When my parents first visited me in New Zealand, back when I was studying abroad in 2008, they made it as far south as Wanaka. This time around, my dad especially was keen to go back to the South Island to visit Queenstown and the Central Otago wine region. Andy and I were more than happy to join!
We flew south out of Wellington in a small plane. Although it adds travel time, you fly much lower, and we had perfect weather. We ended up getting an aerial tour of everything from the Marlborough Sounds and Kaikoura (the land slips from the earthquake in November were easy to pick out along the coast road) to Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook.
I finally decided to switch from my phone camera to my DSLR, as the views just kept getting better. The Canterbury Plains looked like a patchwork quilt, the Raikaia River stretching into the distance, disappearing into the Southern Alps.
Another braided river, the Rangitata, came into view next.
Before long, Aoraki (Mount Cook) was visible, wreathed in clouds. It loomed behind Lake Tekapo, which I visited over eight years ago. It’s an unbelievably beautiful spot.
Aoraki is the highest mountain in the Southern Alps, and many accomplished climbers like Sir Edmund Hillary get their start here. I’m happy to observe it from a safe distance myself.
Right past Tekapo, Lake Pukaki made an appearance. It’s an amazing shade of turquoise up close due to glacial sediment, but it’s kind of hard to tell from this angle. But look at that water in the foreground!
Not long after, we began the descent into Queenstown. It always freaks me out a little bit, since there are mountains on all sides, but it’s worth it for the stunning beauty.
The verdant fields of Central Otago stuck out like a sore thumb after the brown and white of the Southern Alps. We’d finally arrived!
Since it was too early to check into our bach, we decided to visit the historic mining settlement of Arrowtown. We had a rental car, so we figured we might as well take advantage of it.
Soon after arriving and setting out on a riverside trail, we were greeted with this wonderful sight, much to my delight.
Down by the Arrow River, colorful lupins were everywhere.
We were lucky enough to have caught the last lingering moments of warm weather, while Wellington was hit with the remnants of a cyclone.
We wandered Arrowtown’s historic main street and had a fabulous lunch outdoors at a pub recommended by Andy.
When we’d finished up, we decided to make our way to Queenstown on the back roads that crisscross the Shotover River. After finding a pullover spot, we were greeted with a fabulous view.
Like Lake Pukaki, the rivers running through Central Otago are un unreal shade of turquoise due to glacial runoff.
I’d been wanting to see the Edith Cavell Bridge, so we stopped just beside it and hiked down for better views.
Situated along a heavily-trafficked mining route, this bridge was named by one of the miners in honor of a nurse who was executed in World War I for helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium. A beautiful memorial for a beautiful sacrifice.
Down by the river, we watched as one of the area’s popular jet boats flew past.
I’d rather take a slow boat down the river so I could fully take in this insane view.
In addition to its otherworldly color, the water is so clear!
Oh no! It’s going to hit me!
One last shot from the top of the bridge.
We hopped in the car and drove to Fernhill, where our bach was located. It’s just outside of central Queenstown and is home to some incredible properties. Needless to say, we were not at all disappointed by the view from (all three of) our decks.
The menfolk were rendered speechless.
As we soaked in the view to beat all views, the TSS Earnslaw steamed past us, crossing Lake Wakatipu.
Time for a goofy photo op.
Who wouldn’t be happy with a view like this?!
We aren’t even done with our first day in Queenstown yet, so stay tuned for our trip to Moke Lake, an epic wine tour and much, much more.