Kia Ora! Greetings from gorgeous New Zealand. This post will be on my travels around the South Island. I flew from Melbourne Australia on Nov 17 to Christchurch New Zealand. I’ve been solo travelling, and mainly getting around by bus. It’s been going very well. I like Intercity bus as I’ve done some scenic routes where the driver does commentary and stops for pictures. Nice way to see the country with a short amount of time.
So if we take a look at the map, I arrived in Christchurch, went down to Mount Cook, Queenstown, Te Anau, Milford Sound back to Queenstown then headed back to Christchurch through Dunedin and up the coast. So I got a lot of scenery in. I spent a few days in Christchurch and area, then worked my way up to Kaikoura, Blenheim, then Picton to catch the ferry to Wellington. I was disappointed I couldn’t get over to Franz Joseph, but that’s travel, can’t always do it all!
First off, New Zealand is spectacular. The South Island scenery is incredible. Riding along the highways is like looking at a continuous postcard. If you are an adventurous thrill seeker, this country is for you. For Canadians we don’t need a visa, we get a free 3 month visa on arrival as long as you have your return flight booked. But I’ve been told we pay a $50 departure tax lol. So maybe not so free. I’ve been mainly getting around by bus. NZ has many different tours, but it’s definitely a country you can get around solo. It’s quite safe, and people are helpful and friendly. You tend to see quite a few backpackers hitch hiking.
I first took the bus from Christchurch to Queenstown with a few stops along the way.
Lake Tekapo with Lupin flowers
This place would be worth a longer stop. There’s some cool activities like a boat ride through the ice flows or helicopter rides over the area. We only stopped an hour, still so beautiful.
Red deer in a field.
This town is like the Whistler/Banff of New Zealand. There is so much you can do here, great food, shopping and many day tours. If you are into adrenaline rush activities like sky diving or bungy jumping, there’s lots of activities like that here.
One of the popular restaurants is Fergburgers. Didn’t matter what time of day it is, there’s a big line up out the door. My burger was really good. Next door they have their own bakery, I tried a lamb meat pie, very good.
One of my favourite scenic images that is all over is watching the sheep and baby lambs in the fields. So cute!
The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed in NZ. So there’s many different tours and tourist opportunities to get in on the action, one being you can buy replica jewelry. You actually see real jewelry stores with this in their windows.
This town was quite scenic and offered some of my favourite activities. I came across this wedding chapel, nice spot to tie the knot if there is low traffic.
I stayed in an odd motel. Very friendly staff, but random concept. They made the motel look like store fronts. There are no stores, these are the rooms. One tour I went on, it was a bus of about 40 people. When we came back into town and I got dropped off second, I could hear people on the bus saying, Ohhh what place is this? Looks like quite a few stores. If they return, they’ll be highly disappointed lol. The inside was super dated too, but clean and they put a giant electric heating pad under the fitted sheet, so toasty, I was set!
The Glow Worm cave was pretty magical. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. Imagine you are in a boat, floating along on the calm waters, its very quiet except for the sound of waterfalls in the distance. Its pitch black out but there are millions of stars in the sky that are only an arms length away. So you float along looking up in amazement. That’s what the glow worm cave was like, except the stars were the glow worms.
These are not my pictures as photography is forbidden, so this is from google images. They also aren’t actual worms, but the larvae stage of fungus gnats and their bums light up to attract their food. Very cool anyway!
They take your pic before you go in and try to sell it to you after. They wanted $40 for this thing. Umm no thanks, how about you just turn your back and I’ll snap a quick pic of it with my camera.
This was another really beautiful place. There’s a popular scenic cruise that I took. This place has heavy rainfall year round, which it was rainy when I went. But what was cool was the rain created more waterfalls on the mountains which was really beautiful.
We saw some wild life, seals and wild dolphins. I got the worst dolphin pics ever, hard to catch them as they are fast and Japanese tourists kept elbowing me.
The day trip to Milford Sound from Te Anau was very scenic and we made picture stops along the way.There were some pretty cool waterfalls and rock formations.
Also there’s Kea birds hanging around. I like when they would go on the roofs of people’s vehicles and gnaw on the metal and rubber, the owners didn’t appreciate that I’m sure. It was cool when they would fly as under their wings, the feathers are bright orange, hard to get a pic of them flying. They are a bit of a menace bird.
This city is quite different now since the big earthquake a few years back. The city is still on the rebuild, and many old buildings were ruined. Many things are closed down still, but one interesting place was they made a outdoor mall downtown out of storage containers to get businesses going again. It looks really good!
Christchurch was one of my favourite stops as I got to visit with an old friend Janelle. Some of you may remember her from The Pas, she was an exchange student who lived with us for a few months 15 years ago, and we’ve always stayed in touch. It was on my bucket list to go to New Zealand and visit Janelle, and I can cross that one off (except I’ve now added go back to New Zealand and visit Janelle and family). I had a great time catching up with her, meeting her family and had tons of laughs. I could have stayed so much longer.
Lord of The Rings Tour!
Yes I did a LOTR tour! I just had to. This is the first hike I’ve ever been on where we dragged swords up a mountain. Since LOTR was filmed in NZ, there’s tours all over the country of where they shot scenes. I’ve seen the movies, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. But it’s still worth it as the view was gorgeous and it was a fun day. We did scenic stops along the way and hiked up mount Sunday. This is where Edoras, the capital city of the Rohan people were. As we drove from Christchurch to Mount Sunday, he played clips of interviews with the cast and crew. We also did some off roading over rivers and had lunch. This is definitely a tourist thing, because when I tell locals I did this, they mock me lol.
There’s that jewelry to buy again.
It was very windy in the area, over 100km winds. When we stopped for lunch, we found 2 baby birds who must of blew out of the nest. To quote a German guy in my group, with his thick German accent “Nature is cruel, nothing we can do”. Then someone made a nest on the ground for them, only for him to say “What will this do, you are only prolonging the inevidable, they are as good as dead”. So it was an awkward lunch lol.
Our guide also stopped on the side of the road to show us these Scottish Hyland Bulls. Very big boys! Our guide stops there on his tours to feed them like half a loaf of bread, I feel like he shouldn’t be doing that and that bread may not be appropriate for their diet, but he didn’t like be questioned about that. But he wasn’t exactly the poster child for stability, so I’m not really surprised.
Did an overnight stop over here in wine and vineyard country. I came to the conclusion I love going around to different winery’s and doing tastings. You really learn lots about wine and get to try things that I may never try at home. I wish Canada allowed more than 2 bottles of wine in, so many great kinds. Also great food.
Kaikoura is famous for its whale, dolphin and seal watching. I was booked on a tour to see sperm whales and maybe humpback, but it was cancelled due to high winds and rain. Very beautiful town tho. Travel plans don’t always work out, it’s how it goes!
As I say goodbye to the South Island and wait for my ferry to Wellington in the north island, I found New Zealand’s creepiest Mickey Mouse.
I arrived safely in the north island and have been touring around here. I head back to Canada on Monday, so I will have one more blog post, the series finale! Hope everyone is doing well and getting all decked out for the Christmas season!