Day 1: Thurs, Christchurch

Arrived Christchurch, pick up rental car via Apex Car Rental

Checked into Airbnb near airport (a room in a home of a young family who rents two bedrooms out to guests)

Drove 40 mins to downtown Christchurch. Got cash, explored the city a bit (wasn’t overly wowed…wouldn’t necessarily recommend a day in the city to others if tight on time), ate at the Modern Eatery which had good choices under one roof.

Back to house . Picked up my son Will at airport very late.

Day 2: Fri: Chirstchurch to Mt Cook- 4 hour drive

Checked out of Airbnb in am.

Grocery store to stock up on food for backpackers lodge and for snacks and breakfast for the week. Ate lunch and hit the road.

Drove the shorter route to Mt Cook (not the scenic road) stopping in a little town to poke around shops. Stopped in Lake Takapo to see the beautiful bright blue glacier lake and to visit the little church on the lake (go inside and see the view from the pews!!!) and to get gas. 

About 4 hour drive to Glentanner Park which is on road to Mt. Cook. Incredible scenery with blue glacier lakes and the alps along the way. There is not a lot of lodging or places to eat in the area Glentanner lodging was a backpacker bunk room with communal cooking area (camper vans, tents also there). Incredible views of Mt Cook! And comfy beds with clean duvets etc – towels not provided. We visited the Mt Cook visitors center as well which gave us ideas on where to hike the next day. At Glentanner they also offer helicoptor rides and have a small cafe open during the day and have visitor info.

Made dinner (no restaurants in vicinity) in communal kitchen which was busy with travelers of all ages and nationalities.

Day 3, Sat:  3 hour Mt Cook Hike, Drive to Waneka 2.5 hours

Breakfast at hostel and checked out

Drove further up valley and took right on Hooker Road and parked at the car park. Did 3 hour walk on Hooker Valley trail – beautiful scenery and pretty easy flat hike. Had lunch at lake and then did return hike back on same route. The parking lot also offers a longer hike option as well.

Drove on to Waneka- 2.5 hours of more beauty.

Checked into Ramada Resort by Wyndham Wanaka which was fine (with pool, bbq area etc.). 

Waneka is an incredible lakeside town surrounded by mountains. People say it is like a smaller Queenstown given its location and the activities it offers.It has a less busy/touristy vibe than Queenstown and lots of charm and beauty.

Wandered around town and got dinner at Kai Whaka Pai where we sat outside, had good food and craft beer in a fun, local atmosphere that had lots of great energy. Walked along lakeside after dinner, then ice cream at Black Peak.

Day 4, Sun: Waneka to Queenstown 1.5 hr drive, with activities in both locations

Early check out

Visited the ‘that Waneka tree’ (a tree in the water made famous by social media) which was near the hotel and near downtown. Had to Instagram it :).

Went to Puzzling World when it opened at 8:30 and were done with exhibits and maze by 9:30 (we were only ones there and went quickly – usually would take longer). 

Drove to marina and got on 10am water taxi to Mou Wahu Island – we hadn’t bought the trip ahead (everyone else had) but they sold to us on the boat as they had room . 45 minute boat trip out to the island, hearing history etc en route, and then 1.5 hrs at the island where we hiked to the lake in the island. There we ate a snack we brought (others had brought lunch), Will swam and then  we walked a bit more up to a beautiful lookout and back to boat.. Incredible scenery on the lake and on the island. Then 20 mins boat ride back to town.

Lunch at food trucks in town, groc store visit and off to Queenstown

Got to Queenstown in time for Will’s 3:30 AJ Hackett bungy appt at the bridge just outside of town and all good! 

Then on to our Airbnb – got settled then dinner in town at Surreal.

Day 5, Mon: Queenstown activities

8:30 met bus for Skippers Canyon 4×4 and jet boat ride. Beautiful ride for 45 mins up into the mountains/canyons – second half of the trip on narrow gravel road that you can’t drive on your own – beautiful scenery. Then we met the jet boat for a 20 minute ride up river and back. Stunning area. Then to rest area and back to town by 11:30. Great morning.

12-4 -Afternoon at rest/bar watching Super Bowl

4pm – Took gondola up and did 5 luge runs. Didn’t do the Ben Loman hike at top as was too late, but heard it is beautiful.

Went to Atlas Craft Brewery and had dinner while chatting with some fun guys who work there (they were off duty). Atlas is a place that is a bit more loca and where a lot of the mountain and road biker community hangs out apparently. 

Day 6,Tues. Glenrochy – 1 hour drive to Glenorchy and then additional half hour-ish to Paradise, depending on how far past it you go

Day trip to Glenorchy. The town is very small but it’s a pretty drive along the lake and there are places you can stop to hike if you so choose en route. Mrs. Wooly’s store is a great stop in town – gifts, food and a wide array of items. A couple restaurants and a lake stop but not a ton to do. At the round-about in town just past Mrs. Wooly’s you turn left to the lake/restaurants, go straight to park and do an hour walk which was nice but nothing so special, or go right towards Paradise. We drove past Paradise onto the gravel road and it’s very scenic (what isn’t in NZ?!). The Routeburn Trek starts in this area as well just before Paradise, where Will went after I left.

Dinner at Ferg burger – ALWAYS such a big line out front, but the food was good! We also had been to Mrs. Ferg’s Gelateria for great gelato next door.

Drinks at floating bar Perkys with some friends from home – fun bar and you can bring your own food in (ie bring your FergBurger!)

Day 6, Wed: Visit Arrowtown (20 mins outside Queenstown) and Drive to Te Anau (2 hours)

Morning and lunch in Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a small old mining town on a river that’s very quaint and pretty. There are two streets of restaurants and shops and it’s touristy but nice. It’s also a hub for bikers who do day trips on the paths form there – renting bikes there or bringing bikes from town on the bus.  We ate lunch at the cute Chop Shop and another cafe that was so cute and looked great was Provisions Cafe. 

Drive to Te Anau

4:30 glo worm caves tour via Real Journeys. We booked this ahead of time and weren’t sure how it would be. We loved it! We took a boat in the lake to an island where your tour group walks through a cave and then gets in a boat on the underground river. The glo worms are on the ceiling in the pitch black cave and it’s magical. Then small presentation afterwards (and sand flies…which bite and are irritating)

Dinner at paradise pizza

Stayed in a mini cabin at Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers. It’s right on the lake in great location. They have a few different sleeping options and we had three different ones in three nights. First night was like a stand alone ‘mini house/room’ and then you used the shared showers/bathrooms with the campers – both were super nice. Then there is a shared common room and kitchen facility for use as well.

Thurs – Milford Sound – 2 hour drive each way

Drove to Milford sound

Boat tour with cruise Milford at 10:30 via Cruise Milford which has a smaller boat than some others. Leave enough time for parking and to get to boat etc as well as for some photo ops on the way. Beautiful cruise in sunny clear weather. Lots of sand flies before boarding but not on the boat.

En route back took a short hike to waterfall at lake marian area off road after tunnel. There is a waterfall that’s ony about 10-15 minute walk from car park area or you can walk on to Lake Marian which is about 3 hours round trip.

Back to Te Anau

Dinner at the Ranch

Slept at Te Anau lakefront Backpackers – this night Will had a bed in a shared room and I had a bed in a shared teepee

Fri – Doubtful Sound

Booked this tour day before from the hostel front desk. Drove about 15 minute to catch the cruise (can leave from Te Anau as well). It consists of a boat to a bus to a boat. Doubtful sound cruise all day was beautiful but if I were to do it again I’d have done a day hike on the Kepler Trek instead as we didn’t need two boat trips in a row.

Dinner at Indian restaurant in town

Night Te Anau Lakefront Backpakers – this final night we had a bunkbed in our own room where three bedrooms shared a common room with a kitchenette and the bath was outside down the hall shared by multiple such ‘suites’.

Sat – Back to Queenstown – 2 hours

Drive to Queenstown in the morning

Stopped at grocery store and kmart to stock up for Will’s upcoming trek and picked up hiking permits in town.

Into Queenstown for lunch and then our 1:30 sky dive cancelled at last minute due to high winds so had afternoon free 

Checked into hotel at 3 – Sherwood Hotel is about 2 miles from downtown and is a converted old motel that is now funky and has yoga studio, dirt bike track, outdoor area, restaurant, teepee, sauna, massage and more.

Dinner at Thai rest

Sherwood Hotel for the night


Drop Will at bus to take him to start of Routeburn trek

To airport

Will then went on to do a couple nights on the Routeburn trek and on to the Greenstone trek. He booked his bus transport and his hut accommodation ahead of time (Greenstone is first come first serve). Routeburn huts have stoves, Greenstone huts do not. He then went back to Queenstown for few days before heading back to school in Sydney.

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