Our roadtrip started out in Auckland on the north island, and you can read all about the places we visited in this blog post (click!). The south island is colder than the north island (farther away from the Equator) so remember to bring warmer clothes. Also, allow yourself to stop whenever you see something beautiful. The most beautiful places are often found while randomly driving on the roads. Like these places for example:
From Wellington, we took the ferry over to the south island, a journey that took about 3 hours. We enjoyed the fresh air, had some food and read books on the way over. The ferry arrived in a small town called Picton and after visiting 7 motels, none of which had available rooms, we were prepared to spend the night in our little car. We decided to try one more and bingo! We were so lucky, the motel was the prettiest ever. We had our own little house with a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom. We had dinner and then we decided to explore the small town. We walked in the woods, climbed a mountain from which we had the best of views and ended our little walk by watching yachts in the harbor. We actually decided to stay in Picton for two days because we really loved it.
From Picton, we drove down the east coast to get to Kaikoura where we should go on a very exciting excursion - whale watching! It has always been one of my biggest dreams to see a wild whale. It’s such a mysterious creature and I really love them. So off we went, on a small boat in a very windy weather. For a seasick person like myself, it was not so funny. I spent most of the time with my head in a paper bag, but I managed to climb out just in time to see the big sperm whale come up to the surface. I saw the blow whole (so, so cool) and watched him chill a bit before he went back down. It was so amazing and I highly recommend you to do this if you’re in Kaikoura. We also got to see dolphins (also one of my dreams) and albatrosses. It was so worth the head-in-a-paper-bag-thing. Also, on the way back to Picton we stopped, just along the road, to see wild fur seals. They were really friendly and I could come really close (I actually did pet one of them).
Golden Bay & Abel Tasman
After spending another night in Picton, we went down the west coast and our next stop was Golden Bay and Takaka. We found a motel for the night before we continued to Abel Tasman national park. We were completely alone there and we enjoyed the nature, took a swim in the ocean and just explored the surroundings. In the late afternoon we headed back to our motel to change clothes and then we went out for dinner. We found a place where they served only organic food and I had buckwheat pancakes and a smoothie.
Greymouth and Pancake Rocks
From Takaka we continued our journey. We had a long drive ahead and our destination was Greymouth. We made one stop - Pancake rocks. Just like the name says, this is a place where the rocks look exactly like a pancake cake. It’s a really cool place, but the weather was grey and rainy so we didn’t stay that long. We didn’t do much in Greymouth, we were only there to spend the night so the day after we got up early and continued our journey.
On the way from Greymouth to Franz Josef we stopped by Lake Brunner. Once again, the weather wasn’t on our side so we just snapped a few photos and continued to Franz Josef. Everything in Franz Josef is quite expensive, if compared to the other towns and cities. We found a motel for the night and then went to Wild Life Centre to watch Kiwis (the national bird of New Zealand). We were lucky to see a couple real close and they were super cute. Not like any other bird I’ve ever seen.
The next day we woke up really early because we were going on a helicopter ride over Franz Josef Glacier. It was so amazing! The helicopter flight itself was so cool, not at all like flying a plane. We got to land on the glacier and after taking like 1000 photos we went back in the helicopter. Before we landed we got to see the biggest mountain of New Zealand - Mt. Cook. It was one of the best experiences of my life and if you visit Franz Josef or Fox, please go on a tour like this! Also, you can book awesome glacier tours with Franz Josef Glacier Guides here (not sponsored).
After Franz Josef we went to Wanaka. A few km north of Wanaka we stopped to look at The Blue Pools. If you look at the photos below you’ll understand how this place got its name. Bring towels and swimwear so you can swim in this amazing water! In Wanaka we stayed at a place called Brookvale and we got a really nice room with the mountains just outside our window. Wanaka is a really beautiful place and the nature is amazing. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time there because we had to continue to Queenstown. If we could do this trip again I would definitely stay at least two nights in Wanaka.
This is the city of adventure. Any adventure our extreme sport can be performed here. It’s a lovely city and since we were in the world’s capital of adventure we of course had to try one crazy thing. Guess what we decided to do? Paragliding! You basically climb a mountain and then jump right off a cliff (with a parachute on you) and fly down. I was terrified before the jump but then I loved it!
Lord of the Rings tip: a few km north of Queenstown, near a bungyjump place and a wineyard, you’ll find a river. This river is River Anduin (+ Pillars of the Kings) in Lord of the Rings.
After Queenstown, our next stop was Fiordland and Milford Sound. The nature here is breathtaking! Mountains, fiords and rivers everywhere. After quite a few photo stops we reached our stay for the night - Milford Lodge. After checking in, we went straight to Lady Bowen, the boat which would take us on a tour on the fiords. Fur seals, waterfalls and mountains everywhere!
During the night there was a terrible storm and when we left in the morning several trees had fallen over the road. I captured such a weird moment with my camera, sunshine, rain, rainbows and dark skies at the same time.
Advice: if you’re planning to spend the night in Milford Sound - book in advance. There is only one place to stay and that’s Milford Lodge. It’s a really popular place and it’s often fully booked for weeks.
From Milford Sound we drove through Te Anau and Gore before we reached Balclutha. We found a motel for the night and then went out to explore. We drove to a place called Nugget Point where we saw the world’s rarest penguin. From there we went on to Purakaunui, where we walked through the rain forrest and eventually found the most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen.
From Balclutha we went on to our final stop - Dunedin. In Dunedin our first stop was the Otago Peninsula. We stopped to see fur seals and sea lions (at Allan’s Beach) and finally arrived to Royal Albatross Centre. We engaged in a guided tour and got to see wild albatrosses real close. So cool! I can also recommend that you stop at the Glenfalloch Woodland Garden to stroll through the amazing gardens.
What else to do in Dunedin? There is a chocolate factory, a brewery and a beautiful railway station. You can also find the world’s steepest street here, it’s called Baldwin Street and it’s crazy! Worth a visit though. We left Dunedin to fly home to Sweden, a 40 hour long journey. But New Zealand is my favorite country in the world so it was really worth the many hours on a plane.