Put on your walking boots, make a brew, sit back, get comfy and read my story. This is New Zealand.
I think, my favourite place on earth.
I have split New Zealand into the two islands it has. North and South.
My Favourite = South! without a doubt.
My favourite part of South Island – Whahariki Beach (in the long read)
Trip Fact – We spent 81 hours driving in the 4 weeks in south island
We hired a camper van and spent 4 weeks pootling around this gorgeous island. I had been looking forward to New Zealand for a long time.
Kitted out with our giant backpacks, our home (Bongo) and a map, we checked off all the points we wanted to visit and decided we’d stop at as many other places along the way. I mean, we could do just that. Drive when we wanted, stop when we wanted and spend as long or as little wherever we wanted.
TOP TIP: I would recommend hiring your own camper van over a group trip. The timetable is down to you this way 🙂
Arriving from Sydney into Christchurch, this is where we picked up our van. From here, we drove to a friend of mines house. I hadn’t seen her in over 10 years! We stayed over and ventured in Christchurch. This was an eye-opener. After the devastation they had faced from the earthquakes they had, the city felt eerie. It was the first city centre made of sea containers that I had ever seen. Now, these are fairly popular/common places in London. Cafes were left untouched, hotels cordoned off and the clock tower, which had stopped at the point it was struck, was now standing at only half the height it was before. You simply can’t imagine what they had been through.
After a visit to Hanmer Springs hot pools for some relaxation time, some wine tasting and a walk up to sugarloaf, a hill walk in Christchurch, which gave us incredible views and was clearly a sample of what we could expect around this beautiful country, my friends gave us some tips for our journey ahead and gave us another duvet (best thing ever!) and off we went…………….
Mount Cook was our first stop. A huge snow-tipped mountain, and also to become our backdrop for our first campsite.
We had mapped out our camp sites. The company we rented from gave us a map that had all of the campsites listed and if they were paid or not.
We hiked around here and I damaged my foot. Perfect. I carried on though, because I couldn’t see enough of this place. I was in complete awe.
From Mount Cook, we nipped to Dunedin, to see another old friend, spent an afternoon being tourists at Cadbury World and then continued on a 6.5 hour drive to Lake Gunn. I had never welled up at scenery before! I know this may be odd to some of you and it certainly was to me. The views are stunning and the colour of the lakes were the bluest I have ever seen. My photos do NOT do it justice.
Finding campsites was exciting and terrifying at the same time. If we had been driving for a while, it was scary to end up at the campsite we had mapped our way to and finding just how secluded and deserted it was, especially given that another site could be miles away and it might be gross.
Some had just toilets, which were phone box sized cabin of awfulness. They stank and they had long drop toilets. We often freaked out about these, but that’s the joy of freedom I guess, a small sacrifice. We survived anyway! Other sites had paid showers, some of them with hot water too. Real treats.
I guess this is all part and parcel of the campervan experience.
It wouldn’t stop me doing it again and it certainly wouldn’t stop me advising the campervan experience to fellow travellers.
Freak out!!!!! We drove out to Milford Sounds……the road out there is loooooong and winding. It has NO petrol stations. We wondered if we could have risked it. Silly move. We got so far and absolutely had to turn back because we were running so low. Close call and not cool to even attempt not topping up. Thankfully, we had enough to get back to the petrol station.
Finally getting to Milford sounds, we took a boat trip out. We had been struck with some bad luck on this day, as it rained heavily. The fiord is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins. Due to the rain, we only saw the seals.
The scenery made me think of Avatar, the film. It was beautiful. The rain and low clouds made for fantastic “moody” photos. Definitely worth the drive out! We also got to stay in a lovely campsite on the way back, which was a secluded bay, by a lake. This was to be our first experience of Sand Flies. These are horrid little flies that will bite your ankles. I really don’t think there is a way to stop them, or anyone they won’t bite. Watch out for these. Tips at the end on how to deal with them.
TOP TIP: driving trips. DO NOT let your tank get below half.
From Milford Sounds, we headed over to Queenstown, for our first adrenaline thrill (needs its own blog!)……Nevis Bungy
Queenstown is famous for its Fergburger, its adrenaline thrills and its party atmosphere. We stayed one night. We had heard about the famous Fergburger place back in Oz. They make incredible burgers and pride themselves on their inventive ideas. We were finally able to try one, even though we queued for 40 minutes, it was most definitely worth it. I would recommend the Little Lamby.
We took a walk around the beautiful Wanaka Lake and we didn’t party. Our sole purpose for Queenstown, was to do the bungy jump. Yup, I’m crazy!
Franz Josef Glacier Hike
Along the way, we stopped at Milford Sounds, Roaring Billy Falls, Jackson Bay, Ship Creek and also the Fox Glacier view-point. So many beautiful places. I loved every days drive. We saw new beautiful scenery that really did take my breath away.
This hike. Wow. 6 hours of walking up a giant Viennetta. We met early on the day.
If you do this, you will be provided with a coat, hat, gloves, boots and a bumbag. The bumbag is to hold your crampons. These attach to your boots to dig into the ice, for grip.
When you stand at the bottom of the glacier, it really doesn’t look that bad. But once you start, you realise….it’s long. A bit like the first alleyway she faces in Labyrinth. Never ending.
Once started, we just followed our party like a row of lemmings, hacking our way up the ice steps, through tiny crevasse’s, sliding through ice holes and just making one foot go in front of the other. All I wanted, was to reach the top.
6 hours of hiking was one of the toughest activities I have ever done.
We took photos in our football team shirts to send back to the clubs. I was featured in the programme back home. (Huddersfield Town, for those wondering 😉 )
My damaged foot, from earlier in my trip, was swelling all day, but I battled on.
The view at the top of the glacier was incredible. I did feel a huge sense of achievement when we got there.
But!!! That soon got sniped away once I realised and they announced, let’s walk back down.
I was gagging for a slide……why couldn’t they have made a slide back down 😦
Once we got to the bottom……phew!!! We were given free hot pools, which were a welcome treat. Sit, relax and wonder the on earth we just did that crazy walk! Would I recommend it?
Sure! It was quite an achievement and you get some wonderful memories/photos!
Once suitably warmed and relaxed, onwards to our next camp site.
We drove to Okarita where we did not see a Kiwi bird, in fact we never saw one of those at all. The road journey wasn’t long, but it was an interesting one.
Our campsite that evening was at Goldsborough , where we saw some families panning for gold in a stream. Time for a bloody good rest! This place reminded me of FernGully.
TOP TIP – take insect repellent, as much as you can carry. Repellent candles for evenings would be useful too. Use tiger balm for the bites
We had a few days of gentle driving and leisurely stays at small campsites, so we could rest. The hike and bungy jump and long drives is a bit of an energy zapper.
As we drove through to see Punakaiki Rocks to see the “pancake rocks” and blow holes, we made a decision not to stay near there, but just stop and look. They were pretty spectacular. The sounds of the crashing waves inside the blow holes is insane. Much louder than you would imagine and a sound I can barely describe.
We spent a few hours wandering between the large holes and listening to the crashing waves, before heading to our campsite area: Gentle Annie Point. Here, we would stay for a couple of nights and venture out for a long walk to see the sea. There was also a maze here, which was a maze to find the view-point. Annoyingly, we never found the end of the maze, so never got to see the view point! A little frustrating to say the least.
Saving the best ’til last: Whahariki Beach
We had been driving for hours. Changing our minds about how far up north we wanted to drive, before finally making a decision about this campsite, by Whahariki beach.
This campsite was going to give me the most memorable, most incredible place I had ever laid eyes on.
The campsite had a small play ground, a central hub with cold water showers (something we could never quite get used to!) some peacocks and some suggested walks.
We spoke to the campsite owner after we had paid for our pitch, she told us about a walk and so once we had showered and had some food, we took the walk.
The walk began in fields. Fields with sheep. Fields with sheep and stiles, just like back home in Yorkshire. We walked for a good while, chatting to the sheep along the way.
We followed the path we were advised and it came to a stile that took us into a small wooded area, as we walked through the wooded area, we saw that it opened up onto a stunning, untouched beach.
There was no one around, no footsteps in the sand. Just me and my travel buddy.
We climbed down some rocks and stepped onto the sand. It was beautiful.
There was a large rock formation in the sea, with an archway. Gentle waves kissing the shore, one or two jellyfish splayed on the sand and just us. We saw a blue-bottle jellyfish again. These originate from Australia and we’d seen them before. THis one had travelled far. Such stingy little buggers. Avoid at all cost. Though, they do make a cracking photo.
We spent a few hours out here. Wandering, looking, taking photos, giggling and walking to the sand dunes at the other end.
We saw seals and eventually some other people. People on horses. It was a sight indeed.
After we played for a while, doing the ‘jump off the dunes and capture a photo’ game for a while, we headed back to our ‘house’ and that was it for the night.
I loved it here! You MUST go and see it for yourself.
4 weeks was ample time in South Island, but I would 100% go back.
Next stop – North Island
What I learned in New Zealand – South Island
* It can be really cold on an evening
* Every single place is utterly beautiful
* I was happy we chose to do the journey in a campervan and not on a pre-booked group trip
* Drop hole toilets are still disgusting
* Sandflies hurt!
Have you been here? What did you think?
Is there anything else you would like to know? Please drop me a message, comment below. I would be more than happy to answer any questions.