With international travel plans put on hold for the minute, we are all looking to our own backyard for a little escape. And we certainly have the scenery to rival anywhere in the world.
Pre lockdown 2.0, I was lucky enough to lock in a 5-day road trip checking out what central Otago has on offer and could not recommend more highly.
Kicking off with a Sunday morning flight into Christchurch, we landed around 10am and made our way to Lake Tekapo (3-hour drive). The Fairlie Bakery is worth a stop for a quick bite, you can't go wrong with a pie on the road.
The water at Lake Tekapo is incredible. No matter how many times you have seen it, it just gets better. We broke up the drive with a stop at the Lake Tekapo hot pools looking out over the lake. It's no Onsen, but a humble beauty nonetheless. If you pass through in the evening they have stargazing which would be worth it.
Our final destination for the day was the Hermitage Hotel in Aoraki / Mount Cook, only an hours drive away. The views from the rooms look straight out at Mount Cook, an awesome sight from bed particularly when the sun goes down.
View from Hermitage
We were up for an early rise to tackle the Hooker Valley Trail, a mostly flat hike which takes you to the base of Mount Cook. The scenery is unbelievable with snow-capped mountains, glacial lakes and rivers along the way. The walk took about 3 hours in total going at a very moderate pace.
Post walk, we started a journey to Wanaka followed by Queenstown through Lindis Pass. The roads are a dream to drive with scenery to boot.
Depending on your timing, I wish we had stopped by The Lindis to check it out, if you budget permits, this would be a great additional night.
We had dinner in Wanaka at Kika which I'd highly recommend, and then made our way to Queenstown to stay at the Sherwood. Skipping dinner and heading straight to QT before dark would also be advised unless you're a fan of windy roads at night over the Crown Ranges, thankfully this was my partner Talia's turn behind the wheel while I chugged back a few well-earned wines.
Shwerwood rooms and bar area.
The drive out of Queenstown south toward Milford Sound was magic, the windy road along the lake with the rising sun hitting the mountains is a must. You can stop in Te Anau before making your way to Milford Sound, this is also recommended as the only stops from here are for nature. We had planned to do a hike en-route but all of the walks were closed due to slips and flooding in earlier weeks.
The descent on the other side of the tunnel to Milford Sound is jaw-droppingly steep, with a river running down, keep an eye out on the left just as it starts to flatten off for this crystal clear pool, worth a dip albeit freezing with snow run off.
We stayed at the Milford Sound Lodge which is usually booked months in advance but with lack of international tourists, we managed to get a room weeks out from arrival. This place is stunning, set right on the river with nosey Kea hanging out on your step morning and night hoping for a feed.
The restaurant and breakfast was also a winner.
Kea and stars caught on my camera outside our room.
Booking a boat tour through Milford Sound is a must, as with most of our trip we nailed the weather and had perfect blue skies. The pictures speak for themselves. Get there!
After the boat trip which takes around two hours, we made our way back to Queenstown, a very long drive which was topped off with another night at the Sherwood with an ice-cold beer and a flatbread pizza from their restaurant. 10/10.
The final day of our trip, we headed up to Glenorchy which was again another highlight road to drive, hugging the lakeside throughout the whole trip. It only takes 45minutes and is well worth it.
We managed to cram in a lot with a fair bit of driving over a short period but it felt like the perfect amount of time with lots of stops and eating along the way.
We are incredibly lucky to have this all within a short flight and can't wait to check it out again. Next time we would attempt over summer to utilise swimming for longer than 5 seconds in those lakes!
Feel free to reach out for any tips.