This is the last part about my road trip adventure in New Zealand’s South Island. I promise, the best is yet to come.
Read my previous post about New Zealand:
DAY 15 THE CATLINS
From Gore (point D) to Dunedin (point H): 289 km, driving time about 4 hours
The Catlins is the most southern place I visited in the South Island. It’s a quite remote area, but you can see a lot of nature sighs. I had only one day to experience the beauty of this place. First I wanted to see some waterfalls around the area. I was glad that I had a plain paper map with me because the Internet connection wasn’t always working for navigation purpose. One thing was clear that this place felt like magic. I saw huge green hills with sheep running around the stream and also sheep by the fence wondering who I was. I don’t think that sheep around here are used to people, because of the vast area they live. So there were two waterfalls that I saw during my visit in Catlins Forest Park, the Matai Falls/Horseshoe Falls (point G) and the more famous Purakaunui Falls (point F). Both are easy to access by foot from the car park. The less known Matai falls was my favourite, because you can actually see two waterfalls and the walk through the native forest was enchanting.
My next stop was Nugget Point Lighthouse (point E). This place had a wow factor. It’s a beautiful 30 minute walk by the Otago coast to the lighthouse. Once you reach the old lighthouse, you can see all the nuggets (rocks in the sea) below you from the viewing platform. I took some photos and headed to the nearby Roaring Bay. There is a building where you can go inside and hide to see local animals if you are patient enough. I was keen to see some penguins. The best time to see them is early in the morning or in the evening when penguins come to the beach after being all day at the sea. Sadly there were no penguins in sight.
Click pictures below!
DAY 16 DUNEDIN
From Dunedin (point H) to Omarama (point B): 228 km, driving time about 2 hours 40 minutes
Dunedin felt like a very different city in the South Island, because of its Scottish heritage. Some buildings reflect that like the railway station and the Larnach Castle. Dunedin was a nice change when you compare other towns or cities in New Zealand. They even have their own chocolate factory where you can visit. I would also recommend seeing the steepest street in the world, Baldwin Street. I promise it’s a lot of fun to climb up and down the street for a good exercise, but I wouldn’t want to drive on it. As usual I was more excited to see all the nature sights around Dunedin. Otago Peninsula was the perfect spot.
Otago Peninsula is a quite large area to explore than I first thought. It’s a great place to see wildlife and I didn’t have a chance to see the penguins yet, so I picked the Sandfly beach as my destination. It’s an awesome experience to visit the Otago peninsula even just for the views so don’t miss this place. When I found the right road to the parking spot I noticed something on the road. It was a tiny hedgehog trying to cross the road right in front of me. My heart almost skipped a beat and I stopped the car safely right beside the road. I got up from the car and noticed a huge caravan was coming towards the hedgehog on the same road. I waved my hands that they would notice the hedgehog that was still in the middle of the road. After the caravan left I took the mellow fellow in to my hands with my hoodie sleeves and removed him from the road to a safer place. He seemed to be happy and wiggled away.
Sandfly beach had huge sand dunes. The place is so windy that the sand flies everywhere around the dunes so that’s how the place got its name. You have to walk through the dunes to reach the beach. It’s a slow process, because you sink in to the sand. After this trip my shoes were full of golden sand. When I finally got to the beach, I didn’t notice any wild animals. After walking for a while I noticed some sea lions sleeping nearby. At first I thought they were just big rocks because of their shape and colour. I also spotted one rare yellow-eyed penguin! This place had a person from the Department of Conservation (DOC) to warn and educate people not to disturb the animals by getting too close.
On my way to Omarama, I visited Moeraki Boulders (point J) on Koekohe beach. They are round limestone rocks which look like a dragon eggs. Because of the erosion, some of them were broken so you can see what the boulders look like inside.
Cick pictures below!
DAY 17 AORAKI/MOUNT COOK
From Omarama (point B) to Tekapo (point D): 226 km, driving time about 2,5 hours
Today I was going to hike the Hooker Valley Track to see New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook, but first I needed to drive to the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. On my way there, I saw the most surreal lake I have ever seen in my whole life. I’m talking about the Lake Pukaki. It’s a vivid turquoise lake that seems to be out of this world. I saw some pictures before my trip from the Internet and thought that they must had used photoshop, but it was the real thing. I noticed that it was dangerous to drive that road because many tourists seemed to be totally distracted by the lake. Nearby is a Lake Tekapo which is almost as beautiful as Lake Pukaki.
On my way to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park the weather wasn’t best possible when looking in the distance, but when I made it to the start point of Hooker Valley Track, the sun was shining. Hooray. It was a little windy because of the high snowcapped mountains around me, so bring your hat even in the middle of the summer. Also be prepared for the rain. Wear layers and good hiking shoes. The hiking trip takes about 3 hours to return back to the DOC car park. It didn’t seem that long because the path is quite flat for the most of the part. You will cross several cool swing bridges, walk along the Hooker River to Hooker Valley where you will see a glacier lake and the amazing Mount Cook. This is no doubt one of the best things I have ever done in my life. What a hike it was with a breathtaking views. I will never forget that moment.
When you’re around this area at night, look up to the sky and you will see something wonderful. New Zealand is a great place for stargazing. It’s possible to book a pricey visit to Tekapo’s Mount John Observatory, but I would just recommend looking at the sky for free. When I saw the Milky Way, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is a must on your NZ bucket list!
Click pictures below!
DAY 18 TIME TO GO HOME
From Tekapo (point D) to Christchurch (point E): 200 km, driving time 2,5 hours
All good things must come to an end. This was the last stretch of the road of this epic road trip before I had to return my rental car at the Christchurch airport and catch my flight to Auckland. I left about 3431 kilometers of driving adventure behind me. I didn’t have the time to visit Christchurch properly, but go to the International Arctic Center and learn everything about Antarctica. This was a great place to explore before your flight, because it’s right next to the Christchurch airport. After flying to Auckland, I continued my long journey home to Finland through Tokyo, Japan. I hope you enjoyed my travel posts about New Zealand. For me, this trip was truly a dream come true.
In my next post I will share my tips about driving in New Zealand.