New Zealand (Auckland, Greymouth, Christchurch, Queenstown and the miles (err…kilometers?) between)

If you follow our Instagram account (@wonderfulroad) then it's likely you've figured out by now that we spent the last nine days traveling through New Zealand. And based upon our “Stories” you probably already know that we are in awe of the beauty of this country. In the last week, we've constantly found ourselves saying things like, “Look at that!”, “Wow!”, “That’s incredible!”, “I have never seen anything so pretty!” and “Of course it looks like that because everywhere is beautiful here…” over and over and over again.

In all honesty, when we were first planning this trip, New Zealand wasn’t on our list to visit. I know, it sounds like craziness especially with how I’m raving about it now, but we knew our time would be limited here if we came and we didn’t want to rush through the country. Thankfully, we decided to give in and visit anyway even if it meant we were only “dipping our toes in the water”. And honestly we already have a mental list of where we want to go when we come back. For such a tiny country, there are endless places to go and things to do. Our time here was so enjoyable, not only because of the sights but the Kiwis (New Zealanders) really are some of the kindest people we’ve ever met. They are friendly and helpful and they always ask how you are doing and what your plans are for the day and then seem genuinely interested in your response. It was lovely.

Our trip started in the North Island, and we worked our way to the South Island. Many people start in the north, rent a RV and drive south. Unfortunately with our time constraints and the style of travel on this trip, we weren’t able to do this (but we’ll be back to do it in the future for sure!). Our time was split between four cities: Auckland (North Island), Greymouth (South Island- northwest coast), Christchurch (South Island- northeast coast) and Queenstown (South Island- south central area). We used about every kind of transportation to get around: plane, bus, train, car and boat. To do all of this in a little over a week was quick but totally worth it!

We started our journey in Auckland, the capital and largest city in New Zealand with about 1.66 million people. This city stole our hearts as it reminded us of somewhere like Chattanooga (Tennessee) with a cute, walk-able downtown, filled with restaurants and stores. We really enjoyed our time here especially because of the reminders of home after spending a month in Asia. The city sits on the water and is so picturesque. We spent time exploring the downtown area, walking along the coastline and harbors, visiting a garden and park, and eating delicious food.

From Auckland, we flew to the South Island to a quaint little town on the West Coast called Greymouth. Ironically, Greymouth is actually the largest town on the West Coast of the South Island, but that claim to fame isn’t too much with less than 10,000 people. The town was originally settled for its gold mining in the 1840s, which eventually turned into coal mining that still happens today. We loved the hospitality of this little mining town, and we felt like we had taken a step back in time with its simplicity. We walked out to the coast where the Grey River meets the Tasman Sea one morning and were in awe of the views where the water met the coastline with the snowcapped mountains in the distance.

From Greymouth, we boarded the TranzAlpine Train and headed to Christchurch. The train ride was spectacular and is said to be one of the world’s most scenic train rides. We have to agree. The route ran through the mountains of the Southern Alps, across rivers, through grasslands, and past farmland filled with sheep and cattle.

We departed the train in Christchurch, where we were delighted to find another small city that was fun to explore. Christchurch was interesting as it is the largest city on the South Island, but that’s only with a little more than 380,000 people. The city was established in the 1850s but so much of it is new and being rebuilt after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake tragically destroyed much of the city center in 2011. Similar to Auckland, it is filled with restaurants and stores and kind people. We enjoyed riding the city tram around (where we saw the Wizard of New Zealand), seeing some of the cathedrals, and taking the gondola to the top of Mount Cavendish for incredible views over Christchurch and Lyttelton (a small harbor town on the opposite side of the mountains).

From Christchurch, we rented a car and drove (on the left side of the road!) southwest to Queenstown. The views on the drive were magnificent. Along the way, we visited Lake Tekapo, a glacially fed lake with a beautiful light blue color. The pretty little Church of the Good Shepherd located on its edge is even more beautiful because of its background. We passed through snow-covered mountains, farmland that stretched as far as the eye could see, waterways that wound through the hills, and small towns with populations less than 500 people. We stopped at Lake Pukaki, which is the largest of the three glacially fed lakes in the Mackenzie Basin of the Southern Alps. It too was incredible to see and had views of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain peak in NZ. Several times, we pulled the car on the side of the road to take pictures and take in the beauty that was around us. We passed thousands of sheep and little lambs that had just been born (NZ has about 30 million sheep and less than 5 million humans!). Our last stop before Queenstown was Wanaka, a small town about an hour north of Queenstown. This town sits nestled in the mountains on Lake Wanaka. It was so lovely, and a place we definitely want to explore more in the future. This was definitely one of our favorite days of our whole adventure to this point.

Our final city destination was Queenstown, which sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, set against the backdrop of the Southern Alps. The town is known as the adventure capital of the world with activities like biking, bungee jumping, hiking and skiing being some of its specialties. Queenstown reminded us of a ski town that you would find in the western U.S., and we loved getting to spend time there.

Our first day in Queenstown, we took a day trip to Milford Sound, which is about a 4 hour drive (one way) on the other side of the mountains. It was a lot of time on a bus, but the sights along the way in Fiordland National Park were breathtaking, and once we reached Milford Sound, it was definitely worth it. At Milford, we took a boat cruise through the Sound (which is actually a fjord) and saw waterfalls, mountains and even some adolescent fur seals sunbathing on a rock. It was a long day, but we loved every minute of it!

Our final day in New Zealand was filled with exploring around Queenstown. We took a gondola up to Bob’s Peak to see views over the city and lake. We walked around the Queenstown Gardens. And we spent time strolling the streets of the small town. We even caught some of the quarterfinal games of the Rugby World Cup, which was extra fun in NZ with the All Blacks playing!

There are no words to truly describe the beauty of this country. Hopefully these photos help some, but they really do not do it justice. All we can really do is suggest that if you ever get the chance, you should definitely go to New Zealand. I don’t think you’ll regret it (If you need help figuring out how to get there on credit card points, let us know and we can help you! This is how we’re travelling around a lot of the time!)!

Throughout our time in New Zealand, we were blown away by what we saw. We were constantly amazed by the creativity of the Lord, our great Creator, and I was reminded of Psalm 95:4-5: “In His hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” The earth truly is a beautiful place, and New Zealand displays this beauty so well.

So for today, I’m standing amazed at the splendor of this earth. I’m thanking God for the opportunity to visit New Zealand and explore one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. And I’m remembering to recognize the beauty all around me everywhere. May we all find time each day to slow down and enjoy the creation around us.


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