My Latest New Zealand Road Trip – Day 1 & 2

As you may remember, I decided for my 50th birthday to do a road trip to Milford Sound, somewhere I hadn’t been before. I have been back since mid November but covid and work have kind of gotten in the way of me writing anything about the trip… but that changes now!

I am not going to bore you with the details of how I got from Brisbane to Christchurch (Qantas, if you really must know, and no, I was not impressed by them) or night I spent at mum’s (it was awesome to see her, even though I had only seen her in September). Instead I will start with day one of the road trip – which was driving from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo.

Also, there is a possibility that this will be a multi post catch up given I was on the road for about 7 days, which means I covered a lot of ground and took a lot of photos!

Day 1 – Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

Distance travelled – 260km

I decided to try and go the back roads as much as I could on this leg, but I have to say that I was very impressed with the motorway extension for the Christchurch Southern Motorway – very nice indeed.

Once I was off the motorway, I was “driving at 90 down those country lanes” (a little Ed Sheeran, Castle on the Hill, nod there), passing small towns, fields of sheep and a load of bright yellow canola fields. Ok so I was driving at 100km (where allowed of course) but you get the gist.

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Just one of the many Canola fields I saw on this trip .. so eye catching!

I stopped for lunch at in Methven, a small town near the Mt Hutt ski fields. Not many people other than locals around at this time of year (early November) but based on the number of motels and other accommodation in town, it would be quite the bustling area in ski season.

After lunch I got back on track towards Lake Tekapo. I had never been this way before and I have to admit I had to pull to the side of the road just before the Rakaia Gorge. Gorgeous view but was a bit nervous about the clouds I was driving towards. I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast for the time I was doing the road trip and I wasn’t happy with what I was seeing but Tekapo as meant to be fine..

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Views towards Rakaia Gorge and the foothills of the Southern Alps

My next stop was a place called Burke’s Pass. I have been in this area on a previous road trip but there is one major drawcard in this area, apart from one of the oldest buildings in the area – St Patrick’s Church. I am actually talking about the Three Creeks, Vintage Garage Decor.

This place is very cool.. and kind of random given we were in the middle of nowhere pretty much, but it has a plethora of vintage items such as cars, signs, petrol pumps and so so much more. I took a lot of photos here and tried my hand at some different styles of editing. Honestly I think the editing really suits the theme of the place.

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Three Creeks – such a cool place to explore
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Decided to do some creative editing with these photos. I think it went well
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Very cool wee place and a nice stop after driving for a few hours

Three Creeks is such an interesting place to place to explore. There is also a shop, ice cream shed and I think a cafe or coffee area as well. Definitely worth a stop if you are passing by.

From Burke’s Pass it is only about a 15 minute drive to Lake Tekapo and one of the first sights you see as you come into town from this way is the famous Church of the Good Shepherd. Opened in 1935 the church is one of the most famous New Zealand landmarks, and I have just discovered, is the only church in Lake Tekapo. As such it is an interdenominational church with services held throughout the year.

You use to be able to go inside the church but this has not been the case for years. Honestly, probably because of the number of tourists it attracts at any time of the year. For me however, I was lucky. The weather had closed in and it was raining so not a lot of people around (just me and 2 other couples) so I managed to get shots of the church with no one else in the shot! Definitely a rare occurrence.

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Always picturesque – even in the rain
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The weather was quite literally ‘rolling in

I stayed the night in Tekapo, at the Peppers Bluewater Resort. I was upgraded from a hotel room to a one bedroom apartment with views over the lake. However the weather was really bad that night, to the point that the TV antenna’s weren’t working, so I had dinner and went to bed reasonably early.

Day 2 – Lake Tekapo to Queenstown

Distance travelled – 266km

Despite this being a similar distance as day 1, it took significantly longer to get to Queenstown because of the number of stops along the way.

Stop one was to pull over to the side of the road and take a photo of an amazing rainbow that appeared after the previous nights storm.. little did I know that rainbows would become a reoccurring theme of the trip.

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Definitely worth pulling over for!

Stop two was one of my favourite places in New Zealand – Lake Pukaki. I have been here 3 times now and this is the first time I haven’t been able to see Aoraki/Mount Cook. If I was a couple hours later I probably would have but them’s the breaks. I will say that it was EXTREMELY windy at Lake Pukaki but that didn’t stop quite a few people pulling over for photos.

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It was so windy that I am actually surprised the stones were still standing
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Aoraki/Mount Cook was hidden by the clouds in the distance

Stop three was breakfast at a cool little cafe in Twizel, then onto stop four. Which was kind of a bucket list item for me .. seeing That Wanaka Tree (which has it’s own account on Instagram and around 69,000 tags – including mine now).

Why is this tree so famous? Honestly I don’t really know.. I mean it has been there for over 70 years and it is the only tree that is sitting in Lake Wanaka. I guess it is quite pretty and I have seen some stunning photos of the tree over the years.

For me I think it is more the setting of the whole area – Wanaka is a very pretty town in a very pretty part of the country. Located next to a large lake of the same name and surrounded by mountains, it is understandable why it has grown in population over the years. It is also had the most expensive petrol of the whole trip.. that is saying a lot because NZ petrol is VERY expensive!

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#thatwanakatree .. worth the hype?
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A very dramatic location

Stop five (?) was Cardrona – famous for two things, a very popular ski field and the Cardona Hotel. As I drove to the Cardrona Hotel I was stuck by two things – there is a lot of development (aka houses) going up in this area and the last time I was here I had not noticed the other buildings next to the hotel.

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Old school house turned gift shop
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Don’t think much petrol is coming out of that pump
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Established in 1863, the Cardrona Hotel is one of NZ’s oldest hotels, and safe to say, one of it’s most famous

Before I get to stop # .. oh I don’t know any more, I have lost count.. anyway before I got there I had to go over the Crown Range – which is one of the least nicest roads to travel on, well part of it anyway. Not because of the state of the road but because of the twists and turns. I also found out when I got to Queenstown that the day before I drove there, the Crown Range had been closed due to snow fall.. in November! If you aren’t aware, November in New Zealand is late spring and it is a bit unusual to get snow that late.

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This photo does not show the actual trauma of driving the Crown Range so I have included a screenshot below of Google maps
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The calm after the trauma of driving the Crown Range

The final major stop before Queenstown was the lovely little down of Arrowtown. I have been here a couple of times but one of my bucket list items is to be here in autumn because I’ve seen photos and it is STUNNING!

Arrowtown is a former goldfield town dating to the 1870’s and is located about 20-25 minutes from Queenstown. Today it is a little tourist gem that is much quieter than the bigger, more touristy Queenstown. It is easy to just get out of the car, go for a walk and take in the history of the area. One of my favourite places in New Zealand for sure.

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First port of call was the sweet shop
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Very old school.. so much to look at
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Loved these little shops along the main street
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The Arrowtown Post Office
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Arrowtown is a charming little town away from the hustle & bustle of the touristy Queenstown
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Loving these tree lined streets. Along the left you can see the old gold miners cottages – also can you image this place in autumn!

From Arrowtown it was a short drive to my base for two nights, Queenstown. Below is the view from my motel on the main street next to Lake Wakatipu, with the gorgeous steamer TSS Earnslaw – but more about that in my next post.

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This is a view I could get use to

So that is it for now. I still have my time in Queenstown, Te Anau and Oamaru to cover, not to mention my day trip to Milford Sound. But that will have to wait until I get time to sit down and write another blurb.

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