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Trip Report NZ South Island February 2014 Trip Report

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Since this board, especially Mel, was so helpful to me while I planned my trip I wanted to pay it forward and do a short trip report. We spent 15 days on the South Island in February and the trip was simply incredible. Every turn around the corner was more gorgeous than the one before it. I've outlined our trip briefly below but please feel free to reply with questions and I'll do my best to answer them. We drove the whole time and I actually found the driving to be less of an issue than I thought it would be. Every drive was so beautiful and we made sure to leave time and walk down to almost every lake we spotted so it wasn't just hours of straight driving. As background, we are a couple in our early 30s and are pretty active and outdoorsy.

Day 1: We flew into Christchurch and spent the day exploring the city. It was interesting and moving to see the earthquake destruction and recovery and a good, relaxing way to spend our first, sleepy day. The botanical gardens were very pretty and we had a great breakfast at C1 cafe in the CBD.

Day 2-4: We drove to Lake Tekapo and did the hike up Mt. John which was gorgeous, and the cafe at the top is great. I wish we had time to spend a night in Lake Tekapo, but we drove on to Mt. Cook where we spent the next 2 nights at the Aoraki Court Motel, which seemed to be the best option in the Mt. Cook village. It was really cool to be so close to the mountains and the views were unreal. We spent our full day here hiking.

Day 4-7 Te Anau: We drove from Mt. Cook to Te Anau which was a long drive but not so bad. We stopped at a winery (Mt. Difficulty: thanks for the rec, Mel!) for lunch so that split up the day nicely. While in Te Anau, we kayaked in Milford Sound one day which was my favorite activity of the trip; I highly recommend it. We also did some day hikes around Te Anau. The drive to Milford Sound is so incredible-we did it at 6am to make our kayak trip and that was honestly perfect. No traffic and the light was beautiful.

Day 7-10 Wanaka: We drove from Te Anau to Wanaka which was an easy, beautiful drive. We stayed in Cardrona at the Waiorau Homestead which was a great base to explore the region. We liked being outside of town because the scenery was so pretty. We did a number of hikes here, and just enjoyed the gorgeous weather. The views here may have been my favorite the whole trip.

Day 10-11 Drove from Wanaka to Fox Glacier. This was our only rainy day so we didn't get a view on the drive, but it wasn't a bad drive. Fox Glacier was my least favorite part of the trip. It was definitely interesting to see the glacier, but we did the half day ice hike and it just was so touristy that it was hard to fully enjoy it. I didn't love standing in a line of people on the glacier. I've also seen more spectacular glaciers in South America. That said, it was still very pretty and I did like learning about the glacier. Having lunch at the cafe at Lake Matheson was really nice too.

Day 11-12: We spent a night in Hokitika on the way from Fox Glacier to Mapua, and ate some great fish and chips.

Day 12-15: The drive from Hokitika to Mapua was the most annoying of the trip for me. I think I was over being in the car at that point. We stayed near the little town of Mapua to explore Abel Tasman National Park. The place we stayed was great: Atholwood Luxury Country Accommodation. Abel Tasman was gorgeous in a totally different way than the huge mountains and lakes we'd seen in other parts: it was forested with turquoise waters and reminded me a bit of Hawaii. We did a half day kayak trip in the park and saw a little blue penguin so that was a highlight. This was our last stop so we wanted to relax and so also spent one day at the beach in Kaiteriteri. I wouldn't plan a whole trip around going to this area, but given we had time, it was nice to see something different.

Day 15-16: We spent our last night in Kaikoura, which was so gorgeous. I wish we had more time there. The views of the mountains and ocean were just amazing. We didn't do a whale tour or anything here-just a short hike at the point where the seals are and then hung out at our hotel, which I loved: Manakau Lodge.

That's it! The trip was pretty much perfect. We are mountain/lake people, so if I was going back, I'd probably spend most of my time around Wanaka and maybe Te Anau but I don't regret seeing Abel Tasman as I was sort of hiked out by the end of the trip. It's a really easy place to travel but it feels very far away and exotic. Hope this helps others in their planning!

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