New Zealand was somewhere my husband and I had always dreamed of travelling to. We both managed to get 2 months off work, and decided to go to New Zealand for 5 weeks, and added on the Cook Islands, Hong Kong and Macao towards the end of our trip.
My husband had always wanted to go on a campervan holiday, and New Zealand is best explored by campervan as it caters so well for campers.
We had always wanted to venture to New Zealand but always said we would only go if we could spend at least 3-4 weeks there, as it’s so far away to travel to. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do everything that we wanted to do in just 2 weeks alone. Even though we managed to do all the main sites in 5 weeks, we would both love to travel back and spend some more time there.
When you travel to New Zealand it’s clear to see why it’s a prime location for film and TV sets. New Zealand is unlike anywhere else I have traveled to before. The landscape is so diverse and goes from so many extremes.
The North and South Islands are completely different from one another. The North Island is much more populated than the South Island, although all of New Zealand only has a total population of 4.5 million people. The North Island is home to 3 quarters of the total population and is home to the largest city in New Zealand – Auckland.
The South Island is known for its mountains, lakes, glaciers, the southern alps and a cooler climate. When travelling to New Zealand I would always advise to try and travel to both islands as they are so different from one another.
In this blog I am going to write about the places that we visited in the South Island, and what I would recommend and some helpful tips.
Picton will be the first Town you come across on the South Island when coming in on the ferry from the North Island. Picton is located in the north of the South Island, and is located within a sound. It is the main Traveller port and is busy in the summer months.
There isn’t a great lot to do in Picton, however there are several museums, and the lovely harbour area. There are also some great restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques. We spent our first night on the South Island in Picton as we arrived late at night on the ferry. We also spent a few hours walking around Picton when we came back prior to catching the ferry back up to the North Island.
Sights & Activities
Blenheim is a small agricultural town about 15 miles or so from Picton, it’s not the most exciting town however if you have some time to kill before getting the ferry back it’s worth having a wander around.
As we drove from Nelson to Picton we stopped at Pelorus Bridge it is one of the filming set locations for the film The Hobbit. The Bridge crosses over the Pelorus River and there is a scenic reserve. The river is crystal clear and there are forest glades, waterfalls and rock pools to explore nearby as well as several walks and hikes.
The waterfront area near Picton’s town centre is lovely to walk around on a sunny day, there’s a small beach area, a war monument and some lovely views of the surrounding sound.
Food & Beverage
Cafe Cortado has a prime location on Picton’s Waterfront and has a South American themed menu, and offers a selection of tapas, seafood and pizzas. We didn’t eat here but stopped here for a drink prior to getting the ferry as it has a really good atmosphere here and some outside seating.
Waikawa Bay Kiwi Holiday Park
Waikawa Bay Kiwi Holiday Park is only 5 minutes drive from Pictons ferry terminal, we stopped here for our first night on the South Island and if arriving late it is a great place to stop for the night.
The park offers a range of accommodation options ranging from cabins, self contained units, motel, tent and campervan sites.
The campsite is clean with lots of facilities such as a swimming pool and volleyball court etc. The campsite also offers great views of the bay.
So the award for my favourite place in the whole of New Zealand goes to Kaikoura! I know it’s a big statement but I completely fell in love with Kaikoura, and it’s breath taking scenery and wildlife, and it’s cute and quirky little high street and the friendly welcoming locals.
We travelled to Kaikoura after arriving in Picton and stopping there for the night. Originally we were only going to stop for a night and ended up staying 3 nights.
Kaikoura is an absolute must when travelling to New Zealand. I also had one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life getting to swim with wild dolphins in the ocean, which is honestly one of the best things I have ever experienced.
Here you can also book on whale watching tours which we did but unfortunately due to bad weather the tour was cancelled.
Sights & Activities
Fyffe House is Kaikoura’s oldest building which has survived since 1844, by colonial settlers using whale bones as foundations. It’s a small two storey cottage with gardens. It is steeped in history and used to be a whaling station. We didn’t go into look around the museum, we just went to have a look at the outside of it, as it is positioned on Kaikoura’s peninsular.
Kairkoura’s Dolphin Encounter was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. I had always wanted to swim with dolphins but never would have swam with them in captivity, as I don’t agree with it morally. So when I found out you could swim with wild dolphins in New Zealand I knew we had to book on!
The tours have been awarded certificates of conservation, and invest money back into wildlife conservation and research. When we arrived at the centre we got suited and booted into our wetsuits, and were given a safety and information briefing, the video explained that sometimes the dolphins aren’t interested in coming up to humans and that if they did we were really lucky, and it also explained how we were the dolphins entertainment not the other way around.
After the briefing the tour then buses you over to the boats, there are only 3 tours that run a day each with approximately 25 people on which are split between 2 boats, so it doesn’t feel crowded and overly touristy. Once on the boats you get some great views of Kaikoura’s coast and drive out about 30 minutes to find the dolphins. When we found them there was literally thousands of dusky dolphins jumping in and out the water.
The tour company doesn’t feed the dolphins or anything to tempt them over so everything feels very natural, we got into the water and within seconds we had dolphins swimming around us to come and investigate what we were, the tour also advised to make noises as the dolphins are intrigued by new sounds.
This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life getting up close to wild dolphins they are so intelligent and to hear them squeaking and communicating with each other under the water really is a once in a lifetime experience. We also had one dolphin in particular that kept circling us and coming up close to our faces to have a look through our masks. They are truly stunning. We spent a good hour in the water and then moved onto another spot for some more dolphin encounters.
This tour was such good value for money it was approximately NZ$85 which is so worth it, I also think because the tour company down played that it is the dolphins choice to come up to you, I wasn’t expecting too much and the fact the dolphins were so interested it was amazing.
One tip I would suggest is taking sea sickness tablets prior to the trip as both my husband and myself were both sick on the boat along with a few others, other than that this tour is great and is a must when in Kaikoura, try to book in advance to avoid disappointment, as the tours do get booked up quickly, however you can put your name down for any cancellations which is what we did and managed to get on one of the tours luckily.
The same company which offers the dolphin encounter also offers tours such as a seal encounter and an albatross tour. If you have time it would be worth booking onto one of these too, as there is so much wildlife to see in Kaikoura.
Kaikoura High Street
Kaikoura’s small high street is full of quirky charm and is so cute. It has lots of great little places to eat and some great boutiques and gift shops. While staying in Kaikoura make sure to park up and have a wander up and down, and chat to the friendly locals.
The Kaikoura Museum is newly refurbed and opened just after the earthquake in 2016, it used to be in a small building just outside of the town, now it is in the town centre in a brand new purpose built building and has tons of information about Kaikoura, it’s history and it’s residence.
The museum has tons of artefacts and memorabilia covering a variety of topics from nature, Maori and colonial, Kaikoura’s history and other quirky artefacts. You can easily spend an hour or so visiting this museum and it is run by some friendly locals who can tell you lots more information about the area.
Point Kean Seal Colony
The Seal Colony in Kaikoura is a must, it’s free and great to see the seals in their natural habitat. There are some amazing views of the coast here and a few small walks to do near by. You can also see tons of sea birds too. Just make sure to wrap up warm, when we went it was a particularly windy day! We also managed to stumble into a seagull nesting ground and nearly got savaged by protective parents so take care!
Southern Paua & Pacific Jewels
Southern Paua and Pacific Jewels is a large shop at the end of the high street which sells Paua Shells and a variety of jewellery. If you are looking for some souvenirs to take home, this shop is great and just next door is a really cute and quirky gift shop and retro hair dressers, they also have surf boards and surf wear for sale and hire. While wandering up the high street go and check it out, there is also parking right outside too.
Whale Watch Kaikoura
Whale Watch Kaikoura is meant to be amazing we heard so many good reviews about this tour. We booked onto the tour however unfortunately due to bad weather the tours got cancelled that day and it was our last day in Kaikoura, we were so disappointed that we didn’t get chance to go, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you visit Kaikoura be sure to add this to your to do list.
Food & Beverage
Bean Me Up
If your like my husband and need constant coffee pick me ups this quirky little coffee stall along the high street is great and serves up a selection of drinks and snacks and has a small seating area too.
This cute little bakery in Kaikoura has a huge range of pastries, cakes, sandwiches, pies and much much more. If you want a little snack for on the go or a quick and easy breakfast or lunch snack then this place is a great find. It’s cheap and cheerful and fuss free. I really recommend the pies on a cold day to warm you up.
Kaikoura Seafood BBQ
This has to be one of the best food stalls I have visited, the location is lovely and overlooks the sea, the food is fresh and delicious. It’s no frills but that adds to the charm of this little place and it’s great value for money for what you get and great if your on a budget.
The Craypot is a restaurant and pub with a great selection of food and drinks. We didn’t stop here for food but did stop in here for a few drinks as it had a lovely little sofa area complete with crochet throws to kick back and relax on after a day out at sea.
Tiki Takeaways is towards the end of the high street and serves up tasty fish and chips as well as some other fast food options. This has to be one of the cheapest places we ate at in New Zealand for 2 portions of fish and chips it came to approximately £7. It was one of the best fish and chips we had ever had and if your in New Zealand for a while food costs can start to add up a bit so it’s great to find little cheap places to eat that deliver great food.
Kaikoura Alpine Pacific Kiwi Holiday Park
We stayed in Kaikoura Alpine Pacific Kiwi Holiday Park for 3 nights, like all other Kiwi parks it has excellent facilities and a good location. We signed up to the Kiwi card here which gave us discount on the dolphin encounter which was well worth it. While sleeping 1 night here we did experience a small earthquake tremor which can be expected, as Kaikoura is still experiencing a few aftershock tremors from its 2016 earthquake.
Christchurch wasn’t my favourite city in New Zealand that we visited. However I loved all the street art around everywhere, and just walking around the city there is so much colourful art to see. I didn’t feel there was tons of things to see here so we only spent half a day in Christchurch.
Christchurch is still undergoing lots of rebuilding work from the damage of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. While we were there it was great to see it bouncing back and tons being invested back into the city. There is so many repurposed shipping containers and lots of new modern buildings, you can’t come to the South Island without making a stop in Christchurch.
Sights & Activities
Cathedral Square is located in Christchurch’s city centre, and it has the remains of the Christchurch Cathedral which was brought down by the 2011 earthquakes, which destroyed its stain glass windows and 63meter high spire. Many of the heritage buildings which were also set around the square were also badly damaged.
There is still much debate going on with what to do with the ruins of the Christchurch cathedral some want it rebuilt, while others want it adapted and others want it removed completely. At the moment you can still go and see the ruins.
A modern sculpture which survived the earthquakes was the Chalice which was created in 2001 to commemorate the new millennium.
Christchurch City Centre
Christchurch city centre is a great place to walk around it’s so colourful considering all the damage that the earthquakes caused. Christchurch has an amazing street art scene, it’s a great city to with lots of artwork to take in. In the city centre you can see the old fashioned trams still running too.
Christchurch still has lots of building work continuing and you can still see lots of damage from the 2011 earthquakes.
Re:Start Mall is really quirky and was created after the 2011 earthquakes. It’s made out of lots of repurposed shipping containers. It has a variety of little boutiques and shops ranging from fashion and big brands to gift shops and local arts and crafts.
Food & Beverage
The Re:Start Mall also has a selection of street food stalls selling everything you can think of from Italian, greek, middle eastern, Mexican and Asian cuisine along with many others. While we were here we tried out J-Bings which offer Chinese street food wraps, they are absolutely delicious and have crunchy wonton crisps inside.
Twizel is a great town to base yourself for all of the natural scenes just outside of the town. I have to admit Twizel wasn’t my most favoured of places we stayed in. I found the town to be a bit dull, and a little bit dated, however don’t let that put you off as it’s a great base to explore other areas around it, as it is really central to everything to see around this part of New Zealand, as well as having a few little restaurants and bars to keep you occupied in the evenings.
Sights & Activities
Lake Pukaki is the largest of 3 almost parallel alpine lakes running along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin. Lake Pukaki is a glacial lake that lies beneath Mount Cook. Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo are roughly 30 minutes drive apart and driving between them you can take in breath taking views of the mountain ranges. As well as a gorgeous viewing point at Lake Pukaki there is also lots of tramping tracks around this area to explore.
Lake Tekapo is also located in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island and lays at the base of the southern alps. The lake is absolutely stunning with snow peaked mountains and the turquoise blue waters of the Lake. The lake is also a hydro lake producing electricity for New Zealand’s main grid.
Tekapo is part of the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world, meaning the night’s sky is unbelievably clear to see stars, and sometimes even the Southern Lights. There are several stargazing tours you can book onto. Lake Tekapo is the second largest of 3 lakes running north to south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin, the others are Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau.
At the southern end of Lake Tekapo township, is the stone Church of the Good Shepherd, which is a popular tourist attraction.
Lindis Pass is a Road that links up the Mackenzie Basin to central Otago. The Road runs through stunning valleys and at certain times of the year you can see snow peaked mountains. There are some of the best views here, the landscape is vast and unspoilt, it makes you really realise how small we are in comparison.
Driving along Lindis Pass is a must, this is one of the reasons we loved our road trip around New Zealand because of the empty roads like this, with the most stunning landscapes that you can enjoy while driving along on the open road, with lots of places to pull over and admire the surroundings.
Mount Cook is a 700 square kilometre mountain range and national park, it is part of a world heritage area. A large area of the park has snow covered mountains all year round. Mount Cook itself is New Zealand’s largest mountain.
When visiting Mount Cook pay a visit to the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre located in the Mount Cook Village, there is a whole range of information and displays in there as well as information and advice on weather, tracks and helpful tips etc. There is also a gift shop and booking agent there too.
Unfortunately when we went up there the weather took a turn, and was raining and really misty so we didn’t walk along on any of the bush walks as visibility was not good. Instead we drove along the Mountain ranges. We were really disappointed and this is somewhere we would love to go back to and visit.
New Zealand Alpine Lavender Farm
New Zealand Alpine Lavender Farm is another great place to stop off at on the way to Mount Cook. It’s got a large beautiful field filled with lavender, and a small farm shop selling lots of lavender products from soaps, toiletries, bath salts and other souvenirs. It’s free to enter and to take some great photos, it’s also got some seating to relax in and enjoy the lovely smell of lavender.
Lupin fields are located as your driving into Twizel and the surrounding areas. Lupins are gorgeous bright coloured purple, pink and blue flowers which bloom between November – December. It’s lovely to see fields and fields of beautiful bright flowers in bloom, it’s also a great photograph opportunity.
Food & Beverage
Jasmine Thai Restaurant
If your a big Thai food fan like myself then go Jasmine Thai restaurant for your Thai food fix, they have a large selection of Thai food on their menu it’s simple and non fussy and well priced. It’s also located in the centre of Twizel town.
Ministry of Works Bar & Eatery
Ministry of Works Bar and Restaurant is a must go to if your craving comfort food. It’s menu ranges from pizzas, chicken wings to burgers etc. It’s portions are a good size so you definitely won’t leave feeling hungry. It’s also a great place to go for a drink after a long day of exploring the wilderness and nature beyond Twizel.
Twizel Holiday Park
Twizel Holiday Park is a small holiday park which also offers a selection of cabins. The grassed site was really nice and we parked up in a lovely spot underneath a tree. The shower and kitchen facilities were also clean and well equipped too. Twizel Town centre is just a few minutes up the road.
When visiting Queenstown and Wanaka a lot of people compare them. However I found even though they have a lot of similarities with both of them sitting on a beautiful lake setting, and gorgeous mountain range overlooking the towns. Both towns have quite a different astmoshere and draw different crowds, Wanaka is also cheaper in comparison to Queenstown.
My husband absolutely fell in love with Wanaka it was his favourite place in New Zealand after Milford Sound. The town has quite a laid back atmosphere with lots of sophisticated bars and restaurants.
Sights & Activities
Bradrona is a quirky tourist attraction, we drove past it as we were leaving Wanaka. It’s a long fence covered with hanging bras to raise money for breast cancer. It started out as just a few random bras that just appeared there, and over time more and more kept getting added. In 2015 they rebranded it Bradrona and placed donation boxes to raise money. Pull over and make a donation and get a great photo op here.
On a hot day Lake Wanaka is just the perfect area to relax. The views of the lake and mountains are just breathtaking, and the lake is so clear and clean it’s perfect to go for a dip or take a swim to cool off. There is a rocky beach to sunbathe on and have a picnic too.
As well as lots of rest and relaxing on Lake Wanaka, if you do like a bit more action there are water sports readily available, such as paddle boarding and kayaking etc. There are lots of hiking and tramping trails around Lake Wanaka, if you don’t like sitting still for to long.
When we visited it was a lovely hot day and we spent all day lounging around and swimming in the lake, and made a picnic which we enjoyed with the most incredible views. If you do have time I would recommend just spending a full day relaxing and enjoying the lake as it really is beautiful.
That Wanaka Tree
Just around from the main rocky beach there is a small car park where you can go see the famous Wanaka Tree also known as the Lone Tree, it is one of the most photographed areas in Wanaka.
Wanaka Artesian Farmers Market
Every Thursday between 3pm – 6pm Wanaka hosts an Artesian Farmers Market. Which is held on the green just in front of the Lake, there is a selection of stalls selling arts and crafts as well as farmers selling fresh produce and artesian foods. It’s got an excellent atmosphere so if you are in Wanaka on a Thursday go and take a wander over to it.
Food & Beverage
Amigos Mexican Grill
If like us you love Mexican food go to Amigos. They have a huge selection and variety of tacos which were delicious, as well as cocktails. There is also a good choice of sides which were only NZ$5 each.
Big Fig restaurant is a very hipster restaurant but we loved it in there. It serves up fresh organic food which is quick and delicious. You choose the size bowl you want and then choose what you want to fill it with from the counter. It was well decorated and casual inside it was a little pricey for what was basically a posh cafe but the food was so tasty. You can eat in or take away.
Speights Ale House
Speights Ale House is a chain around New Zealand it’s similar to Wetherspoons like we have here in the UK. The drinks are affordable and they have a variety of beers and other drinks on offer. In Wanaka the Speights there has an excellent location, right in the town centre overlooking the lake, and has an outside seating area which is always good on a hot day. The staff here were also really friendly and welcoming.
Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park
Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park is located 5 minutes drive away from the centre of Wanaka town. Its location is ideal and has lovely green pitches and lots of trees. Again as it is a Kiwi holiday park all facilities were to an excellent standard, which we found at all Kiwi parks we stayed at.
We stayed in Te Anau over Christmas as it’s a great location for visiting Milford Sound, as the Milford Sound area only has one DOC campsite which has no shower facilities. So most people tend to use Te Anau as a base as it is the gateway to Fiordland.
The town sits on Lake Te Anau which is New Zealand’s second largest lake. The lake was gauged out by a glacier and the lake itself is extremely deep.
Te Anau is a pretty sleepy town but it does have a reasonably good selection of bars and restaurants as well as a high street with a selection of little shops.
Sights & Activities
Lake Te Anau
Lake Te Anau is stunning like most of New Zealand’s lakes it has a beautiful backdrop of forested mountains. There isn’t much going on in or around the lake, but it’s lovely to take a stroll along and we also grabbed some chai lattes from a nearby cafe and went and sat on one of the benches down by the lake admiring the view and watching the world go by.
Punanga Manu O Te Anau
Punanga Manu O Te Anau is a free bird sanctuary with large aviaries set by the lake. It gives visitors the chance to see some of New Zealand’s rarest birds which normally would be difficult to spot in the wild. There is an information board and donation box by the entrance which provides information on the work they do here. It’s not very large and you could spend an hour or so here.
A trip to New Zealand isn’t complete without a visit to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is stunning and you will probably find you haven’t been anywhere quite like it in the world. With huge mountains rising out of the waters, cliffs covered in forests and cascading waterfalls. Milford Sound is unique as it has freshwater sitting on top of warmer seawater and attracts a variety of marine life.
We stayed in Te Anau on Christmas Day and booked a kayaking tour for Milford Sound for Boxing Day, it was an early start but so worth it. There isn’t really anywhere to stay in or around Milford Sound, so most people tend to stay in Te Anau or Queenstown and normally day trip there.
We decided to book the Milford Cruiser Tour with Roscos Milford Kayaks which started at 8.30am, so we left Te Anau early as it takes about 2 hours to get there and wanted to allow abit of extra time to make sure we found it ok. We didn’t fancy the packed tourist boats and really wanted to be as close to the water as possible. My top tip would be to book onto an early tour so you beat the busy bus loads of people coming into Milford Sound.
The tandem Kayaks were excellent as my husband did most the paddling while I sat and chilled and took lots of photos. Roscos take you out in small groups with approximately 8-10 people at a time and they give you a full safety briefing before hand, as well as kitting you out with thermals and waterproofs and everything you will need out on the water.
I cannot recommend Roscos enough this to us was the best way to see Milford Sound in all its glory, it really does make you feel so small in comparison. We were also lucky enough to see some dolphins right by our kayaks. The guide explained that sometimes Dolphins come right into the sound to clean themselves of any parasites in the freshwater. Seeing dolphins that close to our Kayaks was the cherry on top for me.
Mirror Lakes is a good place to stop off on your way to or way back from Milford Sound. These small lakes provide amazing reflective views of the Earl Mountains. This is an easy walk suited to all ages and only 5 minutes walk from the car park. There are some wooden viewing platforms along the lakes and on a calm and sunny day the reflections are really clear.
The Chasm Walk
The Chasm Walk is another great place to stop at while visiting Milford Sound. There are 2 foot bridges over the Cleddau River which offer great views of a series of powerful waterfalls, which also allow you to see into the large gorge. Over 1000s of years of swirling water the rocks have been sculpted into various shapes. The sheer power of the water gives you an idea of how much rainfall there is in the Milford Sound area.
The walk is only a 20 minute loop on a path through a forested area. I really enjoyed stopping off at all these places on the way back from Milford Sound there is just so much to see in this area.
The Milford Road
The Milford Road was one of the most impressive and stunning roads we drove along in New Zealand with huge Mountains, plunging waterfalls and temperate forests there is so many places to pull over at to admire the pure beauty and wilderness of the area.
On clear days watch out for Keas which are New Zealand parrots. These parrots are very confident and land on your car and try to get in hoping to get some food. We had 2 land on our campervan and even attempt to get in our open window, they definitely aren’t shy and are used to tourists feeding them.
Food & Beverage
Miles Better Pies
Miles Better Pies is located right in the town centre of Te Anau. It has a huge selection of pies available both savoury and sweet. When we visited there didn’t appear to be any vegetarian savoury pies available so I had a blueberry and apple pie, however if your a meat eater there was a wide selection of pies available including lamb and venison. The pies are cheap and cheerful and make a great on the go lunch or snack, there is a few seats inside and outside of the cafe, however taking it down to eat by the lake is much nicer.
Olive Tree Cafe
Olive Tree Cafe is located along the high street in the town centre and is a lovely cafe/restaurant. It has a small courtyard out the back which is great on a sunny day. They have a large menu offering a wide variety of dishes, I had the vegetarian stack which was full of flavour. All the food was beautifully prepared and delicious and the staff were warm and friendly.
Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park
We stayed at the Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is a small park but with great facilities like all other Top 10. It has a great location right opposite Lake Te Anau. The best part about this holiday park were the hot tubs which face out to the lake. As a treat we booked a hot tub on Christmas Eve, and sat in it with some beer and wine. The hot tubs were great and so affordable at a mere NZ$15 each, and as we were the last customers of the day the receptionist said we could have it for as long as we wanted and no rush, which was a great way to finish our Christmas Eve.
Queenstown really does have it all, it’s a small town with a big attitude. Queenstown is a tourist hotspot in New Zealand, and when you come here you will soon see why it attracts so many tourists from all around the world.
Queenstown is an adrenaline junkies ultimate fix with tons of extreme activities on offer ranging from bungee jumps to skydiving. Queenstown also has a stunning location set on Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by gorgeous mountains it looks like a picture postcard.
There is so much to do in Queenstown from exploring its natural beauty and coves, extreme sports, bars and restaurants and lively nightlife and there is so much to see and do in and around Queenstown and the outskirts including vineyards and golf courses. Queenstown really does have something to offer everyone and expect crowds all year round.
Queenstown is also very popular amongst Brits this was one area in New Zealand where we come across so many familiar accents. If your looking for a working holiday Queenstown definitely has lots of jobs going as most shops, bars and restaurants we went in we seemed to be served by British people over on a working visa.
To complete your epic trip to New Zealand make sure Queenstown is firmly on your itinerary.
Sights & Activities
Arrowtown is located about a 20 minute drive from Queenstown and many day trippers tend to visit Arrowtown. Arrowtown started to become populated in the 1860s when gold was discovered in the Arrow River.
Arrowtown still has 60 of its original gold rush buildings lining the street. Arrowtown today is more of a tourist hot spot and has a great selection of shops and restaurants on offer. The Chinese settlement here is also very interesting to go and see, and has lots of information on the history of the area and migrants that worked there all those years ago.
When staying in Queenstown take a trip out to Arrowtown as it really does take you back in time and is a great little place to spend a morning or afternoon.
Arthur’s Point is a rural area just 5 minutes away from Queenstown centre. A lot of people base themselves here as it’s close to Queenstown centre but without the price tag. There is also several things to do here such as the Jetover Jet Boat, which we watched speeding down the water under the large bridge in Arthur’s Point.
The Blue Pools can be reached from either Queenstown or Wanaka. We visited Blue Pools after we left Queenstown as we headed up towards the west coast. The Blue Pools are deep river pools that are located where the Blue River joins the Makarora River.
The walk to the pools is about 15 minutes each way from the main entrance point. There is also a suspension bridge across them which can only hold a certain amount of people at each time.
There are also several walking tracks around the Blue Pools. When we visited we just went to see the pools and to walk around them, the pools are beautiful and the colour of blue is insane the pools are the brightest shade of blue.
Fantail Falls are not far from the Blue Pools, so you can easily do both on the same day. Fantail Falls can also be reached from Queenstown or Wanaka, we visited these Falls after leaving Queenstown, and went to the Falls after visiting the Blue Pools.
The Fantail Falls is a fan shaped waterfall that is fed by Fantail Creek from the Haast River. The Falls only take 5 minutes to reach from the car park. The Falls are good place to stop at but you don’t need to spend long here, it’s great to see the Falls and the dozens and dozens of stacked up rocks that people have piled up all around the area.
Frankton is a small suburb and town on the outskirts of Queenstown, and also home to Queenstown airport. There may not be much going on in Frankton itself, however around Frankton and the surrounding areas there are so many beautiful views of the mountains. Coming into Queenstown we pulled up on so many occasions to admire the views.
Glenorchy is only about 45 minutes drive from Queenstown and the drive is known as the drive to paradise. It’s a small town with beautiful surrounding and mountains and sits on the north end of Lake Wakatipu.
Some of the scenes from Lord of the Rings were shot around Glenorchy and if your a big fan you will probably recognise some of areas around Glenorchy. You really get the sense your in middle earth when visiting here the mountain views are breathtaking.
Glenorchy has lots of walks and tramping options to explore. You can download a free walking brochure from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. We decided on one of the easier walks which was the Glenorchy Walk Way which took about 1 hour. This walk way was amazing as we saw so many great views of the lake, mountains, lagoon and some of Glenorchys swamps. Around the swamps there are some boardwalks and seating areas.
There is also a small Red boat house set on the lake in Glenorchy which is one of the most photographed in this area and is iconic to Glenorchy.
Queenstown sits on Lake Wakatipu, the lake was one of the best lakes I’ve visited the crystal clear waters are beautiful. Lake Wakatipu is huge and has 212km of shoreline and tons of stoney coves to explore. Not only is the lake huge it’s also extremely deep and has 5 rivers flowing into the lake.
Lake Wakatipu is also the second most purest lake in the world after Blue Lake in New Zealand. Scientists have tested the water and it’s almost 100% pure. It’s so clean that you can drink the water straight from the lake, the water is also extremely cold.
While in Queenstown take a 5 minute drive around to Sunshine Bay there’s a quiet rocky beach. While your there you can also walk a small trail along the Sunshine Bay walk which provides you with more excellent views over Lake Wakatipu.
Queenstown has so much to offer from lots of brand shops to quirky boutiques, high end restaurants to cheap eats and of course one of its main draws is it’s good selection of bars and pubs which seems to be the large draw for the many brits working here. Just walking around the centre of Queenstown is great and you can easily spend hours exploring this great buzzing town.
Queenstown Gardens is set right on its own little peninsular at the front of Queenstown Bay, and was created back in 1876 by the victorians. The beautiful gardens are really well kept and maintained.
There are some beautiful rose gardens, and this garden is great to walk through on a hot day. There’s lots going on in these gardens from bowls, tennis, frisbee golf etc. The park attracts a whole range of different people who come to enjoy the pretty garden settings for picnics, afternoon lazing and catching up with friends. The park also has several memorials too.
The Skyline Gondola is a must do when in Queenstown it’s one of the top attractions. The Skyline Gondola gives some great views over Queenstown on the way up and on the way back down, there is a whole complex at the top with a cafe, restaurant, souvenir shop, observation deck, luge, bungy and ledge swing. The Gondola is the steepest in the Southern Hemisphere and takes you over 450 meters over Queenstown.
We booked the Gondola pass which included a ride on the luge as wasn’t much more expensive. We paid approximately NZ$40 each we saved a few dollars on top of this as we prebooked our tickets at the campsite we stayed at. A lot of accommodation providers offer discounts to top attractions so it’s always worth asking at your accommodation front desk.
The luge is a must and is great fun, while up there you can buy tickets which allows you several go’s on it, however we were happy with just going on the once.
The Bead Shop
If your a girly girl like me and love accessories and jewellery The Bead Shop is the place for you. I dragged my husband in here for like a good hour why I browsed through all the beads and made my own bracelets for a few friends back home, and of course for myself. It’s really reasonably priced and so much choice and great that you can make your own jewellery how you want it. Even if your not into jewellery but know someone back home who is, it’s the place to pick up a gift and even make one for someone.
The Underwater Observatory is a reverse aquarium where the people are behind the glass and it’s a chance to see what lives in Lake Wakatipu. The observatory is located right in the heart of Queenstown on the bay. It’s only NZ$10 each and was really quiet when we went, we were the only ones in there.
We saw so many fish in the lake from trouts, eels and lots of diving ducks. There’s a food release box which is coin operated where you can feed the fish. I really enjoyed the observatory as I love wildlife and was great to see what lies beneath the lakes water.
Food & Beverage
The hype around Fergburger is insane, with a minimum 45 minute queue outside just to order and people returning and saying it was the best burger they have ever had. We had to see what all the fuss was about. Time and time again you will see Fergburger appearing in guidebooks, one of the must places to eat in Queenstown and so many recommendations. Even though we weren’t impressed with the wait I really wanted to try it.
My husband and myself ordered Bun Laden Burger (Veggie Burger for me), Ferg Deluxe Burger, fries and onion rings. We enjoyed the meal when we eventually got it after waiting for it. You have to queue literally for about 45 minutes just to order the food they then give you a ticket with your order number on. We went and sat in a bar as they have an online tracker to tell you when it’s ready so you don’t have to wait there. In total we waited about an hour and half for the food. There isn’t much seating in Fergburger so we perched up on a wall outside to eat it. They were good burgers but are they really worth the wait?! My husband and myself both didn’t think so and we couldn’t quite understand all the hype around Fergburger?!
Yes they were tasty but not really worth all the effort of queuing up for and then waiting longer with your order number. Apparently a lot of locals say that Devil Burger is just as good as Fergburger and less busy.
I would recommend Fergburger if it was quieter and if you can get there before the busy rush then give it ago, however I wouldn’t go back to it again. Worth trying for yourself and see what you think and if it’s worth all the hype. You can also call and place your order over the phone if you really don’t want to queue, wish we had done this and saved the time.
If you want to experience some of the Ferg hype, without all the waiting why not try Fergbaker and Mrs Fergs next door for tons of baked treats, pies and gelato.
After Fergburger we went into Mrs Fergs next door which is less crowded and doesn’t have the crazy queues! We treated ourselves to some of their yummy gelato for our dessert.
1876 is a bar and restaurant in Queenstown’s old stone courthouse and serves up a selection of pub grub, beers and drinks. 1876 has a great atmosphere and has a outside seating area. This pub also offers an excellent happy hour too and is great for pre dinner drinks. If your on a budget and don’t want to spend a fortune on a few drinks then head to this place, even if your not there in time for happy hour, the drinks are reasonable and there are normally offers on.
Creeksyde Queenstown Holiday Park
Creeksyde has an excellent location in Queenstown and is really central. It’s only about a 5-10 minute walk from the centre of Queenstown. The campsite has a garden setting with quirky reception and shared amenities building. The price per night was slightly more than what we had paid at other campsites, and we might have been able to get a campsite slightly cheaper out of town, however it was nice we could walk everywhere and just leave the campervan there all day.
The facilities were really clean here and the staff at reception were really helpful. If your looking to book any Queenstown attractions ask the reception as on some of the main attractions they have special offers and discounts for guests staying at the campsite.
Fox Glacier was great to go and see as some people tend to choose between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, and I’m so glad we decided to do both. I would really recommend that if you have time to try and see both glaciers.
Fox Glacier is a small and quiet town with not much going on, other than a few shops and restaurants to cater for the tourists visiting the glacier. Fox Glacier town feels smaller and has a little less going on than that of Franz Josef in comparison.
Sights & Activities
Fox Glacier Lookout
There are all types of different options to go and see Fox Glacier from glacier hiking tours, walk ways and helicopter tours etc. We decided we just wanted to go to the look out as the tours can be quite pricey, and we wanted to spend a bit more time in Franz Josef. The look out is one of the best view points from land to see the glacier, however with the retreat of Fox Glacier you can just see a small part of it.
The walk to the Glacier from the car park is about 1 hour return but is a leisurely walk through a valley and you get some amazing views.
Food & Beverage
Bigfoot Bar & Restaurant
I wasn’t a massive fan of the campsite, however the restaurant and bar was actually alright. They serve up typical pub grub comfort food in a casual atmosphere. Bigfoot Restaurant serves up a good selection of beer and cocktails, and their food menu has a good choice ranging from pizza, fish and chips and some various meat options such as wings, ribs etc.
The cafe is located right in the town centre and serves up a good selection of drinks and cakes and other sweet treats as well as offering a savoury food menu including pizza. We stopped in here to get a chai latte before heading to the glacier.
This cafe isn’t anything overly exciting however in such a small town where there isn’t a lot of choice this is definitely a good place to grab a bite to eat or drink on the go.
Bigfoot Bar & Restaurant
The Bigfoot Bar & Restaurant was probably the worst campsite we stayed in and I’ll use the word campsite loosely, it was just their car park you park up and camp in. The facilities were ok but a little run down and tired looking. We left the accommodation to last minute and the campsites we did want to stay in were fully booked so we ended up here.
I would recommend avoiding staying here if possible unless your desperate, or you have a real urge to stay in a carpark and be stumbling distance back to your camper from the bar!
Franz Josef is a must I really enjoyed our stay here, it has a bit more going on than Fox Glacier but i would recommend if you have time to try and see both glaciers as they both offer a stunning natural walk up to the glaciers and I enjoyed seeing both. There are some great little restaurants and bars in Franz Josef as well as the west coast wildlife centre which was great.
Sights & Activities
Ka Roimata O Hine Hukatere Track
Ka Roimata O Hine Hukatere Track is a really great and easy way to see the glacier. The walk is suitable for everyone and follows a rocky riverbed path, as you walk along you can also take in some waterfalls too. The walk takes approximately 1 and half hour return back to the car park.
We both really enjoyed this walk and the view of the Glacier was great even though the glacier has retreated it was still amazing to see the size of it.
While visiting the Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint after returning back to the car park you can do a small walk to Peters Pool. It’s a small walk that goes through the temperate rainforest to a small kettle lake. The walk only takes 20 minutes return and is really worth seeing after you visit the glacier.
West Coast Wildlife Centre
The West Coast Wildlife Centre is a small and unique wildlife centre in Franz Josef, it’s a small centre but with a big purpose of trying to breed 2 of the world’s rarest kiwi birds. There is also several other native wildlife exhibits. Once you have paid admission which is about NZ$40 each you can come and go to the centre as many times as you like within 24 hours.
There is a bush walk through enclosure which has Kiwi birds living inside just make sure to be really quiet and turn off your flash light as the centre are trying to make their habitat as close to the one they have in the wild, and eventually these kiwis will be released when they are old enough.
My husband and I decided to pay a little extra and get the backstage pass, where you get a tour of the incubation and hatching rooms and get to see the hand reared baby kiwis. Tours are limited to 8 people so try and book in advance so you can get the time slot you would prefer.
We went back several times to see the kiwis in the enclosure. It’s a great little centre with tons of information on offer and the fact you can go back as many times as you like so if you have no luck seeing the kiwis the first time it’s good to know you can try again within that 24 hour period.
Food & Beverage
The Copper Pot
The Copper Pot is along the main little street in Franz Josef. It’s honestly one of the best curries I’ve ever had, it doesn’t quite fit with the Franz Josef scene however it was quite bleak and chilly when we visited Franz Josef, so what better way to get warmed up than with a curry. The staff were warm and friendly and the food was delicious and reasonably priced too.
Snakebite Brewery is right in the centre of Franz Josef and offers craft bars along with Asian street food. We didn’t eat here but stopped here for a drink and there’s an outside seating area which is nice to chill in after an afternoon of walking.
Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park
Like all other Top 10 Holiday Parks you always know your going to get a clean and comfortable campsite with excellent facilities and a good location. We mainly stayed at Kiwi holiday parks as we had the membership card but from time to time we stayed in a Top 10. The Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park was clean and the showers were great!
Greymouth is the west coasts largest town. We spent New Year’s Eve here and it was a particularly grey and miserable rainy day. So we weren’t blown away with greymouth to say the least. There isn’t a much to do here, however there are tons of diversions close by and interesting attractions nearby.
Greymouth is also the start or end depending which way you go of Arthur’s Pass. Greymouth is a great place to base yourself for Arthur’s Pass and the many attractions near by.
Sights & Activities
Greymouth to Punakaiki
The drive between Greymouth and Punakaiki is stunning, the highway offers the most beautiful views of the coast, with lots of coves and rocky bays on one side of the road and on the other steep bushy hills.
Pancake Rocks has an easy 15 minute walk looping around it, we loved the Pancake Rocks we have never seen anything quite like it. Located in Punakaiki these rocks have been through a weathering process which has carved the limestone into what looks like piles of pancakes which gives it the name. Try to make it for high tide, and witness the swills in the caverns and blowholes. It really makes you realise just how powerful the ocean is.
Food & Beverage
The Gap Cafe
The Gap Cafe is located in the centre of Greymouth and offers a great selection of cakes and scones. As well as hot lunches and vegetarian options. It has a homely feel to it and staff are friendly.
Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park
We stayed at Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park over New Years and it was clean and quiet like all Top 10 and Kiwi holiday parks they are always a high standard of cleanliness and facilities available.
Unfortunately the weather was miserable on New Years and there didn’t seem to be much going on in Greymouth so we decided to go wild (being sarcastic) and order a Dominoes delivery to our camper van and watched a film on the tablet. It was actually a great way to see in the new year as naff as it sounds, just being in New Zealand in our camper van which I came to love, and with my husband chilling, it was just perfect, and it helped that the holiday park had everything we needed.
We even managed to get a good space near to the showers so when it was raining I was able to make a dash to the toilet from the camper van.
Nelson is a tourist hotspot attracting both Kiwis and international tourists. It offers a great climate and excellent beaches. Nelson has quite a big art scene and offers a number of galleries and a number of craft boutiques. Nelson has a bustling town centre with lots to keep you busy and occupied.
Sights & Activities
Nelson Town Centre
If like me you like browsing around boutiques and quirky shops head into Nelsons town centre for an afternoon, on one of the days we were there the weather wasn’t ideal so we decided to have a walk around the town centre and grab some lunch. There is an array of great little boutiques and quirky shops and gift shops here. There are also some lovely cafes to grab a hot drink and a slice of cake.
Tahuna Beach is a huge sandy beach in Nelson and backed by dunes. It also has lots on offer for families such as playgrounds, roller skating rink, bumper boats and much more. In the summer months it is very busy and attracts lots of families. We really enjoyed Tahuna Beach and loved walking along it in the evenings when it had quietened down.
Westport is the capital of the northern West coast, we didn’t stop in the town however we drove along Westports coast which is stunning and has lots of places to stop and take in the views of the coast.
Food & Beverage
The Farmers Market in Nelson is definitely a must visit if your a foodie, its held every Wednesday come rain or shine. It sells lots of fruit and vegetables which was great for us to stock up on some delicious strawberries and bits for our camper van. The market doesn’t just sell fruits and vegetables but also sells lots of delicious treats and has a selection of food stalls, we tried the Nepalese Momos which were yummy and a great pre lunch snack.
Maru Korean & Japanese Restaurant
Maru Restaurant was a great little find in Nelson, it’s nothing fancy but offers delicious Korean and Japanese food. It caters well for vegetarians and was really well priced, aswell the service was great. This place is perfect for lunch, if like us your a big fan of Asian cuisine give this place a go when in Nelson.
Sweet As Cafe
This cute cafe in the centre of Nelson is a great place to stop for a pick me up. It has a huge selection of cakes and sweet treats. It also serves up savoury dishes and lunch snacks too.
Yello Cafe is a simple cafe and no surprise it is painted bright yellow. It offers a selection of hot drinks and snacks. We came here for breakfast one morning which is pretty busy time so service was a little slow however when it did arrive it was tasty and worth the wait.
Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park
Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park was the largest campsite we stayed at by far. It reminded me of Glastonbury it was that large, it attracts mainly kiwi families that come to Nelson on holiday. The families that stay here come fully prepared for camping with lots of bbqs, gazebos, pools and some even come with pop up wardrobes and beds!
Even though this was a very busy and popular campsite it sat right on Tahuna Beach which was great as every evening we would go for a walk along the beach, we also had a lovely view of the beach from our camper van.
As this was a Kiwi campsite it had great facilities that were clean and well maintained. There was lots to do for families such as playgrounds and bbq areas.
Transport & Getting Around
The only way I would recommend getting around New Zealand in general is by camper van. You will see so many camper vans driving around because honestly it’s the best way to see New Zealand. You can pull over at all the breathtaking view points and make random pit stops and just enjoy the stunning scenery.
Plus all of the camp sites dotted around New Zealand are so well equipped and clean. The showers in the camp sites were some of the best showers I’ve ever had, they were more powerful than my shower at home! The kitchens are also really well equipped.
If you are going to drive around New Zealand, download the app called Campermate it shows you all the campsites in the location your looking at and you can read write ups and reviews to help you make the best decision for you.
We booked our campervan through Happy Campers as they worked out to be the cheapest and as we needed one for 31 nights in total they can work out quite pricey, but when you think about it, it’s your accommodation and your mode of transport all in one.
When driving around you will see tons of camper vans and RVs. We booked a basic campervan with a bed in, as we stayed at campsites every night, we didn’t need a toilet and shower as we used the campsite facilities. We had a small camping stove in the back and storage under and behind the bed.
I actually slept really well in the campervan and found it really cozy and was quite sad when we had to hand it back in.
There are several ferry companies linking North Island and South Island which go between Wellington and Picton. Make sure to book in advance as sometimes the ferries can become very busy, the ferry takes approximately 3 hours and you can either go on as a walk on or drive on, once you have parked your car or camper van you can then go upstairs where there is plenty of seating, a restaurant and WiFi.
If your on a tight schedule and don’t have a lot of time, New Zealand offers lots of domestic flights between the main cities and towns, however this can work out quite expensive but worth it if your limited on time. Have a look at Air New Zealand if this is the case.
Buses tend to be much cheaper than air travel, and New Zealand’s bus service is frequent and reliable. Have a look at Intercity which is New Zealand’s National bus company. There are also a whole range of tours you can book onto through companies like STA, Kiwi Experience and New Zealand Coach Tours etc.
New Zealand’s Trains are not cheap or fast to use, however they are regular and reliable. We didn’t use any public transport while in New Zealand so cant advise much on this other than from what I have heard.
Hitchhiking & Biking
Believe it or not you wouldn’t believe the amount of people we saw hitchhiking and biking around New Zealand. So many people with a tent and camping equipment attached to their bag or bike making their way around. However both of these are time consuming so would only be achievable if you have no time limit or you have a good couple of months in New Zealand.
These campsites tend to be of a really high quality with regards to their amenities, and by signing up and paying for membership you receive discount on your nights stay, discounts on favourite nearby attractions and entrance fees etc, and receive discounts at some restaurants too.
We saved quite a lot of money by signing up to the Kiwi Holiday Park Card, maybe have a look at which parks your more likely to stay at and sign up to one or the other rather than both.
I-Site is New Zealand’s official tourism information and you will see plenty of I-Site offices these are really helpful when getting ideas of what’s around the local area your in, and provide a wealth of tourist information on attractions and places to stay, and the staff are always really knowledgable and helpful.
The Department of Conservation also known as DoC are New Zealand’s agency for conservation. They ensure that New Zealand’s natural beauty and wildlife is preserved and looked after and will last for many years to come, while ensuring it’s enjoyable and accessible for locals and visitors.
DoC also provide lots of tracks and trails all over New Zealand as well as campsites. However the campsites don’t have facilities as such other than toilets so we didn’t stay at any of the DoC campsites as we needed showers and more facilities as or camper only had a bed, and I’m a girly girl and didn’t want to rough it too much.
While in New Zealand the plan was to do lots of cooking in the camper van and at the campsites to save money on food, however my husband and myself don’t particularly enjoy cooking at the best of times and especially while we are on holiday.
We did end up eating out in the evenings, my tips for self catering on the road would be to keep meals simple just think the more cooking the more food, herbs and spices you need to purchase and the more washing up!! We kept breakfast simple and healthy and ate fruit in the mornings and cereal or cereal bars. Then for lunches we tended to buy picnic type items so we had salads, olives, crisps, gherkins, tomatoes, cheese and breads etc and tended to have mini spreads for lunch.
If you purchase jars of olives, beetroots, gherkins, mini peppers etc they keep well and tended to last us a few days to go with our lunches and keeps the costs down.
Prior to going to New Zealand I bought some boxes of cereal bars, mug shots and hot chocolate to take with us as food shopping in the UK is much cheaper, and having a few snack type items for on the go was really helpful.
We covered a huge 3750 Miles of New Zealand, below is a map of our road trip itinerary, and all the places we stayed at and places we stopped off at to visit. I did loose track of how many times we actually pulled over to admire views and off the beaten track wonders of natural beauty. This was what my husband put together prior to our road trip.
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