SUP World Trip with Julia & Rob
Episode 4 - New Zealand
Lake Pukaki can hardly be adequately described with words. This lake, located on the South Island, is a glacial lake. That's why it has an incredible color. The water is light turquoise and in the background rises the highest mountain of New Zealand - Mount Cook. The water gets its colour from the so-called glacier milk. If you drive up the lake on the east side there are always super lonely places where you can get in. There we hung our hammock between the trees and set up our camping point. Not a soul in sight. There is only one thing you have to know before you go paddling on Lake Pukaki and New Zealand's lakes in general: It is almost always windy. And by that we don't mean that it's a little windy - it's usually a strong wind, which is caused by the special thermals from the Alps. So you have to study the weather apps here, even more carefully than usual, before you go out on the water. The wind can change very quick and the lake is very big.
Those who come to the South Island of New Zealand the Fjord Milford Sound is a must. It is a magical place, far away from any civilisation (except for a camping site and a café there is nothing up there) without mobile phone network or internet connection, 2 1/2 hours away from the next village Te Anau. But just the drive on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is a natural spectacle! Past wild turquoise rivers, through enchanting woods, past and through high mountains and breathtaking lookouts. Arrived at Milford Sound, you will be speechless. This fjord impresses already with its towering mountain ranges and its high, powerful waterfalls. So there was no question but to go SUPing there! It is an incredible feeling to glide over the water surrounded by these gentle giants of nature. You get all humble and feel how powerful nature is. But also here you have to pay attention to the wind. Best ist to start in the morning! Around noon the wind turns from the sea into the fjord. And if one has the time - go on a boat cruise. We did that too. With a boat you can get much further into the fjord than with the SUPs. It´s super impressive!
Lake Wakatipu is in Queenstown. The city is known for backpackers and adrenaline junkies. From here you can make all kind of action trips. From skydiving to rafting, speedboating or bungee jumping, everything is possible. Accordingly, Queenstown is very young and touristy from the audience's point of view. We spent 2 days here. Lake Wakatipu is pretty big. So if you just drive a bit along the lake, you will find beautiful spots, where there is much less activity. Between shady trees we could stretch out our hammock and hit the water! The water is crystal clear and surrounded by beautiful green gentle mountains on one side and a partly rugged coast on the other.
This lake is a secret tip. You won't find it in any guidebook. It is located very close to the impressive lakes Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo. Hardly anyone gets lost at Lake Ruataniwha. Except of course the locals. The great thing about this lake is on the one hand the crazy glacial lake colour - a very strong turquoise - and on the other hand the location. Because if it is too windy to paddle at Lake Pukaki, you can still go out on the water at Lake Ruataniwha. Because it lies protected. The wind is weakened by trees and hills all around. A great spot!
Lake Hawea is the smallest of the five large glacial lakes in New Zealand. But by no means less beautiful. There are less tourists and a beautiful mountain range surrounds the lake - the atmosphere simply invites to relax. Tip: If you want more peace and quiet, you should definitely go to Lake Hawea instead of the neighbouring lake Lake Wanaka. At Lake Wanaka there are many jet skis and boats, therefore the water is pretty choppy.
This lake does not impress with its crystal clear colour, it´s rather unique because of its crazy location and vegetation. Because Lake Mapourika is located right next to the famous Franz Josef Glacier it is not a glacier lake but a rainforest lake. The water is swampy, surrounded by palm trees, colourful plants and birds and it is humid. If one would not be able to see the glacier from the lake, one would not even begin to realize where one is actually paddling. Due to the meeting of the tectonic plates between Australia and New Zealand, a very long time ago, the country at the west coast of the South Island formed a high mountain range. So next to the glacier there is almost directly the sea and it is super humid. I t rains much more than in the east of the island and this fascinating rain forest developed right at the glacier. Super crazy and super impressive.
We thought to ourselves: "Lake Tekapo is the perfect stopover while going north". And it is - it is practically in the middle of the island. But it is much more than just a stopover. Again, we do not recommend to use the beach in the village for SUPing, rather drive along the lake and loook for some smalle beaches. Looking for a secluded place where you can enjoy nature and this fantastic lake. We just drove along the road on the east side of the lake and picked out one of the many beautiful spots. From there we went north again along an incredible coastal landscape. And the water is crystal clear and light blue again.
We were actually convinced that the South Island would be our favourite island in New Zealand. With all its breathtaking lakes and mountains. Until we experienced the Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island. Now we cannot decide anymore. The Coromandel is an absolute diamond in paradise. We have set up our camp in Pauanui. Right there we had a great surf spot. Finally again! We haven't been SUPing in waves since Hawaii. The Pauanui Beach was perfect for it. Although the waves were a bit too big for our Ray Air Touring SUPs, in combination with our skills, we had a lot of fun. There are two things to keep in mind: first of all, you don't really need a wetsuit, second od all take care of Stingrays! Apparently they like to swim around in the shallow water. We have seen one several times and they quite dangerous if you step on them!
If we think back to this, we get goose bumps. Cathedral Cove can only be reached by hiking for about 1 hour - with many other tourists. We already heard that it should be very crowded. Also because of this we were glad that we had our SUPs with us! We parked our car at the parking lot at Hahei Beach and from there we went on the water to the north along the coast. A coastal landscape that can´t be more impressive! Along crazy rock formations and turquoise, crystal clear bays with small white sandy beaches we paddled about 3 kilometres to the famous Cathedral Cove. Of course there were tourists there, but not so many. We took incredible pictures there. Our tip: don't leave too late - the wind often turns at midday/afternoon, be sure to check the weather apps. And be sure to stop at Stingray Bay for a swim or snorkel. But best not to walk around in the water - stepping on a Stingray can even be fatal!
Wow, Donut Island was a very exciting adventure. And also a bit dangerous. It is a small uninhabited mini island on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. It is located about 1km from the beach of Whangamata. The name stands not for nothing - it is hollow inside. And from above, it looks like a donut. We had a refreshing wind when we wanted to paddle there. Which isn't very helpful when you want to paddle 1km across the open ocean. It was probably the most exhausting kilometre we ever paddled. The wind got stronger and the waves higher. Furthermore, the entrance to Donut Island is on the right side of the island, seen from the beach. That means you have to paddle crossways to the waves into the island. This was indeed a challenge with the swell - even for us as experienced SUPers. But once we arrived there, a small, own mini-universe opened up. Trees grow on and around the walls, rugged rocks all around and once again very clear, light blue water. We will never forget that! But also here, one has to be careful: if the swell outside is big, the waves of course also get into the island and one has to be very careful that one is not lifted on one of the rocks/stones in the island. Tip: one does not have to do the tour on one's own - one can also book a guided tour. Of course, the locals know a lot about it and will probably give you a little quietness if you get wild.
Conclusion: New Zealand is an absolute SUP paradise! It was one of the most beautiful places where we ever paddled. And here you have to say: if you want to paddle here, you MUST bring your own board. Because there are no rentals here. And if you do, then only occasionally and definitely not in the remote places. Yes, it is more effort and in doubt you need a second piece of luggage, but we have not regretted it for a second. Every time we stood on one of the great lakes, or explored the area on the ocean, we always found that the beautiful moments, the moments of carrying our suitcases, absolutely outweighed.
And for those of you who have wished for a more precise location to get into the water: on the Instagram Account @sup.travel.repeat you will find the exact coordinates in all posts! :)