We arrived in Queenstown on Leap Day so it only seemed appropriate to honor this special day by partaking in one of Queenstown extreme sport activities, Bungy Jumping!! I had heard amazing things about all the extreme activities available in Queenstown and was really looking forward to splurging on something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Little did I know that New Zealand is actually home to the first commercial bridge Bungy jump in the world, founded by AJ Hackett and Henry Van Asch on the Kawarau Bridge in 1988. The bridge is 142 feet tall and spans the Kawarau River and is just 20 minutes from Queenstown.
After spending the first five days of the South Island exploring wine country, Abel Tasman National Park and Nelson it was finally time to pick our camper for our nine-day adventure through the southern part of the South Island. Exploring New Zealand via camper is a very popular pastime for both Kiwis (New Zealanders) and tourists alike. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation runs over 120 different campsites consisting of both the North and South Island; many are located in beautiful isolated nooks and crannies, most of the sites have toilets and some running water. These campsites all run between $6 and $15 NZD a person and most are based on an “honesty box” format where you fill out a slip and place your payment in a box onsite. The money goes towards maintaining that particular campsite and based on the condition of most campsites we stayed at (quite good) people seem to be doing their part and contributing towards the upkeep of these well-maintained sites. There are also hundreds more of “holiday parks” which are campsites run by a company or family where you can hook up your camper to power for the evening, share kitchen and BBQ facilities and get a hot shower.
Our journey has moved South as we left the North Island via ferry and made our way to the South Island of New Zealand. We took a ferry from Wellington (we’ll be back Wellington, one night wasn’t enough!) to a little city called Picton. We weren’t too sure what to expect of our first ferry experience but apparently we got quite lucky. We had great seats looking straight out to the amazing views all around and most importantly smooth water, to avoid any morning sea-sickness.
If you happened to ask me what I was most excited about doing in New Zealand, I probably would have told you about the Tongariro Crossing. The Tongariro Crossing is an all day hike that traverses multiple active volcanos (including “Mount Doom” from Lord of the Rings) and has some of the most interesting landscapes in the North Island. We’d pre-booked a shuttle to take us on one of the two days we’d be in the area but nature seemed to have a different plan for us. Rain, lots and lots of rain. With rain, comes slippery slopes and falling rocks and so the whole Tongariro Crossing was shut down for three days in a row making it impossible for us to do the hike during our time in the area. Needless to say I was beyond disappointed, but part of learning to live like a traveler is rolling with the punches so we decided to turn the rain in our favor and booked a white water rafting trip instead!
Even though we have three full weeks in New Zealand we’re already finding it’s not nearly enough time to give each city the attention it deserves. But with nearly a dozen countries on our wish list we had to make some hard decisions ahead of time without knowing a lot about each city we’d be visiting. So with three days between Rotorua and Taupo, two cities in the center of the North Island, we crammed in as much as possible- already knowing we’d like to come back some day.