Wanaka and Queenstown

After Haast Pass we entered a totally different landscape. The West Coast on the other side of the mountains receives massive rainfall but

The weather changed completely too. The constant drizzle was replaced by sunny skies, a perfect weather to enjoy the awesome scenery. The road is nestled between two large beautiful lakes, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. And the mountains in the distance make the scenery even prettier.

After quite a few photography stops along the way we finally arrived in Wanaka itself. We still had some driving left to do until our overnight stop in Queenstown, but we still decided to stop there for a while for some shots of the sun setting over the lake. Unfortunately we weren’t really getting much color in the sky so it was time move on again.

We had hoped to take straight road to Queenstown over some small mountains and get enjoy the last moments of sunlight from higher up. Unfortunately shortly after leaving Wanaka we found the road blocked. There had been an accident further ahead. We had to turn back and take the longer way around. Not very scenic but is was starting to get quite dark anyway.

Eventually we arrived in the Queenstown itself. Queenstown was a big contrast to all the other towns we had passed along the way from Christchurch. Based on population alone Queenstown is a fairly small town but this is more than made up by the fact that it is also the center of adventure tourism in New Zealand. The place is full of hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. The location is pretty perfect too, as the town is situated between mountains on one side and the picturesque Lake Wakatipu on the other side.

We haven’t planned to do any major adventure activities during the trip, so there was little for us to do in Queenstown itself. After a good night’s rest we spent some time strolling along the Lake Wakatipu shoreline and finished the walk at Queenstown Gardens. These pretty gardens surrounded by the lake are pretty enough on their own and they also have great views of both the lake and Queenstown itself. With only a few flowers in bloom in winter it wasn’t really the best time to visit, but it was still a pleasant experience.

After some quick souvenir shopping it was time move on. We followed the Lake Wakatipu shoreline towards the small settlement of Glenorchy. This area is the starting point of the famous Routeburn Track walk but apart from that and the other hikes there’s little to do in the area. The windy road itself is one of the prettiest drives in New Zealand though and well-worth the time spent. There are several nice short walks in the area and the views over the lake and the mountains beyond are quite majestic.

After lots of photos and a quick stop in Glenorchy itself it was time to head back to Queenstown and then onwards toward our stop for the next night, Te Anau. After Queenstown the first section of the road follows Lake Wakatipu shoreline and offers more superb views of the lake and the mountains.

Eventually we passed the small settlement of Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu. Unfortunately after Kingston the scenery gets rather boring as the road enters a large area of rolling hills with paddocks and farms. There’s little worth stopping for until Te Anau itself and the awesome sights of Fjordland.

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