A short day after I was back in the Gold Coast after traveling to the Outback, I re-packed my suitcase and was boarding a flight to Queenstown, New Zealand with my best friends. Me and my roommates (Jenna, Alex, and Ashley), along with James another TEAN student, were beyond anxious to explore the beauty of New Zealand.
During our first four days as Kiwis, we rented a car and traveled across the South Island of New Zealand with the final destination of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. Our 2 hour drive went by faster than most because we were in awe driving through such beautiful mountains. Making stops along the way, we came to the realization we were no longer in the Gold Coast and our 80 degree weather was something we took for granted. Every stop we made along the way just got better and better and better. The mountains, sheep, and lakes were so breathtaking I couldn’t peel my eyes from the backseat window. We were all so genuinely happy and it showed as we were all so excited about the sights we were seeing.
The next day we challenged ourselves with a six hour hike up to Roy’s Peak, a mountain standing between Wanaka and Glendhu Bay in Wanaka. Of course, on our drive to the hike, we made various stops along the way to take in all New Zealand has to offer. The weather wasn’t exactly in our favor that day, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the views.
The next day of our car travels was to the Blue Pools where we enjoyed crystal clear waters, rock towers and James jumping off a bridge. Once again we made plenty of stops along the way and this drive was my favorite. We weaved our way through lakes, rivers, and mountains with music and windows down. It was a movie-like experience.
On our final day with the car we ventured up to a ski resort and Lake Alta where we enjoyed watching a snowfall on the mountain tops. James made the hike while the rest of us sat in the warmth of the car and planned the rest of our week in Queenstown. I was extremely satisfied with our decision to rent a car because it really allowed us to explore New Zealand at our own pace and in the manner we desired. It was great to have James take the responsibility of driving and I enjoyed every sight we were able to see those first four days.
Queenstown is a tourist-friendly town with endless thrill seeking opportunities and breathtaking mountain views. The town was full of local shops and restaurants that I can’t wait to take advantage of when I visit again with my grandma and grandpa. We devoted a full day to tasting local New Zealand wines at The Winery. Sipping on various types of wine, I would now consider myself a wine enthusiast. That night we ventured out to a few bars to experience Queenstown night life. Lets just say it was pre- 21st birthday celebration that resulted in a very careful actions on the actual day. Oops! The next day was full of storm clouds and rain (even a little snow), so we decided to hang out in our hostel and socialize with a few other backpackers. I met a man from Scotland, and a woman and boy from the U.K. who helped me cure my hangover from the night before. My friends and I spent the nights in our hostel playing board and card games while watching movies…it was a cute way to spend our time.
On our last day in New Zealand, we rode gondolas up to the Stratosphere, a buffet restaurant that overlooked all of Queenstown. After a very filling lunch, we enjoyed the views and spent the afternoon reflecting on our time abroad.
Overall, New Zealand with my best friends was an experience I will never forget. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together and the sights we saw. Although the weather was not what we were used to, we made the best of it and ventured into heated restaurants and stores as often as we could. Jenna had recommendation to try Cookie Time and that was probably our favorite place to go. I look forward to experiencing New Zealand in a few weeks with my grandparents as we travel through the North and South Islands!