Now, for the grand finale!
Melissa and I made it into Queenstown, my favorite little city in New Zealand, with enough daylight left for some exploring. We headed to the gondola, which takes you up sky-high for some amazing views.
There’s a great observation deck at the top which provides the perfect bird’s-eye view of Queenstown, The Remarkables (real name of the mountain range, I swear) and Lake Wakatipu.
We got some hot drinks at the cafe and enjoyed our amazing vantage point as the sun sank lower in the sky.
Afterwards, we grabbed some dinner at the famous Fergburger, Queenstown’s much-loved hamburger joint. We enjoyed our meal with a bottle of wine on our hostel porch and turned in early.
The next morning, we ventured into town for a delicious breakfast, and in my case, a giant bowl of flat white.
We explored Queenstown’s gorgeous waterfront and again thanked the weather gods for smiling down upon us. High five!
Some fellow tourists kindly offered to take our picture with Queenstown’s larger-than-life kiwi.
We then headed to our rental car and began the windy drive to Glenorchy, about an hour’s trip along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Glenorchy is Queenstown’s much smaller, but extremely scenic, neighbor. Again, many scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed in this area.
On our drive, we had to pull over to take a picture of the quintessential long white cloud, which gives New Zealand its Maori name, Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.
We arrived in Glenorchy and parked near the waterfront to explore trails through the coastal marshland. We had to pose with the cute barn before starting our walk.
The path through the marshes was almost deserted, and the fall colors were beautiful.
The gravel path soon turned into a long, winding boardwalk with impressive panoramic views.
We set up the self-timer on my camera and ended up with my favorite grouping of shots from the trip. Our coordination was really on point after so much practice.
We continued along the boardwalk back towards our car, again completely in awe of this amazing country.
We decided to head to Paradise, an area I’d been wanting to check out, if only for the name alone.
The road to Paradise was a little rougher than anticipated, but we’d committed by that point and had to follow through.
Finally, we made it to Paradise. Thank goodness for the sign, since everything in this country looks like paradise.
In the distance, sunlight streamed through the clouds over enormous jagged peaks. The scene took my breath away.
Although it was tough, we had to turn around to get back to Queenstown for our scheduled outing to the ice bar.
It was a pretty unique experience!
We had plenty of time to pose with some of the ice sculptures.
The best, by far, was the shark.
My camera wasn’t too happy about the swift temperature change when we attempted to take a picture with the bar’s polar bear.
After that, we had a lovely dinner in town and called it a night.
The next day, it was extremely hard to leave say goodbye to our wonderful hostel. Ok, maybe we don’t look too sad here, but we were weeping on the inside.
We had enough time to wander around town and get another great breakfast before heading to the airport.
The weather was perfect yet again, and I handed my camera to Melissa so she could take some shots from the window seat.
Taking off over the mountainous terrain around Queenstown was amazing.
But the views of Wellington when we landed were really the icing on the cake.
Look at all those windmills!
And here’s Wellington spreading out around the harbor.
We also got great views of the South Island in the distance.
And finally, we came in for our landing.
I can’t really put into words how unbelievably awesome this trip was. It was incredible and so much fun to experience the best parts of New Zealand with an amazing friend. I only wish it could have lasted longer. Thanks, Melissa, for being my fabulous partner for the most epic road trip of all time!