We hadn't expected the drive from the Glaciers down to Queenstown to be anything special (that is, every drive we took in NZ was jaw-droppingly beautiful; we didn't expect anything different from this drive), but as we drove further and further south, and turned inland from the Tasman, the landscape took a turn for the unreal. I posted a picture of the sunset outside Queenstown on Facebook when we returned, and my brother's comment summed it up best..."Insane."
The details: Route 6 down the west coast with a stop at Knight's point - lots of Italian tourists and some great views - and Bruce Bay - the beach was perfectly tumbled into little round marbles. The big marbled stones had a pretty translucent quality - we could have beach-combed all day. Then the road split Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea - Hawea was so still and peaceful - we parked and walked along a hill overlooking it. You know how you feel after a spa visit when you are sitting in the little lounge area in your fuzzy slippers, sipping ice water and listening to piped in nature sounds? This was that feeling, magnified tenfold. And free.
After the lakes, we had a choice...stay on Route 6 and take the long way into Queenstown, or take the Cardrona Valley Road over the mountains. We chose Cardrona Valley, and never have I been so glad not to take take the long way 'round. We reached the peak of the mountains just as the sun was setting over Arrowton, and took some of the best photos of the trip. And we were the only ones on the road.
Moral of the story? Sometimes it's okay to veer off the highway. It might take longer, but it also might be sooooo freaking worth it.
all photos, ours