Jessica Ward

New Zealand’s South Island, especially Queenstown, is inundated with tourist activities and extreme sports, none of which I have actually done. Instead my most memorable days were spent in a low key way (and also incredibly cost effective for those on a budget).

Walk Queenstown hill in Queenstown. This not too challenging trek will reward you with incredible views of the Queenstown centre, Wakatipu Lake and the surrounding mountains. I’ve done this hike a few times and if you pick the right time and day, you can be the only person in sight. If you are really keen, walk it a couple of hours before sunrise so that you can view the town waking up, it will be a truly unforgettable morning.

queenstown hill

Take a trip to Wanaka. If you like hiking, climb Roys Peak during mid afternoon so you can reach the summit by sunset and watch the sun go down over the mountains. It is one of the most beautiful sights you will see and even though I honestly hated this walk, it was completely worth it. Tip - bring lots of water and make sure you have a torch for the trip down, you will be descending in pure darkness.

roys peak

Mount Cook – This is a town where I was able to experience thick clouds floating on ground level and snow covered mountains in the middle of summer. The drive to get here is just as beautiful as the place itself, the last stretch is spent alongside Lake Pukaki, which transforms into the most insane fluorescent blue on a clear day. While there, I would recommend walking the Hooker Valley track and if you go on a day with little cloud coverage, the reflection on the water with the icebergs is perfect. Again, wake up early so that you can reach the glacier by sunrise – it’s AMAZING.

mount cook

In one day I travelled across enough of the country to tick 3 activities off my list, that being Castle Hill, driving over Arthurs Pass and exploring Hokitika Gorge. Taking approximately 8 hours to drive from Tekapo to Hokitika, it’s a full on day, so pack some food and have a good playlist going. Castle Hill, known for the abundance of giant boulders, which you can walk and climb around, is one of the coolest places I visited. After Castle Hill you will soon reach Arthurs Pass, a nice little drive through town and due to its location in the mountains, it has multiple walking tracks and nature reserves around the area. Driving over their elevated road was something that I have wanted to do for a couple of years and if you stop at the lookout just before you reach the road, you can see the true scale and beauty of the construction. After this you will finally reach Hokitika Gorge. New Zealand is covered in blue pools, lakes and gorges but after researching photos, this place looked the most impressive. The walking track is covered in multiple vantage points, so you are able to continually see the water and its incredibly impressive colour.

hokitika gorge

Christchurch has a rocky history due to the devastation of multiple earthquakes over the years. The city is transforming into something very unique, with many bars and shops opening up out of shipping containers. My favourite part of the city is The Botanical Gardens. I could easily spend a day there every time I visit and they have an interesting museum as well for you to check out.

Two small towns located on either side of Christchurch are Kaikoura and Akaroa, both can be visited in a day. Kaikoura is a coastal town with an abundance of wildlife, including seals, dolphins and whales. The Peninsula Walkway is a must do as you can stroll through the stunning countryside while being surrounded by the ocean. Akaroa is a French-style town nestled on the Banks Peninsula, it is covered by rolling hills with a view of water from nearly everywhere you look.


Down south there is a noticeable change in landscape. The beachy atmosphere of the towns located only hours away have changed to almost feeling like you could be walking through Jurassic Park due the lush rainforests and waterfalls. Two favourite places are the Fiordland National Park and Catlins National Park. Each hold so many special, secret spots, so it’s well worth taking a few days to explore the areas. In the Fiordland you have Milford and Doubtful Sound, almost a wonder of the world and Lake Marian, while Catlins has an abundance of waterfalls that are just as beautiful.

lake marian

There are so many incredible locations that are worth a mention, but you would be reading this for days if I listed them all. Each time I visit, I discover a new favourite spot, so I urge you to make the trip and do the same!


Jessica Ward is a commercial travel photographer and writer based in Newcastle, Australia. She has spent many months exploring the world and is always eager to embark on overseas trips. Jessica documents all of her adventures on Instagram @jesswardphoto and on her website Jessica Ward Photography

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.