Travelling to New Zealand was an experience and a half, we were in the South Island for about 10 days.
I was lucky enough to travel around with one of the greatest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, just a bit of backstory, we met on a Contiki tour in August 2016 but we didn’t actually speak except for maybe once or twice, we started talking after the trip and next thing I knew 6 months later we were booking a trip to New Zealand. Fast forward another 4 months and we were off….
Queenstown – Day 1 and 2
Flying into a tiny airport in Queenstown was honestly a surprise I did not expect it to be so tiny. Getting a cab from the airport to the hotel set us back about $40. Not to worry if you have no planned transport to your accommodation, there are always cabs waiting at the airport as well as buses to take you where you need to go.
For accommodation, we chose to stay at Pinewood Lodge. It’s a shared accommodation meaning shared bathroom, kitchen and common area. It was perfect for us, not even a 5 minute walk into the centre of town and only minutes away from the Skyline Gondola.
Arriving into Queenstown in the afternoon what better way to start off a holiday than a quick shower to freshen up and head up to the gondola, we were not disappointed for the views. They take a photo of you as your about to go up the gondola so make sure you’re camera ready.
There is a bar and restaurant up there so we ended up hanging out for a while with a few drinks, vodka lemonade to be precise with only $8.50 each it was hard not to have a few while enjoying the spectacular views.
Tip: Don’t forget to take your passport with you if you don’t have a NZ drivers licence – they will ask you for ID and only accept passports.
Dinner we treated ourselves to a bit of Mexican and boy Queenstown was providing the goods tonight. We headed down to Coyote Grill for some of the best Mexican I’ve ever had. Definitely try the nachos and fajitas!!
For drinks the World Bar was where it’s at. Being a Sunday night it wasn’t busy at all and if Wi-Fi is what you’re after this is the place to go. I lived on Wi-Fi on my travels and this place had the best. Plus, Vodka Lemonades are only $7 each here which was a bonus too.
Second day was the day we did a bungee jump. Quick Starbucks breaky then off to the AJ Hackett store on Shotover street. The plan initially was to do the Shotover Canyon Swing, however much to our dismay they were having technical issues and after waiting a couple of hours we found out that it wouldn’t be working the rest of the day and they offered us to do the bungee jump at no extra cost (great considering it is usually an extra $100). So we did the bungee and it was the most exhilarating experience ever. Highly recommend using these guys, extremely professional, friendly and apologetic about what happened, oh and definitely do the big bungee (134m drop), go big or go home!
Checked out Ivy and Lola’s for lunch along the water which was nice. They have outdoor heaters and blankets on the chairs outside if it’s a little chilly out. Deciding to try out the local beers I went for Killarabbit Double IPA (7.2%) – let’s be honest, I went for it because of the alcohol percentage. I bungee jumped, I deserved a nice drink. Unfortunately, this turned out to be ale and let’s just say ale was not for me…
We couldn’t leave Queenstown without stopping off at Fergburger for a nice feed. OH MY GOD we were not disappointed. The wait is long to get up to the counter (15-20 minutes) then another 15-20 waiting for the burger. Do not be deterred by the wait times, the food is delicious!!!!!
If you want a few places for drinks we checked out Little Blackwood which was an intimate little bar, cute but the priciest of the 3 we went to with Vodka Lemonades at $9.50 each. POG Mahones Irish Pub has a nice homely, local atmosphere with main hearty looking meals. Quite crowded on a Monday night and Vodka Lemonades at $9 each. Surprise surprise we ended up at old faithful, World Bar, for a last couple of Vodka Lemonades in Queenstown.
Next to Fergburger you will find Fergbaker. Delicious sausage rolls to go with a coffee from The Coffee Hatch (it is literally a coffee shop in a wall on Camp Street – blink and you might miss it) to start the day before heading to Milford Sound.
Milford Sound – Day 3
Milford Sound is a 4 hour drive from Queenstown in the opposite direction away from anything. Do not try and drive there and back to Queenstown in 1 day, this is not something you want to rush. There is not a lot of accommodation available around Milford so we decided to stay in Te Anau for the night (halfway between Milford Sound and Queenstown).
The drive to Milford Sound is definitely something you do not want to rush, ensure you have plenty of petrol as the last place to get some are on the edges of Te Anau. There are short walks around Milford Sound that you are able to do if you’re short on time like us: A walk up to the lookout is a must, it isn’t very big but it does provide you with some amazing views and is definitely not to be missed.
Don’t fret, if walking isn’t your thing, they do have multiple cruises operating in Milford sound.
For dinner we dined at the Fat Duck. A little pricy but well worth the money, the pumpkin gnocchi was delicious and went down well with a nice sweet local beer.
Spending the night in Te Anau was interesting to say the least. I ended up booking at the Te Anau Holiday Park for only $75 which I thought was great, bargain right? Well turns out it was like a shed at the back of the holiday park with rats in the roof and spiders in the room. At the end of the day a room was a room.
Te Anau and Arrowtown– Day 4
In the morning, we booked in to go and see some glow worms. Such a random thing to do, we saw a flyer there advertising it so thought F##k it lets do it. It costs $81 per person, this includes the cruise over to the caves, tour itself and tea and coffee afterwards. If you have the time it is definitely something worth considering doing. It was a purely magical experience, unfortunately there are no cameras or flash photography allowed in the caves, you go approximately 200m underground and the boat you go on, your guide is steering it through the caves by feeling the walls and a wire running along the roof of the cave. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do the tour as the cave is dark anyway whatever time you go.
Next stop was Arrowtown on our way to Lake Wanaka and my gosh I did not want to leave this place. It is an adorable town and being in the middle of Autumn the colours of the autumn leaves made everything look like a dream.
Not being there for long we took a stroll around the town, and stopped in to the Arrowtown Bakery and Café where I had the most delicious hot chocolate. If a view of the town and the mountains are what you’re after without wanting to go on a hike then go to the ANZAC memorial, pay your respects to the lost soldiers and enjoy the view.
We decided to walk up Tobins Track to go to the bigger lookout. It’s quite a steep walk up hill so comfortable footwear is recommended, unfortunately I didn’t make it to the top (forgot to order soy with my hot chocolate….oops..).
Arrowtown is definitely a must do and should be on everyone’s list, 30 minute drive from Queenstown you cant go wrong.
Lake Wanaka to Lake Tekapo – Day 5
Arriving into Wanaka late we stayed at the Fairway Motel and Apartments, the woman who runs the motel was the friendliest lady who is more than happy to help with any queries you might have.
If being an early riser is your thing definitely go for a run around the lake and see the sunrise. Then hit Kai Whakapai for some breakfast along the lake front.
We had no plans for the day so on the recommendation from our lovely hostess, we did the 1 hour drive up to the car park in Raspberry Creek before starting our hike up to Rob Roy Glacier.
IMPORTANT: Majority of the drive is along unpaved gravel roads, if you have a bomb of a car like we did (we had an old Mazda 2) then take extra care as you will feel every single bump as you drive along.
There is a big car park with public toilets which you should definitely use before starting the hike. It is a 4 hour return hike so take some snacks (we took some dry biscuits) and plenty of water and be sure to wear comfortable shoes as some of the terrain can be slippery and unstable. There are 2 lookouts, the lower lookout which is the furthest you can go during the months of June-November when the chance of avalanches are high, the next lookout is another 20 minutes hike from there, this is where you can see the glacier. You can hear noises coming from the glacier, don’t be alarmed just keep an eye on the surroundings.
The drive from Wanaka to Tekapo took about 2.5 hours so after the hiking we arrived rather late. We booked a room at Peppers Mineral Springs, highly recommend, the bed was the comfiest we had stayed in. For dinner we needed something with real food so headed to Mackenzies Café Bar Grill and OH MY GOD we were not disappointed. They have a stone grill menu but we decided not to have our steaks cooking in front of us. We both ordered the Fillet Steak with a couple Coronas. Bill came to just over $100NZ but it was definitely worth it.
Lake Tekapo to Arthurs Pass – Day 6
If you want THE BEST Eggs Benedict you will ever try then head to Run 76 for a delicious breakfast. It’s a tiny café on the main strip, staff were super friendly and we couldn’t fault the breakfast or the coffee. After you’ve filled up on a delicious breakfast take a walk down to the lake and see the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Mackenzie Sheep Dog statue. Lake Tekapo was a very special place for me, definitely the highlight of the trip.
We were booking our accommodation day to day as we didn’t know where we would end up, when we got to Arthurs Pass there weren’t as many hotel options as we hoped. The drive through Arthurs Pass was pretty and definitely recommend it but unless you are going to stop and do some hikes then you should plan where you are going to stay the night. We ended up staying at the Otira Stagecoach Hotel, it is an interesting hotel to say the least, if you’re into antiques then definitely hit this place up. It is a family run business so the owners are rather friendly, the meals are served in the main dining room and the chicken burger wasn’t half bad. I know I said the bed in Lake Tekapo was comfy but this bed was on a whole other level, to be honest I didn’t have high expectations from this place due to the fact it was a little different to everywhere else we had stayed but this bed…OMG!!! We had the best sleep there that night.
Arthurs Pass to Christchurch – Day 7-8
Coming to the end of our time in the South Island we were spending the last 2 days in Christchurch. Before going to Christchurch it’s important to note that the city is still rebuilding and recovering from the 2011 earthquakes. We didn’t realise this so be prepared for a LOT of roadworks and roads to be blocked off. We stayed at Hotel 115, there’s a car park around the back with parking at $4 a day. There is the circle tram at the bottom of the hotel for easy access to get around the city.
If you want a good breakfast then head to Black Bettys café, decent Eggs Benedict and coffee, it’s rather busy so make sure you get a table. The glass top of the table is able to be removed so you can add in your own mark so people know you’ve been there and where you’re from.
The botanical gardens in Christchurch are beautiful to walk through if you want a stroll, there are numerous sports field and little lakes. We were able to find a secluded spot in the gardens with a seat which was nice to have to ourselves for a little bit. The conservatory in the gardens is a good spot to get a drink and have a rest (a little pricy for us so just a couple of waters).
If you’re looking for a place to go out on a Saturday night you might struggle to find places like we did, so on the recommendation by our hotel we went up Victoria Street. There are a few options such as The Dirty Land and The Bog Irish Pub. We went to the Irish bar then checked out a couple of other places but ended up at the pub. Such a great atmosphere with live music, seats and a dance floor. This place gets really packed with people in their early 20’s to those in their 40’s. Everyone is super friendly and it’s easy to get carried away with the drinks. We had such a great time at this place, the music played by the band were all classics that everyone knows and can sing along to so definitely wear some comfy shoes, you’re going to be moving the whole night.
Christchurch – 9-10
Unfortunately, on our free day in Christchurch it was pouring down with rain and it just didn’t stop. Rather than be cooped up in the hotel all day, I dragged Ben out of bed and decided to take a drive down to Akaroa which is a 1.5 hour drive from Christchurch. It was still raining when we got there so there wasn’t much for us to do except each lunch then head back but the drive was nice and relaxing. Although the weather was crap definitely head down to this place if you’re after something different to do. Grab some fish and chips from Bully Hayes and sit down by the water and just enjoy.
If you want a pub meal then head to The Carlton which was about a 10 minute drive from our hotel. Decent pub meal and reasonably priced.
Coming to the end of our time in the South Island was sad. It meant that our holiday was going way to quick for our liking.
The South Island of New Zealand should be a must do on everyone’s travel list, there is so much beauty to see that it really gives you a new appreciation of nature.