Everyone said the only way to see the south island was to take a campervan- and they were right. It’s the only way to see everything as there are many amazing sites outside of towns- in fact if you relied on hotels you would be severely restricted as there often isn’t much- and what little there is is expensive!
South island New Zealand is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. We have seen some amazing things on this trip but the entire island is breathtaking. Just driving down the road prompted frequent photo breaks and picnics. It’s home to some natural wonders (Fox Flacier and Milford Sound to name a few) and there are so few people here its hard to find a supermarket so there doesn’t appear to have the negative human impact that we’ve seen just about everywhere else.
Our home for 2 weeks- a little old with 140,000 miles but all the comforts of home including shower, toilet, kitchenette and heater. And we bought an external DVD player for the laptop for movie nights:
We started in Christchurch and did a circle anticlockwise. Here are the top destinations and what we did there.
Kaikoura- Whale watching! We did a whale watching tour which is a must and saw a sperm whale for the first time. We only saw one for about 4 minutes whilst breathing on the surface, then it swam back down.
Pelorus Bridge- This was a beautiful spot where we camped without power for the first time. We got a quiet site right on the river and enjoyed hiking around the area. On the drive, we stopped at Villa Maria winery and chocolate shop for a few necessities:)
Panoramic of our campsite on the Pelorus river:
Hiking the next morning down the river:
Greymouth- Just passing through on the way to the glaciers but as it’s home to Monteith’s Brewery, we thought it only right that we did a little beer tour.
Heading out of Greymouth toward the glaciers brought us past the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes- an interesting geological anomoly of rocks that look like stacks of pancakes. It was too calm for any blowhole action but we did enjoy watching a large pod of Hector’s dolphins (the smallest of dolphin species) playing in the sea near the coast.
Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers- we ended up spending 4 days in as the weather was rainy and we had some flexibility. There are two towns about 20km apart so we spent time in both and visited Lake Matheson, cafe, parks etc. as we waited for the sun which finally came out to deliver glorious weather for our ice climbing day.
Hiking back from Lake Matheson between rain showers- Mt Cook is in the distance but covered with cloud:
John’s warm up climb on Fox Glacier:
Hiking between climbs through sometimes narrow spaces!
Last climb of the day- a real challenge:
Milford Sound- boat tour and camping. There is only one place to stay- Milford Sound Lodge. It’s in the valley surrounded by 360 degrees of towering mountains. We did a 3 hour boat tour in the morning before all the day tour buses get in- and it was great. Milford Sound boasts great views in every direction, 2 permanent waterfalls, about a million temporary ones, dolphins, penguins, seals and minerals so abundant in the rock you can see it from the boat.
View of the sound from the carpark on the way to the boat:
One of about 35 dolphins that swam with our boat for 20 minutes:
View from the mouth of the fjord heading back to the dock:
Seals sunning on the rock:
Heading out of Milford Sound, we stopped and enjoyed a picnic lunch on the side of the road with this view:
We managed to fit a couple more hiked in between Milford Sound and Queenstown but as we had spent so much time at the glaciers, we pretty much went straight back to catch out flight back to Auckland. We accomplished everything we wanted to in South Island and was surprised most by the beauty everywhere and how quiet it was- few people, little noise and lots of nature:)
John and mountains- Mt Cook is to the right but not in the photo, it was covered in cloud but still a beautiful hike:
An unexpected treat driving by Lake Pukaki, glass calm water and snow capped mountains: