Road Tripping Through NZ: Time Well Wasted
Just about a year ago, on my 28th birthday, my boyfriend Joel surprised me with two plane tickets to New Zealand. It was, by far, the most insane gift I have ever been given. Since he is a NZ native, I have always wanted to make the trek back to his homeland.
Since the trip to get over there is so long (helloooo 24 hours of travel!), we decided we needed to maximize our time seeing as much of this beautiful country as possible. Joel was convinced that there was no better way to see the country than with a good old fashioned road trip. I, on the other hand, was not as sure.
Admittedly, I was incredibly skeptical. I remember many, many conversations while planning the trip where I complained about how much time we would “waste” in the car driving from location to location. I felt so limited by the fact that we had to block off so much of our time for driving. I was certain it would cut in to the time we had to enjoy and explore New Zealand.
At this point you’re probably thinking: “Alyssa, you were just given tickets to a beautiful far away land! It is not at all annoying that you are bitching about the itinerary!!” I know, I agree, I am very level-headed and never over dramatic. While at first I thought my complaints were abundantly reasonable (and they were, TBH), I eventually decided that I should probably trust the instincts of my boyfriend (who, you know, lived in the country for the first two decades of his life).
THANK GOD I backed off and let Joel plan this trip. Holy hell. I could not have been more wrong about the time we spent in the car. As it turns out, every square inch of New Zealand is beautiful. So, travelling by car allows you to see even more of the beauty. We were able to plan our drives to take us past some incredibly amazing things we would not have seen otherwise. To name just a couple:
The Blue Pools: The Blue Pools are located on New Zealand’s South Island. We made a pit stop to see the Blue Pools while working our way from Queenstown, NZ to the Fox Glacier. We had to hike about a mile from where we parked our car to get to the Blue Pools. Several times, I thought we might have found them (because we passed some seriously beautiful creeks along the way). But, Joel insisted that the pictures he had seen online looked different, so we pressed on. When we got there, it was so obvious. The Blue Pools have a shade of water I have never seen occur naturally (they are literally turquoise), and the water is FREEZING (because it flows from a glacier). 10 out of 10, would recommend to a friend.
The drive to Milford Sound: Milford Sound is a very popular attraction for tourists in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. When you arrive to Queenstown, there are signs everywhere promoting Milford Sound tours. If you look at it on a map, it seems that Queenstown and the Milford Sound are not too far apart. But, the only highway between the two wraps down and around several lakes and towns (taking much longer than necessary). The fun thing about New Zealand is that their highways are very different from those in the U.S. (read: smaller and generally made up of one lane going in each direction with a maximum speed of about 45-50 miles per hours). Again, as you may have guessed, I was a *little* cranky about this drive. I loved Queenstown, and I didn’t see the point in spending an entire day in the car just to see the Milford Sound for a couple hours. Oh, how very wrong I was. As it turns out, the drive to Milford Sound is almost as incredible as the Milford Sound itself. You pass steep cliffs, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and rivers. You go over bridges, you drive through tunnels that run under mountains, and you wind your way around turns overlooking the most breathtaking scenery. It is the most incredible drive I have ever taken (and I don’t know that it will ever be beaten).
If you ever get the chance, rent a car and drive through New Zealand. Other than the fact that the steering wheel is on the opposite side and it’s absolutely terrifying to drive on the “wrong” side of the road, you won’t regret it.