New Zealand: South Island - Itinerary and travel information
28.11.2014 – 21.05.2015
Picton, Marlborough Sounds, Nelson, Richmond, Ruby Bay, Rabbit Island, Motueka, Stephens Bay, Kaiteriteri, Marahau, Split Apple Rock, Takaka, Labirynth Rock, Pohara Beach, Farewell Spit, Papu Springs, Mt. Arthur, Nelson Creek, Arthur Pass, Lake Mapourika, Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier, Knights Point Lookout, Boundary Creek at lake Wanaka, Blue Pools, Wanaka, Queenstown, Lake Dunstan, Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook, Amberlay Beach, Lewis Pass
After the few-hour cruise, doesn't seem a bad idea at all stopping at the T & O Takeaways on Hight Street 83 and having a great home Fish n Chips (10 NZD, a huge portion).
On the Picton - Nelson Route, definitely go through Queen Charlotte Drive. This windy nice empty road takes you through one of the most scenic landscapes of the country - Marlborough Sounds. Driving this epic route is undoubtedly a great experience, that you never forget. Enjoy non-monotonous driving through unbeatably beautiful scenery. Marlborough Sounds is an extensive network of sea-flooded valleys combined with a mind-blowing hilly landscape dotted with verdant fields and pastures. You can expect remarkable sea views on the Picton - Havelock coastline. The more you approach Nelson, the more the landscape character changes. Hilly terrain sleekly turns into flat areas with a scatter of many fruit orchards and vineyards along the way until the road takes you back to the coast with Nelson in the distance.
During our half-year stay in the village of Motueka, Nelson with its 50 thousand inhabitants was like a mega city to us. Therefore we used to visit Nelson to go shopping, get good food and occasionally experience some culture. In Nelson, you will find a few hostels, a backpacker community and a surprisingly nice wide beach on the outskirts of the city. As opposed to the neighboring towns there is a considerably wider range of services, cafes, supermarkets, restaurants, and boutiques. But don't take this information too seriously, it's not really any metropolis!
On the way to Nelson
A little smaller than Nelson, where we occasionally used to escape out of Motueka's countryside life. There is a large shopping mall with Pack n Save, cheap Kmart clothing, Warehouse, electronics shop and several restaurants (e.g., Chinese eateries with affordable lunch menu).
Idyllic Bay overlooking Nelson and Richmond. At the Camp McKee Memorial (6 NZD per person, free cold shower), you can spend unforgettable moments, such as those from the previous night - sitting by a bonfire on the beach, observing countless stars and drinking wine. Despite its popularity, the campsite is clean and well maintained, mainly thanks to the funny manager arriving daily on his crappy bike.
Idyllic Ruby Bay
Chilling by a bonfire in Ruby Bay
This area between Ruby Bay and Richmond is designed for afternoon relaxation, barbecues or long walks along the beach and forest.
This village on the coast has been our home for 6 months. We lived in Brooklyn, and I can tell you, that was the best decision ever! If your goal is to spend summer picking fruit (apples, kiwis), this place is a perfect match for you! The population of Motueka slightly exceeds 7,000, but the life here is far from a peasant style, as it may seem at first. The village is permanently flooded with backpackers on their way to work on the orchards, with hippie camper vans on their way to the "stoned" Takaka, and with cars full of tourists on their organized tours to one of the most beautiful natural parks of New Zealand - Abel Tasman National Park.
During the summer season, there's more than enough work. At the end of the day, have a stroll on the nearby Kaiteriteri beach, go fishing on the pier in the harbor, or stretch your legs along the coastline path - called the Motueka Spit. On weekends, expect wild fruit pickers orchard parties, backpacker parties in the village or you can go on a trek through the nearby Abel Tasman National Park and Kahurangi National Park.
Motueka stands out for its variety of services offered. Field equipment & electronics purchase at Warehouse, get your groceries at Countdown or NewWorld, get booze in one of the two Liquor Stores in town and get ultra cheap goods at Chinese stores. If you don't feel like cooking, stop by McDonald's, KFC, Happy Chippie Fish n Chips on High St., or grab some burger at cheap Korean fast food bistro.
The full list of services and shops must also include numerous WOF stations, WorkShops, gas station, post office, and cinema.
There's not much you might miss here.
Views of Motueka from the Takaka Hill
This is how we lived in Motueka
Kaiteriteri beach, Stephens Bay
While the beach in Stephens Bay is purely a spot for locals, Kaiteriteri beach is significantly more touristy. If you are looking for fewer people and a peaceful environment, your steps will lead to the Little Kaiteriteri. Kaiteriteri beach itself is a popular meeting point for tourists, backpackers, and locals. The adjoining parking lot with sufficient capacity will allow you to park almost right on the beach. Despite the increasing popularity, Kaiteriteri beach preserves its beauty. I recommend taking a walk starting at the Little Kaiteriteri beach, continuing on the stairs over the hill, lookout point, small grove over to the Kaiteriteri beach.
One of my most popular beaches in the world - Kaiteriteri
Split Apple Rock
This pleasant beach fully accessible at the time of low tide features a rock formation on the horizon, reminiscent of a split apple.
It is the gateway to the Abel Tasman Park. You can choose from two routes, Inland Track (41 km, 3 days) and Coast Track (60 km, 3-5 days). Each tour has its specifics. If you decide for Coast Track, you can cut off the distance by kayaking or taking a water taxi.
More info: http://www.doc.govt.nz/abeltasmantrack
Split Apple Rock Beach
Promenade in Marahau
An alternative and hippie town. The center of alternative backpackers from all around the world. It's colorful stores and cozy coffee shops invite you to stop by for a few hours and get to know some interesting people. Takaka is also known for organizing open-air hippie festivals and concerts.
If you love infantile fun, go to the natural rock labyrinth decorated with figures of fairy-tale creatures. The maze is taken care of by the local community free of charge.
Labyrinth Rocks - Fun not only for children
Rototai Reserve (end of Nees Rd)
A great little park with a beach right in front of your nose, inviting you to stop for a few hours, pull out the stove and enjoy your lunch in this beautiful setting. Overnight stay is prohibited by local authorities.
Beautiful place! Sandy sprawl in the middle of the sea with majestic dunes and views. This is a couple-hour mindblowing stroll. Those who don't want to walk can go ahead and book an old school bus excursion to dunes.
On the way to Farewell Spit
Walking in the dunes of Farewell Spit
What a beauty - Farewell Spit
Undoubtedly referred to as the purest water spring in the world.
Holy Papu Springs
Papu Springs: One of the cleanest springs in the world
Climb up the Mt Arthur Mountain in the Kahurangi National Park National Park. Drive up to the Flora car park. Out of nowhere, halfway up the hill, our heavy 4WD Estima stopped working - all we saw was a cloud of heavy rolling smoke coming up from the cooked clutch. Lighter cars should not have any problems going up. The easy well-maintained path through the forest at the beginning of the trek gives you a distorted idea of the difficulty of the entire hike. As soon as you reach the Mt. Arthur Hut, get ready for the strenuous stage of the climb leading up the grassy meadows and later on through the rocks. To fully enjoy this trek is crucial to have good weather conditions and thus good visibility.
Kahurangi National Park - now on the way goes only up
Mt. Arthur and Magda just seconds before the physical collapse
Find this cheap campsite near Ahaura on the small district Nelson Creek Road 624 (5 NZD, 4 NZD shower in the house across the road). The base camp rests in the river's meander. Toilets and basins available. In the afternoon, you can whether chill by the river or go out along the forest path to explore the old mine tunnel. Watch out for the wasps in the camp.
No one traveling across the South Island should miss this remarkable passage leading through untouched nature. Many interesting hiking trails are crossing the mountainous terrain here. Jump in the icy clear waters of mountain rivers! In Arthur's Pass, you will find two free campsites (just a few km apart from each other) providing a dry toilet and water from the river. Pitch a tent at Klondyke Corner and experience the real Call of the Wild. Note: omnipresent parrots Kea steal rubber blades from the windshield wipers.
Crystal clear rive in Arthur's Pass
Waterfalls in Arthur's Pass
Extremely curious parrot Kea
This is our camping spot
Take a stop at the Lake Mapourika on the way to the glaciers of Franz Joseph and Fox. This way you save a few dollars against expensive accommodation options in touristy crowded centers at the glaciers. Although Otto / MacDonalds camping is just a car park with a dry toilet (6 NZD), it is located in the beautiful bay of Lake Mapourika.
Franz Josef Glacier
In the small village at the foot of the Franz Josef glacier, I got less excited than I initially expected. I found myself trapped in a resort city full of wealthy tourists who didn't hesitate to pull nice sums of money out of their pocket for helicopter trips to the top of the iceberg (http://www.glacierhelicopters.co.nz/franz-josef-glacier/) or organized guided tours. You can independently walk on one of the hiking trails, but at the time of our visit, the path leading to the Franz Josef glacier ice crust was unfortunately closed.
If you want to take a look at the Fox Glacier from a distance, head on Haast Hwy through the village Fox Glacier, and right behind the bridge turn left. Go up the hill until you reach a smaller car park with views of the Fox Glacier.
Knights Point Lookout
For stunning views of the sea, stop at Knights Point Lookout, on the way to Haast.
Knights Point Lookout
Lake Wanaka - Boundary Creek
For an overnight stay, I can recommend the DOC Camp Boundary Creek on the bank of the Wanaka Lake. Basic, spacious camping site with a dry toilet (6 NZD). Definitely go look at the natural pebble beach, views of the lake and wooded hills in the distance are remarkable.
The blue turquoise Blue Pools formed in the river's meander below the rocks can be reached by a short walk through the woods. The striking clearness and color of the water can be seen from the wire footbridges above the river. Bathing is just for the tough guys. Get ready for ice cold water, and as soon as you take off your clothes, your whole body will be covered with swarms of attacking sandflies. But it's worth it, no doubts.
Blue Pools - Ice bath with sandflies
A small charming town built on the shores of Wanaka Lake. The view of the blue lake, framed by hills, is breathtaking. For many, Wanaka is one of the most beautiful cities of the South Island. Get some refreshment on the touristy promenade and enjoy the beautiful view from the grassy beach. Get ready for crowds of tourists.
From my point of view, one of the most touristy cities in New Zealand. You will discover here many restaurants, cafes, hotels, terraces, shops, and everything that will fulfill the needs of numerous groups of tourists arriving in Queenstown without ceasing. This also correlates with high prices. Due to its natural character is Queenstown similar to the city of Wanaka. It lies on the shores of the Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by mountains. Athletes and adrenaline sports enthusiasts will also find what they're looking for. In winter season Queenstown is famous for skiing & snowboarding and in summer season your desire for extreme experiences will be satisfied by a wide range of action sports activities: rafting, Shotover jet, helicopter, jet boat, bungee jumping, skydive, swing, skyline, cycling. As they say, you're gonna spend in Queenstown everything, even that what you don't have.
Drivers should have fun in the hills in the direction of Queenstown
One of the few options around Cromwell where you can camp for free is on the Lowburn meadow at Dunstan Lake. It's home to many hippies and manual workers from surrounding orchards (cherries). Because of the trouble they are a cause of, the local authority is considering banning the overnight camping.
This lake is the bluest of all and on top of that is overlooking the highest mountain of New Zealand, Mt Cook. There is nothing better than going down to the lake, where the pebblestone beach starts and enjoying the contrast of deep blue lake colors with snow-white glaciers in the background. In my opinion, Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook are the prettiest places in all of New Zealand.
The prettiest place of the South Island: Mt Cook and Lake Pukaki
The highest mountain in the country. Stay for 10 NZD at the White Horse Hill Campground, and in the morning you will wake up to a luxurious view of the glacier. It's a beautiful place indeed. Sometimes you hear the rumble of falling avalanches. This camp features superb toilets and a spacious kitchen with a dining area. To see the glacier even closer, head out to the Hooker Valley. This is an absolutely unbeatable unpretentious trek. You will cross bridges suspended high up over the wild glacier rivers flowing through the valley. You will pass by the Mueller Glacier Lake, and continue past the raging Hooker River. At the end of the route, you will be rewarded with an absolutely impressive view of Hooker Lake with floating ice floes and a view of the Mt Cook snow-capped peaks. The next day you can schedule a shorter Kea Point trek.
Snack with a view of the glacier covering Mt. Cook
Spectacular Hooker Valley - a must see!
Hooker Lake - ice right from the source
Unwind on this deserted natural beach after the dramatic and tedious passage of Christchurch.
The combination of mountains, wooded hills, wild rivers, and natural thermal springs - that's what Lewis Pass is all about. Hiking trails are free of charge like anywhere else, but the main attraction - the natural thermal springs are incorporated into Spa and hotel complexes. You can have a bath, but for a steep fee. You can sleep for free in Deer Valley. There is a stinking toilet next to a clean river. Prepare yourself for fighting a losing battle with the army of sandflies, and the bird that you might see running around the camp is definitely not THE mysterious Kiwi.