You know you have stepped over the invisible line from pet owner to best friend when you plan your annual road trip holiday to take your dog with you, instead of leaving him with his usual dog sitter.
This and some other serious internal shift happened to me, as I planned our winter road trip ski holiday with Badger, our 40kg black lump of fun and fur. Usually ski season trips have been ‘Jules time’ with a motto of ‘No friends on a powder day’ and definitely no time to be spent searching out dog friendly spots when my time was better spent searching out untracked ski lines.
Yep, a change had happened and, as much as I wanted the ski time, I didn’t want to leave Badger at home either so I decided he was coming with us. And you know what? It was totally worth it!!!
So here are my tips, adventures and sweet spots to help you have the most amazing road trip with your adventure dog… trust me, it’ll make your adventures all the better.
Our journey started in Christchurch and saw us head to south through Fairlie, Tekapo, and Twizel before checking into our dog friendly bach in Wanaka, plus an obligatory day trip to Queenstown.
Christchurch to Fairlie
It is about 2.5 hours from Christchurch to Fairlie, but there are loads of spots to stop for a wee break next to one of the many rivers on the drive.
Do not drive through Fairlie, here is your first stop - the Fairlie Bakehouse, you have never had a pie this good - ‘big call’ some of you may be thinking... yes, it is, this is my challenge to you. It is the first bite of the famous Fairlie Bakehouse Pie that really gives you that guilty pleasure relaxed holiday feeling!
Recommendations: pork belly | salmon | chicken
Sit outside, breath in the crisp fresh air and instantly feel yourself unwind.
There is also a nice park with decent public toilets and quaint little local shops worth browsing in. Badger loved his little rest stop in Fairlie.
Only another 30 minutes drive to get to the stunning Lake Tekapo, hopefully your pie has settled as it is time for some trail run action. Tekapo has the most epic views and some really nice trails accessible right from town that help break up the long drive to Wanaka.
Starting from Cowans Hill Walkway, which is in town, you can run a really nice scenic loop including the Lake Tekapo Regional Park and the local fully fenced dog park on Lilybank Road, you can make your run as long or as short as your body would like and your schedule permits.
From Tekapo we continued south to another must stop town, Twizel.
Make a big day of it if you have time with a tramp to the summit of Ben Ohau along the Greta Track, which you will find behind Twizel. Admittedly I haven’t done this yet – but it is high on the wish list as it is on the banks of my favourite lake, Lake Ohau, and is a dog friendly trail. We will stay the night in Twizel when we finally do Greta, I can’t wait.
Another stop for stretching, sniffing and a play in the lagoon by Lake Ruataniwha. It's not far off the highway, is oh so pretty, and relatively quiet in the off season (rowing season is another story, when things get pumping!)
It’s a long day and drive to get here but so far this road trip has been the perfect combination of fun and relaxing. Holiday mode now fully in swing. It was late when we arrived so I’ll start with late night dog walks.
In the evening walking your dog by the lake at Eely Point is a must, a must! Especially with a clear night sky - in winter look south, sometimes you can see the Aurora Australis with the naked eye (not often, but if you are lucky… and this time I was pretty damn lucky! Check Aurora Watch to see if it will be strong when you are down there).
Rest day involved a wee hike from Beacon Point to the Outlet Track along the shores of Lake Wanaka. Badger met some local dogs to play with and we had a nice stroll for our tired legs. There are many more trails that continue on from here, you can make them as long or short as you like.
Mt Iron was perfect to keep up the trail-run training for some events we have coming up. Badger was welcome up there too, so sunrise trail running missions were on! It also gave Badger a chance to have a really energised run and explore before he spent the next day at home (sleeping we hoped), while we skied Cardrona.
Snowshoeing & Skiing at SnowFarm was The Highlight of our road trip on the South Island with Badger. Amazingly for a small fee Badger got his own sweet trail pass and was allowed (welcomed even!) to run the trails with us.
Basic rules applied:
- don’t let Badger (or Rocky) mess up the cross-country ski tracks
- keep him on a lead in certain areas (Badger, not Rocky)
- give the Dog Sledding dogs and other skiers right of way.
It didn’t take long to get into a flow of having Badger on the snowy trails, and once we reached the off-leash area we were all in our element. I was skiing some small back country hills with Badger chasing me. For me it was one of the best skiing days of my life (and since Badger doesn’t ski all that often it was likely his too).
Summer is also a great time to visit Snow Farm, with loads of trails to explore, huts to visit and high country vistas to take in while tramping or mountain biking with your dog. Add that to the bucket list too.
Cardrona Hotel welcomes all well-behaved dogs (after a day at SnowFarm it was hard for Badger, who was totally knackered, to be anything but well behaved!). Mulled wine, outside fire and lots of pats from other exhausted and happy skiers made for a perfect après ski session.
Back in Wanaka and bars abound on Ardmore Street. Badger had his pick of places - every single bar we went to welcomed him, and so did all the tourists. Badger was showered with attention which, I think, made his holiday even better than ours!
A sneaky tip: If you ask nicely you might be allowed take your dog UPSTAIRS to the Balcony for the most EPIC views of Lake Wanaka at Gin and Raspberry bar ... while there get the popcorn… #mustdo.
An hours drive from Wanaka through the beautiful Crown Range, we came here for a day trip.
As no doubt you already know, Queenstown is renowned for it’s snow sports and adventure activities, but trails are what we came here for.
There are loads of trails in and around town that are dog friendly. Jacks Point, the Fernhill Loop, Queenstown Hill, or simply along the shore of Lake Wakatipu . The playing fields in town are also dog friendly if your mate needs some off-leash time.
Queenstown is also a sweet spot for Tramping.
What I want to do but didn't get the chance to this time is the Rock Peak Track. This is my number one reason to come back and to cross it off that ever-growing wish list. You can access Rock Peak Track from the saddle of the Crown Range car park which is the only dog-friendly access to this mountain, and happens to start at a very high elevation so a lot of the hard work is done for you… Let me know if you have done it and how you liked it! I’m keen to get some pointers from your experience.
Dog Friendly Accommodation
Don’t think you can rock-on up to a busy resort town and get a room in any old hotel when you have a 40kg mutt in the back of the car needing to come in. It won’t happen… and no one wants to spend all night driving home due to some poor planning!
But there are loads of dog friendly accommodation options in the South Island of New Zealand. Top tip however is to check that the dogs can come inside, many ‘pet friendly’ accommodations only allow them on the porch (say what??? How is that pet friendly!?).
We used BookaBach and Bach Care. With so much choice I ended up having a hard time choosing where to stay, but was really happy with the property we decided on, it was clean, tidy and old enough that I wasn't scared of Badger messing up white carpets etc!
We took Badgers own bed and some extra sheets to throw on the couch in case he managed to start relaxing in places he shouldn’t.
Gear Packing Tips
Badger takes up a lot of space, the entire boot of our Jeep in fact. We use the roof box for all our gear so that Badger has a cosy den in the back for the long drives, it is his safe space, set up with his bed, some water and a towel to dry him off when he is muddy.
What else do we take for Badger?
- Harness, to strap him in safely when the roads get rugged.
- Long lead to tether him to the back of the car at stops.
- Running harness and lead.
- Dog booties in preparation for all the extra miles he would be doing while on holiday on new terrain (like snow and ice).
- Running pack for long days out.
- Cloud Chaser jacket for when cold and muddy in the mountains
- Fernie Jacket for nights out at the bar, chatting up the ladies.
- Ruffwear Gnawt-a-Rock kibble ball to keep him busy with food while we are out at night.
- Ruffwear Gnawt-a-Cone and a large tub of peanut butter (Badger was on holiday too!)
- His food and treats.
- Bags of shame (poo bags).
We have been home a few weeks now and I honestly keep reflecting on what a great family holiday we had. It didn’t take as much planning as I thought it would, with just a few key pointers to make everything go smoothly:
- Finding a great place to stay where Badger could be inside which allowed us to leave him at home to chill when we went out.
- Ensuring there were dog friendly trails close by.
- Having the car set up so Badger had his own safe den.
Everything else just happened naturally and was stress free.
Would I do it again? Yes! In fact, I don’t think we can go on a road trip to any where in the South Island of New Zealand leave the dog at home again as the holiday was all the better for having him with us. It really strengthened our bond, we already loved him, who knew it was possible we could love him even more! Next stop… summer and time to hit the mountain bike trails!