Bucket list checked! With The Sounds behind us, we focused on mapping out our last five nights in New Zealand. The only given was that we needed to be in Christchurch for our flight out. Carefully considering our time and preference, we finalized a route that would take us to Cromwell, Wanaka and Christchurch.
Our drive to Cromwell took us about three hours from the Doubtful Sound port with a couple brief stops to marvel at breathtaking views like this along the way.
As we drove past the worlds first bungee jump, we came to a screeching halt and ran to the bridge to soak in the fear and adventure from its patrons. Every few minutes an apprehensive thrill seeker is coerced off the original bridge which dunks their head into the bright blue rapids 150 feet below. Liz, who loves to cliff jump was almost convinced, but her cautious personality convinced her otherwise. It was entertaining enough just to stand there and watch those poor suckers take the leap!
We checked in at our backpacker lodge and quickly realized there is nothing to do in Cromwell. We came for the wineries but that was for the next day, so we ran to the Countdown grocery (the best grocery chain by far) and purchased a few ingredients to make up a Mexican Shrimp Salad, not forgetting the tomatoes we have come to obsess over! Unfortunately, Liz was starting to feel a little under the weather so we retired early into our quiet and very clean room for a goodnight’s sleep. The lodge listing is here if you plan to stay in Cromwell.
The next day was reserved for wineries while en route to a new city. The first stop was at the Wooing Tree Winery, very low key but the Chardonnay and Pinot are particularly memorable. We met a duo of wine connoisseurs and chatted them up to get local recommendations. They sent us to Mt. Difficulty cellar door, which was not on our list. It’s a must! The scenery is beautiful and very private.
We enjoyed the wine selection and their friendly sommelier, who shared her knowledge with us. Our line of questioning seemed to be light work relative to ones from more experienced wine drinkers (i.e. So is wine made from grapes?) By the time we leave New Zealand we might understand as much as the average joe.
Our next stop on the winery crawl was a vineyard called Gibbston Valley which in addition to their cellar door, is a cheesery. This winery was set up for a more individual experience. You select your wines and are given a tray with all of them at once which allows you to walk around with them.
There is something nice about the same freedom but you lose the experience with the sommelier. Since we had drank as much wine as a contestant on the first night of the Bachelor (Liz has officially rubbed off on me), we thought it best to gander over to the cheesery for a tasting. We split two cheeses and a baguette for a morning snack, the Smoked Gouda and the Black Pepper Cheddar.
After the alcohol was properly soaked up, we drove to Arrowtown, which is about 20 mins from Queenstown and 30 minutes from Cromwell. We were told it was worth stopping in. It’s an old touristy town, probably best suited for kids or the elderly, not for us.
Potentially a great place for a lunch but not for us, we had a premeditated and shameful lunch plan. Succumbing to the wine buzz, we drove an extra twenty minutes into Queenstown for one thing. We felt we could not leave New Zealand without one more Fergburger experience. Three trips to Fergburger seemed to be the appropriate amount.
We drove out of Queenstown for the final time (we swear) to our next destination, Wanaka and checked directly into our Air Bnb stay. Clearly the days escapade had depleted Liz’s immune system because she started to come down with a cold. Just goes to show that even when you are #foreveronvacation real life can give you a swift kick in the ass. The fact that we had checked into the most comfortable home with the kindest of hosts couldn’t have lined up more perfectly. Wanaka is a town that over looks Lake Wanaka. The town is very nice with a bustling Main Street overlooking the lake. It felt like nothing bad could ever happen in this sweet town. Our main purpose for visiting Wanaka was to reschedule my skydive and this town was recommended because of the beautiful scenery. The following day Liz was bed ridden but luckily it was also raining so we took advantage of our comfortable bed and stayed in. Our host gave Liz medicine and a cold buster beverage; I watched her squeeze fresh lemon and grate fresh ginger into hot water, the work of an angel.
We made it out of the house for some Japanese Udon for a final remedy. The next morning was a new day, the skies had cleared and Liz was almost fully recovered. Happy wife, Happy life.
Liz would be my witness, cheerleader and photographer. Myself and eight others packed into a tiny orange plane before it climbed to over 13,000 feet.
The views from the plane were absolutely stunning. A mix of snow capped mountains, partially cloud covered rolling hills, farmland, and lakes filled the sights through a giant transparent door. The garage style door rolled up and I was the first to jump. Just before it was time, I told my tandem guide that I was adventurous so if he wanted to do anything wild, he had my permission. And just like that, grinning from ear to ear, we jumped out of the plane and executed a backflip. The freefall was just a minute before pulling the parachute. The views were even more impressive on the way down than on the way up. After a few parachute maneuvers and floating towards the ground, I landed in one piece, completely elated.
I saw Liz standing outside the fence and stole a moment to kiss her before heading in to get the gear off.
I was on cloud nine and filled with adrenaline even after leaving Skydive Wanaka but we had a mission so it was time to refocus. Don’t judge, but the mission was one more winery. We drove up to Ripon Winery, located right in Wanaka which was touted as the most beautiful in the world by a local. Unfortunately, we arrived 30 minutes before they opened and with Liz still recovering we agreed it was best to move on. The views lived up to the hype and we would recommend anyone going to this region to take the time to have a tasting or order a bottle and enjoy this stunning view.
With only two days left we made the long drive to Christchurch, another five hour journey. On this drive we saw the impressively blue Lake Pukaki. We were smacked in the face with her vibrancy which seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
One of the skydive team members recommended we stop in the town Fairlie which would be on our way. Believe it or not, he said they had “the best pies”. We thought okay buddy, we’ve heard that before and we are not falling for it. He urged us to stop in the Fairlie Bakery for their pork belly pie. Liz had no interest in any more pies after the first two.
To my surprise, when I saw the Fairlie Bakery sign, I just had to stop in for one more attempt at a New Zealand pie. I ordered, as instructed, the pork belly pie which is also stuffed with hot apple bits. We both tried it and it was pretty darn tasty. I think the apple pie filling replaces the typical meat juice filling which made it actually tolerable. So we recommend it as the “best pie”. If you are in New Zealand, stop here and only here 🙂
Christchurch came and went with very little to say unfortunately. It hasn’t recovered from the earthquake and doesn’t seem to have much left to offer, if it ever did. We filled our stay with walking around town, visiting an Irish bar for St Pattys day, enjoying our last Blenhiem bottle of wine (Whitehaven 2013 “Greg” Sauvignon Blanc) at a BYOB Thai restaurant, and working on the blog. Our Airbnb stay was awful so that didn’t add to the experience.
Maybe the tourism industry will get them back on their feet but in all honesty, you could skip this town completely. Sorry Christchurch! With the weather turning too crisp for the clothes in our backpack and our visas ready to expire, it was finally time for us to head further south to Australia. Here we come Melbourne (Melbin)!
* air Bnb is usually a very reliable source for us and we will continue to use it but take our advice. We made a rookie mistake by booking a place with 4 star reviews but overlooked the fact that their lowest rating was on cleanliness and they only had four people review them. Make sure you book with Super Hosts whenever you can and that they have several reviews! We can share our horror story over drinks one day when the nightmare escapes us 🙂 okay being slightly dramatic but it would be best described as barely tolerable. Frank the tank gave us memories that will haunt us forever.