Before traveling to New Zealand, I underestimated the accessibility of countless picturesque destinations. Dunedin, nestled near the Otago Peninsula, boasts beautiful coastline and scenery. A day in Dunedin can often be spent at Saint Clair beach or on top of Mount Cargill. However, students, both local and international, travel to some of New Zealand’s most fantastic destinations on the weekends.
Fiordland National Park
Fiordland National Park offers countless tramps* and campsites for students on a budget. Lake Marion, located approximately forty-five minutes from the town of Te Anau, provides breathtaking views during the entire ascent. The first segment of the path is lush and green; as you ascend, views of the Southern Alps appear. Give yourself approximately two to three days in Fiordland National Park.
Milford Sound should be considered the eighth wonder of the world. Brilliant blue waters reflect the mountains towering overhead and seals perch themselves on rocks along the banks of the sound. I highly recommend booking a boat tour of Milford Sound; these tours offer incredible views of wildlife and various waterfalls. Allow yourself one to two days in Milford Sound.
Wanaka is a charming town located approximately three hours from Dunedin. The town offers a vibrant atmosphere equipped with restaurants, wineries and shops. Roy’s Peak, known as one of the most iconic tramps in New Zealand, offers breathtaking views for miles. Interested in hut hiking? Plan on the Mount Brewster Track, located about an hour outside of Wanaka. Brewster Hut offers fantastic views of Mount Aspiring National Park and beyond, and the experience of camping in a hut is one you will never forget. Give yourself an entire weekend in Wanaka, if not a long weekend; you will need it!
Queenstown is iconic New Zealand: tourists flock to this picturesque town situated in the mountains. Daredevils eagerly await the bungee jumping and skydiving opportunities that Queenstown offers. The gondola provides excellent views of both the town and the natural surroundings; the experience is well worth it! Nightlife is prevalent and delicious restaurants are not scarce. Allow yourself an action-packed weekend in Queenstown–you will not run out of activities.
The town of Tekapo is quaint and charming, perfect for a quiet weekend away. Lake Tekapo, both beautiful and brilliantly blue, is ideal for swimming, boating and admiring from afar. Mount John, located approximately five minutes from the lake, offers spectacular views of the water and beyond. Book a spot on the stargazing tour during the night; the views of Orion and the Milky Way are simply put, unbelievable. My group saw six shooting stars and multiple constellations and planets. On a clear night, the sights are absolutely breathtaking. Allow yourself one to two days in Tekapo.
Dunedin offers amazing day trips for students and locals alike; however, weekend excursions are highly encouraged here. Organize a group of adventurous individuals and explore your options; there is no possibility for boredom on the South Island. Factor in travel time, campsite fees and general safety guidelines before embarking on a new journey. The toughest question? Where to begin!
The world awaits…discover it.