Four Nights in New Zealand

March 5, 2018

I decided to share our adventures from our time in New Zealand in August of 2002. Yes, that was a long time ago and yes, my memory is a little foggy. I always keep a travel journal on our adventures, so I am able to piece together the trip in some detail, but this post will admittedly not go into as much detail as my other destination posts. I will make up for that lack of detail by adding a few more pictures than I usually post. (Also note that digital cameras were fairly new back then, so while the digital photo quality is not as impeccable as you see now, you’ll get the general idea of how beautiful this trip really was.)

(FYI, the details from our entire two-week trip to Australia and New Zealand can be found here.)

Our Itinerary

After looking at the options for seeing natural wonders in Victoria, we went with the following itinerary.

  • One night in Auckland,
  • Drive from Christchurch to Mount Cook National Park,
  • Drive from Mt Cook to Te Anau to Milford Sound, and
  • One last night in Queenstown before heading home.

Ground Transportation

We rented vehicles in Christchurch. My husband did all the driving. This was an adventure, driving on the wrong side of the road for us, with the steering wheel of the vehicle also on the wrong side of the car for us. A few unforeseen difficulties arose, but he got used to it eventually.


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One Night in Auckland

When we landed in Auckland we were surprised to find that, instead of a shuttle to our hotel, there was one of those fancy drivers holding a sign with our name on it! We had arranged a ride to our hotel with our flight, so that was a fun little treat. That night we stayed at a hotel on the harbor in downtown Auckland. Not a bad view from our hotel room.


Christchurch to Mount Cook National Park

The next day we were supposed to fly to Queenstown via Christchurch. However, when we landed in Christchurch we discovered that our flight to Queenstown was canceled due to a storm in the Queenstown area. We knew Mount Cook National Park was on the way to Queenstown but out of the line of the snowstorm, so we decided to drive there for the night and make our way to Queenstown afterward. It was a serendipitous twist to our trip. The drive was absolutely stunning. I can’t put it into words, and the pictures were so far from the reality that I almost didn’t include them here. Mountains and glacial lakes and simply untouched scenery. Gorgeous.

We stayed that night at The Hermitage at Mount Cook National Park. We hiked to the Tasman Glacier that night, and to Kia Point in the morning.


From Mt. Cook to Te Anau to Milford Sound

The drive from Mt. Cook to Queenstown via Wanaka was equally stunning. We commented that we’re not sure why they bother specially designating any roads as scenic highways in New Zealand, because they were all just jaw-dropping. We stopped in Queenstown only to make sure we could find a hotel room for our final night of the trip. From there we headed to Te Anau to spend our second-to-last night, so that the next day we could get a tour to Milford Sound.

The drive from Te Anau was surprisingly jammed up. But not with cars or tour buses…with sheep. Hundreds of sheep using the road to get from one place to another. You’ve heard that there are more sheep in New Zealand than people? Well, it was certainly true in this part of the country.

The rest of the drive was a fairly harrowing drive on Milford Road, which had just finally gotten paved in the 1990’s. It was such a memorable road that my husband bought a book about its construction. And the scenery in Milford sound itself was beautiful. Apparently it’s technically a fjord, not a sound, but why quibble? It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been blessed to see.


We spent our last night in Queenstown wandering around the town. It’s definitely a ski and adventure-type crowd there. It felt a little like walking around Aspen or Estes Park. They offered all kinds of heli- options where a helicopter drops you off at the top of the mountain, and you take various means down: heli-biking, heli-skiing, etc.



  • Traveling in winter was definitely great for keeping down tourist traffic on our trip. However, the biggest downside was that our days ended very early. It would have been nice to have early evening time to explore some more, but it was too dark to do so.
  • A note on the exchange rate: When we went in 2002, the exchange rate was $1 US = $2 Australian. As of the writing of this post, the current exchange rate is $1 US = $1.28 Australian. So we were able to get much more lodging, food, fuel, and souvenirs for our dollar than we could if we took that trip today. I didn’t write down the exchange rate for New Zealand, other than to note that it was not quite as good as it was in Australia.
  • Many of the places we drove on this trip were out of radio station range. This is the pre-smartphone era, so we were wishing we had brought some music along for the car rides (which, in 2002, meant CD’s). In Auckland we ended up buying an old (and crappy) Pink CD and the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack, a favorite of ours. We listened to the latter for many hours as we drove around New Zealand.

Interesting Fact:

  • According to my journal, we had to pay for ketchup in Australia, but not in New Zealand. Go figure.

If you find this post useful, check out World is Wide’s other destination posts from our travel bucket list:

Our Family’s Travel Bucket List


  • Reply
    April 20, 2018 at 8:07 am

    I love the signs with your name at the airport! 🙂 and the waterfall looks amazing! 🙂
    To be honest and direct, how much time did you spent on you trip planning? Because New Zealand is quite far and expensive..

    • Reply
      April 20, 2018 at 8:36 am

      We went to Australia and NZ on a two-week trip. You can read all about the entire trip here. Because we only had two weeks (which we acknowledged was not enough time but decided to go anyway), we actually had to do a lot of planning to narrow down exactly where we were going to go. Our trip also required a fair amount of flying to our different destinations, so we engaged a travel agent. It was far from ideal, but I’m still so glad we went.

      Luckily when we went the exchange rates in NZ and (especially) Australia were very, very favorable to the US dollar, so our trip wasn’t actually super expensive after we paid for the flights. In fact, we bought an underwater disposable Kodak camera before we left, and we discovered that we actually could have bought it cheaper in Australia! (2002…I know…disposable cameras… 🙂 ) We also had skipped taking a vacation the year before in order to save for this one.

  • Reply
    The Globetrotter Guys
    April 20, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Despite it being an older camera your pictures are absolutely stunning!! We are off to NZ for our working holiday visa next year and now we can’t wait to get there even more. It really is a beautiful country.

    • Reply
      April 20, 2018 at 8:39 am

      Thanks! I think when a place is as beautiful as NZ, it’s pretty easy for pictures to be beautiful regardless of the camera. 🙂 It’s probably the most stunning place I’ve ever seen. My colleague’s mom is from NZ, and she just got back this week from a 3-week trip home with her mom. Needless to say, she was blown away. Enjoy your trip!

  • Reply
    April 21, 2018 at 5:45 am


    You camera may have been not the best, but your photos of the NZ nature are still beautiful! I’ve always been admiring the nature miracles in NZ and your post made me to admire them once again.


    • Reply
      April 21, 2018 at 6:46 am

      Thanks! You don’t need a good camera to show how amazing NZ’s beauty is! 🙂

  • Reply
    April 21, 2018 at 8:11 am

    My hubby and I did a quick road trip on the North Island two years ago and I remember it being absolutely gorgeous! We’d love to go back and explore South Island too!

    • Reply
      April 21, 2018 at 8:40 am

      You should! It was amazing!

  • Reply
    Alexander Popkov
    April 21, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Sheep traffic jam. We had something like that in Lapland, but instead of sheeps there were raindeers. they were just walking on the road, and you had to share the road with them. So slowly, but a lot of fun.

    • Reply
      April 21, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      That would be so awesome!

  • Reply
    Medha Verma
    April 22, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    The universe has strange ways! Your flight to Queenstown got cancelled and you managed to explore one of the most beautiful areas in New Zealand, Mt Cook. On our trip to New Zealand, we visited Mt Cook and it was gorgeous. We also took this glacier lake tour there and it was an amazing experience. Queenstown often has unpredictable weather and we were not very lucky with it, it was raining the whole time we were there. So good that you visited Milford Sound, it’s beautiful isn’t it?

    • Reply
      April 23, 2018 at 9:56 am

      So beautiful! All of it. Beauty everywhere we turned. 🙂

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