Of course in the morning, when was time to leave the Glacier Country and travel to Queenstown, we woke up to clear skies and perfect weather!
We decided to take advantage of it and enjoy every minute of the scenic, 4-hour drive down Highway 6. That means, stopping at every beautiful sight we see!
One very unusual aspect of Highway 6 is that ALL of the little creeks are named. Rocky Creek, Muddy Creek, Random Creek, 7-Mile Creek (why? They use kilometers.), McDonald’s Creek, and, our favorite: Stinky Creek.
One iconic image of Aotearoa (New Zealand) is the silver fern. It grows like mad here, especially on the side of Highway 6 in Glacier Country!
In fact, my pounamu (jade) necklace design represents the unfurling fern.
Since it truly was clear as crystal, we went back to Lake Matheson to get good views of Mt Tasman and Mt Cook. We didn’t do the lake walk again (since it takes a while), but the view just form the car park is fabulous!
As were the views from the drive. New Zealand has many other glaciers and peaks than those I’ve mentioned, and I was able to get lots of good views of some of them!
We stopped at Knight’s Point, which is a very gorgeous view from just off the highway.
Apparently, really lucky people see whales and seals from here, sometimes. I’m ok with the brilliant blue water and rocks.
Next we found ourselves in the Haast Region, where the Haast river empties out into the sea. We pulled over to walk down to the beach. It was so amazing. We were the only people on the beach for as far as the eye could see.
The sand was so soft as we walked through it for a bit. We made a little mark in the sand before we left so we knew which way to get back.
Plus, Hannah found this sweet as shell!
That little visit to the beach is probably one of my fondest memories of our trip. We just pulled over and found our own little oasis. Haast beach is our beach!
We stopped in Haast for lunch but the only thing that look edible was fish n chips, and sadly, it made Hannah and I feel a bit nauseous. It was way salty and greasy and ick, I won’t be having that again for a while. I just tried to let is pass as we drove.
Randomly Hannah was like “Forest Walk. 5 minutes. Let’s go.” and pulled right over into the parking lot. Ok then I thought to myself. As we took the little trek through the woods, I heard rushing water and figured there must be a rushing river near by. But then, I glimpsed something amazing through the trees…a huge waterfall!
It was so grand and beautiful. Who could possibly have a stomach ache when you are making pit stops like this along your road trip?! I was so glad Hannah noticed the sign and we stopped. Yet another unforgettable portion of our trip.
We made sure to give Old Yeller a few extra kisses. Without her, these kinds of explorations would not be possible!
We stopped again to explore the Blue Pools, a portion of the drive a lady in a gift shop told us we could not miss.
It was a fantastic sight! The water is blue because it is arctic water draining from the glaciers.
No big deal. Also, apparently everything turns blue when you visit the Blue Pools. Here is a blue picture Hannah with a lucky (stripe all the way around it) heart rock she found. It was one magical place!
The 30 minute walk helped us digest even more, but to truly settle our stomachs, we figured we should definitely stop at this ice cream place we passed.
We had the most delicious chocolate cone for just nz$2.50! Cheapest I’ve had here! It was extra delicious because it wasn’t too chocolatey. Just the perfect hint of cocoa flavor with chocolate swirled in. It did the job. We felt much better
Something that I think is a bit strange about New Zealand is that they have deer farms. They farm deer for their meat, venison, but it’s so strange to see a field of grazing deer right next to cows and sheep! Odd.
We drove onwards and I couldn’t stop laughing at my photography skills. Driving along Lake Hawea was so beautiful I couldn’t stand it, but it was so tricky to get good pictures from a moving vehicle!
I want to live here. A vast lake at the bottoms of vast mountains: that’s my kind of place.
As the drive took us into the Central Otago region, we were taken aback by yet even more beauty!
It really felt like autumn in Otago with all the changing leaves and harvest colors.
Before we knew it, we were in Queenstown city limits! After settling in and having dinner, we set out to experience Queenstown’s infamous nightlife. Our first stop was, yes, a pub, fairly close to our hostel.
It was called Pub on Wharf and had Mac’s on tap. I got Sassy Red. There was also a band playing a mix of rock and celtic music.
So yes, I was in heaven! The atmosphere was really cool, too.
Like a modern, sophisticated tavern in the country with a swanky fireplace and hip animal heads on the walls.
The next place wasn’t what we expected. In the Lonely Planet, Minibar is described as beer, beer, and more beer. But, it should have been expensive, expensive, and more expensive. I thought it might be like Free House with a diverse range of NZ craft beers, but it was stiff and elitist.
I skulled a Monteiths and hauled ass out of there. Though I was pretty proud of myself because I thought I tasted blackberry, and the description says there are blackberry flavors. I’m developing quite a sophisticated palate, I think!
Our final stop, Monty’s was ok, but not as fun as Pub on Wharf. They had Monteiths on tap, so I was happy. Monteiths in made in Greymouth, a city of the West Coast we drove through, and people say it is so good because of the pure West Coast water. Yummmsters they are right! I got the First Harvest brew, just in time for autumn, and it was a good light, spicy beer with fruity flavors, too. Though of course, I couldn’t finish it because three beers is WAY too much for little me.
We slept in this morning, but first thing I did when I woke up is take a walk down to the water. Our hostel is right on the lakefront, so I just had to cross the street for the beautiful early morning views!
It’s a perfect fall day today, a crisp, light wind and clear skies.
Perfect, because in Queenstown, there is a gondola that takes you up to the top of a hill to see breath-taking views of the city!
It was really fun and really perfect. Perfect weather, perfect views. Queenstown actually reminds me a lot of Burlington! It’s on a lake, doesn’t have many big buildings, and it’s very outdoorsy. It’s just a bit more congested and all-around bigger. Needless to say, I love it here!
At the top of the gondola, there is a luge course! It’s hard to describe, but you basically just sit on this scooter thing with a steering wheel and brake. I was scared so I didn’t go too fast, lol! We took two rides down the luge, first the easy scenic course, then the “advanced” course that was a bit steeper and had more turns.
They were both really fun and thrilling, with beautiful views and exciting moments through tunnels! I was really glad we did it, it made me feel like a kid again! We were particularly silly the entire morning, making funny faces at the cameras and cracking ourselves up with dumb jokes.
But for real, there were fantastic views.
After our trip back down the gondola, we headed over to Ferg Burger for lunch.
If not world-famous, Ferg Burger is definitely New Zealand famous for the best burgers in the country.
I was considering getting a real burger for the experience, but I couldn’t pass up one of the vegetarian options: tempura tofu with chili yoghurt sauce.
It was to DIE for!!!
Of course we got an order of fries, too.
There are leftovers, they were impossible to finish after that monster. Hannah got the original with cheese and she only came up for air to gush about how good it was. I was the same, lol. We got a great seat at the country right before the MASSSIVE lunch rush. You’d think it was a free Lady Gaga concert inside or something!
I guess people go Ga Ga for good burgers. I know I do!
After lunch, we spent some time exploring the lake front right across the street from our hostel.
We looked at the HUGE pine trees, skipped a bunch of rocks, and soaked up the beautiful views, crisp breeze, and autumn sunshine. I love it here in Wellington.
Then, we took a walk into town to the Underwater Observatory. The Lonely Planet said it was free, but we had to pay nz$5 to get in. It was so worth it though!
There were so many trout and salmon hanging out right in front of the big windows. They got super close and we could see them with pretty good detail. We also got to see an eel, or as the Maori call them: tuna, which was pretty freaking creepy, but awesome because they play a big role in Maori culture.
But the ducks stole the show.
Not only could we see their little flippers flapping around under the surface, but they actually dove down underwater, trying to catch fish! It was so cool to see them swim underneath and then float back up. Air bubbles get caught in their feathers so that they look like they are silver, but above ground they are jet black! They were such a cool sight to see!
After we observed everything in the green lakewater light, we headed over to Patagonia chocolates, which received raves from both TLP and the receptionist at the hostel!
We heard about the delicious chocolates, hot cocoa, and ice cream, plus free wifi and lake front views. Sounded good to us!
Everything was wicked expensive, but we will never come back, so we got two small hot chocolates (they came with a little lemon shortbread!) and we split a scoop of vanilla and cookies ice cream.
I have a problem. I LOVE CHOCOLATE. DId you know? I guess we only spent nz$7.50 each, so that’s not too bad for everything we got! However, the internet was slower than slow could ever be slow, which was a letdown.
We walked back to the hostel to get the car and drive a short ways to the big supermarket to get the necessities for the last few days of our trip: eggs, bread, peanut butter, and apples. We also went next door to a Mediterranean market to pick up some special things for a picnic we have planned for tomorrow!
When we got back to the hostel, I have decided to give up on internet for the rest of the trip. I quickly bought nz$2 worth of internet for 30 minutes to check in with the family and get up one last blog post. There are only a few days left, so I’ll just have to make sure I’m journaling and catch up when we get back!
We spent the evening playing more rummy and enjoying a nz$7.99 bottle of “white shiraz” that we got from the grocery store. It was very, very sweet! The perfect dessert after our dinner. We broke up some spaghetti and boiled it with a vegetable soup package. Spaghetti soup! It basically tasted like Ramen.
We splept in a little longer than usual in the morning, and then got ready to do some exploring. Instead of finding a local hike like we usually do, we just decided to walk along the waterfront towards the city, then walk a bit around Queenstown gardens.
It was a very cold morning, but the weather was perfectly clear! We saw a couple of cute puppies and watched some ducks along the waterfront. Then, we took some time exploring the gardens, which despite the cold mid-autumn weather, appeared very lush!
The foliage was so beautiful around a duck pond with a foundtain, plus the rose garden was alive and colorful!
We enjoyed the waterfront some more, then decided to walk around town a bit.
We explored a few gift shops and art galleries, but what was most exciting was the Cookie Time shop.
I have seen the Cookie Time cookies all over the place around NZ, and theis was a full-stocked shop of the stuff! I have only ever seen the original flavor (one big, individually wrapped chocolate chunk) but there were so many different kinds and shapes you can imagine! Triple chocolate, white chocolate, afghan, apricot, mini, broken cookies, etc! The shop even has a “cookie bar” with warm, freshly baked cookies for $3.00 that you can get with a glass of milk. They even have milk on tap!
It was such a fun shop. And with lots of good deals, too! There were also HUGE bags of mini cookies, two for $12 which is such a good deal, we wished we had more of the trip left to eat them all! We ended up going with a deal that gave us 5 individually wrapped large cookies for just nz$10, they are usually nz$2.50 each. We got two of the original chocolate chunk, one triple chocolate, one white chocolate, and one afghan. Better yet, she heated up the two originals in the microwave for us to enjoy then and there! Cookie time rocks.
Soon, we’d had enough walking around and we were ready to enjoy our exciting picnic lunch! We walked back to the hostel and made PB&Js and brought our mediterranean salad and cheese outside to a sunny patch on the waterfront. The weather was absolutely perfect and so was the food. The sheep’s milk gouda was to die for, especially paired with the sundried tomatoes! They were the sweetest one’s I’d ever had. We also got some seasoned green olives (they were a bit spicy!) and some artichoke hearts. We could barely eat it all! Good thing, we saved it for snacks for the road tomorrow. We were also able to watch the sweetest families playing by the lake. Skipping rocks, climbing trees, fighting with leaves, and playing on the playground, a perfect autumn afternoon. (Sorry no pics, I was charging my camera!)
After our picnic, we headed over to the quaint town of Arrowtown, just 20 minutes away from Queenstown. Arrowtown is a small little village favored by day-trippers from Queenstown. It’s schtick is gold-mining, it even has a preserved Chinese settlement from when immigrants came to search for gold.
It was really a touching site.
You can only imagine the hardships they faced, living alone in their small little huts, panning for gold day after day and bracing the long winter months.
They had nothing but hope.
The town centre is full of all sorts of cute shops. Hannah and I really enjoyed the ones with home decour, picking out all of our favorite stuff that we imagined in our own houses some day.
We also did some more oggling at beautiful jewelry and jade. Plus, we visited a very cute sweets shop for some novelty lollies.
There was a whole isle dedicated to “Kiwi favorites!”
I got some jelly beans since it is Easter time. Hannah got some sour feijoas that were really quite strange. Almost bitter. The place also makes its own fudge, and I got to try a sample of the creme brulee. It was soooo good it made me want to buy some! A little boy (a local) came in for a sample, but the fudge-maker told him he’d already had is fair share of samples for the day. Everyone in the shop was laughing.
As the shops started to close, we came upon Arrowtown’s microbrew.
We snuggled up by the fire for a half pint, I got the dark one, obviously.
After our beers, we headed over to Pesto, an Italian place we’d heard good things about. We were the only two in the place, and the waitress asked us if we were cold (yes!) and she sat us at the warmest table in the place, right under a space heater. It was so nice, you can imagine.
We first got a “pizza crust” to start, which was basically a white pizza with garlic and parmesan, plus pesto to spread on top. For our main dish, we split a medium “sunworshipper” pie which had pumpkin, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, jalepenos, and cream cheese.
Yes, cream cheese! There are little globs on it, like there sometimes are globs of ricotta on a sweeter pie. It’s really quite delicious!
After dinner, we headed back to the hostel for a cookie and the rest of the wine.
We warmed up the white chocolate, which was a chocolate cookie with chunks of white chocolate. Divine!
A few more rounds of rummy later (Hannah’ still winning by upwards of 400 points!) we hit the sack. We woke up in the morning to hit the road for our last day of our trip.