We went on a family trip to New Zealand in July 22 to check campervan-ing off our bucket lists, hike, and to get away from Singapore after the Covid-19 pandemic.
New Zealand's lush winter mountainscapes, beautiful scenic trails and friendly locals completely won us over — at the end of it all — we agreed it was the best trip we'd ever had.
Day 1 - ✈️ Christchurch, collected car, bought groceries, Lake Tekapo.
Day 2 - Queenstown.
Day 3 - Dart River Adventures.
Day 4 - Wanaka, Rocky Peaks trek.
Day 5 - Salmon farm, wine tasting.
Day 6 - Fox Glacier, Franz Josef, Callery Gorge.
Day 7 - Franz Josef Glacier Helihike, Hokitika.
Day 8 - Hokitika Gorge, Castlehill.
Day 9 - Back to SG. 🥲
Departed from Singapore around 8pm SGT. First trip since Jan of 2020. Exciting! 9 hour flight meant arriving in Christchurch at around 10am — also meant that we were able to capture the lovely sunrise in flight.
Headed straight to the car rental. Got a taxi driver pissed off because she waited 3 hours in line at the airport, only for us to pick a destination only 2km away... it was still $17 though which was an absolute rip-off, but we didn't protest because we felt bad.
Got a free upgrade to a 6-Berth which was more spacious but a little bit older. No complaints! Headed straight for a Countdown (a local supermarket) before beginning our drive down to Lake Tekapo, stopped at a restaurant in Ashburton called Cleaver's Corner — first meal was solid!
First night was spent at Lake Tekapo Holiday Park, where we ate a simple meal in the campervan and learnt campervan basics 101: how to plug in the power, use the water pumps, make the bed.
Sidenote: the reception and data speeds in NZ were really quite spotty — waiting for the tutorial videos on campervans to load was painful.
We spent every night at one of these powered campsites, so facilities like toilets, laundry & kitchens were available.
Waking up to a clear winter morning in Lake Tekapo was absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous skies framing the mountains in the horizon and the mirror-like lake really struck me in the holiday-vibes.
After that we packed up and learnt how to top-up our water tank and dispose of the waste. Then we started off the drive to Queenstown, a ~380km drive.
We took a break in High Country Salmon in Twizel to take a look and having a break for lunch.
From Twizel to Queenstown we took one last pit stop at Tarras to get moving, change drivers and take some pictures. New Zealand is truly beautiful — you can basically pull over anywhere and find photogenic scenery.
We arrived at Queenstown around 4pm and checked into Queenstown Holiday Park Creeksyde — which would turn out to be our favourite holiday park.
Went to the reception to get ideas for what to do tomorrow; our original plan was to arrive in Queenstown the next day and spend today at Mt Cook, but the weather didn't look promising and we gave Mt Cook a miss.
We ended up choosing River Dart Adventure's Funyak — more on that later.
And we had dinner at the legendary Fergburger, probably the most famous burger in New Zealand. We were absolutely stuffed after dinner and had a walk around Queenstown to aid digestion. Queenstown was beautiful, bustling but not crowded, with the buzzing undertones of adventure, youth, and became a top contender for my favourite city.
Had a cooked meal in the morning at the holiday park, courtesy of Chef Mother, before walking 10 minutes to Queenstown town centre to wait for a van to bring us west to Glenorchy for our Funyak Adventure.
The highlight of day 3 was the River Dart Adventure's Funyak, a half day guided trip where we took a jetboat up a river, took Funyaks down (inflatable, rubber, 2-man kayaks), docked halfway for lunch and to visit a chasm, before heading back down the river.
Beautiful views, extremely scenic all around, as you’re surrounding by lush mountain landscapes and framed by a beautiful lake. We also stopped and hiked about 30 mins into the forest to a clearing that led out to a chasm.
(Also learnt the difference between a canyon and a chasm, the former is caused by running water carving out stone, a chasm is caused by earthquakes or tectonic movement, I always thought a chasm was just a smaller canyon).
Stopped there for lunch as well, before heading back to the kayaks. The place felt super exclusive and was really serene, with nobody here but us.
Found out later that the land actually belong to a Maori tribe and that only this tour group was allowed to operate here. Explained the exorbitant costs as well - the tour was about 300NZD per pax.
Overall the tour was exceptional — good views, fast boats, chill paddling — would recommend!
Ended the day off with dinner in Queenstown.
Spent the morning exploring the holiday park. Super quaint and cute little place.
Set off for Wanaka, stopping by Kawarau Suspension Bridge, where we saw people with bigger balls than us do bungee jumping. Maybe next time.
The highlight of the day was the Rocky Peaks trail in Wanaka. The most famous trail in Wanaka was the Roy's Peak trail, but that was much longer, and was a whole-day activity that required significant time investment. So we settled on this trek instead, which was supposed to be 8km in total and would take around 3hours. Boy were these underestimates.
We took the Western trail up but only made it up about 40% before heading back down and towards the Eastern trail for the Lake Wanaka lookout.
It had rained the night before, and trek was steep, challenging and extremely slippery. In the end, we couldn't reach the peak and called it quits halfway as we were afraid of nightfall. Did make for good photos, though.
The Eastern hike up to the lookout point was decidedly nicer. We set off with the goal of reaching Lake Wanaka Lookout.
Back down safe & sound, we headed back to Wanaka and looked for something to eat, which was harder than we expected. The good restaurants were either criminally expensive or completely out of seats.
Day 5 was a relaxed, unplanned kinda day, letting ourselves recover from yesterday's trek before we headed up North. We thought about leaving early and driving up, but the snow had caused some roads to close and we decided not to risk it.
Started the day off at Glendhu Bay Track, to see Lake Wanaka in the day and of course, the famous #ThatWanakaTree.
For the rest of the day, we took it easy and visited another Salmon farm, Hook, and had short little wine tasting session, before heading back and taking an early night. This was the last night in Wanaka, before heading off to Franz Josef which was a long drive.
It was a long drive, so we made several pit stops along the way, Blue Pools (which we unfortunately didn't trek), and a lovely Cafe.
Day 7 was definitely a highlight of the trip. We booked a tour with The Helicopter Line in the town of Franz Josef for the 11am slot and we couldn't be luckier with the weather — it had been snowing/raining the last couple of days but we were met with beautiful clear skies and the green-light to go ahead.
Once up on the glacier, we found a guide there waiting for us, who took us through the equipment we had to wear: crampons, helmets, harness and a trekking pole.
Franz Josef Glacier was absolutely gorgeous and I'm very thankful we got to see it. Apparently the glacier recedes at about 3km per year recently — who knows when it'll be gone.
Finished the hike at around 3pm and had lunch at SnakeBite brewery before making the drive up north to Hokitika, where we stopped to checkout some glowworms at Hokitika Glow-worm Dell and stayed the night at Hokitika Holiday Park.
Day 8 was more driving, as we made the long trip back towards Christchurch. Fortunately, there were 2 beautiful pit-stops along the way: Hokitika Gorge & Castle Hill.
A 2km, 1hour scenic loop that leads you through a beautiful hardwood forest and suspension bridges/viewing platforms that offer a beautiful view of the stunningly-blue Hokitika Gorge.
A natural and wonder of limestone formations along the scenic Arthur's Pass drive. This unique landscape is called a Karst landscape, where limestone rocks were formed after years of sediment compression and shaped by erosion following a large uplifting event. It was also the setting for an iconic scene in the Lord of the Rings.
This was our last pit stop before heading back to Christchurch and getting ready for our early flight back the following day.
And that concludes our trip to New Zealand. So extremely grateful and thankful for my parents that we were able to embark on this trip together as a family.
It was an absolute blast — my favourite and most memorable trip.
It's funny, I've been to so many holidays in my lifetime, and visited so many beautiful places — yet I don't remember shit from most of them.
When I was younger, I just went with the flow, taking things as they come, no clue about the itinerary, asleep in the backseat.
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
~ Saint Augustine
Now that I'm older, I've really come to enjoy experiencing new things, meeting new people and being new places. Planning and driving a large portion of the trip also made it a lot more memorable. This trip was also the closest our family had been physically — a campervan offers limited refuge — and that also made us grow closer together over shared experiences.
Thanks for reading till the end!
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