North New Zealand was truly phenomenal….but little did I know that South New Zealand was going to completely BLOW. MY. MIND. Below are two cell phone shots I took out the plane window as we were flying into the Queenstown airport. Seriously, now those are Lord of the Rings mountains!!!
Our first stop with the group was of course at our cute little rental house. It was split up into two different units, the main house at the bottom and the top house was just bunks. And the view out the kitchen window??? I died!!
From out our back door, we could walk all the way into downtown Queenstown by following this delightful trail along the waterfront. I took this trail several times a day – I preferred this peaceful stroll over catching a ride.
Our first night in Queenstown, almost all of us shared a table at a restaurant. It was so fun to see us all just enjoying each other’s company over a meal, interchanging conversations, laughing and making memories.
In the morning, Stacee and I sauntered into town, chatting about life, and exploring a tiny little cemetary while we waited for Kat and Nat to meet up with us at the gondola.
Our gondola ride was so amazing! I could hardly believe the view from the top. Seriously jaw-dropping.
In the afternoon, a small group of us wanted to explore, so we found a nearby hike around Lake Hayes and set off! I loved the opportunity this walk provided for me to get to know these people in a more intimate way! I had alone time with a few of them, and I felt like we could talk about anything free of judgement or worry!
Photo below by the Herrintons
A boat ride around Lake Wakatipu ended our evening – I cannot get over the blues of the water!!
Photo below from Stacey Lee
Photos below by Lauren Swann
It was completely worth the four hour drive (one way!) in the back of an 8 person van to make it to Milford Sound the next day for our second boat cruise!!
Our last day in Queenstown – our last day in New Zealand!!! – was a free day to spend doing whatever we wanted. Queenstown is known for being an adreneline junkie’s hot spot! Jet-boating, sky diving, bungee jumping, paragliding…they have it all. I wasn’t feeling particularly “risky” that day (nor was my bank account) so I opted for horseback riding instead! It was the perfect choice for me and my horsey-lover heart! Plus, I still felt like I’d survive the end of the day and make it back home alive to my husband and kids! Ha! Bri and I bonded over our horsies – hers was Manuel, mine was cranky Harry. I spoke to him in a British accent and I believe that’s the only reason he didn’t buck me off everytime I kicked him into a canter.
The stables were about 45 minutes outside of Queentown, towards Glenorchy. The view on the drive there was my absolute favorite view of the entire trip – and you know that’s really saying something! THIS was what I had imagined New Zealand to look like all along. It was so wonderful and, I don’t know….strangely earthy to be riding in the middle of this scenery…on a horse….I felt like I was “one” with New Zealand during this trail ride. I know that sounds completely corny but I don’t know how else to explain it! I just felt very much a part of everything around me right then, like I was completely in the moment for the first time the whole trip. It was extremely peaceful and healing for me.
Our last night together was spent dressing up and taking fun headshots of each other…being typical photographers and throwing an extravagant photoshoot party, of course! I’ll be sharing those images to round up my whole trip next week!!
In case you missed it, you can see all the photos from North New Zealand here.