I can’t wait to get started on the amazing adventures my friend Melissa and I had when she visited. Melissa came alllll the way from Massachusetts to share in the most epic South Island road trip of all time, with some time left over to explore the lovely city of Wellington, too. I was beyond excited to have her come visit and explore this amazing country with me, heading to some places I’d never been and others I’d dreamed about revisiting since my last trip.
On our first full day in Wellington, we grabbed a delicious breakfast in Newtown and climbed Mount Victoria for the classic city views.
We were very lucky to get beautiful weather, since you really never know here, especially this time of year.
After taking in the view, we headed down into Oriental Bay and decided to check out the Boat Cafe, a floating restaurant and bar which I’ve always wanted to try.
It was a great way to spend our afternoon before heading home to rest up for our early ferry ride the following morning.
We woke up at the break of dawn and headed down to the wharf to board the Interislander Ferry to the South Island. We got the last spot by a window and settled in for the ride.
As usual, it was just a tad bit windy on the observation deck.
The views of the Marlborough Sounds were just as stunning as the first time I headed down to Picton.
We had some spare time to get creative with pictures, too. It’s so great to have a willing accomplice when it comes to taking silly shots. Thanks, Melissa!
We settled in for the last bit of the voyage and got ready to disembark in Picton to get our rental car.
We were soon on the road, headed due west towards the “Wild West Coast” of New Zealand’s South Island. Before anything got wild, there were vineyards as far as the eye could see. Autumn was beginning to touch the fields, and the bright yellow vines were unbelievably gorgeous against a backdrop of mountains.
Rolling fields soon gave way to lush green forest. This road trip truly highlighted just how varied the NZ landscape is.
We stopped to refuel with some flat whites in one of the small towns along the way before continuing onward.
Could our little car be any cuter? After three or so hours of driving, we hit the coast. Jurassic Park, here we come!
No penguins were sighted, sadly.
Our destination was Greymouth, a West Coast town that happened to be in the right location. What it lacks in charm, it makes up for in convenience, and we’d even booked the hostel I stayed at over six years ago when I went with friends from Canterbury.
Our goal was to make it to the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks before sundown, but this started to seem like a pipe dream.
As the sun got lower in the sky, the winding coastal road became a bit trickier, but the views got better and better around every turn.
Luckily, we made it to Punakaiki just in time.
Even with the grey evening weather, everything was incredibly green.
As darkness began to fall in earnest, we decided to head back to the car.
We made it to Greymouth about an hour later and, exhausted after the long drive, settled in for an early night.
Here’s a map of the first day’s drive.
The next morning, we cooked up a delicious breakfast and set out for our second day on the road, bound for Wanaka. Farewell, Global Village, until we meet again.
Our drive took us further south along the West Coast. We stopped briefly in the old gold mining town of Hokitika, where we visited a jade shop and got some more flat whites. I couldn’t resist a photo of this creepy old building.
We continued on, and the road eventually turned inland. The lush landscape was incredible, giving green a whole new meaning.
On the way to our next stop at Fox Glacier, we passed an unbelievably blue river snaking past the road. Time for another stop! Luckily, Melissa was endlessly patient when it came to my photography whims.
Fox Glacier itself is so epic it deserves another post, so I’ll hold off for now. Much, much more to come!