Kia ora! It’s my first time coming to New Zealand and it all feels surreal. The view I was greeted with even while on the plane felt so unreal. I have never seen such picturesque landscape before and it trumps all other scenic places, even Hokkaido.
I flew in to Queenstown because I wanted to travel upwards. I only had a short 6 -7 days and I tried to fit in as much as possible because there’s so much I wanted to see. I think 10 – 14 days would be more ideal. Of course, I only covered a fraction of the whole South Island so that means I will be back, someday.
For New Zealand, having private transport is the way to go! Either a car or a caravan. The cost of rental is pretty cheap but the cost of fuel is pretty steep. I got my car rented from Jucy, booking online of course, and I can tell that they are a popular choice because that’s the only counter with super long queue at the airport!
This was my route for day 1 – Queenstown to Lake Tekapo, where I’ll stay the night. The total time on the road would be around 3hrs. Lake Tekapo is located right between Queenstown and Christchurch, so you can access from either airport. Regretably, I had no time to spend in Queenstown itself, which is another lovely place.
Here’re the stops along the way. Everything was conveniently along the highway 8 and no detour was made.
A – Queenstown Airport
B – Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door
C – Gibbston Valley Cheese
D – Jones Family Fruit Stall
E – New World (supermarket) in Cromwell
With GPS navigation using my phone, getting around was easy. Our first stop was of course, lunch. Instead of picking a place in town, I decided to have lunch in a winery! In fact, almost all lunches this trip are at wineries. Wineries with bistro and cellar doors usually serves legit food as well and they’ll have optional wine pairing for each dish.
The first stop was a Central Otago winery, Amisfield.
Amuse bouche to start.
Has a glass of Pinot Gris to go along.
“Paua Pie”, smoked potato, brisse pastry
Selected this item because it looks unique. Paua is a variant of abalone commonly found in New Zealand. Do not be thrown off by the colour, it’s actually good!
Complimentary macarons. I was stuffed beyond words so but this was so good! I took the other piece for later. I’m surprised that a random complimentary macaron can be better than what we normally pay for.
Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door
10 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Rd, Queenstown 9371, New Zealand
You can find a few wineries along highway 8 and just a short drive away was Gibbston Valley.
Adjacent to the winery was Gibbston Valley Cheesery. I was too full to have anymore food but it’s always alright to take a look.
Chardonnay jelly! Reminds me of the Cabernet jelly I had in Margaux, Bordeaux.
All sorts of cheese here. They do have free samples but I was too full to try.
Honey is sold here as well. As we all know, New Zealand is the best place to get honey!
They have every supply you need for a cheese party.
Gibbston Valley Cheese
1820 Gibbston Hwy, Gibbston 9371, New Zealand
I did my research and found this fruit stall along the highway so of course I had to stop for some fruits. There’s something about buying fruits from a fruit stall rather than from a supermarket, right?
I couldn’t believe it but it’s real. Kiwi cost just $1.80/kg!!!!
Picked up this avocado as well, because of the huge size! This baby cost $2.90, not too bad considering it’s double the size of normal avocados! I’m not sure what variant this is and why is it so huge.
Fruit jam available too, but these look like tourist traps.
Jones Family Fruit Stall
489 Kawarau Gorge Road, Cromwell 9384, New Zealand
Before heading to Lake Tekapo, we stopped by Cromwell for some grocery shopping. They have a New World supermarket there and I recommend buying whatever you need here, because the only supermarket available in Lake Tekapo is a small and expensive one. Tourists are entitled to a discount card as well, just ask the cashier.
After a long but scenic drive, I arrived at Lake Tekapo shortly after sunset! I booked my accommodation through Lake Tekapo Holiday Homes. They manage several holiday apartments and you check in and collect your keys from their office. For Lake Tekapo, most accommodation are holiday apartments and you need to find it through various websites. Most cater to longer stays and bigger groups, but I was lucky to find a small studio which can accept just 2 nights’ stay!
Dinner tonight cooked at home with my fresh ingredients.
The itinerary for my second day is to drive 30mins to Fairlie for some pies (B) and cute alpacas (C). Then I’ll head back to Lake Tekapo for sight seeing.
This shop specialising in pies was highly recommended all over the internet. I simply LOVE pies so I had to come here. It was quite hard to locate because they relocated to somewhere nearby while renovating their space.
Flavours for the day
I wish I could have all of them.
They have sweet options too.
This is a very popular place indeed, not to be missed.
Chose a butter chicken pie and a pepper steak pie.
Pepper Steak – $6
Butter Chicken – $5.50
72 Main St, Fairlie 7925, New Zealand
I made it in time for the alpaca tour at 11am. You can either book online or walk in. I did the latter and we were the only ones here! Perks of coming early. It’s $20/pax for around 1 hour and this cost less than other places I found which is nearer to Christchurch. This is my first time coming up close and personal with alpacas and I was very excited about this.
They have llama and alpacas here. The difference is that llamas are taller and their ears are like bananas. The first animal to approach me was a llama! All of the above are female.
Behind the fence are baby alpacas which are still weaning.
A llama bids me goodbye.
Nixons Rd, Fairlie 7987, New Zealand
This is the famous church in Lake Tekapo. The location has perfect views of the lake!
Perfect picture spot isn’t it? Pictures can’t show how stunning the lake actually is.
Church of the Good Shepherd
Lake Tekapo 7999, New Zealand
For a higher view of Lake Tekapo, the place to go is Mt John. Mt John has an observatory and it is a famous place for star gazing at night. Lake Tekapo is a dark sky reserve, making it a very dark and good place to star gaze. In the day, you can go up for views of the lake.
The road up is a private road and it’s $5 per car to enter. What I did not expect was how steep and scary it was! The strong winds outside didn’t help, but we made it nevertheless.
There’s a cafe up Mt John called Astro Cafe. Travellers love stopping by for a drink while enjoying the view. This cafe is only opened until 3pm and after 5pm, the road up here is closed. For star gazing at Mt John, you need to book a tour.
Chai latte everyday
I braved the wind for this picture! The carrot cake was pretty tasty too.
Pictures can’t convey the beauty of this view. The perfectly blue skies with perfectly blue water.
Mount John Observatory
Tekapo-Twizel Rd, Main Street, Lake Tekapo 7945, New Zealand
Tried to get a sunset view but I guess I missed it.
It was freezing.
Oh well, too cloudy for sunsets.
I was in luck – my huge avocado was perfectly ripened today! It was good for 2 meals.
Bought a packet of Aoroki smoked salmon because it’s a product from this region. Matched perfect with my avocado!
I did not join the star gazing tour but tried star gazing from ground level. No luck catching the southern lights this time – the moon was at it’s full and it was super bright!
The southern lights are only visible from here when there’s a geomagnetic storm of level 9. It was level 5 today but that’s not good enough. I guess I need another trip to New Zealand.
I did see many other stars though, from the comfort of the car.
Car was frozen the next morning! Time to head off to the next destination.