Country of Infinite Mountains

Country of infinite mountains. Country of magical aqua rivers, golden leaves and crystal blue lakes. You promise wonder and adventure. New Zealand, I am so fond of you. You were my first. You made me fall in love with traveling. My first trip to New Zealand was 4 years ago with my cousin. It was our first time travelling without our parents and it was just one of those right of passages. It was nothing short of inspiring. Two years ago, I went again with my family for a ski trip. We cycled around lakes and in between mountains. We rode horses with names like Snoopy. We jumped out of planes. Safe to say, the second time was just as amazing.

This trip was my third and every single time, I can't help but fall harder. This was the first time I road tripped around South Island. For company, I settled for my man child boyfriend, Victor. It was a 10-day trip starting from Christchurch and ending in Queenstown.

I'll be writing a couple of posts to share my itinerary, photos and tips that'll hopefully inspire your own trip planning.

My itinerary was heavily inspired by Connie from Connie & Luna. Really comprehensive guide, check it out!!!

Day 1: Arrival - Christchurch - Castle Hill - Arthur's Pass - Hokitika

Arrival

We hired a car from Jucy for about $35/day, after all the fees were added on. It was a bright red Hyundi i30, which I grew particularly fond of. It was spacious and smooth to drive. During hours, they usually have Jucy shuttles coming and going to take you to the rental yard. However we arrived at the airport after 12am and the after hours shuttle works a little differently. We made the mistake of not following the instructions to a T and ended up walking with our luggage for about 30-40 minutes to the wrong place and then back to the airport. It was a good thing we were both too excited to feel frustrated. It was our first little adventure in New Zealand. To avoid this mistake, just follow the instructions given… For Jucy rentals after hours, there is a free airport phone you can use to call the shuttle. They pull up outside and take you right to your car.

Once we finally had our car, it was probably close to 2AM. We headed to our accommodation in Christchurch, which we booked overnight for us to rest before heading on our road trip. We stayed in a private double with a shared bathroom at the All Stars Inn on Bealey. It was clean and cheap - $35pp per night.

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Christchurch > Castle Hill (1hr 30 mins)

In the morning, we checked out and headed for Castle Hill. Almost an hour into the drive we stumbled upon The Famous Sheffield Pie Shop. The shop front claimed 'award winning' pies and they definitely did not disappoint. The freshly baked pastry enveloped countless fillings. Victor chose the classic steak and I opted for the butter chicken. Both were great but Vic always ends up ordering the better option. Good thing he shares. The iced coffee was also particularly memorable. I must admit I'm not sure if we were both so amazed by these pies because we had really bad gas station pies the previous night but I definitely think Vic would swear by these pies. When he finds something he likes he enthusiastically vouches for it, and throughout the trip he mentioned he could use a Sheffield pie. So if you're in the area, I would recommend you try it out for yourself.

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From the pie shop, it was roughly another 40 minutes to Castle Hill. There is a parking lot and toilets available. A surreal land of boulders and rocks await after a 5-10 minute walk. You can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2-3 hours exploring and relaxing here. We saw a group of people picnicing, which looked lovely. You can walk up steep slopes, where you find yourself surrounded by mountains. You can climb on and around limestone boulders. The areas were the boulders were towering and abundant really gave me this outta this world kind of feeling. I really loved this spot.

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Castle Hill > Arthur's Pass (40 mins)

Next stop was Arthur's pass. It was a 40 minute drive from Castle Hill. The turn off to the little car park is relatively obscure so just watch for the sign or use google maps. Here we did the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls walk, which took us about an hour return. It was freezing and raining so we walked pretty fast. At the end there's a small platform, where you can marvel the 131 metres of falling water. I was so entranced I actually forgot to take a photo of the waterfall on its own. On the way back we drank out of the river. Victor was arguing with me, thinking I was crazy for drinking from it but he later googled it and found out it was perfectly safe and even good to drink. It was super fresh and cold! Bring a bottle to fill up, if you're game. We also had lunch at the lil takeaway shop near there. Nothing too memorable about it, except it was really warm after our walk.

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Arthur's Pass > Hokitika (1hr 40 mins)

From Arthur's Pass, we drove to our next accommodation in Hokitika. By now we had quite a full day and were fairly exhausted. So remember to swap drivers and rest. This was an awesome drive as we hit the west coast. I haven't driven along a coastline for as long as I did that day. The sun was setting on the horizon, there was a thing strip of sand and vast farmland. At one point, dozens of cows were being herded in a perfect line in front of this scenery and I just remember it looked so surreal, like something out of a movie.

At Hokitika, we checked into the Hokitika Pioneer Hotel. Also a very cheap private double room with a shared bathroom. It was tiny and connected to a pub. Personally, I found it fine and good for one night but depending on the way you like to travel, there are probably nicer places. That night we ate at Stumper's Bar & Café - just your regular pub food, moderately priced and decent tasting. Hokitika is a pretty small, sleepy town, not too much to do there at night.

So there you have it, that was our first full day in New Zealand.

TravelJudy Quach