South Island of New Zealand – A Two-Week Road Trip

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Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, South Island, New Zealand
The Pancake Rocks

Again, the drives were so beautiful and still full of one-way bridges everywhere. One way bridges are good as they keep more nature from being destroyed but when you sometimes met cars it takes a while to be on your way again. I do feel like the South Island of New Zealand was more beautiful than the North but not by much. As we headed further South the colder it got. We made it to the viewing platform for the pancakes and blowholes. Rocks that were flat as pancakes. Blowholes with water crashing through. The sea was very rough. It was certainly no place you wanted to fall in.

A South Island Heli-Hike in Franz Joseph

Me on the ice-walk on Franz Joseph Glacier on the South Island, New Zealand
Sliding Through the Glacier

We were lucky eventfully. For two consecutive days, our Heli-hike was cancelled due to bad weather. So, we headed down to Queenstown and come back this way to try again. Yes, on our way back we were lucky it was going ahead. I was stoked, my first helicopter flight, and still the only one. However, I’m normally scared of heights but loved every minute of the 7-minute flight. It was so cool!

The walk around the glacier was also cool. There were different shapes of the ice, we even walked through an ice crevasse. There was fresh glacier water to drink. Perfect. The walk was amazing. A new experience and one that I enjoyed. And knowing that a helicopter was taking us back down was insane. On my bucket list is to ride in a helicopter again. I think they are great!! So, hopefully, one day I’ll cross it off.

After, working those legs muscles we took a well deserved relax in the spa hot pools. It is included in the price for the Heli-hike. Also, this meant there were showers!

A Cold Queenstown, South Island

How beautiful is Queenstown? So beautiful. This was my first time in a town that resembles what a ski-town looks like to me. Yet, the best view of the trip for me was entering Queenstown. We drove around a corner and there was Lake Wanaka on your right spanning a vast area with snow-capped mountains in the backdrop. A new view of nature for me. Snow on Mountains. Who would have thought years later snowy mountains would be one of my favourite places to be. I, myself, was all about the sun. Now, I want to live Winter to Summer. This came about after my time in Whistler.

The view of Lake Wanaka with snow-capped mountains in the backdrop near Queenstown in New Zealand
The Best View in New Zealand

In the summer months, you can ride the lunge down the Mountain… we had a pass for 5 times. As ee caught the gondola up, the misty rain got worse. Next, was a chair lift. This was cold. Sitting there out in the open in the rain and wind. Also, this was very scary for me. It was my first time on a chair lift and I’m scared of heights. Nowadays my fear is not as bad. However, it was worth it for the ride down. So much fun but not fun enough for us to use all 5 tickets… it really was that cold up there.

How About a Sky Dive…

Me and the orange small plane used for Lake Wanaka Sky Dive, in Queenstown, New Zealand
Just About to Board the Plane

So, for me to even consider skydiving was a big deal but I knew I wanted to give it a go in Lake Wanaka. I had seen the pictures and it looked breath-taking.

However, after trying for the last three days, we were finally up in the plane. It took all my willpower to get into that plane. The scenic flight was incredible. Then it was time. My guide clipped me to himself. He asked if I was ready to jump. Silly question, the answer will always be ‘NO’. Then within two seconds, he tapped me on the shoulder. I took a deep breath thinking this was it. Time to jump.

Unfortunately, at the last second, we again had cloud cover, therefore, no jump. I did automatically relax but couldn’t help feeling disappointed that I couldn’t jump. To this day I haven’t got the strength to try it again.

Our Final Activity in Kaikoura, South Island of New Zealand

Well, so far all activities had been fun and all new to me and this was no different. New Zealand had brought a lot of firsts to my life. All things that I would have never known I liked. This is a major part of why I travel to learn what things I would like if I just tired them.

Again, we were lucky that the boat left the dock. Both the North and South Island of New Zealand are definitely a Summer destination unless you come for ski-season or holiday in Queenstown.

The day didn’t look good because the morning boats and helicopter couldn’t spot any dolphins. However, once briefed we set off in hope that they would come out to play. Normally, you can see them right of the shore in Kaikoura because it is very deep and full of sea life. However, we really had to go out to sea, it was choppy.

Also you can take a tour from Christchurch to Kaikoura!!

Time for a Swim…

Yes, I felt sea-sick again but luckily, we had caught up with some dusty dolphins. Just in time as I wasn’t sure how much longer I would have lasted. In I jumped, in a full wetsuit, head covered too. Yet, I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold. My chest closed up so I had to take a minute, catch my breath, and go again. The joys of asthma.

Swimming with Dusky Dolphins in Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand
Swimming With Ducky Dolphins

In the Water with Dusky Dolphins…

This experience will live with me forever. I still remember it like it was yesterday, however, it was over 5 years ago now. Swimming with all these dolphins playing around us was magical. If you spin in a circle the dolphin swims around you. I was trying to be as quick as the dolphin. Impossible but it was fun trying. I was splashing so much that I managed to fill my snorkel with water. So, I guess that forfeited the game, therefore the dolphin won. Remember, only by forfeit. What a day to remember, forever!!!!

Last Stop was Christchurch

This was a shock seeing a city so flattened. Seeing the huge deviation first-hand the earthquakes had was heart-breaking. Christchurch was once bustling with people, full of buildings. Not this time the ugly side of mother nature played a huge roll in bringing down this city. Four years on and buildings still needed to knocked down. Construction is happening everywhere you look from fixing the roads to building whole new buildings. Well, pretty much everything needs to be re-built. This was a very sad experience and a sobering one.  

What an incredible experience on the South Island of New Zealand. Definitely, an action-packed and fun-filled road trip. This country has to make your bucket list. There is just so much to see and do. We only touched the surface.

Also, I spent a week in the North Island, you can read about it here.

The North Island of New Zealand – The Best Week

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

Back in 2015 a friend and I set off for another road trip this time it was around New Zealand’s North Island. We had 1 week to see as much as possible. It was May so the winter was closing in on us. Also, after the North Island, we travelled around the South Island for 2 weeks.

Auckland, New Zealand’s North Island

Auckland was by far the busiest place we visited on this trip. We booked up all our activities with the travel desk at the hostel. Therefore, once we hit the road we didn’t have to worry about that. Our budget was very tight at this point. So, having one less expense to worry about made the trip more relaxing. We knew all we had to pay for on the road was food and petrol (gas).

Bay of Islands, New Zealand‘s North Island

Bay of Islands in he North Island of New Zealand
The Bay of Islands

As we drove north, the roads were empty. Every once in a while, you would see another vehicle mainly another traveller. Consequently, this made the drive all the more pleasant. So, singing badly kept us entertained on long drives. The first stop was the Bay of Islands which is North of Auckland.

The road’s surface was smooth. However, the road itself twists, turns, and winds through valleys. Trees and fields which are deep green in colours line the roadside. Basically, like the countryside in England but on steroids, everything stood out more.

Our first activity was the boat ride out to the hole in the wall. Having wrapped up in everything warm we had, we set off. The wind was blowing and the weather was against us. However, the captain tried and tried to get us to the hole in the wall. Yet, the waves were gaining momentum making it too choppy. Therefore, the captain made the decision not to attempt it. The weather played its part but this wouldn’t be the last time it stopped play.

Hot Water Beach, New Zealand’s North Island

The beatuiful Hot Water Beach in New Zealand
Finding the Hot Pools at Hot Water Beach

Hot water beach. Now, this was a cool stop on the North Island. It’s not a random name selection there is a meaning behind it. So, the thing with this beach is that you can dig your own hot tub. The tide has to be right and unfortunately, it was coming in for us. Yet, we still managed to get a feel of the hot water that comes up from the ground. Oh my… it was hot!!! Definitely living up to its name.

Black Water Rafting, Waitomo

Time for another pre-organised activity. This time we were in Waitomo where we went black water rafting. Something I have never done before. The excitement builds along with a little apprehension. Not knowing what to really expect. At the start, we were told we are on the hunt for glow worms.

All dressed and ready to go, we took the bus to the starting point. We had the inner tire tubes with us. We were going underground in water. Floating along in these tubes. Sounds like fun. Well… not only sounded like fun it was. We had to jump down at times, backwards, so that we could land in the ring.

Then before you leave you finally see the glow worms… very pretty all over the walls of the cave. However, guess what? The glow comes from their own faeces. Yes… turns out you come to see poo! But this activity was so much fun and I definitely recommend it.

After, you can shower which to us was a big deal. We were living in a van without this convenience. We had road tripped the East Coast of Australia where showers are available at beaches. However, in New Zealand, it is harder to find free showers. All-round happiness!!

Rotorua, New Zealand

Well, next we headed down to Rotorua. Rotorua is a geothermal town which means the underground is heated due to geothermal activity. Along the way, we picked up a hitchhiker. So, for the next 100 km, he laid in our bed. New Zealand was cold therefore we just left the van as a bed. I guess we were too lazy to keep putting it back and getting it out again. The guy was German and had sweets! As we covered the 100 km, singing was replaced by chatting and sharing stories. It was nice to meet another person. We didn’t get him all the way to his final destination but certainly covered a big chunk of it. Now hopefully we have got some good karma in the bank.

THe geothermal pools of sulphur around the town of Rotorua in the North Island
The Steam Coming from a Geothermal Pool

We crept into town at night under the cover of darkness so we just found somewhere to park on the road. What we didn’t realise was how smelly Rotorua was going to be. The stink of sulphur was everywhere. We did seriously wonder how people could live there. However, I guess you would get used to it. During the summer back home we get the smell of country air. I barely notice it now. Therefore, it must be the same for the residents of Rotorua.

Geothermal Pools…

Just by wandering around the main part of town, you will find geothermal pools dotted here there, and everywhere! It looks quite disgusting, the mud bubbling away, bringing you the ripe smell of sulphur. At the same time, it is crazy to think that all that bubbling is coming from the earth.

White Water Rafting…

Another pre-booked activity. We ring up the companies along the way to see when they can fit us in. It was wintertime, so we always got a place last minute. In Asia, we went white water rafting. However low water meant it was more of a float down the river. So, I was pumped for this fast pace grade 5 white water experience.

And it delivered, the adrenaline rush was just what I was looking for. The rapids were fierce and the drop down a 7 metre waterfall got the heart pumping a little faster. Two options when going down: you stay in or end up in the water. Luckily, we mastered it and we were all in the raft… the same couldn’t be said for all the other rafts. The guide was informative with the history of the area which was great. Also, he made us stand up and surf through the rapids. He did try really hard to make me lose balance… he failed!! I didn’t leave the raft.

Mital Maori Village…

Traditional Huka being performed by Maori Natives in New Zealand,
Enjoying Watching the Traditional Huka

This was a unique dining experience of the Mital Maori Village. Local Maori village hosted many for dinner. Here, we got to hear about some of the history of the Maori people. We wandered through a forest in the dark to watch a light show. This was a lovely walk along the stream. Also, dinner was cooked in the traditional way, and let’s say the food was perfect! The whole show they put on was fantastic. We even watched the Huka. This dance has always been mesmerising to me.

Our Final Stop in the North Island…

The powerful water falling over Huka Falls att Lake Taupo on the North Island
The Powerful Water at Huka Falls

So far New Zealand has been beautiful, with lots of greenery as we covered kilometre after kilometre. So, it was time to see a lake. This lake was very big. Lake Taupo. Just for fun, you can hit a golf ball off a ledge and into the lake… mine never made it over the rocks. It was nice to walk around and explore the lake.

Also, we went to Huka Falls. I didn’t know what to expect but the power of the water rushing through was insane. As well as the clear blue colour of the water. A true natural beauty.

Now It was Time to Get to the South Island

Pretty simple right? Book a ferry from one port to another. Yes. Done. So, in the queue, we waited and then someone checked our ticket… just to tell us I booked it the wrong way. Yes… I stupidly booked it from the South Island to the North Island. However, all was not lost as they had spaces on the one about to leave. Luckily, they changed the ticket at no extra cost. Phew. Mistakes like this do crop up when travelling. You are booking and moving so much that it’s hard to keep track sometimes. Got away with it this time. It was a great road trip driving around New Zealand’s North Island.