To quote Tyrii: “The South Island is epic.” We conclude our anti-clockwise tour and are left with beautiful memories (and a lot of photos) of some of the most amazing nature we have ever seen. During the last leg of the circuit we have a dip in the hot pools at Hanmer Springs, admire the Kaikoura ranges, go for a hike on Mount Lyford and have a brief stop in Blenheim. Then it’s back to Wellington for a quick pit stop before we slowly head north again.
The South Island keeps delivering and the stable weather continues and brings out the best. From Stewart island we head to Invercargill and start making our way up the East coast with plenty of stops. We take the scenic coastal route through the Catlins and spend a night in Dunedin. Now we are in Akaroa where we arranged to join our friends from Phileas. Last time we saw them was in Minerva reef so we have a lot of catching up to do!
Akaroa is absolutely stunning. This historic French settlement on the Banks peninsula just South of Christchurch is nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. The very deep inlet makes for sheltered bays surrounded by rugged mountains. It’s beautiful and we’re very happy we made this little detour to catch up with our friends. It’s even warm enough for a swim!
From Fiordland we drive to the southern tip of NZ and hop on the ferry from Bluff to Stewart island. The Foveaux strait is notoriously rough and in “the roaring forties” but today all is calm and the crossing is very smooth. Stewart island is a special place with a strong Scottish heritage and its main town is called Oban. It’s St Patrick’s day when we arrive so we feel obliged to have Guinness for lunch accompanied with local oysters and crayfish. Delicious!
Ninety seven percent of Stewart island is national park and there’s an 11-day long walking track all along the top of the island. We go for a couple of shorter walks, spend time on the beach in Lee bay and take a trip to nearby Ulva island. We’re in love with this place and could easily spend more time here …
It’s hard to believe but it just keeps getting better! The scenery of the South Island is stunning. It’s grand, majestic and very impressive. From Franz Josef glacier we drive South through the Haast pass with many obligatory Kodak stops and a few hikes to admire the mountains. It’s a crime we don’t have our proper camera with us (long story short: it is being repaired) so we only have our phones to take photos with.
We arrive in Makarora and decide it’s a cool place to stop. We find some accommodation and settle in for the night. Makarora is a small town in the middle of nowhere with a history of gold digging.
The next day we head for Queenstown (again with many stops on the way). To avoid being in a city we stay in Cadrona and enjoy the fresh mountain air!
Next up is Fiordland… We pick Te Anau as a base and from here do a few excursions. It’s raining when we arrive so the perfect opportunity to visit the glow worm caves across the lake. No photos allowed in the caves and we have to be superquiet to not disturb the worms. The following day the sun is back and we get to see Milford Sound in glorious sunshine. The drive from Te Anau to Milford is stunning and then the boat trip is breathtaking. So much unspoilt beautiful nature. We see dolphins and seals, spectacular waterfalls and rugged snow covered mountains.
On a rainy Monday morning at the end of February we decide it is time to go travelling. Our very generous friends Paul and Vanessa have lent us their second car so we stuff the boot with some clothes and essentials and hit the road South. We have no plan or reservations and decide to book B&B places along the way. Our first stop is Rotorua, probably the smelliest town in the world. Hot bubbling mud pools pop up everywhere as well as geishers and other volcanic phenomena and it smells like rotten eggs. We stay for two nights and have a lovely walk in the Redwoods forest where it is not smelly.
Next stop is Tongariro, a national park with ski resort in winter. We stay in Chateau Tongariro which feels like an old English manor but without the dress code ( In New Zealand nobody seems to ever get dressed up when on holiday). The Alpine crossing is supposed to be beautiful but a whole day walk is a bit much for the boys so we do a more gentle walk in the morning which is very enjoyable for everyone.
The next leg of the journey takes us further South and after a brief stop in Taupo and Whanganui we arrive in Wellington where we receive a very warm welcome from Seathan’s uncle Colin and aunt Susie. I’m pleasantly surprised with Wellington, it’s a fun, vibrant and laid-back city by the water. There’s an arts festival on and dragon boat racing and we visit the very educational Te Papa museum. We also catch up with Seathan’s dear friend Simon and his wife Debra and their kids. It’s been 25 years since Seathan and Simon saw each other so there’s a lot of catching up to do! We finish the afternoon with a walk through the botanical gardens and the next day take the ferry to the South Island.
We alight in Picton and head west to Queen Charlotte Sound. Our first stop is Ngakuta bay where we find a B&B right by the waterfront ran by an couple from northern England who live there with their four kids. After a lovely cooked breakfast the next morning we head further west and admire the stunning scenery on the way. We take a short detour to Okiwi bay and then head to Nelson for the night where we are lucky to find a B&B late in the afternoon with amazing views over the harbour.
From Nelson we head to Abel Tasman and we drive over the hill to Golden Bay where we find a great B&B in Takaka ran by a Belgian couple from Lint who moved to New Zealand four years ago. This is a beautiful area and we decide to a stay an extra day as there is so much to see. We visit springs and waterfalls both accompanied by a lovely walk and feast our eyes on amazing scenery. There is one negative though: sand flies. Luckily they don’t seem to bother the boys…
From Abel Tasman we head further South although we have to head back over the hill first as there is no way through the northwestern tip of the South Island. We get some miles (or rather kilometres as we are in NZ) under our belt and drive all the way to Hokitika to discover all accomodation is booked and there is a weird food festival on. It’s still only mid afternoon so we decide to go further and find a lovely B&B underneath Franz Josef glacier. It’s getting dark when we arrive but we get to see the snow on the mountains at breakfast.