Just before this trip, I had completed a road trip with my husband in which we drove 8,383 miles in only 12 days around the United States (chronicled in parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) when I left Nelson to start a solo road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. The scenery would be spectacular.
I wanted to see a few places since I'd come so far, and there are so many things to see here that driving around was only natural for me. I think the distance I was about to cover seemed like a lot for many locals I spoke with, it turned out to be totally manageable. Of course it would have been nice to have more time, but time is usually the thing I lack on vacation.
Driving even a short distance - along Route 6 - I was pleased by a few things I noticed. There are very few billboards in New Zealand. While there are some, and they do get numerous around Christchurch, they aren't everywhere, and they aren't large or electronic (at least when I was there). It makes for a pristine landscape and lovely driving. The roads are also really well maintained and enjoyable to drive as well as relatively easy to navigate.
Of course I had to get used to driving on the other side of the road!
The view was pastoral as I set out, and continued that way throughout the morning and afternoon, but the lush green landscape was gorgeous to look at and the weather was perfect.
The hills started to roll and things began to look more dramatic.
I thought this windswept tree, above, was awesome.
I finally beheld the majesty of the Southern Alps.
I love mountains, and these really delivered.
I approached the incredible Franz Joseph Glacier. It was fairly easy to reach, you can park the car relatively close and hike as far as you like, with amazing views all around.
The people in the photo above are nice for a sense of the size of these beautiful mountains.
I took some photos on a short hike to the foot of the glacier. The terrain was packed gravel and not strenuous so I had no problem having a stroll without special gear, but I didn't go very far.
The people near the bottom center of the photo above show how these massive cliffs tower over all.
There's lots of water, in technicolor.
And it was time to get back on the road.
I did get a peak at some of the coast as the road wound down the island.
My rental, above. Pro tip - when you rent a car overseas, take photos of it, especially when you return it, and be sure they have the correct time information in the digital file. Those photos could come in handy if any (false) claim is made against you later. I've rented cars overseas several times without any such problem, but I also did experience such a problem on this vacation.
I finally began to approach the end of my day in Queenstown where I had a room waiting for me. This would be my base to explore Milford Sound the next day.
Queenstown, along with so much of the remainder of the South Island, is one of the most impressive places on Earth and I highly recommend it as a destination. It's worth the grueling plane ride. I was ready for a rest, but took a moment to snap a photo, below, from outside my hotel room.