Thursday, April 28, 2016

Outdoor Options Galore in Queenstown

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is New Zealand's main center for adventure sports, offering such activities as hiking, skydiving, bungee jumping, mountain biking, and boating. It's also a great place to keep young kids entertained for a few days.

Many New Zealanders complain its become overrun by tourists, so don't wait until the last minute to secure accommodations. I paid a lot more than I wanted because I thought I could just show up and find something.

Queenstown, itself, wasn't my favorite place because of the throng of visitors, but as with every other stop in New Zealand,

a scenic hike lay nearby.

just minutes outside the city.

I checked out the Ben Lomond Summit Track – a six-to-eight hour, seven-mile round trip. I discovered firsthand how quickly the weather can change in New Zealand.

I left in sunshine but a couple of hours later found myself in heavy fog,

followed by rain and snow.

Make sure you bring gear for all possibilities before venturing into the mountains.

I can't say enough about the friendliness of New Zealanders.

I found these at the beginning of my hike – a walking stick, as well as sunglasses and a hat,

seemingly for anyone to use.

In America, it's called "trail magic." Along the Appalachian Trail, well wishers sometimes perform random acts of kindness for the hikers, such as leaving fruit behind.

Since Queenstown is so popular, expect prices here to be a bit higher than elsewhere in New Zealand.

One of the hardest parts about visiting New Zealand is deciding what to see because there are so many beautiful spots.

Wherever you end up, expect to find some great, outdoor adventures and some of the nicest, most helpful people on Earth.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Majestic Mount Cook

Mt. Cook, New Zealand

You're looking at New Zealand's highest mountain. Mount Cook stands at 12,218 feet (3724 meters).

Sir Edmund Hillary – the first person to climb Mt. Everest – trained here for his epic, alpine achievement.

The mountain is part of the 435-square-mile Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.

Accommodations are limited and should be booked well in advance, but many bus lines stop here for a few hours along the route from Queenstown to Christchurch. It's well worth a visit on any tour of the South Island.

Next Destination: Options Galore in Queenstown

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Star Gazing at Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

The village of Lake Tekapo is little more than a handful of buildings scattered along the highway between Queenstown and Christchurch, but as with most of New Zealand, the highlight is the outdoors.

Some come to admire the Southern Alps or swim in these glacial waters, but eventually everyone wanders down to this idyllic church

nestled on the shores of the lake

to witness what happens after the sun goes down.

Courtesy of

The atmospheric conditions, as well as the absence of light pollution, provide some of the best star gazing on Earth.

This is just a glimpse of what you'll find on any clear night, a sight of such radiance that it's hard to believe it's real.

The village is also said to have some of the cleanest air in the Southern Hemisphere, all of which make Lake Tekapo a great stop for a couple of days of relaxation on a tour of New Zealand's South Island.

Used with permission from Wikimedia Commons
Author: Paul Bica