New Zealand: South Island
When we arrived New Zealand we flew from Sydney to Christchurch. But we were not the only ones to make this mistake and it was due to STA travel advising us that it was better to fly to Christchurch. Most people flew into Auckland and started in the north island. We realised we made a mistake when searching for tours from Christchurch, most of them started in Auckland. So make sure you start in Auckland as you will have many more tour options.
In the end it worked out ok and we found the ‘Funky Chicken’ tour which included Milford Sound and this tour was with the KIWI EXPERIENCE. The only problem with the small mistake we made was that we ended up back in Christchurch twice. For those of you who have been in New Zealand before, you will know Christchurch resembles a bleak city full of rubble due to the earthquake. When we paid for the Funky Chicken we were lucky there was a sale on and it was $550 dollars. We made sure to pay for this before we left home as we knew the NZ bus tour was going to be expensive. Now that there is not sale it cost $1159 for the bus tour only. Which is expensive but it is completely worth it as you get to see tourist spots at your ease and you don’t have to worry about driving on the dangerous NZ roads ( and there are many accidents on these roads). The only downside of the KIWI experience is that it does bring you to places you may not necessarily want to be in and people on our bus requested to skip areas but this was not an option. I will discuss this in more detail below.
My travel partner was in New Zealand before and knew that we shouldn’t spend long in Christchurch so our first journey was 7 hours to Kaiteriteri. Here you can visit Abel Tasman National Park or go kayaking for $99. The beach was beautiful and resembles Thailand beaches the sand is yellow. We didn’t visit Tasman Park but we did walk to little Kaiteriteri and make sure you do that because it was beautiful and the area is luxurious. They give you options to stay here more than one night but we felt 1 night here was enough. I highly recommend you visit Kaiteriteri. On the way from Christchurch to Kaiteriteri you will stop at Nelson Lakes National Park. Everybody has a photo in their New Zealand album of these lakes, there are no words.
The two stops after Kaiteriteri were disappointing and a waste of time. The next stop was Westport. When we arrived they brought us to the supermarket to stock up. Most people brought a cooler bag around to each hostel with food like bread noodles and pasta. New Zealand is the most expensive country I have ever been in. I advise you to take the cooler bag option if you are on a budget. We did dine out from time to time but I would much prefer to spend money on new experiences. Westport was so disappointing, it appeared to be like a ghost town. Sometimes the KIWI experience brings you to hostels because they aim to satisfy the hostel owner as it could be a friend of the family owned business (KIWI EXPERIENCE). I definitely only spent one night in Westport and I would not have visited the ghost town if I had that option. Everybody thought the same.
After Westport we visited Lake Mahinapua, the driver was the same age as us (26) and began to open up to us after he had some alcohol. He informed us that the only reason we visit Lake Pua is because the owner of KE owns the hostel/pub. Nonetheless, we all really enjoyed the visit here even though we didn’t leave the hostel because it was isolated and no shops or tourist spots were around us. Tonight was a fancy dress night and when we were in Westport we were given time to buy some fancy dress. The theme was anything but clothes. The main thing wr enjoyed about this hostel was that seven of us girls spent hours in the outdoor jacuzzi with some drinks and it was really enjoyable. One man on our bus did ask to skip this location as he was made aware of the fact you could be in Ireland/London and it doesn’t give you a Kiwi Experience. He wasn’t able to skip it. We had to pay $45 dollars for the hostel and a breakfast the next morning.
The next stop made us realise why we visited New Zealand, we arrived in Franz Josef. The hostel didn’t have that hostel feel, we had a spacious kitchen, an outdoor jacuzzi that could fit 20 people, an outdoor sauna, glaciers and some fabulous views. It was truly amazing and out of this world. I recommend staying here for two nights and make sure you indulge in the pizza night, all you can eat pizza for $20. Although my friend did think this was too expensive and I did only eat two slices, so it depends how much you will eat. Unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy the scenic heli-flight over the glacier, nor could we hike on Franz Josef because of the weather it was cancelled that day. Oh well! It just makes for another excuse to return. The first day we went kayaking for $99, it was so worth it and I never laughed as much. Mainly because I was awful at steering and we spent most our kayaking trip in the bushes which made it even more fun. The views were absolutely incredible and the pictures look like postcards. I recommend you hold off doing kayaking anywhere else and do it here! Make sure you bring plenty of mosquito repellent on this trip especially if you are like me and allergic to them. After our kayaking trip we returned to our jacuzzi and spent most of the afternoon relaxing before the party began. That night we tried many cocktails, enjoyed the dj and some dancing.
The next morning in Franz we went on the tartare track walk, there are so many walks/ tracks in NZ and this was one in particular that was full of excitement. Not too many people know about this walk. After the sun goes down, grab your torch and head off on this glow worm walk. The cave was full of water so bring some old shoes and thick socks as you will get soaked like we did. We travelled through the whole tunnel which took 20 minutes, to realise the other side was closed. It reminded me of the Chi Chi tunnels in Vietnam but lucky enough it was not as claustrophobic.
With the many memories in my mind and an overwhelming feeling of joy that I experienced the wonderful location of Franz Josef we left to stay the night in Wanaka. Make sure you visit Mount Cook and the Wanaka tree here. You should probably stay two nights to experience it fully. Accommodation cost 35 dollars and there is a supermarket next to the hostel.
I was so excited to make it to Queenstown after Wanaka as many people told me it is the best location in New Zealand. Well they were right. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD. The mountains reflected on lake Wakatipu. Queenstown is the prime location for extreme sports. I witnessed many people doing sky dives and bungy jumps which is the highest in the world. My friend did the canyon swing. Unfortunately I was brace enough to get on the plane and preferred my feet on the ground. I did do one extreme sport and there were no regrets. So if you are like me and completely terrified of heights, the shotover jet was the worlds most exciting jetboat ride. My stomach hurt after it from laughing so much, also from feeling like a bag of nerves as it reached speeds of 85 kph in a narrow river with large rocks. It was memorable and I’m so glad I worked up the courage to do it. We stayed in Queenstown for three days but there were so many nice restaurants and tourist attractions that I wish we stayed for longer. There is a cable car at the top of the mountain that brings you down to the centre of the town. Make sure you do that. Queenstown was New Zealand’s party central and we did go out and let our hair down every night. From Queenstown you can do the day trip to Milford Sound which is a must!!
After Queenstown we visited Lake Tekapo and this was my favourite spot in the whole of New Zealand. It was a very quiet village but the experience there was different to Queenstown as it was quieter and full of fantastic Pinterest moments. Here you can watch the stars over the church, it was like nothing I have ever seen before. We spotted many astronomers with the equipment required to spot the Milky Way. We however did not have this equipment and it was still phenomenal. There was not one part of the sky that didn’t have stars. You could do professional stargazing for $200 but we didn’t feel the need as some people let us look through their telescopes for free when we got there.
That next morning I climbed Mount John, it took about 2 hours but as you can see it was worth it!
The following night we watched the stars and the sun go down from the outdoor hot pools. Every moment in Lake Tekapo kept getting better that was until we thought it would be fun to go glamping. We were frozen but it was all part of the fun! Moments like those make you remember your trip.
After Tekapo we left for the north island which meant we had to do Christchurch again and that 7 hour drive on the first day. If I was doing it again I might do Tekapo and fly from Christchurch to Wellington but we slept during the drive anyway so it didn’t matter too much and we didn’t miss anything. There are many ways to navigate around New Zealand and really it is what works best for you. The main tour bus companies are KIWI which is a younger crew ( we were the oldest and people didn’t let us forget that either) or Stray bus which is an older crew. Some bought cheap cars and sold them at the end of their journey. Personally because kiwi was half price and as we also made some friends for life, I know we made the right decision. New Zealand was very expensive and 100 dollars a day was a realistic budget and sometimes I spent more depending on activities. We stayed in NZ for 3 weeks and I spent $2500. The South Island was incredible and I’m so glad it was on my bucket list.