Hakatere Conservation Park (Mount Sunday)
The set for Edoras, the main city of the Rohan people in Lord of the Rings was built on Mount Sunday. It’s not an easy feat climbing up this mountain and the winds were especially strong at the peak, but the scenery is definitely worth the effort.
Driving a camper van on raw gravel road for a good two to three hours is certainly exhausting and uncomfortable. Rent a small vehicle for a more comfortable ride.
Aoraki / Mount Cook
Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. The park contains more than 140 peaks standing over 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) and 72 named glaciers, which cover 40 percent of its 700 square kilometres (170,000 acres).
Try the Hooker Valley Glacier Walk which will take about 3 to 4 hours to complete and you will reach the Hooker Lake (pictured above) at the end of the trail. There is also the Mount Cook Village you can check out, which is a tourist centre and base camp for the mountain.
Perhaps one of the most famous lakes in New Zealand, this is one place you shouldn’t miss. Known for it’s serenity and crystal blue waters which is absolutely majestic. There’s also the notable Church of the good Shepard nearby for photo opportunities. For an equally magnificent lake that is less touristy, check out Lake Pukaki known for it’s turquoise blue water instead.
Paradise – Glenorchy
Glenorchy is a little town located near Queenstown. Some of the scenes in Lord of the Rings was also filmed here. Surrounded by rivers, mountains and hay fields, it was paradise indeed. The town is pretty quiet and there are also trails to complete where time permits.
Milford Sound / Piopiotahi
Milford Sound is a fiord within the Fiordland National Park and is touted as the world’s top travel destination. You can explore Milford Sound via cruise, with a myriad of options ranging from basic to luxurious.
Milford Sound sports two permanent waterfalls all year round, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. After heavy rain, hundreds of temporary waterfalls can be seen running down the steep sided rock faces that line the fiord.
Lucky for us, it was a rainy day when we visited. Everyone was thrilled with the appearance of wild dolphins and fur seals. The captain even ran our cruise really near a waterfall and we experienced first hand by standing on the front deck. Not the smartest thing to do in winter but an experience I will never forget.