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Exploring South Island in cooler weather

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As a photographer, autumn is my favourite time to travel around the beautiful South Island, so I usually try to plan my longest photography trip of the year to coincide with autumn colours.  The bottom of the South Island often has lovely settled weather in April, and if the timing is right it turns on amazing shades of golds and blues.

I love to take a campervan on my roadies as much as possible, as it allows me the flexibility to follow the good weather and not have to pack up a room every day! I’ve been trying out the various campers that Maui has to offer over the years. This time I had a Maui Cascade campervan, and it was my favourite so far. It was a great choice for a longer trip – big enough to be spacious and functional, but not so big that it was at all difficult to manoeuvre. Although there were just two of us travelling, the four-berth cascade allows us heaps of room to spread out, and a big double bed each. I was a big fan of the cosy pull-down top bed, which I referred to as “the loft”!

 

 

Travel

5-10 days


Route

Queentown to Queenstown

km


Best Time of the Year

Autumn

Highlights

  • Flight to Milford Sound – a must do in Queenstown!
  • Walking the Rob Roy Glacier Track – amazing chance to get up close to a glacier
  • Climbing Gertrude Saddle – a tough hike that can only be done in good weather, but the views are incredible

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5

Day 1
Queenstown to Wanaka

Distance 74km - Driving Time 1 hour

For the first part of my trip I had my friend Meghan with me. We had decided we wanted to stick to the Queenstown and Wanaka area, and visit some places that neither of us had been to and photographed before. On our first day we visited a local waterfall, and shot sunset at the lagoon at Jacks Point. The next morning we saw the sun rise from Bob’s Cove.

Day 2
Wanaka to Milford Sound

Distance 340km - Driving Time 1 hour

On our second day, we were treated to a return scenic flight to Milford Sound. The 45-minute flight each way takes you over two different flight paths, and we had perfect weather to see this region from the air. We flew over locations such as Skippers Canyon, Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau, Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls, the Routeburn, Hollyford and Milford tracks, Lake Erskine, Eglington Valley and Mount Tutoko. This was honestly the best scenic flight I have done in my life. Such phenomenal scenery and so many places I saw that I wish I could get to via feet or car!

Day 3
Wanaka

Over our five days in the area, we also visited Glenorchy, Wanaka and its famous tree, Rob Roy Glacier, Glendhu Bay and Lake Alta up on the Remarkables ski field.  We actually were a little bit early for the best of the autumn colours, but it didn’t matter as we had such lovely weather.

Day 4
Wanaka to Te Anau

Distance 227km - Driving Time 3 hours

Midway through my break, Meghan went home and I picked up my friend Kristin. On our first night, we climbed a huge hill behind Moke Lake for sunset. We planned to head into Milford and explore some new areas, driving to Te Anau the night Kris arrived and then continuing on to Milford Sound the next day. We had a lovely four days in the area – hanging out with some friendly kea, photographing beautiful rivers and waterfalls, hiking to Lake Marian.

 

We also had an absolutely beautiful sunset in Milford Sound itself. One of my trip highlights was climbing Gertrude Saddle and taking in the absolutely epic views – a tough hike but an amazing reward.

Day 5
Te Anau to Queenstown

Distance 173km - Driving Time 2 hours 30 mins

Before we headed home to Queenstown, we spent a lovely morning just relaxing in the sunshine at Lake Gunn. Our legs were pretty tired after so much walking in the area, so it was really nice to just hang out for a while. Then it was sadly time to head home to Queenstown. We had one last sunrise at Moke Lake before the trip came to an end.