We started the second part of our trip, two self-guided Great Walks, by heading to Te Anau. There, we saw glowworm caves before starting the Routeburn Track the next day. We did the Routeburn Track as a three-day, two-night hike, staying at Lake Mackenzie Hut and Routeburn Falls Hut.
After our time in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, we had a couple of days to get back to Queenstown. During that time, we explored Lake Tekapo, had a relaxing night in Ohau, and saw a couple of other destinations in Mount Aspiring National Park.
For the 2018-2019 academic year, I was on sabbatical. While I was still working, I had a lot more flexibility in when I could travel. New Zealand had been on our to-visit list for a while, but seasons and distance make it hard to visit during a normal year. We took advantage of my flexibility by planning a three-week trip to New Zealand for February and March — late summer / early fall.
Over the years of wanting to visit New Zealand, we had accumulated an extensive list of places we wanted to hike and explore. As we got into planning the details, we narrowed our trip to focus on hiking in the mountains of the South Island. Just that easily filled three weeks.