New Zealand is widely regarded as the most beautiful country on the planet and as you soak in the natural wonders that this rich biosphere has to offer it is easy to see why the nation receives such accolades. You can never have too much time to explore this magnificent land and if you’re in an unfortunate position where you need to muster up a whistle stop tour, then there’s no better way to see as much as you can than by renting a car and hitting the open road.
I’m sure you can imagine my delight when I discovered that there is a company in New Zealand named ‘Freedom Mobility’ that specialise in providing adapted cars for disabled individuals. Whether you’re a passenger needing ramped access into a vehicle or you’re a disabled driver who requires hand controls, there’s something for everyone and all with an impeccable service included.
Not only did the management at Freedom Mobility kindly set me up with a car for the week, but they were also able to supply me with a whole host of accessible information for the South Island and even gave a copy of an amazing book which details all the accessible walks throughout New Zealand – something which came in very handy as there are thousands of trails, and many of them are actually suitable for disabled ramblers like myself.
There truly is no finer way to discover New Zealand than by road, and the independence it instils in you to have a car is unparalleled. Without a car you’re pretty much stuck relying on buses and trains, meaning you need to be regimented with your schedule – leaving you with little room for spontaneity. Having the car means you can stop off anywhere you like, and believe me – you’ll be stopping every few miles as there’s a mind-boggling amount of picturesque photo opportunities. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you turn a corner and there’s something even more magical sprawling way out into the distance. You can’t exactly ask a bus driver to stop off every five minutes so that you can get snappy and fill your phone with selfies.
My friend and I collected our rental car whilst in Christchurch; where we had arranged to meet a Freedom Mobility representative nearby to the airport. We’d previously spent the night in Christchurch city centre, sampling the likes of the Cardboard Cathedral and the memorial of white chairs placed in memory of all those who lost their lives during the massive earthquake that struck in 2011 – damage from which is still clearly visible as you walk around the city.
From Christchurch we then drove through to Dunedin which is about a four or five hour drive south. The drive is rather uneventful for the first three hours or so, but the scenery takes a dramatic turn for the better the closer to Dunedin you get. As you wind your way through country roads, it’s not long before you spot the sea as you make your way down towards the Otago Peninsula that extends proudly from Dunedin to the majestic coastline. The Peninsula is a must for drivers – with the same old story as before reoccurring and every new turn in the road resulting in a perfect photo shoot moment worthy of stopping for. At the end of the Peninsula, as the land meets the Pacific Ocean, there are a number of attractions, including Forts and the famous Albatross Sanctuary – both of which are well worth a visit.
Unsatisfied with a regular Town ‘Square’, Dunedin has its very own Octagon which also acts as the central hub of the city. A number of evening activities can be found, such as bars, restaurants and cafes. The layout of the Octagon is just that – an octagon, and is a rather lovely sight to behold – especially at night. The First Church of Otago also has a powerful stance overlooking the area.
After a couple of nights spent in Dunedin we then hit the road again and headed west, to the small town of Te Anau. As we crossed over into the western side of the island the natural landscapes became all the more spectacular. It’s easy to see why so many Hollywood blockbuster movies were set and filmed in New Zealand – the diverse ruggedness of the countries ever changing topography is unfathomably beautiful. Driving in this country is nothing short of a once-in-a-lifetime treat for many tourists. Any words used to describe the sheer awe-inspiring vision that is New Zealand are simply just not good enough – New Zealand needs to be seen to be believed.
Te Anau is a cute little lakeside town and is a perfect stop off for those looking to visit Milford Sound but don’t want to pay the extortionate prices for the limited accommodation that is available there. There’s still around another 90 minutes to drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound, but that drive is well worth the effort, and besides, you need to head back through Te Anau at some stage anyway, as Milford Sound is a dead-end.
(In order to save this blog post becoming too long, I will end the first part here and follow up with a part two, soon).