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Roy's Peak, New Zealand

New Zealand travel blog

Second-year UQ-Ochsner medical student Jim Varghese shares his experience and tips for travelling to New Zealand.
Student stories
Published 9 Feb, 2023  ·  6 minutes

What interested you in traveling to New Zealand?

Being in Australia, there are so many coveted travel destinations close by, with New Zealand topping the list for most. Personally, I was torn between traveling to New Zealand or Tasmania to celebrate our long semester coming to a close. Keeping this in mind, I began monitoring ticket prices, and sure enough, by the end of the year, flights to New Zealand were at their lowest point in the entire year. As soon as I saw this, I knew I couldn't let this chance to visit such a stunning country pass me by.

How far is it from Brisbane?

This amazing country was only a 3-hour and 30-minute flight away!

Brisbane to Queenstown map

What budget would you recommend having?

One of the hardest things about traveling for me is figuring out how to spend as little money as possible while still having a good time. The first thing you and your friends should do is agree on the priorities of the trip. When we went on vacation, we made it a point to focus on finding affordable accommodations, engaging activities, and delicious meals. We were able to reduce the amount of money we spent on lodging throughout our trip by staying in hostels and shared accommodations. You have complete control over the cost of every aspect of your vacation. Countries such as New Zealand have a great deal of natural sites and activities that are either totally free or very inexpensive to participate in. If you were planning a trip that was quite similar to ours, I would recommend budgeting approximately $800 for food, hotels, and travel within the country. The cost of the flight will vary depending on when you book it, but based on what I paid during our trip, I would estimate spending between $300 and $500 to get from Brisbane to Queenstown.

Our itinerary

Queenstown and wineries

Our journey began in Queenstown, New Zealand. As soon as the cloud cover lifted, we looked out the window of the plane and were welcomed by breathtaking views of the mountains and the luscious countryside below.


We spent the first two days of our trip getting to know Queenstown and the world-famous wineries in the area. The first night we were there, we went to this famous small restaurant called Pedros, where I had what can only be described as the tastiest lamb shoulder I have ever had in my life.

Lamb shoulder

The following day, we grabbed coffee and pastries at the well-known Fergbaker and drove to the wineries. Because of its different climates and terrains, New Zealand is known to produce some of the world's best wines. Even though I'm no expert in wine by any means, the wineries themselves were such a beautiful spot to unwind after a long and challenging semester. We visited Gibbston Valley Wines, Mt. Rosa Wines, and Peregrine Wines while we were in the area. Mt. Rosa stood out to me as the best since the staff was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their wines.

Mt Rosa Wines

No trip to Queenstown is complete without riding the famous Skyline Gondola up to Bobs Peak, then zipping back down the mountain in luges. As you can see from the pictures below, the luges were one of our favorite activities in Queenstown.


Although some of my friends were unamused...

Unimpressed whilst luging

Roy's Peak

My tendency to consistently exaggerate my level of physical fitness is something I need to work on. Due to this, I made the decision to undertake the challenge of hiking ten miles at Roy’s Peak. We left Queenstown at an early hour in the morning to make our way to the base of Roy’s Peak. Despite the fact that I grossly misjudged my athletic ability, my friends and I made it to the top. As we made our way to the summit, we were greeted by a large number of sheep, breathtaking views, and travelers from all over the world.

Roy's Peak
Sheep at Roy's Peak


Tekapo is a quaint and picturesque little community that is well-known for its glacier lake, hot springs, and stargazing. We made the executive decision to go to the hot springs to get some much-needed rest and recovery following the Roy’s Peaks hike, which absolutely wrecked my body. When traveling with a large group of friends, it is difficult to avoid making some poor choices at some point. This is the reason why I leaped at the idea of doing a cold plunge into Lake Tekapo, which was filled with the freshest, cleanest, and most freezing water I've encountered in my life. I shudder just thinking about how cold the water was, but I'd do it again for the memories alone.

Tekapo Hot Springs

Milford Sound

On the south island of New Zealand, you will find the UNESCO World Heritage site known as Milford Sound. In the last few days of our trip, we went on a 5-hour road trip to get a peek at this natural wonder of the world. We took a two-hour cruise across the waters of Milford Sound and saw dolphins, penguins, seals, and breathtaking scenery!

Milford Sound


New Zealand is often called the "adventure capital of the world," and this is just one of its many claims to fame. In addition to this, the Franz Joseph Glacier skydive in New Zealand was ranked as one of the top nine skydives in the world by Red Bull! I wish I could put into words the anxiety that I get when I'm in high places, but for me, skydiving has a lot of symbolic meaning. It required a lot of guts and courage for me to leave my friends and family behind in my home country and start a new life in a foreign country to pursue a career in medicine. In my brain, I thought, "Wow, what a way to mark the end of my first year with one more act outside of my comfort zone!" All of this sounded great in theory, but in reality, I was scared to death the day of the dive. For some reason,  I had an overwhelming sense of calm come over me as I loaded the plane and took off, which was immediately followed by the most exhilarating rush of adrenaline and joy as I jumped out of the plane. I'm hoping that the experience of my skydive will be one that I can reflect on in the future to provide me with encouragement and inspiration for my future endeavors.

Final highlight

Our trip to New Zealand was full of beautiful sights and activities, but the memories and time spent with my friends were my favorites. Countless laughs were shared as six people were crammed into a Mitsubishi Pajero, which had no room for the ridiculous amount of luggage that had been brought. I'll never forget watching my friends get thrown around in the car as Eugene, who has the soul of a racecar driver, zipped through the most insane roads I've ever seen in my life. I'll never forget throwing up three times on my way to the top of Roy's Peak, as well as the moment we finally reached the peak, closed our eyes, and took a deep breath of the crisp mountain air with Genie and Bri. I'll never forget Leila being bullied by a sheep at the mountain's base. I'll never forget being so annoyed with Aleena that I threw her out of our cabin in the middle of nowhere. We let her in again. The best travel advice I can give is to spend time with people you care about and make memories.

Video by Aleena Mathew

Watch UQ Ochsner Travel blog: New Zealand by Aleena Mathew on YouTube.

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