12 days in New Zealand- South Island

After 4 days on the North Island, we flew from Auckland to Queenstown for the second part of our trip : the South Island !

Here is a short version of our itinerary :

  • Day 1 : Queenstown
  • Day 2 : Milford Sound
  • Day 3 : Skydiving and lake Wanaka
  • Day 4 : Roys peak
  • Day 5 : Glacier walk and hooker valley dam hike + stargazing in the evening
  • Day 6 : Drive to Kaikoura
  • Day 7 : Dolphin encounter in Kaikoura + drive to the Purepod
  • Day 8 : Drive to Christchurch airport to leave NZ

We decided to fly to Queenstown because it takes too much time to drive there. With more time we would have driven for sure, the roads in New Zealand are so pretty and scenic. In the South Island we didn’t camp, we stayed in Airbnb’s which were all amazing.

After landing in Queenstown, the host of our Airbnb recommended the Sherwood restaurant which we loved. Delicious food and cool atmosphere. Everyone told us that the food wasn’t good in NZ but we only ate amazing food so I guess it’s about finding the right places.

Milford sound

The next day we had an amazing activity planned : the Milford Sound. You can drive there but it takes around 7 hours each way and we didn’t have time for that so instead we flew there with a small airplane. This was the most expensive activity of our trip but it was so worth it. The flight is so scenic, the views are really insane. In the Milford sound we went on a small cruise boat for breakfast, we saw dolphins and then we kayaked ! We got the opportunity to drink glacier water, so fresh. We flew back to Queenstown, had lunch in the famous Fergburgers (really good !) and then relaxed in our awesome Airbnb (which had a jacuzzi and the coolest terrasse, 5 min drive from the town).

Lake Wanaka

The next day we left for lake Wanaka and Pierre went skydiving for the first time. It was his birthday gift and he loved it. I was supposed to do it too but my ear was blocked and i didn’t want to risk it…

In the afternoon we relaxed around the lake, flew the drone and drank cider. I was in love with all the lupins who where in flowers, I couldn’t stop talking about them and taking photos ! (And Pierre was making fun of me aha).

That night our Airbnb was an eco conscious lodge in nature, with an outside bathtub, perfect to watch the stars. We went to Kika ,an amazing restaurant in Wanaka for Pierre’s birthday. We had to wait almost 40 min but it was totally worth it ! I surprised him with candles on his chocolate mousse 😉

Roys peak

The next morning, we went back to Wanaka and had lunch and then we hiked Roy’s Peak. It’s a 3 hours hike and the view from the top is totally worth the climb. In summer I heard it can get very busy but we were lucky as we were in low season, we flew the drone and drank cider on the top (we found a new love for cider in New Zealand!).

Glacier walk

Next on the programme : walking on a glacier ! This was such a cool activity, we flew to the glacier with a helicopter and they gave us crampons to attach to our shoes. The guide gave us a lot of information about glaciers. We got to drink pure glacier water again (bring an empty bottle of water so you can fill it up !). There are a few glacier where you can do that, but the closest one for us was Mt Cook.

That afternoon we hiked the hooker valley track. It’s a very easy flat hike with nice views, at the end you arrive at a glacial lake with icebergs !

 

We stopped at Lake Pukaki on the return, the views were so amazing !

Stargazing night

In the evening we had my favorite thing booked : a stargazing night on Mt John observatory. Our tour started at 2 in the morning so before that we had a nice barbecue at our Airbnb and enjoyed the jacuzzi (yes I only booked places with jacuzzi ! Aha). The tours were all full so we  were so happy we booked in advance !

The guides are astronomers and they take you on top the observatory, no lights are allowed. I have never seen a more beautiful sky in my life. They have telescopes and showed us many different stars and clusters. If you have a DSLR camera (a reflex), take it and a professional astrophotographer will take photos of the sky for you !  Pierre and I loved this tour so much, I highly recommend it ! (Also, try to plan it on a moonless night, you will see more stars !).

Kaikoura

We planned our entire trip with maximum 2 hours driving per day but we really wanted to go to Kaikoura so on that day we drove 5 hours.

Kaikoura is a small coastal town that was hit pretty badly by the earthquake a few years ago.

We had a great dinner at The Pier hotel restaurant (delicious lobster !) and I had booked a funny Airbnb : a traditional Mongolian yurt. It’s located on a farm (with super cute Lamas !) and the owner has a variety of funny places to sleep in (a train wagon, a bus…), funny and different!

In Kaikoura you can swim with wild and playful seals but unfortunately they were only opening again the day after our departure! I looked for a similar activity and I found out we could swim with wild dolphins. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Those dolphins are called dusky dolphins, they are black and white, small and super playful. They are totally wild and not fed by humans so they come swim with us because they like it! To keep them interested, you have to make sounds through your snorkel, dive with them and turn. It was so exhilarating (and tiring as well aha). I have done the “swimming with dolphins” in a swimming pool in Atlantis Dubai a few years ago and I cannot even compare it with this, interacting with wild animals in their natural habitat is truly priceless.

Purepod

For our last night I had booked a special accommodation : a glass pod in a vineyard. It was the most expensive night of our trip but it was so worth it ! You have to walk 10 min to reach it and when you get there, you are totally on your own, pure luxury for us ! Everything works with solar energy and the water comes from a nearby water source, and is filtered. The entire pod is made of glass, ceiling and floor included, and it is so amazing to watch the stars at night, from your bed ! Especially after we had learned so many new constellations and stars a few days before. You can either bring your own food (like we did), or pay extra for them to prepare the fridge for you. We had some amazing steaks and veggies and there is a barbecue. We also brought our own wine but we wanted more and they have a few bottles in the fridge, from the winery the pod is located on. If you arrive before 4pm, you have a free wine tasting as well (but we arrived too late…).

We left New Zealand the next morning with stars in our eyes and memories for a lifetime. But our honeymoon was not over yet, we were flying to Bora Bora !