Ever wondered what it would be like to journey to the very bottom of New Zealand? As a Kiwi born local and long term 'Queenstownian,' I have always loved venturing south to Invercargill and Stewart Island. Many tourists tend to overlook the stunning scenery south of Queenstown so the 'Stew Pass' tour with Stray New Zealand really felt like we were exploring beyond 'the beaten track.'
My journey started with a trip to Milford Sound where we got to go on a cruise through the beautiful lakes and green, majestic mountain peaks with Real Journeys Milford Sound. Perfect weather, saw some seals, awwww and a friggin whale! Result!!! Milford Sound has always been a must do for many visitors to New Zealand, continuously making the world's "must visit" lists. The boat cruise did not disappoint.
We then headed to the remote and historic Gunns Camp where we almost got showed in! The camp was once used to house families in the 1920s as the road to Milford Sound was being built. The camp was located in the Fiordlands - a World Heritage Listed national park with views that will take your breath away. We checked out some glow worms, had a chilly BBQ and played a game of cards against humanity over a few beers - a great way to gauge your travelling companions. I knew we were in for a few days of hilarity! If you have never heard of Gunn's camp in the Hollyford Valley it is well worth looking into - cabins heated by fireplaces, genny until 10pm and a couple of great hosts.
Gunn's Camp before the snow
Gunn's Camp after the snow
The following morning some of us enjoyed a morning walk through the beech forest of the Viewing Gantry Walk before making the journey to Invercargill to get the ferry to Stewart Island. This I couldn't wait for as I am a huge fan of the island and love everything about it. The crossing was fun and beer was cheap on the ferry... $3.50 Speights is pretty damn good. We arrived to beautiful weather and a warm welcome from Vikki at the Stewart Island Backpackers. It really felt like a home and the beds were perfect to crash on after a kiwi spotting trek, a fun quiz and a few bevvy's! Stewart Island has loads of activities on offer including kayaking, fishing, walking trails and bird watching.
True to Stewart Island weather (4 seasons in 1 day) I awoke to bloody snow the following morning - Holy toleto batman! We also were lucky enough to do a tiki tour of the island with Kylie from Stewart Island Experience who was very passionate and informative. We explored Rakiura National Park, Horseshoe Bay and Paterson Inlet. From Stewart Island we headed back to Queenstown for a drink in Loco Cantina and to stay at Base Queenstown - staff were awesome - but maybe I'm biassed.
After waking up the following morning a little better than others on the bus, we headed to Mt Cook where we did the Hooker Valley hike which is a must do. We stopped by Mueller Glacier Lake for some amazing photos and selfies. We also stopped by Lake Pukaki which was amazing! Mt Cook is New Zealand's largest mountain and sight for sore eyes. We stayed at the lovely Mt Cook Backpackers, checked out some stars, ate well, drank some more and laughed... a lot! Or maybe it was the bubbles!
Lake Pukaki in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park - location of Lake-town in The Hobbit Trilogy - in autumn is a spectacular vision of golden trees contrasted against opaque turquoise waters and the snow-covered Southern Alps. Credit: Tourism New Zealand / Rob Suisted
Next day up and at em towards Christchurch for our very last day together as a group on tour. We cruised on through Lord of the Rings country of Rangitata. We stopped at the glorious Tekapo Springs - thanks Nige! Lake Tekapo has bright blue waters and the sleepy little town is worth the visit. The Tekapo Springs are a great place to soak for an hour while looking over a sunny view of the surrounding mountains and Lake Tekapo. We then carried onto Christchurch where I bid everyone farewell!
I met some great people on the tour and cannot stress enough how amazing the VERY south of New Zealand's south island really is! I especially recommend it to those who are a little adventurous and keen to explore beyond the beaten track.
Images are all authors own apart from Lake Pukaki "Lake Pukaki in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park - location of Lake-town in The Hobbit Trilogy - in autumn is a spectacular vision of golden trees contrasted against opaque turquoise waters and the snow-covered Southern Alps. Credit: Tourism New Zealand / Rob Suisted