Pre travel adventure 

As a practise for our intrepid travels ahead, and as I had never traveled much of the South Island, we spent 2 weeks in a campervan, driving approximately 2,600km and seeing the ‘best of’ southern New Zealand.We began in Christchurch, where we picked up the ‘Bat Van’ from Wicked Campervans. It was cozy but perfect for a 2 week road trip of the South Island.

The Driving along the East Coast was lovely, especially through the vineyards of Blenheim and Nelson. We spent our first night in a free car park in Nelson, but the rubbish trucks did their rounds at 4.30-5am waking us up. Well mainly it was I who couldn’t get back to sleep after the ruckus.

We drove to Kaiteriteri to start our Abel Tasman hike (we were going to do 4-5 days but decided to just do 3 as we thought we were short on time). We had a quick dip in the ocean followed by a freezing shower to wake us up a bit.

We took a boat to Awaroa and walked to Bark Bay (noting how heavy our packs ended up being!). The golden sand bays were beautiful with clear blue waters. We had the DOC campground to ourselves, which was beautiful, despite the millions of sand flies attacking us! The facilities were great with flush toilets and drinking water. On the menu for dinner was canned tuna and salad with wholemeal salada crackers. We walked just over 4 hours but we could feel the effects the next day. We also noted the need for a mat to sleep on while sleeping in a tent, as the ground gets extremely cold and hard during the night.

From Bark Bay we walked to Anchorage Bay which took just over 4.5 hours as the tide was too high to take the shortcut through Torrent Bay. We did manage to see Cleopatra’s pools though which were pretty and refreshing and would be a great spot in the summer (although too cold for a swim in September). The walk along the bays was lovely and much like day 1. On the menu for dinner on night 2 was canned tuna, cheese and wholemeal salada crackers. The sand flies were slightly less savage although it may have been due to the drop in temperature and rain during the night. Again the facilities at the DOC campground were great with an outdoor shower too (we opted against it). 

From Anchorage we were meant to walk back to Kaiteriteri (I was a bit optimistic at the beginning of the walk thinking we could manage 20+km) but instead we walked 2.5hr to Apple Tree Bay and took the boat back to Kaiteriteri, being thoroughly over the rain and walking with our packs on. We drove back to Nelson to shower and do some much needed washing. We found a Chinese smorgasbord for a hot dinner and stayed at Maitai Valley Motor Camp, which was $18 for the night in our van and $2 for a shower. The owners were friendly and helpful.

We then drove down the West Coast (through Westport, Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks), Greymouth and Hokitika). We stayed in Franz Josef at the Rainforest Retreat which was our favourite place to stay. It was $35 per night and included a free 30min spa! We had a delicious burger and fries (which we struggled to finish-perhaps our stomachs have shrunk) which tasted even better after our last few dinners.. 

The next morning we ventured out into the pouring rain to see the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier. They have both receded a lot in the last few years and with the rain and clouds, it was hard to see much. We had a coffee by Lake Mathieson (which wasn’t as great as it had been made out to be, but amazing coffee).

We continued south, planning to stop in Haast, until we realised how little there was to do down there.. We continued on to Wanaka and stopped at the Blue Pools (which were grey with all the rainfall and slips) but the funky rock formations were a novelty and we made a baby one of our own. 

We continued south, planning to stop in Haast, until we realised how little there was to do down there.. We continued on to Wanaka and stopped at the Blue Pools (which were grey with all the rainfall and slips) but the funky rock formations were a novelty and we made a baby one of our own. 

Wanaka was a cute little snow town. We stayed at the Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park which was $40 per night. It had a wonderful view of Lake Wanaka and surrounding mountains. We cooked our dinner for a change and had mushroom ravioli. We walked up Mt Irons the next day, which gave us a 360 degree view of Wanaka. We drove to Queenstown via Arrowtown which was a quaint little town where we could quite happily live in (close to the mountains, Queenstown/Wanaka and not too touristy in comparison to the neighbouring towns). We walked along the lakefront and enjoyed the sunshine. We stayed at the Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park which was $50 per night (the most expensive by far). We made a stir fry for dinner and had an early night.

We got up early and drove to the Milford Sound (about 4hr drive) to do a cruise (note; we got a grab one deal for $80 for 2 for a 90min cruise but it’s cheaper if you can book it from bookme). The day wasn’t great, being overcast and windy, but the view were nice and the waterfalls were impressive. We drove back to Queenstown and stayed at Q Box which was $35 per night, where we stayed for 2 nights. The hosts were from Argentina so we asked some advice on where to go and what to do in Argentina and practised a little Spanish.


We spent the next day wandering around Queenstown in the sunshine (again), and found a bar (1876) which had a $20 steak and beer/wine, as well as $4 happy hours! We did leave very happy.

We drove onto Christchurch via Twizel and Lake Pukaki which was a mesmerising aqua colour, as many of the lakes were on the way. We stayed with Max’s best mate Tyler on the couch (a welcome comfort from the van) for 4 days. We caught up on some much needed sleep, as we had both developed a cold, and had a break from driving for a while. We walked around the broken city, seeing what remained, what had been fixed and what was still waiting to be fixed. We had some mediocre Thai from Merry Thai and otherwise cooked our own meals.

We ventured to Akaroa which was lovely, even in the rain. We found a French cafe (L’Escargot Rouge) with amazing lemon meringue tarts, chicken pies and fresh bread. The views of Akaroa as you drive in are breathtaking.

I think we are almost ready for our next adventure. South America here we come!

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