokonui Eco­sanc­tu­ary, a re­serve that strives to pre­serve New Zealand’s na­tive bio­di­ver­sity as it was be­fore set­tlers ar­rived. The other un­miss­able is Cadbury World where a very an­i­mated tour guide in pur­ple over­alls walks you through the fac­tory, feed­ing you along the way. The high­light? A one-tonne wa­ter­fall of pure Cadbury cho­co­late.

But Lar­nach Cas­tle is prob­a­bly the most spe­cial at­trac­tion. New Zealand’s only cas­tle was built for a mer­chant baron and politi­cian named Wil­liam Lar­nach in 1871. Af­ter Lar­nach died, the cas­tle was left for ruin un­til the Barker fam­ily ac­quired it 50 years ago. They’ve been restor­ing it to its for­mer glory ever since. It’s easy to spend an en­tire af­ter­noon here, wan­der­ing the gor­geous Alice In Won­der­land-themed gar­den and cas­tle in­te­rior. Come night­fall, the cas­tle trans­forms from mu­seum to op­u­lent ho­tel, with com­mu­nal din­ners in the mu­sic room and pri­vate din­ing in the draw­ing rooms.

Lar­nach Cas­tle of­fers three tiers of ac­com­mo­da­tion; for an af­ford­able night’s stay, there’s the Sta­ble Stay, a con­verted coach house. The next step up is Lar­nach Lodge, for pri­vate rooms in a colo­nial farm build­ing with dra­matic har­bour views. Fi­nally, there’s Camp Es­tate, a stone art deco manor with five neo-clas­si­cal rooms and a bird’s-eye view of all Dunedin.

Day 6 - 7 In­ver­cargill & te anau

So be­gins the foodie part of the trip, and it starts at a restau­rant with no name. Driv­ing to­wards In­ver­cargill, you’ll pass a tiny town called Wai­hola, where you’ll find the fresh­est blue cod fish and chips and sweet­est mus­sels ever. Just look for the tiny shop op­po­site the Black Swan Café with a huge sign that reads ‘Fresh Fish n’ Chips’. In­ver­cargill is most fa­mous for its Bluff oys­ters – juicy, sweet and not briney. If you find your­self trav­el­ling in May, try to time your visit to co­in­cide with the Bluff Oys­ter & Food Fes­ti­val. It caters to all taste buds, with lo­cal meats (beef, lamb and veni­son) and seafood (oys­ters, mus­sels, cray­fish, scal­lops and fish).

Day 8 Mil­ford Sound

There are no words to de­scribe the majesty of this World Her­itage area. Even pho­to­graphs don’t do it jus­tice. I hopped aboard the Mil­ford Mariner for a din­ner, bed and break­fast ex­pe­ri­ence un­like any other, com­plete with spa­cious pri­vate cab­ins with en­suite bath­rooms. Day trips are pos­si­ble, but an overnight cruise gives you time to go kayak­ing or ride a ten­der craft so you can get up close and per­sonal with the fjords. You can take your time to search for seals (who usu­ally hop aboard the boat at night too), dol­phins and even dis­ap­pear­ing wa­ter­falls with an on­board na­ture guide. Also look out for naughty kea birds; one may dis­tract you while an­other steals your car an­tenna, be­long­ings or food. If some of Mil­ford Sound looks fa­mil­iar, it could be be­cause you’ve seen it in the re­cent

Alien: Covenant movie.

Day 9 - 12 Queen­stown

And it’s back to Queen­stown! The re­sort town has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing ‘a playground for the rich’, and it’s no sur­prise why. Here you can ex­pe­ri­ence just about ev­ery­thing – bungee jump­ing, sky div­ing, lug­ing, paraglid­ing, fine din­ing and count­less wine trails. When you’re look­ing for a lunch spot, don’t be fooled by the in­sane queues at Ferg­burger; head straight to Devil Burger, which is a lo­cal favourite.

Squeeze in a fi­nal drive to Glenorchy, just 45 min­utes away. Dubbed Lord Of

The Rings coun­try, it’s where some of the movie tril­ogy’s most iconic scenes were filmed. An un­ex­pected high­light is the Glenorchy An­i­mal Ex­pe­ri­ence where you get to play with and feed free-range an­i­mals in­clud­ing adorable al­pacas.

Day 13 Auck­land

Af­ter all those days on the road, checkin some­where com­fort­able be­fore the long jour­ney home. The Lang­ham is the per­fect five-star choice – it’s right in the city, a stone’s throw from the Auck­land Mu­seum and shop­ping dis­tricts. The rooms are lux­u­ri­ous ur­ban oases fur­nished with rich tex­tiles, plush beds, hand­crafted wood fur­ni­ture and killer views of ei­ther Auck­land’s city sky­line or green Auck­land do­main.

Nat­u­rally, ho­tel din­ing comes in many forms. Choose from ex­pe­ri­enc­ing eight types of cui­sine at Eight Restau­rant to el­e­gant high tea in the af­ter­noon and cock­tails at Palm Court at night. But if you choose to wan­der out­side, just around the cor­ner is The Burger Bar. The idea (and menu) here is sim­ple – crazy de­lec­ta­ble burg­ers and re­ally good craft beer. If you’re still hun­gry, con­tinue walk­ing to­wards Coco’s Cantina. This trat­to­ria is an in­sti­tu­tion and serves up the best ravi­oli I’ve ever had. Then hop in a cab for a five-minute ride to Gi­apo on Gore Street, other­wise known as heaven for the imag­i­na­tive ice cream lover.

Queen­stown over­looks the beau­ti­ful Wakatipu lake

Lar­nach Cas­tle

Serene views at Lake Pukaki

The Oa­maru Blue Pen­guin Colony

Use your time at Te Anau to re­lax

The scenery and wildlife around Mil­ford Sound are be­yond com­pare

Plush in­te­ri­ors at The Lang­ham

Pre­pare your stom­ach for se­ri­ous eats at In­ver­cargill

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