I knew Christchurch would be epic when I saw their airport had a fake mountain backdrop.
- Road trip to Arthur’s Pass
- Franz Josef Glacier hikes
- Kayaking across Lake Mapourika
- Street art in Christchurch
- One-way flight from Auckland to Christchurch $184
- Airbnbs, cabins and inns on the mountain ~ $467
- Food, gas, car rental, sightseeing ~ $676 (including Auckland)
“Why on earth would you come to Christchurch and not plan to see nature?” asked my perplexed Airbnb host in Christchurch. We were chatting after I arrived, and she asked what I had planned to do during my stay. I cheerily chirped that I had no real plans, and that I’d hang around the city.
Apparently no one comes to Christchurch to see Christchurch. She basically called me an ignorant American. Well, maybe not that directly. But it kind of was. She tried to soften what she had just blurted out by throwing in a generalization that “Americans [not you, Claire, but yes, you] are so ignorant when it comes to traveling,” and then added that, “They’re lovely people, though.”
Ok, so I was a lazy
Knowing that my trip would culminate in Christchurch, I lost steam and didn’t fully plan or research. So, I mostly anticipated seeing the city and relaxing. Plus, with all that soft, warm summer rain, I was extra lethargic.
After that conversation, however, I felt a pang of slight regret because I should’ve planned to see every inch of New Zealand’s untamed, wild gloriousness that was within my reach. I quickly snapped back into militant travel mode.
I didn’t travel 27 hours for nothing, right?! Word.
My frantic schedule change
I hopped on my computer and completely changed my schedule for Christchurch, canceling other Airbnbs I had lined up and booking new rooms along the way to Franz Josef Glacier, which marked my new destination. It was a five-hour drive from Christchurch.
So, I packed up the little clunker and drove through Arthur’s Pass, Whataroa, Hokitika (Ho-ki-tika, for some reason that one took me forever to figure out how to say, I kept saying Ho-ti-kika), and finally Franz Josef Glacier.
The South Island is all about the southern part, duh
The South Island in New Zealand has so much adventurey goodness. You can go on a gazillion breathtaking hikes, skydive, kayak, white water raft, see glow worms in creepy caves, bungee jump and so much more.
I was bummed I didn’t have enough time to see Queenstown, but it was simply too far for me to drive. It would’ve been better to jump on a short flight, but considering the lack of time I had left before flying home, I think I did a pretty good job of jamming it all in.
Road to Arthur’s Pass & Franz Josef Glacier was the most peaceful, scenic road trip, ever
I first headed up the mountain through Arthur’s Pass National Park. The drive was relaxing and a few times I literally gasped at the grandness of the landscape that completely engulfed me.
I stress out when there’s one road and an impatient car trailing inches behind, so I made sure to go at my own pace and take my sweet ass time. There were hardly any cars anyway, and whenever there was, I simply pulled aside and allowed the driver to quickly pass.
The road was sometimes windy, but nothing crazy or scary. The countryside in Ireland was way scarier. I soaked in the ever-changing scenery.
Sometimes it was green and spring-like as far as the eye can see, and other times, it was rocky and dry, with giant boulders sitting alongside the road, like Mount Doom in the land of Mordor.
There was water, everywhere. In all forms, colors and textures, whether it was coming from above in some waterfall contraption, flowing next to me in a gushing giant stream, or a sparkly glimmer on the horizon.
New Zealand has a bazillion hiking trails. Many of them are nicely paved and very easy.
Parking is also a cinch, since there aren’t a lot of cars to begin with, and there’s no such thing as meters or parking restrictions posted sidewalks. Well, I saw a few, but I was told it’s not enforced.
I bummed around in Hokitika for a day, but stayed in an inn 30 minutes away in Whataroa.
I even watched “Darkest Hour” here. (Spoiler alert, it was boring.)
The movie theater fit 15 people and was like a sauna in there. I noticed that New Zealand (and Australia for that matter) doesn’t blast air conditioning indoors, like they do in the states when it’s hot outside. I didn’t mind it because I tend to get cold.
During the silent parts of the film, I could hear the grandma next to me — her stomach was growling. As the crowd of 15 people and I walked out of the theater, one guy’s entire backside was drenched from sweat! Yikes.
But the best part about the theater? They actually had assigned seating!
Franz Josef Glacier
There are two glaciers on the west side of New Zealand. One is Franz Glacier and the other is Fox Glacier.
I went to Franz Glacier and hung out in the little town to eat, get coffee, get groceries and schedule a kayak trip.