The difference between the North and South island is immense. When I arrived a couple of months ago on the South Island I was so impressed by the mountains, I can just keep looking at them. So big, beautiful and yet quiet. I feel spoiled.
As told before I met some people in a hostel in Wellington and decided to travel with them. It ended up to be an amazing trip. I’ll try to capture it in one post…
My travel companions and I spent 9 days in the Tasman and Golden Bay area. Only because it was so beautiful, relaxed, sunny and there was heaps to do. Our base camp was first Nelson and then Motueka, a little charming town of 10.000 inhabitants. Perfect to plan your trips in the area.
Queen Charlotte Track
The big tourist attraction is Abel Tasman National Park, and you’ll understand why if you’ve seen it. Beautiful park along the coast, with great walks and possibilities to swim, kayak and sail. We did a part of the coastal track, along some dreamy beaches.
Up north you find Golden Bay, with highlight Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach. The dunes of Wharariki are really cool. You can run down from them and do some jumps. As you can imagine we felt like kids again.
North of Motueka you also find Harwood Hole. It’s a cave system, and you can have a look down in a big dark hole from the top. Small nice hike over some rocks. And there’s a great lookout really close! Careful for the sharp rocks though!
On your way to the West Coast, make a stop at Nelson Lakes National Park. The lakes are really nice. It breathes a real New Zealand feeling. It is so widespread, clear blue with the beautiful mountains around. And unfortunately the sandflies. They’re a pest. Tiny – almost cute – black flies, that bite like hell. Protect your feet and ankles, ’cause they will get attacked. And the bites keep on itching for days. Because of my
intolerance for the itching, my feet are a graveyard of scars.
And then there is the West Coast… The road along the West Coast is the most beautiful I’ve done so far in New Zealand. You drive right along the water, with a non-stop golden view on the rough sea.
People told me it rains a lot at the West Coast, so I was prepared. But my friends and I got beautiful weather. While visiting the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki it was incredible warm. Very nice, but also way too sweaty. That’s actually my own fault, because I was wearing long pants and shirt against the sand flies. Punakaiki is a lovely place by the way. It is three streets big, right next to the ocean, there is one bar and no supermarket or ATM. I told my friends I could work here – I actually said that in about every place we went. In the evening Alex, Patricia, Folkert and I enjoyed a lovely sunset. The sunsets in the water are every time so beautiful here in New Zealand.
The bad weather hit us when we arrived in Franz Josef, known for its 12 kilometer long glacier. We decided to have a big resting day. Seriously doing nothing else than walking around in our pyjamas, watching films and eating.
Good weather is quite important in the little towns of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. If it’s cloudy and rainy you don’t really have nice view on the glaciers. Anyways, day 2 we did a little walk and it was actually quite nice to be between those huge mountains and have a (small) view of the glacier.
Afterwards we went down south, to Te Anau in Fiordland. Stayed in the amazing hostel The Barnyard, on top of a hill, with a great view on the mountains. It is actually a deer farm, ran by a Dutch lady (that fell in love with a Kiwi ages ago). Nice wooden interior, great little houses as dorms, I felt a bit like hobbit. We even had a piano in our room! If you have the chance, check it out!
Te Anau is a good base to go to the famous Milford Sound. It is the best known of all of the fiords in Fiordland. We booked one of the many cruises that are available there. They took us two hours in between the fiords. You see high peeks, impressive waterfalls and wildlife! On our trip there was a lot of fog, that gave everything a big dramatic result.
I’m not a big hero in tiny places, but when Alex, Folkert and I went caving in Clifden (South of Te Anau) I couldn’t hold my excitement. The limestone caves are great. They’re free and you just follow some reflecting signs for more or less an hour. We had to go through tiny holes, through water and saw a lot of glowworms. Super experience!
Next stop was Wanaka. Again a beautiful lake, and a village of more than 3 streets big. Quite nice place actually. I loved the Rob Roy walk. You walk some 2 or three hours uphill and you come really close to a glacier.
Close to Wanaka is the adventure capital Queenstown. A lot of tourists, a lot of bars, a lot of food and a lot of adventure. Folkert went for a bungee jump, Alex and I did the Nevis Swing together.
On our way to Dunedin and Christchurch we made a little detour to the Catlins, an area that’s high on my favorites list. We stayed – again – in a lovely hostel, next to the water and… the sea lions.
I wasn’t a big fan of Dunedin. I don’t know why, maybe I’m not used to the ‘real cities’ anymore or maybe it was because I wasn’t in a party mood. Dunedin is THE student city in New Zealand, with a lot of bars and apparently a good place to have a party. The most exciting for me there, was the steepest street in the world. The Otago Peninsula next to it is a must though!
And then we worked our way up to Christchurch. The end of a way too cool road trip. I’d never thought I would spend more than a month with some people I met randomly in a hostel. I’m happy I did though. I’m thankful I had some good company when I fell in love with this amazing country.