According to a TripAdvisor survey, Canada is the dream vacation destination for Aussies (Australians) and Kiwis (New Zealanders) and Australia is the dream destination for Canadians. For some reason New Zealand hasn’t built up as high a profile with Canadians and I hope that changes. When planning my RTW trip, I spoke with a few well travelled friends who raved about visiting New Zealand. Some key factors in my decision were NZ’s size – small, so easier to get around and see everything – and the fact that the age limit for NZ’s working holiday visa is higher. It also helped to know that there are no snakes in NZ and none of those giant scary spiders that are infamous in Australia. Considering all this, it was an easy decision for me to focus more time on New Zealand.
After I extended an offer to my Mom to join me anywhere she liked on my travels (other family members got the same offer), she chose New Zealand as the country she wanted to explore with me. After our whirlwind road trip around the gorgeous South Island in April, I’m sure she’ll tell you that it was a great choice. New Zealand is ideal for road trips and camping as it’s full of gorgeous scenic routes, charming towns, beautiful landscape, and local wineries. I’m so glad we decided to drive/camp instead of bus tour/hostel. I had to hold myself back from stopping around every bend in the road to take more pictures. Any road marked “scenic” around here is not kidding! Who knew driving on the wrong side of the road could be so much fun?
Our list of things to see got long fast and didn’t leave much time to sit still which was fine cause we were up for adventure! We saw wild penguins, seals and albatrosses; ate fresh mussels, oysters and lamb; saw fjords, glaciers and mountains; and visited art galleries, earthquake memorials and Maori villages. We drove over innumerable one way road sections and bridges – a bit of a novelty for us Canadians – enjoyed many free campsites (aka freedom camping) and explored many hiking trails and scenic lookouts. We saw beautiful beaches, sheep dotted hills, towering cliffs, fields and fields of grapes and double rainbows! So many rainbows!
It was late fall for New Zealand and the nights were cold. The cold was definitely the cause of many early nights for us. Luckily our Jucy camper came with a very warm duvet that kept us cozy. Thanks Jucy! Despite the cold temperatures and strong winds (we were often camped right on the coast which made for lots of wind and some beautiful sunrises), we managed to boil hot water for coffee in the mornings and cook delicious stir-fries at night. I was happy to discover that craft breweries abound almost as much as wineries and there are wineries everywhere! I have definitely developed a taste for beer since I got here and I really surprised myself with loving pale ale in particular. Food may be more expensive here than at home but there is a stronger focus on quality. Quality coffee, craft beer and organic meats and eggs are the norm around here. Starbucks is not nearly as popular as at home – it seems everyone here has a favorite local coffee shop and there is no shortage to choose from.
What I’m trying to say is that New Zealand is beautiful, and awe inspiring, and well worth the long flight from Canada AND you should totally visit! I’ve seen so much – more even then mentioned in this post, and yet there is so much left to see: more beaches, more hot springs, more hiking trails, more rugby games . . I could keep going. I haven’t done any extreme sports yet (bungee jumping, sky diving, etc) but I’m here a little while longer and we’ll see what else I can get up to.
I love you, Canada! But I’m not ready to leave New Zealand quite yet.
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