As seen in earlier posts, road closures due to flood had forced us to fly over the flooded region into Queenstown. Flood also forced the cancellation of our jetboat ride on the Shotover River in Queenstown on our day of arrival. This presented us with an unique opportunity to drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo and back within a day. We could now catch up on what we would have had to miss due to the road closures, and we seized the opportunity with both hands!
It was almost 1100 hrs by the time we collected our rental vehicle from Queenstown Airport. A quick check showed that the sun would set at 2123 hrs on 9 December 2019. The extended daylight hours in summer made it possible for us to maximise our sightseeing and driving time.
Just 15km from Queenstown Airport lay Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town built on the banks of the Arrow River. Whilst the source of gold has long dried up, the legacy left behind by the miners lives on in carefully preserved heritage buildings in the charming little town. We bought freshly prepared takeaway food from The Shed Ice Cream Parlour & Takeaways and had a lovely picnic in the park.
After a satisfying lunch, we travelled 10km down the road to the AJ Hackett's Kawarau Bungy Centre, the birthplace of bungy jumping. We were not courageous enough to hurl ourselves off the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, but were there to witness other Brave Souls doing just that!
We pulled off the road once more to capture some pictures of Lake Dunstun, before continuing our long drive north on Highway 8.
At Omarama, we stopped to stretch our legs. The Four Square Supermarket sold whole roast chicken for NZD11 each and we bought 2 plus drinks and dessert for our picnic at the lake. We had intended to pick up some salmon sashimi along the way from High Country Salmon in Twizel as well, but didn't when we saw the price! They also advertised "Free Feed the Salmon", but it wasn't available when we got there at 1600 hrs.
As we were driving from Twizel towards Lake Tekapo, the stunning blue of Lake Pukaki suddenly came into view. Everyone got very excited and we slowed the vehicle to look for a place to turn off and park. We raced to touch the milky blue glacial waters of Lake Pukaki and splashed our faces with the refreshingly cold water. Snowy Mount Cook stood proudly in the background on the clear, sunny day. We found a quiet spot on the rocky shores of the lake and had ourselves a lovely picnic. The roast chicken from Four Square was tender, juicy and flavourful. Without a doubt the best value family meal we had in NZ. Delicious, cheap and paired with to-die-for views.
We followed the Tekapo-Twizel Road to Lake Tekapo. It had the same milky blue hue of Lake Pukaki, with the added beauty of colourful wild lupins all around the area. The lupins bloom in late November to early December, and we were lucky to be there when they were in season. We took our time to enjoy the view, and before we knew it, it was almost 1900 hrs! In our haste to return to Queenstown, we totally forgot to stop by the renowned Church of the Good Shepherd.
We retraced our steps to Omarama, refuelled and drove south to Queenstown. The setting sun cast awe-inspiring shadows across the valleys. We stopped at the Roaring Meg Lookout Point at 2130 hrs, just before the last light of the day disappeared.
Forty-five minutes later, we were seated at the 24-hr McDonald's in Queenstown for dinner. Over burgers, fries and mozzarella sticks, we reminisced about the day's adventure. We had started the day in the North Island, flown to the South Island and driven 520km in a day. We had visited a gorge and 3 lakes, seen snowcapped peaks, beautiful wildflowers and the glorious setting sun. It was a picture-perfect day.