The Stunning South

Feb 13, 2018

Bright and early on Sunday morning, we woke up and packed the van to proceed to the ferry terminal. The North Island had treated us well, but it was time to head south! 
We waited patiently for our turn to board the ferry, one of the last vehicles in a long row of other campers. 

Once onboard, we explored the ship and all of its amenities. We grabbed breakfast, walked the outside decks, and then spent the majority of the time in the kids play area. Aaralee had conversations with new little friends without realizing that they didn’t even speak English. 

3 1/2 hours later we arrived in rainy, but beautiful Picton. 
We had no game plan. After fuelling the van we stopped for a brief while on the side of the road, contemplating which direction to head and which sights to see. We couldn’t decide, so we let the weather forecast choose for us. Onwards towards Christchurch it was. 
Our first stop of the day was only 20 minutes past Picton, the Manaka chocolate factory. Being pregnant has hindered my ability to participate in the adrenaline activities that New Zealand is famous for, so I have to improvise with more suitable options. I splurged on a fancy box of chocolate, justifying it by the fact that Valentine’s Day was only a few days away. 
We carried on our journey south, winding down roads lined by wineries. It was stunningly beautiful, but pouring rain. There was so much precipitation that the ventilation fan on our ceiling was leaking. At one construction stop the radio wouldn’t work for the worker holding the sign to know whether he could let us proceed. 
We reached the coast, and it was beautiful. The water was bright blue like the Caribbean and the sand was black. We spotted hundreds of seals playing near the shores and lying on the rocks in the water. We stopped for a delicious lunch at a cute little seaside restaurant. It had apparently just reopened after the 2016 earthquake in Kaikoura. As we continued south, the damage from the earthquake was evident in the boarded up buildings and constant road repairs.
Shortly after passing through Kaikoura, we spotted a cute little tree by the ocean and turned off of the road to stop for a photo. Upon further inspection, we discovered that it was actually an oceanfront campsite, and it was settled; this is where we’d camp for the night. 

After grabbing some groceries we returned to set up camp. The girls ran around chasing seagulls as I prepared dinner. It started to rain lightly, but we weren’t complaining. The rain brought us an incredible rainbow that spanned from the mountains to the ocean, perfectly framing our van. I pinched myself, but this was real life. How lucky I was to be witnessing such a beautiful scene in the company of those I love most.  

We settled into bed, falling asleep to the sounds of the waves. For the sake of honesty, we spent about 30 minutes convincing our children to stop screaming and threatening to take away ice cream privileges. This is a dream vacation, but it’s still a vacation with a 2 and 4 year old. EVENTUALLY we heard nothing but the sound of the waves crashing. 
When the kids finally fell asleep we opened the van door and stared at the sky, which was lit up with thousands of bright stars. It was all a blur to Ryan without his contact lenses, but I assured him that it was magic. 
I woke up just in time for sunrise over the ocean, and stared at the sky in silence as my family slept. When Aaralee woke up, she excitedly proclaimed “I saw so many stars last night!” 
After a quick breakfast, we carried on our journey. Our first stop was at a small cafe where we sat in a pretty courtyard sipping giant lattes out of bowls, and ordered a second breakfast because we couldn’t resist. The girls played happily with the toys and chases around the resident cafe cat, Ninja. Cafes and restaurants in New Zealand put Canada to shame when it comes to kid friendliness. Most of them have a box of toys, if not a play area. 
Before leaving, we picked out a tiny pair of wool booties. Aaralee proudly handed the money to the cashier and told her that we were buying them for our new baby. 
It was a sunny 30 degree day, so spending some time outside was essential. We made our way to Corsair Bay, where the kids and Ryan swam and played in the blue water. I waded in to my knees, but I’m more of a hot tub type of girl.

We were all hungry after our time in the sun, so we found some shade on the side of the road and stopped to make sandwiches. I wish that my car at home had a fridge and pull out table for impromptu picnics.
We headed inland via the inland scenic highway. We passed vineyards and rolling hills filled with sheep and deer. The only deer we’ve seen in New Zealand have been in farm fields. 
We stopped in a small town for dinner and then carried on to Fairlie, where we set up camp for the night in a spot surrounded by trees. The girls ran off some energy at the park, and then we settled in for another night. 
The next day was sunny and beautiful as we continued our journey south. We were Queenstown bound! The drive was beautiful, and we stopped at gorgeous blue Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. 

The rest of the drive felt like we could have been in Kelowna or Vernon, with lakes, orchards and wineries. 
We finally arrived into Queenstown, checked into our jam packed campground and headed out to find dinner. Queenstown was gorgeous! It felt a bet like walking through Banff, only much bigger and warmer.  Dinner was amazing, as was the ice cream we ate afterwards. We walked down to the lakefront and enjoyed the views and the breeze. 

Back at the campground, the girls played for what felt like forever at the park. Aaralee ran around with a group of girls from China, who eagerly followed her around giggling and having fun, despite having no idea what she was saying. The innocence of kids is my favourite thing to witness. 
Today is Valentine's Day, and I've promised Aaralee a fun day as a family, so we'll see what adventures we find in Queenstown!


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