I almost cancelled my trip to New Zealand.
Knowing almost nothing about the country and being a bit stressed for cash, I felt there was no need to cross the Tasman Sea from Melbourne into another foreign land. I have been giving thanks and praise to whatever force made me reconsider that idiotic decision. My eight days in New Zealand were some of the best of my life.
I headed to the South Island -- known for its mountains, snow, and glaciers -- having no idea what to expect. I just hoped I wouldn't have to dress nicely or wear makeup. I was right. I spent the half the trip in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, and the other half on beautiful Lake Wanaka. The two are about and hour drive apart, but completely different vibes.
Don't make the mistake I almost made, and start saving immediately! If you love nature, wonderfully friendly people, breathtaking views, glacier-clear water, and a lot of fun on the side... New Zealand was made for you. Here's my top reasons why I insist you go.
1. It's damn beautiful. The lakes and rivers are the color of the Caribbean, and they're surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It was the most beautiful contrast I've ever seen!
2. Don't bother dressing up. I wore my running shoes 95 percent of the time and Birkenstocks when I was feeling fancy. My face got a vacation from makeup, and all was well.
3. The people. Whether I was hiking up a hill or buying a banana, I was constantly engaged in meaningful conversation with strangers. After a couple days I was waving to my local pals, and feeling like one myself.
4. Encouragement to get outside. One local told me he loves living in Wanaka because he is constantly inspired by the sporty atmosphere to get outside and be fit. Everyone else is running, biking, and on a casual eight-hour hike...so you will be too!
5. It's chill. You'll be exercising without even realizing it, so the rest of the time you can just relax. There's not much to worry about, other than what hike to take the next day. Or what Monteith's brew to try.
6. There's thrill. You can paraglide, bungee jump, sky dive...or whatever cool, adventure-seeking people do. This isn't really my jam, but it is a pull for many people to go to the south island. If there was one place on earth I'd jump out of a plane (ha!) it would be here, for the view.
7.Wicked climate. I went in December (spring) and the weather was amazing. It was warm and sunny during the day, and breezy at night; perfect for sleeping. The winters aren't horrible either, at just below freezing, and snowy. *Canadian subjective view of "horrible."
8. NO SNAKES! This one takes the cake for me. I've been anxious in the wilderness my whole life because of the possibility of seeing a snake. In Australia, I basically can't leave the city because I'm so scared of getting killed. In NZ, there are only sea snakes (at some times of the year) but inland/lakes are snake-free paradises!
I can't speak about the North Island, but I will definitely be back to see the entire country (and tell you why you need to see it, too.)