New Zealand: South Island
New Zealand is quite possibly our favorite country we’ve traveled to together. This country offers so much adventure + we have a lot to share—SO we decided to split NZ into two posts! [Scroll down for an abbreviated version.]
We’ll start with the south island.
Our evening flight from Melbourne to Queenstown was just under 3 hours. A short nap and a few episodes of Modern Family made the time pass by quickly. Our car was reserved for pickup at the Queenstown Airport, we checked into our hotel and relaxed for the night.
Our first day exploring south island started with a short 45 minute drive to Glenorchy. The drive takes you along Lake Wakatipu and it has to be one of the most beautiful views on Earth! We couldn’t help but stop a few times on the drive to appreciate the scenery.
Glenorchy is surrounded by lakes, rivers and snow-capped mountains. This areas’ stunning backdrop was used for filming Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and several other movies.
First, we explored by foot. Then, we decided to sign up for a two hour horseback ride through Dart Valley. Lily at Dart Stables was our tour guide and we spent the afternoon walking through open fields + winding rivers. This was a highlight of the entire trip and such a unique way to experience the beauty that New Zealand has to offer.
The next day, we continued our adventure + planned on paragliding off the ‘Remarkables‘. Driving up the mountain was intense! The road was just wide enough for one vehicle and there were no guard rails. Yikes! The instructors were great and they didn’t waste any time. As soon as we were set up at the top, they had us running straight off the highest point of the Mountain. What a wild experience!
To end the night, we drove back to Queenstown and rode the gondola up to Skyline Queenstown. Our time was spent shopping, eating dinner and soaking in the beautiful views from the top of the city. Skyline Queenstown offers several activities including mountain biking, luge, star gazing, hiking, helicopter rides + shopping at the gift store or Jelly Belly.
As you can already tell, we jam packed this trip with adventure– exploring as much as we could in the short time we spent there.
The next morning, Logan met with an instructor at Shotover Canyon Swing. The Canyon Swing is the world’s highest cliff jump– first you jump off the cliff, experience a 196 ft. free fall, then swing out over 200 meters into the Canyon! Insane.
After the Canyon Swing, we met in Queenstown to check out the shops and restaurants. Fergburger was highly recommended to us + we knew it had to be good after seeing the amount of people waiting in line when we got there! Everything was ordered to-go and we enjoyed our meal at Main Town Pier.
For just having a few days to spend in Queenstown, we felt like we really got to experience this incredible city. Although, we would definitely visit again in a heartbeat!
Te Anau was our next stop for the night. It was a halfway point to Milford Lodge, where we met with an instructor at Roscos early the next morning. The drive was 2 hours from Te Anau and our meeting time was 7:15am. Early morning, but so worth it!
Kayaking Milford Sound is listed as one of the Top 10 Bucketlist Trips. We took a 3.5 hour kayaking trip– passing by stunning waterfalls and wildlife. Lonely Planet agrees that is is the best way to see Milford.
After kayaking Milford Sound, we drove 5 hours to Franz Josef + attempted to heli-hike. Unfortunately, the clouds were too low and they had to cancel the trip. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to visit again someday and experience this!
We drove up the west coast 6 hours to Nelson. On the way, we saw a sign for the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge– the longest swing bridge in New Zealand. Of course, we stopped to walk across and grab some lunch before finishing our drive.
Nelson ended up being a really cool city. We used our Lonely Planet book for recommendations and bar hopped as soon as we checked in. Nelson is a great base for nearby wineries and Abel Tasman National Park.
Abel Tasman was our next adventure and quite the workout! We couldn’t have asked for better weather as we kayaked around the park for 3 hours. Lunch was provided on the beach and we finished the trip with a 3 hour walk back to Torrent Bay. You can book this trip through Abel Tasman Kayaks.
Picton was the last city we stayed before taking the Cook Straight Ferry to Wellington. We scheduled a wine tour in Marlborough with Highlight Tours. They took us to 6 wineries, enjoyed lunch at Brancott Estate, and ended the tour at Makana Confections.
If you’re looking for a trip with non-stop adventure, put New Zealand’s South Island at the top of your list.
New Zealand: South Island Things to Do
Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world! There is so much to do + a variety of activities for everyone in your group. Here’s a short list of ideas for your visit: Skyline Gondola, Fergburger, Ice Bar, Jet Boating, Hot Pools, Skiing, Hiking, Wineries, Shops and Restaurants.
Shotover Canyon Swing
Shotover Canyon Swing is the world’s highest cliff jump! There are several different levels of jumps you can do and the instructors are extremely patient and helpful.
Horseback Riding [Dart Valley]
We used Dart Stables for our 2-hour horseback ride through Dart Valley. The stunning mountain views make this an adventure you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Paragliding the Remarkables
Paraglide the Remarkables with Coronet Peak Tandems. There are a few take off options for the thrill seekers, and a few for anyone looking for a relaxed scenic flight.
Kayak Milford Sound
Rosco’s Milford Kayaks also offers a variety of trips to suit your experience in kayaking. Seeing Milford Sound by kayak was incredible!
Franz Josef Heli-Hike
The heli-hike departs from Franz Josef village. You’ll helicopter up to the top of the glacier and explore the terrain for 2 hours with all equipment provided.
New Zealand’s Longest Swing Bridge
If you’re driving up the West Coast, Buller Gorge Swing Bridge is worth checking out. There are a lot more activities than just the swing bridge, so if you have time– go for a nature walk, take a ride on the Cometline, or go for a 40 minute ride on a jet boat!
Kayak Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman Kayaks provided a guided kayaking tour of the park and served lunch on the beach. After lunch, we hiked 3 hours back to Torrent Bay! The weather was perfect in December, the water was calm and we had plenty of opportunities to see wildlife!
Wine Tour with Highlight Tours
Highlight Tours offers group tours or private tours through Marlborough. There are full-day and half-day tours with no more than 10 people in the groups. You’ll visit 5-6 wineries with a stop for lunch + they will customize your tour based on your taste in wine.
As always, thanks for reading! We could honestly share so much more, but really wanted to focus on all of our adventures in New Zealand.
Have you been to New Zealand? We drove up the West Coast– would it be worth another visit to drive up the East Coast?
We will be traveling over the next two weeks, but plan on sharing our adventures on NZ’s North Island soon!
Kayla + Logan