Sarah Chant and her husband, Nathan, have an impressive online following as blogging dynamos Exploring Kiwis, and a recent return to New Zealand after being based abroad for two and a half years has seen them turn to discovering the hidden gems of Aotearoa. Most recently, that meant renting a car with Thrifty for a road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch.
A one-way trip was the way to go. ‘Maximise your holiday time,’ suggests Sarah, by flying where you want to go and then renting a car for the drive. That way you don’t end up seeing things twice by doing a round trip when time is precious. Available with Thrifty Car Rental if you arrange your trip to travel from south to north like Sarah and Nathan did, from time to time you may even be able to take advantage of a great-value relocation deal.
Travelling by car also offers flexibility, letting you stop and see the hidden treasures (and Instagram-worthy spots!) along the way. ‘There are lots of places where you can walk five or 10 minutes off the road to a beautiful waterfall. You might meet an interesting person along the way to stop and talk to, and you can also change your plans according to the weather.’
You might think that you need a passport (and deep pockets) to have a truly memorable travel experience, but travelling the world has brought home to Sarah and Nathan just what an incredible country we live in. ‘As soon as we say we’re from New Zealand, people talk about how amazing it is. Either it’s at the top of their bucket list or they’ve been here and loved it.’ And, in a country known for its superb road trips, they describe the drive from Queenstown to Christchurch as ‘without doubt, one of the most incredible quick-drive vacation offerings in New Zealand’.
Sarah and Nathan spent eight nights on the road, taking in Glenorchy, Queenstown and Wanaka, then visiting Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo before arriving in Christchurch. Highlights included hiking to Lake Alta in The Remarkables, which Sarah says was on a par with hiking in Peru, jet boating with Shotover Jet and exploring the remote Dart River by Funyak (inflatable kayak). At Lake Tekapo, they spent an unforgettable night enjoying ‘Soak in the Stars’, a blend of stargazing, Māori folklore and floating in your own personal ‘water hammock’ at Tekapo Springs – a perfect way to discover why this region is the world’s largest dark sky reserve.
Having the flexibility of their own Thrifty rental car also meant they could get the very best photos. At Lake Tekapo’s Church of the Good Shepherd, for instance, ‘to be there on sunset and to be able to go back and do some astrophotography’ was memorable for photography-buff Sarah. A guided day walk on the Routeburn Track with Guided Walks New Zealand was another opportunity for stunning photos. For those keen to get truly Instagram-worthy photos, Sarah’s pro tip is to pack a camera with a manual option, adding a neutral density filter and tripod for waterfall photos or sunrise and sunset shots.
Aside from leaving your passport at home, Sarah enthuses about the other advantages of exploring your own backyard: the familiarity of the currency, food and language; a good level of comfort that’s perfect for families or those travelling with different needs; and the opportunity to plan good-value adventures thanks to Air NZ grabaseat, Airbnb, booking.com and Thrifty rental cars.
New Zealand has a world-wide reputation that’s easy to take for granted. We really don’t know how lucky we are, and nothing brings that home more than a road trip in the picturesque South Island.
WORDS Michelle Berridge IMAGES Exploring Kiwis
For more about Sarah and Nathan’s adventure, read their blog at exploringkiwis.com.