During July and August 2013 we used the Kiwi Experience bus to get around New Zealand so our route was planned for us – here is a run-down of each overnight location on the South Island (unless stated we spent one night there). Check out the North Island Review.
The gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and a beautiful stretch of coast across a huge bay, with Nelson on the other side. Arriving in the dark it wasn’t until the next morning when we remembered where we were that we got to experience the beauty of this place. Spending some time on the main beach just chilling out, we then took a walk to explore some more and came across a tiny beach tucked away below the main road. It was very secluded and completely empty. There were gorgeous views and beautiful beaches hidden all over. Unfortunately the wintery weather didn’t allow for much exploring of the Abel Tasman National Park however they have plenty of walking tracks on offer if you are there at the right time of year. There was also a kayaking options available.
Where we stayed: Kaiteri Lodge – Although I wouldn’t highly rate this hostel
A cute little west coast town located just off the beach. The scenery around this area is beautiful and a short drive away you’ll find the amazing pancake rocks formation. Completely natural and still not completely understood by scientist, these rocks are made of layers of different shapes and sizes making them look like a pancake stack. Westport is a typical small west coast town and home to a great hostel named Bazils. We overnighted here to break up the journey but you probably wouldn’t need to if you were on a tight schedule. Some of our group took part in activities of jet boating, horse riding and quad biking here.
Where we stayed: Bazils
Lake Mahinapua – This was our next stop however it is a Kiwi Experience special stop where you stay at the famous ‘poo pub’ and get dressed up for a fancy dress party that evening. Apart from that here really is nothing to draw you to visiting that area
Franz Josef (2 nights) & Foz
Two very separate areas but both home to glaciers. We stayed in Franz Josef for our time here and despite its tiny size I would easily have spent longer here and had a chance to explore in some decent weather. With heli-hikes to the ice glacier daily (weather dependant though) and plenty of walking to do it would be easy to fill each day. I was shocked at how small the town was – thinking it would be similar to the size of Taupo instead the town was made up of two streets. The front street housed all of the tour offices and cafes and then the back street was for accommodation. You could find lively bars or quiet hostels along with hot pools and spas – there was something for everyone. Fox is an hours drive from Franz Josef and has the bonus of being able to walk to the glacier, meaning the tours run no matter what the weather. There were also more beautiful walks and mirror lakes around Fox but the weather ruined them for us.
Where we stayed: YHA
A small Queenstown, set on Lake Wanaka and within distance of ski slopes in the surrounding mountains. The views surrounding this town are beautiful especially on a clear day. There was certainly a presence of backpackers working and living here to be close to the snow. However compared to Queenstown I couldn’t help but feel this place lacked character and anything remotely exciting going on. However I only spent one night here so maybe I didn’t get a picture of Wanaka.
Where we stayed: Mountain View
Queenstown (4 Nights)
It really lives up to the hype, the all singing, all dancing hub for backpackers. With barely any locals living in this area it’s easy to forget where you are until you look up at the mountains. The home of adrenaline activities such as; bungy jumping and canyon swinging, snow activities such as; skiing and snowboarding and slopes to suit every level be it beginner or advanced. There is no shortage of bars ranging from the famous ‘World Bar’ (well currently The Find as it got burnt down, but you get the jist) to the quirky ice bars. Not forgetting the famous Fergburger which you need to try once. Not only that, but Queenstown has Milford Sound on its door step which is definitely worth a visit! Arrow head and Cromwell are also nearby, both cute little towns but all I really remember is Mrs Jones’ fresh fruit ice cream – AMAZING.
Where we stayed: Nomads – Despite its amazing reviews and reputation I left with mixed feelings of this place
Dubed the eighth wonder of the world and you can certainly see why. Once you enter the National Park you are greeted with amazing views throughout. We were lucky enough to be there during the rain and got to see thousands of waterfalls on the way in and out of the park as well as fall down the cliffs in to the water. Unfortunately we didn’t get the typical mirror reflection because of the rain clouds but I wasn’t disappointed by this. The whole experience overall was amazing and something that you need to do once.
I was utterly shocked by this city but at the same time completely fascinated. The earthquake that shook the city over two years ago seems like it was only six months ago. With so much destruction left parts of the city closed off and streets of buildings just left as they were the day they were cleared. Look a little closer and you’ll reaslize just how much has already been done to start the clear up process. There isn’t much to do here these days but a visit to the re-start mall and quake city should certainly be on the agenda as well as visiting the old and new cathedral. Just walking around the city you will notice so many pop up bars, shops etc. you never know what you’ll find.
Where we stayed: YMCA