We’ve started our six month of van living, and although we’re still getting used to where everything goes (and how little space we actually have!), it feels great to be on the road again. The winter season was great, but the freedom that comes with not having a full time job is fantastic!
We left National Park with my (Ebba’s) parents and sister to make our way down to Queenstown in the space of around three weeks. This was enough time to make it from Auckland to Queenstown, but we did spend a lot of time driving and there are a lot of places that we’ve said “We’ll have to visit again!”. However, the trip we did was a great mix of just about everything: mountains, the sea, lakes, hikes, volcanoes, hot pools and cities.
The North Island
Ebba’s family landed in Auckland, and spent the night in a campsite outside of town before cruising down to Hobbiton where we met them. Hobbiton is a movie set used in the Lord of the Rings films and in the Hobbit films, a very touristic attraction but very cute and well worth a visit.
After our tour there, we drove down to Rotorua where we visited the Kuirau Park to see some bubbling mud pools and steaming streams and pools. It’s free and so worth a visit! We also visited the mighty Whakarewarewa Forest, a massive and peaceful forest full of gigantic redwood trees and went for a walk there.
The tour continued down to Taupo, where we went to the hot pools at Spa Park, and of course checked out the great crater of Lake Taupo before heading ‘home’ to National Park Village and Tongariro National Park. We were hoping to hike the Tongariro Crossing, but the weather wasn’t on our side so we did parts of the Tupapakurua Waterfall Track, the Taranaki Falls Track and drove up to Whakapapa Ski Field. In a way it was great to show the family how moody the mountains are as it was ‘Whakapapa’ weather with no visibility one minute and sunshine the next.
After spending a couple of days here we had to speed on down to Wellington to catch the ferry to Picton. To be honest we didn’t stop to see much on the way down, but the views from the window were fantastic! We need to explore the area more on the way North again.
The South Island
We arrived in Picton around lunch time and went for a stroll around this beauty of a town. We then had our eyes set on Blenheim and the wine region of Marlborough, where we did a full day of wine tasting which was fantastic!
After that we continued the drive to Hanmer Springs and there famous hot pool attraction. To the contrary of the Taupo ones, these are natural but inside a swimming pool complex.
We headed for the coast and caught a lovely sunset outside of Amberley before heading into Christchurch to see the cathedral ruins (damaged in the 2011 earthquake) and to do some shopping.
Arthur’s Pass was next on the itinerary. After staying by a pretty lake surrounded by mountains we visited Castle Hill, a spectacular place with rock formations.
But the main purpose of our visit to Arthur’s Pass was to hike. We went to the visitor’s center (always a good idea for tips and advice!) and choose to do the Temple Basin hike. It was a 2 hour adventurous climb up a steep slope with some incredible views. Temple Basin is a ski field in winter, but unlike most ski fields they have no road access, meaning the hike we did is the only way in and out of the huts.
On our way to the coast we stumbled across a campsite that used to be an old gold mining town (Goldsborough). From the campsite itself we did a couple of shorter walks along some tracks that showed old mining grounds and tunnels. Pretty cool for a random campsite! On the coast we visited the town of Hokitika were we took a walk around the heritage trail of this small but cute town which had its glory days during the New Zealand gold rush.
We made our way further down the West Coast to the Franz Josef Glacier. We decided to do the shorter walk to see the glacier, and as we set off quite early in the morning, we were basically alone on the way there. The glacier was a pretty sight, but pictures along the way displayed how much of it has disappeared in only the last few years which is incredibly sad.
We were planning on visiting the Fox Glacier too, but on our way there Rosie had a break down and we spent the day waiting on her power steering to be fixed instead. A quick job, but since we were on a tight schedule that meant that we kept on driving instead of staying another night in the area.
After the glacier we drove down to Lake Wanaka. We spent the night at a campsite and were amazed we didn’t see anyone else swim in the morning, until we got in the freezing water. We’re all pretty used to swimming in cold temperatures in Sweden, but this was an all time cold for us all. The day was spent in Wanaka, having lunch and checking out shops and the famous tree in the lake.
We slowly made our way to Queenstown with stops nearby the ghost town of Bendigo. As Ebba’s parents camper van was large and heavy we didn’t quite make it up the the actual town, but we did visit the town at a later occasion (more about that to come!). We also visited the gold mining town of Arrowtown and camped by the pretty Lake Dunstan (seriously good place for a morning swim!).
Whilst in Queenstown, we hiked the Ben Lomand Track on a nice and sunny day and got some great views over the lake and surrounding mountains.
We camped at some gorgeous places around town including Lake Hayes (where there is a just as gorgeous walk around the lake!) and Twelve Mile Delta Campsite, where we caught a rainbow.
Three great weeks with awesome company and bit of everything of what New Zealand has to offer. But now its time for us to really dig deep into the van life and do some longer hikes! ❤️
The trip in short:
The route: Auckland – Hobbiton – Rotorua – Taupo – Tongariro National Park – Whanganui – Wellington – Picton – Blenheim – Hanmer Springs – Arthur’s Pass – Hokitika – Franz Josef Glacier – Lake Wanaka – Queenstown.
Accommodation: Camper vans, stayed in free camping spots or DOC (Department of Conservation) camping grounds
Duration: Three weeks (21 nights)
Highlights: Glaciers, mountains, lakes and overall sunny weather!