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From the North to the South Island, 21-day Road Trip in New Zealand

NatheepatNK



I have got a chance to travel to New Zealand for 21 days this April 2016. It is a trip to celebrate my graduation. I travel with three other friends so there are 4 people altogether on this trip. We will travel on a camper van and stay overnight in campsites. Our plan is pretty flexible so we reserve the campsite day by day. Moreover, our trip will start from Auckland in the Northern part of the North Island to the south before taking a ferry to the South Island. The last stop will be Queenstown.


The equipment used for photo shooting on this trip are as follows.

Nikon D750

Lens --> Nikon 24-70 f2.8, Nikon 85 f1.8, and Tamron 70-300

CPL BW, and GND LEE filter

Fotopro tripod

Sandisk Memory Card, two of 32 GB, and two of 16 GB (this is a lot but it is not enough actually)


Auckland

Our flight arrives in Auckland in the North Island. We have just landed but we have seen a beautiful landscape of New Zealand already.

The weather is quite nice, only a little below 20 degree Celsius. And yes, it is showering a little bit as the country is known for the rain.


As we know that New Zealand is a filming location of Hollywood movies such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, hence; you will find the statues from the film in the airport.


We are late to pick up our camper van due to the delayed flight. Therefore, we take the van from the airport to the hotel instead. We have planned to sleep in the camper van for tonight so we didn't reserve a hotel room at first. Luckily, we have enough time to book a room during the connecting flight.



We are on our way to Westhaven after picking up our camper van. Westhaven is the largest yacht marina in something, I forget. There is also a great ocean view by the road right before reaching Westhaven but the weather is not that nice today.


This is Westhaven Marina where thousands of yachts are parked. However, we can't enter because the entrance is limited to the yacht owners only. These yachts belong to a lot of famous people in high society.


Then we go to War Memorial Museum but we won't get in. We will just take photos around the museum. It is actually a spot to kill our time before going to Mt. Eden. We would like to be at Mt. Eden during twilight. Let's see whether the sky will be clear or not! It has always been cloudy since we arrived.


Here we are at Mt. Eden. Mt. Eden is a dormant volcano located right in the city. The road to get here is very convenient and you need to walk up only a little bit. It is a popular spot among locals and tourists for a fantastic view especially during the sunset. Mt. Eden is not only a popular viewpoint, it is also a great outdoor venue for working out (there are so many people running and bicycling). Guess what! We are very lucky that the sky is partly clear right now.


This is a photo I have got when I am searching for a perfect corner to take photos. I picture a corner where the crater can be seen as well as the downtown. I have found this spot and haven't seen a photo at Mt. Eden like this before. The green area in the lower part of the photo is the crater where you can take a walk around it. On the other hand, the view on the back is downtown Auckland where you can spot the Sky Tower on the left.


The two photos above taken from the inspiration I have got from Lonely Planet Guide Book. The book also plays an important part attracting me to come to Mt. Eden because I would like to get beautiful bokeh photo from here. Luckily that I get what I want. I shoot this two shots using F1.8 to higher the ISO so I can hold the camera with my own hand. This won't make the photos blur either. Then I use the flashlight from a mobile phone to spot on the model before locking the focus. As a result, I have got photos with the focus at the model with beautiful bokeh in the background.


We come down from Mt. Eden and our plan for tomorrow is to travel to The Hobbit Trilogy Filming Locations in Matamata.

It is about 2 - 3 hours drive to Matamata from Auckland. Therefore, we will drive out of the downtown and find a campsite right away. I am very excited because it is my first time using a camper van and I have never used the service of a campsite either. Well, everything turns out well and I will talk more about the campsite at the end of this travel blog.



Hobbiton Movie Set

The new day has come and we are heading to Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata. This is the real filming location of shrines or hobbit houses that the production team picked and built them up. The tours here are operated into different rounds and always led by tour guide. You are not able to enter into the movie set by yourself. The tour guide speaks English very fast so I can't understand much. hahaha You will also find a souvenir shop outside the filming location where you can shop various kinds of souvenirs such as Hobbit costume, jacket, T-shirt, books, movie posters, and so on.

After spending a lot of money on the tour and souvenirs, the rain starts to pour down. So we leave Matamata to Rotorua.


Apart from Hobbiton Movie Set, there are so many sheep farms here in Matamata.


Redwoods

The redwood in Rotorua is very abundant. It is very close to the city, not even 1 kilometer.


Today we have planned to go to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland actually. However, we can't make it there due to the bad weather and we have finished exploring the redwoods in the late afternoon. We will look for a campsite near here instead so we can go there right after we wake up. Then we have ended up with one campsite which I don't remember the name. This place offers a warm pool as well as a geothermal pool at reasonable price.



Wai-O-Tapu

The sulfur smell is pretty strong in this geothermal area but all the hot springs look very charming. There are quite a lot of them as well.


This one is called "Devil Pool" and it kinds of offering that devil feeling actually.


Taupo

We then come to Taupo Lake after Wai-O-Tapu which is not in our plan. We decide to stop here because we have read quite a lot of travel blogs about Tongariro Trekking and most of them mention this place. The city is pretty crowded and there are many shops offering stuffs at a good price. For us, we have bought some T-shirts with silver fern screen and tumblers for trekking.


This is my first Thai meal abroad. Eiei To be honest with you, I am getting bored eating local foods and instant noodle. We run into this Thai restaurant by accident. We think it is a good idea to eat here so we can ask for more information about Tongariro Trekking that we will do tomorrow. We can ask where we should sleep tonight, where we can park our camper van, where we can take the transfer, whether our shoes are alright for trekking or not, and so many more. Guess what! We didn't ask anything in the end. We only concentrate on the foods. The owner is Thai and she is very friendly. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but I am pretty sure that it is the only Thai restaurant in town. In the photo above is Stir-fried Chicken with Basil which is flavorful. The price for this dish is 300 THB due to high cost of living. The water is free and one thing I don't understand is that this restaurant has more delicious Thai Chili Fish Sauce than those ones in Thailand.



Tongariro Alpine Crossing

After the sky has been full with clouds almost everyday, today is different. We wake up and look up in the sky and find that the clouds are gone. This is such a good day for trekking in Tongariro.


Tongariro Trekking is known as the best one-day trekking in New Zealand. The total trekking distance is 19 kilometers, about 6 - 8 hours walk. The trekking starts with a very chill walk as you can see from the photo above. The track is not steep either.


From here, we can see the parking spot where we parked our camper van. We have walked for quite far but it is not even a quarter of the whole trail yet. I start to take off my winter jacket and wear only T-shirt now, if not I will faint.


And we still haven't reached half way yet but this spot is the highest point of the whole trail. The view is amazing but it is tiring to get up here too.


The mountain with the red color at its peak is Eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. The real name of this mountain is Mt. Doom. And yes, I feel as if I were in the film.


I haven't seen a single lake after walking for hours. I think that they might be dry out already and it is a pity. However, I have finally found all four of the Emerald Lakes on the way down the hill. The way down is very sandy and there is no handrail so I have to walk slowly and carefully.


This spot is one of the last viewpoints up in the mountain before a long way down. This is also my last photo before putting my camera back into my bag. I am very tired, like I said it is 19 kilometers in total. But my friend use a tracking application, it is 22 kilometers in 7-hour walk. The last part of the trekking is a long way down and that makes my feet hurt even more. We have to be hurry as well, if not we will miss the last transfer back.



After the trekking, we are now trying to make it half way from Tongariro to Wellington in order to make up sometimes for tomorrow before taking the ferry to the South Island.


Te Papa Museum

The last day on the North Island has come and I feel sad a bit. I have got to choose only one place to visit in Wellington due to the limited time. I am thinking whether I should go for the cable car for the view or Te Papa Museum. I have ended up choosing the museum as Lonely Planet Guide Book states "it is a must to visit". And it doesn't fail us, there are so many things to see. For us, we mainly visit The Scale of Our War exhibition.


These two men above are giant sculptures. They are in The Scale of Our War exhibition.



Interislander

It is time to say goodbye to the North Island. We choose to take the ferry of Interislander to travel to the South Island. There are2 main ferry companies operating ferry between the two islands which are Interislander and Bluebridge. The ferry fare is including both person and vehicle. The fares are different for both main ferry companies depending on their promotions. We choose Interislander as it is cheaper after using a discount coupon from a book we have taken from the airport.


The ferry is pretty luxury and there are both indoor and outdoor areas. Outdoor area is where you can enjoy the view while there are numbers of restaurants and bars indoor.


This is the sunset view right after the ferry departs from the North Island.


This photo of the North Island makes me think of Jurassic Park movie.


The sun is gone, the wind is very strong, and it is cold so I guess I better get inside.


Hot Cocoa is served with marshmallow. The alcoholic drinks are also available on board.



Picton

We have finally arrived at our first destination on the South Island, Picton. We choose to go for a short trekking here, about 9 kilometers.

Snout Track, the view at the beginning of the trail is incredible (as the photo above). This spot is called "Queen Charlotte Sound". However, I don't find this trail as nice as it should be in overall.


After trekking on Snout Track, we come to downtown Picton, the gateway to New Zealand's South Island. We walk on the beach and go for toilets. We haven't had breakfast yet because we have planned to eat at The Mussel Pot, a famous restaurant for New Zealand Mussels. The restaurant is located a little bit out of the downtown.


The restaurant looks like this decorating with mussel icon. You may also find the parking space in front of the restaurant as well.


I have nothing much to say about the food but I rate it 10 out of 10. The mussels are very fresh and delicious. They even have Baked Mussels with Thai Green Curry. We have tried it but it was not that good. So you may want to skip this menu.


Nelson

We continue driving on the West Coast until we arrive at the Church in Nelson, the last stop of the day.



West Port

We drive further along the West Coast to West Port. West Port is right by the ocean with a walking path along the cliffs. But from my point of view, the ocean view in Thailand is more charming.


Pancake Rock

We are very hungry on the way to Pancake Rock so we stop at this restaurant. Surprisingly, the restaurant is decorated by banknote from different countries.


If you drive further down from West Port, you will find Pancake Rock.


There is a clear sign directing you to Pancake Rock. Then there is a short walk about 100 meters to get here. The rocks are resembled as if they were pancake.

As the name of the place is Pancake Rock, there is a shop selling pancake here. If you are here and not having some pancake, it is not like you haven't been here at all. hahaha There is only one pancake shop here though.


Hokitika

This small town is called "Hokitika". We have no planned to stop here but are attracted to this museum. So we stop to capture some photos and go for Subway restaurant before heading to our campsite in Franz Josef.



Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

Riding a helicopter for the first time, I have never planned, expected, nor prepared some money for this experience. However, the brochure of this activity is way too attractive. It will also be a lifetime experience so we have agreed to go for it.


I am totally excited and scared but the view is incredibly amazing. We are lucky that the weather today is nice as well.





This is a landing point where we are given 5 - 10 minutes to enjoy the scenery and taking photos. It might sounds very short but it is truly fun.


This is the view on our way back. We are actually able to create our own program. We can choose to go to the landing point or not, fly over which glacier, or even fly around Mt. Cook. For us, we choose to fly around Fox, Franz Josef, and stop at the landing point.


It is also a must to go for trekking here. We choose to trek in Franz Josef and will go for a walk to the ice cave at Fox Glacier. However, we can't make it to the ice cave. We check the weather forecast and we need to go to Mt. Cook earlier. We think that we better get a fantastic view of Mt. Cook rather than walking to the ice cave.




Matheson Lake

We woke up at 5 AM to come to this Matheson Lake because we need to get to this nearest point to the lake. We would like to capture the best reflection of the scenery on Matheson Lake.

And we are not disappointed. The light fog over the lake with Mt. Cook in the background and the beautiful reflection on the water surface, this is totally worth it for waking up early.


This is one more photo at the lake. I guess it will be even more beautiful in November when the top of Mt. Cook is fully covered with snow. But you need to also watch out for the ducks in the lake, it can bring your photo of reflection down. hahaha


This is the scenery we see after walking back from the lake. The light fog and Mt. Cook in the background are just too magical.


Salmon Farm

The first salmon farm we have found is in Haart Pass. The farm is on the right-hand side of the road, you need to look for the sign attentively. Salmon sashimi served here is as the photo above. The taste is not bad but it is served in a small size.


Blue Pool


This is Blue Pool in Haart Pass. The water is very clear in blue color. You can enjoy a jet boating experience here as well. There are a few tour companies operating the jet boating.


Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea is on the left-hand side before approaching Wanaka. I would say it is the most beautiful lake of this whole trip because the water is in beautiful turquoise color and it gives a magnificent reflection of the scenery on its surface. However, we didn't know that this lake is this beautiful so it is not in our actual plan.


Wanaka!!

I have aimed to shoot this tree after reading through numbers of travel blogs. I love to take a photo of a single tree in the middle of amazing scenery personally. For those who would like to find this tree, you need to walk clockwise by the lakeshore or you can spot that there are so many people around this area especially Chinese tourists.


Lonely tree in Lake Wanaka, I have been sitting here for an hour. Luckily, the sky is clear today.


We are going to walk again today. We are going to walk on Roys Peak Track, known as an easy-to-walk track. Let's see whether that is true or not!

Yes, this track is easy. You just need to keep walking up the hill where is not that steep. However, there is no shade for you to hide and there is no way down. That's why we take so many breaks along the way. But you will see the view of Wanaka town and the lake all the time which is truly charming.


This is the view along the way as an example.


This particular point of Roys Peak is breathtaking. People like to walk to the edge over there and people also set the camp in this area. Even though this is not the highest point of the trail, it is the most beautiful spot for me. There is nothing much after this, the trail is just challenging.


Another angle overlooking Wanaka.


We will make it to the end of the track since we are here already. The end of the trail offers a 360-degree panoramic view and this photo above shows one corner of it where Mt. Cook can be seen in the background.


We will stay one more night here in Wanaka since we are all very tired. We also plan to go out for a drink and some nice foods after having instant noodle for a long while. The photo above is our campsite for tonight outside Wanaka. This campsite is even further from Roys Peak and it is on the right-hand side. The site is right by the lake and at reasonable price. However, you need to pay for hot shower here under the limited time.


This is our first luxury meal actually and we can't skip the famous New Zealand lamb. Guess what! It is not that good. hahaha The Spare Ribs is way better.



The new day has approached and we will drive from Wanaka to Lake Tekapo through Lindis Pass and the entrance of Mt. Cook.

We run into a salmon farm by accident. And as you can see, the salmon sashimi is way bigger than the first farm. It is also more delicious so I highly recommend this farm.


Road to Mt. Cook

The weather is very nice so we have decided to drive on the road to Mt. Cook, to take this photo. I have seen a view like this from one travel page and I have promised myself that I will capture the scenery like this myself one day.


Lake Pukaki

I am sure that you would wonder how could a lake be in blue color like this as if it was a watercolor painting when you are here. If you don't believe, you have got to come and see it yourself.


Lake Pukaki with Mt. Cook in the background


Tekapo

It is a pity that the sky is bright at night due to the full moon these days so I am not able to take a photo of this church with the Milky Way Galaxy. This photo might seem to be calm and quiet but there are a lot of tourists actually and there are people all night long.


Church of the Good Shephard in the daytime


I take a selfie with the window of the church.


Another expectation when in Tekapo Lake is to see Lupine flowers but there are not many of them anymore during this time.


After taking a photo of Church of the Good Shephard in the morning, we drive up to Mt. Jone. You may find a little cafe to hide from the cold along the way with fantastic view. On the other hand, it is the stargazing station in the photo above.


This is the view overlooking Tekapo right in front of the cafe.


This is the general ambiance inside the cafe. We can get some cakes here as well and the cafe is just opened when we arrive. The staff was actually driving right in front of our camper van earlier.


Salmon Farm at Pukaki Lake

I can't finish this salmon sashimi, I have half of it left. I will buy a spicy salad from a supermarket later so I can make Spicy Thai Salmon Salad.


Mt. Cook

We are back on this road to Mt. Cook. The clouds are all beautifully aligned today.


We are going to walk again, today is on Hooker Valley Track. This track is totally easy. There is no way up nor down at all.


There are 3 hanging bridges in total on the trail and it is very exciting to walk on them, as they are pretty shaky.


This is the end of the trail with Mt. Cook right in front of you. The snow melts down to Hooker River. If you come here in winter, you will have a better chance to see a lot of icebergs. There are not many of them during this time.


There is a beautiful viewpoint for you to take photos on Lindis Pass. But please keep in mind that there is no gas station here so you better watch out for your gas.



Autumn Festival @ Arrow Town

Today we are heading to Arrow Town to attend the Autumn Festival but the weather is not that good actually.


This is the road in front of Auntie Jone's fruit stall. I recommend you to get some kiwis here. They taste so good.


We walk through Arrow Town and found all Maple leaves in their autumn color- yellow, orange, and red.


We are very lucky that there is a Festival at the same time we visit the town which we have no clue before. There are performances, foods, and markets.


I buy this one to try as there are many people queuing to buy it. It taste quite good but I just learned that it is a toast topped with omelet.



At the back of Arrow Town, there is a skate and bike park. This place is right by the river where it is also full with trees and their yellow leaves.


Tunnel of autumn leaves


Last but not least, I don't miss to try the famous gelato of Arrow Town.


Queenstown

We stop at Queenstown for some foods. We have planned to go for a buffet up in the mountain where we need to take the cable car up but unfortunately that it is fully-booked. Therefore, we go to Thai restaurant in the town instead.


As if we were in the Middle-earth.


I have gelato once again and it tastes good. This gerateria is next to the famous burger restaurant. I skip the famous burger because I am not a burger lover. So I didn't have to queue up in the long line for that.



Milford Sound

After Queenstown, we are going to Te Anau. I have high expectation with this town as I have seen a lot of wonderful photos. Unfortunately, it is cloudy and I find the town quite small.


This photo of Mitre Peak is the only one with partly clear sky because the clouds take over after only a few minutes.


The water is falling down in different levels, very beautiful. The cruise is getting close to it.


The nature here is so unreal. There are trees growing on the cliffs and small waterfalls combined into a big one.


There are so many birds here as well. Apart from the birds, dolphin is something very exciting to see. Dolphins here like to swim by the cruise and if you are lucky enough you will see them jump. There, you will get a good shot. The tour guide of the cruise is very good at finding the dolphin so you have to keep your ears opened.


Here it is! The dolphin.


As you can see, it is very cloudy today and I have got this shot on the way back. The cruise also offers you free tea and coffee, and if you are hungry you can buy sandwich on board as well.


The road to and from Milford Sound is marvelous. Don't forget to stop for some photo shots! And don't forget to fill up your gas tank as well since there is no gas station nor mobile phone signal here.



Dunedin

We realize that we have a lot of time after visiting Milford Sound and we don't know where to go. In the end, we have ended up at Dunedin - a city of architectural heritage. I don't know much about this city, I know only that they have a lot of churches and sculptures.

We don't hesitate to start looking for a church after arriving.


Sculpture and a church (this is the different church from the photo earlier)


This is the train station. It is a pity that I broke my tripod so I need to hold my camera by my hands. Even though I use high ISO, the photos I have got are still not that nice. I actually would like to take a photo in street style after seeing it but no chance, as I have no tripod.


Otago Peninsula

We drive out of Dunedin to Otago Peninsula where we find the ocean.


Otago Peninsula


We would like to find some birds here but unfortunately that those birds we would like to see don't show up.



Glenorchy

We have 3 days left after Dunedin so we will drive back to Queenstown before going to Glenorchy, a small town near Queenstown.

The main purpose to come to Glenorchy is to find this house. I really want to come here after reading through numbers of travel blogs but there is nothing else apart from this actually.


The same lake that lies down from Queenstown


Another photo of the house but during twilight, it offers different feeling from the earlier photo, doesn't it?


Everyone needs to walk on this bridge to go for a photo shoot of the lake view.


Routeburn Track

The last track we choose to walk on is Routeburn Track. We will do only a one-day trekking as we have heard a lot about it. But if you are fit enough and have plenty of time, I recommend to trek for 3 days and 2 nights. It will be totally worth it.


The forest is very abundant making it feels like the Middle-earth.


This is the most beautiful view on Routeburn Track from Glenochy side. I guess it will be even prettier with snow.


I would like to end this trip with this photo. It is our camper van that we have reserved 3 - 4 months in advance. I have got this shot from the campsite in Glenorchy and it is the only photo with The Milky Way Galaxy.



Trip Summary

- We drive 4,300 kilometers in total

- I take 3,200 photos in total

- We walk on 10 trekking tracks but I didn't mention all of them here. Those are not mentioned are not worth going.

- The track that I like the most is Tongariro Alpine Crossing

- I spend so much money

- There are 3 places where you can enjoy salmon sashimi 1. In Haart, 2. Before the junction to enter Mt. Cook, it is on the right-hand side if you drive from Wanaka, 3. Lake Pukaki. I like the one in Lake Pukaki the most.

- I mostly eat instant noodles that I brought from Thailand, McDonald's, KFC, and 3 - 4 times in Thai restaurants.

- We reserve a campsite day by day by using "Britz roadtrip" application. You can download this application from App store. This application also offers a review from previous travelers of each campsite.

- The only guidebook I use for this trip is Lonely Planet.

- Don't forget to take a travel book from the airport because there are numbers of discount coupons in it that will be useful during the trip.

- The road between towns has no light so it is completely dark. You need to drive carefully and under the speed limit stated on the sign.


First time

- Driving abroad

- Sleeping in a camper van

- Eating Thai food abroad

- Riding a helicopter


Thank you for your kind support and I will see you again in my next travel blog!



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